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Greece, Travel

My Favorite Greek Cosmetic and Beauty Products

February 11, 2020

Greek Cosmetics

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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, 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.

Book Your Greek Ferry Tickets

There are many ways to get ferry tickets. If you are in Greece in the low-season, you might be able to get them on the day. However, I book mine online in advance with Ferry Hopper. Book the tickets on their website and you can pick them up right before you board the ferry. Some ferry operators even have the option to show the tickets on your phone, much like an airline boarding pass.

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

Europe, Greece, Travel

Things to Know Before Traveling to Greece

July 1, 2019

Greek Islands In October

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I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have Greece on their bucket list. However, many people have preconceived notions about Greece that are not true or are less than accurate. Knowing the truth will help you plan better and help you enjoy your time in Greece even more. Here are all the things to know before you travel to Greece.

Athens is More Than the Acropolis

Most people think of Athens, and they think of the Acropolis that sits on a hill in the center of the city. Many people believe they can visit the Acropolis and be done with Athens. Some people only spend one day in Athens! You still don’t need a week in Athens, but you do need about three days to see more than the Acropolis. One of the best things to do is to visit the Acropolis Museum. It is stunning and is not very large. There is an archeological dig exposed under the building as well.

There are many more museums to explore in Athens as well, including the Benaki Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art. The Benaki Museum has a wonderful cafe with an outdoor terrace to view the city. There is also all the great food to eat as well. There is good food all over Greece, but Athens has a city feel and more upscale options if that suits you. Many places have excellent views of the Acropolis. I suggest going right before sunset to eat so you can enjoy your Greek food with a stunning sunset.

Athens has many other ancient sites to visit including Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora. These sites can be seen with an additional cost added on to your ticket to the Acropolis. You can easily walk to them after finishing the Acropolis. A short tram ride away are some beaches if you want to make a day trip to the beach while in Athens.

Greece is On its Own Time

Unlike much of Europe, Greece has a much more laid back attitude and it is actually one of the things I love about spending time there. Ferries might be late or may be canceled. You may have to ask for your bill a few times before it arrives. There is no rushing in Greece unless you are driving. Then watch out!

This may be hard for some people to deal with but if you know about it in advance you know what to expect. The only thing I will say is that it usually all works out in the end. Greeks, for the most part, are pretty trustworthy and do not like to let the tourists down.

Strikes

Every summer there are ferry strikes. These seem to only happen during tourist seasons as well. I assume this is because it gives the workers more leverage. They are usually announced in advance so you won’t be standing at the ferry terminal waiting in the heat wondering if the ferry is going to come. However, by the time they are announced, you will probably not be able to change your hotel and everyone will be either buying new tickets or plane tickets. That is if you are on an island with an airport. My advice is to get travel insurance to make sure you are covered for any out of pocket costs you may have to incur. Also, do not book your flight and ferry on the same day! This is a good time to see more of Athens.

Tipping in Greece

I belong to several groups on Facebook about Greece and at least once a week I see questions about tipping in Greece. Like most of Europe, no one in Greece will complain if you don’t tip but most people tip about 10%. This is for restaurants mostly. Even in a cafe or coffee shop, I like to leave something if I have been waited on at a table. For larger groups, everyone should leave 10% as you are most likely taking up several tables during that time. If you feel like the waiter or waitress did an outstanding job, then more than 10% should be given. Another rule of thumb some people use is to round up. For example, if your bill was €18 then you could leave €2 as a tip. Keep in mind Greece is still suffering from economic issues so every bit helps the locals. Another thing to remember is that if paying with a credit card, you may not be able to add a tip after it has gone through the machine. Either ask them to add it to the total or have enough euros to tip in cash.

Santorini is Crowded

For many visiting Greece means the island of Santorini. Santorini is beautiful and has a unique landscape. However, everyone has Santorini on their bucket list and it means it is very crowded during the tourist season. If you must visit Santorini, here are a few tips that may help you avoid the crowds. First, go in the offseason. The main season is May to September with July and August being the busiest. However, I was in Santorini in September and it was still very busy. Go in October or April and you will still get to see the sites without the crowds.

If your only option is to go to Santorini in the tourist season, then stay outside the two main villages of Fira and Oia. They are the most crowded and probably the most expensive places on the island. A great alternative is in the village of Imerovigli. You will still get caldera views from here and the prices are less steep than in Oia.

200 Inhabited Greek Islands

There doesn’t seem to be an exact count of how many inhabited islands there are in Greece, but safe to say there are around 200. This is another reason that Santorini or Mykonos are not the only Greek islands to visit. These islands range from big islands like Crete, Rhodes and Naxos to small islands like Hydra, Aegina and Kythnos. All of these have many different things to do and see. Each island has its own culture and feel. You could go to a different island every time you visit Greece and still not see them all.

The Mainland

Mainland Greece is much larger than all the islands and there is so much to see there. The second largest city in Greece is Thessaloniki. Not only does it have the benefits of a city with cultural things to do but Thessaloniki has beautiful beaches as well. You can get to Thessaloniki by train from Athens or a quick flight from Athens.

Meteora is another gem of a place to visit on the mainland. Meteora is famous for the monasteries that are perched on top of high rocks that almost seem impossible to get to let alone build. You can either drive from Athens or take the train.

Another option on the mainland is the Peloponnese region. The Peloponnese is a peninsula and isn’t too far from Athens. This is were Kalamata is and where the famous Kalamata olive is from. This region is also known for its beautiful beaches.

Less Expensive

People are always asking me if Greece is expensive. The answer is yes if you are going to Santorini or Mykonos. However, if you are not going to these two places then my answer is no. Hotel prices vary across islands and the season, but even the 2 star hotels in Greece are nice. Most islands don’t have that many luxury resorts and you can always find something near the beach. I just booked a hotel in Naxos for 6 nights for less than $250 without breakfast. It is even less expensive if you go in September or later. Food is not expensive and you can eat out for about €25 for two people not including drinks. Although in some places, that does include one glass of wine. Look for where the locals are eating and not only will you get great food but good value for your money.

Smoking

This is the only bad thing about Greece. Greeks still smoke a lot and I am comparing this to Italians! For the most part, it probably isn’t a big deal unless they are smoking next to you at dinner. Most restaurants in Greece do not allow smoking inside and you will most likely be eating outside. If it does bother you, ask the waiter to move you or if you are in a cafe, just move tables.

Sailing the Greek Islands

Sailing is a great way to see many islands in a short period of time without having to ferry hop with your luggage. This was how I saw Greece the first time and I fell in love. We sailed to 14 islands. While you don’t have as much time to explore if you were visiting a few islands for two weeks but it gives you a good feel for what the island is like and you can plan your return trip. It is very relaxing and being on the water with the Greek breeze feels amazing. Most sailing trips have a preplanned itinerary but I have seen a few that let you plan the trip as you go based on the guests wants and the weather. Go in September as the water is warmest and the wind is not so high.

When to Visit Greece

My preferred month is September. The water is warm and so is the weather. The nights can be cool but never chilly. The crowds have left by then as well. October is also nice but many places start to close in October so there are fewer options for hotels and dining. However, you will have the beaches to yourself. You can also get good deals with shopping later in September you go.

If you must go in the summer due to work or school, I recommend going in June. The crowds haven’t started yet and the prices will still be low. The hotels and restaurants will be open by this time as well.

Beach Nudity

Beach nudity is common in Greece. Some beaches are more prone to it than others. If it is at a large beach the nudists tend to stay away from the sunbeds and umbrella areas. You will see some topless sunbathing on almost all the beaches. I am going to be totally honest and tell you that I am not a fan of full nudity for a variety of reasons. However, I have learned to accept it and try to look away as much as possible. Maybe I would feel differently if it was young fit people I was seeing naked and not 80-year-old men!

Cash

Cash is king in Greece. Restaurants would prefer you pay in cash. Some do this to avoid the taxes and some because they don’t want to pay the credit card fees. Technically the tax thing is illegal but unless you get a ridiculous bill, I would just pay and let it go. Paying in cash will endear you to the restaurant as well. Get Euros at the airport and take out enough to last you as long as you can. There are ATM fees in Greece and on some islands, the fee is quite high. On the small or less populated islands, ATMs can be a bit harder to come by.

No Toilet Paper in the Toilet

I saved the worst thing for last! On all of the islands, you cannot flush toilet paper. There will be a small covered trash can to dispose of your toilet paper in. It can be unsettling at first, but everyone is doing it. And no, it doesn’t smell either. The reason you have to do this is that the pipes can’t handle it. In Athens, this isn’t an issue as the plumbing is better there.

These are all the things you should know before traveling to Greece. I hope that I have answered all your pressing questions or have given you some things you didn’t know. Is there anything about visiting Greece that you think I have missed? Tell me in the comments.

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Greece, Travel

Visiting the Greek Islands in October

December 10, 2018

Greek Islands in October

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While I was in the Greek Islands in October, I realized that people are missing out by not visiting Greece in October. Due to the high-season ending in August when many Europeans go on holiday, many people come to Greece in September. September is lovely, but the high-season seems to be lasting longer and longer meaning to really escape the tourists you need to visit the Greek Islands in October.

 

Greek Weather in October

The main question I am asked is, “What is the weather like in Greece in October?” There isn’t a definitive answer as the weather does change from year to year in Greece. In 2018, September was cool and windy. October, on the other hand, was sunny and beautiful. The average temperature ranges from a high of 72 to a low of 63, but I am sure that it was 80 on some days in October. With the humidity, it can feel even warmer. It does rain in October but still not very often and it never lasted very long.

Greek Islands in October

The temperature wasn’t hot by any means, but still pleasant on some days to wear shorts. Almost every day in October, people were at the beach. I was at the beach on October 30 for my birthday. I didn’t swim but did have on shorts and flip-flops. If you are on the beach for any length of time, you will get hot. Some days were windy but very few. Some years, October will be cold, so be sure to check.

What to Pack for Greece in October

Since the weather can be a bit variable, I recommend bringing some shorts for the daytime and pants for the evenings. As for shirts, you will want long sleeves for the evening. If you are cold-sensitive, then a jacket or sweater is a must. I also recommend a scarf for the evening. On windy days, you will want the jacket and the scarf even in the daytime. And don’t worry about how you look, everyone will be wearing something different. Greeks will probably be wearing jackets and jeans, and the tourists will be wearing shorts and sundresses! It is all in what we are used to.

If you are not so sensitive to the cold, you might even want to bring your swimsuit! Many people were swimming in October and not in wetsuits either. You may want to bring clothes to change into after swimming in case its windy. Bring or purchase a towel as many hotels in Greece do not allow you to take their towels to the beach.

Sightseeing

Obviously, the beaches will not be closed at any time. However, some of the beachfront restaurants will start to close in early October. This means there might be fewer sunloungers and umbrellas to rent. However, it usually means there are fewer people on the beach.

Greek Islands in October

Many historic sites will still be open, but their hours might be limited. Even in the high season, Greeks tend to close their shops in the afternoon. This usually happens between 2-5. On the islands, this might mean that museums are closed in the afternoon and will reopen in the evening. Some Old Town or Chora shops may be closed for the season but some will open limited hours and usually post a sign if they are permanently closed for the low season.

As a photographer, I enjoy the afternoon closings as it means I can capture streets and sites with few or no people in my shots. This is especially true on more crowded islands, such as Santorini.

Hotels

Depending on which islands you are visiting, some hotels close in October and will not reopen till April or May of the following year. This is especially true of smaller islands. Booking sites will have those months marked off so you should be able to tell. If you aren’t sure, I recommend emailing the hotels to check.

However, this means rates are lower, and you may even get an upgrade on arrival. Services usually remain the same, and you get a nice quiet hotel to relax in. If you know you want to be in Greece in October, book sooner rather than later as some hotels will stay open longer if they know they have bookings for the off-season. This ensures they have the staff to run the hotel, otherwise, they will not extend their opening dates since many staff are seasonal.

Restaurants

Greek Islands in October

This was the only issue I found to be difficult at the end of October. Restaurants tend to start closing in late September and throughout October. Many restaurants are open seven days a week during the high season, and by the time October comes around, the staff is exhausted. On Naxos, only some restaurants were open until the end of October. However, some will open fewer days in the off-season or will just be open for dinner. You may want to consider booking a hotel with a kitchenette.

Ferries

Greek Islands In October

Ferries operate year-round to most islands now, but the ferry schedule is not as frequent during the summer months. As always, I recommend that you do not book your flights and ferries on the same day. Greece is known to have strikes, even in the tourist season. The weather in October and all the winter can prevent ferries from departing, especially the high-speed ferries. The high-speed ferry service starts to reduce its service offerings in October. Some larger islands have airports, so another option is to fly. If you plan on island hopping, allow for some flexibility in your schedule if taking the ferry as some hotels will not refund your money if ferries are canceled due to weather. Travel insurance may cover ferry cancellations making it a must purchase for an island-hopping adventure in Greece.

As you can see, visiting a Greek island in October is a great idea, and while it may be quieter, it can still be a warm destination. I personally loved being in Greece in October as I got to see how the locals live after the tourists leave. I also ran into my friends more frequently than I would during the high season.