A Travellerspoint blog

Athens and Airbnb

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Sunset on Hogmanay

Sunset on Hogmanay

My December visit to Athens brought me a a special experience. My Greek Airbnb hosts invited me to their home for their New Year’s Eve party.

I was astonished, and was not sure if they were just making a gesture, but decided to go. Their home is only 2 minutes walk from their Airbnb apartment.

Apartment Living Room

Apartment Living Room

There were about 20 people there divided quite evenly between my generation - 50s and 60s - and youngsters in their teens and early 20s. I speak no Greek, so all the conversations were in French or English.

Arriving about 9.30pm, very soon we sat down to a massive dinner which needed a full 2 hours to finish - all kinds of Greek home cooked goodies, with as much local wine as you felt like drinking. The youngsters were all going out right after midnight, so that was my cue to leave as well on account of my lunchtime flight home on 1st January.

Apartment Living Room 2

Apartment Living Room 2

One interesting thing is that my hosts’ two children are both at university in Paris, and speak perfect English as well as French. Their cousins are at university in Cambridge and Birmingham. The first person I got talking to after I arrived does the same work as I do, but for a Greek MEP.

It was a lot of fun and a lovely experience.

Posted by IainT 09:47 Archived in Greece Tagged people greece athens Comments (0)

Best of 2019 (1)


View Athens & Krefeld & Sheffield & Nottingham & Tbilisi 2 & Belfast & Faroes & Iceland & Orkney & Tbilisi & Sheffield 2 & Sheffield & Dublin & Belfast & Barcelona & Manchester & Dundee & Vilnius 3 on IainT's travel map.

Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

It is that time of year again - my annual awards. As always, my first category is airlines.

2019 brought an old favourite back to enjoy after an absence of many years - Aer Lingus. It was fun, but brief (for obvious reasons - Dublin is not far).

Edinburgh to Dublin

Edinburgh to Dublin

The year also introduced me to several airlines I had never used before - Georgian Airlines, Atlantic Airways, Buta Airways and Aircompany Armenia. All of them were a pleasure, although the Yerevan to Tbilisi flight with Aircompany Armenia was also short - 30 minutes.

Both my flights with Atlantic Airways were memorable for the views of Scotland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. The Tbilisi to Baku flight with Buta Airways was a delight for the same reason - views of the Greater Caucasus on the port side and the Lesser Caucasus on the other.

Iceland Approaches

Iceland Approaches

When it comes to inflight service, it has almost ceased to exist these days. Ryanair, FlyBe, and easyJet all carried me from A to B without any frills. Many of what used to be full service airlines have gone down that road too - SAS, Air France, Aer Lingus and Brussels Airlines are the ones which come to mind from my 2019 travels.

Ryanair, 04:45

Ryanair, 04:45

I took 6 Turkish Airlines flights in 2019, and that airline is still making the trip a pleasure. TK is the airline I used most during the year. Its flight from Edinburgh is ideal for connections in Istanbul for Southeast Europe and the Caucasus.

Istanbul Airport

Istanbul Airport

TK even served us breakfast on a 1 hour flight from Istanbul to Athens which left at 01:15!

Loganair also does “full service”, but its routes are mostly very short and domestic so the service amounts to tea and shortbread.

Loganair Saab 2000

Loganair Saab 2000

It is very difficult to pick a winner for 2019 with several possibilities standing out, but I have gone for Atlantic Airways.

Southern Islands

Southern Islands

The flights were great in themselves, but the views were just incredible.

Posted by IainT 00:45 Archived in Faroe Islands Tagged flights iceland airlines reykjavik faroes torshavn Comments (0)

Athens

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Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus

I am back. I am revisiting Athens after 10 years.

The end of December is a good time for me to escape because office rules force me to take some holiday time, and then the office is closed for a total of 4 days (with a weekend in between).

Here I am, enjoying winter sun and a lot more daylight than Scotland offers in December.

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

I have an Airbnb apartment in the Koukaki neighbourhood, which is an easy metro journey from the airport - €10, 60 minutes and 1 change of line. Koukaki is just south of the Akropolis and Syntagma Square is a 25 minutes walk - or 2 stops on the metro.

Koukaki

Koukaki

I have a full week here, and the plan is to take it easy and try to avoid thinking about Brexit.

So far (Day 3, but Day 1 was taken up by travel) the highlight has been a Greek gastronomy walking tour. It lasted just over 4 hours, and not a minute was wasted!

It was fascinating.

Dairy

Dairy

I am no stranger to Greek food, but to be guided and educated about it by a local was a lovely experience. We even walked around the fish and meat market. The organisers claim we sampled 15 different foods. I lost count, but all were delicious.

Olive Shop

Olive Shop

You can see it all on this clip (4 hours condensed into 6 minutes).

Gastronomy

We had a different guide, but the same tour.

Posted by IainT 08:04 Archived in Greece Tagged food greece athens Comments (0)

Sheffield - Love or Hate?

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Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens

Sheffield is on my “frequent visit” list.

It is not entirely a matter of choice. Apart from one occasion, I have always been there to watch my son play ice hockey. It is where British Universities ice hockey has its end of season tournament, and Sheffield Universities’ team has always been in his team’s pool for the league competition.

The city suffered badly during the Thatcher era, losing a lot of its heavy industry, although steel is an important part of the economy even now. Ice Sheffield is in the Don Valley, so past and present steel industry is all around.

Canal Basin

Canal Basin

The city centre has been redeveloped to a significant degree, and lots of it looks great if you enjoy modern architecture. A lot of it remains quite grimy, however.

Although several hotels are available close to Ice Sheffield, I almost always stay in the city centre. I could mention one dreadful hotel experience there - the Holiday Inn - and one which was disappointing - the Hilton. I usually stay at the Novotel. It is modern and stylish and it does not have a function suite, so it is quiet. I have found it to be reliable. It is a short walk from the railway station, so it is convenient for me too.

Novotel

Novotel

Finding something good to eat in Sheffield has been a problem. I have tried several places, and usually end up disappointed to some degree. A few times I enjoyed good food at Café Rouge, but it is gone now, replaced by another chain restaurant - which is what the city centre seems to attract.

On my last visit I found a great wee coffee shop close to the Novotel - HowSt in Howard Street.

HowSt

HowSt

I also tried a Malaysian place - Noodle Doodle - for a dinner. It was a mixed experience and I am in no rush to go back.

Noodle Doodle

Noodle Doodle

The end result is mixed feelings about the city. I have some good memories of the place, and some dreadful ones.

Posted by IainT 12:10 Archived in England Tagged england sheffield Comments (0)

Nottingham - Travel Tips

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Hopkinson - the Store

Hopkinson - the Store

The city is not easy to get to from central Scotland, unless you enjoy 5-6 hours driving (mostly on very busy English motorways) or the equivalent on a meandering cross country train.

I was in Sheffield anyway, so getting to Nottingham was just a 55 minute journey… on a rambling cross country train. I paid £4.60 for my one way ticket on Northern Rail. I got discounts for paying in advance on a “this train only” basis, and for having a senior railcard. It was fine, and ran on time, even if it stopped a lot.

Nottingham College

Nottingham College

In that part of England you have to be very aware of whether your ticket is valid with other train operators. East Midlands Railway (EMR) also serves the route, and my ticket was not valid on their trains.

Downtown Nottingham

Downtown Nottingham

I flew home from East Midlands Airport with Loganair. The airport is 40 minutes by express bus from Nottingham. The service runs every 30 minutes during the day and costs £6.50 single. It is not very “express” in fact, and snakes around quite a bit on the way to stop at a university, a park and ride, a business park and a freight distribution centre.

East Midlands Airport

East Midlands Airport

The airport is small and was very efficient, no doubt on account of being almost deserted. I suppose Monday lunchtime is off peak.

Airport Lunch

Airport Lunch

Loganair was fantastic. The flight to Edinburgh left 20 minutes early, and arrived 30 minutes early. Within 10 minutes of the plane arriving at the gate I was on my bus to Fife, to connect with a train home. I paid £58.92 for the one way flight (hand luggage only) which is just about half what I paid for my train ticket from Fife to Sheffield.

Scotland's Airline

Scotland's Airline

In between, I stayed at the Ibis in Nottingham. After being used to Novotel’s level of service, Ibis feels quite cheap, but it was - £40.85 including breakfast. My stay was a Sunday night, and I imagine that will be the cheapest night of the week. It was clean and comfortable, and it was a buffet breakfast with hot food. The location was ideal for me - in the city centre close to the railway station and the ice arena.

Ibis Breakfast

Ibis Breakfast

I did not venture into any of the city’s restaurants - the massive hotel breakfast I had in Sheffield skewed my appetite a bit. However, I did enjoy a coffee shop near the railway station as I recovered from the journey.

Hop's - the Coffee Shop

Hop's - the Coffee Shop

Hop’s is quirky. It is part of a small second hand “department store”. I did not test my bargain hunting skills, but enjoyed the coffee and cake in a relaxing and friendly venue.

Posted by IainT 13:54 Archived in England Tagged trains england sport transport flights ice_hockey airlines nottingham Comments (0)

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