My trip to Greece was my first visit to Europe, and I couldn’t have had a more amazing time. I went with my Big P hat Greek family to Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Syros, Thessaloniki Patras and Kalavitra. Luckily, my mother-in-law speaks Greek and was able to guide us through the country. It also helps that her and my two sisters-in-law have been to Greece many times, so my hubby and I didn’t have to worry about where to go, how to get there, or how to speak the language, making it pretty easy for us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. It does take around 10 hours to get from JFK to Athens and I recommend getting plenty of sleep on the plane (don’t get distracted by all the movies on the plane like I did, I think I watched five *fail*). When we landed it was 9 in the morning, and I had been up since 3 am when we left to go to the airport in San Francisco. Like zombies, we walked around the airport and tried to find wifi to figure out how to get to our hotel. (It didn’t help that there were protests on the street that day which prevented us from being able to take several modes of transportation.) We finally decided to stay at the hotel that the girls had stayed in when they went to Greece for their school trip.
The first two days of our trip we spent in Athens. We decided to take a bus to the Ilissos Hotel, which is fairly close to the Acropolis. I remember looking out the bus window and being in awe that I was finally in Greece. I struggled to keep my eyes open, but I tried my best to take it all in. For some reason, the bus wouldn’t take us all the way to the hotel, (probably cause of the protests) so we decided to walk to the hotel, which was, oh, roughly 2 miles. Picture it, we all have 2 pieces of carry-on luggage, we hardly slept, and it’s about 90 degrees out. Our suitcase wheels wobbled all over the cobblestone sidewalks, and I remember praying that none of our wheels would break off. We passed by the Olympic Stadium in Athens and took pictures. By this time my shirt was rapidly filling with sweat. We made our way to the hotel,completely exhausted. We enter the hotel and the lady hands us some kind of orange juice filled with sugar. I was like for real, we need water. But apparently OJ is just as thirst quenching as water, who knew. I later learned that this hotel was probably one of the nicest ones we stayed in. I didn’t think so at the time, since it was my first ever hotel in Europe. But now, I can tell you that this was a pretty nice hotel and I would recommend it if you are staying in Athens and want to visit the shops and the Acropolis. The rooms were nice and it actually had a little separate area for a shower, which you come to really appreciate in hotels in Europe. If you take the metro, you should get to the Acropolis in 10 minutes, but we decided to walk, so it took around 25 minutes to get there (and it’s pretty much all up hill so I recommend wearing your tennies). If you decide to walk, you will get to see more of the locals in action, sitting at Cafe shops, cigarette in one hand and coffee in the other, old Papous gambling and drinking wine, and all the myriads of shops. Since we decided to nap when we got to the hotel, we didn’t get to the Acropolis until night time, but we still got some gorgeous shots.
After we spent the next full day at the Acropolis and shops, we left the next morning to the ferry. (It was interesting fitting five people and their luggage in a small taxi, but we made it work). I believe the slow ferry took us around 5 hours to get to Mykonos. Since we went in the end of October, there weren’t very many people there. Sometimes it was eerily quiet as we walked through the empty streets were the shops were located. I hear that this is much more happening in the summer time and is known as the party island, but for us it was kind of nice to explore the island without bumping into hundereds of tourists. We actually took some of the most beautiful pictures on this island. Damianos, the hotel we stayed at was really cute and very affordable. The rooms were nice and it had a pool and jacuzzi. The mother and son who owned it were friendly and helpful and told us how to get places and would find out what times the ferry was leaving the next day.
The plan after staying a night at Mykonos (we decided to just spend one night there since there wasn’t a whole lot to do on the island) was to head to Santorini. When we asked the ticket agents for a ticket there, they said that no ferries were going to Santorini that day, and the closest island to there would be Syros. So we decided to take the 3 hour or so ferry ride to Syros. Syros doesn’t look like your typical Greek island filled with tourists and blue and white buildings. It’s the only island that has a court room and many locals live there. Since we weren’t really planning a trip to Syros, we didn’t want to pay a lot for a hotel room, so we stayed in a hostel type place. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty ghetto. The bathroom consisted of a sink, a toilet and a faucet for showering. So pretty much any time you took a shower you would be sprinkling the toilet seat. It was crazy. The people who owned the hostel were pretty nice and seemed like they were clean people. This hostel/hotel was called Archontariki, and it’s a five minute walk from the ferry. Very affordable, clean and perfect for getting stranded on an island you didn’t intend to get stranded on. What was nice about the hotel was that when you walk upstairs, it has one bathroom in the hall, and two bedrooms. We decided to rent both rooms so we got the whole building to ourselves. Xander and I stayed in a room that had three beds, and the girls stayed in a room that had up to five beds I believe. We left our room to explore the island and found a place for dinner. The next day we took a bus up to the church and took pictures there. Even though it was unplanned, we made the most of it and took some great pictures.
After what seemed like being on the ferry for 20 hours of our life, we finally made it to Santorini, probably the most famous island in Greece. After my mother-in-law haggled with some of the locals who tried to sell us hotel rooms for like 150 Euro, we finally called a hotel that my friend had recommended to me and got a hold of the owner who would sell us a room for 40 euro a night. He sent a taxi bus for us and after going up a pretty steep mountain, we arrived at our adorable hotel room with an unbelievable view. It was the best hotel room we stayed at yet, simply because of how beautiful our view was. That night we walked to a restaurant that was 5 minutes away and ordered some Greek chicken, salad and rice. The next day we went to the red beach, which is one of the most famous beaches in Santorini. It has black and red volcanic pebbles with hot water. My sister-in- law and my hubby went in the water for a little bit, but only about waist deep. We then went to the black beach, got some ice cream at the shop across the street, then went to Amoudi Bay just before it started to rain. This was one of my favorite places to go in Santorini. Again, since it was October, the weather wasn’t perfect, but we got some beautiful shots regardless.
View from our hotel room
We decided to drive 5 hours up north to visit Thessaloniki, where some of of my husband’s relatives lived. We arrived pretty late and stayed at the hotel Egnatia which, thankfully didn’t have the ghetto shower/toilet combo. We walked around the city that night with Alexander’s cousin Prodromos, who he hadn’t seen in 20 + years. I don’t remember too much of that walk, except that I was pretty tired. So the next morning, after our complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we went for another walk in Thessaloniki and took some cute pictures by the ginormous Greek flag and the White Tower. We spent the rest of our time in Thessaloniki walking around downtown, then later that day we drove about a half an hour to a cute little village in Flogita.
After this we spent the next couple days visiting relatives in Patras and Kalavitra. These cities were very authentic Greece. No tourists were to be found. Just old Yaiyais with their shawls, putting their wet laundry out to dry, and gorgeous scenery. The hotel we stayed at in Patras is called Hotel Poseidon, and it was really nice. They have a pool that overlooks the ocean (unfortunately it was too cold when we went there so we couldn’t take advantage). Here are some pics from our trip to see family: