Category Archives: Greece

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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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

“From the four walls that currently surround you to the infinite potential of space, this week we’d like you to show us your take on room, rooms, or a room.”

Not one for being obvious, I didn’t want to fill this challenge with lots of photos of great hotel rooms. Instead I chose a few of my favourite “rooms”.

Athens

Athens

Ok I just said I wasn’t going to fill up on hotel rooms, but this is the view from my favourite hotel room overlooking my favourite city in my favourite overseas country. Whenever I can see the Parthenon sitting proudly atop the Acropolis, I feel happy….and very much at home. I’m sure I must have been Greek in a former life!

 

 

 

 

Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class

Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class

One of the biggest gripes that travellers have is the lack of room offered by airlines. Maybe one of reason why this is so is because Singapore Airline’s stole everyone’s extra space and added it to Business Class on their A380. There is so much room it can fit 2 champagne drinking passengers.

Moet et Chandon Cellars

Moet et Chandon Cellars

Speaking of champagne…..(nice segue) this stairway leads into the room that I discovered that I actually do like champagne, when you drink it at the source. This stairway leads to the Moet et Chandon tasting room which is at the end of a labyrinthine network of underground tunnels and cellars. After a tour of the cellars the corks were popped, the bubbles fizzed and my tastebuds did a hallelujah dance. The French sure know how to make champagne. Up to this moment I had only given a polite smile through gritted teeth whenever I had to have a glass.

Belvedere Ice Room Whistler

Belvedere Ice Room Whistler

Speaking of drinking… (another nice segue) one of the strangest rooms I have ever been in is one made completely of ice. The walls, the bar, the shelves, the seats were made of ice. It was called the Belvedere Ice Room and served ice-cold vodka.  On a trip to Whistler I found myself in this room tasting vodka after being kitted out in a heavy fur-lined jacket. It was great fun. The downside was that due to the freezing temperature, you can’t stay all night in the room, even though the cold spirit is warming you on the inside.

Bayon Temple Campodia

Bayon Temple Campodia

There are many different type of spirits (yep, another segue), some alcoholic and some spiritual. On a recent trip to Cambodia, while exploring Bayon Temple’s many rooms I was surprised to come across this buddha . Despite believing that the temples of Siem Reap were abandoned, it was obvious that I was wrong. The Buddha had been cloaked in a bright saffron-coloured sash and surrounding the seated figure were many offering. Some of them were recent offerings proving that this was still an active place of worship.

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In their day, the temples of Siem Reap would have been considered opulent, (here comes another segue) but nothing like the opulence experienced at an exclusive dinner in the Hall of Battles, one of the majestic rooms in the Palace of Versailles.  Believed to be the first dinner staged at the Palace since Napoleonic times, it was a privilege to feel like a privilege member of French Royalty.

Speaking of privilege (ok enough with the gratuitous segues), I have had the privilege and pleasure to have this as my view from my Santorini room.  Really don’t think there is anything more to say…just open a bottle of ouzo, nibble on some grilled octopus and just enjoy.

Santorini Greece

Santorini Greece

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

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

In this week’s photo challenge, capture an image that tells a full story in a single frame. Every photo, I believe, tells a story, so I have taken a different approach and chosen some photos that capture a moment that makes you want to know what the full story is…or what happens next. These image do not tell the full story, they just leave more questions.

Bear kiss

Bear kiss

Out on the Tundra at Churchill, Canada looking for polar bears, we came across another Tundra Buggy. Just happened to snap the photo just as the man stuck his head out of the window as the bear reared up. What happened next?

 

 

 

 

roadside chat
roadside chat

 

This photo captured a moment in time on the streets of Beijing. We’re left wondering what are these two men talking about and why are they squatting on the side of the road chatting?

 

 

Hand feeding gulls

Hand feeding gulls

The split second moment that this Greek ferry passenger hand feeds a seagull. Is this a common occurrence? Did she do this often as the gulls seem to expect it?

 

 

A glimpse of Petra

A glimpse of Petra

 

The moment that you come across the break in the canyon walls and get your first glimpse of the Treasury Building at Petra in Jordan. It is the moment that you feel like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade.

 

 

 

 

Dumb and dumber

Dumb and dumber

The split second moment that you wonder why you are about to re-enact a stupid scene from Dumb & Dumber while in an Ice Bar in Whistler, Canada. Why would you even think of doing this?

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme X-Scream

Extreme X-Scream

The split second that I thought I was going to die. The moment I thought that riding the X-Scream in Las Vegas was a stupid idea. Why would anyone do this giant teeter-totter, 866 feet above the ground?  Is being the only person on the ride an indication of how crazy this is?

Enjoying the ice sculpture at Lake Louise, Canada – the split second moment of serenity just before you get pelted!

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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

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

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