In love with Ios

Our Island hoping adventure continued a boat ride away on Ios. Stepping off at the port, you could easily be deceived that this is a quiet little fishing town, but you’d be mistaken. Ios is a hidden gem in the Cyclade islands. Best known for its bustling nightlife and a major attraction for backpackers and younger crowds, Ios is alive when the lights go out.

However, if you’re more wine and chill rather than shots, shots, shots, don’t worry – Ios has you covered too. The island itself is, in effect, is one giant hill, with rocky cliffs down to the crystal blue sea all around. By day, the night owls are sleeping off their hangovers and the streets are so impeccably clean, you would hardly know there was a vibrant party scene, if it wasn’t for the faded banners and un lit neon signs advertising offers on 2-4-1 cocktails.

The shore line is a much calmer affair, with a scattering of cafes and eateries along its coast, the beaches are clean and golden and there is a gentle peace that settle’s around you.

For those that need a little more action, the “Chora” (town) kicks into action from around 11am, where there is a hum of activity. A leisurely twenty minute walk up the picturesque donkey path, passed some of the remarkably quaint churches Ios has to offer (365 in total, one for each day of the year), will lead you into this pretty town, with narrow lanes and funky boutiques built into the crevasses.

On your trip, make sure you continue through the Chora to visit the amphitheatre. Its acoustics are fantastic and overlook the impressive cliff tops, reminding me somewhat of the Minac theatre in Cornwall.

Of course, don’t forgot to say hi to the Island’s cats! Notably one of the things you’ll remember from your trip, these fury felines are sneaky and they KNOW how to play tourists – they’re just too cute to refuse!

Where to stay – We enjoyed a relaxed few day’s at Olga’s place. This family run hotel makes you feel like you are staying with old friends, rather than new guests. Clean and inviting, it is the perfect location, just a stones throw from the beach and close to the steps to take you into Chora. Luckily, we hit just before peak season and often had the entire pool to ourselves, like a private villa!

What to eat – You will kick yourself if you don’t dine at Katogi. This greek style tapas bar fills up quick and you can be waiting up to an hour for a table but there is a reason. During the day, its easy to miss, only given away by the colourful rooster sign hanging from the wall. At night however, it comes alive, into a colourful haven of scrumptious food. I’d recommend between three / four dishes per couple as although the portion sizes look small, they’re deliciously filling. Unfortunately, you can’t pre-book until they open on the day, so make sure you get there early to reserve.

What to wear – Relaxed, beach vibes wont go a miss. Make sure you check out the gorgeous island boutique Join the Dots for some stunning fashionable pieces and accessories, both male and female with that boho flair – I could have bought everything!

How to move – Walking! The narrow lanes don’t lend itself to cars, so it would fee a waste to hire one. You could get yourself a moped to get across the island but with everything to see and do, especially in the Chora, you’ll be sure to spot all those hidden gems if you journey by foot!

What to do – Visit the amphitheatre and enjoy relaxing on Ios’s most popular beach Mylopotas or live it up in the evening, enjoying the nightlife the town has to offer.

What to bring back – As with most of the islands, there are lots of boutique shops offering unique trinkets. There are some especially beautiful jewellery shops on Ios which are well worth a visit.

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Save it for Santorini

Known as one of the most picture perfect destinations on the planet, with its crystal waters, whitewashed houses tipped with Azul blue caps, all perched on a bed of rural terrain, its crazy to think Santorini owes its vast landscape to a volcanic eruption hundred of years ago, that still shapes the country today. Attracting families, solo backpackers and lovers alike, there is something for everyone to see, do and experience.

Having been high on our bucket lists for a while, Santorini was a very special trip for us, ending up as the location we got engaged! During booking there was some initial back and forth with travel agents on how long our duration in Santorini should be. Whilst perhaps offering the most versatility of all the islands, your money does not stretch far and you can easily blow through your cash quickly. In addition, tourism here is highly saturated, meaning for those (like myself) who like to go away to avoid too many people, you can find yourself like feeling like herded cattle. But I truly believe it is a place that must be experienced, therefore in the end, we sandwiched this trip, opting to go Island hopping, rather than spending an extended amount of time on Santorini and this ended up being the best decision.

For both for budget and experience sake, getting yourself lodging in the costal area will see your cash stretch further and provide you with a host of quirky bars and shops that won’t break the bank. The beaches are made up of volcanic pebbles rather than sand, so no need to worry about getting sand in your toes! Sunbeds are available, but most are owned by neighbouring bars, so you will be expected to order for the privilege, however who doesn’t want something refreshing brought to them whilst they take in the rays? Tip: Footwear is highly recommended for any strolls along the coast line, especially during high summer, when temperatures reach staggering heights. We were there early June and were hit with highs of 42 degrees! Or be prepared to do the awkward penguin waddle into the water.

Staying at the base of Santorini also lends itself perfectly for hiring a moped, which I would recommend as one of the best ways to get around the island. The entire island itself stretches no more than a couple of hours and you could easily explore the majority within a day. Be prepared however, there is a general lassie-faire attitude towards driving and for those less experiences on the roads it can be a nightmare to navigate.

As one of the most popular Cyclade islands, tucked in the Aegean Sea, Santorini’s fame mainly comes from its primary towns, Fira and Oia, nestled into the cliff tops, which are the locations you will mainly see splashed across your insta screens and the glossy brochures. With a picture-perfect moment at every turn, your camera will never be far from your hand, shutter finger flashing at every given moment. Take the time to wander down the back streets, away from the crowds as there isn’t a turn that wont make for prime instagram material.

Take a trip in Oia down the famous steps (remember to be well prepared with water for the way back up!) to the magnificent harbour boasting more spectacular views. Sandals sure are cute but it is worth baring in mind that most of the paths in Oia have been trodden for years, by thousands daily, meaning the cobbled streets, while beautiful are very slippery and there are areas which aren’t supported by hand-railing, so take care and make sure your shoes have grip!

Where to stay – We resided in the beautiful Sigalas Hotel in Kamari, which was celebrating its 40 year anniversary. Situated right on the beach front, you can step out right onto the shore and easily not move all day. Decorated in the quintessential pallet of blue and white that Greece is famed for, it is just a stones throw from a strip of lovely eaterys to treat yourself to of an evening.

What to eat – Biased we may be, as this was the location of our proposal, but the Sunset Restaurant in Oia went above and beyond to cater for our needs. The food was exquisitely prepared and the staff were exceptional. If you can, snag yourself a seat on the upper level and dine al fresco as this is the perfect place to watch the incredible sunsets the island boasts. For those staying near Kamari, you wont find better than Sabbia Nera – believe me, we tried! An exceptional blend of Italian fine dining right on the beach front, you wont regret taking a taste!

What to wear – Comfy footwear! If I haven’t expressed myself enough in this post, having decent footwear to navigate the Island is a must. Whether its protecting your feet from the hot cobbles, driving around the island exposed, or taking a stroll in areas with less stability support, your feet will thank you for it! There is also a host of beautiful footwear boutiques around so you’ve no excuse.

How to move – Hiring a moped / scooter / quad is your best option for navigating the island if your confident. They will ensure you get the most out of your time, to places that you potentially couldn’t get on foot. Also, they are perfect for nipping up the smaller knocks and crevasses, which are off limits to cars. All you need is a valid drivers licence and you’re on your way.

What to do – Watch the sunsets & get some great material for your instagram! With a multitude of vantage points, its impossible to not get a decent view of the glorious sunsets, preferable enjoyed over an evening meal. Ideally, look to book for 7pm for optimum viewing. Bare in mind however, people do live here, so whilst climbing over rooftops may make for a great photo, residents might not be happy with you clambering over them, so be respectful.

What to bring back – With so many artisan boutiques across Santorini, it is easy to be tempted by all the lovely trinkets on offer. They often come with a pretty price tag however so make sure you save some pennies for your souvenirs!

Sweet Memories and Holiday Blues

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I can hardly believe a month has passed since I jetted off to the beautiful island of Cyprus! As the chill draws in, I find myself looking back at my holiday snaps and trying to transport myself back to that idyllic place…

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A true hub of excitement and life; where drinks flow freely like falling water. A place of chaos and loss; where destruction and pain is rife and fresh in the hearts of many. A dazzling island of beauty; where colours so crystal clear blind you with their brilliance. Or, to a naive girl, stepping on its shores for the first time, simply: Cyprus.

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The anticipation I had for venturing onto the sands of Cyprus had been bubbling for some time. To plan a holiday when the weather is turning to the crisp leaves of autumn, can conjure a sense of dread to many, as their guarantee of endless summer sun can be seen slipping through their fingers. Moreover, planning a stay in an island notorious for its party life during peak plants a seed of panic, as images of boozy filled nights and rowdy travellers, don’t leave much to be desired.

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Yet what wonderment awaited me. Now reaching the end of its tourist season, Protaras was scattered instead with elderly couples coming to soak up the last of the summer sun, young families with infants that squealed with joy at the gentle waves of the sea on their bronzed skin and then of course the locals; once again being able to enjoy their home. A heat of thirty degrees was complimented by a light breeze, which took the edge off the harsh suns glare, making it a perfect atmosphere to laze on the shore with the hum of the ocean as its soundtrack.

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Protaras’ main strip is made up of a tourist’s paradise, with memorabilia shops lining the walkways full of fluorescent colours and gimmicks galore. Yet amidst the tatter it is possible to find some hidden gems; mainly the exquisite bars and restaurants that belonged more on the streets of London, if the weather so permitted, their quality was such. One such was the LemonGrass, a Pan-Asian cuisine that had tempted my eye for the duration of my stay. It was only the last night that I got to try its delights and what a treat I was in for. The food hit every sensation imaginable and I was in awe of the attentiveness of its staff, ready at the slightest of head turn to be of assistance. I could not recommend this eatery enough, if you find yourselves on Cyprus shores, as I am sure it will delight you as much as it did I.

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Travel a few hours West and you will find yourself in Pathos, the cultural heart of the country. The city is awash with historical gems; like the old Grecian bath house, with its beautiful mosaic remains and the reconstructed amphitheatre that I got to witness. It is amazing to think that Gladiators once stood where I did, battling for their life at the hands of another.

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P10689801_10203946119364985_4711781853499803870_nrotaras however, is perhaps more famous for being the birth place of the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. In its oceans can be found three rocks, where it is said the goddess emerged. Legend has it, if you swim around the rocks on the stroke of midnight on a full moon naked, you will be blessed with eternal youth forever. Although I saw no one attempt this (the waves looked far too threatening for a start) it was a picture perfect location for a wedding shoot, which I did gaze upon and the couple looked blissfully in love as they splashed around the waves with only eyes for each other.

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Holidaymakers go year on year, evidenced by the familiarity between staff and residents at The Odessa Hotel, which to note provided excellent service during my stay. My sense of wanderlust and hunger for new adventures would perhaps be the only thing stopping me returning, but I truly believe this is the ideal holiday location from 5 to 75 – there is really something for everyone. I will never forget my time here.

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Smart Guide to Travel

travel essentialsTwo weeks and I shall be stepping (or skipping with joy) onto a plane for some much needed R&R! In the run up to a holiday it’s important to make sure you have all your necessary bits and pieces – and I’m not talking about clothes! I’ve compiled a list of all the essentials to prep before you pack!

  • Travel Insurance – luckily I have a brilliant mum that reminds me of the little things or I would have forgotten this one too! Although you probably – touch wood – are never going to have an accident or illness on holiday, it is so important to make this a priority! If anything were to happen abroad, you want to make sure you’re covered, as it will take ALL the stress away. Boring but necessary folks!
  • Contact Details – before you jet off, it is almost essential in the rules of travel to compile a list of details for various points of contact. First off you’ll want the details of your hotel. There is nothing worse than getting in a taxi and not knowing how to pronounce where you’re going! Having their number also means in emergencies you have a point of contact in the country in which you’re residing. You’ll also want some contacts from back home. I know we live in a world of modern technology but come on – who HASN’T forgotten their phone at some point?
  • Translator – gone are the days when we needed to buy a phrase book if we wanted to converse overseas – now with just a click of a button we have it all free at our fingertips on the internet. So no excuse. You don’t need reams and reams of translations but just a basic grip of greetings and simple common phrases can go a long way! Locals are much more willing to help foreigners who attempt to speak their native language.
  • Lock & Key – even though most hotels offer a lockable safe, this is not always the case and some do require payment. This is obviously the safest option however, by investing in either a coded lock or a standard key lock, this can be attached to your suitcase whilst you’re out of your hotel room, to keep your belongings secure. It is also good practice to use one during travel too – most people forget that your luggage can be at risk in transport too!
  • A Brain – sounds stupid but this is the most important travel essential going! Even the most experienced travellers need to remember this. In a different country we come across different cultures, beliefs and ideas and it’s essential to be mindful of this when exploring. Find out if they require a certain dress code in certain areas before you go parading about in those micro shorts and bikini top – even if it is a zillion degrees! For safety purposes too – don’t go wandering off by yourself in unlit, suspect areas. As a foreigner to the country, you are a prime target for crime because you’ll be at your most vulnerable – it’s just common sense guys!

Keeping your head and being a smart traveller means you’ll have the holiday of a life time WITHOUT the stress or worry!

All that’s left then is to simply… ENJOY!

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Purse Full of Butterflies

Saving Money

Now I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to saving I am TERRIBLE! My ability to budget falls just below average and when I stare into my purse there might as well be moths where money should be. I’d love to say I don’t know how it happens, or that my hard earned cash was going on worthwhile causes but most contributes to my love of fast fashion and exquisite meals. Although making me happy at the time, I ultimately have very little to show at the end of the month and now that I’m starting to think about the future, its not practical for me to go on spending like I am.

Saving for travel can be a hard slog but these are my ideas to cut back for those not willing to cut out everything just yet!

  1. Read online blogs instead of buying magazines – The internet is host to a multitude of amazing blogs which cover everything from fashion to beauty to music to homelife – why waste £3 a week, when I can get high quality articles straight to my screen at the touch of a button, absolutely FREE! This one seems a no-brainer to me!
  2. Treat yourself to a meal deal instead of a fancy meal – Apart from the small extra effort of cooking it yourself, most supermarkets offer high quality deals on an evening meal which include a main dish, side orders, a dessert and a cheeky bottle of wine for a fraction of the cost that a meal out would cost. It makes a perfect romantic night in AND I can enjoy it all whilst watching GBBO in my PJs – a definite win for me!
  3. Look for special offers in your local area – There have been some great movies out this summer (Marvel have outdone themselves) and those set for release of the next few months look equally fantastic. However, I don’t know about you but I can’t justify spending my money on ridiculous ticket prices at the Cinemas! In my local town there is a converted Museum that plays the latest releases for a fraction of the price with ticket prices as little as £3.50!! If you can compromise comfy seating then this makes a perfect alternative. Always be on the look out for things in your area, you never know where you can find a bargain!
  4. Walk instead of getting taxis – Not only does this save you money but its also a healthy alternative to keep you fit at the same time. I love leisurely walks and I find it a great excuse to take in the beautiful countryside surroundings in which I live. If your journey is just too long or is at an unsafe hour then swap your usual taxi for the bus!
  5. Encourage nights in with Friends – A great night out with friends is a perfect way to unwind after a stressful week at work or Uni but the cocktails don’t come cheap and you can often be left hard hit the morning after – and I’m not talking about that hangover! Why not instead invite friends over and encourage them to bring a bottle each. You can even try hosting your own cocktail making party! Drinking AND saving money! What could be better?!

Any other suggestions for me? Leave them in the comments!

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Plans For My Passport

Travel

I’ve been so lucky to travel the world to lots of beautiful and amazing places that I consider myself so fortunate to have witnessed at such a young age. My wanderlust however cannot be quelled and I find myself sat at my desk everyday dreaming off far off places I have yet still to visit. This post was inspired by the gorgeous Kate @ gh0stparties.com who wrote her own ‘Bucket List’ for travel, as I found so many of her destination dreams matching up with my own! 

The older you grow the more commitments you are faced with, making travel a harder and harder thing to do. I’m hoping I can tick off these before I’m 30… Here’s hoping!

New York

For this, I had exactly the same reasoning as Kate, which made me feel like I was not alone in my obsession. Gossip Girl has majorly, if not wholly, contributed to my burning desire to eat my lunch on the met steps or wander through Central Park with my very own Chuck Bass… This is truly the city for cliché dreams and I hope I would also be pardoned for wanting to grab a steaming coffee and a sugary doughnut from a nearby street vendor then go and indulge myself outside Tiffany’s a la Audrey Hepburn. I can’t help feeling a sense of romantic nostalgia for this city in which I have never stepped foot and therefore it rockets to the top of my dream list. 

Australia 

This place lends to my false, tanned laid back persona which I’d like to think I have the potential to be (booI wishporcelain skin forever). Whenever I see an advert for Australia, a wash of calm seems to shower over me and I yearn to be riding a wave or camping under stars. I think Australia is somewhere everyone needs to visit once in their life to enjoy their carefree way of living that seems a world away from our own. Who knows, I may be a surfer girl yet…

Lapland

I don’t quite understand how it is possible that a girl with such an innate and overwhelming love of Christmas as me has managed to get into adulthood without going and seeing Santa in his home town… It doesn’t quite add up! Aside from the fact that this place effectively centres around the most wonderful time of the year it also is the perfect Winter Wonderland fairytale-esque location in which dreams were made of. Although I would quite happily go tomorrow, this is a place I may hold off on until I have children of my own, so I can share the joy and live my love of the season again through them.

Rome

I’ve had the fortune of visiting lots of beautiful places in Italy from Venice to Lake Garda but never have I had the pleasure to explore the riches on offer by Rome. This vast cultural haven is host to some of the worlds greatest treasures and the inner geek inside me wants to soak up everything it has to offer. Plus between my love of the movies “When in Rome” and “Roman Holiday” I have VERY high expectations!

Santorini 

I may be beginning to sound like a broken record but its more movie magic that has inspired my desire to travel to this beautiful island. Whenever I’m in need of an instant feel good, my guilty pleasure has to be Mamma Mia – who can resist breaking into a bit of Dancing Queen when the chorus kicks in?! That gorgeous location has me hook, line and sinker every time and I refuse to believe such a place exists in our world without stepping on its shores myself. Plus, the dazzling white and blue is totally my interior dream and I can’t help but get a little giddy whenever a picture pops up on Pinterest…

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Picture sources: Sydney | Lapland | New York

All other images sourced from : welivedhappilyeverafter.com