Become a Photographer

Well, folks, this is my last monthly travel tip of the year! I can’t believe how fast 2018 has gone by! If you want me to continue my Travel Tip Tuesday monthly blog posts, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!
Travel Tip Tuesday
This year has been very busy for travel; by the end of the month, we will have covered 12 countries in 12 months. Since returning to Canada last Christmas, we have been to Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, France, The Czech Republic, Germany, South Africa, back to Canada and France, and soon flying to Spain and Denmark. It has been an epic year, and I feel so incredibly lucky for all the adventures! I know one day the years will go by faster and faster and may eventually blur together, so my take away for this month’s tip is to take lots (and lots) of photos when you travel!
Take Photos!
Each trip is unique and if you travel like us, it may be your only time visiting that city or country for several years. The places you eat, visit, and people you meet, will likely only happen once in a lifetime. So don’t be shy about taking photos (or videos). Photos will help you remember when you are older, can be shared with family members who are not able to travel, will be a learning tool for younger generations, and are really the ultimate souvenir!
Souvenirs
Souvenirs can start to clutter your home, break in transit, or take up space in your bag. Don’t get me wrong, we collect plates, magnets, etc when we travel, but photos are priceless. They literally cost you nothing!
Tourists
It’s OK to look and act like a tourist, it is your trip after all, so take your photos! Obviously be smart about where you store your phone and how you carry your camera though, especially in busy public spaces prone to pickpocketers. We like to use a general rule that our photo taking opportunities should not impact surrounding people. For instance, taking photos should not block other people’s views, hold up lines, disrupt traffic flows or draw too much attention. Most importantly, once you capture that picture perfect moment, put your camera away and simply enjoy being in the moment and take in your surroundings. What does it look like? Taste like? Smell like? What is something unique about what you are seeing or experiencing? Make sure you actually enjoy it with your own eyes and not just through a lens. Don’t just walk from one landmark to the next to get a single photo just to prove they have been there because honestly, nobody cares where you have been. Travel for you and your personal experiences. Pictures are great, living in the moment and truly enjoying the experience is best; when you relive the moment through your photos in years to come, the memory will mean more because it will be a strong emotional experience.

My last note: To cut down the time spent to capture “the shot”, take some photo lessons or watch some tutorials online. Minimizing time spent behind the lens allows for more unobstructed experiences.

Do you like to take lots of photos when you travel? Do you have any travel questions for next year’s Travel Tip Tuesday posts? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Money Money Money

Travel Tip TuesdayToday is Travel Tip Tuesday! Novembers tip is about finances, not necessarily my strong suit, though a topic that should be covered, especially when so close to Christmas shopping. When travelling we all hope for a picture perfect trip with no frustrating situations, and often the unexpected can happen. Here are some ways to protect yourself from money theft and getting stuck in an unpleasant vacation.

When travelling, I always pack several different cards with me (both debit and credit). Even if the intent is not to use all of them, sometimes your bank may block a card, or your card simply won’t work in that specific country (It’s happened to me in Poland and South Africa). So just in case, I always bring a few cards which are all linked to different outlets. I would suggest keeping at least one tucked away in your room, in case your purse or bag gets stolen! On that note, it may be a good idea to give your bank a heads up that you will be travelling – depending on the institution you may be able to do this online for convenience.

Cards are great, and as they say, cash is king…sometimes. Some restaurants will not accept cards, in Europe you may need change for the water closet, and transit can be tricky to pay for when in a rush. Flea markets are usually cash only and normally a good way to bargain is by only showing them a small bill or a few coins. Cash is also good in case of emergency! I also suggest splitting between your wallet, bag, sock and money belt. It will seem a bit ridiculous, especially when taking off your shoe to pay for something, it will at least offer some protection against losing everything to an opportunistic pickpocket. This hidden cash can get you a meal, somewhere to sleep, and a call home for help.

I never owned a money belt until we went to South Africa. And now, I think they are a great investment. I’d suggest not using it as a replacement for a purse and only for the essentials (this includes your passport/residence card, one bank card, a photocopy of health cards and a bit of cash). Have it hidden under your clothes, and don’t go digging for it in public. This way even if your purse gets snatched, you can still get home.

I get this sounds a bit paranoid and over the top; as safe as you may feel in your surroundings, you never really know what can happen when abroad in a strange land. Neighbourhoods can look fantastic when the sun is up, which can drastically change after sunset. Why test it? Be prepared and therefore you can worry a bit less about logistics and more about enjoying your trip!

Money

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa Part 2

South Africa
If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest doing so first! South Africa is way too amazing to cover in just one post so I have split my top 10 favourite stops into two posts. So let us dig right in with what to know for your Safari game drive!
Elephants in South Africa
6) Park It: We did two game drives through Addo Elephant National Park. This park is the 3rd largest in all of South Africa and was created in 1931 to provide sanctuary for the remaining elephants in the area.  The cool thing is that all the animals and vegetation in the park are originally from that area. The park rangers prevent the influx of animals (such as giraffe and cheetahs) and any vegetation that does not actually originate from that area. They have over 700 elephants, along with buffalos, rhinos, zebras, antelope, hyenas, monkeys, ostrich, lions (rare to see as they only have 14 in the entire park) and the largest population of the flightless dung beetle! Our first drive was insanely early in the morning (up for 3:30 am), and it was chilly! Be prepared with layers, it is cold. We thought ahead and brought fleece, gloves and hats. We were there in September, which is their spring, so most days have a bit of a crisp breeze, with a nice warm afternoon in the sun. I found that the animals were more active on our second drive in the afternoon, as the watering hole was the meetup spot for almost 50 elephants!
J Bay
7) Surfer Dude: If you are a surfer, or think now is the time to learn, ride the waves in Jeffrey’s Bay! Jeffrey’s Bay is in the top 5 most famous surfing destinations in the world and hosts the annual World Surf League. This town was pretty quiet during our visit, as summer has not started yet, but I can see the potential during the peak surfing season for sure. It did have some cute souvenir shops, an awesome beach with a quickly rising tide, and beautiful accommodations at Mandyville Hotel, who were super accommodating to us with gluten allergies (which is quite rare).
Cape Town
8) Cape Town: A must see on this side of the Western Cape is Table Mountain. You can get to the top via a cable car (book your tickets ahead online and be prepared for a long line up), or by a 2-hour hike. We opted for the cable car as we had limited time to explore and wanted to spend most of our time viewing from the top, turns out, either option takes the same amount of time during peak times. Once there, you will have incredible views of Cape Town and it’s Harbour on one side, and the never-ending ocean on the other. The landscape is rocky with some bushes and adorable Dassie’s running around (A gopher like animal, actually related to the elephant family surprisingly). We were lucky enough to experience this at sunset and had a view that would give Santorini a run for its money. However, if you stay that late you will have to wait for HOURS to take the cable car down, and be prepared for lots (and lots) of butting on epic proportions. In Cape Town, I would also suggest my usual, a free walking tour. That way you can explore the city on foot safely with a guide, and learn about the history and politics of the country. We did feel rather unsafe in Cape Town, we were harassed for about 6 blocks by an aggressive homeless man and nobody stopped to help us out. We ended up going into a store and waited for the person to leave. It really ruined the vibe of the city for us.
South Africa
9) Townships: I don’t recommend heading to a Township on your own. These government made neighbourhoods have high poverty and practically no employment. They are so bad that even our Uber driver would not venture to one. If you do, go with a guide in at least a small group and ONLY during daylight hours. I’m not even exaggerating this. We made a quick stop at Kayamandi Township and met with a wonderful local who made homemade Xhosa treats such as amagwinya (deep-fried dough bread, not so great for your stomach If you are GF) and chakalaka (a vegetable spicy relish, great for vegetarians). She also explained the traditional wardrobe that women would wear to a wedding (how fitting since we were on our honeymoon) and filled our stomachs and hearts. Within the first 30 seconds of exiting her house, we had someone threaten us for our cameras, so we quickly got into the van and left.
Baboons
10) Baboons: If you are driving along Cape Point, you are bound to see these creatures at some point (usually near mountains) We stopped to take photos of the baboons on the side of the road. However, I warn you not to get too close. As adorable as these old world monkeys are, they are not pets. They can be very aggressive (especially if you have food) and are incredibly smart (they can zip open your purse, inspect your lipstick and open car doors). So make sure to leave space between you and them if you decide to get out of your car! Also, watch out for traffic, but that’s a given.
Elephant Hugs
The great thing about driving in South Africa is that every 100 Km, the scenery drastically changes. The ecosystem is so diverse that one moment you are gazing up at snow-topped mountains, and the next fields of the canola flower. Instead of cows you will see Springbok (an antelope, apparently they taste delicious), and will constantly want to stop for photos, guaranteed! I had no idea that South Africa would be so rich in landscape, really I envisioned walking into The Lion King, but it is so much more than that. It is a beautiful country with an immensely long list of things to do and see, filled with welcoming people, magnificent wildlife and delectable food. If you have the opportunity, book your tickets and go see for yourself!
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa: My Top 10 Favourite Stops

Sunset in South Africa
South Africa is a beautiful country, with so much to see and do. We spent over a week there for our honeymoon, and covered a lot of the southern coast, driving more than 5,000 KM along the Garden Route with Hot Spots 2 C Tours. I highly recommend this company (and by the way, this is not an ad, I am not being endorsed for saying this), they were safe, accommodating, fun and both of our tour guides were a dream! They took care of everything from hotels, to excursions, nightly restaurants and pit stops along the way. Since this was an epic trip to cover, I’m going to share with you my top 10 favourite stops in South Africa in 2 parts!
Cape Agulhas
1) Cape Agulhas: This charming stop has something quite magical about it with the picturesque lighthouse and the romantic boardwalk pathway. The path is best done at sunset. My favourite part was the most southern tip of Africa, this is where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet (there’s a sign so you know when you arrive). Some say you can see a distinct line where this happens, I think that’s a tourist grab to incline people to check it out for themselves – we did not see this so-called line. Perhaps the locals will blame it on the rough water that day. Either way, it’s gorgeous with super cool geological features to check out!
Stellenbosch
2) Stellenbosch: One of my personal highlights of the entire trip. This quaint town reminded me of Canada’s Niagara on the Lake wine region. It is old and cute, and famous for their wine, which you know I love. If you are staying there, be sure to stop at Wijnhuis Wine Bar & Restaurant for a great wine sample platter with your dinner. The food was a bit overpriced (tourist pricing), however, the wine was not! If you are looking to visit a winery check, out Simonsig to sample MCC (Methode Cap Classique is the South African version of Champagne), though they did not offer any tour (via Hot Spots 2 C), so keep that in mind. Our favourites from the tasting were the Kaapse Vonkel Demi Sec 2015 and the Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2005, yum! In Stellenbosch, we stayed in an old Victorian house turned into a bed and breakfast. It was decorated with antiques, with each room having its own unique theme; ours even came with silver plated snuffer candle holders to light your room! I highly recommend staying at this gorgeous place with a secret garden in the back. Check out Caledon Villa Guest House HERE. A little Bonus tip for you, not too far away, there is another great town called Franschhoek, South Africa’s epicurean capital. In this 17th century town, travel to more wineries, or walk around sightseeing down the main boutique-lined street.
Penguin
3) Marine Life: South African is known for its wildlife both on the ground and in the sea. In Hermanus Bay, you can sit on a patio, or on the edge of a cliff, and watch whales surface in the bay all day long. In fact, Hermanus is known as one of the best whale watching locations in the world during whale season from June to November. We were there for an hour and saw over a dozen whales. It was incredible. Not far from there is Betty’s Bay that hosts a thriving African Penguin colony. This is now one of the only remaining breeding grounds of the African penguin. Walkthrough and prepare to say “Awww” at least a dozen times, maybe more! If you want a bit more danger, then head to the fishing town of Gansbaai for some shark cage diving! Stay tuned as I will be dedicating a whole blog post to this, as it was a once in a lifetime experience. It’s exciting, exhilarating, a bit cold, and prepare for seasickness, but worth every penny! If you want to watch a short video of our shark cage diving experience (the shark sticks its head IN THE CAGE!), check it out HERE!
Bungy Jump South Africa
4) Adrenaline: If you are more on the active side and desire adventure, then you have some great options! You can bungee jump from the world’s highest bridge bungee in Tsitsikamma Forest, or there you can also hike and hop along the suspension bridges overlooking the ocean (there is a great restaurant with a view nearby). Still craving the adventure there? Then zip line across a waterfall and river gorge! I tried this and although I was a bit nervous, okay a lot nervous, it turned out to be an absolute blast!
Oudtshoorn Ostrich Farm
5) Oudtshoorn: Hands down a winner in my books. This stop was unforgettable! Just outside of town is an Ostrich pet farm, allowing you to feed and hug these odd looking creatures. I could stay there all day if our schedule allowed it. These worlds’ largest birds are flightless and adorable, though quite dense. Ostrich rides are no longer offered as it can be incredibly dangerous (to the rider, not the bird) and short-lived. Be sure to pick up an Ostrich egg as a souvenir! You can find them engraved and painted, or etched and turned into a candle holder. For a short video on our highlights at the Ostrich farm check out this video HERE. If you are in Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves are simply a must do! They offer different tours through the caves for various levels of athleticism; we opted for the adventure tour. It was a bit tough carrying cameras (DSLR, 360 camera, cell phones), so I suggest to leave them behind if you can. On this tour, you are crawling, twisting, sliding and climbing your way through small passageways. It is very tight and slippery on the path, so make sure you are actually up for it. No bathrooms once you get started, so be sure to go first as you will be gone for a while a couple of hours. If you are not a cave or bird fan don’t worry, you can hug, feed and walk with elephants at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge nearby instead!
Honeymoon Selfie
I’m going to end here for now, but stay tuned for my next post with the remaining 5 stops to make in South Africa. I’ll cover the townships, an honest review of Cape Town, what to keep in mind for your Safari game drive and more!

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Cheers,
Melissa

Rise & Shine

I’m going to suggest something that I will RARELY say…Get up early (when you travel)! I know you are on holidays and staying tucked in extra-long can be ever so tempting, but don’t! Not only will rising at the crack of dawn get your day started early (allowing the chance to fit in more activities), but that means you may be able to beat the long lineups and overflow of people at popular tourist attractions.
sunday market (17)
When we arrived early at the Palace of Versailles we were able to view most of the palace on our own, without fighting to see the paintings or antiques because of overcrowding. While not the most important, it also makes it easier to get that perfect picture without soo many heads in your photos. This also takes the stress of waiting, and the anxiety of people out of the equation, meaning you can actually enjoy and relax! Another quick tip, in relation to being an early riser, is to pre-purchase tickets ahead of time, then you really can spend less time on logistics and more time enjoying the beautiful views.
KVDV Photography
Speaking of views… check out the sunrise! How often do you get to witness that? And how frequently in another country? We recently were up at 3:30 am (I know right, ugh) for a safari drive in South Africa, and it was worth every moment. Though be it, the chill permeated through our thin clothes, the views more than made up for it. If the clouds are just right, the sunrise can become one of your favourite memories of the whole trip.
DSC00782
So suck it up buttercup. Put your outfit out the night before if you need to, and pull the shades down early to experience the morning life over the nightlife for once. Plus who’s to say you can’t have a mid-day fiesta if you need a rest?
KVDV Photography
Are you an early bird catches the worm type, or are you a night owl? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for more tricks and tips next month!

Cheers,
Melissa

10 Tips for Prague on a Budget

I admit I’m a few months behind on this post as I have been busy traveling to Canada to get married and visiting South Africa for our honeymoon (more on these adventures later on). However, better late than never to post on our wonderful long weekend spent in Prague, Czech Republic. To attempt something new, we tried to do this trip on a backpacker’s budget, just to see if we can have the same amount of fun, and guess what, it was still a blast! So here are some tips to do the same:
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Prague
1) Eat on the cheap and I mean CHEAP: Prague has delicious food and at a fair price. A lot of restaurants offer great deals such as Lokal (recommended to me by a wonderful friend), which has some of the best authentic food we found. Want something different? Try Kofola; a sweet herbal substitute for Coke. If your budget has tighter purse strings, you can opt to get groceries and live like a real local. Another great thing about Europe is that the booze is much cheaper than North America, at times even cheaper than a bottle of water!
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Prague Walking Tour
2 ) Learn from Locals: I always suggest it, but pleaseeeeee go for a free walking tour! It is a fabulous way to see the city and they point you in the best direction for more free things to do, places to stay, and hidden restaurants. You will also get a great workout as they often walk for 2 – 3 hours. So turn on that Fitbit.
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - John Lennon Wall
3) Free Art: Prague itself is a glorious work of art; it also has unique pieces spread out throughout the city. Let’s start with the John Lennon wall. You guessed it, it is a wall. This wall is special in particular because it is covered with colourful inspirational lyrics and eye-catching graffiti. Not too far is the Statue of Two Men Peeing. Again, it is literally what it sounds like; two men peeing. For some added fun, send a quick text and they will spell your name with their “pee”. Next stop is the Library for the bookworms out there. Some of you may want to read, but the real reason to step inside is to get your Gram on with the never-ending book tower. Such a unique piece of art! You can also look for the giant head of Franz Kafka and the Upside Down Horse statue downtown.
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Smallest Street
4) Smallest Street: This is free entertainment perfect for any time of day. Prague boasts the narrowest street in Europe; it’s so tiny that there are traffic lights to prevent people from colliding in opposite directions. The gap of this alley is only 50 cm wide. Wowzers! (Great for a photo opt!)
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Prague Castle
5) Castles: If you were looking for medieval architecture, you are in the right city. From cathedrals to castles to cobblestone, Prague is the city for you. One spend I will encourage would be for the Prague Castle grounds, which includes St. Vitus Cathedral, Vladislav Hall, the Basilica of St. George, The Crown Jewels (of course) and so much more. According to the Guinness Book of records, this castle is the largest medieval castle in the world, with over 1.8 million visitors a year. They started to build the Prague Castle in the 9th century and it was finally completed in 1929. I’ll make sure I won’t use the same company to build my next house. Fun fact; on the main entrance of St. Vitus Cathedral, there are self-portraits of the architects from over the years and it is interesting to see how clothing has changed in the last 1000 years.

6) Riverside: Take a romantic stroll along the riverside of The Vltava, or cross one of the many bridges to get a view from the other side. The most famous one being The Charles Bridge which connects Prague Castle and Old Town Prague.
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Riverside
7) People Watching: Wenceslas Square is the heart of New Town Prague with shops, bars, restaurants and more. The great thing about this square, or the many others around town, is that it is free to sit there as long as you like and take in the historic atmosphere. If you know Europe, hardly anything is free and seating in nice areas are typically at a premium. Watch the tourists, lick an ice cream and bask in the European sun imagining what it may have been like back in the day.

8) The Hunger Wall: While you are hiking up windy paths making your way to Petrin Lookout Tower, you can find a unique hidden surprise. Along the edge of the path is an original medieval defensive wall that was built in 1360, and a great view of the city.
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY - Prague Railway Station
9) Railway Station: Praha hlavní nádraží is the largest railway station in Prague. It originally opened in 1871 and still runs today. If you look hard enough you will find the hidden Wilsonova Building. This portion of the station has a small beautifully decorated ceiling dome that was once the main entrance and ticket hall impressing passengers on arrival back during its peak.

10) Get Lost: Some of our most treasured memories and greatest discoveries came from our walks throughout the city that had no planned out route. No map, no destination, just pure exploring. When doing this you will discover markets, new food, meet new friends, see new sites and add a personal touch to your trip. We did this when in Prague and found some local music to enjoy while watching the sun delightfully set over the old picturesque town.
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY
To sum it up, you can splurge or save, but either way, you will have an exceptional time in Prague. With over 200 museums, and many churches (often free or at the very least they’ll allow you to step in for a quick peek without actually paying any admission), there is lots of room to explore and discover your own riches. Have you been there? Let me know about your trip in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Dryer Sheets & Travel

It’s time for Travel Tip Tuesday! I know I am a bit late this month, but planning a wedding this summer kept me quite busy. For anyone who is interested in what it’s like to plan a wedding overseas, stay tuned for future posts! It will be loaded with lessons learned, jam-packed with personal DIY tips and the pros and cons of being an expat bride to be from abroad.
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So back to the tidbit of today… let’s keep it simple. Bring dryer sheets everywhere! Don’t laugh, not only are they super lightweight, but they have an abundance of uses apart from the dryer. The first and obvious is to cover up any smells. Not just in your bag, but for your shoes, or even in your accommodations. There you can repel bad smells in the bed, dresser drawers or the trash bin. I’ve even heard that the smell of dryer sheets can keep unwanted visitors away such as insects, bed bugs and mice!
sunday market (16)
Dryer sheets are also great for preventing static on your clothes or hair, so feel free to use them to tame your mane before taking a selfie. They can also be used to remove deodorant from clothes (just rub it away), removing sand after a visit to the beach, and freshening up that questionable rental car. Who knew such a small item, which takes up virtually no room, could be so useful!

Does anyone else have one of these tucked away in their purse or carryon at all times? Want to know more? Leave a comment below! Stay tuned for more monthly tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

Wine Time in Bordeaux

KVDV PhotographyNot too long ago, Bordeaux was THE place to be. It was rich in trade, aristocrats were acting all important and streets flooded with wine like Venice, at least that’s how the story goes. While the wine production has moved out of the city, there is simply no shortage of wine tastings to jump start your day. The old wineries still exist but have been converted to trendy high ceilinged apartments, or on the contrary, empty areas that look very unkept. Nonetheless, Bordeaux is a Unesco world heritage protected city. To sample some of the famous adult grape juice you can visit any of the lovely restaurants in the city, or you can venture out to the nearby wineries. We opted for the excursion, and boy did it not disappoint.
KVDV Photography
To start, I highly recommend the Bordeaux Wine Day Trip by Viator. For less than 100 euros a person you not only get a comfortable air conditioned bus ride, but you visit 2 wineries, a museum (which was once a private winery), and an authentic lunch spot. Each location differs from the next not only by ambience but taste, and will offer 2 glasses of wine per person (or more if you get lucky, like us, we got an extra bottle to split between our table). The lunch was one of my favourite meals of the whole trip (and trust me, the food was on point all trip). Restaurant De Fromages was super accommodating with my vegetarian requests and even gave us a private tour of their basement cheese cellar. It was the coolest thing ever, and now one of my own personal goals to have one day. The tour through the vineyards really reminded me of Niagara wine country, in Canada, just with a few more castles!
KVDV Photography
If you are not much of a drinker and prefer to stay in city center, there are lots of activities for you to stay occupied for at least a weekend. You can start with a walking tour (of course) to get the lay of the land, walk along the Garonne river, cross the Pont de Pierre bridge (made in honour  of Napoleon), or get lost downtown (trust me it’s not hard to do that, every street looks identical). You can also check out the Grand Theatre de Bordeaux, Place de la Bourse (which also has a famous reflecting pool to cool down by in the hot summer afternoons), the famous Bordeaux Cathedral, Tour Pey Berland (go to the top of this tower for only 6 Euros and enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city), walk through Puerta de Cailhau (once the main gate to the city, built in 1495) and so much more. And for the museum buffs, there are lots to check out. La Cite du Vin was our main choice. It was very technologically advanced and interactive; however it was a bit over crowded. There is also a looooot of reading, so you will definitely appreciate the free drink at the end. A bit overpriced though, if you ask me. But overall this French city has so much to offer filled with unique characteristics along the way (they even have new trendy places to eat such as a cat café).
KVDV Photography
Despite the list of attractions, you won’t need longer than a weekend in this historic city. So if you are planning on staying longer, check out some of the neighbouring towns! We decided to venture out to Soulac-sur-Mer. This charming town is situated on the coast, and more importantly has a gorgeous beach! After strolling through the souvenir shops, head straight to the white sands and warm waves. The beach is an endless beautiful site to walk along, and if you venture off far enough you may even get a free history lesson…
KVDV Photography
Along the beach and hidden from view, there are numerous WW2 bunkers, referred to as Fort de Sarros. They are all completely free to walk through. It was a bit eerie, and unusually quiet, I personally would not visit at night. They were pretty well kept, although covered in graffiti. Some had a few questionable smells, and leftover bottles, but it was safe to walk through and explore. Pro tip, bring a flashlight as some sections do not get any sunlight.
KVDV Photography
We also lucked out that during our visit to the beach the final France World Cup game was playing. Luckily every bar along the beach was playing it, and we had reservations for a great spot! We had a liquid lunch as they were not serving food and joined the French crowd celebrating their win. Not only that, but when we were back in the downtown core of Bordeaux, it was Ba – Nan – As!! Street parties, personal fireworks, music blasting and honking cars driving by with all the passengers hanging out of all exits. We saw one car that had at least 10 people on it, plus countless inside of it. Just crazy!
KVDV Photography
Another cool part of our trip, was that we totally planned to be there for Bastille Day…yup we knew it would be that weekend. Not really, but you can imagine our surprise! Bastille Day is the national day of France, celebrated on July 14th. It is the anniversary of storming of the Bastille in 1789, which was a turning point of the French revolution. The oldest and biggest military parade in Europe is held on this day in Paris. We did not make it out there, but we did get to witness parachute jumpers land in Place des Quinconces (a large city square with a stunning fountain), fighter jets, followed by music and fireworks at night.
KVDV Photography
Overall, I love France. Yes it was hot, and had a peculiar smell in some areas, the mosquitos ate us alive (really cannot stress how bad they were there), I could not understand most of the menus, and I got way too much sun… but it was France! FRANCE! In my books, it can do no wrong. I loved charming Bordeaux, and if you remember my birthday trip last year, I LOVED Paris. (Click here to read all about that trip!). I hope to have more opportunities to explore this incredible country again! Want to see more? Check out my YouTude video on ‘Mellie Telly’ HERE!

And thanks so much to KVDV Photography for providing these lovely photos!

KVDV Photography

Cheers,
Melissa

Greece Part 2 – Athens

Athens, Greece
If you haven’t read my previous post (Greece Part 1) be sure to check it out for what to do when visiting Santorini!
Oia, Santorini
To make it to Athens from Santorini you can fly, or you can attempt to save some money and travel by boat from the surrounding islands. I rather spend the money next time and fly. Our 4 hour boat ride ended up being a 7 hour milk run filled with lots of sick people. I’ll spare you the gross details but you could literally hear everyone around you get sick. With 1+ meter high waves, be sure you have a tough stomach, avoid alcohol, bring a neck pillow such as this one and have a light lunch.Athens
Once you arrive on the mainland, your journey can begin! You’ll notice that Athens has a much different vibe compared to the Island with its ancient temple ruins, massive hills (I swear I constantly felt like I was walking uphill), streets lined with palm trees (or orange trees) and graffiti everywhere!
Athens
I’ll give you the same advice as I do for almost every European city…Start your trip with a PWYC walking tour. Ours was a bit disorganized this time around, yet it gave us an idea of where major landmarks were, with a local touch. As soon as you’re finished, go get your combination ticket for the Parthenon! I believe they offer many other deals, but the best one being the 30 euro ticket package. This gives you access into 7 outdoor locations and is valid for 5 days! Most of the locations are all in the same general area and can be done in one really long day, or broken up into two more manageable days. I would augment this deal with two other museums, such as the Acropolis Museum and The National Archeological Museum (but you will have many to choose from).A for Athens View
Much like any other city, the downtown core has streets filled with shopping and has some of the best prices to find souvenirs, antiques, sandals and gold olive wreaths. Continuing with the typical European vibe, the core also has more restaurants than you can count with a good variety of choices. We did not have any issues finding food that is vegetarian and gluten-free. My favourite spot being the rooftop patio at ‘A for Athens’. Once again, I suggest making resos, but we lucked out without and were seated at the same table as another couple – odd, but at least we got a balcony table with a great view. They also have a sommelier on staff to assist with your wine decisions to make sure it is pleasantly paired with your food.
Mixed Sample Plate of Greek Food
Speaking of food, Greece knows how to keep you full! My favourite vegetarian options were the greek salad (obvi), dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), tzatziki, gigantes plaki (baked giant beans), stuffed tomatoes and peppers called yemista and of course baklava. I didn’t try the meat but I heard that the gyros, souvlaki and octopus were worth a sample. A note that here they charge you for water and bread and will attempt to not give you an option to say no. Such as opening the bottled water just as they arrive at your table and start pouring, or adding bread onto the receipt even after you rejected it. On the flip side, some places will provide a free aperitif with your bill, yum! The greek frappes (essentially an iced coffee) were good, as were the local wines, especially the latest trend…blue wine!Blue Wine in Athens
Though Athens is pretty touristy, if you go off-peak season (peak is mid Jun-Aug), the crowds were tolerable and it wasn’t like walking around in a furnace. We never encountered any long lines, and were able to get some great photos without loads of people in the background. Speaking of touristy, a must stop is to purchase a pair of sandals from The Poet Sandal Maker. Here they measure your feet and custom fit the straps (only for certain models). Oooor you could fake them and get knockoffs for half the price on Amazon, like these.The Poet Sandal Maker
If you want to get out of the city there are lots of day trips available. We opted to check out the ancient ruins of The Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion. It was beautiful; great views of the harbour, yachts and the beach. For our particular tour (Athens Extreme Sports), it was not worth the price we paid (120 EUR), as we rented a 4 wheeler to drive on city roads for 5 hours with 2 short stops, instead of the 4 as advertised. Most importantly, we did not get any opportunity to go off roading, thus negating the entire purpose of renting an ATV. The guide did not offer any additional information along the way and we still had to purchase our ruins admission and lunch. So essentially, we rented a 4 wheeler for 120 EUR to see ruins for 30 minutes and had to pay to follow a “guide” to show us where to go, when a GPS would have worked just as fine. I cannot recommend this particular tour, however they have many other options. You would be much better off to rent a car and drive yourself, as you could take your time, enjoy the sites, and save a lot of money.4 Wheeler Excursion
End your day with a trip up Mount Lycabettus. Word of caution, you will have to walk up most of the mountain before you can take a tram the rest of the way (7 Euros each way). At the top there are 3 restaurants, each with fantastic panoramic views of the city. Reflecting back, I found this to be the best spot to watch the Greek sunset.
A photo of yours truly
Overall, Greece is a fantastic place to visit. It has a mix of old and new with its own unique charm that I haven’t seen anywhere yet in Europe. Want a tip for your Instagram photos in Greece? Purchase a toga and a gold wreath (they are everywhere) and snap away!Greece
Did I miss anything? Anymore questions about your next trip to Greece? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

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