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

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

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!