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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 “Simple” Holidays Are Good For You

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I’ve long been of the opinion that I want to see the world in a whirlwind of longhaul flights, fast paced days and nights spent on sweaty buses travelling between remarkable, lesser-visited places of beauty.
I still want that sometimes, but when we recently visited Praia da Marinha, Portugal, I began to examine my attitude towards “valuable travel” and realised that you don’t always have to be jetting off to new & distant “in” places to have a rewarding holiday.
I see many travel writers scoff at people who claim they “love to travel” but go to Spanish resorts on the regular – and I’m so over travel snobbery. I love going to Spain, and I’ll go every year if I jolly well want to!
Maybe sometimes I’ll go to Rhyl or Whitby or Torquay or Blackpool.

Lets face it, while seeing the world is an admirable dream, most of us balance wanderlust with an unfortunate shackle to the real world, real jobs and the pace of human life (and, y’know, a budget). Sometimes it gets wearying, and you just need a good old cheap-and-cheerful, beer-by-the pool break.

“Simple” Beach Holidays in sleepy port towns or seaside resorts with good food, good company and a bit of sunshine are a helix for a lot of modern day aches, and even if you’re the type who’d prefer to be halfway up Everest than halfway through your second beach-side book, they will make you feel like a new person.
Taking holidays is proven to improve your resilience to stress; improve sleep quality, reduce blood pressure – why would you not want a dose of that once a year!

Imagine sitting in a peaceful, empty beach cove. You’re listening to the waves lap against the shore. You’ve got the sun on your face. The office feels a million miles away, and even if you did want to check your emails you can’t get a signal because you’re in the middle of nowhere.  Bliss.

Treat yourself this year. Book a simple adventure-free holiday and unwind for a couple of days. Beijing and Sydney will be there next year.

Kitty

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Why Booking a Holiday With Travel Republic is a Gamble

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I’m a huge advocate of affordable travel. I’ve been “doing it on the cheap” for years – taught well by Mum and Dad that seeing the world is important, but that it needn’t bankrupt you. As you might imagine, Travel Republic has been one of the biggest weapons (in every sense of the word) for securing affordable trips and I have used them several times in the past few years (and will continue to do so).

It’s because of how frequently I’ve given them my custom that I feel qualified to talk about how much of a gamble it can be to book with them – and hopefully educate travellers that TR can only support you so far if  something goes wrong.

Travel Republic (from hereon in referred to as TR) are part of the Emirates group – and if you’ve ever travelled Emirates before you’ll assume like I did that the name is synonymous with quality and quality service. Which is kinda true, as long as everything works out. I’ve had dozens of awesome trips booked through them and no doubt will continue to do so in the years to come.

TR basically acts as an agent between the flight operators (kinda like Skyscanner but not as utterly gross), hotel owners (kinda like Trip Advisor but without the trusty reviews) and you – the beautiful wanderluster.
It’s not at all like booking with Thomson as a package, although it feels like it a little bit. It’s more no-frills, and requires you to be a little more savvy than the ole package holidayer.

First of all let me get all the other great things about TR out of the way, because there are some really good reasons to use them. 

1. You’re ATOL protected on many of their “packages” (flight & hotel combos) & they’ll ALWAYS help confirm this for you before you book, if you need them to.
2. You don’t pay anything more than they say on the ad (except for city tax & card processing fees)
3. You can pay as low as £1 deposit for hotels when you book your flights up front
4. They have a 24-hour support team for customers who are travelling (and they actually answer the phone and call you back when they’re meant to)
5. You can pay by PayPal (with an +1.99% fee)
6. You can book an outbound flight and inbound flight with different operators in one smooth transaction

Now lets get on to the ways in which you take a gamble when you travel with them.

Firstly, their property review system for hotels isn’t well vetted. For example we stayed in a hotel on Santorini a few years ago which had been rated 8.9/10 excellent by  previous visitors – and when we arrived it was basically a dirty shed that served stale bread as an excuse for the extra £4pppn supplement.
It’s easy for property owners to leave reviews of their own properties to skew the figures & reporting these discrepancies (with photographic proof) doesn’t result in TR making changes to the property profile. I was told by their CS team that “TR has no control over the images properties use to advertise”. Damn.

Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, they are just agents. But not like Thomas Cook. If you have a complaint against an airline or hotel, TR won’t resolve it for you – they just act as the messenger. You’re also reliant on them to confirm your booking appropriately with the airline and hotel – and human error in this respect leads to dozens of people (myself included) turning up to hotels who don’t know they’re even due to arrive.

In my case, this resulted in being presented with a 600 euro hotel bill in Vienna that I’d already paid for online. Fastforward 3 days of hardly spending any of our holiday spends, TR resolved the situation – just in time for our cab ride to the airport.

Of course we complained to TR on returning home, and they forwarded our complaint (after some cajoling) to the hotel, although it wasn’t the hotels fault, it was TRs fault for not confirming out booking. We were simply offered a discounted rate on the same hotel next time we visit Vienna. Not really an appropriate resolve, but also not worth the headache of chasing it up.

It’s also worth noting that the complaints procedure takes ages. After our stay in Danger Mansion, Santorini, I filed a complaint about a loose electrical outlet & showerhead that fell on my actual head, causing a bit of a bump. That complaint took 8 months to resolve, and only because I relentlessly tweeted them once a week until I got a response.

In terms of cost effectiveness, they don’t always come up top with fares either. Quite often the prices quoted for flights as a part of a package on TR can be sourced for a few quid cheaper if you book direct with the airline.

Here’s my booking formula.
I search the trip I want on TR and get a quote for flights – if the outbound & inbound flight are both the same operator, I check their own site & book the flights for as much as £11 cheaper (but sometimes the same price).
I don’t bother any more with the hotel booking through them, as it’s proven risky in the past. Instead I go to Booking.com and book a pay-at-location hotel so I know there’s a bill waiting for me when I arrive. Easy.

Of course, if you don’t like the drama of cobbling together your own holiday then TR can be a great tool. They can also be massive tools.

Kitty

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