The beach in Ios is amazing! The water is so crystal clear like pool water and you can see out soooo far. We rented snorkels the today and spent a lot of time out in the waters off shore. Not too much to see - just some little fish and crabs. But a great experience!
One of the highlights of Ios was when our shuttle driver told us his brother owned a restaurant a few steps down from our hotel. We ended up eating there for every single meal! The whole place was outside under this hut thatched roof. The owner's name was Fortis and he cooked the most amazing Greek food with his wife that I've ever tasted. Each time we told him to surprise us with a traditional Greek dish. We tried some adventurous fare from "inkfish" to slow roasted goat, to grilled goat. He would always have a huge leg of goat hanging outside his outdoor grill. Talk about authentic.
He literally hiked to the top of this mountain, hacked a goat and then cooked it at his grill station. One morning he made us fresh orange juice from like 10 oranges. Sooo fresh!
During our final moments in Santorini (sob) we laid by the pool until our ferry to the island of Ios. I'm really going to miss that view.
Ios is supposed to be the major party island, but since we got there at the end of the season it was lovely and quiet. Our hotel was pretty sweet - outside the main town, in an awesome beach town called Mylopotas. Tonight we took a sunset swim and I met a little friend on the beach.
Chris and I spent our last full day in Santorini with a British couple we met on the catamaran cruise. The guy, Tom used to live in Santorini and knew all the secret spots on the island for exploring and swimming - score! We found a few cool private beaches, but the best place we went was Amoudi bay, which is this little yacht harbor with a ton of fish tavernas right on the water. If you take a walk around this rock bend you find an amazing swimming spot!
The water was crystal clear and the weather could not have been better! We stayed in the water swimming for at least an hour and a half. The water is so salty that you basically float.
In the evening we headed to Oia town (pronounced Ia) which is the famous place to watch the sunset. The town itself is beautiful and clean with tons of cute shops and restaurants. The sunset was beautiful, but it's the same thing we saw from our secluded hotel on our amazing balcony in Firostefani. In Oia there were about 2,000 people lined up to watch the sunset - so funny because its the same view on every part of the caldera side of the island.
While we were watching the sunset we met a guy from Ithaca (my home turf) who went to Cornell and he invited us into his balcony that he rented with Airbnb. We had some drinks there until Paula (British friend) and I crushed a bottle of wine and started singing obnoxious hip hop songs (like, "apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur") and then we left. The night ended like this:
Gotta love those Brits...
Today we took a catamaran cruise around the island. Best day ever (did I say that yesterday?). As soon as you step on the boat you're immediately served unlimited wine and beer. First we sailed to the red and white sand beaches, and jumped off the boat into the prettiest turquoise water for a swim. We continued our sail (aka booze cruise) to a private beach where there was a full out BBQ lunch waiting. Omg some of the best food ever - Greek veggie salad, tziki, eggplant dip, roasted veggies, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, and a huge platter of grilled meat/potatoes. All served family style. It was one of the best meals we've had. We don't have any pics because you had to jump off the boat and swim to shore to get to the food!
After that we sailed some more and ended up at the "hot springs" which aren't really hot, but really cool! The water is sooo deep and right off the cliffs it goes straight down a few thousand meters (but too deep for anyone to actually record). The springs are full of sulfur and supposed to be really good for your skin, so I went in.
The cruise ended with everyone being way too drunk to function and shuttled back to our respective hotels.
The receptionist at our hotel is so nice and basically doubles as a travel agent. She helped us rent a car today which was delivered right to our doorstep! We drove allll over the island to the black sand (from the volcano) beach of Parissa to this amazing little hidden gem called Eros beach.
And the landscape is just UNREAL. You feel like you're on mars. Next we drove to the red sand beach (its red from iron) and ate at the coolest restaurant ever right on the water. It was literally on top of the water. Owned by a family and the son goes out and catches the fish and the mom cooks it. So cool.
As if our day couldn't get any better, we went to one of the wineries which has been open for 25 years. It's so crazy the way they grow the grapes here - they wrap the vines around these basket type things so the vines can grow in this extremely dry climate.
We took a couple bottles of wine to this lighthouse on a cliff at the end of the island to watch the sunset. There were tons of people perched on the cliff watching the sun go down and after everyone claps and cheers. Pretty cool.
Santorini is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen! It's a pretty small island but there's a lot to see. Our hotel is insanely nice and I definitely splurged on this one since we're at the end of our trip. It's right on a cliff overlooking the caldera and has amazing views of that and the capital town of Fira. I really nailed it with this hotel (patting my back).
Our first day was spent relaxing by the pool and staring at the view - all day. There's free breakfast every day with amazing food - eggs, meats, cheeses, home made pastries (omg so good), and my favorite little section with cucumbers, tomato, feta, and olives. I could survive on this. Finally we get some fresh veggies and fruit after our Italian carb overload.
At night we went to one of the down home Greek restaurants in Firostefani. They grow this white eggplant on the island (one of the few things they grow) and it's delicious! They put it on a pita with yogurt, feta, paprika and the flavors go so well together. We also got octopus salad! First time trying octopus and it was actually good… not that I ever want to eat it again. I had the dish of the day which was this lasagna stuffed with feta and spinach. I almost had a meltdown eating it, it was so good! So decadent I have no idea how they did it.
We flew into Athens yesterday and were surprised at how awesome it was since most people we met said it wasn't nice, and not to bother. So glad we went! We worked the flight so that we had a 22 hour layover in Athens. Woke up this morning and did yet another bike tour :-D. This one was really cool because the guy was actually from Athens and knew so much of the history. And he does small tours of 2-4 people and we were the only ones so we got to ask him a ton of questions.
The bike tour was perfect for seeing all of Athens in a short amount of time - we literally saw the entire city and were plowing through sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, etc. on our bikes. We even stopped at a famous Greek bakery and sampled some ridiculously delicious donuts called loukoumades. Yes, they're drizzled with honey.
After the bike tour we headed straight to the Acropolis - holy crap - one of the coolest sights to see. You get really awesome views of Athens and realize how big of a city it is.
Now we're off to catch our flight to Santorini!
I ran into this little shop (reminded me of the places my grandma used to take us for Easter) and they had these rice balls called arancini. These were soo amazing. In the middle is this really tender delicious beef, and then peas, carrots, rice - almost like a beef stew ball, but then there's this gooey cheese and rice inside. And it's all packed up into this ball and I think they must put it in the oven because it doesn't taste deep fried. Soooo delicious and hearty. Then I haad to have a pistachio cannoli which was heaven. We also had some really good pasta in Rome which was recommended from our hotel. It's hard work avoiding the tourist traps, but finding these hidden gems is so worth it!
Today is our last in Rome so we roamed the streets and checked out the Spanish Stairs and Trevi Fountain. Not the highlight of the trip, but both are located in a really cool area of town for exploring.
Tomorrow we are Greece bound!!! So excited to go to Greece, yet sad that our trip is wrapping up.
Chris and I are happy to be back in Rome. We didn't get to see much of it last time due to the rain. Today we went to the colosseum which is SO cool! We got a guided tour and learned about the gladiator fights and about how they used to murder prisoners by feeding them to animals. It is crazy how that 2,000 year old structure is still there.
Next we went to the Roman Forum which was also just amazing - where the emperors used to live. It's the center of Roman society, and there are so many centuries old ruins here it will blow your mind.
To top it all off the weather has been perfect (80 and sunny) so we're happy :-).
This is where I begin my Capri rant. Ok, so all these tourists come to the Almalfi coast and shortly realize there's not too much to do here - the beaches aren't that nice, the towns are super small, etc. (it is a beautiful and unique place, I'll give it that). So Italy decided to market the biggest scam in the entire world: the island of Capri. "Celebrities vacation here! The rich and famous!" BS. Basically they load all the idiot tourists (yes, us) onto these big ferries (over capacity, of course) and shuttle them to the island for €80. They say it takes an hour to get there but that's crap because what they never tell you (in any country in Europe) is that there are a million stops along the way. So we stop at the other towns to pick up more people so the boat can be even more over capacity. Then on the way a freak storm hits..
That was fun (in our seats that aren't actually seats). We made friends with these Australian girls on holiday who were really nice. They were going to the island specifically to see the blue grotto (another marketing scam). The island has 3 "grottos" - a green one, a white one, and the famous blue one. This is what it's supposed to look like: (pulled this pic off the Internet)
When we got to the island we were told that the blue grotto was closed but we could take a tour of the white and green grottos on a boat for €17 each. Fine.
We get on the boat and basically just zipped down one side of the island. Both the green and the white grotto were basically just small dents in the side of the cliffs that were slightly colored green/white. So stupid. This rock is the coolest thing we saw on the boat tour:
The Australian girls literally threw a hissy fit about the tour and the grottos. It was the most bootleg ripoff of my life. Wait, I may have spoke too soon.
After getting ripped off by the grotto tour we decided to walk around the town of Capri. There's a town area at the base of the island and then another at the top. You can take a €30 taxi to the top (prob a 5 min drive) or you can take the funicular.... We chose the funicular. Imagine thousands of tourists who just get off the the ferry boats and want to get to the top of the town. The lines were insane, and again they cram you into these tiny cars that are so slow.
Since we've been duped by a few tourist trap restaurants, we decided to ask a local for a good restaurant recommendation. A shop owner told us to go to this place overlooking the water and it looked fine, but ohhhhh were we wrong. Chris ordered a kebab salad and I ordered the caprese pizza. Oh. My. Gosh. The food came out and Chris's salad looked like a small dog pooped on some nasty looking bagged lettuce with corn on it. My pizza was definitely cardboard from days ago that they didn't even heat up and just slapped a few blobs of cheese on the top. It was the worst thing I've ever seen. A complete disgrace to Italy when you can't even make a decent pizza that usually costs €3. We've been trapped by some bad meals but this by far was the worst. Chris's salad was inedible and he sent it back. We high tailed it out of there without finishing the pizza and went to another take away restaurant for more food, which was also garbage.
After that we looked in a few extremely overpriced stores and decided to take the funicular back down the hill - more lines of angry tourists pushing each other to get down the hill. Then another rain storm hit and we were forced to sit at another tourist trap restaurant to be under an awning.
So at that point we were like "F this place" and just went back to the docks to wait for our ferry back. Along with a thousand other angry tourists. Then when the boat came the line was no longer and it was a mad dash to get on the boat and get a seat (since it's over capacity you aren't guaranteed a seat). This lady with a baby started yelling at Chris in another language and tried to fight him. I managed to elbow my way in like a champ and got us seats.
And that was Capri.