Discover a traditional Greek Island where life is simpler, discover Alonnisos with bloggerRebecca Hall.
Located in the North Sporades, Alonnisos takes eight hours from Athens: three hours by coach to the port at Agios Konstantinos, then five hours by ferry via Skiathos and Skopelos. But as soon as I stepped off the ferry and took in my surroundings, I knew it was worth it.
“Ela!” an elderly lady waved to me from the portside. She was here to collect and drive me up the mountain to her accommodation. “Me lene Artemis.” Artemis ran a small guesthouse, just outside of the main harbour town of Patitiri. After unpacking my things I flopped onto the bed, rolled onto my side, noting I had a gorgeous view of the harbour and sea right from my window.
I must have dozed off. A high pitch screeching (several, actually) greeted my ears. They were the cicadas, complaining in the afternoon heat—by rubbing their legs together, it creates that noise you often hear in the summer in Greece…it cools them down.
A wander back down to the town led me past island jewellery shops; old ladies in black chatting on the steps, stopping to smile as I passed. The bougainvillea wended its way around a white archway…the blues of the door, white and purples looked striking against the equally blue sky. I’m in Greece I remember thinking. Eating fresh octopus in the taverna, I looked down at the beach—people still swimming at 7:30pm. I made plans for the rest of my stay.
During my say, I went on a boat trip around the Marine Park that surrounds Alonisos—home to the quiet and seldom seen Monk Seals. No, I didn’t spot any, but was lucky enough to spot dolphins, go to various hidden coves, the Blue Cave—swim from the boat and eat in the gorgeous harbour town of Steni Vala.
The Chora (pronounced ‘hora’) is the old village of Alonissos, located in the hills. Much of the village was destroyed in the 1965 earthquake, prompting the locals to abandon their houses and move to Patitiri. What’s left is an architectural mix of old properties and beautifully restored holiday homes. Sitting in the Square sipping coffee, views out to the coast on both sides of me, I kicked back and listened to live Greek music, watched the kids running around at 10pm (no need for bedtime rules here) and allowed the atmosphere to embrace me.
Bio: Bex is an unconventional British lass with a degree in International Relations. She’s the wrong side of 35 and only just the right side of 40 and when she’s not off gallivanting around the high seas and writing about it, she’s based in the unconventional country of Greece ( a country that suits her nature very well! ). She’s travelled to, lived and taught English in various places around the globe. She describes herself as a jack of all trades: she’s worked at LHR airport—dealing with high profile passengers, organised people’s lives through her role as P.A. to various individuals and returned to full time education in her early 30’s. All experiences have helped to shape who she is today. Follow Bex on her site, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
A living, breathing seafood soup, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest structure on the planet made entirely by living organisms. Expect a plethora of odd-looking, colourful and often endangered animals swimming at you from all angles. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site, containing some 1500 species of fish. It is without rival, the world’s largest coral reef system, even able to be seen from space. Make sure you get certified before you go though – you’re not Kate Bosworth ok.
Barrier Reef, Belize
Charles Darwin once called this reef “the most remarkable in the West Indies.” Its bubbling, warm waters are home to the world’s largest population of West Indian manatee, and manta ray and spotted eagle ray are fairly common sights. Even hammerhead sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and the oceanic white tip sharks can be spotted by luckier divers (or extremely unlucky, as the case may be). Cuddle with the friendly sea cows (not with the sharks), explore the mangrove-covered islands or swim over to the Big Blue Hole – allegedly the largest sinkhole on Earth. Jacques Cousteau named it his favourite diving spot – no surprise considering this 185-mile-long gigantic wall of unspoilt beauty packs more ecodiversity than any other on the planet.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
You’ll be hard-pressed to find water clearer than the Caribbean waves of Grand Cayman. The island is actually the peak of a mountain, and most of the surrounding former peaks are now underwater, offering sheer drops so you don’t have to go far from the coast to get deep. This also provides shelter from perilous conditions, providing calm and unspoilt beauty for divers. Make sure you check out Stingray City, a series of shallow sandbars, where stingrays have been tamed for years feeding on fisherman’s scraps.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is perfect for the low-budget traveller, as it is a relatively inexpensive place to learn to scuba dive. Thailand’s large Andaman coast offers hundreds of islands, many of which are uninhabited and fringed with spectacular coral reefs. Whale sharks inhabit the waters along with a kaleidoscope of brightly-coloured fish. However, the best bit about choosing Koh Tao is that it has as many nightclubs and bars on the island as there are fish in its sea, so if you’re not a serious diver, and you like your liquid as much in a cocktail glass as you like it enveloping your scuba suit, then this is the place for you.
Although primarily famous for those big hunks of pyramid-shaped mystery erupting from the sand, Egypt is also famous for its incredible diving spots. If you love history and you love diving, this is your spot. An affordable alternative to beaches in Europe or the Caribbean, Egyptian beaches along the Red Sea offer sun-filled holidays and unparalleled waters. The Straits of Gubal are a particularly interesting choice, having claimed dozens of ships over history; shipwrecks, pirate treasure and dead sailors are as much a part of the Sea as the water is and warm, bubbly, tropical coral reefs make the Red Sea feel like one big bathtub.
Although you may have to deal with the teenage shrieks of ‘Spring Break whoooooooo!’, Cozumel is not just a paradise for meathead jocks and bottle blonde cheerleaders. The warm, clear waters of this Atlantic superhighway make it a diver’s dream. The Gulf Stream in particular is a prime scuba spot – the experience lending itself to something on the long the lines of being Superman, only with more fish. But with nineteen distinct reefs to choose from and a host of deep dives that go down as far as 3,000 feet, Cozumel is a scuba diver’s playground. For awesome tunnels, caves and caverns, there are few better locations.
The Deep South in the USA is known for its hospitality, big personalities and as the birthplace of Elvis, the most famous jazz clubs that side of the Atlantic and food that is out of this world. Join us as we go one of the Great American Road Trips through the Deep South.
Start in Atlanta, Georgia an energetic city that’s home to world class southern hospitality. Rent a car, hop in and get some travellin’ tunes to get you on your way. Visit the High Museum of Art, or hike the Infamous Appalachian Trail to kick-start your adventure. As you pass through you’ll probably recognise bits of it from movies like Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes and, erm, Deliverance.
In Tennessee, you’ll find Graceland, where Elvis spent the last years of his life. It’s an intriguing and moving place to visit. Fans make the journey from all over the world to pay their respects to the man known as ‘The King’. Sun Studios is like taking a step back in time and blues, gospel, country and rock ‘n’ roll fill the air.
You couldn’t go on a Deep South road trip and not visit Sweet Home Alabama. If there’s time, dip across the border and head for FAME or Muscle Shoals sound studios. These hosted some of the best acts in the world like Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and Otis Redding. If you go even further, just outside Birmingham a stop by the Talladega Superspeedway will leave your head reeling, in a good way. A stop in Scottsboro at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where airline lost luggage is unpacked and sold could give you a couple of bargains or something totally weird, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. Don’t forget to order grits for breakfast and ice tea with lunch to fit in, in Alabama.
A stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and discovering the Grand Ole Opry makes Nashville a great addition to the trip. There is excellent live music in bars throughout the city ‘til late and Biscuits at Loveless Cafe are something an institution. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis will have you tapping your foot in no time and the city is known for some of the best BBQ, with hundreds of places for a pitcher of beer and some broiled ribs or pulled shoulder pork.
Mississippi’s Highway 61 is called the cradle of the Blues. At the crossroads between 61 and 49 you’ll find the spot where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for phenomenal guitar playing skills. Clarksdale is home to the Delta Blues Museum and the Ground Zero Blues Club juke joint is within touching distance. The Shack Up Inn is a real taste of southern hospitality.
Head for Jackson and eat at the infamous Two Sisters Kitchen, a buffet style in a traditional 1903 home. The all-you-can-eat price includes okra, cheese grits and skinless fried chicken. After a refuelling like that, the great outdoors might beckon; there are hiking trails, horse riding and activities in the gorgeous countryside around or you could visit your first ever rodeo at the Dixie National Livestock Show.
Continue your road trip to Louisiana to tickle your taste buds with a bowl of gumbo (everywhere has a difference recipe) or alligator sauce picante in Thibodaux. Then on to Lafayette, one of the best known music towns in the States, filled with Creole dancehalls, Cajun rhythms and zydeco music.
Finish up in New Orleans the legendary city of jazz on the Louisiana Delta. There are dozens of clubs to discover in the Big Easy, there are no closing times, so you can stay all night. And with jazz and blues, Latin, R&B, gospel, rock, cajun and everything in between you could stay for months without discovering it all. Go in February or March when you’ll find Mardi Gras, in April there’s jazz and international festivals, while in October there is the Angola Prison Rodeo and Art Festival.
Paris – je t’aime. You are the ultimate city break, a haven of girlish fantasy, a macaroon paradise, a swish, sassy, chic enclave of all things hip and fabulous. Dive in our posh girls guide to Paris.
It’s a given that Paris is every girl’s dream getaway, from the shopping to the eating to the dancing the night away. But the posh girl in Paris is looking for that je ne sais quoi, which isn’t found in most guides to Paris. We assumed that you fine ladies may have better things to do than trawl the Internet looking for establishments that cater to your er… calibre (filing nails, sipping from teacups etc etc), so we created this list of Paris’ best posh girl must-do’s. Don’t mention it.
This new hotel, part of the Elegancia group, was designed by Paris it-boy Ora-Ito and inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rather than typical hotel rooms, Hotel O comprises 29 cabins, in a space vessel style, cutting guests off from the hectic Parisian streets and and Etienne-Marcel shopping meccas at its doorstep. Each room has a unique colour scheme, built with four materials: wood, cork, felt and Corian, to create a harmonious blend of clean lines and smooth curves. The breakfast room doubles as a bar, serving a short range of cocktails using quality, often organic spirits.
The history of Parisian tea salons is lovingly linked to the history of the Ladurée family. In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée opened his first a bakery at 16 rue Royale in Paris. The decoration of the pastry shop was entrusted to Jules Cheret, a famous turn-of-the-century painter and poster artist, who sought inspiration from the painting techniques used for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Garnier Opera. Now with salons all over Paris and beyond, Laduree have become famous for their macrons – small, round cakes, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle, in various colours and flavours. No posh girl could complete their trip to Paris without having a macaron or two at the original tea salon on rue Royale. Decorated in original wood paneling, with a cascade of angels and gourmet fairies on the ceilings, this unique café is a symbol of the French art of living.
Gallic gastronomic grandeur meets old school glamour at Hotel Meurice in the heart of Paris. It has the skeleton of all typical Parisian fine eateries – mosaic floor, crystal chandeliers, heavy damask curtains – but has recently had a super-modern overhaul by designer Phillipe Starck. Chef Yannick Alléno bagged a third Michelin star in 2007, due to his brilliantly inventive cooking, which is based on a deep knowledge of classical Escoffier vintage culinary technique. Flex your posh girl muscles with a course of In addition to crispy green ravioli with a fricassee of snails and wild garlic.
It would almost be a crime to stay in Paris and not take a visit to staple French fashion house, Chanel. The masters of timeless luxury, their window displays at the rue Cambon location are particularly beautiful.
It’s true that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but in Paris, costume diamonds are the posh girl’s. Bijoux Burma offers the best of both worlds, presenting a variety of colourful precious gems in bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings and broaches, as well as costume jewellery that is arguably even more spectacular.
THE TASTE OF PARIS
Drink tea with a difference at W Lounge
A place to don your new purchases and dance to Paris’ hottest DJs spin, while sipping one of W Lounge’s signature cocktails. This innovative cocktail menu, crafted by W Hotels Worldwide Director of Cocktail Culture, Joseph Boroski, contains only the most fabulous drinks in Paris. Managed by one of the city’s top bar experts, Aurélie Panhelleux, the W Lounge even offers Do It Yourself Cocktail Sessions on a Tuesday and a unique twist on teatime with their exclusive Cockteals tea-infused drinks.
Sip champagne at The Ritz
With a hardcore following of young and trendy Parisians, The Ritz Bar Terrasse, weather permitting, is the place to be in Paris. With a collection of chic and comfortable outdoor lounge chairs, which overlook the interior courtyard of this legendary hotel, when you’ve made this kind of mark on the world of luxury, there’s really no other option, but to have your own champagne label. Enter the Ritz Brut and Ritz Brut Rose. Perfect for spending a Parisian evening nibbling on fresh strawberries, and drinking bubbles with a loved one, if you don’t want to go for their delicious own brand, you can of course indulge in some Cristal (995 Euro), Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque (500 Euro) and Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé (600 Euro) by the bottle.
Another astonishing interior under the belt of Philippe Starck, this hotel is a decadent, art-filled rebellion of colour, pattern and texture. Stark’s own interpretation of 1930s Paris. Then came the spa: an ethereal, snow-white world of plush lounging spaces, the longest swimming pool in any Paris hotel and fabulous treatments by Clarins. Try the Balance of Power face treatment by My Blend (€295 for 105 minutes), which uses a combination of eight creams and seven boosters, chosen by the therapist from a possible 400.
Get done at Doux Me
The Doux Me beauty room at Hôtel Costes offers personalised facials, body treatments and massages, using only organic products and vegetable-based oils that will leave your posh-girl skin feeling, soft, smooth and revitalised. Created for women, by women, this is ever Sloane Ranger’s dream pampering sesh.
Gothenburg, as its name may suggest, is vastly infested with activities for the darkly inclined. While as a goth, you may prefer to explore at night, there are plenty of places where you can seek refuge from direct sunlight in Sweden’s second city.
Gothenburg in winter
Begin your gothic getaway in the defunct, graffitied power station situated beside the giant Älvsborgsbron. Now known as Röda Sten, this is one of Sweden’s coolest art centres. Here you’ll find many of your own kind amongst it four gritty floors, along with a number of modern art exhibitions. Wear head-to-toe black and stand ominously in a corner, shocking unbeknown tourists who will only assume you’re part of some morbid, avant-garde installation.
The building also houses an indie-style cafe with summertime riverside seating (avoid), weekly live music (enjoy) and offbeat one-offs like punk bike races, boxing matches and stand-up comedy (definitely avoid – cracking a smile is not good for your image).
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was based in Sweden
Hungry after a day’s hard gothing about, why not head over to the Salrosen restaurant. Unfortunately, they do not serve fresh blood or bat’s heads, but they do serve up some mean vegetarian cuisine, which is pretty much second best. A 1970s survivor, this laid-back student haunt is a Haga institution (note the photos of passed-on regulars above the counter). Or if that’s not your bag, head along the leafy Vasagatan Boulevard, to Java Kaffebar, a café thick with dreadlocks, dyed hair and nipple rings.
Where else would you find a goth than in… a cemetery, of course. The Eastern cemetery in Gothenburg was designed by architect J. H. Strömberg and is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Scandinavia (n.b. we mean this in the way a dead bird is beautiful, not a glorious sunrise – that’s just sick). The huge hill on its west side hosts some magnificent mausoleums, perfect for doing some après-dinner Ouija boards.
Next hot foot it to Barbarella, which opened in 1991 as a store for fetish clothes and shoes. After frequent requests from customers and some appearances on MTV, Barbarella decided to stop selling clothes and became a full-time piercing studio. The studio is now located at Lilla Drottningatan in the city center of Gothenburg, offering our customers the largest and widest collection of piercing jewellery in the whole of Scandinavia. Get yourself sufficiently perforated with as much metal as you can fit in your face, then take your transformed image on a Gothed-up night out.
Home to Swedish death metal bands such as Nihilist and Carnage, Gothenburg offers an excellent after-dark scene for the goth crowd. The street Andra Långgatan has become a hub for the alternative and creative occupation of Gothenburg, with new bars, cafes and unusual shops popping-up all the time. Truckstop Alaska is an underground rock bar in the heart of the former industrial districts of Hisingen. Although you have to be a member to get in, the hassle of joining will only add to the feeling that you’ve stepped into some dark enclave of the occult, where all kinds of sordid affairs take place…