Sunday Special – Sintra, Portugal


Sometimes heading out of major city centres for a day trip is what you need. Located 28 km / 17 miles outside of Portugal’s capital of Lisbon is the picturesque coastal town of Sintra. One may see why this locale is a popular destination for those looking to escape the big city for a day, though a longer sojourn to truly experience all this UNESCO World Heritage sight has is suggested. Meander through the narrow streets; explore the historical castles and palaces or take in the views as Sintra is situated atop the mountains that shares its name. When I finally make my way to Portugal I will certainly seek out Sintra. The town sounds simply charming and inviting.

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Pena Palace, Sintra – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain

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View of Sintra, Portugal from the Castle of the Moors – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by By Chris Yunker from St. Louis, United States (Castle of the Moors  Uploaded by tm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Florence, Italy


Florence, a city full of architecture, art, history, and culture. This capital city of the Tuscany region saw the dawn of the Renaissance period. It grew on the backdrop of trade, wealth, religion and the power of the Medici family. Today it is a tourist mecca and rightly so as many consider it one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. My first and only visit (to date) was a number of years ago. I recall the the incredible Duomo with its famous red dome, taking in the Ponte Vecchio, seeing stunning works of art at the Uffizi Gallery, and finally seeing Michaelangelo’s David at The Academia (arguably the world’s most stunning statue). Along with these world-renown sites Florence provides much more. Food, coffee, shops, street art, and gardens to picnic in are only a few things to take in. As I think about it, aside from the David I don’t think I appreciated what Florence had to offer as I was fairly young then. I think a do-over is on the horizon. 

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (a.k.a. Il Duomo), Florence – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – taken and owned by Warburg 

By Warburg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – taken and owned by Rolf Sussbrich 

By Rolf Süssbrich (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Malta


The island archipelago nation of Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite being made up of several small isles only three are inhabited. These are Malta, Comino and Gozo. Even with its small area it has a history to rival many larger countries. Over thousands of years it has brought forth countless world powers – Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, British and the Knights of the Order of St John, to name a few. Now Malta is an independent nation and part of the European Union (EU). Aside from history showcased in old temples, historical forts, archaeological sites and world-class museums Malta boasts other attractions. Stunning grottoes, red or golden sand beaches and its own Blue Lagoon (on Comino Island) that beckons sun-worshipers and water sport aficionados alike. Shopping and dining are in abundance as well.

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Malta’s Blue Lagoon – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Bengt Nyman 

By Bengt Nyman from Vaxholm, Sweden (IMG_0959) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Evening view of Valleta, capital city of Malta – Photo is Public Domain

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Valetta, Malta – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Tony Hisgett

By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Valetta 10 Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Nazca Lines, Peru


Nazca, Peru is a city on the southern coast of the country and best known for the the Nazca Lines – massive drawings etched into the ground whose entirety can be seen only from a plane. These lines fill up a giant arid plateau and are a combination of geometric shapes, lines, animals and plants.Some of the designs are massive – up to 370m / 1,200ft. Due to the dry and stable climate of the plateau they have been preserved by nature. Although it is not know why these lines were made, it is believed they were formed by the Nazca culture between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The lines were “discovered” in the early 1900s when a plane flew over the area. Years later they were studied by historians and archaeologists. The how has been easier to figure out than the why. It is speculated that simple surveying tools of the Nazca people explain the former. The latter, however, is still a mystery. Theories range far and wide, from irrigation systems, for astronomy purposes, religious reason or even alien contact. It is something we probably will never find out, however, they do look rather stunning.

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Nazca Lines (tree) in Peru 

By Unukorno (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Nazca Lines (monkey), Peru 

By Unukorno (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons