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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Escaping to paradise ...

So I think most people know that one of the big reasons I moved to London was to give me the opportunity to travel and see more of the world.   I set a goal for myself at the off set of this year that I would travel to at least five countries outside the UK by the end of 20111.   In addition, I sat down and made a list of all the European cities that I'd like to see first.  Most of my travel this year was planned by deciding what weekend I had available to get away and then searching all the cities I was interested in seeing and finding the best deals for the time that I had to go.  The ONE trip that I had planned out from the very beginning was Greece and more specifically the Greek islands.  When I finally had a full week off work, I knew exactly what the destination would be. 

Greece for me held the mystery of ancient gods and cities, the crisp, clean waters of the Aegean Sea, the white washed domed villages, not to mention the amazing food. To be honest, my goal for the holiday was truly just relaxation.  I wanted a slow paced, chilled vacation where I wasn't stressing out or waking up early to rush around and see all the tourist sights.  Having said that, I didn't think I could go to Greece without at least spending some time in Athens.  I settled on 3 days in Athens and 4 days in Santorini for my week long holiday.

I booked at a hotel in Athens that was right in the center of the Plaka with is the old town area within the city.  Most of the key tourist sights are within walking distance and since I was only going to be in Athens a short time, I decided that location was probably the most important factor for this hotel.  It was an amazing location.  The hotel itself had simple, clean rooms and pretty friendly staff but the location was well worth it.  I would recommend it to anyone that really wants to be in the center of the sights as well as having great access to the tavernas and shopping in the old town area (Adrian Hotel http://www.douros-hotels.com/view_hotels.asp?hotel_id=2).  Breakfast is included in the room price and is served each morning on the rooftop terrace, from which you can see the Acropolis and ancient ruins of the Parthenon.

I have found that if I have a limited amount of time in a city, I really do enjoy joining a tour group to hit the key sights.  If I have a lot of time to wander around on my own I enjoy that as well, however, tour groups do allow you to see the most important points and the guides usually will give you tidbits of information or point out specific points of interest that you would have likely missed having seen it on your own.   My tour included entrance into the Acropolis which is in all fairness one of the core sights that everyone sees when visiting the city.  It is amazing to wander around the site of the ancient city and imagine all the different forms that is has taken in its evolution over the centuries.  Each culture, leader, invader putting their own fingerprint on the history found within the ruins.  There is a lot of work to restore parts of the debris so it does take away a bit from the viewing however there is definitely something special about Athens.

The people were really friendly in Athens.  Each night the waiters would take the time to talk to me, asking where I was from and how I was enjoying Greece.  Each meal come out with a complimentary shot of Ouzo at the end (ouch!).  One evening I was even invited out for drinks with a nice Greek gentleman who left me laughing so hard at his cheesy pickup lines, I had to excuse myself and go back to my hotel.  But it's all part of the experience right ? And he did buy me a few drinks and rose so it wasn't a total waste.... Thanks for the story Marco.

Off to Santorini! This has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world!  The unique architecture with the towns built right into the wall of the volcanic caldera make exploring so much fun. Once again, I found hotel paradise.  The B&B I booked at in Oia was in the perfect location for watching the sunset each night and was built in the traditional style of a cave!  I had a terrace right off my room that was the perfect spot for reading, drinking my wine and watching the sun go down.  I intended this part of my holiday to just be a relaxing escape and that was exactly what I got.  I haven't been to the other Greek Islands but I would definitely recommend Santorini to anyone that wants to get away a bit and enjoy some amazing scenery.

Greece was amazing!  The pictures just do not do it justice to be honest.  I'm so thankful for the experiences I have had this year and Greece was definitely a lifelong dream come true and didn't let me down at all!

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