Travel & Food Diary: Greece

This summer, I was absent for quite a bit due to the fact that I was away in Greece and California! In this post, I am (hence the title) going to specifically talk about Greece. I do not want this post to come of in a “bragging” manner, if you know what I mean. I truly enjoy traveling and learning new cultures and this was my very first time in Europe, so I figured why not share! While in Greece I learned more than a few things, but here are some: it was (and remained for almost 3 weeks after) an eternal struggle to get my sleep schedule on any kind of pattern, it is a make-you-cry kind of beautiful there, all of their taxis are Mercedes, anyone working in the tourist industry works 7 days a week – 30 days out of the month during the tourism season, their food is thought out no matter how simple it may be, and everyone is so kind and welcoming.

I want to go through my vacation with you, almost like we were having a conversation one on one or friend to friend. I’ll show you where I was, what I ate, and what I did.

Get cozy because this is going to be a long one.

We’re talking about the one and only,

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My family and I flew into Athens and then had a connecting flight to fly into Crete, Greece’s largest island. Funny enough, not a lot of people knew what Crete was when I told them where I was going… everyone always goes to Santorini or Mykonos. I would definitely recommend Crete, you get a lot more there than you might get on other islands! The flight into Athens was overnight, so when we finally landed in Crete and began to drive to the hotel I basically fell asleep the whole time and missed the views my parents proudly bragged about. Luckily I was woken up for a stop and snapped this picture below. It was so beautiful that I was immediately motivated to 0th3224_0th3224-R1-048-22Aget up. I didn’t even care that I was hazy eyed and slightly unbalanced. The rest of the day and night were so rough sleep wise that I don’t even want to talk about it.

On the first full day we took the casual route and hung out by the pool and beach. We stayed at The Blue Palace which is so beautiful that every time I  looked at the view or the rooms I screamed inside. My favorite part is how well thought out the design was, as everything seamlessly blended in. The hotel is on a mountain, so they had this special elevator that brought you down to the beach and the resort even went under a main road. 0th3224_0th3224-R1-042-19A It was wild. This photo just to the right is a slight representation of what the beach area looked like. Riddled with rocks, there was a long dock you could reach the ocean on. Initially because it’s so different from what I am used to, (sauntering right into the ocean, breaking through each wave one at a time until I am content) I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I ended up loving it, as it felt just right. Nothing felt strange, uncomfortable, or forced… it was all very natural. We sprinkled in a few tours some days while on Crete, along with other days that solely consisted of laying on the beach. I have decided to organize the post chronologically, so we will get to everything as it comes along.

On our first night of a full day there, we were all so incredibly tired that when we got to dinner we just wanted to eat well and be comfortable. On this night we discovered that almost every single restaurant is literally outdoors. We also discovered that Greece was experiencing a heat wave (as if it weren’t hot enough already), and was expected to reach temperatures near or at 100 degrees fahrenheit. For a person like me who is as pale as a piece of paper and is as used to the heat as an ice cube, it was slightly challenging. To make up for being hot, our restaurant was picture perfect (ironically I don’t have a picture) and the food was a perfect opener to the cuisine on Crete. We all shared appetizers, and then for dinner my mom, dad, and I split a salt baked fish.  (As you may or may not know, I am a pescatarian, which means I still eat fish *I don’t eat shellfish due to an allergy*. I like the label so that people know what I definitely cannot eat, however some days I am full vegetarian, some full vegan, and some days I eat fish. It depends on the environment / circumstances.)

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They had to set it on fire with some kind of alcohol, then crack the fish out of the shell of salt, and finally filet it and serve with lemon olive oil. And yes, that would be me to the right, aggressively reaching with my fork and spoon to grab a piece!

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It was amazingly tender and flaked with the lightest touch. We finished the night with a shot of Tsikoudia, a 40-65% alcohol native to Crete I believe, and a plate of fresh fruit.

The next day was our first tour. We left at 10 am and met our tour guides, Effie and Matthew. From there we toured part of the island of Crete. Crete is huge so it isn’t really possible to tour the whole thing in one shot, let alone half of a day. We got to see famous statues, historical areas, as well as learn about the island in general. IMG_2853
As we drove around we stopped at a few spots, one being what is pictured to the right. That is Lake Voulismeni, located in Aghios Nikolaus. Back in the day it was believed that no one should swim or live around here, as the lake was natural and attracted mosquitos supposedly infected with Malaria. Now, times have changed. They allowed an opening to the sea water and the lake became riddled with a different habitat, as well as the addition of people and buildings. They were actually setting up for a competitive cliff diving competition while I was there. A little bit into the tour we stopped in a local town and walked around looking at stores that sold food items, leather goods and other types of Greek fashion and textiles. The smell from store to store was exactly as I imagined Greece to smell like. A concoction of herbs and spices, mixed with briney ocean air. Almost every store sold extra virgin olive oil, as the type of olives grown are only used for the production of extra virgin. There were endless spice packs to make the perfect greek dishes, jars of carob paste, and syrup called Orgeat, or Soumádha, that tastes like liquid marzipan.

 

We toured an old Church that held a heavy, rich air of religion and dedication. I am not too religious but you cannot help but feel the power of other’s beliefs when you are in something that has been around for so long. Unfortunately I do not have photos, as it felt weird to even take out my phone. I just kind of took in the moment. Along the way by a monument I was able to capture the picture below that kind of represents a feeling I often had in Greece.

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It is truly one of my favorite pictures I have taken. It may not seem like much to you, but the air is so peaceful and soft in my opinion. Everything blends together, almost like a painting. A simple photo, for a very simple life. Shortly after going here we drove to eat lunch, and Effie mentions that she wanted it to be more on the traditional side.

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We enjoyed fish that was caught only a few hours or so before we ate, as well as grilled vegetables, salad, and an eggplant dish that is not pictured. We also ate this specific vegetable, similar to a grape leaf, but a different plant. I don’t remember the name because I didn’t end up eating it. We enjoyed all of it with the view (pictured above). To end the tour we visited Spinalonga (pictured below), which is a small island just off the coast of Crete. A short term, general, and probably inaccurate description of why this island is important is: back in the day the island was inhabited multiple (separate) times. Each time made an imprint on the island, leading the Greek to transform it into a walk through museum displaying the old forts, buildings and artifacts found. To read more on the rich history go to this page: visitgreece.gr. Not going to lie, I was on the borderline of death because of how hot it was, so I did not take in as much of the tour as I would have liked to. Pro tip: Don’t wear all black on a 105 degree day.

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The photo below is from the Island, and you can see our hotel! Look how it just blends right into the mountains, so genius. Also, as you can tell, the East side of the island is quite dry.

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I believe the next few days were spent at the beach, just relaxing. If you can imagine, my lunch everyday was none other than…you guessed it, a Greek salad. Obviously they did it so well, and I couldn’t not take a picture!

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For the next few nights we ate at some amazing restaurants for dinner, and a lot of them actually let you pick out the fish you wanted to eat.


The photos above were two separate nights, however the one to the right was by far my favorite. The family that owned it (I believe it was called Megaro) were so incredibly kind and helpful, and did whatever they could to accommodate. I ate literally the best hummus I’ve ever had there, and everything else was really good as well. We had a whole fish to share between just three of us (my dad also got fresh lobster), as my sister does not eat fish. Here are some pictures from that night!

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(my sister above)

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The second tour my family and I took ended up being extremely rewarding! We aren’t typically boat people, but we decided to pull a “when in Greece” and went on a private yacht tour. I have to say, it was well worth everything my parents put into it. All of us would recommend a tour like this, whether you are in Greece, Italy, or anywhere similar. It is an experience you will enjoy, and can never replace or replicate. Just do it already! We sailed the coast of the Island, specifically the side we were staying on. There, the captain gave us some information, as well as stopped at certain locations so we could swim and snorkel.

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There is just one more thing I would like to talk about while we were in Crete, and that is another restaurant named Migomis. It was probably the closest place we went to that resembled a restaurant you may find around here, in New York / New Jersey. Definitely more on the dressier side, and featured a pianist. My family liked it so much because everything was where it needed to be. The food and service was great, plus there was an outstanding view, as it looked over Lake Voulismeni and it was all open air (as always!). We even got to watch some cliff divers! I have a ton of pictures from this night, so here they are!

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I should mention as well, that this restaurant had an amazing dessert! This was the first place that had something I was extremely impressed by, and I don’t mean that to sound pretentious or snooty. I actually don’t mean for any of this post to sound that way. It was this chocolate shell, with chocolate and orange mousse on the inside. The server poured over a decadent warm chocolate ganache and it melted the chocolate shell open. It was so incredibly delicious!

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And this, is the end of our time on Crete. My family and I proceeded to take a flight the next day, extremely early in the morning, back over to Athens.

We spent a few days in Athens, but only had one full one to explore. My parents booked an electric scooter tour, as it was something they really wanted to do. Unfortunately it was not as good as we had hoped. The tour guide knew information, however it was presented in the form of opinions and not facts. I don’t know if that makes sense, but basically we were left with a lot of unknown knowledge and since it was our only day we felt like it was a bit wasted. I did take some pictures however, and they are of some of the sites in Athens. In the order they appear below we have: (click for historical background) Temple of Olympian ZeusZappeion (consists of both photos, one is the outside and the other is the inside), Hellenic Parliament (A lot of people go here to see the changing of the guard, which I believe happens at the start of every hour),  Panathenaic Stadium, and The Tower of the Winds (Which, as you see in the photo, is next to another site that I am completely blanking on!).

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Unfortunately, we did not get the time to tour the most iconic ancient sites in Athens- The Acropolis and Parthenon. It is a regret we all have to this day… but I guess it is just an excuse to go back. The night before we had to leave, we went to an amazing restaurant called GB Roof Garden, which was LITERALLY one of the best nights of the trip. I am so dumb that I only got pictures of the view (after all, it was a rooftop restaurant) and a dessert… not even my dessert either, I got my mom’s. It was really good though, and in the shape of a flip flop! I believe it was a play off of a lemon bar. I got a cool video, but unfortunately I can’t upload it in here… so I am not sure why I am even mentioning it, I must be tired.

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Is it just me, or does Greece look like a different planet in the picture above?

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And that, my friends, was my trip to Greece. This also means that you have SUCCESSFULLY made it to the end of this lengthy, time consuming post. I also realize that I have neglected the breakfast portion of my meals, and don’t worry it was all amazing! I feel like it would be a bit extra to show a plate of over medium eggs. That’s usually what I had in the morning, with some fruit and killer Greek yogurt of coarse (I couldn’t not, and don’t worry I apologized to my stomach before hand). I hope you maybe found this post interesting, and you should definitely visit Greece in your lifetime… though, I don’t think you need me to tell you that.

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and, as always…  Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 8.27.45 PM

 

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