On Saturday, a small group of us visited the London Dungeons, a tourist trap of epic proportions featuring mangled London history, mutilated “facts” around horror stories and a combination of cheesy and spooky live acting and props that would put the Disneyland haunted house to shame.
I was somewhat surprised by what a great time I had.
The family entertainment was certainly less scary than I (in my ‘fraidy-cat-ness) had feared, the amazing snapshot above being a product of the drop-zone type ride at the end of the tour. There were a fair few ‘things that jump out at you with a loud scream’ or ‘things that go bang behind your ear’ but the majority of the tour was actually pretty witty scripting for the live actors (who included the unfortunate souls surrounding such infamous names and events as Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd or the bubonic plague).
The circumstances that saw us purchasing tickets were a special event at the dungeons that lowered ticket prices by more than half – and I honestly can’t say it was worth the full ticket price. But at ten quid a head and on a gloomy Saturday morning, it was the perfect London entertainment.
Of all of the London landmarks, the London Eye seems to be one of the most visitor-friendly. Unlike Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and all of the others, the London Eye is interactive, provides views of the rest of London, feels like an amusement park ride and looks damn impressive. Perhaps that’s why they charge you so much to go on the thing. Due to the price, my busy schedule and the fact that I was still hoping my parents would come visit and it would be a fun family activity, I had never actually ridden the Eye in the year and a half I’ve been in London. Yet despite the fact that I was holding out for a family outing, I was certainly not going to turn down the opportunity to take a champagne night flight on the London Eye if the opportunity presented itself.
Which, conveniently, the opportunity did last week. The evening before my epic Karma Kab ride, I, along with my good friend and coworker Alice, made our way to the South Bank to join a small group of bloggers on the flight. Alice had been on the Eye before when she was younger but during the day. I was the only one of the group who had never ridden it before.
We were first treated to a short 3D video teaser of the ride itself in the movie theatre. While there were no other riders around (a welcome change from the carnage of queues that usually extends along the South Bank for the Eye) this video seemed to be more of a pit stop for the families waiting for their turn rather than its own feature event. Still, it was an impressive showcase and include shots of the fireworks over the Eye on New Year’s.
Then it was up to the Eye itself for the 40 minute ride. We were accompanied by an attendant whose job was to serve us champagne, a nice perk (and available on all regular flights – for an added price). We were also given an aerial map of London to help us find the key landmarks from above. Although it was dark, it was still an amazing way to see the city, and we even picked out some interesting seasonal landmarks, such as the Ferris Wheel in Hyde Park (part of the Winter Wonderland event) and the Oxford Street Lights.
Overall it was an incredible experience and I’d love to go again during the day – I’m sure it’d be a totally different type of view. Although the ride is relatively short, it’s also an incredible way to get a sense of London and see a lot of the city in one go. Fortunately for my parents, sounds like I’m still happy to let them take me on the Eye when they come visit; just so long as we go for the champagne flight.
The only thing left to share is my brief visit to the Acropolis in Athens. One of the most important locations in the western world, the Acropolis is home to the Greek minds that are credited with such important contributions as democracy and geometry, not to mention being one of the most iconic locations in the world. Much of the area is undergoing restoration, including the famous Parthenon and I only had about an hour in the area before I had to dash off to catch my flight but a morning at the Acropolis was a fantastic way to end my visit to Greece.
I had such an incredible time in Greece with the Busabout Trip and I hope I’ll have a chance to return.
Busabout Adventures website had made it quite clear that there would be a fair amount of drinking and partying on the itinerary for those who wanted to take part but what with being sick and having so much to see on the previous islands, I hadn’t really spend much time enjoying the Greek island party vibe. All that was about to change on Ios as both the island and our accommodations were perfectly suited to having an amazing night out.
Far Out Village, where we were staying, had the nicest individual rooms of any place we’d stayed as well as the nicest beach. After our midday arrival, no one wanted to do much more than lie on the beach and explore the resort. The more active amongst us managed to gather enough people for a sandy game of American football but it wasn’t until dinner that our second wind hit and Dax led us into town for the night.
Our pub crawl through Ios saw the unfortunate loss of my sweater and a great deal of cash (spent on cocktails, not just lost) but I was having so much fun that I didn’t even realise the time until I checked my phone and saw it was 4am. Our evening had taken us to Flame Bar where their music, three months out of date, provided perfect familiar tunes to sing along to; Orange Bar where their specialty drinks menu looked like a vending machine (featureing Twix, Maltese, Mounds and Snickers drinks); and to Slammers – possibly the most horrifying of the bunch where their “specialty” was to place a helmet on your head, serve you a drink, then slam you over the head with a hammer, skateboard, milk carton, or fire extinguisher. Needless to say I didn’t take part in that last one but the boys of the group seemed to enjoy the experience.
Despite my late night, I awoke relatively early and itching to get out and explore Ios in a more civilised way. First, I took a hike up to the top of a nearby hill which gave me a fantastic view of the island. By the time I returned, a number of the others in the group had gotten up as well and a small contingent of us, including two guys on my trip who were classics majors at Oxford and therefore up for some of the more historical and academic sights the islands had offered, rented ATVs to trek the 20 kilometres across the island to what locals claimed was the tomb of the blind poet Homer (famously the author of the Odyssey and the Illiad).
I had never done anything quite like that before and really enjoyed the ATV trip over the hilly terrain. Whether or not Homer was entombed at the rocky monument we visited is a moot point, and after trying (and failing) to remember something of significance to quote from The Odyssey we turned the four-wheelers around to head to the port for lunch.
Another lazy afternoon turned into another epic evening, this time resulting in a 5am return to my comfortable room. It was a good thing that our transfer to Athens wasn’t until quite late the next day and I took the opportunity to sleep in, then laze the day away next to the pool.
I was surprised by how much fun I had in Ios, never really thinking of myself as the party type. But dancing through the night with a great group of people in the warm Greek evenings was exactly what I didn’t know I needed on my holiday and despite the late nights was feeling healthier and better rested for the trip than I could have imagined. After all of that, I can’t say I was too happy to see my trip end – in fact all I had left was a few hours in Athens before my flight back to London.
If Mykonos had the best mythology, Santorini – which was already winning hands down on beauty points – definitely was a close second. Home to two massive volcanoes, Santorini used to be a round island but is now a crescent moon shaped bit of land enclosing the volcanoes that are now islands in their own right. The massive eruption that caused this change in scenery is not only credited with causing the downfall of the mighty civiliasation of Crete when tidal waves rocked their island, but some also say that Santorini or a nearby island was home to the lost city of Atlantis which disappeared beneath the waves.
Lost civilisations aside, the volcanoes were also responsible for an incredibly unique island formation and Santorini’s landscape alternates between sheer cliffs on one side and long sloping beaches on the other. Although I didn’t have a chance to explore the famous red, black and white beaches, instead opting for the volcano tour, it was quite clear that I could easily spend a week on Santorini and not run out of things to see.
Because we had arrived and checked into our hotel relatively early, I was able to spend the afternoon exploring the town of Thira (also the official Greek name for the island) on my own. It was absolutely gorgeous and even after a few minutes of window shopping, also obvious that this was the place to go for unique jewelry and emptying your wallet. I met up with the group for dinner at a stunning restaurant practically jutting out over the water where we managed to order about twice as much food as necessary and take more pictures of the view than was probably strictly necessary.
The next day, and our one full day in Santorini, the majority of the group made our way down the donkey trail that navigated the cliff face to board a boat from the old port. The short boat ride took us first to the larger of the two volcanoes which is currently dormant. Although there were no boiling pits of lava, we did notice numerous sulfur chimneys releasing the gas into the air – according to some sources, the Oracle at Delphi sat on a sulfur chimney, breathing the fumes and inciting her prophecies. Although we didn’t have any babbling Cassandras in our midst, we weren’t ready to give up entirely on organic remedies from the volcanoes as the next stop on the boat was the hotsprings at the base of the second, and active, volcano. While the ‘hot’ springs were certainly more of a lukewarm, the rich mud in the water became a natural exfoliate and, a fact we didn’t realise until later, a brown dye for everything we were wearing. Oops.
On the boat ride back to the old port, the skies, which had been somewhat overcast for the first time in the trip, opened with a vengeance. Any plans to walk back up the donkey trail to town were quickly scrapped in favour of the gondola that would speed us and our now sopping belongings, to the top of the cliff. A hot shower and change of clothes later, we were all feeling much more comfortable but less than optimistic about the plans for the sunset dinner at the other end of the island. It was still a bit overcast and damp throughout the remainder of the afternoon – as I returned to the shopping streets of Thira – but by dinner time it had cleared enough for us to risk the trip to Oia, the town on the northern most tip of the island.
Oia was, if possible, even more gorgeous than Thira and whatever bad weather we had suffered during the day seemed to have cleared the air for a stunning sunset. We were completely in awe of the sky show and followed the natural fireworks with a lovely dinner in Oia and, after a bus ride back to Thira, an evening of drinking and dancing in town. Although we were all energised and ready to dance until dawn, the very large Aussie contingent on our trip set the tone for an early night – with the intention of getting up at 6:30am the next day to head back to the pub where they would be screening the Australian Football final. While I couldn’t be bothered to get up that early, at around halftime I joined in the fun and, despite still being rather unclear on the rules, had a fantastic time.
Our time on Santorini was way too short and I would have happily stayed another week but with my health improved and only a few days left of Greece we were off to Ios, the party capital of the Greek islands for some more hedonistic entertainment to finish off the trip.