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.
I tell ya, those ancient Romans had a pretty long reach (though not as much as Genghis Khan had in his day). The Romans traversed far. With them they brought some fairly cool inventions of the time. Today’s special is one of those: the Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard in the south of France.
This three story stone aqueduct, which looks to me to be in quite good condition, was built around 50 BCE to move water to the Roman city of Nimes. It is almost 50km/31 miles long and is the tallest of the aqueducts constructed by the Romans. In 1985 it was claimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The reach of the ancient Roman Empire was quite an expanse. At the time of Emperor Hadrian (117 – 138 CE) parts of what is now modern-day north Africa, Turkey, Europe and England were under Roman rule. In hopes of preventing invasions from the northern “barbarians” and to maintain his northernmost border Hadrian had the wall built. This wall, much of which remains standing today, runs 117.5 km (73 miles) from east to west from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway in Northern England. Today, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Visiting this ancient wall is relatively easy. Many sections have cycling paths or can be seen on foot. Hadrian’s Wall Path spans the length of the wall and is often quite close to it. Walks, farms, castles and Roman history can be experienced at many places along the wall. Additionally, it is completely unguarded, thus allowing people to touch or stand on it should they desire. Though one may want to remember that doing so may damage this part of English history.
When I was in (The Republic of) Ireland many told me to visit Northern Ireland (U.K.) to see the Giants Causeway as I would be amazed by the unique scenery. The photos I saw were stunning, but alas I did not visit this area. I wish I had, however, it only means that I will need to make a return voyage to my favourite island on the planet! And then I will see both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Giants Causeway is an expansive area filled with basalt columns as a result of ancient volcanic activity where lava filled the chalk beds and then cracked as they cooled. However, the lore of the region claims that it was the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) that built the causeway as a “bridge” for Scottish giant Benandonner to come to Ireland and face Fionn in a contest of strength. It is an area where one can see the North Atlantic coast, a variety of birds and the incredible landscape. In 1986 is was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can not wait to see it!