10 Books In 10 Minutes Series

Ten Books In Ten Minutes: Ancient Greece and Modern Italy

A doric column typical of ancient Greek architecture.
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Thanks for joining us today for our Facebook Live Book Review . I truly love these particular books and hope you will too! Each of them contributes to make us all better global citizens. So, let’s dive in to 10 books about Italy and Greece for kids! Here are the Amazon links to all of today’s picks! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Italy ABC’s

An adorable tour through Italy’s icons awaits in this ABC book. Don’t expect the biggies like the Colloseum and the Duomo. Instead, the smaller gems like scooters and ziti take kids on a journey of the people and places that Italians connect with.

Mission Rome

Get ready! Get Set! Va! It’s time to earn as many points as you can while touring the eternal city. Use this handy book to study up before your trip and as a great activity while you are there. This series, written by a military family, has easy to follow rules and is just the thing parents need when things get a little overwhelming.

Rome City Trails

With more than 15 city trails to follow, you can learn everything from ancient times through modern daily living. City guides are published by Lonely Planet and are a great addition to help kids take a little ownership over trip plans and feel super included. Adults will enjoy many of the themes and kids will have fun tracking down the next place.

Cooking Rocks! 30 Minute Meals For Kids

What would Italy be without the food? I mean, really. If you are looking to help your picky eater expand their palette before your big adventure, may I suggest letting them choose a few easy recipes from Rachael Ray. With easy to follow directions, this book lets kids start to see what good ingredients are all about.

Ancient Wonders: Then and Now

Even as an adult, I sometimes have a difficult time looking at ancient ruins and getting a clear image in my mind of what it must have looked like. This Lonely Planet read is perfect for helping young minds wrap themselves around the giant piles of rocks that they are looking at. So helpful in both Rome and Athens.

Oh My Gods! Trilogy

If you’re going to Greece with kids, you’re going to need to brush up on the world’s first soap opera, Greek Mythology. And, oh my gods, those characters are up to all kinds of shenanigans! This set of books is a great reference guide to figure out the who’s who in this never ending drama. Having a good grasp on these stories can help young visitors relate to many sites and customs that they will come across. These look and explore books are just perfect for that.

The Greek News: Alexander Victorious!

Extra! Extra! Get the latest ancient headlines about all of your favorite Greeks! Alexander takes center stage here but there are plenty of other headlines that start to put together life from so long ago. It can be hard to understand ancient times, but books like this can be a wealth of information.

Z is for Zeus

From the famous ABC series, get ready for 26 stops through ancient Greece. Zeus was in charge of a lot of dramatic, moody people who all seemed to think they either knew better than everyone else or simply didn’t care how anybody else felt! From monsters to Trojan horses, this jam packed book will get you started on your Greek mythology journey.

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief

For older kids, although I’ve taught with this book as young as fourth grade, check out this epic adventure from Rick Riordan. Percy might just be another middle school fail but there are big forces at work around him. With Harry Potter like splendor (don’t rely on the movie here), Percy learns all about mythology as he discovers he is a demigod. One note of advice here: knowing the classic myths makes this adventure so much better. Consider dipping in to a few of those before reading chapter one.

Two Travel Bonus Books!

These are books that I bought while I was in Greece. Both are fantastic and I have used them in the classroom many times. The museum book is a great take on the actual construction while the Then and Now book is a more intricate look at ruins than the one listed above.

The New Acropolis Museum

Athens: Then and Now

Travel Dreaming

Island Hopping, Greek Style

If I asked you to name some Greek Islands, I bet most of you would kick off your list with the hall of famers. Mykonos. Santorini. Crete. But did you know that there are 227 inhabited islands in Greece? So why does it seem like 95% of vacationers only go to these 3 biggies? Perhaps it’s because that’s where most cruise lines and tour groups decide to stop. Perhaps they get the most press. Maybe they are thought of as the A team. Don’t get me wrong, each of these Grecian gems are well worth the visit but what about the other 224?!

Views like this wait for you at every island
Greek Islands: A bucket list moment for so many!

Getting Our Bearings

Greek Islands are connected by ferry and knowing how the ferry system works can be the key to unlocking other, less touristy islands. These ferries will sure get you to whatever island you are interested in. However, they can be a bit of a time eater. Between boarding schedules and tickets, ferries do the job for the day tripper but might not cut it for the traveler looking to really get away. Good thing there is another choice!

Here’s my thought:

For a true Greek Island experience, may I suggest renting a catamaran with some friends and family? I bet you think that it’s way too much of a splurge to really justify it. Consider this: Let’s say a catamaran costs $12,000 to rent for 7 days. Oosh! That’s way too steep! But what happens if 6 friends can share the cost? Well, your part is now $2,000 inclusive. Better? Now, add in the fact that 2 of your meals and your alcohol tab are included with your room and transportation! Well, well, well. Things are looking up!

Eat, drink, be on island time!
Boat life: Enjoying a drink and a view!

So, you’ve committed to a little island hopping. Exactly which islands will you see? You will quickly find out that islands are grouped together with names like The Cyclades, The Sporades, The Ionian, and more. Focusing on one of these clusters would definitely help. For our purposes, let’s focus on the Cyclades.

Catamarans at Kolona Beach
Famous Kolona Beach

Recalibrate Your Traveling Mind

Sometimes when we travel, we do so to enlighten ourselves; to learn more about another culture. While there are moments that cater to this all over the islands, don’t expect cultural understanding to be the focus. Instead, set your course toward relaxation, food experiences, and local village life. Because that’s what the Greek Islands are made for!

Fresh Food
Locally sourced, super fresh homemade food is on the table every day.

Launching into island mode started in the old port of Lavrion which is opposite the main port of Pireas. Our boat had three staterooms and was manned by a captain, Vasilis, and a host slash chef named Leoni. Once settled, Leoni turned on the music, poured the wine and made us feel right at home in true Greek style.

All aboard!
Our Catamaran!
Our amazing guide!
Leoni from South Africa, our host and chef
Our Captain!
Vasilis from Northern Greece, taking a well deserved break from captain’s duties!

Each day, we would sail to a different island, stopping in small coves along the way, and stay the night in a new port of call. It becomes very easy to get into an island rhythm: breakfast, sail, swim, lunch, swim. dine, repeat. It’s that easy. Have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to go?

Sails up!

In our week, we spent time on the following islands~

  • Kythnos- has plenty of charm and was perfect for a daytime hike up to the top for fabulous views. Stay down by the water for famous Kolona Beach.
Kolona Beach
crystal blue!
  • Syros- home to Ermoupolis, Syros offers a great harbor with plenty of outdoor cafes and bars. The streets are literally paved in marble from Florentine times.
The Cathedral
Ermoupolis Cathedral
  • Paros- grab a blue chair at a white table and enjoy island life without the over indulgence of cruise ships.
Beach side everything
Beach side everything is ready and waiting!
  • Mykonos- home to those famous white washed winding streets full of bougainvillea and shops. Known for being a party island, it can be overcrowded by day but super fun at night.
Fishing boats in Mykonos
Mykonos Harbor
Lighting a candle at the chapel in Mykonos
Lighting a candle at the harbor side chapel in Mykonos
launches on Mykonos Island
Plenty of launches are ready to help you explore the islands
  • Sifnos- a small but fun spot to enjoy some down time, drink some local wine and take in the salty breeze.
Quiet moments
  • Serifos- with a great harbor, the food here is wonderful and the calm island had plenty of charm.
beach dining
When you sit down with your toes in the water!
  • Sounion Bay- home to Posiedon’s famous temple, there’s a small beach with choppy water but the hike up to the top is bucket list worthy.
The Bay of Sounion
Sounion Bay at the tip of the mainland
Posiedon's Temple
The Temple of Posiedon
  • Athens- We started and ended our trip with a few days in Athens. There we enjoyed the Plaka and climbed up to the top of the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Flag
The national flag waves proudly at the Acropolis
Plaka Vibes
Eat, Drink, love life
Greek Food done perfectly…

9 Tips To Make Your Greek Island Adventure Perfect!

  • Be flexible! Our captain did a great job of bringing us to islands where the weather was great. He was able to skirt around storms to keep our sailing smooth. In other words, you may not get to 6 islands in a specific order. Instead, expect to jump in to a group of islands and let your skipper lead the way.
  • Pack wisely! You won’t need much! A few pairs of tops and shorts, good sandals, your swimsuit, and two or three sundresses or skirts to throw on top of your bathing suit. That’s it!
  • Prepare for chilly water! Contrary to what you may think, some waters are a bit colder than you may expect. Don’t get me wrong, you will still adore it!
perfect water
Crystal blue water waits!
  • Timing is everything! Check the average temperatures before you book so that you will have sunny, warm days and cooler nights to sleep. Most boats don’t have AC.
  • Get sick, fast! This may be a bit gross but the quicker you get over your inevitable sea sickness, the quicker you can get on with your holiday.
hiking in the greek islands
Hiking up to the top!
  • Know your islands! When you book, be sure to ask about the possible islands that you may visit. You can then research each and find your favorite thing to do on each island regardless of where you go.
sunset, greek island style
Sunset moments of a lifetime!
  • Go big! And go small. When you book be sure to let them know that you would like to enjoy all kinds of islands. Cosmopolitan, quaint, Euro-friendly, family-friendly, historic, the list keeps going. Be sure to let your agent know what you want- and that should include at least a day at an icon like Mykonos or Santorini depending on your timing.
Front of the catamaran
Sailing on to the next port of call!
  • Get to Athens! Don’t come this far and not check in with Athens to see this great city!

And Lastly…

  • Leave the kids! While there is no where in the world that you can’t take your kids, some places lend themselves far better to the pint sized set than others. Greece is not one of those places. Yes, there is a ton from the Bible and a ton from ancient times. Yes, you could make an amazing trip to the islands with the kids, I just think there are better places to take them than here. Enjoy yourself as an adult for a while, the kids will be fine!
multicolored buildings photo
Travel Lifestyle

Europe 101

A first timer’s guide to Europe

blur cartography close up concept Europe
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Ahhh! Europe! For so many travelers, the very first stamps we get in our passports are from one of the 50 countries that call Europe home. Each country holds so many opportunities to explore and learn and simply enjoy. But where does a traveler start? With 50 places to choose from, the very thought of committing to a trip can be overwhelming to say the least.

In fact, before choosing that starting point, there are so many things to think about. Car rentals, lodgings, museums to visit, oh my! Have no fear! We are here to help! We’ve come up with a great list of tips and advice to get you started on the right foot, no matter what Euro destination you choose. So, here is our rundown of the best we’ve got on crossing the pond!

brown concrete building
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Let’s start at the very beginning.

You have five planning paths that you can use when you decide to book a holiday.

  • First, the most inclusive and least logistical choice is to simply book a cruise. There are ups and downs to why cruising works and doesn’t work. So, just be sure that the cruising lifestyle is for you.
  • Your second option is to book a tour package that comes up with a predetermined itinerary and you simply just pay and follow along. Again, another good option but it comes with pros and cons.
  • Third on the list is the travel agency bespoke holiday. Working with a professional, you tell them your budget and your bucket list and they set it all up. This again leaves the logistics to someone else and that can feel less stressful.
  • My favorite choice is working with a travel coach, that’s me! Travel coaches cheer you on and give you ideas to make your trip the best it can be without having to pay for logistics help. Check out more about this option here.
  • The last choice is to DIY your own trip. This is perfectly fine if you have a lot of experience under your belt but buyer beware. If you do not have travel experience, this can be a daunting task and wind up costing more in the end than if you had found some help.
round analog clock
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Timing is everything.

The European calendar is more than just the seasons. So, choosing the right time to go is a bit more complex than it seems. For example, Summer is the high season, are you up for the heat and the crowds? April and October are considered the modern shoulder season. The nights may be a bit chilly but the lines will be almost non-existent. Do your interests lie in seeing the markets of the Christmas season? Are you prepared for the paring down of the 40 days of Lent? Will there be a festival season in your destination? and, if so, could you shift your stay to coincide or avoid it? Do you wan to participate in the high cultural season in winter? Knowing the calendar can truly make or break your trip.

aerial photography of elizabeth tower london, europe
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In Edinburgh, for example, every August brings the world famous Royal Military Tattoo. Last time I was there, I didn’t pay attention to the dates and had to leave the day before it started! I should have paid attention better so that I could have seen it. My daughter, on the other hand, was relieved to have missed the influx of people. You see, timing is everything!

Slumber Party!

Options for lodging in Europe very widely. So many options can feel overwhelming but There are a few good bits of information that allow for good choices.

multicolored buildings photo, europe
Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com
  • City center hotels can be a bit more pricey however, they allow for convenience and in the right city centers, can negate the need for transportation. I’m a fan.
  • Air B and B’s are a great value in Europe. The only downfall to these is not knowing exactly where they are. I use this option when I know the area just a bit better or on personal recommendation.
  • Self contained resorts are not my cup of tea while in Europe. I leave those for lovely Caribbean island. Enough said.
  • There are quite a few other choices to consider including hostels, hiking chalets, lodgings offered by abbeys and convents (check out this book for a guide to those.)

Back To School!

One of the most important things that you to get the most out of your trip is to know about your destination. You’ve chosen a logistics strategy to plan and you know when you are going. So now it’s time to read up on all the cool things you can do and see as well as getting a hold on the history of the area- because it matters!

I mean could you imagine going to Northern France and not knowing D-day? How about touring Rome and not knowing who Michaelangelo is? Yes, you’ll enjoy but not nearly as much as you will with a head full of understanding.

brown and white concrete building, europe
Photo by Alex Zhernovyi on Pexels.com

So, break out those guidebooks, crack open those historical accounts, google those blogs and track down the best of the best for you. Check out lists of restaurants, attractions, museums, experiences. Get your head wrapped around the art and architecture. Know who the invaders were and be sure to know how the world wars affected the region. Some were devastated, others were barely touched.

Having a hold on this kind of information can do two things for you. First, it allows you to process information before you get there so you can relate to it better when you arrive. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives you talking points to discuss with locals who will be impressed that you have the basics down. Win-win.

Artistic Flair

Art and architecture are such a basic identity of Europe that not knowing about it will leave you at a loss. Don’t get me wrong, Europe has more varied art than I can name. From Dickensian villages in England to classic columns in Athens, Europe doesn’t disappoint. Going to France? Look into impressionism. Headed to Sicily? Understanding Byzantine art is a good start. Prague on your list? Art Nouveau is a must.

Art can be boring or exciting. It can tax you or inspire you. If you make a connection to art, it won’t let you down.

greek statue inside room
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I get around.

If you’ve been stateside for a while, you may use your car without a second thought. Europe doesn’t always use a car as their primary mode of transportation. The continent is jam packed with different transportation options that will get you from one place to another rather efficiently.

ancient architecture attraction buildings
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  • Coming in first place has to be the train system. Long distance, commuters, overnight hauls, even the fabled Orient Express await you. Trains or clean and comfortable and well worth the cost. In fact, I find that often a train will get me somewhere faster than a flight. Two places where train aren’t at the top of their game are Greece and Ireland. They are there, just limited.
  • Ferries are a great option and can be quite an enjoyable experience to get you from point A to point B. They can become part of the experience instead of the transportation pause air travel requires.
  • Car rentals can be a great way to see the countryside while Uber services can help in urban centers. Although, I often ask my Air B and B host to add a bike in my lodging price so I can ride around in the morning and take in the start of a new day. Just brilliant.

The Friendly Skies

As you arrange your transportation options, consider flying in to one city to start your adventure and returning home through another city to get back home. This “open jaws” plan economizes your time by not doubling back.

amalfi amalfi coast architecture bay
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Additionally, consider extended layovers that will give you a few extra hours in a dynamic city like Istanbul or Copenhagen. Extending your trip in this manner doesn’t cost too much and gives you a bit of a stretch during your travels if nothing else.

Safety, Sweetie

Probably the number one question I get about traveling is “how safe is it to be out and about?” The simple answer is quite safe! Don’t get me wrong, there are issues that happen all over the world that are tragic and sad. But, for the majority of travelers, things go swimmingly well. There are a few things that set you up for success:

  • Use a purse that is pick pocket proof. That means leave the brand names at home and make sure it closes well and is easy to carry closely. You don’t have to clutch your bag in panic but be aware. Pick pockets represent the number one crime against travelers world wide.
  • Don’t get scammed online. I keep my phone on airplane mode for my entire trip. It is very easy to use public wifi as I go along. By doing this, I don’t have to spend money on an international sim card or contract plan. I do, however, use a VPN mask like Tunnel Bear to ensure that wireless thieves can’t gain access to my passwords and credit cards.
  • Don’t stand out. Look, I’m all for individuality and fashion choices. I just don’t think that travel is where it has to be a priority. Many European friends tell me that they can spot an American in a crowd very easily. As a collective, we either dress to flashy or sloppily. Men who wear baseball hats are obvious and women with crazy nails are a no brainer. Take a moment and think about those pick pockets. If my friends can spot you, so can they.
  • Additionally, things like statement tees (especially offensive ones) are frowned upon. This isn’t a judgement thing, it’s simply a safety thing. Take this statement “we love when Americans visit! They spend so much money!” Remember those pick pockets.
  • Lastly, the number one cause of death for tourists is car accident. Predictable. The number two? Accidental falls and drownings. In other words… death by selfie.
santorini greece
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Balance Is Best!

Okay, you’ve arranged your flights and accommodations. You’ve read up on your trip. You have committed to not taking selfies on cliffs. It’s time for all of the fun stuff! As you choose from the hundreds of galleries, castles, museums, wineries, cooking lessons, kayaking adventures and hikes (just to name a few) consider an ebb and flow approach to your days abroad.

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Jet lag and constant running will take a toll on you regardless of all of the tricks you use. Consider scheduling a down day mid way through your trip to rejuvenate and relax. A day at the beach or by the pool. Perhaps a little river cruise where you can sit and watch the landscape go by.

This ebb and flow also applies to the activities you choose. Be sure to strike a balance between the hidden gems you find and the icons that are on your bucket list. For example, check out the Eiffel Tower but perhaps skip Big Ben in favor of a ghost tour that has plenty of delightful twists and turns.

Variety is the spice of travel!

Speaking of what to do, there are plenty of options that take you out of the Grand Tour box. Check out walking tours focused on food or architecture. There’s one about Harry Potter and another about the catacombs of Paris. Walking tours provide endless opportunities to learn about your host country. They also tend to employ locals, a bonus.

photo of lake during daytime
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Another travel opportunity is the hop-on hop-off bus system. At first glance, I’m not a big fan. There are too many cities where these behemoths clog up the roadways and only lead to tacky locations. However, every once in a while, the option is a gem. For example, touring the monuments of Paris at night or using the pass to get out to the Britannia in Edinburgh. The best advice? Research to ensure you are getting more out of the pass than just the ride.

Traveler Beware

Overtourism is a difficult problem in any economy. Countries are always trying to strike the right balance between local culture and Starbucks. Three cities suffer more than the others:

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  • Venice– the lure of the Grand Canal and romantic gondolas whips travelers in a fury to see the charming city. However, between cruise ships and tour groups, Venice is trampled day after day in the high season. I suggest leaving this romantic dream for the shoulder season when the Aqua Alta is not an issue.
  • Amsterdam– like Venice, the canals of the Dutch gem are jam packed full of visitors who are trying to see absolutely everything. Be kind to Amsterdam and take her in during the off season.
  • Barcelona– hometown hero Gaudi attracts so very many visitors with his unique architecture backed up with an amazing atmosphere. With its great weather, try to visit during the off season to enjoy a little more.

Square One

So where does that leave you? Where is the best place for you to start? With so many places to choose from where is the best spot for a first time visitor going to begin? I have three ideas that I think will be just the ticket!

architecture building dark dusk
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  • Bruges– Step back in time to a medieval fairytale of a town that literally smells like chocolate and waffles. Bruges is the perfect size to enjoy every nook and cranny. As a bonus, Bruges seems to have just a little connection to everywhere else. From art to history, Bruges has a charm that can’t be denied.
  • Ireland– So many people claim Irish ancestry and if you don’t, no worries! The Irish will treat you like the old friends you already are. A tour of the high sites is totally manageable yet simply enjoying the towns and villages is just as enjoyable.
  • Bayeux– The epic history that played out here on Normandy’s shores changed Europe forever. Exploring this story can be life changing and leave you with an appreciation for how the war affected the rest of Europe as well. In addition to the military minded past be sure to take in the amazing home of impressionism.

Listen Up!

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