My Greek Odyssey

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Photo by: PG.

From Dublin, I have now made it to Greece. Greece has always been on top of my bucket list and I cannot believe its finally happening.  Most of my fantasies and assumptions about Greece were from watching films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Life in Ruins, and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as a young girl.  The Hellenic Republic, commonly known as Greece is located in Southeastern Europe consisting of thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Greece is not only beautiful with its ocean landscape but it holds a distinct architectural importance as well; with it’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, among the most in Europe and the world, dating back to 400 BC. It’s the cradle of Western civilization; being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, and the Olympic Games, among many other unprecedented events.

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I started my trip from the capital city, Athína or Athens; the largest city in Greece. After what felt like a long never-ending flight, first thing on our mind was to get a taste of some authentic Greek food. From the airport, we headed straight for the Syntagma Square, city center, where we had the perfect al fresco meal while people-watching. Seated beside us were a couple of lovely ladies, who were so interesting that we ended up spending almost 2 hours at lunch in their company. It was the perfect start to our trip. For the next few days, we explored all that Athens has to offer. Athens is relatively a small city, but it is packed with places to see. Some of my favorites were the Plaka district, Monastiraki Square, and the University of Athens Street. Though my absolute beloved was the Acropolis; it is magnificent and dreamy. It is set on an extremely rocky outcrop so high that it is visible from almost anywhere from central Athens. The Acropolis contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. My fond memory is of overlooking the Acropolis all lit up under the night sky while dining at a Michelin Star restaurant; it was the best of the old and the new world all in one gulp. Talking about food… Greek food is simply delicious and irresistible. Fresh pita bread, yummy tzatziki, stuffed tomatoes with rice, street side falafels/gyros, mouthwatering Greek salads, homemade Greek yogurt and baklava to just name a few, were all so enticing and fresh to the palate. From my encounters, Athens is a very safe city and the people here are among the sweetest. Most everyone speaks English.

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From Athens, next on Greek adventures was Santorini. It’s a quick 30 mins flight if all goes well. That being said, none of it went well. We boarded a 7:00 am flight hoping on capitalizing the day roaming around in Santorini, but fate had it that we made it all the way to Santorini but right as we got ready to descend to land our captain got orders from the air traffic controller to return back to Athens. It was like; we saw it, felt it, and right as we were about to taste it, it dropped! Upon returning back to Athens with a plane full of angry passengers, we found out the flight that landed ahead of us, broke its wing and since there is only one runway on the entire airport, all flights to and from Santorini have been delayed/canceled. Santorini is a very famous tourist spot and Athens airport is one of the primary airports in Greece, so you can just imagine the chaos at the airport. The lines to see an airline representative were 4 hrs long. After a missed day in Santorini and a hustle day at the airport, we managed to get ourselves on an overnight red-eye flight that got us to Santorini at 3 AM. All’s well that ends well, upon waking up in Santorini that morning the view out of the hotel room was surreal, it’s Paradise! Electric blue ocean as far as the eye can see and the caldera right in the middle. Good Morning Indeed!

Santorini is striking. The whitewashed cubiform houses with blue doors and blue domes are very charming and one of its kind in the entire world. Santorini is clung to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). The towns overlook the magnificent blue sea, below the cliffs are beaches made up of red, white, and black lava pebbles. Most of the towns are within a walking distance from one another. Each tiny town, however, varies from the others with its unique characteristics and vibe. Santorini is known for its awestruck sunsets and it’s 100% surreal, hard to put in words but something that should just be experienced first hand. Recommended by a lot of locals, on one of the days, we went to the castle to view the sunset, the crowds are unbelievable, especially at these ‘hot-spots’ (to find a good spot be sure to arrive at least an hour prior to the sunset time). The other days, we settled for a more of a private show right from the balcony of our room; where a hot tube, a chill glass of wine and speakers playing Sam Smith made it all the more remarkable and memorable. On a side note, stray skinny black cats meow and scuttle in and out of every corner. There is a serious cat issue in Greece, believe it or not, you can rent a cat here all day for 5 euros!

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Next, an early morning ferry ride from Santorini got us to Mykonos in about 4 hours. Mykonos island is a famous for its white buildings and colorful shutters, block print cobblestoned pathways, 16th-century windmills, bright colored flowers on sills, turquoise skies, sandy beaches, boutique shopping, small cafes, churches and high-end dining. However, this tiny island is most popular for its summer parties; massive dance clubs and beach parties attract world-renowned DJs and crowds from across the globe, these parties typically stay open well past dawn. Unlike Ibiza, this party town attracts an upscale crowd that thrives on its stylish nightlife. With mostly tourist crowds inhabiting the island, not much is Greek about this island, but it is well worth a visit to witness the vibe and mojo of this place. Mykonos has also made its mark among the Gay community, with tons of bars, clubs, hotel, and parties serving them with pride. For the few days that we are here, we did a self-tour of the island, went to the Super Paradise Beach, and checked out a couple of parties.  There’s a number of great restaurants here, especially Italian. Some of the best pasta, pizzas, and risotto I have had outside of Italy. My last day in Mykonos was spent by the harbor, capturing the last sunset here while drinking “slightly” too much and laughing a little too heartily as this Greek adventure is unfolding to its end. 12 days of pure bliss and new cultural encounters, was everything I wanted. I am already sensing heavy withdrawals of all the fun under the sun while in Greece.

On a personal note, on this father’s day, I think back to why I travel? I travel because I can, because I enjoy it and because my parents didn’t get a chance too. Between raising two kids, running a business, my parents, especially my mom never got the opportunity to leave her nest. Though they both would always encourage my brother and me to go on every field trip and to see as many new places we can. It makes them so excited and proud that I have seen so much of what the world has to offer. My favorite is to call my parents from abroad and to just listen to their voice, it almost sounds like we have transcended a few decades, my mom start’s raising her pitch and talks so fast as if that call is charging me a bank. I take tons of pictures like all travelers, but mine are mostly for my parents to live vicariously through them. I am proud to say my mom and dad have traveled virtually everywhere with me! So all you folks out there, get out there and see what life is like outside your town/state/country… try that new dish that sounds weird, be bold, learn a new language, go make your parents proud. As Aesop said it,” Adventure, is worthwhile!”

OPA!

Photo Courtesy: Prashant Gandhi and Google Images

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Whiskey in the Jar- Ireland

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Hello Lads!

Where now? You guessed it right; I am in the land of good luck, shamrocks, kisses, red hair, and pots of gold. This time it’s from Dublin, Ireland. I always wanted to visit Ireland but never actually got to plan it out. I have Are Lingus airlines to thank for this trip. I’m never really this lucky, but I might have caught on to some of that Irish luck when my husband, Prashant scored 2 air tickets to Dublin.

It is an easy 10-hour direct flight from San Francisco to Dublin. This was my first overseas flight when I wasn’t sitting next to a random person and making a new friend. In fact, those are my favorites, it is such an unusual way to get to know someone just by sitting next to them for 10 plus hours. Over the years I have made plenty of friends on flights from all kinds of background; thanks to today’s connected world and through mediums like Facebook we are still in touch. Coming back to sitting next to Prashant, he is a heavy flight sleeper, so I took the opportunity to watch an Irish movie and pulled all of my research out on Dublin and came up with a game plan for the next few days.

Ireland, as I imagined, is lush green and picture perfect with gray stone castles and churches everywhere. It is one of the wettest countries in Europe, thus, a bit of overcast with unannounced showers every now and then. But the weather, gray castles, and greenery everywhere allure me to have transcended to the medieval period. But worry not, the urban capital-city, Dublin, doesn’t keep one at bay from the luxuries of the 21st-century. In regards to its layout, Dublin reminds me a lot, of the suburbs of London; it’s bustling yet calm and relaxing.

For the short three days here, I went for the city hop on & off tour to catch the highlights. Like all European cities, Dublin has its own charm, history, and beauty. A must-see is Trinity College, whose library holds the famous Book of Kells, within its collection, a tome transcribed by Celtic monks from 800 AD. A little detour from creed, I highly recommend a tour of the Guinness Factory and the Jameson Distillery. For a complete Irish bar experience; I suggest going to the Temple Bar. They have it all- live singers with fiddles, pipes, and all the beer and whiskey you could ever want. I found the Irish people to be extremely friendly and polite; on a side note, I love their accents. Initially, I thought they would sound more or so like the English people, but to my surprise, it was better, they have a bit more swag lol. Getting around in Dublin is quite easy, reliable local transportation or just Uber a taxi. Dublin’s dining options are just as abundant as its drinking holes. A big shout-out to a good friend of mine, as an Ireland native he helped us with all the recommendations to all the local hits.

I am so happy to be in Europe, more so this time with my husband. Pieces of my heart can be found in the many European cities I have visited. Even though Prashant is a lousy plane companion, he makes a great travel buddy. We like to get right down to the business of exploring the culture and getting a taste of the local life. I wish to visit Ireland again, with a bit more time to properly check out its countryside and other cities like Cork. I am headed to Greece next, so stay tuned for all the best gyro and souvlaki recommendations and on other Greek favorites…!!!

Until the next one,

Slán Leat

Photo Courtesy: Google Images