Teruel, Up, Up On The Mountain

La Escalinata (Teruel)

I know it's been a while, but I guess I got hooked up with life, not to say a bit lazy, but time is our eternal enemy and that's a very good excuse.

In mid october I went for a day trip to Teruel, a small mountainous Spanish city north of Valencia, in the Aragon Province, best known for it's Lovers and Mudejar architecture style.  

First of all when you walk on Teruelesque earth comming from the train stration you are welcomed by La Escalinata, a quite long stair, to keep you fit. This stair is made in a beautiful Mudejar style and it's like nothing I've ever seen before.

Teruel city center is only a 5 minutes walk from La Escalinata and the Tourist Information Office is just at the left of La Escalinata. As I said at the beginning, Teruel is a small city, small enough for it's inhabitants to start in 1999 a campaign with the slogan "Teruel existe" ("Teruel exists"). Well, it does. I've been there, I've seen it with my own eyes. You can take my word for it. Teruel is there, small but strong, exactly like its Torico, a small 60kg bronze statue reprezenting a bull, on top of a tall column in the middle of Teruel's main square.

Teruel's other symbol are The Lovers of Teruel. The story of the Lovers took place in 1217. But people of Teruel still remember them, probably mainly to the mausoleum in the San Pedro's Church housing the mummified bodies of Isabel Segura (a rich lady) and Diego de Marcilla (a poor man who battled at Crusades to earn some money with the intention to return to get married with Isabel) whose love ended tragically. It's kind of a Romeo and Juliet love story. Diego went away to gather wealth and Isabela was supposed to wait for him 5 years. Diego was not heard from in those five years and so on the day of the five years' close Isabel's father married her to somebody else. Right after the wedding ceremony Diego shows up with great riches but there was nothing he could do. So that night, Diego sneaks into the bedroom of Isabel and her husband and gently awoke her. He pleaded to her, "Kiss me for I am dying", but she refused. Upon hearing this Diego could not bear the separation between himself and his love, and with a sigh he died on the feet of his beloved Isabel. The next day, during Diego's funeral, Isabel showed up dressed in her wedding dress. She proceeded to walk to the front of the church and place a kiss on the man whom she had refused but in doing so Isabel died, falling prostrate on the body of the man whom she loved.

The mausoleum of The Lovers of Teruel

And the Lovers story at the top of La Escalinata

The San Pedro Church is a magnificent mudejar style church. I loved the interior, so rich in detail and color. The Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon is a World Heritage Site in Spain. Mudéjar is the name given to individual Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Christian territory after the Reconquista but were not converted to Christianity. It also denotes a style of Iberian architecture and decoration, particularly of Aragon and Castile, of the 12th to 16th centuries, strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship.

San Pedro Church (Teruel)

The Cathedral is also in Mudejar style and though the interior didn't impress me that much in general, it's ceiling amazed me, especialy that the guided tour takes you up through the tower next to the ceiling so you can see it from up close.

Teruel Cathedral

The San Martín Tower from the 13th century is considered to be the most beautiful in Teruel.

San Martín Tower (Teruel)

Teruel Town Hall Square

Teruel is seeable in 4 hours and you can still take your time to have lunch. Teruel is well known for its jamón serrano (cured ham), but they also have very good cheese. Yummy! I'm craving for them right now.

Teruel is also known for it't pottery so if you know you have hungry for gifts big children waiting for you at home, you don't have to look far.

One more tip and I'm out of here. Teruel is noted for its harsh climate (hot in summer and very cold in winter), it is situated at 915 metres above sea level so if you go visit during the winter time, be prepared for snow. This being said, I'm going for a walk 'cause it's sunny outside and I need my tan nice and ready for my Las Fallas pictures, comming up next.


Top 10 European Travel Destinations

Europe is packed with must see historical places, but one probably would need a lifetime to see them all. Here I created a list of the top 10 European travel destinations to help you with your research.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #10
ATHENS, Greece
Top 10 European Travel DestinationsThe history of Athens begins more then 3000 years ago when during the prehistoric times its first inhabitants created their first settlement on the rock of Acropolis. Athens is a city of contradictions, as frustrating as it is seductive. It is the oldest city in Europe, yet still in a state of transition. It’s one of Europe’s safest and liveliest destinations – a heady mix of grunge and grace with an undeniable urban soul.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #9
DUBLIN, Ireland
Top 10 European Travel DestinationsProbably most people wouldn´t include Dublin in the top 10 European travel destinations, except the Irish of course, but I certainly love Dublin and I think it deserves to be on the list. Dublin is not the typical capital, busy and ugly with modern sky scrapers. Dublin has mostly houses. Your can barely spot a tall building in the whole city. And the locals are so friendly, you won´t even remember you are in a capital. The Irish green, the luck of the Irish and the Irish pubs are all to be tried. Be careful with the leprechauns!

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #8

Top 10 European Travel DestinationsFlorence, the city of the lily, gave birth to the Renaissance and changed the way we see the world. When we say Florence we think of famous people such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo or Dante Alighieri, to name but a few and to the sculpture of David and the jewelery shops on Ponte Vecchio. One tip for this destination: it is enjoyed best at sunset.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #7
VIENNA, Austria

Top 10 European Travel DestinationsVienna was for centuries the main stamping grounds for the Habsburg rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire is long gone, but many reminders of the city's imperial heyday remain, carefully preserved by the tradition-loving Viennese. Baroque with a dash of art nouveau, that´s Vienna, and the combination and pure harmony. Wherever you go, your camera won´t stop shooting, I asure you. Charge your batteries in advance!

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #6
ROME, Italy
Top 10 European Travel DestinationsRome is the Eternal City, the city founded by Remus and Romulus. Here, modern and old, past and present go side by side all the time. Whether you are in Rome for 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months, be prepared to step into the world’s biggest open air museum.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #5
Top 10 European Travel DestinationsVenice pays tribute to the waters a few centimeters every year, like a captive princess to a beast. Get lost on the Venetian streets without a map if you want to discover the full beauty of this unique European destination. Best time to visit Venice is during the carnival period in February, but in the meantime, be prepared to face the crowds as this is high season for Venice. No matter when you visit Venice, don´t do it by yourself. Be in love!

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #4

Top 10 European Travel DestinationsBarcelona never sleeps and Gaudi is omnipresent like a God. With a warm climate throughout the year, this is a destination you can visit anytime, as many times as you want. Barcelona is alive, colorful and sexy 24/7 and it will make you feel the same too.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #3
AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands
Top 10 European Travel DestinationsSometimes referred to as "The Venice of the North", Amsterdam is bike friendly, sex friendly and drugs friendly which makes it one of the most tourist friendly destinations in the world. With a stunning architecture, criss-crossing canals and top museums, Amsterdam is the third on my top 10 European travel destinations because it offers the visitor a different perspective on life.

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #2

Top 10 European Travel DestinationsWith many internationally well known sights, London is a must visit city. The traditional red English phone booths will guarantee you the most envied by friends photo from your European holiday. They will congratulate your for your originality. Let them do that, don´t spoil it. You are a grown up and can keep a secret. People are cuing to have their picture taken in the red phone booths. Before you visit the Buckingham Palace, stop by the supermarket and buy some peanuts. Than, after watching the change of the guards, go for a walk in the beautiful park in front of the palace and feed the squirrels. They will definitely thank you for that and ask for more. And last but not least, London is the European travel destination for musicals. Go see at least one!

Top 10 European Travel Destinations #1
PARIS, France

Top 10 European Travel DestinationsThe "city in love" is nevertheless the Nº 1 travel destination in Europe. Lovers from all around the world meet next to the banks of the River Seine, shopping lovers explore shiny shop windows, art lovers wonder in front of Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa and romantics climb the Eiffel Tower. But this symbols of Paris are just the surface. What makes Paris the Nº 1 European travel destination are the atmosphere, the cafes, the never ending walks one can take around the city without ever getting bored. The most vivid memory I have from Paris is bathing my tired feet in the fountains in front of The Louvre Museum, along with so many other tourists from every corner of the world. How do I know Paris is the European Travel Destination? Easy! Every time I plan a trip and the destination question pops up, my answer is always the same: Paris!


Halloween in Europe

Halloween is a European holiday at core. It basically drags it´s roots from the Celtic festival of Samhain which celebrated summer's end. Halloween was taken to US by the Irish immigrants. Though nowadays Halloween is thoroughly celebrated all over US and is one of the most important US holidays, Europe celebrates Halloween too. Wearing costumes and attending costume parties, dining in Halloween decorated restaurants, ghost tours, watching horror movies and telling scary stories are common Halloween activities in Europe. Trick or treating is not as common but is not unheard of in some counties.

In Valencia, where I live now, the heraldic symbol of the city is the bat. A bit spooky and Halloweenish, isn´t it? The bat is represented all over the city and supposedly has its origins in a winged dragon. There is a legend that says that thanks to the humble intervention of a bat, king James I of Aragon was able to win a crucial battle against the Saracens that allowed him to win Valencia for his kingdom. Go Baty!

See the bat on top of the Valencian Town Hall

And on top of "La Puerta del Mar" (Sea Door) from Valencia

I love Valencia by night as the streets are inundated by this pumpkin like light color. Last night everybody was there: The Kitties, The Nurses, The Wiches, The Devils, The Vampires who don´t show of in pictures because they are, well, vampires, even characters from Alice in Wonderland. It was a hell of a Halloween party!

Valencia BatHalloween in Europe Halloween in Europe Halloween in EuropeHalloween in Europe Halloween in Europe


Cheap Europe Accommodation - Etap Hotels Review

Cheap Accomodation in Europe - Etap Hotels ReviewEtap Hotels are a cheaper alternative to the traditional hotels and a more comfortable alternative to the youth hostels. Basically one could say Etap Hotels are somewhere in between the hotels and the hostels. I want to make it clear right from the beginning of this review that I have no connection whatsoever with Etap Hotels. I am simply a backpacker grateful to have discovered an Etap Hotel just behind the Munich main rail station while looking desperately for budget accommodation in an expensive city. Since then I´ve stayed in different Etap Hotels around Europe and they grew on me because every time I opened a hotel room door it felt like home as I knew what to expect. It´s like McDonald´s - everywhere same quality.

The Etap Hotel Network belongs to The Accor Hotels Network. There are more than 400 Etap Hotels around Europe in the main touristic cities and the prices and the quality is pretty much constant. The rooms rates go ruffly between 35 euros and 50 euros for 2 people. Some hotels charge a 12 euros fee for the third persons, others don't. The rooms are prepared for up to 3 people, with 1 double bed and 1 single bed. All rooms have private bathrooms and shower. Etap Hotels provide you the towels, the soap and the shampoo at no extra cost unlike most of the European hostels and you get daily cleaning service too. I found all the Etap Hotels I've stayed with generally clean, I would give them a 9 out of 10 points, as nobody is perfect. Plus most of the Etap network's hotels are of new opening and you can actually notice that looking at the furniture and the carpets. And speaking of carpets, I found the decision of having carpets instead of parquet a bit strange but in the mean time they give the rooms a warmer feeling.

All the Etap Hotels rooms have air con and small TV with remote control with volume limit, which is good for your neighbors and for your good night sleep too. The windows are modern PVC, which means they keep away the street noise. The shutters are easy to use and they fulfill their job successfully so you can sleep all day long. But don't! You are supposed to visit that great city, not to sleep!

Most of the Etap Hotels have 24h reception. There is always somebody at the desk ready to help you out and you can check in anytime you like. The staff speaks English except maybe the night shift. At the reception, when you check in you are given a card that is your room key digitally programed with a code that resets itself automatically at 12a.m. on the day of your departure as an extra security measure.

If you are a travel writer or a business person or you just can't live without checking your Tweets, Etap Hotels provides you with free Wi-Fi access. In the morning there is a continental breakfast buffet that you can contract separately, on a particular morning or every morning. You don't have to pay the breakfast in advance. Suffices with you going in a particular morning to the reception and pay for it. Pets are welcomed too, one per room, but they cannot enter the cafeteria area during breakfast.

Each Etap Hotel has hundreds of rooms and they usualy have short notice availability even during the high season. If you travel from one city to another in the same country you can ask your hotel to make a reservation in your name to another Etap Hotel from another city in the same country. They won't charge you anything for this service and they even give you a written confirmation of the booking.

Etap Hotel are suitable for any ages. You can be 5 or 95, nobody will ask for your passport except for the receptionist who will anyways keep your age secret. The elevators are disabled friendly and the rooms though modern and simple are useful and clean. There isn't much furniture in the rooms, except for the beds, a desk and a chair and some hangers for your clothes. No real wardrobe there, white walls and no fancy decorations, but for the price difference between Etap and a classy hotel, I think it is worth it. It's not like you are going to live in the hotel forever.

I hope this review was helpful. I personally like Etap Hotels and I think they are a great concept, a good choice for budget travellers and good value for your money. Though many Etap Hotels are located next to the airport, which is not particularly bad, or next to main roads, at the outskirts of the cities, some of them are actually located next to the city center, like the one in Birmingham or the one in Munich mentioned above. But no matter where the Etap Hotels are situated, there's always a metro station or a bus station near by so you won't have problems visiting the city center.

I hope this helps and next time you visit Europe and you are looking for budget accomodation you will have a look on the Etap Hotels page to see if there is an Etap Hotel in your city of destination. Enjoy your stay!

Remember that Etap Hotels are budget accommodation. In some countries they are not even considered hotels. If you are looking for luxury, a 4* or a 5* hotel is probably better for you. Etap Hotels are meant for people who don't want to spend much money on accommodation and for that they are great value. And they are far cleaner and comfortable than a slightly cheaper youth hostel with dorms for 12 people.


Valencia Travel - The Silk Exchange

The Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), Valencia

Today I´ve visited La Lonja de la Seda (The Silk Exchange) in Valencia for the thousandth time. I love it. The entrance is free and the place is not very big and lacks furniture, but it is really refreshing and castle like, with huge doors, very high ceiling and enormous columns. The Silk Exchange was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 for being one of the most stunning, most important and best preserved examples of Late Gothic architecture in the entire Europe.

Built at the beginning of XVIth century, La Lonja (Silk Exchange) is the real emblem of the Golden Age of Valencia - the times when the city was one of Europe's main economic centres. La Lonja is an impressive building and a must see for the traveler to Valencia and that´s why it is always included in any Valencian travel itinerary. La Lonja is composed of three parts (plus the Orange Garden - a walled court-yard). The main hall, Sala de Contratacion (The Contract Hall) is an enormous, lavishly decorated space supported by gorgeous twisted columns. This was the centre of life in La Lonja, the place where the merchants would meet, deal and sign. The side-wing is named the Pavillion of the Consulate, and this was the seat of the Tribunal del Mar - the first merchant tribunal to ever be formed in Spain. The first two floors were the main function rooms, with the upper one hosting a richly decorated ceiling - a masterpiece of medieval art which had the King ride out of the capital just to see it. La Lonja is situated next to the Central Market and only 5 minutes from the Town Hall, basically in the heart of Valencia and next to many typical tapas bars tourists and locals alike so enjoy.

The Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), ValenciaThe Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), ValenciaThe Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), ValenciaThe Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), ValenciaThe Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), Valencia The Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), Valencia

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