Grecian Days with Becky

Two years ago while traveling South East Asia a rooming mishap led me to meeting my soul sister, Becky J.

Ever since our teary goodbye in Vietnam Becky and I have been planning our next adventure together. My fluctuating job security caused me to cancel our trip together to Peru, which was absolutely devastating for me. But in the long run a good choice financially. Becky still went and I lived vicariously through her. Luckily just a few months later I landed a full-time position as video producer and we were able to start planning for our reunion trip. The top of both our lists? Greece!

14292445_10154266925115813_8507976889365429585_n.jpg

Becky and Becca reunited in Athens!

Somehow I managed to secure two whole weeks of consecutive paid vacation (unheard of at my job) so our plan was to spend a whirlwind three days in Athens before I embarked on a solo tour with Contiki Tours.

Becky was flying from London and I from NYC so we met up at the airport in Athens. From there we took the very easy to use metro into the city. We got off at our station Agios Ioannis where our very friendly AirBnB host met and guided us to her flat. Becky had a lot of previous experience with AirBnb but this was my first. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience, host or apartment.

Here’s where we stayed: Agios Ioannis Cozy Apartment 

Our host Lydia provided us with detailed maps, snacks and AIR CONDITIONING (which we were very grateful for).

As soon as we could we slung our luggage down and headed out to begin our Grecian adventure.

14202617_10154263932955813_1087970576443226986_n.jpg

First stop: Temple of Olympian Zeus

14224879_10154263932700813_111578525325142782_n.jpg

From the Temple of Olympian we able to catch the
I love riding the sight-seeing buses. They’re a great way to get your bearings on a new city and easily get around without having to navigate public transportation.
During our loop of the cities we saw the Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium, National Archaeology Museum and so much more.
14292407_10154264409255813_6219537527429530943_n.jpg
After a full loop of Athens we decided to hop of at Agora. Before exploring the ancient city of Agora we sampled some of the most delicious ice-cream either of us had ever had.
Looking back, Agora was my favorite part of Athens.
Yes, yes, yes the Acropolis is nice. But it’s so crowded and their’s construction everywhere.
We entered Agora late in the afternoon. So it was nice a cool and we were practically the only people there. It was quite, calm and magical. There were so many nooks and hidden buildings to see that we really felt like explorers. You can not go to Athens without exploring Agora.
Tired and hungry we plopped ourselves down at the first restaurant we could and feasted on some well…subpar Greek chicken. It was underwelming, but we were so exhausted we didn’t really mind.
DAY 2
Good morning Athens!
This morning we decided to grab pastries from the bakery near our AirBnb. Which sounds simple, but when we entered the bakery they had very little left to choose from. Not wanting to seem rude, we both selected the easiest thing to point to. Which turned out to be sort of stale tasting bread. Life lesson, when in Greece make sure to go to the Bakeries very very early in the morning.
14203142_10154264409630813_1086301214339186734_n.jpg
After just one day we were Greek metro experts. So we hopped aboard the subway and then returned to the City Sight Seeing bus stop. Our first stop of the day was the must see changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown sodlier. The Greek military have very unique uniforms and marching style. So this ceremony is a treat to see. I highly reccomend camping out and watching this hourly event. 14322387_10154266910020813_4042692386468058701_n.jpg
After that we continued on the bus to the foot of the Acropolis near the Acropolis museum. We stumbled upon the most charming little street with cute little cafes and decided we should probably eat lunch before our hike up Acropolis. That’s when we discoved Arcadia resturaunt (Makrigianni 27, Athina 117 42, Greece). We had the most amazing Kebabs, taziki sauce and fries. So good we went back to the same restuarnt the third day. When I think back on Greek food I remember this restuarunt. What a gem.
14222250_10154266910455813_8432263797388268226_n.jpg

So fresh and colorful. 

Next stop The Acropolis.
14224698_10154266911955813_8816898947773283351_n.jpg

Here’s my mandatory picture with the Acropolis. 

Like I said before, yes the Acropolis is important to see. But it’s not the most amazing thing in Greece or Athens. It is very very very crowded and when I went big chuncks of it were under construction. Worth the time and energy to get to? Yes. Would I go again? No. (I actually did go twice because it was included in my Contiki tour).
Hint to my future finace, don’t propose to me at the Acropolis. lol I a tad bit bitter about this UNESCO sight, if you can’t tell.
On the plus side of the Acropolis. There are tons of kitties around!
14291719_10154682920811062_4867421699170442936_n.jpg
Remeber that amazing ice cream I raved about earlier? We went back again. I wish I could remember the name of this place. I guess you’ll have to wonder around Agroa and find it for yourself!

14212073_10154267721170813_6952181396235955642_n.jpg

Butterscotch 

Day 3:

Travel Advice: If you want to book an excursion do it in advance. We learned this the hard way after trying and failing to book a trip to see the ancient theater Epidaurus. However, we decided to take advantage of our extra day in Athens and have a beach day!

For alot of people Athens is all about the ruins and city life. But actually Athen’s sits just on the edge of beautiful beaches. Today Becky and I decided to venture outside the city to Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni.

We purchased an upgraded ticket with the City Sight Seeing bus and used their Athens – Piraeus – Beach – Riviera line.

If you’re lucky enough to have a half day extra to spend in Athens I highly reccomend taking a trip to spend a few hours at Spa Lake of Vouliagmeni. This freshwater lake is said to have mystical healing powers, so it’s the perfect way to unwind after several days of hiking through busy city streets. The lake is privately owned and operated. So you have to pay to get in. I think it was around $20 USD to enter and then if you want a locker its a little bit more. There are sun bathing chairs, tables, a restuaunt and bar. We managed to snag to prime realestate chairs right on the waters edge. We spent several magical hours floating in the lake and having our toes nibbled on by little fishes (which was weird at first but then soothing). It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind Greacian advenure.

After working on our tans we relunctantly boarded the bus back to the city, packed our suitcases and treked through Athens. Becky was ending her trip while I was preparing for a second part. So she and I hiked to my new hotel where we then said teary goodbyes.

14264213_10154269826420813_9201270072555206148_n.jpg

While I love the adventure of traveling solo, traveling with a compainion (exspecially someone you are so intune with like Becky) is so much more satisfying. It’s nice to know that there’s another person I can reminise with. Someone who has shared in my adventures and misadventures. I will never forget my Rasberry Chocolate Ice Cream and our waiter friend at that one resturaunt. Thank you Becky for being my traveling soul sister! I can’t wait until our next adventure.

Merida, Mexico -Yucatan Highlights Day 2

1911663_10153639342155813_3256223080798061347_n

Up early for our flight from Mexico City to Merida!

We arrived around 10am and headed right out for Brunch at La Chaya Maya. Our tour manager recommended a Mexican specialty dish. For life of me I can’t remember what is was or was called. I do remember it being horrible. Luckily one of my friends order something else and we all shared hers while we  sipped mysterious green aloe drinks.

After our group brunch we were able to drop our bags at the hotel and then had free time. So Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to walk to the zoo. The Merida zoo is free and actually very cool (although if they probably do not meet most animals rights groups terms for animal capitvity). They had soooo many tigers. I think maybe 100, in all different shapes, colors and sizes.

 

After a few hours, several bottles of water and pounds of sweat we headed back to the hotel and freshened up for dinner.

We met our tour guide and walked to the city center for a short historical tour. We saw the famous cathedral of Merida and expereinced the busy and vibrant marketplace.

Then in groups of four we boarded horse drawn carriages for a bumpey ride towards our resturant.

21490_10153639342305813_480200119792194643_n.jpg

Dinner at El Refugio Fonda was probably the best meal I had in mexico. There was free sangria and a buffet that featured Merida specialties like Tortilla Lime soup and Mole. 

936605_10153640200165813_4233335504694836651_n.jpg

Plate stacked high.

 

 

 

Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.04.05 PM

Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

12687801_10153712315655813_6165311040993963602_n

Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

173520_37_y

Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

800_1109

Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

1656020_10153637503900813_6145925416052077708_n

She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

10526069_10153637502485813_3442210253649452786_n

Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

1044240_10153637503160813_1713295842705759360_n

On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

images.png

What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

Destinations1

Charming Cinque Terre

This morning we headed south toward La Spezia and the Cinque Terre region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage sites famous for its coastal villages, scenic vistas, rugged cliffs and colorful villages.

10172588_10152893621050813_1707847615768478257_n

Today we had the whole day free to ourselves so it quickly became my favorite days of the trip. I hung out with two super fun guys. We had a great time drinking tons of wine, eating delicious food and exploring the quiet streets of the different Cinque Terre towns.

We started our food tour of the Cinque Terre with pesto focaccia pizza. We chowed down before exploring a breathtaking castle in La Spezia. At the top of the castle there was a harp player! 10906113_10152893621355813_7806844916176866695_n

Afterwards we checked into our tiny hotel.

Where did I stay? Hotel Firenze Continentale

Then we took the train to Monterosso al Mare where the boys and I decided to sit back, relax and treat ourselves to wine and aperitifs. 10407261_10152893619320813_8236156655788437128_n

Afterwards we traveled to Manarola. There we saw the Befana! The Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). It was so neat to see the old woman parading down the street with hoards of children following and singing. What a special time to be in Italy! After the celebration I grabbed gelato and strolled down to the coast where I watched the sunset. 10922616_10152893619450813_6628597561072186127_n

Then we traveled to Riomaggiore for dinner. Our group filled a tiny restaurant. I tried pesto pasta and we had two bottles of local wine! Feeling happy we caught the train back to La Spezia where we hung out at the hotel bar and chatted the night away.

I truly had an amazing, cinematic, life-affirming day today. I will cherish the Cinque Terre for the rest of my life.

Charming Hoi An

This morning we flew to Hoi An. Hoi An is a charming down that is rich in history and culture. It blends French and Chinese influences in its art, architecture and food. We rented bikes and were led on a great tour through the town where we saw UNESCO World Heritage sites, adorable shops and a beautiful Japanese covered bridge that is 400 years old!

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.19.11 AM

Adam and I pretending to be VIPs in the Airport and me in my new romper!

Then we went to Yaly Coture to have clothes made! I brought several pictures and designs that I wanted to have custom-made. I got two rompers and a stunning fringed purse made from genuine leather. Throughout the adventure of having measurements taken and picking fabrics I hung out with this great guy named Adam. We had a lot of laughs and enjoyed the experience immensely. It’s impressive what they can make in just 24 ours!

After finalizing our designs we rode bikes to our cooking class at Morning Glory Cooking School. Our teacher was friendly, entertaining and a great teacher. We learned how to roll spring rolls, make Vietnamese pancakes, screwers and afterwards devoured all of our yummy creations.

Later we had to navigate winding roads and pouring rain to figure out how to get back to the hotel! It was quite an adventure. But eventually we made it home safe and sound!

Where did I stay? Van Loi Hotel

Under the Vietnamese sun

Today was one of the best days of my life. Early in the morning we boarded a boat and sailed to an island of the coast of Nha Trang. On the way there we sang and basked in the beauty of the South China Sea.

Our first stopped was snorkeling off the island of Hon Mun.

The water was turquoise and clear. There were little reefs right off of the beach so it was very easy to see the corals and fish. There were tiny colorful fish and big strange-looking ones too. I snorkeled nearly the whole time while others sun bathed and started drinking.

After several hours on the beach we got back on the boat  and the party started! Everyone was drinking and singing. I started downing my personal bottle of vodka! The boat really started “rocking”. We had a party break and were provided a monstrous feast. After stuffing ourselves our ship pulled up beside two others and then we hopped the ship to have a group karaoke party and music show. Our local guides were hilarious. They sang cover songs and even made some of the guests get up and sing! It was a great time.

10420205_10152771305925813_4724614631742022969_nThen we stumbled back onto our own ship where we took shots before jumping into the water from the roof of the boat! They threw us tubes and then we hung out in the stunning bay. They even set up a floating bar for us to swim to!

Eventually it was time to head back to shore. So settled back into the boat. I put on my headphones, hung my feet off the side of the ship and reflected as we sailed back to Nha Trang. It was magical, beautiful and life-affirming.  10309170_10152771305880813_4727700327185685849_n

By the time we got back to Nha Trang most people (including myself) were extremely intoxicated. We didn’t want the party to stop so we headed to our hotel pool and continued hanging out. I fell asleep (okay passed out) and when I woke up it was night-time.

We went back to the Sailing Club for dinner where we reminisced about the adventures of the day. I loved every second of the day. It was truly amazing. I think it may be one of the best days of my life!

This is our bar not yours…Chiang Rai

Up early in the morning to head by bus to Chiang Rai “the old city” Thailand.

Where did I stay?

Wangcome Hotel

Accommodations: Very fancy hotel where I didn’t get much sleep because…well alcohol.

Our tour made a surprise pit stop at the Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). This stunning and unique temple is made to represent ascending from hell to heaven. It is truly a spectacle. The architecture, details and figurines all make you feel like you’re in a cartoon or fairy tale. Truly a must see in Northern Thailand.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 12.00.01 PM

Once we reached Chiang Rai we headed further into the mountains to visit the Akah and Yao Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand. While the tour was very informative and interesting I did not enjoy being there. I felt like it was a zoo for humans. Everything seemed very staged and forced. I am glad the tribes can support themselves by selling and showing off to tourists but the dances and the souvenirs didn’t really seem authentic to me. I did however enjoy the hike through the jungle to get to the tribes. I loved seeing the countryside with all the water buffalo, chickens and fauna.

Cost:

  • $25
  • 1962683_10152735720845813_8022274236687469365_n 6262_10152735720910813_3658193155718832684_n

10518710_10152725623270813_3099025716573680133_n After visiting the Hill Tribes we ventured into the night markets to sample local cuisine. I ordered a Hot Pot. Basically a create your own soup. They bring broth to your table in a clay pot with a heated stone underneath. You add what you want from a plate of selections and you have your own feast. It was very good and very hot! I also sampled some other local delicacies like crickets and worms!

Later we rushed back to the hotel to change for our themed party! The nights theme was “Shit Shirt”. I took a crappy Jack Daniels shirt bought in the market, tore it up and used red sharpey to make it look blood. Other people had tacky shirts, crappy shirts and just plain bad shirts. It was all in good fun. I don’t think many pictures were taken because there was a lot of drinking…but here’s one:

1901123_10152735719115813_606833988707091884_nWe had the tiny TINY bar all to ourselves so I was able to play DJ! We rocked out all night, had lots of cocktails and had a blast. I woke up in the morning not knowing what happened to that Jack Daniels shirt…

Meeting Monks in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Thailand

Where did I stay?

The Empress Hotel 

Accommodations: 5 star luxury hotel with amazing pool and free sauna. The free breakfast here was to die for.

Day 1:

We took a bus ride up a windy mountain road to the stunning temple WatPhra. We traversed hundreds of steps to get to the breath-taking mountain temple which overlooked the city of Chiang Mai. The temple is filled with hundreds of chiming bells, lotus flowers, buddhas and shrines. We received a blessing from a Buddhist Monk, had our fortunes told and learned which Buddha, animal and color was ours. I am a purple snake and have a protector Buddha.

I thought a lot about the passing of my mother at the temple. I bought her a bell, Lotus flower and candle. Then as the monks instructed I walked three times around the temple. I made a wish and prayed for her spirit. Then offered my Lotus flower and bell with her name written on it and lite my candle. It was very emotional and I cried. I don’t think anyone knew because I was wearing sunglasses. For me it was a very spiritual and impressive place. My mother had always loved Learning about and experiencing other cultures and religions. At that temple I could feel her there with me. Her bell hangs in the temple in Thailand now and whenever a passerby rings it they will send love her way.

Afterwards we had free time before meeting up again at night. So some of the girls and I decided to get Thai massages. We dressed in cotton outfits and laid down for a seriously painful group massages. At one point when my masseuse had my legs pulled behind my head my pants ripped. All of the masseuses busted out in laughter. It was pretty embarrassing but also hilarious so I don’t blame them for laughing.

Later I opted to take part in a traditional Thai cooking class.  We learned about Thai food and culture with a hilarious and informative local chef. Using his “same same but different” shopping method we learned how to buy key ingredients at Chiang Mai’s market. He taught us really simple cooking techniques and I actually learned a ton. All of the food we made was delicious and I can’t wait to try the recipes at home.

After the class we met up we our Tour Manager who brought me and some of my more open-minded tour mates to Ansuarn Market for a cabaret shows featuring lots of, um, ladies in sequins and short skirts. We got in free and got a free drink ticket. I paid two Lady Boy Drag Queens to harrass some of the boys in our group. Two of them even went on stage and danced! It was a great way to break barriers with some of my new friends and everyone was a little closer to each other afterwards. ;P

Cost: 

  • Thai Cooking Class $30
  • 1 Hour Thai Massage $15
  • Temple Offerings $3
  • Cabaret show: Free