I don’t know about you, but the beginning of the work week always has me aching to be anywhere other than in the office. I’m very fortunate in that I love my job, coworkers, and clients, but I read a quote last year that said “jobs fill your pockets; adventures fill your soul”, and that could not be more true for me.
Since Greece was my most recent adventure, that trip has been on my mind a lot lately. There are a few top-notch Greek restaurants in Indianapolis, and visiting those takes the pain away a little 😉 but nothing is like being there. To ease the nostalgia, I thought I would recap my trip, share a little travel advice, and reminisce on all that this perfect country has to offer.
My Companions: My partners in travel (PIT) were one of my best friends from high school, Jessica, her mom, and her mom’s cousin. Originally, Jess was planning this trip alone, but the rest of us crashed her party.
The Journey: So, fun fact about me: I don’t like to fly. At all. Not quite Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids (help me I’m poor), but I’m definitely an anxious flyer and actually take melatonin or dramamine almost every time I fly, depending on the length of the flight. A friend of mine recently suggested that I look into becoming a flight attendant because of the travel benefits. When I told her I didn’t like flying she said, “but…you do it all the time.” I do – but that is how I know that I want to travel. Because I’m willing to face my fears.
The flight to Greece was one of the longer ones I’ve taken, about 10 hours from Philadelphia. We flew American Airlines and without being hateful, let me just say, never again. The flight itself was smooth, but the customer service is seriously lacking on that airline…as the world has clearly seen.
We got in to Athens at 9am, which, if you can avoid ever arriving somewhere during morning their time, but the middle of the night your time, I highly recommend that. I’ve learned that the most ideal way to travel abroad is to arrive at your destination in the evening, and try to go to sleep even if you’re not tired. That way, when you wake up, you can start your day as you normally would, and not feel jet lagged. Also, this way you don’t sleep through any part of your trip! Unfortunately for us, we booked our flights pretty late in the game for this trip, and this scenario was the cheapest option. I drank an espresso to attempt to stay awake, and then took a 3 hour nap when we got to our (super clean, cute, and convenient with an amazing view) AirBnB. The struggle was real.
Day 1: Once we woke up, we got ready and went to find dinner. Jess is a rockstar traveler and mapped out several great restaurants to choose from during our trip. We decided on an authentic Greek restaurant with an amazing view, and had an inexpensive but delicious several course meal which allowed us to try all kinds of Greek foods from appetizers to the main course. And of course wine, because, Europe.
Xenios Zeus Restaurant – Athens, Greece.
Day 2: Feeling refreshed after a solid night’s sleep, we got ready, grabbed breakfast, and made our way to the Temple of Zeus to buy tickets for the Acropolis. Pro Tip: Get your tickets there, or at any of the sights other than the Parthenon to avoid crazy lines. (The tickets cover all of the sites and are good for 5 days!) Also, the earlier you go, the better, because it gets so hot during the day and that climb is no joke! We were feeling pretty good, and the crowds weren’t terrible, so we finished the whole Acropolis tour in one day. If you have tons of time in Athens (which you honestly don’t need), you can definitely space the sites out more, but we only had one more day and wanted to make sure we saw everything. It made my heart so happy to finally visit this site — I love history, so being able to experience something as old and iconic as the Acropolis was truly a dream come true, and another to go list item checked off.
Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece.
For dinner, we found a cute patio restaurant called Estia while walking around the main shopping area, and ate some delicious Italian food! One of my favorite meals ever is Spaghetti Carbonara, and being so close to Italy, I think Greece has perfected it because WOW was it good. Side Note: Working in catering has made me kind of a food snob, so when I find a hidden gem like this place, it makes me even more excited to share! As if we weren’t full enough after our carb overload, Jess had discovered a trendy donut shop not far from where we were, called Lukumades. If there is one sweet treat I love, it’s donuts, and this place did not disappoint. You basically go there and choose your donut flavor and filling, and then watch them make it in front of you! So cool, and so delicious.
Aiolou 21, Athina 105 51, Greece
Day 3: Since we finished our tour of the Acropolis in one day and didn’t have much else we still wanted to do in Athens, we decided to book a spontaneous day trip to Mykonos. We bought our tickets the night before for the three hour boat trip, leaving early in the morning. Upon waking up, we quickly discovered through panicked texts from friends and family back home, that there had been an earthquake during the night in another part of Greece, and Turkey. We were nowhere near the epicenter and had felt nothing, thankfully. We didn’t think much of it until seeing in the news as we waited for our boat, that the earthquake had caused a tsunami in the Aegean Sea, which made our excursion extremely bumpy. They assured us it was still safe, and daily commuters seemed to be underwhelmed. I tried to keep my eyes closed the entire way because every time I opened them I could see our huge ship being tossed around by the waves, and I was
slightly freaking out. Apparently though, I do not get seasick in rough conditions, which is good! The majority of the other passengers however, were not as lucky. To say we were all relieved when we safely arrived on land is an understatement.
When we got to Mykonos, we took a water taxi from the port to the island, where we took a traditional taxi to Paradise Beach. This island and its beaches were unreal. I had never seen anything so picturesque.
We spent the next few hours day drinking, sunbathing, and enjoying the amazing scenery. It was a truly perfect day, and was just what we needed to be able to unwind. Unfortunately because of the boat schedule and our plans that evening (it was Rhonda’s birthday so we had reservations at a restaurant back in Athens) we weren’t able to stay on the island very long. I wish we’d had longer, but hey, it gives us a reason to go back, right? The boat trip back to Athens was less terrible, but not much. And maybe even worse since we were well on our way to day drunk at that point. When we got back to Athens, we cleaned up and went to dinner to celebrate Rhonda’s birthday, and then headed back to our AirBnB to get some rest before our flight to Santorini the next day.
Day 4: We woke up, packed our bags, and headed to the Athens airport for our flight to Santorini. The flight says it’s an hour, but was MAYBE 20 minutes from take off to landing. However, there is only one landing strip on Santorini, so your plane may have to circle around the island for the remainder of that hour if the strip is in use. Once we finally landed, we met our driver who our AirBnB hostess had arranged to pick us up and take us to meet her. We were staying in Oia, which I would say is the more upscale side of Santorini, but is on the opposite side of the island from the airport. The drive was a long 25-30 minutes up and down the mountains — beautiful scenery, but slightly terrifying at the speed our driver (and all of the other drivers on the road) were going. When we got to Oia, we were told that if we needed a car to go to the beach (where we were staying is at the top of the island — technically volcano), we would just need to come to the post office because that was as far as cars were able to go. Two men arrived to greet us along with our host, and carried our luggage to our amazing little terra cotta home. With the most breathtaking cliffside view, charming interiors, and overall feel, I was instantly in love. I knew right then that someone was going to have to drag me off of this island kicking and screaming.
Our hostess, Alexandra, and her mother run 11 other AirBnb properties on the island, all with equally great reviews. She could not have been nicer, as she explained to us which transportation we needed to take (public bus, private bus or taxi – there is no Uber on the island) to each of our scheduled activities throughout our stay, gave us the wifi password, suggestions of where to eat, and when to avoid trying to travel through Oia if we should venture to other parts of the island, due to the sunset crowds.
We had passed several cute boutiques and restaurants on our walk through the village to the cottage, and immediately traced our steps back the way she had shown us to begin exploring. I wanted to buy everything — there was so much beautiful, hand-crafted jewelry, clothing and art — it was dreamy. We shopped until we got hungry, and found a sweet restaurant with a perfect view of the island (spoiler: almost everywhere has a perfect view of the island), and ate a late lunch. Our plans later that evening were in Fira, which is about 20 minutes away by public bus. After dropping off our purchases (oops) and freshening up, we headed to the bus stop. I must say — the public bus was a thousand times worse than a taxi on the mountain roads. The drivers seem to go even faster, and on the most narrow roads you’ve ever seen, somehow manage to pass each other going 2983479 km/hour. Obviously, I’m exaggerating the actual speed, but yikes. Driving was the absolute only thing I did not love about this island.
When we got to Fira, we walked up a hill and down another cobblestone street to White Door Theater, which puts on a traditional Greek Wedding show that has amazing trip advisor reviews. Fact: Jess and I both swear that we trust trip advisor reviews with our life. The show was basically a live version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and was interactive with the audience! The bride & groom greeted us at our tables (you get a traditional Greek wedding dinner with your tickets!) and chatted with the audience saying that we were their “cousins”. The show was hilarious and so well put together. Definitely a must see. It even concluded with smashing of the plates and everyone dancing and yelling “Opa!” What a fabulous way to spend our first night on Santorini.
Day 5: This was probably my favorite day on the island. It began with sleeping in, eating a delicious breakfast (I miss European coffee SO much), and heading to the post office to meet our private bus to go on a Catamaran. Now, listen here. If you ever have the chance to go on a Catamaran, do it. Especially in Santorini. Jess had gone on one in Italy and loved it so much, she had insisted we go on one here, too. Truly, it was the best way we could have chosen to see the whole island, spend a day in the sun, day drink, and completely relax. We were able to see the Red, Black, and White beaches of Santorini, snorkel, and swim out in the middle of the open Aegean Sea. I will never forget this experience. A full Greek lunch, open bar (yassssss), and beach towels were included in the price of our tickets, plus the private bus rides to and from the post office. The trip lasted from 10am-3pm, and I wished we could have stayed even longer.
The entire time we had been in Greece so far, we kept saying we wanted gelato. So, on our way back from the post office we ventured to a gelato-eria and had some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Yum! We then figured we’d continue day drinking, and went to the top of the gelato-eria which was a rooftop bar/restaurant…Have I mentioned how much I love this perfect island?! After a few drinks we headed back to our AirBnB, and met up with Debbie and Rhonda for dinner. They asked where we wanted to go…so after a seriously hard decision (not really) we ended up back at the rooftop restaurant where we indulged in more drinks, calamari, pizza, and then, you guessed it, we made our way downstairs to more gelato. Calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, right?
Day 6: We made our way down to a deserted beach on Oia that our hostess had advised us not to go to if we wanted a comfortable beach experience, only because the beach is full of rocks – including the sand. Definitely not comfortable for a full day of relaxation, but it was a nice walk and few hours spent tanning. *The best beaches on the island are closer to Fira. Later in the day, we took a bus to Fira to tour a winery — Santo Wines. The beautiful vineyard, scenery, and amazing wine made for a perfect evening.
Day 7: Our main plan while in Santorini was to actually take a vacation and not run around doing tourist activities. Life back home is crazy enough, and although we wanted to see everything we could, we also didn’t want to be completely exhausted at the end of our trip. Wanting to spend one last day in the sunshine, we took the bus to Fira and spent the entire day day drinking and swimming on Black Beach (named for the black color of the sand due to the volcanic ash). Once the sun started to set, we took a bus to the main part of Fira, grabbed dinner and did some last minute souvenir shopping for our friends back home.
Day 8: Our private bus picked us up so early that it was still dark, and took us to the airport. We spent the next 28 hours flying, and on layovers. Santorini —> Athens —> Philadelphia —> Indianapolis.
Knowing that our trip to this perfect country was over was so sad. It was honestly difficult to force myself to leave the laid-back lifestyle of the hands-down most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It was more than not wanting to go back to work after time off – it was saying goodbye to a culture I had fallen in love with; to a new place I was leaving part of my heart.
And that is what I love and hate most about travel: Pieces of your heart get left in so many places, and even though you plan to return one day, waiting for the unknown is never easy. So we ease the in between with time spent with friends and family, and things we love about home. And eventually, if we’re lucky, we find our way back to the places that make our hearts whole, and fall in love with our temporary homes all over again.