Carcassonne, medieval France

Carcassonne is located in the southwest of France. Is a well known fortified Medieval town part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The walled city is very old, founded by the Romans, and is the largest citadel in Europe. The walls of the city are 1.9 miles (3 km) long and have 52 massive towers.

This medieval town is a picturesque place, that attracts plenty of tourists, unfortunately, too many in my opinion.

Carcassonne was fortified by the Romans and strategically located between Toulouse and the Mediterranean sea.

I’ve visited Carcassonne¬†12 years ago and really loved it, this time I felt a bit disappointed. The walled city felt more like a theme¬†park than a real town where normal life takes place.

I arrived early in the morning, and the entrance was already packed with buses and excursions.

Within the walled city all the buildings, squares, and alleyways have retained their medieval character.

La Ville Base

This time I have enjoyed more to walk around Carcassonne Town (La Ville Base) than the citadel. I found it quite charming and I really had a great time strolling through its streets.

From Toulouse, Carcassonne is an easy day trip and Bla Bla car works really well.

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

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Toulouse, La Ville Rose

Toulouse¬†is a charming French town that surprises with its enchanting atmosphere, and location between¬†the Garonne River and the mighty Canal du Midi, plus it’s still a bit off the radar to most people.

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The¬†ochre rooftops and coral-pink brick facades gave this sunny town the¬†nickname ‚ÄėLa Ville Rose‚Äô (the pink city).¬†I found Toulouse quite romantic, perfect for a couple.

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Toulouse is an easy stop-off in the heart of the south west of France. Has plenty to do and see from ancient palaces to great food markets. Toulouse has two Unesco heritage sites, the Canal du Midi and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the biggest Romanesque building in Europe.

Toulouse is a “big small city“, where everything you may want to visit is quite close, plus the public transports are amazing, making it really¬†easy to get around.

Basilique Saint-Sernin

As I mention before this Basilique is a Unesco heritage site, and it’s considered one of the largest remaining Romanesque buildings in Europe.  I found the bell-tower especially impressive, standing 64 meters above the ground.

The city is quite clean and many streets in the center are limited to pedestrians. Bikes are also everywhere. The Old Town not only is a concentration of monuments and old buildings but is also the place where the normal everyday life takes place.

The Capitole

It’s the majestic square in the¬†heart of Toulouse,¬†bordered by grand buildings made from Toulouse‚Äôs hallmark rose-red bricks.

The building itself is accessible to the public, and the entry is free.. Going inside is definitely worth it.

Musée des Augustins

Used to be a convent, nowadays is a fine art museum which houses some of the works from the French school between the 15th and 18th centuries. The medieval cloister and garden are especially magical, surrounded by salons filled with evocative statues and sculptures.

Cathédrale saint-étienne

Also know as Toulouse Cathedral, it’s a Roman Catholic church built between the 13th and 17th centuries. The cathedral is a combination of northern and southern Gothic styles.

Canal du Midi

A picturesque canal whose waters flow throughout the southwest of France until exiting into the Mediterranean Sea, perfect for a stroll along the River Garonne during a sunny day.

Pont Neuf

The Pont-Neuf is the oldest and also the main bridge in town, a great place to walk along the Garonne river. The bridge was constructed in the 1500s.

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Jardin Japonais

Located in the north of the city near the¬†Compans Caffarelli. On the day I visited the¬†garden, there was virtually no one there, it’s a gorgeous place, that definitely deserves a visit.

Chapelle des Carmélites

It’s a¬†stunning¬†chapel that will absolutely take your breath away. Inside this¬†chapel¬†is covered in fresco painting, from the wall to the ceiling. The chapel is¬†covered with religious depiction of the Heavens, definitely worth a peak.

Market of Saint Aubin

The Market happens every Sunday morning¬†and is run by local farmers. It’s a great place to buy organics products, vegan street food, find local artists and books.¬†Although Toulouse has¬†several markets this one was my favorite

The Marché Victor Hugo, is quite big and well known for its gourmet stalls and restaurants but more is more suitable to non-vegans.

How to get there

Toulouse has its own airport, 20 minutes away from the city center. It also has great connections from the airport to the city.

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

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Best places to visit in Edinburgh – Scotland (part II)

Located beyond the east end of Princes Street is the¬†Calton Hill (UNESCO World Heritage Site), surrounded on three sides by Regent Terrace, Calton Terrace and Royal Terrace. At Calton Hill you’ll find various iconic monuments and some incredible views out over Edinburgh.¬†Take a hike to the top of the hill, sit and relax in a quiet(ish) park-like setting.

The monuments on Calton Hill include the National Monument, which looks like Athens’ Parthenon; the obelisk-like Nelson Monument and the Dugald Stewart Monument.

The Victoria Street, is a very picturesque street, known for its unique and colourful shops.

The¬†Arthur‚Äôs Seat¬†was one of my favourite places, despite being a bit of a hike for my fitness level.. ūüôā¬†It’s located¬†about 1 mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle; and it’s the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park, formed by an extinct volcano. From the top you get the greatest panoramic views of Edinburgh‚Äôs stunning skyline of Victorian and Georgian architecture and the¬†Firth of Forth¬†(estuary)¬†in the distance.

Was a tough hike and some of the parts are rather difficult (at least for me) depending on your aptitude, the walk to the top takes approximately one hour, but the views from the top are worth it though.

The old Calton¬†burial Ground¬†also known as the¬†Old cemetery,¬†dates back to the late 16th century, and despite not being as extraordinary has the Glasgow one, still worths a visit. Supposedly¬†JK Rowling¬†got a few ideas for names in the¬†Harry Potter series here. And just because I’m already talking about¬†graveyards, there’s another famous one, the¬†Greyfriars Kirk, laying on the¬†tale of¬†Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who¬†supposedly¬†sat upon the grave of its deceased owner for fourteen years following its masters death.¬†The graveyard itself is quite beautiful and offers a nice view of the city.

The¬†Museum of Edinburgh, offers a good view over the¬†history of the city through a¬†collection of artefacts, you can also dress up with replica costumes and have some fun ūüėČ the museum also has a great¬†courtyard.

If you are on a tight budget walk and spend time at the parks, gardens, and museums, ¬†almost all of these are free…

I will leave here a few more pictures of other corners of the city, hope you enjoy it..

Let me know if you have been to Edinburgh, and which are your favourite places..
Looking forward to hearing from you..

ūüöƬ†¬†read¬†part I¬†ūüöĆ

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

Best places to visit in Edinburgh – Scotland (part I)

While traveling across Scotland, we took a bus from Glasgow to¬†Edinburgh.¬†We quickly dumped our luggage in the room, and went out to¬†explore the beautiful city with gorgeous¬†historical and natural wonders.¬†No matter where I am, I always feel that stroll around is the best way to properly experience a country/city, so is what I always do… is no surprise that I did around 90 miles in 4 days (by foot), my legs and feet always complain but my heart and soul just crave for it..

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Even having been walking endless miles, I still need to say that all the main attractions are quite close to each other, and despite the hills, Edinburgh is a great walking city, so walk is the best way to discover this beautiful historic city.

Edinburgh is split in two by the valley that separates the Old Town from the New Town. The Old Town of Edinburgh, dates back to Medieval times, and is where we found the oldest attractions. The Royal Mile, is undoubtedly the most touristic street and is packed with people, pubs, shops, restaurantes, and street performers; feels like theres is nothing that can’t be seen on this street. To be fair, this packed touristic places are not my cup of tea, so what I enjoyed the most here were the escapes to the many quirky streets going from there.

The St Giles Cathedral, located in this street, is covered in lovely details and has beautiful stained glass windows. Pop in to see the pretty blue ceiling, and the intricate Thistle Chapel.

At the west end of the Royal Mile is the¬†Edinburgh Castle, a landmark¬†visible from many parts of the city.¬†The entry fee is¬†¬£17 for adult,¬†so if you think is too much (what I do), you can always enjoy the views¬†from the Castle Esplanade.¬†I didn’t go inside, has I think is not worth the price. On the other hand the¬†Craigmillar Castle,¬†located in the other side of Edinburg have a more acceptable fee (¬£5.50) and it’s really nice.DSCF7113

The city‚Äôs best museum is¬†for me, by far the¬†National Museum of Scotland,¬† located very close to the National Galleries on The Mound.¬†This museum is dedicated to¬†the natural world, world cultures, art and design, science and technology, and Scottish history. ¬†Like most museums in the UK, ¬†it’s ¬†free.

From here in direction to the Royal Botanic Garden you can stop at the charming village of Stockbridge. This place has a nice vibe and is away from the city center touristic buzz. The picturesque street Circus Lane, is another must.

The  Royal Botanic Garden  is a great hidden gem and a very special place; for me an absolute must-see in Edinburgh, specially if the weather is good. They are a great escape from the crowded Old Town. On a sunny day you can explore the many different features around the garden and also the glasshouses. The  Garden lies in Inverleith, a half-hour walk north of the city centre. The stroll through New Town and Stockbridge is worth the time. The gardens are free to enter, but for the Glasshouse you pay a fee.

Back at the crowded  old town the Princes Street Gardens are another free outing. The gardens are a great spot for relaxing on a sunny day; from here the views are excellent to the Castle. This garden is home to the gothic Scott Monument, which can be climbed by 200 ft above the city (£5). This area also contain some of the city’s key museums and serve as a venue for Edinburgh’s famous summer cultural festivals. The National Gallery  is located in the midst of the Princes Street Gardens and displays a lovely collection.

Princes street (named after George III’s sons) is the main shopping street in Edinburgh, so very frenetic and congested with people and buses. The National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy are both located just off Princes Street, so it’s very easy to pop in for a visit.

ūüöƬ†read¬†part II ūüöĆ

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha

Exploring Glasgow for free, Scotland

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city, and a great place to start a trip to Scotland. Despite overshadowed by the famous Edinburgh, this city is at least equally amazing. I need to say that in the end of my visit I was totally in love with this city, that once was a former industrial powerhouse, but now is a cultural hub, with lots of interesting things do do and see.

Glasgow is today a cosmopolitan city, with a rich history,  and a national cultural hub, home to many great museums (most of them free). The museums and art galleries have superb collections, that will surprise you as much as surprised me.

We landed at¬†Glasgow’s airport and got the connection to the¬†city center, using the¬†bus 500, that takes 30 minutes to be¬†on the Queen Street, close to¬†George Square, in this short trip it’s already visible the¬†historic sandstone buildings and modern architecture.

For my surprise Glasgow serves very weird food from deep-fried piza or even fried Mars, but the vegan options just kept surprising me. I need to say that the claims that Glasgow is the mecca in Scotland for vegan food lovers may be very true!

We visit the city by walking around, without taking any public transports (what was probably a mistake, at least is what my legs and feet were saying).

We started our trip, walking around the city centre without a plan towards George Square, that is the heart of the city, and has impressive Victorian buildings and statues paying homage to the Scottish greats. From there we went to the Gallery of Modern Art,  where is the famous statue of the Duke of Wellington wearing a traffic cone as a hat.

While walking around, we just did a stop at Glasgow Central Station, not to take a train but to have a look at the arquitecture and its glass roof. Here you can also join a tour that supposedly¬†¬†reveals some of the station‚Äôs hidden secrets ūüôā I can’t say that’s true, because I haven’t done¬†it.

From the train station it’s only a¬†couple of minutes‚Äô to¬†the Lighthouse,¬†on Buchanan St. This place¬†can be a bit difficult to find but deserves the effort. The¬†building was designed by the Scottish architect Charles Mackintosh back in the 19th century, and is an exemple¬†of Art Nouveau.¬†Today¬†is the centre for Design and Architecture, and has many¬†different exhibits and galleries. ¬†Including a¬†free exhibition on Mackintosh‚Äôs work.¬†From the lighthouse, you have an incredible skyline view of Glasgow.

We kept walking till we got to the river side that has a path along the River Clyde great for a walk or even cycle, from where you can see modern buildings like the Clyde Auditorium (known as the Armadillo) and the titanium-clad Glasgow Science Centre.

Then was time to visit one of the city’s most famous museums, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This museum is definitely a must see. But not before a lovely man invited us to take a coffee and some biscuits at a local church, the Sandyford Henderson memorial church.

The¬†Kelvingrove is¬†an¬†immense place with a great a collection, that you will enjoy even if your are not an art person, because part is a¬†art gallery and part history museum. Essentially, it’s an art, life science, and cultural museum rolled into one, with¬†plenty to see,¬†housed in a beautiful historic building.

From here across the park is the  University of Glasgow, an imposing gothic-style buildings that reminds vaguely Harry Potter.

The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are located in the heart of city’s West End by the River Kelvin, and are a short walk from the university, and a must go if you are a nature lover like me. The gardens are lovely and the glasshouses looked like they were straight out of the Victorian Era revealing exotic ferns and tropical plants as you go.

The Riverside Museum,with its Zaha Hadid-designed sinuous curves, is another must. The museum is dedicated to transport and travel. the exhibition is very interactive and even has a recreated street taking you back to 1890s Glasgow, where you can pop in into different shops. From here you can take a tour of the Glenlee, a restored tall ship, If you fancy something like that.

Once in the city center we went to visit the the 15th century house, Provand’s Lordship, the oldest in Glasgow and the magnificent Cathedral.

The¬†¬†Necropolis, it’s right behind the Cathedral, and it’s a cemetery with distinctive, decorative tombstones which are works of art in themselves designed by major architects and sculptors of the time. The necropolis is located on top of a hill and¬†has great views to the¬†city and the Cathedral.

The¬†People‚Äôs Palace¬†and the Winter Gardens¬†are a great¬†museum to have an insight about Glasgow‚Äôs history, and¬†t’s¬†located in southeast Glasgow.

Glasgow’s street art is visible¬†over the city, Smug One is an Australian born street artist based in Glasgow that has painted¬†enormous murals.

If you are planning your trip bare in mind that the weather can be very unpredictable so just pack clothes for each of the 4 seasons ūüôā I suggest at least 3 days if you want to visit Glasgow properly but I recommend 4, for the sake of you legs and feet ūüôā

If you have the time, away from the city there are plenty of remote places to explore.. be happy and have fun..

photography ‚Ästall rights reserved ‚Äď Ana Rocha