Santorini- A True Picture

 

 

View from the top in Santorrini

I recently took a holiday to Crete and whilst there the opportunity arose to take a trip to Santorini. Prior to going, everything I knew about Santorini was from Instagram. I’m sure you have all seen the pictures, with the white buildings overlooking the sea. What’s not to love? Surely it’s every bloggers dream to take a trip to Santorini and get those pictures for the gram?

Santorini

Santorini-What they don’t tell you!

1- Santorini is not just white houses

We arrived by boat, and the first thing that we saw was a steep cliff that seemed to go on forever. Looking at the cliff, you could just make out tour coaches, slowly winding their way up the cliff to the top.

I had no idea that soon, I too would also be on one of those coaches going up a cliff! Needless to say, this was not what I had hoped my introduction to the island would be. I can honestly say I have never been so frightened. The roads on the cliff are extremely narrow, and so it doesn’t make for the comfiest or safest of rides.

The only thing that kept me going is that once we reached the top, I would get the views I had been waiting for, that sea of white houses. Wrong!

Having been on the coach trip from hell, (for what felt like forever) the top of the cliff just revealed land, with a scarce house or two, which was not white.

Santorini view from cliff

To be honest, I am grateful we were on a coach, as I understand (depending on where you arrive in Santorini), the mode of transport to the top can often be a donkey! After about 30 minutes on the coach we eventually arrived in Oia which is one of the towns in Santorini.

2- There are a lot of tourists (and I mean lots)

Oia and Thira (which is the capital), are the main places that people visit, as these are the places which have the white washed houses and restaurants overlooking the sea. (There may be more, however these are the only places we went to). Although we were prepared to encounter tourists, the actual scale of tourism was quite surprising. Why you may ask?

In all the pictures I have ever seen of Santorini, I have yet to see one that shows packed walk ways, or hundreds of people with their camera’s taking pictures; however this is what we encountered (and it was only the start of the season).

In order to take a picture, it felt like a military operation, as every 2 seconds someone was walking past. If you are from London, and know about Oxford Circus at Christmas time, then you will have a good idea of what I mean.

3- Be prepared to walk (lots)

If you are not a fan of walking, then Santorini is not the place for you. In order to actually get to Oia or Thira and be in the midst of the white washed buildings you have to walk up steep steps, and then more steps and then more…hope you get the picture.

Strolling through Oia Santorini

Once in the towns, if you want to take a picture amongst the buildings or (as bloggers like to do, in front of doors), you then have to walk down cobbled stairs, to likely go up again before you go down.

 

Walking through Oia Santorini

It may not sound so bad, but in the heat with people pushing past you, it then becomes a different story.

4- Beware of heights

If you suffer from vertigo, then Santorini will test you. Especially whist strolling through the town’s. Santorini is a place full of slopes, meaning to get anywhere particularly in Oia and Theria you are walking up. For me it wasn’t a problem. However it did make me think about those who are not fond of heights, as to get those views you have to go high!

5- There is no need to stay more than a day or two

I have always wanted to book a trip to Santorini and stay for a week to 10 days. Having now visited, I know that this amount of time is not necessary. Trust me when I say, you can see all there is in a day, but if you want to take in things at a slower pace then two days is sufficient.

Santorini views

Oia and Theria have lots of quaint shops and lots of lovely restaurants and hotels. Aside from this however, there is nothing really to do. There is a beach with black volcanic sand, however that is about 15-20 minutes away from the town. If you want a holiday taking pictures, where you do the same thing everyday, a few days stay is sufficient.

Oia Santorini

Final Thoughts

I know it may seem that I am not painting Santorini in a positive light. However I think it’s important that my review is honest.

Santorini View

There is no doubt that Oia and Theria are beautiful. When you eventually find a space to take in the views, it is absolutely stunning. However I do feel that the Instagram image of Santorini does not paint a true picture.

Would I go back, I think so but at least next time I know what to expect.

Until next time xoxo

 

 

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Insula Alba Crete

 

Insula Alba Resort and Spa Hotel

I recently returned from a holiday in which I stayed at the Insula Alba  Hotel. I decided to write about the experience, as I honestly feel that it was one of the best places that I have stayed.

Expectations

Prior to leaving the UK, my friend and I had planned that our trip would be a relaxing one. For us it was imperative that our accommodation provided us with an environment that ensured total relaxation.

Neither my friend nor myself had ever been to Crete before, as such we chose Insula Alba based on a recommendation.

Insula Alba Resort and Spa Hotel

Insula Alba Crete

The hotel is located in Analipsi, with the nearest airport being Heraklion. I will say that Analipsi is a fairly quiet area which does have a few hotels, but is essentially a Cretan village.

There is a beach opposite the hotel, however it is very rocky and so I wouldn’t recommend it for sunbathing.

This however is not a problem, if you decide to stay at the Insula Alba Crete. I say this because the hotel has a number of swimming pools, with various areas in which to relax.

Upon arrival at the hotel, and walking into the reception area, you soon realise the tone set by the hotel.

Insula Alba reception seats

Decorated in white and cream with accents of various artefacts, you are immediately drawn into the atmosphere.

Insula Alba reception area

Insula Alba Crete

Whilst checking in we were offered glasses of orange juice, and once checked in, we were driven in a golf buggy to our room.

The room we stayed in was called the classic swim up room. This meant that from our room we had immediate access directly to one of the pools.

Insula Alba swimming pool

The décor of the room maintained the white theme. We had a king size bed, a sofa bed, a bathroom with a walk in shower as well as a mini terrace that led to the pool.

Insula Alba pool view from room

The hotel has another larger pool area, from which you can see the beach opposite the hotel. This area has a beach bar, together with an A la Carte restaurant called Azure.

Pool view Insula Alba

To say we had a relaxing holiday is an understatement.

Aside from the facilities, which also include a gym and a wellness centre, the staff made sure that guests are truly happy.

Our experience with the staff was extremely positive; they were so friendly and were always ready to help in any way they could. This attitude extended to staff such as the room cleaners who were honestly some of the loveliest people.

Would I return?

The Insula Alba Crete is the first hotel that I have stayed in, which I cannot wait to return back to.

I know reviews are very subjective, however you do not have to take my word for it. The hotel has recently been awarded the Trip Advisor 2018 Certificate of Excellence.

If you want to find out more about the Insula Alba Crete, why not take a look at their website or Instagram page, which has much more photos for review.

Till the next time xx

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Holiday must haves – My Essential list.

Holiday time

It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts going on holiday and one must decide what will be on their holiday must have list.

 

In less than 3 weeks’ time I am off for a well-deserved holiday to Crete and am at the planning stages of what I will be taking with me.

I promised myself that for the first time ever, I will try to be organized and not leave everything till the last minute.

So as part of my prep, I have decided to do what so many other people have done and compile my own ‘holiday must have’ list.

What are my holiday essentials?

I have to say this is quite hard to condense as I have categories, e.g clothes essentials, hair essentials, makeup essentials etc.

This post will focus on the category of clothes and accessories as this really is the starting point of my packing. So let’s get to it!

1- Summer dresses

Whether it’s a maxi, or above the knee dress (or both) a summer dress or two should definitely be packed. I like to pack dresses that are light and very comfortable to wear. I would say my preferred style of dress tends to be off the shoulder dresses or halter necks.

2- Sunglasses

I love sunglasses whether they are designer or high street, I honestly do not care! I normally take my whole collection, but this time I am going to try to only take 2 pairs….emphasis on try lol

3- Beach bag

I have two bags, which I use as beach bags both are from ClaireaBella. I find jute bags are great as beach bags, as they are very durable which is always a plus when sand is involved.

The bag in the picture above is my small bag, but if I have loads of things to take to the beach I use my larger bag.

4- Jumpsuit / Play Suit

Who doesn’t love a jumpsuit? Together with some fabulous accessories like hoop earrings and bracelets a jumpsuit / play suit is a good idea on any holiday.

5- Cover up / kaftan

I love a cover up, and to be honest I tend to live in them when I am away. I always take a few as they are so lightweight. Last year I purchased this cover up from prettylittlething, which I adore…so best believe I will be taking this on holiday this year!

6- Sun hat

I love rocking a straw hat, especially when I have my sunglasses on….it makes for a great selfie pic! I usually just pick up a straw hat at Primark, but if you fancy splashing out for a hat I would definitely suggest trying Accessorize. They also do a great holiday range.

7- Shorts (and T-shirts)

Are you really on holiday, if you don’t rock a pair of shorts at least once? You can never go wrong with some denim shorts.

8-Footwear

In the past I have taken more or less every pair of shoes I have. This year I will be taking, one pair of heels, one pair of ballet pumps, flip-flops / sliders (2 or 3 pairs) and trainers to travel in…as it’s all about being comfortable.

9- Swim wear

Gone are the days where I would confidently rock a two piece lol. It’s about being comfortable and for me that’s wearing a one piece. Even if your going away for a week, take at least 2 swim suits or bikinis. Therefore if one is hanging on the line drying you have another one to wear.

10- Sunscreen

It goes without saying that sun protection is key. Sunscreen should be used by everybody, no matter what skin tone you are.

Don’t forget if your sunscreen is not waterproof, reapply after that dip in the sea!

…so that’s it!

I know there are so many other essentials that I have not included. However this is just an idea as to the things I like to take with me. I hope you enjoyed this post and last but not least….happy holidays 🙂

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Under the Cypriot sun

So recently I and some girlfriends went on a hens trip to Cyprus (to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of my sis thetrousseaudiaries.com). Having been to Cyprus before, I knew we were going to have a great time; however what i didn’t know is that I would fall in love with it!

beach

It may sound strange considering I have been before, however I previously stayed in Limassol, but on this trip we went to Protaras.

Don’t get me wrong, Limassol is nice, however for me Protaras is everything that Limassol is not, in that it still has authenticity, and you can feel that you are in Cyprus. When I was in Limassol, I honestly felt I could be in Spain or any other European destination. The good thing about the location of Protaras, is that if you want to party Ayia Napa is only  a 15 minute drive away. So you can have the best of both worlds, the calm serenity of Protaras with the main strip (that has numerous wine bars and restaurants) or the madness that is Ayia Napa…the choice is yours.

Where we stayed:

Rather than stay in a hotel, we decided that we would rent a villa. So upon doing some online research I came across Imagine Villas imaginevillarentals.

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The pictures of their various villas drew me in immediately, and I proceeded to contact them.  I have to honestly say that I would recommend  this company all day every day. The representative I dealt with Zoe was fantastic; all questions were answered, advice was given as to what’s available in the local area, essentially nothing was too much trouble.

When we arrived at the villa, we were all in awe at how stunning it was, and we knew we had made the right choice in not staying at a hotel. The villa had everything including a swimming pool, loungers, snooker table, wifi, cable TV, dishwasher, washing machine basically everything the most up to date property would contain.

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We made sure we definitely made use of that pool!

Let’s eat!

So when we initially arrived, it was quite late at night, so by the time we ventured out of the villa (which was after midnight) to find some food our only option was…McDonald’s. I know it’s not the height of Cypriot cuisine, but you have to understand, it was eat this or eat nothing till the next day! Having travelled quite a bit, I know that the menu at McDonald’s varies from country to country (totally exposing myself here lol). However I have to give it up to the McDonald’s in Protaras…they have chicken wings which has taste like they were cooked in your mum’s kitchen! No lie…these were soooo good!

Anyway I digress lol. Protaras has many many restaurants along the main town strip, and upon looking at the menus, they tend to offer the same types of food. So for us, how did we decide where to eat….trip advisor of course!

What actually happened is that we were walking along the strip and being asked to come into various restaurants. We kept on walking until a gentleman called Paul who worked at a restaurant called Molti told us that they had a great rating on trip advisor.

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We all agreed that was good enough for us, and so we ventured inside. It was the best decision we made. The restaurant itself was lovely, simple but beautiful.

molti

I ordered my standard Strawberry daiquiri, which was just as it looked amazing.

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For my starter I had prawns wrapped in bacon, with an orange glaze.

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Then for my main I had lamb chops, and the girls had a mixed grill and  salad.

dinner

The food was so good, we actually returned the following night, as we knew we were guaranteed a good meal.
The staff were so friendly and Paul went over and above on making sure that we were happy. We actually arranged for the restaurant to prepare a cake for the bride to be, and they went over and above.

cake

We were at the table, they dimmed the lights then they played the tune ‘congratulations’ and came over and presented the cake, which had a huge sparkler on it lol.

Ghetto Cocktail Bar

Firstly let me start by saying that the name of this bar needs to be ignored, it is far from Ghetto. We spotted this bar on our first night, and knew it was somewhere we had to visit at least once.

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The bar is ultra modern and  serves an array of drinks and cocktails as well as food.

bar

But of course I ordered my standard 🙂

cocktail

We got talking to one of the staff members called Steve as well as the manager. Both were exceptionally welcoming and it was a shame that we only went in on our last night. I can definitely say it will be my first stop when I next go to Protaras.

Beach Life

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The main beach is called Fig Tree Bay. The beach itself is stunning, however it is quite small.

beach

The best advice I can give is to get there early as it gets extremely crowded, and can be difficult to get a beach lounger.

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There are loads of water sports, which are quite reasonably priced. We actually went on the banana boat (never again), an inflatable sofa and a contraption called the stingray, in which you are lying face down on an inflatable, holding on to a piece of string being dragged by a speedboat. I have never ever screamed so hard…I had no voice left! Needless to say, we did have a lot of fun.

girls

Overall I would definitely go back, it takes only a few hours to get there from London, the weather is hot, the people are super friendly and it’s just a beautiful place to be. We did so much, yet did so little, as there was loads more  to see and for that reason I don’t feel that my relationship with Protaras is complete .

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Living la vida in Costa Rica

Being born in August, by default makes me a summer baby. Ever since I can remember summer has always been my favourite season. For the last couple of years I have been extremely fortunate to have gone on some amazing holidays and I have recently just returned from a mini break to Costa Rica.

I have a few more holidays lined up this year, including a very special one coming up (details to be revealed later) however for my first travel piece on this blog, I wanted to share my experience of Costa Rica.

Costa Rica- Pura Vida

Pura Vida, the literal translation means pure life, and this phrase is something that you will see posted everywhere in Costa Rica. The locals embrace this theme as part of their daily lives and are keen to share this with visitors to their island. I lost count of the amount of times I heard this when talking to locals.

The capital of Costa Rica is San Jose; however I stayed in the Gunacaste Region, meaning that I had to fly into the Daniel Oduber Quiros International airport in Liberia.

What can I say? Those looking for a holiday filled with luxury, with a shopping mecca to boot may wish to avoid Costa Rica. Why?

Costa Rica is the place for the ecologically conscious, filled with rain forests and rampant with wildlife.  The island is stunningly beautiful and incredibly peaceful, but a shopper’s paradise it is not.  You will certainly find a number of stalls selling local wares, however next to Hawaii, Costa Rica is the place surfers go to catch waves, and this is extremely evident in the town of Tamarindo.

Tamarindo comprises a stunning beach which stretches as far as the eye can see with a boulevard that has restaurants and boutique shops mainly selling t-shirts and beach towels quoting ‘pura vida’. Along the boulevard you will find vans parked with surfing boards sticking out of them and surfers putting on their wet suits getting ready to catch the wave of the day.  There are advertisements everywhere inviting tourists to try zip lining or go scuba diving and other such labour intensive activities. If a holiday filled with activity and water sports is your thing, then you should definitely consider Costa Rica.

While I researched the country, I noticed that Costa Rica is barely promoted much in travel agents in the UK, however I hope this changes. The weather is hot, the food is cheap and tastes so good, and the locals are friendly and welcoming. Costa Ricans are a happy bunch that love singing and dancing. For me (being the frustrated entertainer that I am) this makes for a fantastic time.

I stayed at the Flamingo Beach Resort in the Playa Flamingo area. This hotel has serious ocean views which is nothing short of stunning.  I spent a lot of my time in their pool bar…to me nothing makes me feel like I am on holiday like chilling by the pool and sipping on a strawberry daiquiri or a Tequilla or two (it’s the simple things).

Drink time in Costa Rica

A little drink or two in the pool

The area of Playa Flamingo is extremely quiet as such it is the perfect location if you are seeking rest and relaxation. The hotel offers deluxe spa treatments and massages, however if this is a bit too pricey, guests are able to get massages on the beach front for a fraction of the price.

Venturing away from the hotel, the best restaurant in the area is called Coco Loco.  I ventured there on the first day, and had a feast.  You can choose to sit outside or inside; however the restaurant front is open and so even when you are inside, it’s like you are outside.

Upon reading the menu, I saw so many things that I wanted to try. I didn’t know where to start. I and my cousin ordered starters of crispy calamari, as well as peel and eat shrimps.

It's dinner time

Time to eat!

The portions are generous, so much so, by the time we finished the starters, I could have returned to the hotel. However in the interests of research we carried on 🙂

I had slow cooked pork ribs, whilst my cousin had fresh whole snapper; together with my standard cocktail of strawberry daiquiri.  I honestly have nothing bad to say. We both left feeling very satisfied and understood exactly why the restaurant has received such good reviews.

If you are in the mood to party then you will have to go to Tamarindo.  My trip lasted a few days and to be honest, a few days is all you need.

Would I go back again? Definitely! I was only privy to a glimpse into what the island offers.  Am unsure I would return to the Guanacaste region, but would see what San Jose has to offer.

I do feel privileged to have been part of the pura vida life, if only for a few days. I am now ready to venture to my next destination…and where to next?

Hasta luego Costa Rica xoxo

http://www.resortflamingobeach.com/

http://cocolococostarica.com/

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