Travel Dates: August 3-17, 2016
Accommodations: Airbnb Monastiraki, Athens
I can’t believe we’re actually doing this!
After dropping off our second dog, Miko, with Amit’s parents in Florida, we hopped on a flight to New York to take a red eye to London, and from there fly to Athens. My “luggage” was literally a cardboard box. Amit, wanting me to have the best luggage on the market in the exact color I wanted, located one at a flagship Rimowa store in London. Not wanting to have to ship back another piece of luggage when we arrived in London, practical Amit suggested we ship my contents (everything I own as we circumnavigate the globe) in a box to London. Not a bad idea I thought…until we arrived in New York and the box had split open! Luckily we were able to tape the box back up and it arrived in one piece. We only stayed one night in London but were able to grab dinner and drinks in Chinatown with Auntie Mona before we made our way to Athens.
Athens was a quick 3 hour flight from London and only requires 1-2 days of exploration before you move onto the Greek Islands. We stayed for two nights. Amit found us an apartment located above a restaurant in Monastiraki. The location of our home for the next couple days was perfect. We were centrally located next to tons of restaurants, cafes, and retail shops. The best part was our sprawling view of the Acropolis from our balcony.
We spent the next day exploring the Acropolis, an ancient citadel containing some of the most influential architecture in the world. Most notable is the Parthenon, a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. After baking in the sun at what was possibly the hottest point of the day, we desperately needed to seek refuge in an air conditioned room. So we made our way to the Acropolis Museum, where we cooled off and perused the archaeological remains of the Acropolis. For the remainder of the day we strolled along the streets of Plaka, where there were tons of shops and cafes before heading back to our hotel to rest up before dinner.
For dinner we walked a couple blocks to a highly rated delicatessen in Omonia called Karamanlidika. It was a tiny little restaurant where dozens of sausage links and strands of garlic hung from the ceiling. Luckily we were able to find a seat at the bar and munched on complimentary cured meats and cheese while we waited for a table. We were pleasantly surprised by our meal. The sweet balsamic dressing on our Greek salad and the complimentary yogurt dessert with candied carrots (it taste better than it sounds!) were the standouts.
Tomorrow we fly to Santorini!
Accommodations: Kapari Natural Resort
Amit described Santorini as one of the most beautiful places in the world, a city built into a cliff high up above the water with sunsets so beautiful, people stop dead in their tracks to watch the sun slowly dip into the horizon…
It was everything he described and more.
We stayed in the village of Imerovigli, just north of Fira, the island capital. Imerovigli is famous for it’s beautiful sunsets, but as we discovered there is no bad view of the sunset anywhere on the island. Our hotel was a short 20 minute drive from the airport. Upon arriving to our hotel, I was awestruck by the simple beauty of the caldera and the whitewashed villages built up into the cliffs overlooking the clear blue water of the Aegean Sea. We learned that Santorini was once a single island, but after a massive volcano eruption, part of the island sank into the ocean, creating a water filled caldera. The volcano is still active to this day!
Here we were booked for 7 nights. Amit initially thought that it might be too much time in one place, but I was excited to finally relax and unwind after a few stressful months of weddings, wrapping up with work and moving out of our home.
There are tons of activities to do on the island. Our recommendation is to rent a smart car or a quad so you can zip around the island and explore. There are only 36 taxi drivers on the whole island so you don’t want to get caught stranded like we did one night in Fira. Times like these I missed the modern convenience of Uber but if that’s the trade-off of traveling, I’ll take it!
One morning we got up early and hiked to Skaros Rock before the sun got too painstakingly hot. Another day we drove into Fira wandered up and down the cobbled pathways exploring all the cute clothing and jewelry boutiques (ladies leave your heels at home – I had a hard time even walking in flip flops!). Most iconic in Greece are the fish spas. Make sure you experience at least one in your lifetime. Amit and I cringed and squirmed our way through one, while toothless Garra Rufa fish sucked dead skin off our feet while providing a gentle micro massage. Weirdness aside, it was pretty awesome. Another day we jumped into our tiny smart car and made our way to Kamari Black Sand Beach and rented beach chairs for the day. Last but not least make sure you book a sunset cruise. As I had mentioned before, there are no bad views of the sunsets anywhere on the island but to get to see it unobtrusive from a catamaran at dusk was pretty epic.
There is a reason that people describe Santorini as being in a dreamstate. It’s one that you don’t want to wake up from as you soak in those spectacular sunsets. It was a hell of a way to jump start our honeymoon around the world.
Accommodations: Sidari Beach Hotel
After seven relaxing days in Santorini, it was time to explore more of Greece. Back home in Venice, our optometrist, Dr. James Hoff (who we highly recommend!), insisted we visit a little island called Corfu. After some serious research (i.e. typing “Corfu” into Google Image Search), we decided he was right.
Corfu is a very different experience than Santorini. It’s bigger, greener, and has way better beaches. We stayed in the very northern part of the island, called Sidari. While we loved the staff at our hotel, Sidari town had a bizarre Euro Disney / Jersey Shore vibe that made us a little uncomfortable. We would recommend staying elsewhere on the island, like Corfu Town or Paleokastritsa, which were our favorite parts of the island. Corfu Town has beautiful, winding, cobblestone alleys filled with restaurants and stores. And Paleokastritsa has some of the most breathtaking beaches you’ll ever see. It’s very rocky, but that makes for the clearest, cleanest blue water you can imagine. Linda and I enjoyed our time renting beach chairs, reading, swimming, and drinking strawberry daiquiris.
Accommodations: Divani Meteora Hotel
Leading up to our trip, I’d bookmarked any extraordinary places I stumbled on in travel blogs and Instagram. Some of them were remote, but I figured this was the perfect opportunity to go off the beaten path and not worry about wasting precious vacation days. One of those places is below:
Meteora are these huge pillars of rock that tower over sprawling valleys in the middle of Greece. The name is derived from “meteor” since, on a foggy day, their peaks look like they’re floating in space. On top of of six meteora lie incredible monasteries dating back to the 9th century AD.
After Corfu, we mapped out a route that would take us through Meteora en route back to Athens. We rented a car in Corfu, drove onto a ferry, got off at the port of Igoumenitsa, and ventured into the middle of Greece. As we pulled into the valley, Linda and I were awestruck by the massive rocks and landscape. It was late afternoon, so we were excited to get up early and explore. In the meantime, we kicked back in our hotel and tried to catch up on the Olympics. You’d think they’d have decent Olympic coverage in the country that founded the games, but for whatever reason they only showed judo and synchronized swimming…then again, what more could you want? The next morning, we got up bright and early to hike to the monasteries. It was an easy hike and an interesting tour, well worth a day trip if you want to experience Greece outside the islands.