Greece Through My Lens

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Planning a trip to Greece

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I didn’t realize how hard planning a trip to Greece would be, there are so many amazing places to see that I didn’t even realize. When I first thought of this spectacular country my mind went to the islands and Athens, but as I started planning I realized how many more great stops there were. I had about 10 full days in Greece to plan but quickly realized I could easily spend an extra 10 or event 20 days there. Ultimately I decided on four places. Athens, Meteora, Paros and Santorini.

The first problem I ran in to was airfare. It is not cheap to fly to Greece from the USA. I had saved up miles with my United Mileage card and had quite a few but not enough to get me to Greece. The first thing I did and you should always do is look in to all the airport options. Athens is obviously the first that comes to mind but there is also a major airport on the island of Crete and one in Thessaloniki. That didn’t drop the price to where I wanted it to be so I found another way around it. My miles were enough to get us to Paris and London but not to Greece. The great thing about Europe is once you’re there the plane tickets are cheap. We ended up flying in to London and spending a few days there then we bought a cheap ticket to Athens and then on our way home flew from Santorini to Paris and then used my miles to fly from Paris home. The airfare within Europe for one of us cost about a total of $500. Not only did we save a great deal of money by doing that we also got to spend time in the great cities of London and Paris.

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Deciding on where to go proved to be challenging. Athens is an obvious one, you can’t go to Greece without going to Athens. Santorini was another place I knew I had to visit. You always see photos of Santorini and for me I had to see it in person. After that I wasn’t sure where I wanted to spend my time. Of coarse all the islands seemed wonderful. I decided though that since I was going to Santorini I wanted to go to an island that wasn’t as touristy and busy. With a lot of research I decided on Paros. I ultimately chose Paros  because it seemed to be less developed but still very easy to get to by ferry. Finally, I kept going back and forth on Meteora. I couldn’t tell if it would be worth the several hour train ride from Athens. Should I go there or Olympia, Delphi or another island. In the end the photos of the monasteries pulled me in and I knew I needed to see Meteora.

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Looking back I am happy with my decisions. Meteora took my breath away and I longed to stay in Paros for a few more days. Athens did not disappoint and Santorini is as beautiful as they say. If I could change anything I would only stay one day on Santorini and spend more time on Paros. There are plenty more places I would love to go back and see, but for the time I had in Greece I think it worked out.

Have you been to Greece? What was your favorite location?

 

Visiting Santorini

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Ok, I have to be honest, while Santorini is absolutely gorgeous it wasn’t all that I’d hoped it to be. But maybe that’s on me for not doing more research and it could partially have to do with the fact that we had to spend a day in the hospital. Anyways here’s what I thought of Santorini:

  1. Gorgeous Views. The veiws absolutely live up to expectations. Looking over the Caldera is a stunning shot. It is unbelievable how tiny the cruise ships and ferry’s look from the top. The sunset’s will take your breath away.
  2. Amazing Greek Architecture. Not only looking over the Caldera is gorgeous but also the architecture. The white dome buildings hang on the cliff. I don’t know much about architecture but it had to take some amazing planning to build a city on the side of a cliff. Night time is especially beautiful with the white buildings lit up.
  3. Not So Amazing Beaches. Having just come from Paros where the beaches were many and the tourists were few Santorini’s beaches just didn’t live up to par. Because of the caldera there are only beaches on the East side of the island. They were mostly rocky and wavy and the only good beaches had hundreds of tourists.
  4. Superb Food. There are so many restaurants to choose from and the Greeks know how to cook. The meals were amazing and just thinking about the food is making me hungry. And of course most restaurants have an amazing view for your to look at while waiting for food.
  5. Tourists, Tourists Everywhere. Everyone wants to visit Santorini. It is absolutely stunning with perfect weather, but it can be crowded. We were here in September and I don’t even want to imagine what July and August must be like. Like I mentioned the best beaches are over crowded, the roads are dangerous, and everywhere you walk there are more people. Some people don’t mind this and while I think Santorini is worth a quick visit it’s to many people for me.

Have you been to Santorini? What were your thoughts on the island?

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One day in Athens

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One day is not a lot but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We only had one day in Athens but we felt we got to see a lot of it. While I would have loved to spend more time in this historic city it doesn’t always work out that way. So here are our top 5 favorite things we did with only one day to spend in Athens, Greece.

  1. The Acropolis 12068628_10156039071330447_6556141187237423241_oThis is an obvious one. It is a must when coming to Athens. Make sure to get there early to beat the crowds. Bring sunscreen and consider bringing something to shade yourself because it is hot and unprotected from the sun. It is absolutely stunning to see something so ancient and along with the sights of the Parthenon you also get sweeping views of Athens! 12045786_10156039071580447_7797879859922279306_o
  2. Panathenaic Stadium – Although we didn’t go inside walking around this stadium was a highlight. The only reason we were sad to not have paid to go in was because they had the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place podiums we would have loved to get pictures on. Make sure to walk across the street as well to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous park and Olympic city built for the 2004 Olympics.
  3. Parliament Building 12140866_10156039075000447_1749753852639471413_o Outside the building is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Intimidating men stand guard. You can grab a picture next to them while they don’t even flinch. I was too scared, but Ryan hopped right up there. Notice the bayonet on the end of the gun!
  4. Temple of Olympian Zeus 12080162_10156039076110447_553387912001826933_o Greece is all about the history. This is another ancient site. It has gorgeous ruins of an old temple. We hit this spot right about sunset and it was stunning.
  5. Adrianou Street – This is a great place to get some shopping done or grab a bite to eat. It is a happening street with lot’s of Greek food, gelato, and Greek shops. You can save this for last as it is hopping during the late hours of the day.

Overall we loved Athens and would welcome the opportunity to go back. While I wouldn’t haven taken any time away from our other destinations I would have loved to spend an extra day or two in Athens, but there’s always next time!

Visiting Meteora

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Meteora was my favorite part of Greece. It was absolutely stunning. Not only that but it had such a sense of fearlessness.

There are several ways to get to Meteora and we chose to take the train from Athens to Kalambaka. It turned out to be a great option. We stopped by Larissa Railway Station the day before leaving to purchase our tickets. We paid about 35 Euros a piece round trip. The tickets we purchased required us to make no transfers.

The next morning we arrived back at Larissa 30 minutes early to catch our train. We are so glad we purchased our tickets the day before because the ticket line was really long and slow when we arrived. The train was right on time and we hopped on and found our seats.

The train ride was about 5 hours and very rickety, but also very scenic. There are restrooms and a snack bar on the train so it wasn’t too bad of a ride. Once we arrived in Kalambaka we took a 10 minute taxi ride over to Kastraki which cost us 6 euros. We chose to stay at Ziogas Rooms. Our room was only $45 US dollars and had an amazing deck over looking the cliffs. If you want any sort of night life I would suggest staying in Kalambaka. Kastraki is much smaller and while they do have the essentials and a few restaurants there’s not much. As soon as we checked in we changed and set off to see the first monastery. The walk was hot… and I mean really hot. We finally reached the steps to St. Nicholas but when we reached the top huffing and puffing they turned us away. The monastery closed at 4pm and we got to the top at 3:50pm. Bummed and exhausted we hiked back to Kastraki and got some dinner.

We decided it was too hot to walk to all the monasteries so we booked a tour with Visit Meteora. It was a half day tour to see two monasteries and a pre-historic cave. Normally we don’t do group tours but we welcomed the thought of an air-conditioned van driving us around with a knowledgeable guide.

The next morning we were picked up right on time for our tour and driven to Grand Meteora monastery which is the largest of the monasteries. From there we climbed 300 steps  and it was worth it. The views were stunning. The monastery itself was beautiful. There was even a room with skulls inside. The monasteries are really unbelievable when you stop to think that stairs were only added a few decades ago and the monks originally had to rock climb to get to them.

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From there we went to St. Barbara monetary or actually nunnery. This was the smallest monastery. The windows had the most amazing views. It really made you think how dedicated these people were and are to sustain such an unsustainable building.

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The tour bus picked us back up and drove us to the best lookout where you can see 5 of the 6 monasteries. They were patient as we took photos and offered to take some for us.

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Next we went to the prehistoric cave. It was mind blowing. There were children’s footprints from over 130,000 years ago. It was hard to even wrap my head around the history in that place.

We learned so much more haven taken the tour instead of going by ourselves. For instance there is a cave right above Kastraki with colorful scarves hanging. We learned that every year teenagers and young adults climb to that cave with no safety measures to place a scarf in the cave. By doing so they will have good luck in finding a husband or wife.

When the tour was finished we were dropped right back off at our hotel. We grabbed our bags and grabbed a taxi to Kalambaka since we were leaving on the train that night. We ate lunch and used the local visitor information center for free wifi and a place to relax until it was time to catch the train back to Athens.

Meteora made my top 5 favorite places I’ve traveled too. Don’t miss it on your trip to Greece.

Visiting Paros, Greece

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Just thinking about Paros makes me smile. It was one of those destinations I didn’t know what to expect and left wishing I had more time.

While planning our trip to Greece we knew we wanted to see Santorini, but also another Greek Island. They all looked amazing and after loads of research it was still hard to choose. We finally landed on the island of Paros and I’m glad we did.

We bought our ferry tickets using Danae Travel when we arrived in Athens. It was quick, simple, and they helped us pick what kind of seats we wanted and gave us all the information we needed. We purchased the tickets a few days before leaving and it worked out great. Many people suggest purchasing your tickets the day of, but we found Pireaus Port to be a little overwhelming so we were glad we didn’t have to track down tickets.

Once you have your ticket you find the dock your ferry is assigned to. The docks are well labeled so we had no issue. Once you find your boat you literally just walk on. The ferry rides are laid back and usually are a couple of hours. Paros was the first stop on our ferry and when they made the announcement we made our way down to the garage. You then stand and wait next to all the cars while the ferry spins and a loud alarm sounds as the back door starts to descend. It is quite the experience!

We were picked up by our hotel Heliolithos Blue and transferred to our room. Heliolithos was the perfect choice. It was only about $50 USD a night, but felt like a luxury hotel. We had a sweeping view of the bay from our patio. The rooms were clean and well decorated with comfortable beds. I would recommend it to anyone headed to Paros!

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To get around the island you do need to rent a vehicle. We chose a quad and had a blast driving it around. We would drive it from beach to beach and often we were the only ones there. If you have read my previous posts we were in a serious quad accident but that was on the island of Santorini. We felt much more safe driving in Paros although while driving in Parikia the traffic can pick up.

The water was more clear and more warm than I have ever seen ocean water. The pictures you see of Greek water is true to real life. I didn’t see much sea-life, but I also didn’t have my snorkle gear so I may have just been missing it.

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Many places on Paros were cash only so I would recommend you have a sufficient amount when you go. We did use an ATM while there and it was perfectly fine.

Paros is the perfect island to relax and take in the Greek Island culture. It is rare that I really crave to go back to a certain place since I am always wanting somthing new, but Paros is one of those places I would love to head back to.

If you’re planning to head to the Greek Isles go to Paros, you will not regret it!

Trauma Abroad

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For the most part I am a person who doesn’t get hurt, sick, or have major accidents. When I was little I broke a lot of bones but that was all before the age of 8 and since then I have been pretty accident free… until this vacation.

We just returned from an amazing trip visiting London, Paris, and Greece. While I will cover our locations in detail later one of the places we spent time was the well known Greek island of Santorini. On the Greek isles it is common to rent an ATV to get around and we loved that idea. We both have experience riding and had no worry.

The drivers in Santorini were aggressive but nothing we hadn’t seen before. We stayed cautious and had no problems until our last full day there. I have to admit, I have amnesia and cannot remember a single moment an hour before our incident until 3 hours later. The story of what happened has been told to me and here’s how it goes…

We decided to visit Red Beach and it was crowded. The last thing I remember is swimming. Apparently we decided to leave not to long after arriving. We wanted to go back to our pool and hang out there instead of the overcrowded beach. We were driving back when we started to run out of gas. Ryan was driving and I was on back. He slowed down and had his left blinker on to turn into the gas station. The coast was clear and so he started turning left when the van behind us decided he wanted to pass and instead of passing us hit our ATV… hard. Ryan and I were thrown off as the ATV rolled and skidded upside down. Pedestrians saw and ran to us. I apparently was knocked out but woke immediately. People walked Ryan and I to the gas station sat us down and started washing our wounds while the ambulance came. We rode to the emergency room where we spent the rest of the day. Ryan had to get stitches in his elbow and bruised his back pretty good. I was in shock and possibly had a concussion and asked Ryan the same questions over and over for 3 hours. Apparently my number one question was “Did we already go to Harry Potter Studios”. I also had major road rash on my leg and then random places all over my body.

The Greek hospital was a little scary. There was blood splatter on the wall next to me as well as on the sheet hanging by my feet. They wouldn’t give me bandages in order to let my wounds dry. We’d see the doctor wander in every 30 minutes or so and then be off again.

After 8 hours the doctor said we could leave but to be careful. I was finally feeling more myself and he felt I was ok. We went to call a taxi but reception said they wouldn’t come since we were so close to our apartment. So in our bloody and ripped bathing suits and cover ups we had to walk 20 minutes. We got a lot of stares and looking back it’s quite comical.

Since then we have been recovering. Road rash hurts way more than it should. My head seems to be completely back and Ryan’s stitches are doing well. Any time you’re in an accident it is terrifying, but being thousands of miles away from home intensifies that fear. I am so grateful Ryan and I are ok. The driver who hit us was extremely apologetic and made sure to pay for the totaled ATV. This did not kill our travel bug… thank goodness! I am sure once we are completely recovered we will be on our next adventure.

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I am feeling inspired to write while I sit here in Kalambaka, Greece sipping my strawberry milkshake. We just got done viewing Meteora and wow did it stun us. Monistaries  built on steep rock cliffs with Monks who for years and years only had access by climbing. What an enchanting place. Will write more later.
For now hello from Greece!