The seas around Paros are crystal blue and what better way to explore them out on a boat. Captain Ben was our day cruise of choice, we were deciding between Ben and Yianni but when we got through to Yianni it sounded like he was in a hurricane and said his boat would not be ready for ten days.
We don’t like mornings, I think we have made that clear. And so even when a fun day is ahead of us we still struggle to get out of bed. Especially when sleeping off the amazing meal at Siparos (see yesterdays blog for that). We had to get to the south of the island by ten where we huddled with other tourists until a big red boat with “Captain Ben” emblazoned on the side turned up.
The main feature of the day is jumping in the water and attractive spots along the way. The Captain (Ben) drove very close to the cliffs to allow us all to take beautiful photos of the scenery around Paros and Antiparos.
There were some really nice stops and we both got to do a fair bit of snorkelling in the crystal clear waters. Of course there are always lots of other people and so you don’t see many fish. But it’s still very pretty.
After a few chances to swim in the ocean we end up at a cove accessible only by boat ⛵ where we stop a while to relax on the beach. I think this is mainly to give Ben’s heart a break since he spends half the time in the water demanding people don’t swim too far or stay away from the rocks.
They loaded us up with a snack of octopus, calamari and sausage (yum!). And then request we wash it down with a pint of Ouzo (yuck!) We left our glass full minus a little sip.
I even got to practise my Baywatch running, dig a couple holes and top up my sunburn. The equipment is quite good quality and the staff are very helpful, serving drinks and putting out a load of beach toys for the time on land.
When we got back to the boat they served up lunch which was delicious and good portions too. Some Greek salad, pasta salad, pork and chicken skewers and some potatoes. Later they brought round some whole fish as well!
One exciting feature of the boat was that it had a slide off the back which went straight into the sea. We got some videos which I will put up later. Ben and the other staff were very good at making sure the slide was wet and the exit was clear. And it was a good novelty to slide down into the sea. I even jumped off the top of the boat.
One of the most exciting features of the day is an archway that you can swim through and people climb up to the top to jump off. Given the recent issue my brother had from a similar exercise I decided to not jump myself, but instead watch others do so. Unfortunately neither of us got a good picture of the archway so here is a nice one from the Captain Ben website.
After such a long day in the sun we were both very sunburnt, tired but very relaxed. We headed home and cooked some supermarket pizzas before wandering into town so I could live out my childhood with a big bunch of candy floss. There was even a bit of traditional Greek dancing and music going on in the centre of town.
We finished up with some “icecream rolls” where they make the icecream in front of you on a really cold plate. It’s quite fun, but at 7 EUR a bowl it was a bit pricey!
Anyway that’s it for today. We have another early morning tomorrow (groan) to go diving so these blogs are going to be a little late.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
To see our planning of the trip look at our last post here:
Montenegro is small, smaller (as they say) than Wales. Therefore the drive from Podgorica down to the coast in Budva was only about 65km and took about 1 hour. On single lane roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h you get the opportunity to take in the surroundings, and they are amazing. A great expanse of open lake surrounded by mountains on all sides. This is the biggest lake in the Balkans, Lake Skadar and stretches out of Montenegro into Albania.
As we came over the mountains which run along the coast of Montenegro there was some absolutely amazing scenery. The road winds up the mountain, with viaducts hanging out over the side of the cliff. Every bend warranted another stop for another photo or a view in amazement at the amazing scenery. After pushing up our jaws and pushing our eyes back into our head we made our way down to the coast and into the town of Budva.
Budva has a few distinct areas to it. First the new town with modern apartment blocks and hotels. This is the first area that you come across when entering the town. Then as you drive into the centre you notice that there is a set of older and more charming buildings which creep up the steep hill which the town nestles against. And finally once you are out of the car and on your feet you come across the real jewel. The Old Town (Stari Grad). This is the typically balkan mix of stone buildings with ochre clay tiles and narrow streets. Most people would know what Croatian coastal towns looks like, and I believe this is comparable, though on a smaller scale.
The small old town was only a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel room. Jutting out into the ocean, it is a very pleasant place to walk around to look at the houses and examine the history of the place. There is a photo below which was taken in the same location that sold us on our visit to Montenegro from this blog that we mentioned previously.
We checked into our accommodation (Apartments Teona) and were immediately met with a beautiful room. Everything was white and we were high up looking out across the city. Unfortunately we enjoyed our room so much that we only took a photo of the balcony and not of the room itself.
There was only one issue with the room, which they apologised profusely for; the sink drained really slowly. They promised an engineer would come the next day, but as we found out later, it was the weekend of Orthodox Christmas. The Engineer never came, but the owner’s Son came in person to apologise and they gave us a 30% discount on our agreed price. This very much softened the blow.
Feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy ourselves we set up the camera to look over the old town and film the darkening of the sky. Unfortunately, this is where you see the issue of the new part of Budva with the high rise buildings, it spoils the view for many of the older homes and apartments up on the hill side. In any case the view was excellent and it was great to see the lights come on in the town.
Food Options are improved
As mentioned before the food options in Montenegro weren’t the best, but over the 4 days we spent in Budva we ate in the local Chinese restaurant, which was very good. A local restaurant on the Marina, which seemed to be past its prime, but still very good food. A Cafe-Bar on the edge of a shopping mall (sounds bad, but was very enjoyable). And an Italian restaurant in the centre square of the old town. These were all quite good and there was a good range of options out there to choose from.
Every night with full belly’s we ended up back in our hotel room looking over Budva ready for another day. There was lots more to see in the other coastal towns to.
A short (30-45 min) drive around the coast ends up in the Kotor peninsula. We came across Tivat first and made our way down to the waterfront. It has clearly had a large amount of investment in the recent years as it is the only place that we saw no damaged or derelict buildings. The buildings are all made of white stone which shines and gleams in the light, this area is evidently full of wealth.
We walked down the waterfront, lined with an old sailing ship on one side and modern Cafe-Bars on the other. In addition to this there are a number of food and drink stalls along the waterfront and this is where we tucked into our lunch of burger and chips for only about 10 EUR including mulled wine. Walking up and down the waterfront and down through the Marina we found another bar to sit in and enjoy some juices. The prices here were not so reasonable and our 8 EUR pineapple juices were the most expensive drinks (alcoholic or not) that we drank on our whole trip.
This area of Montenegro is really beautiful and we saw some amazing sights along our way. There was even a cruise ship in the middle of the bay. This must be a touristy area! Wearing coats and scarfs walking along the coast and driving around the bay was fine. But we both noted that this area must be amazing in the Summer months. We are willing to bet that it is much quieter than the other Mediterranean coastal towns, even in that summer heat.
In the same area and only around the bay Kotor has more of a historical appearance than Tivat. The historical centre is enclosed by an impressive fortress wall which continues up the valley side. At the top there is a palace also part of the fortress which is quite impressive. We have to admit that we were feeling a little lazy and didn’t make the long climb up the mountain. Instead we wandered around the old town, looking in shops, stroking the odd cat we saw and looking for a souvenir or two to purchase. To be honest, we probably didn’t give Kotor the best chance. But after having been to Tivat in the morning we didn’t feel like wandering around for too long. In any case the town was starting to fill up with cruise ship passengers. In the end we only ended up spending about 90 minutes in Kotor. Though we did manage to get some nice pictures.
Kotor Fortress Wall
Leaving Kotor behind us, we decided that we would take the long scenic route back to Budva, adding around 30 minutes to our route. This road runs very close to the water and is very narrow. This adds to its charm greatly and with the sun setting it was an absolutely lovely scene. A few points along the way Jenny was worried the car would slide into the sea as another car tried to pass, but we made it around all in one piece and it was definitely worth the drive.
Next time we will go over our last few days in Montenegro. This includes almost falling off a mountain, getting caught in snow and dipping our feet in the Med.
At this point we had well and truly lost track of our expenses, but in the final blog post covering Montenegro I will outline the best estimate of our total spend on the trip.
Here’s some more photos from these days to have a look at what we did. (Click to enlarge)
As we all know, RyanAir is an airline that offers no-frills flights mainly around continental Europe and the UK and their slogan says “Low Fares Made Simple“, therefore we assumed booking flights on RyanAir to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro would rightly fit into that mantra.
Our flights cost 350 pounds! Each! Though at least that is return with one packed hold bag.
In any case, with gritted teeth we paid the flight price, knowing that the accommodation and food would be dirt cheap. Well, it’s Eastern Europe right? Right!
Accommodation in Montenegro is pretty cheap but seems to be split into two camps. On the one hand you have the high-end international hotels that everyone knows and loves or hates. Whilst on the other hand all the other accommodation seems to be rooms in apartment buildings. After having spent a hefty chunk of our budget on the flights we opted for the latter.
We had decided from the blogs we had read (see our previous blog post) and the WikiTravel pages that we would spend a few days skiing, a short stop in the Capital city and then the remainder of our 10 days on the coast visiting Budva, Kotor and Tivat.
We managed to book all 10 nights of accommodation through Booking.com for an average nightly price of around 30 Euros! All in central locations, with parking and cooking facilities!
Unfortunately three weeks before we were due to leave we received an email from our accommodation in Kolasin saying they had had a flood and so they couldn’t guarantee our stay so we should cancel. At the time we were a bit annoyed and we knew the other accommodation in Kolasin was quite a lot more expensive. It turned out to be the such a great outcome because we booked into one of our favourite places we have ever stayed “Chalet Kolasin”.
Car-hire was easy, as always we booked through economycarrentals which has the most old fashioned website I have seen in a long time but always the cheapest prices. Selecting a 4WD with chains for the snowy roads and adding the second driver, we took the first and cheapest choice and ended up with a Dacia Duster from Alamo. It was much cleaner than the below photo when we originally collected it.
Next post we will have a look at what there is to do in Montenegro.
Costs so far
Flights: £720 (£360 x2)
Accommodation: ~ £500 (~£250 before the flood incident)
Having got married in June 2017, we wanted to enjoy our first married Christmas together away on Holiday. We looked at a number of different locations from Greece to the Philippines, Denver to Barbados and Florida to Costa Rica.
We even booked flights to Manila and hastily canceled them, unsure of wanting to go all that way for 10 days. Thinking that we might want to go skiing we both started searching for cheap destinations that we could do some skiing and also enjoy some other activities. Rob happened across this story which noted the skiing in Kolasin was passable and Jenny stumbled upon a blog which suggested Montenegro as a great Winter destination to get away from the crowds. For us, the combination sounded perfect.
Planning a trip skiing in Montenegro isn’t as straightforward as planning one to Tignes, Vail or Saalbach-Hinterglemm, but it is definitely a lot cheaper. To start with, its initially not even clear where the ski resort is; the town shows up on Google maps but to find the resort itself one must deduce that the resort is called “Kolasin 1450” and was another 20-40 minutes drive up the valley.
The website for the “resort” itself has very little information on it, some of the information on the Montenegrin pages is in English and some of the information on the English pages is in Montenegrin. However we eventually deduced that they do ski, pole and boot hire in the same building as the ski pass purchase and the total cost for two for three days would be barely over 150 pounds.
This all seemed like a match, so we booked our flights and our accommodation and looked forward to Christmas. More on that in the next post.
Sitting on the plane writing this, we are sad to be going home. Holidays, no matter how long, always come to an end too quickly.
Montepulciano is quite a bit larger that some of the nearby medieval mountain towns and villages. It boasts relatively quiet streets and alleys. There are some very large hills and as sedentary desk working people we were panting trying to get around, tiring ourselves out.
The piazza with the main church is large and relaxed with a few small restaurants and shops. And many other restaurants up and down the streets where we enjoyed some lunch. Montepulciano is in a way special to us as we are united on a common love of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (which we know is not here) so originally we thought our favourite wine came from here.
We made our way away from Montepulciano with a few souvenirs, memories and photographs. The views, shown above, are really brilliant across the valleys.
Jenny enjoyed both the cute little back up trucks and the fiat 500 that we were driving so she posed for a few photos as a send off to Italy and the cute car.
Back in Siena we marvelled at the restaurants on steep hills, they shortened two legs more than the other on both the chairs and the tables to enable people to sit on the hill. We then had a brilliant dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hotel owner, “La Finestra” behind the main piazza. Rob’s steak was huge and very tasty whilst Jenny made sure to have the required Bruschetta which was delicious.
Finishing this post in the air now. We had a stressful morning. Driving from Siena to Rome is relatively straightforward, finding petrol to buy with a UK credit/debit card on a Sunday morning was almost impossible. We took a round trip of 25 minutes to eventually find some but after waiting for the car rental shuttle this meant we arrived to the airport with only 30 minutes to spare.
Luckily Ciampino is very efficient, has excellent free WiFi and the best toilets I have seen in Italy. So in less than 5 minutes we were through security sitting with some arancini balls and a drink.
Before we get to that though we had a lovely day. Once more Rick Steve provided an excellent guide for the city of Siena. With an audio splitter and two pairs of headphones in hand we wandered the streets of Siena learning of the 17 Contrade and the parts they play in the development of the city and its famous Palio race.
The route takes you around all the major sites including the half built duomo and a coffee shop. We stopped off a few times on the way as well for carbonara, prosecco and coffee.
Siena is really beautiful and finding out about its important historical origins as well as those of the banking industry and bank robbing was also an added bonus.
Tired of walking and full of food and drink we headed off to find the car, miles away on that random street where we left it and headed out of town. Jenny got a quick driving lesson from Rob and she was pretty good if not a little nervous. Driving round a small industrial estate was fun so she might drive out on the main roads tomorrow.
Rob jumped back in the driver’s seat and we headed for a small hilltop village called Monteriggioni. Comprising of only a small square, a few buildings and a half collapsed battlement it is an utterly charming little spot to wander, look in the shops and as Jenny found out, stroke some more kitties. It is a lovely place and even better if you find the free parking, avoiding the extortionate fees.
We stayed here a little while had a drink each but decided to head on further for dinner. Deciding San Gimignano was much bigger with many more options.
Although somewhat true, the whole place seemed to be completely closing down and there was apparently no free parking. We traipsed around the whole city to find somewhere to eat, something made more difficult since we both only wanted pizza. Eventually we came back to the main square and found an option which was lovely. Two pizzas and a pineapple juice later we were on our way.
Having had only a little trouble finding a parking space last night we had assumed that we were by now certified professionals, this was not the case. A first hurdle was the road being blocked at the end with no entry followed by at least a dozen cars going in circles as we were looking for spaces.
Eventually we capitalised on a great space, available as it was small enough for the fiat 500 but not much else. Rob manoeuvred in, lined up and beamed at his work to find out that “Sabato” means Saturday, tomorrow, was street cleaning day so no parking at 6am to 8 am. Frustrated and dejected we pulled out of the space and made our way round the block five or six more times. Eventually, another space appears. The sign on the other side of the road says “Venerdi” (Friday) morning is cleaning day, success!
Walking back to the hotel we notice one side of the street is “Venerdi” but our side is “Sabato”. Oh lord no! Eventually after a few more times round the block the spectators of the football file back to Thier cars and we are rewarded with a space. Another 5 minute walk to our hotel on top of the previous 18 minutes…
So today wasn’t particularly action packed, we checked out of our hotel in Rome which had become a stable base for us and headed over to Ciampino airport where we had hired our car for the last few days of our trip.
I say Ciampino airport but it was 3km away in an odd industrial estate. However, after a quick bit of faffing we were on our way. Jenny was extremely happy that we had a Fiat 500 she desperately wants one herself. Though a little disappointed that it wasnt pistachio green.
We drove then from Rome to Pienza making quite a few wrong turnings on the way.
The views are stunning and we sat down to have a lovely coffee on the town wall overlooking the Tuscan hills.
Eventually we ended up in Siena and made our way up a steep hill to our hotel. We had heard about parking being difficult so we were chuffed to find a spot less than 5 mins walk from where we were staying. Later we realised, with the help of the hotelier that we were in fact inside the restricted residents only zone. Something which comes with a 100 euro fine.
Before all that though we tucked into a lovely bottle of prosecco. Not that it says great things about our choice, we find the exact bottle of bubbles from our wedding day at a motorway service station. We just couldn’t say no. Being both clumsy and tired though we managed to spill most of it on either ourselves or the bed.
We traipsed back to our car and found out the signs were true. It was in this illegal zone. Therefore we turned around drove out and we are hoping for a miracle not to get a fine. After driving through the suburbs of Siena for around 40 minutes and debating the merits of the different parking zones we settled on a spot a mere 18 minute walk back to our hotel…
After a long day of driving and finding spaces, worrying about the street cleaning agenda and the market day calendar, we treated ourselves to a lovely meal. It was a lovely place called Antica Trattoria Papei and eventhough the brought me a beef steak instead of the pork one I ordered the apologised prefusely allowed me to keep the beef and only charged for the pork. Lovely people, great food, not too expensive. Highly recommended.