Baalbeck, Anjar and Ksara – Lebanon

“Heliopolis, the Sun City”

Anjar, Baalbeck and Ksara, Lebanon, May 2018

Our second of the major tours while visiting Lebanon was for the actual highlight of the trip itself, the fascinating Roman city of Baalbeck with its impressive constructions, some of the largest ever created across the entire former empire. This was once again, an organised tour departing from our base Beirut, same as we did the day before when visiting Byblos, Jeita and Harissa; but also including another two great sights: the small city of Anjar with its beautiful Umayyad ruins and to finalise the tour, the Ksara Caves now in use by Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest wine estate where a tasting will be offered. Both Baalbeck and Anjar are UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed, hence the added value that means for us.

While there are still some more amazing places in the country to see, we can say from our trip we are very satisfied for now, and certainly will return another occasion. Fingers crossed that by then it is at least as great as it is now; a beautiful and friendly country, safe wherever it can get, and not turning into any crisis or even a war as it’s sadly with the neighbouring country Syria.

On the same note as I explained for the previous guide on Byblos, you can find lots of tour operators over the internet offering similar day trips, however pay attention to what’s and what is not included. From this experience I found tours which did not include lunch and entrance fees to the sites, quite silly right? While other agencies were listing everything included and even at more competitive price. It’s a matter of some research then all is straightforward, and if you want to have it already done, let me tell you which one is the best for the tours we did in this country (as of May 2018): Viator. Not only the best in the quality and quantity of tours they offer, but also one of the most trustful out there as it belongs to TripAdvisor. This is the tour we selected, click here. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Byblos, Jeita and Harissa – Lebanon

“First city of Phoenicia”

2 Byblos, Jeita and Harissa, Lebanon, May 2018

Our first of the two day trip we would be doing while in Lebanon, was of course for visiting some of the greatest archaeological sites and natural wonders in the country. After all, this is one of the major reasons why to chose this country and not going just to be in the capital, Beirut. As you know by now, we are not that kind of person who travels to countries for the sake of ticking “I’ve been here” and counting up the number of countries they’ve been. Not at all and actually it is all the opposite in our case especially when travelling farther beyond Europe and considering our continuous running out of holidays because so much travelling.

So as the planning for a trip to Lebanon came to a reality, then was the hardest task, what to see and where to go. A first stage is easy for someone like me who love to collect UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A quick search and some of the answers were defined. The whole trip would pivot around Baalbeck, Byblos and Anjar, the three major WHS, and of course the capital. Anything else would be extra and very welcomed. However with such a limited time we had altogether, the only way to visit as much as we could was getting into organised tours, and so we did. This is not the first time we do so, where in certain countries is strongly recommended like in Lebanon. Yes, it’s a rather secure and safe country, but it’s nicer to refrain from driving as a tourist.

While over the internet you can find lots of tour operators offering similar day trips, pay attention to what’s and what is not included. From this experience I found tours which did not include lunch and entrance fees to the sites, quite silly right? While other agencies were listing everything included and even at more competitive price. It’s a matter of some research then all is straightforward, and if you want to have it already done, let me tell you which one is the best for the tours we did in this country (as of May 2018): Viator. Not only the best in the quality and quantity of tours they offer, but also one of the most trustful out there as it belongs to TripAdvisor. This is the tour we selected, click here. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Brindisi – Italy

“Roman Brundisium

Brindisi, Italy, March 2018

Continuing on the second part for this weekend after visiting Matera, Alberobello and Fasano the day before, we set off to the streets of Brindisi, the city that we actually flew into, and later in the day to spend the afternoon in nearby Lecce before returning for the flight back to London. Another great day ahead of us with plenty of sights and lots of history, beautiful corners and a nice weather considering it was March. And so, the usual “suspects” adding to the good times: coffee, ice cream, baba cake and of course, a stone baked pizza.

While at the beginning I was going to combine both cities in the same travel guide, it is after visiting Lecce that I decided it would be better to split it into separate guides. Basically, Lecce is quite an unique and truly worth it city, with lots of sights hence the best way was to have a guide alone. Brindisi in the other hand, is a small port city, very important since antiquity for the trade links with Greece and Africa across the Aegean Sea, but something very strong as of today. Linking it to the capital of the former Roman Empire is the Via Appia, the city being the southern terminus which you can see marked by the monumental Roman column still standing in place at over 2000 years since its creation. Although there were originally two such columns, the second fell to pieces in the 16th century, then taken to the city of Lecce and rebuilt to hold the statue of Saint Oronzo, patron of that city.

There’s not much to see in this city hence it won’t take you long to visit, that’s the reason why you should include Lecce as we did, or other nearby destination. After all, it’s also nice to sometimes travel to smaller cities and not “kill” your feet walking for many kilometres or rushing in an attempt to visit as much as possible. All the contrary here.

(more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Kavala – Greece

“Ancient Neapolis, New City”

Kavala, Greece, February 2018

Don’t even ask me how did I find a flight here. All I know is that there was nothing booked for this weekend, and out of curiosity I checked what flights are there available to anywhere (via skyscanner), and this pop as one of the cheapest destinations, considering such a short notice just 10 days before. I did also never heard of such place, so I quickly checked some pictures and location, and here we are of course. How to resist such a temptation! No matter how short the overall time there was going to be, all that crossed my mind was something different: I fancy Greek food. Let’s have it in real Greece then!.

The best of all, this is a place unknown for the majority of tourists, hence you can have a great time without the hordes and tour operators shifting the hundreds of people that is generally at other cities. Here you will feel extremely relaxed and quiet, and will actually feel (possibly) for the first time, how the Greeks really live, without any strong tourist orientated mind. Still, from reading through the history of the city, I must admit this was a very important place back in the ancient Greek times. Not far north of Kavala sits ancient Philippi, founded by Alexander the Great’s father, Phillip, and where the apostle Paul baptized the first European Christian. Next to this city is the Pangaio mountain where ancient Macedonia’s gold mines were.

Later after the Greeks, during the Roman times one of the most celebrated achievements of engineering was laid, the Via Egnatia road, connecting Byzantium (modern Istanbul) with Dyrrachium (Durres), then by sea onto Brindisi in mainland Italy to connect with the Via Appia leading to Rome. You can still see great entire remaining portions around the region, just north of the city for example. As for some contemporary history, Kavala is the birthplace of modern Egypt’s founder Muhammad Ali of Egypt (4 March 1769). His house is now a museum you can visit. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Seville – Spain

“Roman Hispalis, Arabic Ishbiliyya”

Seville, Spain, February 2018

After so many years, 8 already, it’s finally time to return to one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in my life: Seville. Sadly for such a short time, a weekend (well the usual through the year with the weekend trips anywhere in Europe), but for a city like Seville, please reconsider you time. 2 days is definitely too short, at least 3 days will be the best; still, for a first timer, you can skip entering the Alcazar which will take half of your day and if too tight, skip entering the Cathedral, then a weekend will be just about right, however on behalf of missing two unique masterpieces.

What we did not do the last time was entering to the Alcazar, hence why this was a priority in this trip. And since we visited the Cathedral and climbed up the Giralda tower back then, there was no need for repeating on this occasion. Making such arrangements meant we could re-visit the entire city in all the time we had; and of course now, having the chance to finally create a proper travel guide which I never did for Seville in my blog. I know it will be a harder job once I reach the listing of sights to visit and what to do. That will be a long list definitely, but will try my best to group them by districts/areas and follow the best and most optional route as I generally do for anyone to freely enjoy.

Consider the entire city as an open museum, because it really feels like this, same way as you can say for Rome, Prague, Vienna or Paris. And it’s home to one of the world’s largest monumental historic town. At every turn you will find a piece of history in the puzzle when Spain was once the most powerful and largest empire on earth. The capital city for the New World that was being discovered; the city from where any expedition and trade to/from the colonies will start and terminate, and the port of call where all the wealth and riches from the colonies would arrive. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Agrigento – Italy

“Ancient Akragas. The Valley of the Temples”

Agrigento, Italy, December 2017

Approaching the end of the year, however not the end of the trips for this year yet. Still some more to come even though it’s just days before the Christmas time, and exciting for another great trip to come over New Year’s Eve and the first two weeks of January escaping the freezing and ugly weather in Europe for some beached in the Caribbean and an amazing cultural heritage everywhere in Cuba! For now, this is way another incredible trip whatsoever. No need to travel very far to reach some of the most unique and incredible places on earth from one of the once most fascinating and developed ancient civilization, the Greek. Agrigento was back then, Akragas; one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia. Sicily is Italy, that’s for sure, however over the past millennia this has not been the case and before the Romans, the Greek were here, among other past civilizations.

Reaching this place becomes a rush of excitement since it’s one of this key destinations for any ancient civilization lover. It is, and it will be, as when I finally get to reach Persepolis or the Machu Picchu, or when I walked past the siq into the “Treasury” building in Petra. Here you will find some of the most elaborate, large and best preserved Greek temples from this civilization, comparable to these of another former Magna Graecia jewels, Paestum (southern Italy).

A magnificent city founded around 580 BC, it developed prosperously being one of the richest and most important cities of the Greek Colony, once of the oldest democracies in the world until the Carthaginians in 406 BC overthrew it to never recover. Thereafter disputed between the Carthaginians and the Romans during both Punic Wars, it fully became part of Rome in 210 BC who renamed it Agrigentum. Both Greek and Latin were the official languages for many centuries afterwards until the fall of Rome changing hands to the Vandalic and Ostrogothic kingdoms before the Byzantine Empire. Lastly the Normans during the entire medieval period until the unification of Italy in 1860 leaded by Giuseppe Garibaldi. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Trapani – Italy

“Ancient Greek Drepanon”

Segesta and Trapani, Italy, December 2017

Once again returning to Palermo in Sicily however with a different objective. A year ago this was for properly visiting this incredible city; yet in this occasion the main points were reaching Trapani right after arriving into Palermo’s airport, and the following day for one of the most spectacular cities from the ancient Greek civilization, Agrigento with its Valley of the Temples. All in all, another busy weekend ahead, but no matter how tired I get this all is well worth it and will keep doing it on and on for as long as I can. Also, returning to Palermo will be a reality for sure, with so much more to see west of the island and in the city itself, it’s the perfect gateway.

Often bypassed by tourists, the city has a lot to see and do. Much more that I did originally think and expected. And when saying this, I am also including the nearby mountain top village of Erice which is linked to Trapani by cable car and you can consider another district of the city, and if time permitting, it’s way worth it visit the ancient Greek city of Segesta with its marvellous Doric temple so incredibly well preserved. It’s matter of minutes by train or bus from downtown Trapani, hence as if it would be another city’s district.

The historic city centre in the other hand, is small and easy to navigate, that’s the good news hence why this is a perfect day trip from larger Palermo at the northeast, or Agrigento at the south of the island where tourists prefer to make their main base; myself among them of course by staying in Palermo. (more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

Avignon and Orange – France

“The City of Popes and the 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.

(more…)

Share it with the world

Continue Reading

You've reached the end

No more pages to load

Close Menu
Translate »