September 15, 2008

Athens (Slight Return) - for Byzantine stuff, obviously...

Arranging flights from Chania to Macau was a bit of a nightmare, with a lot of the routes offered taking over 24 hours to make the journey. We eventually settled on Qatar Air via Doha, but that meant having a six hour wait in Athens. Having just visited it a few weeks before, we decided that rather than hang around the airport, we would head into Athens on the Metro whilst waiting for our connecting flights.

It was a bit of a risky plan - what if we got stuck in town? And we nearly abandoned the whole idea, because a couple of days before we were due to fly the train drivers of the Athens Metro started staging strikes. In the end though it all worked out fine. Although it is on one of the three main lines, trains from the Metro only depart from the airport every half-hour, and take about 40 minutes to get to the centre of town, so we didn't have a great deal of time for sight-seeing.

We left our baggage in their airport at a 'left luggage' counter that was a wonderfully Greek affair. There were about 5 guys behind the counter, but only one actually serving people. The pricing was done by one of the guys lifting the bags up, and guesstimating the weight (although, to be fair, he was absolutely spot on to the kilogram with our two bags). And there was just one long, long, long, queue, regardless of whether you were doing the lengthy process of checking a bag in, or just trying to quickly collect your bag before your flight departed...

We decided to head straight for lunch, and so went back to one of the restaurants we had visited on our previous trip. Although we often like trying new places, with such a short amount of time to spare we didn't want to waste any hanging around trying to chose a place to eat.

Ευχαρις is in a very touristy area near to the Acropolis and Monstiraki Square, but they seem to go the extra mile in preparing and presenting their food, and, for central Athens, it is reasonably priced. They also have another big attraction - very efficient air conditioning.


After lunch we popped back on the Metro for two stops to visit the Byzantine & Christian Museum. Now, you might think you can have too many Byzantine Icons, but as far as I'm concerned, there can never be enough!


The Museum looks rather small and unimpressive from outside, but turned out to be one of the best exhibitions I've seen in Greece. Not only do they have some great artifacts and preserved wall paintings, but they have an amazing room full of double-sided icons dating back to the 13th century, all beautifully displayed so that you can walk around them to get the full effect.


I was also pleased with another thing - there were a couple of displays with fragments of marble which attempted to recreate what Byzantine Christian Basilicas would have been like. For the backdrops they used several photographs of the Churches that I dragged poor Claire around in Ravenna. At least it proved I had been right when I was explaining to her just how unique and important that umpteenth Church mosaic was!



August 18, 2008

Eat local. Eat cheap

We've recently made another visit to Macau, the ex-Portuguese colony that is one of China's "Special Administrative Regions".


One of the ambitions we didn't fulfill on our last visit was to get some really cheap Chinese food in an authentic little lunchtime spot. Well, this time, we managed it.

We'd gone on a sight-seeing walk around town, looking at a selection of (inevitably) Churches, and had reached lunchtime. We were aiming to eat in a little Portuguese restaurant listed in our guide book, but when we got there they hadn't opened for lunch yet.

Well, we'd spotted a small Chinese food joint down the road, which unusually had some of the menu listed in English. We decided to go for it, and were immediately shown in and sat down to share a table with a rather surprised looking Chinese guy.

Macau is littered with food places like this. They are not sit-down restaurants, they are more like the equivalent of a British worker's cafe. There were about 8 guys around the 4 tables in the place, nearly all of them wearing overalls of some kind.

We ordered our food just by pointing at the menu, and got our free tea. Then, obviously spotting that we were idiot Westerners, they bought us our fork and spoon - we didn't even get the option of the chop-sticks that everybody else was eating with.

We were served two massive plates, one with roast pork and duck and rice, and one of beef. It was absolutely gorgeous, and then our biggest surprise came when we had to pay the bill. We weren't sure if you had to pay for the rice, and some of the dishes had a couple of prices next to them. We nearly burst out laughing when the bill came to 39MOP. That is about €3.50, and cheaper than just having a Greek salad in Athens. To put it in context in Macau, before we headed back to the house we popped into Starbucks for a couple of Choca-loca-Mocha-Frappacinos, and the bill for that came to 65MOP!


July 04, 2008

Beer. Bay. Puppy!

After our trip to see the picturesque Balos lagoon on the Gramvousa Peninsula, we headed to another new destination on the west of the island, Falasarna.

Falasarna is a long strip of beach facing west, and the approach sees you winding down the hillside, passing sign after sign promising the best beach, free parking, the best food and the best apartments. Spoilt for choice, we did what any self-respecting indecisive bunch of people would do - drive on until the road stopped and we had no choices left.

This turned out to be a great idea, as we ended up at a bar with a view out across the whole of Livadi Bay.


A bar with beer...


...and a selection of delicious Cretan snacks...

...and a puppy!!!!!


Here she is dutifully sitting under the table looking forlornly at me in the hope that I'm going to spill some of my food.

March 30, 2008

A noisy curry

0011a_curryhouse One of the funniest nights we had out in Macau was at the Aruna curry house. It is on Taipa island, and had only just opened up. In fact, when we visited, it wasn't yet officially open, but was having some 'trial' nights. We'd only been sitting for a couple of minutes, and had just ordered drinks, when this unholy racket started up. Banging and crashing above us, we could barely hear ourselves speak.

Our hostess came over to our table and explained. It was the old lady in the flat above the restaurant, she said, who had taken a dislike to having an Indian restaurant underneath her. What a clatter that old woman managed to make. Every five minutes the noise would die down for a few seconds, and then she would start up with a different sound, as if she had an array of noise-making implements at her disposal. One minute it sounded like a stick being banged against a wall, the next like a heavy stone being dragged around on the floor.

0011b_currysign I'll say one thing for the old dear, she had some stamina. She kept the noises up throughout the whole of our meal. The hostess called the police - and as we were the only guests in the place, we could hear her side of the phone call. This was hilarious, as she was trying to make herself understood in English to what seemed some very unsympathetic police. Eventually two Macau cops arrived, but typically, the old lady must have seen them because the noise dropped for a while.

All this was very entertaining in the end, and we didn't let it spoil our meal, which was very good.

A lemon tree of our own

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