Read more about the article Antwerp – Belgium
Antwerp - Belgium

Antwerp – Belgium

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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. For 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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Read more about the article Innsbruck – Austria
Innsbruck - Austria

Innsbruck – Austria

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Roman Oenipons

It’s been a long while to return to one of the less visited countries I’ve been to 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. For now, let’s concentrate in the capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck.

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. (more…)

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Read more about the article Grenoble – France
Grenoble - France

Grenoble – France

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The Capital of the Alps

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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Read more about the article Baku – Azerbaijan
Baku - Azerbaijan

Baku – Azerbaijan

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The City of Winds

Quite of an unexpected last minute trip using the last remaining holidays allowance left for this year, it does also mean this is the very last country in Europe as a continent I have not been. With it, I’ve stepped in all of the 51 countries that are as per-se considered Europe, one way or another, although it is a trans-continental country with soil in Europe and Asia. So completing the Caucasus region coupled with Georgia and Armenia that we’ve visited just few months ago, it is coming closer the time to get farther to the big empty space in my travel map that is Central Asia now that East and Southeast Asia is almost fully completed as well.

Baku, the capital of the country, and actually the only metropolis in Azerbaijan, contains almost every sight worth visiting in the country, together with the nearby natural attractions of the mud volcanoes and fire mountain, and the prehistoric hieroglyphs of Qobustan. Easy to visit it all in merely 3 days without any rush, so imagine that we calculated 4 full days for this trip, that was well an over-estimation, however we knew it. After all, Baku is not just next door from London, and flights are not cheap at all, so we rather enjoy a bit more time and discover other facts and corners outside from the touristy landmarks.

With a history dating back to the Stone Age, the true “modern” Azerbaijan and Baku itself as we know it today with its great architecture is the result of an idyllic location, cross-roads for centuries of trading between Asia and Europe, and Iran taking over its rule in the 10th century from the native Shirvanshahs for centuries, switching thereafter hands to Russia back and forth in the 18th century, including the Ottomans eager for this land, until the Russo-Persian War of 1804–1813 where it became irrevocably part of the Russian Empire and remained as such part of Russia until the Independence in 1918, however captured as part of the Soviet Union until the fall in 1990. (more…)

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Read more about the article Leon – Spain
Leon - Spain

Leon – Spain

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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, travelling 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. (more…)

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Read more about the article Reims – France
Reims - France

Reims – France

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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. (more…)

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Read more about the article Aalborg – Denmark
Aalborg - Norway

Aalborg – Denmark

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Paris of the North

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. (more…)

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Read more about the article Zakynthos – Greece
Zakynthos - Greece

Zakynthos – Greece

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Son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos

Time to get to another Greek island, and this time to one of the most famous and celebrated, Zakynthos. 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. (more…)

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