Berlin, Germany

With a British Airways Companion Voucher to redeem, we wanted to find a destination that stood out. However, the rules and restrictions that control how the voucher is redeemed meant that for our family of four, we had to select a destination in Europe.

So, having heard many positive stories we picked Berlin, a city which has a lot of history and many interesting sights to see.

Day 1 was wet but we managed to see a lot:

The next day, we first visited The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. We then took the S-Bahn from Berlin to go and visit Potsdam, which was around 40 minutes away. Our plan was to hire a bike but the cycle shop was closed, so off we went on another marathon walk (18kms) starting in the Old Market Square.

There was plenty to see here including St. Nicholas Church, Nauener Tor, the Old Town Hall, and Sansaouci Park. The park is peppered with grand monuments and buildings: Friedenskirche, Chinesisches Haus, Neues Palais, Orangerieschloss, Gross Fontane, Schloss Sansaouci, and Obelisk. It is a very colourful and pretty town.

Back to Berlin we spent the evening playing games with a few drinks and then watching Clash Of The Titans in preparation for Greece! Before catching our flight home, we visited the German Spy Museum, which had a number of fun interactive exhibits, and was a lot of fun for us and our children

berlin #berlincity #germany #europe #potsdam #potsdamgermany #sansaoucipark #sansaouci #stnicholaschurch #sbahn #neuespalais #orangerieschloss #schlosssanssouci #walkingaround #kidsontour #landscapes #halfterm #familytime #memorialofthemurderedjewsofeurope #halocaustmemorial #visitberlin #nisaroundtheworld #citybreak #travellingwithkids #travelphotos

Lisbon, Portugal

A three night weekend away in Lisbon with a girl friend was all about fun, culture, food and drink.

Having arrived late on the first day, we went for a walk and dinner. As the bars and clubs don’t open until 10pm, we managed to squeeze in a nap before making our first (of several) visits to Malt Bar on Pink Street (Lisbon’s former Red Light District). The staff were lovely, and the vast array of shots on offer, meant we never had the same drink twice in all the time we spent there.

But partying aside, this was a really fulfilling break. Exploring a new city is one of my most favourite things to do.

Over the two full days I had in the city, I saw and experienced all that I wanted to:

There were the the smells and sounds of the Time Out Market Hall, where cuisines from around the world are served until midnight. There was the unique taste of traditional codfish cake at Pastel de Baculhau, which comes with a view of the Santa Justa Lift. There was window shopping along the Rua Garrett strip, located in the Baixa Chiado shopping district.

Then, there was the impressive sightseeing. Worth seeing if you have the time are: Pacos do Concelho (the City Hall), Comercio Square, (a waterfront point and former royal palace), Arco da Rua Augusta, Ponte 25 de Abril (bridge), Santuario de Cristo Rei, Torre de Belém Tower, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, The UNESCO World Heritage Jeronimos Monastery, and finally Pastel de Belém – where you can try the city’s most famous custard tart.

This truly was a wonderful city break. However, with any journey, whom you travel with is often more important than the destination.

Kefalonia, Greece

Without checking the blog archives, I couldn’t remember when just the four of us last went on holiday outside England.

This holiday came at just the right time for us, and was perfect. Due to our schedule limitations, we decided to limit this trip to the Island of Kefalonia. We had been tempted to rush around trying to ‘tick boxes’ all over the country, but this was the wiser choice.

Early August is peak season, and we were lucky to get a reservation at Avithos Beach Resort. Furthermore, in order to explore the island much beyond your resort, renting a car is essential. This too was a bit of a struggle last minute. Via the hotel, we probably paid more for the vehicle, than we would have with a little more preplanning. But with such a variety of interesting and beautiful places to see it still felt like money well spent.

We hired the car for two days, giving us time to also relax and enjoy our resort. One day definitely isn’t enough to see all that we wanted to see. Even more days are required if you want to visit the neighbouring island of Ithaca, or hike up Mount Ainos.

Hamel and I are both confident and experienced drivers, but it’s been a while since either of us have driven a manual left hand drive car, and that too on small, poorly marked, winding hilly roads. So when Google Maps said it would take ten minutes to get to see the purple sunset at Spasmata Beach, we should have allowed 20. That way, we wouldn’t have ended up missing it by two minutes.

We learnt from this quickly, and added a buffer to every journey thereafter. On our first day excursion, we covered the West of the island. From Avithos in the South, to the Venetian influenced village of Fiskardo in North is a 56km drive. We stopped along the way at the stunning viewpoints for the famous Myrtos Beach, and Asos Castle. At the picturesque Fiskardo, we paused for a well deserved Pornstar Martini at Panormos. Here, we watched the well off play on their catamarans against the ‘old world’ backdrop.

On our journey back down South West, we stopped for lunch at the nearby Alati All Day Bar & Restaurant. This top rated restaurant, is situated right next to the magical little white pebble beach in Alaties Bay. We could’ve happily spent the day here, but we had a different agenda.

The highlight of the day was our next stop. The red sand, Xi Beach on the South coast of the Western peninsula. The children and I enjoyed playing with the sand, and with the ball in the sea. Hamel however, never one to miss on an opportunity for a natural spa, chose to walk to the cave at the end of the beach, and caked himself in mud. Then, after diving into the water to wash himself off, managed to lose his RayBan sunglasses in the process . But his skin was nice.

We were a little behind schedule, but were determined not to miss out on our sunset again. So, with still more to see, we took a short-cut by riding the €12 ferry from Lixouri to Argostoli. We skipped the Saint Theodore Lighthouse and De Bosset Bridge, having seen both from afar. We did however, make a stop at Sinkholes of Argostoli. These are located on the Agioi Theodoroi Cape by the Katavothres Club Restaurant. The water from the sea mysteriously disappears into the ground here, and apparently reemerges on the other side of the island, in the lake cave of Melissani. We really just wanted to show the children this interesting geological feature, but actually this would also be a great spot to watch the sunset.

But we had other unfinished business, so we moved on. The town of Argostoli is the island’s capital, and was quite lively around the pedestrianised centre. There are a lot of bars and restaurants to choose from. We went with a recommendation from a locals, and tried some of the vegan selection at Baroque le Bistrot.

With dinner taken care of quickly, we made sure we got to Spasmata Beach with plenty of time to spare. Having learnt from the experience of the previous day, we parked in the carpark on the airport perimeter road. (Google Maps suggests a small residential road further up the beach). There, as the sky refracted the last light of the sun into a series of deep pinks and purples, we had a drink at the beach bar, and reflected on the great day we’d just had.

The next day we made an early start, conscious we only had the car until 6pm, and yet another long drive back up north. We made the decision to foresake Drogarati Cave, and visit only Melissani Lake Cave. The cave itself was as beautiful as the grottos we’ve seen on Capri, and boat ride just as short. So, picking a day when there weren’t cruise ships on the islands, and getting there just before the day-trippers started amassing at 10.30am, meant we were in and out within 15 minutes. Not having to queue for an hour in the blazing sun, made us feel very smug.

The reason for all this hustle, was that we wanted to maximise our time on Antisamos Beach. This has become famous for its scenes in the film, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. It turned out to be a pebble beach, but we still had a lot of fun. We played in the sea, relaxed on the Mojito Beach Bar sun loungers, and hired a water slide peddle boat.

Before and after our road trips, we were in and around our hotel. On one of the days we walked down to the nearby Sarris Winery, and tried five of the local wines, including an unusual orange wine. After wine tasting, we spent the rest of the day on Avithos Beach. Avithos doesn’t make any of the lists online, but is actually a clean, soft sandy beach, with a nice little beach bar, and shallow aqua marine waters that stretch out a fair distance.

We ate in a number of small restaurants close to our hotel over the course of the week, and they each deserve a mention, as we can’t really say we had bad food anywhere. These were: Meraki Restaurant, Esperides, Gyro House. They served simple food, but you could taste the freshness of the ingredients in even the smallest establishments. This sometimes meant that the sharpness in the cheese and yoghurt took a little getting used to for our urbanised palates. It did add a sense of authenticity, though.

All in all, this was a really lovely family holiday. There was plenty to do to keep all of us entertained, and there was still enough time to feel rested. This was now my third time to Greece, and once again, I left feeling a strong desire to come back and see another part.

New York, USA

I’ve lost track of the number times I’ve been to New York. It’s as familiar to me as London, and I love them both just as much. This time, however, I owe a debt of gratitude to my cousin Priyanka, who earned an expensed trip as a reward for her hard work. She kindly chose me, and our sister in law, Krupa, as her travel companions. This five day break was as therefore, as much about quality time with family, as it was the world class settings.

It wasn’t all perfect. Our Virgin Atlantic Flight was the worst long haul I’ve been on in years. They didn’t even have salt and pepper. On arrival, immigration took 2.5hours; I can’t remember it ever taking this long. But rant over, moaning out of the way, the rest of the trip was a truly refreshing break. I came back to England reenergised.

Over the course of the trip I got to catch up with relatives on both Hamel’s and my side of our family, as well an old friend from London. These connections made the trip that much extra special. But, on top of this, I also managed to find some time for myself. With some early morning runs, I pushed myself to strengthen both my mind and my body. ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere’, right?!

I’ve always loved the food in New York. This time, I got to visit an old favourite pizza joint, Rubirosa, and also got my Taco Bell fix before the end. I compensated for this indulgence by doing a lot of walking and rowing on the boating lake in Central Park.

On a trip where socialising was the focus, I’ve got to give mention to all the different eateries and drinking establishments I got through this time. In no particular order, I loved all the following: El Vez, Grand Banks, Juniper, Boqueira, Los Tacos @Chelsea Market, Buddakan, Baar Baar, and Mr Purple Rooftop Bar.

I’ve got to give a special mention to the Speakeasy at Beauty & Essex, in which you get a complimentary Prosecco in the female toilet (sorry gents).

In search of a unique view, we paid $44 to go up to the Observation Deck at The Edge. This was perhaps a little over priced for what it was. But if you do decide to go, then a free attraction next to The Edge, The Vessel is also worth a visit.

The other special thing I managed to do on this trip was take in a Broadway Musical. These are world renowned for a reason. Hamel was green with envy because somehow I combined Aladdin (no longer showing in London’s West End) with a date with one of his closest cousins, Shivani. We had an amazing evening.

Prices seem to have gone up considerably in New York, since I visited last. Despite this, the City still retains its magic, and I know it will draw me back again soon.