Read more about the article Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento - Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay

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Best preserved colonial city in Uruguay

One of the highlights of coming to Uruguay is taking the chance for visiting the oldest and best preserved colonial city in the country, the small Colonia del Sacramento right along the Rio de la Plata estuary and directly opposite Buenos Aires. You can see one each other from the shore. But before continuing, let me define a bit more what best preserved and oldest city means here: basically, do not expect a wonderful city like the ones you can see all over Central America, notorious example of glorious Antigua in Guatemala. Colonia is very small and lacks that opulence and flair. Take a remote, small and possibly unknown village in Spain or Portugal, and you have what you are about to visit here. Yes, it is a nice place, with a charm, but little more than that. In the other hand, expect lots of tourists from all over the world, it is the most visited place in the country.

Colonia was founded and developed by the Portuguese who had several posts along the Rio de la Plata, coexisting with the Spanish where several times conflicts and wars changed the hands to the Spanish and back to the Portuguese. Destruction and reconstruction until the early 18th century when after the Treaty of Utrecht it was handed back to Portugal who transformed it into the most wealthy and best defended city in the Rio de la Plata region. Fallen in the hands of Spain on several more occasion through the century, it can be said that it was never part of the Spanish Empire for longer than 20 years. Uruguay became an independent nation in 1828.

Considering as an average tourist you can fully explore in one day Montevideo, the country’s capital, then why not enjoy a day out here! Easy to come, bearing it’s 3 hours away by bus or car from Montevideo, or merely hour and a half from Buenos Aires by high speed boat and easy cross-country border formalities. What’s best, no need to scramble your head thinking what to do, what to see and how to plan a best route. Everything, everywhere is walking distance next to each other, plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes.


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Read more about the article Montevideo – Uruguay
Montevideo - Uruguay

Montevideo – Uruguay

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The Very Loyal and Reconquering City of San Felipe y Santiago

Country 101 in the list so far, Uruguay. Although not for a wider tour, but merely sticking to its capital city, Montevideo. After all, this was not just only temptation for being that near Buenos Aires, it was as long overdue as visiting Argentine. It was always meant to be this way whenever coming to this part of the world: visit the two countries. Both capitals do complement each other and share a lot in common. One can easily take a speedboat at one or the other and reach the opposite counterpart in 2 hours, or get on a short flight across the Rio de la Plata. We opted for the second option, and while we departed Argentina the following day after a trip to Salta, we would return in 2 days to continue the tour with Cordoba next in line.

Montevideo is the southernmost capital city in South America. Founded in 1724 by the Spanish soldier Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, its boundaries remained mostly intact until the late 19th century when the fort at the eastern edge of the old town was dismantled and built in place the Independence Square; the heart of the city ever since, dividing Ciudad Vieja (the old town) at the west with the Centro district at the east. Both areas are the main tourist spots, easy to navigate with such a great urban plan of perfect avenues and streets in an orthogonal grid where distances are not too large between sights.

As an important tip, this is not the kind of city you come if you are having great expectations in enjoying some colonial flair and old architecture. For that you head elsewhere, noteworthy the former Portuguese post of Colonia del Sacramento west of the capital and literally right across the river opposite Buenos Aires. Still, there are lots to enjoy in Montevideo to keep you busy an entire day, adding longer should you want to enjoy some of the fine beaches along the southeast coast, even the short ride to the “Saint-Tropez of South America”, the upscale Punta del Este, farther to the east. On the bright side, Uruguay ranks number one of the safest countries in South America. Don’t judge some districts or streets as dangerous places; just because they are in a state of disrepair does not mean they are unsafe. (more…)

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Read more about the article Buenos Aires – Argentina
Buenos Aires - Argentina

Buenos Aires – Argentina

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Paris of South America

Argentina, for a very long time a dream waiting to become true, but the wait was well worth it. Marking precisely the country number 100 that I’ve visited so far; just being a bit slightly overdue from the goal I set myself of having reach 100 countries by the age of 35 but not to worry too much, it’s merely few months that I turned 36. The most important to me has never changed: if I travel, I like to visit the most and enjoy to the maximum. I hate to say how much I disagree with the people who rush their trips so they can say they have been to the most places. Their travel experiences described into a checklist! I prefer to take the time and explore the countries.

Starting with Buenos Aires, the stunning capital, and terminating at the southernmost point in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, I can easily confirm how huge the country is. 3690 kilometres long no less, and 1400 at its wider point; crossing through different climate regions from subtropical at the north to subantarctic at the far. Hot to cold, wet to dry; forests to deserts, mountains to sea. Nature, wildlife, richness of resources, history, art… Simply too much for such a short time. You would need months here and perhaps that might not be enough.

Nailing down this guide into the main subject, the capital city. Thanks to its climate, the position right at the mouth of the world’s widest river, the Rio de la Plata and continuous development since its foundation in 1536, it has grown to become one of the largest and most populated across the Americas, being one of the oldest and most complete in architecture preserving heritage from the colonial times to the modern period, with an unique European flair. It’s the second most visited in the entire Latin America only after Mexico DF. As a tourist, these are all good news of course, a place with so much to see and do that time will actually be your major limitation. (more…)

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Read more about the article Providence – USA
Providence - USA

Providence – USA

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The Creative Capital

And here we are at the end of our trip across some of the major cities of the USA, reaching one last city before the return back to London: Providence, the capital of the State of Rhode Island. In fact, another city and State I’ve never been before hence adding to the list one more place visited in this huge country. Leaving this city to the end of the trip was also nicely appropriate since it is small enough to enjoy without any rush, and knowing how tired we already were after three full weeks non-stop, it was great to have this day out from our base back in Boston for a rather chill-out and relaxing tour.

The city is one of the oldest in the country, founded back in 1636 as one of the original Thirteen Colonies, almost at the time of Boston merely couple of years before; but was the first to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776 yet the last of the now ex-colonies to ratify the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790. That was the 9th largest city at the time at less than 8000 people, but thrived through the following years, especially after the American Civil War when it became one of the wealthiest cities in the country at the turn of the 19th century in part due to the heavy industrialization and manufacturing. Not so positive was the collapse of the heavy industry from the 1970’s that took toll on every city with a dramatic increase of poverty and crime.

Likewise it was in Baltimore or Milwaukee (but many more of the “belt-cities”, only listing here the ones we’ve visited this time), the urban regeneration set in place from the 1990’s onwards have transformed a decadent city into a great example not only in the country but in the world on how a proper plan, good management, great ideas and a good will can switch and drive a city into a thriving place and a boom in tourism. Believe me when I tell you Providence is a city that will surprise you and overturn your expectations. (more…)

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Read more about the article Boston – USA
Boston - USA

Boston – USA

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The Freedom City

One last base in this very complete trip across some of the main cities and states in the USA; this is the time for one of the most historic city in the entire country: Boston. Leaving behind massive Chicago for this very cute, elegant and although quite large; still feeling small and compact enough to call it cosy and charming if you like. Welcome to the capital of the state of Massachusetts and by difference, the main city in importance in the whole region of New England. “The Freedom City” as it is known by one of its many nicknames, here is where the Freedom was proclaimed.

This is now my 4th or 5th time in this beautiful city, although the first time was quite complete as well since I came to be with an American family for 5 weeks, living nearby in the smaller city of Hudson, MA; hence why I spent more than one time coming downtown. Still, that was very long ago in the year 2000 and I was too young. It took another 12 years for me to return, and now, 6 more years to finally be back here. This time with more experience in travelling than ever before, and more time to enjoy as much as possible every corner there left to discover and re-discover.

One of the most culturally influential cities in the country, home to some of the most exclusive universities in the world. A magnet of knowledge from all over the world and very important ever since its foundation back in 1630 by settlers from England. Some of Boston’s firsts include the first public park in 1634, the Boston Common; the United States’ first public school in 1635, the Boston Latin School. In 1852 the Boston Public Library was founded as the first free library in the United States, while the first subway system was opened in 1897, only third in the world after London and Budapest. (more…)

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Read more about the article Baltimore – USA
Baltimore - USA

Baltimore – USA

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The Charm City

Moving to a second base in this trip, we reach Baltimore, perfectly located in between Philadelphia that sits north, and Washington DC to the south. In terms of logistic and comfort for travelling and sightseeing, this was the best decision I could come across saving us lots of precious time without the need to keep packing and moving with our luggage from a hotel to another switching cities every other day. A second direct benefit for making a base here is cost-saving for accommodation. Both Philly and DC are more expensive in terms of hotels, but also in restaurants and day-to-day life. And lastly, well, this is a city I’ve never been before in the USA and therefore, and added value to the trip.

While often bypassed by tourists, it is nevertheless a very charming place, yet small but good enough for a full entire day sightseeing. The entire downtown and waterfront been recently revamped and gentrified, it is now a thing of the past the turbulent reputation in being one of the most dangerous and decaying cities in the USA. You can hardly see any sign from such past, unless of course, you get to the outskirts neighbourhoods which in turn, there is nothing there for you to see nor reason to go.

Our base in here worked perfectly for breaking the rather heavy non-stop sightseeing past days in New York City, giving us some resting and relaxing time in between, enjoying the very short train rides to Philly and DC and charging the batteries to continue the next days farther south towards New Orleans. (more…)

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Read more about the article Porto – Portugal
Porto - Portugal

Porto – Portugal

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A Cidade Invicta: The Unconquered City

Over 6 years have passed since our first and only time in this incredible city, and still not sure how so much time have passed to return only for the second time. There are certain cities in Europe where does not matter how many times you return, there is always a fun in coming back and always something new to see and enjoy. Porto is one of them for sure, and now that there are better and more frequent choices of airlines and timings, will be easier to find another good deal in the near future. However, as pretty much everywhere else in Europe, during high season it is generally cheaper to fly farther away to more exotic destinations to the rather “around the corner” Porto. Anyway, this was about time to revamp the guide for this city, since what I wrote years back was not so complete and already getting obsolete.

Have in mind that a weekend for this city can be short. There is simply too much to see and do, and our plan this weekend also included visiting the nearby cities of Braga and Guimaraes, or at least that was our initial intention, if not both, then just Guimaraes. On literally every corner there are sights and amazing buildings everywhere. The old town core is very large considering the overall size of the city, one of the most historic cities in Portugal, no wonder it is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet despite this fact, it is unfortunately in much need of restoration. Many buildings falling apart and many others totally ruined. Thankfully the city is slowly revitalising and regenerating bit by bit which surely in few years time will make a huge difference. It does already in these 6 years lapse, nothing to compare to the rather run down city we once knew. The current gentrification is perhaps too fast, with trendy and chic shops, cafes and bars popping everywhere but with an ideology I don’t quite share: skyrocket prices.

While distances in the city seems “small” on a map, they are not in truth. The city was built among steep hills, and the up and downs are considerably, not to mention the gorge the river Douro marks along its length, cutting the city in 2 and connected by high bridges. Among them, the iconic and symbol of Porto, the Ponte Dom Luis I, and the Maria Pia Bridge by Gustave Eiffel. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and Porto this masterpiece of a bridge.

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Read more about the article Santander – Spain
Santander - Spain

Santander – Spain

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Roman Portus Victoriae Iuliobrigensium

A short visit to another of the cities I have less travelled too, however good enough to be back after probably 7 years if not more since the last time. Although we planned this weekend for visiting Burgos and Atapuerca, we actually ended up with enough time to head back to Santander from where our plane would depart later at night to London, and enjoy a stroll remembering the beautiful and elegant capital city of the autonomous community of Cantabria in northern Spain, right by the Atlantic coast (the Cantabrian Sea).

Not only that we had a nice time in Santander, but also stopped along the way from Burgos at the birthplace of the River Ebro in Fontibre. That was truly unique to be honest, or at least for myself. I’ve never seen before the very beginning of an important river as Ebro is, and it is actually shocking how this all happens. From that tiny river with water coming from under the earth, to what then becomes the second largest river to flow in the Iberian Peninsula and its large delta by the Mediterranean coast at Amposta, Tarragona.

When visiting Santander, however, it is highly unlikely you will be coming here to Fontibre unless you are doing a bigger tour through Cantabria or northern Spain, but hey, if you are on your way to/from Burgos or other places in norther Spain and you have the chance, do not hesitate in sliding off the motorway, it is less than 5 minutes on the national road. (more…)

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