Category Archives: Beach

IF GREECE IS THE WORD…..

If Greece is the word, then Athens is the capital letter.

Greece conjures up images of white washed cube-shaped buildings, blue domed topped churches, clear azure waters, sunny days and stunning sunsets. Most people are in a hurry to get to the islands.

But stop for a minute, no wait, stop for a few days.

Athens is often overlooked in the rush to get to the islands. Behind the often first impression of dirt and grime, the uninspiring architecture of the six storey blocks of apartments is an exciting city with an intoxicated blend of the ancient and the new.

My tips on why you should spend time in Athens.

  • GET EXPLORING

The capital is full of ruins. Some are ancient and some even date back to the 60’s when the building codes weren’t so stringent! The Parthenon is the crown that sits proudly atop the Acropolis, and well worth a few hours wandering around this monument and surrounds. The city feels like an open air museum as there are ancient temples, sporting arenas, archaeological digs everywhere. Many of the Metro stations are also museums housing artefacts uncovered while digging the underground train system. The new Acropolis Museum now floats above a working archaeological site because they kept finding new things as building progressed. In fact whenever they turn earth to build something, it feels that they uncover a new ancient site.

  • GET EATING

Greek’s relationship with food is a bit like the friendship between Kiwi’s and their sheep, its love at first sight. It would be hard to starve in Athens as the opportunity to eat is ever-present…except for breakfast which seems to consist of a thick, strong coffee and an even stronger cigarette. While the Plaka offers many tavernas with great views of the Acropolis, my advice is to head into the back streets to discover better, more authentic tavernas. A rule of thumb is –  if it is small with plenty of locals then it is going to be worth trying. Of course, being empty isn’t a true indication that it should be avoided as you just might be too early. Greeks love to eat late and generally lunch can start anywhere between 2-4pm and dinner rarely begin before 8-9pm.

  • GET PARTYING

I’m not sure if the Greeks invented socialising, but they certainly have perfected it. If a Greek asks to meet for a coffee what they are really saying is “let’s sit for a couple of hours slowly sipping a frappe and talk about the issue of the government, the football, or the good old days”. Athens is full of many great café/bars (a hybrid venue depending on the time of day). If you are feeling adventurous, seek out a Bouzoukia and have a night out watching the locals enjoying an entertainment that is part traditional and part Vegas. It is a night full of sequins, strobe lights, cheesy choreography, and smoke machines and due to OH&S restrictions, plate smashing has been replaced with flower throwing.  You may not understand the words, you may not even like the music, but there is no mistaking the emotional singing and the renditions of melancholic longing for a time long gone – and that’s just the audience.

  • GET SHOPPING

As summer heats up, like the streets, the shops begin to empty as everyone, tourists and locals alike, begin

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Ermou Street

the exodus to the islands. This means that most retailers drastically discount their merchandise to entice the Euros out of the few wallets left in Athens. A great opportunity to bag a bargain. Two main shopping regions in the city centre are Ermou Street which is a pedestrian only street full of international and local brands, and if you prefer more boutique style shopping then head to the nearby suburb of Kolonaki.

 

 

 

  • GET LOST

For a big city, Athens is a relative safe city to walk around and get lost in. My advice is to walk the back street of the city centre and you will discover a little taverna or a laiki (a local street market), or a zacharoplasteion (sweets shop), or a little bar. You might discover neo-classical buildings dating back centuries or maybe some modern street art. You will definitely see Greeks going about their daily lives. The Acropolis may be the heart of Athens, but the streets are the veins teeming with real life.

  • GET OUT

Before you get out of Athens, I recommend that you get right out of Athens because there is so much to see. Catch the tram down the coast to one of the beach clubs for a day of relaxation, or travel a bit further to the upmarket suburb of Glyfada. Highly recommend getting out of Athens and visiting the Peloponnese region, or heading up to Delphi. If you really want a “wow” moment, then I cannot recommend enough, a trip north to see the monasteries of Meteora, impossibly built on top of these sandstone pillars. Just amazing.

To head straight into the islands is like going directly to dessert before having main course. Yes you will be instantly satiated but once the sugar rush has subsided you feel quite empty.

You can’t really understand Greece until you have spent some time in Athens. Give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

Of course if you can’t extend your time in Athens, then this video will help you to get the most out of your short time in an amazing city.

The Dont Forget Travel Group is a boutique agency that specialises in custom-made holidays.

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Contact us through www.dontforgettravel.com.au

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Put letters together to make words. Put words together to form sentences. Put sentences together to produce chapters. Put chapters together to tell stories.

There is an order to letters and to keep the letters in order there is the alphabet. To bring each letter to life is a picture that represents that letter, either physically, metaphorically or graphically.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words here is my 26,000 word essay!

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI

The Gallipoli campaign was brutal and not for the fainthearted. I went in believing I knew what I was in for and somehow came out the other side as the face of Anzac Day 2006.

Sitting at the stage area overlooking Anzac Cove

Sitting at the stage area overlooking Anzac Cove

Anzac Day is all about reflection, so let’s we reflect…

I had been prepared for the emotion of the occasion, but I wasn’t prepared for the coldness of the occasion. It was freezing with an onshore wind blowing off Anzac Cove. The day had been a sunny autumnal day, but this was just a tease. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the temperature didn’t drop, it plummeted.

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After a 5 hour bus trip from Istanbul (which they showed Mel Gibson’s “Gallipoli” on-board to get everyone into the mood) we arrived at Anzac Cove around 6pm on 24th April. Being on one of the first buses (as there isn’t public transport everyone has to belong to a tour group to gain access) to arrive we had options – lie on the grassed area behind the VIPs which would give you a limited view, but with the chance of getting some sleep, or sit in the stand where you would be guaranteed a great view, but very little chance of any sleep. I chose the latter as I thought “seeing” was whole point of being here.

Despite wearing a t-shirt, shirt, polar fleece jumper, windproof jacket, two pairs of Explorer socks, jeans, a beanie (purchased during the night from a local Turk) and all snuggled inside a sleeping bag it was not enough to ward off the cold that had now seeped its way into the core of my bones. I remember thinking I may be uncomfortably cold, but imagine also being wet and coming ashore under the cover of darkness, to a future that probably wasn’t going to end well.

To relieve boredom, every hour, on the hour throughout the night, either a Military band played, or a 15 minute documentary of the conflict, or a detailed description of where the troops were at that specific time back in 1915, or images beamed up on the big screen of the crowd from the closed circuit cameras. It was both entertaining and informative. A constant stream of buses depositing more people added to the carnival-like atmosphere. By 5.30am there was about 10,000 people squashed into Anzac Cove. I am pretty sure there was not one Australian backpacker left in London!

Amongst the crowd were AFL and NRL football jumpers, Wallaby tops, hats with

Crowd building with the Sphinx in background

Crowd building with the Sphinx in background

the Oz flag, the canary yellow of the Fanatics etc and the closest thing to nationalistic I had was an Austereo polar fleece with a capital A on the front. During the night I was feeling so unpatriotic I haggled with a local Turk selling flags – eventually getting a bargain for 4 Turkish Lira (approx. $4.00). I had got a great deal and I felt good. Back at my seat, with chest swelling with pride, I unfurled the flag to discover that it was only printed on one side. Damn you Turks, you got the better of us Aussies again. The reverse side was completely white!

It was at that moment when a camera on the end of a massive boom, swung around zooming in on me. I could see myself on the screens scattered around the amphitheatre. Luckily the wind changed direction so that the Australian flag side was visible; otherwise it would have looked as though I was surrendering by waving the white flag. I remember thinking “look solemn and pensive and resist the urge to make a face or wave maniacally”.

The service itself was quite stage-managed with many speeches by dignitaries. It

Last Post being played at Dawn Service at Anzac Cove

Last Post being played at Dawn Service at Anzac Cove

felt more like a celebration than a memorial service, so it wasn’t as emotional as I thought it was going to be – that was until the lone bugler played the Last Post and the Reveille – spine chilling stuff.

A few days later I discovered that it hadn’t been a closed circuit tv. The footage was beamed back to Australia and Channel 9 used my image as the opening and closing scenes of their national news bulletin! My cold, but solemn face had been on television every hour throughout the day all over Australia.

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I had turned up to pay my respects and walked away from Gallipoli as the face of Anzac Day.

The Don’t Forget Travel Group

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

I love getting high!

Never one to suffer from vertigo, I love being high….whether it be on top of a mountain after trekking for a few days, or from the Observation Deck of a skyscraper where the effort was no more strenuous than pushing the elevator button. I have always enjoyed sweeping views, particularly vistas from being “On Top” of things.

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge with the added edge of each challenge is to have a “travel twist”.

#Postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

The challenge this week is “Monument”. After all the sites I have been fortunate to have seen, this was one of the easiest photo challenges. Once I started sifting through the digital photos  I realised that one particular monument kept on standing out…..The Parthenon.

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The Parthenon sits proudly, and defiantly, atop the Acropolis for all to see. Sometimes she is naked, and other times she is shrouded in mystery when she is covered by scaffolding. I love the fact that you can see The Parthenon  from almost anywhere in central Athens. I always get a “warm and fuzzy” when walking down a little Athenian alley and suddenly catch an unexpected glimpse of The Parthenon. I don’t know why I have this reaction.

Originally built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, The Parthenon has also been a treasury, a mosque as well as a munitions dumped which resulted in an explosion that caused extensive damage.

Like a Greek cabbie instinctively drawn to taking the most costly route, I am drawn to visit The Parthenon every time I am in Athens. I feel a trip to Greece is incomplete without paying homage to this amazing monument.

The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge with the added challenge of trying to make all photos travel related. #postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

“Threshold: Any place or point of entering or beginning”

At first I thought that this week’s photo challenge was too hard as no images immediately came to mind. Then it hit me that there has been to momentous occasions in the last 10 years that have been significant to me. I had truly stood on the threshold of a new beginning. I felt, immediately prior to both events, like I was standing on the edge of the precipice and about to jump into the unknown.

the front door to my Athens apartment

the front door to my Athens apartment

This photo symbolises the first threshold as I had been asked by my employer to relocate to Athens to work for our Greek operations. This is the doorbell for my apartment block in Athens. Amongst all the names ending in “–opoulous” or “–oulakis” is a lone Anglo-Saxon name. Mine. That was what I was afraid of; feeling like a fish out of water. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know anyone in the whole continent, let alone the country and definitely didn’t know a soul in the actual city itself.

I was on the threshold of a new love.

I had nothing to worry about as I was welcomed with open arms. I was accepted and included. I made some lifelong friends. I had some incredible experiences and saw some spectacular countryside and visited many beautiful islands. I fell in love with the country, culture and cuisine- and was made an honorary Greek – Sullivanopoulos.

I have cheated on the second momentous threshold as it is a video not a photo. After 20 years of a career in advertising and media I had had enough. “Pillars of change”, “departmental silos”, “mission statements”, “touchpoints” were just jargon and lost all meaning. A world where people were not dismissed but were “offered the opportunity to seek their personal goals elsewhere” now felt shallow and callous. I felt I wanted to control my own destiny.

The Dont Forget Travel Group Opening

I made the scary decision that I was going to leave the sheltered world of corporate life and open my own business. A travel agency, no less! Despite being a crowded marketplace, both online and real bricks and mortar, I felt there was room for a boutique agency.

This is the video I made about the process of setting up the new agency. I had imported the furniture from China and 40+ boxes only had a picture of the furniture, but no instructions.

I was on the threshold of a new life.

This new beginning is still continuing.

The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge with the added challenge of trying to make all photos travel related. #postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

This week’s photo challenge is “Reflections”. It’s not surprising that all the reflections have one thing in common….liquid. Even the sunglasses photo was taken while sitting at a beachside tavern!

The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge with the added challenge of trying to make all photos travel related. #postaday