Just took a trip to Extremadura to look at some property and ended up falling in love with this amazing and almost unknown region of Spain.
Gorgeous unspoilt scenery, unbelievable historical sites, Merida is the best preserved Roman town in Iberia! Could not have enjoyed the exploration without the help of the guys at La Sierra agency, they not only sell property but can arrange cycling and hiking expeditions, accommodation etc.
Based in the mountain town of Montánchez, right in the middle of the triangle of three world heritage towns, Caceres, Merida and Trujillo.
I recommend this spectacular light and sound show. Set against the back drop of the east entrance of Angkor Wat, a cast of some 160 Cambodians performed traditional Khmer dances, including the unique aspara dance. The hour-long show will play only until January 20 2008. A truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Belgrade has everything to offer on a night out, from hardcore clubbing to intimate bars to chill out and relax in.
The Club of World Travellers is the coolest little place I've ever been. A 'secret' bar, it took us a while to find but it was worth it. Extensive cocktail list, good prices and weird decor all make it a place worth visiting.
For those into their history, how can anyone look past Tito's grave and museum? A definite must and, if you're into football as well, a mere 5-10 minute walk from both Red Star and Partisan Belgrade's ground (and the kindly staff even let you have a look around).
Bratislava Castle is a must see. Great views over Bratislava, a cool museum to have a look about in (it costs though) and, if you walk back into the city, there's some cool little bars to keep you occupied on the way down.
Warning - if you get a tram, make sure to buy a ticket. They're very, very inexpensive and you don't want to be caught without one. Two of the lads I was travelling with got stopped by plain clothes inspectors who wanted £35 from them (known as a tourist fine).
My mates kicked up a fuss until a policewoman came on, told my mates to pay up or else they'd be taken to the police station, and then left. Not very pleasant.
Also, stay away from the train station area, a very dodgy area. I've never been propositioned as many times in my life!
The top of Carnllidi provides magnificent views over the whole of the St Davids peninsula and over to Ramsey and the other islands.
Whitesands (Traeth Mawr) is a mile-long beach that lives up to its name and, as you walk up the side of Carnllidi, the views of the beach and surrounding area change.
The path takes you behind Carnllidi and then finishes with a short but steep rock climb to the top. It's windy, of course, so take something warming but you'll clear away the Christmas hangover rapidly!
St Davids (Ty Dewi), Pembrokeshire. Travel as far west as you can go in South Wales, stop before you hit the Irish Sea and you're there!
We walked through the Sibillini foothills from Sarnano to San Liberato Monastery near to the hang gliding school and Gabella Nuova, the views up to the mountains and down across the rolling hills to the sea were stunning. San Liberato was a follower and friend of Saint Francis of Assisi and this was one of a number of monasteries built throughout Le Marche by their followers the Frati Fioretti di Jesi.
The monks are renovating all of the monasteries (don't know where they found the capital!) and trying to make them self-sufficient, opening ristorante, bars, hotels, and hosting wedding and functions. The monastery is open daily for visitors and adjacent to this there's a bar, which is stocked with a great selection of wines and a menu of quality Belgian beers no less, the ristorante menu is really seasonal and quite different from anything else available locally. At the moment in November and December there's a robust menu based around game, chesnuts, truffles and wild mushrooms - you can go a-la-carte or take a tour de force plate of everything (€35 inc wine, coffee and grappa). It's open most lunchtimes and Saturday and Sunday evenings phone in advance on 0733 694103 or 071 977128. There's also a website with more information on the monasteries and potential itinararies. www.terradeifioretti.it
There are many comfortable hotels locally or you can rent stylish apartments just outside Sarnano at www.villasanraffaello.com
Flights to the area - Ancona and Pescara 1.5 hrs, Perugia & Rimini 2hrs, Rome & Bologna 2h45mins
San Liberato Monastery, Gabella Nuova, San Ginesio, Macerata, Le Marche
On a clear day you can see the vast city and that is Utrecht from the top of the tower. The guided tour takes roughly one hour (and is done in English by request) and you are taken up some 465 steps en route to the route, but don't worry, you are given ample rest time on each floor and you are briefed of the history of all aspects of the tower. From who used to live there to long living superstition and myths. As it is the tallest church tower in The Netherlands I would urge any archaeological enthusiasts and general sightseers to give it try.
3512 JC Utrecht
Book a night time visit to the Alhambra, and especially out of season, you will find it very quiet and peaceful compared to the daytime crowds.
Sometimes you will even have the palace entirely to yourself if you go towards the end of the evening, an amazing experience. The palace is open until 11.30pm in the summer season.
But don't forget to check the time of the last minibus back to the centre of town if you don't want to walk down the hill afterwards.
The Ski resorts of Sassotetto, Maddalena and Bolognola are small scale but a great place to learn or get a long weekend fix and give visitors the opportunity to combine skiing or boarding with a bit of culture and touring the beautiful area of Le Marche.
Prices are also very reasonable; passes and ski/boot hire are both about £12 a day. The resorts have just invested in four new lifts, artificial snow canons and a new trattoria.
The town of Sarnano is a top base for a white week in the Sibillini mountains, it has over 20 restaurants, a late music bar and even has a funky nightclub.
There's plenty to see and do locally, the area is full of wonderful medieval villages and fantastic for walking below the snowline.
There are many hotels locally or maybe you would prefer a cosy apartment with woodburning stove and free wood, in the old Sarnano Farm Villa San Raffaello.
The resort is easily reached on cheap flights into Ancona, Pescara, Perugia and even Rome and Bologna.
Ski resort piste map: www.scuolasci-montisibillini.it/pagine/cartina.htm
This little communal cafe has a nice variety of non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails and a very alternative, lefty and studenty atmosphere; it doubles up as a little bit as a community centre, arthouse cinema, theatre and concert hall and event space.
The group associated with it also organises some of the best fun events of the city: the bathtub regatta, the soapbox derby, the naTo-cup (football), Bollywood in Leipzig and has also been caring for the restoration of the historic GDR advert 'Löffelfamilie'; which shows a family eating soup (donations urgently needed).
It's a fantastic little venue with cult status and as one of my favourite places only suitable for nice, friendly, open-minded, easy-going and in general just lovely people.
telephone: 0049/0 341 3014398
Several trams are just stopping in front of it. Can't remember which ones, but all which go to "Connewitzer Kreuz".
I visited Northumberland as I have an interest in Christian history and I know this place has over a thousand years of it. I was keen to visit castles and other ancient monuments, and Northumberland was recently awarded top 10 tourist destination in the world which it deserves.
The religious history of the place, particularly around Holy Island was spectacular and thoroughly recommended.
This section of the city is amazing. It has a real Middle Eastern feel combined with far east. There is one main street next to the ancient city wall which you can turn off to reach the Great Mosque. The street is alive with people and the perfect place to sit and enjoy the unique Chinese Muslim culture and food of spiced meats, noodles with a type of bread dough and delicious spicy flatbreads. I enjoyed many a beer here watching the world go by.
Ruined tombs cut into the cliffs overlooking the Nile. Wonderfully romantic - you'll feel you're in 'The English Patient'. No tour-groups, just you, the pillared halls, the hieroglyphs, the desert, and the views. Easy to get to with a short sail by local felucca (ask for Nassir Ramadan on the corniche by the Ferial Gardens).
On the west bank of the Nile opposite Aswan.
The Sierra de Montánchez is a protected area of granite sierra, holm and cork oak forest, with well preserved villages situated right in the middle of Extremadura so ideal for visiting the world heritage towns of Caceres, Trujillo and Merida.
The main town of the Sierra de Montánchez is Montánchez, a place famous for air dried jamon and the romantic Moorish castle. The hiking in the area is fabulous, a gorge with ruined water mills, ancient Moorish paths through the terraced olive groves, endless paths through the cork oak forest. Bird watching is a delight, nothing to disturb the natural habitat of hundreds of species. Microclimate in Montánchez so very equable weather conditions especially in spring when the mountain explodes with millions of wild flowers.
Could try 0034 678447876 Information about the area (English speaking)
Sitting in the main plaza of Trujillo as the sun goes down with a cold beer is a little piece of heaven. The ancient stone of the 16th century palaces reflects the golden light, a stork flies over the tolling bell tower, slowly the plaza fills for the hour of the passeo. The whole town is a delight, wandering through the winding streets past the palaces and churches built with the riches brought back from Peru by conquistadors such as Pizzaro together with his Inca wife, their portraits carved on the Pizzaro Palace.
Secret gardens glimpsed through closed gates, jasmine spilling over high walls. Check out tips for Caceres, Merida and Extremadura for more ideas on exploring Extremadura.
Trujillo is 40kms from Caceres and the same distance to Montanchez
Tourists to Egypt hear much of Akhenaten, the probable father of Tutankhamun, who tried to replace worship of the traditional Egyptian gods with a sort of monotheism devoted to the sun-disk.
Objects from his reign form one of the most spectacular displays in the Cairo Museum but few ever visit his short lived capital city at Tell el-Amarna (which gives its name to the period and the artistic style of the times). Little remains of the city itself (although the setting is highly atmospheric) but the tombs of the king and his courtiers in the cliffs and wadis to the east are among the finest in the country, and mercifully free of marauding tourists – I was the only person at the site the day I visited.
A visit requires several hours and is probably best arranged as part of a stop-over in the nearby city of el-Minya (150 miles south of Cairo) which has several comfortable hotels. A military escort is required to travel through this part of the country although there is no real threat – it’s more like getting the VIP treatment.
Often overlooked in favour of Giza, Saqqara is a far more varied archaeological site, and is much less crowded, both with tourists and the tat-hawkers that tend to go with them.
Here, you get to see the earliest pyramid – the so-called ‘Step Pyramid’, which is still impressive in size and is set in a partly-restored ‘complex’ of buildings. Various other pyramids in more or less romantically-ruinous states are scattered around the site, together with some of the most wonderfully decorated private tombs in Egypt.
With these, though, as with lots of sites in Egypt, it’s almost impossible to say what will be open and what won’t, because that information seems to change rather haphazardly. Get here under your own steam by a taxi from Cairo to make sure you can wander around the many acres of ruins without worrying about getting back on to a coach.
One thing not to miss is the pyramid of Unas – start at his pyramid and then walk down its ‘causeway’, which has private tombs built all around it.
For non-beach orientated things to do, the size and decoration of the Kom el-Shuqafa catacombs will remind you of a Spielberg film.
As for food, the Kadora (pronounced A-Dora) and the fish market offer some of the best seafood in Egypt.
A pleasant way to end a day's exploring is to take a calèch ride from near the Cecil Hotel, along the Western harbour, and then retrace your route on foot for a bite to eat at the fish market.
Giza can be a nightmare. Its atmosphere has been ruined by the road, the coaches, the thousands of tourists and a seemingly equal number of Egyptians offering tacky souvenirs and camel rides at inflated prices. This is no coincidence however, it being the site at which the pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty at last nailed the art of pyramid building.
One of their predecessors, Sneferu, did much of the ground work however. He erected two monuments of his own at the much quieter site of Dahshur, a few miles south of Giza.
The earlier of the two is the ‘bent’ pyramid, so-named because the king’s architect got his sums wrong and had to change the angle of incline halfway up. The second, the ‘red’ pyramid was an unqualified success: a straight sided pyramid, smaller only than the great pyramid itself.
The interior of the red pyramid with its corbel vaulted ceiling is well worth a look, and the bent-pyramid preserves much of the outer casing that was stripped from the Giza pyramids centuries ago. The lack of tourists gives you a chance to take in the immensity of these monuments.
Although you kind of have to go to Giza, I highly recommend seeing Dahshur as well – it’s what Giza ought to be like.
Although millions of tourists visit the west bank at Luxor every year the area is so rich in archaeology that it is not difficult to find quiet and equally spectacular monuments away from the hordes.
Just across the road from the bazaars and the coach-park at the Hatshepsut temple a jumble of mud-brick remains marks the cemetery of el-Asasif, site of some of the largest and most spectacular tombs anywhere in the country.
Three of its tombs are open to the public: that of Kheruef of the 18th Dynasty, and those of Pabasa and Ankh-hor of the 26th. Their subterranean ‘sun-courts’ are unique to this area, and each of the tombs preserves beautiful relief decoration of varying styles.
I would highly recommend taking a walk from here back to the road through the crumbling remains of tombs yet to be investigated; at the road I recommend hailing one of the local service taxis and riding back to the river with the locals for a few piasters, rather than taking a private car for 100 times the price.
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