There is no secret that Greece is one of my favourite countries to travel, shop, dine, relax, drink my Frappes, Freddos and wine. I always enjoyed consuming the culture and get lost in some of the small streets in the Old towns of the islands or such in the Mainland and always happy to return and practice my Greek. Border country of my homeland meant that once I was in Greece, I always had the feeling that I’m almost home, big part because of the similarity in cuisine and lifestyle.
Been in many of its islands for work or holiday, Santorini and Mykonos remain two of the islands, that I keep being happy to return and always find something to do and another place to visit, that I didn’t visit before. In both of the islands and if my time off allow, I’m usually among the last ones to return onboard, needless to say, always with shopping bags – wine, jewelry and a bottle of the Santorini parfume is usually, what I take with from Santorini and a beautiful painting and more wine, what I mostly have from Mykonos.
While in Fira, the bigger city and usually the one port, where most of the cruise ships are to be seen at anchor. Once at the port, you could either the cable car going up in the town, rent a donkey or simply walk up the stairs. Cable car going up is usually the fastest way to go up. Once there, take either way of the main street and enjoy the views from the top, the many art galleries, souvenir shops, all clothing such and much more.
Oia from the other hand is the little town located nearly half an hour by bus from Fira and is the one famouse with the beautiful sunset, the white churches with the blue tops, the many wineries and art galleries. A good and original way of returning from Oia, would be with a set of jewelries sold in the galleries.
Mykonos was usually visited the day after Santorini. I, honestly, felt in love with its charming Old Town and the inhabitants, so friendly and always with great recommendations with regards to more entertainment. I only wished of having a bit longer time to see more of it, but maybe next time and with an overnight.
Wow, I can’t believe myself how fast the time has past. The 2 1/2 months after joining my new home-at-sea are gone.
From Dubai via Abu Dhabi and then India, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar ( Tanzania) and the Seychelles, here is how I saw few of the places I went out at.
Dubai is with no doubt a city of contrast, innovation and creativity. It is the city where I spend nearly three months in the year of 2012/2013 and I was excited to be back. Since I have seen the sights of New and Old Dubai and I also had very limited time to be out, I decided to drive straight to Downtown Dubai, went through the Dubai Mall, before having dinner by the Fountain, while watching the “music and light” water spectacle in the evening.
First overnight after embarking my new home at sea and I was back in the finance capital of the UAE- namely Abu Dhabi. The weather at this time of the year ( end of November) was so hot with not even one cloud in the sky to keep a shadow. I couldn’t wait until the evening to finish my duty and enjoy the evening life of Abu Dhabi. We went to a really nice roof top wine bar with spectacular views to the lightened skyliners. It was a warm Sunday evening, but the bars and restaurants were not so busy.
Mumbai and Cochin, India
After two sunny and hot days at sea, we reached another city that never sleeps- Mumbai. My first time in Mumbai just few years ago, it was very exciting. Now, not so much, but having in mind that we were going to spend another day at sea, I had to be out. Between our two stops in India, Mumbai is definitely the city I was enjoying to be out at. Cosmopolitan, vibrant with beautiful architecture and sweet – cinnamon aroma ( at least in the part I was hanging around), smart dressed students or workers, who didn’t mind slowing down to give clear directions, Mumbai has something fascinating which I did love and which keep my curiosity for an upcoming visit of India ( I always wanted to do the Golden Triangle).
Cochin from the other hand was different – rural, green, with amazing sea views. With most of the sights located close from each other and around 20 minutes drive from the Cruise Port of Cochi, I decided to arrange a car with a driver to take me to the Fort Cochin, Mattencherry Palace, Chinese fishing nets, Jewish quarter & synagogue, St. Francis Church, Dutch Cemetery. While visiting all those places, I actually had fun, the driver introduce me to “art” of using the Chinese fishing nets ( not my thing really) but it was fun. We also seen a beautiful elephant which I got to touch as well. Most impressed I remain with the Jewish quarter – the colours of the buildings, the shops and most of all the cafés in the area. For my next stop in Cochin on our way back from South Africa to Europe via India, I will try an Ayurveda treatment. If you have a bit more time, I recommend you of going on a tour along the backwaters.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Our next stop was scheduled to be Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Located so close to India, both of the countries sharing a lot in term of nature, people, lifestyle and cuisine. With two days spend in Colombo, there was quite a group from the ship that we went out in the evening, as soon as we arrived. For our surprise, there was not much happening in night life of Colombo, but we found a nice restaurant (http://ministryofcrab.com/ ), where we tried one of the local specialties – the curry crab. One of the facts, I do love about traveling to Asia is that the Spa’s and massage studios are open 24/7, so after the dinner and the walk in the Downtown of Colombo, we visited a small spa ( at around 2:00am) on our way back to the ship. The next day, as soon as, I was out, I jumped on a tuk – tuk and went to see few of the sights of Colombo- Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple ( I just loved it), Viharamahadevi park – Victorian, Independence Memorial Hall, before dropping me at the t-Lounge by Dilmah (http://www.dilmaht-lounge.com/) , where I was meeting friends of mine from Sri Lanka. Crowded, congested and very contrast, I was again happy to be able to see something from a place where I didn’t go before.
One of my favourite places from this first two months was Zanzibar, the Tanzanian island located just few miles away from the East Coast of Africa, and already cannot wait of re-visiting again in March. Dazzling white-sandy beaches, coral reefs, cobbled streets, stone towns, mango trees, strong coffee, hospitable people, the tourism in Zanzibar is booming and I can understand why. With appr. 4 hours off in the afternoon and great friend as company, we simply decided to book our places near the swimming pool of the luxury Serena Hotel (http://www.serenahotels.com/serenazanzibar/) , located at the beachfront of Zanzibar and within the Old “stone” Town, which we didn’t miss of visiting on our way back to the ship.
Mahe, the largest and most developed island on the Seychelles, was our last stop-over before heading to Kenya and then South Africa. As such, everybody was so excited of spending as long as possible on the beach, myself included. Beau Vallon is most probably the most popular beach in the area and it is located just around 15 minutes drive from the port of Mahe. It was a clear and sunny morning, so first thing after we had all our guests gone for an excursions, was to take a taxi and head to the famous beach. The taxi coast around 20 USD and while driving to the beach, I could enjoy a bit of the landscapes of the island. When reaching the beach, honestly I didn’t find it as fascinating and beautiful as the one in Zanzibar, but I had a great time and great breakfast near the beach too.
Next to come will be more about wine tastings and Safari in South Africa.
Here am I, sitting in a beautiful wine bar located at the Terrace at my hotel in Valencia, where I was attending Spanish Language course during my vacation from work this summer, and even though Valencia is magnetic and I will write about my time in here in the next days, all I can thing while having my wine now is the mini weekend in Madrid two weeks ago.
About 4 days after my classes started, I got invited to visit Madrid with a good friend of mine, that was showing me Valencia for duration of my classes too. He had some business work to do, so that for the time, he was finalizing it on Friday and meeting with friends for the rest of the day, I was strolling down and up the busy streets and parks of Madrid, consuming the art at the National Museum of Prado, trying to cover as much as possible for the time being. First two impressions from Madrid were that it was so easy to find my way – in Valencia for example, I’m keep loosing myself until now, the moment I decide to walk a different way, 100 % I get lost, not the case in Madrid. Also the people in Madrid – beautifully dresses, finally match for the way I like to dress, in addition friendly, very very curious and very open.
So, as my friend had his meeting in the business district of Madrid, I followed to the point, that I was given instruction in where to go next and how to get covered the sights in my list.
“Calle de Sorano” is where I started, the street of luxury designer goods, tax free paradise and the one leading to the Plaza de Colon, which was renamed to honor Christopher Columbus. Just behind the statue of Columbus, there is one of the tallest buildings of Madrid. Quick stop for picture and I walking further down the street to reach Puerta del Sol.
At the Plaza del Sol, in front of the Bear with the Strawberry Tree
My tour of historical Madrid started in here, the vital heart of Madrid and Spain as well, a meeting point for the citizens in Madrid as well as the metro junction. Surrounded by the beautiful building with classical facades, here is where you will find one of Madrid’s most photograph sight- “the bear with the strawberry tree”, as well as the famous clock that mark the traditional eating of the “12 Grapes” at the beginning of each New Year. Not far from the Puerta del Sol is the to other famous squire of all squires – Plaza Mayor. In the past, stage of important events such as bullfighting, religious ceremonies, tournaments and executions, today, the squire is more like leisurely spot for locals and visitors of the city, place to have that cold pre-dinner wine after work, while watching the crowd passing by. In the middle of the squire, the statue of Felipe III. is still be photographed at. If you are gourmet lover, like myself, a stop at the Market of San Miguel or the Musem of Jamon is a must.
Feeling like a Princess between the Almudena Cathedral in the back and the Palacio Real de Madrid on my right side.
Madrid is a home of most of Spain’s Royal Palaces, but the Royal Family prefers to live outside of Madrid. One of the biggest and most beautiful one is Palacio Real de Madrid, located no more then 15 minutes of leisurely walk from the Plaza Mayor. Just next to the Palacio, another sight will catch your eye, like it did mine- the Almudena Cathedral, where the current King of Spain- King Felipe IV. married former journalist Letizia Ortiz back in 2004. The choice of the Cathedral isn’t random. Some of the locals were kidding, that the royal couple- to- be, had to just walk from the gates of the Palacio Real de Madrid…
Palacio Real is open daily to the public. This time I did not get the chance of seeing it in, but reserving my spot for the next visit in Madrid.
For dinner, I already had my company back. Like everywhere in Spain and in Madrid, there are so many Terraces serving all types of dinner, accompanied in our case with beautiful wine, so all we had to do was walk and pick. After dinner, we still had energy of continuing to one of the livest and friendliest districts of Madrid- something like the Soho in London, namely the Chueca district…Whatever happen in Chueca, will remain in Chueca.
The second and last day, I dedicated to the art of Prado Museum, for which I decided to start again from the Metro station of Grand Via and walk down, passing the famous Metropolitan building with the eagle of the top, stopping at the Plaza de la Cibeles, famous with few of the most beautiful buildings located here, including also the fountain in front, of the nowadays ,working Post Office. The Fountain was close for renovation, so maybe next time, I will be able to fully enjoy it. Continued my walk in the little Park behind the Post- ” Paseo del Prado” and I was soon standing in front of the National Prado Museum, housing one of the richest art and painting collections worldwide. After good a bit more then 3 hours, I decided to take my coffee at the Parque del Buen Retire, the biggest in Madrid. My goal here was to see from close the Cristal Palace , which unfortunately I did not this time, but there were enough other beautiful spots to admire before taking the Grand Via back to the Puerta del Sol to re -unite with my friend for another dinner. This time, we decided to have something from Peru. We found a little enchanting restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine and I must say that I really loved it. The wine though, remained from Spain.
Below are just few of the other images taken during my super short time in Madrid and sooo much already looking to revisit it…
Petra, one of the world’s most impressive and atmospheric archaeological sites, once thriving metropolis,then forgotten for more then 500 years, before rediscovered again, is nowadays one of the most visited or desire-to-visit city on Earth. The visit of Petra in the afternoon of 12 April, 2017 has marked the highlight of my entire 6 months at sea and the memory of which are still so live.
Docked in the only port city, Jordan has, a crew tour was organize for the all adventurous dreamers just like me, to take us on a daily trip from Aqaba to Petra and back. We were about 40 members with fantastic guide, who told us stories after stories about Petra, some historical facts, some not so much, but still interesting from its establishments until it rediscovery and being the place, where some of the Hollywood classics were filmed at.
The distance between Aqaba to Petra was covered for an hour and half. We had a lunch arrange for us at the Petra Palace Hotel, from where there was a short walk to the Visitor Center of Petra. The day, we were visiting the city of Petra, there were not really a lot of tourists or way less than I expected, so it was fast to get the tickets ( actually, once you are with a guide, he or she would take care about it) followed by literally run, all, let’s run time. We had less then 4 hours all together and a lot to see.
From the ticket center to the entrance of the Siq, that leads you to the Treasure, there is a distance of 1,5 km, which by your wish and physical condition could be covered either by feet or you could take a horse ride, which is included in the price of the ticket. That ride is only to the entrance of the Siq. As our group was entirely fit and mentioned above, we literally took that distance almost jogging and taking pictures while moving. Once in the Siq, it was amazing feeling – it was slightly cooler then in the outside, you could hear the echos of the people talking, locals girls singing, the noise from the horses and the horse carriages.
En route to the Siq, one of the many horse carriages
Little advice here, when walking in the Siq, even if you tend to walk in the middle of the path, don’t do it, stay in the most left or right sides, as a horse might run over…. Also, do have enough water with you, wear comfortable closed shoes if possible, a hat to cover and protect you from the sun while at the outside and something to cover yourself in case you visit some of the tombs as the temperature in there is lightly lower then when outside.
After about 15 minutes walking in the Siq and admiring some of the signs of its walls, wondering about the water channels surrounding both sides, there it was in the front, the biggest and most famous of Petra’s temples – The Treasury. Located magnificently in the end of the Siq, it was believed that The Treasury of the Pharaoh was a magical creation of a great wizard who had deposited treasure in its urns. Just follow the path to the right and you will shortly find yourself at one of the next scenes of the movie of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” namely the Royal Tombs, the Theater and the steps leading to the Monastery. If you wonder, if we managed to visit all that within the 4 hours, the answer is yes. There was even time to buy souvenirs, have another Arab coffee and my favourite lime-mint homemade lemonade.
In the Siq
Walking the Siq, it was also to be seen that it was paved. Word has it, there were the the Nabataeans, which were among the first inhabitants, who paved the Siq around the 1st century AD. The Nabataeans were considered as adventurous architects, inspired by other cultures. Just a look at the Theater ( inspired by the Romans) or the roofs of the tombs ( similar to Greek constructions) was enough to proof the above. As merchants and entrepreneurs, they were the once, that made Petra center of rich and powerful kingdom, setting fear even among the Romans. After losing a war against, Petra become a Roman province, but a strong earthquake in the 1st century AD destroyed some of the sites and led to the city to being forgotten. Only in the year of 1812, the Swiss explorer Johann L. Buckhardt rediscovered the ancient city of Petra, the story of which was also very interesting.
Added in the UNESCO list for World Heritage, Petra is worth of visiting with an overnight or more, and the Treasure visiting in the evening to enjoy the night show of music and lights…
With a local lady, they , all locals, seemed so friendly
What would be a visit to South Africa without a visit of one of its many nature game reserves? Not complete, i guess.
Located within a short drive from the East London, Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, the Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve is not among the top 10 Game reserves in South Africa or on the African continent, but it was a great way to come face-to-face with the humble and among the most spectacular wildlife of the planet.
The seen and the experienced during the visit of the Game Reserve will remain among the highlights for the time being in South Africa, as I hope, I won’t take too long before I decide to actually book a safari including the overnights within the territory of a game park.
I have set my eyes to few of the bigger parks in South Africa and Kenya, what I would need now would be enough free time and a great company eager to travel with.
Ready to go
Springboks or the McDonalds for the lions, as the driver described them
the beautiful zebras
the very sleepy King Lion
and its cute family
one of my favourite one- who said that Giraffes only eat plants?
Located in the Southern-most tip of the African continent, the seasons in South Africa and Namibia are opposite then those in the Northern Hemisphere. While my homeland, Bulgaria was covered with snow and the temperatures barely hit the “0”, I was enjoying the summer in some of the finest of Namibia and South Africa.
Here is in few words, how I found both – Walvis Bay and Cape Town and what did I do in pictures.
It was the early morning of Christmas Eve 2016, when a boat trip was organize to take us from the jetty of Walvis Bay for a seal and dolphin watching cruise. It was magnificent.
Upon departure few pelicans flew in the boat and didn’t mind to be feed, touched and escorted out of the boat.
A small reminder here:
If you can, avoid touching the legs, as even if they say that a bite of the pelican is not painful and equivalent of paper cut, I’m not so sure that my friend felt this way, after he grad one of the legs of a pelican and the pelican “replied” by biting him in the hand with no serious injuries.
Once we cut across the lagoon to the moored Russian trawlers, there were few seals known to swim up to the boats for something to eat. If you are among those adventure guests, there is the opportunity to feed fish to these playful animals.
The cruise continued to the Pelican Point, where a large colony of the seals was providing the entertainment. Cute and playful, the seals could be dangerous too,if provoked.
On our way back, sparking wine, a selection of local cheeses, snacks and fresh oysters were served along with the Namibian coffee ( fortified wine). It is needless to say that this was my favorite part of the cruise or the perfect end of it.
Going back to the ship, I didn’t miss the chance of getting some of the local cosmetic products – the body scrub and the body oil with the mystic aroma were phenomenal.
From Walvis Bay, it took us a day and half to reach the beautiful city of Cape Town and finally finding a safe shelter from the rough, rough sea in that area. Since the weather in that day was way too windy, a visit to the Table Mountain was impossible, myself and another friend decided to take the blue tour for a picturesque sightseeing tour around the Peninsula with highlight to the winery in Constantia ( the oldest wine region in South Africa). If I have to be honest in here, the limited time was the reason to not hop off at the Mariner’s Wharf for a nice sea food and more wine or Camps Bay to enjoy few hours on the beach, also the seaside promenade by St. John’s Road seemed interesting place to hop off and walk back to the Waterfront where was the last stop of the tour, but maybe I would do it another time, when I happen to visit Cape Town along with the visit of Table Mountain.
It is the very early morning of the 17th of November and here am I sitting in my favourite coffee shop at the airport of Varna, Bulgaria, just waiting to board the first of the three planes, I’m about to take today before reaching my end destination – Dubai. I will have a shot time to recover before boarding the Silver Cloud cruise ship tomorrow, which will be my ‘ home’ for the rest of 5 1/2 months.
UAE, India, the Maldives, Seychelles, South Africa, Kenya, Israel, Greece, Italy and Monte Carlo are only few of the countries I will visit and I’m planning to report with details this time… In some of the places, I have been already, some like the Maldives, Seychelles and Kenya are new, but I’m equally exited.
Imagine, waking up in different place almost every morning, walking on different streets and actually getting good around, having your coffee, served in different ways in each place, swim or shop, no matter the activity, I will mention, it is just exited and among the best part are the people I’m about to work with, have as guests onboard or will get the chance of talking to while on land.
It will be my 5th such contract with my current company, but for the first time I have decided to memorize the seen and done while away from home.
What I only wish is smooth sailing, mostly calm sea, enough water underneath and really great colleagues to share that experience with.