A Weekend in Paros, Greece

Paros was my favourite part of our time in Greece, by far. Paros was everything I dreamed Greece would be – small winding streets, white washed buildings, picturesque beaches, a small town feel. If you’re trying to decide where to go in Greece, trust me that Paros should be one of your stops (Matt and Maggie I’m talking to you!).

Paros, GreeceParos, Greece

What to do

Day One

Our first day we woke up and went straight to the port in Parikia where we met up with Petros from Regaki Boat Trips for our day trip around Paros and Antiparos. To be honest, the first 30 minutes of the trip I was questioning what I’d signed us up for. The boat was slightly crowded, no one was talking, it was rocky getting out of Parikia, and I didn’t see how we’d make it through 8 hours.

Paros, Greece Boat Tour Paros, Greece Boat Tour

Then we arrived at our first stop, which was some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen. We had a swim, came back on the boat, and it was just late enough to start partaking in the open bar. From then on, it was such a wonderful day. People loosened up, we all made friends, and were basically transported to the best swimming and cliff jumping locations around whilst eating and drinking to our heart’s content.

Paros, Greece Boat TourLogistics: The boat departs at 10:00 am and it costs 55 euros per person. Brunch and a late lunch are included, as well as all the wine, beer, and soft drinks you want. You get back to Parikia between 5 and 6 pm, and again I highly recommend fitting this into your schedule!

Day Two

Rent an ATV for your second day, which makes the island so much more accessible. Head straight to Paros Park and hike to the lighthouse before the sun is directly overhead. The views are stunning and when we went I think we only saw about 5 other people. It took us about an hour round trip, but we sat by the lighthouse for about 15 minutes to read in the shade – and on the way back we wandered down to a little cove and took a dip!

Paros Park Lighthouse, Greece Paros Park, Greece Paros Park, Greece This area is super cool and if you’re there on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, you should definitely check out their free open air movie theatre.

Paros Park, Greece

Grab lunch at Anemos Taverna before relaxing at for a bit at Kolymbithres Beach. This is one of my favourite beaches in the world, tied with Vernazza in Cinque Terre. I love stone beaches, and while this one did have sand, there was enough stone to lay out on, and the views and clear water were just incredible.

Kolymbithres Beach, Paros, GreeceKolymbithres Beach, Paros, Greece

From there head inland to Lefkes. This town is quintessential Greece. Greeks seem to put so much weight into small gestures to make things lovely. If house had chipped paint or a visible water cooler, they would make sure to put flowers next to it. It wasn’t about making everything modern and new, but making the old as beautiful as possible. I really appreciated it.

Lefkes, Paros, Greece Lefkes, Paros, Greece Lefkes, Paros, Greece Lefkes, Paros, Greece

In the centre of town is the gorgeous Agia Church and Kafenion where you should stop and grab a snack or at the very least a drink. The owner is so nice and the little square is a gorgeous place to sip some wine and soak in Greece.

Lageri Beach, Paros, Greece

On your way back to Naoussa, detour a bit to get to Lageri beach. Despite being one of the most famous beaches on the island, when we got there we had it almost entirely to ourselves – only four other people on the whole beach! Have a great last swim before going to home to shower and get ready for a night out in Naoussa.

Where to eat

Soso is meant to have the best food on the island. We didn’t make a reservation which is definitely needed, so can’t confirm first hand. But everyone we spoke to loved it.

Soso Restaurant, Paros, Greece

Soso Restaurant

Romantica was delicious and run by a local family.
Vitsadakis on the water was huge and had slightly less ambiance, but was surprisingly delicious – if you go here, get the lamb.
Paradosiaka has the best Loukoumades on the island and not a place to miss!

Where to drink

There are quite a few cocktail bars as you walk the winding streets, but our favourite was Sante Cocktail Bar. It has delicious cocktails, and was cuter than the others – it’s in the centre and surrounds a big tree that is lit up with lights and candles.


Moraitis winery is meant to be lovely and a great way to spend a few hours.

Where to stay

Your main options are Parikia and Naoussa. We stayed in Parikia our first night as we didn’t arrive until around 11:00 pm and were leaving from there at 10:00 the next morning for the boat tour. However, as soon as that was over we moved to Naoussa where we spent the next two nights. Definitely stay in Naoussa. It’s smaller, more pristine, and has so much charm. Parikia is a port town so is quite large and bustling, and much less picturesque than Naoussa.

Naoussa, Paros, GreeceNaoussa, Paros, GreeceNaoussa, Paros, Greece

We stayed at Bocamviglies which I would recommend. We had ocean views, a beach almost entirely to ourselves, and were only a ten minute walk from town.

Bocamviglies

Best Beaches

Lageri, Kolymbithres, and Monastiri are advertised by tour companies everywhere on the island. You could go through a tour, but by staying in Naoussa and renting an ATV, they are incredibly easy to get to on your own. I do agree with the tour guides though, they are the best beaches on the island!

Paros

Paros was dreamy. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, the island was the perfect size and had just the right amount of people. Have you been to Paros? What did you think?? I feel like it’s still a relatively undiscovered secret and now I just want everyone I know to go so they can also see how great it is!

Sunset, Greece

A Week in Greece Itinerary

Guys, the countries left on my 30 before 30 list are dwindling right down! When I made that list 3.5 years ago, I didn’t think there was any chance I would come close to visiting all the places on my list – and now I’ve just crossed off my third to last location!

I’ve wanted to go to Greece since about 2001, when Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was first published. 17 years later and I finally made it!

We had 9 days and in that time we visited Athens, Paros, Santorini, and Crete. Due to an unexpected ferry strike, we had far less time in Crete (and much more in Santorini) than we had planned on – but I’d recommend following our original itinerary.

Athens

Athens Acropolis

We had just over 24 hours in Athens, and used that time to explore Plaka, climb to the top of Lycabettus Hill, and (of course) stopped by the Acropolis. I wasn’t expecting to love Athens, but I really did – it felt young and artistic but still quite traditionally Greek. Given our short time in the country we wouldn’t have traded anything out to stay longer, but Athens is definitely a city where you could happily spend a lot longer than 24 hours.

Paros

Paros, Greece

Paros, Greece

Our three days in Paros were the highlight of our trip, without a doubt. Before going, so many people had told me it was their favourite island, and now I understand why. It was the perfect size, was set up for tourism but not overcrowded, felt authentically Greek, and had some incredible beaches. While there we did a day long boat tour around Paros and Antiparos, rented an ATV and drove around the island, and hiked up to a gorgeous lighthouse. If you’re deciding which islands to visit, definitely include Paros on your list.

Santorini

Santorini, Greece Sunset Santorini, Greece

We originally planned to be in Santorini for just over 24 hours. I really wanted to go, but had heard it was extremely crowded, expensive, and commercial due its popularity. 24 hours would have been perfect, but we ended up being there for about four days due to a ferry strike – and that, to me, was much too long. I’ll explain why in my Santorini post, but it just wasn’t the island for us.

Crete

Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece

Our 4 days in Crete had become a day and a half, which was disappointing – especially once we arrived and realised just how beautiful the island is. I definitely want to go back to Crete and spend more time there, but I think we came up with a great itinerary for the time we had. The highlight was spending a few hours at Elafonisi Beach, with its amazing views, clear blue water, and PINK sand!

Greece was incredible. It lived up to my expectations and more – I wasn’t expecting to love the food so much. I’ve had Greek food before and enjoyed it, but it tastes so, SO much better there. I don’t know why – maybe the quality of the produce? But Greek yogurt, Greek salads – things I like but don’t love elsewhere were things I went to bed dreaming about in Greece. Honestly – I might like actual Greek food more than Italian food (never tell my dad I said that).

One of the best parts of Greece are the endless islands to discover. While I can’t really imagine anything topping Paros, I want to go to Folegandros and Milos – and spend more than a day or two in Crete.

Have you been to Greece? What were your favourite places? We only just returned and I’m already desperate to go back!

Pinchos: The five best in Logroño

La Rioja is well known for its wine, but did you know that a few years ago it was also voted the gastronomic capital of Spain? That’s right, the food is nearly as good as the wine — remind me again why I left?? The pinchos, as tapas are called in the north, are varied, delicious, and incredibly unique. And I’ve tracked down the best ones!

The main area for pinchos in Logroño is Calle Laurel. As I was lucky enough to live on Calle del Capitan Gallarza (literally the next street over), I was able to try most of them!

My top five

1. Paganos: iberico pinchos

We call this place the meat on a stick place, because two of its three meat pinchos come skewered on a wooden stick. This is, in my opinion, the absolute best pincho Logroño has to offer. Get the iberico, watch them put it on the fire, sprinkle it with salt, and then die of culinary happiness when you take your first bite. This was the first place I took my mom during her visit, and she went back every day. In Spain you generally “pincho hop,” where you move from place to place, dish to dish. Not my momma. She would order two or three ibericos and just be done with it. #Respect. Also a glass of wine is .80, and though that is common for Rioja, it’s still fun to point out. *I don’t have a photo of this one because it was literally so good I could never put off eating long enough to take a picture, but you can check it out here.

2. ribera: michy pinchos

Ribera is famous for its moro pincho, or pork cheek. I went my entire time in Logroño without trying it, because on my first night I found something that  was impossible to not order again and again. On my last night, I finally did try, and not gonna lie–it wasn’t as good my usual. Luckily, by then I was a Ribera regular, and noting my failure to immediately clear my plate as custom, the bartender quickly presented me with michy, which was my favorite. I don’t actually know what it is–once I passed someone eating the most delicious smelling thing I’d ever encountered, was told simply that it was michy and never questioned it again. Get the michy.

Pork Cheek

Pork Cheek

Michy

Michy

Can I just say, while I’d never argue Europe has anywhere near the customer service we get in the states, in general once they know you (or even when they don’t, as we discovered on our hikes), the staff are incredibly generous and go above and beyond–I’d imagine it’s because most places are independently owned and family run, so more pride is taken in the quality).

3. la Canilla: entrecot pinchos

I found this place from the young adventuress (also where I found my piso…), and I’m so glad I did. At about 5 euros, this is a bit more expensive than the others, but is super filling and just oh-so-delicious. This is entrecot cooked rare and flavored with sea salt (as are all the best meat dishes), with sides of red peppers and little crispy potatoes.  This one is lovely, and as it’s the next street over from Laurel, a great place to go if you’re not feeling the crowds.

entrecot

entrecot

4. Pulpería La Universidad: pulpo pinchos

PulperÍa is famous for its octopus, and once you try, you’ll understand why. It’s unique and delicious and not a place you want to miss. They also have great deals on bottles of white wine, which has led to me accidentally getting a bit drunk a few occasions.

pulpo - octopus

pulpo

5. bar cid: setas pinchos

Bar Cid has the best setas, or mushrooms in Logroño. A controversial statement, as anyone who has lived in Logroño can attest, the generally agreed upon best is Bar Angel. And those are good. These are just better. While the others come from champi mushrooms, these are oyster mushrooms, covered in a garlic/buttery goodness, and served up on a piece of bread. There is nothing to improve on.

setas - mushrooms

Setas

A map, to show just how close all these wonderful options are:

Basically, Logroño’s pinchos game is on point. Writing this post was so bittersweet–man oh man, do I miss all this food . Oh well, at least in London there is Chinese food and delivery.

Coming soon: the best pinchos for specific things: tortilla, patatas bravas, calamares, and even Italian food!

(*credit for the mushroom and octopus photos to Shaina who is much better at photographing her food than I am)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

When I was younger, one of my aunts had businesses all over Europe, and visited them constantly. My dad would never let us go with her (thanks, dad), but she promised that when we turned 16, my sister and I could choose any city in the world and she’d take us. After reading a book called Postcards from No Man’s Land when I was 12, I fell madly in love with Amsterdam from afar, and knew this was where I would pick. And while a change in fortune prevented me from going when I was 16, I promised myself I’d make it there one day.

That day ended up being last December, in between Berlin and Poland. Gareth wanted to wait until the Spring, but I l’d already waited over ten years, so off we went.

that is me between the red hat and red scarf. I love wine and all wine colored things.

We arrived (barely) after a ten hour bus journey from Berlin, and from the moment we stepped off the bus we were already excitedly talking about how this is where we want to live. I still feel that way. Amsterdam felt alive and inspiring and immediately like home. I spent all our down time researching the logistics of a move to Amsterdam, and it’s still probably the number one place in Europe I’d like to live. I really hope it happens one day!

We only had two days in the city, and missed out on some vital stuff. We’d already said we’d go back in the spring to see the tulips, and will know to book ahead to see the Anne Frank house. But I wouldn’t trade our winter trip for anything. The city wasn’t very crowded, we got to pop in for a mulled wine whenever it got too cold, and spent an evening ice skating next to the Van Gogh Museum. That said, there was a shocking lack of Christmas markets in Amsterdam, which I hadn’t expected. However they did have ice skating and mulled wine, which are the best parts of Christmas anyway.

We didn’t do the “other side” of Amsterdam at all. We accidentally walked through the red-light district for about a minute, but didn’t see anything other than some literally red lights.

Things I’d recommend:

The Van Gogh museum is worth it. The collection is huge, and it’s not just his art but history of his life, personal items and letters. I remember being in second grade and learning about the crazy guy who cut off his ear. It seemed so insane back then, far away and from a different world. I loved being able to see his things, look at his writing, view his work.

We went to Omlegg for breakfast both days. I know you’re supposed to try new places, but we’d already found the perfect spot and were happy sticking with it.

We decided early on that after the Van Gogh museum we’d try to spend as much of our time as possible outside. We took a long walk from one end of Amsterdam to the other, which I’d highly recommend copying. Omlegg is in De Pijp, which was imo the coolest neighborhood in the city. It’s easy to go from there to the Albert Cuyp Market (largest market in Europe, open 9-5 every day of the week except Sunday). Then take a stroll through Museumplein Park, and along the river.

We saw so much of the city just by wandering around, popping in the shops, chatting with the servers, and got to know the city beyond just its tourist attractions. End the walk at Arendsnest to try the local beer brews. This was a highlight of the trip, even for a wine drinker like me. Honestly, this place is incredible.

There are a lot of bookstores around, and we had so much fun stopping in them (or maybe I just loved it enough for us both). Like I said earlier, the city felt very creative and young, and the bookstores were no different. I got this book, and it was SO good. I learned so much about the history of Amsterdam and it was so well written, I flew through it in just a few days.

Amsterdam is hard to capture in just a post. The bikes, the young population, the crisp air. The whole time I was there all I wanted to do was read and write and explore, and that feeling is basically what I’m looking for when I travel. I don’t know when or how we’d live there, but it’s still something I’d really, really like to do at some point.

(feature image photo cred to The Telegraph)

Lake Bled, Slovenia

About five years ago I saw a picture of what looked like a fairy tale brought to life. It was of a gorgeous lake, surrounded by towering mountains, with a tiny island in the middle with an old church on it. I wasn’t sure if it was real, but eventually tracked it down: Lake Bled, Slovenia.

Slovenia. It sounded remote and was definitely not a place I already had on my list. But after seeing that photo, up it went, and I am so incredibly glad I was able to go last Semana Santa, in between Italy and Croatia.

I made friends with a few people from my hostel, and we decided to spend the day in Bled together. Getting there from Ljubljana is really easy. The bus leaves right from the main station, and drops you off right at the lake about and hour and fifteen minutes later. They depart hourly, and are 7 euros each way. Some buses even continue on to Bohinj, which is another gorgeous looking lake. You can also go by train, which is faster but the stop is a few miles away from the lake so unless you feel like a walk, you’d have to then catch the bus or take a cab.

It was as stunning in person as it is in photos, which isn’t always the case, and even though it was Easter we only had to share the lake with about ten other people. We spent a few hours walking the loop, and at about the midpoint found a little shop that had groceries–we picked up some wine and the makings for a picnic. There’s a trail almost directly across from where you first enter that leads to the most incredible view point. It was a lot more steep and rocky than I had expected, but WOW were the views worth it. We stayed up there for about an hour, picnicking, and soaking in the beauty. There are hostels nearby if you want to stay for the night, but unless you’re planning on going to Bohinj the next day, there’s not much to do in the area once you’ve done the lake. It’s a perfect as a day trip from Ljubljana, and such a perfect way to cap off any trip to Slovenia.