Santorini vacation

Getting there :

We started from Stuttgart , Germany. The connection to Athens was with Lufthansa Airlines. From Athens to Santorini it was Aegean Airlines. If you plan to take a ferry from Athens to Santorini consider the time it takes to reach the port from the airport. During our return it took us a good part of 2 hours to reach from the port to the airport with the shuttle.

Stay :

If you want to have a quintessential vacation at Santorini then book for a place overlooking the caldera at Fira or Oia. We settled for a reasonably priced EcoXenia studio apartment at Oia (pronounced hee-ah). This place was away from all the noise and had a good view of the Aegean Sea from the terrace.

Visit Timing :

We visited Santorini in September and we had to best of the weather and there was no big crowd.

Things to do :

If you are for beaches then you are probably at the wrong place. Make no mistake , Santorini has one of the best views of nature. The caldera will be one of the best places I have seen. But Santorini is not the place if you want beaches.

Hike from Fira to Oia :

So coming to the point, the most beautiful Santorini experience is the hike from Fira to Oia. Just start from Fira and walk towards Oia along the edge of the caldera. Be prepared with good footwear and carry water. Start some time at around 15:00 and  you will make it to Oia for the famous sunset. At least for us this experience was the highlight of our vacation.

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Go around Oia :

The host where we stayed told us that Oia is classic Santorini and Fira is more commercial. So make it a point to walk in the narrow alleys and the passages at the edge of the Caldera. The houses and churches unlike Fira have the classical white walls and blue domes. Also in the evening not only the sunset but the colours of the sky right after the sunset is worth seeing.

Some other less interesting places:

The beach at Perissa was the only beach in the Island that was worth spending time. Also the taverns at the beach have good fish for reasonable price.

The ancient site of Akrotiri can be visited if time permits. Its nothing spectacular but if you interested in the topic of Atlantis then this place has some connection.

The rest of the time we spent in our accommodation overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Getting around :

One can rent ATV , cars or two wheelers. Cars would be the safest option as the traffic can be erratic sometimes. The other option would be busses. The ticket prices are very cheap. The connectivity and the frequency is also not bad. Although keep in mind that the busses might not be on time always.

Return :

For the return trip we took a ferry from Athinios (Santorini) to Piraeus (Athens). It was a BlueStar ferry. The tickets can be purchased at any travel agent in Fira. During the month of september we did not have to do an advance booking. Most of them offer standard prices. There is always a bus one hour before a ferry departure from Fira to the port. If it’s a late night ferry then carry adequate jackets as it can be really cold at night even though the days are very warm.

Paris to Barcelona 4 days itinerary

Flight Tickets:For cheap flights availability check http://www.kayak.fr/ or http://www.opodo.fr/.I only check for the availability here.I usually book directly on the website of the airliner.I had booked tickets on Ryan Air as it worked out cheaper for me.The downside of booking on Ryan Air is that the airports where these flights operate are far from the city.Hence consider the charges required to reach the airport before booking on these budged airliners. Also do a lot of searching on the net before booking the tickets.I usually search for 3 days before deciding on the flights.This holds no matter how cheap the flight tickets appear on the first few attempts of searching.

Time of visit: We visited during the middle of november and it was nice.There were some showers but it was not bad.

Place of stay: We stayed at a youth hostel Be Mar Hostel. It was a perfect place with good breakfast.The location very close to Rambla Del Raval has a great night life.The best part was that the front desk of the hostel is open 24*7.

Places of Interest: We found the night life in the Rambla Del Raval as the best part of Barcelona.But below are the places we visited during the day.

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia:

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Beautiful gothic structure dedicated to Saint Eulalia and contains her tomb.Its the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.I found the colour of the interior to be strikingly beautiful.

Arc de Triomf:

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It’s a beautiful Arc made of Reddish bricks.The promenade where is stands is a nice place to relax.

Sagrada Família: 

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Probably the most ambitious art project I have come across.Still incomplete yet a marvel.The construction started in the yea 1882 and is estimated to be completed in 2026.Its funding currently is completely from the ticket sales.Take the lift to climb the towers.The view from the tower is stunning.

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc:

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A great display of colour and lights.One of the highlights of the trip.

Barcelona FC Stadium:

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If you are into football then a visit to the Barca FC stadium is the first thing on the mind for a Barcelona trip.Book tickets for the stadium and the museum online here. There is no better place to know the history of the club than here.When we visited the golden boot won by Messi was on display.The cabinets of trophies is also impressive.The stadium when we visited was the biggest in Europe.

Parc de la Ciutadella:

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A large park with a beautiful fountain.A good place to take a break.Dont miss the metallic mammoth at the entrance of the zoo.

Beaches:

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We just spent one evening at the beach.It was quit and nice.In spite of all the hype we found it pretty normal.

Day trip to Montserrat:

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If time permits don’t miss Montserrat.Take the cable car from the bottom of the Montserrat to the monastery.The experience is one of the best I ever had.Although the monastery is beautiful and all,the trek was the best part.Although a bit challenging it was worth the effort.

Park Güell:

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This part is all Antoni Gaudi. It has extravagant mosaic work.Although a lot of visitors it was a little gaudy for me.

Stuttgart to Blautopf


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Getting there

As it’s in Baden Wurttemberg a BW ticket would suffice .

Schedule of trains

Check for the schedule of trains from Stuttgart to Blaubeuren. The basic BW tickets allows only second class travel. First class travel can be availed for a small extra fee. Please check DB website here. Most of the connection require you to get off at the Ulm and catch the second train to Blaubeuren. From Blaubeuren station Blautopf is a 20 minutes walk. Take the Karlstrasse right in front of the station followed by the Klosterstrasse. Take a right where the Klosterstrasse meets Lindenstrasse. After a few metres you will be at the Blautopf.

What to do there

If you are into trekking or extreme bicycling there are some trekking routes here. If you just want to relax then one can sit beside the beautiful spring. There are restaurants  around the place as well. We found it an ideal place to spend an afternoon there.

Paris on a budget

 

Getting there

We started from Stuttgart, Germany. The practical options would be to rent a car, take the train or bus.  The train is the most convenient and bus is the cheapest option but the most inconvenient. Inconvenient as it takes forever to reach the destination, and since the seats are not allocated at booking time there is a chance that you might not get to sit together in case  you are travelling as a couple. The train connection either the TGV or the ICE takes approximately 4 hours and is very convenient.

Stay

Paris is generally expensive throughout the year.  Look for good deals on booking.com and airbnb.  Look for accommodation within zone 1 and 2 if you plan to stay for less than 3 days. Staying inside the city has it advantages.  This allows ease of itinerary planning and not worrying too much about long distance travel. Also it allows one to experience the Paris nights, the walk beside the river Seine and the various  places of interest like the Eiffel tower, Louvre pyramid and Notre Dame look amazing during the night.

Getting Around

Paris is best explored on foot. Hence plan for at least 3 days to cover the most famous point of interests. For the odd metro travel we bought the booklet of tickets (called carnet).  There are also various tourist passes offered. Check them on the official website : https://en.parisinfo.com/

On weekends and holidays, if you are below the age of 25 look for discount tickets.

Best time to visit

We went in March and it was perfect. The warm weather lasts until September. The early part of the winter until beginning of December is not bad though.

Places of interest

Notre Dame

The name translates to Our lady. It’s the Kilometer Zero of France and a good place to start. The cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. It has no entrance fee and there won’t be much waiting to get inside. If you are lucky there might be a grand piano performance going on. If time permits go around the outside of the church it’s as spectacular as the inside.

Latin Quarter

A lively cultural scene with lot of bars and restaurants. A good place to have your lunch break. if you are a book lover do not miss Shakespeare and Company.

 

Eiffel Tower

Be prepared for a long queue. But worth the wait. Try to reach at the top when the evening turns to dark so that you can enjoy both the day and night view of the city.

Arc De Triomphe

A massive structure build to commemorate one of Napoleon victories.  Get to the arc via the underpass and not by crossing the wide road.

Champs-Élysées

A long avenue where all the posh brands have their shops. From the Arc de Triomphe walk up till the Concorde monument. If you are a Ferrari enthusiast then this is the best place where you can catch a glimpse of one. The Concorde obelisk , even though it looks shiny, is actually 3,300 years old.

Louvre Museum

It’s overwhelmingly big. Read before your visit about what interests you. Otherwise you will only return exhausted. Also if your sole interest is to see the Mona Lisa then learn beforehand as to why it is so famous else I can assure you that you are in for a disappointment. If you want to do it for free then the first Sunday of every month is the time to visit. But you will have to endure a long queue.

Sacre Coeur

It’s another beautiful church perched on the Montmartre. Its the highest land point of Paris.

La Chappelle

Good place to find customized Indian food. The hotel named Sarvana Bhavan is definitely worth a try. It serves only vegetarian food.

Seine Cruise

We took the Bateau Mouches and it was a pleasant experience. It was a budget cruise which takes about an hour. More lavish options with disco and dinner are also available.

Walk beside the Seine

A walk on the banks of the Seine during the twilight is an awesome experience. There will be a lot of street performances. Also the light reflecting from the water is unforgettable.

Stay Safe

Paris is a political and the financial capital of France hence there are all kinds of people. So take precautions around areas like Barbes Rochechouart , La Chappelle and Montmartre.  Pigalle is the famous red light area so don’t fall prey to the pimps. These places are known for crime and pick pockets. Do not indulge in gambling you are bound to lose money.