One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is that the world begins to feels a smaller, more connected place, a bit warmer & cosier. I read about others’ experiences and get inspired by new ideas. I get to e-meet fun people and sometimes, when I strike gold, I get to meet them in real life.
Enter, Palesa & Andrew from South Africa! Here’s a couple of bold, adventurous & fun people who have taken off on a year-long trip around the world, whoa! I think it takes a lot of courage “taking everyday as it comes” as they say on their blog. Follow their journey across Asia, Europe and now U.S.A at https://our380.wordpress.com That’s where I found them & left a comment asking to meet when they were in Stockholm. And guess what, they did stop by. And remembered to reach out. How nice of you 🙂 They had only a couple of days in the city but going by this post on their blog, it sounds like it went pretty good 😉 I am so happy we got the chance to spend a lovely evening sharing stories over drinks. I was warmed by their spirit and wish them loads of great experiences along the way. Good luck, you two, wish you many adventures!
Cyprus trip : Day 2 & 3
We made it to Cyprus! After our unplanned sleepover in Oslo, we were happy we had lost only about 18 hours. Given that there aren’t daily flights between Oslo an d Larnaca, our worst fear had been what if the next flight was in three days? 😰 Luckily, Norwegian airlines put us on an early morning flight the next day & we were back on track! 😎
We picked up our car from Larnaca airport and drove straight to the Stamatia Hotel at Ayia Napa, by the Pantachou Beach. I have some really nice things to say about the staff here who helped us get in touch with the local Booking.com personnel and changed our booking dates without any extra fees, isn’t that so very service-minded of them?! We predictably spent most of our two days by the pool and in the shallow sea, which was perfect for me since I’m not a very confident swimmer. And at 30ºC, these tepid waters were all we needed!
We lunched at the Ocean Basket both days, their seafood and sushi were simply to die for! A first for us was their olive cake, with alternate layers of pastry, cream and olive jam, so yumm 🤤 Dinners were relatively okayish in comparison, although we selected some of the more famous meat restaurants. We didn’t let ourselves be too disappointed – we made up by gorging tons of guilt-free gelato 😆
For Mr.A and I a little bit of sightseeing is always on the agenda. On our second morning we were up at 5:30 to watch the sun go up at the Sunrise Beach, which lays claim to the first sunrise of Europe! Might be true, maybe not, but serene nevertheless. The Ayia Napa Sculpture Park was a good surprise with many artistic works. We also drove around the seaside to check out Cape Greco for its cliffs & sea caves. Cliff divers were having a grand time as we cheered them on! The Monachus Monachus Arch is a natural sea arch that the wind and waves have carved out over millions of years. Reminded us of the Twelve Apostles in Australia. We climbed a steep flight of steps up to the Ayios Elias Church in Protaras, and took in the sights from the hilltop. Following the customs of the church, we tied ribbons and made wishes upon them…what a romantic thought to trust your faith upon little strings of satin…
As evening fell, we were back walking the streets at Ayia Napa, watching people and enjoying the cooler atmosphere. We came by an amusement park agog with frolickers having a go at roller coasters, giant wheels, bungee jumps and an insane 360degee spinner called Booster. As luck would have it, we chanced upon a free viewing of traditional Greek dance performance put up by troupes from Cyprus and Greece. What an authentic experience! Mr.A found a little kitty by the bushes and contemplated for a while if we should adopt it right then & there, but better sense prevailed 😉 After getting mandatory couple photos snapped at the I ❤ Ayia Napa sign in the city center, we capped the night with more gelatos and called it a day🍦 😊
Next stop : Paphos, another resort town in the southwest of Cyprus!
Cyprus trip : Day 1
Yup, we got stranded in Oslo on our way to Cyprus 😪 Since there were no direct flights from Stockholm, we booked this Norwegian flight as the next best route. All was hunky dory – we took off from Oslo at the scheduled time and were flying close to an hour. By then my head was lolling from side to side, but an announcement woke me up. We were facing “technical problems” and were turning back to Oslo. Nhhhooo! 😱 It took a while to land as the plane kept circling mid-air waiting for clearance. We passed immigration once more, got our passports stamped again and made our way to the Customer Service desk. Our token said 125 & they were still dealing with nr.88 😰 So we waited and meanwhile took stock of our situation. We called the hotel & the car hire company in Larnaca to let them know we’re not going to make it. On a positive note, we received a text from Norwegian that our next departure is tomorrow 6:30am, yayie! They put us up at the Comfort Hotel for the night and treated us to a buffet dinner. Of course, we are going to have to make some claims & will be ending up paying some penalties on the car & hotel, but we hope to get a decent compensation from the airline according to E.U. Regulations. Best thing, we will be back on plan tomorrow enjoying the sun in Larnaca’s Nissi Beach 😆 Like the saying goes, all’s well that ends well, and our vacation is just getting started!
Stay tuned for more about our road-trip through Cyprus!
Remember those gorgeous snapshots I sent you from St.Petersburg? I promised to tell you about how Mr.A & I traveled visa-free to St.Petersburg. Here’s the whole story.
Since we hold Indian passports and Schengen visas, nearly all our travels in recent years have been in and around Europe to countries that acknowledge the Schengen. (Do you want to check out all the lovely places we have been?!) We’d need a visa to visit Russia but that’s a pity considering how close it is – a flight from Stockholm to St.Petersburg is a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes! So we’d always fantasise about going there someday when we had more time to fix all the paperwork.
But one fine day Mr.A came across some new info – a cruise liner called St Peter Line that allows visitors into St.Petersburg without the hassle of applying for a visa, upon a ship named ‘Princess Anastasia’. It follows a fixed weekly itinerary docking at four ports around the Baltic Sea, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St.Petersburg. Of these, all but Russia accepts a Schengen visa, which we both hold on account of living and working in Stockholm for the past few years. We had visited Helsinki during an excruciatingly cold December a few years ago, and in spite of the weather, had managed to see most of the places that interested us, so we weren’t too keen on Helsinki again. Last year I was in Tallinn for the first time but for Mr.A it was the third, so we ruled that out, too. But then, St.Petersburg was a whole new proposition and we were both instantly saying, as we almost always do, ‘Let’s go!’.
In case you decide to take this route, here are some practical suggestions that might help with your planning:
- The cruise liner’s website provides you most of the information you need including visa free rules, day by day itinerary, etc.
- You don’t have to stick to the whole journey but can opt for any leg of the journey. Since our goal was St.Petersburg, we decided to fly to between Stockholm & Helsinki, and cruise between Helsinki & St.Petersburg.
- Need I state the obvious? Remember to carry your passport and any other resident permits that you hold.
- The cruise itself is on the average side but there are enough options to eat & drink & pass the time. The evening dance performance we watched was quite a good show. Taking bigger & better cabins on the higher decks might considerably improve your experience but the ones on the lower deck are obviously cheaper. Your pick!
- Since you stay overnight in the city, you can either book a hotel in the city or choose to return to the cruise for the night. We chose the latter option. Not only was it terribly cheap to add the extra night, it also eliminated the hassle of carrying our stuff back & forth and the time constraints of checking in & out of a hotel.
- Before boarding, you check-in at the terminal and they provide you with the boarding cards that couple as room keys as well as three other cards required for the visa procedures. The personnel explain all of this pretty clearly, bottom line being, carry them with you at all times & hand them over when asked to.
- When you get to St.Petersburg expect some rather longish queues (assuming the cruise was packed) at the terminal because this is where the border control happens and you get your passport stamped, yayie!
- Mini-buses transfer you free of charge between the terminal and a couple of drop off points the city – the one outside of St.Isaac’s cathedral brings you to the heart of the city. Bus schedules are provided when you board or you can simply ask for one at the reception on the ship. These seat 20 eager passengers at a time and ply every 15 mins, so it might be a bit of challenge to get on the first one that comes by – people don’t really follow the queues here, not even the Europeans, everybody is impatient to get their trip kicked off. Taking a taxi into town would be a quicker way out. Might be a good idea to check with the reception about the most suitable time to leave or return to the ship.
- Once in the city, we were off on our own. I’ll tell you the highlights of our trip in another post soon. Promise!
- Return to the ship in good time on the day of departure, since there might be a bit of queuing then as well, though I noticed it was way less than on the day we arrived. Watching the ship sail away from the docks with a refreshing drink in hand is very relaxing & enjoyable. Especially while leaving St.Petersburg, you get to watch the ship graze by inches below a bridge. They do this every week, but it’s nearly impossible to hold back a whoop & a cheer for the captain 🙂
Is St.Petersburg on your travel wishlist too? Then I hope you find this post helpful. I’ll be more than happy to share my two cent’s worth on this journey, in case you have any questions, fire away!
Every road trip that Mr.A and I brings so many transient moments like this one captured in the side view mirror of our car, when we feel we own the road, the landscape, the world! And they make me wish if only I could hit a pause button and hold on to this feeling a little longer. But as they say, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, so are those memories held closer in our minds than we know, and they come back to us at inadvertent occasions to surprise us and bring a smile on our lips…
In response to the weekly prompt “Transient” on The Daily Post.
There’s more of the weekly photo challenges on Sunny District, hope you enjoy them, too!