In August last year, Nicky & Kerry Horrell left Ashburton for a well-earned holiday, starting in Singapore, moving on to Paris, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Rome, then touring up through Italy to Venice, and back home. It was a trip planned around the F1 races – this one was MONZA. They enjoyed five weeks of discovery, which they were happy to share with Spirit Magazine.

“I’m pleased to say that as we write this, Kerry has caught the travel bug,” Nicky smiles. “There is already talk of where to go next. Yes!”

Our trip started on a very chilly -2° morning trip to Christchurch and we were soon winging our way to Singapore. On arrival at our hotel it was a treat to get a view of the Sands Marina Hotel and Clarke Quay right outside our window. We set out to explore shops, a toy museum and Raffles Hotel for a mandatory Singapore Sling.  A boat ride to see the Gardens in the Bay was followed by a stupendous light show in the evening – totally recommended. On our last half-day we visited the zoo, which was very enjoyable, but if you’re going to go, make a day of it – it is just too big a place to get around!

From Singapore to Paris, France – our last visit here had been enjoyable, but busy, so we wanted to simply be Parisiennes for five days. We devised our own walking tour down the Champs-Élysées, where we stood for a service at the Arc de Triomphe. On another day we took a tour to the D-Day beaches in Normandy, which included a stop at Pointe du Hoc, overlooking the 100-foot high cliffs between Utah and Omaha Beaches and the famous American Cemetery at Saint Laurent, near the town of Colleville sur Mer. We travelled through beautiful landscapes and picturesque villages of timber-framed houses decorated with flowers – breath-taking.  On our last day we took the Metro to a flea market at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces so Saint Ouen (Les Puces, meaning the fleas). This took us right to the end of the No 4 line. What a place! Fantastic antiquities from times past, gilt mirrors, chandeliers and so many shops! – it was like a rabbit warren, but so much fun!

Then it was on to Athens, Greece, where we joined a Trafalgar Tour group, staying at the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel, where, from the Secret Garden dining room, you have a stunning view of the Acropolis. We visited The Parthenon, the Panathinaikos Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch, the Pom Pom March of the Evzone guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, ending with a Greek experience of dining and dancing.

The next day we ferried to Mykonos – what a beautiful place! A short bus trip to town where you get lost amidst the narrow cobblestone alleys with whitewashed shops and restaurants covered in tumbling bougainvillea. We walked around the bays and swam in the crystal-clear water. Some of our group also headed out to enjoy the nightlife.

We also took a boat ride to Delos – once a sacred island and according to Greek mythology, the birthplace of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. It remains today one of the most important archaeological sites of the eastern Mediterranean.  We walked the ancient streets, seeing the remains of the temple of Apollo, the sanctuary of Artemis and the old theatre, then down the celebrated Lion Street, finishing with a wander through Delos Museum.

A short ferry trip to Santorini offered three days strolling through the clifftop towns, cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings with the iconic blue-domes that cling to the side of the volcanic cliffs. Each evening we enjoyed memorable Greek cuisine in sidewalk restaurants. 

Our favourite excursion was on a large ‘caique,’ which took us out to the volcano on Nea Kammeni, where we climbed to the top. From here we could see the caldera. Once back on the caique we sailed to an inlet where we dived from the ship and swam to the hot springs and enjoyed the natural spa feeling of thermal waters and its warm mud, full of healing properties.

As evening fell, we enjoyed a casual, shipboard dinner with wonderful food and wine, watching the sun set as we looked out at the village of Oia, high on the cliffside.

Our last day was a bus ride to a local winery where we tasted the local wine with a variety of local ‘meze’ (Greek hors d’oeuvres), then on to Oia – a spectacular little village with beautiful flowers, marble streets and whitewashed buildings. We had to fight with all the other tourists to get the photo of the blue-domed building for the album – but we got it!

The islands were best by night when the boatloads of tourist had left, the streets were quiet, and you could move with leisure.

Next month, we’ll  meet up with tour guide Tony Haycock and share the journey to Rome and beyond!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.