Greece, Travel

My Favorite Greek Cosmetic and Beauty Products

February 11, 2020

Greek Cosmetics

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Traveling to Greece for the past four years and now living in Athens,  I go I discover another great Greek cosmetic or beauty product. As in many European countries, you can find upscale brands of beauty products in pharmacies.

Don’t worry; I am not becoming a beauty blogger. However, I think it is helpful to share this with you for two reasons. One is, so you don’t have to search for good brands for the basic needs of shampoo, lotion, etc. Two, I think these things make better souvenirs since you will actually use them.

Korres

Korres was the first Greek beauty brand I discovered. I love the smell of cotton, and I found their brand when I saw a lotion called Pure Cotton. I also noticed they had a perfume called Pure Cotton as well! When I left Greece, I had bought both of them on one of the Greek Islands. The smell is heavenly and not overpowering. The lotion was a body butter and while thick absorbed quickly. My dehydrated skin appreciated the moisture after two weeks in the Greek sun.

There are also matching body washes in most of the same scents. Click here to buy the Pure Cotton body wash.

At the Athens airport in duty-free, there is a whole Korres shop. Since I had some Euros left over, I bought some colored lip balm that went well with my tan. Then I also found an anti-aging body oil that smelled of Jasmine. That went in my basket as well! The oil was great for putting on after a shower as a lotion alternative.

Korres also makes shampoos, conditioners, make-up,  skincare, and some natural health remedies. I have only tried the throat lozenges. You can really only find these items in the pharmacies and the store in the Athens airport.

Some of the Korres products are available at Sephora but not the body lotions and shower gels. It is mostly their skincare line, which I haven’t tried yet. Many of their products are made with olive oil if you really want to go Greek! You can find some of their products on Amazon as well if you can’t wait till you get to Greece to try them.

Apivita

Apivita was my discovery of Greek cosmetics this year. I had not brought lots of shampoo and conditioner on this trip knowing I would be in Greece long enough to need to find a local brand to purchase.  I have oily roots and dry ends. One day, I was looking and found Apivita had a shampoo and conditioner specifically for oily roots and dry ends! It is the first product like this I have seen that actually works for me. I could go for several days without my hair looking greasy at the roots.

Another hair care product I love from them is their hair masks. Since my ends tend to be dry, I tried the Moisturizing Hair Mask with Hyaluronic Acid. Not only did it make my hair soft, it smells amazing!

Apivita also makes body lotions and some face anti-aging products. The other product I have loved from them has been the facial scrubs. I had been in Greece for so many months, my skin was suffering from all the sun exposure, my fault. I was looking for a scrub that would do more than just exfoliate. Apivita has a Bilberry brightening scrub and mask that is great.

Unfortunately, I have not found Apivitia in any US beauty stores yet. However, some products are available on Amazon like the Korres products. You can find it in many other European pharmacies too.

Olive Era

Olive Era is a brand I found in the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel. It was in the bathroom for the toiletries. If you love the smell of olive leaves then you will love this lotion! It smells like an olive grove with some citrus.

I believe it is a spa product though as I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I can’t even find it online, which is a shame as I only took one lotion bottle from the hotel and there were two! This is definitely a hidden gem and something to look out for. There was also shampoo and conditioner of Olive Era in the hotel. They sold full-size bottles in the spa though. now I think I am on a mission. According to the label, it is made in Crete, so Crete may be on my next trip to Greece!

May 2019 Update: I received an email from Olive Era and they will have website now.  Click here for the link.

What about you, do you have any favorite Greek cosmetic or beauty brands?

Greek cosmetics

Greek cosmetics

Europe, Netherlands, Travel

Visiting Amsterdam at Christmas

January 27, 2020

I have only spent Christmas alone once before at that was in Rome. When spending Christmas alone, it is important for me to have something to do on Christmas morning.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Amsterdam at Christmas was a perfect place because almost all the museums are open on Christmas day. Plus there are tons of things to do in Amsterdam at Christmas time.

Amsterdam Christmas Markets

There are Christmas markets all over Amsterdam and most are open up until Christmas day. One I found was even open on Christmas Day. Here are some of the best Amsterdam Christmas markets to explore.

Ice Village

This Christmas market is located in the Museumplein right behind the Rijksmuseum. The market has a variety of stalls that sell handmade items such as jewelry, postcards and hand knits. There are also a variety of food stalls selling everything from BBQ to stroopwafels. Drink options included beer, mulled wine and hot chocolate.

Ice Village skating rink

The market also had a large outdoor ice skating rink. The rink was filled with kids and they even offered chairs to help you skate if you are out of practice!

The Ice Village Amsterdam was open Christmas day as well making it an ideal place to visit after visiting a museum or two beforehand. It was pretty cold that day so make sure to dress warm. There were a few open fires to gather around to keep warm though.

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt

This mostly indoor Christmas market is located in Westergas, Amsterdam. Westergas used to be the city’s gas works and now hosts creative activities throughout the year.

Outside the market are the food stalls, a small ice rink and even a carousel. Inside, there are plenty of vendors to shop from. I saw homemade products such as jewelry, art and food. There was even a Lush stall!

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt inside

Bingo was being played on the day I went inside. There were some food stalls inside as well with places to sit.

Some of the small buildings in the Westergas complex had shops inside them as well.

Funky Xmas Market

Also held at Westergas, the Funky Xmas Market is held the three Sundays leading up to Christmas day. This market features items from local artists and fashion designers.

Amsterdam Winter Paradise

This market as all the traditional things you would find at the other Amsterdam Christmas markets but also includes a ferris wheel! You can also go tube sliding on real snow. The festive spirit continues into the night at this market with live music.

Museums, Museums, Museums

Almost all the major museums in Amsterdam are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. This was the main reason I chose Amsterdam for my Christmas alone. I love museums and Amsterdam has some of the best ones in the world.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum cannot be missed when you arrive at the Museumplein area. It is the large castle-like structure that dominates the area.

The museum is home to over 1 million artifacts! It has a variety of objects on display including paintings, Delftware, ship models, clothing and dollhouses. It is probably one of the most eclectic museums I have ever been inside.  The only museum that I can compare it to would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The museum is open on Christmas Day and has plenty of things to keep you busy for the entire day if you want. You can also get a good meal at the Cafe or the Rijks Restaurant.

Be sure to check out the Night Watch, which is Rembrandt’s most famous painting. Starting in 2019, it underwent a yearlong restoration in the public eye. Depending on when you go, you may still be able to check out the restoration process live.

Anne Frank House

Visiting the Anne Frank House while in Amsterdam is a must for most visitors. My advice is that no matter when you are visiting Amsterdam is to book your ticket to this immediately. I booked my ticket about three weeks before I arrived and the only option I had was Christmas Eve at night.

Needless to say, the visit was worth it. The museum has been kept pristine and much of that is thanks to Otto Frank, Anne’s father. He kept it as it was when he was freed from the concentration camps. Even the original bookcase that blocked the secret entrance is still in place.

It isn’t an easy place to visit and even on Christmas Eve it was crowded. However, the magnitude of hiding in a place for two years only to be discovered after the war was officially over and then to be sent to the camps is shocking. The house is a moving experience.

Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum was my choice to visit on Christmas Day in Amsterdam. I thought it would be a popular place to visit on a regular day but it was even packed on Christmas Day.

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

It was worth seeing the Sunflowers though on Christmas morning. My advice would be to book an early morning ticket so that you might avoid some of the crowds.

I also recommend the audio guide to help you understand some of the paintings and to better understand Van Gogh’s life.

Book your Van Gogh Museum ticket here.

After leaving the Van Gogh museum, you can walk down to the Ice Village Christmas market for some poffertjes. Poffertjes are similar to an American pancake but are made with buckwheat and yeast. They are small and puffy served with butter and powdered sugar. Some stalls will let you add Nutella or chocolate.

Stedelijk Museum

If modern art is more your thing, you must visit the Stedelijk Museum.  The Stedelijk is open Christmas Day as well. It features artists such as Jackson Pollack, Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol. The Stedelijk is not on the Museumplein but is accessible by public transportation.

Light Festival

While the Amsterdam Light Festival starts well before the Christmas season, you can easily add it to your Christmas activities list while in the city. The Light Festival is an art installation that happens every year and each year is a different theme.

Light Festival installation of sinking city

Many of the installations are located in or near the canals. This makes it a great opportunity to take a canal cruise and see the lights at the same time. While these are not traditional Christmas lights, they are beautiful and you might get to see some Christmas lights in people’s houses on the canals.

Book your canal cruise here.

The art is from artists all over the world and the installations must be able to withstand the wet Dutch winter.

Food and Drink

Of course, you will want to sample all the food that Amsterdam as to offer at Christmas. I already mentioned the poffertjes and of course, stroopwafels. But to really get a taste you need to head to Foodhallen.

Pulled pork sandwich from Foodhallen

Foodhallen is a food hall with lots of options. What I liked about it was that you order food in one place and then there is community seating so you can sit anywhere. There are also several bars with beer, wine and a gin and tonic bar! There was even a small Christmas market here too.

The Netherlands is known for its tulips and windmills. Since it wasn’t tulip season, I decide to visit a microbrewery in a windmill! Ok, it is actually next to it in a former bathhouse, but it is still pretty cool. The beer was excellent as well. The windmill is the DeGooyer windmill and the brewery is the Brouwerij ‘t IJ.

Beer at Windmill brewery Amsterdam

Where to Stay in Amsterdam at Christmas

There are tons of hotel options in Amsterdam but I prefer to be near the museums and not in the city center. My recommendation is Park Centraal Amsterdam. It is right near the Museumplein and close to public transportation. Check rates here.

Public Transportation at Christmas in Amsterdam

The public transportation ran on Christmas Day. The schedule was a Sunday schedule but seemed pretty regular to me. There were times it was more crowded though. You can buy a ticket on the tram in the back of the tram. My advice is to purchase a pass for the amount of time you will be there as it saves you money and time.

Amsterdam Weather in December

Amsterdam weather in December is cold. It is December after all but don’t come to Amsterdam in December looking for a white Christmas. December in Amsterdam is the most humid month but it isn’t always cold enough to snow. When I was there it rained a few times and a few times it was a hard rain but most of the time it was a fine mist. Pack layers and an umbrella if you are traveling to Amsterdam in December.

Have you been to Amsterdam at Christmas? Share your experience in the comments.

Greece, Travel

4 Islands You Don’t Want to Miss While Yachting in Greece

January 13, 2020
Sailboat masts

Resort holidays are a thing of the past, or at least they should be. The new generation of travelers are using their vacations for experiences that were once only available to an exclusive elite class of travelers. Now, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of the opportunities we have available to us at astonishingly low prices. Holiday experiences don’t get much better than island hopping in your own rented yacht around Greek islands. This is a sponsored post.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

But which ones to choose? The first thing to accept is that you’ll never get to them all, there are simply too many. And that’s Greece’s biggest advantage – one overarching culture, but countless islands that thrill with their quirks and nuances, yet still provide all the highest quality Greek wine and olive oil with every meal.

Though this quick guide offers reasons to stop by at the most well-known as well as the least visited Greek islands, it’s just a tiny appetizer to whet your Greek palate.

Tinos

Tinos

Tinos is an island in the Cyclades Archipelago with a cozy population of around 9,000 people, situated just North of one of Greece’s most famous islands – Mykonos.

It’s a minor haven for architecture and history aficionados who come to marvel at the Our Lady of Tinos shrine, said to be the major Marian shrine in Greece. It is a Christian site believed to be the source of numerous miracles. From its hilltop perch, you’ll be able to embrace the majesty of creation with a tremendous view looking over towards Mykonos and around the Mediterranean. It is one of the founding structures of the modern Greek state, making the Lady of Tinos the patron saint of Greece.

Of course, islands of Greece are never lacking in stunning beaches for you to drop anchor at. Many beaches on Tinos island are “untouched” as far as Greek islands go, especially compared to neighboring Mykonos.

Kolimpithra beach is a small cove with a few restaurants that only ever attracts modest crowds. Kavalourko beach is barely accessible by road, so it’s a perfect destination for the kitted-out yachtsman. There are no restaurants except in the nearest town Panormos, so bring your own food and drinks and enjoy picnicking with other sailors at this untouched haven.

Mykonos

Mykonos, Greece

Although Mykonos is very heavily touristed, it still retains its charm, and there’s a reason people keep flocking back: its beaches are simply to die for.

But one of the major draws of Mykonos is how accessible it is, it’s a great destination to start off the trip, simply fly-in, charter a yacht and set sail to other destinations. Because of its popularity, it’s a great place to get chatting with other people who are sailing around the islands and get some first-hand tips for some restaurants, beaches and anchoring spots around the islands. Enthusiastic travelers are sure to overhear and join in on offering some advice over a glass of Greek wine.

Hydra

Hydra, Greece

Leonard Cohen has captured the hearts of millions worldwide, and Hydra is the Aegean island that pulled at his heartstrings and became his spiritual home. He wrote many of his songs in the house he bought here in 1960. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of Greek and musical legends!

Now, Hydra – named after the Greek word for water because of the islands numerous natural spring waters – is a tourist’s paradise without the over-tourism of Santorini. Small, uninhabited islets still sit off the shores of the main island of Hydra.

It is a picture-perfect island of narrow stone streets leading to plazas dotted with tables for outdoor dining, perfect for enjoying the cool evening breeze after sunset in summer. Prepare to sink into your thoughts uninterrupted, as you won’t hear much English from the tables beside you.

This island is really most popular with Athenians looking to get away for a bit, meaning the standards of food and wine are kept extremely high for the Greek national tastes.

For daytime exploring, there are tons of beaches, ruins, fortresses and history to absorb, dating from antiquity through to the Ottoman era and right up to the Greek War of Independence. 

Oh! And prepare to walk, cycle or ride donkeys… cars are banned on this island!

Elafonisos

Elafonisos, Greece

This little-visited tiny island just to the south of the Peloponnese peninsula boasts the world’s oldest submerged town called Pavlopetri. Its shallow submersion of only 4 meters means it can be easily snorkeled to gaze down at the ruins of Greece’s mini Atlantis.

Visiting islands as small as this means you never have to worry about fussing over restaurant choices, there aren’t many, and the ones you do find will all be great quality, serving some of its 600 locals and tourists alike. This is one island to make you feel like you’re part of something, rather than just an observer.

Sailing Season

The sailing season in Greece happens twice a year starting in May and June. Then again in August and September. Anytime outside this time is possible, but you should keep in mind the wind and the temperature of the water.

Europe, Greece, Travel

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

October 16, 2019
Looking at the sea from the back of a ferry in Greece

Ferry greece

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You dream of going to a Greek Island and soaking up the sun while sipping ouzo, but how did you get to those beautiful islands you dream of? Most of the islands are only accessible by ferry, although some of the larger more popular islands have airports. Booking ferry tickets are much easier than it used to be, but a first timer may need some help navigating the ins and outs of taking a Greek ferry.

Flights and the Ferry

My advice is to never ever book your ferry tickets the same day as your flight. This is especially true if you have hotel reservations paid for or work to return to after your vacation. Fly in and stay in Athens for the night or book a hotel near the ferry port. On my last trip, my ferry choices were to leave either at 7 AM or 4:30 PM which meant arriving in Ios after midnight. I opted for 7 AM, so I booked myself a hotel at Piraeus port for the night before. In this case, I could have never made a 7 AM ferry with any flight.

Which Ferry

There are many ferry lines, but not all the ferry lines go to every island. Which means you won’t have a lot of choices on which ferry line you take. You may be able to choose a fast or a slow ferry depending on which island you are going to.

Some of the Greece ferry lines include Blue Star Ferries, Seajets and Hellenic Seaways. They are all reliable ferry companies.

The advantages of taking the fast ferry are less time on the ferry and more time on the Greek Islands. The other advantage is that the fast ferries are usually more modern than the slow ferries.

The disadvantages are if you get sea sick easily, the fast ferry might not be for you. Many of the fast ferries are hydrofoils, which are less stable in the sense that you feel the waves not that they are going to flip over. Another disadvantage is that you are usually not allowed on the deck, especially if the weather is bad. If the weather is really bad, the hydrofoils will be canceled. If you are going to a Greek island in winter, keep this in mind and allow for it in your schedule and bookings.

Book your ferry tickets here with Ferry Hopper!

Which Port to Catch Your Greece Ferry

Athens has three ports in which ferries leave from, Piraeus, Lavrio and Rafina. The issue with this is that not all islands are served by each port. For example, to get to Kea, you will have to leave from Lavrio. If you are booking your own ferry tickets, then I recommend using FerryHopper.  It is straightforward and will give you indirect routes as well as direct routes.  If you are booking your tickets through an agent, make sure to check which port you are leaving from before you set out for your ferry as they are far apart and you will miss your ferry.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

Getting On and Off

The first time I took a Greek ferry, it was from Ios to Santorini and back. Ios is small enough, and I had help, so it wasn’t very hard. But in Santorini, I was alone, and there were a lot more people and a lot more ferries. It also seemed a bit disorganized, although in hindsight it wasn’t.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

If you are on an early morning ferry, go early as you may be able to get on without all the rushing that is associated with getting on later in the day. This is especially true if you are embarking on at the first stop. In Pireaus, you may board even an hour early on some ferries.

At Piraeus there are many gates the ferries leave from and from the beginning to the end is far, so check it and arrive early to find the right gate. On the islands, there may only be one gate or very few gates. The best way to figure out where your ferry will depart from is the ask the Port police. They are in navy uniforms that look a little military in style. Your ferry ticket should have the name of the ferry on it, and most ferries are clearly marked. Some tickets will have your gate number on them.

You need to be there early but not more than 30 minutes. Rarely are ferries early in Greece and more often a few minutes or more late. But the disembarkation and embarkation process is fast, and they won’t wait for you. However, if they arrive early, they will not leave early. Don’t worry if you see your ferry arriving before you have reached the port.

What to Do with Your Luggage

Once you are on, you should store your larger luggage in the area you are directed to. There are too many stairs involved on the ferry, and you won’t want to bring it to your seat. Unless your bag is light, leave it here. It will be fine and there is no reason to worry about it being stolen.  Do take your valuables with you to be sure, though.

Proceed up the stairs, and someone will help you find your seat. Last year, I sat where I wanted, well except for business class but this year they really seemed keen on people sitting in their assigned seats.

Tips for Taking the Greek Ferry

They will announce each port as they get close and everyone will move downstairs to gather their luggage. It will seem chaotic, but don’t stress you will get your luggage and get off the ferry. It is a very efficient system even if it doesn’t look like it.

Do you have any tips for the Greek ferry? Share with us.