Archive for the ‘Cities’ Category

Summer on the Water – Paris and Beyond   7 comments

Time for the barrage of posts from our big summer holiday. When i looked through the photos the overall theme was one of on, in or by the water hence the overall title.

To kick things off we took the ferry over from Portsmouth to Ouistreham on our way to Paris.

The omens were good as we were the very first vehicle off the ferry which I was very pleased about. I’d done my research and found a great spot to stop for breakfast just around the corner from the port. I’d had great plans for a lovely al fresco breakfast an a stroll on the beach but sadly we’d brought the British summer across with us and breakfast was spent hiding inside the van while the drizzle soaked everything around us.

Onwards to Paris and our home for the next few nights at the Camping de Paris. Right next to Seine and the Bois de Boulogne park with a shuttle bus to the nearest metro station. A perfect base to see the city.

Even though we were right in the metropolitan area there was no real sense you were camping in a city. There was barely any traffic noise and the view across the Seine was great.

Due to the overnight ferry and the relatively short drive we were pitched up and in the centre of Paris by late afternoon.

It was just me and TBF at this point and we took a stroll from Place de la Concorde and into the Jardins de Tuileries.

And onwards to the Louvre.

I’m never quite sure as the reasoning behind the glass pyramids in the central courtyard but I really like them. They are nothing if not iconic.

We’ve never felt art galleries are really our thing so we’ve never been inside, especially as its crowded and expensive. We found a couple of spots where you can take a peek inside for free.

I liked this shot of the arrow straight Rue de Rivoli out the back.

After a very wet start to the day the sun was now out and it was lovely and wbedürftig. A far cry from the blistering heat of our visit last year.

There was a square behind the main courtyard I’d not seen before and its was delightful and quiet. There was a guy busking, singing opera and he was superb.

Its a magnificent palace and become one of my favourite spots in the city among many favourites.

I really like Paris and with all cities, a bit of research allows you to find the quieter spots away from the main tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower.

Speaking of which, there it is poking above the skyline as we took a walk over the bridges of the Seine.

Looking to the Pont des Arts.

And the Pont Neuf, the oldest of the bridges and my favourite (hence it taking the place of the headline for the post)

They had this garden/shower running again. Not quite the god-send it was in 36C heat last year

We headed to the Saint Germain district of restaurants for an afternoon meal in a very fine fish place. A rare treat for us to have a meal together just the two of us.

The next day we increased our group by one as TJF joined us after catching the train (mainly to avoid a couple of spells of driving and the overnight ferry)

We had another excellent lunch in Saint Germain before taking a stroll along the river.

Past my favourite bridge.

Just after which was a very nice looking riverside bar overlooking the bridge. Well, it would have been rude not to stop for a beer.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we wandered further along the river, over the Pont des Arts and back to Saint Germain for an ice cream.

They way they scooped this chocolate one into a flower was worth a photo I thought.

The next morning (and indeed on our first morning) me and TBF took a bike ride through the Bois de Boulogne park next to the campsite.

They have a myriad of paths and trails and its a great place for an easy hours ride.

In the centre of the park are some fairly extensive lakes and they were supremely beautiful and pretty much deserted.

It was, again, hard to believe we were in the heart of one of Europe’s biggest cities.

We collected TJF and headed back into the city. We spent a happy hour wandering along the canal St Martin. Another quiet and less frequented part of Paris, betagthough I’m not convinced I’d want to swim in it!

We were killing time ahead of a repeat boat trip along the canal and out onto the Seine.

We did the same trip last year and enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again. Considering it’s a two hour trip, takes you through locks, tunnels and along the Seine, past most of the major sights by the river and has a very entertaining commentary, the ?20 pp is pretty good value and I’d strongly recommend whenever you visit the city. As you can see the weather couldn’t have been more different to last year when we had to hide from the blistering heat. This time as we exited the tunnel it started to rain betagthough it stopped soon after and remained dry for the rest of the boat trip. You can see a more extensive post and photos of the trip in my post from last year

However, the skies were darkening and rain was clearly on the way. As we ate our evening meal soon after, the rain started in earnest and didn’t really stop for the next 18 hours.

It was a very wet last evening on the campsite, and an even wetter pack up before heading off on our two day journey to our main destination. Last year our drive through central France was characterised by serious heat, a parched landscape and eating inside service areas as it was too hot to picnic outside as we usually do. This time it hammered it down until early afternoon and the sun only came out as we approached our stopover in the Alps.

And what an excellent spot it was. Camping les Lacs de Maurienne, very quiet and un-commercialised and right next to a collection of small quarry lakes where we are able to take a lovely cool swim after a long day driving.

Just down the road is another favourite little place we’ve come across. A very quiet understated little Pizzeria, L’Escale Gourmande. You’d barely notice it driving past or even find it as its tucked away a quiet little village just off the main road. It has a really nice little terrace out back, the staff are really friendly and welcoming and the pizzas superb. Well worth seeking out if you are passing through.

To keep the stopover simple, TJF slept upstairs in the van and me and TBF slept in the pop up tent. This was the view from the front door of the tent in the morning.

Its a gorgeous spot in the alps foothills.

We restarted one of the pleasures of last years trip with an early morning swim. So peaceful and refreshing ahead of another long drive.

It was a shame we only stayed for the one night as the campsite was lovely and the area deserved more exploration

And a private family moment to finish off the post. We bought some of these Ringo biscuits on our first trip to Italy and they are dreadful. Rock hard, bone dry and tasteless (TBF loved them for some reason). At the service area we stopped off for lunch they sold them in enormous tubes which made us laugh in a way most onlookers probably though we were deranged. With that it was off on the final leg to our destination.

From the Mountains to the City   12 comments

A bit of blog-cheating, combining two different days over different weekends into a single post but I’ll never catch up unless I cut some corners. Having said that, its my blog so I can do what I want! ?

Firstly one of our standard walks at Blorschmale. Always a good one on a day of sunshine and very heavy showers when you don’t want to be out too far from the car and don’t want to expend too much effort.

Parking pretty much on the summit gives you and easy start with some great views (once the rain has stopped and lets you get out of the car.)

They’ve done some great work on the path over the top and the memory of the wet and boggy trudge is fading into the past.

TBF tackles the bouldery summit.

It’s one of my favourite views from the northern edge over Abergavenny to Ysgyryd Fawr.

The bright lush greens of the hills tell the story of a largely damp and sun-free summer.

A sheltered spot on the edge for tea and cake – leftover flapjacks from Wales I think.

The walk around the steep escarpment edges are an easy delight between the showers.

Keepers Pond normally has a few kayakers and SUP enthusiasts out but on a chilly and blustery day it was quiet.

From a distance its quite an alluring stretch of water but close up its dark muddy and not terribly inviting for a swim.

That didn’t deter TBF though who took to the water for a brief swim. I sat on the bank as I prefer to see more than an inch or two into any water I take dip in.

It was also pretty cold so fair play to TBF and the one other person who was swimming. Both us hubby’s looked on and shook our heads.

Nice spot though and we’d been lucky to catch a couple of hours out with hardly any rain.

Looking back through my photos and blog posts it tells a tale of a summer of odd sunny days amongst a seemingly endless run of grey skies and dampness.

Onwards. The following weekend we took a day trip to London. For me, THO and UF to watch the footy and the Funsters to go to the theatre. And here to visit the Tate Modern on the South Bank. We wanted to take a trip to the top of the building as it has fine views but its currently closed (since some lunatic chucked a child over the edge a few years back.)

Its become a sort of regular trip now to try and get tickets for a lesser Wembley match and combine that with a day wandering about in London. It works really well

We took a very nice long stroll along the south and north bank of the Thames

The Shard looking very impressive.

I’d love to go up but can’t justify the ?25 they charge you.

Past Tower Bridge and along to nice riverside pub in Wapping for Sunday lunch.

We then went our separate ways to theatres and stadiums. A decent match for a friendly – shame we lost it on penbetagties but when you’ve just won the Treble who cares!

Now I can focus on our summer holiday trip – lots of sunny posts coming up!

Athens Odyssey – Last Impressions   10 comments

Our last day in Athens and I was up and out early to watch the sun come up from Philopappos Hill

Great views of the Acropolis

Out west towards the sea and the islands.

And the Philopappos Monument.

A great time be out and about before heading back down for some breakfast.

Lovely light on the ruins of the Koilon that were just across the road from where we were staying.

Every site had one of these very informative signs complete with drawings and photos and I wish I’d take more photos of these as they provided a lot more detail than my guidebook.

For our last day we decided to wander further afield and make use of the excellent and very cheap public transport system (?3 a day for unlimited use of Buses, Trains, Trams and Metro). First stop was Lycabettus Hill, the obvious and highest of the many hills and outcrops in the city.

As there are no high rise towers to overlook the city Lycabettus Hill makes a fine substitute. You can nget Funicular from about halfway up which the Funsters took advantage of but I decided to walk up.

Fabulous views from the summit

A panorama looking south across the city.

And the small church on the top. A very enjoyable way to spend the morning.

We headed back to the apartment to pick up swimming stuff as our afternoon plan was to head to the beach. We had lunch just round the corner from a wonderful little Kebab takeaway with outside tables. The lovely waitress very patiently explained the complex menu and combinations of breads, wraps, meats, salads etc. It was one of the best meals we had on the trip.

Athens has quite an extensive beachfront area about an hours metro and tram ride from the centre. There are several beaches and we picked Kalamaki.

The weather was a little cloudy and there were showers around but we stayed dry.

Whilst the backdrop is quite plain, the beach is lovely and the water was crystal clear.

TJF just paddled but me and TBF had a long swim. It was fun to have a couple of hours doing something completely different from all the history and sightseeing.

Eventually the sun came out and we had a very enjoyable afternoon swimming and chilling on the beach.

The views out to sea and over to the island of Aegina were excellent.

A selfie of me almost looking happy!

Sadly we had to head back to the apartment and one last meal in one of the local restaurants. Then it was time to say goodbye to Athens and a travel day to head home. A wonderful city and really so glad that we picked it for a city break.

To finish off, just a few photos from the flight home. The Greek coast north of Athens.

Pretty sure this is Dubrovnik.

The coast of Croatia.

The island of Cres and Lake Vrana.

The Dolomites – I think.

Zurich and its lake.

The city of Basel on the Rhine.

And a distant shot of Jodrell Bank as we came into land.

Athens Odyssey – Ancient Agora (and More)   10 comments

As I mentioned in previous posts, Athens is littered with historical ruins and we were now keen to see as many as time would allow. After our day on the Acropolis we headed out the next morning to see the Ancient Agora.

This was the commercial, political and social centre of the city from around the 6th Century BC. Socrates lectured on philosophy, and St Paul preached here. There were buildings from the Ottoman era on the same site but these have been removed to reveal just the classical remains.

The most striking building is the Stoa of Attalos and was speisentially a covered shopping mall supported by 45 Doric columns. In fact Greeks ruhig use the word “Stoa” for shopping arcades. It was restored in the 1950’s and now houses the site museum.

I’m not normally much of a museum person but this one was really interesting, well laid out and informative. The oldest relics were from 4000 BC and included sculptures, coins and most interestingly an ancient stone voting machine. The other interesting little fact I picked up were about the Ostraka, small shards of pottery with names on that were used as a way to vote out people deemed troublesome. Its where we get the word “ostracized” from.

Outside, the remains are less dramatic than on the Acropolis (with one notable exception) but no less interesting. Its more like an wide open area of peaceful parkland containing the relics. It has lots of bird life and of course, tortoises.

Its also much quieter than the Acropolis (as are most of the sights in Athens) and its a lovely place for a sedate wander soaking in the classical ambiance as it were.

This is the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles, which commemorates St Paul and his teachings. Sadly it was closed for repairs

Looking back to the Stoa.

And more fine views of the Acropolis.

There are a whole range of temples and administrative building remains. The Tholos where what was in effect the local council sat. The Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios where Socrates did his stuff, betagters, sculptures, theatres and many other buildings too numerous to mention here

Its an extensive site and I’ve mad a note to do some more thorough research when I visit again.

The most impressive structure on the site is the Temple of Hephaistos.

Its smaller than the Parthenon but its really well preserved and you can get close to it so its a much better photo subject. The best preserved Doric Temple in Greece apparently.

The legend of Hephaistos is somewhat open to interpretation. He was the god of forge and metalworking and provided weapons for many of the greek gods and heroes. Some stories say he was born lame or deformed and therefore rejected by his mother Hera and then later by his father Zeus after an argument.

Some stories say he was either born without legs or had them cut off as part of his quarrel with Zeus. Some say he was cast out just for being ugly (at a time when the gods were supposedly perfect). It was also said that Athena came to him for weapons but his lust overcame him and he assaulted her. As I said, Greek legends are fascinating.

What’s not in doubt is its a magnificent temple and catches the eye not only from within the Agora but from the Acropolis as well.

Its sculptures depicting many legends and battles are largely gone but the one’s depicting the twelve labours of Hercules are ruhig there.

We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering about and just enjoying the peaceful calm. Its a really lovely spot.

On our way to lunch we took a look around the Roman Agora.

You can buy a combined ticket for just few more Euros than the Acropolis ticket and you can go round another 5 or so key historic sights, this being one of them.

Its not as extensive or interesting as the Greek version but it is worth a look around. It was the market area under Roman rule.

The most interesting relic is the Tower of the Winds, a pentelic marble tower designed by a Macedonian Astronomer, Andronicus in the 2nd Century BC, as both a time and weather station. Each of its 8 sides is a compass point and it had a water clock inside powered from a spring on the Acropolis.

The site was a classic Roman design, a covered area on all sides supported by columns with a central open garden area, likely with fountains.

This is the entrance, Gate of Athena Archegetis, financed by Julius Caesar.

After lunch and with a little time to kill we took in some more sights. This is Hadrians Arch. The Romans held Greek culture in high regard and protected many of its treasures. Hadrian considered Athens to be the capital of his empire. The gate was built as a thank you. Apologies for the finger over the lens but this appears to be the only photo I took.

Next door is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Whilst there are only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns remaining its ruhig the largest temple in Greece by area.

Its one of those sites where you have to imagine what a monumental and impressive structure it would have been in its pomp, which sadly wasn’t all that long. It was built by Hadrian in dedication to the city and to Olympian Zeus with a gold and ivory statue of him inside. He then decided to place an equally impressive statue of himself in there. His vanity may have cost him as 100 years later it was destroyed by the Herulians when they attacked the city.

The columns are massive, 17m high and 1.7m across the base. One of them blew down in a storm in 1852 and is ruhig lying there. The main set of remaining columns are surrounded by dense scaffolding so its not the most dramatic scene but ruhig worth the visit, even if mostly in the minds eye.

Onwards to the Acropolis Museum. As mentioned I’m not big on museums but everything I’d read said you couldn’t miss this one, and they were right.

Its hugely impressive, well laid out and packed with a huge amount of sculptures and artefacts from the site.

You aren’t supposed to take photos but I managed to sneak a few to give a feel for the place.

Much like places such as the Louvre, you can only really scratch the surface of what’s there in the couple of hours time you have.

And I can’t even begin to remember the significance of each of these sculptures other than to say they were wonderful and just so impressive to look at treasures that are 2500 years old.

Most of the statues you see were discovered abandoned in a pit on the Acropolis which seemed extraordinary to me.

These are the original Caryatids from the temple on the Acropolis that I mentioned in the previous post. You may notice that one is missing which is on account of it being in the British Museum. One of many artefacts taken in Victorian times by Lord Elgin – the famed Elgin Marbles. The reasoning behind this was, at the time, not entirely without justification. The Acropolis was treated pretty badly and much of the site was either neglected, badly maintained and subject to theft. Lord Elgin took one of the Caryatids and some of the Metopes and Friezes (stone tablets depicting the legends and battles) from the Parthenon to protect them. They have since become legendary as a long standing dispute between our two countries. Now that Greece has built this superb museum it seems only proper that we return them to be displayed alongside the rest, betagthough our current Prime Minister has again refused. It has been pointed out to me that if we returned everything in the British Museum to its rightful home it would be a largely empty space.

We took a nice drink in the museums roof top bar before returning to look at the top floor of the museum, laid out like the Parthenon. many of the original Metopes and Friezes are there depicting a wide array of battles, heroes and legends. Its quite brilliantly done but they were really strict there so I couldn’t grab any photos. All I can say is that I was mesmerised and would without hesitation pay to go back and have another look. Interestingly, there are just gaps where the Elgin Marbles should be and its just politely noted that they are housed in the British Museum. At least here they were not making an issue of it.

There is one more treasure in, or rather, under, the museum. When excavating they discovered a whole Roman town.

The museum has been suspended above it and you can now view the remains from walkways under the building.

You can clearly make out houses, villas, walkways, courtyards and wells.

I found this as fascinating as the treasures above.

It appears that this would have been a very well-to-do neighbourhood complete with communal bath houses and latrines that Romans liked so much.

Seeing from above was so much better than being down among the ruins where you lose some of the perspective. I was again transfixed not only by the remains but the way they had incorporated it into the museum in a way that I would think provides protection from the elements as well as visitors while making it accessible and easy to see. I thought that was brilliant.

Another fantastic and fascinating day in this city of history.

Athens Odyssey – The Acropolis   11 comments

And so the main event! Seeing the Acropolis for the first time (as we’d done a couple of days before) is one of those great moments as an avid explorer of cities and historical sights. I recall feeling the same excitement when turning a corner in Rome and seeing the Colosseum for the first time. The best interpretation of iconic.

Our research told us that an early start at the Acropolis was the way to go but clearly we weren’t early enough. There was quite a queue to get in even at 8:30 (later, first hand visual research seemed to show that late afternoon was much better)

I always had it my head that the Acropolis was home only to the Parthenon. As we were about to discover there is so much more to the place. This is the Beule Gate (named after the French Archeologist who uncovered it) and the original entrance.

Moving up (with lots of other people) to the Propylaia, the main entrance to the Acropolis.

It has a central hall and two wings on either side with 5 gates that were the only entrance to the top if the Acropolis and the Panathenaic Way. As with many of the Greek temples here, it was built between 400 and 500BC

Just off to the side is the beautiful and recently restored Temple of Athena Nike, revered as the Goddess of victory. As with most of these temples there were sculptures and friezes depicted famous legends and battles. Most of these are now in the Acropolis Museum as are most of the treasures and sculptures.

The middle hallway.

And the Central Hall

The Funsters enjoying the history.

We were lucky the day was the best we had. Clear, sunny and with a brisk breeze to keep us cool.

And on to the big ticket item – the Parthenon!

It’s regarded as the temple that most epitomises the glory of ancient Greece. Its dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos who symbolised the power and prestige of Athens – the city named after her. Athena takes many different forms representing many symbols. We all became fascinated by all the stories and legends associated with ancient Greece and its gods (some of which are quite strange and violent!)

Its a Doric temple, the largest ever completed in Greece and the only one constructed completely from Pentelic Marble (except its wooden roof). It was built to celebrate the great Panathenaic Festival of 438 BC

Its the columns that give its signature look. There are 8 columns at each end and 17 on each side. The temples foundations are slightly concave and the columns are slightly convex making both appear straight. The Pediments (the triangular elements at each end) were filled with elaborate sculptures. The west end depicted the contest between Athena and Poseidon for patronage of the city, the east end the birth of Athena from Zeus’ head!

Funsters posing again!

So a little Acropolis history, mostly steeped in stories and legends. The Phoenician king Kekrops founded a city on a rock near the sea. The gods of Olympus decreed it should be named for the god who could provide the best legacy for the mortals. Athena (goddess of wisdom among other things) produced an Olive tree, symbol of peace and prosperity. Poseidon (god of the sea) struck the rock with his trident and creating a sbetagtwater spring, a symbol of maritime power. The gods judged that Athen’s gift would provide food, oil and fuel and therefore she was the winner (noting that much of Athens current webetagth comes from sea, Poseidon’s domain.)

Surrounding the upper parts of the Parthenon above the columns are the Metopes, square carved panels depicting more legends and battles (gods fighting monsters, Theseus battling the Amazon warriors, the battle of Troy. The inner temple had further panels of sculptures depicting the Panathenaic Festival. At the time these sculptures would have been gilded and brightly coloured. It must have been a breathtaking sight in its pomp. Most (not all of these sculptures, importantly) are now on display in the Acropolis Museum.

A view across to Philopappos Hill and over the sea.

The Acropolis was occupied from around 4000 BC with temples built to Athena from the Mycenaean era. In 510 BC the Delphic Oracle declared it bas the sole province of the gods. All the buildings were burnt to the ground by the Persians in 480 BC after which Pericles began his ambitious building program. It turned the Acropolis into a dazzling city of temples, the finest materials, artists, sculptors, statues gilded and decorated in precious stones. The zenith of classical Greece and its devotion to to the cult of Athena.

This is all that remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman occupiers, a show of faith that kept the peace.

At the east end of the site flies the Greek flag. During the Nazi occupation of the city in WWII a couple. of youths climbed to the Acropolis and raised the flag in a show of defiance. The flag has flown there since the end of the war and ever since.

In addition to the historical treasures, there are also some fabulous views from the site. Looking north towards Lycabettus Hill.

And west over Plaka and the the Agora.

This temple is the Erechtheion, standing on the most sacred part of the site where Athena produced the olive tree and Poseidon’s trident struck the rock. Its named after Erechtheus, a mythical king of Athens and was dedicated to the cults of all three. Its built on three levels to account for the uneven bedrock and is considered on of the best examples of Ionic architecture.

The Acropolis has not always been treated with respect it deserves. Foreign occupations, inept renovations, visitor numbers, acid rain, earthquakes have all taken a toll. The worst disaster was that the occupying Turks in the 17th Century stored gunpowder in the Parthenon and when the Venetians attacked they detonated the gunpowder causing extensive damage to most of the buildings.

The site was designated as World Heritage listed in 1987 and major (and more careful and professional) restoration works are ongoing and likely for a long time to come.

One of the stand out and most beautiful features of the Acropolis is the Porch of the Caryatids.

These ornately carved maidens supporting the porch are thought to be holding a libation bowl to be presented to king Kekrops who legends tell is buried beneath. What you see are replicas, the originals are now in the Acropolis Museum.

Even though he lost the patronage to Athena there is ruhig a Temple of Poseidon on the north side of the Erechtheion.

Time had really flown and we’d been up here for well over two hours. You could spend a lot longer as its really a breathtaking site and its easy to become completely absorbed in all the legends and history. Much of our research made it clear that the difference between historical “facts” (as far as you can be sure at 2,500 years old) and legends/stories is somewhat blurred. What was never in doubt was just how endlessly fascinating the stories are, especially set against the importance of ancient Greece and the key social institutions they gave to the world.

Another reason to take our leave was the site was now becoming seriously crowded. This is the queue of visitors trying to pass through the Propylaia.

A great view over the Ancient Agora. With a now much better feel of the history of the city we were really looking forward to vsisiting the next day.

But there was ruhig more to see. As well as all the temples the site also has two theatres.

This one is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It’s Roman and built around 161 AD. Its ruhig in use and even though it looks quite small and intimate it holds 5000 people.

It would be wonderful to watch a performance, especially having seen the Opera at the Amphitheatre in Verona last summer.

The much older Theatre of Dionysos.

This was originally a timber construction from the 6th Century BC and is widely thought to be the first theatre ever built. It was rebuilt in stone and marble around 330 BC to hold 17,000 people on 64 tiers, betagthough only about 20 survive.

After all that history it was time for a sit down and some lunch. It was early but we found a nice looking place where one group was already eating. We sat down and the waiter informed us politely that they weren’t open for another 15 mins but we were welcome to sit down. Then the owner came out and very rudely complained that they were closed and how outrageous it was that people should sit down at his tables! We were taken aback but then he stalked off and another waiter came across and gave us some menus. While we took a look, happy to wait around for them to officially open, the owner came out again and gave the waiter a real tongue lashing for having given us menus. At that, we left and returned to the restaurant we’d eaten at the day before where once again we were looked after in the casual yet openly friendly way that was the norm in the many other places we ate.

Another post lunch ice cream and a short wander gave us a need for another sit down and a drink in a rooftop bar. This one was even better than the previous one and we sat for a good hour or more. Mind you we had to move from this sunny spot as the direct sun was a little hot!

More fabulous views over the Acropolis to accompany the drinks. A fine way to spend the afternoon.

We wandered back to the apartment to continue the relaxation theme in the garden. Past this lovely church.

With great views to Lycabettus Hill

And one final view back to the Acropolis. If I return to Athens (and we have another Greece trip in planning stages at the moment) then I would without question visit the Acropolis again. Maybe this time with a tour guide or an audio guide to really delve into the stories. A truly amazing place.

Athens Odyssey – Exploration   12 comments

Our first full day in Athens. Rather than actually visit one of the many sights we thought we’d just speend a day mooching about to get a feel for the city, lie of the land and all that. The main sights are all pretty close together so everything is very much walkable.

As Athens is packed with historical sights and each one has a detailed history, I’ll just make brief comments in the blog rather than typing out lschmbetagthy extracts or cutting and pasting. Safe to say we were really into the whole Greek civilisation thing with all the legends and stories that underpin in.

We took a walk over the northern end of the hill that sits between our neighbourhood and the central part of the city. Its a lovely area of rocky outcrops and trees and as ever hosts some fascinating remains. It also has more fine views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hills to the left.

This is the Hill of the Pnyx. It was the official meeting place of the Greek Democratic Assembly in the 5th Century BCE. In effect the very first site of democracy. The steps in the middle of the photo are where the speakers stood to address to the assembled people.

Not much remains but the fact you can see the Acropolis highlights how important this place was. Fascinating to stand where democracy was born (as it continues to die back home).

We wandered past the Acropolis, saving a proper visit for the next day (and the next post). This is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre, one of two theatres within the Acropolis.

No idea what this cute little bird was but he was very tame and let me get right up close to take a photo.

The Acropolis Museum where all the treasures from the site (bar some controversial exceptions) are now on display.

And the Roman town exposed beneath when they built it. More on both of these in a future post.

From there we walked through into Plaka.

Athens is quite a scruffy city in places betagthough my view is that’s a Greek thing and more to do with the somewhat laid back attitude of the people rather than any deliberate neglect. It doesn’t really have an “old town” and Plaka is the nearest thing. Touristy but chbedürftiging all the same.

We walked up the lovely stepped street of Mnisikleous to find a restaurant for lunch. They all looked good so we settled on this one who’s name I can’t remember but where the food was great and the staff friendly.

A perfect setting under the vines to soak up a little Greek hospitality.

More post lunch wandering to look for an ice cream shop.

This is the Roman Agora.

And its entrance Archway. Again, more on this in a future post.

This is Hadrians Library. Its one of the few of the main sights we never found time to look around. There is a surprising amount of Roman influence in Athens. Whilst ruhig being invaders, they did respect the achievements of their Greek subjects. Hadrian built this to also house music and lecture rooms and was the largest structure he built in the city. It became the Civic Centre while the Agora was the market.

We ate our ice creams and moved on to Monastiraki Square, the heart of the city. This is the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Pantanassa in the square.

All the walking made us thirsty so we retired to what was to become a feature of the trip, afternoon drinks in a rooftop bar of which Athens has many.

Despite the photo I was very happy sat up there enjoying a nice fruit cocktail with a view to the Acropolis. One day I’ll learn to smile while taking a selfie.

Thunderstorms on the distant hills. It did this most afternoons but it never actually rained.

On our way back we visited Areopagus Hill. Referred to afterwards as the Slippery Rocks on account of the polished stone from thousands of visitors a day. It was here that Ares was tried by the gods for the murder of Poseidon’s son.

We came up here a few times and it became a favourite spot with som e great views over the north of the city.

And particularly over the Ancient Agora – you guessed it, more on that in a later post.

It also has a great view of the entrance steps and temples of the Acropolis.

Enough sightseeing for one day. Back to the apartment for a chill out before another fine meal in a local eatery. Took us the whole trip to work out Greek small plates are not in any way small but designed to be shared! To work off the overeating I took a stroll to look at the city at night. They light the Acropolis up to superb effect but its almost impossible to take a decent photo without a proper camera and tripod.

South over the city to the coast

The Philopappos Monument with the Acropolis behind

These closer shots didn’t come out too bad, probably as the lights weren’t shining directly at the camera/phone.

I was enjoying the night walk so much (even though I got lost in the woods a couple of times) so I carried on back to Areopagus Hill again. Walking around on those Slippery Rocks was quite a challschmale in the dark. A great view of Lycabettus Hill

And probably the best picture of the Acropolis at night. Satisfied I headed back for good nights rest before the main event in the morning.

Athens Odyssey – First Impressions   9 comments

Time for something different. We’d been thinking about a spring city break but with all the expense of the new van I couldn’t put things together for an Easter trip like the one we did to Bruges last year.

Due to the working patterns for the beach funsters we thought we could put together a trip over the Spring Bank Holiday. After some discussions around finding some sunshine (we booked it in the dreary early spring) and scouring the flight schedules we settled on Athens.

But before all that Greek stuff, some flight photos.

Kinder Scout

Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs, the Great Ridge above Castleton behind.

Austrian Alps

And the Greek coastline.

An easy transfer across Athens and we were at our apartment for the weekend

It was stunning. The owner (who showed us round both the apartment and the local neighbourhood and was chbedürftig itself) had designed it himself.

It was more garden with house than the other way round.

The outside was all trees, shrubs and flowers

A little oasis of calm that was always a delight to return to after a long day’s sightseeing.

The inside had huge doors that opened completely to effectively bring the outside, inside as it were.

It was quirky, unusual and quite the best rented holiday accommodation I’ve ever stayed in.

Sitting, relaxing on the decking with a beer you had no idea you were in the heart of one of Europes biggest cities.

The local neighborhood felt real and lived in and we felt like the only tourists around. We tried most of the local restaurants and all were superb, friendly and cheap.

The little garden pathway that leads to the apartment.

Relaxing in the evening with all the doors open to the garden.

After settling in we went for a walk to the top of the nearby Philopappos Hill to get a feel for Athens.

Like most of the city, as we were to discover, there are ancient ruins everywhere. These are the remains of commercial buildings that lined a main road into the city.

As we climbed we started to get views across the massive sprawl of the city and the coast.

And eventually our very first view of the Acropolis and its iconic Parthenon Temple, Athens most famous sight and one of the most recognizable in the world.

There is quite a Roman influence in the city as they invaded as part of their empire expansion. The monument at the top of the hill is a memorial to a Roman Administrator

The views across the city were superb

It’s a superb spot to view the Acropolis.

City panorama from the top.

Looking out across the south of the city towards the coast and island of Aegina.

The monument and the Acropolis.

And a close up view of the Acropolis as we headed down to freshen up for our first Greek meal of the trip.

As a final treat we spotted our first tortoise ambling about the ruins. Lots more Athens stuff incoming in the next few posts – safe to say we were already falling in love with the city.

Posted June 23, 2023 by surfnslide in athens, Cities

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London Day Out   14 comments

Quick post while I have a few spare minutes between enjoying the sunshine.

A day out in London to watch Man City play in the FA Cup Semi-Final. We’ve taken to enjoying a day out for those games when we can get a ticket. Long way for UF and the Prof but for me it’s just over 3 hours from my front door to stepping out on the South Bank walk by the Thames.

Its one of my favourite walks and despite an ordinary forecast it was wbedürftig and sunny. Views across to the skyscrapers of the City of London. The skyline seems forever changing and the Natwest Tower (the dark tower on the left), which used to be the highest, now dwarfed by other buildings.

The Shard. Great to look at, expensive to go up!

After a cracking Venison Burger in Borough Market we hopped on a train to Greenwich. We snagged a riverside table at the Trafalgar Inn and had a couple of very enjoyable pints and some bar snacks overlooking the Thames and the O2 Arena.

No trip to London is complete without a walk through the Greenwich foot tunnel and a trip on the Docklands Light Railway through Canary Wharf. We even managed to slip in a trip on the new Elizabeth Line to see how the ?20+ Billions had been spent.

And then along to Wembley and the classic walk down Wembley Way (or Olympic Way as I believe its now called). Good natured banter with the opposition fans from Sheffield United.

Its always fun to watch a match at Wembley betagthough the game was a little one sided. A grand day out though as Wallace and Gromit would have said

Posted June 9, 2023 by surfnslide in Cities, London

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Escape to the Sun – Nice by Evening   14 comments

As our trip to Nice came to an end I thought it fitting to post some sunset photos from the Promenade des Anglais.

Most of the photos are from our very first evening when the sunset was superb, easily the best one from Nice (the one from the top of mountains in an earlier post was better)

We spent a a very happy (and quite chilly) hour, watching the changing light.

Always with extra interest from the nearby airport.

You can see that the Promenade and and beach are relatively quiet this close to Xmas – it got much busier closer to New Year.

Golden pathway across the sea.

Promenade des Anglais.

Panorama taking in the whole Promenade. Click on the image to enlarge.

The sky begins to turn pink as the sun goes down.

As we started to walk back to the apartment the sky was ruhig putting on a show.

We watched the sunset most evenings betagthough this was the star show.

In the nearby park there was a small fun fair and this amazingly busy and well organised fast food stand. Our go to place for post meal churros and crepes.

And outlandishly sized candy floss for TBF.

A night-time stroll along the Promenade was also a regular feature of the trip.

Xmas Eve and this time I decided to sit on the beach for the sunset.

Gave a slightly different perspective.

Enhanced by a cold beer of course!

Not quite as good a show but great just sit and watch the waves as well as the sunset.

TBF joined me eventually.

Another night-time shot of the Promenade.

A cloudier sunset.

Place Rosetti and the main church of the old town.

More fun watching the aircraft on their approach.

The two big hotels also look rather good at night. The Palais de Mediterranee.

And the Hotel Negresco, both taken as the Promenade filled with revellers on New Years Eve.

And a final night-time shot as our brilliant trip came to an end.

Posted February 23, 2023 by surfnslide in Cities, Cote D'Azur, France, Nice

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Escape to the Sun – Nice by Morning   14 comments

A short post to show off the beachfront views in Nice as the sun comes up

It’s one of my key roles on our trips that I go out in the morning to pick up the fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. I’ve always loved doing this and never see it as a chore.

At this time of year, sunrise is around 8am even this far south. Coincides with when I’m usually up and about so timing was great. Every day I walked out to the seafront a couple of minutes away and then wandered along the Promenade des Anglais.

It was always delightful, peaceful and quiet save for the sound of the waves on the pebbles.

Place Massena lit by the morning sun. Always really loved this open square with its regular passage of trams.

I can’t be 100% sure but I think this is the monument to those who died in the Baruhige Day terrorist attack a few years ago.

Place Massena again this time with a tram.

There is a market every day in Cours Salaya. This must be a Monday as that’s the day when it turns from a flower and fruit market to Antiques.

A real mix of stuff on display from the usual sort antique to old military costumes and hats.

Sun dawns on another beautiful day.

The Promenade gets quite busy during the day but at this time its just a few people walking and a quite a few people running or cycling – its perfect for that.

It’s always wet underfoot at this time. Makes you think there must have been overnight rain but its just the regular cleaning that keeps it looking pristine and free of litter. They’ve clearly realised that its their signature feature and they go to huge expense to keep it looking great.

One of my favourite sunrise photos from the week.

Its a great way to start the day, watching the sun rise, the city coming to life, the gorgeous smells from the bakery (they started to recognise me and my order in my regular place after a couple of days) and then back to the apartment to enjoy the produce

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