Siurana, the balcony of Priorat

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Some days ago we had the opportunity to visit Siurana during our Easter break. Siurana (also called Siurana de Prades) is a nice village located in the municipality of Cornudella de Montsant, in the Tarragona province. It is part of the Priorat region, the land that produces the well-known wine that is traded from Catalonia to the world.

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View of Siurana from Cornudella de Montsant (thanks to the zoom!)

We had always seen Siurana in photos: that fantasy village located at the top of a cliff (more than 700 metres high), with amazing views to the Montsant mountains, a place highly visited by rock climbers. So we couldn’t wait to plan a visit to the village and its region. You will also see a water reservoir placed at Siurana’s feet where you can practise some aquatic activities.

Nowadays, you will see that the Romanesque church of Santa Maria de Siurana stands out in the skyline. However, Siurana was the last Moorish bastion in Catalonia, and they say that knights of four counties were needed to conquer the village. In view of its incredible location, it’s easy to understand why.

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Alentejo, stories behind the history

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XVI

Ferran El Valent (Ferdinand, The Brave) was having a rest under a Cork Oak. It was August in the old Castile, and Ferran had to stop in the midday in the only shadow he found before crossing towards the Kingdom of Portugal. A piece of cheese, a slice of bread and some wine, this was his lunch before falling sleep.

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Extremadura landscape before crossing to Portugal

Coming from the capital of the County of Barcelona, part of the Aragon Kingdom, Ferran was looking for new adventures. He heard of a recent land discovery. It was the beginning of XVI century and America had been just discovered by Cristopher Colombus some years before. He had tried to board on a ship in Barcelona, but he was rejected. He had tried the same in Cádiz, in the southern part of the Kingdom of Castile, and the same result was found. He was lame. His disability made him to be one of the best horse riders in the Peninsula because the horse was like a natural extension of his body. However, this was not enough to join a ship towards America. His faith: to cross the Atlantic at the Kingdom of Portugal orders.

Six o’clock in the afternoon. Ferran took his hat, tied off his horse from the Cork Oak tree and started the last part of the journey towards Portugal. More than 40ºC under a yellow, almost orange, sun and riding to the west. Alone. A hope. A new Kingdom for him. Elvas was his first stop in Portugal.

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The Lady of Antwerp

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We arrived to our hotel in a cold night of January after an intensive day visiting Brussels. We were staying in the city only for the weekend but the Belgian charm had taken us and we wanted to see a bit more of the country before leaving. Our flight departed the following day in the afternoon, so we had sufficient time to go somewhere from Brussels. We thought about potential destinations and found out that Antwerp was quite well connected with the Zaventem airport. We had not planned to visit Antwerp in that trip, but Google told us that there were certain hotspots there. So the next day, under a light morning snow, we walked to the train station and bought our tickets to Antwerp, were we arrived shortly.

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The clock inside the train station

We did not even have to leave the train station to get impressed by Antwerp. We found so much beauty inside Antwerpen-Centraal, the main railway station in the city, built between 1895 and 1905 and mostly designed by the Bruges architect Louis Delacenserie. After our visit we knew that Antwerpen-Centraal was regarded as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. And we got there by chance!

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Königssee, the King’s Lake

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Like a fiord in the heart of Europe with its alpine waters and green hillsides, Königssee deserves its name. In our travel to Austria and after visiting the lovely Salzburg we went south, crossing the border with Germany, in order to have a trip to the tallest waterfall in Europe (470 m): the Röthbachfall. The only way to get to this waterfall is by crossing all the Königssee from one side to the other using electric boats and then walking for more than one hour, crossing another lake, the Obersee.

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Obersee transparent water

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Girona, the medieval jewel

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Spring is already here (fortunately!) and if there is a city in Catalonia that knows how to enjoy spring, that city is Girona, a town with approximately 100,000 inhabitants located in the north east of Catalonia.

You may have heard about Girona as a filming location of Game of Thrones or as a starting point for a visit to the renowned Costa Brava. But I (Laura) was born in Girona and, before moving to Barcelona for my university studies, I had always lived in Arbúcies, a nice village found a 45-minute drive from Girona. Therefore, Girona was the city where I spent most of my childhood and teen years, but the more I travel abroad, the more I appreciate the charm of the historic city of Girona.

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Views of les Cases de l’Onyar and the Cathedral of Girona

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Koyasan, the foggy mountains in the spirits night

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If you are reading this blog it may be because you love traveling, you have that feeling deep inside that tells you constantly, as a whisper, “move, fly, go to see things you haven’t seen, go to experience situations you haven’t experienced yet, go to know other ways of living, escape and forget about your little world in order to feel the entire world through your eyes, your skin… go somewhere where your 5 senses are put out of the comfort zone because all of them experience new feelings at the same time”. If you need these kinds of experiences, you are one of us, you want to read this post, follow this blog and know about the experience we had in Koyasan (Japan). Because only in those places where it is difficult to get, those places that are sacred for the locals, those places where you don’t have other option than doing the same as the local people do, only in those places you are able to put down that whisper. Welcome to Mapping The Map, welcome to Koyasan!

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Introspection in the Garan temple

We got up early in the morning in Kyoto. The Tanaka-Ya ryokan was a small but comfortable place to sleep in the middle of the ancient Gion quarter in Kyoto. The old, smiley landlady, that opened the door 2 days before and offered us tea and cookies, said goodbye and whished us a nice trip to the foggy and sacred mountains of Koya.

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“En traboulant” in Lyon

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Since we have been together, we have been making what we call a “winter trip” within Europe during the first two months of every year. It almost seems a tradition between us, at least for the time being. When looking for our 2017 “winter trip”, we discovered an amazing city that we had quite close but that (wrongly) was not on our travel wish list.

We found really affordable flights to Lyon that perfectly suited the dates on which we wanted to travel, so we finally had a destination: we would visit Lyon at the beginning of January. Although Lyon is not as much visited as other cities in France such as Paris or Nice, the truth is that it has plenty of things to see. In fact, the Historic Site of Lyon has been evolving for more than two millennia, since the founding of the ancient Lugdunum in 43 BC, and thus is currently part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In our weekend in Lyon we had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the city, from the ancient Roman theatres to the recently built Musée des Confluences. Below you can find a brief description of what we visited in each of the three amazing days that we spent in Lyon.

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The foot of the Museé des Confluences

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Why Mapping The Map?

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Mapmaking has been an integral part of the human history for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient maps of Babylon, Greece and Asia, through the Age of Exploration, first explorers used to map their steps through the land and their miles through the seacoast; they painted their progress in a two dimensional surface, creating patterns of symbols in order to be able to come back at some point or ease others their way to newly discovered places.

We share the same passion of those first explorers. We aim to reach every corner of the planet and discover its mysteries, know local people and learn new ways of understanding culture and daily life. Mapping the Map is the blog where you will be able to follow the steps of two explorers of 21st century.

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Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Austria)

 

Although we share those old feelings and aims, as 21st century human beings we use the most advanced technologies to plan, perform and record our journeys through this little blue planet. We start always by using Google Earth, looking at the planet from the space, navigating from one place to another in order to decide our next travel project. We use our camera to catch up every emotion we experience during our journey and we will use this blog to share our discoveries with you.

Travels, experiences, photography, philosophy, happiness, open minds, gastronomy… let’s discover the planet together. Let’s walk through an existing map in order to create our own map of emotions, feelings and thoughts, and put them together to know who we really are.

"There is a thing that makes any trip unique. We know that where we walk around, where we eat, where we sleep, where we take a rest or where we laugh are places that probably we will not visit again. Places that we discover while knowing that some seconds later we will no longer be there, in an ephemeral manner, but with the same enthusiasm as two kids discovering the colors." Mapping The Map

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