Greece – 2018

Greece has always been a place I have wanted to visit. My ancestory is Greek. My mother was born in Greece and my father’s father was born in Greece. His mum was born in Australia to Greek parents. I have family all over Australia. Some of whom I’ve never met. I definitely hadn’t met the majority still living in Greece. So it was always something I’d wanted to do but never really thought I’d get the chance to.

That all changed when my cousin announced he was going to get married over there. Hello destination wedding!! In June! Summer in Greece, yes please!! The stars aligned and off we all went. Me, my sister, my father (who’s never been there) and my mother (who hadn’t been back since she was in her late teens), my other cousins, aunties, uncle, phew off we went. A full 24 hours  and we were there.

First stop Athens!

As we have a lot of family in Greece we stayed with cousins. We had about 2 days to start off our trip and bright and early the next day we were off to the Parthenon. As it was the beginning of their summer in June it was busy without being too crazy. July and August tend to be Greece’s busiest times. So if you want to miss the really big crowds I suggest going in June. The Acropolis is a beautiful site to see. As our most of the ruins in Greece. It is something that if you go, you mustn’t miss. If you do it once you don’t need to go again. It’s lovely for the history and just the splendour of it, but it is hot exercise and be warned, wear good shoes as the marble is slippery. I did indeed see someone fall right on their butt. Ouch. To think of how they built this is incredible. They are restoring it and if you look closely on the ruins up there they are all numbered and itemized. You can see the amphitheatre from the top as well. We didnt head down there as we were a bit hot and bothered. We also didn’t check out the museum which I have heard from everybody is quite incredible. Next trip.

Driving in Athens is a crazy sight to see. Motorcycles and scooters zipping and weaving through traffic, taxi drivers stopping in the middle of the street to pick up a fare, cars double and triple parking, even on corners!! It is mental but I found the Taxi drivers to be extremely friendly.

We took a horse and carriage to the main shopping district and walked around all day. There are some pretty cool shops and of course some tourist shops. We did spot a shop for Priests which I found to be so adorable. I mean they need to buy their uniforms too.

After a quick drink out with the cousins we sailed out the next day on the ferry (which is huge by the way) on our journey to Santorini. Now some family members didn’t like taking the ferry but I think it’s a cool way to see some of the other islands that you pass along the way. It takes 5 hours from Athens to Santorini. If you want to get there quicker, the plane is 45 minutes. I myself wanted to see some islands along the way.

Arriving in Santorini you have big expectations. You see amazing pictures, celebrities holidaying and it looks phenomenenal. Now, to be real. PARTS of Santorini are absolutely magical. We saw: Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, Pyrgos. These places were stunning to see. However, us youngins did do stay in these parts. I highly recommend that you do. It is expensive yes, but totally worth it. If you stay further out you have massive Taxi fares. Seriously taxi drivers in Santorini will rip you off and they are not that easy to come by. They were not friendly. Not at all like the Athens drivers. But we did have a little church across the road so that must be a good sign right?

Myself, my sister and my cousin all arrived at our accommodation within a few hours of each other. Then we decided to walk from our Villa to the main town of Fira (Thira) where my parents were staying. Well that little walk took 1 hour. We kept stopping to read menus along the way but not everyone could agree. So we kept on walking. No taxi’s passed us. no busses in sight. Walking it is. We passed a winery, many churches and then we finally made it to Fira. We couldn’t find the parentals so we just decided to go to dinner along the cliff. Fira is quite beautiful. There is beautiful big church right up the top called The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s gorgeous. There happened to be a  wedding that night. What a spot! But I did see a better one haha. We saw a sunset, haggled with shop owners and flirted with a waiter and ate some awesome food. It made the very long worth it.

Best place to stay in Fira, right on the top across from the church and with the friendliest staff is Aressana Spa & Hotel Suites Absolutely AMAZING service. Mum & dad stayed here and the staff were so accommodating to us even though we weren’t. The best!

Our next day in Santorini was one I was wildly looking forward to. I kept seeing Instagram and Pinterest photos of this gorgeous pink house, I googled it one day and low and behold it is on Santorini. So if I’m going there I am definitely getting a pic outside. So off we went to Oia. This was another very rocky start to our day. Oh boy! Way too crazy to get into. Bad Air BnB, Windy maze streets with no signage, bad taxi drivers. I mean CRAZY! But off we went to Oia.

We arrive in Oia and start on our journey to find all the pretty instagram worthy spots. There are a tonne of them so fear not. We also luckily missed the rush of the big tour groups so that was a blessing. I’m not getting stuck behind all these people in the tiny alleys and all taking pics.There are lots of little shops along your walk selling tourist souvenirs and also actual l stores selling clothing and jewellery, shoes, art, you name it it’s there. Now I knew that I should wear more sensible shoes, however they did not go with  my outfit. Bad decision. My slides were very slippery on the cobblestone, but I looked good 😉 There are beautiful churches on the hills and stunning cave houses galore. These were what I was after, as was everyone else taking pics. I have to say people were fairly respectful about taking turns and not hogging the scenery. We are all there doing the same thing so be patient and be kind. I was desperate to find the pink cave house which I know now is called the Kastro Oia Houses and it is beautiful. I got my pic and I was happy. We had lunch at a lovely rooftop bar and had the best Grilled Octopus I had in all of Greece. After lunch we did try and find a beach bar. Well everyone was telling us that there are none. Yeah right! We finally got the name of one (the waiter wanted to take us but he was a little on the creepy side so no thanks) and off we went to get some sun, drinks and pool. The beaches in Santorini are not the best for swimming as the island is Volcanic so the beaches aren’t the greatest but on the opposite side of the island there is a swimming area. No time for that this trip so off to the beach bar we went.

Sea Paradise in Oia is a gorgeous bar sitting right on the beach. The staff are incredible and so friendly, and the atmosphere is lovely. It’s good for family’s too who want to chill out, there is a play area set aside for the kids. Like I said earlier, taxi’s are hard to come by so when we finished up here one of the owners mother’s very graciously drove us back into Oia main city so we could go see the sunset and have some dinner. I had some pretty amazing Lamb chops for your information. I recommend if you head to Oia definitely go to Sea Paradise

Donkey pics taken by my sister and my cousin.

Our next day on Santorini was what we were waiting for. The WEDDING! It was in Imerovigli and it was stunning! A wedding at sunset overlooking the ocean with nothing to block the view is pretty incredible. Always take flats with you when wearing hells as the streets are very uneven. I tripped haha. I was also too lazy to put on the flats I had in my bag. Mistake. Oh well.

Now I wont post too many pics from the wedding as that is not my place but I will give you a teaser. The reception was in a beautiful function location in Pyrgos. They had fireworks, pyrotechnics and Greek Dancers and plate smashing. It was pretty epic. I love a fun wedding, everyone was dancing away. In case you’re wondering, no I did not take my heels off. Dress is by La Maison Talulah.

Yassou Santorini off we go to Syros, or so we think. These Ferry’s don’t muck around. Ours was late coming into Mykonos so we missed the connecting boat. Impromptu stay in Mykonos it is. We were offered a nice cheap accommodation and re-booked for the next morning. Now to be completely honest Mykonos was not an island I wanted to check out. Well Santorini didn’t really meet my expectations so lets give Mykonos a try. To be honest, from hat I saw of it I actually liked. The water was so crystal clear and we had an amazing lunch at this restaurant called Thea along the waterfront. Friendly staff and delicious food. I will say that once you tell people in Greece you are of Greek decent they are overjoyed. Places like Santorini and Mykonos get so many tourists and not many fellow Greeks so they really appreciate having someone to talk to and have a laugh with. We went straight to bed after this. I absolutely crashed I was that exhausted from the wedding. I would definitely come back to Mykonos and really explore the island.

Next stop Syros. We were very excited to get to Syros as we were going to be meeting dad’s cousin and staying with them. They have created the most beautiful accommodation on Syros. It is Eco-friendly, there is a vineyard, olive groves, beautiful garden, fruit and vegetable patch for you to pick from. The buildings are over 300 years old and have been restored so beautifully.  I cannot say enough nice things about this place it is remarkable. Do yourself a favour just click the link and go to the website and have a look for yourself. My pictures will not do this place justice. They also do a weekly wine tasting night with some of the best Greek wines you can get your hands on. Check out The Good Life

The food on Syros is amazing. We had the best and biggest lunch of all things seafood and classic Greek meze (tapas) dishes. We went to a great beach bar with some beautiful shops (which I regret not getting a gorgeous woven cross body bag from) and so many beach chairs to sit and bake. I had the best Mojito of my life at this bar. YUM! The water was absolutely freezing so I only went in twice up to my knees (it’s so shallow so far out) but there were also a lot of rocks through the water and I will trip on a flat surface I’m not risking it in rocky water. Out I came. I’ll just bake thank-you very much haha.

Fun Fact: Syros actually used to have a lot of Italians on the island so there are a lot of really incredible and grande big Venetian houses. They are massive and stunning. Some are empty and need someone to buy them and give them a little love.

We headed into the main city area of Syros and it was so refreshing to have some space. Syros is a really good mix of traditional and touristy. It is on the rise but as of yet not overly busy with tourists. Which is both a shame and a blessing. The Island is stunning and so friendly and peaceful. Here I was on the hunt for some shoes. I found a great little boutique that stocked Ancient Greek Sandals and well I bought myself two pairs. Why not, holiday mode spending. I found some gorgeous jewellery to buy people presents and there are so many yummy bakeries with chocolate and lollies and pastries galore.

It was sad to leave Syros but we had more places to go to. If you go to Greece do not skip this island. Stay at The Good Life and eat and drink away.

Quick stopover in Athens overnight to meet some more relatives and eat some amazing home cooked food then off to our next island.

Mum’s home Island of Lesvos. Now as the ferry ride to Lesvos is 24hrs we decided not to waste time and hop on the plane. That takes you 30 minutes. They give you a lovely little fruit lollie on the plane before departure for your ears. So cute.

Now this was a jam packed trip in three days. We had a lot of places to see, a lot of family to meet and mum wanted to show us her old stomping grounds. Mum’s Uncle was our chauffeur for the trip and as he lived 2 minutes away from our accommodation it worked out beautifully.

We went and saw some of the oldest and biggest churches on the Island/Greece. These churches the community do pilgrimages to at certain times of the year. Mostly Easter. It is long drive and the walk I’ve been told from our cousin takes her 12 hours. They come from Athens to do it. There is accommodation at the monasteries for people to stay after the pilgrimage. It’s quite remarkable and the churches are magnificent and filled with so much history and tradition. They do bus tours to these churches so I would definitely put it on your bucket list.

There is the Monastery of Taxiarches in Mantamados which is for the Arch Angel Michael and there is the Church of The Panagia (Virgin Mary) in Agiassos which has the tallest mountain peak on the island. Click on the link for more information on both churches. Churches and Monasteries in Lesvos

Now you aren’t allowed to take photos inside the churches or the church grounds. I was a bit naughty and only took photos of the church grounds, not inside.

Monastery Of Taxiarches in Mantamados

Church of Panagia in Agiassos

The township up at Agiassos is very pretty. Lots of great shops with handmade prayer bracelets by the monks. There is a small museum, great little cafes. It is beautiful.

Lesvos is Greece’s biggest producer of Ouzo (which I am not a fan of sorry) and the island is covered in Olive Trees and lavender. My grandparents used to have a big Olive Farm when they lived there. Mum used to help pick the olives. The smell is kind of amazing due to all the Olive Trees. There is an olive press too that we drove through regularly called The Dip. However I think it now may be closed. Not only were our family in the Olive Business but they were also big fisherman, workers at the leather factory and much more. Now we have family that run and own restaurants, cafe’s bakeries and much more. Apparently we are related to most people on the island unbeknown to us haha.

A few pics from our drive around the island, the dip, the old leather factory and more. Side note – certain parts of the island you can see Turkey and it is close. There is a big Military presence in Lesvos  as unfortunately there is still quite a bit of tension between the two countries. The guards watch the borders.

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The town of Perema and the main city of Mytilini were mum’s two main places. Perema is an older little town but very quaint and has some great eateries and The Dip and of course churches. Mytilini is the bustling city centre. I loved the city streets lined with shops and fish markets and the marina. It’s quite pretty and fairly hip.

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Now there is still quite a heavy presence of refugees on the island. The main city centres do not stay open too late any more at night as it is just not safe to do so anymore. It’s a sad situation on both sides but I’m hopeful that things will get back to normal soon. It’s sad when the locals who have lived there for generations are considering leaving the island because it’s not safe anymore.

After a very busy few days in Lesvos we are back off to Athens to spend the next few days before my sister and I leave back home for Australia to get back to work. Our parents decided to take the opportunity to stay on for four more weeks to visit more family and more islands. I’m a bit jealous.

I decided on my last day that I would get my mum’s cousin who has an awesome Hair Salon to do my hair. FULL colour and cut. It is the nicest salon and the best colour and cut I have ever had. How on earth I am going to get someone here at home to replicate it is another story. That night with my new hair we went to a beautiful marina where there are incredible fancy expensive yachts (like you see on The Real Housewives), restaurants and bars all along the docks. Very cool and hip. A great place to go on a Friday night.

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The next day we jetted off on our journey home. I enjoyed my time in Greece even if it was rushed and even if we did have a bit of a stinker of a time in Santorini, it was still all fun and I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s all experiences and that is what makes a holiday fun. I would like to add a few more islands to my next trip and take my time a bit in each place. Greece made a big impact on me and I feel as though my priorities have shifted a bit for the better. The lifestyle in Greece is so lovely and relaxed and yes they take their break during the day, but they re-open and work until late. I couldn’t see a lot of people in the Western world doing this. People make fun of the Greeks for being lazy and smoking everywhere and the traffic but that’s just how they have always been and you get used to it. I would not say they are lazy. It is people who would rather enjoy their time on this earth and have a break and have some fun, but at the same time they are friendly and from what I saw incredibly hard workers. Do not judge a place until you have been there and experienced it yourself. Take it all in. It’s some of these qualities that I think the western world could use to adopt and chill out a bit. As cheesy as it sounds, don’t live to work, work to live. You get one life so enjoy it.

Greece is beautiful and fun and historical. If you have the opportunity please go.

*you will find a lot of the cities in greece are spelt a bit differently to the spelling you are used to and some islands the don’t pronounce the ‘s’ on the end as the names have been westernised.

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