Zakynthos, Greece

One of our favourite trips of all time was about two years ago when we spend a long weekend in  Santorini, Greece.   When we sat down  this spring to decide where we should visit for a long relaxing weekend, we both quickly agreed on going back to a Greek island.  We settled on Zakynthos as it was super easy to reach and offered some great resorts.

This will quite possibly be my shortest blog post, as we pretty much spent 90% of the time lying by our resort’s infinity pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.  The remainder of our time we spent on our motorcycle winding through the olive tree farms to see the dramatic coastline or out to eat the most incredible Greek food.

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How we spent our whole first day 🙂

For our first night on the island, Dan found the most amazing Greek restaurant for dinner, Bassia.  We actually ended up loving it so much, we went a total of 3 times throughout our week there!

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The next  morning we drove across the island over to Porto Limnionas, a sheltered cove for swimming.  The 1.5 hour drive was so beautiful, passing through olive farms, vineyards and tiny little towns.  When we arrived to our lunch destination, we were greeted with the cutest little restaurant set high above the cove overlooking the most crystal clear turquoise waters!  After a quick bite, we climbed down the steps to the water where we went swimming and explored the caves.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was – you could see the sandy bottom the whole time and the water was at least 30 feet deep!

That night’s dinner treated us to one of the best views on the island. Lofos Pizzaria is set up in the hills, overlooking the middle valley of the island.  It is quite the trek to get to on a motorcycle…lots of hairpin turns and a steep climb!  But after a somewhat eventful trip there, we made it in one piece and enjoyed some Greek pizza and a perfect sunset!

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The next day, we did nothing but move from the pool to the beach 🙂 It was perfection!

IMG_3918In the evening, we rode over to another incredible Greek restaurant.  The entire “dining room” is set outside, underneath a canopy of greenery and fairy lights.  It’s magical!

For our last excursion, we drove across the island and to the north to see the Island’s most famous sight – Shipwreck Beach!

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From there, we explored another beach, Xigia Beach.  This area is incredibly unique, as the water has a layer of collagen on the top!  The natural springs flow sulphur and collagen, making the water feel silky and smooth against your skin (although quite stinky too!).

 

For our last night, we went back to our favourite restaurant where the staff treated us to a “going away” meal which included 5 courses of their best Greek dishes.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we made some great friends that we hope we can go back and visit some day.

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We were really lucky to have a late evening flight back to London and were able to spend the WHOLE day pool and seaside again.  It was the perfect trip.  We were able to actually relax, read (and finish!) books and soak up the Greek sun.  I cannot recommend this place enough, particularly our hotel.  It was a 10/10.

Oslo, Norway

Dan has been able to travel to Oslo a few times for work trips these past few months, so we decided that I would join him for a night to do some exploring!  It was as really short trip, as we flew in Saturday morning and I flew back Sunday night.  But it’s a really small city so it was really easy to do in a quick weekend.  So many people told us that Oslo is a really boring city, but we ended up really loving it and finding it incredibly beautiful!

We spent Saturday afternoon just wandering around the city’s shopping area.  It’s basically just one long high street.  But one beautiful high street and at the end of the shopping street sits the Palace up on the hill with a beautiful park.  When we reached the end of the walk and got to the park, we decided we should go ice skating in the park!  We rented hockey skates and as soon as we got them – it started to snow!  I’m talking the most perfect big fluffy snowflakes!  Living in London, we don’t get snow and I LOVE snow!  And how perfect to be skating in the snow in Norway!  Perfection!

 

As I only had one night in Oslo, we decided to try and visit as many places as possible for food and drink.  So we started off at the top floor of our hotel for a cocktail – which happens to be the tallest building in Oslo!  Next stop was a cave bar/restaurant for dinner and some Norwegian beer.  They were known for their sausages so we had to try them, and they didn’t disappoint!  After dinner,  we bar hopped at a handful of craft beer bars around the city.  The craft beer scene was fantastic there – especially the sour beers!  So many fun ones to try, I loved it!

On Sunday we decided to take a long walk along the waterfront.  We started over by the Oslo Opera House which is a stunning display of architecture along the sea.  The  building and sun created beautiful reflections into the water.

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The remainder of my short time in the city was spent just wandering around, enjoying the wonderful weather and being with Dan.  We love weekends away where we can just take it slow and not feel rushed to see a lot of tourist sites.  Oslo was so beautiful and was the perfect quick (but slow) getaway! And I got my snow fix in 🙂

Siem Reap, Cambodia + Hong Kong

After a lovely trip to Bali, we hopped on another plane and made our way north to Siem Reap, Cambodia!  To be honest, the thought of visiting Cambodia never really crossed my mind.  But after some research and discovering the Angkor Wat…Dan and I were sold and knew we had to go!

We arrived mid-afternoon and got settled into our hotel.  Once again, our hotel accommodations were incredible.  We were treated like royalty at this place!  It was the cutest little boutique hotel in the heart of the city, and just a quick tuk tuk ride to the Angkor Wat! Check it out: Privilege Boutique Hotel

That afternoon we relaxed by the pool then had an incredible dinner at the Chanrey Tree Restaurant.  Cambodia food is very close to Thai food, so we both loved it!  And the Cambodian people are so much like the Thai – friendly, happy, super smiley, and helpful!  We loved the service we received at all the restaurants!

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The next morning was our big exploring day.  We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and set out to the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is the 150+ square mile area that houses many famous temples. [Side note: you may notice that Dan and I are in all sorts of funny outfits throughout this post.  Due to different religious traditions, we had to cover up differently.  Lots of random scarves, dresses, etc!]

First stop:  ANGKOR WAT!  The Angkor Wat is the WORLD’S LARGEST religious monument!!!  It was originally built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple, but has switched back and forth from Hindu and Buddhism based on who was in power at the time.  There really are no great words to describe Angkor Wat.  It’s absolutely breathtaking.  Just take a look for yourself [although these photos do not even do it justice!]:

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After spending a good amount of time wandering around Angkor Wat in awe, we decided it was time to move on to the next site.  Which ended up being my favourite of the day! This one was called Angkor Thom, which translated means “Great City”. It is essentially an old walled city, filled with the most impressive sculptures and monuments.  Again, I can’t even begin to explain the feeling we felt as we walked around.  I’ve never seen anything so impressive before.  The detail, the enormity, the grandeur…it all just took my breath away. And it all just made me feel so happy!  In all of the sculptures, all of the faces were smiling, the monkey’s were dancing and everything just seemed so cheerful! I couldn’t stop thinking about how talented and skilled the men were that constructed this in the late 12th century.  Can  you imagine something of this detail being constructed today?

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After ticking off a few smaller temples, our tuk tuk driver took us to a “locals restaurant” for lunch.  We had a fantastic meal – Dan had a delicious curry and I had a green mango chicken salad.  [However…I’m pretty certain this is the meal that gave me a horrible parasite and salmonella…that when I got back to London made me horribly ill for almost 3 weeks!]

After lunch, we were already really tired and hot.  It was 90 degrees out and really humid, so it was hard to spend the whole day out in the sun.  We decided to do a drive by tour of some of the smaller temples/sites in the area before finishing by exploring Ta Prohm – the tree temple.  You may recognise this one from the Tomb Raider movie!  This temple was also incredible. Ta Prohm is full of giant banyan and silk-cotton trees growing up out of the ruins; most of the trees are over 400 years old!

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That evening went went for pre-dinner drinks at the Siem Reap Brewpub where we were able to sample some local brews.  We had dinner at another incredible restaurant, Malis.  They even thought it was our hunnymoon so we received a free dessert!

As you can tell from most of our posts, the majority of the places we go and the trips we plan are jammed pack with things to see and do.  We planned our Cambodia trip a little differently!  As Siem Reap is relatively small, and the main attraction is the Angkor Archaeological Park, we knocked out all of the temples in one day and decided to spend the rest of our time slowly meandering the streets/markets, getting massages and relaxing by the pool!

On our last evening, we went to a place called Georges Rhumerie for dinner and a rum tasting!  The place distills their own rum and then creates ten different infusions.  Our favourites were the coconut and the cinnamon!  We brought back a bottle of the cinnamon to London!  The food was also incredible.  It was Cambodian/French fusion which was fun!  After dinner, we went to the Night Market for one last taste of Cambodian culture.

Siem Reap was fascinating.  You really only need 2 days/1 night here.  It’s 100% worth checking out as it’s unlike anything else.  After our lovely time here, it was time to make our way back home to London…but not before we had a one day layover in Hong Kong!


Hello Hong Kong! We decided to try and squeeze in one more place before heading back home.  It worked out well that we could put in a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong.

First stop – food!  We took the express train from the airport into the city and the restaurant we wanted to eat at had a branch in the train station which was super convenient for us!  Tim Ho Wan is noted as the World’s Most Inexpensive Awarded Dim Sum Restaurant.  We were warned there would be a long queue – and surprisingly it ended up only being about 30 minutes.  We ordered a variety of dim sum, buns and other interesting items [the menu was half in Chinese half English, so we couldn’t really figure out what we were ordering!].  Dan even tried the chicken foot! The food was good, but not incredible.  Neither of us really understood the hype and the reason why it has been awarded Michelin stars.  Fun to try though!

We then wandered around the city for a bit before heading up to Victoria Peak to try and catch the famous views of the skyline.  Unfortunately, it was incredibly hazy that day, so although we did get some views, there weren’t the best.  It was still beautiful and were glad we did it!  While up there we even had some bubble tea – which is a must since Hong Kong is where it originated!  It was by far the best bubble tea we’ve ever had!

A quick taxi ride down the hill took us to the ferry docks where we hopped on a boat and scooted across the harbour to the other island, Kowloon.  There we took in the views from the other side of the harbour then did some shopping down all the streets and at the Temple Street Night Market.

Before heading back to the airport, we had just enough time to catch the Symphony of Lights.  It is a huge lights and sound show put on every night.  Apparently, it is the world’s largest sound and light show!  It was fascinating to watch!  We wish it was a bit less hazy, but oh well!  It was beautiful and we’re really glad we were able to catch it!

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One [not even full] day in Hong Kong was just right for us.  You’d be surprised to know, we’re not big “big city” people and Hong Kong is a BIG city!  It doesn’t have an incredible amount of rich Asian culture, it feels very Western.  Definitely recommend it for a layover!

And now we’re back in London after an easy flight back.  Unfortunately, the parasite I caught in Cambodia hit me full force a day after being back.  These last 3 weeks have been quite miserable, but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!  What an experience…! We love SE Asia, and I wouldn’t trade being sick for any of the experiences!

London Catch-up – Almost 8 weeks in London!

It’s been a busy week for us – so I’ve been a bit behind on posting.  Sorry! But here’s a little update on what we’ve been up to over the past 2 weeks!

Since moving here, we’ve been doing really well with not “missing American things”.  London is very similar, so we can find almost anything we’re looking for.  But one thing we haven’t been able to find – is a good NY style bagel!  They like to bake their bagel’s here (and spell them BEIGEL).  Baked “beigel’s” aren’t even close to a yummy NY bagel with a slightly crunchy exterior with a soft chewy interior.  I expressed my disappointment with my coworkers, and I was directed to a beigel shop in an area called, Brick Lane.  I was told that they are the best beigels around!

So we went!  There are actually two beigel shops right next door to each other, Beigel Bake Beigel Shop.  As some of you may know, I’m a huge YELP! nerd, and I post reviews to the community quite frequently.  Neither were up to my standard of a good bagel, but they definately came close!  Here are my reviews of the two shops:

Beigel Shop:  My review is based on the salt beef sandwich on a sesame beigel. The beigels were good – but certainly no NY bagel!  Slightly chewy, but missing that nice crusty outside.  The beef was ok, a little dry and it lacked good salty flavour.  Generous portions of the beef, mustard and pickles.  For the price – totally worth it.  But for flavour – go to beigel bake next door.

Beigel Bake:  Love that when you pop in you can see the family working in the back making the beigels.  A lot of love goes into these beigels!  Review based on salt beef sandwich on a plain beigel:  The sandwich was fantastic.  The salt beef was super juicy and flavourful and perfectly paired with the spicy mustard and pickles.  The beigel was a lot better than the Beigel Shop next door, but just not perfect.  As an American, I have a high expectation of “bagels” and the UK just doesn’t know how to do them quite right.  But these are definitely as close as you’ll get 🙂

After our beigel/bagel adventure, we wandered around the Brick Lane area and ended up at Spitalfields Market.  What a lovely surprise!  London Cocktail Week was in full swing!  The whole area was filled with the cutest little cocktail bar stands with fun cocktails and swag.  We did a few laps of the venue and enjoyed some samples and a cocktail of our own.

Saturday evening we were able to meet up with some of Dan’s colleagues and their wives.  It was nice to connect with some American’s going through the same adventure we are on.

Sunday was another beautiful day in London.  Fall is gorgeous here – but definitely not as pretty as Michigan 🙂  It was nice having the sun shine and a crisp breeze in the air.  We decided to take the train down to an area called Richmond and go for a long run in Richmond Park.

Richmond was a lovely town.  It has so much charm.  I loved the river and all of the parks.  It was nice to see cows and deer and so much greenery!  After our run, we popped into a pub for a nice Sunday roast.

This week has been another busy week at work.  I was able to go on my first business trip to Frankfurt to meet some clients.  It was a long day, as I flew out at 7 am and was home by 7 pm!  Although it was short – I loved it.  I can’t wait to experience more and hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time in the cities I visit.

Also – the most exciting thing!  Our dear friend Kent is in town for work so we were able to meet up with him for dinner and drinks.  We miss our family and friends so much! It was SO nice to see a close friend in our new city!

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I can’t believe it’s already time for the weekend again – time is flying by!  We’re so excited for the Michigan/Michigan State game!  GO BLUE!

Cheers!