Clouds

Top 5 Summer Holiday Destinations

CloudsThinking about taking a summer holiday but not sure where to go? Fear not! Here’s my Top 5 Summer Holiday Destinations, take your pick and go!

East Coast, Australia

Australia WhitsundaysI had to put my current base of Australia on the list. Sure, we are about to be plunged into winter but hear me out on this one!

The East Coast is a well-trodden trail which is constantly saturated with eager backpackers, less so in summer. The sun is more relenting, the Great Barrier Reef is killer-jellyfish free and you can keep the budget backpacker friendly. What more could you want?

Lefkas, Greece

Lefkas beachI spent a chunk of last summer in Lefkas and I loved every moment of it. This beautiful island is the most authentically Greek island I’ve visited with barely an English breakfast in sight! If that doesn’t convince you then the food should. Oh, the food…

Whet your appetite with these posts.

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar CroatiaAnother destination I visited last summer was Hvar, a stunning Croatian isle floating an hour away from Split. If you want centuries of culture and picture-perfect beaches all washed down with budget friendly nightlife then get to Hvar, fast!

Read more on Hvar here and let the Globe-Trotting Graduate convince you here.

Istanbul, Turkey

IstanbulSource

For some reason I consider Turkey to be like a second home. I just feel so comfortable there.

Obviously Turkey has some incredible beaches but many become unbearably touristy in the summer months. Instead, head to Istanbul- one of my favourite cities in the world.

Haggle in steamy souks, admire the breathtaking Aya Sofia and cross the line where East meets West.

The Alps, Switzerland

Switzerland TrainsEver since visiting the Swiss Alps last year, I have been yearning for the mountains. The fresh air, the hiking, the incredible landscapes.

I can only imagine how lovely it would be to visit in summer with the warm temperatures, wild swimming and long rolling walks punctuated with picnic stops and fondue. Not that I’ve been daydreaming about it at all…

Find out more about my trip here.

What do you have planned for summer? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!

Corfu Town

The Budget Girls Weekend Destination Guide

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a weekend with the girls. Whether you’re exploring somewhere new, downing the local wine or hunting down the best cheese boards in town, girls weekends are the best time to wind down and relax.

These precious moments with your gal pals don’t need to cost the earth either. Make the most of your mates and check out these budget-busting destinations to get the most weekend for your money!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin ReichstaggIf you’re a culture-vulture by day and a hardcore raver by night, Berlin is for you. Check into an apartment with your friends (Airbnb has lots of choice), take to the streets and explore this vibrant and eccentric city.

Perfect for the budget conscious, Berlin has plenty of free museums and the free walking tour is a must!

Hvar, Croatia

Hvar CroatiaThis small slice of island paradise is easily accessible for a weekend getaway. Party hard in Hvar’s budget bars and wash away your sins in the crystal clear Adriatic sea.

 

Switzerland

Switzerland GrindelwaldGet out into the great outdoors and lose yourself in Switzerland’s rugged scenery. Head to the slopes in Winter or visit in Spring to see the mountains in bloom.

Keep an eye on EasyJet for cheap flights to Switzerland’s cities.

Brussels, Belgium

Belgian Waffles BrusselsFoodie heaven. Wash down your sweet treats with local Jupiler beer, admire the architecture at Grand Place and have a laugh at the Manneken Pis.

It’s worth parting with 4 euros for entry into the Museum of the City at Grand Place. The Manneken Pis exhibition is probably the most hilarious thing I have seen.

 

Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral I have made my love for this Kentish city (and my University town) quite clear on this blog!

Just because I’ve graduated doesn’t mean I’ll be letting my Canterbury addiction go any time soon…

Canterbury is a great place for a girly break, catch-up in one of the city’s many bars, coffee shops or restaurants (here are my faves) and soak up the history of this quaint medieval town.

If you’re visiting in the Uni holidays, bag some cheap accommodation in the University halls. Find out how here.

 

Corfu Town, Greece

Corfu Town Beautifully undiscovered, as far as girls-only weekends go, Corfu Town is a hidden gem. Hit the shops, relax on the beach and eat as much Tzatziki as is humanly possible!

Come back home bronzed and refreshed.

 

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin PubOne of the ultimate girly escapes and the first one I took. Dublin is conveniently close to home and cheap to get to with airlines such as Ryan Air.

When you’re there, avoid the expensive pubs in touristy Temple Bar and instead follow the locals into one of the hundreds of other drinking holes. Grab and Guinness and prepare yourself for a sing-along!

Have you been on a girly weekend? What is your favourite destination? Let me know in the comments below or via my social media pages!

 

Greek Cat

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words: Kitten Rescue in Corfu

Greek Cats Corfu

One of my very first posts published on this blog was about my trip to the Grecian party-resort of Kavos in Corfu. (If you haven’t read it, check it out here).

In the aforementioned post, I recommended heading off the beaten track in order to see the best of the island.

And that is exactly what Ryan and I did.

Plodding through a beautiful olive grove, minding our own business, we heard a loud waling sound unlike anything I’ve heard before.

We scanned the trees for warbling birds and then the ground for strange Greek creatures but saw nothing.

We rambled on.

Then the sound got louder and louder until we couldn’t ignore it any longer.

Something was in pain.

Still unable to see the animal/creature/mutant-bird, we took a closer look at the trees themselves.

And low and behold, we found this little mite staring back at us!

Greek Cat

He had somehow become trapped inside the tree, wedged between two pieces of bark. After trying to pull him out, and failing (gaining a couple of nasty scratches in the process), we ended up having to hack away at the bark until he was eventually prised free.

Shaken and dazed, our new BFF (now named Tomas), shook himself off and purred in appreciation.

I was so sad to leave him but thankfully we found a lovely English family who took him under their wing and fed him their last can of tuna.

Tomas, wherever you are, you are furry fur-tunate to have clawed your way out of this one! Paw-don me for the puns… I couldn’t resist!

Have you got a special story behind your favourite picture? Let me know, I’d love to hear it!

Restaurant Review: Rachi, Lefkas

‘Turn right at the woodpile, then you’re there’. Yup, that is about as sophisticated as instructions get in this neck of the woods.

I was in Lefkas, Greece and was in search of the fabled Rachi restaurant, a modern hipster haunt hanging off a mountain in the middle of this rural Grecian isle.

When we finally found it, hidden up a slippy, cobbled path I was gobsmacked.

The view hit me first, a beautiful uninterrupted vista which stretched all the way to the horizon, where the sun had started to explode in the sky.

The next thing I noticed was how busy it was! You would never have guessed that such a lively crowd was hiding just off a dirt-track. The crowds had gathered to watch the sunset, clutching blankets around themselves to stave off the encroaching evening chill.

Lefkas Sunset Rachi Sunset

 

Greece SunsetThe only problem was that the crowd was hungry and swarmed over all the available tables, meaning that we had to wait a while to be seated. This is normal around the time of the sunset, as that view draws in diners from all over the island.

Although I would recommend going for the sunset, you will have to arrive pretty early to nab the best seats and blankets. It is a great place to visit for lunch as well, when daredevil para-gliders take flight just next to the restaurant!

But now, on to the food…

Rachi Menu

Rachi Lefkas Menu

The prices are very reasonable, and most of the ingredients are sourced from their very own garden. Choose the salad to start, it is phenomenal, and they also have some of the best Tzatziki on the island.

The most expensive (and desirable) main is the sharing platter of chicken wings. This mammoth portion comes to  €17/£13.50 and is easily enough for two people, after a couple of starters of course. Unfortunately I picked the stuffed hamburger steak which was a bit disappointing. As plates of chicken wings were whisked past our table, my eyes followed them greedily, full of regretful envy.

The crowds begin to slowly trickle away after the sun has dipped below the horizon. They leave behind a relaxed, sense of calm (the cheap carafes of wine probably help with that too…). The surroundings are perfectly chilled, and the al fresco restaurant is freshly decorated and accented by interesting pieces, such a massive lamps and cute cushions. It’s contemporary Greece at its best and most surprising.

A must visit for anyone travelling to Lefkas.

Ice Cream

A Wander Around Vassiliki, Lefkas

Vassiliki

Today we ventured to Vassiliki, a windy port town famed for its water-sports. Twisting down the mountain roads, the sea was speckled with boaters and wind-surfers all descending on the town. Unlike Nidri, Vassiliki seems catered towards a more upmarket clientele with luxury yachts bobbing alongside local fishing boats in its harbour.

Vassiliki Harbour

The town was quiet as most of its visitors had passed through earlier in the day, boarding boats bound for the local beaches or for day trips to the neighbouring islands of Kefalonia and Ithaca. Its quiet streets gave the town a relaxed air and the light breeze which whistled through its winding lanes took the edge off the fierce afternoon heat.

We popped under a veranda for some ice-cream. The Greeks have an amazing selection of commonplace ice-cream flavours, including Ferrero Rocher, Kinder Bueno and Snickers. I went for the latter. And it was good.

Greek Ice-Cream

Greece is famed for its ever-present collection of cats. They are forever roaming the streets or wrapping themselves around your legs when you’re trying to eat. So far they had all been mangy with gammy eyes or a limp. This kitten, however, was perfection. I just had to stop for a cuddle.

Greek Cats

When I finally put the kittens down, we decided to head into the town for an explore around its shops. Although a lot of the shops were selling the traditional tourist tat, there were also a lot of independent shops selling hand-crafted jewellery and crafts. The price tags were hefty so I didn’t end up with any purchases but it was nice to see something other than garish Lefkas tea-towels and plastic keyrings lining the shelves. These bug bracelets and this wind chime haven were personal favourites of mine.

Lefkas Shops

Lefkas CraftsAfter a long peruse around the boutique lined streets we headed home. A charming town which is well worth a visit, just remember to avoid the day tripper crowds!

 

Lefkas Boat Hire

Aye, Aye Cap’n!

Greece Watersports

So, today we rented our own private boat. Which was pretty darn cool. We picked up the boat from Nidri, where eagled-eyed readers will remember we had visited beforehand. At 70euros for the four of us, it wasn’t too bad value, although fuel added another 30euros to the bill.

Greece Boat Hire

We headed off into the blue and someone was silly enough to let me take the wheel. This little thing could pick up some speed which was quite hair-raising in the crowded bay. We quickly whizzed away from the crowds and headed to the privately owned island of Scorpios. Scorpios is owned by the famous multi-millionaire Onassis family, although rumour has it that it is currently being rented by a Russian billionaire. Whoever was there had a pretty impressive yacht moored alongside it! As one of Greece’s only privately owned islands, you’re not allowed on land, it is guarded by a thirty-five strong security team who quickly spot any intruders.

Lefkas Boat Hire

We cruised around numerous islands, letting the wind whip our hair and lounging in the sun. Whenever we spotted a deserted cove we would anchor the boat and dive in, exploring underwater rock formations or sunning ourselves on our own private slice of Greek beach. This really was the life.

After stopping for a beer on the inhabited island of Meganissi, we reluctantly had to take the boat back. I would definitely recommend this form of transport to anyone, it beats a crowded tour boat hands down. When you are travelling in larger numbers it would also probably work out better value than paying 50 euros each for a packed cruise.

Windswept, and just a little sunburnt, we headed back to the villa just in time to watch the sun set. I could get used to this.

Greek Villa

Day Three in Lefkas: Beaches and Expanding Bellies

Greece Sea View

We have been greeted by this ridiculously stunning vista every time we have stepped out of the villa. Now was our chance to explore it at ground level. Avoiding the steep cliff edge walk to the beach, we instead opted to take a short boat trip from Agios Nikitas which dropped us straight onto the softly pebbled sand. Dumping our stuff on the shore, I wasted no time in jumping into its clear blue sea which was perfect for swimming. Again, the snorkelling was none existent here but it was enough just to marvel at the never-ending blue which stretched in-front of you as far as the eye could see.

The view from the shore wasn’t half bad either. We had chosen to get the last boat from the town in order to make the most of this popular beach at its quietest time. We practically had the beach to ourselves with only a sprinkling of German nudists for company!

Greek Beach

Agios Nikitas Beach

Lefkas Sunset

As the sun went down we packed up our things and began the steep ascent up the cliff side. Remind me why we did it this way again?! Saying that the views over the beach became increasingly beautiful as we trudged higher and higher towards our villa.

Back at the villa, the walk had left us peckish. Our James Villa Rep had recommended a family run taverna in the small town of Tsoukalades, hidden up a small dirt track off the main road. With stomachs grumbling we heading out in pursuit of yet another Greek meal.

The taverna was surprisingly easy to find and crowded with children, cats and large Greek families. It definitely felt like you had left the tourist trail! Our friendly host took us into her kitchen where pots of various meat dishes sat bubbling on the stove. We chose to share the Goat Stew, Pork with Lemon and Stuffed Tomatoes. It was great to see that everything had been cooked by hand and prepared from fresh that evening.

Greek Eating

After the obligatory starter of Tzatziki and Halloumi, with some amazing boiled green beans thrown in, our mains arrived.

Greek Dinner

Greek Food

The goat stew was my favourite, with the meat simply falling off the bone. I had never tried goat before and had expected it to be quite tough so I was pleasantly surprised!

The taverna itself was lovely and relaxed, vines twisted above your head and old Greek men sat together drinking and watching the football.

Lefkas Restaurant

After a plate of complimentary watermelon (a great palette cleanser after garlicky Tzatziki!) we were invited to join the men to watch the football. Unfortunately we had to be up early the next morning as we were hiring a boat for the day. On the journey home Germany managed to score five goals and we massively regretted not sticking around for that! With full tummies we settled down for an early night, basking in the warm Greek hospitality we had received that evening. Everyone here seems genuinely happy to help you and look after you here, a stark contrast from the unfriendly service I had received in Croatia. It is amazing how much difference a friendly smile can make.

Lunching in Lefkas

Greek BeachesAs the title of this post suggests, the past coupled of days have been centered around food. Lots of food. Lots of amazing, fresh, lovingly made Greek food. I have been in heaven. Scatter in a couple of beach visits and a whole lot of pool lounging and I would say that its been a pretty successful holiday thus far.

Greek salad anyone? This is obviously a holiday staple, and one which my Dad has down. A mix of feta cheese, cucumbers, red onions, peppers and olives. With a side of crusty bread, boiled eggs and the best olive oil I’ve had in a while, I don’t complain when we have leftovers for breakfast.

Greek Salad Dressings

Greek Salad

Greek Olive Oil

Now for a ‘beachy interlude’ and a trip to the rugged beach at Tsoukalades. We have just started to properly explore Lefkas’ varied coastline and it has no disappointed. White pebbled sand stretches into some of the clearest and pristine waters I’ve ever seen in the Med. You don’t even need a snorkel to spot schools of fish frolicking in the depths. That being said, the snorkelling has let Lefkas down a tad. There are spectacular underwater rock formations, just not the variety of fish-life that I had expected. But then there is a good enough view on land to make up for it.

Lefkas Beach

An afternoon at Tsoukalades was followed by an evening drive to the touristy coastal town of Nidri. We decided to take the scenic route which cuts straight through the island. It is great to have the luxury of a car abroad, we travelled along treacherous mountain roads and held our breaths around hair-pin bends, all of which would have been inaccessible and left undiscovered if we had to rely on public transport. We wouldn’t have bumped into views like this.

View Lefkas

Church Lefkas

We passed through the former island capital and centre of traditional crafts, Karya. A charming town perched high in the mountains with stunning views over the forested valley. We made a mental note to spend an afternoon over coffee here, savouring its views once more.

Nidri was quite a comparison to sleepy Karya. Nidri is the main tourist hub on Lefkas and its crowded streets and flashy neon signs brought me back to memories of Kavos. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I did see a sign for English Breakfasts, just saying. After a walk along the strip we settled for dinner at bustling harbour-front restaurant, ‘The Barrel’ . It had received rave reviews in the guest book at the villa so it would be rude not to check out its local offerings.

Nidri Lefkas

We started with Tzatziki, Halloumi and Stuffed Vine Leaves.

Greek Food

Halloumi Greece

Again, everything was so fresh and tasty. You even felt like you were being healthy! I decided to choose something more hearty for my main course, the famous Beef Kleftiko. A Kleftiko is a variation of our English casserole, a dish of meat, potatoes, peppers and feta cooked in paper. It is superb.

Stifado Greece

Kleftiko Greece

Worth nine euros of anybody’s money! Full and satisfied we wandered back through Nidri. As I mentioned in my last post there were meant to be Saint’s Day celebrations happening in the town. If there were then we couldn’t find them! Instead we watched throngs of worshippers being ferried over to the tiny island chapel just off the shore. We also occupied ourselves in the market which sold an impressive collection of toys, food and even animals.

Market Stall Greece

Lefkas Market

Fish Market Greece

Bird Market

Watches Market

We finished our evening with a bag of some of the best and juiciest cherries I’ve ever had. The cherry on top of a great day, literally…

Cherry Market

Infinity Pool Greece

An Introduction to Lefkas

Greece Plane

I have finally arrived in Lefkas after a rude 2am wake-up call followed by a delirious three hour flight which touched down in sunkissed Greece at 11.30am local time. A quick zip across the highly underwhelming ‘floating bridge’ and we were in Lefkas Town. The streets were lined with rustic bakeries and bustling tavernas with posh yachts bobbing in the harbour. We stopped off for one of my favourite Grecian snacks, a spinach stuffed pastry before heading to our villa.

Spinach Pastry

Greece Car Rental

After forcing the car to traverse an impossibly steep rocky slope, we had reached the villa. At such an elevation, the views weren’t too shabby at all!

Lefkas Beach

Lefkas Scenery

As soon as we got to the villa, it was straight in the amazing infinity pool to cool off. The villa overlooks some spectacular mountainous scenery. The view is relatively unspoilt by developments but some fancy looking building sites seem to be threatening the future of this perfect vista.

Greece Infinity PoolWe are renting the villa from James Villas, a company we have used a couple of times before and have never been disappointed. We are staying in Villa Athina which is advertised as ‘The Best of James’. This is obviously due to its attention to detail, with cute trinkets and ornaments scattered around the house. This miniature tree was my favourite!

Miniature TreeAfter a couple of hours relaxing poolside we headed into the town, not before admiring the incredible seascape which greets us as soon as we step out of the door.

Greece SunsetThe closest town, Agios Nikitas is a steep clamber down the hillside or a speedy two minute journey by car. Unsurprisingly we chose to take the latter option and found a spot to park along the surrounding busy streets. Agios Nikitas is comprised of a single pedestrianised cobbled road, flanked with cute gift shops and lively traditional tavernas. I was pleasantly surprised that most signs and restaurant menus were still written in Greek rather than serving up English Breakfasts or blaring vintage episodes of ‘Friends’. Kavos has obviously scarred me!

Agios NikitasAfter a wander down to the lovely but crowded beach, we left the crystal waters in search of some traditional Greek grub. Agios Nikitas offers many authentic options and we ended up choosing an airy taverna crammed with Greek diners, that must mean that they are doing something right!

Greece Taverna

Greece Flowers

One of the first things I like to do when visiting a new destination is to try out their local brew. Here, Mythos is the local beer of choice yet is still disappointingly expensive for a provincial pint. I can’t really complain as, at 3.50 Euros for half a litre, its is still cheaper than beer at home it’s just not the ‘cheaper than water’ equivalent beer can be in other European resorts.  I obviously ended up ordering the largest size possible…

Mythos Beer

Mythos Beer Greece

The menu offered a wide selection of local fare. We plucked for Tzatziki, Olives, Greek Salad and Eggplant Salad (or dip as it turned out) to start. Everything tasted so fresh (and so garlicky!) reaffirming why Grecian cuisine ranks so highly on my list of the best food around. I followed the starters with Moussaka, one of the greatest Greek dishes in my humble opinion. It did not disappoint.

Greek Food

Moussaka

With tummies filled with tasty Grecian specialities, we headed back to the villa to enjoy the sunset. As we are based on the West side of the island, we have the best seats in the house to watch the magnificent sunset.

Lefkas SunsetAs the sun deserted our first day here, I am left itching to explore this place. Tomorrow we will be heading down to our local beach as well as checking out a religious festival and feast which is taking place close to the resort of Nidri. The festivities are said to continue well into the night and if they are like any other Greek celebrations I’ve seen, then I’m in for a treat.

Mythos Beer

Lefkas Beach Greece

Lefkas Here I Come!

Lefkas Greece Villa

This beautiful infinity pool is going to be my home for the next week!

At 6.30am tomorrow morning I will be jetting off to Lefkas, a small island connected to the Greek mainland by bridge.

The island promises perfect pebble and sand beaches, authentic tavernas serving platters of fresh seafood and stunning hikes around the island’s pine forests and olive groves. So I’m just a little excited!

I am going to try to blog a couple of times when I’m out there so be prepared for a bit of a bombardment on the post front! Also keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be keeping my Twitter page updated: @StudentRucksack

Here’s to a sunkissed, feta filled holiday!