Joined August 2015 Message
  • Day20

    London Day 2

    September 11, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Day 2 of London was as busy and hectic as the first! It's getting hard to explain, in everything in as much detail as I'd like so I may do a follow up entry summing up England later on. Also only being able to squeeze in 6 photos is difficult!

    Just a little note that yesterday we also went to St Pauls Cathedral. Amazing! I've included a photo as I couldn't fit it in yesterday.

    Today we had coffee at a different Lebanese cafe in Earl's Court before rushing to catch the opening of Borough Market. Yet another market that will get its own post.

    From Borough we caught a tube to Parliment buildings, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. All impressive and incredible sights in their own right. It was quite something sitting in a field staring at these 3 amazing antiquity buildings. It's quote something to be surrounded by architecture that has been around long before the discovery of New Zealand.. a very awe inspiring thought and place to be. Westminster was truly incredible inside, no pictures would do the inside justice so it's fortunate that none are allowed to be taken inside.
    From the inner city buildings we went home in preparation for dinner as it was Joy's (shh) 50th birthday.
    A long hassle of trying to find a taxi, then bus to Marble Arch in peak rush hour traffic left us rushed, grumpy and late for our dinner with my cousin Bella at Le Gavroche... and what a dinner it was. It deserves it's own post but I have few photos - until I can steal some off Bella - so will leave it at this: an 8+ course degustation in one of the world's top restaurants. The first in England and one of only a few in the world to be award 3 Michelin Stars. Run by Michel Roux, it was a truly incredible experience. Highlights were an excellent beef carpacio, a 30+ choose your own cheese trolley, hilarious twin Austrian maitre d's, and the experience of having one of the best meals and services in the world. No exaggeration.
    Nothing else needs to be said.
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  • Day19

    Athens Markets

    September 10, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Just a quick post about the markets back in Athens. They were incredible! All of the foodie stuff I wanted and was waiting for. Buckets upon buckets of endless olives, feta, fruit and vegetables. Not to mention mountains of amazing figs costing just a few euros per kilo!!!?
    Bread stalls and ready to eats were spotted but mainly the ready to eat sustanence came from roadside cafes and a bag of figs. Yum yum yum.

    The meat markets were something else also.. any New Zealand health inspector would've shut the whole thing down in an instant. But still it was fantastic: piles of liver, kidneys and general offal beside whole skinned goats and sheep hanging it the 30+ degree heat on the roadside.cut and optioned meats were mostly already snapped up by local restaurants but some still remained.
    The fresh fish market was coming to a close when we arrived but still had mountains of sardines, squid, octopus, bass, mullets and a variety of Mediterranean fish.. all sitting on a far too warm bed of almost fully melted ice. The smell was, understandably, strong and it's fair to say we rushed through.

    Finally come the endless buckets of spices, nuts, grains, seeds, flours, dried fruits and everything inaginable filling them to the brim!

    Altogether it was a fantastic market and a wonderful place to wander and taste.
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  • Day18

    London Day 1

    September 9, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our first day in London! What a cool city this is. I was expecting to hate the built up metropolis and for it to be overcrowded, noisy, smelly and generally pretty unpleasant. Boy was a wrong. The countryside coming in from the airport was beautiful: canals with boats, forests, rolling grassy hillsides and pretty buildings.
    Our first day here was busy and interesting. We began with finding a supposedly very good Lebanese cafe down the road in Earl's Court. It was as good as I we had heard: fantastic little Lebanese coffee shots, tapas-like platters for the olds, and smoked salmon, mushroom scrambled eggs with fresh made pita bread for me. All accompanied with some sweet croissants.
    The first stop on our day's itinerary was getting deep downtown on various tubes and taking the light railway to see the Cutty Sark. The beautifully restored vessel was just as awe inspiring as I had heard, and we all thoroughly enjoyed looking around her. The size and quality of everything from hull to rigging was just excellent, with plenty of accompanying information.
    Up the road from Cutty Sark was the national maritime museum. We went in looking for information on longitude (it being situated in Greenwich, 0 degrees longitude) and information on Captain Cook. Alas we found neither.. so just took advantage of the cafe for a quick refreshing drink before carrying on down the the Thames waterfront. From the Greenwich ferry berth we caught a fast cat down the river, past tall ship Tenacious, HMS Belfast, various Thames barges and the city in general. We got off the ferry near Borough Market (see tomorrow) and went to the tube station.
    Zoom zoom zoom.
    Up we popped in Picadilly Circus and Regent street. We had afternoon tea of salads, cakes and tea at the Hotel Royale Cafe which was.. interesting and not amazing but an enjoyable borgouis experience.
    From the Royal we went to Hamleys. . The most amazing toy shop.. 6 floors of childhood delights from Lego to soft toys were seemingly never ending. Just had a god look around before leaving as it was CHAOTIC. But very cool.

    I'm writing this a little late so admittedly may be missing details or not remembering as much as I'd like. . IL try to keep more on top of it in future.
    Dinner this day came in the form of another multicultural Earl's Court experience. This time a wonderful Japanese place with great dumplings, tempura soba noodle soup, sweet chilli beef and teppenyaki noodles. Very nice and very enjoyable. But definitely was time for bed back in our little apadtment.

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  • Day17

    Aegina to London

    September 8, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    I'm writing this a little late so hope I do t miss anything. We had a full day of travel, leaving Perdika early and dropping off our car in Aegina. A quick coffee and croissant before getting on the hydrofoiling fast ferry was a little much needed sustenance get us through the long hot day ahead of us. We stopped off in Syntagma on our way through Athens between Pireaus and the airport and had yoghurt with honey and fruit, with a very rich, thick, sweet and strong iced coffee milkshake to accompany it. The railway delivered us to he airport in good time and we dropped of our bags and sat around waiting for our Ryan Air flight to London.
    The flight took about 4 hours but was very pretty over Italy, France and the English Channel. A long train ride followed by a few tube rides through the London underground spat us out at Earl's Court Station. We wandered down the road, fumbled with some keys to get into our flat, wandered upstairs and collapsed from such a long and exhausting day in our lovely little apartment.

    Oh and forgot to mention the Chinese we got quickly for dinner.. it was just excellent! Highlight being blackpepper and honey duck, but black been beef and sautéed prawns were also nice.. not to mention the excellent dumplings!
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  • Day16

    Day 3 Aegina

    September 7, 2015 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    Our third and final full day o  the Island was very chilled. I had a late night Skype session the night before so slept in till 10 or so before walking by myself down to the cafes and taverns in Perdika. I had a cheese, bacon and tomato crepe which was a little thick and filling, but nice nonetheless. Accompanied of course by a few short espressos. A short wander around the town led to some good sanity reclamation in the growing heat before going back to the Antzi Studios (our lodgings). I chose to lay around and not do much for most of the afternoon before facing the parents again. A quiet afternoon tea of melon, pistachios and Baklava followed by copious 500 games was very enjoyable. Also a drink by the pool was nice, despite the overwhelming heat.
    The olds have gone down to the beach for one last swim in the Aegean before our final dinner on Aegina.  .ate than I would like but oh well.
    Tonight will be packing and sorting out what our plans tomorrow are. Boat, train and aeroplane from Aegina, through Athens and ending up in ... LONDON. Familiar languages and culture will be nice, but Greece has been an excellent country

    A late night dinner turned out to be the best Greek food we have had: boiled octopus, boiled greens, bread with a creamy chese dip + tapenade, lamb souvlaki, slow roasted lemon lamb, grilled red mullet, stuffed vine leave (brown rice made a welcome change and nuttiness), beer, and more French pastries for dessert.. all, for 30 euros.. the waiter undercharged us but when we tried to pay more he just kept saying "THANKYOUUUU" and shooed us away.. he must've like us.
    Straight to bed with a little packing and off to sleep.

    P.s. oh and I found a pomegranate tree!!
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  • Day15

    Day 2 Aegina

    September 6, 2015 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 36 °C

    The second day day here on Aegina followed similarly to the first. We had breakfast at the motel and went out for a couple of coffees. Our day was spent winding our way around the island and looking at the sights to see.
    We stopped in a small town on the north end of the island for some cheese and calamari for a snack before continues on trying to find our way up to the top of the island. After half an hour or so we realised we were very lost and very low on petrol. The next hour was of course spent trying to find  an open petrol station in a Sunday on a Greek island.. not easy but we did it in time.
    Upmwe drove to the top of Aegina, past ancient churchs, monasteries,  olive trees, fig trees and pistachio plantations for which the island is famous.
    At the top of our drive was an ancient stone temple like a baby Parthenon.  Apparently built prior to and the inspiration for the afore mentioned monument. However this one was in far better condition and virtually empty of tourists and sightseers, so a marked improvement. Accompanying it was an excellent museum full of artifacts and reconstruction. A real hidden secret of Aegina.
    Of course there was an accompanying cafe where we had cold drinks and ice cream - again much needed as for the mid-late 30s degree heat with little shade.
    Our descent back towards the comparitive civilization was quick and easy and didn't stop until back in Perdika. We did a supermarket and afternoon tea run, just some bread and tzatziki with some Greek pine needle wine, not as nice as it sounds.
    Dinner was just simple bread, cheese, figs, jam, honey and fruit juice. A late night game of 500 and a quick swim finished off the evening nicely. All in all an OK day.. full,  of the same, frustration but managed to get away from the antagonist enough for it to be bearable.
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  • Day14

    Day 1 Aegina

    September 5, 2015 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Our first full day on Aegina started with our first in home breakfast of muesli, yoghurt, figs and fruit juice, followed by a coffee after our drive from Perdika to Aegina town. In Aegina we took in the Greek people and culture by exploring backstreets and shopping. We bought new shoes and light weight hot Greek weather shirts from a crazy Greek shop owner who greeted us with "hello there! Thank you for coming and saving my country!!" And old but effective means of luring unsuspecting tourists into his shop. The clothes and shoes we bought were nice and comfy, perfect for the 35-40 degree sweltering temperatures. From the clothes shop we found a bakery and bought some lovely bread, sesame bagel type buns and Baklava... sold by the kilogram. After the bakery came delicious figs, fresh feta cheese - firmer and less salty sharp than we are used to in New Zealand - and gelaato to sustain us for our walk back to the car.
    As we,  as food we bought some local newspapers and small presents to take back home. We returned home and ate the food we had bought, along with some wonderful honey from the day before, and had a swim in our motel's pool; a welcome event during the brightest and hottest part of the day.

    After our swim and siesta time we went for a drive along the hill tops to try and find a so-called picturesque mountain side village. The "village" of a few houses and not even a taverna turned out to be a bit of a let down, accompanied with the supposedly wonderful beach at the bottom of the steeply sloping hills and valley... also a let down.
    Dinner was had at one of the little restarts on the quay in Perdika. We had taramasalata, boiled greens, bread, little grilled sardines, grilled swordfish and moussaka, with Mythos beer and a little cake and watermelon complimentary. It was all nice but nothing spectacular. Again my phone died for some of this day so I may have to steal a few photos from someone else. Also generally feeling pretty down, tired and grumpy hasn't inspired me to take many photos but this will hopefully change (or like I say, steal someone else's photos). In fact it seems as if I took none this day.. oh well tomorrow will be more!!
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  • Day14

    Athens to Aegina

    September 5, 2015 in Greece ⋅ 🌙 27 °C

    Another day of travel and sorting out began again hot and dry. We descended the streets down to Dmitris for a coffee and some more friendly discussion, mostly political, with one of our friends from the previous day.
    From Dmitris, a quick tube ride with and interchange followed by another tube ride arrived us at Pireaus, the port town of Athens. Pireaus is a bustling port full of cargo, passenger and fast ships and ferries. We stopped for a cold drink as the temperature rose and I explored the various maritime shops that lined the streets. I managed to pick up a small folding knife both because it's handy to carry one round and also because one cannot have too many knives!
    From our coffees we went in search of the ferry office; a 15 minute walk left us sitting in the shade with homeless immigrants - we assume recently arrived from North Africa - begging around us. The first real sign of the huge social issues surrounding Greece and the immigrant problems of Europe.

    We boarded the ferry to take us to Aegina: a hydrofoiling high speed "flying dolphin" which was a fun, if a little bumpy, quick ride to the island. We disembarked and waited in whatever shade we could find for George to drop our hire care off to us. George was friendly and certainly perked up once learning that we were not from the UK but rather New Zealand "ahh good place!". George had seen much of NZ from his time as an engineer on big ocean going cargo ships.
    We drove (on the right) along the coastline to our little apartment motel in Perdika, a small town on the Western end of Island full of restaurants and fishing boats. We lunched on the waterfront in a small taverna. We had excellent baked mushrooms, baked peppers, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, souvalaki, and fried little fish. The baked mushrooms and peppers were roasted in a dish with heaps of different cheese, both halloumi and melty delicious stringy tangy cheese. The stuffed toms and peppers looked good but I didn't taste them, with the souvalaki nice and highlighted with an excellent garlicy tzatziki. My little fried fish were just what the menu said: fried little fish. To be eaten heads and all, slightly crispy and fried with just a dusting of flour, very nice. All washed down with beer, Coke and Fanta.
    From our restaurant we meandered along the waterfront gazing at the water, rocks, distant islands, churches and general passers by. I got once again more and more frustrated at the argumentative, put downy, arrogant manner in which conversation is often had these days so I decided to walk ahead of the others and sit on the waterfront by our car for 10 minutes while I waited for them to catch up. We went from there to a supermarket to quickly pick up some general groceries and returned home. The night was spent relaxing, eating melon and drinking pomegranate juice in my room. Another grumpy and not all together happy end to what should've been a lovely day.
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  • Day13

    Exploring Athens

    September 4, 2015 in Greece ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    Our second day dawned bright, hot and cloudless as the day before, yet with a heightened anticipation of fun and exploring. We left our lodgings after a quick shower and plan and headed down the road to find the closest coffee and breakfast we could. We came across a small roadside cafe where Dmitri brew up 3 of the finest, shortest espressos we are sure to have all trip. As we sipped our coffee we chatted with the locals and firmed up our plan for the coming few days.
    We moved on to breakfast which turned out to be just a few minutes up the road and another few away from the Acropolis. Through a mixture of pointing and sign language we managed to order 3 servings of cheese and spinach crepes and 3 orange juices. The juice was freshly squeezed and delicious while the crepes we gentle, filling and lightly flavoured; rustic and satisfying. It was thoroughly enjoyable just watching Greece go past, with basil bushes lining the roads, trucks and bicycles zooming by and friendly people muttering "calimera" (good morning) on their way past.

    Onwards we went up to the Acropolis, baking our way up the few hundred metres to the summit where the Parthenon and other temples, ruins and ancient artifacts reside. It was HOT, and with no shade and nowhere to rest there were many complaints from my traveling companions. I tried to block it out and take in and admire the incredible history of what I was looking at, and the incredible views over the whole of Athens, Pireaus and out to sea.
    From the Acropolis we had lunch at it's accompanying museum just down the hill and viewed more historical artifacts and reconstructions of the ancient Parthenon - all of course within the safety of air conditioning. It was both interesting and enjoyable, while lunch was another authentic and odd experiece. I had wonderful little pikelet pancakes with thyme honey, tahini and grape molasses, Joy had a sesame bagel type bread roll with cheese, and Vernon had strange donuts covered in honey and pistachios: nice but cleaner frying oil and some contrasting fruit wouldn't have gone amiss. Afterwards we descended the streets into normal Athens and took the tube again back to our hotel.

    (Unfortunately my phone died up the acropolis so the centre part of this day I failed to document. However I may steal some pics from v and j and upload them later)

    Next stop on our day was the markets, which are deserving of their own entry in this blog, but which took up the majority of the afternoon and ended us up back at Syntagma Square (Parliament in Athens) and at yesterday's hotel for another cocktail. This one was not nearly as strong and harsh, but a floral and beautifully scented Lychee Martini, one of the nicest things I have ever drunk.
    From Syntagma we again took the tube home and went out to dinnner: my choice as I so highly recommended the small taverna I visited the night before. We were not let down and consumed the following: cheese, bread, fava bean dip, bread, prawn saganaki, meatballs, sausage with red beer stew, mustard chicken, bread, beer, sangria and some strange deep fried salty chocolate covered pancakes. Weird but excellent.
    From dinner we went to our hotel again for a final nightcap of hot chocolate whilst looking up at the illuminated Parthenon from the hotel's garden roof top restaurant and went onto bed. A decidedly better day than the one before.
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