Posts Tagged With: TRAVEL

Lecce, the Baroque Florence.

From all the travelers I personally know there are hardly any who have visited Lecce, the capital of Salento.  None the less those who did, all agree that it was a pleasant surprise and I cannot do anything else than join them in their astonishment.

    

Lecce, named the Baroque Florence, is a surprising city where the festoons and the solomonic columns of the buildings recently restored to be transformed into hotels or luxury B & B, coexist with the facades that illustrate the passage of time.  Attached angels, escutcheons and volutes corroded by the time give a unique character to this “Florence of the South”.  The historic center of Lecce is surrounded by its impressive walls and arched gates where me and just some few other tourists are walking aimlessly through the streets of the city of Salento enjoying their smells and sounds, and always with our eyes raised, being awed by the impressive Baroque façades. Just as in Rome and other Italian cities, is strolling through the streets of Lecce a delight, where I discover cul-de-sacs that house traditional workshops, or perhaps the study of a painter or a bakery with the typical sweets of the region. My visit to Lecce surprised me as few cities can do at this point.

Not as well-known as other Italian cities, this minor city bursts with a multitude of palaces (over 30), a duomo, 3 basilica, more than 30 churches and countless exquisite facades that beautifully decorate its neat streets. I`m lucky to have Giorgia as my local guide.  So I got stuffed with a bit of everything: history on the most ancient features such as the Roman amphitheater, Porta Napoli, Porta Rudiae, Porta San Biagio, Duomo di Maria Santissima Assunta, Piazza Sant’Oronzo,…, as well with art expositions, local customs and traditions, folktales, culinary highlights of the student nightlife, …

Giorgia took the time to show me her beloved city with such enthusiasm that I secretly fell in love with those cobblestones, those cast iron street lights, those stairs full of people having fun, those statues of saints looking down on us, watching us and blessing us.  Both, Giorgia and Lecce at daytime they’re magic but at night they bedazzle!

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Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Casablanca; Morocco not the movie!

Not only was it the cheapest flight we could find from Sao Paolo but also the most convenient, as we had a 24 hours transit at Casablanca waiting another airplane. Diner, 4 stars hotel and breakfast offered by the flight company. So what for most people is a ‘no-go’ is for a low-cost backpacker a ‘can’t-refuse’.  Another stamp on the passport an here we go for our “Blitz-visit”.

With a population of almost 5 million, Casablanca is the largest, most liberal and progressive of Morocco’s cities. Its past interactions with different cultures, -founded by Berber fishermen around the tenth century, used by the Phoenicians, Romans, Merenids, to be destroyed and rebuilt again by the Portuguese who abandoned it after an earthquake. Then rebuild again at the hand of a Moroccan sultan but plagued by Spanish traders who established trading bases there and to finally get occupied by the French in 1907-, taught this city to cope with change and evolution.  Nothing in this city is truly endearing and that’s exactly the reason why you should visit it.  You’ll get the right idea that nobody expects travelers as other cities already serve very well that purpose.  Casablanca has a “medina” or walled old city of winding alleys, except here it’s smaller than most and quite run-down, with most shops devoted to day-to-day items that are of little interest to the tourist so do not expect immense labyrinthic medinas like Rabat, Fez or Marrakech have.  It does not offer a walk through the High Atlas and neither overnight camel ride through wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. It’s not as characteristic as the blue city of Chefchaouen. It’s the unpretentiousness together with modernity, Moresque and Art Deco architecture that are the true delight.

Wandering through the city a traveler gets to see the real Morocco and not the well prepared tourist theaters as in other towns.  We haggle for some leather souvenirs without the typical scenes. At the Medina we try olives, dried fruits and spices without having to buy any.  The unforgiving nature of time forces us to go back to the hotel, the airport and eventually home.  Casablanca, it was nice to meet and greet and do not worry sooner or later we’ll be back!

Recommendations:

  • The Old Medina is nice cozy
  • The Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world and just at the waterside. Unlike most mosques in Morocco, non-Muslims are allowed inside, but only on guided tours for 10€ a person.
  • Mohammed V Boulevard, lined with buildings from the 1920s and 1940s, (2km from the Old Medina)
  • Square of Mohamed V
Categories: Morocco | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorocaba, Brasil

After discovering Sao Paolo, Marcella and Antonio take us to Sorocaba where we are baptized to the Brazilian lifestyle.  We first thought that we would go to the ‘Parque Natural Municipal da Agua Vermelha Joao Cancio Pereira’ or Sorocaba’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Catedral Metropolitana de Sorocaba, the museum of railroad or maybe even the spectacular ‘Jardim botánico Irmaos Vilas Boas’.  But no no… at Marcella’s parents we are about to find out what’s Brasilian churrasco all about. Brasil, as many other nations, is proud of its food.  While each has a different approach, Brazil and Argentina both claim to be South America’s barbeque champion. Despite the discussion of naming it churrasco or asado, the cuts and the accompaniments, some things are simply the same; the ogre-sized quantities of meat which is best appreciated at a laidback pace. We can easily state that the preparing and the cooking itself is 90% of the experience.  Onions spiked on an épée are carefully turned above the vivid fire while an infinite assortment of sizzling meats are judiciously been looked after.

In the mean while the table fills up with all kind of vegetables cut rightfully by the experienced hand of the ‘avó’.  With a ‘cerveja Skol’ in the hand a wood oven is lit for the grilled vegetables side dishes.

There is no sitting down at this bacchanal, so as we are talking the wooden cuttings board passes by with all kind of meats nicely cut. Another Skol later the same cutting board passes by with other meat and some grilled vegetables.

Maybe a sporadic fork searches its way to some grilled peppers but for as far as I know seems cutlery just an option.  Whilst a new batch of meat is getting to its point, Marcella’s father gives me a private tour on the property explaining all the tricky parts of having and maintaining an orchid garden.  With my limited Portuguese I can figure out that it must be very complicated. So here goes my tribute to a man with a passion for beauty and nature. ( Just a tiny selection of the photos I made…)

befunky-collage-2

But before all the Skol, before being part of a Brazilian Churrasco, even before striking any match we went for a moment downtown to take a look at ‘Amabili‘, the patchwork shop of Marcella’s mother, a cute atelier where creativity has no frontiers and where colors brighten the grey city routine. Definitely a place to stop by and inhale some positive energy.

 

Thanks Antonio, Marcella and all the family for opening your hart and house.

SAM_0569

 

 

Categories: Brasil | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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