A Day in Athens, Greece

athens greece

Having been a Latin scholar, or at least according to my high school language teacher, I have always been fascinated with the ancient artifacts and notorious monuments within the city of Athens. Coming from the U.S. with a history that fits into a textbook, Athens holds a wealth of stories and legends in its cobbled walkways, momentous structures and godly towers that have seen centuries upon centuries of civilizations. Although we were only stopping in Athens for a single day on our way to the Greek Isles, we made sure we didn’t miss out on the magnificent landmarks this metropolitan had to offer.

From most points in the city you can see the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel on top of a rocky mountain that holds significant remains of numerous Greek architecture and artifacts. However, despite being able to see our target end point, we continually got lost in the crooked alley ways and had to ask for help multiple times. Luckily, many locals noticed our disorientation and directed us onto the correct route. Since we had arrived later in the day, we didn’t make it to the site until after 5pm, which worked in our favor since the crowds had thinned out tremendously. As the most sought after attraction, I would aim to arrive early, circa 8am, or later in the early evening to get the most out of your visit. Make sure you wear comfortable, grippy shoes as it’s quite the hike to get to the top and the stairways can be slick. The cost to enter the site is only about 20 euros and can be used to see other ruins in the area.

Theatre of Dionysos in Athens Greece
Theatre of Dionysos

As you make your way up the mountain, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is one of the first sites you’ll see. This major theater in Athens is dedicated to Dionysus (hence the name), who was the god of plays and wine. As many as 17,000 people could fit into the theater and due to its slope-like structure, the acoustics made for excellent performances. It’s even suggested as the birth place of Greek tragedies. Cut into the southern cliff of Acropolis, it’s believed to be the first stone theater ever built.

Propylaea in acropolis of athens greece
Propylaea

Further up the mountain you’ll reach the propylaea, a monumental gateway into the area of Greek architecture which serves as the entrance point into the Acropolis of Athens. This was built under the direction of Pericles, an Athenian leader, at the conclusion of the Persian War.

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion acropolis of athens greece
Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion

At the top of Acropolis you’ll be able to freely wander around in identified areas to the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, which is one of the finest displays of sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support.

Parthenon acropolis of athens greece
Parthenon

Of course, you’ll also witness the remains of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Its construction began in 447 B.C. It’s a breath-taking site, after having witnessed this building in numerous texts and articles. To actually be able to experience the magnitude of these remains is a wondrous moment.

Mount Lycabettus athens greece
Mount Lycabettus

Not only can you witness these sites, but the view of Athens is astounding. The tan and brown colored homes stretch out as far as you can see, one side seemingly going on forever, the other side reaching out towards the turquoise sea. From atop of Acropolis you’ll see Mount Lycabettus, a limestone hill towards the center of Athens.

Plaka athens greece
Plaka

After meandering through the site, we made our way down to Plaka located on the northern and eastern slopes of Acropolis. Filled with what they refer to as ‘labyrinthine streets’ and ‘neoclassical architecture’, it’s easy to lose yourself within the ‘Neighborhood of the Gods’. Shops and restaurants are around every corner and make for a delightful evening. As the Greeks do, we didn’t sit down to eat dinner until after 8pm when the streets came to life with young and old people alike making their way to nighttime festivities. After delicious Greek salads and fresh seafood (a must in Athens), we headed back to our hotel to prepare for our early ferry the following morning.

As we made our way up to our room at the Electra Hotel, a hotel worker overheard us talking about the view of Acropolis and asked if we’d like to see if from the roof of our hotel. We showed us up a hidden flight of stairs that led right onto the roof of the hotel. If you look beyond the air conditioners and pipes, you’ll see Acropolis of Athens in the distance. The perfect way to end our adventurous day.

Acropolis of Athens from Hotel Electra greece
Acropolis of Athens from Hotel Electra

Athens offers so much in terms of historical artifacts and rich cultural traditions. A day isn’t nearly enough to see all that this magnificent city has to offer, but a visit to the Acropolis of Athens and Plaka are sure to wet your taste buds to come back and visit again.

Have you ever been to Greece? Anyone else study Latin?!

xx,
Juliette

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Top 12 Things to Do In Santorini, Greece

top things to do in santorini greece

Up until I graduated from college, I had always been a traveler-dreamer, rather than a traveler-doer. I imagined magnificent trips across the globe when in reality I had yet to even cross an ocean. Overwhelmed with school work and relationships and figuring out the rest of my life (easy stuff, ya know), I eagerly waited for a time when I could escape to the paradises on the postcards I had pinned up around my dorm room. When I got my first actual job in the glorious city of Washington D.C., I made a promise to myself to save up any extra money I had in order to see all the places I’d written down on my bucket list. Which, at this point, would take me a couple lifetimes.

Santorini greece
View from Santorini hotel

At my new job, I quickly became friends with a coworker across the hall who shared in my vision of picturesque adventures. After scrolling through Pinterest oogling over pictures of tropical getaways and serene coastlines during our break, we landed on an image of a Greek isle lined with bright blue buildings and surrounded by turquoise water. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. We knew we had to see this magical place in person. A simply google search led us to Groupon deal through a travel agent and in a matter of 30 minutes, we had an entire trip booked to the other side of the world. Go big or go home, right? And at this point, I’d had enough of the latter.

Oia santorini greece
Oia

So at 22, I got my first passport and packed my bags for a 12 hour flight to country I’d only ever seen in my Latin textbooks. (Fun fact: I took five years of a language that’s no longer spoken. Great SAT score, though). After spending a few days in Athens, we hopped aboard a high speed ferry off into the Greek Islands. Next stop: Santorini.

Santorini, Greece
Home in Santorini, Greece

It was apparent as soon as we stepped off the ferry that we had entered the land of honeymooners. for good reason, too. The tropical beach, romantic cobbled streets and exotic views were perfect for lovebirds. Or, well, two best friends looking for a change of scenery. Whether you’re coupled up or in the need of an escape from real life, Santorini has it all. I knew we’d made the right choice when we were generously welcomed into the hotel by a lovely young woman dressed in all white. She appeared to float through the airy lobby and whimsical patio rather than walk . As she gave us a tour of the premise, she had an accent I couldn’t quite place. I cautiously asked her where she was from using the little Greek I knew. She laughed and said that she was originally from Pittsburgh and, after a series of unfortunate events in her life, she decided to move far away to a place that brought her the serenity she so needed. After a week in this glorious utopia, she might not be the only one moving here.

Cliffs of Santorini Greece
Cliffs of Santorini

Sunrise in Fira
I always make it a point to see the sunrise in every location I visit. There is something so peaceful about starting your day with the first light before you’re filling up every moment with another must-see. Our hotel sat on the top of Fira so we were able to see the sun reach over the eastern coast of the island. I should also note that we could still hear the music from the clubs in the town center at 6am. These people aren’t playing around. So while the bar goers were stumbling home, we were enjoying a breakfast spread filled with fresh fruits and pastries. To each their own.

santorini greece
Breakfast overlooking the caldera
Perissa Black Sand Beach Santorini Greece
Perissa Black Sand Beach

Perissa Black Beach
A sprawling black sand beach overlooking white cliffs dipping into the clear water is the perfect way to spend an early afternoon. As you might expect, the sand gets HOT, so thick towels (or a cabana) are a must.

Santorini Greece Wine Tour
Santorini Wine Tour

Wine Tour
While most people opt to explore the island on mopeds, we signed up for a tour through the southern region of the island since we weren’t entirely trusting of our driving skills on the narrow, curvy roads. This was the best way for us to not only witness some the best photo ops (..in the world), but learn a more about how the island came to be.

Santo Winery in santorini Greece
Santo Winery Patio

Santo Winery
Even if you’re not on a tour, Santo Winery is the perfect place to truly get a taste for the Greek culture. While the informative tour is helpful in learning the wine process, such as that as the grape grow they’re weaved into little baskets called koulara with the grapes on the inside for protection, the real appeal of Santo Winery is the view. Its tasting area overlooks the caldera and is the perfect place to sample local wines with paired cheeses and crackers.

 Akrotiri Archaeological Site in Santorini, Greece
Akrotiri Archaeological Site

Akrotiri Archaeological Site
Santorini’s unique shape is due to its volcanic history. The Akrotiri Archaeological Site is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the volcanic Greek island of Santorini. The area was destroyed by the Theran eruption around 1627 BC and buried in volcanic ash. The ash allowed for the remains of structures, objects and artwork to be well-preserved until its discovery in 1967. This incredible walk through history is the purest way to revisit the island as it was centuries ago. This site is believed to be the premise of Plato’s Atlantis…as well as the location of one of the first working toilets! Seriously. The things I remember on these tours.

The Red Beach in Santorini Greece
The Red Beach

The Red Beach
Encassed with towering cliffs, the red beach is, in fact, bright red. The site is best seen from above where you can take marvelous pictures of the unusual colored contrast of red and blue, spotted with yellow umbrellas.

dinner overlooking Caldera in Fira santorini greece
Dinner in Fira

Dinner Overlooking the Caldera in Fira
Since Fira was built on the mountainside, almost every restaurant on the western edge is guaranteed to have a view. Make reservations earlier in the day for an hour before sunset. You’ll have prime seating to watch the sun sink below the ocean. Look for any place the promises fresh salmon and Greek salads with extra olives. Trust me on this one.

Fira santorini greece
Streets of Fira at night

Gelato in Fira
As soon as the “most famous sunset in the world” has ended, the streets of Fire are illuminated in a soft glow. The night is far from over. Stroll in and out of the local shops and take some time to sample the gelato.

Mules of Fira santorini Greece
Mules of Fira

Watch the Mules up the Stairs
If you’ve seen Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (and if you haven’t, stop right here and come back when you’ve finished watching it), you’re familiar with Lena riding up on the mules back. Find a spot along the balcony to watch the sailboats dock in the lower harbor and the mules trek their supplies up the staircases on the edge of the mountainside.

Aressana Hotel and Spa in santorini greece
Aressana Hotel and Spa pool

Spa Day
Many of the hotels are also part-spa (honeymooners galore, remember?). So we couldn’t stay in one and pass up the opportunity for a massage in paradise. Besides, after all the exploring you’re doing, a little R&R at Aressana Hotel and Spa was just wanted we needed.

Oia Art Galleries santorini greece
Oia Art Galleries

Oia Art Galleries
A quick bus ride from Fira will lead you to the northern most city on the island, Oia (pronounced ee-uh, don’t make yourself look foolish). Filled with small shops and galleries, wander into the art museums and take the time to speak with the owners. You’ll learn far more about the life here than by merely observing.

Oia sunset in santorini greece
Oia sunset

Sunset in Oia
While we knew the sunrise was a big deal in Fira, the sunrise is the Superbowl of events in Oia. A superbowl that happens every sunny day, that is! Luckily, we decided to grab an early dinner at a small family-owned restaurant overlooking the caldera with little more than two other guests around. As soon as we ordered baklava to conclude our meal, we noticed the streets below us seemed a bit more crowded. And then a couple more people came. And then, before we knew it, the entire road was packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists armed with various cameras. As we sat comfortably at our prime-view table, we soaked in the people watching and sipped wine as we watched another breathtaking sunset…not entirely sure how we would go back to the city we came from.

Oia, Santorini, Greece
Oia, Santorini, Greece

Have you been to the Greek isle before? Which island do you want to visit?

xx,
Juliette

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Your Guide to Adventure

your guide to adventure

I’ve been a huge travel blog reader for years, finding solace in reading about other people’s glamorous jet-setting lives while I was trapped in my small college dorm room writing papers on Hemingway and Milton. I spent my time following others’ elaborate experiences, reading through their detailed itineraries and expanding my list of places to see. In essence, I was simply waiting until I would no longer be a passive traveler, but an active one. When I finally got a passport in 2011 and took my first trip overseas to Santorini, Greece, I thought my experiences were too messy, too unorganized, too imperfect to be valid enough to share. Getting lost on an island ten minutes after arriving did little to boost my self-esteem (there’s only so far you can go on a island!). Yet, I realized that because I was always immersing myself in other people’s perfect images of how adventure should go, I became overly self-aware of my short-comings in the travel-writing world…there was always so much more behind the beautiful instagram photos and free travel perks. It took me five years to realize that waiting for the perfect time to start Namastay Traveling was like waiting for an Uber to arrive that I never actually booked (been there, done that). It was never going to come.

dinner in greece

It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that I started to view myself through a new lens. After diving into 12-hour days of an intensive yoga certification process, I began to see my views as valuable not only to me, but perhaps to others as well. The more time I spent on my mat, the more time I allowed myself to reflect on the journey I wanted to take. Both literally, and metaphorically. After all, people don’t practice yoga to get better at yoga, they practice yoga to get better at life. I started to find purpose in the screw ups, in the missed flights, in the accidentally ordering fish eggs for breakfast, or maybe even that one time I took a trip to the beach and forgot a swimsuit. Each misstep broke down the walls I had laid down, brick by brick, for myself. We, as humans, constantly live behind the barriers we build, sticking to our imposed story lines of how we think our lives should look. Yet, little do we realize that the more we push our limits, the less they seize to exist.

And so, it accumulates to this: a little corner of the internet where I can speak to the lows and highs I have not only on the road, but in embracing my new experiences outside of the comparison trap we all tend to fall into. In essence, I will be sharing more than the Top Ten Places to Eat in *Insert Newest City of All the Rage*, but on how to fully immerse yourself into new cultures, new places, and new ways of being. It’s only when we see ourselves in a different context can we truly find who we are to begin with.

meditation

As I continue to practice the culture of yoga around the globe, not just the postures, I hope you’ll join me as we reignite the purpose of our daily lives, both abroad and in our own living rooms (or mine, if you wanna come over for tea). Instead of always feeling as if there’s more to see, more to do, more to eat (real talk), we’ll find peace in where we are, and enthusiasm for where we have left to go. Cheers to the beginning of Yet Another Travel Blog.

xx,
Juliette

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