As Rick Stein’s series of ‘Long Weekends’ across Europe concluded last week, it made us think about all the wonderful destinations that he visited. We look back at his ten-part series, reliving some of the fascinating cities that he stopped at. Cities that you too can visit on a cruise with Voyages to Antiquity in 2017.
Palermo, located on the island of Sicily, is full of interesting things to see and do. The Palatine Chapel, built during the 1130’s and 1140’s is always popular and is offered as an included tour on many of our sailings that visit Palermo, including our ‘Historic Spain, Sicily and Italy’ voyage’. The chapel is a fusion of Latin, Byzantine and Arabic architectural design and the palace, in which the chapel is housed, had its start in the 9th century AD, when the Emir of Palermo built on the site of a Punic Roman stronghold. Roger II turned the building into the city’s main fortress and his sumptuous palace, then crowned it with this jewel of a chapel.
Thessalonica is the second largest city in Greece and features on our ‘Classical Greece and Aegean Islands’ voyage in October. The city of Thessalonica (also known as Thessaloniki) was founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessalonica was one of the wealthiest cities of the incredible Byzantine Empire. The city was ultimately conquered by the Ottomans in 1430, and passed from the Ottoman Empire to modern Greece on 8 November 1912. Here guests can enjoy the Byzantine Museum and the 5th-century basilica, Agios Dimitrios, devastated in a 1917 fire that destroyed half the city.
In southwestern Spain, you will find the wonderful Andalusian city of Cadiz and it really is a city like no other. Our ‘Ancient Greece, Sicily and Spain’ voyage visits this ancient port and offers several options for spending time ashore. A city tour includes a visit to the Santa Catalina Fortress, which is part of a series of fortifications that were designed to protect Cadiz from the English after Sir Francis Drake had successfully breached the harbour in 1587 in an attack that became known as “singeing the King of Spain’s beard”. Jerez for sherry tasting at Gonzalez Byass is also an option.
Lisbon is one of our newest ports and you can visit with us on board Aegean Odyssey in September on our ‘Mediterranean Odyssey’ voyage. Portugal’s capital, and the largest city within the country, is bursting with history and astonishing sites to explore. The Belem Quarter must not be missed as this is where you will find some of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks, including the Belem Tower, Discoveries Monument and the Monastery of Jeronimos – all of which are offered on our included city tour.
Iceland is a brand-new destination for Voyages to Antiquity in 2017 and we are excited to see what this wonderful country has on offer. Our ‘Iceland, Faroes and Shetlands’ voyages have proved incredibly popular and it’s on these voyages that you can visit Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon is noted as one of the top 25 wonders of the world by National Geographic – thanks to its healing and tranquil properties – and the city itself offers the Árbær open-air museum, which boasts more than 20 historic buildings, most of which have been relocated from central Reykjavik to form a town square, a village and a farm. The National Museum is also a worthy stop and is a chance to learn about Iceland’s cultural heritage.
Aegean Odyssey’s ‘Best of France and Portugal’ voyage offers an overnight call in Bordeaux, a historic city noted on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century. Our overnight call here allows guests to explore the regions incredible wine industry and its history which spans almost 2,000 years to Roman times when the first vineyards were planted. In the Middle Ages, the marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine opened the Bordeaux region to the English market and eventually to the world’s stage.
You can catch up with Rick’s series on BBC iPlayer.