For a European summer holiday, our director Jackie Male and her family travelled to Italy, Croatia and Greece. Exploring everything from the picturesque island of Burano, to the Temple of Poseidon, this trip of Europe was one of a kind. Based around her children’s university commitments, they travelled in July which had a great party vibe populated with lots of crowds. Keeping a diary of her travels, here’s what she had to say…
First stop on the tour was Italy. As we expected, Italy was hot and humid and there was an abundance of tourists. However, these factors were definitely not detrimental to our experience.
We arrived in Venice and caught a private water taxi from Marco Polo airport to a pier within about 200metres of our apartment. What a wonderful start to the holiday!
We flew with Emirates Airline and were upgraded to first class! We chose to fly with Emirates as they offer a great network of cities within Europe, with daily flights out of Adelaide.
We stayed in an apartment in the atmospheric Dorsoduro district, home to the city’s universities, some great galleries and bars, and with a flavour of the ‘real Venice’.
The location of this apartment was a highlight for us, only a 10-minute walk from St Mark’s Square but away from the crowds, with reasonably good WIFI connection. It was great value considering that there were seven of us and Venice is an extremely popular tourist attraction.
While WIFI is very helpful on holiday, if access to free internet is scarce, a few tips to avoid a massive phone bill can come in handy. Read our tips here
We went on many adventures in Venice, making sure we explored the beautiful city to the fullest in the little time we had. We started with a Cicchetti and Wine walking tour of Venice (which we booked before we left Australia); visited dell’Accademia (Academia Gallery), the famous art museum and home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David; and visited the picturesque island of Burano, famous for its colourful houses, lace, and eateries serving seafood from the lagoon.
While in Venice, the seven of us also enjoyed a private sunset cruise on a Bragozzo boat. This included three hours of cruising around the lagoon, a stop to drink on the Lido, and drinks and snacks on board.
If you’re thinking about organising tours on a trip to Venice, here are five reasons why you should book with the help of a travel agent.
Our stay in Dubrovnik was an absolute delight, with the city’s red tiled rooves and fortified walls overlooking the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Apart from some bullet holes here and there, it is difficult to see any remnants of the shelling that happened in this beautiful city in 1991. It sure does live up to its nickname – the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic.’
The seven of us spent four nights in Babin Kuk on the Lapad Peninsula, which is about 10 minutes from the Old Town – one of the world’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities. The apartment complex is great for families, including fully equipped kitchens, functional living areas, balconies with great views, and washing machines. The apartments are also extremely close to one of Dubrovnik’s most popular beaches, Copacabana, which is a great place for all the family due to its shallow sea and various activities on offer, such as kayaking, volleyball, and paragliding. There is also a supermarket that is a 10-minute walk away, which is extremely convenient.
We ate out in the Old Town each night as we loved it so much – however, funnily enough, our favourite restaurant was actually Bosnian. Our other highlights of Dubrovnik included:
- Walking around the top of the walls (this is actually a thing to do in Dubrovnik), where we found some spectacular views of the sea and the town.
- A sunset kayaking tour. Although exhausting due to the wind picking up on the way back, this was three hours of pure fun for the whole family.
- An afternoon ferry ride to Lokrum Island. The island was beautiful, with a botanic garden, an abundance of wild peacocks and peahens, as well as a wonderful salt-water lake where we swam. The kids were brave enough to to cliff-jump into the ocean while we were there!
We booked a seven day small-boat cruise and I must say that it was without a doubt the highlight of our European trip, with so many activities to do, amazing places to eat, and incredible sights to see. The trip was perfectly suited to the needs of our family, with lovely breakfast and lunch meals provided to us every day on the cruise. Each night we were able to explore new ports to find places to eat. The cruise was also a fantastic way to meet new people from a variety of backgrounds, and the captain and crew were fantastic and incredibly accommodating. They often kept the bar open later than they needed to and were flexible with their breakfast times to suit the needs of their passengers.
There were several port stops on the cruise:
- Mljet – A small, unspoilt island with a gorgeous national park and monastery.
- Hvar – A glamorous place, with amazing views and scenery. This island was very reminiscent of Dubrovnik, with narrow streets and lots of steps.
- Split – The second largest city in Croatia after Zagreb, this beautiful place had a thriving nightlife and an array of divine restaurants to choose from. Bursting with history, half of this city was formed from Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient palace built for the Roman Emperor in the fourth century.
- Bol – Although we only had a few hours here, we really enjoyed this little town off the coast of Split. The nearby beach, Zlatni Rat (Golden Horn), is one of Croatia’s most popular, as it is a beautiful beach situated on the Croatian coastline.
We grew to love Santorini. It was a more of a rugged and barren landscape than Croatia had been. The weather was beautiful – hot and sunny, just like Croatia – and watching the sunset was the best time of the day.
We stayed in a luxurious four-bedroom villa with a private swimming pool and a beautiful landscaped garden. The outdoor sitting area offered an astonishing views of 270 degrees over the village of Oia, the Aegean islands and the Sunset. There were four houses in the group, but the one we chose accommodated up to 10 guests on two levels. It was superb!
Everything went smoothly and to plan – the staff were lovely and our private pool was great given the hot weather. The villa we stayed in was perfect for our large family, with three double bedrooms, plus a mezzanine with a queen and single bed. We even made use of the kitchen and stayed in for dinner one night. It truly felt like a home away from home.
The only negative about the villa was that it was located mid-way between the towns of Oia and Fira, and it took 20 minutes to get to both towns by foot or bus. This might have been easier with a car, but the traffic is crazy in Santorini, and for a large group it wouldn’t have been easy to find a suitable vehicle.
Our highlights included:
- A sunset cruise on a privately owned yacht. This included a BBQ dinner and drinks and was absolutely incredible.
- A cliff top walk from Oia to Fira. We did this one morning and the views were amazing. The walk took about two hours, which we followed by having breakfast overlooking the caldera in Fira.
- Fish pedicures. We did this half hour treatment in a salon in Oia. Apparently the Kardashians have done it so it must be good!
- A visit to the Red Beach, followed by a visit to the Ancient Site of Akrotiki – an ancient site that was suspended in time following a volcanic eruption in 1627 BC.
Athens is such an awe-inspiring city, overlooked by the Acropolis and with ancient history and modern life melding into one. We were excited to explore all the must-see destinations!
The four-star hotel we chose in Athens was perfect for those travellers looking for comfort, location and value for money, with friendly staff and good-sized, comfortable rooms. The breakfasts were excellent, and the rooftop bar and restaurant offered outstanding service with views of the Acropolis. The location of the hotel was also great and close to several tourist attractions.
We made sure to explore all the ‘must see’ sights while we were in Athens, doing half-day tours of the city itself, and Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. These tours were a relaxing way to spend our afternoons, and a great way to see the countryside, various tourist attractions, and the coastline outside central Athens. Other highlights of our trip included shopping in the Plaka District – and of course, all the Greek food!
Greek Classical Sites and Meteora Tour
By this stage, we were down to a party of three – with the others having returned home for various reasons. With limited time and an interest in Classical Studies and Ancient Greek History, we opted for a four-day fully-escorted coach tour which included Delphi, Mycenae, Olympia, Epidavros, and Meteora.
Our wonderful guide, Irene, really brought the sites to life and provided interesting commentary about modern-day Greece as we drove through the countryside. There were about 40 of us in the tour group. Breakfast and dinner were included in the tour package, and thankfully the coach was air-conditioned to beat the extreme heat.
My favourite place to tour was Olympia. We found it amazing to visit the place where the first Olympic Games took place nearly 3000 years ago!
Are you looking at exploring Europe with your family in the near future? Get in touch with one of our friendly travel agents at Angas Travel today here.