In February, 2017, my best friend and I spent two weeks visiting Greece. Now, two weeks is a bit of a long trip to me; it’s difficult for me to be unplugged from my life for that long! But, we had an amazing trip and found a wide range of activities and beautiful scenery to fill each day.
We purchased round-trip airline tickets (from AZ) through kayak.com for roughly $1000 each.
The first week of the trip was spent in and around Athens. One of the big items on my wish list for touring was the Acropolis (I was not disappointed!). My original interest in Athens was because my parents lived there for about six years when they were younger; I wanted to see where they lived and visit the church they used to attend. I was not satisfied with the hotel we stayed in while in Athens (I recommend using any kind of travel tools to read and learn from traveler reviews to limit the chances for disappointment). It was rather run-down and not what I expected. But, I was most disappointed in the appearance of Athens itself. We chose to stay in the downtown area, expecting to see beautiful buildings. Well, the buildings WERE beautiful, but they were covered with graffiti. I really didn’t expect that.
During our week in Athens, we visited the Acropolis (that was a highlight for me!) and the Plaka (for shopping and eating!). The Plaka, known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods”, is filled with bars, restaurants, and shopping areas. Now, Greek food is not like the Greek food you would find in the States. Traditional Greek food is characterized by high quality ingredients, fresh herbs and closely guarded family secrets. Stateside iterations may lean towards convenience and balancing cost/quality. I encountered lots of middle eastern people in Athens speaking Arabic, so I felt like I really fit in!
Riding ponies while touring one of the three islands during our trip to Athens. We got a little queasy on the boat ride, but it was definitely worth it!
Our next Athens adventure was to take Hydra, Poros and Egina Day Cruise. The cruise company did a great job of explaining what we would find on each of the islands we visited. It was very windy as we started out on the boat towards the first island stop. Within just a few minutes, my friend started to look really queasy and….well,… she started to throw up. Not being maybe the “best” friend I could be, I was giving her a hard time, and making fun of her a bit. Well, as karma would have it, my own time to get super sick began only a few minutes later. I’ve wondered if the summertime would provide for smoother sailing (it certainly would be warmer weather!) We recovered enough to really enjoy our time on each of the islands. We rode on ponies, stopped in ice cream shops and got to visit and learn about some very beautiful churches. I was really taken with the church visits. They are super-detailed and very godly, just quite amazing.
Enjoying three days at Santorini overlooking the Aegean Sea! What a glorious view!
After our week in Athens, we googled flights to Santorini (one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea about 120 miles south of the Greek mainland). By looking at hotels.com, we were able to find some of the least expensive hotels with the nicest views. We settled on Aqua Luxury Suites for roughly $200/night. The views were absolutely stunning! We spent three days here and just really had a blast. The area was charming, with old cobblestone streets and since we were there in February, it really wasn’t crowded at all. Local told us that the area is quite busy in summertime. Everyone kept warning us to be alert and on guard because stealing from tourists can be quite common there. We had no problems at all.
A review would not be complete without further comment about the food! We did take along some enzyme/antacid pills (which is never a bad idea when you are traveling to areas where the food is different than what you usually enjoy in your day-to-day). We did experience a little bit of upset stomach with the different foods, but nothing severe enough to keep us from trying and enjoying this new cuisine! There was very little processed food; everything was fresh. Actually, even though I am lactose intolerant, I enjoyed drinking milk on the trip and didn’t experience any of the usual discomfort I get in the U.S. Although I am not a big “fish eater” – when you are eating oceanside, you just have to try the local delicacies! There were real cool-looking fish that were deep fried (and you could see the eyes and everything!). I have to say the seafood was really, really good. I even enjoyed eating octopus! It is absolutely normal to see octopuses hanging outside of the local restaurants. This reminded me of some of the traditions in my house growing up. My parents definitely adopted some of the Greek culture for sure! With every meal, the Greeks provide uzo – a “black licorice-type” whiskey that is enjoyed before and after every meal. This is the same beverage that my parents have been drinking their entire lives.
It was an absolutely amazing trip!