Most Popular Posts of 2014

I know it's already the end of January (how the heck did that happen so quickly?) but I'm still reviewing 2014 and planning things for this year. Here's a look back at Emma's Travel Read more

15 Things to do in Bruges

1. Lizzie's Waffels If you're going to Belgium then of course you want to try some authentic Belgian waffels. In the name of research I tried lots of different waffels in Bruges but none Read more

Magical Melville Castle

January is traditionally the most depressing month of the year, so when I was invited to stay in a beautiful, 18th century castle on the outskirts of Edinburgh I literally jumped at the chance. Just Read more

Bruges In Pictures

Bruges (or Brugge in Flemish) is one of the most idyllic, fairytale-esque cities I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. I've just returned from a magical four days exploring the city and fell head Read more

20 Things to Do in Edinburgh

1. National Museum of Scotland  I visited the National Museum of Scotland for the first time earlier this year and absolutely loved it. It's full to the brim with fascinating exhibits on subjects ranging from Read more

10 Things I Believe About Travel

Travel is many things to many people. For me, travel is amazing, inspiring, educative and wonderful. I believe there are so many benefits to travelling the world and I think it's something everyone should Read more

The Other Side of Santorini

Posted on by Emma Gray in Greece | 4 Comments

Santorini is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of the Greek islands.

I haven’t visited them all, or anywhere close, but I’m pretty confident in putting that statement forward.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Santorini on 4 or 5 different trips and each time I’m stunned by the breathtaking scenery of the caldera.


Gorgeous view from Fira

The majority of visitors to Santorini (including myself!) are visiting on cruises, and most just check out the port town of Fira or the village of Oia. Having already explored the narrow, winding streets, and admired the dreamy views from Fira on previous visits I decided it was time to see what else the island has to offer.

I took a tender boat from my cruise ship to a different port on the island – Athinios – and from there took a bus up to the town of Akrotiri. The bus journey was incredibly steep, winding up the seemingly precarious roads to the top of the cliffs. If you’re afraid of heights or steep drops then you’re probably not going to enjoy that bus ride! If you don’t feel the need to sit with your eyes shut then you’re treated to some amazing views as the bus makes its ascension.


View from the top

Akrotiri is without a doubt one of the quaintest small towns I’ve visited. The steep, narrow, cobbled streets are great to walk around and generally tourist free. This meant I was treated to a truly authentic experience that I loved.

As we wandered the streets we came across many locals leaving one of the more than 250 churches on the island and making their way towards their homes. The locals we came across were all so friendly and delighted to see travellers exploring their little town. One adorable old lady dressed all in black, the traditional outfit for a widower, enthusiastically welcomed us to the town and insisted we try some of her home-made sweet bread – it was delicious!


This is someone’s front garden…how cute!

Whilst wandering through Akrotiri we got to see the rather unusual way they grow the grapes to make wine on the island. The vines are trained into a basket shape to protect them from the strong winds and to soak up as much rain as possible in what is a very arid climate. After seeing the vines I made sure to have a glass of the local wine with lunch, purely for comparison purposes of course!


Not a typical vineyard…

I loved exploring the less touristy side of Santorini, and it made me fall in love with the island even more. With some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever experienced and small-town charm in bucket fulls, it’s a place I’d happily return to.

Have you enjoyed local hospitality somewhere around the world? Did it make your overall experience even better?

Visiting Athens During the Greek Elections

Posted on by Emma Gray in Greece | 3 Comments

I visited some different places in Greece before and during the recent presidential elections. I was in the capital, Athens just before election day and I visited several different islands just days after the Greek elections. Before I left for my trip people asked if I was worried about visiting Athens, given the huge amount of negative media detailing riots and protests in the city, but I was determined not to be put off exploring.


The Sprawling City of Athens

If you’ve been following my blog or tweets regularly then you’ll know I was visiting these different places in Greece as part of a European cruise. That might prompt you to argue that cruise travel doesn’t allow you to see the true state of a place. For many people cruise travel conveys images of being herded round in a large group by a tour guide waving a brightly coloured umbrella. Well, that’s not how I travel on cruises at all. Quite the opposite. I hardly ever take a guided tour conducted by the ship. I much prefer to leave the people from the ship behind and travel independently, using public transport wherever possible. And that’s exactly what I did in Greece.


The media had been portraying Athens as a turbulent city, with more than a hint of violence bubbling just under the surface as the Greek economy falters and people become desperate.

This wasn’t what I experienced at all.

Just days before the Greek elections the city seemed calm and the locals were going about their business as usual. I passed through Syntagma Square where the Parliament building sits, and all was normal as election stages and big screens were being set up for the big event. I didn’t witness anything untoward at all as I travelled through both the centre of the city and the sprawling suburbs.

What was abundantly clear to me was the impact the failing economy is having upon the city. As I travelled by bus, and on foot, around the city I saw countless buildings in states of ruin or disrepair. It was clear to see that Athens, and Greece as a whole, simply cannot afford to maintain its buildings and public areas to a standard that might be expected of a European country.


It was almost another world on the Greek islands, however. I visited beautiful Santorini just days after leaving Athens and while exploring the island, its historic sites and enjoying the breathtaking views from Fira over the caldera, I found it hard to see any evidence that this is a nation suffering a severe economic crisis. The island was busy with tourists spending money and doing their own small bit to boost the Greek economy and, unlike Athens, the buildings and public areas were well maintained and not in dilapidated states.

The Greek elections are over now, however, it’s still uncertain what the future holds for Greece and it’s people. I certainly didn’t let the countries issues stop me from travelling there, and I would urge you to do the same. In my experience, Greece, and Athens itself, are pretty safe and very welcoming to tourists and travellers.