Greece Days 8-10: Athens

Athens.  The birthplace of modern society, democracy and philosophy.  It’s interesting to read travel recaps and tips/advice for visiting Athens because there seems to be one of two themes, the “Athens was kind of gross and I didn’t love it” and “Athens is amazing and gets such a bad rap”.  So I was a little apprehensive and curious to see which side of the fence I would fall on.  My boy Rick Steves doesn’t love Athens, so I went in with my expectations slightly lowered.

We arrived in Athens after another 4 am flight (zzzzzz) and were taken straight to our apartment, which was within rock throwing distance to the Acropolis.  We set our bags down and geeked out over the apartment a little bit (another amazing patio, my patio game was so strong on this trip), then got our heads together to figure out the day.  We decided to head to the Acropolis (I think we were so enticed since it was RIGHT THERE and felt the ancient draw), which ended up being a poor planning choice.  By the time we left, it was around 10 am.  We walked around to the front entrance of the Acropolis and bought our tickets.

At the Acropolis, you buy one ticket (for €12) with approximately 12 stubs.  There are separate entrances to a lot of the specific areas and other sites throughout Athens, and each entrance costs you one ticket.  However, you get one specific stub to the main Acropolis area (with the Parthenon) so that you can only enter that area once.  The remaining tickets are valid for :

  • Roman Agora
  • Ancient Agora
  • Hadrian’s Library
  • Olympieion (Temple of Zeus)
  • North and South slopes of the Acropolis
  • Kerameikos
  • Dionysus’ Theater

Our crew was starting to get a little hangry, so we decided a snack would be a good choice before heading in.  We got some little (overpriced) sandwiches from the snack shop out front.  They were just ok, but they got the job done.  While we were eating, we watched the droves of tour buses come in and drop people off.  We briefly debated if we should do something else with our time since it was going to be obviously crowded, but we ultimately decided to head in.

SO. MANY. PEOPLE.  We knew it would be crowded, but wow it was really, super duper, extremely crowded.  There was no freely walking around to be had.  We were basically part of a large mass/line that just moved along from site to site.  Once we got up to the main Parthenon, it opened up a little bit and we were able to walk, but there were still people allll around.  We immediately knew that we had made a mistake, but given that we had used our one entrance to the Parthenon, we fired up our Rick Steves audio guide and made the best of it.  The temples here are amazing to see.  The Parthenon is MASSIVE, and the view of Athens from up high in the background cannot be missed.  I also particularly liked the Erechtheion (a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon), the statuettes here were very well preserved.  Something interesting that we learned in the audio guide was just how many times the Acropolis has been attacked.  To hear it all laid out, it’s a wonder any of it is still standing!

After we left the Acropolis, we headed to the Acropolis museum.  The entrance here is separate, but a great deal at only €5.  The Acropolis museum was recently redone and was beautiful, open, and modern looking.  Here they had a lot of the sculptures and pediments from the top of the Parthenon in front of a picture, so you could get a great idea of what the whole thing looked like.  It also delved into some of the pre-golden age of Athens art and sculptures, which derived a lot of inspiration from Egypt.  The museum isn’t huge and took us about an hour to get through.

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Outside the Acropolis museum, pretty cool setup to see the ruins below.

One of the things we talked about in the islands was that we didn’t see a lot of the “typical” Greek foods that we were expecting, like gyros, hummus, pita, grape leaves, etc.  In talking to others, we concluded that those are more typical of mainland Greece, so we were excited to get our fill of those foods here.  We set off to Kostas, a small souvlaki place.  Kostas has been operating since 1950 in Athens and has a limited menu and a long line, both signs of great quality food!  They cook all the of food fresh, so the line doesn’t move extremely fast, but it’s well worth the wait.  We were chatting in line with a woman that was originally from Athens, but lives in Germany now for work, and she said when she’s back hom she always makes a point to visit Kostas.  We each got one souvlaki and a beer, but the souvlakis are on the smaller side, I probably could have split a third with Nick.


After Kostas, we walked back to the Acropolis area and walked through the Ancient Agora.  The Agora is down the hill from the Acropolis and was the central meeting place in Ancient Athens (probably similar to the Roman Forum in Rome).  We got to the Agora around 3, and it was practically empty.  Such a refreshing change from our crowded morning at the Parthenon.  We again, used our Rick Steves audio app to guide us through.  The Agora was a lot larger than I expected and had a lot of buildings and art to view.  This ended up being one of my unexpected favorites from our time in Athens, I highly recommend making some time for the Agora during your visit.

The Ancient Agora also includes a stoa, which is now a museum with artifacts and information about the Agora.


The main road through the Agora

We apparently went through the Agora backwards (the main entrance is in Monastraki area, we came in on a back road), so we ended at Monastraki and decided to walk around and check out the shops.  The shops here were filled with some of the more popular Greek items, leather sandals, oils, olives, jewelry, etc.  We ended up finding a really cool local foods shop (in our quest to locate some beer to carry back…) and got some meats and cheeses to enjoy as a snack, and also picked up some Greek yogurt for breakfast the next day.  I was pretty excited about having an actual legitimate breakfast option.  We also ended up getting some fruit (figs and grapes) from one of the food carts in the main square.  We also decided to pick up some lunch for ourselves for the next day (we went on a tour to Delphi) from Thanassis Souvlaki, another highly rated Souvlaki shop in Athens.  We had these wrapped up to-g0 and put them in our fridge when we got home for the next day.

When we got back, we started our normal routine of showers and enjoying beers on the patio before heading to Scholarchio for dinner.  I would not consider Scholarchio to be a great local joint, but the food was quick and fit the bill.  And more imporantly, we were in bed nice and early after our 4 am wake up time.  The menu is set up that you can order a set amount of dishes based on the number of people in your party.  Since we had 4 people, we got to pick 10 dishes (from 15 that they brought out on a tray) and each got wine for  €15 per person.  All in all, not a bad choice if you are nearby and want a quick meal!  We got meatballs, stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, greek salad, calamari, braised lamb, tzatziki, and fried zucchini among other things that I don’t remember.  The meatballs and the grape leaves were our highlights!


The next day, we had an excursion to Delphi on the agenda.  We were heavily considering going to Delphi before our trip, but talking about it with some of the other folks on our wine tour in Santorini really sealed the deal for us.  A couple on their honeymoon did an excursion during their stay in Athens and absolutely loved it, and even raved about the tour group that they used.  We got the name of the tour company (G.O. Tours) from them and booked our trip during our first day in Athens.  The tour ran us €86 per person, but we were assured it was well worth it.

In the morning we got up and had our super legitimate breakfast of yogurt, figs, honey and pistachios.  It was everything I had been dreaming about for a week and a half.  We met our group at a local hotel at 9:00am to get picked up by the bus.  It seemed like the buses went around and collected people from their various hotels around Athens and brought them all to this main spot.  From there, people got off the buses and were re-boarded according to their tours.  It was pretty interesting and seemed like a good logistical way to accomplish that (the industrial engineer in me was very pleased).

The ride to Delphi is about 2+ hours from Athens.  On the way there, the tour guide told us a few stories and tidbits about both Athens and Delphi.  The most surprising was that the Greeks prounounce it Del-pheee rather than what I am used to, Del-f-eye.  Just kidding, there were way better stories than that.  According to our tour guide, Delphi was formed by Zeus.  He wanted to find the center of the world and sent two of his eagles in opposite directions, with the theory that where they met would be the center of the world.  The two eagles met in Delphi, and the rest is history.  After Zeus found the center, Delphi was taken over by Python, a son of Gaia (Earth).  Eventually Apollo defeated  and slayed Python and the people built monuments and performed games in his honor.  Delphi is probably best known for being a major site of the Greek oracles.  The oracles were women that Apollo was said to communicated through.  People would travel far and wide to visit the oracles with questions.  The woman would speak and the priests would translate her answers.  Our guide said that the priests usually used clever wording and vague answers to get around not actually knowing the future :).

The bus stopped once at the halfway point for a bathroom break and snacks.  Here Nick and I split a couple of pastries, baklava and kataifi (the bird’s nest looking item).  I also had a cappuccino.

When we made it to Delphi, there were a few other buses and tours coming in, but nothing like the Acropolis the day before.  The road up to Delphi is windy.  The setting of Delphi is absolutely beautiful, it’s surrounded by mountains and olive trees and we got some of my favorite pictures here.

After our tour guide walked us through, we had about 45 mins of free time to walk around and revisit anything that piqued our interest before we met at the museum.  The museum was fairly small, but with our tour guide I felt like we got a great overview of the traditions and examples of art in Delphi.  Most of the art was in the form of sculptures that were built to honor Apollo and other gods.

After we left the museum we were let off in the town by Delphi, where the majority of our tour group went to a local hotel for lunch.  We had heard from our Santorini friends that the lunch was just ok (and would run €20 extra per person) so we found a nice outdoor area and ate our sandwiches before shopping around a little.  I’m so glad that we did, because Debbie and I had our best Athens score here!  We both were looking for some olive pottery, but were being pretty picky about it having to be made in Greece and of good quality.  I got a bowl and Debbie got a few olive oil dishes.

Our ride back to Athens went by quickly (and I may have even snoozed a little).  Our tour guide and bus driver were a little concerned about traffic getting back, as there was an upcoming election that week for Prime minister and a speech was planned that night in one of the main squares so lots of traffic was expected.  We asked to be dropped off in Monastraki, but the closest they could get us with road closures was a few blocks away.  Which was totally fine!  We got to walk a little back through Monastraki and see a few more shops.  We decided to take another route through town and hit up a restaurant that I had read about called Melilotos.  Melilotos is considered to be “Modern Greek cuisine” and had a great sounding menu.  We ended up getting four things to split, including a salad with goat cheese, stuffed chicken, pasta with mushrooms and chicken, and pasta with beef and truffles (this was the clear favorite).  Everything was delicious!  One of our favorite spots in Athens.

We stopped again at our favorite shop on the way home and picked up some more yogurt.  We chatted a little with the owner there and sampled a few different kinds of nuts.  We ended up getting some more pistachios.  The owner told us that all of the foods and snacks they had in their deli case were made by his grandmother daily and brought in.

More drinks and patio sitting once we got home!


For our last day, we slept in a little, ate another yogurt and fig breakfast, and headed out to the National Archaeological Museum.  The museum is the largest in Greece and has the largest collection of Greek artifacts.  The museum is organized by historical period  and medium and goes from Prehistoric, through Classical and ending with the Roman period.  The museum has both tour guides and audio guides available.  However, the cost of the guided tours isn’t very clear and seems to depend on the number of people that you have present.  Of course, all of this was irrelevant for us, as we had our Rick Steves audio guide fired up and ready to go.  My favorite statues were the ones in the Classical and Hellenistic period that depicted the Greek gods (this was a personal favorite).  We also got to see the actual frescoes that were retrieved from Akrotiri.  We took about two hours in this museum.  In my opinion, this is a must-see if you are visiting Athens!  It gives you a great view of the history of the mainland and a lot of the islands as well.

We originally intended to find a nearby place for lunch, but struck out with two locations being closed.  We eventually decided to just go with something easy and open, and ended up at a pretty touristy location, Smile Restaurant.  This place checked all of my normal “do not eat here” boxes, a lot of advertisement, pictures of the food, menus in multiple languages, advertisements for other tours around Athens, etc.  But it was also pretty highly rated on Trip Advisor (#39 out of 2000+ restaurants in Athens) and we were hungry. I was pleasantly surprised with the food and I finally got my pastitsio that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere.  Nick and Bob got the souvlaki, and we also ordered the Greek salad and the Special Smile Salad.

After lunch, we set out to cross off the rest of the sites that came with our Acropolis ticket, as well as the Olympic Stadium.

We started with the Olympic Stadium (officially called the Panathenaic Stadium), which housed the first instance of the modern Olympics in 1896.  The original ancient Olympics were held in the Greek town of Olympia.  It’s only €5 to enter the stadium (and that comes with a free audio guide and the opportunity to run around the track!), but we were more interested in continuing on to some other sites and didn’t want to invest the time.

Our next stop was the Olympieion and Temple of Zeus.  We saw the columns that make up this site from walking around town, and they seemed to be the largest and very well preserved.  Seeing them up close was really cool.  They are located at a big intersection in Athens, so it’s really neat to see the old and the new so interspersed.  To get some background on these sites, we listened to parts of the Athens City Walking Tour from the Rick Steves app.  You are able to select specific tracks from the tour, so we just did that for whichever site we were at.


Right around the Olympieion, you are also able to see the Arch of Hadrian.  Hadrian was an emperor of the Roman empire, but held a great admiration for the city of Athens.  He did a lot of work to restore and preserve the city, and aimed to make it a cultural center of the empire.  The arch was built by the Greeks to honor Hadrian and all he did for their city.


Next we headed to the Acropolis to see if we could sneak back in to the main area during a non-crowded time.  This was a no-go, so we explored the North and South slopes.  This was really neat, there were a lot of intricate caves where people used to place statues and trinkets to honor the gods on their trek up to the main Acropolis.  We also got to enjoy some more great views from this vantage point.

We decided to head to dinner close by again, we were all a little worn from all the activity of the whole trip and wanted to have a relaxing last night. I actually don’t even remember the restaurant we went to, and have no pictures of the food, so it must not have been that great.  We took one last walk through Monastraki and headed back for some beers and patio sitting, the perfect way to cap off our trip!


All in all, I really enjoyed our time in Athens and Delphi.  I would certainly add Athens to your Greek itinerary, there are things that you see here that you don’t get from any other place in the world.  It was inspiring to me to be among such important and ancient artifacts, and in a spot where so many events and people existed that affect our culture and way of life, even today.  However…I can kind of see why some people dog Athens.  The easiest comparison is to Rome, they both are large cities that have similar ancient culture and ruins.  Athens certainly isn’t as pretty as Rome (SO MUCH GRAFFITI) but I found it easy to overlook that to appreciate the food and the culture here.

And that’s it for our Greece trip!  Next I want to do a “planning” post with tips and tricks that we found useful, specific to Greece.  Then it’s on to recap our December trip to Asheville, NC

Have you ever been to Athens?  What was your favorite site?  Did all of the graffiti turn you off at all?



Santorini Days 3&4


Day 3 in Santorini was a big one, because it was the day of our WINE TOUR.  We booked our tour through Santorini Wine Adventure.  Going into the trip, I knew that I wanted to visit some of the wineries, but wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to do a guided tour.  Guided tours tend to have a big markup and you are “stuck” with a set agenda and are somewhat at the whims of the other group members.  However, the reviews on this company on Trip Advisor really changed my mind.  The company has a five-star rating, but what really stuck out to me was the fact that the tour guide themselves were called out specifically in a lot of the reviews.  Usually when I read tour reviews, I look for nuggets on aspects of the trips that were enjoyed, so I can use that to plan my own thing but the glowing reviews of this host had me intrigued.

Santorini Wine Adventures offers a few different options, you can do a simple winery tour, a winery tour + visit to Akrotiri (a ruins site), or a winery tour + cooking class.  Akrotiri was also on our list of things to do, so we decided to combine and do the “Trails of History and Wine” tour.  The price was €125, which seemed a little expensive but I felt like we were getting a lot for the price, including visit to 3 wineries, 1 brewery, snack plate of meats and cheeses, entry and a tour guide at Akrotiri.

We were picked up at 9 am and were the first group to board (1st choice of seats, hell yeah).  Our first stop was Akrotiri.  If I’m being completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed with Akrotiri.  I had seen it referred to many times as the “Pompeii of Santorini”, which, um, no it’s not.  And the comparison isn’t really doing Akrotiri any favors.  Nick and I enjoyed Pompeii so much, so I think the comparison set my expectations just a little too high going into this tour.  Had I gone into it with an open mind, I may have enjoyed it much more.  The site is not NEARLY as large as Pompeii, it’s basically one warehouse sized building.  Also the ruins haven’t been “dug out” as much (that’s probably not the right term) so it’s hard to get a mental picture of what the buildings/roads/etc. actually looked like.  The way the building is set up, you are looking down into the ruins, rather than walking through them like Pompeii.  Also, most of the artwork has been taken out and is on display at the National Archaeological museum in Athens, and there aren’t large replicas in its place (like in Pompeii).  The tour guide has a laminated picture of the paintings that they hold up throughout the tour, but it doesn’t quite have the same affect.  Overall, meh.  It was an OK way to start the morning but I don’t think I would strongly recommend visiting here.  And I don’t think it was really worth the price difference from the regular wine tour (€85 vs. €125).

Here you can see the railing and walkway all around the ruins.  That’s as close as you could get.
This was one of better buildings of which to get a good picture

After that we were on to our wineries!  We made a pit stop before we hit any wineries to look at the “vineyards”.  Because of the wind on the island, grapes are unable to grow traditionally on vines here.  Instead, they wrap the vines and make these little grape nests, to protect them from the wind.  Another challenging aspect is the lack of rain in Santorini (it seriously didn’t rain a single time we were there).  Our guide explained that the grapes are “watered” by the dew at night.

We started at Boutari which was really cool.  It was a large space and very modern looking inside.  The decor was all wine themed (obviously) and it had a lot of the cool little grape nest things everywhere.  At this tasting, we really focused on food/wine pairings, which was cool because I didn’t know anything beyond the basic white meat=white wine, red meat=red wine.  We tried a variety of meats and cheeses and took turns trying them with each kind of wine to see how it changed the flavor of the wine.  The takeaway from this portion was that there are no bad wines, only bad pairings!  When Elias said this, our group took great delight in explaining to him what “Boone’s Farm” was and he was appropriately horrified.

The second winery was Gavalas, which has a fairly no frills tasting.  We did get to see some of the older wine making tools and barrels they had on site, which was really neat!  We had four different wines, including a Vinsanto, they were all really good.  The most popular Santorini wine is Assyrtiko, which is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite), so I was pretty much in heaven.

Uh-huh, uh-huh….but where is the WINE.
I think we are pretending to stomp grapes, but clearly Debbie is not committed to the charade.
I totally got suckered by the pretty blue bottle on the left and ended up purchasing it, even though I preferred the second (they were the same type, but one had a natural ferment).


We also made a stop at Santorini’s only beer brewing establishment, Santorini Brewing Company.  Beer brewing is relatively new to the island (and Greece in general), but these beers were excellent.  We  tried a couple of their beers leading up to the tour and really liked all of them.  I was partial to the Yellow Donkey, Nick was into the Red Donkey.  We hadn’t been able to find Crazy Donkey (which is their IPA), but our neighbors had and said it was really good.  After the tour, we can confirm!  All of the donkey beers are really good.

This is apparently the only picture I took there.

For our third winery, we went to Artemis Karamolegos which was REALLY beautiful.  The wine may be skewing my memory here, but this might have been my favorite of the day.  Their outdoor area was large and shaded and it had a really lovely atmosphere.  We also saw a few of the other Wine Adventure tours here, one that looked to be on the “regular” tour and one that was setting up for the cooking class.  We got to try another four wines and were also served our meat and cheese plate.  I totally thought the plate we got at Boutari was going to end up being our snack plate, so this was a lovely surprise.  The size of this snack plate was awesome and totally served as our lunch.  Also, you can totally tell that we had many tastings by this point, because my commitment to taking photos of all the wine completely fell apart.

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We had a great experience on this wine tour, and I do feel like it was worth it to book a tour, rather than drive to a few wineries by ourselves.  However, I don’t think I would include the Akrotiri tour given the chance to do it all over.  If you do the regular wine tour, there is an option to do it in the afternoon and through sunset time.  I think this sounds like a REALLY awesome way to have a fun wine tour and experience the famous sunset in a unique way.

After our wine tour we headed back to our patio for more sitting and drinking and looking at amazing views (after showing all of our new friends from the tour the best place to go watch the sunset).

Never tired of this view
After drinking all day, I thought the cliff by our apartment looked like a woman’s profile.

We had already made plans for dinner two nights ago, we made reservations for a sunset dinner.   A lot of the restaurants in Santorini have a 7:00/7:15 dinner seating so that you can watch the sunset sans crowds.  We tried to book this our first day in town, but a lot of places were booked up, our third night was the first available reservation we could find at Pelekanos (we did only check like, two places).  This was a really cool way to watch the sunset.  We got to have a relaxing dinner and enjoy the sunset and take all the pictures we wanted.  We weren’t shoved around at all, not even once.  I highly highly recommend doing a sunset dinner.  If I could do it all over again, I would have a sunset reservation at a different restaurant every night.  The food and service here were really good, so I would even recommend this restaurant specifically.  Great all around!  We ordered a Greek salad (are you tired of hearing me say that yet?  We couldn’t get enough), Moussaka, slow cooked beef in a pot and lamb.

Side note: I was less drunk after a day of sampling wine and wine with dinner than I was the previous night, after two large beers.  Wtf, self.

On day 4, we didn’t have any set plans, in fact we didn’t even set an alarm.  Nick and I woke up “late” around 9 and decided to go off in search of a real breakfast.  That is one thing that I feel like we didn’t really master during our trip, what are the good options for breakfast?  We subsisted on granola bars, fruit, and sometimes a pastry from a corner shop.  But a lot of times, our activities started early (the wine tour started at 9 for example), so what are people supposed to do for breakfast?  Is this just the fat American in me?  Do normal people not prioritize breakfast?  I don’t know.  Nick and I ended up finding a cute place that opened at 10 and got ourselves some real breakfast with a side of caldera views.  I got my normal frappe, a greek yogurt with fruit and nuts, and Nick got a banana chocolate crepe that was enormous.

After breakfast, we went back to the apartment and worked on a game plan for the day.  One thing left on our list was the Red/Black/White beaches, located on the southern side of the island.  The famous Santorini Red Beach is frequently featured on all kinds of “best beaches” lists, so we were excited to explore it!  The day before, we asked Elias what is the best way to view those beaches.  He recommended a water taxi service that is run out of the port right by Akrotiri that runs €5 for a round trip .  He even went down to the port and asked for their time table while we were on our Akrotiri tour!  The water taxis run every half hour. We decided to do that and went to find a rental car to drive to Akrotiri.

It was fairly easy to find the boat, and we paid our euros, hopped on and waited for the boat to fill up.  There were several restaurants lined up by the boat area, and lots of yachts pulling up with groups of fancy people coming to land.  It was fun people watching for sure!

The boat goes by the three beaches in the following order: Red–>White–>Black.  We didn’t have a set game plan as far as which beach we wanted to get off at, and this was a mistake.  There isn’t a lot of time to get on/off the boats and the guides really push you to be prepared and get on and off quickly and efficiently (rightfully s0).  Because of this we ended up hemming and hawing until the last stop, the Black Beach.  The Red beach looked beautiful, but actually pretty dangerous.  There is a large cliff hanging over the beach, and there was actually a land slide a few weeks prior.  You are also let off in relatively deep water at the Red Beach, and if you are like us, you have your backpack of a towel, phone, money, change of clothes, etc. that you don’t really want to get wet.  You could definitely do it, but would have to plan the logistics a little better than us.  The white beach looked awesome, the drop off was in medium height water but there were no beach bars for food or drinks.  The Black Beach was nice, but very rocky and the black rocks were pretty hot.  There was a restaurant with chairs that you can rent.

If we were to do this again, I would either bring water/snacks and get off at White Beach, or make a day of it and rent chairs at the Black Beach.  Since we weren’t sure we wanted to hang out for a long time, we didn’t want to cough up the cash to pay for a chair and just laid on our towels.

After 20 or so minutes we decided to just catch the next boat back and grab some lunch.  Unfortunately the boats were on a different schedule than us and we probably waited upwards of an hour for the next boat back.  When we got back, we decided to hit up Nikolas Taverna.  This place was mentioned by a few of the travel apps I was using and the menu looked great.  Guess what we ordered?  You are corect, more greek salad.  And also tomato fritters, calamari, and moussaka.

This was another of our favorite meals of the trip, and it reminded me of our lunches at Rhodes.  Really good seafood/food at a great price.

We took the other road back to Oia and got to see a different side of the island, which was really cool.  We drove by a few of the other beaches with lots of hotels and inns.  Kamari Beach looked like the coolest, at least from a distance with lots of beach front and chairs.


We got back to our apartment and hung out some more on the patio (theme of the trip) and decided to grab something quick for dinner.  We had a later lunch and also had another 4 am flight on plan for tomorrow.  Nick and I ended up getting gyros from Pitogyros and they were REALLY good.  After so many nights of long, more elaborate meals, a quick street gyro really hit the spot.  We enjoyed a beer while waiting for our sandwiches and then headed back and tucked in early.  After honoring our patio with a few final beers of course!

Our last walk around Oia at night
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Bye patio, we will miss you.



A few final thoughts on Santorini: There were a lot of times throughout the trip where I thought “Wow, I can totally see why Santorini is so popular” and probably just as many times where I was resenting that popularity (bc of crowds, high prices, hard to get reservations, etc).  This, of course, is totally to be expected at a place like this, but I think we got a smidge spoiled by the ease and relaxed vibe of Rhodes.  I enjoyed every one of our four days (and am glad we didn’t go any shorter) but I can say its a place I don’t feel like I need to return to.  On my next Greek island vacation (hear that, Nick?) I would choose to explore some different islands instead.  But I will always fondly remember this patio, one of my greatest life decisions:

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An aerial view


This post is part of the Travel Tuesday link-up!  Thanks for hosting, Courtney and Lauren!


Santorini Days 1&2


We were up bright and EARLY on our last morning in Rhodes.  Our cab picked us up at the ungodly hour of 4 AM so we could head to the airport for our 6 AM flight.  This early flight seemed like a great way to maximize our time in Santorini at the time of booking, but I don’t think I would book something that early again.  It made for a very exhausting day and I think I would be ok with having less time, but being able to more enjoy it.

But anyway! (Nothing like starting off a post with a complaint, right?)  There are a lot of places that you could stay in Santorini.  Oia and Fira are two main locations, Fira being the bigger of the two.  Both of these are located on the “caldera” side of Santorini, which is the inner part of the crescent and is characterized by whitewashed houses hanging off of the cliffs.  There are also a lot of places to stay on the eastern side that more gently slope out to beaches, like Kamari.  The whole island is only 11 or so miles, so things are fairly easy to bus, cab, or drive to.  We decided to stay in Oia to get that caldera experience and to take advantage of those famous sunset views.

We got checked-in and settled in our AirBnB around 11 and immediately set off to walk around and get some food.  I CAN’T EVEN describe how amazing and how happy we were with our AirBnB selection.  Our apartment was a “cave house” on the side of the cliff and had a fantastic patio area.  We spent so much time out there relaxing, talking and sharing beers.  This patio was certainly a highlight of the trip.

The view from our doorstep.
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From the gate/walkway.  The stone thing in the left corner is a hot tub.
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From the other corner.  Our neighbors in the smaller apartment to the right were an adorable couple from London on their honeymoon.  We loved hanging out with them!

We decided to walk around and hit some “close-by” spots on our list.  I really prefer to do something “easy” that involves a good amount of walking around on the first day in any location.  I think it balances nicely with the normal stress of a travel day and you don’t have to worry about being somewhere at a set time (like you would if participating in an organized tour), or fighting with crowds (like if you decided to visit a major site with an entrance and/or lines or museum).  We took the famous Oia steps down to Ammoudi Bay.  There are 350 steps down to the bay, and this is a popular spot for donkey rides (we met several donkeys who do not have a concept of personal space on our way down).  The walk was fun, and it was hard not to take photos at every corner we went around.  The views were awesome and just kept getting better and better.

We’re going down, Bob’s yelling “TIMBER”.


Down by the water, there are several tavernas and boat tour operators.  By the time we made it down, places were just starting to open up for lunch and we settled on Dimitri’s.  We had our pick of seats, but weren’t quite brave enough to pick a table RIGHT on the water.  If someone bumped your table, you could just topple right into the treacherous rocks below (dramatic).  Also, our seats provided some much needed shade!


We decided to get a spread of items to share since we all wanted to try different things and consulted the waitress for her recommendations.  We ended up with mussels in garlic sauce, Greek salad (natch), tomato fritters (apparently a Santorini specialty), and fava (yellow split pea dip served with pita).  The fava was reaaaally good and reminded us of hummus.  I also really loved the tomato fritters, which is surprising because I’m usually pretty squicked out by the texture of warm (but still raw) tomatoes.

After our walk we soldiered on to find some form of water.  I had read about a little path off of Ammoudi Bay where you can find a “beach”, so we asked our waitress about it.  She let us know it was really more of a cliff that has stairs into the water than a beach, but we decided to give it a go.

You know how when you travel with a group of people, and you come up with an idea and it doesn’t go exactly as it expected and you feel completely responsible and like everyone in the group is mad at you?  Yeah…that was sort of the experience at this cliff/beach.  Not that anyone said anything to me along those lines (everyone was crazy polite and good sports), but I was so paranoid that it was going bad and was starting to feel a smidge of anxiety.  It was tougher to get to than I think we expected, and when we got there it was pretty crowded and there was nowhere to put our stuff or sit.  We basically stripped down on the path, shoved our belongings to the side and jumped in the water, lol.  I was actually apprehensive about the water situation since you jump right into deep water.  But again, I felt some sense of responsibility for this activity so there was no way I could weenie out of this one.  So in I went, before I gave myself a chance to get nervous.

This was taken on the way back, and was one of the flatter areas, but you get the idea.
Don’t fall.
The water was fairly deep, so we found a slimy rock to rest on.
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My brave husband.  I did not participate.

Fun fact: this swimming area was actually featured in the movie “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”.  They were there on a mission in Santorini to find the pants or something?  Idk.  I didn’t know this when we went, but I’m glad that I DID end up getting in the water because I would have been deeply embarrassed to have been too scared to experience something that a group of teenage girls who believe in magical pants managed.  Go me!

Source:                                    That whacky sisterhood.  See the same jumping platform?

For dinner that night, we decided to stay relatively close to our apartment since we were very, very tired.  We ended up at Floga, based on a recommendation from our apartment managers.  Floga was basically right outside the gate of our apartment, I’m pretty sure it was a 60 second walk, door to door.

It is ridiculously hard to get a group pic where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera
Salad with prosciutto, cashews, dried tomatoes, dried figs and sesame crusted goat cheese.
Tagliatelle with Filet Mignon Julienne
Not sure what this one is, might have been a special of the day?  Nothing from the menu is ringing a bell.
Spaghetti with Shrimps
Risotto with “fruits of the sea”

Our meal was excellent (the salad and the risotto were especially good), but overall I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to go to Floga if I wasn’t as close as we were.  No ragrets or anything, but I’m glad we didn’t travel far to dine there.

We spent the rest of the night hanging out and talking on our super amazing patio until bed time!

The next morning we woke up on the early side to partake in one of the activities I was most excited for.  The Oia-Fira hike.  There is a trail that runs from Oia to Fira (or Fira to Oia depending on where you are coming from) and is said to have exceptional caldera views.  The total hike is about 5.5 miles and takes 2-3 hours (depending on your pace, more  if you stop a lot).  We had a hard time finding the trail entrance (it’s not marked super well),  but I’ve read that it’s easier to find if you are coming from Fira, which is apparently the more common route.  The trail head just kind of branches off from the main road in Oia.

Some tips for the hike:

  • Do not wear sandals.  Do not.  The hike is kind of tough at certain points.  Portions are very gravelly and along a cliff with no guard rail.
  • Bring some water.  You do stop through a few towns but we didn’t see a lot of easy convenience type stores where you could easily grab something.  We all carried backpacks with water and a few snacks.
  • If you would like to read up on the sites you are seeing this site has a good description.  Of course, it describes the trail from Fira-Oia so I had to read backwards.
  • Charge your camera so it doesn’t die on you mid-hike.  Also, remember to pack your charger in general so you don’t have to track down an electronics store in Fira so that you are able to take photos for the rest of your trip. Go me!
  • If I were to do it again I might cab or bus to Fira and take it from that direction.  It would have been much easier to navigate, and we would have ended on a nice downhill rather than starting our trek on a steep uphill climb.  We also started facing the sun, and if you hiked from Fira, the sun would be at your back.

After our hike, right outside of Fira, we stopped at Pirouni for some lunch.  We were hungry and THIRSTY.  We hadn’t seen/read a lot about this restaurant beforehand, and just kind of picked it because it was recommended by my app and we were starving, but we had a wonderful experience.  For one of the only times during this trip, we ordered multiples of the same dish (because it sounded amazing).  The dips that came with the bread were really good, olive tapenade and tzatziki.  We also ordered some Santorini salads and Lamb Souvlaki.  The dessert is a mystery, something chocolatey and nutty, but was delicious and served to every table!  We also had some wine/beer for rehydration purposes.  Both our meal and the service here were really great! 10/10.

We walked around Fira for a good while afterwards, there are so many shops!  We were on the hunt for some jewelry, and I found a really pretty sapphire necklace based on the Greek meander (symbolizes eternal life, love and friendship) that my mother-in-law so generously bought for me!  I love it and have worn it tons of times already.

Fira was very crowded from all of the cruise ships, we all commented that we were glad we decided to stay in Oia.  We debated staying in Fira and had heard that it was much bigger, so we were somewhat concerned that we wouldn’t find as much to do in Oia.  However, we thought Oia was a great size and actually probably would have been overwhelmed by Fira.

We debated taking a cable car down to the Fira port, but the line was verrry long so we skipped it in favor of more walking around.  We ended up stopping at a wine bar for a while too and enjoying some Santorini wine and  snacks.

 We attempted to take a cab back to Oia and waited at the cab station for about 20 minutes.  No cabs were really coming or going (not sure why) so we abandoned ship and decided to take a bus.  The bus was less than €2 per person and was easy peasy!  It was a little anxiety-inducing to be barreling around on a big bus on these little roads, but overall I’d definitely recommend trying to take the bus back and forth.

We got back and showered and ready fairly early that evening, because we had super important SUNSET plans!  Arguably the most popular activity in Oia is to watch the sunset, because Oia is on the tip of the island and there are no obstructions to the gorgeous sunset view.  However, because of this popularity it can get very crowded in the popular spots.  We wanted to head there early to secure a good spot.  We got there around 5 for the 7:30ish sunset.  We split up to scope out spots, Nick and I went to the ever-popular old Byzantine castle lookout and managed to get one person’s worth of space in a far corner.  But Bob was the MVP of spot-scouting and got a wide spot right around the famous three bells, which served as a great backdrop for all of our pictures.

We stopped in a store and grabbed some beers along the way.  We got four tall boys for our crew, but the guys decided not to drink since there were no bathrooms around.  H-oookay, Debbie and I will just take those off your hands then!  This made for a really fun “tailgating” experience for her and I.  The pictures are insanely beautiful, so I will just let them speak for themselves.  This night was on the cloudy end of the spectrum, but we still got some amazing shots!



You can kind of tell in the pictures of us above, but it was so, so crowded out.  It was still an awesome experience that I think everyone should do once, but I definitely got annoyed with people shoving and sticking their cameras right in my view.  Also, I hate crowds of people as a general rule, so eh.  I’m glad we did it, but we agreed we would make other arrangements for the next night.

The less glamorous perspective.

Due to aforementioned tailgating, the rest of the night has some holes in it for me.  We went to dinner at Strogili, where I was ENTHUSED to find BURRATTA.  So I ordered that as my dinner.  A ball of cheese was my dinner.  And it was awesome.

Our group also had the Santorini salad and….some other stuff that I don’t remember.  Overall, we thought the restaurant was a little overpriced and just ok.  But individually, my drunk ass was on cloud nine with my ball of cheese.

I originally planned to recap all of our time in Santorini in one post, but I think I will break it up now!  It’s getting pretty wordy and I guess I just love all of the Santorini pics too much to pare them down.

Next up in Travel: Santorini Days 3-4

This post is part of the Travel Tuesday link-up!  Thanks for hosting, Courtney and Lauren!