Friday, August 25, 2017

Past POIs - Akrotiri Lighthouse [Santorini, Greece]

While in Santorini, make sure that you rent an ATV and drive around the island. When we were there, it seemed like there were actually more ATVs than cars! All the tourists seemed to do it and it was fairly inexpensive (roughly 25 euros a full day).

With our ATV in hand, we drove it down to the Akrotiri lighthouse which is the southwestern tip of Santorini. Which is a great spot to watch the sunset (or at least that's what we were told). Unfortunately, when we went, it was cloudy and the sunset didn't happen as nicely as expected. However, it seems like a nice place to visit and hang around.

Like a lot of the places in the area, it seems like most people just park their vehicles wherever they can and hope for the best. There is a small parking lot there at the very end, otherwise you would just park on the side of the road and walk to the lighthouse.

Both the parking and the lighthouse is free to visit in 2017, however, you aren't actually able to go inside the lighthouse which I thought would've been neat, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. If you say for the sunset, make sure to stay a bit longer because the lighthouse is actually a working lighthouse and the light will come on shortly after the sun has completely set.

The surrounding areas has some nice views of the island and it is nice since it is not as busy as Oia would be for watching sunsets.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Past POIs - Fira to Oia Hike [Santorini, Greece]

During our trip in Santorini, Greece, we did the hike from Fira to Oia which is a 10km hike with an estimate time of 3 hour hike. You can also do it from the other direction (Oia to Fira), however, it is easier from Fira to Oia since you'll be walking mostly down instead of up.

Signage from Fira about potential hikes and duration.
The time it takes is really dependent on your ability and I would say how many stops and detours you take. It took us roughly 5 hours to do the full hike, but we got sidetracked by things like Skaros Rock which took us about an hour to do and just where you decided to take breaks and enjoy the scenery.

Skaros Rock (view from the bottom looking up at Fira)
I would say that as long as you are in okay shape, you can do the hike. We saw all types of people doing the hiking and nobody seemed to have any issues doing it.

Skaros Rock (looking down from Fira)
Note, the hike itself is out in the open for the full hike, so do prepare yourself accordingly. Make sure that you bring enough water for yourself since there really aren't many shops that you can just stop at on the way. For the most part, once you leave Fira, it is fairly empty with no shops until you get to Oia. Bring sunscreen or an umbrella depending on the weather.

Panorama between Fira and Oia
Overall, I'm glad we did the hike, it was a great experience.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 - Lake Placid (Summary)

Duration: 4 days (Friday - Monday)
Driving Distance: 1,050 round-trip (525km one-way)

Cost: Roughly $600 USD for 4 days for the two of us.

Accommodations - $400 USD for 3 nights
Meals - roughly $15-$20 USD per person before tip
Admissions - Wild Center was $20 USD per person (good for 2 days)


Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, I thought this was an enjoyable experience. Try to make it there at 10:00am where the host will start talking about the wolves that they have their and the general area. Once you are done, you can walk down the path to see some of the other animals that they have as well as take in some hiking if you like. It is a non-profit organization and operate on donations, so if you end up liking it, give them a little something for their efforts.

Adirondack Wildlife Refuge - Grey wolf
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge - Bald Eagle
The Wild Center, oddly, I heard about this through Facebook which I never credit, but it is a great place to visit. Make sure to go to the Wild Walk portion first if you want pictures before the crowd comes in. We spent about 45 minutes in the Wild Walk portion before we started seeing people. Included in the admission is the Wild Walk, access to all the events in the Wild Center, and best of all, the admission is actually good for two days! Lovely place to visit for kids and adults alike.

Wild Center
Wild Center
Wild Center
Ice Cream Stands, there seemed to be plenty of these and they were all great in my mind. Some cost a bit more than others, but overall, we were never disappointed in any of them. We visited Donnelly's, Skyline Ice Cream, Whitebrook Dairy Bar.

Skyline Ice Cream
Donnelly's Ice Cream

Nothing was particularly disappointing during this trip fortunately. My general comment as a disappointment would be the cost that is associated to some things. Things that I would normally expect to just pay for parking would have admission costs attached to them. High Gorge Falls and Whiteface Mountain come to mind when I think about this.

But, at the same time, the local government parking lot in the Lake Placid area only cost $0.50/hour. So, ups and downs!

Food Suggestions

Redneck Bistro, although we didn't like the service (it was slow and unattentive), I thought that the food was actually the best that we had on this trip.

Redneck Bistro - Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and coleslaw
Redneck Bistro - Redneck Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

We stayed at Alpine Country Inn & Suites in Wilmington and it was a nice place to stay at. The hosts were very gracious and lovely couple. The breakfast was just cereal bars and coffee, however, there are plenty of things for families to do outside. There is a gazebo, a BBQ grill if you want to use it, a small swimming pool, a pirate themes play area for kids and a firepit for evening s'mores and marshmallows.

Overall, we both really enjoyed the place and would recommend it to others as long as they don't mind staying outside of Lake Placid (which wasn't an issue for us).

Alpine Country Inn & Suites
Alpine Country Inn & Suites

Little Super Market in Wilmington is a great stop for lunch sandwiches if you are in the area. $3.50 at the time got us a sandwich with 1 meat and the amount of meat put in is based on weight and if you look at the middle, it looks like it is an inch thick! Perfect thing to buy for hiking.

Little Super Market - Sandwiches
Aldi just outside of Saranac Lake is a discount grocery store to buy things before you hit the Lake Placid area. A water jug was under $1.00 and a big bag of their local chips was just over $1.00.

Final Thoughts

This place was suggested by Allison's coworker and it was an enjoyable experience. There is plenty of hiking to do if you are into that sort of things, if not, the scenery is very nice and there seems to be plenty to do all year round (hiking in the summer, skiing/snowboarding in the winter).

It has a very small town feel, with the only large place that I noticed being Marshalls, Gap, and Bass. Everything else seemed like local independent shops which is nice. Everyone was friendly, and we had a good time.

It's a good way to spend a few days. We could have stayed more to do some other things, but we had a good taste of what it had to offer. Some things that I would consider next time would be to do the Olympic Passport to visit Whiteface Mountain and visit the Olympic sights. However, since that would've taken up an entire day, we decided against it. And there are plenty of hiking trails and fire towers that I would've liked to visit. Maybe next time!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 - Lake Placid - Day 3

Today, we visit the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and go hiking in the afternoon.

Adirondack Wildlife Refuge
The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge opens at 10:00am and there is a man who actually goes into a pen with wolves and he does talk about them. Specifically, in terms of what wolves are, what they are like, and the impact that they have in nature. However, he did end up talking a lot about some of his political interests and disinterests and that was when we got bored and started to leave and explore the rest of the place. By that time, he had already talked for an hour!

Adirondack Wildlife Refuge - Grey wolf
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge - Bald Eagle
We spent about 45 minutes looking at the other animals there and did a short hike as well. The animals that they have are usually animals that people found that need help and all the animals there have stories behind them which I thought was pretty neat. It is a non-profit organization with their funds being primarily donations and admission is actually free and it is up to you if you want to give them something for visiting (you can do this at the end).

Adirondack Wildlife Refuge - Porcupine
Had our lunch (which was sandwiches from the Little Super Market) in the car and ended up leaving at noon. Next, we went to do the Owl's Head Trail! Unfortunately, by the time we got there, there were plenty of signage saying that the trail is actually closed on the weekends which was disappointing. I guess it is because it is a semi-residential area and that hikers would park their cars everywhere, so it is closed off during the weekends.

So, instead, we went back to the hotel and go some ice cream at Whitebrook Dairy Bar where we ordered a small hard ice cream, salted caramel truffle was the flavour which cost us $3.50. It was very good and actually a good size too. Regular would have been too big.

Ended up doing the Cobble Hill trail instead which is a 1.3 mile trail each way (2.6 mile round-trip) which took us roughly 45 minutes each way. The trail has some ups and downs but in general is relatively flat and easy hike. At the end of the hike you arrive at a clearing where you get to see the surrounding area which is nice. We started at 3:00pm and ended at roughly 4:45pm. There is no cost for this and there is a small parking lot, otherwise it looked like people were parking on the side of the road.

Cobble Lookout Trail
Cobble Lookout Trail
Cobble Lookout Trail
Dinner was at 6:00pm at Redneck Bistro where we ordered the Redneck Burger and the Southern Fried Chicken. It set us back $29 before tip. We thought that the food was actually quite good (or we were hungry), however the service was very poor. Based on that, not sure if I should suggest it or not. Allison mentioned it might have to do with everyone arriving at roughly the same time, but as a customer, that shouldn't matter. It took about 30 minutes I think to actually get food after ordering it.

Redneck Bistro - Southern Fried Chicken
Redneck Bistro - Redneck Burger
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and cleaned up in hopes of another campfire and we lucked out and there was another one! Tonight, the host's family was actually staying there and we were the odd ones out in a group of 7 others. We were included in their fire-side chat as well as a game of Joe Name It with more roasted marshmallows and s'mores. It was a nice way to end the trip.

Tomorrow, we head back to Toronto.

The following day, we went to Country Bear Bakery for breakfast where we ordered the special which was french toast, eggs, and choice of meat and we also got the regular breakfast with two eggs, choice of meat, and toast which came out to $16 before tip.

Country Bear Bakery
The food was okay, Allison really liked the butter that came with the french toast. The rest of the trip was just us driving back home. No issues at the border which had roughly 6 cars before us, two lanes open at roughly 11:00am. Made it back to home by 5:00pm, so took roughly 8 hours to get back with two stops (lunch and washroom break).

Tomorrow will be my summary of Lake Placid.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 - Lake Placid - Day 2

Today, our goal is to visit The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

The Wild Center
We went to check out the breakfast set-up at the hotel and unfortunately it is just cereal bars, coffee, tea and some orange juice. So, don't expect much in terms of breakfast if you stay here.

Based on our conversation with the host, we went to Little Super Market for some lunch sandwiches since they offer filled sandwiches for a low price. When we got there, you actually make your sandwich yourself by filling in a piece of paper with what you want in your sandwich. You get to pick your choice of bread (white, rye, sub), meats (there must have been over 15 types of deli meat), veggies, and spread. Once you have filled in the sheet, just hand it to the person behind the counter and wait while they make your sandwich. A sandwich with 1 meat comes to $3.50 a sandwich.

We made it to Washboard for a donut which I read about online. It was $0.85 a donut and we got the glazed and peanut butter. Definitely get a donut that has a spread instead of the glazed one since it is fresh vs old (at least that's how we felt based on how they tasted).

Wild Center was next and it cost us $20 per person when we went. However, the ticket is actually good for two days if you want to re-visit (or maybe if you get rained out). We basically charged to do the Wild Walk portion of the place first since it would likely get really crowded as it got later in the day (it opens at 10:00am).

The Wild Center
The Wild Center
The Wild Walk portion is a tree-top trek which has a bird's nest that you can walk into, some suspension bridges, as well as a huge spider web made of rope that you can play in. We spent 45 minutes here.

The Wild Center
The Wild Center
After the Wild Walk, we did some hiking in the area, there are a few trails and the ones that are worth it in my mind are the ones by the river which is right next to the Wild Walk. Our hiking took another 45 minutes before we arrived at the Wild Center.

Little Super Market sandwiches
There are actually quite a lot of cool things to see in the Wild Center. There are exhibits with animals like otters, toads, frogs, bugs, and there are plenty of fish here as well. There is a theater with short films, as well as scheduled talks where staff talk about things like amphibians and the otters. We had lunch while we were here and ended up leaving at 1:00pm (so, we spent 3 hours here).

The Wild Center
The Wild Center
Went to the local Tupper Lake street festival where we wandered around for about 30 minutes before heading to Skyline ice cream. We got the small black raspberry twist for $2.30. It was actually really good. I'd recommend it if you are in the area.

Skyline Ice Cream
Skyline Ice Cream
I tried to drive us to a fire tower, but unfortunately due to the heavy rain, the road was actually flooded out which was disappointing. To make up for this, we went back to Donnelly's for the second ice cream of the day! Today's flavour was mountain almond with chocolate and vanilla twist which was $3.60 for a regular sized cone. This flavour was amazing in my mind. Reminded me of the Chinese almond tofu dessert.

Donnelly's Ice Cream
Ended up at Aldi which is a grocery store for some snacks and then rested at the hotel before dinner which would be at McDougall's pub and grill based on the host's recommendation. We ordered the pub steak and the fish and chips which came out to $38 before tip. Make sure to sit outside if you can for the nice view. The food was good, nothing special in my mind.

McDougall's Pub and Grill - Pub Steak
McDougall's Pub and Grill - Fish and Chips
Returned to the hotel to prep for hopefully a good evening of campfire and marshmallows. The host actually showed us how to make s'mores which consisted of them warming the graham cracker and chocolate by placing it near the fire while they roasted marshmallows. This would allow the chocolate to get warm and be melty by the time you assemble everything. Unfortunately, we got rained out after about 3 s'mores and had to call it a day.

Alpine Country Inn & Suites - s'mores!
Tomorrow, we visit the Wildlife Refuge and try to do some hiking.

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 - Lake Placid - Day 1

Today, we begin our 4 day, 3 night road trip to Lake Placid which is roughly a 7 hour drive from Toronto. Our days will be driving to Lake Placid, stay for 3 nights and returning to Toronto on the 4th day.

We left Toronto at around 9:00am and got to Donnelly's Soft Ice Cream in Saranac Lake at around 3:30pm. This is an interesting shop, the ice cream is actually FLAT! And there is only one choice. Whatever happens to be made that day and it is twisted with vanilla. Since it was Friday, it was strawberry and vanilla twist. And when we got there, the line was out the door!

The ice cream was actually quite good. We got the regular size which cost us $3.60, unfortunately, it was so hot outside that the ice cream started to melt as soon as we got outside. I would recommend it, just to see what an old-school ice cream maker looks like.

After our stop, we got to the Lake Placid Visitor Center at 4:00pm and got some information about the area and was told to visit the free Freaky Friday Show at the skating rink next door which starts at 4:30pm on Friday. It is a free show and it showcases some kids who are trying to figure skate.

We were told there were people missing, otherwise the show would have lasted longer than the roughly 5-10 minutes we were there. But, free is free!

We decided that we would just wander the area and grab dinner before checking in at our hotel. And we ended up at Smoke Signals for dinner at 6:00pm. We actually lucked out and got there early enough to get seats rather quickly and right by the water. The place must be pretty popular since the upstairs floor was actually booked for a wedding!

Ordered the sampler, which included a side and we got the mac and cheese, also ordered 5 wings, and cornbread. The sampler included brisket, pulled pork and ribs and oddly, the disappointment was with the ribs. The brisket and pulled pork were very good, so we weren't sure what happened with the ribs. The wings were the same, they were very tough and hard, almost like they smoked them for too long or they deep fried them for too long. The mac and cheese was good, the cornbread was cornbread, nothing special. In the end, it cost us $40 before tip.

We made it to our hotel at 7:45pm for the next few days, Alpine Country Inn & Suites, located in Wilmington which is about a 15-20 minute drive from Lake Placid. The owner was very nice and chatty. Ended up with lots of brochures and was told that breakfast would be available at around 7:30am (depended on when he woke up it seemed).

I actually booked the place since there is a firepit and Allison loves roasting marshmallows and we got to enjoy a bit of the fire and marshmallows before we got rained on and had to call it a night.

Tomorrow, we visit the Wild Center in Tupper Lake!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Past POIs - Athens Central Market [Athens, Greece]

As someone who is used to how Canada and United States work where you buy your groceries from a grocery story, going to visit a market in foreign countries is always a treat since you get to see how things operate elsewhere. Mind you, they do have grocery stores as well, but the atmosphere, price, and quality differ significantly.

The Central Market is about a 15 minute walk from Syntagma Square, you'll find fresh meats and fish in the Central Market. It is a market open to the public and you will see stalls upon stalls filled with what I assume are the catches of the day. Mind you, you will walk past 5-10 stalls that all sell the same thing with the same prices, but still worth seeing my mind. Note, the market isn't for the faint of heart. You will see a lot of blood (and liking be walking in blood soaked tile), and some recently killed animals that they are butchering on the spot. We did notice that there weren't fresh seafood, which was a bit odd.

When you are done, just across the street is the fresh produce market which is outside and not covered, however, you can find all the fruits and vegetables that you desire, as well as shops that sell essentials like oils, spices, herbs, etc.

Sorry for slacking off, I'll try to maintain my usual schedule again. Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!