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.
Ermoupolis
Ermoupolis
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.
Mykonos
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
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.
sunset
Sunsets
  • 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!
Travel Lifestyle

10 Movies To Inspire Your Wanderlust

I know! You’ve had enough! Like me, you want a plane ticket and you want out! Well, while we still wait for the green travel light, we can all continue to dream a little. Wanderlust is a tough feeling to quell when you can’t get out there and feed the addiction and the closest things we have to traveling right now may be through our television screens. So, here they are. My list of 10 movies to inspire your wanderlust: Europe edition. I literally have had these movies on repeat all summer long so at least I can dream!

Murder On The Orient Express

Legendary, cinematic splendor awaits you in this 1974 masterpiece. Agatha Christie lets you time travel back to 1935 when train travel was the ultimate luxury. As the mystery unfolds, the traveler in all of us can’t help but pick up on the little details like how hats were packed or how compartments were constructed to use every little space. As the train travels from Istanbul across the continent toward Calle, it’s hard not to assign yourself a compartment and dream about helping dear Poirot solve the unsolvable.

One note, Albert Finney’s Poirot has quite the accent and Agatha Christie leaves a treasure trove of clues for the viewer to follow. It’s possible to miss a few key moments without hitting the rewind button. This is literally my favorite movie of all time, with more than 40 viewings to my name, I still find gems every time I watch. You won’t regret watching this one over and over.

The Sound of Music

Let’s start at the very beginning. This epic masterpiece by Rogers and Hammerstein has had families singing along for decades now. I mean, who doesn’t Julie Andrews? And while we are all singing about champagne and mountains and nuns, our inner traveler can breathe in climbing every mountain and skipping down cobblestone streets. Just. Like. Julie.

Let’s not forget the serious story of how WWII reshaped Europe (and the Pacific) forever. It’s an important topic for any traveler headed to Europe and this is a great movie to start that conversation.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

10 movies to inspire your wanderlust

Warsaw. 1939. All hell is breaking loose as Hitler invades Poland. While all of this is going on, the zoo’s residents still need looking after. This true story delves into what it meant to try to find life in the midst of destruction and how to help humanity in the face of adversity all while trying desperately to save the animals in the zoo.

From total destruction, Warsaw rose from the ashes and rebuilt itself and saved its zoo that still stands today. When travelers come across stories like these, it helps define the resilience of a people and allows one to appreciate where they are so much more.

Monuments Men

Robert Edsel’s account of how a band of soldiers came together to save the very art we all travel to see is quite unbelievable. As D-day shifted the war into retreat, Hitler was intent on using a systematic program to strip Europe of its masterpieces. This end of war story tells how the program was dismantled and the art was recovered.

Take a minute and gather up the enormity of the situation. So much of what we look at when we go to museum after museum is featured in this movie. No traveler could walk away from this underappreciated story without a little more respect for what it took to get things to look like they do today.

Julie and Julia

What words can I use to explain how wonderful Julia Child was? Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are masters of their craft as they bring us the story of France’s ultimate fan girl, Julia Child. Meawhile, Amy Adams struggles to find her place in the world over in New York City and uses Julia as her inspiration. Paris. New York. Paris. New York.

Travelers will adore this post war look at Paris with touches of Normandy. The foodie in all of us will adore recipe after recipe that Julie and Julia whip up. Watch it then go make some macrons.

The DaVinci Code

The second installation in this Dan Brown series sets itself in Paris, London and Scotland. Following the code found in art at the Louvre, this twisty tale unwinds with symbol after symbol. While the movie in no way can compare to the incredible detail that was researched for the book, it does allow for sweeping views of some amazing European icons.

Travelers will adore a peek into The Louvre after hours. Paris shines as a member of the cast and lends that spark to both London and Scotland as the movie continues. Let me just start planning that next trip!

Eat. Pray. Love.

Life changes. Man, those changes can be tough. So, Liz needs to figure out what her next move is. The good news for us travelers? She has our dream job. Liz travels the world writing. while she struggles to find herself, Liz gives us a sense of Rome, an interesting take on a small slice of India, and a breezy bit of Bali.

It seems that Liz eventually finds a little peace after she learned to balance all of her eating, praying, and loving. Lucky for us, we can travel with her until she figures it out.

Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels

This 80’s throwback is all about two dirty, rotten… well you get the idea. These two cons take on a new mark in Europe and inappropriate hi jinks ensue. Travelers will enjoy the grandeur of the setting. Laugh, enjoy, and wish that you could be there too.

Mamma Mia!

Opa! Donna and the Dynamos are back together to throw a wedding for Donna’s beloved daughter. Men show up and chaos (a Greek word by the way) and Abba music ensue. Sing along as we traipse around this stunning gem of a Greek Island.

While most of the film was shot in studio, you can dance and you can jive on the islands of Skopelos, Skiathos, and Vis where all the water shots were filmed. Although, if you have a dream to see the chapel on the top of the hill, it’s not there. That’s CGI magic at work. So, get your dancing shoes on and take a chance on this sing along!

In Bruges

Dark, funny, and tragic all at the same time, In Bruges is about two Irish assassins, a midget, and some culture. I’ll leave it at that. Travelers will appreciate Ken’s love of art and site-seeing as he tours some of the icons of the small cities. However, I can’t discount that when I travel I sometimes feel like Ray and just want to pull up a stool for a pint at the pub.

One last note.

Seven of these films started their lives as books and the teacher in me would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the books that preceded these great picks are far more detailed and intimate. They may be 10 movies to inspire your wanderlust, but, always read the book first!

Travel Think Tank

When the news gets in the way of your travel….

This post originally was created when there were worker strikes in France in 2019. It seems rather appropriate during these COVID-19 times…. because, just like in 2019, we will travel again!

I’m posting this today in honor of my best friend. She and her daughter were meant to board a plane today and take off for a well deserved trip to Europe. It’s hard when your hopes are high only to be dashed by something so far out of your control. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow but we will travel again!

Way back in 2019…

My sister-in-law and I were recently chatting about her upcoming trip to Europe. They are excited to spend some time in London and Paris. A great idea to enjoy in January to my mind! She, however, is now a bit concerned with the Paris leg of her trip due to the recent events that have shut down icons such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. A very real concern for any traveler.

So what do you do when your perfect plans are flung into the chaos of current events? Well, first thing’s first: check on your travel insurance options. Does the inconvenient payment you made when you booked cover a refund? Probably not however it is possible that it could cover a reservation change. Additionally, if you used travel services through your credit card, like American Express, check in with them to see if their services can assist you in any changes you need to make.

COVID-19 Note: It looks as if EVERYONE is on the refund bandwagon, so you should be good to go! If you don’t have a reasonable refund option don’t forget to try and negotiate a voucher for future use.

Pivot

Many times, however, we are locked into our plans because of time and money. So, how do you make the most of what you do have? It’s time to think out of the box. Can’t get to Rome? Swing on down to Sorrento. Athens is all caught up at Syntagma Square? Hydrofoil to Hydra. Paris in Protests? Check out stunning Strasbourg or romantic Reimes. A quick shift to a second city like this allows you to keep on track, enjoy, but stay clear of whatever issues are going on.

COVID-19 Note: Think about second cities and alternate destinations when you get around to using all of those travel refund vouchers. Your voucher may extend your vacation options later on.

Clever and careful planning will always be the cornerstone to good travel but just as important is the ability to be resilient and keep our eye on the prize: good, educational travel experience. For now, I hope that the people of Paris can work out their differences and my sister-in-law gets to enjoy a little shopping on the Champs Elysees.

COVID-19 Note: Paris indeed rallied back in plenty of time for a great January visit. Today, Europe is slowly starting to emerge from the Coronavirus crisis. Because it will take quite a while for Americans to start crossing the pond, look for the travel industry to take the next three years to lick its wounds and get back on track.

When things change during your planning or while you're traveling, what are your options?
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