Thursday, December 8, 2016


Epic countryside.

Unfathomable beauty.

Insane beaches.

Say yes to Crete, my friends.

It is hard for me to even begin to describe our experience in Crete. Gone were the crazy crowds of camera-crazy tourists and selfie-sticks. Crete was like an oasis of olive trees and turquoise water. The largest island in Greece, it is big enough to be its own county. The landscape is a undulating vista of rocky cliffs, smooth hills spotted with olive trees, and twinkling bays. The White Mountains sit imposingly bold in the distance and tiny towns litter abut winding mountain roads.

Greek mythology features the Palace of Knossos as the home of the Minotaur and its labyrinthine lair. The air feels like mysterious threads of history, legend, and magic are winding together as a reminder that all is not lost to modernity. The people themselves are reminders that this is an ancient and proud culture, rich with history and the warmth of hospitality.

Justin and I arrived very late in the evening at our hotel in Chania after a 2 hour ferry ride to Heraklion and a two hour drive down the pitch-black coast. We stayed at Alexis Hotel, right outside of Chania Old Towne. Seated almost directly on the beach, it is a family owned facility with a fabulous in-house restaurant. I love the Greeks. We were greeted with shots of coffee-flavoured raki and sent sleepy and tipsy to our rooms.

The next day dawned brilliant and we hit the road.

The first site we hit was Seitan Limania. It is a secret beach that requires a nerve-wrecking drive with 180 degree turns and no guard rails, followed by a treacherous hike down a cliff side. But, mother of God, it was gorgeous. Justin and I took turns cliff diving into milky turquoise water and sunning ourselves on the tiny slice of beach. When the beach finally became too crowded, we set off for our next location. 

Stavros Beach. In case you aren't getting the trend, our entire time in Crete was spent exploring these epic beaches. At Stavros we reclined beneath beach red umbrellas, drinking icy Cretan beers or testing out the underwater camera case. Pretty sick.

That evening we dined on grilled octopus, hummus and pita, and stared out at the darkening Aegean. In some ways Crete is a budget vacation. All the beaches and parking are free, cocktails at happy hour are 2.50 euro, and fabulous gourmet meals are less than 10 euro a piece. After a day of sun, swimming, and snorkling Justin and I sat drowsy and full beneath the wide, brilliant Cretan moon. 

The morning sky the next day was temperamental, with a haze of gray clouds and brisk winds blowing across the countryside. We hopped in our rental and risked life and limb driving through tiny mountain villages to make our way south. Greek driving is unlike anything else I have experienced. All the freeways on Crete are two lanes, each with very wide shoulders. Everyone drives the line between their lane and their shoulder and you flash your lights to let the car in front of you know that you are attempting to overtake them. Said car moves to the shoulder and you barrel past them. When you are on tiny, winding mountain roads this concept feels like madness. Not to mention you have to swerve to avoid herds of goats. 

But our destination was worth it. We were finally going to Elafonissi Beach, the location that started the whole daydream of this trip. Two words: pink sand.

The following day was our final day in Crete. Only four days and we had traipsed the length of the island and driven to nearly every corner. But Crete hadn't given up her greatest secret yet. Balos Bay was waiting for us. It only requiring two hours of driving, an hour of which was spent on a gravel goat path where the constant fear of a puncture had me on pins and needles for its entirety. This drive was followed by a half hour hike down red-soiled mountainsides.

Worth it.

To complete a very long day of driving, hiking, and beaching, Justin and I drove into Old Town Chania for dinner. Old Town Chania is utterly charming, a picturesque collection of pastel villages sitting tucked between the sparkling Med and the White Mountains. It is home to a Venetian harbor and lighthouse and sits within crumbling stone walls. Shopping, maritime history, art, and architecture make Chania one-of-a-kind. I miss it already.


Friday, October 21, 2016


At around 11:00 AM at work on Thursday I got a phone call from Justin.

"The flight to New York is oversold."


The reality of stand-by flying means you are always at the mercy of the flight load Gods. Our plan was to fly out of LA on Friday morning to JFK and catch a flight from JFK to Athens the same day. However, less than 10 hours before our JFK flight was scheduled to leave, it was showing oversold. There was no way we were going to make it.

The following three hours were an absolute blur. I bounced out of work a half day early, raced home through traffic, managed to pack, do laundry, clean the house, take out the trash, clean the massive pile of dishes in the sink, drop off the key to neighbors, and give Algernon a parting kiss before Justin and I were loaded up and headed to LAX.

We tolerated the immense rudeness of the ticket agents at Air France to book a flight direct LA to Paris and from Paris to Athens. Adios LA.

We arrived at our hotel outside Athens at around 2 in the morning after around 20 hours of travel. I was positive that we would be out cold for the night and was shocked when my body woke me up three hours later. Sun was peeking in through the window shades and the view that had been obscured by the darkness the night before was revealed. 

I have to say, Greece is a show stopper. The Aegean sparkled with golden morning light, illuminating the silhouettes of tiny islands sprinkled with tidy white churches like wedding cake toppers. Giant cypress trees thrust spear-like along the landscape and bougainvillea sprouted along cobblestone streets. We drank way too much coffee, called a taxi, and began our first day of exploring Athens.

Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. It's recorded history spans 3,400 years and it has served as the birthplace for western civilization. It is wildly eclectic in its architecture, ranging from ancient ruins to 1920s modern apartment buildings.  It felt surreal to wander among the stone archways that had once seen the great minds of Euripides and Socrates and been the playground to the ancient gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.

Under the blazing Mediterranean sun, Justin and I hiked up the the Acropolis to wander around the ruins of the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike. Giant marble pillars shaded us from the sun and view of the surrounding city was spectacular.

Lunch was taken in a small taverna on a cramped street below the Acropolis. Lets take a moment to talk about Greek food...souvlaki, hummus, grappa, pita, yogurt, and fresh fruits and nuts...its utterly fabulous. Light and fresh, every meal we ate while abroad was noteworthy.

I think Justin and I walked more than 10 miles our first day in Greece. We explored the darling historic Plaka District below the Arcopolis and wandered through the flea markets and fruit stands in the Monastiraki neighborhood. I had to stop myself from buying evil eye necklaces and keychains for everyone I knew.

That night Justin I found a restaurant nestled beside the remains of the Greek Forum. Above us the buildings of the Acropolis were bathed in yellow light while street artists, balloon vendors, and musicians wove together among the walkway. Justin and I knew we had an early flight to catch the next morning but that didn't stop us from giddily drinking the stream of gratis grappa and ouzo from our restaurant's server. Hand in hand, we wandered back to our hotel past the multitude of vendors that set up shop beneath the fairy lights and illuminated lamps lining Athen's streets.

I didn't think it could get better, but then, Santorini happened.

Unreal. I have never seen water so blue or vistas so stunning. Justin and I lucked out on our hotel and spent two nights in the Calderas in Oia.  Justin and I had barely scraped together more than three hours of sleep in the past four nights.  With Greece having a ten hour time difference from California, jet lag was a real deal. We would find ourselves wide awake at 1 AM, sitting on the patio and staring out at the stars and lights of hillside cities on Santorini.

I mean, you could definitely be jet lagged in far less pleasant circumstances. We spent our days shuffling through marble streets of Oai, popping into shops, and lounging by the pool bar on top of Oia. On our second day we booked a catamaran tour and spent five amazing hours making new friends and sailing the Aegean.

If you visit Santorini, a boat ride is a must-do. I loved the awesome people I met; a set of twin sisters from Australia, the travel nurse from the states, the crazy couple from CA, the aunt and nephew from England. We spent hours swimming the azure blue waters of Aegean, diving from the side of the catamaran, and sipping white wine on the nets with sea spray licking our faces. It was bliss. So fun, in fact, that when the ride was over none of us wanted to part. So our lively party cheerfully trucked up to the pool bar to continue the party. 

That evening saw our crew reunited on our hotel's patio to watch the sun makes it's nightly dive into the ocean. Oia is known for it's epic sunsets and let me say, they did not disappoint. 

There is so much more to Santorini than just the one city in which we stayed. We were avoidant of renting a car while on the island and spent most of our time walking through the city to take in the sights. It is really stunning, the dark volcanic rock of the island, the white buildings frosting the rocky cliffs, the blue domes of churches catching the sun. Every corner is more lovely than the next.

I didn't think anything could be more beautiful than Santorini. But I was so wrong.

Because Crete was waiting.