Athens, Greece 8 Day Vacation plus Hydra, Poros & Aegina

Athens has given us ups and downs. Some stunning food, including salads that I could happily live on for the rest of my life.

Multiple times, though, we have been short changed and this starts to become quite irritating after a while. Having to double check prices, bills and change received should not be necessary, particularly in a European capital city.

The Greek people have struck me as very friendly in the main, and always willing to help when needed. They also speak fluent English in Athens which has made getting around very easy indeed.

Getting Around Athens on Public Transport

The tube system is modern and efficient, well connected to an additional tram network which takes in some key tourist spots along the coast. We picked up 5 day public transport passes for only 10 Euros each which covers everything except routes to the airport.

Athens for Pedestrians, Elderly and the Disabled

Athens is typical of a south European city, where pedestrians must take their lives in their hands at times. The pathways are also cracked and incomplete, leaving my feet pretty worn out by the end of this trip. On the rare occasions that it rains in Athens, I would not fancy walking anywhere in this city.

There were times when Athens reminded me of my time in China – loud, aggressive traffic, the odd tricky character looking to take advantage of tourists and a clear disregard for pedestrians and the disabled. Once we became used to this, we enjoyed the trip much more.

The hustle and bustle of Athens meant we had to spend a few days on the outskirts of the city in order to get some of the rest that we desired from this trip.

3 Island Day Trip to Hydra, Poros and Aegina

The 3 island trip to Hydra, Poros and Aegina was well worth the 99 Euros each. It took up a full day, with much of the time spent on a small ferry, enjoying stunning views of neighbouring islands and passing ships.

The first island that we arrived at was Hydra, featuring quaint walkways and traditional local tavernas offering fresh seafood. We only spent 1 1/2 hours in Hydra, but would love to come back another time. When you think of a relaxing holiday on a Greek island, this is exactly the sort of thing that you would have in mind.

Hydra Island, Greece

Hydra immediately seemed more charming, clean and welcoming than the city of Athens. There was a complete contrast as you might expect between a remote island and the large capital city. We had found relaxation and comfort at last.

There was a group of friendly cats to greet us on the harbour front, along with countless shops, bars and restaurants. Walking beyond these helped us to find narrow cobbled streets which had an ancient atmosphere, perhaps changing very little in the last few centuries.

Poros was our next destination and took around an hour to reach from Hydra.

Aegina was the final stop, and certainly the most developed of the three islands. The cruise itinerary allowed us two hours here before the last leg back to the port of Piraeus.

Aegina Greek Island

There were again some incredible views across the sea as well as a long harbour full of small yachts and tourist island hopping boats.

Wild cats were back again, in their droves on this island. Most looked reasonably healthy, thankfully, and Ruby chased them around the island. Wild cats always seem to be part of the fun of visiting the Mediterranean rules and order seem to go out of the window.

Wild Cats in Greece

Aegina may have been more commercial than the previous islands but it still only took a couple of minutes walk before we were off the beaten track, seeing local life at its slow pace.

The tram network allowed us to breeze across the coast on our 5 day pass. Although many of the restaurants and bars appear to have been shutdown, there were still plenty of popular spots along this line. The air was also notably better once we had got a little distance from the main centre of the city.

Food and Drink in Athens

The food during our stay was consistently good across all of the bars and restaurants that we visited. Our appetite was much reduced in the hotter climate of Greece compared to the UK. We therefore went for lighter foods with less carbs.

The salads were supreme, large and tasty – much more filling than most I would have at home. Whole slabs of feta cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, olives rich dressings – simple and healthy eating at its best.

Greek Salad with Seafood

Seafood also served as a lighter alternative to meat and we found an excellent restaurant close to our hotel which served a decent value seafood platter at 35 Euros. This hosted fried mussels, several squid, an octopus leg, 5 large shrimps plus some local sardines. We had it twice during the trip, as well as various grilled meats in pita bread as you would expect in this part of the world.

Greek Seafood Platter

I was drinking local beer for most of the trip, with the brands I remember being Mythos and Alfa. They were so cold and i was so thirsty that any unique tastes would have been numbed considerably and they just seemed like standard continental lager.

Alfa Greek Lager

Mythos Greek Lager

Fix Hellas Greek Lager

Greece was perhaps a little more expensive than you might expect for a country which has been going through some turbulent economic times.

Apparently prices here go up when things get tough, where as in UK we seem to end up with year-long sales and price wars. Towards the end of the trip our stash of Euros began to dwindle and so we switched from larger restaurants or smaller, cosier ones. Food for two with drinks then dropped from 50 to 30 Euros each evening.

Short-Changing of Tourists in Greece

Ruby’s boiling temper appeared several times on the trip when being over charged or short-changed by local waiters and street sellers. It was another similarity to my Chinese travels where I quickly learnt of the need to be cautious whenever money was changing hands.

Asian tourists seemed to be particularly targeted, consistently being charged more where prices were not shown. It is probably a situation repeated in London, but in areas where I would not be as a local. Some see tourists as a never ending cash cow, but the Greeks should avoid taking them for granted.

Divani Caravel Hotel

We stayed at the 5-star Divani Caravel Hotel in central Athens for a week stay.

Divani Caravel Hotel Athens

Acropolis

We spent most of one afternoon enjoying the main tourist attraction of Athens – The Acropolis.

Acropolis Athens Greece

Greek Flag Waving in the Wind at The Acropolis

National Archaeology Museum

Pots, pots, pots… Get your fill of Greek pots right here. Its fair to say that I am not the greatest of fans of Archaeology but it is important in Athens to at least have a taster beyond just the Acropolis.

The Egyptian section offered a little variety and the museum itself was professionally put together, as you would expect for such a key national and international museum.

There were two floors of ancient artifacts plus a small Atrium in the basement with a cafe for those flagging.

There were impressive collections of jewellery here too, with amber so old that it had taken on an appearance of standard stone.

The entrance fee of 7 Euros should allow anyone to visit this eye opening museum that gives examples of how humanity developed.

Styloi Olympiou Dias

This smaller attraction was quiet, and easy to get around in half an hour or so. 2 Euros gets you a glimpse of more stunning ancient architecture.

This is one to fit in alongside other tourist spots nearby, but is great for capturing precise photographs when other locations are too busy or not as accessible.

National Gardens

These gardens are centrally located and well worth a visit when you get a spare hour. We were unfortunately turfed out early as the park was closing.

The gardens were a haunt for joggers and were surprisingly serene considering the mayhem going on on the other side of it’s walls.

Vouliagmeni Lake

Vouliagmeni Lake provided us with a relaxed way to spend the final day of our Athens vacation.

This lake is a popular spot for a quick dip, and easily large enough for a more substantial swim. Many local women were here keeping themselves in shape, maintaining figures at least 20 years younger than their real ages. The combination of the Greek diet and climate along with regular exercise appears to slow down the ageing process dramatically.

Fishes in Lake nibbling at my feet

Our day here was curtailed by incessant rain, but we still enjoyed the day. It was fairly quiet for us, but the hotter climate of high season will certainly bring many here to cool off.

For those on a budget, 13 Euros is the entry fee and its open pretty much all day. We found the quickest way to get here was taking the tube as far south as possible, then taking a short taxi. The tram route along the coastline was stunning but took much longer as there were so many stops.

Things to do in Athens, Greece

After several months of work in my latest contract at GAN, it is now time for my next trip to the sun. Athens is the choice this time round, after covering each and every main island in the Canaries over recent years.

Athens appealed to me for the combination of sunshine, good food but also plenty of culture which can sometimes be lacking in purely tourist destinations. Holiday resorts tend to be fairly similar and can become a little boring once you have seen a few of them.

This city, however, has as much historical culture as pretty much anywhere in the world and should keep us busy enough for the week-long vacation.

I have only previously had one Greek holiday, to the island of Kavos for a fortnight which was perhaps the best but most grueling trip in my life. And certainly not to be repeated! Athens will be a long way away from that “Brits abroad” type vacation, with an art gallery or two, architecture, healthy local cuisine and maybe even some fishing on the agenda this time round.

Top 10 Things To Do in and Around Athens

  1. Acropolis & Acropolis Museum

  2. Constitution Square

  3. National Gardens

  4. Parthenon

  5. Temple of Hephaestus

  6. Flisvos Marina

  7. Lake Vouliagmeni

  8. Byzantine Museum

  9. Mount Lycabettus

  10. Panathenaic Stadium

Free Bets – Find Free Bet Offers from UK Bookmakers & Betting Exchanges

Free bets are great ways to get ahead of the bookie, and these offers are absolutely everywhere. The UK gambling industry is among the most competitive of online business sectors, with one after another bookmaker lining up to draw new customers in through new offers on a daily basis.

Existing customers can also receive great deals, with bookies trying to entice them back in to play more regularly, or perhaps try another area of the website, such as going from sports betting to casino, tournaments, card games or arcade games.

Free Bets

The range of free bets is extraordinary, covering all manner of scenarios, from final scores, to top goal scorers, in-play bets, money-back opportunities for losing bets and so much more. That is just for football, too.

Other notable sports with free bets include Horse Racing, Rugby Union and also the latest competitions from around the world, be it the Rugby World Cup, European Football Championships, NFL Superbowl and so on.

When registering on any of these bookmakers’ websites, always sign up to the newsletters and email campaigns which are the best way to stay up to date with the latest promotional bet offers.

The offers include initial sign-up bets, which can be among the most generous of all, plus reload offers which occur on a daily or weekly basis. Use of all of the available bets from across multiple bookmakers and exchanges can be very lucrative.

Betfair

Betfair Logo - Find Free Bets

Betfair is a high-profile Betting exchange which offers great numbers of free bets and offers across it’s different platforms. The brand is well known even among only occasional players, thanks to the large amounts of advertising it uses on targeted audiences.

Betfair is the preferred exchange for many UK punters, but it’s commission rate of 5% is relatively high for the market. Regular gamblers may look to use Smarkets or Betdaq instead for this reason.

Paddy Power

Paddy Power Logo

Paddy Power is another prominent bookmaker who consistently provide some of the best sign-up offers as well as frequent reload bets across a number of different sports.

This bookmaker is well known for it’s controversial TV adverts which push the boundaries of political correctness. Like Betfair, it has also one of the larger outlays on advertising in the industry, keeping it’s brand at the forefront of public consciousness.

Coral

Coral Free Bet Offers with Coral Model Carly Baker

Coral have held high street shops for many years and are an increasingly significant player in the online gambling market. They have also recently launched a major advertising campaign, featuring model Carly Baker, as this competitive market continues to require marketing investment in order to keep an edge over the rivals.

Coral have a strong, established brand in the United Kingdom because of the high street stores which have been around for many decades. This physical presence will always breed confidence in customers than those who are purely online competitors. For the more occasional player, this confidence can be crucial in deciding which online bookie to choose for their next bet.

Bet Fred

Betfred Logo

Bet Fred is another major player in the UK Bookmakers Industry, and a frequent supplier of free bets and other attractive offers. They are also a frequent sight on sports channels ad breaks as they compete strongly against the other industry leaders found in this post.

Bet Fred, like Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes, has long since had an established presence in the UK high street, and this brand awareness continues to be an advantage in the online gambling industry where confidence and trust is key.

Ladbrokes

Ladbrokes Logo

Ladbrokes are yet another major high-street bookmaker who are making great strides in the online gambling market. “Laddies” as they have been affectionately known for many years have targeted young males in a persistent advertising campaign over recent years.

The adverts aim to portray their customers as fun, sociable youths who hold a healthy relationship with gambling and use it as a weekly routine whilst out with friends.

Bet365

William Hill

Skybet

Skybet are a younger, online-only bookmaker who have made impressive progress in recent years thanks to their relationship with the Sky Sports channels that continue to plug them.

They also have some fun sporting bets which you can get involved with for free, such as Super 6, which gives you the opportunity to win £250,000 each week by correctly guessing the scores of six Premiership football matches.

Sky Sports have betting advertising as their main source of revenue during TV breaks, thanks to the highly competitive nature of this industry as well as the relevance between the content on these channels and the target audience of sports bookmakers. SkyBet is able to also integrate itself into the programmes themselves, which gives it a clear advantage.

Totesport

Smarkets

Betvictor

Stan James

Bwin

Betway

PokerStars

Betdaq

32red

888sport

BetBright

List of Free Bet Bookmakers & Betting Exchanges

Please find below a comprehensive list of all major bookmakers and betting exchanges that currently offer free bet offers – you may wish to make the most of each and everyone of these in order to earn some cash to put aside for a rainy day!

Also, remember that although the sign-up offers are always among the most generous available, most of the betting sites below will offer other great deals on a monthly, weekly, even daily basis and so winnings can continue into the future.

  • Betfair
  • Paddy Power
  • Coral
  • Betfred
  • Ladbrokes
  • Bwin
  • PokerStars
  • Bet365
  • Betdaq
  • Stan James
  • Smarkets
  • 32red
  • William Hill
  • Skybet
  • Totesport
  • 888sport
  • BetBright
  • William Hill
  • Betvictor

High Street Kensington Pubs, Bars & Restaurants, London

Whilst completing my contract at Game Account Network, i spent an extended period working in the High Street Kensington area of London.

One of my favourite benefits of working as a contractor is the opportunity to put lunch and breakfast costs on expenses. As such, it is then possible to try out lots of local pubs, bars and restaurants without fear of digging too far into your wages.

When GAN moved their offices from Bond Street to High Street Kensington, it was an opportunity to learn more about an area of London that i am not overly familiar with. My expectations were of grand buildings with expensive food and drink for the very posh, with little available for the office works, but fortunately i was quite wrong.

The majority of spots to eat and drink around the high street are good quality, but also relatively affordable. The locals seem to drink in standard pubs, though there is a fine selection in this area.

The pubs that we have tried here tend to offer excellent food as well as craft beers and the like, but aside from that are pretty much what you would expect from all but the poorest parts of the city.

None of the locations felt snobby, in fact there does seem a real community feel in this part of London, particularly when you visit spots off of the main high street.

This post links out to all of the places that i have visited during my time here with GAN. We tried to cover as many as possible, concentrating on our favourite gastro pubs, querky locations and also casual restaurants.

Our lunchtime trips would always be on a budget of a maximum of £25 per person, including drinks. This was also more than enough with most mains in High Street Kensington costing £8 – £15 and a drink pushing it to around £20.

High Street Kensington Pubs

Elephant & Castle
Brittania
Prince of Wales
The Goat
Churchill Arms

High Street Kensington Restaurants

Sticky Fingers
Wasabi
Byron
Wagamamas
Whole Foods

H10 Playa Esmeralda Hotel, Fuerteventura

We stayed at the H10 Playa Esmeralda Hotel, Fuerteventura for the second week of our holiday. The all-inclusive offering seemed a good choice after barbecuing our own food for a week in our villa in the north of the island.

It took a few hours to adjust after staying in a quiet villa for the previous week, but after settling in we really enjoyed our stay at the H10 Playa Esmeralda Hotel. For a large hotel, it was fairly relaxed here with visitors well behaved and all similar in terms of the type of holiday that they were after.

This hotel lies in the south of the island in Costa Calma and is part of a large international chain of hotels. We struggled at first with reception staff whose English was not perfect, but later had no real problems as our needs were very simple.

The main excursions available included Windsurfing, Kayaking and further water-sports in the nearby coastline. In the hotel itself was nightly entertainment plus also crazy golf too. The swimming pools were never too crowded, despite some people seeming to spend their entire holiday sunbathing in that area.

Bahiazul Luxury Villas, Fuerteventura

The Bahiazul Luxury Villas in Fuerteventura were our home for one week. The complex was stunning, with friendly and helpful customer service throughout the week.

The barbecue allowed us to cook food outside for the whole duration of our stay. There was room for 6 in our villa, plus potentially another two more with the outdoor bed upstairs.

Having a pool in our house one day has always been a dream, so to have one for a week is a nice taster for what the future may hold. I made great use of our private pool and swam for around 2 hours per day.

Mornings tended to involve a light breakfast in the restaurant close to reception followed by a dip in the pool to awaken the senses. There was virtual silence in the villa for most of the day and it is hard to imagine finding a more relaxing holiday anywhere in the rest of Fuerteventura.

The atmosphere was so perfect for the relaxing holiday that we were looking for, that we struggled at first when arriving at the H10 Esmeralda Hotel because of the amount of people in reception as we checked in.

Oasis Wildlife Park in Fuerteventura

We ended up visiting the Oasis Wildlife Park in Fuerteventura twice during our 2-week trip to the island. The huge size of the cactus garden meant that we were not able to see everything on site in the first day, and so returned later on at a discounted price.

The main attraction was always going to be the animals, but the plants served as an excellent bonus. Racoons, Elephants, Giraffes, Meer Cats and Otters were probably the highlight. The Sea lion show made us feel a little uncomfortable, but the children around us seemed to enjoy it, at least.

There were two buses a day straight from our hotel to the park and return routes at around 5pm. Most tourists seemed to have hire cars, and for the rest, the taxi each way would only be around 15 or 20 Euros.

Fuerteventura did not appear to have as many tourist attractions as other islands in the Canaries, making this wildlife park particularly popular. Water sports seem to be the main attraction here.

I am always a bit wary of safari parks and zoos in general, particularly abroad because of fears over the way in which the animals are kept and treated. Some of the enclosures here may have been a little small but everything i saw over the two days seemed happy and healthy. There were also areas of the park which were given up to protecting rarer creatures which is always a good sign of the intentions of the site owners.

We had some really excellent food in the restaurants available here, with the Lamb Stew being particularly tasty. The service could be slow and a little overrun at times, but both days the food was well worth the wait.

Those visiting the island should certainly check out this safari park and the cactus garden offers enough for plant lovers just on it’s own.

Fuerteventura Villa & All-inclusive 2 Week Holiday

We split our two weeks between a stunning villa and an all-inclusive hotel stay. The Bahiazul luxury villa has persuaded us to try this option more often on sunny holidays, rather than standard hotel rooms.

This was our first trip to Fuerterventura. Having previously visited many other islands in the Canaries, we knew pretty much what to expect. After trips to La Palma, Madeira, La Gomera, Tenerife and Lanzarote this was the last of the large islands in this peninsula.

The parts that we saw, with much left for future trips, suggest that this island doesn’t have quite as much to interest as we had found in Lanzarote. We still enjoyed the two weeks immensely, though, and would be happy to return.

The areas between the touristy spots on this island seem almost completely barren, aside from the occasional small village where locals have probably been for many generations.

The two week break here has recharged my batteries exactly as I had hoped. Our stay has been mainly quiet, with only the odd tourist getting on our nerves. The island offers plenty of sports, and the usual canaries’ strips of bars and shops. Windsurfing, diving, surfing and kite surfing are all on offer but I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything that active.

One slight regret was that I wasn’t able to find much food specific to the island, what with barbecuing in the first week and then being limited to international cuisine in the all-inclusive restaurant. We did have a stunning goat stew at the Oasis Wildlife Park in Fuerteventura and various seafood dishes such as grilled shrimps and squid. There was also some local cheese which was on sale in the shop.

Fishing Success at Last!

Four good-sized carp was my successful catch in a day’s fishing in Crawley. Having been to the same lake last year and caught absolutely nothing, it was a great relief to do better this time around. The four carp themselves were stunning fish, we took good care of them and cleaned any existing wounds from fish bites and the like. They were then released back into the lake just as soon as we had taken the customary photo.

carp-catch.jpg

carp-fishing.jpg

I must say that it will take more practice to be comfortable in handling the fish, certain types of Carp seemed particularly feisty and i was always conscious of balancing their safety with my desire to capture a nice posing photo before we put them back into the lake.

That day’s fishing was much busier than previously, with barely a moment passing where we could sit down and relax. There was constantly a catch on one of our rods, or something else that needed our attention.

It was a day that made me realised i could well enjoy this sport, with my new rod also coping well with each of the fish that i caught. Naturally, we celebrated our success with some good old fashioned street drinking, this time randomly in the backstreets around Clapham Junction.

post-fishing-booze.jpg