Read more about the article Bethlehem – Israel
Bethlehem - Palestine

Bethlehem – Israel

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Bithplace of Jesus

After already spending the day before sightseeing in Jerusalem, we planned in between a half day visit to Bethlehem. A city impossible to miss while visiting Israel, although I should say in this instance, Palestine since the city is already at the other side of the border. Yet not a country fully recognized by all nations and ever disputed with Israel. Anyway, geo-political and politics as overall is something I don’t like to discuss in my blog. My purpose here is to give you an overview on culture and architecture on the most easy, simple and reasonable way.

Although a cute small size city, it boats a huge history. Destroyed several times, rebuilt even since. From its origins as a Canaanite city around 1400BCE, to Israeli, Judean, Roman, Byzantine, Muslim, Crusader, Ottoman, Egyptian, British and Palestinian.

But for what people know it much better is for being the birthplace of Jesus. As such, this is pilgrim destination number one for the Christian world. Everywhere around the city is site of a biblical event, some of the major places you will find described below. You cannot miss those, they are the must does in the city; although nothing can top the Basilica of the Nativity for obvious reasons. Expect many groups of tourists in constant transit, while long queues build up to enter the Grotto of the Nativity. You need to be smart to have your perfect picture and what is now the trend, a selfie with the Silver Star. (more…)

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Read more about the article Masada and the Desert of Judea – Israel
Masada - Israel

Masada and the Desert of Judea – Israel

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The last Jewish holdout to fall to Rome

On a rather unplanned and unexpected free extra day that happened out of miracle; well, I confess, because of having nothing else to see and do back in Tel Aviv as we saw everything in just one day (and even less!), this was the best that could have happened in the trip. Masada. Although I heard of this place before, I did not even think of it nor remembered when i planned the Israel tour. Too short time and too much already in the agenda. But was thanks to my friend who reminded it to me that If any some spare time, we should not miss the chance of getting here.

Not only this worked great, but also the route we took to get there. We did only know about 3 possible routes. One we discarded immediately merely because it crosses through Palestine in quite a disputed area, but the other 2 we only selected the shortest one. Glad this was the choice! From Arad, were both of the routes lead to Masada, one avoids the Judea Desert and goes towards the Dead Sea where one of the entrances to Masada is. The easiest route and easiest access via the cable car. But the other enters the Judea Desert and crosses incredible beautiful scenery, and offers the best view of the entire Masada and the Dead Sea from far and above. As I will also remind you below under the transportation section, do not hesitate in choosing the route you want to drive. This is for sure your best bet.

Although there are day tours that leave from elsewhere in Israel, most common from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem of Bethlehem, those are of higher cost than if renting a car instead and specially if you are more than one person travelling. Driving in Israel is easy due to the good road network though a bit chaotic in the cities. Masada after all is just that, the ancient fortification, something you can see in 2 hours no more, therefore that making the trip worth it coupled with something else which is even along your way, will give you a wider look to this region.

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Read more about the article Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee – Israel
Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee - Israel

Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee – Israel

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Named after Roman Emperor Tiberius

Squeezing to the limit on an already extremely busy non-stop day we managed to somehow leave Nazareth with just enough time before the sunset and make a quick visit to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. And all thanks that we had a rental car we were able to do this as otherwise depending on public transportation would have been probably impossible to visit everything in just one day, unless visiting just the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and nothing else and quickly leaving the city for the Sea of Galilee as unfortunately most of the organised tours do.

At only 40 kilometers to the north east of Nazareth it’s a quick and easy drive there. For us this was more of a “we must reach this place so we can say we’ve been there” just because of the Biblical means, rather than a properly pre-planned excursion, although a much realistic reason was our incredible shortage of spare time. I would have preferred to have had enough time to spend a whole day circling the entire Sea of Galilee, that’s for sure.

Although much of the ancient city was destroyed years back in natural disasters as earthquakes and flooding from the Sea of Galilee, the little that remained (apart from religious constructions) was razed in 1949 over objections of who owned the houses. Saying this, do not expect to see a beautiful city unfortunately. And even on the last years there has been a better track of preservation and reconstruction projects, there is not much from the original Roman, Crusaders, Ottoman and newer eras. Instead, ugly large hotels aligning the main promenade and some historical buildings behind. (more…)

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Read more about the article Nazareth – Israel
Nazareth - Israel

Nazareth – Israel

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Home of Joseph and Mary, the childhood home of Jesus

On our second stop for this tour around Israel, we visited the historic and biblical city of Nazareth combined with a short visit to Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River which are barely 40 kilometers farther to the east of Nazareth. 140 kilometers would be the total farthest distance to drive between Tel Aviv and the Sea of Galilee. We knew our overall time in Israel was meant to be very really compressed in visiting as many places as we could fit but thankfully we did something very good out of it by renting a car for the whole duration of our stay in Israel, which in turn, saved us from what would have been otherwise, countless hours spent waiting for trains, buses, and local buses to move around in the cities.

Nazareth was for us a first glimpse about how biblical the entire country is. Something we would experience everywhere from this day across every of the places we visited afterwards. It is literally on every turn we did, there was a place believed to be site of any of the events in the life of Jesus if talking about Christian Catholics, and the same for Jews and Muslims. In any case, this is pretty much the sense of coming to the “Holy Land” after all, and even if you believe or not, or whatever the religion you might believe it is well worth the trip.

Nazareth is a medium size city what makes it great for a day trip from wherever you are in Israel (of course unless you are by the farthest destinations as those around the Red Sea). But coming here from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem of Bethlehem is what almost every tourist do. (more…)

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Read more about the article Tel Aviv – Israel
Tel Aviv - Israel

Tel Aviv – Israel

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The Old New Land

Finally the moment we decided to go to Israel came. It has been for some years now in our “near future plans”, but was always been postponed on behalf of other destinations, mostly price related. I have to say flying here is not the cheapest, specially if having to do it on some sort of precise dates in order to coincide with any bank holiday or weekends in between to expand the stay, and more important, having in consideration that flying on Friday or Saturday would mean an extra cost for being stranded at the airport with no other transportation to the city than over expensive taxis because of Sabbath.

So Tel Aviv would be for us the entry point and start of a much bigger and overloaded tour where in each day we would be in a different city or even more than one. But for now, let me tell you my personal opinion on this city.

On my original plans, this was going to be a 2 full days visit, plus some hours on the last day before having to get back to the airport to fly back into London. On the last bit, we re-arranged it the way of spending the last hours in Jerusalem, and thanks goodness for that. Why comes soon explained… Then, what happened to the second day planned for Tel Aviv? Well, it happened that on the day of arrival, and with the help of landing super early at 5.00am giving us plenty of time, we saw absolutely everything! Now let me resume this in saying Tel Aviv has almost nothing to be seen plus its in overall quite ugly, run down and dirty city. And so for the spare day that now we had extra, we used for one of the best day trips we could have ever done while in Israel, Masada and the Desert of Judea(more…)

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Read more about the article Tarifa – Spain
Tarifa - Spain

Tarifa – Spain

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Moorish Tarif ibn Malik

First weekend in February and also second weekend trip of the year to a new destination. We found the cheapest weekend of the year to fly to Gibraltar as being this one, and since we’ve already been to Gibraltar the year before, it is still the most convenient airport in order to reach Tarifa, Cadiz and Jerez; the destinations we planned for this occasion. Unfortunately at only 2 days, we were one day too short as otherwise we would have reached Huelva to have completed the whole south of Spain and Portugal as we’ve been to all other destinations in the south in the past.

Tarifa is the southernmost city of Spain and Continental Europe, and it’s also the point with the shortest distance between Europe and Africa at only 14 km. This point is also referred as where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. Due to its small size, you can easily plan the visit as part of your way either into Cadiz, Jerez or in the opposite direction towards Gibraltar since you will be passing by. Just few hours is all you will need to discover it.

To my unexpected surprise, the old walled city is very charming and full of beautiful little squares and buildings. There is also a magnificently conserved Medieval castle dating back to the Moors period and therefore of the characteristic architecture. The beaches are entirely of sand and run for kilometers, but always mind the possible currents as the whole region along the Strait of Gibraltar is known for this. (more…)

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Read more about the article Alicante – Spain
Alicante - Spain

Alicante – Spain

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Roman Lucentum, Arab Medina Laqant

The city that saw me growing every summer for almost 20 years as my parents used to have a flat there; is always nice to return. Would not matter if I would return even every year as it is actually the current trend or even more than once; I do still enjoy it a lot, obviously for the beaches and for the memories that I have for so many years. To my personal opinion, the beaches here are by all means the best ones in Spain and even rank higher than many other beaches with a much more fancier name or location as Ipanema or Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, which are almost one to one to those you see in Alicante, or Boracay in the Philippines and Belize. Only missing are more palms, as for buildings and architecture, it is the same.

Truth is that the city itself is not very pretty as most Spanish cities tend to be. Instead the architecture is severely influence by the holiday boom which started from the 1960’s and in fact, many monstrosities were built occupying the place of beautiful 19th and 20th century buildings that once stood. Fortunately not all was lost and yet small, the old town still retains the old flair and beautiful blend of Moorish with Spanish architecture. After all, Alicante was one of the major Moorish cities back in the invasion times.

But something that won’t change is the weather. Humid and hot during the long summer, mild during the short winter months. If heading more to the north direction to Catalonia, the sea water turns colder; heading southwards direction of Andalusia, and the weather gets warmer. Alicante lies just in the middle, and benefits from this. (more…)

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Read more about the article Vatican City – Vatican
Vatican City - Vatican

Vatican City – Vatican

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The smallest country in the World

Since The Vatican is a separate country and to follow with the way I do create the travel guides in my blog, here is a standalone guide for it. Although pretty much the same is self-explained in the guide for Rome. Basically, this guide is based upon an older visit and not the most recent, since all the next times we’ve done a trip to Rome we did not return to The Vatican again. Fair enough one will always walk past it and around it, but to be honest having already been twice in the Basilica and gigantic museums, spending countless hours and making the way through the hordes of tourists, I think I have enough for quite some time until I feel the need for repeating in the future.

It takes at least half a day to visit, therefore plan ahead and know the times in advance, trying to avoid the rush hours where the queues build up exponentially. For instance, I would never recommend you to get there by the time they open and the following 2 hours, but coming towards the midday is already a good choice. You can admire the incredible architecture from the outside in the morning, and consider accessing inside after an early lunch. Remember once you enter all you have are some cafes and pricey restaurants, a limited choice.

Two of it’s highlights are why every visitor to Rome come, as otherwise, it’s like you have not visited Rome to be honest: Saint Paul’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, all of which listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Both lie within the Vatican City, also known ad the Holy Sea, the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population. The only such exception to be found in the world where a micro state is within the boundaries of a city of another state. An ecclesiastical monarchical state, ruled by the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. It’s also one of the last seven remaining absolute monarchies in the world, being the others as matter of curiosity and information Qatar, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Swaziland. (more…)

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