BACK TO TOP

Greece holds claim to an amazing array of beauty. Pretty much anywhere you decide to go is going to leave an impression. From dirty, busy Athens (which boasts the most amazing archeological site in the Acropolis) to the remotest of islands which scatter the ocean all around the mainland.

In a last minute attempt to grab some rays of sunshine, we were searching for a holiday destination that was close to our base in Athens, that wasn’t going to break the bank and where we could get some peace and quiet. Enter my cousin Eleni who having already toured all the islands in her homeland recommended Kea. Kea (also known as Tzia) is a small island in the Cyclades  and a short, one hour ferry ride from the port of Lavrio close to Athens.

Kea is an island on which a car is an absolute necessity. Luckily, it costs just 30 Euro each way to transport your rental across to the island. Be prepared to have a port official (usually a guy with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth) directing you to reverse into the tightest spot imaginable amongst tractors and trucks. An interesting experience but worth it in the end as the island has next to no public transport and you don’t want to be calling a cab from a remote beach.

Once on the ferry, the kids will have fun exploring the ship!

After a short one hour trip and a freddo cappuccino (iced cappuccino which you drink with a straw) later you’re in Kea. Our choice of hotel was a self contained house on the Red Tractor Farm. Perfect for our needs as we had with us our two mini-me’s. The best time to travel to Greece and more specifically the Greek islands is early to mid September. August is a month of religious significance with much of the Greek population on holidays. The hotels are packed and the prices are the highest. In addition, August is known for the “Meltemi” which is a strong and ever present wind. We snapped up this accommodation for a song (in comparison to other more cosmopolitan islands like Mykonos) and were thrilled with the facilities and location.

Of course, besides the ancient ruins, tavernas, ouzo, plate smashing, nightlife and general merriment, for me the most enjoyable part of travelling to any Greek island is the beach. The weather varies between hot and hotter with no cold snaps thrown in to sabotage your beach going plans. You’re not likely to get rained out, flooded or hit by a cyclone. The water is crystal clear and warm. Best of all, because you’re swimming in the Mediterranean sea, you don’t need to worry about some bizarre sea creature taking one of your legs off.

We found the organized beach at Koundouros to be the ultimate in relaxation. There’s all the conveniences that you need in terms of food, sunlounges and bathrooms and the water is just divine. The sunlounges even have buttons on them to call your waiter for service! The kids had fun ordering iced chocolates. Many multi million dollar yachts make their way here to enjoy the views and the water and they’re pretty amazing to look at. All in all. there are probably over a hundred beaches to choose from in Kea, from organized beaches like this one to ones that are so secluded you’re likely to spend the whole day by yourselves. Some are very hard to access though with roads not even having been paved yet (part of the charm) so you’re best off asking the locals for advice or doing some research before you arrive.

Once you’re all beached out (and after the obligatory afternoon siesta), there’s heaps to do at night. The town centre Ioulis is spectacular to see. It was built hundreds of years ago on the top of the mountain to keep lookout for pirates.

Once you’ve made it up the steep, winding road, the town is full of photo opportunities like this tiny church to say a prayer in.

Time to eat.

Apart from Ioulis, there’s the port that is worth having an evening walk along and also the upmarket and trendy Vourkari with bars, restaurants and shops. Soon enough though, it’s time to leave so take your tanned bodies and your sandy suitcase back to the port to catch another ferry with your head full of memories and the promise of a speedy return.

Photography by Ms Gingham, Little Ms Gingham and Eleni Spyropoulou.

Polka Dot Honeymoons Directory Mid Banner

A girl can’t go to Paris in a tracksuit – especially on her honeymoon! Keep warm and rugged up in a stylish wool coat, comfy boots and thick wool tights. The simple but elegant black dress can be easily worn during the day or out to dinner and the leather tote is perfect for cramming your ipad, travel guide book and camera in! A stylish cuff and of course a wool beret keeps the outfit fun & personal.

My Glory Box Coat from Alannah Hill, Hailey Leather tote from Trenery, Dyson boots from Mollini, Mimco bow cuff, Metallicus plain long sleeve dress from Birdsnest, wool tights from Witchery, She’s A Shy Girl beanie from Alannah Hill My beautiful life clip

Ms Gingham says: I can almost smell the croissants and coffee!!! Yum!

Yamanouchi

After a long journey, we finally arrived at Yamanouchi. Craig Shaw, our English-speaking liaison from Snow Monkey Japan picked up us from Yudanaka train station and took our weary selves to Biyu no Yado, the ryokan (or Japanese inn) where we would be staying during our visit. Craig also works at Biyu no Yado, which made it convenient.

view from our room

biyu no yado

view from our room

At Biyu no Yado, we got the traditional room as we wanted a more authentic experience. We love the switcheroo-service that the staff do during meal times. During dinner time, they will prepare our futon for sleeping. While during breakfast, they would tidy up the futons and restore the room to its day-time state.

our room

Day-time room.

futons

Night-time room.

Dinner and breakfast were included in the room cost and the meals are a real spread.

dinner

breakfast

The little complimentary traditional sweets we received were also such a joy.

complimentary sweets

Pockets of Japan are well-known as hot springs or onsen areas. The highlight of staying at Biyu no Yado is definitely the onsen baths. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we took all our baths in the communal baths while we were there!

Yudanaka Onsen

On the morning of 12th April 2011 our adventure was certainly made even more interesting. While getting ready for breakfast, we experienced a 5.5M local earthquake. It was a pretty big earthquake that lasted for a couple of seconds. It was certainly shocking and worrying, but despite the continuing little aftershocks during the day, we proceeded to carry out the activities we planned for our stay. After breakfast, we went to Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the snow monkeys.

Jigokudani Monkey Park entrance

We had to do a bit of climbing to see the monkeys and after a big earthquake, the last thing you would want to see is a sign like this …

warning

We also saw signs that warned us of possible animals we might encounter during the walk … which luckily we did not encounter.

Once we got into the park, it was quite amazing really. Wild snow monkeys running around as we walk. At Jigokudani Park, the visitors can get really close to the monkeys. When we arrived it was feeding time… imagine a herd of wild monkeys running around beside you chasing after the caretaker… Amazingly, the monkeys ignored the visitors and went on as if we were not there. There were a number of rules to be followed when visiting the snow monkeys.

1. No eating while walking.

2. Don’t disturb the monkeys.

3. Don’t carry any bags. Although apparently the monkeys are not interested in our cameras, so cameras are ok.

4.  Don’t stare at the monkeys in the eye. Craig told us, the monkeys are like the mafia part of the town.

We were warned if we do not follow the rules, the monkeys would attack!

Monkeys roaming

We also explored Yamanouchi town. We visited the Good Fortune Route where we saw the giant “The Goddess of Mercy of World Peace”. Reading the information, I thought it was quite apt that we were on our honeymoon. 🙂

Heiwa Kannon, Yamanouchi

Goddess of Mercy of World Peace

Park information

Map

We had a lovely lunch at Tokumi. The owner asked us if we were afraid of the nuclear situation. Later we realised, most places that we visited in Japan, the locals would ask us the same question.

Yamanouchi

Yamanouchi

So, after experiencing a 5.5M earthquake what else did we do? We went snowshoeing up on Mt Yokote (known locally as Yokote Yama), which is part of Shigakogen, a national park in the area. I asked Craig, who was our guide for this particular activity if it was safe to go up a snow mountain with earthquake and all. He jokingly told me it is better to be at the top during such time. Going up to Yokote Yama was certainly one of the best highlights of our honeymoon. It was an amazing experience.

Beautiful view from Mt Yokote

To get to the top of Yokote Yama, Craig asked Takesou-san, who owned a bakery right on top of the mountain to take us up there. As you can see from the photos, the roads were still closed off for visitors as it was still being cleared of snow. Takesou-san has a special car and the skills to drive through the slippery roads.

the snow on the side of the road

clearing the road of the snow

View from the car

We also got to ride a snow mobile! It was amazing!

Up on a snow mobile

Takesou-san’s bakery and cafe at the top of Yokote Yama.

Mt Bakery at the top of Mt Yokote

Once we reached the top of the mountain, we met two beautiful Siberian Huskies… Momichi and Silver. Silver is the friendlier one.

Silver and Tony

After a brief reprieve at Mt. Bakery, we then proceeded to snowshoe our way down the mountain.

Snow shoeing

Tony at Mt Yokote

Together. :)

We saw the sunset from the top of the snow mountains of Yamanouchi. We made our way back in time for dinner.

Sunset

walking down

Then the next day after breakfast we continued on our Japan journey. The next stop? Nagoya!

In Yudanaka Station waiting for the train

Photos from Jennifer and Tony’s collection with help from their liaison Craig Shaw.

Ms Gingham says: I’m just loving following Jennifer’s adventure around Japan! How beautiful does snowshoeing down the mountain while watching the sunset look? I just hope that bulldozer wasn’t Takesou-san’s “special car”!

Jennifer says: “I’m not sure how to describe myself really, as I’m interested in everything and anything. I’m currently undergoing my post-graduate studies and as a creative outlet have my own mini label me.u, where I make jewellery/accessories. Despite having the wedding done now, I still love looking at all things bridal! So I still troll around wedding sites looking for all things pretty!”

Read Part 1 of Jennifer and Tony’s Yamanouchi Adventure.