Page 4 of Driving Vacation Travel Blog Posts


Europe » Portugal July 17th 2011

Last night, we covered a distance of 340 km from Sintra to Porto in less than three hours. The drive was uneventful since it was mostly on freeways. We noticed speed limit signs but most people didn’t bother to obey. Several times we ran into fast Audis and we decided to create a convoy of speeding Audis; TT, A5, A4, and S6. The convoy did save us from the dull of straight driving on freeways. This morning, refreshed, we are up for a new city exploration. Fortunately, despite the fact that Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, its size is relatively small. We are looking forward to slow down our sightseeing pace a bit since today is our eighth day in our Spain-Portugal driving vacation. Porto’s Av. Diogo Leite along Douro River is where ... read more
Porto
Porto
Porto

Europe » Portugal » Sintra July 16th 2011

The next day we set out early because we have about three and a half hour drive to Porto, the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, with a stopover at Sintra, located just 40 km northwest of Lisbon. Sintra is famous for its fairytale 19th century Pena Palace and Park located in uneven terrain of Sintra mountain range. After passing the quaint little town of Sintra, the road becomes narrow and twisty. The vegetation in this vast forest is extremely lush and tree branches create a continuous natural canopy. The temperature outside is dropping slowly as we gain elevation. After we park our car at a designated parking lot, we hike up towards the Pena Palace and Park entrance. Perching majestically in one of the highest points, Pena palace exhibits a profusion of architectural styles ... read more
Palace da Pena
Palace da Pena
Palace da Pena

Europe » Portugal » Lisboa July 15th 2011

We are heading back towards downtown to visit Castle of São Jorge. We save this for our last stop of the day because this is the perfect place to enjoy sunset. The cobblestone street near the Castle ground is narrow and ascending steeply. It passes the ancient quarters of this town where time seems to stay still. Fado, Portuguese melancholic singing, from patio restaurants, can be heard softly as we drive slowly with the windows down. The houses in the ancient quarters are made of stone and they are small compared to the relatively newer ones at the bottom of the hill. Castle of São Jorge is a Moorish castle and it was once a home of the Portuguese royal family. Since the Portuguese revolution, the abandoned castle decayed into ruin, and many of the complex ... read more
Castle of São Jorge
Castle of São Jorge

Europe » Portugal » Lisboa July 15th 2011

After a few hours of downtown exploration, we drive eastward on Ave. 24 de Juhlo towards Belem. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belém: Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery. Built as a fortified lighthouse in 16th century, Torre de Belém was designed to guard the entrance to the port and the nearby Monastery. This place was where many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In its golden age, treasures – porcelains, silks, rubies, pearls – and spices – turmeric, ginger, pepper, cumin – arrived from far-flung corners of its empire in the East. From the West, Portuguese imported coffee, gold, diamonds, and red dyewood. Back then, Portuguese Maritime Empire made Lisbon the commerce center for Europe, Africa, and Asia. After walking around the tower ground admiring the intricate ... read more
Torre de Belém
Jerónimos Monastery

Europe » Portugal » Lisboa July 15th 2011

Avenue da Liberdade From our hotel, we drive on Avenue da Liberdade towards downtown. This avenue is lined by world famous designers. It is as if we are strutting on Lisbon’s catwalk in a sporty and progressive Audi TT. Through our windows, we see a painter on the sidewalk sketching a couple in love, artisans offering handmade handicrafts, and a few outdoor cafes filled with tourists and locals enjoying their breakfast. Pombaline Baixa Arriving in downtown area, we are greeted by relatively easy traffic despite the fact it is the morning commute hour. The downtown area, Pombaline Baixa, was constructed after the 1775 devastating earthquake. The city blocks are well organized in grid with many one-way streets. Learning from the painful destruction, the city builders in 18th century constructed the buildings in Pombaline Baixa with the ... read more
Pombaline Baixa
Pombaline Baixa
Pombaline Baixa

Europe » Spain July 15th 2011

Cordoba is famous for its creamy Gazpacho. The rich flavors of ripe and fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic, Spanish saffron, cumin, and virgin olive oil create delicious one-of-a-kind soup. While sipping this delicious soup, we are plotting our next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. The drive will take about six hours. With the car we have, we are looking forward to it! .......@driving-vacation url=http://www.driving-vacation.com/contents/gallery2/v/andreas/Driving+in+Luxembourg+Audi+A4+Avant+TDI/http://www.driving-vacation.com/contents/gallery2/v/andreas/Driving+in+Spain+Audi+TT/More pictures...... read more
Córdoba
Córdoba

Europe » Spain July 14th 2011

The next morning, after plenty of rest, we begin our tour of Cordoba. Because we stay in the center of the historic district, we leave our car beneath our hotel. Originally, the great Mosque-Cathedral was constructed in 600 AD as a Roman temple dedicated to Visigothic cathedral. In the 8th century after a new ruler arrived, a mosque was constructed and it took two centuries to complete. Finally, in the 13th century a cathedral was inserted into this immense structure by Christian conquerors. Because thousands of architects and builders from differing cultures had poured their passions over centuries of generations, the interior of this Mosque-Cathedral is impressive and yet odd at the same time. The first amazing sight is the “forest” of granite and marble pillars with red and white horseshoe-shaped double arches that go on ... read more
Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba
Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Europe » Spain July 13th 2011

There are two ways to get to Cordoba from Toledo. First option is to get to A-4 South freeway all the way to Cordoba. Second option is to take the undivided highway N-401, N-420, and then A-4 freeway just outside Cordoba. The latter is shorter by 42 km but will take about 30 minutes longer according to our GPS. Because the whole trip is about four and half hours and it is still mid-afternoon, we decide to take the more adventurist route. Hopefully, it will be scenic and twisty. N-401 is mostly deserted, and pastoral landscape is the main theme. N-420 south of Almodóvar del Campo town starts to pick up elevation. We are entering the rocky Sierra de Alcúdia. The slow straight climb becomes fast bends. Soon, we are enjoying switch backs and occasionally hair ... read more
Córdoba
Córdoba
Córdoba

Europe » Spain July 13th 2011

We get up early because we have a long but exciting drive to Cordoba with a stop at a medieval town of Toledo, which is just 70 km south of Madrid. The drive to Toledo is far from exciting because we are part of the commuter traffic and the highways are mostly straight and flat. The historic walled-town of Toledo sits majestically above Tagus River. Its history goes back to the Bronze Age and Roman time. The best way to explore this town is by getting lost in it. Puerta de Bisagra is the main entrance on the northern side. Its Moorish architecture is characterized by horseshoe arches and decorated tiles. The square parapets at the top of the walls remind us of the original function of this gate. Narrow and hilly cobblestone alleys spread in ... read more
Toledo
Toledo
Toledo

Europe » Spain » District of Madrid » Madrid July 12th 2011

The sun is about to set and there is a perfect place to witness sunset in Madrid. We take a short drive but convoluted route to Parque del Oeste due to many one way streets. After finding a street parking space at the bottom of hill, we hike up to Temple of Debod. This temple, which originally was located not too far south of Aswan in southern Egypt, was dissembled piece by piece, transported extra carefully to this very spot via a ship to Valencia and a train to Madrid. Here it was reassembled to its original state. The construction of the great dam of Aswan was the reason for the move. The whole process to deconstruct, transport, and reconstruct took about four years. Moving a master piece like Temple of Debod requires a very careful ... read more
Temple Debod




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