Author: Katya

Family Holiday in the Dominican Republic

Family Holiday in the Dominican Republic

When kids are small and parents need a holiday, an all inclusive option is a definite way to keep everyone happy. There is no need to think about cooking and cleaning and there are plenty of facilities to keep little ones entertained from dusk till […]

Athens with Kids: Museum of Illusions

Athens with Kids: Museum of Illusions

If your kids are tired from visiting all the ancient monuments in Athens, take a break and spend a fun afternoon in the Museum of Illusions. Newly opened in 2018, it boasts 2 floors of optical illusions and photo opportunities for a laugh.  Museum is […]

Must-visit Site in Athens: Panathenaic Stadium

Must-visit Site in Athens: Panathenaic Stadium

Every 2 years the world is watching best athletes competing to become next Olympic Champions. When in Athens,  do not miss the chance to touch history at Panathenaic Stadium, which started the tradition of modern Olympic Games in 1896. 

At first, I thought that the stadium as a landmark might not be that interesting and we might spend an hour or so there. I am glad I was wrong.  In the end,  our visit lasted nearly 3 hours : we raced on the tracks, looked at the past Olympic Games posters and discovered site’s rich history. But let’s not rush and see what we got up to on the day.

The stadium can be seen from the outside and some tourists do exactly that : they walk to it and see what is visible. However,  if you buy a ticket, you will not be disappointed. Besides the entry is only 5 Euros and kids under 6 are free. 

With your entry ticket you will get the audioguide with several languages. There is a walking route with places of interest, where you can listen to the commentary and move around. I thought it was a great way to learn about the history of the stadium, rather than reading displays. It was nice to be in the fresh air and listen to the stories.

As you progress around the stadium, at one point you will go inside and walk the same path as all athletes, who competed here, would follow.

There is also a small museum with posters from past Olympic Games and original torches. I loved that part as I was able to see torches up close and also learn creative ideas behind instantly recognizable posters. Some of them are a symbolic marriage of the Olympics and a country/city where the games were taking place. 

When you go back outside, be a royalty for half and hour and try out the VIP seats. We pretended to be  athletes and run the whole length of the Olympic track. It is slightly more than 500 meters and the race with my daughter was not easy!  I had to sit down and catch my breath afterwards. 

The stadium itself is absolutely beautiful.  It is made completely out of marble and the design is timeless. 

Before you leave,  go up to the very top of the stadium ( the audioguide will tell you exactly where to stand) and get a bird-eye view  of the Athens with Mount Lykabbetus and Parthenon glimmering in the distance. 

The stadium is easy to get to from the Syntagma Square, we walked there and back to the centre. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or a metro. During the summer months it is best to avoid midday, as there is no shade to hide in the stadium and the marble gets really hot. We visited at the end of October, so it was just right and nice in the sun. 

There is also a small souvenir shop at the entrance, which sells tastefully designed items, like T-shirts, mugs or stationery.  

Our visit was hosted by This is Athens, but all opinions are my own. 

Vouliagmeni Lake : A Day Trip from Athens

Vouliagmeni Lake : A Day Trip from Athens

If you are visiting Athens and want to get away from city hustle for a day, I have just the ticket for you. Thermal Vouliagmeni Lake  is a mere 50 minutes away from the centre of Athens, Facilities at the lake are open all year […]

Athens Food Guide: 8 Must-Try Dishes

Athens Food Guide: 8 Must-Try Dishes

I was beyond happy to discover that Athens was on par with Istanbul, Rome and Lisbon for amazing street food and delicious dishes. It is also a very affordable city in terms of food. While you have your usual restaurants. there are plenty of tavernas, […]

Exploring Athens with Greeking.me

Exploring Athens with Greeking.me

Athens is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and layers of history definitely require a professional to guide you through its rich heritage. Archaic and Ancient Periods,  Byzantium Kingdom and Ottoman rule. Finally, Athens reemerges as part of an First Hellenic Republic in the first half of the 19th century. I certainly did not have enough history knowledge to explore all the ancient monuments one comes across in Athens. 

My advice is, as soon as you arrive, book a tour with Greeking.me and get a solid foundation for your exploration of Athens for the week ahead. It seems that majority of tourists use Athens as a stopover on the way to the islands. As a result, they will see Acropolis and try gyros on Monastiraki square, while missing out on all the other treasures.

We spent a whole week in Athens in October 2020 and this was not enough. There is so much to see in Athens museums and open air sites, you need at least a month to do this city justice. If you want to quickly determine which monuments you want to see up close and have an overall understanding of Athens history, an introductory tour in the first day or two on your holiday is a must. 

We booked Athens Higlights Evening Tour and our guide Penelope was an absolute delight. We spent more than 3 hours walking streets of Athens , absorbing history and ancient tales. Penelope was great at engaging my daughter, who is 9 and has Ancient Greece as part of her school curriculum this year, and making parallels with mythology. 

We started the tour at  Syntagma Square, where we went to the metro station with exposed architectural layers and traces of Athens from 2,000-3,000 years ago. Interestingly, current city centre used to be Athens’s countryside,  where farmers would work the land and animals graze on green pastures. Jumping 2,000 years in time,  we went to the street level to look at the Old Royal Palace and the  Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We learned about soldier’s outfits, and how can one become a Presidential Guard. At this spot, Penelope shared the most recent Greek history, when the First Hellenic Republic  was formed. 

Moving towards Plaka area, we passed Roman baths, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch and finally reached Plaka. At each of the sites Penelope gave us detailed description of the history and background to the monument.  She was able to show us on her iPad how some of the characters looked like , or how  a certain temple or a building were used when they were first built.  I thought iPad material was a great addition to a walking tour, especially for my daughter as it was much easier for her to imagine how things would have looked like when they were first built. 

In Plaka there were also plenty of sites and stories to discover. We were surprised to learn that the concept of sponsorship is nothing new and was a great working model in Ancient Greece. Amazingly, some of the streets kept their original names and a lot of history can be uncovered just by reading  street names. 

We did not go inside any of the historical sites or buildings  during the tour.  However, with Penelope’s guidance we were able to determine which ones we wanted to visit during our stay in Athens and went there on other days.

For example,  Penelope  pointed out a couple of churches, which she suggested we could visit during the day. We did come back to a couple of them later in a week, and I thought that Penelope’s recommendations were spot on.

 

We loved the story about the Tower of the Winds, its intricate structure and how it was used in Ancient Athens. When we walked past it a day before our tour with Greeking.me, The Tower looked interesting, but without knowing all the background it was difficult to spot the symbols and know how the site was used. With Penelope’s storytelling,  it felt like all the doors opened for us and all we had to do is to choose where to go next. 

I thought that the walking route was easy to remember.  I suddenly felt confident walking in the centre of Athens and it was easier to follow maps or find places of interest during our sightseeing. Penelope also knew all the best spots for pictures and she was happy to help us with family pictures. 

Overall, I could not think of  better guide and a better organisation of the tour from Greeking. me. Booking process was straightforward and Greeking.me was always  responsive on the emails. I thought the tour was a perfect start to our holiday in Athens and would  definitely appeal to families with school aged kids. 

Our visit was hosted by Greeking.me, but all opinions are my own.

Fun Lunch with Trunki

Fun Lunch with Trunki

The schools are back and so are the school lunches. Somehow, every year in August, I find myself looking for a new lunchbox and a packing set, as the one from the previous school year never survives. This year I decided to try TRUNKI range, […]

Family Day Out with Narrow Boat

Family Day Out with Narrow Boat

As many families during this summer, we were looking for ways to spend time outdoors. There are several canals within 30 minutes drive and during lockdown we were enjoying numerous walks along the water. Another way to enjoy the canals is to hire a narrow […]

Wine Tasting at Arnaldo Caprai Winery in Montefalco

Wine Tasting at Arnaldo Caprai Winery in Montefalco

Italy has the largest variety of grapes, which are only grown locally and cannot be found in any other country. This presents a great opportunity to try wines made from these rare  varieties and save Chardonnay or Merlot for another time. Sagrantino is one of the oldest varieties of grapes, which only grows around the town of Montefalco. Nowdays over 80 local wineries produce wine using Sagrantino grape and one of the most famous ones is Arnaldo Caprai. Located just outside the main town, it is a beautiful estate with rows of vines stretching as far as the eye can see.

We have booked a visit, which included winery tour and a tasting session. There are a number of options you can select HERE , depending on the time available, your group size and your wine interests.

Our tour started with an introduction to the winery and its roots. The birth of Montefalco Sagrantino goes back to the 80s.  Arnaldo Caprai was one of the pioneers to cultivate the special character of Sagrantino grapes and eventually changing the landscape for many wine producers in the area. Nowdays, wine tourism is flourishing with many people visiting the town of Montefalco and its surrounding area for this reason alone.

The grapes are harvested by hand in mid-October and the process of wine production is slightly different to usual methods. Once grapes are harvested, their skin is cut to allow the juice to come out,  but grape skins are left to ferment together with the juice. Skins stay in contact with fermented juice for a while and are eventually taken away to make grappa.

After about a month in  tanks, the wine gets relocated to the oak casks (barrique) and stays there for 2 years. The final step is bottling, where Montefalco Sagrantino  matures for another 2 years. Every year the winery buys 200 brand new oak casks to smooth out Sagrantino’s character.

The old casks will get used for maturing other types of wines, but not for Sagrantino. Throughout the tour you get to realize that Sagrantino rules here.  While other kinds of wines might get less than a VIP treatment, Montefalco Sagrantino  always gets the best seat in the house.

Montefalco Sagrantino  can be kept in the bottle for up to 10 years, so it is a great wine if you can ensure correct storage conditions.

After the tour , it was time to stop at a beautiful tasting area. Due to Covid,  the terrace,  overlooking the vineyard, was closed, but we had a great time sampling the wines in pleasant tasting room.  The wines we tried were: 

Grecante 

Montefalco Rosso

Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino 

The wines were complimented by the selection of cold cuts and cheeses, as well as bread and locally produced olive oil. Staff at the winery was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about wines.  Denise at the tasting room and our tour guide Camilla both completed certified wine courses, so they knew exactly what they were talking about.

I definitely recommend visiting Arnaldo Caprai winery if you are in Umbria. You can come without booking for a simple tasting, However, if you fancy an extended experience, I recommend to book, as they do get busy with visitors. You can book your experience HERE.

To entertain the kids, we took them for a run in the vineyard. There is plenty of space and everything is open so you can see the grapes up close, talk about how they are growing, and what becomes of them. I find these hand-on experiences in the vineyards way more useful than dry lessons at school on agriculture and food/drink production.

While you are here, definitely visit the town of Montefalco, appreciate the views from the hill and think how lucky you are to be sharing this landscape and wine with many other people from around the world.

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Arnaldo Caprai, but all opinions are my own.

Chocolate Factory Visit at Vetusta Nursia

Chocolate Factory Visit at Vetusta Nursia

It is always been my childhood dream to visit a chocolate factory. The appeal is obvious: eat as much chocolate as I can. Little did I know that the dream will finally come true during our summer trip in Italy. Small town of Norcia in […]