Tag Archives: europe

So, it’s been a little while…

So, it’s been a little while since my last post.

As you probably know from your own life, things can get hectic from time to time and I let things slip. Sorry! That being said, life is good.

Since my last post I’ve done a reasonable amount of travel – internationally to Taipei, London, Brussels and Kuala Lumpur and I think that is it… But mostly I’ve just been working, saving my pennies and thinking about when we might next get away. At this stage we’re planning on September – somewhere in the Pacific which will no doubt be amazing.

So, a quick round up of my travels of late:

I was anything but the healthy globetrotter in Taipei. Great city, though Karthi and I ended up extremely unwell with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced in my life. Hello four days in our hotel room. Once I get over that experience I promise to share some more positive stories about the city, including seeing a panda for the first time. Words can’t describe how excited I got, even if it was in a zoo.

Image
London was amazing. Freezing, but amazing. I was lucky enough to visit two of my close friends and just spend time hanging out. I worked a bit, helped them with some of their wedding plans and generally just relaxed. Oh and I shopped. Tourist highlight? Seeing Big Ben covered in snow. Very different from my last few trips to London which have all been in Summer. I also really enjoyed living the London lifestyle for a week – seeing how my friends live over there was definitely a tick for the expat lifestyle.

Image

Brussels is still a blur. I visited for a conference but packed in as much as I could. It was great to experience that city for a second time (though my first time in winter). There was more snow here too, which always makes me happy and I really enjoyed getting to know some of my colleagues better as well ūüôā Yes, I promise I indulged in Belgian chocolate – in moderation, of course. I’ll have to share some photos from that trip in another post.

Finally, Kuala Lumpur – a quick trip to visit Karthi’s mum which was really lovely. I felt so welcomed and I really enjoyed visiting a warm destination for the first time in a while. A lot has changed since my last visit to KL in 2006, and it was very different seeing it from a local’s perspective! The food was just phenomenal as well, which was mainly thanks to the amazing hospitality of Karthi’s mum and aunts.

Image
I will try and draft a fuller update on each of these trips in the coming weeks! In the meantime, I’ll be planning my next trip! Any recommendations for pacific destinations?

Cheers,
The Healthy Globetrotter

Inside the Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya)

The Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia/Aya Sofya) is, in effect, a fascinating museum. Having served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, a Catholic Cathedral and a Mosque (all before 1935) you could be forgiven for becoming a little confused upon entry.

This is part of its charm – it’s not often you get to see competing religons in the same space.

Aya Sofia

Aya Sofia

I visited the Aya Sofia on my Dad’s insistence (and given how long the queue was when we decided to visit, we probably would have left if not for it).

Upon seeing the queue, we were approached by a guide offering to help us skip the queue and provide a guided tour – despite initial doubts, we readily accepted. The tour was great value. From memory it was around $20 each, though the cost to enter is $13 in any event and we literally avoided about 2 hours of queue time. Further, our guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out things we would have otherwise missed. If you can afford the extra spend, I’d definitely recommend finding a reputable guide.

Aya Sofia

Our guide began by taking us around the outside of the building, which (by comparison to the inside) is modest. It’s only upon entry that you realise what you’re witnessing. It is pretty spectacular.

But how spectacular? You see, there’s a bit of competition in Istanbul between the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque about which one is well, more beautiful. Both are gorgeous buildings in their own right, however history tells us that when Sultan Ahmed commissioned the Blue Mosque to be built (around 1000 years after the Aya Sofia), he intended to design it in a manner which would outshine the Aya Sofia. So, did he succeed?

To be honest, I don’t know. What I will say is that the Aya Sofia blew me away. From the detailed mosaics (many of which have backgrounds of gold), the marble, the size, the competing religious graphics… All were just ‘wow’. By comparison, the Blue Mosque is (relatively) moderate in its decoration. However, the two buildings are so completely different, it is almost unfair to compare them. Coupled with the fact that the Blue Mosque is still used for its intended purpose, they have a completely different ‘feel’ to each other. We spent most of our time walking aruond Aya Sofia with our mouths open in awe.

I loved both the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. I can’t recommend visiting them highly enough. Though I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about whether Sultan Ahmed succeeded in his quest. You can compare by seeing my photos of the Blue Mosque here and my attempt to capture the Aya Sofia in this post.

Aya Sofia

So tell me, what are your thoughts on the two buildings? As you can see, we were pretty pleased with our visit!

The Healthy Globetrotter

Acropolis

I’m just going to say it…. I didn’t like Athens

It’s unfortunate but true, I didn’t like Athens. Turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I recently read Travel Letdowns and Why I Don’t Like Athens¬†and to be honest, it was a relief. It made me feel a little better about my experience. It always helps knowing you are¬†not alone, even if our travel experiences were vastly different.

Our arrival in Athens was literally a series of unfortunate events. Five of us were flying in from Istanbul to meet our friends, intending to take the bus the next day to Lefkas (where we had charted a yacht to sail nine of us around the Ionian Islands).

A text from two friends warned of us of an impending taxi strike and the need to take the¬†metro to our hotel. Not the worst problem in the world. However, given the heat and the fact there were five of us to spread the cost, we decided to see if we could organise a transfer to our hotel. Our friends on the ground organised this and upon our arrival in Athens we were (eventually) met by our transfer. The hotel owner’s son.

His late arrival didn’t matter, we were grateful… well, until we got to his car. An old Barina for five people (plus a driver) and luggage.¬†Let’s just say, we didn’t fit.¬† This was how we stayed for the entire journey to our hotel.

Our arrival into Athens… did I mention it was 40 degrees and around an hour drive?

Deciding to get on with things, we showered and went out to dinner… It was a great night, but I woke early the next morning¬†with food poisoning. Now, I’m¬†a pretty determined person and food poisoning be damned, if¬†I was going to see one thing in Athens, it would be the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

So off we set. Looking back at the photos now, it actually looks pretty special. Perhaps if¬†I hadn’t of been so sick,¬†I would have enjoyed it more. As it was however, I lasted about an hour before catching the metro back to our hotel (the taxi strike continued). I did however manage to take a few nice shots of my¬†visit.

Athens

The view!Athens

For a short trip, I took quite a few photos… perhaps trying to make it feel like I was enjoying myself more than I actually was. Here I am with my gorgeous friend Pippa and while¬†you may not be able to¬†tell,¬†I am seriously struggling here. Worst. Feeling. Ever.

After a bit of exploration (and I’m sorry to say a few detours to the bathroom)¬†we came to it, the pi√®ce de r√©sistance, the Parthenon on the Acropolis:

Acropolis

Parthenon on the Acropolis!

This was exciting! I was pretty stoked to be able to walk around the ruins and I’m definitely glad¬†I dragged myself out of bed for it. Make no mistake however, this was not a fun experience.

You’d think¬†things would have improved after this but unfortunately not. We had intended to leave Athens later that afternoon, but after receiving some incorrect information¬†regarding buses to Lefkas, we were stranded until the following day. With little choice in the matter (and probably a blessing for me with food poisoning) we booked another night in the worst hotel in the world (if you’re determined to avoid it, comment below and I’ll find the name) before setting off around 5:30 am the next morning to get bus tickets.

Why 5:30am? The¬†ticket counter¬†opened at 7am and we needed to get on a bus¬†that day. We couldn’t risk being late. However,¬†having to rely on public transport the journey to the bus stop¬†wasn’t exactly the easiest! (To give you an insight into our predicament, there had been quite serious debate about sleeping at the¬†bus shelter overnight. Let’s just say, we’re all glad that didn’t eventuate…)

After arriving at the bus stop early in the morning, we were happily rewarded with tickets and eventually left Athens later that day for a sailing trip starting in Lefkas (that was one of the best travel experiences of my life). For that reason alone, Athens was totally worth it.

However, I can’t help but be disappointed and feel¬†that we really missed Athens as a city.

I get that my circumstances were unique and I am willing to give it another chance should that opportunity ever come my way (and I hope it does). In the meantime however, I don’t exactly recommend it. So tell me, did you have a better experience in Athens? I’d love to hear about it!

3 Replies