Trip of a Lifetime
If you've been following my blogs these past couple of months, you'll see that my husband and I went to Greece to celebrate our birthdays (his being September 28th and mine being October 3rd) and, lucky for us, this time of year was the best time to go. The weather is still nice enough that we could get our tan on but cool enough that we wouldn't be burning up.
Vuong has never been overseas and I've never been to Europe so this year's birthday trip was somewhat of an easy decision. All he wanted was to go somewhere "good." I've wanted to go to Greece since I was a teen - the first time I saw a photo of the white buildings and watching movies based on or set in Greece (i.e. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, My Life in Ruins, Mamma Mia, etc...), I knew this was the perfect place.
It took us about 9 hours to fly to Paris for our layover (which lasted about 3 hours) then another 3 hours or so to fly to Athens. We wanted to sleep on our first flight but we were so excited that we stayed up the whole time watching movies on the plane and eat all our meals...is it just me or has plane food become good over the years? I remember it being mushy and somewhat lacking flavor.
Arriving in Athens felt somewhat like we were still in Seattle. I was warned by a few friends that Athens was the most westernized out of all the islands and I couldn't agree more. I saw a bunch of "American" restaurants and cafes (like McDonald's and Starbucks) as well as graffiti on many of the buildings.
We also were welcomed by crazy rain - we found out later that a hurricane just passed through the island and we arrived at the tail-end of it. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed because we wanted to visit the ruins...at least we got a good view of it from our hotel window.
Since we couldn't go anywhere due to the downpour, we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. There were already a few patrons there and it was about 45 minutes to closing time so we tried to eat fast...much of the menu consisted of pasta and fish dishes.
One thing to note about this hotel is that although it was a nice establishment, the property is flanked by a strip club on each side of the building. In fact, the whole street we were on had adult clubs (Stripclub Row, if you will). I remember getting out of the shower and hearing porn music (haha) and realized upon check-out why that was...hmm, if only we had known beforehand!
Taking the FAST Ferry
To get to the other islands, there are ferries to transport you from one to another. I believe there are flights available in the summer but during the time we went, the ferry was our only option. And, although, they're called "fast" ferries, it takes a few hours to get to your destination. It took us 5 hours to get to the port in Santorini! Not too bad, though, because the views of the other islands were amazing!
Arriving at the port is a little...shall we say...CRAZY. Be prepared for the crowds and the strong smell of gasoline. The traffic is nothing you've ever seen before (or at least it's nothing you've ever seen in the states before). If you ever visit, just keep your eyes open for who you're supposed to meet (there are people with signs waiting for you) and keep your luggage close.
Finally arriving in Santorini felt like a dream come true for me because it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips people take. For Vuong, he was just so fascinated with the way people were driving on the cliffs and how bad-ass they seemed to do so.
The following places are towns we spent time in during our week there...
AKROTIRI - South Santorini
If you want a more relaxed setting, South Santorini is where you should be. It was perfect for us - the air felt fresher and we feel like people were a bit friendlier. Also, parking is easier to find and the beaches here are a lot less busy (it takes about 15 minutes away to get there if you don't have direct access to a beach).
We stayed at a wonderful cliffside resort overlooking the caldera. To learn more, check out my entry here, ambassador-aegean-luxury-suites-akrotiri-santorini.html
Fira (pronounced Fee-Ruh), the capital of Santorini, is a busy place and probably best suited for those looking for the night life. We spent half a day there and parking was crazy - people double parked, blocked entrances, made up parking spaces...you name it. We ended up walking most of the time and it was pretty tiring. We mostly hung out at their town square and did a little souvenir shopping, which, was somewhat unpleasant. We ended up leaving the city shortly after. There were so many people around that it was a bit overwhelming. I must admit, Fira wasn't our (or maybe my) favorite place but it was a nice experience nonetheless.
Our last stop - Oia (pronounced Ee-Yuh)...is the place you see on postcards. Think blue domes and white buildings built into the cliffs. It is more beautiful in person than in photos...as a friend said to me, "Basically everywhere you look, it's Instagram-worthy."
The crowds were gathering in spurts throughout the day and it was hard to take a decent photo at times (see below lol)...
It was starting to get hot and I was ready to go home but, thankfully, my husband talked me into staying since he felt it was (again) a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience. We found a space at a rooftop bar and sat there for a few hours just watching the sun go down.
The crowds were starting to get bigger and our waiter was being a bit aggressive to patrons coming through. I was a bit irritated with his attitude but I wasn't going to let it sour my mood.
Our ferry back to Athens was an adventurous one and NOT in a good way. There was a storm and the ferry was aggressively bobbing up and down every half hour midway through the 5 hour trip. The staff was trying to secure their equipment and people were falling over - needless to say it was crazy. I felt sick to my stomach and, miraculously, I didn't throw up. When we arrived at our port, we met our driver and he took us and a few other couples to the airport hotel, Sofitel, located across the airport...maybe about 300 feet away.
Accommodations were pleasant and we were kind of bummed that we were only staying for a few hours...we had to be at the airport at 3 a.m.! We had dinner in one of the restaurants at the hotel and were pleased with the dishes we ordered.
We were sad we were leaving...our week went by so quick - if we could do it again, we'd go for at least 2-3 weeks. To be able to do more things and visit more islands...who knows when we'll be back. But, of course, we needed to get back to our children and our lives.
Arriving in Paris, we found out our flight was delayed a few hours so we did what we could to keep busy until boarding. The flight didn't seem to last as long this time around but, then again, we slept most of the time because we knew our jet lag would be bad coming back. So, better to train ourselves beforehand!
What to Know...
If you ever visit Greece, here are some tips and also a few things we learned during our short stay there:
So this is the last of my entries of our time in Greece. I still miss it but, alas, I must move on. Also, If you're ever interested in learning more about their food, check out my entry on where we dined, yummy-eats-in-santorini-greece.html
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my entry on our trip and that it gives you a reason to want to visit this beautiful island someday.
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