A Travellerspoint blog

Kalimera!

Kalimera means "good day" and for each day of our trip we were greeted this way. From the busy streets of Athens to the towel strewn beaches of Santorini, we were embraced by the Greek culture and the friendly community. As Will and I finished up our trip after 18 days of traveling, I couldn't help but miss hearing the welcoming greeting that always started my day on a positive note. It was a trip I will never forget and I am already nostalgic for the experiences we shared. Hiking to watch the sunrise behind the Acropolis and waiting with thousands of people to watch the sunset at Oia gave me appreciation for the impressiveness of the natural world. Moving on to my next adventure in Salzburg, I will miss most my amazing travel buddy. He is on to spectacular things at University of Oregon and I know he will always make time to appreciate an awesome sunset and the beauty of our home. But for every one else- kalimera! Go have an adventure today!
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Posted by empaustian 14:15 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 16: Finding Nemo Means Finding the Aquarium First


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Having confidence in our bus riding skills after yesterday, Will and I discover a nearby bus stop to the center and then go to the bus station to make our way to the Crete Aquarium.

The Crete Aquarium is the largest on the eastern Mediterranean. It is past the airport in the middle of nowhere, and yet once you arrive, the parking lot is full and people fill the entrance.
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I love aquariums, probably because my Grandparents used to live in Newport and almost every time we visited, they would take us. The Crete Aquarium did not disappoint!
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We saw sharks, which they had apparently shipped in because the only sharks in Greece are smaller sand sharks. We also saw an assortment of fish, eels, sting rays, and beautiful creatures of the sea. Each exhibit had the names of the animals in at least 28 different languages.
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We took the bus back to the center to have lunch and shop around before returning to our apartment to enjoy the Greek siesta.

When we got up to shower and leave for dinner the water had been shut off. Our hosts apologized and apparently shared the same problem. Luckily, it came back on later that night. We figured if this was the biggest mishap so far, than we were lucky!

Posted by empaustian 14:04 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 15: Palace of Knossos


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Today, we spent a good deal of time researching the bus system. Heraklion has a lot to offer, but everything is spread out so it is not easily accessible.

We walked to the center to catch a bus out to the Palace of Knossos. The palace is associated with the myth of King Minos and the architect he hired, Daedalus, to create a palace that was as complex as a maze.
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The ruins reminded me of the Palace of Zeus in Athens, both were wide open and vibrant.
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The Palace was very interesting to see up close after our visit to the archeological museum. We understood what it’s previous structure had looked like and were able to observe some of the original structure, such as the throne room. We also got a good laugh at tourists taking photo shoots in their bathing suits at the site.
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We took a bus back to the center and ate lunch at the Veranda, a cute restaurant where we could people watch. We also ordered loukamades, also known in the U.S. as honey balls, to share. They were made with oil, cinnamon, and sesame, but no honey in Crete. We loved them!
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Posted by empaustian 13:39 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 14: I don’t read Greek


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We woke early hoping to find the city center, the main pedestrian area of town where the major archeological sites are located. Our host left us instructions of how to get there on foot, only a 25 minute walk. For us, it ended up being a 60 minute walk because we don’t read Greek street names.
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We had a chance to explore the Heraklion neighborhoods and realized that this city was less focused on tourism. At cafes, they spoke to us only in Greek and restaurants were few to come by outside the city center.

We finally found our way to the city center and saw Koules Palace, the Venetian fortress that had been around since medieval times. The walls that lined the city were tall and free of the graffiti that we had seen all over Athens.
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We saw the main church, which we stopped in briefly because we were both wearing shorts.
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Lastly, we went to the Archeological Museum and learned a lot about the Minoan culture in preparation for our visit to the Palace of Knossos the next day.
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One super interesting fact, they used to bury their dead in vases like the one below and they would be curled up in the fetal position and slowly become fossilized into the vase.
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We walked home and decided to make spaghetti at our house for dinner. It was a nice change. I officially cannot look at greek salad any longer without flinching.

Posted by empaustian 13:24 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 13: Movin' On!

Ferry to Heraklion


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Today was a day of goodbyes. Our sweet hosts at Acropole Sunrise wished us good tidings and our cook, Tina, gave us both a hug and a kiss on each cheek.

We spent the majority of our day riding a bus across the island and then taxi’d the rest of the way with a couple from Columbia who worked at Goldman Sachs. We talked with them for a while and compared trip itineraries, as they had just come from Crete- our next stop.
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We sat at an internet cafe at the port for a while and then boarded the Sea Jets ferry to Heraklion. Our boat ride was hilarious! Every seat was full and Will and I sat next to a younger couple who made it clear that they were exhausted and hoped to sleep on the trip. Unfortunately for them, a live band started playing their personal renditions of popular pop songs.

At first the band got know response, but after a pitchy Adele song, they began to gather followers. People sat on the stairs listening and gathered around us dancing.
(Will is working on uploading the video)
At one point, the boat captain came out to do the macarena and the man next to me exclaimed, “Who is driving the boat?!”

We were still laughing as we got into a taxi to take us to our Airbnb in Crete. Our hosts were ready to meet us with their sweet one-year old baby. They brought us each a muffin and had us try the wine, Milarakis, which is supposed to be drank as a shot. It tasted spicy.
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Posted by empaustian 02:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 12: Sunbathing in Santorini

Short and sweet


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Will and I both woke up to watch the sunrise this morning, had our wonderful complimentary breakfast of greek yogurt, toast, and coffee, and then made our way down to the waterfront to get sunbathing chairs.
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We spent the day swimming, reading, and trying to not be too alarmed by nude sunbathers.
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It was a very relaxing day! That night at around 10 pm, we heard a knock at our door. Will asked, “Who is it?”
Our sweet cook replied, “It’s me.” She had come to bring us glasses of Santorini’s famous white wine. I knew she liked us. :)
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This is the beautiful view next to our little room.

Posted by empaustian 13:28 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 11: Santorini Sailing


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Today was crazy busy. After our complete struggle bus (literally) getting to Red Beach, we decided the best way to see the whole island was to do a sailing trip. We boarded the King Thira boat at 10 am and started towards the caldera, Nea Kameni. The last eruption was in 1950 and the volcano is currently considered dormant.
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The uphill hike of Nea Kameni was sweltering, but so worth it! The ground was covered in black igneous rocks and small vents in the midst of the crater release gas. At the top, we could see all of Santorini.
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Our tour guide was a hilarious woman from Romania, who continuously called us her little "babies". She requested that everyone on the boat call her "Mama," even the guests that were older than her.
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We reloaded onto the boat and continued sailing until we came to the hot springs, also known as Palia Kameni. Will and I jumped off the boat to swim in the hot water. The rocks were covered in a rusty orange and any bright colored bathing suits were stained if they were submerged in the water.
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Next, we sailed to the island of Thirassia. It was a peaceful change to the beaches of the main island of Santorini that are plastered with tourists. We explored the little city, got lunch, and swam in the clear blue water with a school of fish.
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Finally, we sailed to our final destination Oia, where everyone watches the famous sunset of Santorini. Will and I decided to take donkeys up the VERY steep staircase that winds up to the city. It was the most terrifying moment so far on this trip. Our donkeys did not seem to have any sort of direction and road as near to the edge as possible. There was a few moments where I thought I may not survive the trek up the cliffside, but at the end I was grateful for the experience and even more grateful that I never have to do that again in my life.
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People arrive at least two hours in advance for the sunset, so Will and I grabbed a spot on the wall and sat down to wait. A half hour prior to sunset, every street was packed full of people pushing to get a good picture. It was a beautiful sunset and I envied a parasailer who had the very best view.
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On our way back to the bus, I heard Will gasp and then he commented to a very tall man, "Congratulations on your wedding." It was Russell Westbrook, a player for the Oklahoma City Thunders. Of course, Will knew he was here on his honeymoon.
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We got back to the room around 10 and were exhausted. We both decided the next day would be spent at the beach.
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Posted by empaustian 01:49 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 10: A Warm Welcome

Red Beach, Fira, and Kamari


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I woke up this morning and snuck outside to watch the sun rise. Our balcony overlooks all of Kamari and I could hear roosters crowing from every direction.
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Will woke up a few hour later and we went to eat in the reception hall where they served us a complimentary breakfast of bread, biscuits, nutella, yogurt, coffee, and juice. We were very grateful for their generosity and I heard them laughing at us later because we said thank you so frequently.
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We walked down our spiraling hill into Kamari to wait at the bus stop. It was already very hot outside! We planned to go to Red Beach, but every bus had to go through the capital, Fira, so we had to transfer buses. About forty-five minutes later we had made into the little port where we hiked to see the beach. The contrast of red rock and blue water was dramatic and beautiful, but the beach was already stock full of tourists.
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We took a bus back to Fira and explored shops while admiring the houses built into the cliffside. We snagged a table overlooking the cliff where we could watch the donkeys and wheezing tourists climb the 580 steps from the Old Port to Fira. We got saganaki, which basically is like a giant mozzarella stick. They are sinfully good! Will got carbonara, which he considered one of his best meals so far and I got a fresh seafood salad.
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We went back to our place in Kamari and went to find our clothes. Tina, our wonderful cook offered to wash them for us, and we found them hanging on a clothesline. We waved to her signaling that we were going to take them and went back to our room. Unfortunately, a couple hours later, Tina knocked on our door in a panic thinking our clothes had been stolen. The poor woman was close to tears and so relieved to hear that we had them. Will and I felt absolutely terrible, but when we saw her later we patted her arms and apologized again and she laughed with us. Despite scaring her to death, I think she really likes us.
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We tried dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, at dinner, walked on the beach, and watched some of the soccer players on an open field in town.
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Hope everyone's first day back at school has been good!
Cheers,
Emma

Posted by empaustian 03:36 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 9: All roads lead to Fira

Naxos-->Santorini


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Today, we went to Santorini! We got up at our usual time, had our typical breakfast of Greek yogurt with honey, went on a nice walk, and then wheeled our suitcases down to the port. Standing in line with everyone to get on the Blue Star ferries can be overwhelming, but Will and I have a system down to guarantee we make it to the front of the line.
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Two hours later, the beautiful white houses of Santorini dotted the cliffside. We got off the boat and I had arranged for a driver to take us to our Airbnb. Another Italian family got in the car as well, and we were on our way with every seat filled.
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The roads, or I should say, road, in Santorini confuses me. There is one narrow road that winds up the path from the new port to the top of the cliff. Buses and bikers barely avoid collision. Our driver swerves in and out of lanes trying to pass other drivers and thirty minutes later I have my eyes shut tight, trying not to be sick.
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I was 100% convinced that as soon as we got to our Airbnb that I was going to be sick, I just needed to wait that long. Right when we got there the host collected us and another group to give us a little orientation on the island and that was the perfect distraction. He gave us maps with good beaches and restaurants, as well as tour opportunities.
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It was getting late by the time he was done so Will and I headed into our town, Kamari, to explore and get dinner. Kamari is a smaller tourist town on Santorini. Our host informed us that the southern side of the island is less expensive than the northern side and we are located directly in the middle.
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The beach on Kamari is black pebbles and it runs very hot! In fact, Santorini runs way hotter than any of the previous islands, due to the lack of wind. There is a pedestrian walk parallel to the beach with cute stores and seaside restaurants. From our side of the island, we cannot see the sun actually set (sorry Will), but the sunrise, which I personally prefer.
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We went to the #1 recommended restaurant in town, Almiras, and both tried Red Donkey, an amber ale created by a brewing company on the island. We tried Tomatokeftedes, traditional Santorini tomato balls, as an appetizer, which was wonderful. Will now has a list of Greek foods he wants to try, so he got moussaka and I got a Santorini salad. Both were great!
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At the end of the night, we had to hike back to our rooms. Our airbnb is at the top of a winding, steep hill only accessible by walking up the main road. The views at the top are great, but we were both sweating by the time we got to our room.
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We had big plans for the next day, so we crawled into bed early.

Posted by empaustian 22:18 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 8: Nudists in Naxos


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Will and I came up with many titles for this blog post, one of his suggestions was, “They’re Naked and We’re Afraid” and a couple others that are a little too inappropriate, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We went to breakfast this morning down by the waterfront and set up a game plan for the day.
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When we left Athens, our host sent us a list of recommended activities for Naxos. One of which was walking the long stretch of beaches between Agios Ana and Plaka beach. We wanted to get in some walking, so we mapped out directions to Plaka Beach from our Airbnb. It seemed like it would be an easy 4 miles to get there. It wasn’t…
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We ended up walking through a mixture of highway and a variety of small towns before reaching the beach front. It took us about an hour and a half. When we got there we felt it was worth the walk, though! The beaches were the lightest blue we had seen so far and it was the perfect temperature to walk down the beach.
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We finally came to the highly recommended Plaka beach and the first thing we saw was bare skin everywhere. I don’t know if that specific section of the beach is reserved for nudists, but I felt out of place just wearing one!
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When we reached the end of the beach, we took a bus back to town and walked up to the Temple of Apollo. It is a huge arch overlooking the sea and a pile of fallen column blocks. Will and I were surprised that the arch was still standing, just because the wind was so strong!
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We continued to explore Old Town, before going back to our room to read for a bit. Later, we watched the sunset again on the docks and got a gyro and greek salad in town. For some reason, they always put french fries in the gyros, but we’re a fan!
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Our host recommended some fun activities to do in Naxos, including seeing a movie at the open air cinema. We decided to go to a late screening of the new Mission Impossible movie and it was so much fun! The theater opened up to the sky and as it got darker we could see every star.
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As we made our way back to the room at 11:15 pm, we laughed because the nightlife in Naxos was just beginning and we were ready to hit the hay.

Cheers!
Emma

Posted by empaustian 10:19 Archived in Greece Tagged naxos Comments (0)

Day 7: Hooked on Naxos

Ferry rides, seafood, and seasickness


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We got up and packed in preparation of Mina (our host) driving us to the Port. We had figured out the bus systems in Mykonos pretty quickly and knew that Mina would be saving us at least 45 minutes.
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The port was huge! Cruise ships took up a good portion of the dock and the Hellenic Seaway boats would come speeding in, unload cars and loads of people, and reload with cars and loads of people in the span of 10 minutes. If you read your ticket wrong, you could be stuck on the wrong boat.
I was overwhelmed with the crowd pushing to get on the BlueStar ferry, but once we got on their were nice tables and seating and a little cafe that Will and I sat at for the two hour ride. It wasn’t until the last half hour that I began to get seasick and dizzy, but we pulled it together and made our way off the ferry into the lovely island of Naxos.

The port was bustling with people and there was a light breeze as we followed directions to get to our Airbnb. Fresh seafood was displayed at each restaurant and the streets were less focused on feeding the tourist frenzy.
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When we got to our room, our host was no where to be found so a sweet cleaning lady let us into our room. In comparison to the previous hotel, this was amazing. Will and I each get our own bed, the shower has enough space to shampoo without falling out, and there is a cute little kitchen and balcony.
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We walked out by the port and found a small beach with glowing rocks. We found sea glass and continued up a hill to some overlooking cliffs. At the top, Will discovered a hidden staircase leading back to the sea. It was one of the most peaceful places I have ever sat.
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Later, we went exploring into the maze that is Old Town. It is similar to Mykonos City, but hardly anyone is on the streets. In the midst of the maze, we come across the archaeological museum, little shops with local items, and the Waffle House.
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The Waffle House is homemade ice cream with 100% Greek products and waffle cones made outside. It definitely would give Salt and Straw a run for their money.
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We went back and showered before going down to the docks to watch the sunset and cheer on some fisherman.
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After dinner, we went back to the room and as I was unpacking I ran across a cockroach. Will jumped up grabbing his shoe and then bailed out covering his mouth like he was going to throw up. I don’t see the real harm in cockroaches aside from their nastiness, so I grabbed a cup and some paper and tried to catch it as it scurried up the wall. Unfortunately, this cockroach is Houdini. He somehow escaped and started scurrying across the floor back towards me causing me to instinctually stomp on it. There is video to document this horrific/ hilarious moment that I will post later.

May your rooms all be free of cockroaches tonight.
XOXO,
Emma

Posted by empaustian 05:04 Archived in Greece Tagged naxos Comments (0)

Day 6: Sunsets and 50 Shades of Blue


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Today, we go back to Ornos beach and decide what we want to do with our day. We originally planned to see Delos, a little island that is the supposed birthplace of Apollo, but a couple of our Greek drivers and hosts alluded that it was not important to see.
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I close my eyes for a little while laying on the beach and I open them to find many beach goers topless and in speedos. Anything for an even tan :)
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We wanted some exercise in the afternoon so we hike up a hill and basically found that we could follow the bus route on foot. We pass beautiful hotels with door frames in shades of light green and deep blue. We also find the biggest spider of my entire life in a small bush of passion fruit.
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We guess which houses are owned by celebrities and eventually make our way to another port where we see boats that look like they are right out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
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When we arrive back at the hotel, we run into our host, Mina, who welcomes us with a hug and offers to drive us to the port the next day. Will and I are both burnt and ready to hop in the pool.

We take a bus into Mykonos City to watch the sunset behind the windmills. I don’t consider myself a huge sunset person, like Will, who wanted to watch them every single night from the highest point on the island. However, the sunset in Mykonos was simply amazing. We watched the whole sky transform into a deep red and the golden sun fell behind the horizon and the anticipation was like watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in New York.
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At the end of the day, Mykonos has gorgeous sunsets and a big party scene, but just like spring break, it must come to an end. Will and I are ready to continue our explorations somewhere else.

Posted by empaustian 12:54 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 5: We ate Squidward

Mykonos


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We woke this morning later than usual, a sign that we are finally adjusting to the time change. We walked out into the windy, warm streets and found a little bakery just a couple blocks down. We both got a scone, and came to the realization that many of the baked goods here basically taste like pizza. Luckily, we are both fans of pizza.
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We walked up the narrow roads, narrowly avoiding drivers and motor bikes. The paths swerve up the hillside and empty snail shells dot the pathway.
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Later we make our way to Ornos beach, just a block away from our hotel. We are the first ones to arrive and decide to lay down and read for a while. The waters are incredible shades of blue and the water is warmer than most waters I have experienced. It is similar to the waters of Sayulita, but much clearer.
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In the afternoon, we take the bus into the city of Mykonos. We go to the windmills created in the 16th century and have a great view of the whole city. They reminded me of the fictional story Don Quixote.
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From the windmills, we could see Little Venice, a series of vibrant colored houses right on the ocean that are pounded with waves.
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We made our way into the city of Mykonos, which resembles a maze. Every street is cobblestone and everything is white. The churches we pass look like they are dipped in powdered sugar.
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The tourists in Mykonos City are different than those we met in Athens. They carry around Louis Vuitton bags and designer everything. In our exploration of the Mykonos maze we find a street of main stream stores- Victoria Secrets, Sephora, Michael Kors, etc. We spend a while waiting for the bus and then make our way back to Ornos for dinner.
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Will and I go to a nicer restaurant and try sangria and grilled octopus. He keeps saying in a dramatic tone, “I’ve tried fresh octopus on the seashore of Mykonos,” like it is an amazing feat. In reality, neither of us really enjoyed eating the squishy tentacle of poor Squidward.
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Cheers!
Emma

Posted by empaustian 09:07 Archived in Greece Tagged mykonos Comments (0)

Day 4: Goodbye Athens, Hello Spring Break?

Welcome to the windy city


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Will and I got up this morning to move out of our lovely apartment in Athens. I've been trying to mentally prepare Will for the apartments to come because I don't expect them to be as nice as our one in Athens. We head to breakfast and have our first cup of Greek coffee. It is strong, which is right up my alley, and we laugh because the last third of the cup is solid, brown goop. But I still really liked it!
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We decided to not plan our whole day and instead go and explore. We know the area pretty well at this point, so we are able to find our way to the nicer streets and do a little shopping. Athens (and Greece in general) are huge on protection from evil spirits and curses. Therefore, all jewelry vendors sell the evil eye pendant to protect against curses.
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We walked down a side street we had yet to go down and came across a little spa that has Garra Rufa fish aka, fish that eat the dead skin off your feet. It has always been on Will's bucket list to try, so he eagerly bounds in with me in tow. Right when we touch our toes to the water, the fish swarm them. The sensation is like having someone tickle your foot with a feather over and over again in many spots.
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We continue our exploration of the city and found a cute neighborhood called Anafiotika . It is a couple of streets of pastel colored houses with vibrant doors and picturesque gardens. If I were to live in Greece, this is exactly what I would want my house to look like.
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We walk back to our apartment and our wonderful Airbnb host drops us off at the Athens airport to catch our quick 30 minute flight to Mykonos. The flight is full of glamorous Greeks and tourists that were dressed similarly to people heading to the Hamptons. Mykonos is known for it's parties and therefore draws in the younger crowd from all around the world. There two most popular beaches are Paradise and Super Paradise.
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Right as we got off the plane, I am forced to hold down every article of clothing I have on due to the wind. Mykonos is probably the windiest city I have ever been to.
I arranged a car to drop us at the Asteri Hotel where we meet the owner, an adorable Greek gentleman who speaks maybe 10 words of english. Will and I arrive in our room, which has a large balcony and all of the essentials. But we are currently sharing a full size bed and the electricity in the room decides to reset at 2 am, turning on every light and noise possible in the room. We see this as incentive to spend time out of the room exploring. There is a pool and a beach just down the road!
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Mykonos is everything I expected when I think of Greece. I can't wait to see more of it.
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XOXO,
Emma

Posted by empaustian 11:47 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 3: Time change, Politics, and OuzNO!


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We lost the time change battle. We slept in after our 20 hours of no sleep on Day 2 and went for brunch at a great cafe a couple blocks away. I got Spanakopita for breakfast, which is a pastry filled with spinach and feta.
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We walked to the Temple of Zeus and Adriatic Arch, which is a shrine built in the 6th century to the Olympian god. There used to be 104 columns and only 15 remain today due to earthquakes and conquerers throughout the years. As we continued on to Syntagma Square, I was amazed at how the Greeks had incorporated the archeological sites into the city. We passed a dig site just a couple feet from the bus stop!
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Syntagma Square is where all of the buses meet in Athens and is also considered the center of Greek politics. Across the street from the square is the Parliament building where the Changing of the Guard occurs.
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Next, we saw the first Greek University and the National Library. They were absolutely beautiful buildings, but I was astounded that even those buildings had been tagged with graffiti. The police do not penalize people who graffiti, so it covers the majority of the city.
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We briefly checked out Attica Square, the shopping district, which was a huge contrast to the historical district we are staying in. It's funny to see all of the motorcycles lined up all over the city. It kind of reminded me of all of the bikers in Portland.
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Will and I walked the Plaka loop, enjoying the flee market and adorable churches before getting a late dinner at 9 pm. Most Athenians do not eat until 9 or 10 pm and sit for hours at the restaurant.
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This is a picture with our "bible" aka my binder with the itinerary, tickets, and everything we need for our trip. It's sacred.
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After about an hour, we signaled for the check and the waiter offered us a "small" glass of ouzo on the house. I emphasize small because this was not a small glass and also, our first time trying ouzo. It tasted like black licorice and was strong on the tongue, forcing us to take small sips. I did not think I could finish the glass, but it was pretty clear the waiter had no intention of returning until we were done. We spent the next 45 minutes sipping at it until finally we forced ourselves to take large sips. Looking back on it, ouzo is such a tricky drink! In the moment, it is just plain rough to drink, but in retrospect it doesn't seem that bad.
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We walked through Athens nightlife, which was still busy even though it was a Monday and finally went back to the room to sleep.

Posted by empaustian 19:37 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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