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: Captain Ben

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.

Morning

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.

Snorkeling

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.

BBQ

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!

Slide

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.

Archway

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.

Wind down

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.

See you tomorrow

R&J

Xxx

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

We almost crashed… Road to Lovćen – Montenegro

Lovćen Mountain View

Coming to the end of our trip to Montenegro we were running out of things to do, so we set off on a drive to the old Capital, Cetinje. On our way we noticed a sign to Lovcen view point, so we changed direction and headed off. The road wound up the mountain and we passed multiple people with trees on their roof. We had seen in Budva earlier people selling these same brown leaved branches. We searched online, to no avail, more on that later.

As we drove up the valley to Lovcen, the road started to get a little snowy. The road was not busy and so the snow got deeper and deeper. Eventually after about an hour of driving the snow was about three inches deep. We probably should have used chains. But we started a steep climb up the valley with high mounds of snow on each side of the road. Having not come across anyone in at least 40 minutes we were not worried about the single track road. Anyway we had a 4WD!

How wrong we were! rounding a corner we saw a Land Rover, right in the middle of the road. The door wide open. There seemed to be just enough room to get around, but that involved going through the deeper snow. Again, how wrong we were! Halfway around the corner the car lost traction and started sliding towards the open door on the Land Rover. The 15 year old child ran around and shut the door, but it was too late, we was stuck and merely centimetres from the Land Rover.

After a few minutes of spinning wheels and pushing from the 15 year old and his dad, Rob had to allow the child to turn the steering wheel whilst he applied the agreed amount of pressure. We blame it on the child parking his car in the middle of the road. But it is probably because Rob is “the worst driver in the family, by far!” – ask his mum.

Eventually after a big more sliding we got to the top of Lovcen. We then had to walk about what seemed like a few hundred steps through a tunnel. The tunnel itself was like something out of a James Bond movie. There was no-one there and the wind blew down through the tunnel. But the view was amazing as you could see all across Montenegro; on one side down to the lake and the other side down to the sea.

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Cetinje

After our hazardous drive up the mountain, we needed to drive down the mountain again. Luckily we came across no vehicles, though the car slid around quite a lot. we were happy to make it back to a solid, snow free road.

The old capital of Cetinje is smaller than the current capital and has even less to do. We grabbed some lunch in a small cafe to rest off the stressful drive and walked around the small town, taking some silly photos.

King Nikola's Palace - Cetinje - former palace of the Montenegrin Royal Family
King Nikola’s Palace – Cetinje – former palace of the Montenegrin Royal Family
Being silly in Cetinje
Being silly in Cetinje

The high street itself, although pretty empty, was relatively pretty for Montenegro and you could tell this was an older city. Apart from walking up and down this street and the surrounding roads, there was still not much else to be found. Though we did see even more people buying and selling small oak trees with brown leaves. We managed also to work out what this was later in the evening.

Cetinje high street
Cetinje high street

It’s Christmas!

It turns out that it was Christmas Day! In the Orthodox Church they use the Julian Calendar and so Christmas falls in the first week of January. One of the traditions in Montenegro, amongst Serb Montenegrins seems to be Badnjak. This seems to involve chopping down a young tree and burning it as a blessing for the coming year. Unfortunately we missed the actual celebrations though we could see them and hear them from our hotel room and we caught a little snippet of the tree burning in the centre of Budva.

Badnjak Celebrations in Budva centre
Badnjak Celebrations in Budva centre

Exclusive guests only

On our way to Budva we had seen an amazing island linked to the mainland by a man-made causeway, which we decided we wanted to visit. Looking online we saw it was called Sveti Stefan and so we made our trip down there.

View across the bay to Sveti Stefan
View across the bay to Sveti Stefan

The view is really cool and we were really excited to park up and go in. We paid the £3 parking fee! (Most expensive in Montenegro we saw). Unfortunately once we got to the causeway there are some guards and you aren’t let through, turns out it is an exclusive hotel resort. We were a little disappointed as we had no plans for the rest of the day and we were already hungry so we took some more photos and went our way trying desperately to try find some food.

Trying to sneak onto Sveti Stefan
Trying to sneak onto Sveti Stefan

Jenny CAN drive

We had a few days in Budva and the surrounding area to just relax, soak up the atmosphere (eating and drinking) and get lots of photos. It was really lovely to take that time and we really wanted to stay for quite a lot longer. Some of the exciting aspects for us both were the Ballerina out on the rocks along the coast and all the animals that wanted our attention.

Lots of kittens (seven of them) around the coast line, almost very friendly
Lots of kittens (seven of them) around the coast line, almost very friendly
The Ballerina dances along the coast overlooking Budva
The Ballerina dances along the coast overlooking Budva

Unfortunately we came to the end of our trip. Packed up and in the car we set off early to make our morning flight from Podgorica. Jenny hasn’t driven in quite a while (about 7 years) but feeling brave she got behind the wheel and drove us the whole way from Budva past Sveti Stefan down the coast road. All the way to the winding road up the mountain and back over to Lake Skadar. At this point she got out the car and became a passenger instead but we were both very impressed and she intends to do some more driving on our next trip.

Many of the roads and tunnels in Montenegro are still being built
Many of the roads and tunnels in Montenegro are still being built

Gotta go back to work

As we got on the plane, we could see the world was listening to us, and speaking how we felt! CBA indeed!

See you next time guys!

CBA - The world was telling us something
CBA – The world was telling us something

Finances

We need to dig through our transactions in entirety, but the best estimate is that the whole trip cost between 2,000 and 3,000 GBP. This was not a cheap trip in all. But we spent a lot of time drinking and eating. The major cost was the astronomical RyanAir flight. And the expensive Chalet Kolasin was worth every penny!

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