I began my Summer travels back at the beginning of June, which seems like a lifetime ago now! After 8 months of teaching, myself and some girlfriends from Vigo decided that we deserved time away relaxing in the sunshine, and one last week together before we all split our separate ways and back to our countries! We booked the tickets way back in January, so it had always seemed like one of those trips that's really far away and you count down to for ages but never seems to arrive.... but when this arrived, we were SO EXCITED. I had been to Cyprus before, but none of us had been to Greece itself. We were all keen to get exploring, not just in Athens itself but also on the Greek Islands. We chose to visit Mykonos and Santorini - we began our trip with very high expectations from all we had read online, the photos we had seen, etc.... and I'm happy to say that we weren't disappointed.
We spent time in Athens and on both Mykonos and Santorini, and they were all so different. It is hard to compare them, when they all have their own unique charms, and special things about them.
First up - Athens!!!!
1) THE FOOD: this was one of our favourite parts of the trip (isn't it always?!). The food that we had everywhere in Greece was BEAUTIFUL! So many delicious feta salads, and not just with the tiny portion of feta like you get in England, but a massive slab of it... yum yum, as well as Giros (a super yummy kebab type thing in freshly made pitta bread with salad), and the AMAZING dessert called Baklava. Lots of yummy things to try which were often thrust upon us by lovely Greek waiters and waitresses. It's safe to say, if you have a trip to Greece planned, make the most of the food, particularly on the islands where there is so much fresh seafood which is cooked in traditional greek ways, and obviously lots of different ways of cooking feta!
2) THE HISTORY - Obviously the main thing that people know Greece for are the ancient Greeks (hehe) and the old architecture. No trip to Greece would be complete without a visit up to the Acropolis. Being European students we managed to get in free of charge, definitely much better than paying the 12 euro entrance fee. It's a lovely walk up to the main site, passing the theatres and other remains on the way, and once you reach the top it is packed with tourists, but not unbearably so. As we were there in June I think we were lucky. I can imagine in the height of Summer how rammed it would be, and in the heat would be crazy. As well as the Acropolis itself, there are lovely views across the city. The site works as a Mirador as well, which I really liked. Further down the hill, there is the Temple of Zeus which isn't as complete as the Acropolis. Again, as it shared a ticket with the main site, we were able to get in for free, another bonus for student travellers!
It was a really tough decision as all of the islands were so different, but in the end, Mykonos was my favourite island. I loved Santorini too in it's own way, but the cute little white buildings with blue shutters, the beautiful beaches, the lovely people, the nightlife, and our hotel won me over! We chose a hotel that was very centrally located, and as there were 7 of us aimed for a big room that would fit us all. George, the owner, split us into 2 groups but put us into appartments rather than just rooms in a hostel. I shared with Alia, Cathryn and Sheila, and we were put into an adorable little appartment complete with kitchen and bathroom as well as more than enough sleeping room for us all. We were really impressed, and he made us feel very welcome, giving us tips of the best places to go out, the best places to eat, the best places to watch the sunset.... we couldn't have asked for a lovelier host! Our time in Mykonos was pretty short, and after an exhausting ferry ride from Athens we all crashed quite early on our first night. We spent the next day sunning ourselves on the beach, and then went out in the centre of Mykonos that night. Some funny stories to tell, but (pretty much) all round, a fantastic night. I was actually really sad to leave Mykonos and I would definitely like to go back in the future to enjoy it some more!
My favourite restaurant, Taberna Nikolas, recommended to us by our hotel. We were eating literally on the beach, and it was a lovely spot to watch the sun go down.... I would particularly recommend you try the mussels, and the octopus salad! Some lovely food in the most incredible location.
No trip to Greece would be complete without GREEK YOGHURT! Every morning we would treat ourselves to some to start the day, and my favourite was the one we had in Mykonos... Greek yoghurt with walnuts and honey. I wish I would have this every day!
There are 2 things that stand out in my mind when I think of our time in Santorini, the first being the beautiful sunsets and the second being QUADBIKES. Oh and I cannot forget the jewellery.... one day, when I am rich, I'm going to come back and I'm going to go crazy in the shops there.... I cannot explain how many beautiful items they had, and it was difficult to keep my debit card hidden away!
3 of the girls that I travelled to Greece with - Alia, Sheila and Cathryn
QUADBIKES! This was one of my favourite parts of the trip. We rented 4 quadbikes for 24 hours so that we could explore the island. When we set out in the morning it was quite cloudy, but thankfully it brightened up as the day went on, and we were able to spend some time sunbathing on the black beaches (the island is volcanic which is why the sand is black). I shared a quad with Janet and we took turns driving all over the place. In the evening we all got dressed up ready to go out for dinner, but decided to drive to the other side of Santorini to watch the sunset in one of the most famous places for it. We were quite unlucky because it was a cloudy day and so the sunset wasn't very clear, but you could still appreciate the beauty. As it was Callie's last night (she left a day early to catch her flight from Madrid), we had a lovely dinner and then went for drinks.... a few tears shed, but trying to stay strong for our Calpal! It was beginning to sink in, for me, that so soon everyone would be splitting up, and I hate the thought of not seeing these girls for a few years!
It seems a shame that we only had time to visit 2 of the islands..... one day I would love to go back and visit more. It would be incredible to sail around the Aegean sea taking in all of these beautiful places. If Mykonos and Santorini were anything to go by, all of the islands are so unique. I am so happy that I was able to share this experience with some of my closest friends from my Year Abroad, and I cannot explain to you how sad I was to leave them. This trip truly signalled the end of our time in Spain, and I definitely cannot complain. I have had the most amazing year, met some people who I know will be friends for life, and really grown as a person. I feel so privileged to have had this experience, and can only re-iterate further.... if you get the chance, TAKE A YEAR ABROAD, in whatever form that may be: a year doing a British Council Assistantship, an Erasmus studying abroad programme, working abroad, a gap year.... anything. There are so many beautiful places out there just waiting to be discovered by us all, and you will have an unforgettable experience.
My Year Abroad has honestly been the best year of my life, and I'm so sad that it's coming to an end! :(
Sorry for such a long post, but there is too much to say about Greece and these beautiful islands. If you have any questions or would like any more recommendations do not hesitate to get in touch.