Iceland in November? That’s insane.

When I told people I was going to Iceland in November the general response was “oh my god, you’re going to freeze your ass off.” And I did. Was it worth it? You can bet your ass it was.

My Iceland trip couldn’t have come at a better worst time in my life. Feeling the strong onset of the “winter blues” mixed with stress at work, I needed a break. Per my usual method I booked my Contiki tour in July with intension of paying in increments up until my November departure. However, the summer turned into fall and I hadn’t made a dent. So dropping the final payment put a serious jam on my finances and turned my trip into a zero budget adventure. That being said when it came to pack, I realized that I was grossly under prepared for Icelandic winter weather and had no money to purchase the proper attire. So I set about packing as many layers as I possibly could into a very tiny carry on and prayed for a mild winter.

Recommended packing items:

  • Hot Hands
  • A decent camera for photos of the Northern Lights (I brought my Sony A6500)
  • Waterproof Gloves
  • Thermal Leggings and Top
  • Facial moisturizer
  • Sun Glasses

Tips for Packing:

  • Don’t be to stressed about different “cute” outfits. You’ll be wearing a jacket the whole time! No one will no that you’ve worn the same thing for four days. :p

 

Cruise life – Contiki Greece Days 6-8

 

Warning if you’re booking Contiki’s Spotlight on Greece plus 3 day cruise you are not cruising around on a Contiki yacht, you are cruising on a mega ship with hundreds of other passengers. This was a fact I was unaware of when booking and slightly disappointed about. My roommate Ashleigh also didn’t know this either so we were both a little unpleasantly surprised when arrived at the dock. Never the less we decided to make the most of it and I made a pact that on the cruise we would be drunk as much as possible. Mature? No. Fun? Hell freaking yeah.

First docking was at the beautiful island of Mykonos. The tranquility and magic of the island was spoiled by the disembarking of the 500 hundred other cruise passengers. But our amazing tour manager Alex led us to some more secluded spots where we were able to take in a magical sunset before heading to dinner at a swanky restaurant. I don’t have any pictures but we were able to sample fish eyes and octopus!

The crappy thing about cruise ships is we only got to spend a few short hours on Mykonos. Some day I’m going to make it a point to go back and spend several days on this wonderful island.

Day 7 – Kusadasi, Turkey

One expected treasure of this trip was our stay in Kusadasi, Turkey. I’m not sure if when booking my trip I wasn’t paying attention or what, but I actually had no idea we were going to Turkey. Frankly, I was a little bit nervous about it. However, Kusadasi ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip. Also, the pictures of me are amazing because for this trip to Greece I packed and actually wore all of my cute clothes. How nice is this green dress?!

The ruins of Kusadasis are extraordinary and so well maintained. There are perfectly preserved mosaics and stunning architecture that is still standing. Again, another place that is cooler than the very over hyped Acropolis…

Warning: Don’t drink the pomegranate juice before you go into the site. Even though the fresh squeezed juice is tempting, pomegranate lowers your blood pressure which is dangerous if you’re about to go on a long walking tour.

After visiting the ancient ruins we were then herded into a rug making “artisanal” factory. It was interesting to see the rugs and the old traditional style of weaving. But I did not like being hounded about buying one. Some people on my tour actually got suckered into purchasing these rugs for $100-$800 dollars!

14317527_10154287419605813_5458172967010366284_n.jpg

Next we sailed to the little island of Patmos. We spent the afternoon cooling off in the beautiful blue ocean and at sunset our tour manager Alex led us to an amazing overlook where we were able to climb to the perfect spot for instagram worthy pictures!

Image may contain: one or more people, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

We approached our final Island towards the afternoon, leaving us only a few hours to explore world-famous Santorini. Everything about this island is breathtaking. But the crowds caused by the cruise ship made it very difficult to really enjoy it.

 

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

You can’t tell but I’m surrounded by 100’s of people.

After making sure we checked off of the necessary Santorini pictures spots we hustled back onto our cruise ship.

 

For our last night celebration, our tour manager Alex arranged a toga party. We all were under the assumption that it was a cruise ship wide toga party. Nope. It was just the 13 of us, running arround in toga and our undies. The other cruise passengers had a blast laughing at us and some even asked us to pose with them for pictures!

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, people dancing, night and indoor

Our group spent the final night dancing with each other in an empty cruise ship ball room. Ashleigh and I even hung out on deck with some super cool older women. Dorris and Nadien were in their late 60s and on their first trip to Europe. They told us how much they admired us for traveling when we were young. It made me remember how blessed I am to be living in an age where women can do more than just raise families. We can strive for our dream jobs, travel the world and make our own paths.

I am so grateful to have met so many amazing women on my travels. Becky, Ashleigh, Dorris and so many others.

Greece, you have been intoxicating. Something in my soul is connected to your blue waters, olive trees and white washed houses. I will be back again soon.

 

Olympia! Contiki Greece Day 3 & 4

I could get used to this view…morning sun on our hotel room’s deck. I would’ve stayed there forever…. but then I would’ve missed Olympia and Delphi!

unnamed.jpg

At the ruins of Olympia we were given a great tour by a local guide and then got to explore on our own. Some of the gentlemen in our group even raced on the original track field. Which was hysterical.

The resturaunt at Olympia was surpirsingly good. My roommate Ashleigh and I shared a Greek sampler and they had free Olive Oil tasting!

Afterwards we piled back on our coach and headed towards Delphi.

On the way we made pit stops in several adorable Greek towns inlcuding Naupaktos and Galaksidi. There we got to see some beautiful churches, charming Greek village homes and even do some swimming!

When most people think of Greece they imagine the Acropolis or the Greek Islands but mainland Greece should not be forgotten. Looking back on my Greecian adventure one of my favorite things I did was hike to the top of Delhpi.

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standing and nightWe spent the night in charming Delphi. After a yummy meal filled with lots and lots of SAGANAKI. Which is litterally a huge chunk of fried cheese and tastes like heaven. We went dancing and drinking at the local club Katio Dancing Club. It was a tiny place with cheap drinks and good music.We had to climb up a very very very steape hill to get back to our hotel.  I still don’t know how half of us made it back from the club to our hotel without breaking bones.  14330119_10154284238775813_8634604808745435230_n-1.jpg

Where did I stay? Delphi Palace Hotel

Delphi is the ruins of a magical city. They say the airs of Delphi are healing and can provide you with enlightenment. The hike to the top of Delphi is steap but well worth it. Just keep pushing yourself and you’ll make it. You can not beat the view from the top. Many people on my tour decided not to climb all the way and I couldn’t believe it. You’re in Greece, you came all this way, just do it!

Our last stop before heading back to Athens was a cool little mountain town called Araxoba. This apparently is a bustling ski town during the winter (yes, there’s skiing in Greece). But while we were there is was very quiet. Most of my tour mates went looking for shops. I decided to explore the scenic overlooks solo. Sometimes it’s nice to depart from the big group. I found a nice bench and caught up on my book while taking in the warm sun and mountain air. Wandering alone through Araxoba is one of my favorite memories.

14333630_10154282468560813_5924964944236601447_n.jpg

Araxoba, Greece

Our return to Athens marked the end of the tour for some our our companions who were on the shorter Spotlight on Greece trip. But for me and my roomate Ashleigh we were on to the next leg in our adventure, the Greek Islands!

 

 

 

My Greek Adventure with Contiki – Day 1

After spending several days in Greece with my travel soul sister Becky I practically felt like a Athen’s native. Becky and I said our teary good byes and she headed back to London, while I marched towards my next adventure. Eight days with Contiki on their Spotlight on Greece plus Island Cruise.

IMG_8724.jpg

Toasting to the skyline of Athens and my next adventure

After meeting our Contiki tour manager Alexandros (and swooning over his tan and Greek swagger…sorry I may have had a little crush on him…) we piled into taxis for a night time tour of Ancient Agora market. 14330083_10154271001070813_8151400399173136619_n.jpg

If you read my Grecian Days with Becky post you know how much I loved Agora. I found myself wishing Becky was nearby again. All 28 of my tour mates and I squeezed ourselves into a restaurant on the side of a hill. Where we samples an assortment of Greek dishes and watched traditional dances. It was all very chaotic and cramped. But still a good way to bond with my new tour mates over wine and thieving kitties.

Day 2:

Up bright and early is the Contiki way!

Since I had already been in Athens for three days when we visited the Acropolis I decided to take the slow and steady approach and explore different parts of the ruins I hadn’t seen before. I sipped an orange freeze and wander through the back enterance near the theater. I really enjoyed people watching and perfecting my selfie stick photos.

IMG_8726.jpg

#hatgameonpoint

Then we boarded our tour bus and headed out of Athens towards Olympia. The drive through the Grecian countryside was absolutley breathtaking. Half way to our destination we made a quick instagram stop at the Corinth canal. IMG_8725.jpg

Warning to my TMI about to occur:

At the Cornith Canal my dear old “aunt flow” decided to come early. A week early. For any female traveler this is the WORST situation to be in. I was completly unprepared and the gas station we stopped at did not have the right equipment to handle my delicate sitation. So I resorted to middleschool measured and balled up some toilet paper and hoped that we’d stopped near a pharmacy soon.

Thank the lord for my fellow girl travelers. I was able to borrow some much needed sanitary supplies just in time for our trek up Mycenae. Mycenae is a ancient (okay most things in greece are ancient…I need a new word) city that once was the heart of Greece. At Mycenae there are facinating temples, caverns and artifacts from the Mycenanian civilization. After exploring the palace we got to go to a local pottery studio and I even got to try spinning clay!

 

Where did we stay? Hotel Europa

 

New Years in Cancun

I love Contiki trips but they jam so much adventure, fun and culture into such short periods that when your done you need a vacation from your vacation! Luckily we decided to extend our trip one more day so that we could relax and enjoy the white sand beaches of Cancun.

We wasted away the final day of 2015 on a white sand beach in Cancun.

After some well deserved rest we got guzzied up and ready to ring in the new year Cancun style!

We headed to a massive beach party and concert. Chelsea and Sarah were leaving on an early bird flight that morning so we took advantage of the few hours we had left and danced the night away. At one point we even made it into the VIP section thanks to some fancy Mexican VIPs. We stole their SWAG and some free drinks then ran away from them. After the ball dropped I said my goodbyes to Chelsea and Sarah who had to get to the airport. I stayed and danced with the other Contiki people who were there too. Around 4am the party was still going hard but I was ready to go. drunkenly I thought it was a good idea to walk home alone…but somehow I managed to make it. I fell asleep on the bathroom floor and woke up the next morning feeling very hung over. But it was worth it. It always is.

I spent my last morning in Cancun sweating off a hangover in a beach chair eating tacos. Good vacation? Yes. Oh yes.

1619599_10153650116780813_4074146054936984179_n.jpg

 

Chichen Itza – Yucatan Highlights Day 3

Tensions were high this morning after learning that my travel companions and others on our tour had been robbed.

After a brief counseling on the importance of keeping your money safe and bags locked we boarded our bus and put on the day song and drove towards on of the 8th wonders of the world Chichen Itza!

These ancient ruins are a must see. We had a guided tour that disproved some of the urban legends surrounding the Mayans and showed us some secrets of the sacred grounds (like the bird clap). Afterwards we had a ton of time to roam around, chase lizards and shop the flea market.

Bursting with new found knowledge of Mayan culture and dripping with sweat from the Mexican sun we were ready to cool off. Luckily around the bend from Chichen Itza is a refreshing cenote where we got to jump off ledges and swim surrounded by lush jungle foliage and towering cave walls. 

 

 

Robbed – no bueno.

Last night our members of our Contiki group were robbed.

A large group of us were hanging out on the roof top deck of our hotel when two fellow travelers came up and revealed that a cash had gone missing from their suitcases. After that several other people went to check their belongings and discovered they were also missing money. No one was robbed of everything. Only several bills here and there. We think the thief did this thinking no one would notice such small amounts missing. But for my travel mates who were on tight budgets every penny counted.

Our tour manager Abe did the best he could to console everyone but there was no way to tell when and where the crime took place. We all suspected our bus driver. The bags were on the coach for a long time during the day unmonitored.

Our suspicions were raised the next morning with the bus driver showed up late and looked like he had an all night rager…

The moral of this story is: DON’T LEAVE CASH UNATTENDED & ALWAYS LOCK YOUR SUITCASE!