Tag Archives: Europe

Castile San Jorge, Lisbon

Standard

After our not so good sightseeing tour on Tram 28 we decided today to visit the Castile St Jorge which sits atop of one of Lisbon’s seven hills, luckily Tram 12 passed our apartments which like Tram 28 goes to the Castile, and luckily for us just as we left the apartment one had just arrived,the Castile dates back to the 2nd century BC. It sits atop of one of Lisbon’s hills with magnificent views over the city and the sea, and can be seen standing proud from most parts of the city below. You can walk around its ramparts and explore the many courtyards inside also inside the Castile there are some resident peacocks. Now I’m not sure if it was mating season or the girls good looks but the male birds were showing off their magnificent plumage, a great spectacle indeed. Another must see is the Camera Obscura which is housed in the towers. “Camera obscura, an optical system of lenses and mirrors, which provides a detailed 360º view of the city in real-time, including its monuments, most emblematic areas, the river  and the bustle of Lisbon itself.”Camera Obscura  Once you leave the Castile the small narrow streets which surround the castle are also worth spending some time exploring, with their  quaint little shops and small restaurants and bars. After a couple of hours visiting the Castile we made our way down the hill to take a look at Lisbon’s cathedral which was built In 1147 and has had many transitions since, it also has survived many of Lisbon’s earthquakes, worth a look but not as impressive as some of the cathedrals I have seen. I suppose I am spoilt living in Lincoln with our magnificent cathedral. As it was soon time to be thinking about dinner we decided to head back to the area our apartment was in “Baxia Chiado” and look for a restaurant, walking about the day before we liked the look of a small little family restaurant close by us called “Adega de S Roque” in. Rue da Misericòrdia, we were attracted by its intimacy and of course it’s menu,a restaurant I would certainly recommend, also don’t be put off by the many football scarves attached to the ceiling apparently it is a legacy of the previous owner, there are no big tv’s showing football, and in my opinion the huge splash of colour adds to the quaint decor. Adega de S Roque After leaving the restaurant we decide to take a walk back to our apartment along Rue de Norte which is one of the many narrow streets in the Barri Alto district which is famous for its many small clubs, pubs and restaurants and have a nightcap. We liked the look of a small bar called Alface Hall, where some musicians were setting up their instruments also another thing that attracted us was the fact that happy hour was on so we wandered in. Luckily for us it was quite empty so we found some seats close to the stage and ordered our drinks. The bar soon started to fill up, the music started playing, which incidentally was brilliant, so from what was supposed to be a nightcap turned into a very late night, of excellent music, plenty of belly laughs and drink a great night was had by all “we did pay the price the next day but it was worth it”.alface-hall

Barcelona & Seville

Standard

Once again we are off on our travels, this time its a special occasion for my dear wife’s 60th birthday. Our first stop is Barcelona, for three nights then onto Seville by train for three nights. Have never visited either city so I was really looking forward to this trip.
We arrived safely and everything went according to plan, after all we were flying Ryanair. We had not arranged any onward transport from the airport to the city as it was decided that after reading our trusty Lonely Planet guide the bus would be a good option, so after collecting our luggage we headed off to get our tickets for the journey. There are a few option to get from the airport to the city firstly there is the obvious choice of a taxi, which will cost approx €30 plus a charge for each item of baggage. Secondly there is the Autostrada bus service which costs €5.90 single or approx €9 return, and thirdly the is the national train service Renfe of which we took as after standing in the queue for our bus tickets we overheard some other travellers chatting to the woman on the information desk, and the cost for this was only €3.90, bargain. The train takes you into the city centre where you can easily get a metro connection, metro, tickets are priced at €2 for a single journey or you can purchase a 10 trip card for €9.80. Well enough tips for now back to the city itself. After dropping off our cases in our lovely apartment for our stay, which incidentally overlooked the magnificent Sagrada Familia. Our first port of call was the well publicised La Ramblas which is a very long tree-lined boulevard which eventually ends up at the sea it has many shops, restaurants souvenir stalls and some beautiful flower stalls which it appears are under threat from the local government’s axe, to probably make way for more tacky souvenir stalls. La Ramblas itself is in my opinion does not live up to its hype, personally its like any other shop filled street in any city, but it does have some worth while attractions like the huge undercover market which with its many stalls selling all kinds of interesting food. Also worth a look is the Plaça Reial a beautiful square with a magnificent fountain as its centre piece, with many lovely restaurants around its edge. But in my opinion the best area around Las Ramblas is the Gothic Quarter which is the centre of the old city of Barcelona, lots of narrow streets quaint little shops and many small interesting restaurants, and the prices are slightly cheaper than around Las Ramblas. Well after a long day it was time to head back to the apartment for a well-earned rest as our next on our itinerary was Sargarda Familia. Now Sargarda Familia is probably Barcelona’s biggest tourist draw, its architect was Antoni Gaudi he started construction in 1882 and the cathedral is still be constructed today with a proposed finishing date of 2026, words cannot describe this magnificent structure, you could stare at the building for hours and notice something new at every new glance. Now as you can imagine Sargarda Familia attracts tens of thousands of visitors and the queues are sometimes around two hours long, so a top tip to get around the long queues is to book your ticket in advance online to save yourselves a lot of time queueing, the official website for this can be found by clicking this link. Tickets. I would also recommend paying a little extra and add a trip up one of the towers on your visit and also take the worthwhile audio guide. Another place of interest we visited was the Palau de la Música Catalana which is a very elaborate music venue with performances that range from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and Cançó (Catalan song), right up to modern-day bands. The facade at the main entrance is magnificent, and if you do visit take your time to look up at the entrance facade and take in the amazing ornate stonework, the main entrance incidentally is not entrance in which you enter but down a small side street, so have a look once you finish your tour. Once inside the opulence continues, lots of lavish decor, stonework and ornate tiling. Your entrance tickets does include an informative tour but the entrance fee was in my opinion too expensive €17. It might be an option to look into taking in a show which we discovered in some circumstances was not a great deal more than the stand alone tour. Next stop Seville.

As this was a two centre trip it was decided to fly to Barcelona, take the fast Renfe train to Seville, then fly back to the UK from Seville. The journey to Seville was some 600 miles from Barcelona and the journey took just five and a half hours, with speeds reaching 300 kph a very swift service indeed. We arrived in Seville early afternoon and made our way to our accommodation for the next few days Apartamentos Murillo which were very nice indeed. Now as this trip was to celebrate my wifes 60th Birthday I had arranged for our daughter to fly out and meet us in Seville as a surprise for my wife, so after settling in to our apartment we took a stroll to the bar where I had pre-arranged to meet our daughter. Now prior to us flying to Spain my wife had spoken to our daughter and said that it would have been nice if she came to Spain with us, but my daughter told my wife that she could not get the time off work but, so understandably my wife was disappointed but understood, so when she turned up in the bar as arranged you can imagine the suprise on my wife’s face, so after lots of tears of joy a good time was had by all.
Our first full day in Seville was spent walking around the magnificent Alcazar palace and its huge grounds. The Alacazar Palace was originally a moorish fort, and it is the oldest palace still in use in Europe. In 1987 it was listed as a Unesco world heritage site location, a good few hours was spent taking in the magnificence of the palace and its beautiful grounds. Next stop was the equally stunning Seville cathedral. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world, a really must see. After soaking up all this amazing architecture it was time for a nice relaxing carridge ride, you see, all around the centre of Seville you can find many horse-drawn carriages and there drivers plying their trade to take you on a tour of the city, they cost around €50 for an hour-long ride which can be a little expensive if there is only two of you, but as there was five of us to split the cost it was not to bad. The tour takes you around the city and through the Maria Luisa Park with a stop at the stunning Plaza de España a great way to spend a relaxing hour. Now like I said the trip was to celebrate my wife’s 60th birthday so I asked the very helpful chap on reception of our hotel that if he could, one recommend a good restaurant and two, a good traditional spanish flamenco show and he came up trumps on both counts. The restaurant whose name escapes me was over the other side of the river from the old part of Seville situated on the corner of Calle del Corro and San Jacinto. When we first approached I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting something a bit special for my wifes milestone birthday but once inside although it was quite plain the whole experience was excellent. We were shown to our table by the really friendly staff, the chef came out in immaculate chefs whites to point out the specials of the night, and to welcome us to the restaurant, and when the food arrived it was absolutely delicious. Next stop was the traditional flamenco show, but first let me explain how the guy on the reception at our hotel described what was an amazing night, he told us that there were plenty of shows in the old part of town which last for about an hour but these are quite expensive and are just there to cater for tourists, but if we wanted the really traditional flamenco we should take ourselves off to Calle Castilla, he said in broken english that “the venue is a bit underground” which intrigued us but said we would enjoy it, he directed us to a second-hand book / comic shop, which was a bit difficult to find down a small street in Seville “Calle Castilla” once inside we purchased our tickets at the shops counter and were directed up a staircase to the second floor where there was a small stage, low lighting and many small tables and chairs dotted all over the place. Drinks were purchased by paying a lady sitting at a table with just a small cash box, who in turn gave you a ticket which you handed in at the bar in exchange for your drink. So we found a nice little spot overlooking the stage and settled down for the evening. The venue started to fill and the atmosphere was amazing. First a guy came onto the stage and introduced the musicians, then went on to explain the story about the dance we were to see, all with great passion and plenty of hand clapping from the audience. But as it was all in Spanish we did not have a clue what the story was, but we clapped when everyone clapped and just joined in. Next the dancers entered the stage and we were treated to the most passionate and heart-felt flamenco dance that I have ever witnessed a truly brilliant night.
As we had only one day left in Seville the rest of our trip was taken up with just soaking up the atmosphere of this amazing city, a true jewel in Spain’s crown and one location I will defiantly go back to.

Kastel Stari, Trogir & Split

Standard

After a short journey from Zadar we arrived at our last destination of our Croatian trip, the very picturesque town of Kastel Stari, our apartment for the next seven day’s was very nice indeed, with a roof terrace with views over the mountains from one direction, and views of the stunning Adriatic coastline the other just perfect.
Kastel Stari translated is old castle, it has lots of small narrow streets, a very nice promenade and a small town square where fresh fruit and vegetable market is held every morning, there are also plenty of small café’s and bars to which to choose from, but not many restaurants I might add. The towns of Split and Trogir are about 10km away in opposite directions with a bus service to both towns.

Split
Is the second largest city in Croatia Zagreb the capital being the first, the old part of town near the ferry port is beautiful, it has much to see, museum’s churches and beautiful architecture. I would recommend taking the time to visit Cathedral of Saint Domnius and take the stairs to the top of the tower there are plenty of steps so beware but the effort will be worth it as you will see magnificent views over the city. Split also as you would expect like very many other Croatian towns has an abundance of restaurants and bar’s to while away the hours in. There is also a great market just on the outside of the city walls selling everything from souvenirs to fresh fruit & vegetables and much much more. Split harbour is also where you can get the various ferries serving the many Croatian islands, more on that later.

Togir
Is described in the guide books as a smaller Dubrovnik which is true to certain degree, but without the city wall,  and more importantly the mass crowds, but the architecture is as equally as stunning as Dubrovnik’s. We decided to explore the city and follow a walk in our Lonely Planet Guide and learn a little about the city’s history. After our walk we meandered down to the harbour front for a drink, (yes another), whilst we were sitting there people watching and taking in the atmosphere a very large motor yacht sailed into the harbour, I say large it was like a small cruise liner, just magnificent. We watched the throng of people taking photo’s and admiring the ship, the yacht was called “Told u So” so I decided to google it to see if it was owned by anyone famous only to discover that it was in fact a charter boat which you could rent for a mere €190,000 a week or €27.000 a day, bargain, perhaps next time.

Hvar

There are over a thousand island of the coast of Croatia many uninhabited but there are also many which are not and choosing which one to visit during our stay was difficult, we had already visited the island of Pag which is in fact accessible by bridge, but it was decided that we would visit the island of Hvar, this decision was mainly made by the girls as they had read that it is a favourite haunt of the rich and famous especially one Mr George Clooney, quite what he has got that I don’t have I’m not sure, well apart from looks, money, a huge house on the shores of Lake Como etc etc Oh well I give in. First some information on getting to Hvar the main government-run ferry company is Jadrolinija who serves most of the Croatians islands, tickets can only be bought on the day of travel so my advise is get your tickets early especially in busy times as the boats fill up pretty quick. Now there are two types of the ferries the fast catamaran or the car ferry. We decided to get the catamaran as it is supposed to only take approx 45 minutes but the one we booked and incidentally the only one available stopped at another island on the way to Hvar and in fact took as long as the car ferry, two hours, it was noisy, cramped and bumpy first hic-up. The catamaran docks at Hvar town but the car ferry which is larger docks at Stari Grad the old town, as we had planned to visit both towns whilst we were on the island this was not a problem so we booked the catamaran to Hvar town and the car ferry coming back from Stari Grad as the last catamaran left Hvar town quite early. Our lonely planet guide reliably informed us there was a frequent bus service between the two towns, but this was not the case as even though it was early september they had cut back the service as it was nearly the end of the season and as the next bus was not until 1910 hrs , (the first leaving just as we had arrived in Hvar) and as our return ferry was at eight it did not give us any time to have a look around Stari Grad so our only option was a taxi, second hic up as the cost of an approx 8km journey was £35.00 Ouch! and that was after bartering with the taxi driver So my advise do your homework carefully.

All this besides Hvar town is a beautiful place, with some amazing shops beautiful restaurants and a stunning harbour. Top Tip walk to the other side of the harbour from where the catamaran docks and visit the rooftop bar of the Hotel ? with stunning views over the town, I can see why it a favourite haunt of the rich and famous, and although Stari Grad is quite nice and we had a lovely meal there with hindsight we all agreed that we could have spent far more time at Hvar town.

Zadar and its region.

Standard

We arrived in Zadar some four hours after we left Mostar, the rest of the journey was quite painless after our lost motorway incident (see previous post). The satnav once again took us straight to the apartment door, thank you Garmin. We were all slightly disappointed at the apartment as is it looked far better on the website, but it was clean and tidy and the owner was very friendly and helpful. We decided to take a short walk to the small bay nearby and needless to say we found a bar and had a well earned drink,  to unwind after our full day.
Sun 15th
Today we decided to go into Zadar old town. The walled town is what you would imagine it to be, full of quaint narrow marble paved streets, plenty of small shops & restaurants and many ice cream parlours, the reason I mention the latter is that Croatian ice cream is to die for with so many flavours to choose from, a must try. We spent a good few hours just meandering around the city soaking it all up. Apart from its amazing architecture Zadar is also famous for its sea organ and the sun salutation light show let me explain. The sea organ is an architectural feature which plays music by the way of a series of tubes located under a set of large marble steps, as the waves roll into the base of the steps a really haunting melodic tune is played. The sun salutation light show is a vast circle of solar panels paved into the ground. At night the panels light up in an array of paterned lights that flash in dancing sequences. Both a must see, here’s a video I found on YouTube.

Another must see is the amazing sunset over the island of Uglijan, find a nice sea front bar in Zadar, grab a cold beer or glass of wine and just relax and watch this amazing spectacle. Next stop Plitvice National Park.