Veni Vini Amori We came. We saw. We loved!
  • Day62

    Plaka, Athens

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    The Plaka district is built on top of the old residential area of ancient Athens and is known as the "Neighbourhood to the Gods" due to its proximity to the Acropolis and many archaeological sites. The Plaka area has a real mix to it, some streets have quite elegant buildings that are well looked after, and other streets have run downs buildings covered in graffiti. Some of the walls on some of the buildings have been built from pieces from older building, recycling their decorative pieces to create interesting walls and laneways. It does appear to be quite decorate here – even the bars on the windows have a bit of decoration.

    We stopped at one of the tree-canopied covered cafes for lunch where we enjoyed a traditional Greek meal of Souvlaki with pita and tzatziki. It was very surprising that it was served with chips as we hadn’t had any so far on our trip but the salad was very welcomed, as I had been missing that.

    One thing about the area is that no matter where you are, if you look up you can see the Acropolis atop the hill with the large Greek flag flying proudly overlooking the city. It is a pretty impressive sight. It was a wonderful first day in Athens which we finished with a stroll back down to Monastiraki Square for another Greek dinner. It is a bustling, vibrant area to enjoy the evening.
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  • Day62

    Plaka Markets, Athens

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the Plaka markets and the Plaka district. One thing I love here compared to Italy is the amount of greenery and shade. There are plants everywhere, spilling over balconies, hanging off fences, lining the cobblestone laneways, it has a very inviting and lush feel. There are so many restaurants and cafes nestled amongst the trees, spilling onto the surrounding stairs and lanes, it has a great vibe.

    Some of the items on display in the market did make us do a double take with the most surprising one being the racks of wooden penises of all sizes and colours. We weren’t sure what the significance is to Athens so we asked one of the vendors. She told us they just sold well so no reason other than they are a novelty gift that makes money. The other thing that freaked us out every time we walked through the market was the “Children of the Corn” mannequins. Very creepy.

    I did love a lot of the shop displays and I loved the colours and vibrancy of the market. Even though there is a lot of tourist tatt for sale, there were also some very authentic and nice pieces to be found.
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  • Day62

    Greek Graffiti

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    One thing that surprised me as we walked the streets of Athens was the amount of graffiti. It still amazes me that people will vandalise such historic buildings and vandalise other people’s artwork. There appears to be a lot of street art, which is different to graffiti, but it too has been tagged and vandalised. That is one thing that doesn’t seem to happen at home, if a space has been covered with artwork it doesn’t seem to get graffitied.

    There are definitely some unusual pieces of street art adorning some of the walls, they really make you question what on earth the “artist” was thinking when they created it. In some places it has improved the small alleyways but it other places it just seems so wrong to have street art and graffiti destroying the look of the old buildings.
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  • Day62

    The Acropolis, Athens

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Next stop was the Acropolis and I have to admit I wanted to postpone this trip to a sunnier day as it was quite overcast and I love photographing these ancient sites against a bright blue sky whenever possible. But Brad was determined to go today.

    With a €20 entrance fee, it is the most expensive site we have visited on this whole trip but I have to admit it was an amazing feeling walking where people worked and worshipped so many centuries ago. Construction of the Parthenon commenced in 447 BC and it is amazing there is still anything left to see.

    Over the years attempts at restoration have actually caused more damage and there is major restoration work still happening. Today’s restoration processes involve replacing missing sections with temporary pieces while they search to find the original piece amongst the piles of collected original pieces. It is like a giant jigsaw and it is great to see they are attempting to restore it to its original authentic state.

    The Acropolis site also contains the ruins of many shrines and temples, including the Temple of Erechtheion built between 421 – 406 BC, and a theatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus built in 161 AD.

    The sheer size of these structures makes you wonder how on earth they were built without the modern machinery we have today, and the location on the top of the hill would have added to those challenges. Standing amongst these amazing structures, looking over Athens is a great feeling.
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  • Day62

    Gate of Medrese (Madrasah), Athens

    October 30, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Today is the day Brad gets to visit the Acropolis and he is so excited about it. Seeing it lit up on the hill when we were out last night was a bit surreal. There are so many ancient ruins throughout Athens that are just a part of every day life here. So much history and so many interesting things to see. On our way to the Acropolis I saw this beautiful door and decided to photograph it. It stood out, probably because of its colour or its position, and it wasn’t until we were back at our room that I discovered the importance of that door.

    It is called the Gate of Medrese and is a visible reminder of dark times. The doorway is all that remains of the Ottoman era Islamic Madrasa (Theological School) of Athens. In the center of the courtyard was a large plane tree that became a gathering place for leaders of the Muslim community. Over time, this tree became the symbol of the Madrasa.

    The school was built in 1721 and was later converted to a prison. During its years as a prison, the living quarters became overcrowded, inhumane prison cells, and the plane tree became a hangman’s tree for hundreds of executions. Those not executed were subjected to torture and slavery.

    The Madrasa was nearly destroyed during the early part of the Greek War of Independence. After the liberation of Athens, the Madrasa was rebuilt and used as barracks by the Greek Army for the remainder of the war. After the Greeks’ victory, it was converted yet again, this time into a prison for both Turks and Greek political prisoners. The new Greek government revived the hangings on the plane tree for “deserving” Turks and traitorous Greeks.

    The prison was finally closed right before the 20th century, and the Archaeology Department began demolition in search of older and more important artefacts. By 1915, all that remained was the main door and a small portion of the adjacent exterior walls. The tree was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1919, appropriately closing a chapter on the horrific things that took place on and around it.

    The door is now a symbol of its history, a dark reminder of what has been before.
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  • Day61

    Monastiraki Square, Athens

    October 29, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We said a sad goodbye to Santorini today and made our way to Athens by plane. What I didn’t know when booking our flights was that the plane from Santorini to Athens is a small plane, a very small plane. Brad got so excited when we checked in at the airport and asked how full the plane was and the reply was that there were only 40 people booked for the flight. He had started picturing us having an aisle of seats each for the flight, room to spread out etc. What we discovered upon boarding the plane was that it only fit 40 people!! And we had to wait on the tarmac for the pilot to casually arrive before we could board. Brad was positive he was going to die on his birthday. I didn’t mind the smaller plane as we flew a bit closer to the ground and could see a lot more. I figured there was also less distance to fall should we have any issues. Needless to say Brad was more than relieved when we landed in Athens.

    Our next adventure was with our taxi driver. Brad found a mobile phone on his seat when he hopped in the taxi and our driver said it belonged to his friend. Anyway, his friend happened to pass us on the highway so our taxi driver went after him, honking his horn trying to get him to pull over. It had the opposite effect with the other taxi driver driving even faster. I think at one point we were doing close to 160km/h trying to get this guy’s attention. He eventually realised who was chasing him and finally pulled over – in the middle of the highway. And we thought the Italians thought they were indestructible on the roads. It certainly was an experience.

    We somehow managed to survive the flight and the taxi ride and finally made it to our accommodation for the next couple of nights. Due to changes in our itinerary we now have six nights in Athens instead of four but were unable to extend our original booking so we booked a room at Athens’s Luxury Suites. Our room was great, spacious with a very big comfy bed and a roomy bright red bathroom. We were impressed.

    After checking in and a rest we headed out for dinner and to check out our surroundings. We could see the Acropolis and the Parthenon lit up in the distance and can’t wait to visit it tomorrow. We walked down to the Monastiraki Square, the main square in the old town of Athens. This seemed to be the central spot for the neighbourhood and everywhere we visited always seemed to return to this spot. From here we made our way to a street full of restaurants, with hosts trying to entice passers-by inside with their colourful menus and iPads, very 21st century. We chose to have dinner at Efxaris, a traditional Greek restaurant. I happened to mention it was Brad’s birthday and boy did he get spoilt. We were given free drinks and desserts and the band even sang Happy Birthday to Brad, which embarrassed him completely. The food was delicious, and it is nice to try another cuisine.

    We ended the night with a stroll through the area, being amazed at the ruins we were walking amongst, checking out some of the market stalls and trying our first Greek gelato. We are looking forward to hitting the streets tomorrow.
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  • Day60

    Santorini

    October 28, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    It is our last day in Santorini and we are very sad to be leaving here as it has been so relaxing and peaceful. We have absolutely loved our time here. We will sorely miss the amazing breakfasts enjoyed on our patio, our holiday pet cat that has joined us for breakfast every day, relaxing on our terrace admiring the stunning vista, the Golden Sunset Café with its delicious food and fabulous host, and the most beautiful sunsets we have ever experienced. This is a magical place that we have both fallen in love with.

    We spent our last day enjoying the area around us, no itinerary, no deadlines, just walking, talking, eating and drinking and having a great time. We spent our last evening back at the Golden Sunset Café as it seemed quite fitting that we have our last meal back where we started, and where we have stopped at least once every day since. Enjoying the fabulous Greek hospitality, we enjoyed our last meal while watching our last sensational Santorini sunset.
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  • Day59

    Oia, Santorini

    October 27, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Another easy morning with a very delicious breakfast on our terrace. This is such a beautiful place to wake up to and we are loving the ease of staying here. We had a very relaxing morning lazing in the spa and just chilling out.

    We decided to go to “our local”, the Golden Sunset Cafe for lunch and Brad once again ordered his favourite, grilled squid, and I tried the local tomato balls which were delicious. Brad has been enjoying the local beer, Mythos, and the local white wine has been very easy to drink. Initially we did think €5 per glass was expensive but it is a very big glass and they fill it to the top. Great value.

    After lunch we decided to catch the bus to Oia, the other well known town of Santorini. The bus ride was interesting as there appear to be no limit to the number of people you can fit on a bus. We were crammed in and actually stood in the back stairwell for most of the journey.

    It was very interesting seeing the contrast between the “tourist” towns and the local areas of Santorini. It is very dry and arid looking here and we did wonder how the locals survive as there is very little farming. The other thing we were unaware of when booking was that the majority of the towns close down once the tourist season is over and I do wonder how many of the locals actually stay on the island.

    Oia is a very pretty town and different to Fira in that there is more colour in the buildings and a slightly different style. I loved wandering through the shops as they offered different things to what Fira offered. We walked into an art gallery and walked out with a lovely canvas picture of one of the many interesting doors in Oia. We love taking home a piece of art to put on the walls as it is a constant reminder of our wonderful adventures.

    We spent a very relaxing afternoon strolling the laneways, patting the cats, and taking some great photos of the vista. Viewing the sunset from Oia is meant to be the best vantage point to see the sun setting on Santorini but we decided we didn’t want to hang around as the town was filling up with more tourists and we were very happy with the view from our terrace in Firastefani.

    We caught the bus home, not as squashed this time, and spent the rest of the day enjoying our down time on our terrace. Another excellent day in Santorini.
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  • Day58

    Firastefani, Santorini

    October 26, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    After seeing the church of the three bells, we made our way to the other side of Firastefani. It is not as touristy here as it is in Fira, with the shops catering more to people staying in the accommodations nearby. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants, a grocery/alcohol shop and only the odd tourist shop. Due to it being the end of the season, not all the cafes were open and those that were, were running their supplies down so full menus weren’t available. That didn’t stop us from finding a nice place to enjoy another Greek lunch, although this one came with a higher price tag than our previous meals. We enjoyed a very delicious lunch at Casa di Te, and it has been nice trying a different cuisine after seven weeks in Italy. Brad is loving the squid and octopus and we even decided to splurge and share a dessert.

    After a wander around Firastefani we spent the afternoon relaxing on our terrace, enjoying some downtime. It was also the perfect vantage point to watch another amazing sunset and we didn’t have to be out in the very cool breeze. It is certainly getting a lot cooler here.

    For dinner we ventured out to Remvi Restaurant, a very lovely restaurant overlooking the coastline. Due to the cooler weather we were sat inside and while we didn’t have the views, it had a lovely warm feel to it. The staff were so friendly, and the atmosphere was so inviting. Brad enjoyed warm lamb shanks for dinner while I went a bit lighter after our big lunch and had a chicken Caesar salad. We finished the night with a local orange cake specialty, and it was delicious. We had such a lovely, easy night and we are really enjoying the end of tourist season vibe happening in Santorini. I know we would not want to be here in the height of tourist season as we have heard how incredibly busy and packed it is. It was lovely being able to stroll the empty streets and enjoy the night-time views on our way back to our accommodation.
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  • Day58

    Three Bells of Fira, Santorini

    October 26, 2018 in Greece ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    One the way back we managed to find the well-known church of the three bells, the Catholic Church of Koimisi Tis Theotokou, and it was a bit harder to find than we thought it would be but we got there in the end. The church is famed for its three bells, blue dome and picturesque views but to be honest I was a bit surprised when we got there as I was expecting a much grander and elaborate structure. And while it is definitely beautiful, there are other sites on the island equally as stunning. I did however appreciate the simplicity of it against the backdrop of the island and the sea. When we got there, there were two wedding parties vying for the best photography spots, so we were lucky to find space to take a couple of photos.Read more