25 August 2014

Our Europe and UK Trip - The Booking Process

Following our initial plan, which you can read about here comes the booking process.

Since the majority of our trip (the tours) already cover accommodation, transport and certain meals. We only had to consider the following major things:

Flights from Melbourne to Athens, Greece
We spent the longest time searching for appropriate flights. We didn't really have any particular airlines that we wanted to fly with so it all came down to which airlines can get us there on time and how much do we have to pay for it? We both decided that we didn't want to spend too much money on flights and save it so we can use whilst on our trip instead.

We decided to depart Melbourne on the night of Thursday 28 August 2014 via Abu Dhabi - this will get us to Athens in the afternoon of the 29th.

Greece (Athens) Accommodation - Attalos Hotel Athens
Chris (boyf) actually found our accommodation in Athens. We wanted something central and walking distance to the major sites of Athens. It was fairly cheap, had great ratings and a killer view of the Acropolis from the rooftop

Greece Tour
Chris' dream! Hehe..
Since Greece is somewhere Chris has always wanted to go to, we found a tour covering all the main site that were further away from Athens that he wanted to visit namely Delphi, Kalambakka, Meteora etc.

We decided to go with the trusty Viator with this one. Booked a 4 day 3 nights Classical Greece Tour. It's very fitting considering Greece is so full of history - can't wait to experience it.

Meteora- look how amazing it looks! *in awe* 

Flights from Athens to Santorini and back
Chose the local airlines. Wasn't much to consider here since all the flights were the same price. Just had to pick our times and book.

We chose the morning flight so we can make the most of our time at Santorini.

Santorini Accommodation - Pension Petros
This also took a long time to decide. We decided that we wanted to stay on the Western side of the island - close to Fira main city. We found a number of accommodations that looked good online but once we read reviews on Tripadvisor, it was like all hell was let loose.

For example: one of the accommodations that we look at had mostly all positive reviews about their rooms/facilities but there were a number of complaints about the manager. The manager there also acts as a airport pick-up guy so when he picked up a group of tourists and was on the way back to his hotel, he suddenly stopped the car and had a punch-on with another guy over a girl (?) Didn't really understand the story behind it but that was enough to put us off booking. We don't want our lives at risk!

After a lot of research, we decided to stick with a small family-owned hotel - a lot of positive feedback about this place so hopefully we won't be disappointed.

Flights from Athens to Paris
Again, we chose the local airlines and it came down to when we wanted to leave Athens.

Booked a flight that gets us into Paris at around 1 in the afternoon. A perfect day to relax and recover before we start exploring Paris.

Paris Accommodation - Hotel De Arts
Paris accommodation is so damn expensive! Since our main Europe tour has a couple of nights in Paris, we decided to email the tour company for the name of that hotel in the hope that they could just extend our stay. After receiving the details of the hotel, the tour group told us that they do not extend hotel stays but we are more than welcome to do so ourselves. We researched and google mapped the place and it was so far (!) from the main city so we decided against that idea.

Started researching other places to stay and everything was expensive, expensive and even more expensive!

When we were about to give up hope, my smart boyf decided to check on other tour group's websites for recommended accommodations and he found one in the Montmartre area. Close to public transport, in a nice area and cheaper than everything else but most importantly, positive feedback! Such a gem!

Also, some rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower!

Europe Tour
One of the first things we decided on was our main Europe tour. We wanted something flexible (allows for free days) but took us to various countries. Since this is our first trip to Europe, we thought it would be a good idea to stick with a tour and save on things like accommodation, food, transport etc. If in the future, we do come back again, we will just visit the countries we love and travel ourselves.

We decided to go with the Expat Explore - Europe Explorer; which takes us to 9 countries in 18 days.

London Accommodation - Ibis Shepherd's Bush
Our main Europe tour ends in London so we chose to stay and explore London for a few days before we head home. Again, we researched many (!) hotels. Hotels here are similar to those in Paris, they're all expensive!

Since we didn't plan on spending much time in the hotel, we didn't want to pay for an apartment or hostel for facilities like a swimming pool/kitchenette that we won't be using.

We settled on a Ibis accommodation. After thorough research, we found that this place is still very new so the facilities will be in top condition. It is also walking distance to the Metro and a Westfield mall! They also allow for late check-in which is what we are after considering we will be arriving in London around 8-9pm.

London Stonehenge and Bath Tour
We were deciding on 2 tour groups for the London Stonehenge and Bath Tour. We emailed both of them to enquire about hotel pick-ups and only one replied so you can guess which one we ended up going with.

We have received mix reactions about going to Stonehenge. Some mentioned that it's not that great and you pay to go and see a bunch of random rocks while others recommended it.

Since we came so far to be in London, we decided to just go for it. We stuck with Viator and it also includes hotel pick-up and a visit to Windsor Castle!

Flights from London to Melbourne
Researching of flights to come back home is always depressing. We couldn't book a return flight as it doesn't make sense for us to go all the way to Athens to fly home.

We researched and put this off for a long time since all the flights were either a) really expensive or b) had an insanely long layover time.

Since we decided to fly away from my birthday, we decided it would be fun to have an extremely long layover. We chose to layover in Singapore for a duration of 11 hours. Crazy, I know but Singapore does have a really famous airport and is know for having lots to do there. Lets see how that goes for us.


We also considered other smaller things to book:

Fancy dinner reservations
Since many of our friends or family members have been to the places that we are going to visit. They suggested a number of famous, popular and really good restaurants and told us that we "have to go" so being the foodies that we are, we decided to include them into our itinerary and booked our reservations (for the ones that we could book for, some don't allow reservations)

We have nothing to lose on this one. Even if we end up not making it, we didn't have to pay a cent. Obviously, we would really like to have the time to make our reservations and experience all the goodness that everyone is raving about.

Skip the Queue - Eiffel Tower, Colosseum etc
The last thing you want is to spend hours queuing to visit famous landmarks. As requested by Chris' sister, we decided to book skip the queue tickets to the major - very popular - places.

High Tea in London - Langham
Another one recommended by Chris' sister, worth a try.

We booked high tea at the Langham in London where 140 years ago, high tea was introduced in the Palm Court. Elegant and Timeless

Stage Shows
Since Chris and I are both fans of stage show, we decided to spoil ourselves and book 2! We decided on the classical Phantom of the Opera and the amazing and creative Lion King. Super excited.

We're almost finished with our pre-departure process. Just have to tie up some loose ends and then we're ready to go. It's getting close :)

22 August 2014

Our Europe and UK Trip - The Plan

My boyf - Chris and I have been planning our Europe and UK holiday for the last 8 months or so now (we actually started planning before we flew for our last trip within Asia back in December 2013). We have always wanted to travel to Europe and the UK so we decided that we should just make it happen.

The planning has been far from simple but being a perfectionist has its perks - I've literally thought about everything possible - from flights to hotels to transport to food to pickpockets and sites to visit. You name it, I've researched it.

I normally like to be spontaneous but for such a huge trip with limited time in each destination. I believe it's best planned so we won't be kicking ourselves because we missed something important or couldn't fit all the things we want to do into one day.

So here's how we planned our trip with some questions we asked ourselves during the planning process:

1. When do we want to go?
Since we already had a trip to Asia booked for December 2013 to February 2014, we had to ensure we left some time before our next departure to accumulate some more annual leave and $$. We also wanted to miss the tourist rush (peak times) so we settle for dates around September 2014.

2. Where do we actually want to go?
Since this trip is our first trip to Europe and the UK, we both wanted to visit the famous landmarks aka Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Buckingham Palace etc. We researched and researched and finally decided that if we want to go to so many places within a certain time frame, it would be best for us to join a tour of some sort that departs from London and goes through Europe and finishes in London again.

Following thorough research and speaking to friends and family that have been to Europe and the UK before, we found a list of tour companies and went online to research what they have to offer and the prices they could offer it for.

In the end, we decided to pay our deposit for a Europe Explorer - 18 days, 9 countries and 21 experiences with Expat Explore. This tour will take us to France, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany & Belgium. What's better is we booked super early so it was cheap!

3. How long are we going for?
Since the tour we selected already covers 18 days, we thought to ourselves - how long can we afford to be gone for? Since both our bosses are super flexible, we proposed a month long holiday away and they both accepted. No questions asked!

4. What do we want to do outside of the tour?
Since we have always wanted to visit Greece (my dream is to visit Santorini), we wondered whether we could fit that before or after our Europe tour. We played around with the dates and decided that if we leave Melbourne a few days earlier then initially planned, we could spend about a week traveling Greece and Santorini! Yay :)

From there, we would fly to Paris and spend some extra days there (many people suggested spending extra time in Paris) before we join our tour in Paris (we were given the option of joining the tour in either Paris or London). Since the tour ends in London, we decided to end our holiday with 5 days exploring London. Perfect.

This time next week, we will be starting our adventure :)

01 August 2014

Of Winds, Rain and Crazy Weather

I can't believe it's already August. Where did all the time fly to?
Only 4 more months and we will be welcoming in the new year!

Lately, I've been finding it very difficult to stop and spend time appreciating the things around me. I use to do that a lot but lately, I rush everywhere and everything is just a routine to me. Sleep, Eat, Work and repeat. I really hate it a lot but I guess that's what work does to you.

I've been really busy at work lately. A few of my colleagues took leave to go holidaying and then this huge tender application decided to come! My balance between my work and my personal life has recently been messed up hence you'll realise I've been missing from a lot of my social media channels lately. I go home and all I think about is this application, I really want down time but I really cannot afford to mess this up! The application is so massive that it can make or break our organisation (not even kidding!) and all responsibility has been placed on my shoulders. Now you know why I've been freaking out?

Also lately, Melbourne's weather has been so crazy! Winds yesterday reached a maximum of 130km/h in some areas. Trees and power lines have been falling everywhere and damaging cars. Even my half full wheelie bin flipped and pour all our rubbish bags all over my driveway #fml. It feels like we're in the middle of some sort of epic storm that has being bringing in a lot of rain - the constant heavy downpour type of rain that makes you want to remain indoors (or better yet, in bed with a hot chocolate)

12 June 2014

50 Facts About Me


Saw this tag floating around and thought it would be interesting to do.

For those that read my blog, it'll be a way for you to learn a little bit about me! :)
  1. My name is spelt Joan but pronounced Joanne.
  2. I was born in Kuantan, Malaysia.
  3. I am currently 24 years old.
  4. I have a younger brother who is 3.5 years younger than me.
  5. I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been here since '94.
  6. I have a passion for photography and travelling
  7. My favourite number.
  8. I have been to 9 countries and counting.
  9. Most of the time, I drive with one hand.
  10. I love Korean, Italian and Thai food.
  11. I have a huge(!) extended family. My grandpa on my dad's side is the head of 5 generations.
  12. I have rolled both my ankles before.
  13. I fractured my left arm playing kick ball (I slid into a tree - don't judge!)
  14. I then hid my cast under long sleeves so I could play on my school's Volleyball team.
  15. I love all things Korean - the culture, food, language, dramas, music etc.
  16. My brother once slammed the door on my hand causing me to lose a finger nail.
  17. I currently work a 9-5 office job.
  18. I've had 5 part time jobs in the past mostly waitressing
  19. I can read, write and speak in Chinese.
  20. I use to collect stamps and coins.
  21. My dad once got so angry at me, he snapped my flip phone into half.
  22. I love to bake.
  23. I am a shorts and t-shirt kind of girl.
  24. I prefer flats over heels.
  25. I took singing lessons when I was younger and at the entrance exam, I forgot the lyrics to 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" because I was so nervous.
  26. I am definitely more artistic - but took all Science subjects in high school.
  27. My dream job when I was younger was to be an entertainer or air hostess.
  28. It takes me 40 minutes to drive to work - one way with no traffic.
  29. It has taken me almost 2 hours - one way with traffic.
  30. I find it hard to buy watches, bracelets and bangles because my wrist is so small.
  31. I want to visit South Korea and Bora Bora at least once in my life.
  32. Santorini, Greece should also be on that list but I'm going there this September.
  33. I don't like to do things alone.
  34. I love soccer.
  35. I am scared of heights.
  36. I am a devout Christian.
  37. I am happily taken since Feb '13.
  38. I am responsible for many of my brother's scars.
  39. My dad once ran over my foot with his car.
  40. I got stung by sea lice in the Solomon Islands and it left a scar.
  41. I was a super chubby baby.
  42. I have gone 40+ hours without sleep in the past.
  43. I can crack my fingers and my back a lot.
  44. I am a huge fan of Running Man, I saw the cast when they filmed in Melbourne.
  45. I like to build things and put furniture together.
  46. I also like to take things apart to see how they work.
  47. I took part in a 50km walk through the mountains and completed it in 12 hours.
  48. I am a strong swimmer but only started taking lessons after I almost drowned as a child.
  49. I am the eldest grandchild on my mum's side and the 3rd youngest on my dad's side.
  50. I have a sweet tooth.
Phew. That wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I hope that through this post, you were able to find out some more about me.
I tag:
Michelle from Mishyymoo and everyone else reading this post :) 

11 April 2014

Neglected Space?

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost 4 months since my last update on here. As mentioned in my previous update, I went overseas for 6 whole weeks and struggled to come back to work and reality after that.

Shortly after, I began planning my Europe trip - happening this September 2014. Super excited, I'm going to all the places that I've only seen on TV - namely, Greece, Paris, London, Italy :) and going to burn another big hole in my wallet but meh, who cares?? :P

Just to inform you all, the reason I haven't updated the last few months is because my laptop has officially crashed :( RIP

I'm currently on the hunt for a new one but I just haven't had much time to go and actually look. I also find it extremely difficulty to update on my iPad and phone - and post the pictures that I want (mostly , on my camera) but maybe I should give it a try again? I really want to update about my Asian trip that just passed.

In the meantime, keep up to date with me at:
Dayre - dayre.me/snapjo
Instagram - @snapjo

Will try to update more frequently and will make more time to go laptop hunting!

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