After Turkey, I parted ways with my friend who was heading out for even more Turkish adventures which included whirling Dervishes and balloon rides in Cappadocia (jealous)! However jealous I was of her getting to hot air balloon over the beautiful hills and valleys, I was off to Greece! Greece! I have been wanting to travel to Greece for a long time. Ever since I had seen photos of the iconic white and blue of Santorini, I knew I had to get there.
From Istanbul I traveled on to Athens to meet up with my friend, Sara. We stayed at cool hotel called The Electra Palace. It’s at the base of the Acropolis, and right in the center of “old town.” There is a ton of shopping here. Really nice little shops full of the typical touristy stuff like all things made from olive oil, and some beautiful silver jewelry shops. There are also all kinds of little bistros serving traditional Greek fare as well as foods from all around the globe. Pizza anyone?
We actually walked to the Acropolis our first day there. It was a fairly easy walk, but man alive it was HOT! By the time we got to the Acropolis, we were both drenched! But we got our tickets and headed to the stairs so we could see it up close and get our photos! It was already beginning to get crowded when we arrived…a little before 11 am. We waited in line for about 10-15 minutes for tickets to get in. Once we got in, we took a few quit shots, then headed on up to the top. The Acropolis is actually an ancient Greek citadel that consists of several important buildings including the Parthenon. At the top of the hill the breeze kicks in, and you are finally out of the long queues of people. You are able to walk around more freely, and I was able to capture some really amazing pictures without people in them. The views from the top of the Acropolis are breathtaking. I’m always amazed visiting ancient sites in modern cities. The whole juxtaposition of old and new really blow my mind (nerd moment). The views of Athens, alone, are reason enough to bear the long lines and get to the top. It is a MUST do. We only had a short time in Athens, so we decided that a day trip to Delphi would be cool, too. So I booked us a trip, they picked us up at our hotel, and away we went. Delphi sits atop a mountain about 3 hours outside Athens proper. It’s a trip up and down winding, curving roads–so if you’ve a propensity to motion sickness, take something before you go. If you’re going in the summer, dress appropriately and bring water, and a fan! Wear good walking shoes! You’ll be walking a lot on very uneven, rocky ground. We had an animated tour guide who actually knew a lot about the history of Delphi, and she was interesting to listen to. Our group was smallish–maybe about 20 people. You go on a large tour bus, see the ruins at Delphi and then tour the museum, and they provide you lunch and a visit to a small mountain village. It was an entire day’s trip, but we really enjoyed our time. There are lots of tour companies you can book through. I just googled “Delphi day trips,” read the reviews and chose one. The cost was about $100 per person. You can book smaller groups, but the smaller the group, the higher the price. The next day we had a little shopping time, then we were off on a little hopper flight to Santorini!
So Santorini. Where do I begin? HOW do I begin to describe this place? Really, words are completely inadequate. I posted a selfie on one of the first days we were there, and one friend commented on how happy I looked. Santorini is bliss. I like to think when I get to Heaven, it’s going to look like Santorini. Seriously it is breathtaking. Ok, there are lots of places to stay on the island. It’s pretty big. But if you want to see what I saw…the beautiful white-washed buildings, the blue domed churches, the heavenly azure waters of the sea and the amazing views of the Caldera, then Oia (Pronounced EE-a) is where you’ve got to go. It’s the priciest place to stay on the island, but oh my goodness is it worth it!! I rented a villa through Airbnb, and our hostess Nicoletta. The villa was small, but charming, and the VIEW!!!! To. Die. For. It’s right smack in the middle of everything. But Nicoletta arranged to have us met at a drop off point near the post office, and we had a porter who carried our bags up the stairs (lots and lots of stairs in Oia), to our villa. Her daughters met us and helped us get acquainted with the workings of the villa. And when our wifi was shot, one the daughters (they are twins) came and got us brand new high speed wireless, and we were thrilled. They couldn’t have been any nicer. I even got late check out (at no charge) because my ferry to Crete didn’t leave until 5:30 pm. I HIGHLY recommend booking Nicoletta’s place. You won’t regret it.
From the villa we walked everywhere. There are tons of cute and quirky shops, restaurants, a pharmacy, a post office, market, bakery, windmills even…everything you could possibly want just a short walk away. Despite all the stairs, once we knew our way around, it was easy. The only downfall of visiting the island of Santorini in the summer is the annoying cruise ships. Hoards of cruisers disembark from the ship early in the mornings (except on Saturdays) and completely clog the narrow alleyways of this beautiful spot. We hated it! I hated THEM! I think if you aren’t staying there, you shouldn’t even get to stop there. Ugh…cruise people. They’re the worst.
Anyway, we figured out that it was most congested in the middle of the day, so we tried to get out early, back in for an afternoon rest, then back out in the evenings after the throngs had left our haven. It was much better this way. It’s really, really hot midday, so sitting on our little balcony, or taking a little afternoon nap seemed like a good idea. We also did a wine tour which was lovely. We got to taste local Greek wines which are ok…but just ok, and they provided a nice, light dinner for us at sunset. All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon. We didn’t make it down to the sea, but we didn’t mind that much. Sitting atop our little private perch was all we really needed. I told the guy who was helping our host that I just wanted to stay forever. How could I stay forever? I could help them with their properties? Be a maid? Carry people’s luggage? I loved Santorini so much, I’m going to go back some day. If you’ve been toying with the idea of visiting, toy no longer. Just go.
Sara had to head back to the states, and I was off to my next stop in Crete. She headed to the airport, and I headed to the port to get my ferry. Going by ferry seemed reasonable. It’s only 2 1/2 hours ride, and it was cheap, too. Like 60 bucks. And it was on one of the high speed ferries, too. What I did not count on was the weather being bad. I’ve heard the seas in Greece can get really rough. They are so rough during winters, that ferries don’t even run. But I thought I’d be ok in summer. I was not ok. Welcome to my vomit cruise from hell. I’ll spare you gory details, let’s just say seasickness is bad. Very, VERY bad. I wasn’t sick b/c I took a pill–but oh my GOSH were people on that boat ill. So before you take a high speed ferry anywhere, check the weather and bring the Dramamine!
But Crete!! And Rethymnon to be specific, was WONDERFUL. I decided to spend the last 5 days of my journey solo. I’m so glad I did. While I love meeting up with friends, and sharing experiences with them, there is nothing like the adventure of solo travel…especially if you happen to be a female solo traveler. While I find traveling alone to be a little intimidating sometimes especially when you are sitting alone in cafes or at restaurants, I actually enjoy forcing myself to leave my comfort zone a little. Plus I usually meet nice, interesting people–most of them are curious as to why I’m by myself, but I’ve also met other female travelers and it’s nice to exchange stories over a coffee or glass of wine. This time I found myself staying at a small, funky boutique hotel. Lots of hotels in Rethymnon, but I recommend staying in old town, and near the water.
Honestly, the best recommendations for travel are from friends and I read lots of blogs and follow other travelers on Instagram. Also there are ways to connect with locals if you travel solo. I’ve found people will meet you out for a drink or dinner and show you around. If you like that. And there are sites for women only so no need to worry about creepy dudes trying to lure you somewhere. Or if you are keen to travel, and you have to travel solo, hooking up with a tour group is another great way to enjoy your time, meet interesting people and not feel so alone. For my part, I don’t mind some time alone. Whatever you want is out there, believe me. And travel can be accessible on any budget. Check out sites like: kayak.com, skyscanner.com, I almost exclusively use either booking.com or airbnb to book hotels or rooms, and you can follow secret flying and the flight deal on Facebook. They will put up cheap, like SUPER cheap deals but they are usually only good for 24-48 hours. However, while the purchase time is immediate, the actual travel times are pretty flexible.
Happy travels, friends. Traveling is the one thing you can buy that is guaranteed to make you richer! That’s for sure.
Till next time,