Our guest post today comes from Bernard Sury of GuruWalk, who writes about his family trip to Greece.
A Family Trip to Greece
Planning to have a family trip to Greece soon? What a brilliant idea! I honestly had one of my best family trips in Greece.
Expecting the Belgian summer to be as rainy as it is in winter, my parents, my sister and I were looking for a sunny destination combining culture and leisure. After considering Croatia, my mother’s love of Greek food tipped the balance in favor of Greece.
But where to go in Greece? Getting lost on small island, in busy Athens, or in the countryside? Well, there were as many options as there are sunny days in Greece.
Passionate about Greek mythology and history since I studied it in high school, going to Greece without seeing the Acropolis would have been unimaginable. Flights were also cheap to Athens, so we decided to spend some time in the city. However, as any capital city in the world can prejudice your view of what the rest of the country actually is, we were looking for adding another destination on our travel in Greece. My sister had heard friends’ amazing stories about Crete, like hiking in the Samaria Gorge which is Europe’s longest, and swimming in some of the most crystalline water of the Mediterranean Sea. The choice was made.
We left Brussels late on a July afternoon. After leaving the luggage at the hotel, our first goal was to have the best dinner the Greek capital could offer us. After doing some internet research we found Lithos not so far from the hotel, and had a delicious moussaka.
The next day, our first trip was to see the Acropolis early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowd. This visit was wonderful. We remembered all the stories we had learned at school, seeing the most beautiful ancient Greek ruins, including the Parthenon and the famous Caryatids. We learned that the Parthenon survived for a long time in a good shape until Greek people decided to store gunpowder there, which caused an explosion in 1687. The view of Athens from the top is stunning.
The Parthenon and its tourists (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
After a quick lunch, the weather was becoming very heavy and warm. We decided to spend the afternoon at the Acropolis Museum, one of the most important archeological museums in Greece. The museum was modern, contrasting with the ancient pieces within. It is a great complement to a visit of the Acropolis itself.
Caryatids in the Acropolis Museum (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
On our third day, we decided to spend some hours doing a Free Walking Tour of Athens to get to know more about the history of Greece, but also to learn about its current situation. It was very interesting and entertaining and we had the opportunity to ask many questions to the local guide. We also had the chance to see the changing of the guards at the Greek parliament (only on Sunday at 11am!).
Changing of the guards in front of the parliament building. (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
In the afternoon, we had to pack again and take off for Heraklion, Crete. We took a plane and in less than one hour we landed on the Greek island. Upon arriving at the airport, we found our rental car and drove to our rental apartment in Panormos. To get there, you will take the local highway, which is basically one main road crossing all Crete. Arriving at Panormos, the contrast with Athens was striking. Panormos is small village – touristy but still authentic, and even if tourists filled the streets, it was not as crowded as Athens. There is not much to see but it is a good spot to see the surroundings of the city.
The author and his sister at the small harbour of Panormos (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
The next day, we headed to Rethymnon and visited the ruins of the Venetian Fortezza. This was the fortress or citadel of the city and was built by the Venetians in the 16th century. Well restored few decades ago, the site is worth a visit for its beautiful vistas of the sea and some ancient buildings such as the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim (the site was indeed also occupied by the Ottomans).The site is huge and you can easily spend hours strolling through it. My sister and I loved playing in these well-preserved ruins.
The author’s family at the top of Venetian Fortezza (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
Lost in a maze of ruins (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
We went back to Rethymnon city and had an amazing lunch with a view of the marina and some traditional live music. Both in Athens and Crete, it is very easy to find a good restaurant mainly because there are so many! In Crete, you usually pay 10 euros for lunch or dinner, so we tried a lot of local restaurants. Most of the time, you will even receive some fresh fruit for dessert, perfect with the hot weather. As a sign of Cretan hospitality, you will always receive a typical and strong digestive alcoholic shot after eating dinner. However my mom always politely refused it as she was driving.
Live music by the Marina (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
The next two days were for “chilling” at two of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. If I did not know I was in Crete, I’d have thought I was in the Caribbean, as the water was of an unreal perfect turquoise.
The first beach stop was Elafonissi. There are no words to describe how heavenly this place is. However, it was very, very, very crowded. It would be awesome to enjoy it in September or October when there are fewer tourists.
The second beach was Balos. It takes hours to go by car and once you arrive, you are in the mountains, so you still need to walk about 40 minutes down to the beach. You can also go on a day trip by ferry and if I were to return, that is exactly what I would do. Nevertheless, the view from the mountain is beautiful.
Look at that gorgeous blue water! The beach at Balos (Photo Credit: Bernard Sury)
Overall, it was an amazing trip. Everything was perfect: the weather, the natural and cultural activities, the delicious food, the local people… It was a trip to paradise and I would love to go back.
What was your most memorable experience?
I love to travel back in time and learn more about the ancient Greek lifestyle. I was studying ancient Greek language at school for 5 years and experiencing all these places and imagining the history there was very strong. But also, the Caribbean-style beaches of Crete were breathtaking.
What do you wish you had known before you left?
I knew that water was not drinkable and that we always had to drink bottled water. Once in Crete, we were at the restaurant and received an open bottle of water. We thought that the waiter just opened it before serving it to us, but it was in reality tap water. The day after, I was quite sick. But thankfully it did not last long. But now, I would never accept a bottle of water I did not open myself at the restaurant. Even better, drink wine!
Details and budget:
For the budget, the most expensive purchases are the plane tickets (300 euros from Belgium), the rental car with gasoline (250 euros) and hotels (350 – 500 euros), But activities (6 – 15 euros) and restaurants (10 – 15 euros) are quite cheap.
About the author:
Bernard Sury of GuruWalk
An avid traveler, Bernard is always organizing his next trip, with friends, family or alone. Addicted to sunny weather, he has mostly traveled in the warm destination such as Southern Europe, South America or South-East Asia. Fluent in Spanish, English and French he has lived in 4 different places in the 4 last years. Back from South America, he learned more about his own city, Brussels, and even became a Greeter and a Free Tour Guide for some months. His passion for traveling brought him to be expat in Spain working for the international community platform for Free Tours Guruwalk.
CAPTURING CULTURE WITH THE CLAN:
Exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way with Kids
By Sara Aitken and Deborah Schull
Viewed from the town of Mullaghmore on the County Sligo coast: Benbulben Mountain and Classiebawn Castle
The beauty of Ireland’s west coast might cause the uninitiated to assume it offers only photo ops for sightseeing grownups. But cherished childhood visits to the beach at Mullaghmore in County Sligo–enjoying fish and chips at the Pier’s Head and laughs at O’Donnell’s, my granda’s favorite pub–have taught me it’s the experiences, not so much the objects of attention, that create lifelong memories. And now, the Wild Atlantic Way, a stunning 1500-mile touring route launched in 2014 that spans the country’s entire west coast, is revealing itself as a major conduit of culture, offering kids vivid experiences and parents irreplaceable moments en famille. Tracking nine counties, from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south, the Wild Atlantic Way does not disappoint.
Donegal to Mayo
On County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula stand Malin Head, the most northerly point in the Irish Republic, and the Grianan of Aileach Ring Fort
Overlooking County Donegal’s Lough Foyle at the northernmost point in the Irish Republic, the Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium at Malin Head is an ideal spot for learning about local maritime history, lighthouses, shipwrecks, and World War II. Kids can enjoy the life-size models of the Basking Shark as well as the planetarium, which features shows about prehistoric sea monsters in addition to the solar system.
In Tubbercurry, County Sligo, Gillighan’s World is a magical cultural paradise for adults and children alike. While escaping to the “Field of Dreams” atop one of Ireland’s sacred hills, the family will enjoy art, a lush landscape, animals, and ancient ruins while learning about Celtic lore, particularly of the mystical faeries.
Clare Island in County Mayo abounds in archaeological sites and traditional music and dance events
In County Mayo, a short ferry ride from the Roonagh Pier will bring the family to Clare Island, the sparsely populated home of the illustrious and ever-popular pirate queen, the real-life Gráinne O’Malley, who ruled the Ó Máille clan as a formidable chieftain in the 16th century. The ruins of her stronghold, the O’Malley Tower House, stand near the water’s edge. In the summer, Clare Island hosts traditional music and dance festivals such as the Snás ar do Bhlás and the Clare Island Feile Ceol.
For an even deeper experience of traditional Irish culture, visit Glencolumbcille Folk Village in southwest Donegal, a “living history” museum with cottages replicating those that stood in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Pick up a cupla focail (a few words!) and enjoy live demonstrations of traditional weaving, spinning, and knitting.
Galway to Clare
In County Galway, just outside the village of Kinvara, the Burren Nature Sanctuary has something for everyone, with domesticated animals, a Famine Village, and a Fairy Woodland. After exploring the surrounding grounds, kids can unwind in the Adventure Playground and soar over the park on ziplines.
The Burren of County Clare encompasses 150 square miles of geological wonder, including the Cliffs of Moher
County Clare’s Burren National Park is a strangely beautiful karst landscape, where the dissolution of soluble rocks has created a lunar terrain featuring caves, springs, and sinkholes. Measuring 702 feet at their highest point, the Burren’s Cliffs of Moher are a sight to behold for the whole family, and its trails are safe and accessible for all ages. The Cliffs Exhibition encourages children to experience through all of their senses the area’s remarkable fauna and flora, which include some species that exist only there.
Kerry to Cork
At the Titanic Experience in County Cork’s Cobh Town, kids can imagine what it felt like to be a passenger on the ill-fated ship, in Queenstown, its final port of call. Cork also hosts a variety of family-oriented festivals throughout the year, including the Eyeries Family Festival, where music, sports, local food, and street performances are on tap.
The Model Railway Village in West Cork is an entrancing model of Cork’s old railway line, perfect for children or the avid train enthusiast.
In West Cork, the Model Railway Village channels local history amidst picturesque Atlantic views. Located in Clonakilty, the miniature village replicates the old West Cork Railway Line of the 1940s. While learning about life in the railway town, kids can hunker down among the model trains, kick it in playgrounds, and take a Choo Choo Ride.
If you’re brave enough, the Dursey Island cable car is a spectacular way to travel from Beara Peninsula to Dursey Island in County Cork and the only cable car of its kind in Ireland
For the little ones, County Kerry has Fairy Trails at Derrynane House and Parknasilla Resort. To finish the trip, take in the view of Dursey Island from a cable car suspended over the Dursey Sound.
Sara Aitken is a candidate at New York University’s Masters Program in Irish and Irish-American Studies. She is also an associate producer and content research intern for Cultural Roadmapp, a transatlantic startup creating groundbreaking, hands-free audio tour apps for motorists. Deborah Schull is a Telly Award-winning writer and producer, as well as founder and president of Cultural Roadmapp.
Thanks to our guest author Karen Schwarz of Essaymom.net for sending us this story about her family’s trip to Lewes, Delaware.
Rain at the Beach: Lewes, Delaware
There’s no getting around it: rain at the beach puts parents on the spot. They have to manufacture fun and pass the soggy hours as if precipitation were the ideal weather for a seashore visit.
A recent rainy weekend in the seaside town of Lewes, Delaware, put us to the test. Lewes is a tiny town (pop 3,000), and is the northernmost beach community on the Delaware shore. Its neighbor, Rehoboth, has the traditional beach boardwalk with wash-off tattoo shops, french fry stands, and block after block of bikini dealers. Lewes, on the other hand, cleaves to its history, dating back to 1631.
There are lovely beaches to explore in Lewes, but if you’re there on a rainy day, they will hold little to no attraction for you or your kids. But if you know how to spin a yarn you can lead your kids across the centuries, and have a great time.
Pirates! Death! Destruction!
Head out Savannah road which dead ends at the beach. (And, oh yeah, there’s a Dairy Queen there). Picture 32 Dutch settlers coming ashore here in 1631 to hunt whales, only to be massacred by a local tribe a year later.
Next, tell your kids to imagine bloodthirsty pirates like Captain Kidd and Blueskin sailing past Lewes, terrifying the townspeople who had heard stories of their violent ways.
Turn back towards the pretty town and imagine it engulfed in flames. British soldiers burned it to the ground in 1664, just a year after the Dutch had come back and built a settlement.
Flowers! Safety! Security!
Now take a quick walk to Zwaanendael Park, where kids can roam free among gorgeous flowerbeds and visit the 18th Century cabin known as the Fisher-Martin House. On your way there, ask them to picture a single candle burning in the top floor windows of these old houses. That was the sign for runaway slaves that they would be safe and cared for there.
Get in the car for the six-minute drive to Herring Point in Henlopen State Park. Kids can explore Battery Herring, built in World War II to protect the coast from German subs that never arrived.
Battery Herring, Cape Henlopen State Park
Quirky and Fun!
More cool stuff in Lewes: There’s a pirate’s treasure chest in the Maritime Museum, a creepy merman in the Zwaanendael Museum, and half a dozen enormous cannons (suitable for climbing) in Memorial Park that were used to defend the town from the British ships that pummeled the town with 800 projectiles for 22 hours during the War of 1812.
Ice Cream! Coffee! Puzzles!
Need a break? There’s King’s homemade ice cream, Nectar’s for lattes and smoothies and a really great puzzle shop on Front Street for some hard-earned quiet time out of the rain.
For more information and more great sites in Lewes, visit Historiclewes.org and Leweschamber.com.
Pin this to remember later
Thanks to our guest author Karen Schwarz of Essaymom.net for sending us this story about her family’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
We’re just back from a great spring break trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California with our daughter, and wanted to spread the word about this fun and fascinating family destination that will not suck your wallet dry.
This is truly nature’s playground, where kids and parents can spend a relaxing couple of days clambering over enormous but do-able piles of boulders that dot the park’s beautiful 60 by 30 mile desert landscape. Each boulder formation has a unique and otherworldly look, depending on the volcanic action that created it millions of years ago. Our faves were Skull Rock and Hidden Valley, where nineteenth century cattle thieves grazed their stolen herds.
Joshua trees grow nowhere else in the world and they dominate vast stretches of the park, equidistant from each other, as if a landscaper planted them on a miles-wide grid. It’s a bizarre sight. Take the 20-minute drive up to Keys View for a quick lesson on earthquakes. From this perch you’ll see a portion of the infamous 700-mile San Andreas Fault. Also visible is Signal Mountain, which is 95 miles away in Mexico!
Joshua Tree National Park is 45 minutes from the airport in Palms Springs, and 2 ½ easy hours or less from airports in Ontario and Burbank, California. As you traverse the desert, you’ll pass 4,000 windmills that churn out enough energy to power the entire Coachella Valley. Find out how that works on a tour with Palm Springs Windmill Tours or Best of the Best Tours.
Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park
For value and local feel, rent an AirBnB in the town of Joshua Tree. Locally owned restaurants are good, friendly and inexpensive. They get crowded, though, so try to be early for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, pack a picnic to enjoy in the park, as there’s no food available inside.
Inexpensive chain hotels and fast food joints are plentiful in Twentynine Palms. For the shortest wait entering the park, buy your car pass (just $20 for a week) at the Visitor Center the day before you plan to tour the park. Enter the park through the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, which tends to be less crowded. Access to the popular sites is just as easy as from the more heavily travelled West Entrance in Joshua Tree.