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Top 10 things to do in Athens

Athens is so perfect for a city break and we spent 4 days in this eclectic, vibrant and cultural city which boasts ancient monuments that I promise will leave you in awe. It is also an European city you can visit all year round – we visited in January and had fabulous blue skies throughout our trip!

Here are a list of my top 7 suggestions to do in Athens based on our trip.

1. The Parthenon

You cannot visit Athens and not go to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, one of the wonders of the ancient world. This site was dedicated to the goddess Athena and was completed in 436 BC and is generally considered to be the most important remaining building of Classical Greece as well as a symbol of western civilization.

It was top on my list of sites to visit, part of the reason we chose Athens as a destination, and it is truly spectacular to see. We spent a couple of hours here and it is a great place to kick off your sightseeing in Athens.

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2. Erechtheion

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On the north side of the Acropolis, on a slope, lies an ancient Greek temple which is made entirely of marble with stunning carvings. This is called there the Erechtheion, and was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. The views from here are absolutely breathtaking.

3. Acropolis Museum

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We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the Acropolis museum, but we spent some time going through the various floors of this impressive museum.

It enables you to delve deeper into the history sounding Greece as well as the Acropolis and you can see various artefacts which paint a picture of what life in that era was like.

4. Plaka


Close to the Acropolis is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens which is fantastic to walk through. You will find a plethora of shops ranging from touristy ones to some superb artisan ones. There are also restaurants where you can sit alfresco and enjoy a variety of cuisines. You will come across ancient Greek and Roman ruins amongst your wanders as well as some beautiful old buildings with stunning architecture.

5. Eat Traditional Greek Food

Whilst in Athens, there is no excuse not to try some classic traditional Greek dishes such as the Greek Salad, Moussaka and Spinach pie. The feta cheese I tried was unlike no other I had had before and was just sensational. The olive oil is worth purchasing and taking home too once you have tasted it! You will never buy it from the supermarkets back home again.

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6. Enjoy Athens at night

At night, Athens sparkles with its various lights and lit up view of the Acropolis, no matter what side of the city you are in. There are various roof top bars and restaurants where you can relax while taking in the night views. Pictured below is the Galaxy Bar and Restaurant at the Hilton Athens, located in central Athens.

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7. Eat Greek Street Food – Koulouri

Whilst wandering the streets, you will find several stalls selling different food. Be sure to try some out! My personal favourite was Koulouri, which is a popular breakfast snack for Greeks to grab and eat on the go as they are not traditional breakfast eaters. It is a bread ring covered in toasted sesame seeds. Relatively simple but so good!

We came across this stand outside Zara on Ermou Street in Syntagma and the Koulouri was divine!

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8. Athens Central Market

A visit to the hectic,  lively and buzzing Central market on Athinas Street is a must to see the variety of fish, meat and vegetables on offer. This is a historical market and plays an important role in supplying homes and restaurants in Athens. What we learned was that the Greek favour fish over meat and have an incredibly healthy lifestyle.

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9. The Temple Of Poseidon at Sounion

On a hill overlooking the Aegean sea at the very tip of the Attiki Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from central Athens, lies the spectacular Temple of Poseidon. Whilst exploring, try and find the graffiti by Lord Byron too!


The views from here were superb and we visited on a breezy day in January, and were lucky to have had a lovely bright day. It can get chilly there so do take some warm clothing just in case! It is so worth it and there is a lovely coffee shop where you can chill after visiting the site.

10. Shopping and lunch in Glyfada

Get your shopping fix in Glyfada, where you can wander the streets and shop at places like Sephora (much to my excitement) and other high street and designer brands. Only around a 40 minute drive from central Athens and close to the seaside.

There are so many lovely cafes and restaurants in the area, and we ate at a lovely Greek restaurant called Mezze.

Have you visited Athens? What were your favourite things to do? I would love to know in the comments section below.

 

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Hotel review: Hilton Athens

The 5 star Hilton Athens, is located in central Athens, close to main tourist sites and the Plaka District, as well as being in close proximity to the metro lines.

We stayed at the Hilton Athens for three nights, with breakfast provided, during our trip to Athens. It was our first time visiting Greece and I was overwhelmed by the hospitality.  As we were staying in an executive room, our check in was done in the executive lounge, by a lovely lady called Efi. She was so brilliant at recommending restaurants and tours, that we ended up booking everything through her, as they also provided concierge services in the executive lounge.

Room

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The room, which was on the 12th floor,  was really spacious and we had a view of the Acropolis in the distance. It is more of a business hotel so the interiors were minimalist with a focus more on practicality with a long desk and mini lounge area.

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There was a balcony, which if I had visited in a warmer month, would definitely have spent some time blogging in as even when I went outside in January, the cool crisp fresh air was so lovely.

The bathroom was beautiful and had both a bathtub and a shower and was large compared to other hotel bathrooms. I loved the grey and white marble design and did manage to have a lovely soak in the tub after a long day of sightseeing.

Restaurants/Breakfast

The breakfast spread at the Hilton was magnificent. It was a massive buffet choice ranging from fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, cold meats, cheeses to hot dishes which included breakfast classics as well as Greek specialities, such as their spinach pie, which I have to say is amazing. I was totally down with eating feta cheese for breakfast too. The feta cheese in Athens compared to the one you buy in the supermarket back home are so different in taste!

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They also had amazing croissants so I was very happy!

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I also ordered in room service on one day and was so impressed by the way it was presented! I had opted for french toast with maple syrup and strawberries as well as a coffee, but look at this spread that arrived!

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For lunch, we had amazing food at the Byzantino restaurant too. Our dishes were presented beautifully and the service was on point. We had gone for a Greek salad with quinoa and a baked goats cheese roll in kataifi dough with spicy tomato marmalade.

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There are 4 other restaurants but unfortunately we didn’t get to try them.

We did, however, try the cocktails at the Galaxy Bar and Restaurant, which is on the rooftop with a spectacular view. At night it is so magical!

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They had heaters on so it was perfect sitting outside in the evenings. They have a beautiful bar and lounge area inside too. It is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink or a catch up and has a lovely ambience and vibe. The cocktails are really delicious too!

If you are staying on the Executive floor, you also have complimentary meals at the Executive lounge and it is a great place to relax with a coffee or tea too.

Amenities

The hotel has a beautiful spa which I am so gutted I didn’t get a chance to use, especially as access to the indoor heated pool, sauna and other aspects are included for those guests staying on the executive floor. The pool looked amazing!

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They also have a gym, which Amit used each day and was really happy with the equipment that they had and said it was all top of the range.

They also have an outdoor pool, which we could see from our room, but it is open during the summer months and as we went in January, we could not use it.

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All in all we were so happy with the hotel and especially the location, as a taxi ride to anywhere cost under 10 euros!

The service was excellent and the staff were always willing to help. They always gave us such fantastic tips on what we should do to get the most out of our trip and always had a warm friendly smile.

The hotel was busy during our stay as there was a conference going  on, but we really didn’t feel it as it was a large hotel and with so many restaurants, it was easy to get a table at breakfast, for example.

If you are thinking of visiting Athens and are looking for a convenient and lovely hotel to stay at in the central part, the Hilton Athens ticked all the boxes for us.

Thank you Hilton Athens for a memorable stay and for looking after us s0 well.

For more information click here.

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5 things to do in a day in Monaco

Whenever I thought of Monaco I imagined it to be all glitz and glamour with high rollers, luxury cars and well dressed people decked out in designer apparel. James Bond came to mind as it was one of the locations for Goldeneye and Never Say Never Again, where the  Casino Monte Carlo was featured.

I visited Monaco and Monte Carlo as part of a day trip shore excursion whilst on my Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, and we arrived via sea. You can, however, if you want a totally luxe experience, arrive in a private helicopter or alternatively for a more affordable option, take a bus from Nice, if you are vacationing there.

Monaco is such an ideal destination for a day trip if you want a taster of it, and here were our highlights. I would like to go back and experience it for a night or two though and check out the food scene and the night life.

An amazing view from the Rock

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With a view of the Mediterranean sea and the port, the Rock is a fantastic vantage point for photo opportunities as well as marvel at the various yachts lined up below at the port. It has a breathtaking view and is worth a visit. It is located in Monaco-Ville, which is also where the Old town is. Close to the Prince’s palace and you can wait here while you wait for the time slot for the changing of the guards at the palace.

The Place du Casino

All things luxurious at the Place du Casino, the epicentre of all things haute in Monte Carlo.

 

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It is also home to the Casino Monte Carlo, which opens its doors to the public at 2pm and it is worth going inside to have a look. There is no dress code and if you are feeling lucky you can try your hand at roulette.

For an extra glamourous stay, there is also the Hotel De Paris 😉

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The Café de Paris Monte-Carlo

This totally instagrammable  Café de Paris Monte-Carlo, also on the Place du Casino, has been legendary since 1868 and is a fabulous spot for people watching, lunch, dessert or mojitos 😉

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The Cathedral

Located in the old town of Monaco, the Neoclassical Cathedral, where the much-loved Princess Grace of Monaco lies at rest, is one not to miss. This 19th century cathedral is gorgeous both on the outside and in and is made from white La Turbie stone. It is really lovely to see inside.

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Changing of the guard

It is so worth watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, where the royal family still resides today.

It happens daily at 11:55 a.m. and is really fun to see. As it is located near the rock, the old town, and other sites, it is worth spending time in the area.

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Have you been to Monaco? What were your highlights? Would love to know in the comments below.

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Top 5 things to do in Lisbon

Just a 2 and a half hour flight from London, Lisbon is an unbelievably underrated yet very accessible city full of sunshine, culture, panoramic views (as it is built on 7 hills), romantic cobbled streets and amazing food. It is perfect for a weekend break and there is so much to do and see.

I particularly loved the vibrant colours all over the city contrasted with its historical charm. With castles, colour and custard tarts to look forward to, I very much hope my post encourages you to visit Lisbon if you haven’t already!

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When I visited Lisbon, I had low expectations prior to my arrival but I immediately fell in love with the city and am already planning my return. We visited in late November and it was surprisingly 23 degrees celsius with sunny spells!

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Here are the highlights of my trip and what I consider the top 5 things to do.

Eat Custard Tarts at Pasteis de Belem 

Literally I cannot explain how good these custard tarts are, which are known as Pastel De Nata. This shop has the best ones in Portugal and there is always a long queue. Good things come to those who wait and I recommend eating one or two fresh whilst at the shop, either with a coffee or tea, and taking some as takeaway as trust me you will be craving them before you know it!

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Pretend to be royalty at Castelo de Sao Jorge

This castle, which is located in Lisbon’s old town district of Alfama, sits on a hilltop with a panoramic view of the entire city. The views are spectacular and it is great fun exploring the castle and its grounds.

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You will definitely spot a peacock or two too!

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Stroll along Belem Harbourfront

Take a walk by the waterside and eat at one of the cafes or restaurants in the area. It is a different ambience to the centre of Lisbon and I loved its tranquility. Close by is also  Torre de Belem, which is a  world-heritage listed fortress that was cleverly built in the shape of a battleship to deter attackers from invading the city. You can also get amazing views of the city from this tower.

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Historical sites always leave me in awe, especially the genius thoughts behind their construction.

People watch and eat alfesco at Praça do Comércio

The main square is called Praça do Comércio and it is really lively with restaurants on both sides. It is the perfect place to have lunch alfresco while watching the tourists and locals pass by.

We enjoyed eating Portuguese food and sipping on wine whilst we watched the world go by.
Have a drink with a panoramic view of the city 
There are many vantage points for a view of Lisbon, but one of my favourites in the evening was from the Panorama bar at the top of the Sheraton Lisboa.
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With luxurious and plush interiors and comfortable seats, it was the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing.
Have you been to Lisbon? What were your highlights? I would love to know in the comments section below.
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Living the dream of being a pizzaiola for the day in Naples

Whenever I thought about Naples as a destination, the first thing that would pop in my mind would be pizzas. I absolutely love Pizzas and when the opportunity arose to visit Naples as part of our P&O cruise, I ensured that Pizzas would somehow be involved in our plans.

Neapolitan Pizza  is taken so seriously that there is actually an Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana that actually award authenticity certificates to pizzerias around the world who meet the stringent criteria of what constitutes a true Neapolitan pizza.

We visited a restaurant, where I actually learned how to make my own pizza and I achieved a dream of being a pizzaiola for the day! A pizzaiola, in case you are wondering, is a female pizza maker. The male version is a Pizzaiolo.

First things first we were told about was the oven in which the pizzas were made. These have to be the traditional dome shaped, wood-fueled ovens. They are usually made with brick or stone and are sealed. In terms of size, they must be 45 to 40cm high. The door must be 22 to 25cm. Yup it is mega strict!

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Next up was actually making the pizza! The Pizzaiolo showed us how to make the dough and stretch it out. He even tossed the dough in the air but I wasn’t that brave.

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Next up was toppings and we were told that simple and fresh is always best! I topped my pizza with Margherita sauce made with Italian San Marzano tomatoes, Mozzarella and fresh basil.

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The pizza then went into the dome shaped oven for between 60-90 seconds and the temperature was approximately 905°F. It immediately started puffing up and you could smell that amazing aroma of freshly baked pizza.

A criteria of true Neapolitan pizza is that it must be thin. The guidelines are that the crust must be 1-2cm. This is absolutely perfect for me as I love my pizzas thin.

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Once the pizza is ready, you can’t just help marvel at its beauty. That beautiful charred smokey and bitter crust and moist, bubbly centre. Mamma mia! It was absolutely delicious.

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I enjoyed my pizza with my favourite wine – Montepulciano and it was a perfect day. What else does one need apart from delicious wine and a beautiful pizza?

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If you don’t want to make the pizza yourself but want to still enjoy Neapolitan pizzas, you can of course order them 😉

There are so many pizzerias in Naples and I really recommend trying out a couple (in the name of research) as you can never have too much pizza in your life. The pizzeria we went to was called La Tama Dell’arte Pizzeria.

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If you are planning to visit Naples, this is seriously a must do! Naples is such a pretty place and we wandered around the streets looking at the architecture and learning about the history on a walking tour, which was also really interesting.

I did leave Naples feeling like a dome shaped wood fired oven is needed in my life so one day when I have a big house that is the plan!

Have you made a pizza in Naples? I would love to know in the comments below.

 

 

 

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My Top Ten Travel moments of 2016 and travel plans for 2017

2016 was a year full of such varied travel and I am so grateful for all the experiences that I have been lucky to have. My top ten travel highlights, in no particular order, were as follows:

  1. A BBQ out at sea in Mauritius

Having a BBQ on a Catamaran in the middle of the Indian Ocean in Mauritius was one of those “pinch me, is this real?” moments and was an unforgettable experience. What made it even more special was that we saw some dolphins jumping in and out of the water whilst we were chilling on the Catamaran, soaking up the sunshine. I generally am happiest when on a boat, out at sea, so this was definitely a memory I will cherish forever.

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2. Exploring St Malo, in Brittany 

I had visited St Malo, when I was 15, as part of a school trip to spend a few weeks there, attending a school to learn French. In 2016, I was invited by Brittany Ferries, to experience St Malo again and it was just stunning! I fell in love with it all over again and ate all the salted caramel I could manage. It is such an easy trip from the UK and I highly recommend it.

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3. Making my own pizza in Naples, Italy

As part of our cruise in September 2016, one of our stops was Naples, in Italy and it happened to be during the Pizza Festival. We spent the day exploring Naples by foot, learning about the history and then went to a restaurant where we learned how to make the pizzas Naples is famous for ourselves! It was such a lovely experience and one of the top foodie moments of 2016 for me. The pizza was delicious too!

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4. Visiting Monaco

Monaco had been one of the destinations on my travel wish list for so long so when it was part of the destinations our cruise was going to I was ecstatic! I loved exploring Monaco and taking in the views and aspiring to own a yacht parked in the marina one day!

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5. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world, and this was my third visit to the Catalonian capital and I can never tire of seeing the sights.

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6. Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico City 

Climbing the third biggest pyramid in the world in Mexico City was also a top travel moment. I was very unfit and had to stop several times before I made it to the top! However, the view from the top made up for the exhaustion! If you ever visit Mexico City do not miss this out and make sure you climb it!

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7. Visiting my husband’s family’s Kesar Mango Farm in India

This year my husband took me to India to visit his ancestral home outside of Bhuj. They grow the famous Kesar Mangoes at the farmland close to his home and trust me those mangoes, when in season, are the best mangoes you will ever eat!

It was nice to have a (forced) social media detox and not be able to check emails and just immerse myself in the laid back culture and breath that fresh air every day.

PS: I know I look like a Kesar Mango myself in this bright yellow outfit LOL

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8. Seeing the Gateway of India in Mumbai

Another landmark, top of my list to see, was the Gateway of India, and in 2016 I ticked this off the list. It had always interested me, especially after reading about the Mumbai Terror Attacks, and the major plus point was it was right opposite the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which we stayed at and also ticked off our hotel wish list.

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9. Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Although I have visited Dubai several times, we have never actually gone to the top of the Burj Khalifa until 2016 on a family trip there. It was dark when we got to the top at our scheduled time so we saw all the pretty lights making the city sparkle. I would love to go again during the day time on my next visit to Dubai.

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10. Attending The Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards

The final highlight of many, was attending the Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards in a very glitzy ceremony in Mexico City, as part of a press trip. This trip was especially confidence boosting for me as I had never travelled so far by myself before and with a lack of knowledge of much Spanish I did struggle a little. However, it has also led to one of my new year’s resolution being to learn Spanish as I would love to visit other parts of Latin America.

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So far in 2017 I have plans to visit Athens in January, Paris in February and a long trip back to Kenya in March to attend my youngest brother’s wedding as well as spend lots of time with family and friends.

We have yet to plan a trip for our seven (gasp) year wedding anniversary as well as a big trip for when I end my career at some point this year (tbc).

I would love to see more of Asia, Latin America, North America as well as some more city breaks in Europe.

Keep an eye out on my Instagram to find out as and when I make some more travel plans.

What is on your travel wish list this year? I would love to know in the c0mments section below 🙂