Athens >>> Fira (Santorini)
11/12 – Visited The Acropolis, The Parthenon, and The Acropolis Museum
11/13 – Leave Athens and Fly to Santorini
11/14 – Explore Fira and Grocery Extravaganza!
11/15 – Relax in our Villa Suite and Lots of Research and Planning
11/16 – Hike from Fira to Oia and Watch Sunset.
11/17 – Rent a car and explore all of Santorini with Josh and Kara
11/18 – Lounge around Milo’s Villas and Enjoy the Views
Visit The Acropolis, The Parthenon, and The Acropolis Museum
+ Since we’d done the complete walking tour through town yesterday, today we were going to hit up all the big sights!
+ We started the day off by heading to a gyro spot called O Kostas we’d popped into the day before which looked great, but had been all sold out of everything and invited us back today. With the line out the door (mostly made up of locals), we knew it would be good, and it definitely lived up to it’s reputation. Even though they were just pork and chicken gyros, they were very tasty and the tzaziki sauce was amazing!
+ Then we headed to the world famous Acropolis! This was the birthplace of so many things that made up Greece history and much of Western Society. Acropolis is actually just the name of the hill. On top of this “raised city” is a small temple to Athena Nike, the Erechtheion, and of course the Parthenon.
+ Before we climbed up the Acropolis, we scrambled up Areopagus Hill which was where Apostle Paul gave his sermons and converted the Athens people to Christinanity! It was really neat to be visiting places we’d read about since we were children!
+ After buying tickets and walking up the giant hill of the Acropolis, we found ourselves at the extravagant entrance gates and giant marble steps. This area also had two famous sites called the Ruins of the Propylaia and the Athena Temple of Nike. This same path had welcomed millions of Greeks and visitors from around the world for centuries and it already felt a bit magical.
+ Once we walked through those, we were met by the most famous attraction of all, the Parthenon! It was quite the sight to behold, despite all the reconstructive work and scaffolding the covered almost half of it.
+ During our visit, we were listening to another Rick Steves tour and so for the next 90 minutes or so, we wandered around the area looking at all the old ruins and learning all about the important history that shaped Athens and Greece into what it is today. One particularly interesting area was the Erechtheion which featured about 5 different lady pillars. There used to be more but many were destroyed and some now housed in the nearby museum and one is even in the British Museum in London!
+ It’s crazy to really think about how old these buildings are! especially when you compare them to other sites we have seen on this trip that are considered very old. For example, the parthenon was built 2462 years ago! The Colloseum in Rome is 1936 years old! That means the parthenon was built 526 years BEFORE the Colloseum! Kuelap ruins in Peru were built only 1515 to 1416 years ago and Machu Picchu is even newer! Machu Picchu ruins were built only 566 years ago!
+ After we had our fill of the sites (and the distant storm clouds were getting closer), we descended the hill and made our way towards the Acropolis museum. Before diving into that collection of history, we fueled up with a visit to a Greek restaurant we’d tagged on the map called Smile. Our choices were a greek salad, and greek frappe for Liz and a Fried cheese specialty for Corey called saganaki cheese. Yummy!
+ While walking there, we passed a marching band that was entertaining all the crowds and paused there for a few minutes to take in the scene. Then we made our way to the museum.
+ The museum was very impressive and, since it was only a few years old, offered all sorts of unique and modern displays that you don’t always find at some of the older museums we’ve visited. Liz’s highlight was seeing the original lady pillars, not the plaster replicas that are on the site now.
+ After about 2 hours wandering the hallways looking at different structures and ruins that came from the Parthenon just a few hundred feet away, we exited into the darkness and went in search of a restaurant for dinner.
+ We decided on a quirky little place called Sfika that had funny decorations all over the walls. Corey got a sausage/pork/peppers medley, Liz got feta cheese in filo pastry drizzled with honey and sesame seeds with a freddo cappuccino. (She was really trying hard to check off each of the Greek coffee specialties on this trip!)
+ The owner, waitress, and chef were all extremely friendly and enjoyed recommending dishes for us to try. They even brought us a small piece of cake on the house for dessert! It was called Halva and had the same texture as very moist couscous once you bit into it. The texture made it a little strange but still delicious!
+ Walked back to hostel and stayed up super late doing research on upcoming destinations and also Skyping with Coreys’ distant 2nd counsin (whom he’d never previously met or talked to in his whole life!) about visiting her in Israel. She had been suggesting we visit her for months now. It was going to be fun to visit a new area of the world as well as meet a new relative who could show us around!
Leave Athens and Fly to Santorini
+ Our flight from Athens to the Greek island Santorini was in the early afternoon so we didn’t have a ton of time to hang out. This was combined with the fact that we would be flying carry on only and storing our big backpacks at the Holiday Inn near the airport. So that meant we had to get out everything we’d need for the next 6 days and put them into small carry on bags for the plane.
+ With that finished, we grabbed all of our stuff (now it looked like we had a TON of stuff with our big bags, small backpacks, and an extra carry on size bag in hand) and walked through town towards the metro station. After a quick stop for some gyro’s, we kept on trekking.
+ Of course by now you know our luck with these metro trains and after we’d descended 3 stories on escalators and made our way to the correct platform, it was just in time to see the train we needed pull away. No problem, we’re sure the next one would be in 5 minutes or so, right? Wrong! 30 minutes. Which would jeopardize our chances of making it to the flight on time.
+ Because of the time crunch, we had to ride a different metro to one station and switch onto an overland train to the airport where we were trying to get the free Holiday Inn shuttle to their hotel. Our luck continued as we arrived a minute or so after the free shuttle left and ended up having to pay another 9 Euros to catch a public bus to the hotel. Then we dropped off our bags for storage until our return on the 19th, and managed to catch the shuttle back to the airport and make it through security to our gate on time. Whew! We were already exhausted and we hadn’t even gotten to Santorini yet!
+ Even though it added a lot of extra work to go to the hotel first to drop our bags, this would allow us to store our bags for free (saving about $50) and not pay for checked bags on the flight (saving another $68)!
+ Luckily the rest of the day proved to be much more stress free as the flight went off with no problems and the bus we needed from the Santorini airport to the town of Fira we’d be staying in was easy to find and cheap to ride.
+ From the station, our hotel, Milos Villas, was about a 20 minute walk downhill and when we got there and checked in, the friendly owner, Gabriel, surprised us with an upgrade to one of their suites! He said since we’d be staying for so many nights (and obviously because it was off-season and everything was so dead), he was upgrading us for free! The room was much larger and nicer than the one we’d booked and we were really excited to have this place to call home here in Santorini!
+ Not wanting to walk back up the hill into town, we ordered some food from a local Greek restaurant the owner recommended to get delivered. Corey got Mousaka and Liz ordered Pastitsio and we split an appetizer called Fava which was a type of yellow split pea puree. All were delicious!
+ Then we hung out in our room and played around online until it was time for sleep.
Explore Fira and Grocery Extravaganza!
+ The place we were staying at offered free breakfast which we were excited about because not only was it free food (always a plus), but it would be a great way to ensure we got up at a reasonable time everyday and enjoying the island! So we ate breakfast upstairs in the nice big dining room which had lots of windows overlooking the rest of the island.
+ Back in the room, Corey took a nap while Liz worked on the blog.
+ When he awoke, we walked all around Fira exploring the different restaurants and shops. Ate gyros for lunch at a recommended “cheap eats” place called Lucky’s. Food was good but worst service we’ve had in Greece so far.
+ We needed some supplies for our 6 day stay so we went to 2 different grocery stores. One was recommended by the hotel but ended up being much more than a “5 minute walk”. Afterwards we had to carry all the heavy bags back to the apartment which was about a 30 minute walk!
+ Ate pasta for dinner at the kitchen table and watched YouTube videos. We had to cook the pasta in salt water because that is what was in all the taps here on the island. The water goes throw a desalination plant but it still tastes of salt. Even when we took showers later that night the water was salty and almost gave you the feeling that you were sweating while showering! Weird!
+ We’d also stopped into a bakery earlier in the day and picked up some pastries for dessert. They were some unique Greek delicacies we’d never tried and were really good!
+ Without a sponge to scrub with, we ended up cleaning all the dishes with our hands! Then we relaxed and watched some shows to end the night.
Relax in our Villa Suite and Lots of Research and Planning
+ Today would be another day spent hanging out in our villa and doing lots of research and planning. We knew we’d be in Santorini until the 19th and then Athens for a night, but we didn’t know what to do from there. With a few different destinations possible including other places in Greece and other countries afterwards, we had to make some tough decisions and also take into account the cost of flights to travel as cheaply as possible.
+ We did venture out into town to get some lunch and soak up some sunshine during the 20 minute walk each way. We ended up eating some more Gyros (we just can’t get enough!) while sitting on swings which was nice.
+ Back in our room, we were able to make a good amount of progress with some things, but got frustratingly stuck on a few others. In the end, we decided to wait on some stuff and address it again in the morning after some sleep.
+ The owner of the hotel had also recommended an Italian restaurant to us so for dinner we decided to order a pizza from there. Then we ate the surprisingly tasty pizza and watched some fun videos to get us in a better mood before bed.
Hike from Fira to Oia and Watch Sunset. Hang out with Josh and Kara
+ We forced ourselves out of bed in time to make it to breakfast and then headed back to the room. Since we were both tired, we knew we had to do something active to stay awake so we headed out to explore the island!
+ With the great weather, we decided to do the popular hike from our town of Fira to the northwestern town of Oia. This route was on all the “Must-Do” lists, and for good reason. The hike took about 3.5 hours and along the way we passed through the famous white washed towns and walked along cliffs overlooking the sparkling blue water of the Aegean sea. We probably could’ve walked it in almost half the time if we didn’t stop to take so many pictures! But wandering through the little alleyways of the different towns and looking at all the fancy places to stay was really fun! Also, with 95% of the properties empty and the pools drained, it made for a very secluded and private experience compared to the hoards of people and noise we would have been faced with just a couple of months earlier. Maybe we’d vacation here again in the future and splurge on one of these resort style rooms with infinity pools!
+ While walking, we passed pack of 3 funny looking dogs that were just trotting down the path coming towards us. Occasionally one would climb up on the ledge and look out over the water and the other ones would stop and wait for it to climb back down before continuing on. They were just like us tourists, lol! We also passed a few donkeys ambling down the mountain as their riders lazily sat side saddle. With so little tourists here the donkeys didnt have many people to carry up and down the hills!
+ When we made it to Oia, we looked around at some of the little shops and worked our way out to the Byzantine Castle ruins to catch the sunset. This was the most popular spot on the island and even now in the off-season it was filled with tourists all trying to find the spot with the best view. While it was still pretty, the sky was too cloudy to provide a great sunset a lot of people left once it fell behind the wall of clouds.
+ Since we’d already missed the 5 pm bus, we had a little over an hour to kill so we got some delicious Gyros from a nice restaurant near the bus station which might’ve been the best we’d had in all of Greece so far, or maybe it was just because they were so warm and it was freezing cold outside!
+ We also went window shopping at all the little stores and went into a really cool bookshop called Atlantis Books that had unique quotes decorating the walls. They also had a bunch of original copies of first editions of famous books that were on sale for thousands of Euros!
+ On the bus back to Fira, we started talking to the people next to us named Josh and Kara. They were really friendly and we all decided to get some food and drinks and hang out for the rest of the night. Since their apartment rental was closer to town, we went there and hung out laughing and talking until almost midnight!
+ Although we were both tired and wanted to just sleep, we had some work to do so for an hour or two we stayed up and managed to book a return flight from Mykonos and our flight to our next destination: Tel Aviv!
Rent a car and explore Santorini Island with Josh and Kara
+ We met up with our friends Josh and Kara in the morning at their place, and then walked around looking for a car rental company to use. We settled on a place called Jimmy’s and after a little negotiating we ended up getting a little Toyota Yaris for 30 euros a day, which wasn’t bad at all when you split it between the 4 of us.
+ From there, we took off to explore the island! We headed south first to Kamari beach which was located on the southeastern corner of the island. After about 20 minutes or so we arrived and walked down to see the black sand (more like black rocks) and dip our toes in the chilly water. While it was too cold for us and Kara, Josh proved to be a bit braver and went in for a swim. Then he walked up the cliff a bit to the ledge where people jumped from and dove on in!
+ After he stood in the sun for a while to warm up, we walked through the little town of Kamari to check it out, but pretty much everything was closed.
+ Our next destination was Ancient Thira which was high up on top of the mountain. So after many winding switchbacks and a short hike, we reached the very windy top! We thought about paying to go in and explore the ancient site, but with limited time and the chilly wind, we decided to keep moving.
+ We then drove back down and all the way around the mountain to get to the next city, Perissa. This place was more touristy than Kamari but we still found 90% of everything to be closed, including all the restaurants our friends had recommended. While there are benefits of visiting in the off-season, this was one of the more frustrating drawbacks.
+ Lunch was at a small shop that sold Gyros and we all got a few to satisfy our appetite before getting back in the car and driving along the black sand Perissa beach. With nothing to hold our attention, we headed west towards Red Sand Beach.
+ When we arrived at the parking lot, we were greeted by a really cool church built into the side of the mountain which we took pictures of. Then we walked around to view the popular red cliffs. They were pretty neat looking and spilled out into the water which itself consisted of a few different colors and looked appealing. Normally this area is packed with sunbathers and even has a boat to shuttle you to other beaches, but today the 4 of us made up about half the people visiting this remote section of the island.
+ With the sun setting so early now, we had to hurry on over to the most western point of the island to catch the sunset!
+ We parked at the Akrotiri lighthouse and then climbed up a nearby hill to get an excellent view of the sun setting behind the lighthouse. Much better than the sunset yesterday since it wasn’t blocked by a wall of clouds!
+ From there we all headed back towards Fira and after a quick grocery stop, we split ways and headed back to our respective apartments.
+ Since we still weren’t hungry yet, we hung out at our place for a bit before taking advantage of the 24hr car rental to drive towards a different part of town to get some dinner. We ended up choosing the first place we stopped at because the guy was so nice and welcoming.
+ That proved to be a great choice because we met a really nice older couple who were from Canada and taking a 5 week vacation around Europe. After talking a bit we discovered we were both using the Trusted HouseSitters website and how much we each loved it! They were really friendly and hopefully we would get a chance to meet up and have some drinks before we left the island.
+ Corey ordered a lamb dish with potatoes and feta cheese all cooked in the over until the lamb was falling off the bone. Liz ordered another greek speciality, stuffed pepper and tomato. Both were stuffed with rice and it came with potatoes and carrots. Yum! The owner even brought us some complimentary Halva for dessert! (Halva is the couscous-like cake, remember?)
+ The rest of the night consisted of booking our stay for Mykonos and then relaxing with a bottle of wine to watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which seemed appropriate for our location.
Lounge around Milo’s Villas and Enjoy the views
+ Today we were planning to relax in our suite and enjoy the tranquility that this beautiful Greek island offers during the low season.
+ Since it was much warmer today, we would take advantage of the sunshine and sit outside on our private terrace and maybe even lounge by the pool!
+ After enjoying another yummy breakfast all by ourselves (were we the only guests now?), we headed back to the room. Liz took a nap while Corey went to return the car now that our 24 hours were up.
+ In the afternoon, we sat outside working on our devices and listening to all the birds chirping. The overlook we had out towards the Aegean sea with all of the speckled blue and white buildings was gorgeous! We were trying to drink it all in and remember to be thankful for the incredible opportunity we were getting the chance to experience.
+ For lunch, we went gourmet and cooked some hot dogs! Yes, we were still budget backpacking despite the posh room we were staying in! Lol.
+ We continued working on the computer until around 7 when Josh and Kara came over with some wine to hang out.
+ Then we ordered some pizza from Tabasco and hung out in the front lounge of Milos Villas eating and drinking for a few hours. They were really fun people and hopefully we’ll meet up again in the states!
+ After they left to head back to their apartment, we went back to our room and relaxed on the couch watching 5 episodes of a new show we’d been recommended called Community. Pretty funny!