Posts in TIPS
You're Going to Love Mykonos
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The island of Mykonos is known for its emblematic windmills and its narrow streets with whitewashed facades. This small island in the Aegean Sea is also one of the most popular destinations in the area and is an ideal choice if you want to find modern hotels and restaurants. 

Spend your day strolling through the streets of Little Venice or relaxing at one of the many beaches before heading to one of the buzzing night clubs.

Visiting Mykonos is the perfect opportunity to discover Byzantine architecture and to visit the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site of Delos. If you start feeling crowded in the main city, head to one of the smaller inland villages or take a drive around the island to admire the wild landscapes.

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What to do in Mykonos

1. Little Venice: Waterside Vibes

The highlight of the Mykonos waterfront is Little Venice, named for its delightful fishing houses that fall mystically into the blue water like buildings along the Venetian canals. The stormier Aegean Sea greets the bases of these iconic white homes, and photo opportunities abound from every direction. Wandering the back streets reveals charming galleries and delectable cafés and bars with a distinctively Greek atmosphere.

2. Windmills of Mykonos: A Pretty Picture

These 16th-century windmills are adorable hilltop wonders, overlooking Mikri Venetia and the expansive sea. Built centuries ago by Venetians, the engineering is simple but lasting. Visitors to Mykonos arriving to the island catch their first glimpse of land with the silhouettes of these iconic buildings towering over the picturesque port. Sunset views from the base of the beautiful buildings are incomparable, as the white houses are bathed in golden light.

3. Church of Panagia Paraportiani: Five in One

In the Kastro neighborhood by the sea, Panagia Paraportiani is one of the most unique church buildings in the world. White through and through, this angelic structure has gradually expanded since the 14th century and celebrates a diversity of architectural styles. From tip to toe, five different churches have been combined and built into one. Don't you leave without snapping a selfie!

4. Delos: Beautiful Gods

A beautiful boat ride away from Mykonos, Delos is an island rich in ancient history. One of the most important sites in all of Greece, it is archaeological heaven for experts and tourists alike. Wander every corner of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in search of traces of the civilization that once worshipped the sacred land as the birthplace of the gods Apollo and Artemis. Highlights include the Terrace of the Lions and the Sacred Way, lined with countless temples, statues and mosaics.

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10 Greek Island beaches that belong on your bucket list
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Warning: wanderlust ahead

We are sharing with you our top 10 hotspots to visit if you’re heading to Greece this summer season. From Mykonos to Zakynthos find out which island beachses you have to visit! 

1. Plaka, Agios Ioannis, Pelion

You don’t have to leave the mainland to see the best beaches on offer – this mainland treasure is at the south eastern part of Thessaly in central Greece.

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2. Egremni, Lefkada

If paradise was a colour, it could be the striking light blue of the water at Egremni Beach on the island of Lefkada. Connected to the mainland by a causeway, Lefkada is one of the few Greek islands that is accessible by car. 

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3. Agia Anna, Amorgos

Agia Anna (Saint Anna) became the most famous beach in Amorgos after featuring in French director Luc Besson’s 1988 film The Big Blue.

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4. Polyaigos

Polyaigos Island is the largest uninhabited island in the Aegean. The name means ‘many goats’ and these are the only residents you’ll find here. 

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5. Vrika, Antipaxos

This tiny island is the perfect little paradise for those seeking seclusion and relaxation.

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6. Myrtos, Kefalonia

Consistently voted as one of the best beaches in Greece, you’ll want to spend an entire day on this beautiful stretch of sand. Myrtos lies at the feet of two mountains, Agia Dynati and Kalon Oros, and is backed by steep limestone cliffs. 

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7. Vatera, Lesvos

Idyllic and unspoiled, Vatera is one of the longest beaches on the island. This is my local beach when I’m visiting family, and I have spent many memorable summers here. 

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8. Kleftiko, Milos

Accessible only by boat, Kleftiko is an old pirate’s hideout on the south-west of the island that is famous for its impressive rock formations. 

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10. Agios Sostis, Mykonos

The view from Kiki’s Tavern – where there’s no signage, reservations or telephone – makes this tiny taverna overlooking Agios Sostis Beach the place to be. 

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10. Porto Katsiki, Lefkada

The waters of Porto Katsiki are an incredible shade of iridescent blue thanks to its Ionian Sea locale. 

A Quick Guide Of Spetses, Greece
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Spetses is both cursed and blessed by its assets; being too pretty and too accessible have made it too popular. The last of the Argo-Saronic islands that include Aigina, Poros and Hydra off the northeast coast of the Peloponnesos, Spetses was so green in antiquity that it was called Pityoussa – covered with pines. Cruel winds rarely buffet it, yet every midday in summer a delicious breeze springs up to cool it. Although it has to import water, bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumbago, jasmine and trumpet vines thrive in the mild climate, spangling white walls with pink, mauve, red, baby blue and orange petals. Handsome mansions dominate the seafront between the Old Harbor (Paliolimani) and ∏-shaped Dapia, where sea taxis and kaikis huddle under cannons left from the War of Independence. Adjoining the modern jetty, where the hydrofoils dock, stands an ochre elephant of a hotel – the grand Posidonion Hotel, where Athenian gentry holidayed a century ago.

 

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Spetses is easy to get to know, superficially at least. Its only town, with about 5,000 permanent residents, stretches along the north coast from the Old Harbor, considered the classiest district, to Dapia, the port, and west to Kounoupitsa, with its more modest houses. It doesn’t take much more than half an hour to walk from one end to the other, but nobody would be caught dead using their feet in Spetses. The locals, young and ancient, male and female, are latter-day centaurs, almost welded to their motorbikes. Sometimes whole families of four or five squeeze onto one, while I’ve seen the most improbable things being carried. Most memorable was the guy wearing a canoe on his head, driving with one hand, holding it with the other, barely able to see as he bounced along a patch of stony road.

A visit to Spetses begins as you step off the hydrofoil at Dapia, which means “fortified place” in Turkish or Albanian, depending on who tells you. Today, it’s the center of Spetses life, where you go to buy the newspaper (foreign or Greek), do some shopping (for essentials or extravagances) and, most of all, just hang out. The cafés behind the cannon are filled day and night with non-locals nursing frappes or scoffing excellent sweets, while old timers and Spetsiotis patronize Stambolis on the upper left side. Below it are a small Alpha Bank branch, the Flying Dolphin ticket office, a well-stocked periptero (kiosk) and a gleaming new café – so new I’ve never sat there, but it looks pricey.

But what about swimming? Spetses has the kind of beaches I like: more little coves hemmed by rocks than great expanses of fine sand. Snorkeling can be psychedelic thanks to the entrancing pink and mauve patterns on the walls of small caves, while at Agii Anargyri, the island’s biggest beach, you can swim into a large cave where women and children allegedly hid during at least one Ottoman raid. The story goes that their wily menfolk placed fezzes on the asphodels that grow by the hundreds near the lighthouse and frightened the enemy away.

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Dapia is the island’s transportation hub. Sea taxis and kaikis bob below the cafés. Besides taking you singly or in a group to the beaches round the island, they’ll also carry you to beaches across the straits on the Peloponnesos, starting with Kosta, which is served by an unglamorous ferry as well. Be warned: the sea taxis are expensive – 20 euros to or from Kosta – while the ferry has got to be the cheapest fare in Greece at 80 lepta (cents)! Kosta, a few miles east of Porto Heli, has a decent beach, but we drive from Athens and park the car there – cars are prohibited on Spetses from Easter to the end of October. And so do a lot of regular visitors and islanders, who balk at paying the 35 euros for a one way ticket on the hydrofoil from Piraeus. Sadly, the more economical boat that took five hours was discontinued a couple of summers ago and there are no plans to reinstate it.

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Meet Monemvasia, A Hidden ‘Fortress Town’
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Discovering a secret town? Well that’s one way to get off the beaten path.

We’ve seen a few hidden towns in our day (mostly in America), but never one quite as beautiful as the town of Monemvasia, Greece.Perched on an island off the east coast of the Peloponnese, Monemvasia’s name means “single entrance” in Greek.

The “hidden” spot boasts a massive Byzantine fortress (hence the nickname “fortress town”), but one thing is definitely in plain sight — the huge selection of nearby beaches, open to tourists and locals alike.Poet Yiannis Ritsos once called Monemvasia “a ship of stone,” and those who have visited rave about “rugged, salt-of-the earth beauty” that provides “a refreshing escape” from the real world.

If you need to unplug, hide out on the island and spend your days looking for traces of Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian and Ottoman influences in town, which mean there’s impressive architecture and history nearly everywhere you turn.Though if you’re in for a bit of adventure, the best attraction on the island is the Kastania Cave.

Described as a must-see attraction by tourists, the cave took millions of years to form and is packed full of rare geological wonders. And right next door, you’ll find a cafe and a church that was once visited by pirates. Sign us up!Experts say Greece is great in the winter, meaning now is a perfect time to go. Escape crowds, indulge in the delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and explore the ancient history of Monemvasia.

You can reach Monemvasia by cruise or bus, and a ferry is available during the summer months. We’ll see you there!

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Why I Love London in the Winter
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London is definitely for me an impeccable destination during winter time.Here’s why London should be on your winter-travel list—and how to make the most of your time while you’re there:

Embrace the Weather: I can’t tell you how many English people have told me—usually with a wink—that it’s not bad weather, just bad clothing! And it’s true. Having the right gear is essential, so be sure to pack your umbrella and rain boots. “The truth is, the weather in England is terrible year-round so coming in the winter only guarantees that there will be less people,” Lauren confided. “At least in the winter, you can feel that the cold and wet is seasonally appropriate!” Once you’re on the ground, there are countless places to escape the drear and drizzle.

Find a New Street to Love: On this trip I discovered Lamb’s Conduit, a pocket-size street tucked away in Bloomsbury and refreshingly free of chain stores. It’s small enough that you can wander in the rain without much trouble and has plenty of cafés and shops  to duck into for respite along the way. For sustenance, try family-run Vats Wine Bar and Restaurant or chic Cigala for Spanish tapas.

Luxuriate Over Lunch: When it’s cold outside, you want to indulge in long lunches. The best place I found to do that was at one of London’s most anticipated restaurant openings, Spring at Somerset House. On a particularly gray day with sheets of rain pouring down, I was happy to be cocooned in a large, airy space with white columns, globed chandeliers, and textured blue walls, dining on grilled fish and bitter chocolate mousse.

Try an Alpine-Style Hangout: Though it’s far from the Alps—or from any mountain range, for that matter—London has its own pop-up alpine-style retreats. Hugo Campbell-Davys, founder of Urbanologie, recommends dining on a high altitude-inspired barbecue menu at Le Chalet, lit with candles and twinkly lights atop Selfridges department store, or ordering “hot and toasty” après-ski cocktails at Piste in Soho.

Explore a New Museum: London’s museums are (mostly) free to visit, and many house gorgeous cafés in addition to brilliant artwork. On another afternoon, I parked myself in the sumptous mosaic-clad eatery at the Victoria and Albert. In Marylebone, I discovered what feels like a hidden gem, at least for visitors: the Wallace Collection. Though there are Rembrandts and Rubens adorning the walls, I spent the most time in a gallery filled with paintings of Venice, many centuries old and painted for British tourists who visited the city on their Grand Tour.

Go Where the Locals Go: Once again, I relied on locals advises to guide me to their favorite neighborhood spots in Notting Hill. At Walmer Castle, which looks like a classic English pub, I dug into delicious Thai food amid a boisterous local crowd. She also drew my attention to Beach Blanket Babylon, one of her favorite places to meet for post-work drinks with friends. “It lends itself to cozy conversations around their fireplace while sipping sparkling drinks and generous glasses of wine,” they said. “It’s definitely a place someone has to bring you to or you’d never know about it.”

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How to Survive Winter in Paris
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If you’re not used to low temperatures, Parisian winters can be tiring. Sunrise is late, sunset is early and sunlight is rare. It’s likely to be rainy with cold winds that will no doubt freeze you as you explore the city on foot. The weather might cause low morale and maybe even a bad mood. That being said, we want you to have a great experience in our city! We’ve therefore gathered some morale-boosting advice to help you fight off the cold temperatures and truly enjoy wintertime in Paris.

1. Dress appropriately

The first thing to do before stepping outside is to get the right set of clothes. Ideally this includes boots, a scarf, gloves and a hat or earmuffs. Keep in mind that you’re in a major fashion capital, so you’ll need to look fancy if you want to blend in with the locals! Being fashionable while staying warm is not that easy to achieve, so don’t hesitate to take some time to observe how Parisians dress. For instance, you’ll notice that bright colours aren’t very common and that many people wear black, especially in winter. There’s no real reason to explain why Parisians have such a passion for black clothes. Maybe it has something to do with their gloomy mood!

2. Take good care of yourself

Exercise is an excellent way to fight off the low temperatures. An economical way to get your heart rate up in Paris is to run in one of the city’s numerous parks. Getting motivated can be difficult, but you’ll soon discover that you’re not alone and seeing other runners will motivate you even more. You’ll feel healthier and your body will be better armed to brave the cold. Eating quality food is also important for staying in good condition. Another Parisian local listed the top 10 markets in Paris, including several excellent food markets offering fresh products. Lastly, the extreme temperatures repeatedly attack your skin, especially your face and hands. Luckily you can find many high-quality skincare and dermatological products in local shops and supermarkets.

3. Seek refuge in cafés

Cafés are great shelters when the cold is harsh and when it’s raining. Fortunately, there are many of them in the French capital. Brasseries, cafés, coffeehouses and tearooms enable you to have a break and warm up during your long escapades through the city. Cafés are typical meeting places for French people. It’s not unusual for Parisians to spend an entire afternoon at a café chatting with friends. They are also great places to taste French pastries. Don’t feel guilty – there are good reasons to treat yourself: 1) your body needs calories to store energy and 2) it’s not every day you’re in Paris! For the gourmands, we’ve created a sweet tooth’s guide to Paris so you can discover the city’s best pastries. If you’re more into warming yourself up with a hot drink, check out our guide to the best places for hot chocolate in Paris.

4. Enjoy the winter cityscape

The Paris cityscape is extra special in winter. The brown colour of the Seine is very different from summer. Time seems to stand still. Parks are much quieter and more atmospheric. The frozen environment is an invitation to reveries and romantic strolls. Sometimes snow disturbs the quiet environment and creates great bustle. It doesn’t snow very often in Paris, but when it does, it can be funny to observe what’s happening around you. People tend to use their cars more and create huge traffic jams. Many inhabitants wear shoes that aren’t designed for snowy conditions, so they slip on icy pavements. Even during these cold and difficult periods, you’ll notice that many Parisian’s don’t give up on style!

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5. Do what locals do

When the weather isn’t nice, many Parisians prefer indoor activities. They go to exhibitions, museums, theatres, cinemas and concerts. Many cinemas screen films in the original language, so if you don’t speak French, you can still watch movies in English. Parisians also shop a lot and enjoy the winter sales. In 2015, the winter sales take place from January 7th until February 17th.

You can also keep warm at home – invite your friends over and prepare a great dinner for them! This is a great opportunity to complain about the cold weather. French people are known for being grumpy. They (we) complain about many things – it’s part of the culture. The weather is a common topic to complain about. Embrace this philosophy and grumble!

Better yet, you can stay at home under your comfortable quilt.

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Non Touristy Things to Do in Paris
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If you’re like most people who visit Paris, you probably want to make sure you don’t miss the must-see sights. Seriously! Who takes their first trip to Paris without seeing Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower? But, at the same time, I’m sure you also want to go beyond the basics and find the best non touristy things to do in Paris. That’s why first-time visitor articles and tips for Paris are just as popular as reads about off the beaten path Paris or Paris hidden gems. So, if you’re visiting Paris for the first time, use my cheat sheet linked above. But then, sprinkle in a few of the top non touristy things to do in Paris for a trip that’s all your own.

1. Paris by Vespa

What’s more quintessential than riding around Paris on a Vespa accompanied by a local who knows where to go and how to get there without GPS or a map? Why not add a local twist to your sightseeing plans with one of Paris best kept secrets? Ride ‘n’ Smile offers visitors the chance to ride on their very own Vespa past popular spots like Notre Dame and the Louvre. Along the way, you’ll drive through several arrondissements discovering Paris off the beaten path including historic streets, markets, and tucked away cafes and shops. Choose whether you want to tour the city by day or all lit up and sparkling at night. If you’ve already visited Paris’ main sights, Ride ‘n’ Smile is happy to customize your tour around specific arrondissements or themes. This is perfect if you want to focus on a specific figure or period of time in Paris history. Even better still, let the guide show you alternative things to do in Paris!

2. Visit a local market.

Paris’ historic food, vintage, and antique markets offer the opportunity to stroll with the locals while searching for that perfect bite, specialty item, or bric-a-brac object telling a story of Paris past. One of the best non tourist places in Paris is the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves. It’s easier to access, smaller, and less overwhelming than the larger Marché aux Ouces de Saint-Ouen. But, both will have you digging deep looking for that amazing antique find, like a 19th-century chandelier or a vintage flapper dress. Marché Saint Quentin is one of Paris’ covered food markets. You’ll find everything from fruits and vegetables to meats, cheeses, and specialty food items. Eat while you’re there or buy for later. If you’re in the Marais, don’t miss the Marché des Enfants Rouges. It’s Paris’ oldest covered market dating back to 1628. Find stalls selling gourmet food, but the real highlights are the stalls cooking up bites in nearly every cuisine for market-goers to munch on. Chez Alain’s crêpes draw a never-ending line and vegetarians, like me, will love the Moroccan cous cous dishes at Le Traiteur Marocain.

3. Spend time with a local expert

Whether you’re interested in cooking, history, or art, put your guide book away and plan time for an authentic experience with a local expert. In my opinion, these experiences are always one of the most memorable parts of a trip! Context Travel offers small group (no more than 6 people) walks led by an academic versed in a particular topic, like my Hamilton NYC Tour. Not only will you learn about non touristy Paris, your guide will undoubtedly share Paris hidden secrets. Walk through Montmartre and learn about the artists and writers, like Picasso and Hemingway, who once called this Paris neighborhood home. Or taste your way through the Left Bank with a local chef to discover the history and flavors of French cooking

4. Get Quirky

Did you know that Paris has somewhere around 130 museums? Or that Atlas Obscura lists over 100 places where you can explore Paris off the beaten track? The Louvre, of course, is a must. But, it’s overwhelming.In contrast, the sculptures and the garden at the Musée Zadkine, located near the Luxembourg Gardens, highlight the works of this Russian sculptor in the studio where he lived and worked. You’ll appreciate the ambiance and will develop an appreciation for the pieces on display in a way that’s very difficult to do among the crowds surrounding the Mona Lisa.Or really go deep and discover 2 unusual Paris attractions. Take a tour of the catacombs or visit the Musée des Egouts de Paris, French for the Paris sewer system museum. Take a tour through either and discover a maze of tunnels, the remains of more than 6 million people, and how these underground places figure into the history of Paris. What’s more, the Musée des Egouts de Paris is one of Paris most secret spots. Yes, they’re both a bit spooky, but you’ll come away with interesting stories to tell and a different view (literally) of Paris.

5. Wander

It’s no secret that sometimes the most obvious idea is the best. Exploring on foot is hands down the best way to discover non touristic places in Paris. For the most fearless among you, just wander is a simple thing. However, I know not everyone feels comfortable doing this in a new place. So, here are some points on the map to get you started.Don’t just go to Montmartre for the Sacre Coeur. Zig zag your way through the tiny streets and you’ll find some of the best non touristy places in Paris! Not only might you stumble upon the best meal of your life or that perfect scarf, you’ll get a feel for the culture and daily life.