Switzerland is like heaven, so beautiful you will wish to stay and enjoy every moment. In terms of where we are staying (canton Valais), I cannot begin to describe how happy we are. We wake up to the view of mountains and shopping for food is like shopping in a boutique. We definitely got a boost in quality of life here.
So what are these new rules we learnt we have to follow and what is the process of moving like? Specifically for my friends who think relocating is a bed of roses. ITS NOT EASY! Sorry to burst anyone's bubble but there are so many considerations to relocating! Quick examples: getting a permit to stay is a process of headaches on its own , language barrier (if you don't speak German in this region it means a harder time or no chance at getting a job). Also, it is more of who you know and less of general application and this applies to both universities and work, so networking becomes a lifestyle. Lastly, the world of insurances you will have to consider is mind-blowing.
1. Registration for a permit goes by which canton you are living in and not plainly by country. This means if you are staying in Bern and move to Zurich, you will need to register again in Zurich and get a new permit. Unlike when we were in Ireland, you get one permit and it works anywhere in Ireland. For people who have ever moved to a new country, you know that this process takes time as well (here it is up to 8 weeks or more). Good thing is people are nice and help readily if you need advise. Please be aware of the information provided and note different cantons have different rules, make sure to check at the right migration offices for information.
2. Health insurance is mandatory from the day you entered Switzerland. There are a few companies so be prepared to meet a few agents to discuss health insurances. It can get tiring and confusing to decide on one. Also, even if you did not see a GP in that time since you arrived, you still have to pay from day one. Personally, I think its a good idea to have health insurance as healthcare is costly. Although, make sure you pay to get it tailored for you so that you benefit from it if you should ever fall sick or if you need your biannual dental checks.
3. Finding the flat of your dreams can be difficult since there are certain things that are different in Switzerland. For example, our specific requirement came down to a flat with OUR OWN washing machine. Most flats you see come with a shared washing machine area. For us, this was something we could not see ourselves doing. There are set times for your turn with the washing so no way! Fortunately for us we got a flat with our own machine but one of the rules given to us was no use of washing machine on Sunday.
4. Rent is also high, with deposits going as high as 3 months rent. These flats come without furniture too! To add on to the list, it is compulsory that you get a personal liability insurance or you landlord will refuse your application. So start calculating in your head how costly things can get.
5. Food prices make me want to cry for help. Chicken is so expensive! I remember the first day I walked into the supermarket and tried to get chicken and my heart nearly stopped. One chicken breast is approximately 6-8 Swiss francs and two chicken breasts is about 11-14 Swiss francs. We have gotten into a routine now and obviously the prices don't shock me anymore. I only feel a pinch when we cross the border to Italy and some foods seem way cheaper. But on the bright side, we are in cheese, chocolate and wine heaven! These three things are definitely affordable and it keeps me happy :)
All my life I've said I would get married in Crete. I would lie in bed with my best friend talking about my wedding to an amazing man in a small church in the middle of nowhere. Today, my dreams came true. Crete was everything I thought it would be and more. We were walking through the historical streets and visiting monasteries and spectacular beaches and it got me thinking.. I did not need a wedding to fulfill the dream, I had my dream right beside me. This post is dedicated to the highlights of our 8 day trip and the places you should not miss!
Rent a car as the island is huge and you will see nothing without one. (We rented with SK rentals and everything went smoothly).
April is the best time to visit with nice sunny weather (20-24 degrees) and less tourists
Split your days between the three major cities: Chania, Rethymnon and Heraklion
Tip: We spent 2 nights here. Chania is a pretty city with narrow streets, waterfront cafes and restaurants and not forgetting the Venetian port and lighthouse. Crete has history being occupied by the Venetians and Ottoman empire so you will see strong influences on architecture everywhere. Apart from the walk around Chania be sure to check out a really nice cafe called Carte postale. There are guaranteed panoramic views of the city! Just a short walk from the cafe you will find a nice park with the graves of Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sophocles. There is information in the parks about these men, you will enjoy the walk and read.
Day 2 was spent on looking for the oldest olive tree in the world! It is said to be around 3000 years old. You will find this tree at ano vouves.
We also spent some time looking for balos lagoon! A tip here: the views are worth it but the drive to balos is horrendous! the roads are really bumpy, you will be driving at 10km/hour for at least an hour. Maybe get a jeep? Also, be prepared to walk to the lagoon after you arrive by car to the parking lot.
On the way to Rethymnon, we stopped at a cute village of springs called Argyroupoli. It had fresh spring water flowing through the village its definitely work a stop.
Tip: We spent 2 nights here. It is the third largest city and the best one in my opinion. It is full of history with every street leading you to a story. Rethymnon was taken over by the Ottoman empire so you will see a large Turkish influence here in terms of architecture and culture.
Day 2 was spent at the famous Arcadi monastery and Preveli monastery that played a key role in the Cretan revolution and world war II respectively. Lots of reading to do but I promise you wont get bored. The fight for freedom was inspiring, the Arcadi monastery is recognised by UNESCO as a freedom monument.
Preveli monastery has a history with helping wounded allied soldiers escape from the German soldiers during World War II through the lake. When we visited we were amused to see they kept an animal sanctuary with llamas, peacocks and ducks etc. It is a functioning monastery, even a priest had a chat with us. For lunch nearby, I recommend you find "Panaroma taverna" , it has a view of Libya. The food is really good too!
Heraklion is the capital city of Crete. We did not stay here as we wanted to be away from the city so we chose Hersonissos. It is a beach town with lovely spa resorts! Some party tourists choose Malia for the crazy nights but obviously its all quiet in April.
Tip: We spent 3 nights here.
Day 2 was spent in Spinalonga! The last active leper colony in Europe was based here. Also there is a famous book called "the island" by Victoria Hislop and I highly recommend it. I was so excited to see the island and the story come alive. To get there, drive towards Plaka, there are boats (5 min ride) that will take you across and back for 10 euros. The entrance will cost 8 euros and do note there are no guides unless you are in a tour group. So for those, like me who like details, read up before!
For all the history lovers, Knossos is a must! The palace was built during the Minoan civilization and is linked with the legend of Minotaur and the labyrinth. Tip here: get your tickets online as the queue is long! Also do consider a guide as it is worth hearing the stories and history told to you! You will appreciate the highlights of the palace better such as the meaning behind the frescoes, throne room and the ways of the Minoan people.
I am happy to answer any questions if you have any! Eventually, Sar and I loved Crete and will not rule out a return ;)
We have been living in Cork for just over three years now and I have never openly talked about how I felt about living here. So here goes, 10 things we will miss about living here!
1. Irish people are warm and friendly!
This is a certified truth. You can ask anyone who has ever been to Ireland and they will tell you that the Irish are fun to meet and be friends with. We made some good friends here who have been kind to invite us to their homes and also give us some good tips on places to explore. There were times that I got upset with the weather and you can always trust the Irish to make a joke out of it. The day we arrived to Cork, a lovely Irish lady told me "there is never bad weather.. only bad dressing". Some of the friends I have made here are definitely ones I will be keeping in touch with for a long time to come. Obviously, we also made friends with other internationals who made our time in Cork fun with good party stories. We shared our time together as expats and its true what they say about life being better with great support around you. I had loads of pictures but I chose to display some great times we had.
2. It is easy to get around town by foot
Considering you live in the center or just around it like barrack street, near the university etc. Imagine needing to go to the supermarket or to run some errands in town. All you have to do is walk to the center and everything you need is there. Yes it is not London or Singapore but you get the essentials with a nice amount of shopping. If you are a shopping diva forget it, Cork does not have what you are looking for.
3. Nice nightlife, with a variety of pubs to choose from
At the weekend, you can be rest assured that there are great choices to pick from. Here are a few of my favorite party places in Cork that I'll miss!
-Voodoo club (guaranteed fun night out!)
4. Cork airport is so close to the center
It is a 12 to 15 min drive from our home to the airport. Although the flight connections are poor we cant deny that the close proximity to an airport is a bonus!
5. It rarely gets super cold or snowy in the winter
Yes, it is cold and rainy but its not like mainland Europe where it snows with minus temperatures.
It rarely snows in Ireland, some can argue that its not fun when there is no snow.. I would say maybe its best since everything seems to shut down when it does. So if you like the humid weather more than ice and dry then.. Ireland is for you!
6. Guinness my old friend
Where in the world can you get a fresh cold pint of Guinness? You can order it anywhere else but it wont taste the same (Guinness never tastes the same as when in Ireland). That is the truth. you can argue with me all you like but case closed. I will miss a good pint of Guinness. Although, in Cork, people drink Murphy's so I should say try it as it may be your drink of choice.
7. Cork is surrounded by beautiful nature
Rent a car or as an old fr-enemy used to say "find a friend with a car". Go touring around the region. You will find the most spectacular beauties. Places such as the cliffs of moher, Kinsale, Cobh, Dingle peninsula, ring of Kerry including places such as Killarney national park. These are all commonly known places but there is so much more to explore. Being able to drive out to any of these places is one of the highlights of living here. Cork is a great spot for nature lovers. Here are pictures of some of our favorite days here.
8. O'Conaill Chocolate Shop
If you lived in Cork you cannot get enough of this amazing hot chocolate! The chocolate shop can be found at french church street in town or every Sunday at the market beside the marina. There is a hot chocolate stand with the best dark chocolate that Sar swears is the best in Cork. I personally like butlers chocolate too.
9. How can I forget the fresh dairy, eggs and meat
If you have traveled much, you will start to find the distinct differences in foods. In Cork, eggs, dairy, poultry and red meats are fresh and simply delicious. Coming from Singapore I appreciate the juiciness of meats and eggs with lovely orange yolks. Although I am not a milk drinker, I know Ireland is a large producer of milk and if you have tried it you will know it tastes amazing. Unlike, the powdered milk we grew up drinking. Think of all the great ways you can be getting your optimal nutrition. Another place I will miss greatly is the famous English market. You can find almost anything you will need to prepare any dish. Do check out the fish section too as I love getting our salmon from there.
10. Cork Jazz Festival
Last but not least I have to mention the famous Cork jazz festival! People come from all over the world for the weekend to immerse themselves in jazz music performed by hundreds of musicians at various locations around town. The city is buzzing with street musicians to cafe performances and night events. ALL DAY LONG. This year it will be held from 24th to 28th October and we are gutted we wont be here. This is the one weekend it is fun to just go out and see whats happening even if you are not a jazz fan.You never know what you will find. One time, we enjoyed jazz music at Gallaghers gastro pub and it felt like we were in New Orleans. Such amazing memories we will never forget.
We had the best three years here and we want to thank our friends who made our time lovely and for sharing in this adventure with us. Here you have 10 beautiful reasons to consider living in Cork.
This is a question that will only cross your mind if you're about to travel and realize that you have 6 months or less left on your passport. This happened to me once years ago when I was bound to attend a forum in Malaysia! Apparently, there is a 6 month rule most countries so I freaked and obviously got an express application for the trip.
This time, it happened to Sar. He realized over Christmas that he had 5 months left on his passport when we were meant to travel to Singapore for my brothers wedding. We spent days googling and freaking out over the fact he may not be able to travel. We called the ministry of foreign affairs in Singapore and they tried to contact Singapore immigration but no one could give us a straight answer! Sar went to the Greek consulate in Dublin to apply for a passport and got a letter to show as proof for travel.
We did not want to lose our flight money so we went ahead and traveled to Singapore with our fingers crossed hoping no one would stop him. The thing is we had two stops.. one in Amsterdam and China so the chances of getting stopped was high. True enough, we got stopped in Amsterdam and it was not pretty! They refused him to board and we were surrounded by staff telling us there was no way Sar was getting on the flight. Here is when I tell you.. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE MORE THAN 6 MONTHS left on your passport. Our story was probably an exception.
Good news is, I insisted we speak to the airline manager and after much crying we convinced her that we had to board the flight. She made Sar sign a piece of paper to say it wont be the airlines fault if he was refused entry in Singapore. We had no problems in China though! So, here is a tip for you, if you would like to increase your chances for entry maybe prepare all your documents in hand (especially if you are travelling for an important event). In this case we had my brothers wedding invitation, passport application letter and proof of our relationship status. THIS DOES NOT GUARANTEE entry but it may help like it did in our case. Singapore immigration warned Sar and told him not to do this again so I guess moral of the story is to be on top of things. It would be shitty to be travelling towards a sunny destination and get turned away back to the cold.
Truth is, I'm still getting to know me and learning to love what I see. I chose to write about some bits of my life as I think it is a part of me that made me who I am today. I am ambitious, driven and possibly a perfectionist at times. Growing up, I thought maybe the zodiacs were right. Being born in January is the cause of my character. I think not now, what made me who I am is a lot to do with how my life turned out.
My father played a key role in my life. He stood by me through every decision I ever made. I have memories from when I was younger where he would tell me stories of his travels. One time, he took me to Japan and how amazed I was with everything I saw and he held me tight in his arms afraid he would lose me. Maybe he knew I would one day leave him to see the world. Now, he calls me everyday to hear about my day and the adventures I've been on. He is my head cheerleader. Each achievement I have accomplished, he would always say "I knew you would make it!". Each time, I feel like giving up I know I am only one phone call away from the biggest motivational speech I'll ever get.
For those that don't know me, my parents are divorced. My father raised my brothers and me on his own. He did everything in his power to make sure we had our needs met and the best education. He used all the money he could save to send me to the UK to pursue my degree. Life was not always fair you see, as he fell sick at some point and I had to discontinue my studies and return home. I am sure some of you know the twist of fates very well. From that point, I realized it was my turn to be there for him. I think it was then that I began pushing myself hard to be better. We all know the repercussions to pushing yourself. One, you achieve something and two, you end up hurting yourself mentally. Well, coincidentally I managed to do both. I succeeded in getting my degree but not before suffering from anxiety.
Funny enough, this summer spent at home with my father he reminded me again of my strength and how the hard push was not necessary. We talked about the times I failed my driving tests (twice to be exact!) and how happy I was to finally succeed! You see, I was never a failure in my fathers eyes. If only I saw myself that way. Maybe I needed my 'cheerleader' to give me the push to face my fears. Now, I am starting to see myself as someone who fought hard to get the degree I wanted. A woman who fell in love with a man who loves and respects her back. I'm only 26 and I can say I have lived in two countries and traveled to 27 countries outside Singapore (almost there with the 30 under 30 goal!). For all the times I saw failure, I cant remember them now.
I am still a bit anxious at times, except now I'm choosing to own my life and embrace all current and future travels and to do it for myself. I am writing this as a reminder for every time I fail, so that I will get back up and do this for myself.
Daddy if you ever read this, I hope you know I am thankful for everything you have done for me. It was through you that I learnt to be strong and to strive for what I want. I will try and look at myself the way you see me even on the hardest days.
First of all, I did this trip with my father and my best friend in the world! It is easy to see why the company made Hong Kong all the more appealing. We only had 4 days and 3 nights and we wanted to see the famous city skyline and experience living like a local with foods and travel. Hong Kong is populated with about 7.3 million people, so the first thing you will notice is the crowds at most places and super tall and packed buildings! There are brand new shiny ones and there are old dirty ones! Good thing is they're a mix around the city! I think it is fair to start by saying that all hotel rooms in Hong Kong are on the smaller side so best not to expect too much and just embrace the experience. We stayed in a family room at Butterfly on Morrison (4 stars) near causeway bay MTR and we felt it was the best location with great staff! You can easily take the bus and MTR places you wish to go and honestly, do take the local transport as its the best way to explore Hong Kong. The hotel gave you free rental of WIFI devices, selfie sticks with clip on lenses to help you take nicer pictures!
So, we spent a day trekking the famous Victoria peak! Let me be honest and say we started around 12 ish in the afternoon as we were told it would not be too crowded. Truth be told, it was indeed quieter than later in the evening. We took the bus up and it was very easy and relatively cheap! Here is where there could be a confusion. All the tourist went to the tower peak to take pictures! Up there on the deck you are required to pay to enter or you could stand on the sides outside the tower to take pictures which is still beautiful and worth it. What we did though was very different. We decided to walk to the actual peak. It was a steep trek up the hill and we got lost several times as many of the little routes were either shut or led you to satellite towers or water stations? we were not sure, but we know it was definitely prohibited entry. The good thing is on the trek, you will pass nice parks and also a few peak points you could take nice pictures of the other side of Hong Kong. Yes, you will sweat like crazy so make sure to have snacks and water with you. If not, there is a little shop at the peak with a nice old lady who will sell you water and whatever drink you fancy. She also sells traditional snacks like fish balls and steamed dumplings!
Another place to explore is central Hong Kong! Let me suggest you get the old town map and walk around using the traditional method without google. You will find that amidst the high street there are little streets that maintain street culture. Not forgetting the tall skyscrapers all closely packed together. We had the most delicious egg tarts from Tan Cheong bakery and 2 mins away you will find a street milk tea stall! Its simply mouth-watering delights. We also explored tsim sha tsui promenade and wow'ed ourselves with the city skyline. Okay, so coming from Singapore I was concerned about the wow factor here. But I should say I was impressed at how densely populated Hong Kong was and how all these buildings came together perfectly. Lastly, temple street! If you want to skip the crowds and fortune tellers, go late around 9pm. There are shops that sold all kinds of quirky gifts. We had space to walk around and also managed a lovely meal at a street stall with the best eggplant fried with garlic! So simple but amazing how it bursts in your mouth. Highly recommend it to all eggplant lovers.
Jun and I spent our last night partying at the famous Lan Kwai Fong which was 5 minutes from where we lived and only cost us 40 HK dollars by taxi. Okay, truth be told, for some strange reason we were offered so many free shots that night (by bouncers at the bar). We thought it was to attract men to the bar if they saw ladies drinking. Anyways, Graffiti club was great for dancing! We had most of our drinks at Tao bar because the people who worked there was nice and we made some expat friends! I will end it by saying we had a really good night out with one of us having one of the worst hangovers of our lives ( I won't be pointing fingers now!).
Hong Kong was a delight for food! Make sure to have your dim sum fill! Ask the locals for the nearest banquet and they will guide you. I will waste no time with words and indulge you with pictures! For this reason only, you should embrace Hong Kong and give this city a chance!
We started our adventure in Cebu! What a beautiful city, I should say that from the moment we landed we were amazed with how clean it was! Coming from Singapore we had low expectations but Cebu surprised us. Upon arrival, we got our SIM cards with data for a week right outside the airport and it cost us 500 pesos for about 7GB data (this information may be important for those of us who need to make calls home, especially since we were going to the islands with poor connection). But, if you are adventurous and want no connection, by all means do it!
In Cebu, we stayed in an airbnb "Myra's bedsit" in Horizons 101 condominium for 3 nights. This cost us 47 SGD each person which was really cheap considering it was clean and at a great location! We would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a few nights in Cebu.
Osmena peak and Kawasan falls
We booked our tour about a month earlier just because we were on a tight schedule and wanted to be prepared. We booked with Cebu tours and it cost us 61 SGD each person. This tour included the driver and lunch. The journey to osmena peak took us 3 hours by car depending on traffic as sometimes it could be longer! Osmena peak is worth the journey and money! The view was magnificent! The trek up takes about 20 minutes but be warned it could be slippery with loose rocks. It is considered a beginners route but we did find out that there is a harder route that takes about 2 hours so you may consider that if you like. We had a guide who was very kind and patient! He spent quite some time taking pictures of us and even climbed higher peaks to help us take the perfect picture! Tip here would be remember to bring a jacket, it gets a little cold up at the peak.
After the peak, it takes about an hour to get to Kawasan falls. When you get there you will need to walk for about 15 to 20 minutes to get to the falls. It is required that everyone wears a life jacket as the locals say the water is very deep and can be rough from the falls. When we took our first dip we were freezing! The water was very cold, we could not sit there for long. Maybe it was just the cloudy day? As we know this time of the year it gets chilly and rainy. One tip here would be to know if you take a picture with the "I love kawasan falls" be prepared to pay 50 pesos! There will be an angry guy standing there demanding for the money. Overall, we were underwhelmed with the falls, I would suggest you do canyoneering if you did Kawasan falls!
El nido island hopping
The journey here took us ages! We flew into Puerto Princessa airport from Cebu and had to get a 6 hour van ride to el nido. It costs 450 pesos per person which was a really good price. Despite the time it took us, el nido was our favourite! it was raw and beautiful with very few tourists (but this could be due to the low season). We stayed at spin designer hostel and we gave it a high rating as it was very clean and breakfast was nice! One of the nights there was a black out in el nido but our hostel had a back up generator and we were fine. The only negative would be poor wifi (but you are in paradise, don't think you will need it!).
Island hopping is a must! We decided to go on a private tour as we read blogs about how crowded the boats get and we wanted to have the freedom over our trip. We booked with el nido paradise tours and it cost us 55 SGD each person with lunch included. We chose tour A which included the small lagoon, big lagoon, secret beach and seven commando beach.
We did some kayaking in the small lagoon, which cost about 400 pesos. It was worth it except be warned that it gets crowded with lots of other boats and people kayaking. The big lagoon is protected so you can only pass through it and they will not allow you to go into the water. The seven commando beach was a a white sand turquoise water beach for swimming and lots of picture spots. Lunch on the boat had a good variety- it included freshly made (they cook it on the boat) BBQ prawns, chicken wings and eggplant salad and lots of fruits. We told our guide that we wished to get down at las cabanas beach to watch the sunset and it was doable! So, we ended our evening with a bottle of wine watching the sunset- perfect end to the day!
Nacpan beach, el nido
You will need to book a shuttle van to take you to the beach. It costs 600 pesos each person. The beach was pretty empty! you will get vouchers for welcome drinks and a free drink at mad monkey hostel. We did try to get a seat there but it was packed and so hot! eventually we paid 200 pesos and rented a bamboo hut from the locals- best decision ever! It was cooling and it fit us all.
The water was clear and wavy! Don't think it is particularly ideal for swimmers but its great for surfers. We enjoyed jumping around in the waves and we were doing this all day. The only downside at this beach are the stray dogs. There is a pack of them and the moment you take any food out, they will jump at you. It got a little scary at times. One of the dogs jumped at my friends chicken on the table (while she was still eating).
Last night in Puerto Princessa
Our last night was simply for food and karoake! we stayed at the acacia hotel and resort and they served us the best lunch! it was huge with several grilled seafood options not forgetting the eggplant salad we loved. I wish to dedicate a whole post for food in the Philippines! One paragraph is not enough! So stay tuned for my foodie post! For now, our final verdict is we would definitely return to the Philippines! There is so much more to explore!
Dear Santorini, you are like a woman who knows she has it all and the world is at her feet. Yet, we cant help but fall in love with you. You would think all that charm would be nauseating or some may call it cliche. Not by me, you swept me off my feet and showed me that haters are going to hate and you just have to keep your charm and true beauty. Oh, how you've taught me.
We started our journey by taking the slow ferry with "Ferry hopper" from Kimolos island to Milos for a transfer and then Milos to Santorini. in total, the tickets cost about 70 euros each person one way. I would recommend you plan and book your tickets before your trip! you can collect your tickets in person at the ticket offices before your trip. If you are travelling from Athens, there are direct ferries and flights straight to Santorini!
Once we arrived to Santorini, we had our rental car waiting for us. We booked with "Santorini rent a car" and they were very timely and always picked up their phones when we had issues. it cost us 213 euros for 5 days with full insurance.
We stayed in Perissa at a hotel called "Villa Anemomilos Perissa" John the owner was very friendly and the facilities were decent, there was a pool on site and the black beach was a 8 minute walk away! John checked us in himself and gave us a good amount of tips for things to see and do. We paid 260 euros for 4 nights with free parking which is very affordable for Santorini standards! Don't worry about the room, it was very clean and we even had a cute balcony facing the mountains! Okay so with logistics out of the way, lets get to the fun part!
Day 1: Famous Oia for beautiful pictures and Fira by night!
Let's get honest about Oia. It is definitely worth the hype! The iconic white washed houses,small streets that lead you around like a mini maze, view of the caldera and the many photo opportunities. BUT be aware that its going to be really hot from the burning sun and super crowded with tourists from around the world. Especially if you visit in the summer months. Unless you have a larger budget to book a beautiful villa or room in Oia, I would suggest taking all your beautiful pictures in the day and moving on to explore other parts of Santorini.
Picture spots: When you first enter Oia, you will see Atlantis book store (they sell really good books which I honestly think you should check out) and just on the roof of the store is a cute photo op. Next, walk towards Oia castle, on the way you have lots of opportunities with the blue dome and white washed houses. At the castle, you'll be faced with a treat of pictures, enjoy! Ultimately, I would say go down the little streets, you never know where they will lead you and that is where we took most of our pictures! So put on your explorer hats, brave the crowds and create your own story.
Also, a good tip is to bring lots of water. We sat down for non-alcoholic juices in a nice tavern with a view and got charged 23 euros. I would like to think we paid for the view- it was magnificent with the blue domes and the sea! But if you are on a tight budget, be prepared for Oia!
We went home to freshen up and decided to go to Fira in the evening for the sunset and dinner. We had no plans, we wondered the streets and walked into boutiques and shops, admiring work from Greek designers. Fira is where the party is at! There were several fun looking bars and clubs we would have loved to enter if we were not so tired from the day! We ended up at a Greek tavern and ordered my favourite stuffed aubergines and grilled sardines (yum!). No pictures here as we were starving and forgot! (This happens to everyone I'm sure?).
Day 2: Imerovigli by day and wine tasting by night
This felt like the day of photo shoots! We just kept snapping everything we saw. I would really suggest Imerovigli for photo taking! Its quieter and less busy, you will have the place to yourself to take as many pictures you want (hence, the poses!). We originally wanted to hire a photographer but note its really expensive! They were charging 130 to 140 euros for 30 minutes. So, instead I made Sar my photographer! It was still a hot day but at least we were not rushing about. A little tip, you could stay in this town too! It is also called the "balcony of the Aegean" with beautiful sunsets! Honestly though, sunsets in Santorini are magnificent in every town.
After the photo shoot, we drove up to Akrotiri for some pictures by the lighthouse! It was quiet up there, it felt like us against the world. If you have the time and a car, it is worth a look!
Finally, for the evening we made a table reservation at Santos winery for wine tasting and the sunset. This is definitely a must do on the list! But first, I recommend you request for a table right in front with the best view (your hotel could book this for you). Also, you do not have to book for the winery tour! you can have the view by just buying a glass of wine. Have a look at the menu before hand, it helped us decide what we liked and was affordable. We ordered the 10 wine flight for tasting which cost 31 euros shared between 2 people, saying that we really liked the famous vinsanto a dessert wine made from sun dried grapes! We also ordered the seafood platter made with "beech wood smoked salmon fillet, Greek steeped trout, octopus, marinated hake fillet with olive oil and capers, breadsticks, tomatoes, rocket leaves" it costs 29 euros and note the portion was small but delicious. We were definitely still hungry after! So maybe get a snack before?
Day 3: Volcano trek and sunset on the boat
We booked the sunset cruise in person at Fira in a tour office called "Dakoutros Travel". It cost us about 32 euros each person but it was worth every penny. You will have to get the boat from the old port. Going down is NOT EASY! it is steep and slippery and the sun will be burning so just imagine. You have three ways to get down. The cable car, donkey ride or walk down. the cable car will cost you 6 euros each person and it takes 2 minutes but the queues are massive, the donkeys cost the same but I would avoid it as we saw them being mistreated and they just looked sad it was hard to watch. So we walked down and it took us about 20-30 minutes and we saw quite a few people fall, not forgetting the smell of donkey poo.
Once you're down, you'll get on the boat with a group of people. It was not so crowded, we had about 20-30 people! this is amazing as the day boats could go up to 100 people. We started with the volcano trek, it was steep but easy to overcome and hot but not as hot as earlier in the day. The guide explains the history of Santorini and how the island split due to an earthquake. The volcano is on sea making it unique I felt! We saw several tiny craters with sulphur gas coming out from it and hot water. Very interesting experience-It takes about 20 minutes to reach the peak! Note here to bring a large bottle of water, you will need it!
After the trek, we made our way back to the boat and were taken to the hot springs where everyone jumps off the boat and gets the opportunity to swim in the volcanic hotsprings. Here they will provide floats too for people who need it. If you do not swim, you can skip this part too. Avoid wearing a white swimsuit as the hotsprings could colour your clothes.
Next, they brought us to Thirassia island. It is the old Santorini where houses are traditional. Here we could swim or get something to eat. Sar and I got a quick souvlaki for 3 euros to conserve our energy! it was heaven. Such a nice secluded spot away from crowds.
Finally, we ended up watching the sunset on the boat. Lets just say it was the best sunset of our lives! I had a little corner and we just sat there admiring the sunset together. no picture can ever do justice to what we experienced. Good thing is you will get complimentary wine on the boat while watching the sunset (don't expect much as they're in tiny plastic cups, but still a treat!).
Our night had not ended yet. I should add that Sar and I attended a concert from a famous Greek singer called Giannis Haroulis. Sar loves his music and want to know what I thought? He was indeed amazing! His voice was so beautiful it could serenade you and excite you at the same time. By the end of the night we were out of our seats jumping around with all his other fans. What a perfect way to end the night.
Day 4: Beach day
You will need to climb down to get to the beach which some people say is abit tricky, but I say its worth it! What a beautiful sight to see the blue waters crash against the red shore.
We came to have a look at the beach and it was definitely a sight! Maybe sneak in a cheeky swim!
But as you can see, we liked the black beach best! Rest assured the black sand is not going to stick to you as much as white sand. Perissa beach is organised, which is perfect if you wish to get your freddo cuppacino or some food!
We finished our trip at the sunset view cafe! it is in the middle of nowhere with a windmill. The perfect find. Sar tried the local beer "volcan" which he really liked and I had a strawberry mojito which was not that great so maybe stick with local beers! The sunset once again blew our minds. Santorini you have stolen our hearts and minds and the best part is, you know it! Confident, strong and beautiful.
I would like to leave a tip at the end that we flew out of Santorini back to Athens - don't expect much from the airport. Only one tiny duty free shop and you will be cramped in there with hundreds of people waiting for their flights. Well, what is one bad experience versus all the good we just shared with you! Start planning your holidays to the Greek islands!
We only went to Kimolos because we were invited to one of Sars good friends wedding! We were so thankful to be invited, as that weekend ended up being a great one! So here are some tips to explore Kimolos and have an authentic Greek experience from my perspective.
The town and port is a short walk so we felt the best place to stay would be in between. We booked two nights at Kimolis hotel for 220 euros with breakfast included and I assure you the service provided was amazing! Yes, it may seem costly, but its a great location if you fancy swimming by the port or a walk around the town exploring the small streets, 17th century churches, traditional Greek taverns, shops and homes. However, it is not too near to the beautiful beaches, you will need car for that! This may cost around 30 euros a day. In the summer, it gets so hot, its a good idea to have a car, we tried walking to the Rema beach with the elephant stone but after 20 minutes of walking it gets nearly unbearable in the heat. So definitely get yourself a ride!
Prassa beach is so beautiful and the furthest away (about 10 mins by car), but definitely worth the travel! It has white sand with turquoise waters, also organised with umbrellas and a little cafe (get yourself a nice cold freddo cuppacino!). You can also swim at the Psathi (port)! We saw quite a few people jumping into the clear waters! There is also Rema beach where you'll find the fisherman village (picture with colorful doors) and a great place for pictures too.Another tip is there is a nice elephant shaped rocks that you could snap a cute picture at! Some people like diving and there is a nice place for that, Karas beach! Poliagos beach is located on the island nearest Kimolos, you will need a boat to get there (10 mins approx) that is where the wedding beach party was hosted! It is a natural beach with endangered species such as seals etc. You won't see them near the beach where people swim but maybe you could get lucky if you explored the island?
Food & Drinks
Look for the Agora street in the town center! you will find nice bars to hang out at. Also, the town center which the Greeks call the 'platia' is where you'll find taverns with yummy Greek food. Although, we only spent the weekend in Kimolos we felt it was an authentic experience.
I feel like I did not do justice to our trip in Vietnam. It was the best one month of my life and I spent it with my best friends Jun and Jonas and a friend I met while travelling Cambodia-Lukas! We started in Ho Chi Minh city and visited the cu chi tunnels - Nha Trang for some beach days - Dalat for canyoning at the waterfalls (scariest thing I have ever done but most rewarding!) - Hoi An for culture and its tailoring (It is a pretty little town!) followed by motorbike ride to - Hue for a walk around the perfume river and a trishaw ride through town - Hanoi for culture and the secret night life (due to military curfew!) and street food was amazing! - Halong Bay we took the party boat which allowed us to meet new people; we got to explore the caves and kayak through them. Needless to say the party on the boat was fun; we made new friends and two of them eventually visited us in Singapore! Lastly, we ended up in Sapa where we did a home-stay with the local people. They took us for a 13 km walk up the mountains where we met their families and ate with them and learnt from them about their culture and what a daily day is like for them. In the day, we explored the market in town to have a look at all the natural works by the people. They made beautiful handicrafts using natural colours and materials.
I think of this trip often. It was the one time in my life I had no plans and just went with whatever I felt the next morning. Yes, I was broke but I was so happy. I always get carried away worrying about the future, and its made worse with my drive to be perfect. Now, whenever I feel myself drifting away, I think of Vietnam. Letting go all worries and just thinking for today. Thus, for me Vietnam will always be in my heart and I am glad I shared that month with my best mates.
I have not visited either of the Korea's yet but one of my close friends Luis travels so much for work he decided that he will be sending me pictures from his travels to add to my love for food. He is not a fan of Korean food but I on the other hand, LOVE my 'bibimbap' (usually short grained rice with meat, vegetables, kim chi and soup). So, he tells me that its the spice that puts him off.But honestly, is Korean food spicy? I guess some dishes could be, especially if served with kim chi. But then again, I am Indian and spice is essential in my diet.
Lets have a closer look at a typical Korean meal; they seem to be served in metal utensils and always served with kim chi, seaweed, pickled vegetables? In Singapore, Korean dishes were served with fried anchovies as a side (crispy with a sweet spicy flavour) I wonder if that is actually a norm or if it was adapted for us at home since we like our anchovies. I would like to understand Korean culture and maybe I will know better if I ever visit Korea one day. Luis does not have all the answers for me since he travels so much for work these are the little gifts he leaves me- just a snap shot of wherever he goes. Luis and I met on a long bus ride in Cambodia and ended up being friends for life! He visits me in Cork once a year and lets just say I look forward to hearing all about his travels. This one is for you, Luis! Have a lovely Friday night in Busan and hopefully you're gonna be cranking it up Gangnam style!
You know what I am craving for most? DIM SUMS! A typical Asian-Cantonese brunch is called "yum cha" in Hong Kong which are dim sums served with chinese tea. There are so many types of dim sums you could order and savour; such as pork and chive dumplings, pork soup dumplings, mango and prawn fritters, prawn dumplings and chee cheong fun with chilli oil etc. The good news is I will be travelling to Hong Kong in August and I cannot wait to go for brunches with my dad. For now, we had to settle for yum cha in Cork! Its in a little Chinese restaurant called Yuan Ming, its pretty authentic as you'll get served by waiters from Malaysia (close to home for me). Its just lovely to catch up with them on their lives and plans to go home.
We ordered the dry hor fun with beef which turned out tasting like "char kway teow" also known as fried noodles with eggs and cockles from Singapore. For those who love the local delicacy, that would be amazing, as for me I was a bit disappointed. I had something else in mind - there are several ways to make dry hor fun and this way was not my favourite. Ask for chilli oil with your noodles, it adds extra flavour which leaves you wanting more. As for the array of dim sums we ordered which were basics by the way, I was a tad bit disappointed too. You could easily get frozen dim sums from the chinese shops and steam them on your own - they'll obviously fall apart and will not be as juicy as freshly made ones. Therefore, ordering it from a restaurant you would hope they would be freshly made and juicy which it was not. You can never get xiao long pao (pork soup dumplings) that burst in your mouth ever unless you were home. Anyways, for a small craving the food did its job.
This is my first read of the summer! Lets just say it left tears in my eyes when I was done. Once again you're given four peoples perspective in the story; A cop, a psychic, a little girl and her missing mother. The stories intertwine and they affect each other, it discusses lost hopes, love and how sometimes we hold onto unfinished feelings strongly that we may not realise it until something triggers our memories. The book also goes into details about elephants and how they have memories and remember more than we know. The way elephants deal with grief is portrayed several times in the book that left me thinking about the facts. Because if it were true, its touched my heart how much more they could feel. I absolutely love elephants and after reading this book its got me thinking more about them.
My verdict: This book deserves 4.6 stars out of 5! I highly recommend it if you're looking for a summer read or just something to sink into after a day's work.
Sar and I come here often and I think we've ordered the same thing several times. Would that be boring? Or we simply know what we love! If you fancy a good range of choices from pancakes to creamy mushrooms on toast or just a range of deli delights this is the perfect place! Also, the black-forest hot chocolate is to die for, its my absolute favourite! its not too sweet just a great Sunday treat.
We spent Saturday in Killarney catching up with friends from my university. I was never very good with goodbyes despite the time spent apart I always feel this little bit of sadness. Reminds me of when my dad would say "I'll see you soon". I made some good and kind friends from University, although its been a rough year for me personally, we've had some good times together and I wish them the best! Just a little tribute to our time together I will give each of them a little introduction.
I met Aoife my first day at college, I was lost and we helped each other find the class we were meant to be in. You know how some people talk about fate (yes its freaky!) but I am truly thankful I met her. She's knowledgeable and has a heart of gold as people at home think of when someone says they're Irish. We have so much in common and it is not everyday that you can warm up to someone and just feel its okay to feel vulnerable, worried or plain silly.
I think I met Darragh in the main restaurant in college. We were all just sat there talking about placements and I think the first thing he told me was he had a cousin who lived in Singapore (yes, thankfully he knew where Singapore was!). He turned out to be one of the funniest people I've met in my life. He is just so down to earth you could never be sad around him. We also worked together on our final year project and we shared some inside jokes and gushed over the same men! I mean.. where on earth do you find someone who comes up with the funniest stories to share while working on animal feed together.
Then, there is Maryann, yes we share the same name and that is probably how we met! You cant be in the same class and not get introduced to the other Maryann. We're both cheeky for sure and that's probably what I love about her. Its probably in our names, we are always up for a party and a good time. She reminds me of me somehow before I got a little too serious about life.
Last but not least, I met Vivienne only in our final year. Or at least that was when we started having proper conversations. In that short time, I can say its a pity we did not get more time! She is so talented at make up applications and bonus points she likes reading too! Its so nice to meet a fellow reader and just have a nerdy chat sometimes (well, now I know!). So here are the people I'm friends with from university and if I ever bring them up again in future posts at least you'll get a rough picture who they are.
Brunch at JM. Reidys & Muckross house killarney
I ordered scampi and chips for lunch and I guess what I was hoping for was a more breaded scampi with a nice crispy layer. What I got as you'll see in the picture were prawns slightly breaded! I cant really complain, it was a nice meal and the chips were crispy and the salad was tasty with a citrus like dressing (as I've mentioned I love dressings!) but I would have loved my prawns with a crispy breaded coating (I do get disappointed if I've built expectations in my head). The atmosphere of the restaurant was lovely though! it had a cafe and pub fusion thing going on. I guess the question would be if I would return for a second round? I would like to try other places but I would not rule out JM. Reidy's based on one dish! Sar ordered a smoked salmon dish and he really enjoyed it so I am sure Its a matter of making the right choice the next time.
To be honest, we had a lovely day at Muckross house, I wore a summery dress thinking it was going to be roasting and obviously after living in Ireland (approaching 3 years now!) I should know the weather forecast is not great and best to be prepared for rain and winds always. Apart from my legs freezing and maybe the rest of me, it was all worth it when you're facing nature. Sar did say something interesting to me, that I clashed with nature. If you saw the pictures above he thinks that I don't fit in with the background. I guess its safe to say I will always be a city girl. I was born and raised in a city and that's where I belong. saying that though, Ireland has warmed me up a little no matter how hard it is for me to admit it, I will miss it if I ever leave one day (dear god, I hope I do).
Poached eggs kinda sunday at River Lee Hotel
So, I finally caught up with Mariana and Ronan for poached eggs Sunday! All the dishes were made perfectly and I should specifically highlight the creamy mushrooms with poached eggs. It was just the right amount of creamy and I loved it so much I found it hard to share with Sar (oops!). Maybe next time I could opt for one egg only since its so hard for me to finish two eggs. Mariana had the eggs florentine and from what she shared with me, it had a nice sweet tangy flavour in the sauce (I wonder what was in it?) I'll have to try this dish next time I guess! Which means yes, I would highly recommend brunch at the River Lee especially if you're sat out in the terrace its the perfect ambiance. Although do note, for the time being the restaurant is undergoing some renovations and the terrace is closed.
Sar and I have not seen Mariana and Ronan in awhile.She is one of my besties in Cork and is probably the first person I would ring if I need anything or need a friend. I have not seen her in awhile since I was crazy busy with college. Luckily we did not miss much from each others life apart from the typical book exchange (we're both book lovers and frequently exchange our good reads) and her presenting me with a lovely pair of earrings and a sweet card for finishing college! She wrote me a motivational card and there is something she said that I will always treasure and remember. She reminded me that apart from the piece of paper I will also have proof that I am a strong woman. She always knows how to remind me of my strengths! Everyone needs that one friend who will look at you for everything that's amazing about you.