Greece & Israel: 11/19 – 11/25

(Greece) Fira >>> Athens >>> Mykonos >>> (Israel) Jerusalem

11/19 – Lounge day at Milo’s Villas then Fly to Athens
11/20 – Fly to Mykonos, Explore Mykonos Town
11/21 – Feasting on the Breakfast Buffet and Gyros, Research and Planning at Starbucks
11/22 – Fun Day Relaxing on our Balcony and Feeding the Neighborhood Cats
11/23 – Fly back to Athens, Relax in Priority Pass Lounge in Airport, Fly to Jerusalem, Israel!
11/24 – Thanksgiving with Corey’s 2nd Cousin Suzanne!
11/25 – Jerusalem Tour with Our Tour Guide Extraordinaire: Suzanne!

11/19
Lounge day at Milo’s Villas then Fly to Athens
+ We didn’t get great sleep because there were some flies that had gotten in our room that kept bothering us. So around 7:30 we woke up and Corey played fly killer for 15 minutes until we’d gotten rid of all 6 or 7 of them. Then we went back to sleep. (P.S. Corey is an expert fly swatter!)
+ Neither one of us was hungry so we decided to sleep through breakfast. Then we hung out in our room and checked in online for our upcoming flights over the next few days.
+ For lunch we had our last 2 hot dogs, leftover food from the dinner 2 nights ago, and then leftover pizza! Yum!
+ We wanted to hang by the pool for a bit and since our hotel was nice enough to allow us a very late checkout, we stayed until almost 5 lounging by the sparkling water in the refreshingly warm air (maybe the warmest of our whole stay!).
+ When we did say our goodbye to probably one of, if not the best places we’ve stayed this whole trip, we made sure to thank the owners for such a wonderful stay!
+ Then we hiked up the big long steep hill all the way into town and to the cliffs to catch sunset. Even though we were on time, the sun was hidden behind another high wall of clouds. But it still made for a beautiful display of purple and orange illuminations! Our last Santorini sunset was a success!
+ With the next bus to the airport not leaving for another 45 minutes, we had to decide on waiting for that and having limited time to get through security or paying 15 euros for a taxi. (instead of less than 4 euros for the bus). We ended up choosing the bus because everyone else at the bus station was going to be on the Ryanair flight as well so we figured we were safe.
+ After a brief Skype call with our friend back home, we rode the bus to the airport and still had plenty of time before departure.
+ It was already dark when we took off so we weren’t able to see the island from up above, but we’d be back in a plane in about 12 hours anyway heading to another Greek island. So we would have our chance then.
+ In the Athens airport we decided to eat dinner since there weren’t any restaurants near the Holiday Inn where we were returning to get our bags and sleep for a few hours before our early flight to Mykonos. (We had used credit card points for this one night stay and it was well worth it to save us the time and money from going all the way into Athens.) Without many budget options, Corey got McDonald’s while Liz chose a more healthy option of a salad from a nearby deli.
+ Then we used the free wifi for a bit before walking outside and hopping on the free Holiday Inn shuttle bus.
+ The evening flew by of course as we showered, repacked our carry on bags, watched the FSU vs. Syracuse game, and made sure we were all set for Mykonos. Before we knew it, it was almost 3 am and we got only a couple hours of sleep.

11/20
Fly to Mykonos, Explore Mykonos Town
+ Got up at 5 am to check out and catch shuttle to airport. We were very tired but the free breakfast cake and excitement of visiting Mykonos kept us awake. Got through Athens airport security and hung out at the gate waiting for the flight.
+ Had great views of the sun illuminating Athens and all the islands during our 30 minute flight.
+ Landed in Mykonos, caught taxi to Mykonos town. Our driver was very friendly and didn’t try to gouge the price too much.
+ Checked into our hotel and were given a free upgrade to a superior room on the 3rd (top) floor with a balcony and great views of the harbor and sea!
+ After some confusion and initially being denied breakfast, we explained our checkout will be very early in a few days and were granted the free breakfast buffet!
+ Went back to the room afterwards where Corey passed out in a food coma and Liz worked on the blog. She was too wired from her multiple cups of coffee!
+ In the afternoon we went wandering through Mykonos checking out all of the closed shops and restaurants. Then we browsed around the harbour where a few pricey restaurants were actually still open.
+ Mykonos tourist season was already finished (instead of still trickling down like Santorini) so all the public buses to the other areas of the island and basically ALL of the shops of Mykonos Town itself were shut down! During the summer, Mykonos Town is alive and humming with energy everyday and even long into the night. How odd that the same city can be completed dead and closed up just a few months later!
+ Eventually we found one of the only cheap restaurants open in the whole city called Kalammmakia and ordered some yummy gyros! There were not many people around to people watch so instead we cat-watched! The cat across the street would come over to us begging for food but than run back over across the street to defend his territory from other cats all while acrobatically jumping from the roof to cars and back again!
+ Explored different alleyways of Mykonos Townagain on the way back to our hotel.
+ Hung out and did work for a bit but we were really frustrated by the poor and inconsistent internet.
+ Eventually gave up and watched the movie Dr. Strange.
+ Didn’t want to venture out again for dinner so we ordered food from Kalammmakia again for delivery! When you get delivery it’s even cheaper than eating in the restaurant because they don’t charge you extra for using their facility. Kinda makes sense.
+ Ate our scrumptious Greek meal and then watched the movie Now You See Me 2 before bed.

11/21
Feasting on the Breakfast Buffet and Gyros, Research and Planning at Starbucks
+ Had the delicious buffet breakfast again. While eating, we watched the seemingly daily show of the waitress trying to chase all the cats, that had somehow snuck in, out of the dining room and back outside. We found the cats cute and entertaining, but some of the Asian and Middle-Eastern guests did not share our sentiment (to say the least).
+ Lunch at Kalammmakia. More Gyros! (seriously, this was like the ONLY cheap place still open)
+ This island gives good cat shows! At lunch our cat friend saw a bird up on a balcony and managed to climb and jump his way up there on the hunt. But sadly, the bird had already flown away. Then he saw another cat venture into his territory and then had to jump his way back down and chase it away!
+ Surprisingly there was a Starbucks on the island so we hiked uphill for 15 minutes until we found it. That way we could take advantage of their good (and consistent) wifi. Then we spent the next few hours working on our devices.
+ Ate dinner at a new family restaurant called Fanis. Prices were wrong when we got the bill, but food was really good!
+ That night we worked on devices in the second story lounge area of our hotel before going back to the room for bed.

11/22
Fun Day Relaxing on our Balcony and Feeding Neighborhood Cats
+ We had previously decided that today (our last full day in Greece) was going to be a fun and relaxing day! So even though we still had lots of planing and research to do, we mostly take it easy.
+ We did take a bunch of notes on Jordan and Israel from Lonely Planet and speak with Corey’s Aunt Suzanne again, who we would be visiting next in Jerusalem.
+ For lunch we finally switched things up and went to a nearby restaurant that offered gyro-like sandwiches which were ok, but not as good as the real thing.
+ Then we went back to the room and hung out on our balcony listening to the waves lapping at the shore and enjoyed playing around on our phones.
+ While relaxing, we were approached by a black and white spotted cat that was very tiny and thin. He was very cute though and his incessant meowing reminded us every 3 seconds how hungry he was. We tried to feed him some of our granola bar, but he did not like it. Surprisingly picky for being a starving kitty! Probably too sugary and he obviously didn’t like the strawberry bits. So Corey being the big softie he is walked over to the nearest mini market and bought a big ‘ol can of cat food. When he got back and scooped some onto a plate for him, the cat turned from Mr. Hyde to Jekyll and almost attacked Corey to get at the food! It turned out ok though, as we gave him small portions over the span of a few hours to ensure he didn’t eat too much too fast and throw it all up. Although we couldn’t feed all the cats here on the island (there were hundreds in this city alone), it was nice knowing that at least one would have a full tummy for the night.
+ Then we cracked open a bottle of Mykono’s finest (cheapest) wine and enjoyed our last Greek Sunset out on the balcony.
+ When it was completely dark, we headed inside and hung out for a while watching some YouTube videos and part of Dumb and Dumber To.
+ For dinner, we wanted to try a pizza place we’d seen the delivery scooter buzzing by (just like in Bol!) but also wanted one last real Greek gyro. So we ordered both! It worked out well since we only ate half the pizza and had some yummy leftovers for when we would be hanging out in the airport the next day.
+ To cap the night off, we went back to the 2nd floor lounge area and watched some Black Mirror episodes on Netflix. Then we packed our bags and tried to grab a few hours of sleep before our early morning departure.

11/23
Fly back to Athens, Relax in Priority Pass Lounge in Airport, Fly to Tel Aviv, Israel!
+ The only 2 ways off the island were a RyanAir flight at 8:30 am for a combined $10 or a ferry later in the day for 6 times the price (that would take 5 hours longer). Even though we don’t like getting up early this was the obvious choice and we called the same cab driver who dropped us off to bring us back to the airport.
+ Before we left, Corey gave a group of 7-8 cats the other half can of cat food as they aggresively swarmed him starving for any type of food. Our cab driver explained because this is the off season and so many shops and cafes are closed the cats do not have as many scraps to pick from.
+ The Mykonos airport was so tiny that the security checkin was literally 20 feet from the main entrance door so we were “checked in” and waiting at the gate in no time. Dang, we could’ve slept another 45 minutes in our comfy bed!
+ The flight back to Athens was quick and easy and we got to see the island in the daylight again which was nice. Then we caught the Holiday Inn shuttle from the airport back to the hotel to pick up our bags.
+ Hungry, we headed to the Gas Station/Deli hybrid next door and got some better than expected tasty treats to hold us over for a bit and Liz enjoyed one last Greek coffee. Then took the same shuttle back to the airport.
+ We were still about 7.5 hours early before our flight but our plan was to use Liz’s Priority Pass and hang out in one of those Fancy-Pants lounges that all the rich important business people always used. Unfortunately we couldn’t drop our bags yet as our airline, El Al, only allowed checkin starting 3 hours in advance. So we had to lug those heavy suckers about a mile through the airport to the lounge. They felt so much heavier in their transportation packs than they did when wearing them on our backs!
+ Once we got there though, we had no problem “checking in” to the lounge (this was our first time ever using the pass) and were happy to see the lounge provided free wifi, tv, charging stations, and food and drinks. Even alcohol! Man, first these fancy rooms we were getting for dirt cheap due to it being the off-season and now these lounges! Were we still budget backpacking? No wonder our friends back home think we’ve won the lottery!
+ The next 4+ hours were spent hanging out in the lounge snacking and drinking and ticking items off of our “To-Do” list. Finally it was time to pack up and leave this wonderful place. And also carry the heavy bags the whole mile back to the check in gate. Ugh. This time Corey strapped it on his back to make it easier.
+ The check-in process was by far the most scrutinized we’ve ever been through. Not only did they have their own section being watched over by armed guards, but the El Al workers would take one couple at a time to a table to question them, their travel history, and then search their bags. So after we finished answering her questions, we had literally everything taken out of our bags and thoroughly checked over. Then we were given the ok to repack them and check our big bags and head through airport security.
+ Once we’d arrived to our gate, we realized we still had about an hour before we began boarding so we decided to go to another Priority Pass lounge! Why not since it was free! This one had a better food selection and we were able to have a semi-dinner before boarding the flight.
+ Getting on the plane was the first time we’d gone through the proper connecting tunnel gate instead of walking across the tarmac in a long time! Probably because El Al airline is the first non-budget airline we’ve taken in a while.
+ This was the first flight either of us have been on that has 2 aisles! Milestone!
+ Because the flight was going to be overnight, they included a whole kit including tiny toothbrush, socks, and of course an eye mask. They had designed the eye mask to be red on one side saying “Do not disturb” but the other side was green saying “Wake me up to eat”! Liz decided this eye mask was her new favorite possession as it displayed her life’s motto!
+ After our long day in the airport, we both tried to sleep. We woke up to the flight attendants passing out a “snack” which was a ton of food, almost like a second dinner! We decided to save our “snack” and then tried to go back to sleep. After catching a few Zzz’s we woke up to them serving breakfast which was equally way more food than we expected. Ahhh if only we could afford to fly non-budget all the time!
+ After arriving in Israel and going through security we boarding the shuttle which would take us to Suzanne’s neighborhood. On the shuttle we met a nice couple from Brisbane who were excited to hear we were headed to Australia soon. They gave us a ton of pointers and helped us decide that yes we should start in Cairns because the Wet season in the North will only be getting worse as time passes.
+ We were the last couple to be dropped off in the shuttle. Even though it was now around 2:30am, Suzanne had stayed up for us. e excitedly met Suzanne in person for the first time! We chatted about Corey and Suzanne’s family history before we all said goodnight.

11/24
Thanksgiving with Corey’s 2nd Cousin Suzanne!
+ Although we certainly hadn’t planned to when we left for our trip, or even just a couple of weeks ago for that matter, we were going to be celebrating Thanksgiving with family! Suzanne was going to be cooking up a nice Israeli style Thanksgiving meal (since Turkeys weren’t abundantly available, among other traditional items) while we went out and explored a little bit of Jerusalem.
+ In the morning we took the local city bus into Jerusalem ourselves and walked around exploring for a couple of hours.
+ Ate falafel at a little roadside shop where the owner was nice and gave us lots of extra falafels!
+ Walked to the park and hung out relaxing in the sun for a little bit, tired from our late night and long traveling the day before.
+ Went to the local market area called the Souk where we picked up different kinds of vegetables that Suzanne needed for the Thanksgiving meal she was making back at her apartment.
+ Also stopped at a bakery she’d recommended to pick up some yummy desert and breakfast pastries to share for the coming days.
+ Went to the bus stop to head back towards Suzanne’s and of course we’d just missed the one we’d needed and ended up having to wait for 50 whole minutes until the next one! Arghhh! Our public transportation luck strikes again!
+ Back at Suzanne’s we all had a nice Thanksgiving dinner full of all sorts of unique foods we wouldn’t normally eat back in the states. It was really nice to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and enjoy a home cooked meal!
+ After that we hung out talking with Suzanne until it was really late and time for bed.

11/25
Jerusalem Tour with Our Tour Guide Extraordinnaire: Suzanne!
+ Today we were going to be exploring Jerusalem with Suzanne, who was a licensed tour guide and had been leading trips for many years! She was definitely an expert and had probably more knowledge than any tour guide we’d ever had before.
+ After catching a taxi up to our frst stop on top of a hill (great lookouts over the city!) we went in a synogogue place she wanted to show us. We ended up being in there looking at the 4 different synogogues for over an hour and learning all about the history and architecture of the place.
+ Then we met Sami, a tailor who was a good friend of Suzanne’s. He explained the interesting history of the multlples languages spoken in Israel.
+ Suzanne also introduced us to her other friend who was an antiquities dealer. His shop was really interesting! Also unfortunately way out of our backpacker price range.
+ Walked through the Jewish quarter, Armenian quarter, Muslin quarter and Christian quarter of Jerusalem.
+ Had shwarma lunch in the Jewish quarter.
+ We went in the Lutheran church and climbed to the top of the tall tower! So many steps! Amazing overviews of the city and saw the Dome of the Rock with it’s gold colored top.
+ Made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
+ In the church, we headed upstairs to see some of the Stations of the Way of the Cross, which depicted Jesus being crucified and the actual spot where Jesus was crucified!
+ Before we could leave, they actually blocked all of us tourists in as the Armenian Orthodox service was underway and all 20 or so priests (or priests in training) came upstairs to perform their daily ritual and we got to stand a few feet behind them as they sang/chanted. It was a really neat experience!
+ Next up, Suzanne told us all about the different caves/tombs now included within the wall of the church and history behind them. We saw both the famous tomb of Christ where all the tourists go to and one where Suzanne and some historians believe may have been the real tomb of Jesus.
+ Ate dinner with Suzanne at a restaurant she often brought tour groups to and we had some really good Israeli food!
+ We walked past the Tower of Jordan and caught a taxi back to her place.
+ We ended up staying up until almost 4 am booking our flights from Jordan to Singapore! Then we passed out in bed, tired from our full day of walking and learning!

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