Well, we’re back from probably the most amazing VACATION I’ve ever taken.
[ Note, I say “vacation” because going to beautiful, exotic destinations with your children is called a “trip”…not a vacation! AmIRight?! ]
Don’t get me wrong, leaving the kids was BRUTAL and I was so upset saying goodbye to them. This was the first time we’ve ever left them longer than one night and the only thing that made it easier was knowing my mom was with them. I did a full post of all the info I left behind for her HERE.
This 10 Year Anniversary trip [one year delayed…thanks Max! ;)] to Greece greatly surpassed our honeymoon in Italy, which I was sure was going to be “THE Trip to Beat” for the rest of eternity. Maybe it’s because we appreciated the alone time alllll these 11 years and three babies later, maybe because we had more to miss waiting back at home, or because we realized how precious the time away and the whole experience was this time around. Either way, we had the most incredible time and I’m finally able to sit down and share some of the details with you!
We stopped in Athens first because I’m a huge history nerd ( I’m specifically obsessed with Greek mythology!) and I just HAD to see the ruins of Ancient Athens.
Where We Stayed in Athens:
- The New Hotel – This is a, well…”newer” hotel, which was kind of funky & modern. If you’re going for a short period of time, for a big occasion, or if it’s just in the budget- spring for the penthouse room! TRUST ME! It’s not that the room was the best thing ever- it was cool and all- but the reason you get the penthouse is for the balcony! The balcony is INSANE, with the most ridiculous view of the Acropolis and a bed for sleeping under the stars (…should you chose to. There is also a bedroom inside.) When we first arrived, I walked out onto the terrace, took one look at the Acropolis standing up on the hill right above me and teared up. I’ve never had that sort of reaction to a place before in my life. It was incredible.
Things to Do/See in Athens:
- The Acropolis (get there EARLY & make this your first stop) the crowds and lines get cray-cray later in the day. Also, bonus of hiring a tour guide: they’ll purchase your entrance tix in advance so you can skip the lines!
- Ancient Agora
- Plato’s Academy (we just viewed this from the street through the fence and our tour guide told us all about it from there. They actually just recently discovered this site in the 1990s! How crazy is that?!)
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Arch of Hadrian (built in 131AD, it marks where emperor Hadrian divided the city between ancient Greek city and his new “Roman” city)
- Roman Forum & Tower of the Winds
- The Acropolis Museum
- Syntagma Square – watch the changing of the guards 5 minutes before the top of each hour! It’s pretty intense!
Where We Ate in Athens:
- GB Roof Garden– the rooftop restaurant at the Grande Bretagne Hotel with the most amazing view of the Acropolis!
Tips for Athens:
- Hire a guide. There are lots of reasonable group tours but if you have group anxiety and claustrophobia like me, hire a private guide. We used Micheal’s Amazing Tours. Our guide was Matina and she was great! It was about 330 euro for a full day (about 5 hours) AND that price included a private driver who brought us to all the “hot spots”, waited for us to finish touring with the guide, and then drove us by some other popular tourist attractions and gave us “drive by tours” PLUS a lift to the airport afterward!
- Research the history before you go. Your eyes won’t appreciate what they are seeing unless they know the story that goes along with it. I purchased the following guide book: Rick Steves Pocket Athens. It was super helpful! If you love to read, I also suggest picking up a great novel to get you in the spirit of the country. I loved Helen of Troy by Margaret George as well as Circe by Madeline Miller! And since I’m such a nerd, I also reviewed The Mythology Handbook, from the children’s section as a quick refresher guide on my Greek mythology. I can’t even tell you how helpful it was to go into this trip with such a great understanding of the rich history. Made me appreciate it, ten-fold!
- I really don’t think you need more than one day in Athens. If you are a HUGE history buff, maybe give yourself two days so you can see all the museums, etc. Otherwise, one night at The New Hotel penthouse, and one day touring is all you need! 😉
Next, we took a short flight over to Mykonos where all of my Athens-born Greek obsessions became completely cemented in stone…or should I say, pentelic marble! 😉 This place was UN-Real! They say Mykonos is “where you go to party”, but coming from me (grandma, party-of-one) believe me, you do NOT have to be a big party person to enjoy Mykonos! In fact, it might have been our favorite stop in Greece!
Where we stayed in Mykonos:
- Mykonos Blu– This place was gorgeous and right ON the beach, There was a main pool, a beautiful restaurant and bar, and we also had a private pool & grass area attached to our room. It was about a 10-15 minute drive into the town, but we preferred to wake up ON the beach and drive into town at night as opposed to staying on the other side of the island and having to cart beach stuff back and forth to get to the best beaches every day. Picture everything you’d imagine in a Greece resort: white buildings, bright pink bougainvillea climbing up every wall, and blue ocean views around every turn! And can I just say- the service everywhere we went was IMPECCABLE! Ah- take me back!
Things to do/see in Mykonos:
- Boat Day- we chartered a boat one day and it was incredible! They toured us around some of the other nearby islands, parked us in a gorgeous cove to swim & snorkle, and fed us an amazing home-cooked Greek lunch on board. It was SUCH a fun day & an incredible way to see the tiny surrounding islands. We booked through Mykonos Luxury Motor Yahts.
- Mykonos Town– Mykonos town is completely and utterly charming. Everything is white…even the cobblestone ground! There are gorgeous flowers everywhere and some of the most incredible shops every.
- Island of Delos– I had NEVER heard of this Island until we cruised past it on our boat day. We immediately asked to be dropped off and I’m SO glad we did. Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in all of Greece. Guys, this place was MIND. BLOWING. The ancient remains of an entire city- covering the whole tiny island, with no crowds, no ropes, no one “policing” what you touch or do. It was literally like stepping back in time. Ryan and I walked the island (in a rush) and took 1.5 hours. I could’ve stayed all day- the only thing I didn’t like was that I hadn’t done my research and without a tour guide (the map was difficult to navigate) I sort of had no idea what I was looking at. I wished, so badly that I knew all the history so I could’ve really appreciated the raw, ancient ruins we were viewing, touching and walking over…because they were pretty damn incredible! Probably one of my top-five favorite things we did in Greece!
- Little Venice (home to the infamous Petros the Pelican) Little Venice is on the opposite side of Mykonos town from the shops, on the same side as the windmills. It is right on the water and has the quaintest little cafes where you can sit, have a coffee and watch the little waves splash right at your feet. Also, you might catch a glimpse of Petros. This famous pink pelican roams the cobblestone streets of Little Venice, and he is pink and damn proud of it!
- Windmills- Ask your driver to drop you off here, have a quick photo stop in front of them and then, when facing the ocean, make your way down into Little Venice on your left.
- Anna Maria Mazaraki – This was my favorite little jewelry shop in Mykonos! It’s trendy and cute, but also quality (so it can get a bit pricey!) I got the most beautiful pieces here for myself, the girls, and my mom as a “thank you” souvenir! I bought my “evil eye” bracelet here and have not taken it off since we returned.
- Nammos Village & Beach Club – So let’s just say you DO like to party…this would be the place to go. They have a brand new village with super high-end shopping and the beach club is very reminiscent of the famous Nikki Beach clubs. There’s loud music, bottle service at your beach chair, scantily clad humans dancing, drinking…and probably making out right next to you! Ha! We ran into a work friend of Ryan’s here so we had some rosè and hung out for a few hours, but let’s just say…me and my mom-bod-one-piece didn’t quite fit in! 😉
Where we ate in Mykonos:
- M.eating– This place was highly recommended so we went here first. The menu looked great but we got shoved in an awkward table: inside, in the back, right next to the waiter’s station… and I just wasn’t feeling it, not with so many other gorgeous options out there! So, we left. If you go here, be sure to ask for an outdoor “street-side” table! (Keep in mind, by “street” I mean “sidewalk”…there are no cars in this tiny, gorgeous village.
- Familia– a cute little Italian joint. We ate here after we left m.eating, mainly because it looked so pretty and we were able to get a good table. The food was good, nothing crazy- but then again, I’m pretty much the most basic eater ever!
- Interni– This place was INSANE! Be sure to get a reservation…the food, drinks, and atmosphere were so good!
- Remezzo– We went here on our last night and it was just gorgeous. Ask to sit outside on the patio, on the edge, nearest to the water. From here you can watch the sunset and the food is absolutely delicious!
Tips for Mykonos:
- Mykonos town has two main sections: the souvenir street and the high-end street. We didn’t discover that we had missed all the high-end shops until night two and my joy was about as great as ryan’s anxiety at this discovery. Haha…just kidding. I think he loved window shopping as much as I did!
- There are like 30 taxis on the whole island. Ask your concierge to use the house car if possible, if not ask them to book you a private driver. They have a flat rate, so even though it sounds expensive, the private drivers only run a few euro above what the taxi costs.
- Make sure you come with Euros! You’ll need to tip your drivers and a few of the little shops only take cash. Most of the big stores take credit cards and will give you the option of being charged in Euro or USD. (We always chose to charge in Euro to get the best exchange rate!)
- Be sure to stop for some crepes or gelato in town!
We were gutted to leave Mykonos but so excited to see what everyone was dubbing “The Best Place in Greece”: Santorini. We took the Minoan Line Ferry (The High Speed 7/ The Santorini Palace). We heard rumors while we were there about “the other ferry” (can’t remember its name) and heard it was a nightmare experience so we were glad our tickets happened to be for the other one…because we knew no different when booking! Ha! Santorini, in a nutshell was gorgeous and we had a blast. It took us a bit to come around to it I think- mainly because we were expecting it to blow Mykonos out of the water right off the bat, but it didn’t for us. Don’t get me wrong- by the end of the trip we fell in LOVE with Santorini and would go back in a heartbeat. However, I wouldn’t say it was better than Mykonos…just different. People say you “go to Mykonos to party and Santorini to relax” but we had a very relaxing stay in Mykonos and were pretty busy in Santorini! I guess each city is just what you make of it! Love, love, love them both!
Where we stayed:
- Katakies -Fist off you should note there are three main areas to stay in Santorinini:
- Fira- the capital; lots of night life, shopping, restaurant, night clubs
- Akrotiri- off the beaten path and pretty much far away from everything
- Oia- known for it’s picturesque views, famous sunsets, and quaint village
We chose Oia (pronounced “ee-yah”) and I’m so glad we did. The village did get crowded- especially when the cruise ships came in- but if we wanted peace and quiet, we just retreated to our hotel pool! Each hotel on the main strip in Oia has bodyguards (for lack of a better term) standing at the entrance of the downward staircases, so unless you are staying there, you can’t get in. It keeps the hotels nice and peaceful and quiet even when the main strip above is jam-packed. I highly recommend staying in Oia. It was the village where we spent most of our time (so it saved on many cab rides!) and I found it to be much more picturesque than Fira. I can’t speak about Akrotiri…because we never had any reason to go there, although I hear it’s peaceful and beautiful!
Things to do/see in Santorini:
- Sunset Cruise- we booked what we thought was a sunset CATAMARAN cruise but when we showed up it was a mini yacht, instead. Ummm…SCORE! The crew was incredible and so knowledgeable! The toured us around the entire island/caldera of Santorini and gave us the most interesting history tid-bits along the way! They parked us near the sulfur hot springs at the volcano but we opted out of going for a dip. It stunk pretty bad and the water was bright orange….and hello, white bathing suit! They also cooked us an amazing dinner on board and then parked the boat for a front-and-center view of the sunset on the water. Absolutely insane! One of my favorite days in Santorini! We booked through Sunset Oia.
- Hike from Fira to Oia– This day was SO. MUCH. FUN! We took a cab from Oia to Fira, did some carb-loading at a nearby bakery and then started the 6+ mile hike over the mountains back home to Oia! We stopped to climb to the top of Skaros Rock along the way (which took a little over an hour), stopped at a little snack shack on the side of the mountain for a water and beer break, and even rode some donkeys up one of the mountains. We didn’t think we would make it and discussed getting a taxi at certain points but I think we were both determined to say we did it. It was such a amazing, gorgeous, bonding experience. I’d do it again in a heart beat…maybe just bring better shoes next time! 😉
- Spa– We booked a couples massage at our hotel after our hike and- Honey, did it feel GOOOOD after that day of climbing and sweating!
- Pool/Lounge– Santorini is known for being relaxing so don’t forget to do just that! Our hotel’s infinity pool overlooking the cliffs of Oia was insane! We came here anytime we had some downtime to relax. The service was impeccable and the food, drinks, and view were out of this world!
- Oia Shopping/Photo Opps– Get up early and go explore the village of Oia before the crowds hit! It’s so beautiful- and just keep walking, it gets better the further you go! The first night we only walked a tiny bit down the main strip and thought it was too “new and modern” and made us miss the quaintness of Mykonos Town, but the next day we pushed further into Oia and came to love it the further down the main strip we walked!
- Cathedral– The famous three-domed blue cathedral of Santorini is pretty tricky to get to so let me help you out. First of all, there are blue domed cathedrals EVERYWHERE, but “THE” famous one is in Oia. When you get dropped off at the entrance of Oia (it just looks like a giant sidewalk with shops and hotels on either side. No cars- all pedestrian traffic) walk straight down the strip until you hit the Main Square. You’ll know it’s the main square because the narrow sidewalk will open up to a courtyard on your right with a big cathedral and lots of people stopping to take pictures. Keep walking! Right after the main square you’ll see a sign on your left for a shop called “Alexandros” (if you hit our little lunch spot, Melenio [see below], then you’ve gone too far). At the “Alexandros” sign, turn left down the narrow path. Go down the stairs. You’ll see a “fork in the road” at the bottom of the stairs, turn right and there, in front of you, is the picture perfect postcard view of the famous three domed cathedral!
- Atlantis Bookshop- Ranked one of the best book stores in the world. It’s so quaint and filled with treasures! The CC machine was broken while we were there…which was probably a good thing because we would’ve spent waaaay too much on antique collector books!
- Fish Pedicures– We skipped this, but they are all over town! Get one…if you like that sort of thing! 😉
Where we ate:
- Lefkes– An old winery from the 1800s that was converted to a restaurant, great food and ambiance! Make sure to sit outside, up on the second floor if possible for the best sunset views!
- Canaves Oia Hotel (Infinity Pool Restaurant) – not sure why this was recommended. While the rooftop sunset views were pretty spectacular and the food was good- we were literally the ONLY ones there…which is a big turn-off for me when it comes to restaurants.
- Melenio– We ate here for lunch- just a little tapas cafe, but it had gorgeous views of the famous three domed cathedral and the ocean! It’s right off the main strip in Oia, right after the main square, on your left!
- Boat- We took a sunset cruise on our last night (see above) and they fed us a delicious Greek meal on board!
- For the Ferry you can actually purchase First Class tickets. This will get you access to the top floor of the ferry, with big cozy chairs, tables, and full food/drink waiter service. The ferry ride is a little over 2 hours- with stops, so it’s worth it if you want to avoid the big crowds and really relax for the ride! Also, PRINT your ferry tickets in advance!
- Most of the nice restaurants give you a shot of Ouzo after dinner. I’m not a huge fan of hard liquor or shots, but didn’t want to insult the waiters so I wound up pouring mine into my water glass most nights! Ha…just be prepared!
- Again, bring Euros! We had issues with the “ATM” machines and you’ll need lots of cash for tipping and for the smaller shops that don’t take credit cards!
- If you do the Fira to Oia hike, here are some tips try to follow along with the names/directions, it sounds kinda tricky, but I swear it’s not! So, the road starting in Fira and ending in Oia (the direction we took) is more downhill than going the opposite direction (starting in Oia, ending in Fira). So, if you’re staying in Oia, I suggest taking a taxi to Fira and hiking home. If you’re staying in Fira, hike to Oia then take a taxi back home! Also, start early so you don’t get stuck in the mid-day heat, wear comfortable hiking shoes (not CONVERSE, like me!) and bring a backpack with cell phone, CASH!, backup cell charger, and water!
I think that’s about it! It was seriously the best vacation of my lifetime (totally worth the wait!) and writing this post has me daydreaming about going back! Please let me know if you have any questions…happy to answer them if I can!