A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

15 Aug

1) Greek people are really friendly and helpful, except for the ones who work in museums. You’d think they’d never seen a child before.

2) Tourists love posing like idiots in front of ancient monuments.

3) The British are a lot better than the Greeks at monument information and interpretation. The philosophy schools, workplace of Plato and Socrates (yes them) had no sign you could see from the footpath. It was only by studying a tiny map really carefully, that we worked out what the scrubby area of land surrounded by chicken wire actually was.

4) The Aegean Sea is the perfect temperature for cooling down after dusty, sticky Athens.

5) Grilled octopus is delicious and not at all chewy.

6) Churches in Naxos are apparently never open.

7) The 2pm bus from Halki to Naxos town could give the Northern Line at rush hour a run for its money. I expect the kind lady who put Dickon on her knee wasn’t aware quite how heavy he was. I hope the fact she got off at A&E wasn’t down to us.

8) You can’t drink the tap water in Naxos, it tastes of salt. But bottled water is €2 for 9 litres and it turns out that the knee high taps around town aren’t actually for washing your feet…

A short list of things I’ve learnt this week

5 Aug

1) The Greek alphabet. I learnt it at school and it’s come back to me, which is pleasing.

2) It’s not wise to feed a pint of chocolate milk to a child after an hour walking in 36 degrees. Unless you want to see it again all over the cafe floor.

3) The Greek hillsides smell of figs.

4) If you drop your purse on a footpath from a monastery into the village, don’t rush to cancel your debit card, as a kind person might hand it in at the tourist office.

5) Oregano crisps are nicer than they sound.

6) Bakeries sell little homemade choc ices by weight. Five cost about 2 euros. Bargain.

7) If the playground is locked because it’s ‘out of order’, everyone will just climb over the fence to get in.

Yassou Greece!

3 Aug

I’m blogging on my phone, so this is going to be short and sweet. Our Athens apartment is lovely, high ceilings and tiled floors. The local souvlaki place is delicious and very reasonably priced and we had a successful first day sorting ferry tickets, buying mastic products and votives and seeing soldiers in skirts.

Yesterday we got the bus to Meteora. Comfortable as these things go and only took an hour longer than we’d been told. We stopped at a service station half way and tried a delicious sticky nutty jelly thing. Don’t know what it was called but the top had been caramelised with a flame.

Meteora is stunning. Huge grey sandstone rock pinnacles looming over the little village. There are six monasteries on the top of pinnacles and caves with rickety platforms, once home to hermits. This morning we climbed the steps to two monasteries in the shimmering heat. The churches are stunning, every surface covered with paintings, icons and carvings and silver and ostrich egg lamps. The devout kiss the paintings and a member of staff follows them round, spraying the glass with cleaner and wiping. Impressive levels of hygiene.

After a restorative ice cream, Dickon’s was banana with peelable edible jelly skin, we walked down the hill back to the village past bee hives, wild artichokes and shrines, the smell of warm figs pervading.

We’ve been listening to Percy Jackson and My Family and Other Animals, eating Greek salad (obvs), grilled meat and oregano crisps.

PS I can’t upload photos because I’ve used up my storage and I really can’t be faffed to work out how to sort that on my phone. If you want to see my pics, I’m on Instagram, user name vwallop!

Packing list

29 Jul

It’s been a while, but I’m pretty proud of my packing skills, so I’m moved to blog again. I remind myself somewhat of a truly annoying American I once shared a Sicilian train carriage with, who ground up his soap flakes in a blender and sawed off the end of his toothbrush to save space. He was one of the most boring people I’ve ever met, and the journey was long and excruciatingly slow, but I still remember him over 20 years later, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

So, packing.  On Thursday we’re off to Greece for four weeks, yes, I know, we’re jammy, and yes, Steve is able to get that long off work, one of the advantages of never getting pay rises. We’re flying Ryanair, as they’re £500 cheaper than Easyjet, which translates into an extra week in Greece.  But I’ve not heard great things about Ryanair and losing luggage, and they charge through the nose for check-in bags, and the queues for check-in at the airport are ridiculous, so we’ve decided to go hand luggage only.  It’s not as mad as it sounds, last year we flew hand luggage only to Switzerland by mistake after a fire alarm meant we almost missed our flight and had to hastily re-pack our bags and sprint straight through security. The kids are old enough to carry a decent sized bag; the boys have age appropriate kids’ backpacks and Eve is using my daypack. Steve and I have our trusty RTW backpacks, which we’ve taken the back support out of to make them shorter (I’ve obsessively measured everything about three times) and I’ve packed them very lightly so they’ll squash into the bag measurer. Then when we reach Greece we’ll re-pack so the kids aren’t carrying much and our bags are full.

Here’s what we are taking:

  • 1 fleece each
  • 1 hat each
  • 1 swimming outfit each (kids have rash vests as well as bottoms)
  • 2 swimming towels
  • 1 pair of flip flops and 1 pair of trainers for me
  • 1 pair of crocs for kids
  • 1 pair of hideous but practical trekking sandals purchased in Broome, Australia for Steve
  • 1 pair of PJs for adults and Eve and 2 pairs each for boys
  • 2 pairs shorts/skirts each for adults and Eve
  • 3 pairs shorts each for boys plus one pair extra
  • 3 tops each for adults
  • 4 t-shirts each for kids
  • 1 pair of trousers each
  • 1 long sleeved top each
  • 5 pairs of pants each and 2 bras for me
  • 1 silk sleeping bag each
  • travel sized shampoo, toothpaste, suncream, moisturiser etc which we’ll replace with normal sized ones in Greece
  • earplugs
  • sanitary protection
  • packet of tissues, hand gel and packet of baby wipes
  • hair brush
  • flannels and ziplock bags for cooling down on the go (put wet flannel with added ice cubes in freezer before you leave the house)
  • first aid kid including steri strips, gauze, piriton, paracetemol and sting stuff
  • 2 inhalers and spacer
  • passports, print outs of ferry tickets, insurance stuff etc
  • 2 iPhones, iPad mini with apps (games, Kindle, Greek language), audio books and a couple of movies and Kindle with books for kids and adults
  • travel speaker
  • charger, leads adaptor, headphones and splitters
  • 2 re-usable shopping bags
  • 4 guide books
  • 3 paper novels
  • kid’s activity book and blank notebook
  • felt tips and pencils
  • 1,000s of loom bands
  • man bites dog card game
  • dice game
  • inflatable beach ball

I’ve packed the fleeces, but obviously we’ll be wearing one outfit, long sleeved top, trousers, pants, and all the shoes will be worn except for my flip flops.  We plan to visit a toy shop in Athens and buy the kids a couple of souvenir toys or games.  If we buy lots of souvenirs, we’ll have to post them home to my mum, but I’ve also packed mostly really old clothes, so some stuff may stay in Greece.

That’s it! It all fits easily in the bags we’ve got and I don’t feel like we’re having to do without. There will be quite a bit of washing to do, but if you’re going away for that long, you expect it. I’m pleased that we’ll be able to hop on and off ferries with relative ease.

What have I forgotten?

A short list of things I learnt last week

10 Nov

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1) Britain is the second biggest consumer of chocolate in the world after Switzerland; we eat 7 kilos per person per year.  That doesn’t actually sound like that much does it?

2) A mammoth’s femur is longer and heavier than our rather stocky six year old.

3) French teenagers can play football and smoke at the same time.

4) Full fat milk has a blue top and semi-skimmed milk a green top in Spain too.  It’s very helpful but I imagine the European Parliament had a hand in it.  What would the Daily Mail make of that?

5) Nuns fart.  Really.  And when they do they make biscuits.

6) The Spanish for pig’s trotter.  Shame it was after I’d ordered what I thought was a pork chop.

7) How to get five seats in a row on Easyjet.  First, leave your morals at home…

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Keycamp offers self-catering holidays to over 90 top parcs across eight European countries, including Italy, Spain and Austria. Each boasts excellent facilities and a choice of stylish mobile home, chalet and even tree house accommodation. 
Seven nights from 23 March 2013 for a family of two adults and up to four children staying in a Villanova mobile home with decking and air conditioning at Keycamp’s Vilanova Park will cost from £252, accommodation only. Fly-drive and ferry packages can be arranged though Keycamp at a supplement. 

For the latest deals, further information or to make a booking, visit www.keycamp.co.uk or call 0844 406 0319. 

Keycamp

8 Nov

A while back, the lovely PR people from Keycamp asked me if we’d like a free holiday.  Of course I said yes, I mean you’d have to be daft not to wouldn’t you?  Where would you like to go they said.  Somewhere in the Autumn half term, not too cold, accessible by public transport, near a beach and with interesting things to do, I said.  Don’t want much do I?

They suggested Vilanova Parc, in Spain.  Not too far from Barcelona, twenty minutes from the beach by the regular bus service, local markets, five pools, a  jumping pillow and a junior disco.  Perfect I said, and off we went.

It was exactly what it said on the tin.  Apart from the weather, which was unseasonably cold, a fact I can’t blame on Keycamp.  The accommodation was spotlessly clean, had three bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, veranda, barbecue and a very welcome, welcome bottle of wine.  The Keycamp staff were cheerful, helpful and a constant source of swimming pool noodles, ping pong bats and snakes and ladders.  The parc was beautifully landscaped and maintained, had the advertised five pools, including, thankfully, one heated indoor one, two playgrounds, a restaurant at which we ate delicious rice with squid ink, and child friendly patatas bravas, a jumping pillow, a supermarket selling Dutch biscuits, and crazy golf.  Personally I think you can’t go wrong with crazy golf.

I’d never really stayed anywhere like that before.  I suppose it had similarities with some of the campsites in New Zealand and Australia, but they were a lot smaller.  This was as large as a small town, which meant I got lost a few times, but having an ATM, onsite medical help and a proper supermarket was something we never got in the Antipodes.  Mind you, in the Antipodes, we didn’t always have running water, but that’s another story.

The kids loved it and didn’t want to leave.  They made friends with other kids and sat swinging their legs on fences watching French boys smoking whilst playing football.  I can’t pretend I wasn’t faintly horrified, but that’s what holidays are all about when you are not quite a teenager.

And with the kids so busily occupied, I read three books in five days.  Result.

 

I won!

30 Sep

Back in the mists of time, do you remember me asking you to vote for me?  It was a blog award type thing called the MADS, I was nominated in the Travel category, obvs.  Well I won!  I got a glass trophy thing, some lovely flowers and a £500 travel voucher for Home and Away.  Brilliant huh?

If you voted for me, thank you very much.  If you didn’t, I shan’t hold it against you, because I’m nice like that.

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