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This is the last of my Europe recaps. Sadly, we had to come home at some point! If you missed my previous recaps check them out here:
After mainland Greece, Tom and I headed off to the island of Mykonos. After a busy trip, ending with some relaxation on the Greek Islands was definitely the way to go. When our ferry pulled up to Mykonos, I was a little surprised. Compared to the lush mainland, the island of Mykonos is quite barren and desert like. However, the town is absolutely gorgeous. The white houses with blue trim is striking! We pulled up to our apartment we were staying at and I thought I might never leave.
Our apartment actually seemed to be a very popular picture spot. I think Tom & I ended up in a lot of tourists photos as we were coming and going.
Mykonos is well-known for 2 things…beaches and partying. Check and check!
I even found a Sephora in the small town of Mykonos, that’s when I officially decided I could move there.
Mykonos also had some gorgeous sites like the windmills & “little venice”
After two days in Mykonos we moved onto the island of Santorini. Santorini has been my dream place to visit for as long as I can remember. I was not disappointed!
The first night we got there we had a sunset dinner right along the Caldera overlooking the volcano. The view was outstanding the food however was meh. In Santorini you either have good food or food with a view.
The next morning we got up bright and early so we could hike from the town of Fira, where we stayed, to Oia. The hike took a little over 2 hours and was beautiful. You get incredible views the entire time and get to see some great little churches along the way. The island of Santorini has over 250 churches with many of them built in the most difficult to reach places – up steep hills, in the middle of cliffs, etc. No matter where you go, you are never far from a church.
Once we reached Oia, my dreams of Santorini came true. This is the most beautiful town imaginable.
After Tom dragged me away from Oia and my paparazzi picture taking, we headed back to Fira where we took a tour to the volcano. We learnt about the volcanic history of Santorini and the formation of the Caldera. Afterwards we went to a natural hot springs formed from the volcano. It’s in the middle of the sea and the hot spring water mixes with the sea water so there are pockets of hot and cold. It is full of sulfur from the volcano, it didn’t smell but the water was brown.
After our tour, we decided to opt out of the roughly 600 steps to get back up to the town and went for an old-fashioned donkey ride. The donkeys just do their own thing. They stop when they feel like it and then they will take off and try to pass the other donkeys. You just hold on for the ride.
That night we checked out a local bar called Two Brothers. We stumbled upon it and ended up having the best time. It was a tiny bar but by the end of the night the place got packed. They had some interesting specialty drinks including one where you took a shot of ouzo while wearing a helmet and the bartender would whack your head with a bat. Sound like a good idea? I didn’t think so either, but Tom did! Boys…
The next day we rented an ATV to cruise around the island and check out the sites.
We drove around looking at smaller towns, the light house and then headed for the beach. Santorini has a red sand beach and a black sand beach. They are both really unique. We didn’t stay long at Red Beach, it’s really beautiful but it’s pretty small and didn’t have much to offer. We spent our day relaxing at the black beach of Perissa.
After a day of beaching we went to Santo Winery for some wine tasting. We got the most incredible wine tasting that included a flight of 12 wines with some delicious local snacks. The winery was gorgeous with incredible views. Sipping on 12 wines while overlooking the sea wasn’t too shabby. Even better, Tom had to drive the ATV so more wine for me!
That night we drove to Oia for the famous sunset. Tom wasn’t too interested in going because we heard the crowds were pretty big and he figured the sunset would be the same as we saw in Fira. But I insisted we go and see, otherwise I would always wonder if I missed out on something. So was it worth it?
It was gorgeous. Although, truthfully the crowds do take away from the experience. I really tried to embrace the experience though, I took a few pictures then I just put down my camera, blocked out the crowds and truly enjoyed the experience. I found it the perfect end to our holiday. I sat there thinking about our trip and was so grateful for my life and the opportunity to travel and see these gorgeous places.
The next morning we were hopping a flight from Santorini to Athens, Athens to London, and then finally London to Calgary. We got home around 8 p.m. which was 5 a.m. Athens time. We got a little bit of sleep before we both headed off for work the next morning. Ugh, worst decision ever. I was a complete zombie the first day back at work.
Overall, the greek islands live up to the fame and hype. They are simply incredible. If you have ever thought about going there, make it a priority. If you have never thought about going, start thinking about it now!
If you have any questions about my trip or are planning a trip of your own and want some advice – feel free to ask!
I have two more Europe Recaps for you. I know some people are thinking thank goodness, I am so sick of this girl’s vacation! But I hope some other people are sad and wanting to see more pretty pictures because I have a bunch in store for you today!
If you missed my previous Europe Reaps check them out:
For mainland Greece Tom and I decided to book a bus tour. Greece is not nearly as easy to get around by trains. With my less than stellar navigating skills, driving can become stressful very quickly. So in order to save our vacation and marriage we opted for the bus. The great thing about the bus trip was that we had a guide. I highly recommend this if you are going to be visiting ancient Greece. I find that after a while of visiting ruins they start to look alike, having a guide there to explain everything was so worth it.
After leaving Athens our first pit-stop was at the Corinth Canal.
Next stop was the ancient town, Mycenae. This is one of the oldest ancient Greek civilizations dating back to 1600 BC. This place made the Roman Forum look brand new! The ruins that remain there are very minimal except one, the lion gate which was the entrance to the city.
After Mycenae we headed to Epidaurus which has the most well-preserved amphitheatre. This place is 2500 years old and still hosts theatre performances. I wish we had got a chance to see that! The acoustics in this place were incredible. If you were standing at the very top you could hear every word someone talking in a conversation voice was saying on the stage.
The next day we were off to Olympia. I loved this stop. It was so cool to see the origins of the Olympics, which dates back to 776 BC and the museum there was phenomenal.
It was funny to learn that not a whole lot has changed in thousands of years. Athletes learnt that taking certain herbs helped enhance their performance. This was considered cheating and in order to stop this, they had to submit a pee sample. The pee was smelt in order to determine if the athlete had been taking any herbs. If athletes were caught cheating their names were carved in the stone walls that led to the Olympic stadium. These carvings are still there today, talk about the ultimate punishment.
My favourite part of the day was running a lap in the Olympic Stadium. It is one of those life moments that I’ll never forget.
FYI – that is supposed to be me celebrating crossing the finish line, I don’t just run with my hands up in the air…
After our run, Tom and I graciously accepted our place on the podium where victors were crowned with olive wreaths.
On top of that podium used to be a statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. We got a chance to see the statue later in the museum.
The next day we were in Delphi. We started the morning off with an early morning hike. Tom was less than impressed when I said I wanted to set my alarm for 6 am to go hiking. But it was a gorgeous hike through the Greek mountains where we got to overlook the ruins of Delphi, well worth the early morning wake up call.
After the hike we headed off with our group to tour Delphi. Delphi was believed to be the centre of the earth. This is where, in the Temple of Apollo, the oracle was. Greeks would come from all around to ask the oracle questions as it was believed they could speak directly with the gods.
I found being in Delphi such an incredible experience. This is the place of Greek mythology.
Our last day on the bus trip we headed way north to Meteora. Meteora means suspended in air which is entirely fitting for a place where monasteries are built on the top of sandstone pillars. This area of Greece is absolutely beautiful and then the monasteries just make it incredible.
There were 24 monasteries but today only 6 remain. In this picture, you can see 4 of them.
We visited 2 of the monasteries, where I was given a very fashionalble skirt to wear.
You couldn’t take pictures in the monasteries but these are still functioning places of worship where nuns and monks live.
After Meteora we took a very LONG bus ride back to Athens. We stayed at the port because we had a early morning ferry the next day.
Overall, I loved seeing mainland Greece. I think a lot of tourists skip over this part and go straight to the islands which I think is a big mistake. While the tour did involve a lot of driving, seeing these ancient sites was incredible. It’s so humbling to think of how old these places are and the civilizations that came before you.
Tomorrow I’ll share my final recap of the Greek Islands, which are incredibly beautiful so you don’t want to miss that recap!
Hello and Happy Monday. I don’t know what happened on Friday but my scheduled post didn’t go out. So here it is today! I’m continuing with my European recaps. If you missed my previous ones check them out:
The morning we were leaving the Cinque Terre we had to take a train to Le Spezzia in order to catch our train which we had a reservation to in Rome. Unfortunately, Italy tends to run on their own time. And we heard the first announcement that our train was 10 minutes delayed, then 15 minutes delayed. Tom and I started panicking because we only had about 12 minutes between the time we were supposed to arrive to the time our Rome train departed. Once we arrived in La Spezzia we ran with our backpacks on – Amazing Race style – to see if we could make our train. Luckily, like I said, Italy runs on their own time and that train was also delayed.
When we got to Rome we headed right out to do some sightseeing. We started at the Roman Forum, which is incredible. This was the centre of the roman empire for so long. It’s kind of humbling standing in a place that’s thousands of years old.
After the forum, we headed to the Trevi Fountain where we threw in coins as our promise to return to Rome. It worked for me last time! I returned 5 years later…with the same hairdo…embarrassing.
Next up…the spanish steps. Holy tourists! There were just so many people here and truly I didn’t see the appeal but still took the obligatory picture.
The next day we started out early as we had booked a tour for the Vatican that started before the Vatican opened to the public. I have been to the Vatican before but last time I felt like I just walked through and saw some pretty art but didn’t understand. Booking the tour was SOOO worth it, it was incredibly interesting.
After the Vatican we headed to the Pantheon…not to be confused with the Parthenon like Tom did. Wrong country!
Next we headed to the Leonardo DaVinci museum where we got to see the brilliance of Da Vinci. His inventions and knowledge in so many different fields is just unreal. Did you know he was the person to invent the 360 mirror…What Not To Wear has him to thank. Of course, I had to take a turn in the mirror…is my outfit working for me?
Next it was time to head to the iconic Colosseum.
We returned to the Colosseum again at night because it’s just truly magical at night. I spent some time pondering the magnitude of the building.
After Rome it was time to say goodbye to Italy. I was definitely sad about this. Of course I was looking forward to Greece but Italy is just such an amazing country. I love the cities, the food, the people and the culture.
We didn’t arrive in Athens until about 2p.m. Our hostel was super easy to find from the train and really close to the Acropolis. Since we were there on a Sunday the Acropolis was free, score! And Tom finally got to see the Parthenon!
We were actually lucky we got this picture. In Greece they are SUPER strict at all museums about picture taking and behaviour. There are workers everywhere and if you try and do any sort of funny poses they make you delete them from your camera.
After the Acropolis we wandered around Athens for a bit then checked out the rooftop bar of our hostel. It had an incredible view of the Acropolis and was the perfect place to watch the sunset.
And of course, no night in Greece would be complete without some shots of Ouzo!
Blech! That stuff is so horrible. That was the only shot I did!
The next day we headed out on our mainland bus tour of Greece and I will tell you all about that in my next recap.
Today I am taking a break from my European Recaps because I have two cool things to talk about.
Do you have any experience with fake nails? Are you ready to take the Happify Challenge?
Last I left off on my recap Tom and I were in Venice. If you missed my first European recap check it out here.
After Venice, we headed off on a train to Florence.
We checked into our hostel and then sat down and planned out what we wanted to do while in Florence. The top of my list was get into the countryside to a vineyard to try some wine.
We found there was a tour going out that day at 5 p.m. so we booked it right away. At the same time we booked our tickets for the next day to go to the Accademia Museum so we could see the statue of David. After a quick lunch we were on a bus and headed into the countryside. Tuscany is absolutely breathtaking. I definitely wish we had time on this trip to spend in the countryside and I think it would be top on my list if I ever get back to Italy. Many of the vineyards have accomodation right at them.
We got to the first vineyard, Casanova. It was a small organic vineyard where they also made olive oil, balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, honey, lotions and grew a variety of herbs. The owner used to be a veterinarian but gave up his practice to live his farming dream. He and everyone who worked there were so incredibly nice and welcoming. They brought us into a tented area that they had all set up for our tasting of wine and food.
I could go on and on about this tasting that they set up. The snacks were amazing, I have never tasted olive oil that was that flavourful. And of course the wine was fantastic. After the tasting we got a chance to wander around the vineyard which had just breathtaking views of the rolling hills of the Chianti region.
We headed to a second vineyard, Panzanello. We got a chance to tour the cellars and learn about some of the processing of the wines.
The wines at both of the vineyards were Chianti Classico’s. We learnt that Chianti classico have very strict regulations. Wines that meet the criteria are labelled with a black rooster. These labels are sent out to the vineyards in limited quantities in order to promote quality wine over quantity. We were really hoping to take some wine home from these vineyards but we didn’t want to carry it around with us for the whole trip in our backpack. Unfortunately Canada’s laws made the cost of shipping home wine astronomical. So we just enjoyed it while we were there.
The next day was sightseeing in Florence. Our first stop was to the Accademia Museum. We arrived there with our email of our confirmation that we had booked online. However, when we got to the desk the guy informed us that we had bought tickets for the Accademia museum in Venice. Two museums with the same name, talk about a tourist trap! Of course they were non-refundable tickets. Luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in to see the statue of David right away without waiting for a different reservation time to the proper museum. I don’t have any pictures of the statue because you weren’t allowed. But wow, just wow. Seeing that statue was just truly phenomenal.
After the museum we headed out to see the Duomo, where we decided to climb the 463 steep and narrow steps to the top of the dome. It was worth it though, you got to see the frescoes of the dome which you can only really appreciate if you do the steps up and then got to see panoramic views of beautiful Florence.
Aftewards we climbed the 414 steps up the bell tower where you get the best view of the Duomo.
Right beside the Duomo I found what I like to call a little slice of heaven….a Lindt chocolate store!
Next up we checked out the San Lorenzo market which is essentially an Italian farmers market. I loved looking around the shops and seeing what types of things locals buy.
That night Tom and I decided to go out for a drink. We found the coolest little cocktail bar. It was so eclectic with the most random stuff on the wall and old school cartoons playing on a projector. The owner was amazing and knew his stuff about alcohol. He made me this incredible spicy peach cocktail. I never knew that combination would be so delicious.
The next day we were off on a train again heading toward the Cinque Terre. But first, we needed to take a stop in Pisa to take some infamous touristy pictures.
I think my favourite picture was this one….an epic fail.
The Cinque Terre is absolutely beautiful. If you ever get to Italy going here is a MUST.
We stayed in the southern most town, Riomaggiore.
All 5 of the towns are easily accessible by a couple minute train ride. There are also multiple hiking trails between cities. You used to be able to walk all 5 towns on a hiking trail along the coast but now only one section of the trail is open. On our first day we checked out the middle town, Corniglia. We started with 382 steps to get into the town (there is also a shuttle bus you can take, but we figured that was for sissies). Of course the town was just beautiful. I loved just wandering around these streets, though I was cursing the hills and steps a lot!
We went in search of a beach that we heard about in the town of Corniglia. There were some signs spray painted on rocks leading the way. We followed the signs and seemed to come to a dead end in residential area so we gave up. When we were leaving Corniglia, the train was going to be another 1.5 hours, so we decided to give this beach a second try. We tried a different direction but ended up in the exact same dead end spot. A local speaking Italian starting saying stuff to us we couldn’t understand. Tom said beach and he said “yes beach” and pointed us the way. He even offered us an umbrella. Turns out you had to walk through this residential looking area to get there. But soon we came across this tunnel. It was a big dark tunnel where you couldn’t see the end of it. There were signs in Italian but basically looked like do not enter signs. Tom and I figured this was a bad sign and were too scared to go through the tunnel so we turned and went back to the train. Later we googled it and this was the entrance to the beach, through an old abandoned railway tunnel. So if you ever make it to Corniglia, that is the way to the beach – my suggestion is to bring a flashlight!
Our second day in Cinque Terre we decided to head out hiking. We did our first hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It was so beautiful. While we were first bummed that the coastal trails weren’t all open I think it actually worked out great because otherwise we wouldn’t have tried the mountain trails which were equally beautiful and way less busy. In fact in our 2.5 hour hike, we didn’t come across a single other person. The hiking in the Cinque Terre was tough! For the first 40 minutes of our hike we were climbing straight uphill, but the scenery was worth every painful moment.
After our mountain hike we took a train to Vernazza so we could do the coastal hike to Monterosso.
The coastal hike was a lot busier with tons of people on the trail but it was still very enjoyable nonetheless. Once we hit Monterosso it was time to relax on the beach! This beach was easy to find. When we got back to our town for the night we decided to sit out on some rocks with some takeout pizza and wine while we watched the sunset. It was the absolute perfect end to our time in the Cinque Terre.
Next up we head to Rome….stay tuned!