Ironbridge – United Kingdom
Ironbridge - United Kingdom

Ironbridge – United Kingdom

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First bridge in the world made of cast iron

For a long time now I was keen to come and visit this place. Ironbridge, double famous for being 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. Thereafter 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
Chester - United Kingdom

Chester – United Kingdom

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The 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. (more…)

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Liverpool – United Kingdom
Liverpool - United Kingdom

Liverpool – United Kingdom

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City of World’s Firsts

For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for the beautiful and vibrant Liverpool, 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. (more…)

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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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Isle of Skye – United Kingdom
Isle of Skye - United Kingdom

Isle of Skye – United Kingdom

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Largest of the Inner Hebrides

Onto another of the great islands of the United Kingdom archipelago itself. The Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides. Coming from such an exuberant green, mountainous nature and incredible landscapes in the highlands region of Scotland, to this rather eerie landscapes, with such a variety of green and brown colours of the ground, almost no trees and so empty. A very beautiful place, fascinating scenery truly unique and worth every kilometre we did, enhanced by its characteristic coastline of peninsulas and bays radiating out from the mountainous core dominated by the Cuillin Hills.

The nearest “major” city to Skye is Inverness, where we did our base in the nearby and drove for a full day tour of the island. Driving to Skye was part of this great trip, passing through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland and the world famous castle of Eilean Donan, our second time here by the way. The island size might not look big, however the longest distance is around 100 kilometres from edge to edge. I could not imagine any other way for really enjoying the island than by having your own transport because of the many places and spots to admire such as dramatic mountain landscapes, nature, views, villages, harbours, coastline and ancient prehistoric Iron and Bronze Age settlements.

A day is well more than enough for completing the entire circle without any rush giving you plenty of that extra time you will appreciate for stopping everywhere out of your original plans. Believe me when I tell you this will happen much often than you though. At every turn of the road a different landscape, a different view, and every time getting better and better. The good side in coming here during the summer months is the extra long hours of daylight you will have. Being that north, towards the end of June having sun at 23.00pm is normal, therefore that we could enjoy of an over-extended day! (more…)

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Inverness – United Kingdom
Inverness - United Kingdom

Inverness – United Kingdom

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The capital of the Highlands

It’s been many years like to try and make memory, but it’s always a good idea to return to places we can not hardly remember! Back then, perhaps year 2010, reaching Inverness was the farthest city in a huge Scotland road trip we did: Glasgow, The Forth, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Huntly, Dufftown, Elgin, Inverness, Fort Augustus, Fort William, Glencoe, Oban, Loch Lomond and who knows how many more in between. That was an incredible trip, the most beautiful ever anywhere withing the United Kingdom. But ever since, we’ve kept returning to Glasgow as a base for visiting other places, or just simply for revisiting the city itself as was the case only 2 weeks before this trip to Inverness.

Our plan was very different in any case: a road trip through the Isle of Skye. But, where’s the nearest airport? You’ve guessed it, Inverness. I will take nevertheless this chance for creating a nice travel guide for what is becoming at giant steps such an important tourist destination in Scotland. After all, who does not want to tick the checkbox in their travel bucket list, the Loch Ness? Well, while most of the people’s desires is this, let me tell you that Loch Ness, while being beautiful, cannot be compared to the most secluded and off-the-beaten path anywhere else through Scotland. Believe me when I tell you there are incredible places out of this world much more worth than Loch Ness itself, and what’s best in all this? Your main gateway to such incredible landscapes is right here! Inverness: The capital of the Highlands.

As for the city itself, it is really small when compared to the great Scotland cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to name the biggest, but it’s nothing more beyond the riverside, its castle and a charming yet tiny medieval old town. (more…)

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Glasgow – United Kingdom
Glasgow - United Kingdom

Glasgow – United Kingdom

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Second City of the British Empire

A very long pending city for returning. With this, it’s the third time and once more I have to say how much I loved it. How beautiful and elegant, and so much to see and do that a weekend comes even short. It was also about time for a proper revisit and therefore, creating this well deserved guide for the city in the blog. Still, don’t blame me for not having created the London guide yet! (face-palm)… Keep checking in the near future as I promise you it is due to come and will be fully packed as are the guides for Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Naples or Brussels just to name a few of the ones I keep returning very frequently.

Now onto what really matter here for now: Glasgow. To start understanding a little bit of the city and its incredible importance back in its heydays, we have to return few centuries ago, and not to the Roman times because over here, all that was built back then was the Antonine Wall which together with the Hadrian’s Wall farther south, were the northernmost frontiers of the Roman Empire, keeping it separate from the Celtic and Pictish Caledonia. It’s from the 17th century where the city started benefiting from the international trade, manufacturing and invention. At the turn of the 18th century the city was described to be only second to London for its beauty, cleanliness and planning; a city at the time of only 12000 inhabitants. Soon after with the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution the city’s expansion was unparalleled. Take a map, and see the city’s urban planning, then you have the answer right away: the perfect city with the perfect orthogonal urbanism filled with the finest architecture of the era. Georgian, Victorian and then art-nouveu. To this last style, I will soon return to explain.

The 18th century also saw Glasgow’s port, created on the nearby Firth of Clyde expanded to become what is still today the largest and most important in the United Kingdom. Back in the time it was a major hub for the transatlantic routes and international trade especially tobacco, sugar, cotton and goods. Over half of the British tobacco was traded in Glasgow alone. (more…)

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Dublin – Ireland
Dublin - Ireland

Dublin – Ireland

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Irish Baile Atha Cliath

Time to return to one of our the less visited European capitals, Dublin. That has been a long time, it was back in May 2009 since the first and only one time we’ve ever come to this city, so it was well overdue the return for what is actually a fascinating city full of history, heritage, beautiful architecture and amazing nightlife; yet thriving day and night, any time. Why it’s been such a long time, over 7 years for not coming back, that I do not know any longer after this visit. The true fact is a wrong image I took with back in 2009: an expensive city, it was cold and rainy all day, and failed to impress me; however I must have been blind or my appreciation has changed a lot because this time we really love it and had a great time, looking forward to return soon.

It was not an easy task touring a city being 8 of us on this occasion, but we managed well. Of course this can only work with a rather small city with a very compact old town and city centre as I cannot imagine moving 8 people through a big city, that would have easily been mission impossible with some wanting to visit and sightseeing across with others wanting to do shopping and the rest wanting to maybe party, you never know. Nevertheless, it’s a good plus being in the position of revisiting a city than coming for the very first time, this way we took it very relaxed and lose, no rush anywhere and letting everyone enjoy because there was time for everything.

The good news is that a weekend is good enough to enjoy the city in full, including a short trip to the Baily Lighthouse and cliffs of Howth if you want, and a mandatory visit to the Guinness Storehouse. After all anywhere within the city centre are small distances easily covered on foot as the best way to explore the city, while for the few sights farther away there’s a tram stop next to them. (more…)

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