New York: Bumper first day

New York and it’s iconic Central Park was something both of us wanted to see. Jenny had been as a child but now wanted to enjoy it once more. Luckily (unlike the rest of the trip), the rain was holding off so we were up by eight and off to the park. Unfortunately I was hungry, none of the food vans seemed to be open and I only realised this once we were right in the middle of the park. Hangry, we trudged back out, missing most of the splendour.

The trip really started once we got peanut butter bagels, cinnamon swirls and a coffee. A little tangent about coffee; in the UK, we would order a coffee, pay for the coffee, receive the coffee and then consume the coffee. In NYC they seem to think an additional step is required: wait 25 mins for the scalding liquid to cool down before being able to even hold the cup, let alone put your lips, this would take a lot of getting used to.

Anyway, that’s when the rain started (a bit of a feature on this trip). We made our way for our first view of Times Square, in the rain and the daytime it wasn’t that impressive, but we still got our requisite photos. Walking through the city and into the great hall of Grand Central, is extremely impressive. Towering buildings adorned with sculpted pillars, copper roofs and innumerable windows are amazing to look at even if they do seem to crush you in a little.

World Trade Center closed

Next stop another firm american favourite, a big bottle of Mountain Dew to satisfy my requirement for high fructose corn syrup and keep me going for the walk to the World Trade Center. Out of coincidence it was 9/11 and so the memorial was closed, surround by police and overshadowed by hundreds of conspiracy theorists pushing their agenda. Since we’d come all that way, we decided to pop into Oculus which is a huge, architecturally impressive shopping mall built on the memorial site (yep, we know). 

Oculus World Trade Center

Lunch

After a lovely walk along the river front where we could just get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and the shore of New Jersey. We made our way to lunch and found a nice Mexican place in TriBeCa called Mariachis where we gorged on tacos, quesadillas and buffalo wings and washed it all down with some Mexican lemonade. We were both really looking forward to Mexican food, given the american reputation for doing it better than us Brits. Even this small random place didn’t let us down. We would recommend it and you even get to see a few streets with the “Friends” reminiscent fire exits.

Map of Day 1 - Our long day of walking
Our long day of walking

All of the above would have been quite enough for one day but we ploughed on, walking around 25km by the end of the day. Next stop was possibly the busiest place in NYC; the Charging bull and Wall Street, it was genuinely so crowded that it wasn’t even worth stopping to take a photo.

Instead we decided that we would make the walk across the water over the Brooklyn Bridge that we had heard so much about, but barely seen through the mist and fog. On our route however we found a really cool, but seemingly hidden gem, of a few streets of bars, boutiques near the Brooklyn Bridge. These cobbled stones are much like those on the west of Manhattan but with fewer people and no cars.

Finally after walking around Manhattan we got to the start of the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, which is actually the busiest part of New York City. But also probably one of the coolest places we went on the trip, walking over an awesome bridge with hundreds of other pedestrians and cyclists, with three lanes of traffic rushing past on either side.

Sorry guys, I know that’s a lot of pictures of a bridge, but we had so much fun and the sun was finally coming out. Jenny bought me a microphone for my phone, since I am thinking of getting into vlogging, so we tried that out a bit and it was starting to feel a little less awkward to speak to camera, maybe one day I’ll give it a proper try. Brooklyn is a cool place, it is filled with streets of brown houses and cool cafe culture, which suited us nicely.

New York Skyline

After a long day out on our feet, we decided that it was time that we treated ourselves to a cocktail and some food, so we made our way to a cool bar called Top of the Strand where they had nice cocktails and an excellent view of the Empire State Building. We are trying to be a bit more careful about our spending recently, so we only had the one drink each, savouring each last drop as the sun set.

Finally after all of that, we made our way to China Town and had a nice meal there in a small, randomly selected restaurant. We then wandered back through little Italy, which we later found out was setting up for the “Feast of San Gennaro”, the more on that later.

Tomorrow hopes to be a little less walking and hoping the weather improves. New York, New York.

See you tomorrow!

R&J

Xx

For more info on our trip see our planning blog post here

New York, New York

Having been on very few holidays in the first half of 2018. We had a lot of holiday remaining. My birthday is coming up so we wanted to do something fun. There were a few options on offer including Porto, Portugal, Marrakesh, Morocco and Los Angeles, USA. But we decided on New York City.

Flights

Flights from London to New York are cheap, highly available and always on offer. You can easily find flights for less than £400 and they even get as low as £200 on deals for low-cost airlines. We luckily found some cheap flights on Virgin Atlantic, and although they have lost their luxury mark by having no baggage unreserved tickets, they still apparently offer cocktails.

Accommodation

Now this is where the cost comes in! Accommodation in New York, is not cheap. If you want to stay in a hotel for anything less than £120 you will end up being very disappointed. Even searching away from Manhattan in Brooklyn and the Bronx you will struggle to find something feasible. In fact this is the reason that we decided to only go from Monday through Friday rather than Saturday to Sunday which would have been cheaper flights.

We always try and get a good deal and so we often look at the options available on all the different sites out there, but we have never found a deal that made sense on Airbnb. This is mainly because we never want to stay in shared accommodation. This time however, we thought we would take a gamble to save on the cost. If you want to also take a gamble, you can use our link here to save on your first stay!  www.airbnb.co.uk/c/robertw6840

Our place is on the Upper East Side, near a Metro station, central park and some bars and restaurants. We will provide an update after our stay and maybe its our new way to see the world on the cheap!

Recommendations

Does anyone have any recommendations? Anyone who has ever lived in or visited New York, please leave a comment below, we are very excited to try out some awesome places and want to try whatever we can in the city. I am looking to have Mexican on my birthday, and we have found a few places, but if you know anywhere that is a must go, then let us know!

Research

Not knowing much about New York, we found some Youtube videos online that we used to get suggestions. Sarah Funk, below seems to give really good tips and we recommend her videos.

See you on our adventure!

R&J

Xxx

Greece: One last beach day

Tomorrow’s our last day :'( But what better way to spend it than relaxing, drinking and soaking up the sun. We had heard of a beach or two around the island and visited a number already. We made our way up to the only corner we were yet to visit and to the lovely long beach of Santa Maria.

How long can a book be

Around 2 years ago, I received in the post a book about the offshore banking environment. I started reading it almost straight away. I am still reading it. However, finally I am getting close to the end, having made my way through around 150 pages in the week of holiday. Jenny on the other hand made it through two and a half books. This day was mainly for reading books sitting on the lovely beach and soaking up the final rays of sun.

Double Gyros

Greece Kebabs (Gyros) have chips within the wrap. This is a treat that we couldn’t turn down lightly. After our enjoyable swim in the sea, walk up and down the beach and a drive across the island looking to try and go horse riding. The stables were shut :(. So we made our way back to the quaint alley with the kebab shop, sat in the shade and enjoyed another tasty gyros.

We had to kick a group of travellers from South Africa off of their tables as they were taking up about 5 tables between 8/9 of them. And we then got to enjoy laughing at them argue over the payment of the bill which was arguing about “70 cents!, but that’s like 50 Rand”

Margarita’s House Crèche

The only issue with this day was finding a sunbed by the pool. For some reason, everyone seemed to be doing the same as us and there was very little room around the pool. In fairness there were two sunbeds, but the lobster hue of both of our skins made both of us prefer one that wasn’t in the sun. And we really enjoyed relaxing the afternoon away before making our way up to the sun deck to watch the final sunset with some ciders.

Our last supper

We wandered up and over the hill and into town for one last meal in Naousa. This is a really nice town, with so many options for eating, drinking, shopping and wandering. Luckily as well only parts of the town have become overrun with tourists, which for the most part we tried to avoid.

Looking out across the sleepy bay by Naousa

This night however we thought we would join the crowds, and enjoy a light lunch on the waterfront. Though we did end up staying at the quieter end of the waterfront. It was a pleasant restaurant called Mediterraneo with reasonable prices so we decided that we’d have small starters as well as a main.

More please sir

Well, the starters came. They were anything but small. Jenny had two whole halloumi-type cheeses wrapped in filo pastry and I had 5 balls or zucchini larger than golf-balls. To add to which I thought I would enjoy one final greek salad which always comes with two whole blocks of Feta. My gosh we were already getting super full

Halloumi Filo parcels and Zucchini balls

Before we had finished our starters (I still had half a feta to go) they brought our main courses. A whole plate of big prawns for Jenny and large plate with 4 pork steaks two pitta breads and what looked to be two portions of chips. I tried to eat it all, I did, but unfortunately I had to leave a small piece of pitta and a few little chips. I have to say though that it was really tasty. To jenny’s great delight, the neighbourhood kitties also thought our food was very tasty.

“Home James, please spare the horses”

And there you go! That’s the trip to Paros, Greece wrapped up. We got home, packed up our stuff and got ready for the long travel day ahead of us. A drive, a ferry, a bus, a plane, a train, a metro and finally a walk later, I am sitting at home writing this to you.

Paros is highly recommended to anyone looking for a sunny, relaxing and enjoyable time. On second thoughts, please don’t go, it’s our little gem.

See you next time!

R&J

Xx

Greece: And the day you’ve all been waiting for: Our Anniversary

This trip was mainly to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary and so today was the all important day and right in the middle of the holiday too. It was a really lovely one.

Errands

We exchanged cards and gifts and ate breakfast in bed. But we needed to go into town since, as the car rental man put it, “I think someone drive fast into kerb and bend tire.” “Oh no!”, we both exclaim. “Oh, no problem, we take sledgehammer; bang bang all ok”

We had to wait 30 minutes for the wheel to be repaired and reblown. So we wandered into the lovely winding streets of Naoussa. Where I finally found myself some replacement flipflops, the shop owner even let me try his own to show that they become more comfy. And I convinced Jenny to get a Gyros for lunch while we waited.

Sand and Sea

This trip has mainly been about relaxing. Where we’d normally take the opportunity to see ruins or read placards on museums we have taken more opportunities to read our books and sit in the sun. This day was just the same, we made our way down to the beach next to our hotel and sat on the rocks, swam in the water and relaxed in the sun.

Yummy Dinner

To be honest that was most of the day done and we came back to our hotel and lay down and caught up on an episode of “The Bridge”, it’s getting very tense.

The one booking we made before getting to Paros was dinner for our anniversary. Hearing the best place to eat in Greece was Siparos in the north this was the place to book.

From the street it is relatively unassuming, quaint and beach bar like. Inside it is too not ostentatious but it is obviously very nice. We started with cocktails, had some lovely starters of mussels and vineleaf parcels and finished with some delicious mains.

My main was a veal fillet lightly cooked, with a hot stone and fragrant salts to finish, they even carved at your table. Jenny went for the fish spaghetti, which even I thought was delicious (and I don’t eat fish).

And the view

All of the above. But the view as well. This place is lovely. There was a small sailing yacht and a small jetty which got momentarily used. And you could look across this calm but beautiful bay back to Naoussa. The weather has been so beautiful you could see Mykonos in the background about 40 km away. “Best weather in 20 days” according to Captain Ben (see tomorrow’s blog for that)

See you tomorrow!

R&J

Xxx

Greece: oh how relaxing you are Paros

Now three days into our trip to Paros, relaxing really is the theme of this trip. We hoped to go diving but waking up too late and not being able to get through on the phone we resigned ourselves to reading our books and watching the boats sail past.

Time to move

After a few hours of increasing our chances of skin cancer we got going to a fish restaurant recommended by our good friend Chris. So we made the long drive of 15 mins over to the east side of the island.

Christiana looks like an average beach bar/restaurant but the staff were really lovely and the view across to Naxos was completely charming. You even got to choose your fish from a drawer in the counter.

Road trip

Refreshed and having walked the front, we set off once more. Jenny again at the helm. Becoming quite the driving pro. We decided to cruise around all four corners of the island of Paros to get a feel for the place. We lucked out and came across a nice little town called Piso Livadi, which had a lovely beach with calm warm water and friendly people. We stayed a while and soaked in the water.

Due South

Having been unable to dial through on the phone we decided it was best to head to the dive center directly. Eurodivers shop is a standard beachy chilled out place with pleasant staff. We booked on to two dives on Monday which we are really looking forward to. The drive to get to the dive shop was spectacular and compares to those in Montenegro, see our other blogs about that.

Moriatis Winery

We finished off our relaxing day with a 12 wine flight of tasting at the Moriatis Winery. This is the biggest winery on the island of Paros and the staff here were absolutely charming. They really made the experience. (Un)Fortunately we got a little bit tipsy and had a bit of a wandering route home in the dark.

We managed to inhale our taco leftovers which were still super tasty and tried to drink our free bottle of wine (a treat for our anniversary) which was not as tasty before hitting the hay and calling it a night.

What a lovely day of just relaxing. Oh and we even managed to book onto Ben’s sailing tour for Sunday! Very excited!

R&J

Xxx

Greece: Lazy days and eating Paros and Antiparos

The last few days have been very lazy and yesterday especially was mainly about the eating and drinking that we had to do. Although booked for our one year anniversary, alot of this trip is about us being able to get away and recuperate some energy. To really exemplify this we slept in past mid-day.

Shopping

When most people talk about shopping on holiday they mention the new handbag, shoes, purse or shirt. For us we talk about the supermarkets, the cat treats and the vegetable section. This trip is the same as any other and we made our way to AB Market, which seems to be the only viable supermarket on Paros.

A top tip from us, is to never buy the breakfast offered by the hotel since it is rarely that good and instead choose something at the supermarket that you woud really like. This often works for us since we like to stay in places that have a kitchenette that we can use.

Breakfast on the balcony, overlooking the pool and sea
Breakfast on the balcony

We finished off the daytime eating with some prosciutto ham sandwhiches by the pool and a lovely bottle of apple juice before a drive out to the centre of Parikia (the main town on Paros) to see what was happening. Already we could tell we loved Paros, with its steep winding roads and beautiful scenery, so we walked into the centre of Naoussa for a drink and dinner.

Karnagio

We moved through the small streets of Naoussa and along the waterfront until we found a few different bars offering cocktails at highly inflated prices. We settled for one and it was lovely; secluded, at the end of the path looking towards the town and out to Sea. The cocktails were also delicious, with a novel approach of adding a scoop of jam in the top, which you can either mix in or eat outright. Well worth it.

Drink by the sea before dinner - blurred background girl drinks through straw
Drink by the sea before dinner

Fotis by Barbarossa

We were just on our way to get some dinner as we were getting hungry after a few hours of not eating. When we stumbled across another Bar called Fotis, which sat right out on the beach. Ok, it was next to the beach on fake pebbles, but that made it all the more comfortable and pleasant. We gave over our hard earned cash again, we could see this night already starting to add up. But the cocktails were tasty, the views were brilliant and the company was bearable.

Fotis bar on the beach overlooking the sea at sunset
Fotis bar on the beach overlooking the sea at sunset

Le Sud

Eventually, we made our way back up the hill and to the same street from the previous night with Soso restaurant. This time we went down a quaint alley into this beautifully decorated courtyard, where we were greeted in french accents and sent to our seats. The food was amazing; really beautifully presented and favours to match. We had the full three courses, and felt right pigs all the more for it. The pictures below, can’t do it justice.

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Le Sud Desert - Pavlova
Le Sud Desert – Pavlova, Yum!

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Antiparos

At the southern tip of Paros, seperated only by a small strip off water is Antiparos. We made our way down there, with a 15 minute drive and 6 minute ferry as soon as we had managed to peel ourselves away from our sheets. The journey is quite pleasant

Looking across the sea in Antiparos
Looking across the sea in Antiparos

Antiparos Caves

One of the major attractions on the island are some lovely and quite deep caves in the centre of the island (a ten minute drive). The walk down is relatively easy and there were ot many people in the cave with us. Unfortunately, in some places people are climbing over the barriers and this is causing damage to the natural environment, we even witnessed this first hand, however it is still a lovely place to visit.

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Antiparos beaches

Driving around the island we noticed that there were alot of little bays and beaches that anyone could enjoy. These beaches were all a lot quieter and more secluded than the beaches in Paros, so we sat on the beach ate our sandwiches, soaked up the sun and enjoyed the sea. It really was a lovely relaxing experience.

Beach in Antiparos
Beach in Antiparos
Beach in Antiparos
Beach in Antiparos

Jenny can still drive

Heading back, Jenny plucked up the courage and practised her driving, something that she did very successfully and navigated the whole way around the winding roads going steeply up and down the hills. This took us all the way back to Paros and back home after a quick ferry ride. We even managed to stop off and pick up our favourite ice-cream, a snickers ice-cream.

Streets of Antiparos
Streets of Antiparos

We can hopefully go diving tomorrow and report back on the quality of the scenery under the sea also. I am betting it is just as lovely

R&J

Xxx

Greece: Paros here we come, first wedding Anniversary

Nearly one year since our beautiful wedding day, Jenny and I are off to Paros to celebrate our amazing first year together. Having booked this trip many months ago, Jenny and I had visions of planning out the whole time, and discovering the activities and excursions that we should be taking ourselves on.

And we go off to Mykonos

However we’ve been working, a lot. Sleeping a little and relaxing rarely. So unfortunately we have only got very little planned. That may not be a bad thing, since what we really need is a bit of a sleep and a chance to relax together. At least at a minimum we have a lovely meal booked and have been told to go on a wine tasting. The rest of the time, who knows.

Busy, Busy time to relax

Having spent the last 4 days with Rob’s family for his Granny’s 100th (yes one hundredth) Birthday we are already exhausted so were not that keen on awaking at 5am to head to the airport. Arriving at London Bridge Station, and finding all the trains to Gatwick delayed didn’t help our joy of the early morning. Finally arriving at the airport, we had a cheeky katsu curry and got to the plane. We are on our way!

See you on the other side

Not quite… 1.5 hours later, due to an issue with the plane and then an issue with a take-off slot, we are still sitting on the apron. We would be missing our ferry from Mykonos to Paros, but as one piece of luck would have it, our ferry has also been delayed by 4 hours to 7pm. How lucky!

Finally some food

As soon as we got to Noussa we went straight out to have a lovely meal at Soso a restaurant down a beautiful alley with bougainvillea growing up every where. The food was delicious and quite reasonable too.

Well enough of the complaining, we are finally lieing down in our beautifully comfortable bed looking out to the Adriatic. Ready to sleep, this place is beautiful.

R&J

Xxx

To see our planning of the trip look at our last post here:

Greek Islands: Planning the trip

 

To Podgorica and beyond – Montenegro

Podgorica – Area below a little hill

Following an amazing few days of skiing in the mountains of North East Montenegro it was time for us to move on to a City. Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro and is situated close to the centre of the country.

View across Podgorica towards the mountains
View across Podgorica towards the mountains

According to Wikipedia Podgorica means “area below little hill”, which is an apt name since apart from the river running straight through it, the city is completely flat. After having been in some extremely rugged and steep sided terrain it was quite unusual to be met with a wide expanse of nothingness and with a population of only around 150,000, the city itself offered only a little more than nothingness.

Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge

Sights

Most research on Podgorica turned up very little in the way of sightseeing opportunities, A bridge, a couple statues, an old (read derelict) town and a few short streets in differing parts of town, So we didn’t really know what to expect.

Our hotel as mentioned before was cold and very smelly, but very cheap and located in Stara Varoš. This meant we immediately ticked off one of the items to see (the old town). Also within 500 metres walk was the Most na Ribnici; apparently the oldest bridge (from Roman Times) in the city. Although it turns out it was rebuilt in the 18th century. Unfortunately there was rubbish everywhere around it.

Most na Ribnici (Roman Bridge)
Most na Ribnici (Roman Bridge)

The Millennium Bridge, shown above, is a relatively impressive suspension bridge crossing the river at a good height but it was a bit dirty and could do with a lick of paint. The statues weren’t particularly impressive and many of the streets had falling down, boarded up or derelict houses.

Upsides

The above few paragraphs have been particularly negative, but there are some positive aspects to Podgorica. It is extremely small, and so we were easily able to wander from our hotel, into the city centre, around a few run down parks, over a few bridges and eventually even found a row of cafe-bars. These were quite chilled out and three were from the same company “Culture Club”.

Portion size in Montenegro is particularly large, which is remarkable given the generally low prices. A plate stacked high with sausages and potatoes and corn bread and onions was meant to be a late brunch snack, but it went down a treat with a mojito and a coffee. This was the standard fare in Montenegro (meat and potatoes) and so we tended to crave fruit and vegetables quite a lot.

Culture Club Tarantino Food
Culture Club Tarantino Food

There are many stray dogs around Podgorica, and Montenegro in general, but they were all friendly and didn’t seem to be rabid or diseased. Jenny in particular is a huge animal lover and so made a few friends along our travels, the favourite being “Patch” (we named him) who followed us walking around the City for many hours following us and asking for strokes behind the ear at any opportunity.

"Patch" with a very happy Jenny Watts
“Patch” with a very happy Jenny Watts

Finally, the people of Podgorica are lovely, they are always up for a chat and will help you to find your way. This is really the star of the city; you never feel in danger and always feel able to get about and have a good time.

Conclusion on Podgorica

Personally, unlike the rest of Montenegro we would not recommend you spend any time in Podgorica. Although it is cheap and easily walkable, there is very little to do or see and it is mainly just a working city, trying to build a viable capital in a new country. I have no doubt it will get there, and there is a lot of building work going on, but it currently lacks any identity to define itself by.

Next blog we will take you through the joys of coastal Montenegro, which are more famous and really beautiful once more.


Bonus details

We ate in a restaurant called Hemera (part of the Astoria hotel chain) and it was probably the most expensive place we ate in the whole of Montenegro (about EUR 60 a head, including a cocktail, starter and main). The starters were very good and there was a lot more fresh vegetables than you have to get used to in Montenegro. However for what you got it was overpriced and we preferred the food in the Gyros Grill we went to in the early hours of the following day.

Enjoying a lovely meal in Hemera Hotel restaurant - Fancy food, but not as good as the cost would suggest
Enjoying a lovely meal in Hemera Hotel restaurant – Fancy food, but not as good as the cost would suggest

We also managed a trip out of the city to “Niagara Falls”. Which is a waterfall on the river of Cijevna, a little way out of town. Although we haven’t been to the real Niagara Falls in North America, it is probably more impressive in scale than the Montenegrin version. It was however quite cool to be walking over the rocks right next to a torrent of water and a lot of other people seemed to think so too as it was one of the most busy areas near Podgorica that we went to.

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Finances

We lost track of our costs a little by this point so much of the below is merely an estimate.

Carried forward: £2,045

Lunch x2: c. £75
Dinner (Hemera): £100
Dinner (Gyros): £5
Drinks (two days/evenings): c. £120
Petrol: c. £45
Supermarket: c. £15
Running Total: £2,405