Athens, Greece from the eyes of our son

Acropolis

Acropolis

3 years ago we wanted to go somewhere reasonably priced, somewhere convenient and somewhere warm in November and did a long weekend trip to Athens, Greece. I have written about how our son loves to be in ancient cities here. Athens/Acropolis would be probably on top 10 list of ancient cities to visit.

Actually Athens was a bit of disappointment other than the Acropolis. A day in Acropolis, with a good walking and climbing and an evening in Pire, a day trip to outskirts of Athens including Kifisia and Rafina was more than enough for a weekend.

Acropolis

Acropolis

Although we had a rental car, once again we preferred to get on a hop-on-hop-off bus, to go around the city and know what is where. So we understood that Acropolis is our only attraction point, as our son hates shopping, and father hates ordinary museums. Therefore, we got off the bus at Acropolis and played our typical ancient city game “pretend to be”.

Acropolis

Acropolis

Athena Nike tample, Proplylaia (the entrance), Parthenon, Dionysos Theater, Heredos Atticus Theater and lovely views of city of Athens from various angles, were all nice to visit on a warm autumn day.

View of the city

View of the city

Afterwards we walked down hill to the Plaka area, to find a local restaurant and some shops for a relax afternoon.

Finishing the city before 5:oo pm, we decided to get our car and drive to Pire maybe to find a restaurant or for a sunset view at a cafe, but maybe it would be better to get some idea from locals, as we could not find a nice place to sit, and there were almost nobody around except us.

Next day, with the advice of our eyewitness book of Athens, we decided to drive some other towns nearby. We started with Kifisia in the morning, which is said to be preferred by locals for summer season mostly. Nice houses, some shops and a natural history museum were what we saw, nothing close to History Museums in New York, Vienna or London.

Animals in Natural History Museum

Animals in Natural History Museum

Some insects, some butterflies, some animals and minerals were interesting maybe not for us, but for our son.

For the afternoon we went to the east coast to Rafina, another advice of our eyewitness book. Again not much to see, except some fish restaurants to have lunch by the port and to watch the ships coming and going.

So that was all for us in Athens. We simply did nothing on the third day. Had a long breakfast in our hotel – Hotel Novus, with the most lovely pie we have ever had- and drove around the city with our car before going to the airport.

Do you remember game:

Me: What do you remember of Athens.

Our son: Our hotel with the view of Acropolis.

Me: And?

Our son: And the Acropolis.

Me: And?

Our son: More Acropolis

 

PS. All photographs in this post are taken by our son.

Enjoy parks cafes and streets of Warsaw

Before going to Warsaw, I was very much concerned about the history of Warsaw. You can read my post of my concerns here, in another post. However, when we got there it was a totally different scene, with lots of festivities in the city, very nice weather and lots of things to do with our son.

The reason of going to Warsaw was primarily, my husband had to give some lectures in The University of Warsaw. So we thought it was a good reason to make a long weekend in Warsaw.

When we arrived to our hotel, the very helpful reception staff adviced us a half day city tour, which would be possible to start from our hotel. That sounded very nice to get to know the city, so we joined in. Next morning, after a super breakfast in our hotel, our city guide met us in the lobby and so our tour started, together with another 10-12 tourists in our mini bus. First we went to the Lazienki Park, at which we were left at the top gate of the park and enjoyed a downhill walk trough the park. Lazienki park is a really nice, green park with very nice trees, palaces, ponds and statues.

Lazienki Park

Lazienki Park

Lazienki Park

Lazienki Park

Very nice statues

Very nice statues

Palaces and gardens

Palaces and gardens

Nice details

Nice details

After a nice walk trough the park with a nice ice cream break in it, we headed to the city center, which is very typically called “Old Town Square”. What was different from very typically, was the crowd of people, with flags in their hands, balloons and music everywhere, and a huge stage on main “piazza” with big screens on both sides and very nice music.

A walk in old town square

A walk in old town square

Old Town Square

Old Town Square

A street lamp on the old town square

A street lamp on the old town square

Enjoy "people watch" activity on street cafes

Enjoy “people watch” activity on street cafes

A colorful Sunday afternoon

A colorful Sunday afternoon

Our guided tour ended, after some stops in Jewish quarter and a walk in Old Town area. So we had lots of time enjoying the street cafes and have lunch escorted by a “people watch” activity.

After wards we decided to return to our hotel with another good walk, at which we gave a break of evening wine and “we deserved this” deserts at the famous Bristol Cafe. When I say “a walk” do not think of a small walking. It took us about 3 hours, with lots of things to see on the way, shops (Yes-open on Sunday), on-street exhibitions of old Warsaw photographs and “I’m tired”s of our son.

Bristol Cafe

Famous Cafe Bristol

Loved this "wall" at Cafe Bristol

Loved this “wall” at Cafe Bristol

Evening wine, with a nice evening sun

Evening wine, with a nice evening sun

The Inn Under the Red Hog is to come in the following days… Do not hesitate to follow me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Cruise Tour-day-6

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

The 6th day of our Great Cruise tour started with a lovely good morning view of Oslo. Unfortunately we only had a few hours to spend in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Moreover, this few hours would start even earlier than the days before. Therefore, I preferred to order my breakfast to our room, in order to avoid the hassle of 13th floor restaurant, and enjoy a superb breakfast with a splendid view of Oslo bay and islands. (Just a little tip here: order breakfast to your room, more than you think you will eat, as the plates are so small.)

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

Besides the breakfast, the early morning routines were pretty much the same. Today we took the “Introduction to Oslo” tour which I would not recommend if you are not a big group like ours. The only attraction of the tour was a superb Vigeland Park, which could be reached by a taxi, faster and easier. Other than the park, we did not have any chance to see the centre of the city, because of the traffic and not easy for the huge bus to go around, we could only pass trough the main streets and noted to come to Oslo again, sometime soon.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Vigeland park, is a must in Oslo, one of the best parks I have ever been. Home to some 192 sculptures by its namesake, the Vigeland sculpture park is the cynosure of Norway’s artistic landscape. The park is Gustave Vigeland’s artistic statement about the quintessential themes of life and relationships. A hundred meter long bridge bifurcates along a waterfall, each path adorned with large bronze wheels, while the bridge itself is adorned with granite depictions of humans at various stages of life, including Angry Boy, one of the most prominent sculptures in the park. Its other highlights include sculptures such as The FountainThe Monolith, and The Wheel of Life.

Angry boy

Angry boy

Wheel of life

Wheel of life

Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

Another attraction of Oslo is the park where the winter Olympic games are held and the ski jump tower. The observation deck by the tower has a lovely view of Oslo and the Ski Jump simulator is very attractive for a child like ours.

Ski jump tower

Ski jump tower

Goodbye Oslo

Goodbye Oslo

I wish we could stay more in Oslo.

Another important thing to remember in Oslo is to redeem your invoices for tax free refunds, as Oslo is the last stop in Norway. To do this, you need to approach the tiny building by the Cruise, in which there are some souvenir shops and long queue of tax refund. Moreover, in the queue you find out that there are two different tax refund companies and if the invoices you hold comprise them both, you need to get in two different queues one by one. My advice would be either just skip it (which means  no tax refund), or ask your friend or partner to stay in the other queue (which is at the far end of the building). Other wise you spend a good half hour waiting in each of the queues. Is it worth waiting? Well, about 15% of the invoice, if you have a number of them, it may be worth it.

A chat from yesterday evening:

Our son: Mom do you remember the dance lessons you took.

Me: Sirtaki, Salsa, or Tarantelle.

Our son: Tarantelle, do you remember the dance steps?

Me: No, none.

Altough I enjoyed the Sirtaki class (yesterday), Salsa Class (The second day) and tarantelle class (today), during  the one week tour, when I try to remember any of them… No, not even one step is in my mind. What a pity.

Our day ended with long lunch, again in the Kaito sushi bar, the rescued island, far from the mass of people. And an afternoon nap, before dinner, after which we found – luckily- a place to sit in the lobby and enjoyed the live music of piano.

Great Cruise tour-day-2

The main activity of our summer has been the Cruise trip with MSC Poesia to Norwegian Fyords. We were a group of 8: Me, the organiser-as always, my husband and our son-as expected, my mom and her husband, my uncle and aunt and my grandfather. So group aged from 9 to 90. Tough isn’t it?

Day 2 was what they call in Cruise language “Day at sea”. A good day to get to know the cruise life, learn what is where and enjoy the only morning to be able to wake up late. Since we all did not like the 13th floor restaurant, we started the day at the a la cart breakfast restaurant at level 5, which was much more better than 13th floor self service hectic restaurant. Afterwards the group seperated to enjoy the relax day. I used this opportunitiy to take the Salsa lessons, which I already forgot the steps by now. However the numbers are still in my mind: one-to-three…five-six-seven, uno-duo-tre…cinque-sei-sette, ein-zwei-drei…funf-sechs-sieben, bir-ki-uc…bes-alti-yedi, one-two-three…five-six-seven…

The elevator door

The elevator door

Having a sushi-lover-son, for our lunch we all met at the Kaito Sushi Bar, which was an oasis, free of crowd, as it was an extra paid restaurant. We took a long table in the middle and enjoyed the fine Japanese cuisine for a couple of hours.

Our son learning to do the sushi

Our son learning to do the sushi

Kaito Sushi Bar

Kaito Sushi Bar

Our “Day at sea” went on with an afternoon nap, and getting ready for the Captain’s cocktail party, with the dress code of “formal”. Going down to the Zebra Bar at deck 6, we felt that the purpose of this getting dressed is to take picture with the captain which required a long long queue to be waited. Not my kind really. So after drinking a couple of colored liquids so-called cocktails with some chips -very unfriendly to my diet, we headed to our restaurant and our tiny far end corner table. Today it was also the birthday of my uncle. With the nice surprise cake of my aunt, and the Indonesian version of the “Birthday song” of the staff, we celebrated his birthday.

After dinner, we headed to the theater for the evening’s animation. I do not want to criticize the animation in the evenings as it s a matter of “likes and dislikes” Some days it was average, some days above average in my opinion.

Decks

Decks

"Sun" decks, if you find the sun.

“Sun” decks, if you find the sun.

Great Cruise tour-day-1

The main activity of our summer has been the Cruise trip with MSC Poesia to Norwegian Fyords. We were a group of 8: Me, the organiser-as always, my husband and our son-as expected, my mom and her husband, my uncle and aunt and my grandfather. So group aged from 9 to 90. Tough isn’t it?

Actually our flight to the Cruise point-Copenhagen, started a day earlier, so let me start by telling you the day -1. Since our flight was an early bird one (Which we all hate) first-time-ever, we stayed in the hotel just by the airport in our home city, although we live just about 30 min. from the airport. We enjoyed a fine wine with a well done meat for dinner, in a wine yard close to the airport, and the airplanes passing just above us. We saved about 45 min. more sleeping time and in my opinion can save your next day, especially if you are not an early bird family.

Day 1 was a typical traveling date, long flights with some delays. First breakfast at the first flight, second one at the lounge and the third breakfast at the second flight (not a good start for my diet). Arriving to Copenhagen Airport, transfer to our cruise and getting into the first queue of never ending “get in the queue” ‘s.  After about an hour of waiting in the queue, we finally got on our ship found our rooms on the 10th floor, saw how a room can be so tiny. Opening the extra bed for our son and the situation got worse. Good that my grandfather is with us and staying in a single room:-) Our son is immidiately posted to my grandfather’s room and here it is, we have a rather normal room again.

Checking the daily news in the room

Checking the daily news in the room

We were told that the restaurant on the 13th floor is open all day. That would be a good choice for a late lunch actually, but we got our first lesson right after. It was absolute mess with lots of children around, people with loads of food on their plate are searching for some more and we try to find a place to be seated. Lesson number one: Never ever eat lunch at 13th floor.

Learning to tie the life jackets

Learning to tie the life jackets

Having started the day very early in the morning, I would die for a mid-day nap for a few hours but duty was waiting. First I went to listen the extra tours provided during the tour, as we were a big group I wouldn’t risk not to take a tour. Later on I understood that I did the right thing, as the Norvegian Fyord cruise ports are on very tiny villages, where you would not find much things to do. Bus/Train/Boat tours on the other hand take you to further than the Fyords, which you will see on the coming days.

Listening the tours and deciding the suitable ones for us, did not finish the duties. We all supposed to be in the rescue training at 5:00 pm, ready with our life jackets. Listening to “What to do” in 7 languages and find out the deck we would be ready. Fun but not for sleepy tired people like us.

In the cruises, you either eat dinner at 6:00 pm or 8:15 pm. It was good that we preferred to eat at 6:00 pm. Altough this caused us to miss most of the departures from ports, in later days we have learned that it is not the only day 1 started early. Each day we had to woke up earlier than the previous:-(

Just after we settled down we met our waiter; an Indonesian guy, so kind, but unfortunately did speak very bad English.  Somehow we managed to order, eat and finally got in our beds, before sunset of north.

View from our room at Copenhagen port

View from our room at Copenhagen port

Back to normal city life

After a 3 months of on-and-off travelling and living in a summer house, we moved back to city together with the start of schools. A combination of being in a semi-developed country with low profile internet connections in summer resorts and an unfriendly-technology-user mom resulted in being a poor blogger. But I will recover the gap with a full detailed information about our first-time-ever cruise travel, today and in the coming days.

Besides the small travels to here and there (mostly SSS-Sun, Sea and Sand holidays) the main activity of summer has been the Cruise trip with MSC Poesia to Norwegian Fyords. We were a group of 8: Me, the organiser-as always, my husband and our son-as expected, my mom and her husband, my uncle and aunt and my grandfather. So group aged from 9 to 90. Tough isn’t it? Everything went well, as you will see in the coming days, but will I try again? Not every year I must say. Maybe once in 2 years or three. We’ll see.

Whoever goes to a cruise will tell you how nice to be able to see so many places without packing and unpacking your luggage. But I am now aware of so many “but” s.

For instance, have you seen the Truman Show? If not, please do. We felt like being in Truman show. In every corner, every elevator, every stairs, there are people waiting to block your passway.  As if people wait for you to get out of your room and start moving when you want to get on the elevator, or relax by the piano or eat some snack. By the end of the week, you feel “that was more than enough of people.”

You can follow me on the next couple of posts for day-to-day details.

Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwantein

In many of our travels to Europe, palaces have always been a “must go” for me. Since it always me who plans the travel, actually it is always my choice to go, not the “boys”. Neuschwanstein in Schwangau, Germany for instance was one of the best I can say.

We have been to Schwangau for one day, with our rental BMW from Munich. On an exceptionally hot June day, first we tried to find out the ticketing system, which is a bit of hectic. The tickets of Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwantein are sold in the center of village from a joint sales shop. So do not go directly to the palace uphill- like we did- and  return back down. And the tickets have some reservation numbers on them, which limits the time you have to be on the door of the palace. So you have to plan, your arrival, lunch time, visiting two palaces, leaving enough time between them, and do not forget considering how children gets tired so quickly.

Anyway, is it worth it? Yes I can definitely say that. Maybe because we, the girls, grew up with some Cindrella tales, I liked it more than the “boys” did.

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Schloss Neuschwanstein

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Add a stopover to the village of Oberambargau to have an early evening beer. The houses and the shops are worth to see

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On the way to Schwangau

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Schloss Hohenschwangau

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View from Neuschwanstein

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Trying to climb uphill

     I hope I have written all “Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwantein” ‘s correctly. Why is German so hard to write?