If you love old towns and historical sites as much as we do, you will be happy to know that there is a hidden region in Spain where you can find, among others, a city built from the old Roman town of Emerita Augusta (now named Mérida), a monastery with a wonderful Mudejar cloister devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe (in the village with the same name) and the two medieval gems appearing in this post. That region, Extremadura, was the land of famous Spaniard conquerors of the New World. But today Extremadura still remains unconquerable to the great number of tourists that visit Spain year after year.
Our journey to Portugal led us to cross the entire Iberian Peninsula by car and to enter the Portuguese region of Alentejo from Extremadura. On that trip I realised that amazing places can be found quite close and Cáceres and Trujillo are two living examples of that which have even served as the location of Game of Thrones due to their amazing architecture.
We love Italy, that amazing country surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, home of the Occidental culture, a land of art and gastronomy. Italy is a synonym of good wine, better music and lots of romanticism. And the best part of it is that we are quite close to such a paradise. So there was no better way to celebrate Dídac’s birthday last summer than a short break to Tuscany.
Despite our trip mainly took place between Pisa and Firenze, we decided to rent a car in Pisa to spend a day driving (without map and without GPS!) to discover some hotspots in the region. In our plan we had two must stops: San Gimignano and Siena, but we still had time to end our day with a nice dinner in Monteriggioni.
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.
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.
We arrived at 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, where we arrived shortly.
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!
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.
"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