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Greece, Travel

Greek Gift Guide

November 16, 2020

This year has been a rough year for travel. Most of us have been unable to travel as we would like. Are you missing Greece or know someone who is? They might enjoy getting something from my Greek Gift Guide! Every artist or brand on this list has something I have bought something from or use on regular basis in my daily Greek life.

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.

The Round Button

I discovered The Round Button on Instagram and have been hooked on her products ever since. Alexandra’s inspiration is the island of Tinos. From her Tinos and Athens’ studios, she creates prints, pillows and jewelry. She began with prints and has expanded over the years. All the designs are clean and simple but no less stunning.

My personal favorites are the items she has created based on the Tinos’ dovecotes. The circle design and what it represents speak to me and really remind me of a Greek island. Greek islands are simple, beautiful places full of stunning landscapes, wonderful people, and ancient history.

The necklace above is the one I have purchased and the print I have is the same design but in simple black and white. However, I know the print is no longer sold. She has plenty of other beautiful prints available though. The Round Button ships internationally and when in Greece she items for sale in many shops all over Greece.

Ena Karo

The Round Button actually introduced me, via Instagram, to Ena Karo, a natural soap producer, also from Tinos. Ena Karo makes handmade soaps and toiletries on the island of Tinos. I bought two soaps in Athens so I could try them out and the smell is divine! They have also just released a Christmas collection of soaps that include scents such as Holy Night and 3 Magi.

All the soaps contain natural oils and herbs. This is definitely product you want to give as a Greek gift and a gift to yourself! My favorite scent is the Poppy Seed. I am dying to try more scents as well. If you want to watch some cool soap making, I recommend you watch their stories! Ena Karo’s e-shop isn’t ready yet, but you can reach out to them and they will get you sorted out!

In Athens, you can find Ena Karo at Flaneur. Flaneur sells unique souvenirs in Plaka and is worth a visit when you are here.

Aggeliki Stavrianou

Aggeliki Stavrianou is actually a friend of mine from when I lived in Naxos. She and I met while helping the local animal welfare. Her paintings of the Greek Islands will transport you! She still lives in Naxos and paints daily. Her art depicts island scenery in a realistic vivid way and you are likely to find a painting of your favorite Greek Island. This is the small painting I purchased from her earlier this year.

Aggeliki doesn’t have a shop online but you can get in touch with her to order either through her Instagram or her website. Act fast though as most paintings are one of a kind. She will ship anywhere in the world.

Olive Era

Olive Era is a Greek brand I discovered while staying at a hotel in Athens. The products have an amazing smell and will transport you to Greece just by using them. All products use Cretean olive oil! At the time of my discovery, they didn’t have an online shop. They now do and will ship internationally. If you are in Athens, they now also have a physical store to visit at Perikleous 28.

Olive Era

They have a variety of products, such as skincare, hair care and candles. I love the simple packaging of everything and the fact that it uses Greece sourced ingredients.

Apivita

While Apivita is a more well known international brand, it is no less Greek! This was one of the finds in the pharmacy that I still use today. My favorite products are the hair care products. I love that they are silicone-free and smell like Greece in a bottle. The hair products I am currently using are the Oily Roots/Dry Ends Shampoo, the Intense Repair Conditioner, and the Moisturizing Hair Mask.

Some Apivita products are available at Amazon if you can’t get them to ship directly to you from Greece. If you are in Greece, you can get Apivita products at most pharmacies. There is also the Apivita Experience Store in Kolonaki, which carries the full range of their products.

Korres

Korres was one of the first Greek beauty products I tried. They have great body washes and lotions. The scents are also some of the best I have ever tried. They also make skin care, hair care and face care products. Some Korres skin care products can be found at Sephora and on Amazon.

Most of their products are ethically sourced here in Greece. Some of the most popular products are the ones made with Greek Yogurt including their sunscreen and after sun line. Korres can be found in most Greek pharmacies if you are visiting Greece.

I hope this helps you give or receive a little bit of Greece this year for your holidays. Since most of these companies are small, you will be helping them in a year in which tourism dropped dramatically and still has not returned to pre-2020 levels. Other than the Amazon links, all the links are direct to the artist or brand and are not affiliate links. I want to support my local Greek artists and brands this year! Happy Holidays!

Greece, Sailing, Travel

Sailing in Greece

September 28, 2020
Sailboats with sunset behind them in Athens, Greece

Sailing in Greece is how fell I in love with Greece on my first trip. Taking a sailing holiday in Greece is a great way to see several Greek islands and even some of the mainland in one trip. Not only do you get to see many places in one trip, but you can find spots that you want to revisit on your next Greece trip.

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.

You sail from one beautiful Greek island to the next. Each will have a wonderful beach with clear turquoise or blue waters that practically beg you to swim in them. Then each night you will dock under the glowing harbor lights of a Greek village harbor and get to know the warmth of Greek hospitality.

There are several options for taking a sailing trip in Greece that can fit all types of vacations. Except for a few options, anyone can go on one of these sailing trips.

Sailing Charters in Greece

A sailing charter in Greece is probably the most common kind of sailing trip. On a sailing charter, you rent the boat, get crew, and the boat is provisioned for you. Usually, the crew and provisioning are included. Sometimes a hostess or cook is also included or can be added to the rental.

If you want a luxury sailing holiday in Greece, this is the way to go! You and your friends can rent the sailboat or yacht together to split the cost.

The other good thing about this option is that you usually have much more say in the itinerary so you can visit the Greek islands that you want or make a change if you decide to stay longer in one place. Dietary issues may also be more manageable since they will provision the boat as requested.

You can opt to have all your meals onboard or visit one of the many tavernas or restaurants in the places you visit.

Cabin Charters in Greece

A cabin charter is how I did my first sailing vacation in Greece. The cabin charter allows you to book a cabin on a charter with others. It can be a cheaper option if you can’t find enough people to charter a whole boat.

On a charter like this, the itinerary is set with mostly set in advance. Although, all sailing trips are dependent on the weather. The nice thing about this is that the captain usually knows the islands or towns very well, so you get top tips for each place.

I have done this type of sailing trip in Greece twice. Most recently, with Sailing Jollies. Although we were also doing a boat delivery and there was no hostess, and there was more responsibility. What I like about the cabin charter that usually you can learn a bit about sailing if you want.

 

Bareboat Charter in Greece

If you have your skipper’s license, you might be able to charter a yacht in Greece. Usually, this means there is no crew, and you provision the boat. This is a great option if you have a large family or group of friends already ready to go on the trip. You can make the food you want.

You also get to set your own itinerary so you can see the places you want without compromise. The only thing is having the yacht or sailboat back to the agreed-upon marina by the end date.

A bareboat charter in Greece is probably only a good idea if you have sailed in Greece before since the winds can be strong at certain times of the year. Another option is to join a flotilla of boats that may be a combination of bareboat or charter sailboats. Going on a flotilla is useful if you are confident in your sailing ability but unsure of the sailing waters. 

Day Sails in Greece

Almost every island has an option for a day sail around that island or to another island nearby. A day sail in Greece may also be possible from Athens and other major ports on the mainland. 

A day sail means that you will leave early in the morning and sail to points during the day. It usually consists of sailing to a swim stop, having lunch, and then sailing to another swim stop before returning to the port. Many times these swim stops are in spots on islands that may be unreachable by car or walking. 

Going on a day sail in Greece means that you might get to see parts of the country you may not have seen on your island vacation only.

Boat Delivery

Maybe you have some sailing experience and would like to build miles, then going on a boat delivery is a great option. The only drawback to these is that sometimes the delivery is on a schedule, and you cannot stop much for leisurely days in the ports. You may only have a few days to make the delivery.

As with some cabin charters, the trip is not going to be round trip, so you will need to find your way back to the starting point if that is where your flight leaves from. Of course, you might be able to pick up another boat delivery or enjoy the place you are in for longer.

Most boat deliveries need people with sailing experience, so this might not be an option for the casual sailor. It depends on the skipper that sail with.

Sunset Sails on the Greek Islands

By far, the most popular option for sailing in Greece is to take a sunset sail. Greek sunsets are out of this world, and unless a cloud blocks it, I have never seen a bad Greek sunset.

A sunset sail will usually leave in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on the activities involved. Some are quick for about two hours just to get out to watch the sail, usually with a drink. Others include swimming and a light meal. The boat will head back to the harbor as soon as the sun sets to avoid getting back too late in the dark, usually.

Keep in mind that the time of the sail may vary during the year for the sunset sail since the sunset changes times.

Greek Island Hopping Itineraries

Now, where should you go on one of these fantastic sailing trips in Greece? There are so many options. Of course, if you are going on a cabin charter, flotilla, or boat delivery, you may not have much choice in your sailing itinerary.

However, if you have booked the entire boat, you get to choose! If you depart from Athens, you can choose from the Saronic islands, the Peloponnese, or the Cycladic islands. For example, my first sailing trip was Athens, Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Sifnos, and Ios. The return was Ios, Paros, Syros, Delos, Kea, and Kythnos. This trip was great since we got to see both the Saronic and Cycladic islands.

If you have less time, you could leave Athens and head to Aegina, Poros, Hydra, Spetes, and return to Athens. My second trip was from Athens to Corfu. This trip was great as we saw lots of mainland villages and sailed through the Corinth Canal.

Another area to consider is the Dodecanese islands in eastern Greece. These islands are closer to Turkey so your itinerary could include Turkey as well as Kos, Kalimos, Leros, and Patmos.

Each of these areas of Greece offers something different, so you will want to do your research and see what kind of experience you would like to have.

Types of Boats

There are many options for types of boats to charter in Greece. If you know what kind of boat you want, you have already narrowed down your choices of charter companies. Some companies only do monohull sailboats and some do a mix of monohulls and catamarans. If you are only looking for motor yachts, then you can look for those as well.

Going on a monohull sailboat is my top choice. If you are unfamiliar, a monohull is a single hulled boat with sails. Many sailing enthusiasts prefer this as you get the real feel of sailing this way. When underway with higher speeds the boat will keel to one side. This is when one side of the sailboat is lower than the other. The wind whips through your hair and occasionally you will get a light spray of seawater!

Another type is a catamaran. These usually have two hulls that are connected. These offer more stability than a monohull. The cabins tend to be larger as is the saloon. These are a great option for people new to sailing or those traveling with young children.

Then there are motor yachts. There are many different kinds of these and I won’t go into them all. The ones you charter will have cabins for sleeping and it will vary on where the helm is. This may or may not matter to you if you are the skipper or not. If you are skippering your own boat, you will know what you prefer. If you going with a skipper, make sure the yacht has the features you desire.

Wondering what to pack for you Greek island sailing trip? Check out my post all about it by clicking here!

Have you been sailing in Greece? Share your experience in the comments!

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Greece, Travel

One Year Living in Greece

August 24, 2020

This week marks one year of living in Greece. The year has not gone as expected for so many reasons! I am sure many of us are feeling that way about 2020, though. This year has tested my patience, made me question my decisions, brought new opportunities and new friends.

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.

What happened in Naxos

The plan all along was to live on the island of Naxos. Island life is what appealed to me about Greece. Life on a Greek island is slow, and the beach is always nearby.

However, finding an apartment on an island that is slowly bringing more and more tourists every year made it hard to find an apartment. Many apartments have been converted to Airbnbs, and landlords want you leave during the summer months.

There is no central real estate listing in Greece, and on the island, they tend not to use internet listings. This meant endless asking around and looking for these bright yellow stickers that had for rent listing on them, in Greek!

After some weeks of bouncing around hotels and Airbnbs, I found a studio apartment. The rent was a great price, and the location was perfect. It was in the center of town and about a 10 minute walk to the beach. I thought all was well.

Then after about two weeks, my landlady complained about my air conditioning usage. I wasn’t quite sure why since I was paying for electricity. I found out later that it was because her and her husband’s bedroom was right above the unit, and they slept with their windows open. Long story short, I moved out. Back to a hotel I went!

Resident Permit Issues

All during this time, I was trying to get an appointment with the Alien’s (Immigration) office, which is on another island. The phone would ring, and ring and sometimes no one would answer. Then if they did answer, they didn’t speak English.

Friends who speak Greek called, and either couldn’t get someone to pick up, or they wouldn’t help them either. It was a nightmare.

Between never getting anyone on the phone at the office and my lack of long term accommodation, I decided that Athens might be a better option even if that meant not living near the beach and my friends. I returned to Athens in late October with a plan to go to Spain for about a month to think.

My one extra suitcase went into storage in Athens, and in November, I headed to a co-living space in Spain.

One Month turns into Two

Once I got to Spain, I had a great time and really didn’t want to stop traveling. After the co-living space, I spent another ten days in Valencia. Although some of that time was not supposed to be spent there, a train strike in France change my plans to take a train all the way from Valencia to Amsterdam.

Eventually, I made it to Amsterdam for Christmas. I had secured a pet sitting job in exchange for a place to stay, and Amsterdam is very expensive, so I was glad to have this option. Plus, the two kitties I watch were adorable and were 19 years old!

I spent Christmas Day wandering the Van Gogh museum and eating at Christmas markets. All the while reveling in the fact that I was traveling again and really not wanting to face up to the things I need to do back in Greece. So I went to Germany for New Years’. One of my friends from the co-living space invited me to stay with her for a while, and I got to see a small part of Germany, a new country for me.

Back to Greece

Knowing me, I could have kept running around Europe forever. My desire for a Greece resident permit brought me back to reality, and I returned to Athens in early January.

The apartment hunt began again. This time there was much more online, but good luck getting someone to write you back, and I couldn’t call since I knew almost no one in Athens to help me translate. I ended up taking the second place I saw as it was in my desired neighborhood.

Hindsight is 2020, though, and now I wish I had looked longer and found a place that was cheaper and had a balcony. This all revealed itself in March when the world changed forever again.

I contacted a lawyer right away to get the resident permit sorted, but due to his fees, I delayed so I could save up some money. That was probably a mistake, but again I had no idea what was coming.

Lockdown in Greece

Blaring emergency notices came out from my American and Greek phones one evening announcing that we would be going into lockdown starting March 23 at 6 AM due to COVID-19. We had already had one emergency alert a week before telling us to be cautious, and much was closed already.

I had been dating someone, so he quickly came over to bring me food and give me a hug. He was one of the few people I knew in Athens, so I felt overwhelmed with the thought of being alone for an unknown amount of time. Not only that, but now my resident permit was going to be delayed because the office was closed.

There were many days of thinking I had made the wrong decision to be here and whether or not I should return to the US. Ultimately I decided to stay. The guy I was seeing broke it off in the middle of all this, leaving me even more alone. I took many walks around my neighborhood to cope.

Freedom!

In late May, Greece lifted our strict restrictions on going out, and while there wasn’t much open, I could go for further walks. In June, restaurants could let people sit outside, and I started to make friends.

It took to a few more months to get all the offices opening and working in Greece and much of their processes online. Just last Friday, I learned I have an appointment for my resident permit interview. Ironically, one day after my visa expires!

What I have Learned

One of the biggest things is to learn to have more patience or at least to tell myself to be patient. With the delays of the resident permit, I have learned that I just need to let things work themselves out since they are beyond my control anyway. This is still hard for me.

Greece operates on its own timeline, and I knew that, but now I know it usually works out in the end.

Good things can come from bad experiences. During lockdown, I started doing weekly vlogs on my very small YouTube channel. These were a big hit, and while my channel is still very small, it has grown into something I really enjoy. I am teaching myself about filming, editing and YouTube.

Some flowers along all my walks

Despite what you might think, I have always been an introvert. Coming out of lockdown turned me into a person who wanted to go out all the time. I am just starting to return to my introvert ways, which might be good since cases of COVID-19 are increasing here daily.

Being away from my family has been hard, but we talk a lot which we always have. My mom has learned to text better, and even send photos to me!

In one way, I am grateful to the virus. My best friend had been terminally ill for several years when I left. I had hoped that when I left, she had a few more years left. However, I was wrong, and she passed away in July.

This was my biggest fear of going away and that I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye. COVID-19 made it impossible to go home, and ultimately her family decided to only have immediate family at the funeral, and to broadcast it live on Facebook. So I was able to attend all the way from Greece. It wasn’t the same, but I was grateful for this small comfort. Her family also allowed me to write her obituary as my final gift to her.

The last year of living in Greece was nothing like I expected and I think that is the biggest lesson of all. Expect the unexpected, and when the unexpected comes, go with the flow.

What is Happening to the Blog

A few people have asked me about the blog since I haven’t written anything in so long. With travel being suspended in most of the world, it didn’t seem right to keep writing about travel, and then I stopped traveling.

For now, I will only be traveling in Greece and plan on sharing those experiences here again soon. The blog is not going away, but there will be fewer posts than in a normal year. My traffic had tanked, and while I thought this was the year I was going to make a profit on the blog, I hope that I can rollover the small successes from this year into 2021! I hope you will join me over on my YouTube channel as well.

Wishing you all health and happiness. Stay safe

Greece, Travel

What to Pack for Greece

February 17, 2020
What to pack for Greece

Visiting Greece is on many people’s lists but what to pack for Greece is one of the most frequent questions that I see and get. For the most part, packing for Greece is pretty easy. However, there are things you should keep in mind with packing for a trip to Greece. This list what to pack for 10 days in  Greece.

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.

Most people will visit Greece in summer so this Greek packing list is a summer list.

What to Wear in Athens

Almost everyone that visits Greece will spend at least one day in Athens. Athens is an old city and many of the sidewalks are in need of some help. They are also often made of marble which is slippery even on a dry day!

Stick with flat shoes and sneakers for lots of walking. Many of the ancient sites are within walking distance and it isn’t worth getting on the metro to reach them.

People dress up in Athens but not so much as say in New York City. Dinner out can be formal or casual depending on where you want to go. I would also say that darker colors are favored amongst the Athenian crowd so dress similarly if you want to blend in with the locals.

Make sure to keep valuables near your person in Athens because like in many big cities pickpocketing can be an issue at tourist sites and the metro.

What to Wear on the Greek Islands

Dressing on a Greek island is less formal than in Athens. You will see everything as well. Shorts during the day are common and even at night on most islands. I like to wear a casual dress on the islands for dinner though. However, no one will care if you wear your nice shorts for the restaurant though.

Even in the summer months, it can get cool at night on the islands so you may want a light jacket or cardigan for the evenings. Also a pair of pants. Take an umbrella or a rain jacket in case it rains.

The pants are also good for taking the ferry where the air conditioning can be intense!

Light colors are best for the islands since the heat and the white of the buildings can make it seem hotter than it is. Choose cotton clothing that is breathable and dries fast.

Packing List for Greece

Three Dresses –  One nice dress for a nice dinner out. The others can be a casual dress for walking around in the day or used as a swimsuit cover-up.

3 Shorts  – It gets hot in Athens in the summer. Bring ones that are cotton and easily washable. I love linen shorts for all my hot weather travels, such as these.

Pants – One should be fine unless you are in Greece in September. Then you might want it for the evening. Jeans are an option as well.

5 Shirts – Make sure the colors match all your bottom pieces. These should be cotton or lightweight material. You will feel cooler this way.

One pair of walking sandals – Athen is very hilly and as mentioned the sidewalks are made of marble. I have fallen in Toms walking in Athens. You will need something with a good grip on the sole. I love these closed toed ones from Keen. You might be more comfortable in sneakers for the traction.

Dressy sandals – You will want something nicer for dinners out but make sure they have a good grip as well.

Flip flops  – Flip flops are essential for visiting a Greek beach. The sand can be hot and you won’t want to use your nicer sandals since the sand will come back to hotel with you.

Light cardigan – Nights can be chilly here even in summer since it is close to the sea. You may want a light layer to take with you at night. This cardigan is similar to the one I have.

Tesalate Beach Towel – You will need to bring your own beach towel as you can’t rent them on the beach and the hotels usually don’t let you take theirs to the beach.

This beach towel is the best beach towel I have found to date. The towel repels sand which is great when you are on a Greek beach! Your hotel will be sand free thanks to this beach towel. The Tesalate towel is compact and comes in tons of beautiful patterns.

You can even get a double for a couple or families. I also liked it because it is quick dry meaning it could be used as a travel towel. (I was gifted a Tesalate towel but all opinions are my own.)

Tesalate Towel on a chair near the sea

Beach bag – A bag to take your towel, sunscreen and book is necessary since you will not want to take a nice handbag to the beach. I like to bring a reusable tote bag that can double as a grocery bag or laundry bag. Like many countries in Europe, Greece grocery stores charge for using plastic bags.

2 Swimsuits –  You will want to swimsuits even for a short trip since it can be really humid in Greece in the summer. It might take a day to dry out and no one likes putting on a wet suit.

Sunglasses – The Greek sun is intense and even more so when it is being reflected off the white buildings of the Cycladic islands. Pack at least one pair and bring backup in case you lose yours in the sea.

Pajamas – Obviously you will want something to sleep in. This can be tricky in Greece as many hotels will only offer a sheet on the bed. I think this is because Greeks don’t sleep with the air conditioning on so you won’t want a heavy blanket. However, you may want the air conditioning on so bring the PJs you will be comfortable in.

Camera – You will want a camera for all the beautiful scenery you will be seeing in Greece. I used a Sony A7rii camera, which I love. However, it may be more than you want. Here is a good Sony camera alternative to it if you are looking for a good camera that is easy to use.

Laptop or Tablet – Most you won’t need a laptop on vacation but you may want it for entertainment on the plane or in the hotel in the evening. A few times I have been in Greek hotels without any English channels. A tablet is also a good option and may offer you a way to read some books on your beach vacation.

Packing cubes – Want to pack a bit more without having to bring a bigger suitcase? Consider using packing cubes to compress your clothes.  I use them on every trip and prefer the Eagle Creek brand packing cubes.

Water bottle  – Water on the islands is not drinkable but you can refill a water bottle at some city water fountains on the Greek islands. They look like fancy places to wash your hands or feet but they are actually potable water. It is a good place to fill up rather than having to buy plastic water bottles all the time, plus its better for the environment.

Toiletries  – Bring the minimum you will need to survive a night or two. After that, you can purchase larger toiletries in the pharmacy in Athens or the islands. Some of my favorite Greek cosmetic brands are found in the pharmacies and not in the grocery stores. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

This will save you weight and space in your toiletry bag plus you get a useable souvenir if you don’t use them all.

Backpack or Suitcase

Personally I think this is a matter of preference but many people will want to know what kind of suitcase to bring to Greece. If you aren’t island hopping then a rolling suitcase is fine in Athens since you will most likely check in to one hotel and not move around.

If you are going to an island after visiting Athens you might want a backpack as it will make walking to the ferry or your island hotel much easier since the sidewalks can be uneven on the islands as well as in Athens.

I personally take a rolling suitcase on almost all longer trips. It makes getting on the Greek ferry easier for me and saves my back. I also arrange transport on the islands with the hotel or take a taxi for arrival.