Tag Archives: European

24h in Mykonos & Why That’s Enough

Mykonos

Greece is so beautiful and varied – there’s the lush green of mainland areas, and the sandy, volcanic, almost-tropical beaches of the islands, and everything inbetween. The one thing that links almost everywhere in Greece is its sleepiness. It’s impossible to visit Greece and not relax – but sometimes abundant sleepiness can get a little dull.

Back in May we went on a Greek cruise (a lovely gift from Mother T) and enjoyed some beautiful Aegean islands and a few stops on the Mainland. Perhaps my second most anticipated stop (after Athens) was Mykonos – the teeny tiny island famed for its windmills & picturesque winding streets.

Mykonos is somewhat of a trendy Greek destination at the moment, particularly among bloggers,  and although it’s lovely, it’s not the loveliest place I’ve visited in Greece, or even on this cruise (see Aghios Nikolaos or Thira). It’s not all white walls & blue doors.

We arrived in the port at around 6am and had to get a tender to shore as our ship was too large to dock. Approaching Mykonos by boat, seeing the quaint fishing harbor bob into view, with the windmill dotted hilltops, was really lovely – Surely this is the best way to approach the island?

It was super early, so we decided to start with a spot of exploring. We took a hike around the gorgeous higgledy-piggledy streets, looking at the (closed) shops and tavernas, making plans to return for lunch. I noted that most of the shops were your average tourist junk shops, with the occasional gallery or jeweller. Not our cup of tea, but the island’s gotta make money somewhere!
We happened upon Little Venice purely by accident, whilst making our way to Kato Milli, which are synonymous with Mykonos. Truly beautiful, and highly instagrammable, though neither is a place you can reasonably spend more than 30minutes at.

Mykonos Town Port

The beaches on this side of the island are pebbly and not particularly comfortable, however, a short jaunt by tuk-tuk, bus or even hire car (about 30euro for the day) will take you to several white sandy beaches, including the one which Shirley Valentine was shot at.

In terms of history, the island of Delos is fairly close by boat, and you can hop on scheduled tours in Mykonos Town port for around 20euro each. The tours take around half a day, giving you another half a day to explore the island and enjoy some of the beaches and bars.

Food and drink on Mykonos is extremely expensive in comparison with other Greek islands and the mainland, but I suppose this is to do with importing items from the mainland, which will make them more expensive. We enjoyed some saganaki and fresh fish by the port, and an unhealthy amount of Cafe Frappes.

I really enjoyed my time in Mykonos, but by around 6pm we’d had enough of the island and were running out of things to keep us entertained. That said, I’d absolutely visit the island again, perhaps for 2-3 days as part of a larger Greek island trip.

Have you been to Mykonos? Will you be going?

Kitty

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Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Visit Vienna

The Prater Wheel, The Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna

This February we jetted off to Vienna, Austria to enjoy a short 4-day city break booked through Travel Republic (stay tuned for a future post on why this can be a risky business) and here are some great reasons why you should book your own trip to Vienna (and a few reasons why you shouldn’t).

Despite us visiting in February, the height of ball season, we didn’t attend a ball during our trip (more on why in the aforementioned Travel Republic post). However we did see lots of people dressed up to the nines on their way to and from balls. This is a big treat for people watchers.

For history, art and culture lovers, Vienna has hundreds of museums. In particular I’d recommend the Museum of Military History which is vast and fascinating – plus it has a military tank garden and a very interesting (read: tiny) section on the holocaust. Note if you’re going here and want the audio tour, you’ll have to leave your passport at reception as a deposit.

For movie buffs, you’ll hopefully already recognise my main image from The Third Man’s famous Harry Lime being an absolute bastard scene.
Prater Park in Vienna has one of the oldest operating ferris wheels in the world – The Wiener Riesenrad. Aside from being fun to say, it’s also a great way to pass 20 minutes with decent views of the rest of Prater Park.

Is there anything as delightful as sitting in a toasty cafe enjoying coffee & cake, watching the world freeze outside? The answer is no – and Vienna has hundreds of cafes serving dozens of different coffees and of course the traditional Apple Strudel, many of which we graced with our patronage whilst in Austria. Yum.

There will come a point, however, when you’ve had enough of scoffing pastries.
No seriously, there will.
When that happens there’s goulash. You can get goulash, butter dumplings and schnitzel in almost every restaurant & gastro pub and they’re consistently delicious. If you’re veggie or vegan, there are also plentiful choices of places to eat.
If you’re not veggie or vegan, then there’s a 400+-year-old place where you can buy pork ribs by the metre.

Beethovens grave, Zentralfriedhof, Vienna

If you’re like me, then no trip is complete without a morose amble through the local cemetery. Vienna’s central cemetery has more dead folk interred than the city has living folk. An area of particular interest is the Zentralfriedhof – or the celebrity quarter – where tourists can battle the moral dilemma of whether its too grim to take photos of Beethoven’s grave or not. See more about this in an upcoming post, but know that I decided I was OK with taking photographs of graves.

Finally for those of you who get bored of just one city, or those of you looking to cheaply boost your “places I’ve been” list – you can also get the train from Vienna quickly and cheaply to:

Bratislava, Slovenia (1hr, 16euro)
Budapest, Hungary (1.5hr, 29euro)
Prague, Czech Republic (4hr, 54euro)

Imagine sitting on a clean, warm train on a chilly day, with a nice hot drink, tootling through the Austrian landscape. Bliss!

Other stuff you should know
Usually travel guides just give you the good stuff, but in the name of balance…

The main thing about Vienna is that it can be exceptionally expensive – if you’re looking for a cheap city break then this is not it. Expect a cheap evening meal to be in the region of 25 euro each.

Visiting Bratislava is kind of a waste of time in my opinion. There’s not a lot to do, although its pretty enough, so we came back to Vienna within around 2hours.

Vienna is a truly huge city that takes lots of time to get around – luckily their metro is fantastic and highly affordable, but getting around town can be hard work. Be sure to set off for everything with plenty of time.

Don’t get a taxi to the airport – get the CAT. Traffic out of the city can be a nightmare, so even though UBER & Cabs have a 30 euro set airport fee, its altogether less stressful to hop on the train which takes only 15 mins.

In short, I’ve had better city breaks (hello, Athens & Rome) but I’ve also had worse ones (I went to Nottingham once). Vienna is actually really lovely, you should go.

Kitty

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Catalonian Calm | A Stay in Montseny National Park – Masia El Buxaus

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Last week we enjoyed our first real planned-on-purpose foreign hiking trip. Our recent stay at Montseny Massif in Catalonia was so beautiful and relaxing that I couldn’t resist sharing a little writeup of our accommodation and area – of all the places I’ve visited, I’d 100% advocate that anyone/everyone makes an effort to visit here. It’s cheap, it’s close by (approx. 2 hour flight from Manchester) and it’s so tranquil.

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We stayed in Montseny national park, which is near to Barcelona and Girona. 30 minutes winding drive up a dirt road from the nearest town (Arbucies) we crept across the dusty, beautiful threshold of Masia El Buxaus, a 18th century traditional Spanish house with sweeping, breath-taking mountain views. The first few words either of us uttered were “wow” and “wooow” – you could see Girona and even Lloret del Mar  over the hills. Being at around 900m elevation meant the views were spectacular at any time of day, too – the sunrise creeping over the peaks draping the lazy landscape with golden light. The twilight sneaking in, hiding the sparse farm houses, waking up their twinkling window lights. The crisp midday, with the sun beaming down and illuminating everything. The deep night, where the full moon smiled its silvery grin on the treetops, making you wonder whether that was a wild boar or just a bush rustling in the breeze.

  It’s the sort of place where it was impossible not to relax – no traffic noise (like…at all), the most disturbing noise was our own breathing (and the occasional bark of the resident dogs… but for a dog lover, that’s no biggy!)

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The guest house we stayed in was absolutely perfect, very traditional, with ceiling beams, old wood and that *feel* of quaint oldness. The bed was easily the comfiest I’ve ever slept in (except for my own, but that’s a black magic we all know about). The hosts, Noemi and Jaume were the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve had the pleasure of meeting for a long time – and such good cooks! We were served foraged mushroom risotto, veal, pork fillet and all manner of delights during our short stay. Jaume even took the time to set up the telly so we could watch England play – which was great as since we were the only residents there for the weekend, we had the entire centuries-old lounge area to ourselves.

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They were also really great about directing us around the area – lending out maps whilst we toured the local area. Over our 2 days we took long, picturesque walks, following tracks (like… wild pig tracks, and deer tracks) and enjoying some very interesting wildlife (wild snakes, anyone?).

For walkers, there are several long, gorgeous routes up and down the peaks, and they aren’t too strenuous  – and for beginners, there are plenty of trails you can complete in an hour or two which won’t break too much of a sweat but are still very rewarding.

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For those of you who aren’t into walks, but are seeking solitude and sanctuary, Masia El Buxaus is just that. With a room chock full of games and (Spanish) books, and comfy seats by the log burner for evenings, and a beautiful pool with staggering views for the daytime, there is plenty of R&R to be had too. If you’re a party animal, or like to tootle off to the local bar when tranquillity becomes tedious, this place is not for you – but as someone who has a tendency to get a little stir crazy, a few days unwinding here was just what the doctor ordered.

Find your own stay in Montseny Massif here.

Kitty

 

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