Browsing Category

Greece

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.

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

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.