Ryan added another notch on his bed post of travels when he bought a ticket to Greece. Prices were pretty reasonable out of Chicago in late May, so he went for it!
Similar to most Americans, Ryan only has a limited amount of vacation time off from work each year, so we had to plan his trip to Greece very wisely. (Americans you are getting screwed with your vacation time, jsyk. Scroll down to the US of A on this list > Annual Leave). He wanted time in fabulous Glyfada, Athens city center and to hit a few islands, all in just 8 days.
Arrival Athens International Airport
Arrival: Friday May 25th 11:40pm Athens International… My scheduled driver George is waiting for me outside of the luggage collection area with my name on a sign. We jump in the car and go.
As we head to my destination at the Palmyra Hotel in Glyfada, Greece I was taken aback and said to myself, ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ The area around the airport was a bit run down, travel signs beat up, and a lot of graffiti. For a minute I felt like I was closer to Iraq then paradise. As I chatted with George I became a bit more at ease.
It was a 25 minute ride to Glyfada from the airport. I was feeling thirsty so I asked George if there were any places close to my hotel safe enough to walk to and then back again after midnight by myself. George assured I would be safe walking alone at night. Inside I thought he was crazy. He proceeded to show me the nightlife as we made our way to the hotel pointing out the many bars and restaurant within walking distance.
George finally dropped me off at the hotel. I checked in and proceeded to my room. The hotel was clean and comfortable. I realized this place I was to call home for the next 3 nights was surprising more energy efficient than most United States hotels. You need to leave your room key in a pocket near the door to run the power to the room. Thus when you leave the room and forget to turn the lights and TV off, in about 5 minutes it all turns off. I later learned you could use any card or ID the size of the room key in that pocket (insider tip- in case you like wasting electricity).
I was very impressed with a country that has its poverty issues to be so far ahead with water conservation, power conservation and wifi is literally free and available in every building. That was a major bonus. That allows someone to use Whatsapp for text and calling. I purchased an international calling plan with my cell carrier which was great for using google maps when I was on the go.
My friend Jessica picked me up at my hotel and we proceeded to head to have lunch at Sardelaki for seafood and Ouzo.
We had a light lunch of Greek salad, calamari and tzatziki sauce with our fries! Good eaten.
She taught me how to drink Ouzo as a Greek not an American. She took a highball glass put 3 ice cubes in and put about half with Ouzo and then added water. The drink turned cloudy and is actually a tasty drink to sip on unlike the American way of shooting like a shot. Try the Greek way and you’ll never go back!
After a short stop at Balux House Project, we opted to hit the pool at my hotel. I have listed some of the places that I really enjoyed in Glyfada…
Recommendations for Glyfada
- Gyro – Spitiko Apla
- Seafood – Sardelaki
- Gelato – Solo Gelato
- Bar – Brewklyn
- Coffee – Blacup
- Sushi – Koi
Monday May 28th I arrived at the port of Piraeus 30 minutes before my scheduled SeaJet ferry ride to Folegandros. It was about $70 for a 4 hour ride to Folegandros. That 4 hour ride turned in to 5 hour roller coaster with the sea as our captain for the day. There were about a dozen or so passengers that decided to leave there cookies on the ferry that day. I not included.
Upon arriving safely on land, our driver from Hotel Odysseus met us at the port and took us to check in. The hotel was great! An amazing cliff-side view with a pool overlooking the sea.
Folegandros is less populated and a bit more secluded than the mainstream Greek Islands. The weather in late May was a bit chilly in the 70’s with a strong wind. You can ditch the wind by moving inland. Make sure and stroll through the Castro area of Chora and walk up to the church on the hill!
The food I cannot complain about, in fact I did not have a bad meal at any point while I navigated the country.
The wait staff was great and I had some of the greatest pasta I’ve ever had in my life there. The waiter joked with us and made me feel like I was at home, including complimentary flaming rakomelo shots (I think it was moonshine) on several occasions. I ate several meals with friends and drank plenty of Mythos!
I had an excellent risotto here on a night we decided to get fancy and order bottled wine instead of the usual house wine. The staff was very playful, probably because they thought my sister was hot! This restaurant is in a very charming, green garden type setting in the center of the village. It was a bit chilly in the evenings, so they would bring out blankets and cover us up. That really won my heart!
We had a great breakfast here and also a nice fresh lunch. They have an excellent garden setting to enjoy a peaceful meal.
Originally, I was to only spend two nights but the Greek Seamen planned a strike which shut down the ferries for 24 hours. The third night ended up being a bit too long for me. I need more stimulation than this little jewel could provide. To put in perspective the island only has one ATM machine.
I arrived to Santorini a day late due to the strike. My hotel was supposed to have a driver at the port when I arrived but he was a no show. I grabbed a cab instead.
The Thea Studios (just outside of Thira city) is a nice clean place and the people were very nice and accommodating. They had a nice pool to chill by.
I rented an ATV and bombed around the island. If you decide to do this, pay attention to the travel signs because I found myself getting beeped at with the Greek index finger wave letting me know I made a boo boo.
I eventually found a place to grab a bite at a place called Falafeland. I stopped because they had a sign that said they had the best Greek food. Of course, I had no reason not to believe them. The view was good, the veggie spaghetti was hot and tasty. And of course, I ordered my go to when I got thirsty in Greece, Mythos!
Later I decided to walk from my hotel to the fancy postcard sunset spot. It was a 20 minute walk to the Atlantis Hotel. From there I made my way almost all the way up to the highest point. I stopped and took lots of photos. The sunset was breath taking!
There are plenty of nice restaurants to grab a drink and watch the sun fall. I wanted to make a night out but had a little too much fun the night before and had to catch a flight back to Athens in the morning. Just as I was getting the lay of the island I had to leave.
I would plan for no less than 2 nights in Santorini.
On my last full day of my trip, I hit the center of Athens. I spent about an hour at the Acropolis museum, but could have easily spent more time. You are allowed to take photos but only in designated areas and of course I got caught taking snapchats of historic butts of the statues in the unauthorized area. I was politely told ‘no no’ and they spanked me on my butt.
After getting my fill at the museum, next stop was the prized possession aka the Acropolis itself. The cost was 20 euros and this was a steal in my opinion. The place you see on all of the postcards! I took hundreds of pictures. I would give yourself at least 2 hours at this beauty. The views from the top are breath taking. My favorite was the Parthenon. It was truly amazing how the Acropolis was built and even more impressive that it is in as good of shape as it is. If you come to the Athens area and don’t stop here you will regret it!
I met up with friends and we went to the Parliament (another must see). We had any awesome meal at Thanasis in Monistiraki. We stopped and had a few drinks at some really cool bars including a roof top bar with a birds eye view on the Acropolis.
If I could do it over again, I would give myself more time in the heart of Athens- including staying a few nights in the heart of it all. Greece has some of the best views and prettiest sun sets!
-Graffiti in Greece doesn’t make it a hood like in the States.
-It is one of the safer cities in Europe. Still need to use common sense.
– Wifi is available in every place you can imagine and it’s free.
-Tipping is not expected but is appreciated.
-Don’t expect the best waiter or waitress staff service. Most times you will have to ask for another drink and the bill. It’s not like the States, they don’t try and rush you out of the restaurant. In fact they will let you stay as long as you wish. Several times we received a bonus snack or beverage.
-Download the app The Beat. Similar to Uber. I didn’t but will next time.
-Most places take credit card. I mostly used cash which I withdrawal from local atms. Next time I would go heavier with credit card.
-Be sure to keep your euro coins. This gringo learned the hard way. They big boys are 2€ and 1€ coins.
-If you are looking to do something special one evening- go to Island in Varkiza. It was an unforgettable experience.
-Try to learn a few words or sayings in Greek. It will show the natives that you are trying to adapt. Ti Kaneis?