Grenoble, (France)

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

Grenoble, France, March 2019

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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Reims, (France)

“Roman Durocortorum”, “The home of Champagne”

Reims, France, June 2018

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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Avignon and Orange, (France)

“Greek Auenion “, “Roman Avennĭo”, “City of Popes”, “World’s largest Gothic building”

Avignon, France, October 2017

A very unexpected and not even planned return to the city of Nimes this year however with a different purpose: visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed city of Avignon, and same listed nearby smaller city of Orange with one of the best preserved Roman theatres anywhere across the former ancient empire. So yes, overall, this trip was booked less than 2 weeks before coming on what would have been a weekend without any trip. To anyone reading this article as a standalone without checking my travel pattern, then it will sound normal; to those who follow me then they know I cannot stay a weekend without travelling abroad unless there is absolutely no option.

Flying to Nimes during low season is great in both air fare costs and hotel stay. Gladly from London it is very easy to find great flight deals even though the times are not the most optimal for this route, giving us just little over 24 hours, basically the entire Saturday from the very early morning until the return flight Sunday by noon. Still having been to Nimes just 4 months ago, there was no other plan to visit anything else than nearby Avignon, my main aim for this quick trip which was for a while now behind my ear in the bucket list of desired places to travel to. With Orange, I am still unsure if I will be able to manage it in the same day. I leave it for now in here whether if I make it or if not, because it is something anyone can easily plan and visit in tandem. One to another is just 30 kilometres, and both cities are small enough to manage, bearing in mind Orange’s highlight is pretty much its ancient Roman theatre. If you come to see pictures from Orange later on below in the next sections then it’s good luck to myself! I managed it.

So let’s concentrate in Avignon. “The City of Popes”. Why is such a nickname you might ask? Well during the 14th century this was the only city in history where the Papacy was switched from Rome to Avignon, where 7 successive Popes resided with control until 1791, when at the turn of the French Revolution it become part of France. Nevertheless, its heritage can today be seen and admire immaculately preserved all over the city including its ramparts; one of the very few cities to retain these in France without turning them down at the expansion and modernisation in the successive centuries. But among the structures, one immediately comes as the highlight number one and major draw for tourist to this city: the Palace of the Popes, the largest Gothic building in the world, pretty much unaltered since its construction bearing its interiors and furniture lost through the centuries.

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Nancy, (France)

“Nanciacum”, “Not touched with impunity”, “Capitale de l’Est”

Nancy, France, July 2017

Here we are once again at the brink of a longer and far holiday destination. Aiming for Tanzania as end point, however, on a very odd way that can easily make anyone lost and confused or even tipsy from thinking of what and awkward and long way with so many flights, but hey! if you are wondering why, it’s very simple: a while ago it popped in holidaypirates an amazing error fare flights we could not resist temptation and so this is us, on the first leg of this trip, well, sort of.

OK, enough of mystery. The original flights were Luxembourg City to Munich, Munich to Muscat, Muscat to Zanzibar and back on the same route, opposite way. How we ended up in Nancy then? Well, we’ve already been to Luxembourg before, so we had to separately book the London to Luxembourg return flights, allowing us an extra day and a half before connecting with the main flights, and planned in visiting the beautiful UNESCO listed city of Nancy taking advantage of this extra time. This was not actually the only great chance during this trip as I will be further explaining in the following guides, where our stop-over in Muscat was over 15 hours, all during the day and therefore another amazing city we could visit on the way. Crazy times, great trips! That’s the most exciting about travelling right?.

Coming to Nancy, it was in my agenda recently added as one of the destinations to visit in the near future during one of these weekend trips we usually fly abroad anywhere in Europe. And with all of the big and main cities already visited, and so the secondary ones, we are in the situation of having to research further and plan the trips to reach all these nice places you just simply cannot take a plane and land there. Most of the weekends this year have involved renting a car, otherwise this would have been impossible. (more…)

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Montpellier, (France)

“The City of Medicine Teaching”

Montpellier, France, May 2017

Once again in the middle of a very busy (and tight) weekend in order to fit as many places as we can, taking the advantage that our flight would depart later in the night from Montpellier; we came after having greatly enjoyed the day before among some of the finest Roman remains in the whole of France at both cities of Nimes and Arles, and the nearby Pont du Gard aqueduct. And while I can agree with you sometimes we are pushing it to all the limits in trying to see as much as we can, in this occasion I must also be honest in telling you this is all possible, nicely without rush and enjoying every sight at our own pace, but only because we managed to get a rental car we used the day before across all the sites I mentioned. Otherwise I cannot possibly imagine doing all of it by public transport, which is perfectly possible by train and bus, but extremely costly altogether and time consuming.

Montpellier is one of the last important cities along the Mediterranean coast of France we had pending for visiting, and it was a great choice. It is in fact one of the most elegant cities in the country with some of the finest 19th century architecture through perfectly designed neighbourhoods; although this is actually the case for most (if not all) of the cities in France anyway. It is large, but good enough for an entire day sightseeing. Sometimes referred as the city of medicine teaching, it’s home to the worlds oldest school of medicine still in operation, yet it’s not only about medicine, but other fields and subjects too. Everywhere across the city you will find old schools and university buildings, legacy from this rich knowledge and teaching tradition.

While this is not an “old” city considering French standards; no Roman nor older foundations, instead dating from the 10th century, its rich history and architecture, retaining most of its medieval fabric coupled with such elegant traditional districts and even the striking new ones by famous world architects. All in all, quite a lot to see and enjoy, pretty much in every corner (more…)

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Arles, (France)

“Roman: Arelate”, “Colonia Iulia Paterna Arelatensium Sextanorum”

Arles, France, May 2017

Continuing right after visiting Nimes and at only 30 kilometres south, we could not let then chance go away without including the beautiful and historic World Heritage City of Arles. Smaller than Nimes, yet packed with further Roman remains, Romanesque architecture masterpieces and elegant architecture. It is the smaller sister version of Nimes that can and should be easily included in your route as a tandem tour. Both cities are small enough to be combined together on a same day and both compliment each other, furthermore you do not even need to have your own transport as a rental car to move in between them because there are frequent buses and trains taking barely 30 minutes.

It’s incredible to see this small region of France containing some of the largest, finest and best preserved Roman buildings across the former Roman Empire, all of which listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. And it’s not just about both Nimes and Arles, but also the nearby aqueduct and Pont du Gard, and the awe-impressive immaculate and complete theatre and the Triumphal Arch of the city of Orange. On this last case, Orange, due to our overall limited time and different plans for the following day going to Montpellier, we could not reach. We will keep it in mind and also include when doing another trip back to this region visiting the UNESCO city of Avignon among others.

Arles is a truly charming city along the Rhone River near its discharge basin on the Mediterranean. The entire west and south are already touching the edges of the natural park, and we are glad after this trip to have made it here. Small, and so easy to visit and enjoy through, and such a great weather we had, it’s impossible to say any not positive comment. (more…)

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Nimes, (France)

“The French Rome”, “Colonia Nemausus”

Nimes, France, May 2017

It was the year 2011 when I first came to this city on my high school trip to France and Italy, and never returned. A very long time pending for a proper return to this beautiful city. Furthermore on this occasion visiting way much more than what our teachers and tour guide showed us, pretty much just the Arena and the Maison Carree and the walk in between. As of this occasion, I’ve planned a wider tour to include some of the most fascinating Roman remains not only in France but across the former Roman Empire with the Pont du Gard and the amphitheatre and theatre of Arles, among others scattered through both cities of Nimes and Arles, all of which listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

A weekend in the city is a great decision when coming to overall timing, but only when including the Pont du Gard and the smaller city of Arles, both very near, otherwise both days for just the city and you will be overestimating. In the other hand, it comes us, who generally push it to the limits. We planned to do in one day what would normally be a program for an entire weekend, and spent the following day in the city of Montpellier. And why is that you might ask? Simple, we grabbed some bargain flights when having our inbound to Nimes and the outbound from Montpellier airport, then why not to take the chance and visit both now that we could?. After all, it worked really well as you can see in the following guides for Arles and Montpellier, with enough time to enjoy every sight.

When visiting the city, apart form its rich Roman history and remains, there is way much more to see than that. A very traditional French city, with beautiful boulevards and elegant Mediterranean style architecture everywhere. While the historic town core is small, entirely surrounded by tree-lines boulevards along what once were the city’s walls; outside this perimeter, in the newer 19th/20th centuries extensions especially west and south you will find some of the grandest residencies and mansions in the whole of Nimes.
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Paris, (France)

“La Ville-Lumière: The City of Light”

Paris, France, September 2013

Returning to Paris, probably the 6th time I come in my life, but still great as usual. There is a bunch of cities I never mind returning, most of which I do yearly as is Brussels, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid of course as it is my home town, and Paris for sure. This time, with 2 more friends, a great group the four of us full of joy and laughs. Therefore, and although I did have a great guide for Paris already created in my blog, I will be just making a brief make over and update here and there to make it even better. Rewriting parts, updating others, but still retaining the format for a perfect three day visit under the what to see and do section since that is the ideal time you should plan when visiting Paris for the first time. Then with the time, at future trips you might do, enjoy doing something different. Paris is one of those cities where on every visit you will end up discovering a new corner.

It does not matter the times I have been; my impressions are still the same. On one side I really love the city, because of its great urbanism, architecture, beauty, elegance and somewhat opulence; but in the other hand, it does not feel too secure, the transports are not efficient (specially buses) and the inaccessibility of the metro system where a escalator or lift seems to be a piece on engineering not invented yet. Air conditioning? Who needs that! Whoever thinks that London’s tube in summer is hot and sweaty, here in Paris you should think twice. And while it is true that new trains are phasing out the older ones, it will take several years for a proper upgrade. Anyway, the point is there. Every city has good and not so good sides. This is what makes the difference from one place to another, country to country.

What is unique in the city is its massive urban planification. The work of Georges-Eugène Haussmann between the years 1853 and 1870 where most of the medieval city was torn-down to make way for straight wide avenues, parks and large squares interconnected by streets following a perfect pattern; creation of a new sewage system and embellishment of the city with monuments and public fountains. One of his key elements is the Haussmannian apartment block, or Parisian apartment block, where he treated the buildings not as a single element, but as an homogeneous whole. Equal heights and proportions, similar to each other if not symmetrical. This is what makes Paris one of the most elegant and perfect cities in the world, however, can result “boring”. Everywhere you go and look, it’s the same, in a same palette of colours; monotony only broken by the landmark constructions such as the Opera Garnier, or Place de la Concorde, the Arch de Triumph, Place de la Bastille, Place Vendome and so on.

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