A flavour of Greece, maybe a bit bitter

As I walked around Athens I felt a great sadness, I looked at the decay of the once great temples I thought to myself is this what the end of humanity looks like.

I think its time to caveat that statement before I get a mob of Greek’s coming after me. Ancient Greece has always interested me, so perhaps I had unreal expectations. I spent around 7 days going around Greece so very much a whistle stop tour, therefore I wont produce a guide but instead will try to give some general impressions.

What I loved

  • Food, especially Mouska with Greek Salad-I would happily have it as my last meal.
  • Sailing the Greek seas, with its hidden caves and clear waters its a must do.
  • The picturesque white stone houses and tiny paths.

The unexpected

  • The poor customer service, I always considered the Greek’s the most welcoming of people, but I had some truly poor service.
  • How run down some of the cities/towns were- I know Greece has had some problems for a while but I didn’t realise quite how it would affect the infrastructure.
  • Linked to the above how the monuments were poorly kept, specifically the lack of information of the rich history they offered.

My purpose in writing this article was expectation management, as opposed to detering a visit.

 

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Toronto,Canada-there and back again

My experience of exploring the lovely Toronto, Canda

Toronto is broadly split into several districts examples of these include the Entertainment, Old Toronto, Downtown and China Town. Each district like most larger cities has its own identity to fit most personalities.

Just like most cities its worth spending some time planning what you want to do. A big difference in Toronto however is the massive transient community both in terms of temporary immigration as well as travellers. The massive advantage is there is always people wanting to explore ( I personally use the couchsurfing App to
find locals).

My personal favourite spots:
– Around the Habourfront centre: there’s always varied activities happening in the summer from beach parties, to opera to the best of Canadian cinema.
– Around Kensington Market: plenty of cool restaurants and bars to explore.
– Around Queens Park/University of Toronto campus, some old (at least in terms of North America) and stunning architecture.

Let me know your favourite Toronto spots.

Washington DC, USA-a cheap date

Just as expected Washington was going to be a very interesting city as a Capital that grew from a swamp. However I wasn’t expecting it being such a cheap visit. With reasonable accommodation options, free sights/ museums and good food at cheap prices.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable producing a guide as there is such great information online. However I picked up a few tips that I wanted to share.

Avoid the Crowd-all the main sights e.g. Lincoln statute, White House etc are along a L strip called the National Mall. However they get seriously crowded. So visit around 6:30pm, the crowds are gone and the buildings look even better at dusk.

Be forever moved by the Holocaust Museum– as you would expect the holocaust is going to be a moving experience, however this museum truly helps you understand the horrors, and personally made me think about today’s society. I would suggest are leaders should go and then take a hard look at national policy. However setting aside the politics you need a ticket (free) for the main exhibits so make sure to go early.

Cheap eats-need filling food at a great price then check out ‘we the pizza’- a massive slize of fresh homemade pizza for 3 dollars. It is so good I went three days in a row.

Take your time– planning to do Washington in a day or two then think again. I spent four days here and still could spend another three just seeing the main sights.

Atlanta, USA- the pleasant surprise

I got to Atlanta and thought what a shit hole. Its grey with concrete everywhere. However the quote don’t judge a book by its cover should be the motto of this city. In short I loved Atlanta, its has some amazing gems and lovely people.

Must do’s in Atlanta

Civil and Human Rights Centre– without doubt this is the most interesting museum. Its thought provoking, has activities to let you experience protests during the black civil rights movement and combines learning styles to make a truly unique experience.

Atlanta Historic Centre– this centre is very interesting as it has houses/farms in different time periods to let you devolve into periods of Atlanta history.

Martin Luther King JR Centre– for anyone interested in history, civil rights or generally what makes USA what it is today, then this Centre is for you.

Mary Mac’s Tea Room-want southern food that sticks to the ribs look no further. This places combines the best of southern hospitality, carby delicious dishes and great prices. Make sure to try the peanut butter pie with oreo crust its soooo good.

In conclusion if you are thinking of skipping Atlanta think again.

New Orleans-living up to expectations

I had high hopes for New Orleans as my first mainland USA experience and it sure lived up to expectations. For a city its a real beauty, from the stunning French style mansions, glorious Jackson Square to the sound of jazz in the background.

As there is so much information on New Orleans I am not going to do a long guide but point out four essentials: food, culture, tour and most interesting street.

Coops Place-to experience New Orleans it has to be done via food and Coops is the place for a true experience. Order Coops special to try five Southern specialties.

Cabildo-a truly interesting musuem to understand the history of New Orleans. It really helps to set the story of how this truly multi-cultural city blends so beautiful…and maybe why its so sinful.

Ghost tour by free foot tours– New Orleans has some very shady history and if you are an American Horror Story Fan you are going to love, yes love this tour.

St Charles St through the Garden District– for some of the best architecture in new Orleans travel along this beautiful St.

A mexician adventure

I travelled around Mexico for a month and  a major trouble I had was narrowing down what I wanted to do. In terms of both geography and regional variances Mexico is big. So I wanted share my best bits.

Best temple/ruins:Uxmal– I know Chichen Itza is the most famous but I much preferred Uxmal. It has a surprisingly diverse history and gets about a 10th of the footfall.

Best Cenote:Grand Cenote in Tulum– This is probably the most touristy one I visited but it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded. The Cenote itself is the perfect temperature on a sunny day and they have a turtle sanctuary.

Best Town: Merida– The town itself adopted tourism as a trade a few years ago, as a result it has found the perfect blend of keeping its Spanish heritage and being tourist friendly. Check out my full guide here.

Best experience: Oaxaca Cookery school– In my opinion Oaxaca is best experienced through its food and this was the perfect day. Exploring the markets to understand the evolution of food in the area, understanding Mole, eating Grasshoppers and then making amazing food in a traditional kitchen-can’t understate how good this was.

Tulum, Mexico-finding the right blend

Tulum has found a great blend.

Its far enough from Cancun not to be so commercial as to lose its Mexican identity but has certain infrastructure to be tourist friendly from the hippy vegan ice cream, to the 7 peso tacos, to the random person on the street selling coconut water. In conclusion skip Cancun, even Playa and head straight here.

What’s good-Cenotes, Food and Beaches.

Cenotes– Tulum has a load of Cenotes nearby by either taxi, collectivo (group shuttle), walking or biking. I went to couple and had a great time-I went to the Grand and Casa Cenote (great for diving). Each Cenote is unique so its worth going to as many as possible. Make sure to negotiate the price for Casa it went down from 500 to 110 Pesos.

Food– best ensalada verde(Green Salad) is Don Cafeto , Tacos Al Pastor for 7 peso tacos, best ever Gelato at Panna e Cioccolto, Mouth watering BBQ shrimp at Estrada and Pizza (which is so un-Mexican but so good) at Emily’s.

Beaches– A lot of Tulum’s main beach is ‘controlled’ by the private hotels/restaurants meaning it can be quite expensive to stay the day, well at least by Mexican standards. The one exception is La Eufemia.

A special note to the amazing hostel Mama’s Home plus the owner is hot.

Merida-the place to be in Mexico?

In 2011 the town of Merida started its transformation to be geared towards the tourism trade and I must say it found the right blend. With its beautiful colonel architure, blend of street food/restaurants and numerous free activities its a must visit in any Mexican experience.

What to do
As always lets start with the free stuff. At 9:30am a company called Pink Cactus offer a tour devolving into three time periods-colonization, the golden period and modern Merida.
For 41 years on Thursday night a free concert happens in Parque de Santa. On Friday night in the square outside Catedral De Merida a traditional Mayan ball game is played. There are also numerous museums and galleries to explore, if you do the tour they will point them out far better than I can.

I would also take a day trip to Uxmal. I know everyone goes to Chitzen Itza but I much preferred these Mayan Ruins for a few reasons; you aren’t constantly sold items,you can climb the pyramid and it gets about a 10th of the visitors so you can get some amazing tourist free photos.

Lastly a special shout out to Ms B for sharing the experience and playing translator.

Oaxaca- a real taste of Mexico

With its vibrant colonel architecture, memorizing churches and mouth watering street food this city is a must see.

What to do
The great thing about Oaxaca City is you don’t really need to make plans you can just walk and see the most amazing sights and smells. On the whole the best tip is to start in Zocalo the beautiful square and choice a direction.

I would try if you can to check out Museo De Las Culturas, Templo De Santo Domingo, the Catedral and check out one of the many markets to get a real flavor for the city.

My favorite activity– Oaxaca City screams food food food. Hence I would highly recommend one of the local cooking classes to learn about Mole, traditional ingredients and learn some amazing recipes

Fiji time-Fiji in a week

I have spent a few weeks in Fiji traveling and like a lot of travelers was completely confused when deciding what to do. This guide is for those who only have a week.

Arriving early in the morning at Nadi (if later flight stay a night at smugglers cove and miss a day on the islands): go straight to Denarau port stopping off to buy plenty of water. Then get on the Yasawa Flyer to your first island.

On a budget– spend two days in Waya Lailai Island at the Ecohaven for the summit walk at sunrise, then two nights in Matacawalevu island at White Sandy resort; finishing off at Nabua Lodge for snorkeling at the blue Lagoon-this can be booked through awesome adventures Fiji using the Bula Combo Pass

Splash the cash– spend two days at Waya LaiLai Island at the Ecohaven for the summit walk at sunrise, then a day at Nanuya Balavu Island at the Mantaray resort to see the Mantaray’s; two days at Nacula Island at Nabua Lodge to go to the blue Lagoon and finish it off at South Sea Island for the free water sports. This will seems like a strange
route, but will maximize the activities you can do.

Enjoy Fiji time.