How to explore the best of Bordeaux in 4 days, from a local slow traveller
When one thinks about Bordeaux, he or she immediately thinks wine. We are so lucky to have these incredible vineyards around the city. However, did you know:
It is the location of the highest dune in Europe?
Rue Sainte Catherine is a 1.2 km long shopping street?
Bordeaux was under English ownership for 300 years
The city is classified UNESCO World Heritage
Bordeaux used to be nicknamed “the Sleeping Beauty”
Bordeaux has a submarine base
Yes, there are lots of fun facts to discover! It is what a slow traveller loves, would you agree?
So, come and accompany me in a visit of Bordeaux and the region…
The city of Bordeaux
I would recommend at least one day to visit the city.
Suggestion of itinerary:
Go out and explore the city freely, at your own rhythm. Go to the Place de la Comédie, le Monument des Girondins, Pey Berland square ; the old town: place Saint-Pierre, place du Parlement, place du Palais, la grosse cloche.
These are must see and touristy but should not be missed. On your way stop over to a “la Toque Cuivrée” shop and try a “canelé”, a typical sweet pastry from Bordeaux made from egg yolks. It is a must!
Make your way up to a borough named Saint-Michel, visit the local food market “les capucins” (closed on Monday). There will be plenty of spots for you to experience local food such as cheeses, meat platter, seafood, dunes blanches (cream pastry).
Make your way to the Basilique Saint-Michel and the river banks. Walk your way back to Place de la Bourse and the water mirror (miroir d’eau) where you may take pictures of the buildings reflecting on the water.
Thereafter, take a “batcub”, a public boat allowing you to cross town via the river, from the Ponton d’Honneur near Place de la Bourse to the wine musuem (Cité du Vin). Allow yourself at least 3 hours for the visit.
Then, either take the tram back to the centre, or if you still have some energy left, you may explore the borough named “Les Chartrons” or walk by the bank to enjoy the scenery of the city.
Don’t care much for the food market? Then make your way to visit and lunch in Darwin
Located on old military grounds, Darwin is an ecosystem that gathers professionals, entrepreneurs and artists who focus on developing a sustainable (green and economical) and socially responsible future. There is an urban farm, an organic supermarket, a skatepark, street art, a garage where you can repair your bike…
Darwin has a different vibe from the rest of Bordeaux and is definitely worth a visit. If you enjoy street art then you are in the right place. On that note, once in Bordeaux, you will notice a lot of street art in the city. For the last few years, street artists have realised many murals in places such as Darwin, les bassins à flots (near the submarine base), by the train station… places and sites off the beaten path.
In the evening, how about trying out some of the many wine bars in Bordeaux?
The bar à vin located 3 cours du XXX Juillet in front of the tourism office will enable you, for a small budget, to taste various wines from Bordeaux.
The Ermitage park in Lormont (other side of the river)
The park “Bordelais” and “jardin des remparts”
Transportation in Bordeaux
Bikes: traveling by bike is easy in Bordeaux. The city provides bikes names VCUB. There are comfortable and easy to handle. Throughout the city, you will encounter many bike parks where you may rent and leave your bikes. You will need a credit card to access a bike.
Second option: INDIGO, a mobile app, is slightly cheaper than the VCUB. Download the app, create an account and the app will locate the nearest bikes according to your location.
Tram and bus: easy to hop in and out, it covers most parts of the city. If you purchase a ticket, then you can use it for a whole hour but you do have to scan it every time you take transportation.
Batcub: the boat that takes you from one side of the river to the other. I strongly recommend it as you will discover the city in, yet another angle, and the best thing is that it will cost you a tram ticket!
Saint-Emilion, UNESCO World Heritage
Simply, a must see in the region.
Suggestion of itinerary:
Take the train from Bordeaux to the village. It takes about 45 minutes. Then, go up to the picturesque village.
Make sure you visit the underground monuments and the monolith church. You may purchase your tickets in advance on the tourism office website.
Thereafter, how about going to the “Clos des Cordeliers” where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly known as “Crémant de Bordeaux” and made exactly how they would in Champagne. They have underground cellars that you can visit as well.
If you fancy a picnic, you may purchase a basket and have a picnic in their park.
There are lots of restaurants and wine bars in the village. There is also a wine school. Depending on how you wish to spend your time, you will find activities related to wine ?
For dessert, try the almond macaroons: they are a typical local produce since 1620 and they are yummy!
After your visit how about exploring the vineyards? The choice is yours: by bike or on foot. The tourism office proposes many itineraries and activities that you can download from their website. If you do pick a bike tour, make sure you reserve it ahead of time.
There are many wineries worth visiting in Saint-Emilion. Pomerol is another wine appellation where wines are known worldwide.
2 châteaux near the village that you could visit.
Château Beauséjour Bécot: first growth (premier grand cru classé) family led winery with underground cellars.
Château Coutet: 400 years old family led organic winery
*booking visits in advance is strongly recommended.
The amazing Arcachon bay: another must see when visiting the region. You may easily spend, at the very least, one day there. Please note that during the season, the area is very very busy.
Suggestion of itinerary:
Early morning arrival in Arcachon by bus or train from Bordeaux.
Visit of the city, walk by the seaside, visit a borough called the “Winter town” (la ville d’hiver) where you will see villas with beautiful architecture.
From there plenty of options are available for you:
Take the boat up to the Cap Ferret where you may have a seafood lunch. Again, explore, discover this untouched area, the natural heritage, go to the beach or up to the light house.
Or, participate in a boat tour of the bay and admire the bird island (Île aux oiseaux), huts on stilts (cabanes tchanquées) and the oyster parks (parcs à huîtres).
Or, you may wish to rent a bike. There are bike paths from Arcachon to the Cap Ferret which pass by small fishermen’s villages that are definitely very local and untouched.
Do not leave the bay without visiting the Dune du Pilat, the highest in Europe (which you can reach by bus from Arcachon). Prepare yourself to climb about 150 stairs to reach the top. Boy is it worth it. The view is outstanding especially at sunrise or sunset. Yes, how about planning to watch the sunset there with a bottle of Crémant de Bordeaux (a bubbly) and a picnic of local produce?
La Teste de Buch, a village nearby, is worth a stopover. Go to the harbour. Walk by local oyster shops. If you like them, settle down in one of the huts (cabane) for a tasting of oysters and a nice dry white from the Entre-Deux-Mers region. A lovely pairing. Feeling adventurous? Try out the whelks (bulots), winkles (bigorneaux).
*Some sites are just in French and not in English…
The Médoc, land of grands crus classés
The land of grands crus classés, magnificent striking architectural châteaux… But also, family run wineries!
It is not as easy to discover the Médoc without a car. What is nice when discovering the Médoc is to go from villages to villages, from appellations to appellations. I do not recommend doing it by bike as the main road for instance, from the villages of Margaux to Saint-Julien is a busy one.
From a slowtourism perspective, I would suggest selecting a village and exploring its surroundings. You may reach the village by train or bus.
Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Margaux:
Hike : Margaux wineries, (Boucle des Châteaux de Margaux) : 4.9 kms.
Throughout the hike, you will discover classified top growths wineries (grands crus classés) such as Château Lascombes, Château Palmer… Fairytale looking castles.
You will pass by the tiny harbor of Issan where you can take a picnic. (you may be able to purchase in advance a picnic basket at Château Desmirail in the village of Margaux).
If you fancy a wine and tasting: Château Marquis de Terme proposes a bike visit of their vineyards.
Suggestion of itinerary in and near the village of Ludon Médoc:
Hike named “boucle des graves”: 5.25 kms
This path will take you to a small lake and the following wineries: Château Paloumey, Château Cantemerle, Château La Lagune.
You will also pass by a barrel maker. If you are in the Médoc on a morning weekday, then you can schedule (in advance) a visit of the shop. You will see a barrel being made. It is very interesting. They also have a winery and a restaurant if you fancy lunch. You can only do the visit on a morning weekday when they make the barrels.
On the above website, you will also find hiking itineraries that focus more on the nature and the biodiversity or horseriding.
These are just sample ideas to give you an idea of what a trip may be like in Bordeaux. Of course, there are many more things you can do: for instance, you may want to rent a private boat and enjoy a seafood platter in front of the Dune. Or, you may want to go fishing with the local fishermen in the Arcachon bay. Participate in a cooking class, a winemaking workshop, a tasting…
If you are planning a trip to Bordeaux, I recommend planning ahead: wineries, restaurants, transportation. The region and the city do welcome many tourists and I would prefer reserving in advance then being disappointed.
In France, many restaurants are not open all day. They have opening hours for lunch and for dinner: usually from 12 pm till 1.30/2 pm and from 7 pm to 9.30, 10pm. Check the timings out beforehand. If you are after all day serving food, then “brasseries” will respond your needs.
It is worth checking out local events as well, as they could propose activities (hiking, exhibition…) that interest you. Bordeaux and the region always have events big or local going on.
This year, there will be the renowned Bordeaux Wine Festival that takes place every two years in the city. Wine professionals welcome you for 5 days for tastings and activities on the banks (2 kms) by the river. 80 appellations from the South West of France which gives you the opportunity to taste many different wines. It is very popular. There are evening shows, fireworks, beautiful sail ships… The whole city celebrates wines.
Here is a list of some of the activities I love to do in the region:
Go up the bell tower next to the Basilica Saint-Michel, the view is unforgettable
Taking the river boat to cross the river and admire the XVIIIe century buildings by the bank
Go, dine and listen to music at “Chez Alriq” near Darwin, there is an outdoor restaurant located by the river. It is very casual and easy-going. Perfect for friends, families, couples
Take my bike on the Roger Lapébie bike path and go to the country side, enjoy the historical heritage of small villages I cross.
Go the vineyards of Fronsac and take a hike
Go and visit Blaye and its citadel. Take the road between Blaye and Bourg which follow the esturary. The view is striking. There are houses on one side of the road and their respective garden on the other side by the water.
Go way up north to Jau Dignac et Loirac, visit the lighthouse and take a stroll admiring the typical fishermen’s house and their square fish net.
Go and take a swim at “le Porge” beach which is untouched and family friendly
Stand paddle in the lake of Hourtin, about 18 kms long
Enjoy a picnic in one of the small harbour of the Médoc such as “le port d’Issan”
Visit the natural park “le Teich”, birdwatch
Canoeing on the Leyre delta nicknamed the little Amazonia.
About the Author
When I was 18 years old, I moved to London to work on my English. I thought I’d stay 2 years… I ended up living there over 10. I studied travel and tourism management and specialized in ecotourism.
After I obtained my BA, I came back to France, I was eager to live in the Gironde region because this is where my roots are.
In Bordeaux, I quickly found a job in the wine tourism sector. What a beautiful niche to work in! I am such an epicurean at heart. I fell in love with a job where you get to share and discover your region. I created and organised trips for amateurs or wine professionals.
I was lucky to participate in the Wine and Spirit Education trust course. Today, I am studying for level 3.
There is a lot to cover! Every single vineyards in the world and many tastings!
I now focus on slowtourism or slow travel: discovering places without rushing, seizing the environment, nature, the local life, wines…
I want to share ideas about walks and inspire you to practice slowtourism.
I want to create connections between people and a community of epicureans who love local life, wines, nature and taking it slow on travels…
Visit Fleur’s blog (English version here) to find out more about Bordeaux or just ask us to tailor a customised tour for you here
The Arusha National Park in Tanzania is a small (137 sq km) but beautiful African park, is the closest Tanzanian National Wildlife Park to both the famous “safari town” of Arusha (29 km), as well as the Kilimanjaro International Airport, thus making it ideal for day safaris, even from Moshi (65 km). Not only is the wildlife in the Arusha National Park abundant, but it is also one of the most beautiful and topographically varied game reserves in Tanzania. The African Arusha National Park’s three most significant features include the rugged Mount. Meru (Tanzania’s second highest peak at 4566m), the notably different coloured Momela Lakes, and the 3km wide Ngurdoto Crater, which was formed about fifteen million years ago! The varied and beguiling animals and flora found in this game reserve are mainly determined by the different altitude and geography of these 3 “zones”.
Mount Meru, the fifth highest African mountain forms part of the Arusha National Park, and is a recommended 4-day climb. One of Africa’s most rewarding climbs, offering spectacular scenery, and guaranteed wildlife animals encounters on its forested slopes. The summit cone features a stunning asymmetric caldera complete with an ash cone in the crater. The cone in itself makes a climb to the summit worthwhile. Climbs should be booked in advance, as an armed game reserve ranger of the Arusha National Park must accompany climbers. You are invited to contact us should you require more detailed information on climbing Mt. Meru.
This crater, located inside the Arusha National Park and stretching 3 km’s across, is a steep-sided bowl, surrounded by riverine forest, while the crater floor is a lush swamp. The crater with its many visible animal trials provides a natural sanctuary to many African animals, including elephant, African buffalo, a variety of monkeys and baboons, as well as birds like hamerkop, spur-winged geese and herons. It is however unfortunately prohibited to descend down to the bottom of the crater. To the west of the crater lies Serengeti Ndogo or “Little Serengeti”, consisting of extensive grassland plain and it is one of the few places in the game reserve, where Zebra can be encountered.
The Momela lakes, also located inside the Arusha National Park, are shallow alkaline lakes and are made up of seven lakes, being big Momela, small Momela, El Kekhotoito, Kusare, Rishateni, Lekandiro and Tulusia. All seven lakes are mainly fed by separate underground water sources. Due to the varying mineral content of these underground sources, each lake supports a different type of algae growth, resulting in uniquely differently colored lakes. Because these lakes are alkaline, the water is not utilized by animals for drinking, but they do however attract a wide variety of African bird life, particularly flamingos.
Did You Know ???
The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden” and with good reason as the Ngorongoro has over 25 000 larger animals making it highest density of animals in one area in Africa.
How the Ngorongoro Crater formed? The Ngorongoro is an extinct volcano that collapsed in on itself approximately 25 million years ago forming a large superbowl. The Crater is the largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic Caldera in the world. The Ngorongoro Crater is 610 m deep and occupies an area of 260 sq km’s.
The view and game The views from the top of the crater wall are absolutely breathtaking. As one descends by 4×4 vehicle into the crater one passes through Fever Tree forests that shelter monkeys, bushbuck, waterbuck and a few black rhino. You then head onto the Ngorongoro plain with an abundance of animal life like you will never have seen before. Amongst the animals you will encounter are wildebeest, buffalo, gazelle, zebra, black-maned lion, leopard, hyena, hippo and elephant to name a few. In the Ngorongoro crater centre you will also come across a soda lake that has an abundance or bird life including flamingos. It is one of the top areas for predators to take down there pray. A trip to the Ngorongoro Crater is a sheer visual delight and a must for any Safari in Tanzania.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is very easy to access: it’s about 180 minutes’ drive from Moshi, Kilimanjaro and barely an hour from the Ngorongoro Crater. Because of this, some of the northern sides of the park can get very busy, especially in the afternoon. To see the park at its best, we recommend that you either stay within the park or spend two nights somewhere close, entering the park early for a full-day safari.
Lake Manyara National Park is the smallest park in Tanzania extending over an area of 330sq km, located north of the Great Rift Valley western escarpment. The park is divided into three parts: the soda lake covering 220sq km, ground water forest and acacia woodland. Although small in size, the diverse habitats in the park provide the perfect environment for wildlife and birdlife, comprising up to 400 species. Famous for its “tree-climbing” lions which can sometimes be spotted in the boughs of acacia trees, it is also home to possibly the highest baboon density of any park in Africa.
Flora and Fauna of Lake Manyara cover about 330km², of which typically two-thirds is underwater, Lake Manyara National Park is a small park by African standards. However, it’s also very beautiful and contains tremendous diversity of habitats, animals and especially birds. You are likely to see buffalo feeding on sedge by the lakeshore, hippos in water pools in the northern fan delta, klipspringers on the escarpment wall, impala and plains game (zebra, giraffe, mongoose and warthog) scattered throughout. The Great Rift Valley escarpment looms on the horizon, forming an impressive backdrop to the lake. It is favoured by water birds, including storks, pelicans, herons, Egyptian geese and vast flocks of flamingos. The park is perfect for bird watchers and an ideal start to your safari.
Lake Manyara’s Fauna Lake Manyara’s game includes good numbers of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest along with plenty of giraffe. Also prolific in number are zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala. You may need to search a little harder for the small and relatively shy Kirk’s dik-dik, and klipspringer on the slopes of the escarpment. The broken forests and escarpment make it good country for leopard, whilst Manyara’s healthy lion population are famous for their tree-climbing antics. (Whilst unusual, this isn’t as unique to the park as is often claimed.) Immediately obvious to most visitors are the huge troops of baboons which often number several hundred and are widely regarded as Africa’s largest.
Birds As with the habitats, the birdlife here is exceptionally varied. In the middle of the lake you’ll often see flocks of pelicans and the pink-shading of distant flamingos, whilst the margins and floodplains feed innumerable herons, egrets, stilts, stalks, spoonbills and other waders. With so much water around, the woodlands are equally productive, but it’s the evergreen forests where you’ll spot some more entertaining species such as the noisy silvery-cheeked hornbills, crowned eagles and crested guinea fowl.
Vegetation Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment, this long, narrow park protects an area between the escarpment and Lake Manyara. The parks namesake is a shallow, alkaline lake which expands and contracts with the seasons within a long, silvery bowl of salt deposits. Adjacent to it are wide, grassy floodplains and, further away, bands of mixed acacia woodlands. Further still, next to the escarpment, are patches of enchanting evergreen forests, which are sustained by perennial groundwater springs issuing from the base of the escarpment.
Serengeti National Park
The Endless plains….. the Vastness…. the scent and the wild voices of nature whispering at you. It’s traveling back in time…Serengeti National Park probably the most famous wildlife refuge in the world. Its eco-system is one of the oldest on earth. The essential features of climate, vegetation and fauna have barely changed in the past million years. Early man himself made an appearance in Olduvai Gorge about two million years ago. Some patterns of life, death, adaptation and migration are as old as the hills themselves. The eco-system extends over a much larger area and includes the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, linking over 25,000 km2 of land in which animals can move freely. Much of this is nutritious grassland which acts as a magnet for wildebeest, zebra, impala and Thomson’s gazelle.
Serengeti is the oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th worldwide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle. The Serengeti National Park has four separate sections, each with its own unique features and landscapes: the Southern Plains, Seronera (Central), Western Corridor, and Northern Serengeti.
The Southern Plains might be described as the “classic Serengeti” with its flat, open expanses of short grass plains. Just north of the short grass plains lies Seronera, or Central Serengeti, famous for its open plains, kopjes, and resident game, including large numbers of lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Stretching west to Lake Victoria is the Western Corridor, home to the Grumeti and Mbalageti Rivers, which support evergreen riparian forest and dense vegetation. From the Seronera area all the way to Kenya is the Northern Serengeti, an area of gently rolling country dotted with occasional hills and kopjes, broken by small rivers. This is where visitors might be at the right place at the right time to view the migration river crossings of the Mara River, made famous by National Geographic documentaries.
Where is Serengeti and how big is it?
Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles). 14% of the country’s land area (size of Northern Ireland) Location: 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.
How to get to Serengeti
Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Karatu, Moshi and Mwanza. Access by driving from Arusha, Moshi, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.
What to do in Serengeti
Game drive for wildlife viewing, Hot air balloon safaris, walking safaris, picnicking, camping, lodging, cultural tourism, visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.
When to go to Serengeti
All year round but if your interest is to follow the wildebeest migration then the best time for this is December-July. And to see predators, June-October.
What game will you see in Serengeti?
There are so many different species in the Serengeti that this list could go on forever. The Serengeti’s main attraction is the Great Migration, consisting of up to 2 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 Thompson, impala and grant’s gazelles. The predator viewing here is exceptional with approximately 3-4,000 lion and huge numbers of cheetah, leopard and hyena. Other game found in the park include Topi, Eland, Hartebeest, Buffalo, Elephant, Caracal, Serval, Bat-eared fox, Hyrax, Genet, Hares, Porcupine, Aardvark, Giraffe, Jackal, Mongoose, Crocodile, Monitor Lizard, Aardwolf, many kinds of primates including baboons, velvet and Colobus monkeys, and over more than 500 species of birds.
Mountain Kilimanjaro Information
Trekking Conditions . All 6 Routes to the Roof of Africa
There are six established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent). The Lemosho and Shira routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north.
When to climb Kilimanjaro
Weather conditions and temperature on Kilimanjaro varies depending on season and altitude, cold temperatures and precipitation are the main weather concerns while climbing the mountain. The warmer, drier months are the best times to climb Kilimanjaro, climbs during January, February and September are all very good, while climbs in June, July and August are equally as good because it is possible the temperature will be a little cooler. Months to try and avoid climbing the mountain are during the rainy season which fall in the months of March, April, May and November although climbers can still experience rain during the dry season, the weather on the mountain is unpredictable.
Please note that this is a challenging and tough trek, which reaches an altitude of 5895m. It is possible to find this climb very difficult even if you consider yourself to be relatively fit, it mostly depends on how well your body acclimatizes to high altitude.
Ecological Zones of Kilimanjaro
It all begins at the base of the mountain as we embark on our climb, allowing us to pass through lush rain-forests, proceeding through heath, moorland, alpine desert and finally entering the arctic zone. Climbers need to be prepared for the wide range of temperatures has we pass through all the different zones, especially the extreme cold on entering the arctic zone. Climbers also need to be aware that the forest sections can often be quite slippery, moorland paths can at times be very wet due to poor weather conditions and the final ascent through the arctic zone is almost entirely of scree and loose rock, although it can be tricky there is no technical climbing skills needed.
You’re in good hands! Once were on the mountain all you need to worry about is enjoying your experience and ascending to the roof of Africa, everything else is taken care of by the experienced staff. You will have a fully licensed head guide, fully licensed assistant guides, experienced cook and hardworking porters. Food will be fresh, healthy and in abundance making sure that you are getting the right nutrition and energy for your ascent of the mountain. All your needs will be catered for. Emanuel and Edwin wish to give you the best experience upon the mountain and memories you will never forget. This is accomplished by no corners being cut and with our guaranteed quality of service.
Climbing Kilimanjaro doesn’t need any technical mountaineering skills, although a reasonable degree of fitness would increase your odds of a successful summit, safe climb and most of all an enjoyable experience. Please note that being physically fit doesn’t guarantee anyone to overcome problems with altitude although it can reduce the impact of your climb on the body. If anyone wishes to train for their climb we recommend that you take part in daily walks that should include uphill and downhill sections, it is also necessary to increase your endurance and confidence levels all of which will play a part in your success.
Traveling to Tanzania. Visa and Vaccination
When traveling to Tanzania most nationalities require a visa, this includes British, most EU, Americans, Canadians and Australians etc. All visas are available at the border, British and most EU are at a cost of €40 cash, whilst for US nationals it will be €81 cash.
Please note that airports and other points of entry to Tanzania may require you to show a certificate of vaccination for Yellow Fever. We recommend you seek medical advice regarding other vaccinations such as Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Tetanus. Malaria precaution is essential, we suggest you consult your GP on which Malaria tablets to take. It is the responsibility of all travelers to make sure they have passport, visa, vaccinations and suitable insurance in place for this journey.
Safety and Rescue
In our experience there are three primary steps to accomplishing successful acclimatization. Firstly, drink lots of water, we recommend a daily intake of 4-5 liters. Secondly it is sensible to walk slowly, the body needs as little strain as possible whilst adapting to the reduction in oxygen, it is not a race. Thirdly it is within our experience to know that climbing high during the day and sleeping low during the night can achieve greater success of acclimatization.
Our knowledge, training, equipment and personal attention are all designed with your safety in mind. It is probable that most climbers will experience mild altitude sickness despite adequate hydration and a slow ascent, most climbers will recover, for those who experience serious altitude sickness they will be required to descend to a lower altitude with a member of staff in the interest of safety. Please note all symptoms should be reported immediately to our guides, the senior guide will have the final decision on all matters of safety regarding serious altitude sickness.
Thousands of people attempt the summit of the majestic Kilimanjaro every year, on average two or three fatalities occur from acute mountain sickness, this is a result of not undertaking a rapid descent quickly enough. Although all our guides are fully trained in recognizing and dealing with acute altitude sickness there is no guarantees on the mountain with its unpredictable conditions and remoteness.
All head guides are equipped with oxygen and a complete medical kit. Anyone needing to be evacuated will be taken down by stretcher has quickly as possible to the nearest point that the rescue vehicle can access to remove you from the mountain for medical assistance. Your safety is paramount to us, therefore it is imperative that you advise us at the time of your booking of any conditions medical or otherwise that may affect you or others on the trip.
Lake Natron & Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano
Lake Natron is a soda lake with a large resident population of flamingos. Being on the border of Kenya, just north of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Natron and the active volcano Ol Doinyo L’Engai occupy a surreal landscape, overshadowed by the Rift Valley Escarpment. Lake Natron is a good area to visit authentic Maasai communities, experiencing first-hand the Masai culture. Foot safaris along natural river gorges are another possibility, as there are waterfalls, plunge pools and a natural jacuzzi fed by water coming from the Ngorongoro conservation area.
At the head of the valley lies the active volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania’s only active volcano and the world’s only natrocarbonatite volcano. This unique and amazing geological feature is the most remarkable geological sight Tanzania has to offer, towering over the desolate landscape produced by the ash falling from its constant eruptions; Lengai created – and still creates – the Serengeti Plains, and is the cause of the archaeological fossil layers of Olduvai Gorge!
Oldoinyo Lengai means “mountain of God” in KiMaasai (the language of the Masai tribe), and when you see an eruption under-way (last eruption in 2008/9) you can understand how Oldoinyo Lengai got its name. It is usually possible to climb Oldoinyo Lengai, if the volcano is not erupting too savagely, and although the climb is hard (some might say savage) the views from the top are truly breath-taking.
If you are interested in visiting Lake Natron or Oldoinyo Lengai book your own personal Tanzania safari itinerary with a 5% discount through our Customised tours page.
Lying on the border of Kenya, Lake Natron is the only known breeding ground for East Africa’s millions of lesser flamingos. The best time to see the flamingos is during the breeding months from August to October. The surreal scenery of Lake Natron is great for landscape photography. The lake is not inside any national park, which means that as a visitor it is possible to go on a foot safari with your local guide.
You can take a short hike along a gorge in the rift escarpment to Engaresero Water Falls. There is a natural jacuzzi at the base of the falls where you can bathe, overshadowed by the rocks and epiphytes hanging above. It is also possible to take a dawn stroll out to the edge of Lake Natron and watch the sun come up over the immense landscape.
Ol Doinyo Lengai
The base of Ol Doinyo L’Engai, on the Engaruka Plains, lies at about 800m. The Masai’s ‘Mountain of the Gods’ is the only active carbonate volcano in the world. The steep ascent to the top (currently just under 3000m) requires determination and good fitness levels, but the views alone are more than worth the effort. It is usually possible to stroll over solidified lava flows, and walk among the lava cones belching out sulphuric gases. Ideally the hike begins at 1-3am, and the summit reached as the sun rises – you cannot have too much film for your camera!
The true bushmen of Tanzania
A morning hunt with the Hadzabe Bushmen of Tanzania Most of baobab trees at Lake Eyasi have big holes inside them that the Hadza use to hide their children during the heavy rains. They are also used for keeping water when rain starts Staying with the Hadza (the true Bushmen of Africa) is an experience of a lifetime. Just spend few days with them and learn about their way of life.
Lake Eyasi is a soda lake between Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks. It is a superb location for those interested in visiting the Hadzabe and seeing the traditional life of the ‘bushmen’. Their hunter-gathering lifestyle has not changed for 1000 years.
Culture: Excellent Birding: Excellent Best time to visit Lake Eyasi: All year except April and May. How to get to Eyasi: you have to drive. Safari types available: Walking safaris, food gathering with the local women, hunting with bushmen and traditional weapons
Fit travellers can join the Hadzabe in their traditional hunting with bows and an arrows. Water is carried in Ostrich eggs. For the less athletic you can join the women gathering tubers and seeds. You can camp at Lake Eyasi or stay in either of 2 Tented camps in the area: KasimaNgeda and Tindiga.
At Lake Eyasi
Lake Eyasi is just over an hour drive south-west of Karatu and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Lake Eyasi is a mildly alkaline lake about 50km long. To the north-east you can see the Crater Highlands and to the north are the plains of the Serengeti. Around 100 years ago when the warlike Masai tribes invaded Ngorongoro and Serengeti, the Datoga and other indigenous bushmen living there were pushed south. Many of these groups made the Lake Eyasi area their home.
Along the shores of the lake are Acacia forests which are home to a high diversity of wildlife including leopard and lion. There are several good quality private campsites which are located in the forest clearings by the lake. Each provides a grassy pitch, shower and toilet facilities constructed mainly from local materials.
Lake Eyasi is a superb place for bird-watchers. Lake Eyasi is well known for the Hadzabe bushmen and you can accompany them on a traditional hunt. The Hadzabe are the last of the true hunter-gatherers. They use an ancient ‘click’ tongue language and live by collecting berries and roots and hunting the small game that is still present in the area. Accompanying a hunt is an exhilarating insight into our ancient ancestors struggle for survival. Lake Eyasi’s principal source of water is the Sibiti River, which enters the southwestern end. The river may continue to flow all year round in wetter years and all the other inflows disappear in the dry season. Seasonal variations in the lake are large even though the northwestern shore is constrained by the Serengeti Plateau. During the dry season the lake can almost entirely disappear. The lake is also a seasonal stop for migrating flamingos.
The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂
Like all foreign countries, Armenia has some unique quirks that visitors can have fun experiencing, there are definitely some odd occurrences one will be sure to write home about!
First of all, minus the nicely laid out, single line metro in Yerevan, there is no map or time schedule of Armenia’s public transportation. With over 100 marshrutkas (Soviet-style minibuses) and buses, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it is easy to make friends with people waiting at the numerous bus stops around the city who will be happy to help you determine which bus will take you where you need to go.
After boarding the bus, be prepared to be jammed into the tiniest standing space available as there are no capacity limits for the number of people that can board a bus. The standard rule is, if you can fit, you can ride! When it comes to payment, bus rides are 100 AMD = 0.20 € and the strangest thing about the whole public transit situation is customers pay when getting off the bus instead of getting on! Of course, we also have new modern buses with wifi but they don’t astonish seeing that than seeing minibuses or marshrutkas.
Food and Drink
Scattered generously around cities throughout Armenia are major sources of drink: drinking fountains․ These drinking fountains, called pulpulaks, provide a constant stream of fresh, cold, drinking water to passersby and the occasional dog.
The water in Armenia is something of a miracle and is rumored to be the tastiest, sweetest drinking water in the world. Perhaps the best place to start your Armenian water tasting tour is in the capital city, Yerevan. On the anniversary of Yerevan’s 2750th birthday, the city was gifted 2750 drinking fountains which provide endless streams of cold, fresh, delicious water for free to all who pass by. How the city survived its hot, dry summers for 2,750 years without these fountains is impossible to imagine.
Unfortunately, there are no such food dispensers aside from the standard vending machine, but the “tonir” is a famous Armenian oven that cannot be overlooked. The traditional tonir is a cylindrical oven dug into the ground, where the opening of the oven is in line with the ground level.
There is a second, above ground version, of this oven which looks like a mound of bricks with a circular opening at the top. These ovens are primarily used for baking bread and the raw dough is slapped onto the sides of the oven to be scooped out via a metal hook once baked. To get the dough into the oven, the baker must reach deep into the oven opening. What looks like a precarious dive into the tonir, unlikely for a hope of returning without major burns, is actually an age-old technique that has been passed down from generation to generation!
If the public transportation situation seems a bit overwhelming, taxis are an excellent choice for traveling around Armenia (rates at about 100 AMD = 0.20 € per kilometer), but even taxis are not exempt from oddities!
Cars drive on the right side of the road in Armenia, but steering wheels can be found on the right or left side of cars, so check twice before you pop into the passenger’s seat, you might just find yourself opening the driver’s door!
Generally, Armenia is known for its wide open roads, with no traffic jams, but there is one sort of roadblock that is quite common: sheep or cows!
Many roads pass through pastures and farms, so cows and sheep often find themselves hanging out in the middle of the road. Not to worry, though, honking a few times is certain to have them moving on their way. Last, but not least, bright red Coca-Cola tents at every gas station. Gas stations often are equipped with two things: the above-mentioned coffee machines and Coca-Cola tents filled with plastic furniture, available for travelers to rest in while their cars are being filled with gas!
In many cities in Armenia, especially Yerevan, visitors are taken aback by the extreme cleanliness. In the early morning and late evening, it is common to come across ladies with brooms sweeping dust and leaves from sidewalks and park paths. In the Yerevan metro, one will find not even a single scrap of trash and the escalators leading from the street to the metro tracks are constantly polished and clean. Especially in the summers, to follow up with the work of the sweeping ladies, shop and restaurant owners “wash” the sidewalks in front of their stores. Either with hoses or buckets, the sidewalk is sprayed clean of any remaining particles.
Do you know which word Armenians like to use most?
The answer to this question is clear. “Djan”. A word that has no translation in any language.
We use that word after calling someone’s name showing our warm gratitude towards that person, even if we speak with a stranger. Thus if you are Michael and here Armenians will call you Michael Jan, don’t be surprised. Just enjoy, because they welcome you warmly.
The first rule, Don’t be surprised if your new stranger friend invites you his house either for having dinner or drinking black coffee. No other purpose, or something bad in that invitation.
Just Armenians are very hospitable and it is not a secret for the world. We love to treat our national foods to others. You will make sure in that when you would be out of the capital. In every village you will find guest houses, where you will be accepted as a member of a family, they will offer you a tasty dinner with an overnight stay.
We don’t smile to everyone
In a lot of European countries, you will meet strangers who will smile you while passing. Remember you will not see it in Armenia. Maybe, many of you will be astonished by that fact, but it is a normal phenomenon for us.
Not smiling to the strangers doesn’t mean that we don’t like them or accept you. But be sure if you approach someone and ask something, that, not smiling Armenian, will do his best to help you, even not knowing the language.
Maybe this is enough. Have you ever been in Armenia? If yes, tell us what kind of weird things you noticed here.
Now, all that is left is to come to Armenia and see these odd phenomenon first hand and discover even more curious spectacles!
The article is kindly provided by Armenia Discovery – our partner for vacations in Armenia 🙂
You can book any of their holiday packages via our Customised Tours page with our 5% partner discount!
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is almost a virgin country mesmerizing with full of pleasures, ethnic cultures, glided pagodas, adventures and natural resources. Myanmar is truly the one and the only country left in South-east Asia to explore. You will find a charming country of wonderful scenery and incredible local people in Myanmar (Burma). Want to get feelings like a time traveler? Yes, visit to Myanmar. It is a new world and a new light.
We suggest to pick up some famous destinations in Myanmar such as Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake with 5 days/ 4 Nights tour program with 4 stars hotels for each destination. Most of the travelers visit the country between October and April (high season). But you may visit between May and September (low season) because the rates are low and you can see still see the beautiful nature of Myanmar.
Tour Highlights in Myanmar
The world largest Man-Made attraction, The Amazing Shwedagon Pagoda and Yangon Highlights.
The fantastic experience of enjoying Sunset in Bagan from antique temples and pagodas and River Irrawaddy.
Regardless of who you are or where you are from, Bagan will welcome you warmly with his aesthetics culture.
Lifestyles of Bagan people.
Feel the cultures of Myanmar people in Old Cities and absorb fantastic experiences.
Observe the wonderful scenes in Inle Lake.
Learn the nature of Inntha’s village on water and observe their methods of fishing and planting.
Your trip will start at Yangon International Airport, where the private transfer is already waiting for you to take you to the hotel, however before that, on the way to the hotel, we visit Kaba-Aye (World Peace) Pagoda that is referred to the peace of the world, Maha Pasana Guha Cave that is a place of sixth Buddhist council was detained. During the day we also visit Buddhist Art Museum which are in same compound. We visit Gem Mart that is located within in Gem Museum where gem-sets of valuable stones can be watched.
After having our lunch, we continue to National Museum that keeps Myanmar’s art, history and culture. We set out to Sule Pagoda that is located at the center of downtown in Yangon and Mahabandoola Park near Sule Pagoda. Then, we visit The Amazing Shwedagon Pagoda that is enshrined by the four relics of four Buddhas at nightfall
Day 2 Yangon to Bagan , Bagan Exploration
The Ancient Bagan Historic Shwezigon Pagoda Fine Stucco Carvings
After having breakfast at hotel, you fly to Bagan by domestic flight (K7-262) in the morning. It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to Bagan. Here you will visit some famous places such as Nyaung-Oo Market that is a buzzling marketplace. The most outstanding sights of the day will be: Shwe-zi-gon Pagoda that is an attractive feature of Myanmar stupa built on stonework, Kyan-Sit-thar U-min that is a tunnel with well complicated paintings and Wet-kyi-in Gu-byuk-kyi Temple with antique wall painting of Jartaka scenes. After these exceptional visits, you have some time to rest in the hotel and continue later with experiences in Bagan!
The Archeological Museum comes next, and that is a perfect place to explore history and culture of ancient Bagan city, Ananda Temple that is a temple of enormous and best brick works, That-byin-nyu Temple that is rising to a height of 201 feet above the ground overseeing other memorials around, Bu-pa-ya that is near to Irrawaddy river and a good place to watch sunset.
Day 3 Bagan to Inle Lake, Inle Lake Exploration
Inntha’s Lifestyle Nga Phe Chaung Monastery Floating Villages
On the 3rd day you fly from Bagan to Heho Airport by morning flight (K7-224). A private transfer will take you to the Inle Lake, where you continue the natural discovery by a motor boat. Some of the activities you can experience here are the traditional methods of fishing of Intha locals, gold and silversmith workshops at Ywama Village and Cheroot-making workshop in Nam Pan village.
After the workshops you are going to visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda that is one of the most famous pagodas in Myanmar. This pagoda has 5 gilded Ancient Buddha images and it is a major attraction in Inle Lake. But the most exciting part comes after the lunch – Shan Shoulder Bag Weaving Center, Floating Garden and Nga Phe Chaung Monastery a very noticeable construction made of wood at the end of the 1850 called as “Jumping Cat Monastery”.
Day 4 Indein Excursion
The Ancient Pagodas. Floating Garden. The Old Monastery
After having breakfast at the hotel, you continue to visit Indein with several antique pagod complexes. While sigthseeing here you can observe the natural scenic beauty of floating villages.
Day 5 Yangon Excursion, Departure Yangon, See you again
The Reclining Buddha Image Scott Market
Today is the last day of your stay in Myanmar. We fly from Heho to Yangon by morning flight (K7-249). After refreshments, you visit the Chauk Htat Kyi Pagoda Temple (Reclining Buddha Image) that is one of the largest and most graceful Reclining Buddha Images in South East Asia. Chauk Htet Gyi Pagoda is a six storey-high Buddha image. Then you may go to Scott Market for shopping, because it’s time to say good bye and, hopefully, see you soon, in Myanmar!
This wasn’t the most active trip of mine … But it was the longest one I had lately! 7 days in Athens Greece – perhaps, having this much of time available, it’s okay to afford some laziness in between. Therefore, I invite you to review my life in Athens – all the things to do, all the places to go (or to avoid), and definitely all the restaurants to dine in 😀
The route from the airport was unbelievably green. We took the fastest route through the highway, but it also happened to be the most picturesque. As usually, using uberfor getting to the city.
You can check here the detailed instructions on how to get from Athens Airport to the city.
During this vacation in Athens I switched 3 hotels 🙂 Not because they were that bad, but it was the original plan – to try out and review as much as possible hotels, but without a hassle of relocating every day. All hotels are part of SPG network, so we had some enhanced conditions while booking.
Day #1 Must see in Athens, Greece. Or a light sightseeing which ended up in a tavern
After all the commuting and checking in hassle, which was actually quite hassle free 🙂 it was the right time to turn on activity mode.
Well, what can you do after checking in at 3 pm? A light sightseeing, with a nice dinner afterwards – that’s an active enough plan after all the passed kilometers behind.
As sightseeing route I would recommend to rely on your feet in the beginning, especially if you stay between Acropolis – Plaka.
We went towards Acropolis and had an obstacle on our way – a street artist making caricature paintings of you. I was in that holiday start mood when I couldn’t ignore such an obstacle.
So 5 min – and the best souvenir from Athens is ready. The cost is 15 EUR/person.
We walked along Dionysiou Areopagitou street, where we met our artist, bought some caramelized almond and took the stairs on the right to the Acropolis – it was of course closed, 25th of December 🙂 But anyways we had no huge desire to enter any museums that day.
Just to confirm: if we take AthensWas for a starting point, by walking straight along the street, the subway station Acropolis will be on the left, as well as the New Acropolis Museum, whilst the Acropolis itself – with all the ancient sites, will be on the right. If you turn right a bit earlier from the Dionysiou Areopagitou street, you’ll end up in Plaka – the most touristic part of the city, but also quite a photogenic one. The majority of tavernas with live music are situated there. But we’ll talk about it later 🙂
In case you chose to take our route, you’ll notice a hill (not too high one) – it’s the Areopagus (Mars) Hill. Always crowded, people are literally standing on each other’s feet for taking photos of Acropolis… Don’t climb up there, isn’t it a shame capturing these beautiful monuments in a complete chaos. There is a better place for that.
And it’s called The Filopappou Hill or the Hill of Muses – my very much loved piece of Athens :>
The Filopappou Hill or the Hill of Muses is just nearby – deep green & rocky, definitely my favourite place in Athens. It’s a nice itinerary for a walk (there are several caves, one of them is known as ‘Sokrates Prison’), birds, olive trees, and great photo spots! So just take the time to walk around and after the ‘Sokrates Prison’, on the right side you’ll see a path leading up. Take it and go until the very top, just until there is nothing else to climb up. You’ll find a perfect Acropolis & selfie spot, as well as a view of the seaside nearby.
Going back downstairs, and leaving the Hill of Muses, you’ll spot a traditional Greek Dances Theatre ‘Dora Stratou’. That’s actually a place where you could join a sirtaki dance workshop 🙂 We couldn’t (festive days…), but in case you’ll do, don’t forget to share your experience in a comment or even a short article maybe!
In the meantime while walking I made a reservation for a Greek tavern. Why not starting the trip with one of the most characteristic things you can spot in Greece! But before commencing with the dinner (starts at 9 pm), we decided to hang out a bit with locals, with a view.
Bar 360° – is a bit too fancy (or pricey) but a worth going place to celebrate the arrival to Athens. The bar occupies the top three floors of a large building on Monastiraki square. A glass of white wine sangria is 7,5 EUR, but you’ll get the Acropolis view and the vibrating ambience of a ‘locals go’ place. Tip: the elevator will take you to the 2nd or 3rd floor – which is marked as 360°, but don’t stop there, go one floor further – that’s Bacardi bar, and one more floor by stairs – and voila, you are in the maybe most beautiful and active rooftop bar in Athens.
Though later on I understood that it’s not a big deal getting the view of Acropolis in Athens – you can see it from almost from everywhere 🙂
Time for dinner – we headed towards Oinopoleion taverna (use their website to read the story and the menu, and their facebook for updates on events). We had a very Greek dinner with many different appetizers; amongst all of them above all I loved the zucchini balls and kept ordering them everywhere. And also a very Greek night with a band singing and playing local notes.
Surprisingly all the clients were Greek (well, it’s not a touristy place, their facebook page is in Greek only, and I just understood by the photo attached to the event, that there will be music & wine), and even more surprisingly, they didn’t react too much on the music. Almost no one was clapping, or singing, not even talking about standing up and spinning around in a dance. Actually I was the only one who clapped the rhythm until my palms started to burn (but they did already at ‘home’, at night).
Day #2. Trip to Sounio and the Poseidon’s Temple, followed by our active nightlife in Athens
Being extremely active after waking up, around noon, I decided that it’s time for a road trip, since there are some many beautiful sites around Athens. Indeed there are, but in case you didn’t rent a car, and rely on speed of buses, or other public transport means, you either wake up early at sunrise to afford some hours for commuting, or spend the largest part of the light day watching the views through the window.
And of course my ‘behind the window’ scenery below 🙂
Our destination was the Poseidon Temple in Kato Sounio. A place which I’ll always remember for heartbreaking sunsets : >
To reach Sounio you’ll have to take a bus from the Terminal and here is the timetable
The bus terminal of Athens is located at Kotsika 2 – near Omonia and Victoria metro stations. It’s not easy with google maps in Greece – the street names are inserted in Greek in many cases, which makes it impossible for you to type in and find.
Here is the link to the correct bus station, and just in case, the name which is searchable in maps – K.T.E.L. Nomou Attikis S.A
The one way ticket is 6,9 EUR/p
The route is beautiful, but a bit too long – in fact, it takes 2 hours, when it’s just 70 km!
Generally, you can enter the Temple – working hours from 9 AM to 8 PM, but we couldn’t… Probably because of the public holidays, on the other hand, I completely forgot that an open air temple might have any working hours… So we took photos from distance 🙂
And since we arrived at 3 pm, and didn’t have any breakfast before, it was quite a good time for the first meal of the day.
I found some restaurants during our long way there, and chosen Taverna Ilias which, surprisingly, was also closed, but, luckily, it’s smaller neighbor – Acrogiali – was fully functioning (and by fully, I mean that almost all the tables were occupied).
The food was great! I loved the shrimp saganaki, the fresh fried octopus, and especially the fried cheese. Talking about local attractions – the terrace is full of cats, huge, strong, ‘mafia’ cats. They have their own hierarchy, and a weak and small can eat only once the ‘boss’ is fed. So I destroyed this hierarchy a bit, by feeding exclusively a small favourite of mine 🙂
From your table you can access directly the narrow beach (you’re just one step away), observe the pinkest sunset ever, drink rose and prepare for 30 min of climbing up the hill towards the bus stop.
That’s what I forgot to mention – the bus leaves you on the top of the hill (comfy if you are about to enter the Poseidon temple), but if you don’t want to stay at the only restaurant available on the hill top (obviously it’s overpriced, and not a ‘local go’ place), then you’ll be willing to walk those 30 min down & up, for a great atmosphere, mouthwatering meal, and, btw, the view over the coast and the temple is much more unique from the bottom, than from where everyone else is…
But this wasn’t the end of the day for us. We had Napoleon plans for the nightlife in Athens. Not being a nightlife creature, I’ve spent a while on researching and finding (!) the best places, loved above all by locals.
Our first attempt was ‘Drunk Sinatra’ and I fell in love from the entrance. Actually, the entrance was the only thing I saw 😐 A magnetic vintage red curtain covering the entrance and then you hear that the bar is full, without even passing the curtain… I’m still disappointed that I couldn’t see the inside… It’s well known that Sinatra is always fully booked, so be smart and make a reservation!
Well, I always have spare jokers in my sleeves 🙂 So we continued our night in Noel – definitely the most beautiful and amusing night spot in Athens. Also fully occupied, but there was no one meeting us at the entrance door, so we sneaked in and found two tiny chairs at the stand. Everything in Noel is sophisticated and created with an overwhelming love to design. Even the menu was something exceptional, so well-done, that we even took photos of every single page 🙂
That’s where our night ended.
My heels flew me above the old city’s cobblestones and AthensWas disappointed by the absence of a kettle 🙂
Day #3 The best breakfast place in Athens, and the best dinner place and the best bar in Athens discovered on the same day. In between we had a trip to Mont Parnes Casino…
The third day in Athens was dedicated for late breakfasts and … casino! And again my super-planning nature faced the problem with finishings… Imagine me reading the reviews of the casino saying that you should take your passport with you to enter. Is there any possible answer I could give than ‘am I stupid not to take a passport to a casino’. And guess what happened 🙂
Let’s start from the beginning – the breakfast.
Perhaps, that was the best breakfast in Athens. Well, they were all great (especially those consumed, when others are about to have dinner), but this time I would like to point out the exceptional spot for breakfasting.
Couleur Locale is a 100% my style place! You go to the Monastiraki flea market, walk around, then secretly turn right to an empty street with some vintage shops, take care for not being noticed, turn right again now into the passeige and see in front of you a bar. Don’t stay on the ground floor (unless great fun is happening there), but take the elevator to the highest level possible (although in case you walk, you’ll see some antique chairs and tables at every level for a perfect selfie). Enter the rooftop terrace, say hello to Acropolis, find a chair and a piece of table, and order the reward for the dangerous spy route.
No jokes, the atmosphere is so completely local, that there is nothing left to do but to say ‘kalimera’.
As (an almost) local host who even had her own guest, I promised to show a casino with a view!
The Regency Casino is hanging on a level of 1055 meters on Mont Parnitha, in the centre of Athens National Forest. And I clap for the Casino to facilitate the access to this national park! They constructed their own private cable car station to give a special experience to those on their way to the heaven of table games. The funicular is free and no one requires you to use it only in case you come to gamble, in fact, many people use the cable car to get to the top and then enjoy a hike in the national park to get back down on their own, by foot. Besides that there is a free shuttle service for those having fear of heights.
On the other hand, if you are not using the shuttle, getting to the Regency Casino cable car station access is a bit problematic. It takes around 2h according to google maps and those who did the long route, and you’ll have to change 3 times, after which walk 22 min more… We chose uber, because we already missed half of the day by sleeping, so time was a concern.
This is your destination name for accessing the station for navigation: Cable Car Station, Parnithos, Acharnes. Our uber ride wasn’t more than 20 EUR, it took us 30 min to get there. I don’t know how much are the bus/train tickets, but if it’s 2 people and 3 changes, at the end it won’t cost less than our actual ride.
The problem is when you want to return from the casino. You won’t call uber, it just doesn’t find drivers in the area, but you’ll get only taxi drivers waiting for lost eyed first comers. Well, we had to take a cab, not too many options around. It went allright, and the total cost was 25 EUR, but the disgusting moment was at the end when the driver, who spoke okayish English all our way to Athens, stopped understanding a word after we asked for a receipt. Not a big deal, we could have called the police, but it wasn’t the amount to fight for and lose our precious time. However, after this episode I’m ready to cut a tongue of anyone who blames uber for whatever blamable against taxis.
Talking about the amazing casino 🙂 It was very good looking, a bit oldish, but let’s call it vintage. And here comes me with my ‘I always have my ID in the wallet’, who was proposing the receptionist to see the missing ID on a photo in my phone. Why not? 😉 There is always a chance, but this time it didn’t work out.
The restaurant was opening at 7 pm (we were a bit early birds), and all we could afford was getting out to the national park, taking panoramas and having fun of Greek children happily playing with the poor snow which they almost never see ‘downstairs’, in Athens.
We were a bit in a hurry though… Since a very special dining experience was waiting for us in the city!
Strofi restaurant is not something you will find in the buzzling centre of Athens. Strofi restaurant is not something which will advertise itself. Strofi restaurant is not for tourists. It’s for local gourmands (including expats who love it), who are coming there for a fine dining experience. And it will be traditional Greek cuisine, but completely different from the one you can find in the best Greek tavernas. Really, I was impressed!
We booked a table on their rooftop terrace, of course, with Acropolis view. For the main course we ordered lamb wrapped in vine leaves and goat baked in parchment paper and both were unbelievably delicious, that we even couldn’t decide whose meal is better. My guest even had the idea of coming here every evening for a dinner 🙂
What happened afterwards? Another local night out did 🙂
Baba au Rum – you won’t notice it from outside, but once you’re in, you won’t go anywhere until the party ends. Ranked among world’s 50 best bars in 2016, and, right now, when I’m writing these lines, I’m really missing the possibility of going out to Baba.
What impressed me the most was the service we got from the very entrance. No one prohibited entering, even though the bar was full. We got in, looked around the crowd and felt like it’s hopeless to find a spot, so we were about to leave, when the waiter caught us and offered two places at the DJs stand, for the beginning, as he said. And that was good enough for us till the end.
This was something in between the discipline of Sinatra and freedom of Noel. In the first you couldn’t enter because it’s full, in the second – no one cares if you entered unless you find yourself a spot, that’s when they come and serve you. Here it was crowded, but we got a helper to find a place 🙂 And the cocktails are amazing, just as their website says!
Day #4 Relocation to Hotel Grande Bretagne. The Benaki Toy Museum and the best taverna in Athens
This day was the check in to Hotel Grande Bretagne – my favourite out of all the hotels during this trip. A very lively lobby full of people, arriving and leaving, or just chit chatting next to the Christmas tree. The wedding of Prince and Princess of Montenegro took place in the hotel on the day we arrived 🙂 In a nutshell, it’s one of those 5* hotels which are not only showing stars, but also align the level of service and the quantity of stars.
We got the needed attention from the hotel’s employees, we enjoyed the spa downstairs with saunas and pool, and all the facilities were on the highest level. I can’t remember that I had some comments about possible improvements)) Only some modern buttons would be nice in the rooms – like ‘clean up’ or ‘do not disturb’ 🙂
Next in the plan was the Toy Museum! To be more specific it’s The Benaki Toy Museum, and it was logical (at least for me) to expect that the Benaki Museum on the maps, is exactly where the Toy Museum is. Not at all!
We came to the Benaki Museum, which made me suspicious from the very entrance, since they were announcing some religious expositions. At the reception we were told that the toy museum is at a different address and we can access it maybe by tram.
We took uber, which was around 5-7 EUR, but there are, of course other ways of getting there:
line B2 – here is the route – you should get off at ΟΥΛΕΝ, Palaio Faliro. It will take 20 min. The address of the Toy Museum is Leof. Posidonos 14, Palaio Faliro – use this address for google maps.
By foot – it’ll take 1:30 to 2 hours – but it’s a pleasant walk in Athens towards the sea, especially when the weather is nice.
The museum is very well done, and a great fun if you are with kids. The entrance ticket is 8 EUR/p, reduced for children. Some of the toys are actually functioning and you can spend some time on playing with your kids. I just enjoyed the atmosphere around, since most of the visitors are Greek families, so it was another roleplay for me, feeling that I’m also a local from Athens 🙂
You’ll find a Marina in front of the Toy Museum, across the road. That’s where you can stay longer and visit the Neraida Floating Museum – one of the free things to do in Athens, how about that? 🙂
Besides the museum visit, you can have lunch in the marina area – an option for those who came when the boat-museum was already closed 🙂 We’ve been to Napolitivo, and just next to it you can find TGI Friday.
The evening continued at our newly beloved hotel’s spa and followed by a night out in another Greek tavern 🙂
This time it was Orea Penteli – full of locals, nice Greek food and welcoming staff. The restaurant has 3 floors – underground, ground and first floor, and imagine to move dishes and meals between these, they installed a small elevator for food commuting only 🙂 That food traffic entertained me a lot, but besides this fun, there was also a very good band playing Greek music (of course). I liked a lot the singer’s voice and we stayed till the very end, until they stopped playing.
The location to Orea Penteli is here – again, because of their name been inserted in google maps in Cyrillic, you won’t find them, unless you have a Greek keyboard.
Since the taverna doesn’t have a website, the only source of information is your ears. We were on Thursday and they had the band in. Walk around (not earlier than 9:30) and either ask or stop where you’ll hear bouzouki 🙂 Actually there are many tavernas in that square, and the ones I know, are just the neighbours, almost next doors – it’s Oinopoleion (where we celebrated our arrival with a Greek band), the other is Taverna Tour Psirri, which was on my check list, but we couldn’t manage to visit all the Greek tavernas due to lack of stomach capacity.
Day #5 A guide to best fish restaurants in Piraeus, or where to eat fish in Athens
Next day I woke up as early as possible to enjoy a walk in Athens, just aimless pedestrian experience 🙂 I walked up to Acropolis by a secret route which I knew last year (when my local host showed it), and discovered that this year many people started using that half-hidden path 🙂 I went down to Monastiraki, my favourite square in the city, and then hardly passed through Ermou street – perhaps, the busiest in Athens.
Ermou is full of trade – not only shops, known and unknown outside of Greece, but also salep & simit sellers (so common in Turkey). Then I discovered amazing coconut bars and bought a few home, and, of course, realized, that shopping on this street doesn’t make sense, only passing by does. Sunglasses I liked costed 300 EUR in a shop on Ermou, in Athens airport it was 180 EUR, and I’m not talking about tax free… So just pass and enjoy the atmosphere 🙂
It was the first time we’ve visited Piraeus within this stay. And let’s talk about how to get to Piraeus from Athens in details:
There is a metro line M1 which takes you to Piraeus from Monastiraki station in less than 20 min
The ticket is 2,9/person and you can buy only a 2-trip ticket in the machine (at least that’s how I understood it)
And here you are in Piraeus – the ancient port of Athens, full of huge ferries, arriving and departing, and also some exclusive boats like the one we saw 😉 It was Al Mirqab – one of the largest motor yachts in the world, owned by former Qatar’s Prime Minister.
Piraeus is popular for two things – it’s a departure point for local and international ferries, and for its seafood restaurants. Locals love the fish restaurants in Piraeus, in fact, you will hardly find a Greek ordering seafood in Athens centre. Why? If in 20 minutes you can get the best of it with a view of yachts.
We chose Thea Thalassa (Sea View) restaurant, for its perfect view, rustic Greek interior and availability of tables on the terrace at the window. Although we were targeting another place – Varoulko Seaside, which happened to be a very famous Michelin star restaurant. But it wasn’t the place + mood + hunger for Michelin dining. We wanted ouzo and calamari! Luckily, the choice was made correctly and we weren’t disappointed at all!
The funny part of it was that most probably the head waiter and the waiter were father and son. And poor guy, he dropped everything he could, he messed up whatever he was involved into, and his father just kept complaining and hurrying him up 🙂
Day #6 Aegina island trip from Piraeus, which was actually a quadbike driving marathon
We had a crazy idea of returning to Piraeus again, now for a sea trip! The destination was Aegina – the closest island to Piraeus. If you won’t be tight on time (I mean you’re able to wake up early to make it for the ferry, I would rather suggest Hydra island. It’s a bit further, but locals say it’s enchanting by the rustic style it kept in this modern world. The island is car-free – only donkeys, and maybe some motorbikes 🙂
The schedule for Aegina ferries is here – the fastest boat is the ‘Flying Dolphin’ from Hellenic Seaways – it takes 40 min, but all this time you’ll be sitting inside the cabin (since it goes really fast, there is no, almost no, open deck), and there is no possibility to board with vehicle. The ‘Dolphin’ is more expensive than the other one.
The other option is a ‘classical’ ferry from Saronic Ferries – the route will take 1h15min. The tickets can be purchased either online, or in the port, and I didn’t notice a difference in price, however, for the ‘Dolphin’ the tickets might not be available anymore before the departure. It all depends on the day and time, since some locals might use it for getting at work.
The schedule for ferries to Hydra is available on the same website. It takes either 2h by the ‘Flyingcat’ or 1h35 min by the ‘Flying Dolphin’ – both operated by Hellenic Seaways.
As soon as we arrived to Aegina port we faced an obstacle which we couldn’t overcome. Quadbike hire office 🙂 The price is between 20 and 45 EUR a day + fuel. Fuel tip: don’t fill full tank at the petrol station, the usage is very small, you’ll bring it back almost full (when the rental office requires a quarter full). Here is the link to the rental agency we used, they also have cars, motorcycles, bicycles etc.
What are the things to do in Aegina? Well, don’t expect too much, the situation looks the following way:
The bike/car rental will provide you a map with all the sites to see and explains how to g et there
But I was I and prepared the itinerary the day before myself
There are some historical sites on this small island, a monastery, and beautiful coastal area with the best fish restaurants in Aegina
Although the biggest fun part was riding it all around on a quadbike with a maximum speed of 35 km/h 🙂
But talking about the historical sites:
Monastery of Agios Nektarios – a pilgrimage spot for orthodox people, where they visit the cell of Saint Nektarios. A beautiful monastery, can’t say anything against, but I’m not too much interested in religious places, although respect those who come there, and try not to disturb them by being a tourist in a saint’s cell.
However we’ve spent a while here, because the area is large and you can take the stairs from the monastery up to the Saint’s cell, on your way you’ll have a great photo spot with a view 🙂
Paleahora – a medieval village on the hills. From 9th to 19th century it was the island’s capital, now only the castle’s ruins and numerous churches remained. The story says that there were 365 churches, one for each day of the year, today the confirmed number of churches is 70, out of them 33 are open to visitors. The majority of the churches are getting destroyed just in front of your eyes, and it’s a shame that there is no ongoing restoration. On the contrary, the quarry nearby causes a lot of damage. We met a local boy and his father who warned us about not entering into ‘small caves’ if we spot some. Indeed, you’ll spot some of those on your way walking up to the hill, they are ruins of the ancient town, almost buried in soil, so commonly called ‘caves’.
Temple of Aphaia – the cult activity on the site was continuous from the 14th century BC, the ruins of the temple you’ll find today belong to the 5th century BC, they were built on top of several previous temples. The entrance ticket is 3 EUR/p and it takes you 2 min to walk around the temple and take a few photos. In my opinion, it didn’t make much sense to enter, because for me Greece is much more than the ancient ruins. But I don’t deny that it thanks to the great past the ambience of the country became so much liked by me, and, probably, by those millions of visitors from all around the world.
Perdika coast – that’s the park which we couldn’t cover, but it’s said to be the most beautiful side of the island with beaches and seafood restaurants. From here you can also take a boat taxi (8 min) to Moni island. It has no inhabitants, only goats and peacocks, deep water for diving and fishing and sandy beaches for those fishermen’s families. The regular boats go from Easter to September, although if you are in Perdika, I’m sure you’ll find a ride 🙂
Pistachio – Aegina is called a ‘pistachio island’ so as soon as you arrive you’ll see many sales points 😀
What we did is that before leaving the island we had dinner in a coastal restaurant. No, we didn’t have time to visit Perdika, but found a nice spot closer to the port – O Mantas sto Kima – they have live music quite often, just in case you’ll decide to stay overnight in Aegina 😉 The food was very good, we only regret for not being able to stay longer and enjoy it without being on the run.
The only thing we could do after returning from this quad bike driving trip back to Athens is getting upstairs to our rooftop bar in Grande Bretagne and enjoying the view of … guess what? Of course, Acropolis! Didn’t I say you can see it from almost everywhere))
The GB rooftop bar doesn’t deserve to be called ‘everywhere’, at least because it’s pricey, but what else can you expect on the roof of a 5* hotel!
Day #7 Celebrating New Year in Athens, Greece – with some inevitable adventures
It was the New Year’s Eve! Actually the reason we travelled to Athens. So after a late breakfast in Mani Mani we only had some little time to walk around, drink a tea in another rooftop bar with a view, and do our make-up 🙂
But let’s see the bullet points of this special day:
Breakfast (in lunch time) in Mani Mani – originally wanted to eat in Lotte bistro, but when we arrived they apologized saying that they have problems with electricity and the kitchen is not functioning. The next closest spot on my list of best restaurants in Athens was Mani Mani. New York Times recommended it amongst best restaurants, shops & sights in Athens, and maybe that’s the reason you’ll see lots of foreigners there. I didn’t like the food, it was too fusion 😀 Just look at the Greek salad in their understanding of it :)I don’t eat onions, so in Greek salads, since they are cut in large pieces, I happily remove them from the plate. In this interpretation of the famous salad the onions were almost in a puree state… I wish I knew :||The location is nice, it’s also a bit like hidden, doesn’t attract your attention from outside. The food is also good, but a bit too specific, and depends on your taste, of course. So check it out, maybe that’s exactly what you were looking for in Athens, or maybe not at all))
The National Garden, used to be the Royal Garden – greenery and peace in the heart of Athens. Locals with their children and dogs 🙂 I would imagine myself here sitting on the Zappeion’s stairs with a laptop open on my knees.
The Presidential Palace (or Maison) – just in front of the garden and something very much fun happens here daily, hourly. Perhaps you heard about the guard change at the Parliament, which happens hourly at Syntagma. And guess what! We were passing by to reach the National Garden, when the guard was leaving the Parliament (after the change) and heading towards… god knows where…
I imagined that I’m a princess and they guard me, that’s why I walk directly behind those tall guys with a weird walking manner. In fact, they stopped at a luxurious ‘maison’ and started to perform the ‘guard change’. Which was much more interesting to observe, almost alone, one-to-one with the guard, rather than staying in a crowd at Syntagma.
It seems like they perform the same guard change at the Presidential Palace every hour – in my case it started at 16:15, so I guess you can keep in mind it as a starting point for the hourly calculations.
The Panathenaic Stadium – where the first Olympics were held. Well, I saw it, but didn’t enter. The tickets are 10 EUR/p, and let’s say we bought them and payed 20 EUR for spending 5 min on the marble benches, taking some photos. But I’m very happy that we haven’t, because this really doesn’t make sense, and it’s very rude and unfair for taking this entrance fee for a passive activity like visiting a large piece of marble. It is beautiful, but it doesn’t fulfill you, best case your Instagram.
City Zen – the evening tea spot in Athens with a view of the Acropolis. Since we didn’t try anything besides tea, I can’t speak too much about their menu. But the place seems to be less popular than 360° and less pricey. If your main goal is to visit a rooftop bar with a view – it might be a very suitable place 🙂
And then preparations for the most important dinner of the year 🙂 Guess what, even here I managed to make a story with adventures!
We made a reservation well in advance for a NYE dinner at Hotel St George Lycabettus
Here I have to quote my Instagram post from that evening (I can’t let the emotions go, unless I publish them somewhere))
Imagine you are booking a NYE dinner in a hotel calling themselves as: ‘AWARDED BEST LUXURY ROOFTOP VIEW HOTEL at World Luxury Hotel Awards 2017’
… and then you are placed at a table behind the DJs back next to the kitchen, in a hall which probably doesn’t function as a restaurant, even the ceiling is much lower than the first hall
Imagine you are in this very festive #newyearmood
… and then the Head Waiter says that he ensured everyone was informed about being placed in this ‘backyard’ and almost blames you actually lie, that you weren’t ?
Imagine that he is that arrogant that looks like ready to slap you for not being happy with the kitchen table 🙂
… did I mention that the welcome drink is whiskey (sorry, ladies) and nothing else, the price for the dinner in the restaurant hall and the ‘backyard ‘ is the same (150 EUR/p) and we didn’t even hear a single sorry from the Head ? Waiter ???
that what I call a 5* hotel
Happy New Year @stgeorge_lycabettus_hotel ???
Hope in 2018 you’ll learn what is #customerservice ?’
I guess you got the point. We received the refund of our deposit and sat in the hall calling all the existing restaurants and hotels in Athens city, at 10 pm, on the 31st of December, if they have a table available (by chance)).
After numerous attempts we were able to get the desired ‘yes’ from Athenaeum InterContinental Athens – again a rooftop, but fair, no one is sat in the kitchen, lobby, or balcony, a very nice dinner in elegant surroundings and intelligent audience and service.
A bit boring though… It was that kind of audience which sits quietly at their table, consuming their food and talking about … maybe… weather 😉 There was a singer during the dinner, but she never stood up from her chair, or changed the notes of her voice once it got closer to the festive midnight.
However, I’m very happy that we ended up here, in a good place, again with Acropolis view 😀 But next year I’ll make sure to find a place where people celebrate loud (but not wild), where they express their excitement about the clock ticking towards a new year (and do have this excitement!).
Let’s treat it as a promise for 2018!
P.S. some fun & positivity from Monastiraki
Want a dream holiday and ready-to-go holiday itinerary?
I’ve been to French Riviera and Provence in the past. For me it seems like it was during a completely different life, in fact, it couldn’t be more than 4 years ago. Me wasn’t me, the one I know today. I had no idea about how to plan holidays, how to do research, I only knew (thanks to Coco Chanel’s biography) that there is a magical town in the hills above Cote d’Azur. It’s called Grasse (amongst other melodious French town names, not the most attractive one, isn’t it?), and that’s the place where Chanel №5 was created by Ernest Beaux. That’s where the capital of world perfumery is located, since the town has the best natural resources for scent creation.
That’s why after landing in Grenoble, and spending there a short day, I was absolutely sure that I want to visit Grasse 🙂 Do you have these insane moments when a tiny, needle sized detail makes you sure that there is a place where you should be. And there is no other option rather than accomplishing.
Those years I had no clue about ‘activities’, I didn’t know about workshops around, cool local places, authentic things to do. What I knew is that I can create my own perfume in one of the perfumery factories in Grasse. Which I did and that’s how my ‘Liberté’ was born in Galimard – a perfumery founded by Jean de Galimard Lord of Seranon, who supplied King Luis with essential oils and perfumes.
I’m still getting excited remembering Grasse. So I’m planning to repeat my journey to the most beautiful part of Europe – French Riviera. But this time I’ll use all the knowledge gained in lots of previous trips – I’ll cover both mountains and sea, I’ll spend time on local agriculture, but won’t forget about fancy yacht trips, I’ll see the lavender fields in bloom, but I also exctract lavender oil in a small distillery, I’ll go cooking to Nice and visit a 2000 ha lake, maybe I’ll join a painting class in Luberon, but at the end, I’m sure you’ll find me wine-tasting in Chateau Sainte Roseline…
Would you like to join me? At the moment I’m just looking for attractive plane tickets for July/August 2018 🙂
⇓ ⇓ ⇓
Other than that …
⇒ If you wish to plan your trip on your own – use the menu on the top right corner or just below in the Read More section. You’ll find out about ALL the possible activities in the region, then some authentic places to stay and eat, and also information about Nice Airport.
⇒ If you want me to tailor you a Provencal trip which will suit your personality, occassion, mood and purpose of travelling, then leave your note at Customised Tours page. I”ll reply you almost immediately 🙂
Barcelona already impressed me by the diversity of activities available even on the distance, when doing pre-trip research. But that’s half the trouble! Once you are there, you actually understand that you won’t be able to do all planed – because it’s Spain, it’s siesta, it’s mas o menos, and the cava is so sparkling… that even a wine tasting can occupy half of your day!
So my advice to you: regardless the quantity of time you’re going to spend in Barcelona, plan not more than two activities per day. Leave yourself time to follow the Spanish unpredictable nature, to aimlessly walk around the Gothic quarter, to end up in a bar which wasn’t marked in your itinerary and be happy with staying there too long to wake up early in the morning for another scheduled tour.
I believe I am a successful planner and controller, but despite my hard efforts I couldn’t control the whole universe around. Well, let’s see what I managed to accomplish out of my plan and what appeared in my trip as serendipity. Be both, my guest and judge in one.
That’s where I left time for magic on purpose 🙂 However, even this wasn’t enough. Finding ourselves in one of the most famous tapas places/restaurants in Barcelona – Els 4 Gats – and then in a very popular but quite hidden bar which is located on the most unhidden place of the city – Rambla, Boadas cocktail bar – the oldest bar in Barcelona (read about the places below). The night finished for me with a very upset stomach (and I don’t blame any of the places we went to), so there was no way to wake up for the booked Segway Tour starting at 11 am. Luckily I bought it from direct provider and they were understanding enough to take us in the afternoon. And by the way, the tour was private, though it wasn’t mentioned in the description.
Els 4 Gats – the restaurant opened in 1897 and became a very popular place of bohemian gatherings, I guess, a tavern, where you must hang out if you consider yourself being artistic. Picasso was a frequent visitor since the age of 17, then, he carried out his first exhibition in the big hall of Els 4 Gats. Big names like Gaudí and Rusiñol were not a surprise to see among the restaurant’s guests. I advise you to read the history of the place before visiting, so you can experience the atmosphere consciously once there.
Boadas Cocktails – opened in 1933 by a very charismatic person, Miguel Boadas, who was raised up in the bars of Havana and a quiet fishermen town – Lloret de Mar, at the same time (right, Lloret wasn’t a popular tourist destination a hundred of years ago). After settling down in Barcelona and meeting his future wife, Miguel started his own cocktail heaven in a tiny place on the Rambla corner.
Visit it – it is a spiritual place, because Miguel, and later on his daughter, they loved it as their home, Miguel died having a vision that all his friends are in the room and said to his daughter: ‘We must make a cocktail for all these people’. He died giving the glass mixer to his daughter and handing the Boadas Cocktail Bar to her hands. Today the bartenders are still wearing tailcoats and serving you a real masterpiece in glass. Average price: 10-15 EUR/cocktail
Besides Els 4 Gats we wanted to visit Bar La Plata – one of the oldest tapas place in the city. However, believe me or not (and if you knew me, you would!), there was no way to find it, whatever maps we tried to use. So maybe you’ll be luckier!
So passo por passo recovering after the night out, we found ourselves near the Arc de Triomf and La Ciudadela Park having a delicious Spanish brunch on the terrace of La Ciudadela Hotel Restaurant.
The Segway afterwards was amazing! Luckily I managed to learn it immediately and feel comfortable along all the 90 min (they also have 120 and 180 min tours!) Well, the best thing about it was the riding itself. For those who never tried, let me mention that you don’t have brakes, the eco-vehicle moves and stops based on your body-movements.
Some of the views were quite impressive – I really loved Ciudadela park and especially the fountain – disagree with me, but I’m so convinced that the fountain is much more beautiful as a whole composition than even Di Trevi in Rome. The guide was a good Segway rider, but not a guide – we didn’t get too many explanations about the places, stories behind their creation, local gossips etc. But generally he was a lovely guy performing magic tricks to entertain us. A very nice experience!
On our way to Segway we noticed a place with Asian mango ice-cream and other delicacies, so once again good fortune brought us to a worth recommending place – Tasmango Dessert – the visit in general can be called: ‘mango, mango, mango with a hint of coconut’.
If these words make you melting like white chocolate, than you are a my type of person! Besides the mango ice-cream (I would rather say sorbet), we had those rice-flour mochi cakes popular in Japanese places. And again – with mango!
In the morning before the Segway ride we bought a voucher for the Barcelona treasure hunt. I’ve chosen the Gaudí secrets in Park Güell. This is where we failed (and it was my fault, not the provider!). So the treasure hunt is a quiz online which leads you through hidden gems of Park Güell (in our case) by asking questions and making you answering them. And we walked up till the park 🙂 Already tired, I realized we need tickets to enter – no problem, I told myself! Trying to buy the tickets directly from the dedicated machine I was stopped by a staff guy, who didn’t let me and said that there are no tickets left for today. We could walk in the park itself – the greenery part, but not in the monumental area – which is the Gaudí-made park Güell! I lost my mood immediately, anger fulfilled me and of course the quiz is taking place in the monumental park, not among the trees.
So 15 EUR and an evening plan lost, and my email to the provider proofed that there is a note on their website stating that you’d need admissions for the park to do the treasure hunt. Well, based on this experience I can advise you a couple of things:
preferably choose any other treasure hunt path, so you won’t be tied to the availability of tickets to Park Güell (besides this they have 5 other routes available)
if you still want to do it in the park be sure that you bought the tickets in advance, because the treasure hunt is always available, but the Gaudí masterpiece on the Catalan hills is not
and definitely, with the treasure hunt or without you should see the park. The entrance before 8 am and after 9:30 pm is for free (at least the staff said so), normally the tickets costs 7 EUR
separately you can purchase tickets for the Gaudí house (5,50 EUR) – which wasn’t too impressive though. I would prefer to visit a house-museum which has all the furnishing left as it’s been in reality, but when it’s 80% empty – that’s not fun at all
And even without the monuments the park is lovely. If I lived in Barcelona I would just come here as often as possible in a peaceful hidden green corner, with a dog or a laptop 🙂
The day finished for us in a Spanish restaurant with amazing paella, again a not crowded place, located at the very end of the restaurant line in the port, too far for an average tourist to get there without being dragged over to a touristy place with a usually southern-oriental guy screaming about the best ‘cava, paella and whatever’. El Gangrejo Loco was a politely place, as I call them 🙂
Price and book:
Segway Tour – private tour 90 min – 45 EUR/person – Arc de Triomf – from Eco Moving Rent
Unpuzzle Barcelona – Secrets of Gaudí, discover Park Güell – 15 EUR from Unpuzzle BCN
Park Güell – 7 EUR/admission or 14 EUR/admission + tour or a private guide on request – buy in advance, online!
Casa Museu Gaudí – 5,50 EUR/person (located in the free zone of the park), online purchase
El Gangrejo Loco – the restaurant in Port Olimpic where we had a Spanish dinner with seafood paella and cava. Make a reservation online!
Second day was supposed to be very saturated – morning pick up of the rented car, then trip to Pubol – the Gala Dalí Castle, wine-tasting with vineyard, cellars and a castle visit in Perelada, finishing the day with a trip to Port Ligat and Dalí’s house. Grand plans! And I’m so proud I could arrange it all before the trip happened. However, human interaction is always unpredictable, so you never know for sure where you will spend double of the planed time.
We found a vintage looking Fiat 500c Cabrio in Europcar’s catalogue. The negative side of the story was that we couldn’t find rental office – we didn’t receive any email confirmation about the rental, so knowing only it’s Barcelona Sants didn’t help too much (maps showed only the parking place). The other problem was that when you are returning the car in non-working hours, you just leave it on the parking with all the documents. We brought it with full tank (and spent half an hour on finding a gas station in the area), however Europcar charged us for refueling, saying that they had to add fuel for 40 EUR. What a lie and unpleasant experience!
NB!: For some magic reason, the cabrio Fiat can’t be found on the desktop web-site, but is easily found in the Luxury & Fun section of the mobile web-site. Also if you want the pick up to be in Barcelona Sants, the Europcar office is inside the railway station, behind McDonald’s.
Price and book:
Europcar – The price depends on the day, we paid approx. 90 EUR with basic insurance included. Book online
Let’s leave negativity behind, Tavsan Surat is on a road trip in his little cabrio! We bought some pastry, fresh orange juice, coffee and water in the Sants station near Europcar’s office, so it sweetened our way to Pubol!
It took us around 1,3h to get to the Gala Dalí Castle – a beautiful place in a medieval village, far away from civilization even now. Actually, Dalí bought this castle to Gala because she was in need of a refuge and peace. The best part of the castle-museum is the garden with extravagant sculptures, lots of trees and hidden paths and a fountain.
Gala is buried in the castle, even though she passed away in Port Ligat. That was the reason Dalí had to get fake documents stating that the place of death was Pubol.
You will visit the bathroom with the dressing room and a fireplace in it, the kitchen, her bedroom and the guest room. Most of the furnishing is there, which makes you much closer to the Dalí couple’s life in their castle. Besides that – retro cars in the garage, the little park where you feel get lost. And the empty medieval village itself – perhaps, we were lucky to come in rain, so there were no tourist hanging around the streets 😉
Price and book:
Gala Dalí Castle (Castle of Pubol) – you can buy the ticket online – the admission is 8 EUR, admission + tour – 10 EUR
So let’s have a walk in Gala Dali Castle!
Another remarkable spot in the village was a medieval cathedral – you will definitely notice it when entering Pubol! We wanted to see it, however – shower-rain, no parking place around the cathedral, so we gave up 🙂 Send us some photos once you get there!
So we headed to our next destination – Perelada winery & estate – this is a huge project of a Catalan businessman Miquel Mateu. He bought the Perelada castle from noble inherits; he started a casino there, kept the former monastery transforming it into a museum of his antiques and a library, planted the vineyards and started to produce his own wine. I planned to spend twice less time here, but there was surprisingly too much to see.
We had the wine-tasting & visit scheduled at 4 pm, however as we planned to visit the castle and were ready with Pubol, we arrived a bit after 3 pm. We were told that the Perelada castle opens only at 4 (weird, isn’t it?) so we have to visit it after the wine-tasting. Okay, Tavsan Surat didn’t mind having some snacks in the meantime.
For the vineyard visit we needed the car – to arrive there from the wine-shop (the starting point). Afterwards our guide took us to the cellars where we’ve seen huge barrels and old dusty bottles with precious wine. By the way, one of the collections was not for sale – that’s Centenary Dalí – wine made of the first harvest from their most precious vineyard finca Garbet in 2000 – all the few bottles are dedicated to the Dalí Association, since Salvador Dalí and Miquel Mateu were good friends.
Finalizing the Perelada experience we joined the wine-tasting of 2 red, 1 white and 1 cava, however, unfortunately, the wines didn’t impress us at all. Tastes differ of course, but I guess if they made the tasting more expensive and would serve their best wines, like the ones from Garbet (100-200 EUR/bottle), it would make the visit more special and encourage clients to buy their most expensive wines in the boutique afterwards. Agree?
Coming back to the castle. We bought our tickets at the wine-shop, arrived to the castle and the security guys pointed toward Plaça del Carme, saying that this is not the entrance we need. Okay, arriving to Plaça del Carme we understood that it’s a monastery, not a castle, and even worse it’s closed. I didn’t give up – if the ticket is bought I will enter, I don’t care about locked doors, so I did my best to unlock the entrance door, but failed. However I was so notable, that a guy from the balcony of one of the houses on that Plaça, tried to explain something in Spanish and pointing somewhere right side. Which was a bench with old people, one of which said ‘siete’ – so seven… It was six, I still planned to get to Gaudí’s house in Port Ligat with last admission at 20:10… We tried to decide, Tavsan Surat voted for the monastery (even though not being religious), and I agreed – since we are already here, wasted a lot of time on ‘research’ and the place looks enormous, let’s wait a bit more to see if it was worth. And we had enough of Dalí that day in the Gala castle.
Just imagine my reaction when at 6:55 I saw people leaving the monastery with a guide – I run after the lady asking to let us in!
So now the explanation: the castle itself is a private property which you can’t access, it belongs to Miquel Mateu’s family. Part of the estate now hosts a casino – which you can access, of course. And the monastery also belongs to the family, and is now a museum where you can see one of the biggest antique – glass & ceramic – collections and libraries in the world. The entrance is each hour (so at 4, or 3, or 6, or 7 – or whatever else) – but be precise, otherwise the door is closed! The tour is private – only you and the guide, available in English, Spanish and, I guess, in Russian.
Even though it’s only a museum, it has a history of full castle value! The first fortress was destroyed in the 13th century during a war with France, after which the viscounts of Peralada decided to build something more spacious instead and the land of the destroyed fortress was given to Carmelite friars to build a convent there. And now the fun starts: the Carmelite monks were moved out during the confiscation of church properties in Spain. For twenty years the convent was empty, after which three brothers of the count family relocated there from Paris and faced a medieval, run down, out of fashion estate. Reconstruction, removal of the heavy baroque decoration, the brothers brought the first books to the now renowned library, after which they established a school for children from the village. One of counts was a teacher himself. However the next owner of Peralada didn’t have that progressive mentality and Peralada was waiting for its next wave of prosperity – under Miquel Mateu.
A passionate collectionair who finally found a spacious depository for his treasures. Nowadays the most notable part of the museum is the Glass and Ceramics collection – it is, in fact, the most important glass museum of Spain containing more than 2500 pieces. It’s worth to mention the jugs collection – or ‘porro’ in Catalan, which is a traditional wedding present in Catalonia, when the bride and the groom are getting separate ones, a male and female version. Besides that various drinking vessels, perfume (and sometimes opium) bottles, and even milk extractors.
The library contains around 100 000 books with the most spectacular collection of Cervantes, one of the best private collections in the world. The library and archive are open for researchers in the mornings and it must be really a once-in-lifetime experience to touch the books ageing back to XVIII century.
It’s definitely worth that one hour you’ll spend in the museum, and especially because you’ll have a guide to lead you through the history of the place. Without the very well-trained guide we had, it would end up being a sightseeing with lots of photos, without any understanding of the story behind those glass & ceramic ‘toys’.
Price and book:
Option A: vineyard visit + ageing cellar + tasting of 4 wines – 10 EUR/person, book in advance
Museu Castell Perelada – admission is 6 EUR, prices and tour options here
The original plan for the evening was to visit Dalí’s house-museum in Port Ligat and spend an evening on a beach I found in the internet, named as one of the most non-touristy and beautiful place in Catalunya. Well, being persistent, I wanted to follow the plan and at least get to the beach. In fact, it was a rocky place with many stones in the water and actually no sand. So for security reasons we stayed dry that evening and instead book a local hotel, had a great dinner on the coast and hoped to swim on the next day. There were a couple of reasons encouraging us to stay, but the most important was that Cadaques (Port Ligat is just nearby) is such an impressive white-blue housed town, all built on hills above a little bay, with many many boats (I guess their quantity is higher than the inhabitants’), that you just can’t resist staying there overnight!
My experience says that an accidentally opened door leads to uncovered miracles! That is why I’m so obsessed about whatever is closed 🙂
Price and book:
Salvador Dalí House – Portlligat – 11 EUR/person for House and Olive garden visit, and the web-site says that it must be always reserved!
Platja S’Arenella – not worth going for swimming, but I guess is nice if you have a boat rented. By the way, the island itself – Isla S’Arenella – might be an interesting spot, I found information that you can rent it out!
Hotel Sol ixent – a very beautiful B&B in Cadaques. Imagine you go on your terrace and see (and smell!) lavender all around, it has a great pool with sunbeds, restaurant which we didn’t manage to visit. It was a perfect last minute deal on booking.com – instead of 260 EUR/night price at the hotel’s direct web-site, it was 156 EUR on booking 🙂 So check out all, before you book!
Xiringuito la Sal – the beach terrace restaurant where we had our dinner upon arrival to Cadaques. First time in our lives we ate paella with ink (octopus ink), it’s so interesting, not like any other kind of paella at all. Make a reservation, they are quite busy, though we were lucky to get a table!
We couldn’t swim though 🙂 All the so-called beaches in Cadaques are not actually beaches, but slippery stones in the very shallow sea. The only way you should get wet in Cadaques is renting one of those shiny catamarans and deep diving on a solid distance from the town.
Instead of it, let’s go for lunch. But not as obvious as yesterday – somewhere hidden in those tiny-shiny white streets with climbing roses on their walls.
Cadaques – my new Catalan love!
I don’t know how, but I swear no google, no tripadvisor, just my 37-sized feet brought us to a restaurant located on the 1st floor of one of those white houses around, with sophisticated fine menu and some tables on their little balcony drowning in rose bloom. And they even run after us when I forgot my famous hat on the chair after we left. Amazing experience, that moment when unplanned impresses more than the whole carefully worked out itinerary (but you know only the one who worked hard deserves to be luckily surprised!)
We didn’t give up and tried to get another beach! Led to Bagur – the story says that Costa Brava was baptized on one of its beaches 🙂 I’ve chosen a beach club called Mar I Vente with extremely good reviews. We arrived and while staying in the queue to the public parking, I noticed the beach club’s private parking – which was closed. An A4 sheet on the entrance saying that they won’t open this year, but will be happy to see us in 2018…
The public beach downstairs was ‘fully booked’, no space even for a kitten, not to mention us with Tavsan. Both beach-restaurants saying that they are closed (!). Anyways we arrived, so we found a third restaurant, which also didn’t serve food – they started the sentence from saying that they’re closed, but served sangria which was good enough. So only their kitchen was actually closed.
Well, the beach was very nice – again a bay in the rocks, but now sandy. But quite small as for me, so you don’t feel spacious enough (if it’s not April, when there are no tourists). Next day we understood, that the best beach is in Barcelona, especially when you have no time for trusting online sources and facing the opposite of what expected. Or when you are not a solo-traveler, but a couple (or family) in need of comfort and hygiene (talking about sunbeds and showers).
So we headed to Barcelona, passing the famous Platja d’Aro and I’m sorry we were too exhausted to check it out, but as a bonus I can recommend you a restaurant there, it’s owned by an Armenian lady I know from an expat group 🙂
Price and book:
Restaurant Es Balconet – the super authentic restaurant we had our early lunch in Cadaques. Unique interior, blooming balconies and fine cuisine – all on a first floor of a hidden house on a tiny street! To get a table on the balcony – book in advance!
Mar I Vent, Aiguablava in Bagur – in case you go in 2018, tell me how was it, if it’s a nice place, okay? And call them, not to end up in our shoes!
Mediterrani restaurant at Platja d’Aro – owned by an Armenian lady whom I know from a common group. Have never been there, but Armenians cook well)) – Avinguda de s’Agaró, 117, 17250 Platja d’Aro, Girona (no web-site)
The last day in Barcelona. Actually not a full day to enjoy, because the end of it is bittered by the departure time blinking on my phone screen. But still we managed a lot!
Sunday morning we started at Camp Nou with their experience tour. I could never believe we’ll spend there two hours and that’s really something to see if you are not bored by football.
Very well thought out tour, a smart environment, just as I like. On each step when you would need guides to lead you – you have them there before you even think. Extremely high tech interactive materials – projectors, screens, touchscreens, headsets with the anthem sang on all the players’ native languages, tour to the pitch, press box, VIP-zone, changing rooms, and all the way long the staff is taking photos of you with a CL cup, at the entrance, with a player at your choice (they photoshop him:)
And guess what, the photos are ready and packed in albums when you are exiting – perfect strategy, when it’s in your hands already, packed in FCB album, you should really appear ugly on those pics not to buy it! You can buy the album with 3 photos for 39 EUR, one single photo, no album costs – 20 EUR, or have all the photos with the album for 59 EUR. A great business they do over there!
After the stadium we went for tapas in a nearby restaurant – apparently, where all the fans snack before games. And not only the food was authentic, but we had a bottle of white from Bodegas Iniesta! The blaugrana spirit didn’t leave us alone even outside of Camp Nou.
I was obsessed about seeing some more Gaudí places and since it was time to check out, we went to the one closest to the hotel – Palau Güell. I can’t say it wasn’t interesting, but it’s either me being not a fan of architecture and museums at all, or simply too dark and monotonous. Right, you see a couple of flours with rooms (again) where most of the furnishing is gone, only the walls left, then the famous roof with Gaudí chimneys, and yes, the ceiling in the guest room was made of gold (and had special holes to see from upstairs what are the guests doing), but it didn’t catch my attention for too long.
Price and book:
Camp Nou Experience: Tour & Museum – 25 EUR/adult, additionally you can purchase a guide or an audio guide option. Book in advance on the official web-site!
Bodegas Iniesta: el Vuit Barcelona – even though we were in another restaurant, I just can’t find it on the maps to advise you. So to continue the FCB experience Tavsan Surat suggests you a Barca fan restaurant with Bodegas Iniesta wines. Check it out and tell us how was it!
Palau Güell – the admission on the first Sunday of the month is free, general ticket (includes audio guide) is 12 EUR/adult. Buy online, or keep in mind that you can pay only cash on spot, no cards accepted!
So we finished with Gaudí and… wanted to go somewhere high!
As an option I had the Mirador de Colom – but the weather was greyish and I was upset I wouldn’t take nice shots. Then I’ve seen cable cars – why didn’t I know about them before! Going from Montjuic to the Port Vella they are an always exciting experience wherever I was before. But maps showed too far to get there, which was not completely true – it was shown that you can enter from Montjuic only, but in fact there is an entrance in the Port Vella.
The last option was the sky bar at W Hotel – certainly, one of the most noticeable, remarkable buildings in Barcelona. So we ended up there on the 26th floor with the shower-rain starting behind the windows. But what a beautiful place to watch Barcelona getting wet!
Soon after – waiting in the taxi line in front of the hotel and staying in the traffic on our way to the flamenco show. Yes, I know that Barcelona is not a flamenco place, but it was Tavsan Surat asking for dancing girls. What I loved about staying in traffic in Barcelona is that a car in front of you can be just a motorboat moving from one port to another 😉
Even though I lived in Andalusia – the birthplace of flamenco, and used to be kind of a flamenco dancer myself (even a bit performing), I was pleasantly surprised by the level of dancers and the show itself. They started from an introductory movie, then with a flamenco experience – we were asked to stand up and learn some basic steps and claps (golpe and palmas), and only then the show commenced. Sometimes flamenco, sometimes traditional Spanish dance & ballet – I even teared remembering my days on the dance-floor. Definitely recommend!
And, of course, as predicted our day ended up in the airport El Prat – on our way back home, to prepare for our next adventures and discoveries (that’s how I call home-staying!).