Hey Gang!!! This post has been a loooooooooong time coming and I’m NOT sorry. I’ve been living my best life…lol, I have neglected the blog, putting most of my energy into my other social media platforms. But that all changes now. You can expect much MORE content on the blog moving forward. Even if it’s a quick check-in or update, there will be more.
Remember when I said I’ve been living my best life? Well, I wasn’t lying. I checked off a huge bucket list item this year, I went to Greece. This was my second international trip since the pandemic started, last year then we went to Jamaica for a wedding. I also took a quick trip to Aruba, a post for another day.
You can definitely tell we’re getting closer to an endemic.
Last year facemask and proof of a negative Covid-19 test were a travel REQUIREMENT, this year not so much. Wearing a mask is optional (I wore a mask on both flights and in large group settings) since the requirement for a negative test result is out the window. I have to say that was a bit unsettling. Knowing everyone on the flight at least attempted to do their part made me feel safer flying. Now it’s the wild west. I suppose we’re reaching towards to a new normal, so I’ll stow my anxious thoughts and take all my future flights masked up. Boom travel anxiety issue cured.
Enough about my travel anxieties let’s get into this trip to Greece. Needless to say, I had a blast. Greece has been on my bucket list FOREVER!!! Amazing cuisine, hospitable people (except maybe the ferry ride, I’ll get into that later) and calmest and most relaxing beaches anyone could ask for.
YASSOU, YASSOU FROM GREECE
We started our trip in Athens, the “we” in this story consist of my twin sister Alex and my cousin Jacqueline. I left on Saturday afternoon and arrived early Sunday morning which was perfect because I slept most of the flight. I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise. Nothing beats a window seat!
I landed in Athens around 11 am. Meet up with Alex and Jack and we were off. We stayed the Coco Mat Jumelle. There are several Coco Mat locations throughout Athens, we stayed at two different properties (the second was the Coco Mat Athens BC), both locations were great.
Both hotels had a modern, but homey feel to them. I have to say the staff was exceptional at the Coco Mat Athens BC location. Both locations had its own appeal. The Jumelle is located on what I would equate to embassy row in DC. A few cafes near buy, a mini-mart of sorts and commercial businesses lined the streets near the Juemelle. The Athens location was nestled on a busy but welcoming street. A bookstore, bakery, coffee shop, charming boutiques and restaurants are all in walking distance of the Athens BC location. The hotel doesn’t look like a hotel at all, that’s large in part because the entrance is a part of the store front for the Coco Mat’s home decor brand.
On our first night we saw all we could see. We explored the neighborhood, got a bit to eat at a bar we stumbled upon (Ruins) to cap off the night. The drinks at the Ruins were delicious, the food didn’t disappoint either. But jet lag hit hard. I may or may not have taken a brief siesta at the bar. I wasn’t sleep I was just resting my eyes. In my defense the seats were extremely comfy. It was a great first night, it ended with free desert, you couldn’t ask for a better tart.
Drinks and Snacks at the Ruins
Our first full day in Athens consisted of a self-guided sightseeing tour and a visit to Syntagma Square. We ended the day with a rooftop dinner at the Elia Ermou Hotel. We had the best time eating, drinking, and people watching. So, we fully embraced a Mediterranean diet, octopus, shrimp, white fish of every kind, and tons of Tzatziki sauce, like at every meal. My mouth waters just thinking about the food. By the end of the night the bartender kinda fell in love with us, as evidenced by the free round of drinks we received. We had an the most amazing view of the Acropolis at sunset. I highly recommend dinner at the Elia Ermou Hotel; it’s worth visiting for the view alone.
Let the Island Hopping Begin
After a whole day and a half in Athens we were off to Santorini for an overnight stay. I couldn’t call myself an actual influencer if I didn’t book a flying dress photoshoot for me and my girls. It had to happen folks. Don’t worry we did other stuff while in Santorini. We got up at an unholy hour to catch the ferry to Santorini. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 am, which is entirely too early for me, but we make sacrifices for the things we want in life. Catching the ferry in Greece isn’t for the faint of heart. Pack your patience, listen closely, because they don’t repeat things too often, at least not in English, and prepare for an adventure.
The plan was to island hop during our trip. All of our research confirmed the ferry was the most efficient and economical way to visit multiple islands. We had no idea it would be a scene out of the Hunger Games. I’m exaggerating of course, bear in mind this exaggeration is coming from a girl who rode NYC subway system for the better part of her life, that includes the Staten Island ferry, so this is a big statement. The Staten Island ferry this was not.
First, you’re almost always waiting on the ferry.
Don’t plan anything too close to your arrival, chances are you’re not going to make it. Honestly don’t plan anything major while on a vacation like this, just go with the flow. To our pleasant surprise, the ferry was already at the dock when we arrived. I should also add I’m using the word “ferry” very loosely. These boats are more like mini cruise ships, but I digress. There was a long line to board. We bought tickets in advance via Ferry Hopper (more on ferry ticket purchases later) with the hope of avoiding any lines. The joke was definitely on us. Any logical person would wonder why there’s a line if you indeed have to buy a ticket before you board and everyone on line has a ticket (presumably), what could be causing the delay?
Welp that’s simple, there were only two, count’em, two crew members checking tickets. Not ideal when literally hundreds of people have to board the ship. It was time to cast off, but tickets still needed to be checked, so we were all herded into the belly of ship. Cars, motorcycles, people, luggage, chickens, camels, cows, it was a regular Noah’s Ark. I kid there were no animals’ other than toddlers (some toddlers do behave like feral animals, sorry not sorry) and small pets. You stow your own luggage then you get in line for your chance to see daylight again. It was as hot and uncomfortable as you can imagine.
The main deck is where all the fun happens.
Now it’s time to find your seat, oh what fun?! The seat numbers aren’t conspicuous at all. Let’s just say they could use a little help with signage. Food and beverages can be purchased for a nominal fee, including beer and wine, which you’ll need in order to decompress from the onboarding process. Once you finally get nice and settled, you’ll be at the next stop on the voyage. Just in time for a massive wave of humans to make their way off and on the ferry.
This little song and dance goes on for the duration of the trip. Once or maybe twice, if you’re lucky, you’ll be tapped on the shoulder by a perfect stranger during your well-deserved nap telling you you’re sitting in their seat. You respond politely, no ma’am this is definitely my seat. Just to make sure you’re not crazy, you compare tickets with this perfect stranger, and would you look at that, they double booked your seat.
Since this perfect stranger isn’t going far you give up your seat and move to an empty chair. You move back to your assigned seat only to be tapped on the shoulder again at another stop. Switching seats again isn’t an option so you signal for a crew member to assist this fine human being with finding another seat, that ain’t yours. What’s the point of my Ted Talk on traveling via ferry whilst visiting the Greek islands, of course I have list of Do’s and Don’ts for you.
Do book your tickets on Ferry Hopper.
Do this at the same time if you’re traveling in a small group. If you don’t book together make sure you call the customer service line at least 24 hours in advance requesting a seat(s) near your travel companions or family.
Do book directly with the ferry companies.
We had the best experience with Sea Jets. A word to the wise Ferry Hopper allows you to book with different lines as they have access to all the routes/schedules. Obviously, Sea Jets may not go to your destination, hence the appeal of Ferry Hopper. It’s like Kayak for Greek ferries.
Do book a VIP ticket, assuming you can afford it.
There’s no VIP line to get into the club but there’s definitely a VIP section. What I mean by that is VIP ticket holders and standard ticket holders all get herded into the bottom of the ship, but we don’t sit together. The VIP seats are larger, much more comfortable, and there’s a lot less chaos in VIP. We learned from our mistakes and upgraded to VIP for the last leg of the trip back to Athens. We still encountered small animals and toddlers, but over booked seats were less of an issue.
Do expect the most scenic and picturesque view of the Aegean Sea money can buy.
Don’t be late for the ferry, they won’t wait for you.
Don’t expect any assistance with your luggage.
The guiding principle on the ferry is, it’s yours, you haul it, and stow it. For obvious reasons carry anything of value with you, camera, laptop, etc.
Don’t let me deter you from taking the ferry.
It really is the most affordable way to island hop. Forewarned is forearmed. You’ve been armed with useful information, act according to knowledge.
Finally in Santorini
We finally arrive in Santorini. I booked a suite at Lotza Studios, a charming apartment/villa located in Finikia, a quiet little village in the city of Oia. Vasilis our amazing concierge arranged our pick-up at the port. Our driver Theo was knowledgeable, friendly, and very helpful when we asked for recommendations. He loaded our bags into the mini-bus and we were off. We made our way up the steepest two-way mountainside road I’ve been on in my life. We made it to Lotza safe and sound. Vasilis greeted us at the parking lot and saw to our bags. Finikia is a walking village, streets and alleys are too narrow for cars.
The apartment was exactly as pictured, in-door hot tub, kitchenette, super comfy beds, traditional Cycladic architecture. It was giving authentic Greece with a few modern amenities, exactly what I wanted. We settled in and started to prepare for the photoshoot. Once we were all glammed up we made our way to the town of Imerovigli, home of the most iconic blue domes in all of Greece. Fun fact almost all of the blue domes you see in Greece are churches or use to be. Our photographer, Yannis and his assistant Tatiana were amazing. Incidentally Yannis can be reached on Facebook, here. They knew exactly where to take us to get the perfect shot.
I think it’s fair to say we nailed the flying dress shoot. On to the next. We made our way back to Oia for our dinner reservation at Melitini. We wanted a traditional Greek meal, but it had to be delicious. Melitini did not disappoint. Melitini checked all the boxes for us traditional, affordable, and delicious. It’s a small plate/mezze establishment. We ordered with our eyes and bellies, anything that sounded good we ordered, which was a pretty much everything, which ended up being too much food.
We did that on at least one more occasion in Naxos, ordered too much food. There are far worst errors to make on vacation, trust me. The icing on the cake at Melitini is that you can make a reservation for a sunset dinner, we did. The restaurant is perched at the top of a hill with an amazing view of the Caldera. No food pics because we devoured our food before a decent photo could be taken. We conquered Santorini, very stylishly I might add. Next stop Naxos.
Santorini- Day to Night
We made our way back to homebase aka Athens to set sail for Naxos, one of the larger islands in Greece. Naxos is a great “starter” island. The island has something for everyone. Family friendly beaches, restaurants, taverns and bars. Chora or Naxos Town is a stunning port town bustling with shops, restaurants, and quite frankly endless things to do or not do. The locals took to drinking coffee and playing chess most afternoons.
We stayed at the Emery Hotel. Another gem tucked away in an unassuming village. Adrianna, our hostess, greeted us in the courtyard. She gave a us very detailed and informative lay of the land. I processed almost none of what she said, she did hit us with a ton of information after an adventurous the ferry ride, but I appreciated the effort.
We spent the better part of our trip in Naxos.
We planted ourselves on Agios Georgis Beach (Saint George Beach) and didn’t look back. The beach has the calmest waters and tons of beach front restaurants to choose from. Our routine consisted of sun-bathing until sunset, eating, drinking, and repeating that exercise. Plaka beach came highly recommended, but we didn’t make it there because we were quite comfortable where we were. We’ll just to have come make another trip to Greece. We strolled the markets, bought cheese, honey, and olive oil it was glorious.
You have to visit Tziblakis’s Spice Shop if and when you visit Naxos. I bought the most exquisite vanilla bean from this shop. I have to say Naxos has just the right amount of charm to woe any traveler into coming back over and over again.
Places worth visiting while visiting Naxos
Honey & Cinnamon– One of the most satisfying cafe/bar/tavern Naxos has to offer.
Naxian Capriccio Restaurant– A balanced view of fine dining without all the extra razzle dazzle. Aesthetically pleasing, measured portions and scrumptious food.
Meze Meze– This place serves huge portions, don’t order with your belly. We thoroughly enjoyed every meal at this restaurant.
We ended our trip in Athens, it was the easiest to fly in and out of. Also, we had a ball in Athens. I’ll have to write a separate post just for Athens. When it was all said and done, we visited three islands, several cities, a few towns, and one amazing beach, not a bad way to start your 40th year of life.
I end this year grateful for this bucket list adventure and so many other blessings. I hope the New Year brings everyone reading this some joy and inspiration to check at least item off your bucket list.
Grateful and blessed,