Leon, (Spain)

“Roman Legio VII Gemina”, “The cradle of Parliamentarism”

Finally my hands are on the most awaited travel guide ever since I started my blog project. And why is that you might ask? Certainly the answer is direct, Leon is the city I was born, hence why it hosts a special place and meaning in my heart. Of course, I will try to make it one of the most complete too, as are the likes of Madrid, Barcelona or Brussels to name a few of the cities I travel very often. With Leon nowadays, it’s a different story, not only I left to study in Madrid, but then left Spain itself to come to London where I made my living for the past 13 years. Unfortunately, traveling to Leon for a weekend is not possible since there are no direct flights, nor flights to the next nearest international airport at Valladolid where Ryanair scrapped the flights to London long ago. In the other hand, there is really no need for finding a suitable airport nearby, since the high-speed train links Madrid in barely only 2 hours.

Leon is a city of over 2000 years history, and a very very rich past. All started as a small Roman camp and base for farther extend the empire up north towards Galicia and Asturias, but due to an ideal location at what became to be a cross-roads in the north, northwestern of the country, with easy access to the rest of the country, and the newly discovered gold mines Las Medulas, it soon reached the status of a city during the Roman times. This is something quite unknown to most people, however these Roman mines were one of the richest and largest during the Empire, with the gold taken to Rome. The mines are now listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are west of Leon some 130 kilometres, beyond the city of Ponferrada, in El Bierzo region, once so rich through the coal rush years until the industry collapse in the 1980’s.

While you can admire in Leon some of its Roman past, noteworthy the city’s walls, it is not the place you come for this, but instead, to admire its impressive medieval and Gothic architecture. One of the most complete of any city in the country, being its iconic highlight the Cathedral, finest example of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain. Continue reading

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Reims, (France)

“Roman Durocortorum”, “The home of Champagne”

While this was another trip to Luxembourg, the occasion for it was reaching the beautiful city of Reims not too far away. The truth is that you are nearer if flying to Paris, however the cost to get there already in June was double than Luxembourg, not to mention the hotel, no matter if Paris or Reims, however as we’ve been doing for the past years with this destination, getting a nice deal with British Airways on a flight+hotel package was the best decision once again in all means. Not only the great flight times and a great hotel, but also the location of the city in between so many other places to visit at easy reach.

Reims, one of the most historic and important cities in France come not only for being the capital of champagne, yes the world famous drink and name of the region, but from its past. Since a key Roman establishment in the middle of the crossroads leading towards the west of the empire, to become the place where most of the kings of France have been crowned for centuries at the nowadays, UNESCO World Heritage listed Cathedral. Yet the city is much more with the countless sights, historic churches, palaces and beautiful architecture in the many squares and streets. It is also a really great destination for some good shopping, and of course a thriving nightlife. Restaurants, bars and pubs are all over the historic core, with very lively nights.

It was for a while in the wish-list radar, now happy to finally accomplish the trip and slowly, visiting more and more places in this great country with so much to see and do where somehow there’s still so many more cities waiting in the list. The only trouble in getting to most of the remaining are the limited flights or travel connections for being able to manage in a weekend. Continue reading

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Baalbeck, Anjar and Ksara, (Lebanon)

“Heliopolis, the Sun City”, “The Wine region of Lebanon”

Our second of the major tours while visiting Lebanon was for the actual highlight of the trip itself, the fascinating Roman city of Baalbeck with its impressive constructions, some of the largest ever created across the entire former empire. This was once again, an organised tour departing from our base Beirut, same as we did the day before when visiting Byblos, Jeita and Harissa; but also including another two great sights: the small city of Anjar with its beautiful Umayyad ruins and to finalise the tour, the Ksara Caves now in use by Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest wine estate where a tasting will be offered. Both Baalbeck and Anjar are UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed, hence the added value that means for us.

While there are still some more amazing places in the country to see, we can say from our trip we are very satisfied for now, and certainly will return another occasion. Fingers crossed that by then it is at least as great as it is now; a beautiful and friendly country, safe wherever it can get, and not turning into any crisis or even a war as it’s sadly with the neighboring country Syria.

On the same note as I explained for the previous guide on Byblos, you can find lots of tour operators over the internet offering similar day trips, however pay attention to what’s and what is not included. From this experience I found tours which did not include lunch and entrance fees to the sites, quite silly right? While other agencies were listing everything included and even at more competitive price. It’s a matter of some research then all is straightforward, and if you want to have it already done, let me tell you which one is the best for the tours we did in this country (as of May 2018): Viator. Not only the best in the quality and quantity of tours they offer, but also one of the most trustful out there as it belongs to TripAdvisor. This is the tour we selected, click here. Continue reading

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Byblos, Jeita and Harissa, (Lebanon)

“First city of Phoenicia”, “One of the world’s oldest inhabited cities”

Our first of the two day trip we would be doing while in Lebanon, was of course for visiting some of the greatest archaeological sites and natural wonders in the country. After all, this is one of the major reasons why to chose this country and not going just to be in the capital, Beirut. As you know by now, we are not that kind of person who travels to countries for the sake of ticking “I’ve been here” and counting up the number of countries they’ve been. Not at all and actually it is all the opposite in our case especially when travelling farther beyond Europe and considering our continuous running out of holidays because so much travelling.

So as the planning for a trip to Lebanon came to a reality, then was the hardest task, what to see and where to go. A first stage is easy for someone like me who love to collect UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A quick search and some of the answers were defined. The whole trip would pivot around Baalbeck, Byblos and Anjar, the three major WHS, and of course the capital. Anything else would be extra and very welcomed. However with such a limited time we had altogether, the only way to visit as much as we could was getting into organised tours, and so we did. This is not the first time we do so, where in certain countries is strongly recommended like in Lebanon. Yes, it’s a rather secure and safe country, but it’s nicer to refrain from driving as a tourist.

While over the internet you can find lots of tour operators offering similar day trips, pay attention to what’s and what is not included. From this experience I found tours which did not include lunch and entrance fees to the sites, quite silly right? While other agencies were listing everything included and even at more competitive price. It’s a matter of some research then all is straightforward, and if you want to have it already done, let me tell you which one is the best for the tours we did in this country (as of May 2018): Viator. Not only the best in the quality and quantity of tours they offer, but also one of the most trustful out there as it belongs to TripAdvisor. This is the tour we selected, click here. Continue reading

Posted in 03. Middle East, 04. May, 2018, Big Trips, Lebanon | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beirut, (Lebanon)

“European gateway to the Middle East”, “Paris of the East”, “Beirut, mother of laws”

Another country never been before, as excited as that can get for travelling onto what is it up to date, the country visited number 91! That’s a step closer to one of my desired dreams of travelling to 100 countries with the age of 35, no matter if by the first months on that age (which I know it will be impossible anyway), or if that’s by the last day before I turn 36, I will keep trying to make it a reality. In honest, the only thing that is holding me back from not doing this earlier is the huge logistic I am having in planning the holidays I have per year coupled with the bank holidays and the weekends in the best possible way to maximise the days and travel outside of Europe, since there are no more countries in the whole of Europe at the exception of Azerbaijan that I have not been.

Lebanon was for a long time now in the agenda, and considering how volatile these countries in that region can sometimes be, we thought it was about right to do it this year. You never know how the political situation or radical thoughts turn and change the fate of a country from the night to the morning, as is with the sad and unfortunate example of Syria. Lebanon nevertheless, since their civil war has been a pretty stable country, with an ongoing rising tourism, and overall rise in wealth as you can clearly see from the shiny and spotless capital city Beirut, where residential skyscrapers are the new trend, new designed neighborhoods everywhere, and a continuous restoration of the older parts that have become 100% gentrified with great bars, cafes, pubs and incredible nightlife.

Beirut is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities where many of the greatest civilizations have gained and lost their powers for ruling over the thousands of years. From Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations, to French colony and finally the Independent Republic of Lebanon after WWII. Turmoil has always been a constant threat through the centuries, and so in more recent dates as was from the 1970’s with the 15 years civil war that ripped through the country until the early 1990’s. Even since it has become once again a thriving holiday destination, centre for the arts and culture, financial and motor of the country however the unfortunate threat of terrorism is still the weakest point, as is with all the countries in this part of the world. Continue reading

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Aalborg, (Denmark)

“Paris of the North”, “Double A”

And here we are at another great destination, the third largest city in Denmark, and slowly completing more and more points in this rather small European country. After all, cities over here are indeed small hence easy and quick to visit. It was almost 2 years ago when I was for the last time in the country with my family, and while in my case repeating Copenhagen, there was a new city too, Helsingor. And many years back, Aarhus. Too many years ago that I do not even have the travel guide for it here in my blog. Anyway into what now matters, the once called “Paris of the North”: Aalborg.

Such a nickname that stands today comes from the elegance in the architecture, the broad tree-lined avenues and streets and the somewhat refinement of the population. Unfortunately entire districts were torn down to create larger stone and brick houses, still, the city is well known for the large collection of half-timbered mansions built by its prosperous merchants. In similar resemblance, it’s second city in the country after Copenhagen’s in number of such constructions, and to my review, the second most beautiful in the country too after the capital.

Considering our very short time here since that was such flight deal at only 24 hours since landing until departure the following day, it all worked perfectly well. The city is very straightforward and easy to navigate where distances are short and all the sights concentrated near each others, therefore that actually, any longer than a day as a full weekend, would be too much if that’s what you are planning on doing. If that’s your case, consider spending the second day for visiting another city of villages nearby. This area is really beautiful all over and very picturesque, especially the small fishing villages by the coastline. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 05. May, 2018, Denmark, Northern Europe, Short Trips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Zakynthos, (Greece)

“The flower of the Levant”, “Italian Zante”, “Son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos”

Time to get to another Greek island, and this time to one of the most famous and celebrated. Finding such flights are not an easy task, and generally mean either horrible and odd flight times, or a very reduced overall stay. In our case this time, is the second, merely 24 hours in the island since there were no other flights at other times or dates that could work for us, unless taking “precious” days off work as holidays, but as anyone knows by now, that is the very last option. Such days are for the longer holidays hence not really keen to use them for short destinations.

Anyway, a day was good enough to have a glimpse of the island, enjoy a fabulous hot and sunny day, and the incredible Greek food as usual. That’s the second time in Greece this year, being only 6 weeks since we’ve been to Kavala. From now on it will be highly impossible to find any other deal anywhere in Greece since the beginning of the season is around the corner, so I would say it’s time to check what’s available from October 2018 through March 2019. Sounds crazy I know to plan that in advance, but hey! that’s how we manage to keep travelling almost every weekend of the year, and discover so many places in so many countries and all for a really great budget.

Zakynthos is nowadays one of the most popular islands in Greece for tourist, notably in search of great beaches and the weather of course, but the island is more than just a sea resort: nature in this case, and scenery. But for sure what you cannot expect or be looking for is sightseeing cities and villages. It is very unfortunate that the many earthquakes, notably the 1953, have flattened almost everything where only 3 structures were left standing at the capital city. Rebuilding everything had to be fast and did not care much in the aesthetics hence the lack of real sights worth visiting. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 04. April, 2018, Italy, Short Trips, Southern Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trieste, (Italy)

“Pre-Roman Tergeste”, “Roman Tergestum”, “Former Austro-Hungarian Empire city”

Once again it’s Italy! Yet never ever tired for coming to this fascinating country. It must be together with my mother land Spain, the most visited for sure. And even so that I’ve been to so many cities, from large to medium and small villages, there are still plenty more to enjoy and keep returning. I don’t mind even for repeating at some coming the case, there are always many corners not seen, Rome, Milan and Naples being the most renown cases. In this case, Trieste although not a new place, I can strongly feel and say as if it would be the first time.

It was back in March 2010 when after not having a positive experience in neighboring Slovenia, we decided to come to Trieste for dinner from Ljubljana. As you can imagine it was night hence not much we could do other than, you guessed it, having one of the most delicious pizza we did ever have back then, and a proper ice-cream. The mere fact of crossing the border from the rather boring and almost no life outside of Ljubljana to thriving Italy even at its tiny villages near Trieste, was already enough to enjoy the trip.

So finally here I am writing a guide for this beautiful city after the very well deserved visit. Very often bypassed by tourists who head towards the larger cities of Milan and Venice, or nearby neighboring Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia; it is in the other hand an incredibly beautiful city with impressive architecture. It is one of the rare examples with plenty of Autrian Empire architecture, hence its elegance and resemble to the avenues you see in in Vienna or Budapest, coupled with a priceless addition, the Mediterranean Sea at the backdrop. Continue reading

Posted in 01. Europe, 04. April, 2018, Italy, Short Trips, Southern Europe | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment