Have car will travel – on the trail of the Romans

Roman temple Milreu

Remains of a Roman temple at Milreu

 

 

 

Much remains of the Romans in Europe

I’m on the road in southern Europe heading slowly north so I thought I would try and visit some of the best of the many Roman sites a traveller can experience.

I was starting off from Faro on the Algarve, Portugal, so the first stop was just 10 kilometres up the N2 at the lovely village of Estoi. Here, at the Milreu site, are the lovingly preserved remains of a Roman community which once thrived there in the second and third centuries AD.

There is a lot of excavated stonework to show how the Romans harnessed water to enjoy cold and hot baths and how they created courtyards and gardens, fountains and places of worship and burial.

But the highlight of the site is a 19th century country house which was built upon the foundations of a Roman villa many centuries later.

Inside the house, at subsoil level, the remains of a winery with a tank and grape-press and other original Roman rooms excavated by archaeologists are on display.

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It’s been a gorgeous day for travelling and the landscape has been beautiful, vibrant green with bright blue skies.

 

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Evora and the Alentejo region of Portugal – a magic mix of past and present

Evora and Alentejo

Time after time – remains of Roman temple frame the spires of cathedral in Evora, Alentejo region

Evora and Alentejo region

Praca de Giraldo, the main square in Evora, Alentejo, and its imposing balconies.

Evora and the Alentejo

It’s one of those places that you have to see to truly enjoy so I will let the pictures do the talking about Evora, the capital city of the beautiful Portuguese region of Alentejo.

There is so much history within this walled city that you can spend a week there alone browsing through it. And the people are great, welcoming and helpful although I wouldn’t recommend the hot chestnut man in the main square.

And Evora is the centrepiece of a beautiful region. The Alentejo region’s nickname – the bread basket of Portugal – doesn’t do it justice. Touring it by car is like driving through an oil painting by a master, beautiful landscapes on every side.Alentejo, Portugal

There is ancient and medieval history everywhere. The Roman emperor Augustus has truly left his mark on this part of the world.

Evora is a UNESCO world heritage site and is ranked number two in the list of Portugal’s most liveable cities.

For the moment, the pictures can do the talking. I will write more about Evora in a later post.

Evora and Alentejo - Evora at night

 

Ryanair at it again?

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Are Ryanair at it again squeezing extras out of their passengers after they have paid their fares? Their latest trick seems to be separating couples who check in when the window opens for free seating. I fly with them a lot and recent experience seems to suggest they are.

On our flight in May, my wife and I were seated12 rows apart in D aisle seats. As we boarded the plane we luckily met a mother and her young son who had been split up with C seats in the same rows and we were able to swop so that we sat together.

We were flying again on July 7 so we decided to pay for seats but, lo and behold, there were different prices for different seats. There were no four euro seats and seats in the front of the plane seemed double the prices in less popular parts of the plane.

Ryanair offer a great service at great prices and they make big profits so it’s a shame they are appearing less than friendly again in this way.

There’s another take on this new problem involving randomly allocated seats here:

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/ryanair-seat-assignments-five-year-old-allocated-place-away-from-family-seating-policy-pay-reserve-a7785726.html

The Music City of Nashville

Nashville Music City

Downtown Nashville

Nashville is a big-hearted friendly southern USA city dedicated to music

The heartbeat of Nashville is an area where 2nd Avenue dissects Broadway, just a stone’s throw from the Cumberland River. This is Music City and it doesn’t disappoint.

Band after band can be found in bar after bar belting out their own live songs and the enjoyment goes on day and night. For the price of a beer, you can listen to one of the numerous bands that head to the city in search of recognition.

If you don’t like the band you can head for another bar until you the find music you like. It’s not all country music either. You can find rock and roll, blues, crooners, honky tonk. Take your pick. On 2nd Avenue, B.B. King’s blues club and restaurant is a famous venue.

Nice thing about downtown is that It’s not hyped up and over-commercialised and I hope it never will be. By day, there’s a casual and friendly family atmosphere which is totally enjoyable. By night it becomes even livelier as revellers flock in to bar hop and enjoy everything from retro-disco to line-dance hootenanny.

Broadway in downtown Nashville

Broadway, downtown Nashville

This downtown Nashville area, known as the District, is within walking distance of most of the venues and centres that have made this small city famous.

Between 2nd and 5th avenues lie the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium and the Johnny Cash Museum, the state capitol building, the Tennessee State Museum, the Tennessee Centre for the Performing Arts, the Tennessee Convention Centre.

One thing about walking in the USA, many Americans consider any distance more than two blocks away to require a taxi. My hotel was between 25th and 26th Avenue so the hotel staff were just about imploring me to use shuttle or taxi.

But, after establishing it was safe to walk this area, I walked it and was rewarded with some great views of the Nashville skyline and a wander in to Music Row, on 16th and 17th, which houses famous old recording studios currently the subject of a battle for their conservation.

But for one thing, Nashville would be like any other party city throughout the world. That one thing is genuine grass roots music. The city’s love for it makes it a special place. I can’t think of any other city I have visited that compares with it. Maybe New Orleans, but New Orleans has an edge to it and you have to be careful where you go. Not so in Nashville.

When I was there, Paul McCartney was playing the Bridgestone Arena and I was lucky enough to take in his show. As I left towards midnight, after watching this great British musician perform non-stop for three hours showcasing 39 songs, the band in the bar across the road was playing a rousing version of Hey Jude. Nashville was buzzing.

Set on a bluff by the Cumberland River and surrounded by farmland, Nashville attracts millions of visitors each year, most coming for the country music.

Its other Mecca is The Grand Ole Opry which is 12 miles away from the city’s downtown area. The weekly country music stage concert presents the biggest stars of that genre. Founded in 1925 by George D. Hay it is also among the longest-running radio broadcasts in history.

http://globewanderer.co.uk/category/usa/georgia/

http://youtu.be/OU_BvX-k_iw




Ten great days out on the French Riviera

 

French Riviera - hilltop village of Eze

Hilltop village of Eze

French Riviera – Côte d’Azur – to do list

*Have a day out in Monaco during the week of the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s often said that Monaco is the star attraction of the French Riviera without being part of France. The tiny principality has been a symbol of wealth and glamour ever since its Prince Rainier married Hollywood star Grace Kelly in its cathedral in 1956. Visitors can gamble in the casino made famous by James Bond or watch the luxury yachts sitting quietly at anchor in the stunning harbour. But you don’t have to be a high roller to enjoy it. Its superb gardens and terraces, with dazzling views, are free and the locals give a warm welcome. And see my video clip below about grand prix day.

*Have a walk along the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, followed by a drink in the sumptuous Hotel Negresco, where doormen still dress in the manner of the staff in 18th-century mansions. In 2003 it was listed by the government of France as a National Historic Building. The main thoroughfare of Nice, the capital of the Côte d’Azur,  is named after the English after the wealthy 19th century visitors, who made it one of the first European resorts for travellers from the UK, stumped up cash.

*Take a train ride to Italy. It is inexpensive and total value for money. For a few euros you can ride from Nice to Ventimiglia, just over the border. The sights along the way are fantastic and include Monaco and Villefranche-sur-Mer.

*Visit the perched village of Eze, a medieval village perched like an eagles nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle sitting on a narrow rocky peak. The castle grounds house the well-known Jardin Exotique

*Enjoy a scenic walk between the Côte d’Azur villages of Villefranche-sur-Mer and next-door neighbour Beaulieu-sur-Mer. This walk of around three quarters of an hour starts in Villefranche’s historic harbour, a favourite with cruise ships. It also takes you past Villa Nellcôte, the exotic location famous as the place where the Rolling Stones recorded their Exile On Main St album.

*Visit the Manet museum in Nice and Vieux Nice – the old town. The museum, on a hill in the Cimiez neighbourhood, houses the collection the artist and his heirs left to the city. The old town is an atmospheric honeycomb of narrow streets, dotted with Baroque churches, vibrant squares, shops and restaurants. Great place to eat out and party at night.

* Cannes is famous for its prestigious film festival which this year is from May 15 to 26. It has museums, churches and art galleries to see but the main attraction seems to be sitting in a cafe along the shore and watching people go by. If you don’t want to spend you can enjoy the seaside from one of its many piers and jetties.

* Inland slightly from the coast, the small town of Grasse is noted for being the centre of production for many of the world’s best perfumes. Visitors can visit the perfumeries that are strewn around the village or head out into the hills and enjoy walking through the unspoilt countryside.

*Hire a car and drive with care the French Riviera coastal roads between Cannes and Monaco. Enjoyable, with a feast of sights for the eyes, but to be avoided in peak holiday periods.

*Antibes, halfway between Nice and Cannes, sits atop the ruins of the fourth century BC Greek city of Antipolis. It has beaches and a port, an enjoyable old town, fortifications, good hiking, and a great Picasso collection.  It also has a traditional daily market.