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Ice, Ice, Iceland, Baby!

It’s been a minute since my last post, but life has been crazy. Since I returned from Denver, I’ve turned 26, taken another international trip, and dealt with some tough times.

I didn’t end up going to Nashville like I mentioned at the end of my last post. About a week ago, my Dad was admitted to the ER and had surgery to put in a stent to open up one of his arteries. He is doing better now, but the plans for Nashville were for us to go see Ben Folds at the Ryman Auditorium but the concert was also the day of his surgery. Needless to say, that trip was canceled, but I am beyond thankful to have my Dad back to good health. Once it was deemed that my Dad was going to be okay, he assured me I was safe to leave for Iceland. This was only two days later, so I was a bit uneasy, but he is doing great!

I am writing most of this from the plane on the way home, and doing my best to remember every detail that I didn’t already take note of. This trip was INCREDIBLE and Iceland is such a popular tourist destination right now, I want to be sure to cover it all.

Travel Day: Friday, 11/3

[Indy > Chicago via Megabus — > Megabus to ORD via Lyft –>  ORD to Reykjavík, Iceland via WOWair]

The journey was certainly an adventure. We found our flight on WOWair, which is a budget airline. Budget airlines are fantastic for people like me who just want to get there and don’t need/want frills, but once you’re traveling they definitely find ways to make you feel like it wasn’t a budget price after all – read the fine print! I frequently fly Allegiant for domestic flights, so I’m used to some of the challenges such as baggage fees, smaller seats, and little to no amenities, but I had never flown a budget airline internationally and there are definitely different things to consider when doing so.

Our flight was so cheap for a few reasons:

  1. Iceland is less popular of a destination in the winter months since, you guessed it, it gets way colder!
  2. Our flight price literally guaranteed us only that. The flight. We had to pay extra for our seats if we wanted things like extra leg room, to be seated in an emergency exit row, etc. (we opted not to do this)
  3. We flew out of Chicago, not Indy. Bigger airports = cheaper flights.
  4. $70 to check a bag each way. $40 to carry on a bag each way. Enough Said. You get one free, small personal item, and that’s it. Oh, and those are the prices if you pay when you’re buying your ticket. If you wait til you get to the airport, they’re even higher.
  5. You get zero complimentary food and beverage. Read: you do not even get free water. A bit extreme, I think, but hey, hydration is a privilege…?

We spent probably $20 each way getting food at the airport to take onto the plane which was annoying, but again the flight was SO cheap and airline food sucks anyway so that’s kind of for the best.

Getting from Indy to Chicago should have been super easy – however – our Megabus left 20 min prior to its scheduled departure time…without us. Great start to the day, right?! Thankfully, I had booked us on a 9am bus even though our flight wasn’t until 6pm, just in case something went wrong, so after a very long conversation with a customer service manager, she rebooked us for free on the noon bus, and refunded us for the bus that was missed. Hello, hospitality!

Once we were coffee-d up and on the noon bus, we relaxed and got re-excited. From the bus stop, we got a Lyft to the airport. There was insane traffic (always, in Chicago) so it took forever to get to the airport, but we got there safe and sound.

The international terminal at ORD is surprisingly small, but nevertheless we grabbed dinner, snacks and Dream Water for the plane (this stuff is AMAZING, LINK), and then enjoyed some beer while we waited for our two. hour. delayed. flight. Normally I’d be super annoyed, but it was actually a blessing in disguise that our flight was delayed because the crazy traffic would’ve made us cut it very close to making it on time to the airport. Also, our scheduled arrival time in Iceland was supposed to be 5am, so it’s not like we were missing much. What does one even do at 5am? I very rarely see it occur. Once in the air, our flight was smooth, I assume — I drank the dream water and slept the ENTIRE flight, which has never before happened in my life. I woke up when the flight attendant announced we were 20 minutes from landing, at about 6:15am local time.

Day 1: Saturday, 11/4

The Iceland airport is very modern, like much of the country. Lots of duty-free shopping, a boujie chain sandwich shop called Joe and the Juice (love!) and NO ONE in the customs lines but us. Hell yes!!! We bought tickets for a FlyBus into Reykjavík, which was about a 45 minute drive to the BSI (bus terminal), where all of the passengers divided and switched onto smaller buses to go downtown. Apparently, Reykjavík just outlawed large buses coming into downtown. Not a big deal at all, especially since the bus had free WiFi and was relatively comfortable.

After our smaller bus dropped off everyone else, our driver turned the corner and said “this is as far as I can take you!” And let us off at what we came to know as “bus stop four”. He gave us some interesting directions, but we eventually found our hostel and dropped off our bags. The front desk girl recommended we go to the Laundromat Cafe for breakfast. We thought that seemed weird, but we took her advice. As it turns out, this cafe is an awesome hipster diner-vibe, with delicious food and free coffee refills (does NOT happen in Europe?!) we felt right at home .

After splitting a huge breakfast that neither of us could’ve finished ourselves over the course of several days, we began to explore. The sun was rising (about 9:30am at this point – seriously!) We checked out a few shops, and quickly realized that everything in Iceland is soooooo so so so expensive. I’m talking Saks prices on everyday items. Not the best realization, but we were already there so what could we do at this point? #research

Once we gave up on shopping, we continued to walk the streets of downtown Reykjavík, noticing random things such as – there are a LOT of hot dog stands. Like, a weird amount. I did some research, and found this: https://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-08-21/the-one-dish-to-eat-in-iceland. Apparently hot dogs are the country’s “unofficial” dish, and are nothing like American hot dogs. We never got one, but I wish we had, now!

Something unpleasant we discovered via a menu outside of one of the restaurants – apparently a local “delicacy” is sheep head. Yes – a literal sheep head on a plate. You know how you can get some fish that still has faces? Well, this is that but a sheep. Oh and yes, there was an example photo, which I️ chose not to take my own photo of — y’all are welcome. If you must see, Google it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Other specials include whale and puffin…we tried neither.

We turned a corner and saw a body of water and mountains. Naturally, we ran towards it. This was such a gorgeous spot! We took photos of each other and met some nice people who offered to take a photo of us together. We immediately liked this country.

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Right by this site was a music and event venue that we decided to check out. When we walked in, we saw a sign that read “Pickup Mumford & Sons tickets here!” So obviously we asked how to get tickets. Unfortunately they were sold out, but we discovered that we had come to Iceland on one of the coolest weekends of the year: Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival! This is the best festival of the year, according to Icelanders. Instead of a traditional festival that occurs all in one venue, artists play all over downtown Reykjavík at various bars, cafes, etc., so a lot of the music can be seen for free, which we discovered that night!

After a quick nap to refresh, we went out for dinner and drinks. We found a speakeasy-vibe sushi restaurant that was in our price range, and got a charcuterie board (mine and Jess’s favorite), sushi, and some local beer. We strolled the city and checked out a few bars. One was called Boston, where we listened to our first Airwaves artist, who was so good! He even sang an acoustic, almost depressed version of “This I Swear” by the Spice Girls. Another bar called Cafebarrin had scary killer music when we walked in, so that was short lived. The English Pub was where we ended our night – there was another fabulous musical duo, and a great crowd to cheer them on.

Day 2: Sunday, 11/5

Waking up and knowing you’re about to go see something you’ve wanted to see for basically half of your life is a pretty surreal feeling. Excited as ever, we ventured to Bus Stop 4, and caught a FlyBus to the Blue Lagoon. If you don’t know what the Blue Lagoon is — it is one of the largest geothermal “pools”, which means the water is warm like a hot tub, but it is all natural! A spa has been built around the lagoon, making this one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions. Upon arriving, we were given towels, wrist bands to open our lockers and to show the staff which tier of admission we had purchased (we did the Comfort package). We got changed, showered, and stood at the door contemplating how fast we were going to have to run from the warmth of inside, to the lagoon, in order not to freeze. The twelve foot journey felt more like 12 miles. It was a particularly cold day, and then sun had not come up yet, which actually was the best decision I could’ve made to book our spot so early in the morning, because we got to see the sunrise!

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Unreal. This was one of those moments that even though I was so cold, I couldn’t help but smile and be so grateful for this experience.

There are several little coves and pockets within the lagoon that the water temperature varies within, so if you’re too hot or too cold, you can swim into those. Part of the comfort package included a face mask, which you get at a little hut within the lagoon. The mask felt amazing on my skin and I would highly recommend upgrading to this package just for that! There are also several saunas/steam rooms right outside of the lagoon that you can go in before, during, or after your swim. These felt amaaaazing!

Before catching a bus back downtown, we ate lunch at the cafe and looked around the gift shop. We attempted to go back outside to take more photos of the lagoon, but the wind was so strong we could barely stand up! We got lucky going when we did – there was actually a weather warning because of the wind and rain, the entire day and night. People were advised to stay inside — we did not abide by this rule.

Some places we checked out later that day:

-Cafe Paris ❤️
-Kex Hostel (great beer!)

Day 3: Monday, 11/6 

Today we did the Golden Circle tour, which was phenomenal. We took a Grayline bus tour, and our guide, Yulia, educated us all about Iceland for the next six hours. The first stop on the tour was Þingvellir National Park, where we saw beautiful scenery, and got to stand in two places at once: the American tectonic plate, and no man’s land. The plates have been shifting for a long time, and the European plate is actually 7km away from the American one at this location. Jess and I were very surprised to hear we were not technically in Europe!

The next stop was at a Geysir! We were able to get up close to an erupting hot spring or Geysir in this geothermal area, which was so cool! Our guide explained to us that this one used to erupt between 60-80 feet in the air, but now only erupts to about 20 feet. Once we were done being startled every time the geysir erupted, we ate lunch and marveled at the snow falling as we got back on the bus.

Now – I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, but Icelanders swear that Gullfoss Waterfall, our next stop, is even more amazing. I have to take their word for it (for now ;)), but I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than this site. We froze our asses off standing out there to take in its beauty and take a million photos, but it was 100% worth it.

Our last stop was at a volcanic crater, which was beyond neat to see. We headed back to our hostel feeling full of knowledge and happiness about all that we had seen. It was pretty cold when we got off the bus, so we headed right to dinner at our favorite sushi spot. We called it an early night and went back to the hostel – but first we stopped at the grocery store and bought some Icelandic chocolate — YUM!

Day 4: Tuesday, 11/7 

Today was our only true “free” day while in Iceland. We had nothing planned until later that evening. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hostel, grabbed our coats, and left to explore and find the nearby Zara! Much to our demise, Zara is either closed for renovations in the Reykjavík mall, or is permanently closed. We were bummed, but in the grand scheme of things, this was a small blip in our trip. There is a free shuttle that runs from downtown to the mall, which we took to head back home. Although it was early for dinner, we had been wanting to have a “treat yo self” night where we got the seafood rissoto and lobster bisque we had been eyeing all week. The restaurant we went to was called Caruso, and it did NOT disappoint!

The last thing we really wanted to do during our trip (that was feasible given the weather), was search for the Northern Lights. The detectors online had said all week that the lights would be of low visibility because of the clouds, but tonight was rated a 7 out of 9 chance to see them! Booking the tour through Grayline was easy, and at 7:30pm we got on the bus to go out and search for the lights. The first stop was in the middle of a road…literally. We couldn’t find the lights, so we got back on the bus and headed further out of the city. It’s just like looking for stars: the darker and more clear it is, the easier it is to see them. The second stop was in another hot spring area, and within a few minutes of being outside, we saw the lights! The photos I have do not do it justice – the dancing lights are an unreal phenomenon that I cannot believe I was lucky enough to see! They are only visible certain months of the year, and are hard to find under certain conditions. Whenever I return to Iceland, I will DEFINITELY go looking for the lights again!

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Day 5: Wednesday, 11/8

Today was our final day in Iceland – these trips always go by way too fast! We ate quickly, did a bit of souvenir shopping, and headed to the airport. Our flight was smooth, albeit delayed, and by some miracle we still made our bus from Chicago to Indy.

Jess and I refer to this trip as our “adventure trip” as it was nothing like the vacations we usually take. It didn’t feel like a vacation – but an adventure. Our plan is to take one international vacation trip and one international adventure trip every year, plus domestic trips as we can. Iceland was always somewhere I thought looked cool, but never a place I thought I would actually go. Now that I’ve been, I cannot wait to go back!

Colorad-oh-yes

So I went to Colorado this past weekend, and WOW, let me just state this right now as a preface: I will live there someday. It was beyond beautiful, everyone was so friendly, there was so much to do, and the views are incomparable. We went to several different cities/towns within the state, and I loved each one more than the one before.

I flew into Denver, and we went out there that night. Unfortunately due to the change in altitude, I have very little memory of where we went…and I didn’t even drink that much. So when you go – just know that the getting-drunk-faster-because-of-the-altitude situation is real. I didn’t believe it was quite that bad, but based on the night proved otherwise!

When we got up in the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and then went straight to the Coors Brewery in Golden. The brewery tour is free (yay) and at the end, you get THREE free full-size beers (triple yay)! Thankfully the altitude didn’t hate me again this day so I was only buzzed. From there, we drove to Salida – the cutest little mountain town you ever did see! This is the place I think I would want to live – or somewhere just like it. It was the most scenic drive, staring at the snow covered mountains and the Arkansas River the entire way. Once we got there, we went to Buena Vista, and went to Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. Check it out here. Seriously – amazing. It was about 55 degrees when we went, so definitely cold enough that you want to stay in the hot springs the whole time. But it was perfect. There is so much to do at the resort that we didn’t have time for unfortunately, but as my readers know, this is always my excuse to come back!

We then went to dinner at the Boathouse Cantina which was SO yummy, and had such great vibes. We had actually been planning on going to Steamboat Springs for the weekend but couldn’t find a cabin to stay in, so we didn’t have a hotel when we got to Salida. This actually worked out perfectly, because right down the block from the restaurant was The Palace Hotel, and they had vacancy! Pricey, but so so so worth it. It was the perfect little romantic getaway spot. The room was beautiful, very vintage (my taste 100%), and the generous front desk guy surprise upgraded us to a suite! We got super lucky and would definitely go back and stay there again! PS: included in your stay, they bring you breakfast to your room at whatever time you choose, which was ridiculously delicious.

In the morning, we walked around Salida and down the river, and then drove the beautiful scenic route once again, heading to Colorado Springs. We stopped at a few places to take photos, including the Royal Gorge — can I just say how freaking awesome it would be to take a helicopter ride over the gorge?! If any of you do this – send me your photos! Once in Colorado Springs, we went to Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs, and then it was time for me to head back to the airport – these travel weekends always go by way, way too fast.

Once I got to the airport, I found out my flight was two hours delayed…yay. So I didn’t get home until 2am Indy time — Monday was rough! But as I always say, it’s so worth it. The short amount of time in a new place, the exhaustion come Monday morning, the travel joys of delayed flights and traffic; no matter what, it’s worth it to get that wanderlust rush, to see people you care about, to experience something other than the ordinary.

Now, I have about two weeks of “down time” until my next venture: Nashville! Within this time frame, I’ll have several crazy days at work, turn 26 (anyone want to teach me how to get insurance…? Jk…kind of) and catch up with my roommate coming home from her two week trip to Europe. Life never slows down, and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

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*Another state checked off the bucket list! 26 more to go! #all50before30

Sleepy After Seattle

The last few days have been a whirlwind and I’m struggling to get my life together. Although i do love traveling, it definitely has a way of catching up with you #jetlagisreal. I spent the weekend in Seattle, WA., visiting some good friends, hiking in the mountains, and exploring the new-to-me city.

Side Note: This flight was “sponsored” by my Southwest points that i had earned from opening their credit card. Let me just start by saying Best.Decision.Ever. I’m not a huge fan of credit cards, especially ones with an annual fee or high interest rate (this one has both), but several of my good friends have been telling me for months to get the card because of the travel benefits, so i finally gave in. The way i look at is, if you’re going to spend the money anyway – why not get rewarded for it? Also, they’re currently running a special for 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1000 in the first three months of getting the card. In more comprehensible terms, this equals out (at least it did for me) to two free roundtrip flights! Yep – FREE. Except tax – but i think a flight for $11.20 is pretty damn cheap 😉 Since the flight was taken care of, I wasn’t ballin’ on a budget as much as usual. Ironically, though, most of what we did was free or super cheap, so all in all this was a very inexpensive trip.

Itinterary:

Friday: Sarah picked me up from the airport and we went to a bar called Shelter. We got whiskey gingers and danced until we decided to move to another bar to do the exact same thing. Hey – don’t knock a good thing. We then went across the street to grab some late night food, but the kitchen had just closed so we decided to Uber home. Before our ride arrived, the nicest bartender ever ran out to us with some guac. For free. I was sold on Seattle immediately.

Saturday: Our original plan was to hike, but (one) we woke up late and (two) then discovered it was supposed to rain most of the day. The next day forecasted sunshine, so we switched our plans up and went to brunch at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard. The food was SO good – I got the chorizo scramble and, an unbeknownst to me, GIANT pancake. Why do servers not tell you when you’re ordering way too much food?! This pancake literally could have fed my entire family.

After brunch we went downtown to the Public Market, which is somewhere i’ve always wanted to check out. Between the insanely cheap + gorgeous fresh flowers to all of the yummy food smells and the views of Puget Sound, this is definitely somewhere I would frequent if I was a Seattle resident. Farmers markets = ❤

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It was only drizzling — typical Seattle — so we walked around downtown a little more and saw the original Starbucks (!!!) and a cute craft donut shop called Top Pot. We then went back to Sarah’s to freshen up and eventually made our way to Fremont Brewery. This was an awesome spot for craft beers and sitting outside, plus it’s dog friendly which just makes everything even better. After a few drinks we went to grab sushi at a place that was not very good (service or food) so I won’t even name. Later we met up with Sarah’s friend Lena and went out in Capitol Hill, to o a place that I will forever want to go back to — Rachel’s Ginger Beer — or RGB. This hipster bar has craft your own Moscow Mules with some interesting flavors and liquor combinations, AND you can get a frozen one if it’s ever warm enough in Seattle to want an even colder drink. I created a White Peach Whiskey Moscow Mule and it was so yummy. From there, a bar called Montana which was pretty fun but at that point I was exhausted and knew I didn’t want to drink much since we were hiking the next day. Lena wanted a Torta before we called it a night – i wasn’t hungry but she offered us bites of hers, and WOW was that delicious. The Seattle F&B scene is definitely on the right track.

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Sunday: We decided to go to Snow Lake, which is ia 7 mile hike in North Bend. I love hiking, but I’m obviously not at all used to hiking in the mountains! Thankfully the elevation here wasn’t that bad, and the hike was semi easy/moderate. The views were absolutely unreal throughout the whole hike – the snow covered mountains, changing fall colors on the leaves, and rocky trails were amazing to see on the way up and down, but the most amazing part was Snow Lake itself. I felt like I had inserted myself into a postcard. The weather could not have been better, and it wasn’t at all crowded on the trails even though it was a weekend. Bucket List Item: Hiking in the mountains: Check!

 

We headed back to the city and decided to stop at a marijuana dispensary since those don’t exist in Indy (yet?) just so I could see what it was like. Pretty damn cool if you ask me! We then had a quick dinner at Buckley’s in Queen Anne to refuel, and then I met up with another good friend, Kait, at Elysian Brewery. Their beer was AWESOME, and it was great to catch up with her and meet her friends.

Some tips on traveling in Seattle: 

-Bring a rain jacket. And rain boots. And umbrella. Even if it’s not raining every second, it’s pretty much guaranteed to at some point during your trip, and the ground will be wet.

-Uber is your BFF. I think this is true in most bigger cities, but here i didn’t even see any cabs. Driving is a little nutty because of the hills, and while there are city buses, most sites are close enough that if it’s pouring, finding shelter until your uber finds you is definitely worth it.

-Check out the neighborhood you’re staying in prior to booking accommodations to figure out where you want to be. Like most cities, each neighborhood has a different vibe, and if you’re like me, you’d rather stay somewhere more chill (Ballard or Fremont) than a club/bar scene (Capitol Hill). There is PLENTY to do in any area, and it was pretty easy getting from one ‘hood to another, so no matter what, you’re in good shape.

So there you have it — Seattle in a very abbreviated nutshell. I wish i could’ve stayed longer, but a girl’s gotta #workworkwork. Lucky for me, though, I’m headed to Denver on Friday for what will undoubtedly be another amazing weekend.

Until next time.

Opa!

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.

20108600_4893651336698_6085428155353627680_nXenios 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.

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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.

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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.

20246100_4896751774207_5360858214134219068_nMykonos, Greece

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.

I haven’t been everywhere, yet…

Hi Everyone! Welcome to The To Go List. This travel blog has been a long time coming, and was inspired by my recent trip to Greece. In July I traveled to Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. This amazing country had been one of my most-wanted destinations for the last several years, and finally being able to make that dream come true changed my life.

When I got back to the states I had so many people asking about my trip, how I planned everything, where I stayed, etc., that it made me realize that I’ve never documented any of my travel with the exception of Facebook photo albums. I know there are moments and places I’ll never forget, but I also think they deserve to be shared. Some of my posts will be memories from trips past, and some will be posted live, while traveling.

A little bit about me: I grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana, and lived in the same house from age three until eighteen when I left for college…a whole 25 minutes away. Even though I lived on Butler University’s beautiful campus (Go Dawgs!), and not at home, I knew that I needed more of a culture shock than just being able to live on my own.

I am very lucky to have amazing parents who encouraged my travel. During my first two years of college, I spent a month in London taking a business leadership class, followed by a study abroad semester in Ireland — studying really, really hard, as one would imagine. Despite the lack of actual academia – I learned more about life, myself, and other cultures during those five months than textbooks and pop quizzes could have ever taught me. From this point on, my travel addiction was born.

Since London, I have traveled to fourteen countries, and several states. I lived in North Carolina for two years after graduating college, and plan to move out of state again, eventually. While Indiana will always be “home”, I know from my experiences so far that home is a comfortable place you can always come back to, but that there is so much more than comfort to be experienced in this short, sweet life.

This blog will be full of stories, memories, travel advice, and prospective plans. I hope to share my thoughts and findings with you all, and inspire adventure along the way. My next two weeks are filled with work, but Seattle is next up on my #ToGoList. 12 days, y’all! ‘Til next time.