Amsterdam was an experience to say the least. It is such a beautiful city that takes ages to wake up in the morning after the night life the night before.
When we arrived we walked to our Hostel from the station, and fell in love with Amsterdam straight away, it was just so picturesque and nice to walk around.
When we arrived at our hostel (Hostel Orfeo) the first thing that the man at the reception desk recomended to us was that it was too hot at this time of the day to be smoking a joint, a cold Heineken would go down better and to have a joint later on. We laughed and accepted his suggestion.
We stayed in a room in a hostel with other people for the first time, and the first room mate we met was pretty rude and strange, he didn’t want to talk and was a lot older than us. He left the room shortly after we arrived. After a quick shower we left to explore. After asking the man at reception where a good place to go and eat was he gave us a map and highlighted the best places to go in Amsterdam (including writing down the names of recommended coffee shops) he then went on to tell us about the heavy smoking night he had. We definitely felt like we were in Amsterdam.
We took his advice and had a Heineken first, before picking up a hotdog from a stall with a variety of toppings… We then went back for another one instead of having a proper dinner. We did a little bar crawl that night getting to know the area, dreading going back to the creep in our room. Once we got back he was lying on his bed reading in tiny little pants, we got straight into bed and tried to sleep. An hour later our 2nd roommate stumbled into the room waking everyone by dropping his phone. The street we were on was loud with bars and the 2nd roommate snored, it wasn’t a great first night in a hostel. The next day the creepy guy checked out and Nathan befriended the 2nd roommate, his name was Amir and he was from Sudan.
Daytime in Amsterdam
Amsterdam felt completely different to any city I’ve been in before. Yes it was busy and had late night life, but you didn’t get the sense of urgency or that you had to rush around. We spent the days wandering, we visited Anne Frank’s house one day and discovered loads of little markets around the city on another day. It was nice to wander and get to know the city, stopping at a couple of tourist spots along the way.
Amsterdam at night
For a couple who have spent a lot of time in the evenings for the past year staying in and watching numerous tv programs to help us save money, we went out the four nights in a row that we stayed in Amsterdam.
After buying a pack of pre rolled joints on the second night we spent that night and the next couple of nights, having a smoke before walking up to the red light district. Something we would never do at home, but when In Rome (Amsterdam) we wanted to experience the nightlife right, without worrying we were a couple and not in a group of friends.
On the first night after a wander around the district after a few drinks we paid for a peep show and to go in a strip club. When I went to buy a round at the bar it cost €24 for two pints of Heinken and the bar maid who had her boobs out put the €1 change from €25 on her boob and asked if I wanted to grab the change back or if she could keep it. I let her keep the change. I wasn’t ready for that.
The second night, the Amsterdam night life led us to the Moulin Rouge. In there we experienced a live sex show, and watched a man pull a massively long ribbon out of a strippers vagina and make other men eat things off of parts of her body and demonstrate certain sex positions on her. We wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cringe at the dodgy costumes and how awkward some of the men looked after being dragged up or pushed up by their friends. Was a laugh though and made for a good night.
Wandering around and seeing all the ladies in the Windows was bizzare, there were little alleys off of the main strip filled with Windows, and different sections for black women, and transsexuals. Some women would knock on their windows to get attention or open the doors and talk to people and try to entice them in, others would stand on their phones looking disinterested. When we stopped for a pint of Heineken in a pub, in the space of us finishing our pints one lady in the window had 3 men go in and out! The most bizzare thing of all though had to be the tour groups that wander around! It wasn’t just stag do’s wandering around like you’d think, there were people of all ages, couples and singles, and somehow tour groups of pensioners.
We had such a good time in Amsterdam! We never felt unsafe and wandered around at our leisure day, and night. Will definitely be returning! Such a beautiful city, and everyone there was so nice! For people who judge it because of the coffee shops, and the red light district they’re missing out on such a nice and pretty city.
Finally after all the work and saving we left! Due to be back home in December, let’s see how far we get!
ARRIVING IN PARIS
After leaving Ashford International on the Eurostar we arrived in Paris for 6 in the evening. We headed for a taxi to take us to our first hostel, but made sure we stood in the que for the official taxi rank, avoiding a number of locals who stand outside the station offering everyone supposedly cheaper lifts in one of their independent taxi’s whilst claiming the other que would involved an hour wait. It didn’t involve an hour wait, and we were on our way to our Hostel pretty quickly.
When we arrived at our hostel, it looked dodgy behind a coded door with no windows. The taxi driver got us in and the owner of the hostel greeted us. The hostel looked better once inside. All the rooms were around a little communal courtyard and we had a little room in the corner. There was no one in the courtyard just building work so it was a quiet arrival. The room was basic just two beds, two lamps a desk and an ensuite toilet, the wifi also didn’t work so we spent little time here, only using the hostel as a place to sleep.
DAY 2 IN PARIS
After a little wander around the night before we discovered that the hostel was quite a way from the city centre and the sites and with no English translation down at the metro station we decided to walk… And walk, and walk in 33 degree heat through Paris. When we stopped a local he told us it was a 2 hour walk to the Eiffel Tower following the canal. Nathan was a pro at navigating us through the city on a map and after a couple of stops for drinks, and wifi we made it to the city centre! One of our favourite stops was a local shop where for just over a Euro a machine squeezed fresh oranges for you so you could feel up a plastic bottle and have fresh orange juice to go.
First we went to Notre Dame which we found was free entry and with no que. Nathan made jokes about Quasimodo and the hunch back of Notre dame more than once, and we were both amazed with the place. After that we went to the louvre, we only saw the outside as it is closed on Tuesday’s, but the outside was amazing and so so pretty. After leaving our hostel at 10, 6 and a half hours later of walking we made it to the Eiffel Tower at 4.30. We stopped under it and took some pictures for about 5 minutes before we decided to walk the whole way up the Eiffel Tower. The award for the most exhausted and disgusting looking couple went to us. We essentially paid €24 to hurt our feet even more. But the view was amazing, and there was a little bar/cafe on one floor of the Eiffel Tower which just seemed crazy.
After looking on an app (city mapper) which helped us work out a metro route back to the hostel we braved it. An hour later we got back to our hostel having mastered the metro without standing on any wrong platforms, or getting any wrong trains. DAY 3 IN PARIS
After mastering the metro to get back to the hostel we mapped out routes we needed to take to get to different parts of the city and used the metro all day.
We first went to the station to book our ticket for Amsterdam before going back to the Louvre museum. The metro station bought us out to a little quaint shopping area and we wandered through here on route to the Louvre. Nathan noticed a KFC, so our lunch for the day had been decided. THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
Once at the Louvre we were still in awe of how amazing it was, and with the museum open we went in. When we were inside an American Lady came over to us who had an invitation for free entry into the Louvre with a guest, she explained how she didn’t have anyone to go with today so if one of us wanted to walk through with her, only one of us would have to pay entry. Thinking we had a good deal with said yes and Nathan went to buy his ticket. When we came to the entrance we were told for British people we can have free entry anyway just by showing our passports, Nathan tried to get a refund on his ticket but couldn’t. The American lady then went to find someone else to offer free entry to, making sure she found someone who would normally have to pay. She was lovely, and it was also her birthday so we hope she did find someone.
The Louvre museum was pretty amazing, and we even found the Mona Lisa. Smaller than we thought the painting would be, and surrounded by people, and cameras. Despite all the other incredible things to see the Mona Lisa had the most hype around it. Afternoon.
After we wandered back to KFC for lunch to discover different things on their menu to at home. We then went to the Notre Dame again to hear the bells chime on the hour. Aching from the day before and exhausted from the heat we sat for a moment before catching the metro to the catacombs below Paris.
Creepy, dark and claustrophobic they were everything we thought they were going to be. Despite being surrounded by millions of people’s bones and skulls it was the first time we had been cool all day. Maybe it was the damp and the depth we were under ground, but maybe it was cold because of all the dead bodies down there, I was always told cold air means a ghost passed? We enjoyed being cool regardless.
From there we decided to do something a little more romantic, because for the city of romance we had spent a lot of it waking around and sweating, hopping on and off of metros, and walking around people’s remains below the city. We stopped for dinner, despite wanting to try snails and frogs legs it was just too expensive for our budget. We booked our Hostel for Amsterdam in the restaurant before walking to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night, just missing the rain that had come down whilst we were in the restaurant.
The Eiffel Tower was so nice to see at night. We went and looked at it from a distance, waking past people ball room dancing and people selling champagne and wine. We stood and waited for the hour, and then the lights changed on the Eiffel Tower making it flash and look glittery.
The night got worse from there as we thought we had mastered the metro however after me rushing Nathan off of train because some man with a big backpack had come on the train chanting phrases in another language and scaring me we ended up taking another train to the wrong station. By this point we had run out of battery life on our phones after being out all day so we were left to try and navigate our way back to the hostel. We eventually got back after a scary walk around the streets at about half 11.
Even after finding ourselves in central Paris, and wandering around the monuments and sites, we didn’t quite get the romance that everyone goes on about, and can’t understand why the Eiffel Tower is such a popular spot for proposals (by day anyway). When staying in a nice hotel and getting wine and dined with easy access to all that Paris has to offer we guess that the views on the city would be very different to our experience as we didnot stay in a tourist area and we walked enough to see all different parts of Paris – the non romantic, non rich side of Paris. Can’t deny the monuments and some streets are beautiful though.
These last months waiting to go travelling are becoming some of the slowest and yet fastest months of my life.
I cannot wait to get going! Stuck in this little town working a 9-5 job is starting to feel a little like cabin fever. Although I’m not sure what I want to do with my life, one thing I know for sure is that I don’t want a life stuck in routine, where nearly every day brings the same thing in the same place. I’m starting to feel like I live at work these days, and knowing Nathan and I are so close to being independent is making staying with our parents that much harder! I feel like I’m currently wasting a whole portion of my life, wishing the days away when I’m at work, and spending evenings at home rather than being out, in order to save as much as possible. I know that all of this will feel like it was worth it in a couple of months time, but at the moment all days and nights are stringing together in an endless loop. I can’t contain my itchy feet! It reminds me of when I was 17 waiting to turn 18 on the 27th of August, and having to watch all my friends turn 18 before me and spending my whole summer waiting for the time I could join them on a night out, and not have to hide in the beer garden whilst they snuck me a drink out. A long mind numbingly boring wait.
At the same time its so scary knowing we only have 5 months of saving left! That’s it. 5 months before we are actually doing it. Whatever we manage to save in this time is what we’ve got to support us for nearly 4 months. It also means this is my last summer at my job. A job that has a mixture of good, and bad like all jobs, but I will miss the people I work with overall as I have been with them for over 3 years.
It feels like everything is moving so fast, with so much still to organise, and save, but at the same time September can’t come soon enough!!
My first trip of 2016 was to the happiest place on earth… No not Disney Land… Dublin! Dublin was everything I expected it to be, yet nothing like I expected at the same time!
Within hours of arriving in Dublin I felt at home! What isn’t to love about a city which is charming to walk around, as well as being filled with charming people? My friends would probably be millionaires if they had a pound for every time I said I could move to Dublin, and numerous times I have told my mum and boyfriend the same thing since returning home. These are my reasons why Dublin is a very tempting Emigration choice.
* The Irish Accent is to die for. Ever since I can remember I have been attracted to the Irish Accent, I’m not sure what it is about the accent, but I know i’m not alone in loving it. My friends, and I are all in agreement that there is something about it that is attractive. It is this attraction that lead us to spend a couple of days in Ireland’s capital.
* Every where you walked you were surprised by old architecture. For some reason I thought that Dublin was going to be filled with more new, and modern buildings. I was not expecting to see beautiful old architecture and cathedrals as I walked around the city. There are historic and religious buildings all over, and they were never a bad thing to be surprised by.
Trams are something I have never experienced living in South East England, and trams are something that not many cities have so that would be pretty cool.
* Dublin Castle Wanting to get married? Go to Dublin Castle. Want to walk around a building with elegance and class? Go to Dublin Castle. Can’t afford an interior designer but need inspiration? Go to Dublin Castle. This castle was stunning, and the tour provided us with history not just of the castle, but of Dublin itself.
* The Friendliest people I have ever met I have never been around such friendly people! Every barman, waitress and shop assistant served us with a smile. The saying that Irish people are always up for a craic is spot on! It was rare to get through a conversation with one of the locals without some form of wit, or a joke, in the conversation. A conversation with a taxi driver consisted of him asking us which drinks we could, and couldn’t handle, after listening to us talk he replied with ” I used to think I had a problem with alcohol, but then I realised when I got home it was the ex wife that was causing me the problem not the alcohol” and a conversation with a barman consisted of my friend asking what Rose wine they had, with the barman replying that they only had one type. When he placed the drink down in front of us he said “There you go our finest glass of Rose…to be honest wine’s all the fucking same” Anywhere else in the world I’m sure this would be taken as a rude comment, but when the person saying the joke has a grin from ear to ear, and the cheekiest sounding accent its hard not to just laugh and appreciate the craic!
* The food everywhere I went was so good! Now maybe its because before going to Dublin I was told by an Irishman I met in a pub that the food wasn’t very good, but I didn’t have a bad meal whilst I was there. Maybe its because I wasn’t expecting great things that I enjoyed the meals I had that much more, but I don’t think that was the reason. I even stopped in a Bistro that did a daily €5 cocktail!
* The Irish are very patriotic people! They are proud of their culture and heritage. They celebrate Irish music and dancing with live performances in most pubs in the evenings. This was great fun to watch, and a great atmosphere to be a part of. Their national emblem the shamrock can be seen throughout the city as well.
* There are big streets and high street stores as well as lanes filled with pubs and restaurants. This is nice as when you’re walking through these lanes and the maze of shops, pubs and restaurants you forget about the busy city that you are in. It’s like the best of both worlds.
* When I visited in mid January the Airport, and various pubs still had Christmas tree’s and decorations up. It appeared to still be Christmas around Dublin, so if you’re a lover of Christmas then you’ll love Dublin.
* One Evening in O’Connell street some people had set up a stall and were feeding the homeless , and giving them access to new shoes andclothes.
This was great to see because not only had people given up their evenings to do this, but the homeless were not pushing their way to the front of the line, or taking all they could without a regard for others, they were all waiting patiently and were not in it for themselves.
If you love Guinness you will feel at home here. The country seemed really proud of the drink, and really did love it.
* Free wifi Nearly every pub, cafe and Restaraunt we went in had free wifi!
* St Patricks Day Why the hell not would you not want to live in a place that celebrates like the Irish do on St Patrick’s day! To know that once a year everyone was going to come together and have one massive party would surely be enough to fuel you through the year.
* Even the traffic was polite!
When waiting to cross the busy roads, a lot of the time those driving past would stop and allow you to cross before they continued on!
I loved my time in Dublin, and will no doubt be returning in the future, and St Patricks day in Ireland is something I want to be a part of one day.
I hope anyone visiting Ireland has the same fond and fun memories I have of Dublin and the people who live there!
‘Greece has got something like 1,400 Islands. There Is so much of Greece you can’t know even if you’re Greek. It’s sprinkled out all over the edge of the Aegean, all over the place. It’s already a secret place wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere huge like Athens or Corinth. The place enchanted me’ – Joanna Lumley
On the 2nd of February 2016, my boyfriend and I of just over two years set off for Athens. A last minute holiday which we hoped would satisfy our travel taste buds until we had saved enough money to start our real travelling adventures in September. Whilst away Nathan wanted to film as much of the experience as possible, whilst I discovered that I wanted to attempt my first blog documenting things we had done, and what we had learnt, and to maybe help others who were planning a trip to Athens. So hello! here goes…
After a steady 3 hour flight out of London Gatwick, in which we saw scenes of snowy mountains and watched the sun set, we arrived in Athens. Our first real interaction was with out taxi driver and he pointed out important monuments and filled us with facts about Athens during the drive to the city center. After 35 minutes we had arrived at our hotel. We arrived around 9 in the evening so knew the real fun, and exploring would begin the next day so we went for some food, and then just settled into the hotel room for the rest of the evening.
We were excited to be among some of the oldest standing buildings and monuments in the world, and were excited to be in a city with so much history. Neither of us had been to Greece before so everything was new for us both.
To my mind travelling doesn’t just provide you with new scenery it gives you a lesson on different cultures, and customs, and allows you to experience each countries culture first hand.
Athens was our first lesson in this. Our trip to Athens became the perfect ‘travelling test run’ providing us with the confidence that we could navigate and get ourselves around a country, and a language neither of us were accustomed too, as well as providing us with our first culture shocks that we experienced and lived among for a week.
Number one on our Culture shock list was –
1. No toilet paper to be flushed down the toilet.
We later learnt that this is common in most parts of Greece, however we didn’t learn this until the plane journey there, as we bought a Guide to Athens book from the airport. Due to their sewage system and small pipes toilet paper just gets clogged up, blocks the drains and therefore floods your bathrooms so no toilet paper is allowed, instead all toilet paper must go in a bin next to the toilet. At first we were really unsure how we were going to get on with this for a week, but for want of a better phrase the Greeks were ‘on it’ when it came to changing these bins as you rarely saw a bin full of paper, and the bin in our hotel rooms bathroom was changed every morning… nevertheless a rule was quickly made on the first night, no number 2’s in our shared bathroom in the hotel room!
Our guide book also said that protests were common in the city. Three protests happened in the week that we were there. When a protest took place it was crazy to see how quickly the surroundings changed. The first protest to happen was in Syntagma Square, outside parliament. It revolved around pensions and quickly turned violent and was broadcasted across news stations (Nathan and I however were oblivious to the violence going on below us as we climbed Filopappos Hill). The second of the three protests Nathan and I were in Syntagma Square to witness the start, and although as tourists we did not feel unsafe, we headed away from the drama. The terms busy and bustling definitely relate to the roads here, and within seconds the once busy Syntagma Square was suddenly tapped off by police, and all cars which were on the roads had disappeared, and all this happened within a turn of the head. On the walk back to our hotel you could see lines of traffic build up and cars pulling up on the pavement to try to skip the cue in the traffic.
3. Stray cats and dogs.
Strays are not uncommon here. This however is like many other places in the world, and although this was not something we enjoyed to see or ever got used to it was comforting seeing the dogs look healthy and well looked after by the workers at different tourist attractions. We often saw dogs lying around and sleeping at some of the most popular tourist attractions. It was also nice to sit at a restaurant in Plaka and watch a kitten play on the roof of a restaurant, swinging its paws for the hanging branches and plants. It was nice to think this kitten had one massive playground in Athens with an unlimited amount of refuge and shelter spots. One evening we also witnessed a man in Plaka chucking chips on the floors and walls, and after dinner that night we saw those chips being devoured by a stray dog. We like to think that he does that often, perhaps daily. Even if he doesn’t it makes it easier when thinking about all the strays we saw.
Apart from providing us with our first sense of what travelling and experiencing different cultures was going to feel like, we wanted to come to Athens for all the history and Architecture that it is famous for, and Athens did not disappoint! Pictures just do not do justice to the sites and monuments of the city, and the views were unreal. We visited all the typical tourist attractions in the City and picked up on a few thing I’m calling
1. For 12 euros a ticket per person you can gain access into seven sites around the city. We bought ours from the Acropolis, which has a list up of all the seven sites included in this ticket. The ticket is valid for 4 days with one visit per site. When you show this ticket at the different attractions it is stamped, so there’s no getting away with trying to get into the same attraction twice (unless you buy another ticket of course)
2. The Acropolis Museum is only 5 Euros per person. Backpacks and big bags are not allowed and must be put into the cloak room and picked up at the end. It is also confusing as to whether cameras are allowed. There were signs saying cameras were not permitted, but for all of the people carrying phones and taking photos only a few were told off by the museum, it appeared to be different rules for different rooms and artifacts. This museum is also open until late at night.
3. Due to us visiting off season in February the attractions closed at the much earlier time of 3 so it meant early starts were best.
4. Going to these attractions off season however meant the weather was not too hot for walking around and there wasn’t an overcrowding of tourists which was better for walking about and getting good pictures.
5. The attractions were closed if protests were on. On the day of a protest Nathan and I climbed Filopappos Hill as this is free, its just long up hill hike to get to the monument at the top.
6. When visiting the first Olympic Stadium (which is not included in the 12 euros ticket) they did not take card and there is not a cash point near by. Nathan and I got ourselves lost whilst we went on a hunt for a cash point. It was well worth the struggle to get there, however we wish we’d drawn out cash before hand.
There was no shortage of places to eat in the evening – in fact it was really the only thing to do in the evening.Being British we love a good pub, and missed the novelty of buying your drink and being able to sit down and relax. In Athens there are mainly restaurants and bars, and everywhere we went waitress/waiter service was present. Tap water was served with every drink or food purchase and the bill was also bought over with every purchase. This left us to total the bills at the end of the night when we wanted to pay. Bread was served before most meals,but when we were asked if we wanted bread this was then charged on the bill, if bread was just bought over then this was free and part of the service. Having a Greek Salad or some other type of salad to share before the meal is part of Greek dining culture. Nathan and I shared a Greek salad before a meal once, and it was a nice way to start a meal, but also expensive to have every meal time. As we both work in catering we understand the importance of leaving a tip, so as is custom in Greece we made sure we left 10% each time.
We ate in some lovely places and didn’t have a bad meal in Athens, however there was a clear favorite for both of us and that was Smile Café Restaurant. We can not say what was nicer the food or the staff. Each of the four times we went we had Chicken Gyros. We could have tried to something else on the menu, but the chicken gyros was just so good! The chicken gyros platter, which we had twice consisted of a big heap of chicken, a pile of chips, fresh tomato, lettuce and triangles of pitta bread and a garlic dipping sauce. It was massive and so so good! The waitress gave us a high five for each eating a whole platter ourselves. Each of the other times we had the chicken gyros pitta. This was everything from the platter… but wrapped in a pitta! Just as good, but smaller so was perfect for the days when we had big lunches and just wanted a small dinner. We were greeted a couple of times with “Your table is available” and they learnt our drinks order as well (two Mythos beers) We always sat under their big heated gazebo, and always felt relaxed and welcome. Smile café restaurant- it basically does what it says on the tin! sorry.
Now a little story from the past… In the summer Nathan talked of taking a ferry to France, staying the night and then getting a ferry home the next day. This little trip wasn’t about visiting France, he just really wanted to go on a boat. Now back to the future (see what I did there) when we found out that we could get a one day boat cruise from Athens to three of the surrounding islands we knew we had to do it, it basically killed two birds with one stone. We got to visit 3 new places, and Nathan got to go on a boat. The boat cruise took us to Hydra, Poros and Aegina.
Hydra was a beautiful Island. It was so pretty and cute, and had no cars on the island. We stayed here for 40 minutes (when originally booking however it said we were going to stay here for an hour) a walking tour of this island was available with the host of the boat cruise for an extra fee, however we wandered around the island by ourselves.
In Poros we had a very short stay, the only thing to do really was to admire the views from high up, which also made for great pictures! Aegina had a beautiful harbour with clear blue water which made for a lovely walk and a lovely view to sit and admire as we had some food. A bus tour of this island was available for an extra fee like with Hydra, however Nathan and I decided against this as we prefer to tour at our own pace, and have never been fans of tours or tour guides. We had the longest stay on this island of 2 hours.
This was a long day as we were picked up from our hotel at half 7 and returned to the hotel at about 8 in the evening. The stays on the islands were not as long as stated when reading about the island tour which was disappointing, but sitting on the boat was so nice, there was plenty of chairs on the decks of the boat to enjoy the sea and the views. The lunch served on board was a buffet and there was music and a band on board for certain journeys, other than that however there was no entertainment or anything to watch, so as it got colder in the evening there was not much to do on the boat, so we used that time to fill in Nathans journal of the trip which he wrote in everyday and documented the places we had been and what we had seen each day. Although we both had a long day, looking back we are glad we did it as we are happy knowing we have three new places to add to our list of places we have been, and we got some great pictures.
If anyone is still with me here, and is fancying a trip to Greece, we stayed at The Athens Gate Hotel. It was a lovely hotel, and we are sure that if we had visited Greece within the busy seasons then this hotel would have been out of our price range, so feel lucky we were able to stay here. The views from the glass rooftop restaurant were brilliant. Whilst sitting in the restaurant we were able to admire the Acropolis, which looked amazing lit up in the evening, and when sitting at the bar you were just across the street from The Temple of Zeus. In fact, I think it even had it advertised in the hotels lift that TripAdvisor had claimed it as the 4th best restaurant view in the world.
The Staff were so helpful, and could’t do enough for us, and it was so nice that they attempted conversation with us despite the language barrier. They spoke good English, and despite a few mistakes or off phrases they laughed this off and continued to try, and still carried on with the conversation. We would have loved to of sat up there more for dinner, but the food was a little expensive, and only breakfast was included in the price of the hotel. Every afternoon though we would go up to the rooftop bar and sit and fill out Nathans journal, and we would go up for breakfast everyday which was a mixture of continental and some hot food, such as bacon and eggs, which was always our choice! The work ethic that all the staff had was brilliant also, when it wasn’t busy they were always cleaning, and before leaving each time we always left a tip to show our gratitude. The selling point for the hotel was the restaurant as even in the winter you could enjoy the views without having to sit outside in the cold.
Our room unfortunately was the only negative about the hotel. We paid £800 for an executive double ( a queen bed with a furnished balcony and view) but when we originally tried to book for Athens the hotels suite was on offer, but due to difficulties booking the holiday the suite was then no longer available so we went for what we thought was going to be the next best thing. The room however, despite having a great view of the acropolis was quite small, and the balcony had no privacy from the room next door. We couldn’t help but feel a little boxed in as the bathroom was right at the bottom of the bed, which also didn’t make for romance (we heard each other go to the toilet for the first time) understandably our view might be a little compromised by the fact that we knew we could have had the suite for the same price, and as this was going to be our last holiday before we trade a hotel for hostel we wanted it to be a bit more special. Despite this initial feeling however, a brilliant city location with excellent staff, and rooftop restaurant views overshadowed our initial disappointment of the room.
Lessons we learnt and what we will take with us into our travels in September: – Chelsea boots worked great for me as walking shoes. Worked as both day and evening shoes and provided comfort in walking, and climbing up hills and over rocks. – We learnt that as a couple we are not bad navigators or planners. 90% of the time our navigation was okay, and we found our feet in the city quickly. – We visited the Acropolis and the museum twice which taught us that during the first visits we had our focus through a camera lens, and did not take the time to appreciate or stand and read about what we were seeing, so we learnt that pictures are good, but the experience in the flesh is more important. – We are brilliant walkers! We even managed a walk from the City Center to the harbour which the hotel staff said couldn’t be done (It took us two hours in the end but we still did it!) – We learnt how to say no to shop and restaurant owners trying to get us into their establishments.
– Most importantly we learnt that research prior to arriving in a country is best to find out early where the cheapest and nicest foods are in order to save money, and to also look into if there is enough in one place to fill the time, or think about whether we could maybe change location and stay in more than one place.
We spent most of our week in Athens walking, and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. Walking allowed us to experience so much more of Athens, and stumble across old remains and hidden pieces of history that are not big enough to be claimed as a tourist destinations but are there, and are a part of the history. The National Gardens made for a beautiful walk, which were filled with surprises throughout, and made us forget about the busy city that was around us. The Acropolis is far more than just the famous Parthenon and each building is far more than just stone. The architecture and historic significance seeped throughout the monuments, and old amphitheaters in the city makes everything you look at worth a double take.
Exploring the amazing monuments and discovering little hidden gems throughout Athens and the surrounding islands has given us so much excitement to get going and travel some more.
I hope everyone and anyone looking to go to Athens feels the same way. It really is somewhere for the bucket list.