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Luke Gilmore's travel blog for 2013. Most photos taken by me. Click the photos to enlarge.

Ios

My last stop in the Greek Islands was in Ios (pronounced ee-oss, at least in English…). Another island geared towards younger travellers who are here to party but also a picturesque setting for those young at heart. The Far Out Beach Club was the scene of another amazing 4-5 nights spent in the sun and sea of Greece before heading to Italy. I shared a room here with a mate from Australia, James, and for only €8 each per night it was a steal. Comfortable mattresses, a lockable door and close to amenities and the huge pool, bar and beach (with complementary loungers. The birds nest in the roof was perhaps a bit out of place but that’s what you get when man moves into nature and shoves out the former inhabitants.

Photos:

#1

Sunset by the pool at Far Out Beach club. The drinks and food are a bit pricey but you can’t put a price on on view like dis. 

#2

Rooftop selfies while out In Ios town. Exact location and safety concerns not important.

#3

The main town in Ios. A hill with tight alleyways between whitewashed houses. Rumour is that in some of the islands it is mandatory to paint your house white twice a year. These rules might seem a bit dictatorial but allow the character to be maintained and ultimately must be beneficial for tourism.

 

#4

Looking out to the blue sea past dead brown grass. This was on a walk while waiting for the town to open to buy food (town closes for 2-3 hours in the afternoon for the locals to take an afternoon nap. A great rest, I’m sure, but shit we were hot and hungry.)

 

#5

Free loungers and umbrellas on the beach. Cheers.

 

#6

Leaving for Athens on the 10 hour ferry. Sad to leave the islands but time to go back to reality.

 

About to get on a plane for NZ. Will put the rest of my travels up there but they will be pretty brief. Final thoughts on the trip to come.

 

Luke

Santorini

One of the most southern of the Greek Islands, Santorini, was my next stop for 5 days with Annabel and James. Santorini is quieter and a bit cheaper than Mykonos and probably more popular with older travellers. We stayed at Stelio’s Place near Perissa Beach (the black sand beach on the south of the island) and each had a double room for €25/ night. Benefits of this spot are that the beach is right next door (there aren’t many beaches on Santorini as it is mainly cliffs around the edge), the location of gyros and a 24 hour bakery(!), and the friendly local owners. There is also a pool.

Photos

#1 The pool and terrace at Stelio’s Place.

#2 The famous sunset from Oia. A 40 minutes quad bike ride from Perissa Beach. This is one of those places where the white houses with blue roofs stack the hill looking out over the sea depicted in so many photos on travel blogs. The sunset we saw was a bit anti-climatic because of the cloud/ haze but a good one regardless.

#3 Me in a traditional Greek toga. It may look like I am just wearing a bedsheet that I took off my bed and wrapped around me but this is not necessarily true.

#4 Church action in Oia. Chooice.

#5 The cliffs at the Red Beach. These islands have volcanic activity in their history and as a result have black and red sand beaches and apparently good wine growing conditions as a result.

Santorini was a good relax with good friends and a bit of time off from meeting strangers at a new hostel every few days (although this is a lot of fun too). The gyros here were very tasty and the weather and water was very warm as the island is one of the most southern points in Europe. Hiring quad bikes is easy and cheap, but I wouldn’t necessarily choose Nick the Greek. He was asleep each time I went in and my bike’s engine cut out when I attempted at one point to put the full beams on. Bit awkward on a corner in the dark on the main round. 

The hosts at Stelio’s were super friendly and accommodating when it looked like our ferry would be cancelled on the last day (luckily another went in its place). Lots of exploring to be done on these Greek Islands which makes them so fun. I guess you have to get out and search to find a gem sometimes. In the words of Stelio himself “Never you know” what you might find.

Mykonos

After a few days in the big smoke (Athens) I took a €35 ferry to Mykonos in the Cyclades, a group of Islands to the South East of Greece. The Greek Islands are famous for sun, beaches and white houses although life and landscapes differ over the many Islands (I heard estimates ranging from 600-10,000 islands) of which there are at least 1000 and 200ish of these are inhabited.

Mykonos was discovered in a tourism sense, according to locals by hippies travelling around in the 1960s and ever since has been a popular holiday destination, especially for 20-somethings. This trip was one of my favourite of the last 6 months. I stayed at Parage Beach Camp and Hostel, the smaller and less expensive of the 2 big beach camps on Mykonos. At only €10/night for a bed the accommodation, at least, is cheap. Being a small islands where little is produced food and most other things are a bit darer than mainland Greece but it’s still possible to get by without laying down too many €€€.

The group staying on Mykonos was largely solo travellers, and I was travelling by myself at the time so this was cool and we had an awesome few days with about 10-20 of us swimming (in the sea and pool), quad biking around the islands to deserted beaches and viewpoints, going out and lying in the sun above the beach. It was nice to get swimming again and see some sun after the European winter (which I’m told was a shocker).

The sunsets, superclubs, and scenery were all incredible and made for a very cool holiday.

Photos

#1 The windmills in the main town, the windmills are a famous image and from what I could see they are now houses overlooking the sea.

#2 The sunset through a rock near the windmills. While the sky was quite hazy around Greece the colours of the sunsets were vivid. I saw many in the few weeks here and would recommend catching at least 1 in the Cyclades. Best enjoyed with a cold Mythos and 1-2 gyros.

#3 A beach with around 6 people on it discovered while riding quad bikes around the island.

#4 View from the top of the hill overlooking the port. Descended soon after this for a dip.

 

#5 The main town with restaurants and bars overlooking the water. Prime views all round.

 

The Greek Islands have long been frequented by foreigners, and I can see why. The hospitality, tasty food and crazy good sea views and swimming makes for a superfluous trip. The partying isn’t bad either. Mykonos is a good one if you want to see good beaches, eat at flash restaurants on the seaside (or just eat €2-3 gyros and bread like me) and party late. The tourist season wasn’t in full swing when I was there but talk was that it was a lot busier in the high season i.e. July/August. Comes highly recommended and if you don’t mind sleeping in an 8 person room with a few mosquitos for company I reckon Parage Beach is a good option. Book or just get a free shuttle from the ferry. Easy. 

 

Machete action.  (à St-Nizier-le-désert)

Machete action. (à St-Nizier-le-désert)

Country fields.  (à France)

Country fields. (à France)

Athens, Greece

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I started my 2 week trip of Greece in the capital - Athens - after flying from Geneva on the 29th of May. The airport bus dropped me at Syntagma Square in the centre of the city in the dark (street lights are at a minimum in Athens, that’s crises for you) but luckily an Greek man walking around with his kids pointed me in the right direction. The hostel (Athens Backpackers) was a short walk away and within a few minutes I was out on foot getting lost and looking for food. I was excited to try gyros here (the Greek answer to a kebab, the most prevalent form of street food almost anywhere in Europe) as I’d heard good things.

Despite the long detour my first one didn’t disappoint and at less than €2.50 was a welcome change from French prices (€4.50+ for reheated chicken, bread and 1-2 meager pieces of vegetable). Gyros and I were immediately good friends and many more were to follow.

 

The walking tour the next day illustrated the rich history of Athens with a tour around some of the key monuments new and old and a look over the city from the rock where St Peter apparently gave a famous speech.

 

Notable features were policemen riding round two to a motorbike, the turtle pond in the middle of the city park, the Zappeion, views of the sprawling city and the Parliament which was gated off and unaccessible due to the protest that was to happen later that day - a common occurrence given Greece’s current austerity measures and the popular opinion against them. In simplified terms and from my limited knowledge the basic gist of these austerity measures is that as a condition of their loans taken from the EU to keep Greece from collapsing economically and in order to remain in the EU the Greek government is required to cut spending to an acceptable level. This results in job losses in many public positions (e.g. the entire public broadcaster was closed in one day), people saving for the harder times to come and resultant lack of cash money for pretty much all Greeks. A mare all round.

 

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Athens sprawls for aaages. From above it looks very similar and dreary as far as the eye can see - white concrete houses all over the show.

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The acropolis was the first of the historical sites I saw. Thanks go out to Université Jean Moulin for issuing me a student card that says I am a European student and therefore get into these old things for free. A cheeky ‘Bonjour’ to the lady behind the Acropolis desk to throw her off secured the deal. I saved €12, to be used later for gyros and souvlaki. 

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The Parthenon from a view that shows a minimum of the scaffolding and cranes all over it.

I also saw the Acropolis museum and lots of other old rocks but to be honest Athens wasn’t why I went to Greece, it was more of a pit stop to access the Greek Islands from. I bought my ferry ticket while I was here but kept a fairly low profile apart from a bit of sightseeing and gyro-eating. I wouldn’t choose to return to Athens and found it was too big, had too many cars and motorbikes and was pretty ugly all round. But I’m sure other people with more imagination have loved it. I just found it a bit hard to put it all into perspective when all that remains of much of the Roman history is ugly white stones in a mess on the ground and signs that sometimes just guess at what monument they were formerly a part of. Almost half of Greece lives in Athens with 4/11 million living in the capital and the city feels a bit cramped and dirty outside of the main area. However, the better preserved ruins are easily visualised, especially when brought to life with a guide. The olive trees on the hills are as you would imagine in a Roman legend and if it meant a return to the islands, I’d fly back to Athens in a heartbeat.

Une semaine dans la compagne française avec Hermès. Then, heading home next saturday. (à St-Nizier-le-désert)

Une semaine dans la compagne française avec Hermès. Then, heading home next saturday. (à St-Nizier-le-désert)

Geneva

If you want to see huge fountains, a private bank on every street and quietly cool monuments while spending your entire travelling budget on one sandwich I can recommend going to Geneva.

I only spent a night here (28th of May) because the flights to Athens were cheaper from Genève than in France (I had been in Avignon previously - see last blog post). This night was still fairly expensive coming just short of €30 in a very basic, very big Youth Hostel. A proper one that was a member of Hostelling International, not one of the new breed that comes cheap and makes its money on selling alcoholic beverages and pub crawls. The hostel didn’t occupy much of my time though as I walked around a lot of the city at night and the morning before I flew out.

Notable features were getting up and walking before 8am, being the only person in the archeological museum for an hour, the large number of Swiss Francs charged for anything you buy and the good looking girls in McDonalds (read: blonde-haired blue-eyed Swiss babes).

Photos 1,5 and 7 have the famous Jet d’Eau fountain in them. A massive and powerful jet of water near the side of Lake Geneva. In photo 5 I’m standing above the city in the tower of the main Cathedral, photo 4 shows some of the colours inside.

There are yachts, cars, jewellery and watch shops to keep the Swiss bankers busy but the city still has a tidy, quiet and slick feel to it. I still like Switzerland and hope this won’t be my last trip there.

Am currently in Croatia in the final 3 wks of my European trip and trying to catch up on blog posts.

See you soon. Luke.

Beaut sky pulling into Croatia after 3 trains (1 broke down) and a bus from Budapest.  (à Zagreb)

Beaut sky pulling into Croatia after 3 trains (1 broke down) and a bus from Budapest. (à Zagreb)