Friday, September 4, 2015

Our Honeymoon!

We're back! After an incredible 2 week honeymoon in Greece, josh and I are back stateside, feeling very relaxed, happy, and flooded with so many amazing memories of our wedding day. It was truly the best day of our lives and could not have been more perfect or filled with love. We will be sure to share some wedding photos once we get them and have lots of other fun wedding-related posts coming up, but for now, a recap of our big fat Greek honeymoon! Here's all the details on our travels, as well as some tips on what to do, eat, and know if you are planning on traveling to these Greek islands yourselves.

Mykonos
We flew into Mykonos to start our honeymoon, where we stayed at Boheme, which was truly a little piece of heaven. I am a huge believer in reading reviews before traveling, and we end up choosing Boheme because it was the #1 rated hotel in Mykonos on TripAdvisor, and it surely deserved it's title. The whole hotel had such a cool boho/modern vibe, the pool and poolside service was incredibly luxurious, and the hotel was perfectly located within a short walking distance from the town and some nearby beaches. Not to mention that every room has a balcony with beautiful views of the water and where a full Greek breakfast is included and served every morning. We were treated like Kings as soon as we got off the plane and were picked up at the airport...I couldn't have dreamt up a better place to unwind and start our honeymoon. And what was even better, was that when we returned to Boheme on our last day before our flight home, they upgraded us to a huge honeymoon suite with even better views and our own hot tub!

Must Dos
  • Walk to the windmills! These used to be used to mill wheat and are no longer functioning, but they are still an iconic part of the island and can be seen from almost every point of Mykonos Town. 
  • Visit some of the islands' beaches. Our favorite was Agios Sostis beach, but we heard that Paradise and Elia beach are also beautiful. 
  • Swim in the old port. There is a tiny beach right at the end of the old port of Mykonos in town, and it's the perfect place to take a dip in the water, float out a bit, and enjoy the amazing views of the port. 
  • Get lost in Mykonos town. I think that getting lost in the maze of streets that make up Mykonos town (especially little Venice) was one of my favorite parts of each day. Each turn is prettier than the next! And coming from a city where buildings are mostly black or brown, the whites, blues, pinks and bright colors of the streets and homes are just breathtaking. 
  • Never miss a sunset. Seriously! Take your siesta and make sure you are awake by 8pm to watch the sun go down before heading to dinner. The sunsets are incredible and we rarely take time to do this at home, so doing this every day was another of my absolute favorite parts of our trip. 
  • Spend a night at Skandinavian bar. This place is so much fun! Josh and I wandered to lots of other bar/clubs on the island but always ended up here. The downstairs section has great drinks and people watching, and then the upstairs club has great music, dancing and is open until 8am!
Must Eats
  • D'Angelo Mykonos: Amazing Italian food and outdoor seating.
  • Pepper Mykonos: The best gyros and souvlaki on the island!
  • Mamas Cuisine: Great dinner spot set back slightly from the old port.  
  • M-eating: We didn't make any dinner reservations in advance of our trip and so didn't get in here (given that it's in a prime location and rated #1 on TripAdvisor), but we walked by a few times and it looked amazing! Definitely book a table here if you are looking for more of a fancy culinary experience and beautiful atmosphere. 
  • Nice N Easy: Great location right by the windmills and on the water. Ask for one of the tables right up against the ocean!
  • Vegera: Great Greek food right in the Old Port. Get lunch in one of the most bustling parts of Mykonos, with great views of the old port and some huge ships.
Must Knows
  • People eat dinner really late. I had heard this and also spent a good amount of time in Europe in college so knew this going in, but the Mykonos dinner schedule was on a while different level! Bars and clubs don't open until midnight or later, so having dinner at 10 or 11pm was the norm. When we got to restaurants at 9pm we were some of the only people there, but by the time we left hours later the restaurant was always packed. We actually kind of came to love the longer meals and later schedule!
  • Mykonos is a huge party island. Again, I was somewhat aware of this going it, but even we were taken aback by how crazy it actually is! Josh and I didn't even adjust to Greek time until we got to Santorini, because it Mykonos we were generally staying up until 6am and sleeping until 1pm, which is roughly the same as staying on US time. Clubs stay open until 8 in the morning, so the "sleep all day, party all night" mentality is definitely the norm. Mykonos competes with Ibiza when it comes to being the top party island in Europe, so you see shirts for sale that say this everywhere, and the island attracts some of the top DJ talent in the world (Steve Aoki played our first night there!). Needless to say, the beginning of our honeymoon proved to be a bit more wild (and fun) than we anticipated! 
  • Mykonos feels like Europe. Whereas Santorini and Athens and Corfu (where I traveled in college) feel more quintessentially "Greek", Mykonos feels much more European. There's still the beautiful white buildings, blue doors and rooftops, and beautiful cobalt Aegean waters, but generally the whole vibe reminded me much more of my time spent in Barcelona or Rome. There is more variety in food, tons of tourists from all over Europe but very few from the US (we met a lot of people and we only met 2 other Americans!), and obviously a very active club scene. 
  • Skip the car, get an ATV. We thought we may need a car to get around the island but no need! You can rent ATVs or scooters around almost every corner, they are allowed on the roads, and almost everyone drives them because they are much easier to park. Plus, the weather is beautiful everyday so why not enjoy the open air!

Santorini 
After 4 days in Mykonos, our second destination (and the majority of our trip) was spent in the Oia part of Santorini, where we traveled via a 2 hour ferry. We stayed at hotel Pezoules, which we also chosen due to it's top ratings on TripAdvisor and it's great location overlooking the caldera. However, we quickly learned upon getting there that you really can't go wrong when choosing a hotel in Oia, as almost every hotel is nestled into the caldera and every view just gets better than the next. I was almost speechless when we arrived and saw the views that we would be waking up to for the next 7 days, it's almost too beautiful to describe or to capture in photos. Stepping onto our balcony every morning was literally like waking up in a dream. 

Must Dos
  • Find an infinity pool. Most hotels have them, and swimming in one and looking over the edge down hundreds of feet to the Aegean Sea literally makes you feel like you are on top of the world in a cloud. 
  • Book chairs at Perissa Beach. Have your hotel book chairs for you at "Sea Side", which is a section of the beach in front of the delicious Sea Side restaurant. It is 20 euro to book chairs (under thatched umbrellas!) for the day and well worth it to get a retreat from the hot sun and black sand while you aren't swimming. And yes, the sand is BLACK and looks so gorgeous against the blue water. If you walk along the beach there are also tons of water-sport rentals - josh and I went jet-skiing in the morning and then parasailing in the afternoon!
  • Watch the sunset from the old castle. You can definitely see the Oia sunset from tons of points on the island and at several restaurants, but nowhere has a better view than the old castle. It will be packed with tourists and super crowded every night, but it is worth it to watch it from there at least once. 
  • Walk down to Ammoudi Bay for lunch. We definitely thought twice about it when looking down over the hundreds of steps down to Ammoudi Bay, but it was so worth it! You won't find better or more fresh seafood on the island than at the restaurants down in the bay, which are all right up against the water. Much of the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movie (which I have seen 100 times) was filmed here, so it was so cool to see all of those spots in real life! There is octopus hanging everywhere to dry, cooks throwing fish around from grill to grill, donkeys roaming around - I never felt more like we were experiencing qunitissential Greek life than I did when we were down in Ammoudi Bay. If you want to take a swim after lunch you can keep walking around the caldera to a beach, and if you don't want to walk all the way back up (I don't blame you), you can ride a donkey for 5 euro!
  • Book a boat tour with Sunset Oia. Josh and I decided we were going to each plan a fun day for each other on our honeymoon as a wedding gift to one another (he booked our black sand beach day & activities) and this was my gift! Spending the day on Sunset Oia's catamaran and getting to see the entire island by water was so much fun. We got to swim in a hot springs and at some beaches and swimming holes that you can only access by boat, see the caldera from the complete opposite angle (below!), and enjoy drinks and lunch on the boat all day. And if daytime boating isn't your thing, they also offer sunset dinner tours. 
  • Book dinners at sunset. There really was nothing more romantic that eating dinner every night as the sun went down (around 7:45pm). Many restaurants (including most that I recommend below!) have amazing views of the sunset and I can't even describe the perfection of seeing that huge orange sun go down over all the beautiful white buildings and blue rooftops on the caldera, all while enjoying a huge plate of tzatziki and a glass of wine. Take me back!
  • Get a Yellow Donkey.  Craft beer definitely isn't a huge thing in Greece (we drank the light Greek beer Mythos most of the time while in Mykonos), so I was pleasantly surprised to find the hoppy Yellow Donkey, brewed right in Santorini! There is also the Red Donkey and the Crazy Donkey, which is the first and only IPA to be produced in Greece. So good!
Must Eats
  • Ochre: Traditional Greek restaurant set to the side of the old castle so that you still get amazing sunset views, but avoid the crowds.
  • Kastros: The best dinner we had in Greece! Romantic, great food, cozy seating, and the perfect view of the sunset.  
  • Skala: This place was right near our hotel and stayed lively later than most other places. You won't be able to see most of the sunset but still have a beautiful view of the water, so this is a great place to go if you ever want to have a later dinner. Great Greek food the best moussaka on the island. 
  • Pelekanos: This restaurant is right in the center of town but is so high up that it's an ideal place to watch the sunset. Ask for a table right along the back side so you can look down at the caldera, and get the chicken risotto - it's to die for!
  • Pitogyros: Amazing and cheap (3 euro) gyros! We went here almost every day for a snack or lunch. 
  • Lolita: Amazing gelato! Stopping here at least once for dessert is a must. 
Must Knows
  • You need dinner reservations. Unlike Mykonos, the sunset is so important in Oia that everyone wants to be AT the restaurant between 7 and 8 so that they can watch the sunset during dinner. This means that restaurants only really fill their tables once per night, where guests sit around 7 and stay until 9 before the restaurant closes, so you need reservations, at least in August. Luckily it's not like Boston (where if you want to go to any of the top places the week of, you're pretty much screwed!), and our hotel was able to get us reservations at most of the places we wanted to go once we got there. It was just so interesting enjoying 2-4 hour dinners every night, and also seeing the stark differences in the dinner schedule between the two islands!
  • Don't pack heels. Seriously! I packed several pairs and never wore them once. I knew going in that we would be doing a lot of stair-walking, but I am used to a lot of walking and wear heels everyday, so I didn't think that Oia was anything that I couldn't conquer. RUDE AWAKENING - the stairs there are no joke. There were around 50 of them just to get to and from our hotel room. And these aren't just normal stairs. Each step is long, slanted, and cobblestones, so walking up them is a huge quad exercise and walking down them is a steep, slippery slope. Needless to say, even in my dressiest dresses, sandals were the only sane option! 
  • Get ready for selfie sticks. While I feel like selfie sticks are still a little bit of a joke here, they are the complete norm in Santorini. Everyone has one, and if you ask someone to take a photo of you (like we did in the olden days) they look at you with a very confused face. That is what a selfie stick is for! We actually left ours behind so never got to use it while in Santorini, but with that incredible view behind you all the time, they are actually very (annoying) but useful. 
  • Don't get hurt! Right now at least, Greece can't afford to pay hospital workers, so all of the hospitals on the islands are closed. Our cab driver drove us by the Santorini hospital one day to show us how beautiful it was (and was going to be the top hospital in all of Greece), but it's completely deserted. This means that if you get a major injury, you need to go to Athens, which could be a long and painful journey. So if you were planning on going cliff diving or renting a scooter for the first time, now might not be the time!
We've never taken this long of a vacation together, and I loved how by the end we felt so immersed in the culture, the food, the area, all of it. I actually get a little tinge of sadness looking through these photos because of how much I miss our little Greek life! I hope one day we will return to Greece, but in the meantime we have the most amazing memories and it's certainly a trip we will never forget. I can't think of anyone I'd rather see the world with than this guy, and this is just the start.
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