Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal is a charming town close to Lisbon. It makes for a great day trip. In around 40 short minutes via train ride, you will arrive in an idyllic location that was favored as a sanctuary for Royalty. Beautiful palaces and villas dot Sintra's landscape.

Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is easy. Trains run around every 30 minutes from Lisbon's Rossio station. This station is known for its architectural detail, and is used exclusively for routes to/from Sintra. The cost one-way is around five euros at this writing.

Sintra's city center is a short ten minute walk from the train station.

Câmara Municipal de Sintra "Sintra Town Hall"

Sintra has palaces, beaches and so much to see. If you have limited time, put the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira at the top of your list.

Pena Palace is a magical place that looks like it appeared out a fairy tale. After changing hands many times, it was King Ferdinand was credited with adding the myriad of eclectic styles during its restoration under his ownership.

When the fog rolls in, the grounds take on a mythical feel.

Quinta da Regaleira

This World Heritage site boasts grounds that include gardens, lakes, grottoes, a waterfall, a chapel, and more.

The Regaleira Palace 

The Fountain of Abundance

The Initiation Well

The Castelo dos Mouros-, The Castle of the Moors
The influence of the Moors in Portugal can be seen perched high above.

This resort town is full of wonders that you should definitely include during your Portugal adventure.

Happy Traveling!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Although it is off the coast of Africa, Gran Canaria is one of Spain's Islands. 
t is a popular holiday destination for Europeans, and gaining interest from travelers from around the World. Most visitors start their trip here via the Las Palmas Airport, located on Gran Canaria. It is a quick few hours flight from mainland Europe.  

Las Palmas is a good choice for a base in the Canary Islands.  The beach, restaurants and bars are all within walking distance. There are also two different bus services that offer both local service and for stops around the entire Island.  The yellow bus company called Guaguas (pronounced wah-wahs) will take you around Las Palmas. Global (blue buses) will take you just about anywhere on the island. Have cash for tickets. You can also purchase a TRANSGC card for multiple rides.

Vegueta, the city center is a beautiful area. Rich in history and architecture, it is not to be missed.

Another must-see is in Las Maspalomas in the South of the Island. The sand dunes look more like the Sahara than an island beach.

Gran Canaria is full of surprises. The quality of the street and beach art are no exception.

Canarian food has some Spanish influence (including tapas) but also has its own unique flavors.

A local favorite stop, check out this restaurant that serves Canarian favorites. You have to take a number when you arrive. Plan to wait, but it is worth it.

Gran Canaria is also a hiker's paradise.With a diverse landscape from lush greenery to a desert feel, this island has it all in one place.

If time permits, nearby islands like Tenerife should also be on your itinerary.

The Canary Islands offer much to explore. Happy Traveling!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fiesole, Italy

Sometimes a traveler needs a quiet break from the art, shopping, and yes....crowds of Florence. Fiesole is the perfect place. Just five kilometers from Florence, this quaint hill town offers incredible views and elbow room.

Getting there is easy. Take the Number 7 Bus from Florence. You will need to purchase your bus tickets ahead of time. Tobacco shops and other retailers in Florence sell them. Look for the "T" sign hanging outside the shops that sell tickets.
As of this writing, one way bus tickets are 1.50 Euros. You will need two tickets for a round trip back to Florence.

Be sure to validate your ticket when you board the bus. Simply insert the ticket into the yellow machine on the bus. It will print a date/time stamp on the ticket.

Note: The ticket machine is not at the front of the bus with the driver, but further back among the seating.

KEEP your ticket. Inspectors sometimes board the buses and check riders' tickets. You can be fined if you do not have your validated ticket.

The town square offers cafes and al fresco dining. Enjoy the view, while savoring a great meal and quiet time.

Since the 14 century, Fiesole has been considered a getaway for the upper crust of Florence. It is still known for its expensive real estate. Aside from being a great suburb of Florence, Fiesole has notable must-sees for the traveler.

Dating back to around the 9th or 8th century BC, Fiesole has Etruscan roots and rich history.  Remains of Etruscan walls can still be seen today.

The archeological site in Fiesole offers a great example of a Roman theater and baths.

After a bit of history, stop by Bar Pasticceria Alcedo for tea and a snack. Do not miss a takeaway of almond paste cookies. They were delicious.

Of course, the ultimate reason for visiting Fiesole is to capture the incredible views overlooking Florence.

At the end of your relaxing day, you can easily catch the bus where it dropped you off in the town square.

The buses run around every 20 minutes. (check the ATAF bus website and/or the times posted at bus stops for most up-to-date information).

Happy Traveling!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Azores - The Hawaii of the Atlantic

There are places so beautiful that you want to keep them a secret.
The Azores is such a place. The abundance of natural space, lack of tourists, and temperate climate make it an Eden in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

A great place to start your Azores adventure is on the Island of Sao Miguel. Ponta Delgada, the Capital, is a charming town that is walkable and inviting.

The beautiful tiled streets echo their connection as an autonomous region of Portugal.

A walk along the harbor reminds you that this vibrant city was once a simple fishing village.

Beautiful arches, churches and charming cafes dot the island.

 Hydrangeas and Belladonna bloom everywhere.

Beaches and lakes complete this idyllic paradise.

Geo-thermal hot springs provide not only a therapeutic, relaxing soak but also can cook your dinner!

This traditional Azorean stew cooks underground for six hours. It is delicious.

Speaking of food, there is an abundance of amazing food to be found.

Limpets, a local favorite, grace this pasta dish. I was fortunate enough to run into a local man who was gathering limpets.

Another unique surprise in the Azores is the Gorreana tea plantation. It is the only tea plantation in Europe.

With so many things to do and see, be sure to save yourself the stress of driving steep, narrow roads and hire a tour guide.  Green Visions Tours was amazing.

There are nine volcanic islands in the Azores. Explore and enjoy. But, keep the secret for your closest friends!

Happy traveling.