Sunday, April 21, 2024

GREECE | Crete

We hopped on a quick flight from Athens to Chania, Crete. One of Jake's co-workers who has been to Greece a bunch of times told us about Chania. I had not heard of it before but once it was on my radar, it seemed like it was everywhere I looked. I just googled it and it means "A Place to Rest". We heard it was a popular spot for the locals to vacation, so that is always a good sign.   

The Chania airport was tiny and safe, so Jake went to pick up our rental car from an off site location while West and I waited at the terminal. We had been warned that the island of Crete was huge so we would stay for at least a week if we visited. Unfortunately, we only had 3 days for this part of the trip so we made the best of it. Can you find West in the photo below? 

And we only had a few things on our agenda for the next few 3 days:

-Hang out at our Hotel (Pool Day) while West checked out the Kid's Club   

-Boat Ride to Balos Beach (6 hour) + Hike to an Abandoned Fort 

-Dinner and Walk around Chania Harbor 

I tried to edit how many photos I would put in this post and I just couldn't do it. So I hope it doesn't take forever to load but I love every single one of these and I couldn't not include them. I am sorry but also you're welcome.  

DAY 1: Check In + Check Out

Domes Zeen was my most anticipated hotel stay of the trip. You may know that I have a thing for hotels and I have a sort of hotel bucket list. I will plan a trip around staying at a certain hotel. It's kind of funny, but I like what I like. Anyway... I was super excited for this hotel because it was (1) Very Family Friendly, (2) Modern Minimalist and (3) our room came with its own private pool. How cool is that?! However...did I swim in this pool? I did not... more to come on that front. 

We basically had to walk down/up this huge hill by zig zagging along the path to get to our room. Everything looked so close but in reality it took like 15 minutes to get back to the parking lot or down to the beach each time. It was nice to get some steps in so I actually liked it!   

We each picked our favorite rock! I think West might have brought his home (oops?!?!) I also love how little his hand is and how he holds the rock here. It's the little moments (it always is!)

OK so the deal with our villa's pool is that it was freezing cold. For environmental reasons, according to the hotel it was not heated. I am a HUGE wimp when it comes to cold stuff, so that was the end of any possibility that I could ever swim in it. Jake and West did and had a blast while I dipped a few toes in. 

The main pool 'sitch was very peaceful and quiet (until all the families with little kids came down, hah!) 

Jake and I chuckled to ourselves while we watched other kids do the same kinds of things that West always does and we decided that parenthood has so many unique highs and lows but everyone is just doing their best and trying to get through the day (like we are, too). We kept elbowing each other when we would see a kid do something sneaky to see how their parents would react. Kids, they are all the same! Parents, they are all the same! Even in different countries...  

We dropped West off at the kids club for a couple hours and he had the best time. We got to have some drinks and lunch by the pool and he got to play. During his time there he did no less than 12 activities. He made a rainbow craft, baked cookies, played board games with the teachers, and basically lived his best life. He didn't want to go with us when we picked him up! So I would say he had a blast. I took this picture when we came to pick him up. Doesn't he look like he's on a lunch date with his girlfriend? The hand under the chin gets me every time. 

DAY 2: In My Beyonce Era

Are you ready for the highlight of our entire GREECE trip? We booked a private boat ride to Balos Beach + Gramvousa Island and it was worth every penny. I really wanted to see Balos Beach because it's known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world but it can be a bit tricky to get to. I knew we wanted to take a boat there but our options were limited. I talked to our hotel's concierge (too expensive), looked into a ferry boat (too crowded), and finally found a rec in a private Greece planning FB group that I am in. I told you I do not mess with trip planning! Booked with this family operated small boat and paid a deposit and crossed my fingers it wasn't a scam. We walked up to the dock the day of our rental and there was a boat! And a captain! And food and wine, etc... It was real! 

This is one of my absolute favorite photos from the trip too. So much joy! 

Oh what's that, you ask? Just a real life shipwreck! Read more here

We were in for a real treat because our Boat Captain suggested we climb to the top of this old abandoned fort and we were like, yeah, that looks fun and the view will be really nice. (We weren't wrong). But it was exhausting and Jake had to literally carry West up and down the entire hike (this is after he threw his back out a few months before our trip). By some miracle, we all make it there and back in one peace and it really was stunning. So was it worth it? YES! I guess I should ask Jake too?  

We got to go inside and it looked all ransacked and abandoned. It was definitely an interesting sight to see! 

There was an incredible 360* view from the top - Balos Beach is that pocket of sand right under the highest peak: 

Told you! Jake is my hero (for this and may other reasons!) 

Back to the boat for some more "joyriding"

This part reminded me of those cologne commercials from like 20 years ago. Does anyone know what I am taking about? 

We are coming up to Balos Beach here and you can see how incredibly clear the water is (I think this goes without saying but there is *no filter* here or on any of my blog photos)! 

We had lunch on the boat and swam to the beach from here. I didn't get to take my phone so no pictures but I was proud of myself for being in the moment! 

And that's a wrap on our boat trip. It took the better part of a day but it was so much fun. West napped for a bit so it was great to just be able to hang out, listen to music, take in the sights and sounds of the Ionian Sea. 

DAY 3: Where are the Cats?

We made our way to Chania Harbor in the late afternoon for a dinner reservation after spending most of another day at the pool. 

One thing about Greece is that there are a lot of cats roaming around. They mostly seem to be friendly and people pet them and they are just always around. West really got into this and loved looking for them everywhere we went. The Harbor was no exception. The cats know people will feed them their table scraps so they hang around in the small alleyways around restaurants. I am more of a dog person, but I actually thought it was quite cute. 

You can see how narrow some parts of the walkway can be. This part reminded me of Venice, Italy. Also, I spy a CAT! 

Another delicious dinner featuring feta cheese, zucchini fritters and bread. What more does one need in life?

Finally, after a quick ferry ride, the real crown jewel is coming up... SANTORINI! 



Friday, April 19, 2024

GREECE | Athens

Back in June 2023, we flew into Athens and then checked into our hotel in the Psirri neighborhood. I remember making our way towards the hotel, we couldn't even drive all the way to the hotel entrance because the streets were so narrow. It was like 9 pm at night and I swung open the car door after the driver said we were as close as we were going to get. I almost hit a couple's table while they were sitting at an outdoor cafe having dinner. It was a wild start to the trip! 

Below was the view from our hotel rooftop (which we only went up to at the very end of our stay right before we left). Isn't life funny like that? The graffiti with the faces is so weird to me and it almost feels like a nightmare come to life. But I was surprised at how much I really loved all of the graffiti around the city. It was so gritty and cool and almost reminded me of NYC.  

We walked around the Acropolis more than once because we were staying within walking distance and it was just so dang cool. I kept looking for a building called the Acropolis and once I finally got the courage to ask someone, they were like, no, this whole site (including the building below and the Parthenon) is the Acropolis. Learn something new every day, right?! 

Seeing the Parthenon IRL was one of those pinch me moments. Like, it didn't even feel real. Thinking about the history of some of these places can be really hard to fathom. I have been particularly impressed with how well many of these sites have been preserved over thousands of years. 

We walked around the city near our hotel and found some interesting and different sites. West liked the hanging meat! 

On our second day, we went on the Athens Food on Foot Family Tour and got to try many different foods and walk the span of a couple miles. It was hard to keep up with the rest of the group since we had been up mostly the entire night before with West at the Emergency Room since he wouldn't stop throwing up. It was scary going to the ER in a foreign country but the ironic part is that once we got to the ER, he was totally fine, playing around and being his usual self. The nurse joked that usually happens! I was also shocked when I asked how much the visit would cost, the nurse said, it's free! We didn't have travel insurance or anything so I thought it would be very expensive, but she just said everything is free. We felt so lucky (and will probably get travel insurance next time we do a big trip!)  

So the next morning, he was in a good place (not dehydrated, in good spirits) and I am proud of us for trekking along and staying the course to do the tour. When in Athens, right?! West did great and even napped a bit in his stroller. 

I do not have any photos of the Athens Central Market which was one of the last stops on the tour. I almost didn't make it walking through without throwing up myself. I will spare you the details (raw meat)...let's just say I didn't say a word but the tour guide took one look at my face and said, "oh you don't like it?" and marched us through to the exit just in the nick of time. Here are some shiny fruits and veggies to focus on.   

For dinner that night, Jake got takeout at a nearby restaurant and we had feta cheese (like an entire block, soooo salty and fresh), a lettuce-less salad and meatballs. 

Below is the sunrise from our hotel room balcony on our last morning. I love Europe so much but that 10 hour time difference is brutal. 

One of our favorite things to do in Athens was just walk around our hotel and get lost. Some of the streets were pedestrian only so it was very freeing. Overall, we all really liked Athens more than we thought we would and we were pleasantly surprised by how kid friendly every place we went was. 


Monday, February 19, 2024

GREECE | Travel Logistics

I have been wanting to write some blog posts about our Summer 2023 trip to Greece but haven't been able to find the time. It was our first big trip that I posted real-time on Instagram stories so that was a fun way for friends and family to follow along but I love having these posts with more details for me to come back to and read years later. 

How did we Pick Greece?

I actually wanted to go to Switzerland but by the time we started planning in January 2023, things were booked up already so we switched gears. Greece has always been on our list so we decided to go for it. One of Jake's colleagues has been several times and she helped us craft our itinerary which was ATHENS - CRETE (CHANIA) - SANTORINI.



Getting There 

We flew to Athens on Turkish Airlines with a stopover in Istanbul and I was happy with the deal I got on our tickets (~$1,400 each). I spent a lot of time trying to find the optimal travel plan. Should we stop in NYC and do a slower approach to get there? I wrote a post in one of the Traveling with Kids FB groups I am in and many folks suggested getting as close to our destination as quickly as possible so that's how we ended up with LAX > IST > ATH since there are no direct flights. I joke that I only travel to places with direct flights from LAX so I made an exception to visit Greece! 

I also didn't realize how far away it was! Like, exactly how far East in Europe. Greece is 10 hours ahead and we got in around 8 pm local time so we just went to bed. It was actually pretty easy to get up the next morning and start exploring. We also used the Timeshifter App which helped us prepare ahead of time and avoid jet lag. 

The Flights 

The first flight was 13 hours long red eye (cringe) and the second flight was a little over an hour. I really liked the mediteranian food on the transatlantic flight and how we got so many different meals! We saved the printed menu for our memory box. I can't imagine what kind of culinary specialities they had in Biz Class. Maybe one day!! West slept for about 5 hours and we rested on and off too. Then we took turns watching a movie or reading and West played on his iPad and watched a few shows too. Our flight was delayed so we were worried about missing our connection. I think they held the plane for folks that were on our flight because the 2nd flight was also delayed, but we made it! The Istanbul airport was huge, modern and very minimalist. I loved it! We only brought carryon's because I was worried about losing our luggage so we had to hoof it through the airport with a 4 year old (who may or may not ride in his travel stroller), 3 luggages, a couple tote bags and a kid's backpack. We eventually had it down to a science. One person would push two suitcases back to back with one hand and the 3rd suitcase with the other hand. The other person would push West in the stroller or "help" him push it if he preferred to walk and held the two tote bags and backpacks. Both flights had a VERY cool feature where there was a camera on the front of the plane so you could watch the flight while it was happening, you could face it forward or down to see what the pilots were seeing. I have a video of this on my Instagram story highlights.  

LAX, Tom Bradley Terminal

Carry-on Luggage (17 lbs max EACH)

Where Did We Stay? 

I almost booked a Costco Travel package but I realized how much I like to pick out hotels so I needed more time to research them. We almost stayed at an AirBNB in Athens but landed on Pame House in the trendy Psirri neighborhood. In Chania, we initially booked Hotel Christina but changed up last minute and thank goodness because this was my favorite hotel of the trip! We splurged for Domes Zeen and stayed in a standalone bungalow which came with our own private (unheated!) pool. Finally, we stayed at this VRBO property in Imerovigli, Santorini with a heated pool and West was able to swim like the little fish he is. I really enjoyed all of the places we stayed and it was fun to have a change of scenery every 3 days. For the last night before our flight home, we stayed at Hotel Avra in Rafina which is a seaside town near the airport.   

New (to me) Travel Hacks

-Using AirTags in Luggage, with passports and on West

-Carry on Luggage was great (except no room for souvenirs!)     

-Fold up Travel stroller came in clutch. We've used this a bit around town and constantly get stopped on the street with people asking about it. One guy bought it right before our eyes on the Amazon app as soon as we told him the brand!