shopping

 
 

Destination Greece: Athens

 

Our first vacation to Greece was a hit! What a cool and interesting adventure it was. We decided to travel to Greece in July. I would say it was very, very hot weather wise but it was absolutely worth it. I’m sure it would have been better to travel to Athens in April, May, June, September, October or November. However, our schedules worked best in July so we went with it and made the most of it. It did not disappoint.

Where to stay?

We were a group of 9 (4 adults and 5 children), so we explored options such as villas for our whole group but in the end, we opted for a hotel. I am sure all the options would have been a great experience. For us, however, the hotel we chose was fab! We only had a 3 days before heading to Santorini. It was centrally located so we could walk to most places. It was great!

Hotel Grande Bretagne: The hotel rooms were spacious. The service was efficient. The restaurant on one of the upper floors is the shining star of this hotel. You have a direct view of the Acropolis while you are enjoying a mean. At night it is especially beautiful because they light it up at night!

 

King George Hotel: This hotel is next door to the Hotel Grande Bretagne but well located and also offers views of the Acropolis.

As an added easy attraction, across the street from the above 2 hotels is the Presidential Mansion and Hellenic Parliament. This leads me to my next segment.

What to do?

Changing of the Guards: This happens every hour in Syntagma Square, however, the official ceremony is at 11am on Sundays and is a more grand experience then the hourly ones.

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The Acropolis and Parthenon: This is the main attraction to see when you are visiting Athens for the first time. There is a short but steep walk up but a very nice view on top. It becomes a very tough walk in July when it is extremely hot so carrying lots of water and sun cover such as a hat and even a sun umbrella would be a good idea. You would be happy to have it when you are in the midst of the heat. There are long lines to get tickets and enter so I would strongly suggest that you buy your tickets online and either have the bar code open on your phone or a print out. That way you can go straight in and essentially bypass the long line. If you want to add to your experience you can hire a guide to walk you through and give you explanations on the history. I have to say that I was really proud of all the kids walking up to the top even though they were feeling extremely hot. It was challenging but fun!

The Acropolis Museum: We all enjoyed seeing this museum. You get a chance to see a lot of the parts of the Parthenon that was damaged and you get to learn about the history in more detail. This is a nicely constructed museum. It is small so it can be complete in a few hours.

Doctor Fish: If you are feeling adventurous then this is a very… lets say unique experience! It is a foot spa experience where you put your feet in water with small fish that remove the rough skin from your feet. Very, very odd but worth going to see at least. My 9 and 11-year-old did it. We probably would not do it again but it was an experience that they had fun with… i think! This place is located in Plaka so it is easy to get to if you are walking around the area and exploring.

What to eat?

Athens has a lot of quick and yummy options as grab and go when you are walking around the town. These places are fairly inexpensive as well. We had fun exploring all these small places and since children get hungry every few hours, we did a lot of these little stops.

Dionysos Zonar’s: This is a must restaurant if you are in Athens. The food and views were excellent.

 

 

Tzatziki: This was a kind of a chain but good quick food. The kids were tired and hungry so we stopped for a yummy quick dinner.

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Where to Shop?

Plaka: This is a great area with lots of shops and restaurants. There are mostly local shops where you can purchase clothing, soaps, souvenirs, furs, etc.

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Monastriraki: Another area with lots of shops and cafes and local vendors. You get a real local feel walking around this area. There are lots of jewelry pieces of varying prices and fun little trinkets to look at.

Furs are especially popular item in Athens. Yes, this is very unexpected, but there are a lot of fur shops with authentic furs such as fox or mink or many other varieties.  If you are in the market for this kind of thing, this is a place to look. Make sure to negotiate as well as shop around.

On to the next adventure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Destination West Hollywood

with all the options in Southern California, planning can do nothing short of making your head spin when trying to put together a productive, fun and balanced itinerary of things to do in a matter of 4 days.

The main thing to consider is distance. Distances are great and traffic is a lot. Planning your days wisely can make the whole experience fun without the travel time frustrations.

Where to stay:

The London – this is a hidden gem of a hotel in my opinion. It is located a short distance to many attractions in the West Hollywood area with great amenities of its own. This includes a lovely pool with cabanas on the rooftop, a large human size chess board in a cute courtyard and comfy, spacious rooms.

Shopping:

Rodeo Drive – This is a great location to spend an afternoon. There are great little eating places or places to stop for a coffee. There are also nice luxury shops to engage in a bit of retail therapy or just window shop. Because the shops and outdoors it is a nice place to take a walk. You may even get a glimpse at a few celebrities around the area.

Beverly Center – This is your one stop indoor shopping experience that has all of the big box shops as well as some places to grab a quick bite. If you are looking for a one stop shopping experience, this place has it under one roof.

3rd Street Promenade– Here is a fun place that my children loved. The whole family was able to get a bit of what they wanted. There is beach and sand, and Pier with rides and carnival games, there are restaurants facing the lovely ocean and there is shopping. You can easily spend your whole day in this area. My children loved spending time here.

Attractions/ Sites:

Santa Monica Pier–  This is a fun place to get a full carnival experience, some California sun and some beautiful sand and ocean. It is a great way to spend an afternoon.

 

Universal Studios – This is such a fun place to go with children. You get to experience movie sets and rides that place you inside of the action. My kids loved it here but make sure you give yourself a full day for this as it take time to see all the attractions.

Warner Brothers Studio Tours – Great way to see the inside of Warner Brother studios and their creations. This is an experience that is fun and only takes a couple of hours out of your day.

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Destination London

London has character and lots of it. There are wonderful sights with beautiful architecture and history. There are colors and sounds and flavors to entice the palate of even the most critical of travelers. Most of all, it was fabulous for our family travels and the kids and adults had lots of fun!

 

Where to stay? London is full of options when it comes to accommodations. I went about looking for a place to stay by first deciding what part of the city I would like to be near. I decided I wanted to be centrally located so it was easy and quick to get around the city for day-to-day sight-seeing. At the same time, I wanted to be in a bit of a quiet area so after a long day of sight-seeing, I could come back to a peaceful place. We ended up staying at the Saint James Court Hotel. This hotel did not disappoint. It was well located just steps from the Buckingham Palace. We were able to walk  to the palace to see the changing of the guards. This was a lot of fun for my children. The hotel staff was amazing with the children. As we had arrived on Easter Sunday, the city was very quiet. We arrived at our hotel early in the morning and the staff offered my children hot chocolate in the lobby upon arrival. They loved it after a tiring flight. It just so happened that the hotel was hosting a small Easter egg hunt in the hotel lobby that afternoon. My kids had a great time participating in that event. eggs Another option to consider when looking for a place to stay with children is a serviced apartment. There are several companies that offer this option and can be great if you wanted to have a more at home feeling, yet have some of the amenities of a hotel. I found a great resource of information on this topic to be at the official Visit London site. Lots of staying options in a range of budgets are featured there.

 

What to do? The changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace happen every day at 11:30am.  This ceremonial display of the changing of the guards in a must! One thing to remember is that it is crucial to get there early. I would say about 45 minutes early is a must to be able to see what is happening inside the palace gates. If you get there late the crowds build up and it becomes very difficult to get a close view or any kind of view for that matter.London policeman

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The London Eye is a fun site to see and the kids really enjoy it. It is a giant ferris wheel that lets you see a beautiful view of London. It takes about a half an hour to go around and allows you time to just sit and relax while taking in the sites.

Next to the London Eye is the London Dungeon. If you and your family enjoys a bit of creepy fun then this is the place to go. This is a tour of the historical past of London of things gone a bit wrong.

The Tower of London – this is a very picturesque and historical place to see. When you enter with your ticket you can follow a guide who will give you a narrative about the background of the place. It is very insightful and fun. After the guide is finished, it is well worth going inside the building where the Crown Jewels are housed. They are very beautiful to see.

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Crown Jewels

 

 

London Bridge – This famous Tower Bridge is very beautiful and can be see with the Tower of London. If you want a bit of a frightful and fun experience added to this you can go one of the London Bridge experiences.

 

Where to Eat? Food options are incredible in London. If you are a foodie, this is the place to explore. I have compiled a list of some great eats but please send me some comments on some of your favorites.

Gymkhana – Fabulous Indian dining experience like no other. The food was absolutely outstanding. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Definately worth trying but make sure to book in advance. This is a very popular place and reservations fill up quickly.

Nando’s – If you love some good chicken you must stop and eat here for a quick bite. They serve some amazing grilled chicken with a yummy Peri-Peri sauce that is incredibly good. It comes in different heat levels from mild to very spicy.

St. Moritz – They serve up some nice Fondue and other swiss eats that are great for a rainy London day. The staff is very friendly and the restaurant is small and quaint. My kids loved the fondue experience here, especially the chocolate fondue at the end.

Trishna – Michelin star awarded Indian restaurant worth a try for more upscale experience.

Colbeh – This place has wonderful kebobs and other persian cuisine. This is a great casual place for tasty food for the family. I found this to be a hidden gem. 6 Porchester Pl, London W2 2BS, United Kingdom +44 20 7706 4888

Maroush – They offer up some great Lebanese food. There are several locations around the city, some of which are more casual that others but the food is consistent and yummy.

Selfridges Food Hall – There are some wonderful food options if you are shopping and need to break for a meal. The variety is great and the food is tasty.

Where to shop? Shopping in London is vast and wonderful. The options are endless. You can pretty much find anything your heart desires. I have listed a few to get you started.

Harrods – This is the department store of all department stores. An experience in itself.

Selfridges – A great department store and must see of London. A bit more modern then Harrods but wonderful. It has a luxurious feel to it.

Oxford Street – This street is fun to walk as well as take a few double decker bus rides if your feet get tired. There are endless shops and cafes. Lots of hustle and bustle but lots of fun.

Piccadilly Circus – Worth a trip as it is one of the oldest and busiest squares in London. It reminds me of New York’s Time Square only smaller.

Hamley’s – This is a must see for the kids. My kids enjoyed exploring here. There are 7 floors of fun for kids.

 

 

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Destination Cairo

Cairo, Egypt is such a fun, rugged place to visit. It has many interesting sites for children to fully enjoy as well as adults. It definitely requires some planning with kids for this one but it is well worth it. One piece of Egypt that is very interesting are the Pyramids. The most well know pyramids are the Great Pyramids of Giza. There are, however, many other pyramids that have been built all around Egypt. Some of these Pyramids are not as perfectly balanced as others. It is very interesting to see all the various pyramids because you can really see the trial and error process that went along with creating the perfect pyramids.

Accomodations

My trip to Egypt was brief but memorable. I chose to stay at the Mena House Hotel. This hotel is situated very close to the Pyramids of Giza and is very beautiful. Upon booking this hotel, the hotel staff let us know that we would not be able to have a room with a view of the pyramids as they were booked, however we would have a nice courtyard view. We were fine with this a proceeding to our booking. On our arrival we were greeded at the door with much hospitality. Welcome drinks were offered to us from a very friendly staff. We proceeded to our room. I entered the room and noticed the curtains were drawn. When I went to pull back the curtains I gasped at the beauty. We in fact were put in a room with a view of the Pyramids of Giza. The view was a very close view. There are no words to describe the amazing beauty. The hotel then informed us that they did in fact get an opening for a room with a Pyramid view and therefore they changed our room as we had a request in their system. Wow, Amazing!

There are many wonderful hotels in Egypt. Here is a list of some.

JW Marriott Cairo

Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo – located in a busy part of the city and overlooks the Nile.

What to see

The Pyramids of Giza – The famous Pyramids of Giza and one of the original ancient Wonders of the World are absolutely a magnificent site to see.

The Great Sphinx of Giza – This is a worlds largest and oldest monumental statue that is worth seeing.

Nile Cruise – this is considered a wonderful site to see. I feel personally that it would be much better to take during the day rather then the night and I feel a possible multi-day adventure would be more worthwhile depending on your time restrictions.

Pyramid sound and light show – The pyramid sound and light show is great to see a night perspective of this beautiful attraction. There is a history dialog that is played along with colorful lazer lights. There is a beautiful perspective of the Pyramids, the dessert and the Sphynx as a backdrop.

The Citadel – This is historical mosque worth seeing. During the time of Napoleon he used one of the areas as a stable which created much tension as it made that portion unusable for worship. As a result they built a new area for worship that is absolutely gorgeous and grand.

Egyptian Museum – This is really a fun and interesting museum to see. Seeing the tombs and mummies are very interesting for both kids and adults.

Khan Khalili Bazaar – This bazaar is a lot of fun to visit. There is a twisted maze of shops and vendors selling a variety of goods from clothes to jewelry to housewares. This market allows one to have a very local feel. This is the place to bring cash and your negotiating skills.

Memphis and Saqqara – There are great landmarks to visit here. The pyramid here is one of the earlier pyramids called a step pyramid. The surface looks like steps. It is great if you have a guide to tell you about the background and history.

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Destination Goa

Beautiful Goa, India is a place for pure relaxation. There are miles and miles of beach as far as the eye can see. Our trip to Goa with our children was definitely enjoyable for everyone. There is a sort of rustic charm that surrounds Goa that makes it a must see beach. The local people are very cheerful and happy overall in my experience. Goa has a feel of a newly developed area in an old culture where the kinks are being worked out to make the 2 meet. In the midst, there are many nooks and cranny’s of interesting sights to see. My children had a wonderful time, as did we, exploring all the wonderful and quirky things around us. We found that Goa has a large mix of people from different cultures visiting from all over. In particular, there was a great deal of Russian influence. So much so that many of the street signs were written in 3 languages: Russian, Hindi and English.

beach shacks

Goa is a large span of land and many people distinguish the areas as the south side and the north side. The north side is more populated. There is more of everything… people, restaurants, tourists, hotels. The beaches are filled up with more people and the vendors are plenty. The south side has the same things in much less quantity. The beaches are cleaner with fewer people. The area is relatively quiet in the evenings and it does not have as much activity. Choosing which side to stay on is definitely a matter of the type of vacation you are looking for. If lots of activity is what you want then the north side is the place. If quiet and fewer people is what you want then the south side is what you want.

Map of Goa

Where to stay?

We opted to stay a bit on the southern side in Benaulim Beach. We had a great experience. There are, however, some great places in both sides to fit a variety of budgets.

Some fantastic and beautiful places to stay are the following:

Near Benaulim Beach (toward the southern part of Goa) is Taj Exotica. This is an absolutely beautiful hotel. You feel like you are in a magical place upon entering. The service is wonderful and very kid friendly. The restaurants are amazing as well. This is definitely a pricy hotel but worth if it fits your budget.

A bit further south in Cavelossim Beach is the Leela Goa. This hotel is wonderful and beautiful as well. Great service and a luxury experience.

In Cavelossim Beach as well is the Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa. This resort is a newer hotel. They have a beautiful setting with lots of activities for both adults and children. For children they have a kids club where they do activities and you are able to drop off the kids with great childcare providers for a few hours if you like.

On the north side is a hotel called Vivanta by Taj – Fort Aguada, Goa. This hotel is wonderful and in the mix of lots of activity. There is not much of a beach on this waterfront property as it has eroded away over the years with the tide, however, it is a wonderful hotel and in a great location for the nightlife of north Goa.

What to do?

There are many wonderful things to do in Goa. It was key, however, to hire a car and English-speaking driver during our stay to take us around the areas to see all the wonderful things there were to see. Of course, you can always opt to spend your trip getting massages and enjoying the beach. There are plenty of places to get a massage and many of them specialize in Ayurvedic massages. We opted to do a mix of both sight-seeing and beach relaxation.

A must see in Goa is the Anjuna Flea Market. This market is located near Anjuna beach in the north. It is only on Wednesdays during the day. It is mostly a souvenir market, however, there is a very interesting mix of people, food, and animals to see. My children loved seeing this market.

Cow eating corn

Teas

Lady selling goods at the market

Spices

In Goa, the spice plantations are a great destination. Goa’s dense forested areas make this a wonderful experience . The favorable climatic conditions make it possible for a variety of spices to grow. My children really enjoyed seeing where all the spices come from. The spice plantation we visited was the Sahakari Spice Farms.

This spice market grows a vast variety of spices such as betel nut, cardamom, vanilla bean, chili peppers, as well as many others. The spices that grow high up on the trees are collected by people who climb up the trees and swing from tree to tree to save time and not miss a tree. This was exciting for my children to see.

Worker climbing the tree to retrieve the spices.

Betel Nut

bananas

There are many other activities that are going on at the spice plantation. There were ladies dancing and singing, there were elephant rides and elephant baths, and there was a wonderful lunch served at the end of our tour.

Women dancing and singing at spice plantation.

Elephant getting a bath at the spice plantation.

In Goa, there are lots of Temples and Churches that are wonderful to explore. They have a lot of unique characteristics and beauty in them. They are wonderful to explore when visiting Goa.

What to eat?

Goan food is very unique and wonderful. The food has a blend of flavors that is absolutely mouth-watering. They have a lot of seafood specialities as it is a coastal region, however, there are many options of food for every kind of palette.

I found it wonderful to be able to sit on the beach and taste the wonderful food served at the beach shacks. The servers bring you your food and drink order right to the beach. This is casual but flavorful food. I would say this experience is worth a try indeed. There are beach shacks all over Goa so you would be able to spot them wherever you are on the beach.

Here are some other restaurants in Goa, some of which I have been to and others that have been recommended to me:

Mum’s Kitchen – They offer wonderful Goan cuisine in a charming atmosphere. They strive to preserve the Goan culture and cuisine.

Brittos’s – This restaurant is great for the experience mostly and great if you are spending time on the beach and want to grab and quick bite. They are located on the north side of Goa in Baga Beach (the party central of Goa). The restaurant is on the beach itself with the floor being the sand of the beach. There is a wide variety of foods offered. This is a tourist spot for sure but might be worth seeing.

Allegria – This restaurant is located in the Taj Exotica Hotel in the area near Benaulim Beach. They offer Goan cuisine. This restaurant is wonderful. The food is outstanding and very flavorful. The atmosphere is quaint and luxurious. This is a great outing for a nice dinner.

These are only a handful of the many selections in Goa. If you are looking for other cuisines besides Goan food, there are many to choose from as well. My children had all the selection they needed, as did we to find the type of food we were looking for during our trip.

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Shopping in Paris is never forgotten

There is one part of a trip that I feel is always fun to explore. This is shopping… who doesn’t love a bit of retail therapy in a new place. At least a little bit. In Paris, there is no shortage of shopping. You can do all kinds of shopping in Paris. Antique shopping, art shopping, clothes shopping, chocolate shopping, boutique shopping, wine shopping, cheese shopping, shoe shopping… you name it and it is there. Paris is the mecca for fun, cutting edge, fashion forward… shopping.

I have included a short but definitely not complete list of places to shop in Paris. Of course, I have left much room for your own explorations in Paris.

Champs-Élysées is definitely a mecca for shopping. Though a bit of a touristy street, it is fun and full of shops from large chains, to smaller boutiques, to high-end luxury goods. It is also a good place to people watch as you see people in high fashion walking the streets.

Next there is the le carousel du Louvre. This is a large shopping mall under the Louvre. This is another great place to go for a mix of this and that. Also a bit touristy but full of life and lots of people.

If you wanted to go antique shopping here is a list of a few:

rue de Seine, Paris 6th

Quai Voltaire

Louvre des Antiquaires — they are located across the Louvre on Rivoli Street

If you want to do more department store shopping there is Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. During, the holiday season in December their window displays are gorgeous.

The following shops are some interesting places to pick up some unique finds:

Merci

Cuisinophile

Le petit Atelier de Paris

Le Jardin D’Olaria

L’atelier des Quatres

Happy Shopping!

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