Greece is the Word! Athens & Delphi

So, in my last post on Greece, I gave you an overview of our itinerary and told you what I thought we did right and what I would change. I also mentioned some fun and unexpected things that we encountered in Greece.

Now here is my Athens overview and the different Greek Islands that we visited will appear in the next few posts.

Athens

Everything I read in preparation for our trip to Greece told me to only spend 1 night in Athens, quickly see the Acropolis and then get out of town. These people told me to pack in all the sights into 1 or 2 days in the city. No way! Don’t do it.

This place deserves at least 3 days. It really is amazing! (We spent 6 days-that might have been a bit much) but please give Athens and the surrounding area more than 24 hours.

What to see? Well, for starters…The Acropolis, The Parthenon, The Theater of Dionysus, Temple of Athena, New Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum, Stygmata Square, The Plaka, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Agora, Temple of the Winds and the Roman Forum. And what about Delphi…this is a day trip in itself!

We stayed at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, which is just next to Stygmata Square. In fact, we could see the changing of the guard from our room which was super cool! This beautiful hotel was in the perfect location. It was really lovely and the staff was very nice, although we found them to be a tad stuffy.

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Hotel Grande Bretagne -Photo Credit-SantoriniDave.com
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Changing of the Guard at the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square

The GB Roof Garden Restaurant view is absolutely insane! We ate breakfast there each morning and enjoyed two dinners as well. Looking at the Acropolis lit up at night from this location is totally outstanding! We did love the rooftop pool at The Bretagne! IMG_7483

Another restaurant worth mentioning was Tzitzikas & Mermigas This place was a 5 minute walk from the Hotel Grande Bretagne. It was hoppin and it was also really good! We loved the welcome shot of Mastiha. Strong stuff but hey, when in Greece! The vibe was a nice mix of locals and tourists enjoying the fresh and local Greek dishes. Mmm.

When we weren’t busy touring all of the above museums and ancient sites, we took two day trips from Athens. We had a 1/2 day trip to Cape Sounion to tour the Temple of Poseidon as well as a full day tour to visit Delphi. Both of these tours were operated by Private Greece Tours. They picked us up in a spottless private van, complete with air conditioning and cold water. We had Dominic as our guide and driver on our full day tour to Delphi and he was absolutely wonderful! We highly recommend him and Private Greece Tours.

The full day tour up into the mountains to see Delphi was amazing. It was a full day commitment but to us, it was worth it! We saw the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena, the “Belly Button of the Ancient World”, Serpent Column, Temple of Apollo, Sacred Way, Treasury of the Athenians and the legendary site of the Oracle.

On the way back from Delphi, we stopped at the cute mountain ski town of Arahova. We enjoyed lunch at a delicious and cheap family restaurant and strolled around town. We climbed to the top of St. Nicholas Bell Tower and took in the breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

Time to get on board the ferry and head to Mykonos!…

Greece is the Word!

We traveled to Greece in June 2017. We visited Athens as well as 4 islands in The Cyclades. (Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos and Paros). We chose to travel to Greece because we wanted to go to a warm, sunny, family friendly location with ancient ruins and amazing history. Mission Accomplished!

Our itinerary was this…

I’m going to start out by telling you what I would do differently if I had to plan this trip to Greece again. Then I will get to the good stuff!

Here is what I got wrong planning our trip to Greece

Allocating our time.  If I was planning this all over again, I would stay just 1 night in Athens on the front end of the trip. (I liked having a few days on the tail end). I would distribute those extra days to the islands. More time on each island!

I would add another night in Mykonos, because we all liked it. I was worried that it would be too crazy and crowded but early June was quiet so if you aren’t going in July or August, you can stay longer! It really is so beautiful!

We also really liked Paros a lot and wished we had more time there! It had upscale shops, good restaurants and no huge cruise ships. I would have added another 2 nights there.

Transportation between islands. I would consider flying whenever possible over ferry travel. I debated this in my planning stage -especially arriving on Santorini. The islands in the Cyclades are far apart!

Ferry travel. I was worried about using the smaller high speed ferries because of the seasickness factor. I read a lot about high winds but I think in June, you don’t get the winds. I would just go for it if I booked a similar trip again. We wasted time traveling between islands and it wasn’t quite as relaxing and scenic as I had imagined in my head.

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Disembarking in Santorini

Tips for traveling by ferry in Greece:

-If you have a business class ticket you don’t have to arrive super early and there is no need to worry about getting a nice seat.
-Wear sunscreen and a hat while waiting to board-you might get burned!
-Have a bottle of water because it’s hot!
-Pack light for carrying your bag up and down ferry stairs.
-The escalators worked getting on but they didn’t work on any ferries getting off.
-If your bag is carry-on size, you don’t have to leave it unattended downstairs.
-Bring a deck of cards and/or something to read.
-Wear sea bands if you are prone to seasickness.
-Be prepared for some chaos as well as pushing and shoving.

The boarding and disembarking process for the ferries was an unorganized, hot, pain in the ass. I can’t imagine what it is like during peak season! The least organized boarding was in Athens. The most organized was Naxos. The best decision we made was traveling business class vs. economy on the ferries. We used Blue Star Ferries for most of the trips. However, we did use Gold Star Ferries Superrunner from Mykonos to Naxos. Nice service on both.

Clothes.  We traveled with just a carry-on bag and that was awesome! But, next time I would take a smaller bag with just 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pants and more lightweight sundresses…I was so hot. Dresses are the key to hot weather, not shorts. And, they look nice and appropriate for both sightseeing and dinners out.

Here is what I got right in planning our trip to Greece

The Hotels! Woot woot! A+ for me because we were all very happy with each hotel. I could nit pick on a couple things (and I might) but for the most part, we were really happy!

The Islands! I really stressed out about what islands to choose for our first time in Greece. I though about Crete a lot as well as Hydra and Ios but I liked the way it all turned out.

The Sights! I feel like we saw the main attractions and the towns without doing too much to the point of being exhausted.

Here is what was totally unexpected

The Greeks. We were really surprised how appreciative the Greek people were for having us in their country. We really had a great experience just about everywhere we went. So many friendly Greeks!

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Greek Flag on Naxos

The food. It was delicious! Fresh, simple and quality ingredients. Great local honey, tomatoes, potatoes and yogurt. Watermelon salad is so delicious and I made it for months after we got home.

Octopus was everywhere! And in various stages-being cleaned, beaten, dried and cooked.

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The Pelicans. I saw the most enormous pelican on Mykonos. OMG! People were petting it as it meandered through the lovely alleys of Mykonos Town.

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Cats. So many cats everywhere!

The Donkey Wrangler. We weren’t planning on riding the donkeys anyway because it seemed cruel but then we saw this guy and then there was no way we were going to torture the donkeys more. Wow!

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The flu. Our youngest daughter got hit with the flu about 20 minutes prior to boarding the ferry in Athens. Now we always travel with a barf bag in her backpack!

One thing we took away from this trip is that we don’t like to be at a location for less than 3 nights. It’s too much travel, packing and unpacking. We are going to try to stick to this as much as possible during bigger trips. 

Coming up…my opinion on the different hotels and the Greek islands that we visited.