Here’s a recap of part 1 of my fall break! Part 2 (Italy) coming soon!
After 8 weeks straight of school, I was in desperate need of an island vacation. The trip there included the RER, a shuttle to the airport, a flight, and a car ride, and as tight as the timing was, we made it. When we got to Santorini, we checked into our airbnb and headed to lunch: chicken souvlaki and grilled vegetables and cheese. Naps were in order after waking up before 5am (4am Greece time!) so we decided to conform to the siesta culture for a bit. We watched the gorgeous sunset, had dinner (spinach/cheese pies and fried zucchini), and slept as much as possible before the next day.
On day 2, we found our new favorite brunch place: Galini Cafe. 1 eggs benedict eaten and 1 Dutch pancake dropped on the floor later, we met up with Sara and headed out for the hike from Fira (where we were staying) to Oja. I was told this should be a couple hours max and that jeans and a nice shirt were appropriate… all the people in athletic clothes and hiking gear told me otherwise. Nevertheless, off we went, with a stop for an extra hike up a large rock, as well as smoothies. The hike was exhausting but it allowed us to see many different parts of the island, as well as some incredible views. It seemed like every time I looked back at the water, I needed to take a new photo because everything was so beautiful and picturesque. Somehow, after 10k of hiking, we made it to Oja, though my legs and feet were not happy about it. I got lots of pita and a Greek salad for dinner. Fun fact: Greek salads actually don’t have any lettuce! Just vegetables, olives, and giant blocks of feta! We grabbed baklava and found a spot for the sunset (once again, gorgeous). The bus back home was less than ideal (late, ripped seats, Greek teens yelling across us), but it got us there. That night, a few of us went out to three local bars where they were having Halloween parties. I was in it for the free snacks and candy.
Back to Galini the next morning for authentic Greek yogurt with muesli and strawberries. We sure did eat well in Greece. It was Emily’s birthday, so we surprised her with some cake and then got ready for the boat cruise we had planned for that day. Our driver met us and let us know that they had actually put us on the luxury cruise for the same price as the normal one. We got on our boat and just chatted for a bit, taking in the views, until our first stop. We went swimming in the Aegean sea at a hot spring (lukewarm at best but still fun), and people from other boats laughed and even good videos as we struggled to stay afloat and yelled “birthday weekend!!” We were welcomed back onto the boat with wine and fresh towels, and we spent the next leg of the trip tanning and lounging. The next stop was dinner: grilled chicken, shrimp, fried fish, spaghetti, Greek salad, bread. No complaints here. We spent the rest of the ride drinking more wine, getting to know the crew (mostly talking about Sara’s Greek roots), and seeing more of the island. Our last Santorini sunset had to have been the best, because how can you not be happy while sitting on a boat and drinking mojitos? This experience is a necessity for anyone visiting Santorini. We were exhausted when we got back, but we still made it into town to get gelato before playing Jungle Speed and going to bed.
We got more Greek yogurt bowls (apples, honey, chocolate muesli) in Fira the next day and spent some time checking out the shops in the area. The chicken souvlaki and fries for lunch were just what we needed to fuel us for our next leg of the trip. Off to Athens! We had a driver pick us up from the airport, and after getting to our airbnb, we walked to dinner. It was in a really cute area that almost looked like the set of a movie. I had fava dip with pita and lamb chops with potatoes. The fava was kind of like hummus, which we learned is not actually considered a Greek food. Even the pita was something we had to order off the menu, as it is traditionally only served in Greece as part of a souvlaki/gyro. When we got home, we played cards for a bit and then went to bed.
Our day in Athens started by packing our bags once again, then breakfast (veggie omelet and coffee). On our walking tour, we saw the changing of the guards in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier, the royal gardens, a conference building where the modern-day olympics were planned, ruins of what had been a temple dedicated to Zeus, the arch of Hadrian, and everything included at the Acropolis site (first theaters, Parthenon, other temples, etc.). . It was a lot of sightseeing for one day, but I’m glad we were able to do it and see most of the big attractions during our short stay in Athens. I got another gyro for lunch, with baklava for dessert (trying to get in my last Greek food!) and then it was basically time for us to leave for our flight to Rome.
My impressions: Santorini was just the vacation I needed to decompress from school, but I’m also really glad that we got to spend time in Athens and learn so much about its history. One day there was honestly enough for now; being in a place that used a different alphabet and where English was not as common was pretty exhausting. I was surprised by how many people assumed I was Greek, which even happened at the Greek restaurant in Paris that I went to with Sara’s parents a few weeks back. Santorini was insanely beautiful; I have never spend much time on an island before, and definitely not one like this, where every ocean view looked more like a backdrop than real life. Athens was so rich in history/attractions and actually seemed to use the Greek language much more than the touristy island we had come from. Greece had been at the top of my list of places to visit for quite some time now, and this experience just wouldn’t have been complete without both very different destinations.
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