Adventures in Athens Greece

We are onto the last stop of our Greek adventure – Athens. Don’t forget to check the out Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete posts!

We arrived in Athens with Ryanair from Crete and found the airport easy to navigate. Like Crete, all the signs were written in Greek and English so we found our way to collect our bags and then headed off to grab a train downtown. There is one main train line that runs to and from the airport. You can get a tourist transit pass for 30euros and that gives you a train ride to and from the airport and unlimited use of all the transit systems (bus, tram, and train) for 72 hours. We didn’t plan on using transit, apart from getting to and from the airport, so we bought a 2 person one way pass for 18 euros to get to our hotel and then again to get back to the airport. We booked our accommodation through Air BnB and it was right in the heart of the city. The train ride from the airport was about 45 minutes to the Monastiraki metro station. From there it was about a 5-minute walk to our apartment. Our place was a simple studio apartment, but had recently been renovated and was very modern looking inside. We think the hosts, two sisters, own the whole building and rent each of the apartments on Air BnB. They were super easy to get in touch with and met us at the apartment when we arrived (they live in the building too). Eva showed us around, gave us a map where they suggested restaurants, pharmacy, grocery store, mini markets, etc. By the time we get settled it was around 6pm and started to rain. We grabbed some gyros from a quick spot and then found a tavern Eva had recommended and grabbed some drinks.

Adventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 days

One of my wedding couples had visited Greece on their honeymoon and Beth, my bride, had sent me some suggestions from their time in Athens (thanks Beth!). They had loved a guide they had done a tour with and passed along his contact info. George was great and we met him and a few other folks at 9:45 the next morning for a 2 hour walking tour of Athens. The tour was free, you just tipped George at the end depending on what you thought it was worth. George was actually a archeologist who loved history and was pretty politically interested. He gave such a great overview of the history of Athens, combining legends, mythology, and facts. Some of my favourite things I leaned:

  • The word Idiot actually comes from the Greek work idiōtēs which means private citizen.
  • The battle of Marathan was faught by the Athenians against the invading Perisians. The Athenians were outnumbered 5-1, but they out maneuvered the Perisian army and were victorious. The Perisian army retreated to their fleet and began to sail around the bottom of Greece to reach Athens on the other side, knowing the full Athenian army was 26.2 miles away at Marathan Beach. Some of the Athenian politicians were corrupt and spreading rumours that there was no way the Athenian army could have been successful at marathon beach and that the people of Athens should welcome the Perisians into their city. One soldier ran non-stop the whole way to Athens (42 kms) to tell the people of Athens about the victory. The soldier arrived Athens and said the word “Nike”, then collapsed and died. “Nike” in Greek means victory! The Perisian army arrived in Athens but decided against taking the chance to land on the shore and instead sailed home. They returned 10 years later to attack Athens again, but it was 26.2 mile (or 42 km) run from Marathan Beach to Athens that is the basis for the marathon runs that happen across the world today.
  • Athens, unlike other old cities like Rome, was not always inhabited. Since there were many points in history when Athens was all but abandoned, all of the old buildings and temples have mostly faded away in time. Control of Athens constantly changed hands, and with each new crusade, many of the old buildings were sacked, torn down, or the materials were used to create new buildings or protective walls. Many of the ancient sites you can visit have been re-created over the years, or just have a few structural items remaining. For example, the temple of Zeus isn’t really a temple anymore, it is just 7 pillars standing in the middle of a grassy area. Don’t get me wrong, still cool to see though!

After the tour we grabbed a quick lunch (yay for Gyros), packed up our camera bag and set out to see the sights for ourselves.

Adventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 daysAdventures in Athens Greece for 3 days

There is a lot of history in Athens and a ton of great sites to visit. The tour with George gave a great overview and some base knowledge to then go and really appreciate specific sites. The biggest one being the Acropolis, at the top of the hill in the centre of Athens. You can get a pass for multiple sites, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Forum, Temple of Zeus, and few other spots for 30 euros (to get into the Acropolis alone is 20 euros). The Acropolis Museum is a separate pass that is 5 euros, but totally worth it. We toured the Ancient Agora first, and then walked up to the Acropolis.

After spending some time in the Acropolis museum (on the top floor there is a short video you can sit and watch that tells you all about the Acropolis over the years), we headed home to get cleaned up before dinner. We had made an 8:00 reservation at Cinque, a really tiny wine bar near our hotel. There are lots of restaurants, and I don’t think reservations are usually needed except this place only sits about 12 people and was always full. We enjoyed some Greek wines and charcuterie before carrying on for a drink and more food elsewhere.

Adventures in Athens Greece for 3 days

Our last full day in Athens started off rainy, but around noon wasn’t coming down too hard. We threw on our rain coats and ventured out to the last spots on our to-see list. We started in the Montrasaki Flea Market – a series of small streets and alleys filled with shops. After grabbing some lunch, we made our way around the Acropolis to Syntagma square and the Parliament building. You can see the changing of the guard every hour and it is worth sticking around for if you are in the area. I would describe it as being a very interesting choreographed event with men in funny looking clog tap shoes – if that doesn’t peak your interest than I don’t know what would! We also stopped by the Temple of Zeus and went to the Panathentic stadium. For 5 euros you can tour the stadium and you get an audio guide that walks you through and explains the significance of the building design and tells the history of the stadium. There is also a hall inside that holds Olympic torches and official posters from past Olympic games.

There is a lot of history in Athens and a ton of great sites to visit. The tour with George gave a great overview and some base knowledge to then go and really appreciate specific sites. The biggest one being the Acropolis, at the top of the hill in the centre of Athens. You can get a pass for multiple sites, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Forum, Temple of Zeus, and few other spots for 30 euros (to get into the Acropolis alone is 20 euros). The Acropolis Museum is a separate pass that is 5 euros, but totally worth it. We toured the Ancient Agora first, and then walked up to the Acropolis. After spending some time in the Acropolis museum (on the top floor there is a short video you can sit and watch that tells you all about the Acropolis over the years), we headed home to get cleaned up before dinner. We had made an 8:00 reservation at Cinque, a really tiny wine bar near our hotel. There are lots of restaurants, and I don’t think reservations are usually needed except this place only sits about 12 people and was always full. We enjoyed some Greek wines and charcuterie before carrying on for a drink more food elsewhere. Our last full day in Athens started off rainy, but around noon wasn’t coming down too hard. We threw on our rain coats and ventured out to the last spots on our to-see list. We started in the Montrasaki Flea Market – a series of small streets and alleys filled with shops. After grabbing some lunch, we made our way around the Acropolis to ______ square and the Parliament building. You can see the changing of the guard every hour and it is worth sticking around for if you are in the area. I would describe it as being a very interesting choreographed event with men in funny looking clog tap shoes – if that doesn’t peak your interest than I don’t know what would! We also stopped by the Temple of Zeus and went to the Panathentic stadium. For 5 euros you can tour the stadium and you get an audio guide that walks you through and explains the significance of the building design and tells the history of the stadium. There is also a hall inside the holds Olympic torches and official posters from past Olympic games. Our last night in Athens we wanted to really enjoy some authentic Greek food. We started with drinks and appetizers at _______ which was full of local Greeks. Then we headed to _____, which was a hidden gem that we discovered with a bunch of googling and a keen eye. Hidden behind an almost un-marked blue door led to the restaurant seating inside the alleyway. The food was incredible and a perfect last Greek meal. Getting back to the airport was painless from the Montoraski metro spot by train. We picked up some Skinos at duty free (a Greek liqueur that we had been served in Mykonos and both loved) and boarded our Air Canada flight back to Montreal. There are few things that I would have changed about our trip. At the end of the 15 days I was ready to head back home. We had fit in a lot of different adventures, from beach lounging days, to intense hiking, to relaxing on our balconies and sipping wine, to taking in the culture and history of Greece. It was a beautiful country, filled with wonderful people, and I hope to make it back again someday. There is a lot of history in Athens and a ton of great sites to visit. The tour with George gave a great overview and some base knowledge to then go and really appreciate specific sites. The biggest one being the Acropolis, at the top of the hill in the centre of Athens. You can get a pass for multiple sites, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Forum, Temple of Zeus, and few other spots for 30 euros (to get into the Acropolis alone is 20 euros). The Acropolis Museum is a separate pass that is 5 euros, but totally worth it. We toured the Ancient Agora first, and then walked up to the Acropolis. After spending some time in the Acropolis museum (on the top floor there is a short video you can sit and watch that tells you all about the Acropolis over the years), we headed home to get cleaned up before dinner. We had made an 8:00 reservation at Cinque, a really tiny wine bar near our hotel. There are lots of restaurants, and I don’t think reservations are usually needed except this place only sits about 12 people and was always full. We enjoyed some Greek wines and charcuterie before carrying on for a drink more food elsewhere. Our last full day in Athens started off rainy, but around noon wasn’t coming down too hard. We threw on our rain coats and ventured out to the last spots on our to-see list. We started in the Montrasaki Flea Market – a series of small streets and alleys filled with shops. After grabbing some lunch, we made our way around the Acropolis to ______ square and the Parliament building. You can see the changing of the guard every hour and it is worth sticking around for if you are in the area. I would describe it as being a very interesting choreographed event with men in funny looking clog tap shoes – if that doesn’t peak your interest than I don’t know what would! We also stopped by the Temple of Zeus and went to the Panathentic stadium. For 5 euros you can tour the stadium and you get an audio guide that walks you through and explains the significance of the building design and tells the history of the stadium. There is also a hall inside the holds Olympic torches and official posters from past Olympic games. Our last night in Athens we wanted to really enjoy some authentic Greek food. We started with drinks and appetizers at _______ which was full of local Greeks. Then we headed to _____, which was a hidden gem that we discovered with a bunch of googling and a keen eye. Hidden behind an almost un-marked blue door led to the restaurant seating inside the alleyway. The food was incredible and a perfect last Greek meal. Getting back to the airport was painless from the Montoraski metro spot by train. We picked up some Skinos at duty free (a Greek liqueur that we had been served in Mykonos and both loved) and boarded our Air Canada flight back to Montreal. There are few things that I would have changed about our trip. At the end of the 15 days I was ready to head back home. We had fit in a lot of different adventures, from beach lounging days, to intense hiking, to relaxing on our balconies and sipping wine, to taking in the culture and history of Greece. It was a beautiful country, filled with wonderful people, and I hope to make it back again someday. There is a lot of history in Athens and a ton of great sites to visit. The tour with George gave a great overview and some base knowledge to then go and really appreciate specific sites. The biggest one being the Acropolis, at the top of the hill in the centre of Athens. You can get a pass for multiple sites, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Forum, Temple of Zeus, and few other spots for 30 euros (to get into the Acropolis alone is 20 euros). The Acropolis Museum is a separate pass that is 5 euros, but totally worth it. We toured the Ancient Agora first, and then walked up to the Acropolis. After spending some time in the Acropolis museum (on the top floor there is a short video you can sit and watch that tells you all about the Acropolis over the years), we headed home to get cleaned up before dinner. We had made an 8:00 reservation at Cinque, a really tiny wine bar near our hotel. There are lots of restaurants, and I don’t think reservations are usually needed except this place only sits about 12 people and was always full. We enjoyed some Greek wines and charcuterie before carrying on for a drink more food elsewhere. Our last full day in Athens started off rainy, but around noon wasn’t coming down too hard. We threw on our rain coats and ventured out to the last spots on our to-see list. We started in the Montrasaki Flea Market – a series of small streets and alleys filled with shops. After grabbing some lunch, we made our way around the Acropolis to ______ square and the Parliament building. You can see the changing of the guard every hour and it is worth sticking around for if you are in the area. I would describe it as being a very interesting choreographed event with men in funny looking clog tap shoes – if that doesn’t peak your interest than I don’t know what would! We also stopped by the Temple of Zeus and went to the Panathentic stadium. For 5 euros you can tour the stadium and you get an audio guide that walks you through and explains the significance of the building design and tells the history of the stadium. There is also a hall inside the holds Olympic torches and official posters from past Olympic games. Our last night in Athens we wanted to really enjoy some authentic Greek food. We started with drinks and appetizers at _______ which was full of local Greeks. Then we headed to _____, which was a hidden gem that we discovered with a bunch of googling and a keen eye. Hidden behind an almost un-marked blue door led to the restaurant seating inside the alleyway. The food was incredible and a perfect last Greek meal. Getting back to the airport was painless from the Montoraski metro spot by train. We picked up some Skinos at duty free (a Greek liqueur that we had been served in Mykonos and both loved) and boarded our Air Canada flight back to Montreal. There are few things that I would have changed about our trip. At the end of the 15 days I was ready to head back home. We had fit in a lot of different adventures, from beach lounging days, to intense hiking, to relaxing on our balconies and sipping wine, to taking in the culture and history of Greece. It was a beautiful country, filled with wonderful people, and I hope to make it back again someday.

Our last night in Athens we wanted to really enjoy some authentic Greek food. We started with drinks and appetizers at a spot which was full of local Greeks (they say the best food is where the locals go). Then we headed to Avli, which was a hidden gem that we discovered with a bunch of googling and a keen eye. Hidden behind an almost un-marked blue door led to the restaurant seating inside the alleyway. The food was incredible and a perfect last Greek meal.

Getting back to the airport was painless from the Montoraski metro spot by train. We picked up some Skinos at duty free (a Greek liqueur that we had been served in Mykonos and both loved) and boarded our Air Canada flight back to Montreal.

There are few things that I would have changed about our trip. At the end of the 15 days I was ready to head back home. We had fit in a lot of different adventures, from beach lounging days, to intense hiking, to relaxing on our balconies and sipping wine, to taking in the culture and history of Greece. It was a beautiful country, filled with wonderful people, and I hope to make it back again someday.

xo Brittany

 

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Four Days in Crete, Greece

Continuing on our Greek travel guide – make sure you already checked out my Mykonos and Santorini posts.

We arrived by highspeed ferry at 7:30pm to the port in Heraklion. Crete is a much larger Island and really requires a vehicle if you want to see much of it. We booked a car with Athens Cars and planned to return the car to the Chania Airport when we flew out to Athens (an additional 15 euro charge). We booked our place through Air BnB again and it was about a 2.5 hour drive from Heraklion in Voukolies. The host, Katerina, was great at sending us driving instructions before we arrived and her husband met us in the town square to lead us to the house. Their home was built into the hillside and was surrounded by olive trees. They actually produce their own line of olive oil and they told us all about the production and a bit about the trees that they own.

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Balos Beach + Chania

We had a lazy first morning in Crete – some of it spent trying to figure out our plans for the next day. Just after noon we hit the road to Balos Beach which was about an hour from our place in Voukolies. The beach was a trek to get to, including 7 kms of rough dirt road (going about 20km/s) and then a 20 minute hike down to the lagoon and beach. I did the walk down in flip flops, but wish I had brought my slip-on shoes instead, especially for the way back up after cooking in the sun for a few hours. The beach was beautiful and the water was shallow with really smooth sand. There is absolutely no shade anywhere, so I would recommend a beach umbrella for a little break during the high heat of the day (#hindsight). We left around 4:00 and were originally planning on heading to Falassarna Beach beach, but we were pretty baked from the heat and the hike back up wore me out a bit. Instead we headed back to the house to cool off in the pool and make our way to Chania for some dinner.

Chania is a cute waterside town with lots of little shops, leather stores, and restaurants to check out. The old venetian harbour has a pretty view and little lighthouse out at the end of a point you can walk to. We only spent the one evening there, but it was a fun spot to explore!

Hiking the Samaria Gorge

We had a few general ideas of some things we wanted to do in Crete, but admittedly did not do much pre-planning or research. We knew we wanted to hike Samaria Gorge, and we just assumed that we could drive there ourselves. Since we only had two full days in Crete, we planned to do the hike early on the 2nd day but realized our first morning that it was more complicated than we anticipated. The full hike is 18km and you start at the top of the White Mountain range – about an hour and half drive from the main city of Chania. The first few kilometres of the hike are all down, taking you into the gorge, and then the rest is slight ups and downs but through the gorge and out the end. You cross the river at a bunch of spots, but there are either big rocks to step across or small wooden bridges set up. The gorge itself is about 13kms, and then the additional 5kms gets you into the gorge in the beginning and out to the small town of Agia Roumeli once you reach the end. The end of the gorge cannot be reached by car, you actually have to take a ferry over to Sougia and from there get a bus. Once we realized the logistical challenges, we decided to just book with a tour group (we used Diana’s Travel and they were great). We met the bus about 25 minutes from where we were staying, parked our car on the side of the road, and jumped on the bus to go up to the start. We met the bus at 6:30am and they stop at a small café about 20 minutes before reaching the gorge to grab a coffee and some light food. There is no food anywhere along the gorge, but there is natural spring water at multiple points where you can fill your water bottles. We started the downward hike at 8:00am and arrived at the end point at 2:45 – a total of 6 hours and 45 minutes. We didn’t spend much time at the rest spots, but we did stop a fair amount along the way to take photos and admire the views.

Once we made it out the end of the gorge and into Agia Roumeli, we grabbed a nice cold drink and some food at one of the restaurants. We had to meet our tour leader at 4:30 to collect our tickets for the last ferry that left at 5:30. The ferry ride was 45 minutes and then we got back on our bus for the ride back to our car (another hour and a bit). See what I mean about the logistics? To join the tour cost us 32 Euros each, but we still had to pay the 5 euro entrance fee to the gorge and the 10 euro ferry ticket. For us, it was totally worth the 32 euros to not have to figure out getting a public bus to the top and back again after. Plus, we would have had to get a bus in Chania, which would have been an extra 30 minutes of driving for us and getting up even earlier than our 5:30am wake up. You don’t hike as a group, but the guide gives you a lot of great info about the white mountain range, Crete, and the Samaria Gorge on the bus there and back.

Before we went to Greece, my friend Brittany (I know, great name right!) shared her Greece itineray from a few years back and gave some great advice. She said in her email “If you like hiking even the smallest amount then the Samaria gorge is a must-do”. She was absolutely correct! The views were incredible and coming out the other side felt so rewarding. It was challenging at times, especially once the hot sun was above you, and our muscles were a little soar the next day. Our tour leader told us that a man from our bus didn’t make it through the gorge by the time the ferry arrived and that he would need to stay at a hotel in Agia Roumeli and get the ferry in the morning. She said that didn’t happen often, but occasionally people attempted the gorge who didn’t have the stamina needed to complete it.

It was a long day and by the time we returned to the car it was around 8:00pm. We were pretty tired, so we grabbed some meat, cheese and other small items and ate a late dinner sitting out our patio back at the house.

 

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Our last morning in Crete we chose to lay low and relax at the house. We had to be at the airport in Chania for a 2:00 flight to Athens, so we relaxed on the patio, enjoyed breakfast (our usual spread of rice cakes with peanut butter for me and yogurt with granola for Brent), and got ourselves packed up for the last part of our trip. Our flight was with Ryanair and it was a short 35 minutes at cruising altitude. The airport in Chania is not very large and is easy to navigate.

In hindsight, I wish we had one more day in Crete. I didn’t realize that tackling the Samaria Gorge would take an entire day – which seems silly of me since it was 18km. If we had more time, I would have liked to visit Palaiochora and Falassarna Beach. Perhaps we will find our way back to Crete another time and get to experience these.

 

xo Brittany

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Four Days in Santorini Greece

When Brent and I would talk about places to travel, I would routinely tell him that I wanted to visit the places where they take the screen saver photos. You know the ones with the stunning seaside views, rock faces that drop straight down into the water, and tiny white houses that climb their way up the cliffs and tuck away between little walking paths carved into the stone. It was obvious that no trip to Greece could skip the views of Fira and Oia on Santorini. I already shared about our time in Mykonos, and today I am sharing my advice for a four day vacation in Santorini, Greece.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

We stayed just a short walk outside Fira, the Island’s Capital, in the small town of Imerovigli, perched up high overlooking the caldera. We were blown away by our accommodations at Mero Vigla Studios which we booked through Air BnB. It was a studio apartment located right by the Maltese Church. Our balcony didn’t have a sunset view, but it did give a magnificent view of the caldera with Imerovigli and Fira perched above. It seemed to be the picture perfect spot, since we saw so many photographers walking brides and grooms out to the ledge just below our balcony to get a shot of the couple with the view of Fira in the background. Each morning we sipped coffee and ate breakfast admiring the view from our little balcony table and it was perfection.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

There is a path that leads from Fira to Oia (pronounced eye-ah) along the caldera edge. It is rough terrain at some parts and I would not suggest starting it in flip flops in the highest heat of the day (we spotted a few people who had this brilliant idea). We were told it is about 10 km and takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to get from Fira to Oia. We started close to our hotel in Imerovigli (which shaved off about 15 minutes) at 9:20am and arrived in Oia at 11:25. We had a 2 hour goal, but the fact we stopped for a billion pictures really slowed us down. As with a few other places in Santorini, you can pay a few euros to catch a donkey ride for parts of the trail, but we were keen to walk the whole way and the donkeys look sad, tired, and hot and it seems cruel to me. Just my personal opinion, but like the horses in central park, using animals to transport tourists for entertainment doesn’t sit right with me. For a small part of the path you have to walk along the main road, but mostly it is along the caldera and through the rocky hills. You get spectacular views of Oia, and then Fira and Imerogivli once you come around the other side. It is so worth the effort and memories, but remember to bring some water and I suggest some walking shoes!

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The sunset in Oia is a must-see, although one of our favorite sunsets was from a small restaurant along the caldera in Fira (Mama something). Reservations are ideal if you want prime seating anywhere with a sunset view, but I should admit that we lucked out with our sunset dinners in both Fira and Oia. We arrived just before the places started to fill and managed to score some prime seating. I don’t believe our lucky breaks are the norm though, so make a reservation if you really have your heart set on the watching the sun sink below the horizon while enjoying your Souvlaki platter.

It is pretty simple to catch the bus to Oia from Fira and Imeroglivi. It is 1.80 euros each way and you can pay on the bus. They use pretty big coach busses (how the hell they make some of the corners is beyond me) and they have air conditioning and are not sweltering hot which is awesome after a toasty day under the sun in Oia. There is one main bus stop in Oia and the bus schedule is posted and runs fairly frequently. During prime time the bus may fill up, but you can just hang out and wait for the next one sipping a café freddo if you so desire.

 

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

There are lots of little shops and restaurants all around Oia, but if you are looking for something quick and tasty I recommend a little spot called Pita Gyros just a short walk from the bus stop. Once you are fueled, take a stroll down to Amoudi Bay. Someone mentioned to us that it was about 300 steps, but it honestly felt like more on the way back up. It’s a fun view up towards Oia and you can grab a snack at one of the little restaurants along the water’s edge. Again, there is the donkey option for the way up, but not my choice. That said, the half litre of wine we drank at the bottom was not exactly fuel for the fire on the way back up. At the top of the stairs to Ammoundi Bay, you can also get some great views from the old castle. It is a great spot to get some photos looking back on Oia and all the little white buildings working their way up the cliff. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset, but prepare that people start to hold their spots a few hours before the sun goes down.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

We did a catamaran boat cruise with Santorini Yachting Club and it was amazing. We booked spots on the large boat which held up to 55 people and was the least expensive option. They also had semi-private boats that help a max of 16 people, but I heard that all the boats stop at the same spots, so even if you pay the extra for semi-private you are still with tons of other people at the swimming spots. We ended up on one of the semi-private tours anyways (I am guessing they didn’t fill the bigger boat) and there was only 11 of us! We had lots of room to spread out, but also met some nice people to chat with and cheer off the boat’s diving board. The cruise was about 5 hours and the price included transfers to and from our hotel, lunch and beverages (including water, pop, wine and beer). The tour stopped at the volcano island and you could swim into the hot springs. The (slightly) hot springs are only about 3 degrees warmer than the regular water and don’t go in with a white bathing suit if you are not prepared to toss it after the trip. The sulfur in the water stains things and even the crew will hose you off when you come back on the boat. They stop at a few other swimming spots, including red beach, and you go around the island and see the lighthouse at Akrotiri. The trip ends at another marina (it doesn’t return to Oia where it starts) and then they bus you back to your hotel. It was such a great way to see the Island’s terrain and relax while lounging on the deck of the boat.

Getting around Fira, Imerogovli, and Oia doesn’t require a car, but if you want to explore some more of the island then a car or an ATV/scooter is helpful. We originally planned to get an ATV, but once there changed our mind after hearing stories of people flipping them (and to be honest seeing some of the cowboy tourists ripping around on them). I would however totally recommend doing a day trip to see some of the rest of the Island or hitting some of the beaches if that is your jam. Our ferry to Crete wasn’t until 5:25pm, so we rented a car at 9am the last day and toured around before dropping the car at the port and jumping on the Ferry. We paid an extra 15 euros (it was 35 euros to rent the car for the day), but it would have cost at least that to book a transfer to the port. We started by heading to Akrotiri Prehistoric City right by the Red Beach. The ruins are inside a lovely air conditioned space which gives a nice break from the heat and little signs along the walking route tell you all about the buildings and the history. A pass for Prehistoric City is 12 euros, but for 14 euros you can get a 4 day pass for a few different historical sites. We went with the 4-day pass and also visited Icons and Relics Collection of Pyrgos (in Pygros) and the Archaeological Sites of Ancient Thira (in Kamari). The pass also included the Prehistoric Museum of Thera and Archaeological Museum of Thera, both in Fira.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

While on the road from the prehistoric city, drive up to the lighthouse at Akrotiri. It is just a short walk to a beautiful view, but tread carefully as it is a steep drop down if you lose your footing (which is a general theme around Santorinin). We didn’t stop at any of the beaches on this side of the island (except for by boat when we did the day sailing trip), but the black sand beaches like Kamari Beach or Perissa Beach seemed more appealing when we went by. We just cruised through Perissa quickly, but I got a really fun beach town vibe from it and part of me wishes we had been in beach-mode and stopped for a bit, but that wasn’t in our plans for the day.

The town of Pirgos is worth the stop. It has some great history, old churches, and a great view of the Island. It is a much slower pace than Oia and Fira and there are a few shops and little restaurants. You can continue past Pirgos and up to the top of the mountain for a spectacular view from even higher – but the road up is a little scary, so brace yourself.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

Ancient Thira is just up (and I literally mean up) from Kamari. The drive requires an intense switch back where we counted 33 turns! At the top of the switch back you can park your car and then walk up to the ruins. Beware that they close earlier than you would expect – we were told 3:30, but when we arrived at 2:30 the gate was closed. We managed to convince the woman at the door to let us in and we promised to just just go part way to take a quick look and be back by 3:00. She said it takes an hour to walk through (I guess why they don’t let people in past 2:30?), but we ran a bunch of the uphill parts and got all the way through and back to the gate by 3:05. It would have been nice to read more of the signs and understand more of the history, but it was still really cool to see. Be prepared it is all rough terrain and a lot of uphill walking.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Santorini Greece

Santorini has some incredible winerys, so if that is your jam then plan to stop at a few vineyards for tastings along the way. We stopped at one vineyard and did a 4 wine tasting for 12 euros, but I did see a few signs for free tastings as well.

From there we dropped our rental car at the ferry port and headed on our way to Crete!

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Four Days in Mykonos, Greece

As imagined, our two week vacation in Greece this past summer resulted in a lot of photos to share. Instead of throwing them all in one post, I thought it would be more fun to break it down by place and share some of my top travel tips. To kick this series off, I am starting with my advice and suggestions for a four day vacation in Mykonos, Greece!

Mykonos is an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. While planning our Greek trip, many people told us about it’s summer party atmosphere, and spots like Paradise and Super Paradise with their happening beach parties into the early hours. A little research quickly revealed massive dance clubs attracting world-renowned DJs and iconic landmarks (including a row of 16th-century windmills above Mykonos town). To be honest, it was the photos of the beaches that landed it the first spot on our Greek adventure.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos Greece

We flew from Montreal to Athens with Air Canada and then boarded a short flight to Mykonos with Agean Airlines. There was a little mix up with our bags though and it seems our packs decided to chill out in Athens a little longer. The airline staff at the small Mykonos airport were very nice and submitted the baggage report pretty quickly. There were two more flights coming from Athens later that evening, and they were optimistic that our bags would come on one of them. Sure enough they arrived around 8:30 that evening and the airline arranged to have them delivered to where we were staying.

 

We had booked 4 nights at Agia Anna (through Air BnB) and it was beyond what we expected! It was literally right on the beach and it was entirely family run! George (the father) picked us up at the airport; Dimitris (one of the sons) got us all checked in, gave us info about the area and getting around the island; Nicola (the other son) seemed to run the bar and small restaurant, he cooked Brent a delicious omelet every morning and brewed up some awesome double Greek coffees; we didn’t get a chance to formally meet Marsoula (the mom), but we did see her around a few times.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos Greece

The hotel had its own beach front and a ton of lounging chairs and umbrellas all lined up, but it was also right in between Paraga beach and Platis Gialos beach – which were both pretty lively with restaurants, bars, and beach action. The real parties happen at Paradise Beach and Super Paradise. We made friends with two Australians at our hotel and the four of us spent an afternoon and evening at Super Paradise. We tried taking the water shuttle that runs between beaches, but it proved it be unreliable. We saw three of them drive right past Paraga Beach while we waited and then the only one that stopped said they were full. We eventually negotiated a private boat (which was really cool) to drive us to Super Paradise – not the most economical option, but it did the trick. We booked chairs in the 3rd row back from the water and made friends with our lovely waitress Aleaxandra (who we ended up partying with all night). You can book 2 lounging chairs and an umbrella for 20 Euros – so we pretty much posted up there for the day. The beach party starts at 4:30 every day, but it was a pretty tame crowd the night we were there. The half-naked women they show dancing on the posters around town are not just a trick to lure you in – they are legit a part of the festivities. Since our foursome became the life of the party, we made friends with all the women working and often our table top became the centre of the dance party. The bar bill was not small, but the memories were worth it and the pictures are not appropriate for this blog.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos Greece

Navigating around Mykonos isn’t easy – since there are no road names and often streets lead to nowhere. You can easily rent four-wheelers or skooters, but the roads are pretty narrow and slightly terrifying at times – I still remain is awe of the bus driver who made it around some of the tightest corners. We opted for public transit or walking while we were there. It was easy to do a day trip to Mykonos Town by bus (about 2 Euros each way) and there are stops at a number of the beaches. While in Mykonos Town you need to check out the windmills and Little Venice for sure. The twisting and turning streets around Little Venice were a favorite for me. They were filled with cute little shops, restaurants and yummy gyros spots. It gets busy down by the port where the cruise ship passengers unload for the day, but still worth a look see.

Having visited other islands (Santorini and Crete) after Mykonos, I can say that the beaches at Mykonos were fabulous! I was glad that we spent time chilling beachside while in Mykonos. While planning our trip a number of people warned us that Mykonos was a party island that was a bit crowded, but that wasn’t our experience. Our trip was early June, so maybe the summer vacationers hadn’t quite landed yet, but we loved our time on this small island. Be warned that nude sun bathing is absolutely a thing – so don’t be surprised if you see more than you are used to while lounging in the sand.

Travel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos GreeceTravel tips and ideas for four day vacation in Mykonos Greece

 

Choosing a favourite spot on our trip is nearly impossible. Each location offered something so different and it is hard to compare. I can confidently say that Mykonos did not disappoint and I would recommend it to anyone adventuring to Greece.

xo Brittany

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Life lessons with a baby blanket

In 2014 I started knitting a baby blanket. I bought 4 balls of really think yarn (two grey and two blue) and the super long needles. I have previously tried knitting a few infinity scarves that were mediocre at best, but I was pretty jazzed about the blanket idea.

This baby blanket has now become a defining element of my life. This baby blanket was going to be a gift for Friend #1’s baby… but that baby came before the blanket was done. So, I continued knitting it for Friend #2. Alas, that baby joined the world before its completion. Then it would be for babies belonging to Friend #3, Friend #4, Friend #5, Friend #2 (again), it was even a gift for a set of twins at one point. I bought more yarn, made incorrect stitches and tried to fix them, and nearly let the whole thing fall right off the needles at one point.

As I was getting ready for family to visit for Christmas and sorting out spare room items – I found the baby blanket. I had literally come to detest this blanket. I had put so much time into it and spent a bunch of money so it felt silly to just give-up, but no part of me wanted to finish it.

I decided right then to just accept that I am not the kind of friend that will knit you a baby blanket. I am the kind of friend who will chat for hours about what is happening in your life, who will get completely excited for good things coming your way, who will happily host you for a games night, and will always fill up your glass of wine. However, I will never be the friend who knits you a baby blanket.

At first this reality made me sad, but I think there are times in our life when we have to pause, evaluate the kind of person that we are becoming, and decide if that is the person that we want to be. I think too often we try to be something we are not and then if we don’t excel we feel disappointed in ourselves. I have decided that I am comfortable with being this person and am letting go of my half finished baby blanket for good.

Friends #1-5 (and all 7 babies) I am sorry that you never got a baby blanket from me. Before it officially goes in the trash, I thought you should get one good look at!

xo Brittany

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