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Monsaraz in Portugal, a small town with incredible views

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monsaraz in portugal

Monsaraz in Portugal is not far from the border with Spain and is a small town surrounded by walls with a very special atmosphere. The area is also full of archaeological sites from the Neolithic period, if you are interested in prehistory, around here you can indulge yourself and Monsaraz could be just a stop on an archaeological holiday. A few kilometers from Monsaraz is Cromeleque do Xerez, a stone circle that is in fact a square that was probably used for ceremonies to encourage fertility.

Only about 200 people live there and the village has only two streets: Rua de Santiago and Rua Direita. It won’t take you long to explore it all, even if there are many craft shops, art galleries and restaurants and you might want to waste a lot of time.

But one of the advantages of Monsaraz are its views of vineyards and countryside and of the largest artificial reservoir in Europe. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Montaraz has a castle, it dates back to the time of the Crusades and you can climb the Witches Tower for incredible views.

How to get to Monsaraz in Portugal?

If you don’t have your own transport, you will have to go to Évora where you will find a bus that reaches your destination in about half an hour. You have to be careful there are only 2 buses a day. If you want to stay there are several rooms for the night in Monsaraz.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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Melrose Abbey in Scotland with lots of Gothic charm

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Melrose Abbey in Scotland is  in the town of the same name in the Scottish Borders. Virtually all historic buildings found in the Borders (the border area between England and Scotland) have been destroyed numerous times by the English. Melrose Abbey is no exception.

What makes it important is that despite being destroyed and now only ruins remain, many decorative parts still remain. Like the gargoyles and the Gothic rose windows.

One of the many reasons why this abbey is famous is because it is said to host the heart of Robert Bruce, the famous king of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Other medieval Scottish kings were buried here.

The history of Melrose Abbey

Let’s start from the beginning, the abbey was built in 1100 by Cistercian monks under the order of King David I. It was located in the same place as another monastery, this one dedicated to St Aidan of Lindisfarne. The Cistercian abbey was followed by the town of Melrose, being an important religious centre, there was no lack of trade.

The abbey was almost destroyed by the English king Edward I in 1322 and then rebuilt. It was later set on fire by Richard II and its reconstruction lasted over 100 years.

In 1544 it was again damaged by English troops when the British wanted Mary of the Queen to marry the son of Henry VIII. After this event the abbey was never restored and was never a functioning monastery again.

It suffered further damage later from the cannon fire of Oliver Cromwell’s army. In the end, the poor abbey never managed to stand up for long.

In addition to visiting the ruins, you can also start from here St Cuthbert’s Way, a path that goes up to the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. It had been the route taken by St Cuthbert himself in 650 from the old monastery of Melrose. In all it would be about 100 km, but you don’t have to do it all. However, it crosses some very beautiful landscapes. Melrose itself is a nice little town even if it doesn’t have much of a memorable one.

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Exeter Cathedral; interesting things you can see

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In England there is certainly no shortage of cathedrals, some splendid. Among the most beautiful are undoubtedly the Cathedral of Exeter or St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is located in a place of prayer that is over 1500 years old. The current cathedral, however, dates back to around 1100 after the arrival of the Normans, although now of that date we have practically only the two towers.

Another part of the cathedral dates back to 1270 when Exeter Cathedral was refurbished in a typically English Gothic. The cathedral was unfortunately hit by a German bomb in 1942, St James’s chapel was completely destroyed along with several medieval objects, some of which have been rebuilt piece by piece.

Fortunately some important historical artifacts had been taken away, in fact an attack on the cathedral had been foreseen, probably all these churches and cathedrals were hit in an attempt to demoralise the people.

What can you see at Exeter Cathedral?

You can still see the 50 mercies or genuflexors which are small shelves leaning against the wall that supported those who had to stand a long time to pray. These date back to the 1200s and are the oldest complete group in the UK. Also in this group is the figure of an elephant, the oldest in the United Kingdom.

There is the famous astronomical clock which dates back to 1484, the ancient library which dates back to 1100 and the gallery with 12 statues of angels playing different instruments.

The towers also have bells, the north tower contains a bell called Peter which however is no longer rung completely and the south tower has 12 bells which are among the heaviest in the world.

When you are at the cathedral you can be taken to the top of the roof and the North Tower, you have to climb 251 steps so you have to be fit but the views are spectacular. You must book in advance and here you will find the instructions.

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Amersfoort in the Netherlands, a mini Amsterdam you should visit

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Amersfoort in the Netherlands

Amersfoort in the Netherlands has a long mercantile history, in 1500 and in the following centuries it owed its wealth to the tobacco, wool and beer trade. Now you can still find some of that wealth, and there are several major merchant houses left.

The city has about 200,000 inhabitants and is therefore not a very small place, but it has the advantage of having almost everything you should have in a historic centre that you can walk around safely. In fact, in the old town, in addition to the canals, you can also see about 300 old buildings, all very characteristic of the period of the economic boom in the Netherlands.

Like other places in the Netherlands and Belgium this is a mini Amsterdam. We know with certainty that the area was inhabited since 1000 BC but we know it as a city only from 1100 onwards. Similar to the English ford, foort means ford on the river and in fact here is the Eem river which was once called Amer. There are therefore no mysteries about the origin of the name. 

In any case, before becoming an important city for international trade, it was a medieval walled city and you can still find many traces of this past. Of the old medieval walls three gates still survive, all from the 1300s and 1400s.

The Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk was once an important Gothic church, part of its importance was that it marked the exact centre of the Netherlands. The church was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1700 but the tower still remains and even today it is still used as the geographic centre of the town. If you want to take the 346 steps to admire the view, the tower is still open to the public.

In Amersfoort there is also another old church the Sint Joriskerk or St. George’s church. A medieval church from the 1200s and the 1400s, you can also climb the tower here and every hour in front of the facade you can see a mechanical Saint George coming out to kill the dragon.

Amersfoort has several museums including a major art gallery, where you will find many temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

Amersfoort in the Netherlands is also famous for being the birthplace of the painter Piet Mondrian and it is remembered with a museum located right in the house where he was born.

Part of the pleasure of visiting Amersfoort is wandering around the historic centre, strolling along the canals and sitting down for a drink in one of the many bars. There is obviously no shortage of restaurants.

How to get to Amersfoort in the Netherlands?

Very easy to reach from anywhere in Holland by train, it is close to Utrecht and only 35 minutes by train from Amsterdam.

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