Friday, 31 July 2015

Tips for visiting Santorini, Greece

As you may know, a few weeks ago I jetted off to the beautiful Greek island of Santorini for a one-week holiday! We had an amazing time and the views were just stunning. When we arrived it was in the middle of the night so everything was pitch black, I was so excited for morning so that we could see everything. When we opened the door in the morning I was taken aback. The view looked like something from a postcard, but it was real!

Anyway, instead of doing a day-by-day of what we did on our holiday I thought I'd provide some tips and suggestions if you ever find yourself on the island! Oh and of course a couple of snaps below for you to enjoy.








1. Be prepared for walking and STAIRS! If you are on the caldera side you'll quickly find that you are going to have to walk up and down stairs quite a lot. To get the best view, you should pick a hotel that is further down as this will have the least obstructive views but to get this you have to walk down many stairs and ultimately, you'll have to come back up.

If you want to see other areas of the island there are lots of easy routes to walk. However its not the most flat island so you'll be going up and down across lots of uneven surfaces.

2. Make sure you bring sturdy shoes! Leading on from point 1, make sure you bring some proper footwear. Although holidays are all about sandals and flip flops, if you want to go walking you should really bring some trainers. It makes the walk so much easier and more enjoyable rather than trying to get around in flimsy shoes! I speak from experience after nearly being trampled by donkeys because I couldn't walk quick enough up the stairs in Oia because I had sandals on!

3. Eat away from the views. Again if you are on the caldera side I'd recommend trying some restaurants away from the beautiful views, off the beaten track. Although it is hard to walk away from the coastline (because it's so darn pretty!), the food that you'll find beyond this is most of the time better! Restaurants have to work harder to gain custom as they can't rely on the footfall, so the food is on the whole much more delicious. We definitely found this when we visited as a lot of the coastal spots weren't as nice as others such as the Chef's Garden in Fira which is way a way from the views.

4. Use your hotel reception. This is probably something everyone does wherever they go, but particularly on our holiday we found this very beneficial. The staff at Agali Houses, where we stayed, were so knowledgeable about the area and the things we could do. We booked a sailing boat trip through reception which turned out to be an amazing day. As well as this they were more than happy to give us recommendations for restaurants in the area. So if you are in doubt, ask the people who live in the area!

5. Try the local cuisine and ales. Before I went away I was desperate to eat all the Tzatziki and Greek yoghurt to get the authentic Greek experience. Santorini didn't disappoint and by the end I was sick of the stuff! In Santorini two dishes you couldn't get away from were Gyros and Souvlaki. These are both meat dishes - one being meat on a kebab stick and the other meat in a pitta wrap. Both were accompanied by salad with Santorini tomatoes and lots of Tzatziki! Both were delicious and I'd recommend you try them but make sure you get them from a nice restaurant to ensure they are good quality! Also I had Mousakka which was delicious.

Established in 2011, Santorini has its own brewing company with three products; Red Donkey, Yellow Donkey and Crazy Donkey (an IPA). Each have their own distinct flavour and are very good, or so I've been told by the other half. I didn't actually try these but the fact that Santorini has its own beer is amazing and also the branding is so cute! Most of the restaurants we visited sold this beer so I'd definitely recommend you try some whilst you are there!

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I hope these tips prove helpful to you. Let me know if any of you are planning a trip to Santorini as I'd love to share my experience and help make your trip better!

Also if you have any Santorini posts I'd  love to read them - please link below!
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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Spend some time in our spare room

Ever since we moved into our two bedroom house last year, we've had plans for the second bedroom. No, not baby plans. We're too selfish for that right now. Our plans were to create a room for both of us to enjoy our separate hobbies - gaming and blogging. When we started discussing what we wanted to do with this room I think we both got a bit more creative than we did when planning our living room. As I've said in other posts, we love the industrial style. I'm talking exposed brick, reclaimed wood, lots of metal and even a little steam punk. You'll see that a lot of that comes across in the way we've put together the spare bedroom.

I'll just give you a minute and let you take it all in...

Industrial Chandelier - Hanging Edison Bulbs

Barker and Stonehouse Clock

Shipping Container Sideboard - Maison Du Monde

Sorting Desk - Maison Du Monde - Bookshelf

Sorting Desk - Shipping Container Sideboard - Maison Du Monde - Bookshelf

Tweed Sofa - White Exposed Brick Wallpaper Decor

Wooden Coffee Table - Candles

Reclaimed Wood TV unit

So as you can see a crazy selection of furniture, little nick knacks and a whole bunch of fake plants. When shopping for this room we wanted the items to be different. Nothing you could really get from the high street and I think we achieved that. First we had some dark flooring put down and contrasted this with white walls and white exposed brick wallpaper. We found the massive light fitting on Etsy and knew we had to have it. It is different, so quirky and goes with the space brilliantly.

We picked a tweed sofa, a reclaimed wooden TV unit, a shipping container shaped sideboard and a 'post sorting' desk. I adorned a lot of the surfaces with fake plants, all from Ikea, and lots of pretty candles. Yes it's a little eccentric but it's exactly what we wanted. 

We now use this room for PS4 sessions with the lads, a quiet area to blog and a room to watch Netflix in before bed. We really love this room and the way it's come together. It will be a shame when we eventually have to move!

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Friday, 24 July 2015

When did we become adults?

Since I turned 21 I've been slowly but surely becoming an adult. It happens to us all. It has to... We try to slow it down and most of us don't accept it but suddenly we are allowed to do things we weren't before, and also other things that we might have done are frowned upon.

Along the way we make changes to our lives that kick start us into the adult world, for instance, getting a house!

New Home Adults

Myself and Matt bought our first house last year when I was 22. Although it may seem quite young to get a house I was definitely ready. The process of finding and picking a house was very exciting but actually purchasing it was quite a long laborious bore. When we finally got in to the house the fun started - decorating! But of course there was also bills. 

Bills make you an adult, but so does decorating. You have your own space in which you can do whatever you want with it. If you like green, paint it green. You like wooden floors, do it. Fancy a four-post bed, go for it. The choice is yours and it is amazing. The freedom to decorate a space to your exact specifications. Make it all yours.

Decorating Photo Wall - Adults

As well as putting down roots, there is the opportunity to see the world. Think of the places you can go now that you've become an adult. Since turning 21 I've visited some great places from Copenhagen to Florence, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Being an adult means you manage your own time. Decide where you fancy going and when! You of course have to earn the money to be able to go away but that makes it feel that bit more special. You paid for it! It's yours and you deserve it.

The world is at your feet. Places that your family may not have wanted to visit, you can now go. Skiing, sunbathing or hiking you can pick. It's amazing picking up travel brochures or browsing the net for far out places that you would never of dreamed of.

Florence Travel Picture - Adults

Sometimes becoming an adult means your tastes change and develop. Food and drink you may have thought was disgusting as a young person you may love. For me there was a lot of alcohol that I didn't touch when I was in my teens such as cider, wine and beer. I still don't drink beer or wine, but I do love a fruit cider and a glass of prosecco!

Also there was so much food I told myself I didn't like but that I hadn't actually tried. Food such as houmous, pesto and camebeur are all things I'd now happily pick up in the shopping but earlier in life I would have turned my nose up at. Age is a funny thing but it's best to embrace it as with it comes new exciting things to discover.

You still aren't going to catch me eating olives... 

What have you found has changed as you've become of adult age?
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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My Mega Moment - A trip to NYC

When I was planning what to do for my 21st birthday I knew it had to be special. Although my previous 'milestone' birthdays have been good, I'd never done anything out of the ordinary. One of my close friends also turned 21 in August so we thought what better than to celebrate together.

New York is somewhere almost everyone hopes to at some point in their life and we were no different. It was on both of our to-visit lists. With my Mum in tow we decided to book up for an adventure to the Big Apple.

Megabus Mega Moment - New York City

Megabus Mega Moment - New York City

Megabus Mega Moment - New York City

Megabus Mega Moment - New York City

Megabus Mega Moment - New York City

We spent four days in the city, staying in a hotel right on Times Square, using our time sightseeing, shopping and generally taking in New York. It is surreal to be in a place that is featured so heavily in films and TV series. It's almost like you've already been there, but you haven't so it is so new and exciting.

We visited the Empire State building, the top of the Rockerfeller Center and went on a trip down the Hudson River seeing Lady Liberty on our travels. We did lots of shopping in Times Square, Soho and the famous department stores such as Macy's. We walked out little feet off around the city and in Central Park, as well as taking the sightseeing tour bus to places further afield such as the Natural History Museum, the New York Public Library and Grand Central Station.

It was such an amazing trip which definitely represented a Mega Moment for me. I'm really keen to get back so I can only hope that this was not my only visit to one of the most iconic cities in the World.

Megabus are hosting a competition asking people to enter their Mega Moment via social media. The Mega Moment you enter would ideally be somewhere you've visited (not necessarily on a Mega Bus) or something you've done that represented a Mega Moment. No moment is too big or too small to enter. It could be anything from a cinema trip to going on a spectacular mountain hike.

Over the Summer, Megabus will be giving away spectacular prizes. To enter you have to post your Mega Moment on social media using the hashtag #MegaMoments and tagging Megabus in your entry (@megabus_sid on instagram and twitter) or upload to the site direct.

For more information visit their Mega Moments site!

*this post is a collaboration with Megabus
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Friday, 17 July 2015

Taking a trip to...Croatia

Does Croatia pop into your mind when you think of potential sunny holiday destinations? Probably not. But it’s my favourite holiday destination.

Pictures of Kefalonia, Santorini, Portugal, Gran Canaria, and Valencia have peppered my Instagram and Facebook feeds already this summer. But Croatia is somewhere which, despite its natural beauty, history, and bountiful choice of cities and islands, is somewhat overlooked in terms of popular countries to visit on ‘traditional’ summer holidays.

The wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s have, without a doubt, influenced this. The early 2000s were the first years that the region saw an end to the violence and instability in the Balkan region. However, with political and economic stability restored, Croatia is now thriving.

Our holiday this year took us to Split, Croatia. For many reasons, Croatia is a place I hold close to my heart. As a teenager I ventured to another part of Croatia on holiday with my mam and grandfather, and I have incredible memories of that holiday. I also studied the former Yugoslavian region heavily for my degree and a large part of my dissertation was focused on it; the history and culture of the country is simply fascinating. Did I mention it’s absolutely stunning?

Taking a trip to Croatia

[source]

But why should you love it too?

  • Croatia gets 320 sunshine filled days a year! I've got time for that.
  • There are 1,185 islands, and around 66 of these are inhabited. You can ferry-hop to these islands and explore even further.
  • There’s a huge array of natural wonders to see. The Blue Cave with glowing waters.
  • The best beaches: Zlatni Rat on Brac island.
  • There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including waterfalls, a palace, and entire cities.
  • There is a MUSICAL SEA ORGAN in Zadar. I repeat, a MUSICAL SEA ORGAN. Just, wow.
  • Everyone’s (except mine) favourite TV show, Game of Thrones, has been filmed all over Croatia.
  • There is a ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’ in the country’s capital of Zagreb which features remnants of past relationships. Fascinating.
  • I swam in a waterfall. Do I need to say anymore?
  • Split is known for its great pub crawls for the young’uns (Chris and I did not partake in these mainly because we are old people living inside 20-something year old bodies).
  • It is brilliantly cheap, but it isn't a compromise for quality. 100 Croatian Kunas = £10. On nights we ate out, the bill rarely came to more than 200 Kunas including lots of drinks, and the food is delicious. There are vast amounts of seafood to sample in traditional ‘Konobas’, which are traditional restaurants serving Dalmatian cuisine.
  • They have a beach game called ‘Picigin’ which is protected as cultural heritage! Chris and I gave it a go but we just weren't good enough at the whole diving thing…
  • Last of all, something I can’t show you a picture of or link you to – the wonderful, warm people of Croatia. There is such an informal, relaxed atmosphere to Croatia, and this goes a long way to setting the scene for a perfect holiday.

Taking a trip to Croatia

Have I convinced you that Croatia needs to be your next summer holiday?! I do hope so. I’ll shortly be uploading a more in depth post over on my blog (www.chapterandcircle.co.uk) so be sure to check that out too. Thanks so much to Danni for having me!

Rhiân xo
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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Taking a trip...to Rome

I’m Sarah from Things Sarah Loves and I am so excited to be guest posting for Danni about one of my favourite cities in the world! As a Classical Civilisation graduate, I have spent a fair bit of time in Rome and it is a city I absolutely love. However, instead of focusing on popular tourists spots such as the Colosseum or The Vatican (both of which are amazing), I decided to focus this post around one of my favourite sites in Rome: The Baths of Caracalla.


Taking a trip to Rome

The very first time I approached the baths, I gasped at the sheer magnitude of what was in front of me. The baths, named after the Emperor Caracalla, were completed 217 AD and welcomed approximately 8,000 visitors every single day to enjoy the bathing facilities on offer (the Romans did not miss a chance to socialise and network!). The red brick sandstone ruins, situated just south of the city centre, dominate the surrounding landscape.

One tip I would give to any EU student – take your student card! If you do, you will be allowed to enter the baths free of charge (and that is always a good thing) and the site is open free to everyone on the first Sunday of the month. As the site is mainly outdoors and it takes quite a lot of time to fully walk around, I would also advise taking plenty of water. Although there is a cute little ice cream van permanently situated at the entrance which is amazing!


Taking a trip to Rome

One of the reasons I love this site so much is because I love Ancient Roman frescos and mosaics. If this is your cup of tea, then I strongly recommend a visit. The mosaics found here are some of the largest preserved mosaics that have ever been discovered (even the sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum do not compare in this regard!) and are certainly worth viewing! As well as walking around the baths, the gardens here are beautiful and well maintained. There are plenty of benches to enjoy a break and really take in the sheer magnitude of the site that surrounds you. It is an incredible experience.


Taking a trip to Rome

As with any ancient site, you really need to use your imagination to visualise exactly what it must have been like using these baths many, many years ago (don’t expect to find pools of water – there is none!). Nevertheless, I think this is one of the best preserved sites that really offers you a glimpse into the life of an Ancient Roman. One advantage visitors have is that this archaeological site tends to be very quiet (overshadowed by the famous Colosseum nearby) and you can literally wander around the site alone, getting lost in the magnificence that surrounds you. For me, that is what makes this baths unique and very special indeed.

If you would like more information, please visit: Baths of Caracalla


Twitter - @thingsarahloves - Instagram - @thingsarahloves







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Monday, 13 July 2015

Taking a trip...to Paris

While I'm away on my holidays I thought I'd let a few other bloggers take the reigns of Gingerbread Smiles and talk about their favourite holiday destinations. First up is Laura!

Hi all, I'm Laura and I blog over at a girl & her home, a food and travel blog. When Danni asked me to write a post on my favourite holiday destination it was pretty easy - Paris.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Not only is it considered the most romantic city in the world but it holds a special place in the hearts of my husband and I. The day after we got engaged we flew off to Paris to experience the city for the first time. We loved it so much that straight after our wedding we drove down to Paris to spend a couple of days. If you follow me on my blog you may know the husband and I like to do a fair bit of driving!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home


I have now been five times and every time I discover something new. My favourite thing to do when I am there is just to wander round and soak up the atmosphere, or sit on a street side cafe and people watch with a nice (large) glass of rose wine. The other added benefit is that in Paris wine is cheaper than soft drinks!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

I thought for those of you who have not experienced this amazing city yet I would round up my favourite things to do.

Arc de Triomphe 

Everyone knows you can climb the Eiffel Tower but did you know you can also go up the Arc de Triomphe? There's two benefits to this, one the queues are considerably shorter and you get the benefit of being able to SEE the Eiffel Tower.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

I definitely recommend going up in the evening for beautiful views across the city.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Montmartre

Situated in the north of Paris, Montmartre is an area in Paris famous for the main artists that lived or worked in the area such as Dali, Picasso and Van Gogh. While it's considered a bit more of a tourist trap now, it's still nice to walk up the steep steps to visit the Sacre Coeur and the artists in the square.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

At the bottom of the hill you will find the even more famous Moulin Rouge.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Eat at Laduree

There are MANY amazing places to get a delicious pastry or sweet treat in Paris but my favourite has to be Laduree, I'm not going to lie it may just be the pretty boxes!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

There are several branches over the city and while you can get it in the UK now, there's nothing quite like getting the real deal in Paris.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

The hardest part is definitely choosing which one to go for!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Versailles

While not technically in the centre of Paris I cannot recommend Versailles enough. I only went for the first time last year and I fell in love with the place. I cannot wait to go back!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

Most people know it as the home of Marie-Antoinette it is possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home


Look at all that gold!

Paris - favourite holiday destination - travel - a girl & her home

You can get a train straight from the city centre of Paris.

I hope you manage to get to Paris one day to experience the magic of the city too.
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Friday, 10 July 2015

Time to get stuck in to the ice!

In keeping with my last post about where I've been in Amsterdam, I wanted to write about my experience in the Ice Bar! I've previously been to an ice bar in London and it was very posh and proper where as this one was a little different. 

We booked this before we went to Amsterdam as part of a deal with a canal tour as we wanted something to keep us occupied whilst we were in the city. Before you go you must book a time slot as there can't be too many people in the bar at once. We arrived a little early and when we 'checked in' we all received three (plastic) silver coins each. One was for a cocktail at the bar outside, and two for drinks inside the ice bar.

Me and my friend had the same cocktail, something sweet as I recall, and Mum and her friend had a Mojito each. Not personally my cup of tea! Although we arrived early, not long after we got there we were being called up to go into the bar, so we had to down our cocktails, not very sensible...

It was all very themed with a video beforehand telling you about a journey you were about to go on then we got cloaked up (the coats weren't as nice as London but oh well!) and went inside.

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Ice Bar Amsterdam Review - Xtra Cold

Everyone was given one ice glass in which you could get two drinks, when you exchanged your coins of course! The only choice of drinks you had inside the ice bar was different types of vodka with orange juice. I went for normal at first and then had a nuts and nougat one which was delicious. The bar was really novelty with an bear sculpted out of ice, skeletons frozen into the ice and lots of sound effects. It was a really fun experience and everyone who we went in with seemed to enjoy themselves. The only issue was the lack of tables for drinks. If you wanted to take a photo or your hands were cold, you were a bit stuck!

Overall I'd definitely recommend that if you are going to Amsterdam (and you want an alcoholic interlude) you should go to the ice bar! It's not too far from the centre, reasonably priced and easy enough to find!

Let me know if you've been!

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