You know what Danny and Sandy said - Grease is the word. For me, Greece was the word for a week in October when I travelled there with nine of my friends for our week off from school! Within ten days, we got to see Athens, Santorini, and Corfu. This was my only trip that I took through a tour company - and I am so glad I did! It was a much-needed break from planning all my travel myself, from transportation to sightseeing. Our amazing tour company, Bus2Alps, planned the entire trip for us and I could not have been happier with the outcome. I completely recommend them for anyone abroad looking for a tour company. (P.S If you do book a tour with them, use the code LIBBY for a discount on any trip!) Here are all my trip highlights.
We flew into Athens and spent the first three days of our trip in the absolutely amazing city. I found Athens to be the absolute perfect balance of historical sites and some more fun, modern sights too. It was one of my favorite cities I have ever been to.
The Acropolis was definitely the most beautiful historical landmark I have ever visited. Situated high up on a hill, the climb to the top, where the Parthenon is located, is quite the hike and if you visit at peak times, can be quite the wait in line. But the views from the top are incredible, and I was truly mesmerized that the Parthenon was still standing (and in such great condition) so many centuries later. Pictured above, the Acropolis Theatre, known formally as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, is still used today for concerts. And seriously, how freakin' cool would it be to see a concert here. I found this picture on the Internet of a concert at the Acropolis:
Ok. Seriously. HOW COOL would it be to go to a concert like this? A girl can dream.
Besides the Acropolis and Parthenon, we went to some awesome rooftop bars in Athens with incredible sunset views, did some shopping at Athens' many markets and lively streets, and ate some absolutely amazing Greek food. Growing up, every year my family would go to a Greek festival at a nearby Greek Orthodox church, and I have been obsessed with Greek food since. Moussaka, Spanakopita, Baklava, Greek salads, I. Love. It. All. The food in Greece, of course, did not disappoint and I still was not tired of it on the tenth day. It was a bit hard to bid goodbye to the city after such a short amount of time, but I was filled with anticipation for the days ahead.
Let me preface this by saying: never in my entire life did I think I would get the chance to go to Santorini. It has always been a huge dream of mine, but the island is pretty much in the middle of the ocean and not easy to access by any means, neither plane nor boat. However, our tour was able to take an eight hour ferry from Athens to Santorini and voila!
I was infatuated with Santorini from the minute we step foot on the island. It is just 30 square miles in area. For reference, that is about 1/40th the size of Rhode Island. Yet, in those 30 square miles, I swear the beauty, peace and magic could cover the entire rest of the planet. I was completely taken aback with Santorini's pure natural beauty. We visited Red Rock beach and Black Sand beach (which, for the record, does not have black sand - it's black rocks), which were both so stunning. I took the plunge at Black Sand beach and went for a swim in the ocean - although a bit cold, the water and view was unbelievable and I remember feeling such bliss with the sun shining down on me in that moment.
As a bonus, the sunsets in Santorini were the most vibrant I have ever had the honor of witnessing. The first night we were there, we were walking to dinner and I swear this sunset crept up on us. We just turned the corner and there it was, in all its glory. Sunrises and sunsets are one of those things that I think I will always have a special place in my heart for. When I'm anxious or nervous, the sun always reminds me that if nothing else, it is dependable. The sun will always rise and set at the end of every single day, and for some reason, that gives me peace and restores my faith.
Finally, my favorite part of Santorini was visiting the picturesque, postcard village of Oia. The deep blue roofs and bright white buildings you picture when you picture Santorini; that is Oia. When we arrived and started to walk through the little village, I felt such a wave of content and a kind of satisfaction wash over me. I had been dreaming my whole life of visiting Oia, and at only twenty years old, here I was. And I will proudly have you know I waited in line for half an hour to take my postcard-esque shot of Santorini.
Never heard of Corfu? Me either, friends! Until I had the chance to explore this lesser-known Greek island. Corfu is directly off the coast of Albania but still part of the country of Greece.
During our time in Corfu, we stayed at the most amazing "hostel," which was really like a resort, called the Pink Palace. Pictures do not do this place justice. Every single building, sign, bus, and wall is bright pink. It is breathtakingly awesome. We got to explore Corfu by ATV, which was so cool, spend time relaxing on the beach that was steps from our room, and attend a pink toga party at the club in the resort. It was the perfect end to a busy, adventure-filled week. The Pink Palace will definitely always have a piece of my heart and I actually miss it just writing this.
Our bedroom had a little balcony off of it facing the ocean. On the last evening we were there, we were leaving for the mainland at about 8pm, so we had all day to relax and chill on the beach. At around 5:30, I took some time to just sit on our balcony and take in the views. I sat out there alone, in complete silence, while my phone was charging inside and just took a minute. I reflected on how absolutely, indescribably lucky I am to be able to be exploring the world. I would have never been able to guess I would be sitting on the Greek island of Corfu at the age of twenty. When I was finished having my moment, I grabbed my phone to take this shot. I had been watching this sunset for over 45 minutes and truly did not know if I would ever see a sunset like this again.
My 10 days in Greece were definitely some of the best memories I have ever made, and I am so lucky I had the opportunity to take this trip. Maybe, just maybe, if I am lucky enough, I will be back one day.
Stay tuned for my upcoming posts about PRAGUE and LONDON!!
Looking at the big picture, 48 hours is merely but a blink of an eye. However, when given 48 hours in Paris, I made sure this "blink of an eye" was going to be one to remember. In October, my friend and I jetted off to Paris for the weekend and saw as much as we could possibly see in the short amount of time. Lucky for us, our other friend is spending her semester in the city of lights, so we basically had our own personal tour guide (one who is fluent in French, might I add) for the weekend. Here are some of the highlights from our amazing 48-hour trip.
To save money, my friend and I stayed in an Airbnb in Saint-Denis, a city right outside Paris. We started our Saturday morning off with a hiccup at the train station - our train into the city center was cancelled, and since the train announcements were only in French, it took us a while to figure out what to do. However, once we successfully got into the city, we met our friend for brunch at an amazing brunch spot called HolyBelly. I got my fix of pancakes, which I had been craving since leaving the states. From there, we hit a lot of the sights in Paris, starting with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. I absolutely love visiting churches in other countries because the architecture is always incredible. Notre-Dame did not disappoint. Since entrance was free, we waited in the mile-long line to get in, and it was definitely worth it. Coming from a Catholic background, I love lighting a candle for my family in a church when I visit a city. It is a nice way to leave a bit of my spirit wherever I go. Paris was no exception, and I lit a beautiful blue candle inside the Cathedral.
Next, we took an obligatory trip to the Louvre Museum. It was much bigger than I had pictured, and because of our limited time and limited budget, we did not actually go into the Louv. However, the courtyards were absolutely beautiful and I checked seeing the pyramid off my bucket list! We spent some time by the fountains and the pyramid and enjoyed the views.
After some more sightseeing and a beautiful walk through the Tuileries Garden, we stopped at a famous tea house called Angelina's where I got the most delicious chocolate macaron and hot chocolate. The only way I can think of to describe this hot chocolate is to picture a coffee cup full of hot fudge. That is literally what it tasted like - it was so thick that I felt like I was drinking a melted chocolate bar. Although it was absolutely to die for, it was so heavy that I could only drink half my cup. Regardless, my macaron was equally as chocolatey and amazing - definitely the ideal pick-me-up.
Finally, of course, was the Eiffel Tower! I felt like the little girl inside me was screaming. Being up-close was even more magical than I had prepared for. Over the course of the weekend, we took three different trips to the Eiffel, and each was incredible. The night before we left, my friends and I had a picnic in the park in front of the tower, complete with an amazing variety of cheeses and wine. I have to say, it was pretty picture-perfect.
On Sunday, we took an essential trip out to Versailles and did a tour of the Gardens. I was amazed how absolutely massive the garden property was! We saw maybe half the gardens in total and walked about ten miles. Versailles is absolutely the most beautiful man-made place I have ever been. I was completely blown away. We were lucky enough to see the gardens before they turn the fountains off for the winter, because the fountains were the most amazing part. Each garden has a fountain structure of some kind, ranging from just a pond with water streams in it that put on a show, or big, elaborate fountains that are meant to represent something (four of the most famous fountains are the season fountains - there is a different fountain meant to represent spring, summer, winter and fall). The fountains are turned on with classical music as you walk through the garden. It is truly amazing, and so beautiful. I would love to go back to Versailles someday in the spring or summer.
My 48 hours in Paris definitely served me well. In addition to what is pictured, I can say I consumed a lot of croissants and picked up a bit of French (by a bit I mean a few more words). On se parle plus tarde!
Stay tuned to hear about my 10 days in Greece in the coming weeks! xx
Lucky for me, I didn't have to pretend - I actually got to dance in the streets of Barcelona! Thanks, Ed Sheeran. In October, I flew to Barcelona for three days and remembered what it was like to fall in love with a new city again.
First, after some debate, I decided to include this not-so-great part of my trip because I think it speaks to how much goes into travelling and I am hoping it can serve as a lesson to others who are hoping to travel in the future. When planning our trip to Barcelona, my friends and I booked an Airbnb without doing too much research on it. As our trip neared closer, we began to realize our host was not responding to our messages, and that the place we booked had no reviews on Airbnb. This was a huge red flag to me, but there was not too much we could do at the time because our host had not technically done anything wrong.
Friday night, we arrived at our Airbnb and all the alarms immediately went off in my head. As I wrote in my post about Barbados, I am a huge believer in safety first when travelling and everything else second. There was just something about the place, and the fact we were sharing the apartment with our host, that made me uneasy. Looking back, I am pretty sure everything would have been fine - but I knew I would not have been able to enjoy my weekend with the anxiety I was having about the place. We had an unrestful sleep there Friday night, and ended up booking a last-minute apartment for the next two nights after. We did not get our money back, and spent money on a new place, but it was completely worth it to me so I could actually enjoy the trip and not worry about my safety at night.
As a rather inexperienced traveller, I learned a lesson the hard way: do a lot of research on a place, particularly properties rented by others like Airbnb's and Homeaway's before booking. The last thing you want to worry about while exploring a new country is the security of your accomodation at night. I definitely learned my lesson and have been much more careful when travelling since.
Thankfully, though, the apartment we ended up in was absolutely gorgeous. It was located right in the center of the Gothic Quarter, arguably the most beautiful, bustling part of Barcelona. In three days, we hopped all around the city and got to see so many amazing things.
Exploring the city
One of the first things we saw in Barcelona was the Arc De Triomf. It is a huge, beautiful arch at the top of a long stretch of trees and a walkway down the middle which is full of street performers and vendors. There is a picture of me at the Arc on my About page. I was fascinated with the architecture and aged, yet modern feel of all of Barcelona and the Arc was a perfect example of this unique combination.
Next, we made an essential stop at Park Güell, one of Barcelona's most famous attractions. It is home to the famous Iguana and other absolutely beautiful picturesque icons of Barcelona. The park gains elevation quickly as you walk up the spiralling pathways, and as we reached the top, it began to feel more like a hike than, dare I say, a walk in the park. However, the view from the top is beyond stunning. When we finally reached the top, panting from the climb and sweating in the 75 degree heat, I could not believe my eyes. You can truly see the entire city and coast.
We also had so much fun just exploring the Gothic Quarter and visiting all the different markets, fountains and the coast and ocean boardwalk in the quarter. I can confidently say the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is officially on my list of favorite places in the world.
On Sunday, we took a tour to Montserrat, a mountain outside of Barcelona in Catalonia which boasts a beautiful monastery as well as a fun farmer's market at the top, along with stunning views. Our tour was so fun and we had time to see the monastery and the famous Black Madonna inside. She is a statue that is known to give people good luck, and people pay and wait in line for literal hours just to touch her. After we explored the monastery, we had time to visit the farmer's market, which is known for its amazing variety of cheeses. We had the chance to try a "cheese cone," a cone filled with eight different cheeses, as well Mató, a traditional Spanish cheese dessert topped with honey.
Oller Del Mas Vineyard
After spending the morning atop Montserrat, our tour took us to the Oller Del Mas Vineyard in the valley of Montserrat. There, we took a tour of the winery, and then had an amazing tapas lunch with a wine tasting, where we got to try three different wines made at the vineyard. The vineyard was so beautiful and has been passed down through generations of a Catalonian family for decades. On top of that, the tapas and wine were amazing. The white wine sample was absolutely the best white wine I have ever had.
The food in Barcelona was some of the best I have ever had. Saturday and Sunday night, we went to the tapas bars La Luna and Sensi Bistro. In this type of restaurant, you get a list of tapas, which are small plates of food, and order about 6-8 depending on how big your group is, and everyone gets a little of each. I absolutely love tapas because it is a great way to try a little of so many different kinds of food. Both bars we went to served absolutely amazing food. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture at either because the bars are pretty dark and using flash for a picture inside is frowned upon. But, I can attest each dish was amazing, with the cod croquettes and the ravioli as my favorites.
We also checked out a candy store called Happy Pills. The store is set up to be like a "drug store," and you fill a "pill bottle" with whatever colorful, sugar gummy candy you want from each color-coded section. Not only is the candy so yummy, it is such a fun and unique experience. I ate my entire pill bottle of candy in 24 hours and now proudly display a cute "Don't worry, be happy" Happy Pills sticker on my Mac.
Overall, my three days in Barcelona were beyond amazing. I'm awful at picking "favorite cities" but it is definitely somewhere in the top of my list. I am hoping I can go back for longer (and stay in the Gothic Quarter again) someday in my future. But until then, I am back to pretending I am dancing in the streets.
Stay tuned for my highlights post of Paris next week! xxx
P.S My amazing friend and travel buddy, Veronica, is a film major and makes amazing videos documenting each of our trips. Watch her video from Barcelona below for more awesome views from our trip!
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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