Back to London

So were back in London – and this time we’re doing the tourist thing. We went and got the London Passes – which if your going to use them are great value. £100 (just under) for a 6 day pass but that gets you entry into a lot of the sights. You get up to £540 pounds worth of admissions that includes the major sights like Westminster abbey and London tower, galleries and exhibitions, walking tours, tours around football stadiums/theatres etc. and even a free movie ticket. Touristy as hell, but we may as well just do it all now and then it’s done and you save some money cramming it into the 6 days with the pass.

We started off with the ‘royal walk’ – went into Westminster and as much as we hate tours we got free audio guides and they were really interesting. It makes the touristy thing a bit better because you get more that ‘yup cool, seen it’. I was just excited about test running the aisle for when Harry decided to marry me (the real one – not from that stupid television show). But it was cool though.

Then a short walk up to Buckingham palace – slightly underwhelming although we haven’t seen the changing of the guard yet – before searching for Clarence House (we failed) and setting off. There’s other touristy thing I’m the royal circuit to see but we didn’t both – those are the big ones.

That evening we went to see Wicked in West End. Absolutely brilliant. Much higher standard than what you get back in Australia and tickets are dirt cheap – premium full price is about £50-70 but we got a ticket for less than £20. Up the back, but who cares for that price. And there is so much theatre – like upwards of 10 massive productions running. It’s nuts.

Today we went to the Tower of London – absolutely massive and again if you get the audio guide it really does make it interesting. Got a bit bored with the exhibits but hearing about it all was great. London Tower is a proper medieval castle – the way you think castles should be – and history to match. They run free guided tours there as well, or you can just take yourself around. We spent like three hours there. Of course, the Crown Jewels were a sight!

We also checked out the exhibit at tower bridge which was a bit of a waste of time – free with the London pass but meh.

Then a river cruise along the Thames which was cool – going past all the big sights – back to Westminster for the London Eye.

A ticket is about 20£ and it was cool – brilliant way to see London skyline – but you line up for ages, are ushered on like dogs, everyone is crowding around the windows (which are dirty so you can’t even get a good picture) and then they say half an hour (I think heaps less) later your ushered off again like cattle and good to go. Considering we payed the same price for wicked…it seems silly. It was a beautiful way to see London though.

Heaps more still to do – But we still got 4 more days to do it!

Gay Life in Mykonos

So, a big reason my travel partner wanted to come to Mykonos was for the gay scene, and boy is there a gay scene. We obviously had to check out as much as possible and that we did.

After a bit of research we determined that there are 4 big gay bars in Mykonos – 2 we actually liked.

First was Lola’s, which is hidden in little Venice. It was really quiet and small to be honest. We didn’t dig it too much but it would be a great place for a couple or some quiet drinks as it’s more like a lounge than a club.

Then there is Jackie O’s – one of the better known ones. It’s around the corner on the water next to old port – in between the port and little Venice. Early in the evening (okay anytime before 1am) it has this cool little vibe to it on the tables out the front, and then it gets busy at 1am ish- it is a decent club except we got kicked out one night for taking a few extra girls with us and that’s something about the gay world I really find hypocritical. Like, the entire western world is currently going through a social rights campaign to promote acceptance, awareness and rights with the LGBT community and yet as much as the LGBT community want society to accept and embrace them, they don’t want to accept the wider community. I find it hypocritical – like feminists who fight for gender equality but are man haters. Anyway, rant over. Jackie O’s is okay, but right next door Babylon is better.

Babylon has even more cool seating and lounge areas for chilled drinks and again transforms into a nightclub with (in my opinion) better music than Jackie O’s, a more accepting vibe and has a drag show. Admittedly that drag show isn’t the best, but it is entertainment all the same. But if you want a drag show Elysium is definitely the place to be.

Every single night, between 9-11pm, Elysium puts on probably the best drag show I have seen. Every night is different and it is a full 2 hour show with a 20 min half time break. There are many different acts – singing, comedic, dancing, male belly dancers, bit of ballet…it’s very impressive. It reminded me why I thought the moulin Rouge was similar to good drag show – because it is similar. Tacky in all the best ways. Elysium is the ultimate sunset bar, before hitting the clubs. Not just because of the show, but because of the actual sunset view and it all closes after the show as it’s also a hotel (their slogan is ‘the str8 friendly hotel’ which I think is brilliant because I’ve never understood why hotels need to vocalise if they are gay friendly or not…). Only drawback is that drinks are 12 euros a pop going upwards (which is quite a wack more than anywhere else) but the way I see it is you pay a bit more extra for a drink, and get a free show.

In terms of beaches – again I’m not sure why this even needs to be a thing – there are many gay beaches around, or gay areas on beaches. There’s also a lot of nudist beaches so it’s really just a bit of everything but I don’t understand the point of a gay beach so I won’t harp on about it.

Mykonos is a gay mans dream – whether your in a long term relationship or with a group of friends or whatever it is a very accepting town (honestly, there’s more gay men then straight men I reckon) with a fair bit of variety.

Diving in Mykonos

So other than relaxing, eating and drinking Mykonos actually has a lot of water sports companies on the island – including my water sport of choice scuba diving,

Obviously, it was a must do on my list so I went for a drive down the Karavati (on the other side of the island) and booked in for 2 dives at Karavati Dive Centre.

There are 3 centres on the island, scattered among beaches, but none of the centres are in town so you really do have to get a quad or scooter.

Decently priced – 95 euros for 2 dives (same every centre) and you just turn up at 10 am and the second at 2pm.

First dive was out at a wreck which sunk in 1995 which was cool – I’d never done a wreck dive before so it was different. It wasn’t a proper ‘go inside the wreck’ dive, we just went around it but it was still pretty cool.

Second dive was at a reef – Greece has no coral apparently but there was heaps of barracuda and your general reef fish.

Nothing spectacular, in terms of wildlife or anything, but the water was pristine. Probably 30-40m visibility. Bit chilly but absolutely amazing! And there was still stuff to look at and enjoy.

I was just glad to be back diving!

Mykonos, Greece – sun, sand, sangria’s and sleep

Well isn’t this a change of pace. Gone from intense travelling, partying and early mornings to an island where sleep in’s are compulsory, lazing by the pool with a book is a given and partying all night (again) is mandatory. To be perfectly frank, I’m loving it. And I am not somebody who can ‘relax’ – it’s boring – but I think my body has enjoyed (and needed) the couple of days rest.

Our first port of call in Mykonos was obviously to check out the main town, conveniently entitled ‘Mykonos Town’. After three days of being in this town, I’m still not confident I have seen it all or even confident I know where I’m going because that shit is a maze – despite the fact that it is actually tiny. The middle of town – nicknamed little Venice because of it’s winding, complex and narrow alleys – is basically where most of its happening. Adorable little boutiques everywhere (don’t see barely any chain stores) and chilled out bars and massive Greek Cafés scattered about. There’s also the port – which is just next to little Venice and it’s basically just bars and cafés as well and as far as I can tell – that’s about it. The beach in Mykonos town is actually quite average, which is why my next point comes into play.

Hire a bike/quad/car whatever – they’re cheap, convenient and then best parts of Mykonos are not in the town. You can apparently get busses to all the main beaches and stuff but who likes running on a schedule, also I don’t think they go to the little nooks and crannies. We both got a quad each – and even though Brandon was hesitant at first – within an hour we had picked it up and were zooming around town. Just remember to drive on the right hand side of the road (both of us got a couple of horns within the first 10 minutes for driving on the wrong side of the road). It is relatively easy and quiet enough to get around – the bikes don’t have heaps of power so your usually going slow anyway especially up hills where they struggle a bit. Road rules are questionable, I don’t really think there is many but it’s a must do.

Actually driving around the island is amazing. The landscape is actually very strange, very desolate. Just this brown/yellow rock really with not much greenery or anything. Not what I imagined, I don’t know what I imagined but not this. But the cute white buildings with the blue doors/windows makes up for the stereotypical Greek Island look. And then you drive past a bay and the vivid, sparkling blue water smacks you right in the face. It’s a very bizarre landscape really, but interesting.

Beaches away from the town are stunning! We have been to Elia and Karavati thus far – neither of them boasting ‘most popular’ but still both busy. Elia has this ‘party’ vibe to it and definitely a gay beach (I will discuss gay Mykonos in detail in a separate post). There’s this cute beach side restaurant/bar and most of the beach is scattered in deckchairs with a DJ playing and what not and there’s heaps of boats and jetskis and water sports going on. Beautiful water, but not the best sand due to the fact that it’s so calm. Karavati seems much nicer. We just went there for lunch but the water had this amazing Swarovski shimmer to it and it’s crystal clear. Much quieter as well, but still has a restaurant and stuff.

But, if your not going to venture out and do some water sports or go to Delos or anything than that is pretty much what Mykonos is famous for.

Partying around the world

Admittedly, I’m sitting here slightly hungover with yet another drink ready to go out again…but I’ve come to a conclusion.

As fun as partying can be, it is the same anywhere in world. A drink is always a drink, being drunk always makes me end up dancing like I’m Beyoncé and a hangover is always a bloody hangover. Nightclubs will always play the same music, people will still get rowdy, and it will always be too loud to have a conversation.

Honestly, if I wanted to waste money on partying then I may as well just take some time off work, go to a part of town back home I haven’t been too and still have pretty much the same experience.

The only difference is the people you (sometimes) meet, but most of the time you’ll never see them again and as formerly mentioned it’s usually too loud to hold a conversation anyway.

Unless your seeing some music you wouldn’t be able to see, or even a DJ is playing or going to some party that’s a bit different or iconic (like Oktoberfest) then I say save your body, save your money and hold off on the hangovers so you can actually enjoy your time.

Europe in 21 Days – Contiki Recap

So, as I’ve already mentioned, I have just finished my ‘European Vista’ Contiki tour of Europe. In 21 whirlwind days we did Paris, Lucerne, Nice, Florence, Rome, Venice, Austrian Tirol, Munich, Vienna, Prague, German wine country and Amsterdam (wow that’s a mouthful). I’m still very torn about my thoughts on the whole experience because it was amazing and intense at the same time.

The thing was, we did things that I never would have done if I weren’t on Contiki. Random things, like going to a cheese factory and a clog making demonstration in the Netherlands to going to these off the beaten path towns in Switzerland and Germany. Not only this, but I learnt so much about everywhere as our tour manager would give us history lessons everywhere we went and usually take us on walking tours around the sites and whatnot (our tour manager was actually amazing!). The people as well were great – as it can get quite lonely travelling by yourself or with one other person and not really forming any sort of other relationships.

But at the same time, it was hard to ever really stop and smell the flowers or appreciate or take in where you are as we only ever stayed somewhere for a day. I knew it would be party central (which was great for a bit) but constantly being hungover and never getting to actually sleep off some of those hangovers and eating most of your meals in the hotel or at servos (especially when your in Italy) became old and tiresome quickly.

All in all, I think that it is an experience I would never take back and it’s a great way to see and do things when your on a time limit or a budget, even just to get a taste of things, but at the same time I probably wouldn’t want to do a similar contiki again. As much as I’m sad it’s over, I was really ready to just be able to do my own thing and appreciate where we were. At the end of the day, I’ve learnt that as beneficial as it is to plan some things and have some sort of goals and ideas of what your doing and where (because at the end of the day, if you never pre-book or plan anything then there will always be a lot of things you’ll never end up doing – such as my scuba diving and other activities) but the spontaneity of travelling always gives you the best memories. With Contiki, that spontaneity is taken away from you as every second is planned to a degree. Yes you get free time but your not really able to truly make use of it. The best things I did on Contiki were honestly the times I decided to go against the grapevine and not participate with everyone else. Like in Switzerland when myself and a couple of the others rented a little speed boat and took it around the lake whilst everyone else was on a cruise around the lake. Admittedly, we spent the entire time driving around looking for the others so we could say hi (despite the fact their cruise was already over). Or in Prague when instead of pre-drinking and going out for dinner and then a ghost tour before clubbing we decided to just jump on a pub crawl and met up with the group hammered whilst everyone else had sobered up. Yes, a part of that enjoyment was in the fact that we had gone and had this excellent time ‘rebelling’ against the group and doing our own thing but even without that enjoyment the spontaneity of it all was memorable. You have this moment where you spot something or hear about something and just think ‘fuck it’ and it (so far) hasn’t turned sour.

Honestly, the biggest benefit of doing a tour like that is at least you have the sightseeing done. For example, Rome was crap other than the Vatican and Ancient Rome and the sightseeing but hell, I’ve done it now never have to go back but can say I experienced those important pieces of history. And the partying was great (even though we never got to pre-drink).

My biggest advice for someone else doing a Contiki… Decide what ‘me time optionals’ you want to do before you depart. They push it down your throat heavily and as formerly mentioned, the best times are not participating and doing something random and usually for a fraction of the price. And don’t do any of the ‘extra dinners’ or food optionals, nobody really liked them that much and they were ridiculously overpriced. Brandon and I did basically none of them, and always had a great meal for the same price for two that the optional would have been for 1. Contiki is already pricey just to get on the tour (overall it’s not bad, but still not cheap) and then you get hit with A LOT of extra charges so just don’t be ‘pressured’ into anything.