Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Brighton, East Sussex, UK

Actual date of this event: 21 June

Clear blues on a Saturday are rare in Britain. But when they appear, you better believe that the whole nation flocks outside. We chose to spend our sunny Saturday in Brighton... finally!
Luke and I had been planning to visit Brighton since, forever. We had heard it is a pretty neat coastal town with a beach, shopping, pier, and a huge gay community. You may think I am being a little upfront about that, but Brighton is known for its gay community... it's a fact. Anyway, we hopped on the train for about an hour before our exploration began. The first thing we noticed was the hill that led down to the beach, which meant we would have to walk back up that hill later.

I was quite surprised at how not-jam-packed the beach was. There were definitely people and families out, but not as many as I expected. The rocky beach was a pretty steep slope down to the water, and we saw the West Pier which recently burned down.

There are several restaurants and bars that line the seafront. We decided to sit for tapas for lunch before moving on.
With so much sun, we just had to lay out for a bit. I took an ankle-deep dip in the water, but within seconds my feet were freezing! But hey, I can say I stood in the English Channel :-)

Neither of us put sunscreen on, we figured the Greek sun from the week before was much more brutal than the English sun. We were proved wrong as both of us ended up pretty sunburned. We walked down to the Palace Pier to check it out.

I am pretty sure that as soon as we stepped foot onto this pier, we went back to 1980-something. Everything was pretty dated, but it totally worked! Walking to the end of the pier and back, we crossed rides, an arcade, food stalls, pubs, restaurants - it was all pretty hoppin'! There were even free toilets which was a huge plus!

It was about 3pm now, and the beaches were getting more and more crowded.
Leaving the pier, we followed the Volks Railway east along the coast. The railway was the first public electric railway in the world - it opened in 1883, and it is now a tourist attraction.

Luke and I made our way inland to see the actual town. I had seen picture of the Royal Pavilion before, and it looked totally out of place in an English town, but at the same time really amazing. It was designed by the same guy responsible for Buckingham Palace and Regents Street in London. To me, it looks Taj Mahal-esque.

We wandered into what makes Brighton awesome, the little hippy-section of town located between North Laine and Church Street, call North Laine. The streets were rows and rows of vintage stores, second hand shops, music stores, pubs, and coffee shops. Since it was such a nice day, every outdoor table was full and small market tables were set up selling all kinds of random stuff. We sat at a few places for some drinks to enjoy the weather and atmosphere.

We took a wander through The Lanes which was where the old fishing village of Brighton was located. It is now full of jewelry shops and a few other shops though. It wasn't all too exciting except it is a handful of windy little paths which are always fun to explore. I attempted a few pictures in the area, but none came out decent as the lanes were so narrow. Luke and I stopped a few more times for drinks before walking back the beach for one last glimpse.
It was much much more lively than it was when we were on the beach. As it was 6pm, we made the decision to head back up the hill to the train station to go home for dinner rather than staying in Brighton for a few more hours. We enjoyed our day and thought Brighton was a neat little town! It is nice to know that we can be on a beach in an hour even if it has freezing cold water!

Brighton's Sea Life Centre is the oldest working Aquarium in the world.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Greece: Feedback from the Travelers

Actual date of this event: 4-14 June

As this is my blog, pretty much everything I write is my own personal opinion. Since our trip in Greece included three other people, I felt it only necessary to get some feedback from them. Each of them took the time to answer a few questions, and I want to share that with you. 

What was your favorite island? 
BECCA: Milos, small and quiet. Loved the white buildings with blue accents.
ERIC: Corfu, but Milos is very close.
LUKE: Hard to say. There was the most to do in Corfu.  I had the most fun in Milos, and loved how it was quiet and not packed with tourists.  Would like to go back to Santorini and see/do more.
DEBBIE: Milos... it was very peaceful, but fun, things were cheap, not many tourists, and exactly what I pictures a Greek Island to be.

What was your favorite beach?  
BECCA: Perissa beach (Santorini)... black coarse sand with flat bottom in water. Papafragas (Milos)... the one that Luke looked like he was about to fall off the cliffs. Canal d Amor (Corfu)... the rushing water waves were mesmerizing.
ERIC: I really liked the last beach Perissa with the rock bottom. The sand wasn't too hot and it was nice and quiet.
LUKE: Sarakiniko on Milos
DEBBIE: Sarakiniko. It was like the moon! The water was warmer than other areas - it was one of the busier beaches we went to, but it was still so quiet.

What was your favorite activity/excursion?  
BECCA: Loved the wine tour, especially the last stop (Gaia) right by the quiet beach. Loved the Catamaran, the food was great and the views from the sea was beautiful. Loved the Sunset in Oia!
ERIC: I enjoyed the wine tour. It was very informative.
LUKE: Riding ATVs all over Milos & Santorini.
DEBBIE: The ATV's were fun, although sometimes I was a bit frightened for my life.

What was your favorite village?  
BECCA: Plaka (Milos)... probably because it was the middle of the day, but it was so quiet and peaceful. And colorful!
ERIC: Fakime was a great stop along the way in Corfu. JK  I really liked Paleokastritsa on west side of Corfu with the curvy mountain roads and quiet.  Wish we would have had more time to look around and find spots like Akron restaurant and La Grotta.
LUKE: Um...I guess I'll go with Fira in Santorini, if that counts as a village.  If not, the one in Corfu near where Eric & Becca jumped off the rocks at El Grotto.
DEBBIE: Plaka in Milos. Exactly what I imagined a Greek village to be.

What was your favorite restaurant?  
BECCA: O Xamos... in Milos. Loved the greek soul food restaurant style!!
ERIC: Loved the restaurant in Milos our last night (O Xamos). Also loved the restaurant in Corfu next to apartment (Leonidas). The Cork Bar in Corfu was good also the first night.
LUKE: Leonidas in Corfu
DEBBIE: Tough one - Mikros Apoplous in Milos had the best Tzatziki. O Xamos in Milos was the most unique restaurant, and I'd recommend it over any other. But Leonidas in Corfu was super tasty and super cheap!

What is something that you will remember forever, that sticks out in your head more than anything else?  
BECCA: Loo paper in the rubbish bin... Everything was so colorful! So many flowers and plants (especially bougainvillea) highlighting the white buildings with blue accents, plus the blue sky every day!!!!
ERIC: The darn west side of Santorini! Sarakino in Milos was awesome though, and so different. Wish we had been there longer and swam more.
LUKE: Driving ATVs on the side of a cliff on the windy roads in Santorini at dusk.  I literally felt like I was in a dream.
DEBBIE: 8:30-8:40pm on June 11-13 2014, the sunsets in Santorini is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

What piece of advice do you have for someone who plans to visit Greece?  
BECCA: Bring lots of sunscreen. And dress casual if you plan on hitting the beach every day. Four wheelers were convenient for the small islands
ERIC: Go to a remote island and relax (Milos, Corfu, somewhere that isn't a well beaten trail). Avoid the heavy tourist areas as there are other islands and sunsets just a beautiful as Santorini. Eat the fried cheese (saganaki)! Explore the island and find the little old man who makes his own wine and olive oil. Don't try to buy his whole table of oil and wine.
LUKE: Bring me with you.
DEBBIE: Confirm a taxi prior to arriving in Santorini!!! I cannot stress that enough. Be sure to bring your own sunscreen or else you will be paying $25 per bottle. It is totally acceptable to wear a sundress and your bathing suit out to dinner - we did it practically every night and no one cared. Be sure to have air conditioning in your room, even if it is cool outside, the rooms get very humid. Don't forget to put the loo paper in the bin :-)

Well folks, that FINALLY wraps-up our whole Greece trip. I can safely say that Greece is my favorite country that we have visited! The food was amazing and the weather was perfect, but I especially loved the company!

Other posts from Greece: IntroCorfuThe Acropolis in AthensPanathenaic Stadium in AthensGeneral AthensIsland of Milos (Day 1)Sarakino in MilosIsland of Milos (Day 2)Santorini SailingSantorini Wine TourTHE Santorini SunsetGeneral Santorini, Wrap-Up

Greece has 227 islands that are inhabited, but there are many more (6,000+) that are owned by the country.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Santorini, Greece

Actual date of this event: 11-14 June

Like I mentioned in my post about our sailing adventure, we arrived to Santorini in a real terrible mood - some of us more than others. After we got situated in the hotel, we had to come up with another plan for the rest of our day. But most of all, we couldn't let the situation ruin our time in Santorini.
Since we had the ATV's, we decided to make use of them and head to our first beach. Katharos is near Oia, so after parking, we walked the many steps down to reach the rocky beach. The length of the beach is quite large, and it had quite a few people on it. The sun was right in front of us and would have made for a great place to watch the sunset during our visit. Instead, we got to watch a cruise ship depart. The rocks were pretty big and extremely painful to walk on without shoes. Getting into the water was really tough, and we giggled as people fell over in the water trying to stand. Then we laughed and giggled at each other doing the same thing. I guess we were cheering up a bit!

We hiked back up the cliff, and drove down to Amoundi Bay where a row of seafood restaurants face the bay. We took the ATV's down the road, but there is also a line of steps to take by foot from Oia village, or if one wants, donkey rides are available. It is a really nice area to have dinner/drinks. It wasn't busy while we were there, so we sat for a drink at Katina (which is supposed to be one of the best dinner spots). We walked over toward a walking path that wrapped around the inner ring, but a recent rock slide blocked the path. So scary to think those rocks could fall at any moment!

We drove back up the cliff, and parked the ATV's in a random spot so we could walk around in Oia. ATV's are awesome because you can park them anywhere you please (for the most part)! Oia was very very busy, but we had expected that as it was close to sunset - everyone flocks to Oia for those few precious moments. Oia is quaint with little pedestrianized paths that wind everywhere making it absolutely impossible to know where you are unless you have an expert sense of direction (Luke?). We felt extremely under-dressed while in Oia as everyone else was in dresses, slacks, button-downs, anything BUT beach wear. This was totally different that what we experienced in both Corfu and Milos. We continued on though in our swim gear.

With dinner and sunset just minutes away, we needed to find our spot for the big moment. We figured every restaurant would be booked, but we lucked out with a spot on a balcony with a fairly decent view of the sunset. I never even knew the name of the restaurant, and the food and service was just meh, but the sunset took all our troubles away. Read about it here.

After dinner, we stopped at the market to purchase a few night caps, then drove back to our place in Finikia (a small area of Oia) and enjoyed an evening by the hotel pool. This was when I received the phone call regarding the catamaran cruise which cheered us up quite a bit!
On Thursday, we spent a large portion of the day sailing the waters around Santorini. Read about it here.
{Eric Goins' photo}
After the catamaran cruise, we made the long trek to the southeastern side of the island. The best beach in Santorini is Perissa which was quite the drive from Oia. These Greek islands are not easy to navigate! But of course, we pulled over quite often to take some pictures of the scenery, and check our location on the map. I may or may not have been taking pictures while Luke was driving - ssshhhh.

Perissa Beach was the best beach we visited in Greece due to its "sand". The beach is covered in itty-bitty black pebbles that are pretty close to sand. It was a nice change from the rocks that we had been laying on all week. There is also the option to rent a sunbed to lay on, but we didn't feel the need to spend the money. There were very few people at the beach which surprised me, but it was about 5pm, so I guess everyone was getting all dolled up for the sunset. The road along Perissa beach is lined with restaurants and bars, so Luke and Eric got us a few drinks to enjoy while we relaxed. The most interesting thing about the beach was the solid rock-bottomed water. Unlike the other beaches where there are lots of rocks of all sizes on the bottom, this one one massive rock similar to the bottom of the pool.

{Eric Goins' photo}
After a little nap on the beach, we headed to Fira to check out the main town since we hadn't been there yet. And of course, we made a few stops for pictures along the way.

The cruise ships were getting ready to depart, so all of the cruisers were making their way back to their ships, following all of the signs in Fira that say "cable car". At one point, Eric and Luke wandered off to take pictures leaving Becca and I to potentially get lost in the little Fira paths. We used common sense though and stayed put. We figured they would find us where they left us, and they did :-)

We eventually stopped for a drink, then it was dinner time. We had been saving up all trip to try out the cheap gyros place that was supposed to be the biggity-bomb. Lucky's is right in the heart of Fira, and is basically the fast food of the island. It was definitely cheaper than the rest of Santorini, but still not the cheapest gyros we had all trip, and it was good, but still not the best of all trip (my opinion of course, I preferred Leonidas in Corfu). I still recommend trying it though to anyone visiting Santorini! Doesn't it look good????? :-)
We just barely missed the sunset as we drove back to Oia for the night. It was soooo neat riding back though! The sun had just gone down, thy sky was an amazing mixture of colors, we had the wind in our hair (well not Luke), and it was like a dream. I'd say it was worth it to miss the sunset!
Once we reached Oia, we parked the ATV's at the hotel and walked to Oia village in search of gelato. The town was really beautiful at night, but of course pretty dead. We had to make our own fun, so we went back to the hotel to do another evening of sitting by the pool with some drinks.

Friday was our last day of the trip, and we spent the majority of the day at our wine tour. Read about it here.
We got back from the wine tour with a good buzz, but we were starving as we had barely any food. Our hotel had a restaurant, so we decided to sit on the terrace with some snacks and drinks and enjoy our last afternoon together. Eventually more people showed up, and we ordered dinner which we really enjoyed. Then it was time for Becca and Eric to say good-bye. They had their long flight home from Athens at 06:30 the next morning, so they decided to take the late flight from Santorini back to Athens that night (which meant they slept in the airport). Luke and I enjoyed the sunset one last time while having a few more drinks before we called it a night.

On Saturday morning, Luke and I caught our pre-booked taxi at around 10am back to the airport to fly home. Note: The Santorini airport is one of the most uncomfortable I have experienced (along with Pisa, Italy). We had a terrific time in Santorini, and easily could have spent a couple more days there.

Coming soon will be a wrap-up post where you will hear from the other three travelers!

Other posts from Greece: IntroCorfuThe Acropolis in AthensPanathenaic Stadium in AthensGeneral AthensIsland of Milos (Day 1)Sarakino in MilosIsland of Milos (Day 2)Santorini SailingSantorini Wine TourTHE Santorini SunsetGeneral SantoriniWrap-Up

Santorini is also called Thira which is not the same as the town on the island named Fira.

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