Category Archives: Historic Sites

How much can you see in three-and-a-half days in Quebec City?

Mind you, just so we’re clear on that – three-and-a-half days is NOT enough to see everything worth seeing in Québec City and the area.

From its centuries-old stone buildings that look like they were transported straight from France, to its many museums, this charming city of about half a million has a lot to offer to visitors.

Unfortunately, we only had a long weekend for this visit, but if you have more time, do yourself a favor and spend a few more days in this capital of the Canadian province of Québec.

It’s an about six-hour drive from Boston, another old city worth seeing, but it’s very different than any American cities you will see, including the also-French New Orleans.

We saw the following attractions in Québec City. You can decide whether you want to put them on your to-see list as well.

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Before Visiting Stonehenge, Learn a Bit of its History

The grey stones covered with greenish and orange lichen look like a giant child’s play area.

Some stones still stand upright, in a circle. Others are on the ground, as if knocked down in a moment of frustration. There are gaps in the circle as if some pieces were taken away, or have not been put in yet.

Bright green grass separates the stone circle from a rounded path along which people walk around the monument, their faces turned toward the stones.

Beyond the path a herd of sheep pays no attention to stones or humans, concentrating on finding the juiciest bits of grass.

sheep grazing in the field next to Stonehenge
sheep grazing in the field next to Stonehenge

This is Stonehenge.

An ancient place of … well, we don’t really know what.

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Visiting the Roman Sights in Merida, Spain

When we decided to do a road trip from Madrid, Spain to the coast of Portugal last year, we decided to find a city or a town to stay overnight on the way, rather than drive the 600 km (372 miles) or so in one day.

The names of towns and cities along the three different routes that GoogleMaps suggested for us didn’t tell me much, so I turned to guidebooks of Spain from Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and to TripAdvisor reviews.

three different routes from Madrid, Spain to Obidos, Portugal that GoogleMaps suggested as a possibilty
three different routes from Madrid, Spain to Obidos, Portugal that GoogleMaps suggested as a possibilty

In the end, I’ve decided we should stop in Mérida, a place I’d never heard of before, because every guidebook I looked at suggested visiting the city’s Roman ruins, and we like ancient stuff like that.

We arrived in Mérida on a Friday afternoon and went sightseeing on Saturday. Given all the historical attractions in Mérida, I was really surprised by the low number of tourists we saw.

Clearly Mérida is not as popular as it was during the Roman times, which is really too bad.

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Self-Guided Tour of Harvard University’s Old Yard

If you’re in Boston, Massachusetts, don’t forget to visit the city on the other bank of the Charles River – Cambridge, MA.

And while you’re in Cambridge, you might as well visit Harvard University, the oldest university in the United States.

I’d suggest you put aside a whole day just for Harvard, since in addition to the one-hour Guided Historical tour of the university, Harvard museums – Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture – are worth a visit as well.

Quincy Street entrance to the newly renovated and reopened Harvard Art Museums
Quincy Street entrance to the newly renovated and reopened Harvard Art Museums

If you don’t have that much time, at least do the tour of the university, either with Guided Historical Tours of Harvard or on your own.

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The Amazing Castelo dos Mouros (The Moorish Castle) in Sintra, Portugal

First word of advice – if you want to visit Castelo dos Mouros (The Moorish Castle) in Sintra, Portugal – get there BEFORE the parks open at 9am (10 am in the wintertime) if you can, because right at 9am the cars and busloads of tourists start pouring in, and soon every spot along the road winding toward the castle and down into the city will be taken.

Second piece of advice – if you also want to go to the Park and National Palace of Pena (Parque e Palacio Nacional de Pena)wear comfortable shoes with good, non-slip soles, because that will be a LOT of walking.

And last but not least – bring a jacket or a sweater, because even if it’s the middle of the summer and hot down below, it might be colder and windy up on the mountain. It was when we were there in July 2014.

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Tips on Visiting the Windsor Castle: Make sure the State Rooms are open!

If you are staying in London and want to visit the Windsor Castle,  word of advice – make sure the state apartments are open on the day you’re visiting!

When we went there in January 2013, the state apartments were closed and even though it was still thrilling to walk around the place built by William the Conqueror, and where Henry VIII and Queen Victoria lived, the only “indoor” place open to the visitors was Queen Mary’s Doll House, Royal China exhibit, and a photo exhibit, The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch.

Not that the Doll House was not worth looking at. It was pretty spectacular. And we were able to do the Precincts Tour – tour the grounds with a guide who was very knowledgeable about the history of the Castle, and was very patient with our questions, but I really wish we saw the inside as well. Maybe next time…..

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