2018 Wrap Up

Wow, another year nearly over! 2018 honestly went by so fast I’m struggling to write this post — my brain does not compute.

There were some pretty big things that happened this year though. For starters, the vast majority of my friends got married! I went to seven weddings this year and there was only one where either Gareth or I weren’t in the wedding party! It was such a wonderful, love filled year and I’m so grateful I was living in London (and able to get to Boston) for everything!

There were also some great trips —

I went to Paris in February to visit Faye and meet Ross, which was so lovely. FAYE I MISS YOU COME TO MADAGASCAR!

Eiffel Tower, Paris Paris, France

Ibiza for a hen do, where we stayed in the nicest villa and went proper clubbing. I haven’t done that since I was 21 and brand new to LA!

Ibiza

Egypt and South Africa, which were huge life highlights I’ll never forget.

jumping rhino, kruger, south africa

Pyramid, Giza, Egypt Sphinx, Giza, Egypt

Greece, easily one of my favourite places on earth.

Boston, to see my fam and watch some of my best friends get married.

Madagascar, where I’ve moved to work on HIV and WASH projects for the next year.

Ring-tailed Lemur at Berenty Reserve

Regarding my 30 before 30, I crossed off four (and a half) items. Go to Egypt, South Africa, Greece, work in the field in Africa, and I’ve started my masters.

This year was big professionally and educationally, and moving to Mada has been pretty big personally as well. Being apart from G after having lived together is a new kind of hard, but it’s also teaching me so much about the world, myself (to be corny), and of how much I’m capable.

Also I’m quite enjoying looking back at wrap ups for 2016 and 2017 and seeing how much has/hasn’t changed. One more year to 30!

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

48 Hours in Athens

Athens was a bit of a surprise to me — I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, which is the best kind of trip!

We had about 48 hours in Athens and had a pretty good mix of sightseeing without feeling too overscheduled, and I think if you’re looking for a chilled few days filled with amazing food, I’ve got the itinerary for you.

Where to Stay

Plaka, Athens, Greece

We stayed in Plaka, which I’d recommend. The area was adorable, very walkable, and central to everything. We stayed at Antisthenes Apartments which was cheap, clean, and great air conditioning, so all in all I’d recommend it if you’re looking for basic but pleasant.

Where to Eat

We ate all our meals on Lysiou Street, which is one of the most famous in Athens. It’s full of adorable houses, cute tavernas with outdoor seating, and all the food was delicious.

Getting There

If you’re staying in Plaka, it’s an easy transfer from the airport. Just jump on the metro to Syntagma station where you can either walk from the famous Syntagma Square, or change to the red line and hop off a few stops over — our place was right next to the Acropolis stop.

Day One

We got breakfast at the airport and the journey to our flat and checking in took us until about 13:00. From there we decided step one was finding us some gyros, and you should do like we did and go to Kalopsimeno. It is cheap and fast but oh my god has some of the best gyros you can find. We didn’t have better our entire trip, so be prepared for your gyros game to peak day one.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece

It’s an easy walk to Kalopsimeno from Plaka, and from there you’re nearly at Mount Lycabettus. Depending on when you go and how hot it is, you may prefer a taxi. We walked but the heat was a bit insane and the hill felt steep. At the top you’re rewarded with an incredible view of the city and the Parthenon.

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Take in the sights and then treat yourself to a cold beer (or wine! all the red wine was chilled which was much appreciated by yours truly) and maybe some ice cream. We chilled up there for a while with a pack of cards, and it was a really lovely way to spend an hour or two.

Mount Lycabettus, Athens, Greece

On the way back, route through The National Garden which has the Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Zappeion, and the Kalimarmaro Olympic Stadium of the 1896 Olympic Games. It’s kind of insane how many structures from the Ancient Greeks are still standing — it’s hard to walk more than a few minutes without spotting something.

Arch of Hadrian, Athens, Greece National Garden, Athens, Greece

Head back into Plaka and window shop the various vendors — there are some genuinely nice things amongst the standard tourist fare.

We had dinner at Zorbas, where I got my first taste of Moussaka, which was the start of a real love affair. This whole area is the best for food. All the places are on steps and super adorable, and they were all quite lively.

After dinner and a few drinks, get an early night so you’re up bright and early for the Acropolis.

Day Two

The Acropolis opens at 8 am, and you should aim to get there early to avoid lines. Grab a pastry for the walk and be ready to spend a few hours checking out the ancient citadel. We didn’t go with a guide or headphones, but if they are in your budget I imagine hearing all the history whilst looking at the ruins would be so interesting.

Parthenon, Athens, Greece Parthenon, Athens, Greece Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Grab lunch back on Lysiou Street, we went to Yiasemi which had more amazing gyros and some pretty stellar tzatziki.

After lunch, head down to Monastiraki, where you can see Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora whilst visiting the flea market and doing some shopping. If you’re heading to the port, from here it’s just seven stops to Piraeus. Try not to be too sad your time in Athens is coming to an end — you’ll be back, right? And you’re hopefully on your way to another amazing spot, like Paros or Crete!

Santorini Hike

Why I Didn’t Like Santorini

First let’s acknowledge that I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to visit Santorini at all. However, if you travel frequently, you’re bound to visit a few places you like more or less than others. Santorini was one of those places I liked less. That said, it is gorgeous and I’m sure quite a few people feel the magic there that was lost on me. It’s also worth noting that we planned to spend 24 hours there, but due to an ferry strike were unexpectedly there for 4.5 days.

Oia, Santorini

My biggest issue was the amount of tourists in Santorini. For example, take the photo of Gareth and I below. To get it, we had to wait in line for 15 minutes , and once you got there if you took too long people shouted at you. It was stressful and packed and really (for me) took away from the beauty.

Oia, Santorini

Likewise, the sunset was gorgeous. However, to get a good spot you need to arrive about two hours early. This photo was taken 90 minutes before the sunset and believe me it only got more and more busy. Afterwards, it took us about 25 minutes to get back to the road due to the crowds.

Oia Sunset

Every picturesque location was filled with professional photographers doing photoshoots with tourists who had hired them. Everyone was dressed extremely well, and the entirety of Oia felt like one big photoshoot. Like the the main reasons tourists in Santorini were there was just to get a photo of themselves there.

Oia, Santorini

I spent about an hour doing the same, mostly because we needed (free) things to do to fill our time. Then I got fed up with the whole vibe and put my camera away for the next few days. We left Oia, which felt unbearable, and moved down to Perissa which was far less touristy. It was more of a beach town. We spent a day sitting under an umbrella on the black sand beach, having a completely different trip than the Oia focused one we had planned.

Santorini Black Sand Beach

I think I have a fairly high tolerance for tourists. I’m from Martha’s Vineyard and while I much prefer the winter, I adjusted to everything being crowded long ago. I went to Cinque Terre last August and was told I’d hate it due to all the tourists at that time of year, and again not only did it not bother me but it’s one of my favourite places I’ve ever been. There were 100 times more tourists in Santorini than in MV or Cinque Terre.

Oia, Santorini

I’m also going to be a bit controversial and say that while there were many gorgeous parts of Santorini, I don’t think the overall beauty compared to anything we saw in Paros or Crete. There are cheaper, quieter, and more beautiful places to visit in the Greek isles. I think if you only have a limited amount of time, I’d really suggest leaving Santorini off your list!

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays everyone!

Gareth and I are spending Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day with the lemurs at the Berenty Reserve. I’m so excited — it doesn’t feel like Christmas AT ALL as it is so hot it’s hard to function. But that’s okay when you’re surrounded by nature and lemurs!

I hope everyone else is having a magical day. Drink some mulled wine and eat some mince pie for me please!

Chania sunset

24 Hours in Crete

Though we’d planned for five days we only got 24 hours in Crete due to the ferry strike. Crete was stunning and I’d HIGHLY recommend planning for much more than one day there, but we ended up having such a good 24 hours, if you go you should spend a day retracing our steps.

Getting to Chania

The bus to Chania from Heraklion is within walking distance, but it’s confusing if you don’t know the route. The buses to Chania run from Bus Station A (to the right of the port) and you have to buy your ticket inside the station (about 14€). Buses depart hourly up until 18:30 when they become a bit more spaced out and the trip to Chania takes between 2.5 and 3 hours.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Kydonia Rooms which was cheap and in the Old Town. I loved this place but I love big, old, creaky buildings which is what you can expect here. We paid for a double room but got put in a quad (all to ourselves) with a kitchenette and balcony. I was into it.

What to do

If you’ve only got a day, there’s no time to waste so don’t bother sleeping in. Get yourself to a car rental place as soon as possible and head right out to Elafonisi Beach. The drive takes about an hour and a half and is really beautiful — if you’re less crunched for time it also takes you right by Kissamos, which would be a nice place to stop for food and do a bit of exploring.

Elafonisi, Chania, Crete

Once you’re past the highway there are loads of adorable little taverns to stop at, and we popped into one for a late breakfast. When we come back we’ll probably rent a place out here for a night, and do this hike, which we’d planned on but was one of the (many) things cut due to time constraints.

Taverna, Crete

Just before you get to the beach there’s a convenience store — you can stock up on snacks here, though there is a bar at the beach.

Elafonisi Beach, Crete

Pull into Elafonisi and be prepared to be stunned. It was SO pretty. The sand was much more pink than it looks in photos, and the water just as blue. Rent a lounger or two and alternate between reading and swimming and spend a few hours just feeling completely relaxed.

It sounds far to go when you only have a day, but despite the crowds I really loved it here. Alternately you could visit Balos, which we considered but I’m so glad we went with this instead.Elafonisi, Chania, Crete

Once back in Chania, go to the harbour and have a few drinks whilst watching the sunset — it feels crazy to say after all the Santorini hype, but I preferred this one for sure.

Chania sunset Chania sunset After the sunset, you’re about ready for the highlight of your time in Chania. To Koutourouki. This place was incredible. It was filled with locals, had amazing live music, and the best food. We had to wait a while for a table so we sat at the bar, made friends and had way too many shots of Raki. This place was incredible and even if you don’t drink, the food and atmosphere alone are worth it. Don’t go anywhere else for dinner!

Getting Home

We had actually had two nights (but only one day) in Chania, so we slept off our food and Raki hangovers before heading out to the airport the next morning. We still had our rental, which provided us with a free parking spot just outside of Old Town. The drive to the airport takes about 30 minutes. Alternately you can take a bus for 2.50€. It takes about 90 minutes and only runs about three times a day.  The last option is a cab for about 30€.

With that our Grecian holiday was over. Our time in Chania was the perfect end to our trip, though we definitely want to go back to Crete as soon as we can and spend far more time there.

Have you been to Crete? What were your favourite things to do? Let us know so next time we can make up for our unexpectedly brief trip this time around!