Santorini Days 3&4

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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).

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Here you can see the railing and walkway all around the ruins.  That’s as close as you could get.
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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.

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Uh-huh, uh-huh….but where is the WINE.
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I think we are pretending to stomp grapes, but clearly Debbie is not committed to the charade.
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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).

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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This was taken on the way back, and was one of the flatter areas, but you get the idea.
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Don’t fall.
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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!

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Source: www.film-travel.com                                    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.

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

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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.

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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!

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Greece Days 1-3: Rhodes

Our trip to Greece in September had three stops: Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens.  During our planning Athens and Santorini were givens, but we had a hard time adding a third location to our itinerary. There are SO many Greek islands to choose from and they all seem to have unique culture and history to explore.  We looked at all kinds of Top 10 lists (like Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, and Frommers) and of course, relied on the great advice of my man Rick Steves.  We listened to his Mediterranean podcast series, particularly the episode on Greek Islands.  This island called Rhodes kept popping up in our research and was frequently cited for its medieval ruins and history.  We wanted a different experience that we were going to get in Santorini (so we eliminated Mykonos from the running) and wanted a smaller place that could be done in 2.5 days (we eliminated the popular Crete for this reason, we didn’t think we would have enough time to see everything).  We looked up flights and realized that Rhodes would fit easily into our itinerary and booked the tickets and then an apartment!

We arrived in Rhodes around 2pm after a long day of travel (I think we had 4 flights total to get there?  Which is probably normal for traveling to one of the islands)  This was our first time using AirBnB and we had a little trouble getting in contact with our host (I suppose I should have foreseen that not having phone service would mean..not being able to call the host as requested.  I’m 0 for 2 on smooth international arrivals.)  After scurrying around the Rhodes airport looking for a pay phone (which we could NOT figure out how to operate, apparently you need a calling card, not a credit card), talking to the customer service desk, being sold the greek equivalent of a tracphone, etc etc.  we decided to just go get a taxi and ask our taxi driver to call our host and let him know we arrived.  Luckily, the guy was super nice and was able to do that for us!

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View of the water and cruise ships as you are exiting the Rhodes Old Town walls
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View of the clock tower from our balcony

Rhodes is a little unique in that it was occupied during the Crusades, so there is a strong Medieval vibe.  Old Town Rhodes is actually within the old medieval castle walls.  Rhodes is very culturally diverse, since it has been a part of Greece, Italy and Turkey throughout its history.  Our AirBnb was within the Old Town walls in an excellent location.  Old Town itself can be a little touristy, but there were still great restaurants and bars, tons of shops and of course, the hisorical sites that we were interested in seeing.  Our apartment was this one, and was located right by the main clock tower in Rhodes.  After we found our host (this was also a little dicey since we had to be let out of the cab outside of the walls and navigate our way in.  Our host said he could tell us from our large suitcases but we went past him and he had to chase us for a while through the crowd, haha.), we got settled and decided to wander around and find some quick food.  We were getting a little hangry from our travels.

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The best salad and beer I’ve ever had.

We ended up at one of the touristy places with pictures of the food hanging up, but it really was the best choice for the moment.  We wanted food quick and were all a little frazzled from the long flights and confusion with trying to find our apartment.  Debbie and I got Greek salads and the guys got pitas.  And we all got some beers that were refreshing and calming.

After our food we just walked around and explored some more.  There is a cruise ship port in Rhodes so the Old Town area would get pretty crowded from mid-morning to late afternoon.  After we ate, the crowds were thinning and we checked out some shops, went down to the beach to see the water and port, walked by the castle and museum entrance, and walked up the Street of the Knights.  We originally thought that we might spend some time at the Rhodes beach, but it is actually really small and rocky so Nick and Bob just took a quick dip and we kept walking.

We eventually headed back to our apartment and got showered and ready for dinner.  There was a bar/convenience store type place RIGHT on the corner near our apartment so we grabbed a few beers to enjoy while everyone was getting ready.  This was a great idea since four people getting ready in one bathroom was a bit more of an ordeal than just two.  We got to enjoy these beers on our amazing patio (the pictures of the patio views are what sold this apartment for us) and look out on Old Town and the walls.  After we were ready, we went on another walk and ended up exploring a little into New Town and grabbing a beer to enjoy the sunset with on our walk before making our way back inside the walls for dinner.

Alfa Beer.  So cool to see the Greek alphabet everywhere (duh)!

We decided to just check out a number of places nearby and their menus since the overall area was small and we heard a variety of recommendations.  And we got pretty well lost doing this.  Old Town has a lot of little roads and alleys, and yeah.  Totally lost.  It was like Venice Round 2 (except SLIGHTLY less angry).  It also didn’t help that we were all running on little to no sleep and were starving.  We eventually decided that we would go to Nireas, and asked a random passerby for directions.  They thought we said “nearest restaurant” and (with good intentions) took us in the complete opposite direction to a different place, haha.   We eventually made it to Nireas, which has a beautiful outdoor space and serves mainly Greek seafood.  The ambiance here was great and we enjoyed the food, but in retrospect this was probably our least favorite meal in Rhodes.  Which isn’t a dig against Nireas, but rather just goes to show how amazing the rest of our meals were.

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Mini cheese pies
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Mussels Saganaki – mussels with white wine, tomato, peppers and feta
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Shrimpies
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Calamari – this was so tender and the light fry on these was fantastic
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Shrimp Saganaki
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Baklava bites and vanilla ice cream

All of our jetlag started to catch up with us here at dinner (we forgot how looonngg those European dinners can take, and all the sitting really did us in 🙂 ).  I practically fell asleep at the table and we went to bed right when we got back.

Day 2:

Our first order of business for the day was to check out the Old Town castle before the cruise ship crowds.  Old Town was pretty dead at this hour and we didn’t actually see any places that were serving breakfast.  We were able to get a few frappes (a cold Greek coffee made from instant coffee.  My coffee of choice for this trip) from a shop near our apartment and supplemented with some granola bars, then made our way to the castle.

The formal name of the castle is Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.  The castle was built during Byzantine rule in the 7th century, but changed hands and purposes and was restored and rebuilt many, many times.  It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means that it has been deemed as being of special cultural or physical significance.  Entrance to the castle is €6, it’s an additional €2 if you want to “walk the walls”.  We got to the castle around 9:00am, and I’d say it took us about an hour and a half to feel like we had seen all that we wanted to see.  The walls didn’t open until noon, so we decided to check out the nearby Archaeological Museum in the meantime.

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Entrance to the castle

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I wouldn’t be hanging out under those doors…
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The main courtyard
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Big, heavy, medieval doors

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The Archaeological Museum was enjoyable and only cost €6 as well, but it did end up being a lot of the same between the museum and the castle.  If you are pressed for time, you can probably get away with only doing one, and I would recommend that the castle be that one.  We got through it in about and hour and a half and then decided we would need some lunch before going on our walk.

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Entrance to the museum

We had passed Dinoris the day before and admired the menu, so we decided to head here (it’s right near the entrance to the Archaeological Museum).  This might have been the best decision we made in Rhodes, our lunch at Dinoris was AMAZING.  We were the only people there at first (pretty normal for these Americans) and our waiter took a lot of time to go over the menu with us and give us recommendations.  When we decided to travel to Greece, I thought a lot about the traditional Greek foods but was pleasantly surprised with how much amazing seafood was available on the islands.  I suppose that should have been intuitive since they are ISLANDS, but anyway.

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Round 1
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Salad with avocado, feta, green onion, tomatoes and olives.
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Cold smoked salmon
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Calamari stuffed with tomatoes, feta and olives.  One of my top things from this trip (Dare I say it is the burrata of our Greece trip?)!
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Just look at it.  Look.
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More tender, light, delicious calamari
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Shrimps from Symi (a nearby island known for these tiny shrimps).  Since they are so small, you eat the whole thing!  Shell and all.

After lunch, we went back to the castle to do our walk of the walls. This was a really fun activity!  It was cool to see the castle and the city below from different angles.  We had some great views!  The walls were only open from 12:00 – 3:00 (and is actually closed during the winter), but I’d say it’s worth working around that limited window.  Also heads up, you don’t exit the walls in the same place that you entered (by the castle entrance) so you could end up with a hefty walk back to your starting point.  I’d say the whole walk was about 1.5-2 miles?  But I’m pretty bad at estimating distances, so take that with a giant grain of salt 🙂 .

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Bob-Bob and Deb-Deb

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Teeny tiny windows?

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View of the port from the walls

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We started to head back to our apartment and hit up some shops on the way back.  We found a great shop that had a really informative owner.  I ended up getting some olive oil, honey (Rhodes is apparently known for honey and all of the varieties they had were produced on the island.  There is also a bee museum near Pastida Village) and olives.  They also had a large variety of ouzo and the owner showed us a unique-to-Rhodes type of ouzo, black ouzo.  I am not a huge fan of the licoricey clear ouzo, but this kind had a delicious coffee taste.  Bob made a great suggestion that this would be good in our morning frappes!  We didn’t end up buying any here though and regretted it for the rest of the trip.  When we asked for it in Santorini and Athens, we were met with blank stares so this is really only found in Rhodes.  If you find some, buy it!

We decided to go to Marco Polo for dinner (which coincidentally, was the “nearest” restaurant that we were being led to the night before).  Marco Polo had a great atmosphere (the roof terrace is really beautiful) and serves fresh seafood as well as more typically Greek foods like lamb, pistachios, etc.  We had a really great time here and would absolutely recommend it.  In fact, we kept saying between Dinoris and here, this was hands down our best eating day of the trip.  Both of these places are must-do’s in Rhodes!

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Spinach salad with cheese, pomegranate, orange and lemon dressing
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Lamb with red wine sauce and potatoes
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Some kind of fish that I don’t remember and wilted greens
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Pistachio crusted lamb skewers with quinoa.  These were amazing and we basically fought over the last bites.
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Some desserts?  A flan type thing, tiramisu and pistachio ice cream, if memory serves.

Debbie and I did a little more shopping after dinner while the guys headed to our favorite convenience store/bar for some beers.  I ended up finding the coolest souvenier for my mom, a Rhodian “rose” necklace.  Rodos means “rose” and this particular shop makes a really cool rose design as a symbol of Rhodes.

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The Rhodes rose
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Old Town at night

Day 3:

On our third day, we decided to rent a car and head to Lindos.  Lindos is another major town on the islands of Rhodes and was one of three major cities on the island to unite (with Ialyssos and Kamiros) and found the city of Rhodes in 408 B.C.  Lindos has an ancient Acropolis site, as well as the popular St. John’s Bay and Lindos Beach.  Our plan was to tour the Acropolis and then have a beach day before heading back early (our flight to leave the next day was at 6 am).   All of the car rental places were located in New Town, so we ventured out of our cozy castle walls in order to find one.  On the way to the rental car we found some breakfast at Eurest, which I would compare to the American Starbucks.  It’s a chain, but the food is generally decent and, most importantly, it was somewhat Greek and not a granola bar.  And they had FRAPPES.

Cheese pie and Spanikopita.

After we scored a rental car, we started on our way to Lindos.  As is expected, most car rental places only carry manuals, so my father-in-law offered to drive (to which my husband was eternally grateful).  No more Italy Round 2 for this guy.  We did have a minor mishap with stalling out while slowly drifting into a traffic circle…with oncoming traffic…and I was on the driver side…but otherwise, our trip was thankfully uneventful.

The drive took us about an hour, when we got to the Acropolis (around 10:00), the place was pretty swarmed with tour busses.  We expected it to be somewhat crowded, but were still overwhelmed/surprised by the number and the already forming lines.  If I were to do this again, I would certainly try to get up earlier and beat the crowds.  We spent a lot of time in line, and “line” is along the side of a cliff, so not really a place you want to spend time in a bumping, closely quartered crowd.  BUT! We eventually made it into the Acropolis and were rewarded with even more amazing views!  The columns here were beautiful and the signs gave a lot of good information.  We also got to see the beaches and St. John’s Bay from high above.

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On the climb up to the Acropolis.  The hike up was no joke!
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Doric temple of Athena Lindia

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View from the highest point
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Beautiful St. John’s Bay

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We started to make our way back down the hill (we took the “other” way down to avoid the ever-growing crowd) and spotted a few of the infamous Greek donkeys giving rides.  At the beach, we found a couple chairs (which ran us €10/2 chairs) and sat down to relax.  The rest of the afternoon was spent in the water, fanning ourselves in the loungers, having a few beers, and grabbing lunch from one of the beachfront restaurants.

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Donkey!
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On the climb down, Lindos Beach
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View of the Acropolis from the beach

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Fish, potatoes, salad and a beer for 10 euros, can’t beat it
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We had Greek salad multiple times per day, couldn’t get enough.
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Veggie pizza
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Our view for the afternoon

 

We left there around 4:00pm and headed back to return our rental.  After we dropped the car off, we headed to Tamam.  Tamam is a highly rated Rhodes restaurant located in New Town.  Almost every travel site, blog, travel book, etc. that I read in preparation for our trip mentioned Tamam, so this was a must-do.  Tamam is a family-owned and run restaurant, described as “modern” Greek cuisine.  This was another top meal for us in Rhodes (The food on this trip was so hard to rank!  I feel like I’m gushing about every place that we’ve been to, but really.  They were all so good.).

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Bread with butter and caper olive oil
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Eggplant rolls
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Lamb shank with spinach and tomato pasta.  The sauce was so delicious and the owner actually came out with an extra bowl of it for me when he saw me scraping around to get more of it off my plate!
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Pasta with tomatoes and slow roasted beef
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Lamb shank with plums and apricots (this was the owner’s recommendation, delicious!)
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Ouzo shots.  With pomegranate arils, bc we are fancy people
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Dessert, not even sure what this was.  Everyone got the dessert and ouzo shots automatically.

After dinner we went back to our apartment and pack, to get ready for our 4:00am wake up call for the next day :O

Rhodes isn’t a place that was on my personal list of Greek islands to visit, mostly because I hadn’t heard of it, but we were so thrilled with our time here.  Rhodes is also very CHEAP, especially when compared to the other islands like Mykonos or Santorini. It really is a hidden gem and I think 2.5 days was the perfect amount of time to spend here.  I’ve been singing its praises to everyone I know since we got back and really think it would make an amazing addition to anyone’s Greek itinerary!

 

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

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