This church is well worth a visit whilst walking up the hill to La Mota castle. It is famous for being the home of the 'Cristo de Salud' (Cup of health) which is shown in all it's glory during the Holy Week processions.
St Juan church is clearly signposted on the route to La Mota castle. If in doubt, ask the friendly locals (in Spanish of course as not many villagers speak English).
This stupendous church has a peaceful atmosphere with its low columns and gold altar. Sometimes the priests will allow you to climb up to the 42 metre tower to see the views of the town.
Abbey church is located within the original city walls and a 15 min walk from the bus station.
This is the jewel in the crown of Alcalá's architectural beauty with fabulous views of the provinces of Jaén and Granada. It has a very good museum about the period of Moorish rule over the town. Small sections of the fortifications are continually being excavated giving superb insights into Moorish building techniques. Excellent bus links with Granada and Jaén make this village a worthwhile day trip from either Granada (25 mins away by bus) or Jaén (45 min away by bus).
You can't miss this castle as it dominates it's hill high over the town. It is clearly signposted from the bus station. Almost all direct buses running between Granada and Jaén stop at Alcalá. A return ticket from Granada cost 3.35 euros.
It is a little known area of Galicia. Some great young wines are grown there. Loads of old historical monuments ranging from the Celtic through to the middle ages. Land is similar in feel as Ireland.
Dundee has really changed for the better over the last couple of decades. It has transformed from a down at heel city to a bright, fun place to visit. There's lots to do and see for everyone, shops, museums, theatre and the beach and castle at Broughty Ferry.
You can read my guide to Dundee at
Il Sasso is a language school offering courses in Italian for adult learners at all levels and of all ages. Classes are small and fun.
The teachers, all local, are excellent. I have been there three times and the highlights have been: meeting students from all over the world, staying with a local family and having wonderful food, enjoying the local music and wine festivals, going on visits to Montalcino, Sienna, Cortona and Arezzo, and simply living in such a beautiful place.
For me it has been the best way of getting to know a part of Italy well.
Il Sasso, Via di Gracciano nel Corso, 2
I-53045 Montepulciano (Siena)
Tel.: 0039 0578 758311
Fax: 0039 0578 757547
Nearest station: Chiusi.
Nearest airports: Pisa, Florence, Rome.
The Palatine Hill, located beside the Forum, is definitely worth a visit, and a great place to grab a break in Rome.
Also, go there before you visit the Colosseum, as the ticket is valid for both places - this means you can avoid the lenghty queues at the Colosseum.
If you're in Rome make sure you take a day or afternoon trip out to Ostia Antica (30 mins by train). It was the ancient port city of the Roman Empire & when the river silted up it was abandoned and the silt preserved the city beautifully. What's left is a huge ghost-town several miles inland with amphitheatre, apartment blocks, forum, bath houses and villas.
You can enter and walk around most buildings - even go upstairs and walk in gardens - and there are few of the restrictions you'll find in Pompeii. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was spookily almost deserted.
In the summer, the amphitheatre often hosts open air performances of folk and opera. A real find. Plus you can round off the day with a swim with the surf girls and boys at Rome's funky beach suburb, Ostia, a train stop away at Lido Centro.
Take the (very shabby)overland from Piramide/ Ostiense towards C. Colombo or Lido Centro. Costs about 3 Euros.
The Palatine Hill is next to the Roman Forum in central Rome. Access is via the Forum but most people tend to bypass it due to the 8 euro (approx) entry fee. But it is well worth it especially in high season when the forum is heaving to breaking point with tired tour guides shouting over each other about 'interesting' ancient Rome stories.
The Palantine Hill is quiet by comparison and the ruins are set amongst pleasant settings. Being away from the crowds allows for a more authentic picture of ancient Rome with some buildings in tact. Great for an early evening stroll (check opening times!!)
It looks equally amazing from the outside, with its facade and obelisk, or the inside, especially the ornate ceiling. You're unlikely to have to queue to get in, in contrast to another cathedral in town. It's also the Pope's own church.
Near the San Giovanni Metro, or a ten minute walk from the Colosseum.
10,000 troglodytes live in Guadix in white-washed, water-proof, cave dwellings with all mod cons, including electricity, television and running water! They are perfectly normal people and, when we went there, a family man invited us in to his cave to meet his wife, doing the ironing and his children and friends doing their homework - something to be treasured. But, beware, some demand large sums to let you out. On the other hand maybe it's worth it. It is after all unique.
Guadix, on the road from Granada to Almeria
Mérida in Extremadura is the site of the finest collection of Roman remains in Spain, perhaps anywhere outside Italy. A stunningly beautiful theatre seating 6,000 is still in use today, and an amphitheatre accommodating 15,000, thankfully not in use, are the centrepieces.
A number of villas with mosaics, paintings and frescos, a Temple of Diana, a Trajan Arch, an 800 metre long Puente Romano with 64 arches over the river and the vast three tier Acueducto de los Milagros help complete the picture.
But you must still visit Rafael Moneo's imaginative, modern museum, full of artefacts, and a truly wonderful evocation of Roman life and culture.
A number of good hotels exist for those who are attracted to stay for a while.
Mérida in Badajoz province in Extremadura, near the Portuguese border.
A vast, shambolic natural stadium. Or is it natural? It's an enormous hole in the ground, anyway, the scale of which can't possibly be appreciated from the outside. It's where Bradford so-called "Bulls" play. (Yuk! that's Bradford Northern to anyone with a sense of history).
Despite recent reductions in capcity and demolition of the terracing at one end, I can't recommend a visit to this unique place too highly. It was once (before the legislation which followed the disastrous fire at Valley Parade) officially rated as the biggest stadium in England and held a crowd of 107,000 in 1954, which was more than Wembley could take.
If you have no interest in rugby league, never mind - this place is worth seeing anyway. I doubt if any professional sport is played in a more gloriously eccentic stadium anywhere in Europe.
As you enter, look between your feet and you'll observe there's a pitch down there somewhere. The vast expanse of concrete terracing reaches only half way up the hill. Ascending it from the bottom, you may find the graffiti I came across a few years ago still legible on one of the crush barriers about a third of the way up. "Chris Bonnington gave up here" it says.
There is an interpretive trail at the site of the Cave and Basin hot springs where tourists can visit the source of the hot springs, and there are viewing platforms from which one can see the flora and fauna indigenous to the area, including a rare form of tiny snail.
There is also a building which houses the original Cave and Basin hot springs bathing pool (encased in a cave in the rock) which was discovered in Banff over one hundred years ago. Tourists must pay a small admission fee at the entrance.
Banff National Park
Most people know of Châteauneuf-du-Pape because of its excellent wines, which are known worldwide. However, as well as the wine growing area of the name, there is also an historic village of the same name well worth a visit.
The old village sits on a hillside overshadowed by the ruins of the old chateau (from which the name comes from). Go explore the narrow streets.
Don't forget to taste and buy the local wines. A visit to the weekly market (held on Fridays) is also recommended.
The south of France is the place of dreams for many, idyllic villages, vineyards, historical sites and access to all the places in south-east France worth visiting - Nimes, Arles, Avignon, Aix', Orange and smaller villages like Gordes, Isle-sur-la-sorgue and of course, Menèrbe.
The best way around the region is by car despite parking restrictions in places like Gordès.
Beaumes-de-Venise is in the region of the Cötes de Rhöne wines and the appellation Cötes de Ventoux wines. It also has it's own appellation, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, one of France's best sweet white wines.
Choose a local farmhouse for a stay.
Beaumes de Venise, Vaucluse, Provence, between Carpentras and Vacqueyras.
Take the TGV from Paris to Avignon and then hire a car.
Where to find it -
The world's only regular Slow Food Market. Held at St Nicholas Market on Corn Street on the first Sunday of every month, the market features stalls of fresh, local food of the very highest quality.
Now the largest food market in Bristol, its undoubted highlights include artisan bread from the Thomas Bakery, the lush Chocolate Workshop, top juices from St Nicholas Market stars The Big Banana, the almost legendary Pieminister Pies, Ginger Gallery's sensational brownies, organic meats, locally grown veg and much more.
This is the place to find out what south west food is really all about.
The Roman citadelle is open from 9.30am-11.30am and 2pm-5.30pm (6pm in July and August). The citadelle is an extremely rare example of Romanesque palatial architecture and is a powerful symbol of the power of the Adhémar de Monteil family.
The views from the towers take in the Alps to the east and the flatter valley of the Rhone river to the north and to the south.
In the area around Carcassonne can be found a marvellous region of France, full of history, charm, and amazing landscapes. Much more interesting, authentic and unspoilt than the Cote d'Azur or even Paris. Basicaly the Languedoc and Roussillon areas, although Perpignan and its immediate surroundings are best avoided since industrialised. The whole area turns up surprises and it would be pointless to point out anything in particular.
What a find on the drive from Les Baux de Provence to Tarascon. An ancient city with a triumphal arch and cenotaph. The cenotaph is fantastic - so different from the other Roman relics in the area. You can see these two relics any time but the excavations are not open on a Monday.
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