Read more about the article Huelva – Spain
Huelva - Spain

Huelva – Spain

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Roman: Onoba Aestuaria

An area of high interest I had pending for a long time now, the city of Huelva, the nearby sites of historical importance to the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the “New World”, and the mines of Rio Tinto. All of which within a small distance to each other, yet hard to find a good flight deal before. After all, the nearest airports are either the very expensive Seville, or Faro in Portugal. The later was our option, and so the fastest. A year ago we’ve visited Faro and the entire Algarve region, so now was time to return and do the other side across the border in Spain.

It is only 115 kilometres from Faro to Huelva downtown, and we drove there the following day to our arrival, although we stayed overnight near the border at the Portuguese resort city of Monte Gordo. It’s always better to be rested from the night before as was already late when we landed at night, while also driving in the day light was part of this trip, enjoying the landscapes of the Rio Formosa Natural Park, River Guadiana (natural frontier between Portugal and Spain) and the marshes along the way.

Huelva as a city, is nothing really special. There are not many sights, nor is a touristy city; however, there is way much more in the nearby region, as for example the Columbine sites (one of the reasons why we came here on first instance); and for those interested in the industrial heritage the city is on the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) with its Riotinto Pier on the Odiel River, and the not so far incredible Rio Ttinto Mines (our second reason why we came here). It is just a few hours all you will need to visit the city of Huelva itself, for what you will have plenty of time to get to the historical sites of La Rabida Moanstery, Palos de la Frontera and Moguer all in the same day (later described in the next section).


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Read more about the article Fuerteventura – Spain
Fuerteventura - Spain

Fuerteventura – Spain

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Strong Wind

Keeping on with the trend of travelling to the Canary Islands during winter (low season months) works pretty well almost every time. Air fares are incredibly cheap to the point that it is almost impossible to resist the temptation for not coming back to the islands, and especially if this is one not being before then even better. The only downside is the flight time from London, over 4 hours each way, and the very short time this kind of weekend flights really leave you there itself. There are no flights Friday evenings, therefore the earliest you can get there is around noon Saturday (does not matter which one of the islands, flights tend to be the same for one or another); the problem is the return flight on Sunday, which in this case with Fuerteventura is just after noon and not later. So this is more a day out with a night, still, great enough to be able to enjoy such a good weather and a different place for a little cost.

A rental car is mandatory if you want to see what the island has to offer if you are coming for a short time or city/nature break. So unless you are coming for longer and/or a beach holiday where you have more time and can depend on taking public transport to go to other places or getting on an island tour, you are left with no other choice than renting a car and plan your tour ahead to save as much time as you can.

The good side on any of the Canary Islands is the easiness to drive through them. Roads are generally along their perimeter towards the coast, so you can circle them easily in a day. Some sights lie off the main roads and are well marked, most of them being natural parks, and here in Fuerteventura is no different. The main landmarks are at both north and southern ends, the large sand dunes areas and impressive beaches. (more…)

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Read more about the article Tenerife – Spain
Tenerife - Spain

Tenerife – Spain

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The Island of Eternal Spring

A second time in this beautiful island, or should I say “small continent”. While back in 2013 we came here for a little longer than this time, on this occasion we spent the time to see what we did not visit the last time, which was pretty much along the west coast of the island and the northern tip Anaga Natural Park. The weather could not be better, but you need to think before coming to Tenerife if what you want is sightseeing or relaxing at the resorts and beaches. If the first, then it’s totally OK to get here for just a weekend as you can tour the entire island within the time, but if the later, then consider getting a week minimum.

In our case and as you already know by now, the first option applies. And since the island is not so big (still, it is the largest in the Canary Islands), the best and most relaxing way to explore every corner is by renting a car. If you don’t want to drive or hold a driving license, don’t worry, frequent buses take tourists to the Teide National Park and Volcano base which is the most important sight and likely to be one of the main reasons why to came to the island other than for its great weather all year round.

Santa Cruz itself is not too impressive compared to neighbouring San Cristobal de la Laguna; still, you will find very beautiful and traditional streets, old churches or the main square, Plaza de Espana, with it’s large fountain pools. For such a small city it is surprising to find out how many projects have been carried out by top class architects, being the latest its new waterfront and the ongoing construction of new apartment towers. (more…)

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Read more about the article Cuenca – Spain
Cuenca - Spain

Cuenca – Spain

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Where the houses hang from the cliffs

For a long time now visiting the city of Cuenca was on the list, however because of every time I return to Madrid it tends to be for short time (weekends mostly), there has been never real time to manage the trip here even though it is only 2 hours by bus from Madrid, or merely 50 minutes by high-speed train. In this occasion in the other hand, with over 2 weeks holidays during the Christmas period where I did not go anywhere far this year as is usually the case, there was plenty of time and luckily for us, the weather could not be better. Cold we don’t mind, but was actually warm-ish and perfect blue sky. With no hesitation we booked the bus tickets and went the following day.

The city lies in between Madrid and Valencia and is the capital of the province of the same name within the autonomous region of Castilla la Mancha. It is the 3rd least populated area in Europe, yet linked to some of the most densely inhabited cities in Spain within an hour. Considering the small size of the city, the amount of historic sights is literally resumed to absolutely every construction within the old town, no wonder why it has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

While everyone knows Cuenca for its hanging houses on the cliff, (after all, this is what every tourist have in mind to visit), it is also home to the very first Gothic cathedral built in Spain, timeline for its construction almost in coincidence with the second Gothic cathedral in Spain, in the city of Avila.


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Read more about the article Santander – Spain
Santander - Spain

Santander – Spain

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Roman Portus Victoriae Iuliobrigensium

A short visit to another of the cities I have less travelled too, however good enough to be back after probably 7 years if not more since the last time. Although we planned this weekend for visiting Burgos and Atapuerca, we actually ended up with enough time to head back to Santander from where our plane would depart later at night to London, and enjoy a stroll remembering the beautiful and elegant capital city of the autonomous community of Cantabria in northern Spain, right by the Atlantic coast (the Cantabrian Sea).

Not only that we had a nice time in Santander, but also stopped along the way from Burgos at the birthplace of the River Ebro in Fontibre. That was truly unique to be honest, or at least for myself. I’ve never seen before the very beginning of an important river as Ebro is, and it is actually shocking how this all happens. From that tiny river with water coming from under the earth, to what then becomes the second largest river to flow in the Iberian Peninsula and its large delta by the Mediterranean coast at Amposta, Tarragona.

When visiting Santander, however, it is highly unlikely you will be coming here to Fontibre unless you are doing a bigger tour through Cantabria or northern Spain, but hey, if you are on your way to/from Burgos or other places in norther Spain and you have the chance, do not hesitate in sliding off the motorway, it is less than 5 minutes on the national road. (more…)

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Read more about the article Burgos – Spain
Burgos - Spain

Burgos – Spain

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Head of Castile, Royal Chamber, First in Voice and Fidelity

Finally making it to one of the most desirable cities of the list of my less travelled areas in Spain, I start with Burgos for now. Although we landed in Santander, the nearest airport, we made our way to Burgos straight after leaving the chance open if time permitting for Sunday, to return to Santander after many years since the last time. That I can recall I’ve only been once to Burgos when I was too little to even remember anything other than a huge Gothic cathedral and all black because of centuries of dirt. Many years have passed and of course, the cathedral is not black anymore, but spotless clean and fully restored after many years of ongoing works. Nothing else I did remember from the past, nor even a picture I have, so this trip was as exciting as for any new city I visit from scratch.

While there are many cities in Spain as beautiful and historical as Burgos, what makes it to stand out is the impressive cathedral, listed UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fine pure Gothic architecture, size, achievements, ornamental details and massive collection of art in every form inside and outside, with stunning glass works all over. There is such another cathedral with similar characteristics in Leon, northwest Spain, which to my taste (and not because I was born there), is more beautiful yet it does have a mix of architectural styles being Gothic the primary one.

At the footsteps of the historic old town at little over 15 kilometres lies another site, this time unique in Europe and of high importance to the world. The Atapuerca caves, home to the richest fossil record of the earliest human beings in Europe, from nearly one million years ago and extending up to the Common Era. Only for having the chance to come and visit this place on a guided tour, your trip to Burgos will be well worth it! And in combination with such a beautiful old town, you are guaranteed to have an unique city break. (more…)

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Read more about the article La Rioja – Spain
La Rioja - Spain

La Rioja – Spain

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Birthplace of Castilian and Basque languages

Another weekend, and another excitement for getting to new places never been before, with the addition of those being in Spain, at the world renown region of La Rioja, from where some of the world’s best wines are produced. Spain might not look like a huge country, but it’s big, with each of the 17 autonomous regions very clearly defined with their own traditions, culinary and even architecture. And for me as Spanish that I am, it’s been so far impossible to be on every capital of province nor every region. That’s good news anyway as it means there are many trips to Spain to look ahead in the coming years.

Logroño is the capital of the autonomous region of La Rioja. A very small city which does not require any longer than half a day to visit in full, but the perfect base in order to visit some of the most famous wineries in the world. Not only for their exceptional wines, but for their incredible breathtaking 21st century architecture blending with the ancient buildings. More and more is this trend of getting a top architect to create a new masterpiece, and the “wine route” is nowadays both ways: for the wine lovers itself, and for the architecture lovers.

This was our main point on this weekend where apart of visiting the city, we also managed to go to the top 4 wineries, each of them by an incredible architect. It is sadly to mention here the death of one of the architects just few days before, Zaha Hadid. Her pavillion added onto the historical buildings of the Bodegas Lopez de Heredia in the village of Haro is one of the most delicate I’ve ever seen. (more…)

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Read more about the article Bilbao – Spain
Bilbao - Spain

Bilbao – Spain

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Very Noble, Very Loyal and Unbeaten

It’s been a long time since I did not return to Bilbao, the city I used to be at least once a year when I was a kid because part of my family used to live there. The last time was in 2009 already! True that a year ago we flew to Bilbao, but to go to Vitoria instead. It was really about time to be back at one of my favourite cities in Spain without any doubt, and see how much it has changed from the already better that was, to great that is now. Although this time the visit was quite explicit since the main reason for this weekend was getting to San Sebastian the day before, we actually had enough time to walk the entire city because I am very familiar with it and know how to move fast without the need to look for a map.

I do still remember many years ago how industrial the city once was. And I do still briefly recall in my memory the Euskalduna ship building complex in what is today the Guggenheim Museum and Euskalduna Concert Hall. It was all so grey and dark, smokey and run down, yet still back then I was only starting to appreciate architecture, and knew how beautiful the late 19th century extension was with the elegant buildings along the perfect orthogonal urbanism. Nowadays who could even imagine how a city can re-invent itself that dramatically to become a hot spot worldwide known for its architecture, cultural heritage and art!

Just a building changed it all. Almost 20 years old and still as striking as the first day. 1997, the Guggenheim Museum kicked off what is been described the best ever redevelopment of a city within budget and with clear views to the future. Ever since, almost every world renown architect have left a work in the city, with many more to come. Frank O’Gehry, Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, Arata Isozaki, Cesar Pelli, Alvaro Siza, Zaha Hadid, Juan Coll-Barreu and many more. Bilbao is known for its “signature architecture”, something few cities of its size can be proud of. (more…)

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