Read more about the article Izmir – Turkey
Izmir - Turkey

Izmir – Turkey

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Ancient Smyrna

With what is called in the UK the Spring Bank Holiday of May, what was best than using this chance for a long weekend trip abroad in Izmir without the need to take any extra holiday at work from the yearly allowance, which is already getting to an end almost entirely used spread across the whole of the year. It is quite incredible having to reach the point where I can only rely in the few weekends left this year where I have no trips booked yet to go anywhere abroad! This is the narrow barrier I am between being a “full time employee and part time traveller”, although my friends and colleagues at work prefer to joke in saying it’s the opposite way around, “full time traveller, part time job”.

This trip was anyway, planned a while ago in November last year, and the fact that the main flights were a return with BA to Istanbul was on purpose especially bearing in mind these were in Business Class. So what made the difference for us to get those flights and not any cheaper option?. Easy answer in this case: retaining the Silver membership status (Zephyr) with the One World Alliance. And the trick is this: there are still 3 destinations having sort of a loophole in the amount of tier points and air miles you would collect, being Helsinki, Athens and Istanbul. So a flight to Istanbul in Business Class will give you the same miles and tier points as if it would be a long haul flight, this is, double.

Since we’ve already been to Istanbul before, then we though this could be a great occasion to get to Izmir with the main idea of reaching the ancient city of Ephesus, and Pergamon too as our original plans changed and we managed to squeeze it in too. The good side of it, the internal flight between Istanbul and Izmir with Pegasus Airlines was really cheap, balancing the total cost for all flights after all. And with so many frequencies between both cities and many competitors, flying is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to reach Izmir, unless you are in an overland tour or other cities nearby while in Turkey. (more…)

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Read more about the article Carcassonne – France
Carcassonne - France

Carcassonne – France

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Roman: Colonia of Julia Carsaco

An incredible great surprise and totally unexpected and unplanned. We came this weekend to be only in Perpignan, but after seeing everything on Saturday and with not much more to be done for Sunday, was nice to find out that the impressive medieval city of Carcassonne was only 1 hour 15 minutes away by train from Perpignan. And what a city! It completely eclipsed our original plans and thoughts we got from Perpignan the day before.

The city after all, is not that big, and while we thought we would have plenty of spare time as we started visiting the area around the train station and the Cathedral that took us only 2 hours no more; once we reached the Cité, that feeling changed. Only with this city-fortress you could easily spend the entire day if you also visit the museums within. So plan ahead or schedule well your time, otherwise as in our case, simply enjoy the time as much as you can. We are quite a heavy travellers and we are used to run from a place to the other hence managed to see everything while having some time to rest, have a nice lunch and then enjoy a dessert with a coffee at a terrace.

Walking along the city and specially on a Sunday morning (and afternoon) was all for ourselves! All the shops were closed, no one in the streets and even was hard to find an opened coffee place. Oddly, tourists seem not to come to this area of the city but head straight away to the Cité instead, where it was thriving and full all people. In the other hand we managed to get pictures everywhere without anyone in the streets. (more…)

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Read more about the article Cagliari – Italy
Cagliari - Italy

Cagliari – Italy

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Sardinian: Casteddu

Taking advantage of the early May bank holiday and as such giving us a little bit more time at the destination than the usual weekend trips, we decided to book well ahead (and thankfully because this destination popped up at a great price with British Airways, much cheaper than with any other airline) the beautiful Italian island of Sardinia. A very large island in fact where my original plan was starting in Cagliari where our flight lands; then onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Su Nuraxi, and end the trip in Olbia in the northern side of the island. Unfortunately due to the long distances in the island and because you will need a bit longer than a day in Cagliari if you want to fully enjoy it, there was no time to drive all the way to Olbia. That will be then for another trip in the future.

Cagliari is the capital and largest city, and the most historical in the island. With traces of being inhabited for over 5000 years from the Neolithic till today, the amount of history can be felt in every corner and at the many sights all around the city.

The city in any case is of medium size and you could potentially visit in one day. Since we had to postpone for another trip the visit to Olbia, we decided to enjoy more time in the city and worked very good. You should therefore plan your stay accordingly and unless you want to just stay here (which is already good enough specially if mentioning the nice 8km long Poetto Beach), then consider visiting other places around the island. There are countless destinations to go to.


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Read more about the article Su Nuraxi and Tharros – Italy
Su Nuraxi di Barumini - Italy

Su Nuraxi and Tharros – Italy

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Nuragic and Punic Civilizations

Our second aim on this long weekend trip was to visit other locations up to a maximum of 100 kilometers or so from Cagliari. Obviously I did some research previously before to have a brief idea on what other nice places were near that could make a great day out. Of course counting with the Bronze Age settlement of Su Nuraxi as the highlight of the day. For the remaining locations to complete the day is the first time I made use of Instagram and searched for images using hashtags. I must admit the outcome has been very successful and will continue with this technique on trips that are similar to this.

Although you can take a tour from Cagliari or other larger cities in Sardinia that take you here and around other archaeological places, specially in what is called the Nuragic Route; the freedom of a rental car gives you a wider flexibility not to mention you will be able to visit way more places than on a tour. But that’s not all, if you are 2 people or more then is more cost-effective renting a car than getting onto a tour.

Driving towards Su Nuraxi was pretty quick and straight forward. Most of the way was on the highway, with the last few kilometer on a more local road. Altogether the distance is around 70 kilometers and since along the way there is nothing of importance to stop and visit, it will take you around 45 minutes from downtown Cagliari to reach here.

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Read more about the article Jerusalem – Israel
Jerusalem - Israel

Jerusalem – Israel

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The City of David

Continuing on our tour in Israel, we move onto the tourist destination number one in the country. One of the oldest cities in the world. Considered the holy center of the three Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. A city where continuous fight has never stopped through the curse of history. Palestinians claim it as their land, while Israelis do the same. Sacred for over 3000 years to Judaism, for 2000 years to Christianity and 1400 years to Islam. Three religions colliding with each other in a rather small piece of land.

It is believed Jesus was brought here after his birth, and that the Last Supper took place at the Mount Zion at the same building housing the tomb of King David. It is also also place where the crucifixion took place at the Calvary, known as Golgotha.

Although not unanimously approved by all nations, it acts as the capital of Israel, yet there are no embassies in the city as all are located in Tel Aviv instead. And then is Palestine that also claims the city as their territory, considering it the capital of the State of Palestine. Not far from the city you can see the separation walls built by Israel in order to control the border and land of each of the territories acting as a security measure too between the ever conflicting nations. (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 Cordoba – Spain
Cordoba - Spain

Cordoba – Spain

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Carthaginian Kartuba, Roman Corduba, Islamic Qurṭubah

Time to return to Andalusia, and in this occasion just after a month that we went on visiting the cities of Tarifa, Cadiz and Jerez. As for this trip, it was well overdue to come and visit one of the most spectacular and historical cities in Spain, world renown for its architecture. But before continuing and in order to understand why such importance, let me tell you some of the facts that will clear your view in this subject.

It was the capital of Hispania Ulterior Baetica in Roman times, then the Capital of the Islamic Emirate and then Caliphate of Cordoba. By the 10th century it was the most populated city in the world, and currently holds the title as being the largest urban area in the world declared by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As you can imagine with that large amount of monuments and sites you will need to calculate well your time to fully enjoy the city. A weekend is, in fact, quite short and rushy as I can tell you from experience, but as a first glimpse that’s totally worth it.

After larger Seville and Granada, expect to see in Cordoba a mix of both. Elegance and history where Roman remains blend with the former mosques and glorious palaces from the Islamic era; baroque, neo-classical and traditional regionalist Andalusian architecture with the typical white houses with iron balconies, patios fully covered with beautiful hand painted tiles in the walls, and orange trees and flowers in almost any street. (more…)

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