New York: Day 5 Best SURPRISE brunch

What an excellent day! Jenny told me she wanted to get up early because it was our last day and we had to get to brunch. But I didn’t know that she secretly had a surprise planned for me. Very sneaky and such an amazing end to an awesome trip to New York. Let me tell you all about it.


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New York: Day 2 Sarita’s Mac

OK I know American stereotypes are just that, stereotypes, but we really wanted to enjoy a diner while in New York. We searched for a diner to go to and found a few, but we were strongly recommended West Way Diner in the Meatpacking District. So off we went.

Stacks of pancakes and frenchtoast topped with bacon, eggs and maple syrup. They weren’t the best pancakes we had (we’ll get to those on another blog) but the experience was cool, with loads of booths and the traditional formica furniture. We are still getting used to the idea of tipping so much for everything so we didn’t have any cash left to pay the bill. So, once we’d paid at the counter with card, Jenny walked back to the table and duly left our tip since our waiter was pretty nice. Unfortunately, karma wasn’t on our side and she slipped over in the middle of the diner, causing a scene, hurting herself and meaning we walked out rather red faced.


Continue reading New York: Day 2 Sarita’s Mac

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: Pounta Diving, Island Driving

As I said in yesterday’s blog we had another early start today to go diving. We made our way down from Naousa to Pounta again to get to Eurodivers. They seemed to be the most well organised dive shop on the island and when we arrived 10 minutes late they were very good at getting our stuff together.

The forgetful NAUI Diver

A feature of the day was both of us forgetting pretty much everything about diving, setting up the equipment, hand signals and everything else in between. This wasn’t helped by the fact that initially we had to admit that we’d also forgotten our certification cards. They almost refused us to dive, but luckily the NAUI site has a handy little tool to find your card number and we were on our way.

Ready on the boat to dive
Ready on the boat to dive – yes that is toothpaste all over my shirt

Water like a mirror

Even having grown up near water, spending time on boats and being a reasonably proficient swimmer, I am not particularly fond of small boats. Unfortunately this was a small boat, a 10 foot (or so) rib with a solid hull, fortunately, the weather was perfect, the sea was barely moving and the sky was a beautiful clear blue. We made our way to the dive sites, both of which weren’t too far from the dock and prepared our equipment.

Under The Sea
Under The Sea

Diving

The diving was nice, though there was not a huge amount of coral or fish. Annoyingly, the GoPro decided to fog up on the first dive, though I managed to fix that for the second dive by holding it in the sun for a short while. The second dive was quite interesting and we went a bit deeper and through a pretty cool archway tunnel.

Around the island we go

A few days earlier, a very offended sommelier had informed us that Paros “was not that small”, so we decided to confirm that for ourselves by using the afternoon to drive around and through the island. We can confirm, it is small. It doesn’t take an hour to drive around the whole island, but he was correct that it is indeed not that small.

Jenny wanted to practise her driving so I focused on giving her directions, and she did a really good job. But this did mean that we didn’t get many/any pictures of the beautiful scenery but the Greece Travel Guide website has some lovely photos of Lefkes that you can look at.

Parikia

We had somewhat turned up our nose at the main port town of Paros, thinking it to be too loud, too dirty or not classy enough. We were however pleasantly surprised. Walking around in the day, there are a number of winding narrow streets similar to those of Naoussa or on Antiparos. With little shops selling souvenirs, close or ice-cream. We found the ice-cream.

Lovely staircases down winding alleys
Lovely staircases down winding alleys

 

Staircases, cafes and bougainvillea are everywhere
Staircases, cafes and bougainvillea are everywhere

There are also many windmills on Paros, with a lovely one looking over the bay and over the town. Within which there is a bar/cafe, for some reason it was closed, which we were a bit disappointed about, but we walked up and around anyway, enjoying one of our last few days on the beautiful island.

Alexandros Cafe Windmill looking across the bay
Alexandros Cafe Windmill looking across the bay

There is even a “castle” built out of scraps from local ancient Greek ruins. Or as an american tourist said “why did they build the wall from mill stones”

Castle wall built from Ancient Greek pillars
Castle wall built from Ancient Greek pillars

 

 

Another lovely meal in Naoussa

The one issue with Margarita’s House (our lovely hotel) is that to do the short walk into town you have to walk up a steep hill and then down the other side. The upside of this is that you can get some lovely photos, and get to walk off the meal at the end of the night.

Naoussa has a beautiful skyline
Naoussa has a beautiful skyline

The meal was a pretty standard fare in a Greek tapas restaurant which we happened across as it’s on the same street as Le Sud and Soso. The food was good, and the price was reasonable, we drank a litre of wine. The atmosphere also was pleasant and the waitress was very nice. Unfortunately, she was a little forgetful, and we had to ask her three times for our water, and she never brought my coke. But she was extremely apologetic about it, and you couldn’t help feel for her running around all evening.

The sign outside with the name
The sign outside with the name

 

Inexpensive wine in a carafe
Inexpensive wine in a carafe

 

Jenny looking beautiful waiting for her food
Jenny looking beautiful waiting for her food

 

Naoussa port - most restaurants were here, but they were a bit more tacky and had hundreds of tables
Naoussa port – most restaurants were here, but they were a bit more tacky and had hundreds of tables

Another day gone, there is only really one more to go before our travel day!

😥

See you tomorrow

R&J

Xxx

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