24 hours in one of the most luxurious countries in the world!

On our recent trip to Europe we spent two nights in luxurious Monaco (which really worked out to be about 24 hours.) With such few hours in this tiny country we really needed to be selective and efficient with how we spent our time. Luckily Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world, covering an area of 197 hectares (487 acres) of which 40 hectares (99 acres) have been reclaimed from the sea!  It blows my mind to think of it!  

So, I have come up with the perfect 24-hour itinerary for anyone travelling to Monaco on a limited timeframe. 

BUT before I get into it check out my video 24 Hours in Monaco.

Getting there

We few into Nice-Côte d’Azur airport and hired a really comfortable Mercedes convertible for the 25km drive to our hotel. 

Where we stayed

You absolutely cannot go past the waterfront position of the Fairmont.  When I say waterfront, I really mean it! This place has the most incredible views of the ocean/harbor. We chose a deluxe ocean view suite and couldn’t get enough of laying on the private sun lounges and watching cruise ships roll into harbor.  The positioning of the Fairmont also gives you perfect access to all that Monaco has to offer, sitting only a few minutes walk to the famous Place Du Casino.  The price is extremely reasonable by Monaco standards and there is nowhere else I would recommend staying.

What we did

Breakfast at Horizon
After waking up to the sound of the ocean we headed to the top floor of the Fairmont for breakfast at Horizon.  They have indoor and outdoor seating, but how could you not sit outside and enjoy the view of the Mediterranean Sea.  The delectable buffet was full of delights including eggs cooked your way, yogurt, an assortment of French cheese, doughnuts and perfectly blended fruit juices.  We ate and ate until our bellies were practically brimming.

Place Du Casino
After breakfast we headed straight out of the hotel for a walk-through Monte Carlo. Stopping for Ryan to gawk and the dozens of luxury cars parked out the front of the Casino De Monte Carlo. All of the streets were incredibly well presented and clean, and everywhere you turn was a feast for the eyes.  There is an endless array of luxury shops, but I chose a quick peek in my favourite high street store ZARA for a look at what was hot for European summer 2019.

The Prominade
After a walk-through Monte Carlo we continued onto the harbor promenade stopping to look at the stunning double story carousal that children were enjoying.  At the end of our walk along the water we were met by the base of the staircase which leads you up to The Prince’s Palace.  I can attest to the fact that it is possible to walk all of Monaco, including these stairs, even in heals!

Prince’s Palace
Once we reached the top of the stairs, we were greeted by not just the beautiful palace with its fortress, but by a stunning view of the harbor and through to Monte Carlo. The guards at the front of the Prince’s Palace aren’t just for show but are there because the Sovereign Prince and his family live there.  Were lucky enough to be at the Palace at 11.55am to witness the daily changing of the guard. 

Habour
After walking around the Palace surrounds including its gardens, and stopping in the Palace Square for a drink, we headed back down the hill to start our trek back to Monte Carlo.  On the way back we walked along the waters edge admiring the million dollar boats sitting proudly in the harbor.   Literally luxury boat after luxury boat, which is hard to describe without seeing it for yourself.

Nikki Beach
For the afternoon we headed back up the top of Fairmont only this time to relax with a bottle of Rose at the famous Nikki Beach.  This sophisticated scene is all about lounging poolside ‘in between the sea and the sky.’  You can purchase delicious food and drinks, swim in the open-air pool and listen to world class DJs.  The perfect spot for an afternoon of relaxation after a busy morning sightseeing.

Café De Paris
After working on our tans and enjoying some wine we dressed and headed out for the evening.  Once again we stopped at the Casino De Monte Carlo for Ryan to amaze at all the cars, which were even more incredible this time of night.  We grabbed a table at Café De Paris for a predinner drink.  All the chairs are positioned in a way that you can enjoy the view of more and more cars rolling up, and the wealthy hopping out of them in their designer clad outfits.  It was honestly incredible and like nothing I have seen before.  I think you could have all the money in the world and still be blown away by the beauty and luxury of Monaco.  

Noura at Hotel Hermitage
For dinner we headed to Noura at Hotel Hermitage where Lebanese cuisine was on the menu.  There was a Cartier show happening at the Casino De Monte Carlo, and from our dining table we had the perfect free ticket to bands, fashion and even fireworks!

Casino De Monte Carlo
After dinner we had a gamble at the famous casino which I found to be the perfect blend of modern reinvention and tradition.  A mix of Bohemian chandeliers, roulette tables, slot machines and images of James Bond. Everything there was about sophistication, attention to detail and luxury.

We finished our 24 hours in Monaco with a walk through the gardens of Place Du Casino and a stroll back to our comfy bed at the Fairmont.  Eyes still in awe of everything we has seen and done in the Principality of Monaco, of which we will never forget.

And now for photos…

Enjoy!

Natalie-Signature-NoBackground

 

Santorini & Athens, Greece

Santorini
Having returned from our trip to Greece almost two months ago I have finally found the chance to blog about it!  Looking back on our time there what I am most in awe of is Santorini’s beauty and landscape.  We had been traveling in Europe (as a family of two adults, almost three-year old and seventeen month old,) for three weeks and decided to make Santorini one of our last stops for relaxation.   We had been staying in Naples (Italy,) so drove to Rome in the morning where we took a quick flight to the island of Santorini (also known as Thira.)  I found the best airline for us to be Vueling Airlines based on flight times and cost, but there are plenty of options to choose from.

Our accommodation was booked through a company called My Blue, who I found on Air BnB.  We had a total of 7 nights in Santorini and stayed with tem for 3 of them.  Louanna, the director of My Blue, owns a bunch of her own houses throughout Santorini and is so knowledgable on the area.  We settled on her house called ‘Captains Blue,’ which features two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, fully enclosed garden and a swimming pool.  Staying at this villa is without a doubt what made our trip so relaxing and convenient.  It is only a few meters to the main street of Oia where you take in that gorgeous Caldera view.   Not staying directly on the Caldera meant that we had more space, less crowds and the cost was dramatically cheaper.  What we also enjoyed was an amazing view of the sunset!   The caldera view, though stunning, does not take in the sunset so we were happy to enjoy that every night.  When we arrived at the airport a transfer company who My Blue had organised were there to greet us.  Upon arrival at the villa we were met by a company representative who showed us around and recommended things to do, places to eat etc.  and showed us to the kitchen which had been stocked with food for the next day.  The villa was also cleaned daily and baby sitting staff was arranged for us on three occasions.  I would highly recommend anyone going to Santorni get in touch with Louanna and stay at one of her houses.  Half way through our trip we changed accommodation and stay at different, much more expensive, property which was also on the sunset side of Oia.  Although this property was larger and had a bigger pool I feel that we would have been better to stay at ‘Captains Blue’ and saved the money as we really didn’t need for anymore then what we already had.  You can find out more about My Blue here.

The best way to get around in Santorini would be to hire a car.   We hired one for the days that we needed it, (just two out of the seven and one was when we went to the airport.)  Hire cars can be dropped off to your accommodation, which makes the whole experience very convenient, and they can come with car seats.  On the day that we hired the day we drove down to the south of the island, (Oia where we were staying is in the north,) and went to a black sandy beach Perissa Beach.  Much like in Italy you can hire an umbrella and two beach chairs for about 30 euros.  As the weather turned poor, we got back in the car and drove to a well-known look out that takes in 360 degrees views of the whole island.  After the look out we drove to Sento Winery which offers lunch and yummy wine tastings.  We didn’t think the service was amazing though the view made up for it.  Another great stop if you have a car is to Red Beach, which is also down the bottom end of the island.

We spent most of our days relaxing by the pool and swimming at the beach.  I have heard countless times that there are no good swimming beaches in Santorini but I can tell you that its simply not true.  As well as Perissa Beach there is also Kamara.  Our favourite spot, which we went to twice, was the hike down from the Caldera in Oia where you can jump in the water and swim to Isle of Saint Nicholas.  Once over at the Isle you can take a big jump into the water, (if you are feeling brave.)  Another spot we liked was a pebble beach called Katharos which is just out from the centre of Oia and is really quiet.  People go there to make their own rock formations and head to the Mezze Bar for food and drinks afterwards.

When we weren’t relaxing, eating, drinking and laying in the sun, we spent our time walking around Oia exploring.  It is very busy for most of the day so if you are looking to get that gorgeous Oia photograph with minimal tourists in it, I recommend heading out really early in the morning, this is something we did not do… because kids!  When walking around some of the best little spots are Oia Castle, The Blue Dome Churches of Oia and Ekklisia Panagia latsani (the church in the main square.)  Something we didn’t do in Santori, that I think would have been lovely, is the boat trip that takes you over to the volcano hot springs and allows you to watch the sunset from the water on your return.

There is a huge variety of food in Santorni with something to satisfy everyone.  We ate all of our breakfasts at our accommodation, choosing local produce from one of the small supermarkets in Oia… cheese, breads, meats for the children, yoghurt, olives etc.  For lunch and dinner we often ate out one of the hundreds.  Below is a list of some of our favourites all linked for your ease –
Best date nightSantorini Sunsets Restaurant – Amazing food, high price tag, the best view for the Sunset, don’t take the kids.
Best family friendlyPelekanos – Great food but with a more relaxed atmosphere.
Best seafoodAmoudi Bay – This is a location not a restaurant,  there is half a dozen delicious restaurants nestled in the bay below the Caldera.  They are all epic!
Best budgetPita Gyros – perfect for meat eaters or vegetarians it’s basically hot potato chips wrapped in pita bread with delicious sauces.
Best Ice creamLolita’s Gelato – Without a doubt the best in Oia maybe even the island.  It is really close to Pita Gyros.  We went there every night!
Best DessertMelenio Pastry Shop – thing all things dessert including baklava and delicous chcolate truffles.

Advice for taking children –
– Choose a villa that suits you needs, preferably one with a small garden and pool.
– Go for Air BnB over a resort so you can get more space for your money.
– Be realistic and know that you aren’t on your honeymoon some of the tourists.
– Leave your pram at home.
– Pack a carrier instead.
– Take beach equipment like floaties and buckets, there isn’t a lot around to buy.

Athens
From Santorini, Athens was only a short 20 minute or so flight, by the time you were up in the air you were down again.  We only had two nights and one day in Athens, before heading back to Australia, so we used our time well.

Our accommodation was an apartment only a couple of blocks back from the Acropolis.  I found that what we got for what we paid was really reasonable.  I found our place on Air BnB and it had two bedrooms, kitchen, living, a bathroom and had just been renovated.  Our hosts provided enough food for our breakfasts and some pasta for our dinners too.  The local store was a short walk as well as some nice restaurants.  Our hosts also organised our transfers to and from the airport.  It really as such an easy stay and I could not recommend them higher.  You can find our Air BnB here.

As we only had one day to explore we decided to follow the ‘Rick Steve’s’ one day tour of Athens. We found this on the internet but I believe you can use an app too. Rick Steve’s has a lot of useful self taken tours including one of Pompei.  Each tour is self down and you can either do an audio or just follow his map.  I would highly recommend following the tour from start to finish as you take in all of the most spectacular and important sites like the Acropolis, Plaka, the Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Posedian and so much more.  It is a no brainer really, if you want to see everything you need to in a day use this.

Athens proved to be a great stopover between The Greek islands and Australia with an abundance of history and culture to offer.  I would definitely head back again and explore the beaches of Athens on another trip to the Greek Islands.

Small-Signature-Nat

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*Disclaimer: At times this website contains posts where items and experiences have been sponsored, gifted or blog posts have been paid for in return for advertisement/promotion.  Where this applies it will be clearly stated at the bottom of the blog post. Natalie Sullivan and www.thissweetlofeofmine.blog only endorses brands/items that her family uses, loves and highly recommends. To read the full disclaimer see here

Amalfi, Italy

 La Dolce Vita in Italy… I have fallen in love.  Having grown up with a Maltese Grandmother and frequent trips to the area I know for sure that my heart belongs in the Mediterranean Sea.

Rome to Positano
Italy is a dream for anyone who visits including my family of four ( 2 adults, 2-year-old and 17 month old) who travelled there in June and spent seven nights exploring the Amalfi Coastline.  We flew into Rome from Abu Dhabi after a four-hour flight, (we had just spent 3 nights there.)  I had pre arranged a hire car which was easily picked up and we headed off to find Positano.   NOTE:  If you plan to hire a car in Italy get one with a GPS it’s a no brainer.  We had done no research on the drive other than it would take three and half hours according to Google… well it took us six and included a 100 euro toll fine, a bottle of Prosecco (shhh don’t judge I wasn’t driving) and getting locked in the toilet of a random bakery screaming for help.   Isn’t it always the events that seem the most stressful at the time that you remember as the best!  So the second piece of advice I will give for driving in Italy is NOTE: Do some research on what to do at Tolls BEFORE you get there! I had booked our five night stay in Positano on Air BnB through Sorrento Holiday Homes.

The apartment was located in a more ‘locals’ area of Positano about 400 stairs up from the beach (the only way to get the best view and eat more gelato!) In true Italian fashion we met the owner with the key at his gorgeous restaurant Ristorante Mediterraneo which overlooks the coastline.  After indulging in delicious spaghetti we took our very tired babes home to sleep.  The apartment was both beautiful and spotlessly clean, featuring 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen/living and the most idyllic balcony taking in the coveted Positano view.   WOW.  Bertia who runs Sorrento Holiday Homes was fantastic to deal with from start to finish and even baby sat the children for us when we went out to dinner.  She manages properties throughout the area and runs a few websites which I have listed below. Accommodation in Positano is key and Berta has a lot of variety to offer, and having someone available to talk to at anytime is important when renting an apartment outside of a hotel.

Our time in Positano was kept jam-packed with things to see.  The absolute highlight though being two boat tours with Blue Star Positano.  Our first trip was a group tour to Capri with 12 people in total on board the most gorgeous traditional boat, it looked like right out of the movies!  As we made our way to Capri with Captain Massimo he pointed out icon landmarks before dropping us at the port.  We were given 5 hours to explore the island which wa a great amount of time.  Blue Star provided us with a map and outlined the perfect itinerary should we choose to follow it, we did!   We grabbed a taxi up to Anacapri where we took a cable car to the lookout.  This was super fun for the kids as the cable car was more like a single person chairlift and once we arrived the view was incredible.  After catching another cab back to main Capri we ate literally the best Gelato of our lives at Buonocore Gelateria.  There were so many sites to see in Capri and I will honestly say that it is one of the cleanest most pretty places I have been to.  Once onboard the boat and heading back to Positano we stopped to swim in one of the famous caves that shimmer blue. Even with all of Capri’s beauty and marvel the highlight of my day was the look of joy on Ari’s face when Massimo let him ‘drive the boat.’  Hands down Blue Star Positano are the only way to see Capri in my eyes, the ticket cost is inexpensive and the boat is low on passengers compared to some of the other boats I saw that had people packed in like sardines.  (They may have bribed me to say that with lemoncello… jokes!)

For our second tour we decided to hire one of Blue Star’s boats privately and my gosh did it feel glamorous!  We were picked up at the pier by Captain Sandro aboard Nanninella and made our way down the Amalfi Coastline.  To have the boat to ourselves was a dream.  The children fell asleep while we ate the food and drank the Prosecco provided.  We pulled up at private swimming holes and beaches that were only accessible by boat.  The whole coastline needs to be experienced by water to take in its incredible beauty.  After docking in Almafi we spent a couple of hours there eating lunch in the courtyard outside the front of the Almafi Cathedral.  Once back on the boat Sandro took us to Da Tersea which is only accessible by water and famous for their local fish. After lunch we relaxed at their private beach. This restaurant has a really local feel about it that I loved. We ended the day with a cruise back up the coastline taking in the beginning of sunset as we arrived into Positano.  The staff at Blue Star (especially Elisabeth the owner) really became our friends and we loved enjoying a drink (and ice cream for Ari) with them at the end of the day.

Revello was next on our list to visit and being that we had a rental car we decided to drive there and explore.  To get to Revello you drive along the coast past Amalfi and then take a short detour inland.  It was amazing to experience the Almafi drive by sea and land.  There are so many opportunities to take photos so we allowed plenty of time to drive there.  Revello is a special place, a photographers dream I would imagine.  It sits 365m above sea level and is famous for its two stunning villas which is what most tourist go there for. The highlight of our day was lunch at Da Salvatore which was recommended by a local shop owner.  I am going to tell you that this was without a doubt the best Italian meal I have EVER tasted and we even considered driving back to Revello just for another meal there!

On our last day in Positano we headed down the many steps to the beach called Spiaggia Grande and hired beach chairs costing about 25 euros on the front row for the day.  If you want to relax this is a must especially if you have children!   You get two chairs, an umbrella and a waiter who will serve you food and drinks so you literally don’t have to leave all day.  Just sitting on the beach in Positano is breathtaking with its view of the colourful town right out to the Mediterranean Sea.  I won’t tell you how many bottles of Prosecco we drank during our 9am to 5pm day down there!

We had huge days so ate a lot of our dinners in our apartment on the beautiful balcony.  We bought ingredients from our local store and made pasta with pesto, olives and buffalo mozzarella.  We did eat out at Chez Black which sits on Spiaggia Grande and is worth mentioning for its interesting boat like decor and relaxed vibe, we went here on date night but it would have been a great place to take kids.  Positano was a dream come true, somewhere I had wanted to go for years and was everything I expected and so much more!

Sorrento and Pompei
After Positano we headed back up the coast for a two night stay in Naples.  (From Naples we would then drive to Rome before flying to Santorini.)  Between Positano and Naples there are two major must see being Sorrento and Pompeii.  By leaving early enough (10am haha) we found it quite easy to fit both into one day and with two little ones.  The drive to Sorrento was only 40 mins so we arrived in time for lunch and with both kids asleep in carriers we decided to make it a walking lunch from Queen’s Chips (Amsterdam style hot chips.)  We didn’t spend a lot of time here so I can’t say much except that it is a stunning place to just wander round, look at shops as explore.  Sorrento can also be an excellent base while in Amalfi as there is a port that runs ferries all over the Coast and our to the islands.  In saying this my preference would always be to stay in Positano.

We hopped back in the car and continued the drive onto Pompeii to see the ruins.  You just cannot go past the area without visiting the site which was at the center of the Mt Vesuvius eruption in 79AD.  You could spend a whole day here or just a few hours.  We opted for the latter (because kids in carriers) and found that to be perfect for us.  Paying for an English audio guide would be recommended otherwise you really have no idea what you are looking at.  Visiting late (we got there about 3pm) is also a good idea as the sun is not as hot and there are barely any ticket queues or crowds.

Naples
From Pompeii it was onto Naples and to find our accommodation that was booked on Expedia.  We stayed directly on the promenade which I was told is the place to be.  I found accommodation to be a lot cheaper than other areas on the coast but that might be because of the place that we stayed in which was basically a room off of a lady’s apartment.  The best restaurant we ate at in Naples was Gusto & Gusto a family owned chain.  The owner was wonderful with the kids and let them make their own pizzas by moulding the dough.  We only had one day in Naples  and our must see were a ride in the tram to explore the castle, a visit to the gardens and walk along the Promenade.  Naples was a great and diverse stop to break up the journey between Amalfi and Rome.

 

Small-Signature-Nat
Click on the linked sites below for more –

Sorrento Holiday Homes various sites :
www.sorrentoholidays.com
www.villasinsorrento.com
www.sorrentoapartments.it
Blue Star Positano
Ristorante Mediterraneo
Da Salvatore
Da Tersea
Chez Black
Gusto & Gusto-Tripadvisor

*Disclaimer: At times this website contains posts where items and experiences have been sponsored, gifted or blog posts have been paid for in return for advertisement/promotion.  Where this applies it will be clearly stated at the bottom of the blog post. Natalie Sullivan and www.thissweetlofeofmine.blog only endorses brands/items that her family uses, loves and highly recommends. To read the full disclaimer see here