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

Over the hills and far away to Budva – Montenegro

The Drive

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.

Lake Skadar reaching out towards Albania
Lake Skadar reaching out towards 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.

Drive to Budva is amazing - this view across Lake Skadar and the coastal mountain range was to die for
Drive to Budva is amazing – view across Lake Skadar and the coastal mountain range

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.

Budva old town from the beach
Budva old town from the beach

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.

Budva old town by the church
Budva old town by the church
Budva old town in the palace
Budva old town in the palace

Our Hotel

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.

Our balcony view across Budva
Our balcony view across Budva

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.

Darkening sky across Budva
Darkening sky across Budva

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.

Restaurant on Marina - A little past its prime
Restaurant on Marina – A little past its prime
Lots of meat in Montenegro
Lots of meat in Montenegro

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.

Tivat

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.

Shining stone buildings of Tivat
Shining stone buildings of Tivat

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.

Tivat's cafe and palm lined waterfront
Tivat’s cafe and palm lined waterfront

View from Tivat waterfront to the mountains
View from Tivat waterfront to the mountains
Old ship on Tivat Waterfront
Old ship on Tivat Waterfront

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.

Kotor

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

Kotor Fortress Wall

Pavement outside an old palace in Kotor
Pavement outside an old palace in Kotor
View over the rooftops of Kotor
View over the rooftops of Kotor
Kotor Fortress Wall - opposite side
Kotor Fortress Wall – opposite side
Kotor Fortress up on the hill - at least a 20 minute walk
Kotor Fortress up on the hill – at least a 20 minute walk
Some lovely although damaged buildings in Kotor
Some lovely although damaged buildings in Kotor

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.

View across Kotor Bay as the sun is setting
View across Kotor Bay as the sun is setting
Another amazing view across the Bay of Kotor
Another amazing view across the Bay of Kotor

Coming up

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.


Financials

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.


Bonus Content

Here’s some more photos from these days to have a look at what we did. (Click to enlarge)

Kotor
Kotor
Kotor cats
Kotor cats
Tivat waterfront
Tivat waterfront

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The view on the way to Budva
The view on the way to Budva
Budva has dogs too
Budva has dogs too
Couldn't help taking a picture of this action
Couldn’t help taking a picture of this action

First few days: Kolasin: 1450

Location

Most people don’t seem to know where Montenegro is, or confuse it with Moldova, Monaco or other countries starting with an “m”. Indeed Montenegro is a relatively new country, gaining independence from Serbia for the first time since World War I. Bordering Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania; it is located in the Balkans and looks across the Mediterranean to the east coast of Italy.

LON>PODGORICA flight map

The flight is relatively painless, except for the price and flying with RyanAir and takes just over two hours which conveniently leaves enough time for us to watch a movie on our tablet. The airport itself is small but clean and seems quite new. A man with an Alamo sign greeted us and took us to our car in the car park. It turns out that Alamo don’ have an office or desk in the building, but the system works relatively well.

Arriving in Kolasin

The roads in Montenegro are generally only one lane, which is not an issue as there are very few cars on them and the signage is very easy to follow, that we didn’t need to make use of any satellite navigation. The route itself to Kolasin is amazing, and we immediately knew we ewre going to love being in Montenegro, one lane winding up the steep gorge with a sheer drop on one side and a steep cliff on the other. The weather was leaving a little to be desired, but this added to the experience, as we plunged in and out of tunnels carved out of the rock with no lights or concrete covering where water poured down in waterfalls onto the road below.

We arrived just as it got dark and pulled up to Chalet Kolasin. This is an absolutely lovely building, which seems to be relatively newly built, the owner is a lovely man who met us at the front of the building and showed us to our chalet style room, gave us some recommendations for restaurants and told us how to get around.

Skiing in Kolasin: 1450

The drive to the ski-area is very straightforward and you follow one road the whole way meeting very few other drivers on the way. The conditions on the first day were not that good, it was snowing and icy and there had been little cleared off to the sides but as the days went on the road was very clear and easily passable, though the car park was quite muddy and icy so I am glad I had a 4WD.

The system to hire equipment and buy ski passes was a little confusing, we approached two desks each time being told it was the wrong one, but not saying which was the correct one, but eventually we got ourselves sorted. This is the only negative about the ski-area, the equipment is in very bad condition. My boots had no insoles and the skis were very damaged on the surfaces with a large amount of material having been scraped away, but the whole affair was cheap coming in at around EUR150 or £130.

The ski-area itself is a little limited. They claim to have 7 lifts, but in reality there are only 3 proper lifts other than the ones used to learn to ski. One of these lifts was closed the whole time we were there and one was extremely slow and uncomfortable, this really only left one viable lift. Therefore we just pottered up and down a few times, choosing slightly different routes each time, trying out by the end of the week every different run at least once. Three days skiing at this resort is absolutely plenty, until the new lift opens next year.

Eating in Kolasin

Food at the resort for lunch was more expensive than the surrounding area, but we managed to each burger and chips or pork and potatoes with a few drinks each for less than £25 a day.

Food options in the town of Kolasin were fairly limited and seemed to be predominantly focused on traditional Montenegrin food of potatoes, cream and cheese in a big dish – Kačamak. Also no restaurant ever had more than one table of service in addition to ourselves, which was unusual.

The restaurant “Konoba” on the main square of Kolasin is decorated in a very quaint and charming way, and the food was ok but we wouldn’t recommend the wine. On the completely other end of the wine and food scale was the main recommendation from our hotellier – Vodenica. It was only around the corner from our hotel in an Old mill house with beautiful old fashioned decor and a pleasant atmosphere. As always the portions were huge but extremely tasty and the wine was also delicious. This was all perfect for us as we celebrated 6 months of being married.

 

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All these meals added up to around £250, which wasn’t too bad. And we ate breakfast in our hotel room, so the supermarket bills were only around EUR35.

 Relaxation

Not as common in Europe as it is in the USA is a post ski jacuzzi dip and relaxation, so we hunted out and found that the four seasons hotel allows external persons to come and use the spa for EUR10. It was just around the corner and Jenny even additionally had a massage for an additional EUR 25.

Also there is Nordic skiing available in Kolasin:1450 and snowmobile hire too, though we did not try any of this ourselves.


Costs so far

Carried forward: £1520Ski hire and passes: £130
Lunch at the ski-resort: £75
Dinner X2: £250
Spa experience: £40
Supermarket supplies:£30

Running Total: £2045