Ironbridge, (United Kingdom)

“Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”, “First bridge in the world made of cast iron”

For a long time now I was keen to come and visit this place. Double famous in which it was the area commonly referred as “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” since it was at the nearby village of Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby developed the technique of smelting iron with coke resulting in an infinite cheaper production of iron. And with cheaper iron came railways, factories, infrastructures and unstoppable construction. And secondly, the construction of the first ever cast iron bridge in the world opened in 1782; quite an achievement back in the days, yet gifting the world with a new method of cheap construction of bridges and structures.

This trip happened all in a perfect bank holiday weekend. A long due return to Liverpool and Chester the previous days, while as for the return towards London taking the road into the County of Shropshire, passing through beautiful scenery and villages before reaching Coalbrookdale and the Ironbridge Gorge, all of which listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

While there is not that much over here to keep you busy for a day, nor half a day, it is true that should you be wishing to enter the plenty of museums in the area and considering their opening hours, then you should consider and plan this ahead. Our main aim was to visit the Abraham Darby’s blast furnace and surrounding buildings, and of course, the slender and elegant Iron Bridge. Giving us enough time to walk around the nature and side by side of the canal, and a copious lunch at one of the many beautiful pubs available along the main street in Ironbridge parallel to the River Severn.

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Chester, (United Kingdom)

“Roman Castrum Deva Victrix”, “Best preserved walled city in Britain”, “Black and White City”

Continuing our trip during this bank holiday long weekend, we move south from Liverpool to Chester, the “black and white city”. One of the most beautiful and unique in the country, and so one of the most perfectly complete from the Victorian era when majority of its buildings date from among some medieval structures and the best preserved walls in the country; first built by the Romans, extended and strengthened thereafter to how we see these today.

Although not much remain from the Roman era bearing what was the largest amphitheatre in Britannia, partly uncovered, and other smaller structures in the walls and gardens around it, columns and some statues; what really makes this city special is the large amount of Tudor revival architecture literally covering the entire city centre core. The characteristics of such style are self-described in one of the city’s nickname, “black and white”. Combining black timber frames and bricks and walls in white. Built during the Victorian era, it is without doubt the largest and finest collection of such houses within a same place.

Another peculiar fact you might realise are the “Rows”, these are covered walkways on the first floor of the buildings where access to shops are. Above these, the residential homes itself, and below the walkway accessed via steps from the street level, more shops. It is a direct legacy from the medieval times put back in practice during the 19th century revival period. Continue reading

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Liverpool, (United Kingdom)

“The Pool”, “The World in One City”, “City of Talent”, “City of World’s Firsts”

For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for this beautiful and vibrant city, but it was also many years since the last time I was there, long before I even started to create my travel blog hence I knew I had to return one day to get and compile the most up to date information and news, and experience it all once more to finally be able to share with you all what I consider as one of the most fascinating and impressive cities in the United Kingdom. A city that has given the entire world not just its name as such, but an entire institution of what its name means in the world of industry, transport, finances, arts, crafts and yes; music. The Merseybeat era (also known as Beat music or British Beat, with The Beatles the most prestigious band ever in history at the time.

A city not of Roman origin, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. Ever since, the rapid transformation and consciousness in the incredible heritage, rich history from every building’s walls and its magnificent harbour and old docks transformed a decaying and quite dilapidated city into a modern thriving 21st century destination. Project after project, the change became unstoppable and continues to be so, to the point in which the prestigious listing of being an UNESCO World Heritage Site is nowadays in danger to retain. See it for good or for the bad, the organization claims that the continuous rise of taller and taller towers, striking museums and a blend with such post-modern style next to the most celebrated architectural classical icons is distorting the integrity and identity.

Many sites and entire ares in the city are UNESCO designated, notably what refers to its most direct past with the sea as a mercantile city. These are the magnificent Albert Dock and the Pier Head among others. Liverpool was once thriving in trade and transatlantic passengers; and there is another part of the city’s history, home to the Cunard Line and White Star Line, with some of the world’s most famous ocean liners registered in its port such as the Titanic, Olympic or Queen Mary. Continue reading

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Avila, (Spain)

“Roman Abela”, “The Town of Stones and Saints”

Impossible to think nor remember when was the only time I’ve ever been to this beautiful city, when I was a kid and never returned. Silly to think about it, how is it possible being that near Madrid and so easy accessible from here whether by train or bus, merely an hour and a half centre to centre. Considering the enormous patrimony and heritage, the only city in Spain retaining its medieval town walls absolutely complete and the city with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches and constructions in the whole of Spain, it is no surprise it became one of the first entire cities to be listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

It’s the capital of the province of the same name, one of 9 that forms Castile and Leon, also one of the less populated. Barely 50.000 inhabitants. For much of its history it has been coexisting in the shadow, where no important events have taken place other than the fights between the Moors and the Christians. It was this quietness and somewhat remoteness from other bigger and important cities that left the heritage almost intact, a city that never needed to expand beyond its walls hence never tearing these apart, a perfect medieval city with some of the finest Romanesque buildings in Spain.

Not to mention, a day is well more than enough to enjoy it in full. The perfect day away from Madrid if that’s your base. After all, Madrid can be an idyllic base in order to reach stunning places and cities at around a maximum of an hour and a half distance, most of which listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Talavera de la Reina, Toledo, Aranjuez, Cuenca, Alcala de Henares, Guadalajara, Segovia, El Escorial.

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Eindhoven, (Netherlands)

“Eeind: last, hove: land”, “Last hoves on the land of Woensel”

Completing the weekend after visiting Antwerp the day before, we return to where we flew into and from where we would depart later on in the evening, Eindhoven. Although this is not my first time here, but possibly the third or so, that was many years ago anyway hence not much I can remember. On the bright side, this is now the perfect occasion to finally have a travel guide written about this city and ready for anyone of you willing to travel here and get some first hand information about.

Although a small and still quite industrial city, it is turning into the 21st century and beyond with great projects all across its boundaries. Being in the sectors of banking and financial, technology, industry and housing. Lets not forget Eindhoven really developed and thrived with the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. It is when it truly expanded and kicked off to become one of the key cities in the world in the production of electronics especially after the foundation of Philips, first producing light bulbs then expanding to plenty other sectors that we basically cannot live without something Philips in our lives.

Another world-wide known company that established towards the end of the 1920’s decade is DAF, the nowadays car and truck manufacturing giant. Unfortunately, the city was not spared during the WWII raids, and it suffered badly to the point that the reconstruction that followed did not restored the buildings but instead, cleared and made way for a new rearranging of streets and planning, and so the new buildings in place. Continue reading

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Antwerp, (Belgium)

“Gallo-Roman Antverpia”, “The Diamond Capital of the World”

It’s great to travel back to cities and places when long time elapse in between the visits, and especially if that is to one of the greatest cities in terms of history, architecture and sights. To me, this is the third time here. If the first was the shortest as all I had was few hours interconnecting buses on way from Brussels to Amsterdam with the second time way longer than before; now this is the longest I’ve been hence covering deeply every sight and corner of the city. A great chance as well to now completely revamp this travel guide, rewriting and reviewing most of it.

Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium after its capital Brussels, and with difference, also the second in elegance and richness. While Ghent and Bruges are incredibly beautiful places, these are first smaller, and secondly, like taken out of a fairy-tale. Antwerp in the other hand is grand and one can feel how powerful it once was.

Its port remains second in Europe, and one of the biggest in the world. It is merely 25 kilometers to the North Sea along the Westerschelde estuary of the River Scheldt that cross the city. One of the most important trading cities in the 16th century especially during the Spanish rule when it was the sugar capital of Europe after such commodity was coming from the colonies; cinnamon and pepper from Portugal and plenty others, translating in rivers of wealth and countless merchants coming to the city, and earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas.

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Innsbruck, (Austria)

“Roman Oenipons”, “Inn Bridge”

It’s been a long while to return to one of the less visited countries I’ve been in Europe, although I can proudly say I’ve been to some of the greatest cities of course with Vienna and Salzburg, and smaller Bregenz, the westernmost city of Austria right by the Lake Constance. Not many places nevertheless, and still missing to reach Linz, Klagenfurt and Graz hopefully in the near future at other trips.

While it’s the 5th largest city in the country, majority of tourism are winter visitors coming to what’s known one of the best sky resorts in Europe, the largest in the Alps. Within a short distance to the city centre you have great sky stations and circuits of any kind. So while the winter months is peak season for Innsbruck, during the the summer months it was way more laid back and quiet. Both seasons offer a totally different view of the city and its surroundings. One the snowy postcard-perfect view of the Alps, the other the green and rocks of the mighty mountains.

A vibrant city full of history and culture, capital of Tyrol since 1429 which gained its further push and importance after emperor Maximilian I moved the imperial court to Innsbruck in the 1490s. Churches, palaces and grand buildings, gardens and statues were built and there standing today even considering some destruction after the WWII raids. Continue reading

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Grenoble, (France)

“The Capital of the Alps“, “Gallic Cularo”

It’s been a while since one of these quick and short day trips, simply go and back in the same day with nothing else than a camera. However, for Grenoble this works perfectly since the medium to small size and sights are good enough for a day. Any longer and I could not image this being in the same city to be honest, although there is way much more of course, especially considering how near you are from one of the greatest cities in France, Lyon.

Considering the great flight offer, it was too tempting not grabbing it and just go. That was a good decision! Fair enough people do not usually come here merely for sightseeing the city, but instead for the great sky resorts everywhere within minutes from downtown, and of course, the spectacular views of the mighty Alps towering at the backdrop of the city.

From a modest city founded by the Gallic, then a small Roman settlement and garrison to one of the leading cities in Europe in high-tech industries, but still preserving a heritage from its past, once the largest manufacturer of gloves in Europe. Quite small nowadays however orientated to a high end market.

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