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Saturday, June 29, 2019

How to spend 3 days in Santorini

Megalochori Streets
Santorini truly is a bucket list destination. But when you think of the Greek island, the first image that comes to mind is of blue domed white buildings, and while those can be found around the island, it's usually the town of Oia (pronounced 'ee-ya') that everyone flocks to. And it shows - trust me! It is heavy with tourists and while most definitely it is gorgeous, it isn't the only place in Santorini worth seeing.

Here is our 3 day itinerary in Santorini where we tried to see as much of the island!

Day 1 

After checking into our hotel, The Vedema, where we got upgraded to an amazing one bedroom suite with our own private pool, we wandered around the town of Megalochori. It's a small quaint town with a few local restaurants, cafes and shops with local crafts. 
Our private pool in our upgraded suite at the Vedema

In the centre of the Megalochori square there are tavernas, cafes and winding paths of cobbled streets that lead you through the village. Strolling along here with very few tourists is a delightful way to take in the sights of Santorini. We stopped off at the shop of a local leather maker and picked up a pair of hand made leather sandals for this mama!

Amazing crafts to be found in small, local shops - I wished we had packed a larger suitcase!


Unlike in Oia, you'll find the streets and alleys in Megalochori completely to yourself
Due to our jet-lag, we spent our first day in the local village and enjoyed the pool in our villa, and then had an amazing wine tasting experience at sunset at Santo Winery . The views were spectacular!. We topped off our first night by dining at Alati  at The Vedema hotel on their rooftop terrace under the stars . A perfect first day to start to enjoy Santorini!

Santo Winery Sunsets

Santo Winery: Greek wines and a view like that!
Day 2

After a delicious breakfast with fresh Greek yogurt and the most amazing honey we rented an ATV through our hotel and headed along the east coast north towards Oia. It’s a quieter sort of drive and not as eventful as the main road up towards Oia but we wanted to see as much of the island as possible. Once in Oia, we headed straight down towards Ammoudi Bay. We headed past the fishing tavernas to a 5 minute hike over the rocks to a swimming spot. Here you can sit, sunbathe and then jump in for a refreshing  swim.

Ammoudi Bay

A refreshing swimming spot and sunbathing spot on the rocks
We headed back to the tavernas and picked one for a delicious lunch of the daily fresh catch, a real Greek salad (which has no lettuce like the watered down North American versions), and our favourite fresh made tzatziki. Yum!! The tavernas are definitely overpriced and targeted towards tourists, it is still a wonderful experience but not cheap!

Sun dried Octopus - I didn't think I'd love it this much!

Lunch with a view in a fishing taverna in Ammoudi Bay

Head up back to Oia (not using those poor mules to ride you back up the steep hill though. They work under inhumane conditions, so we opted for a picture and drove our ATV back up).There you can stroll the narrow streets through the markets and take in all of the views of blue domed white washed buildings your heart desires.  It is very busy during tourist season and even though we heard amazing things about the sunsets.
Just take a picture and find an alternative way back up

Driving back from Oia we stopped in Fira for an afternoon treat - some ice cream and to walk and shop the markets. You can spend much more time in Fira than we did but it is also quite busy with tourists as is Oia.

Day 3 

We headed back out on our ATV on our last day before we had to catch our ferry to Crete. We made our way towards the Red Sand beach through the quaint town of Akrotiri. Along the way there are the most spectacular views of the caldera. In my opinion these views were better than the views in Oia, but we didn't get a chance to linger for long or to stop in the town of Akrotiri , although I would plan for it the next time!

An ATV is a cheap(er) and easy way to get around the island, as taxi's are extremely limited

The Red sand beach can be accessed by a steep hike down, but we opted for just a picture from up top as we were saving our beach time for the "other" beach.


Red Beach

From the Red Sand beach we headed to Perissa Beach, a stretch of black sand beach with crystal clear water. The beach extends from Perissa to Perivolos where there are restaurants, hotels, cafes all along the strip. Our hotel has a sister property there that had full service on the beach. They also had a shuttle from the Vedema and back, but we had our ATVs still.


Black Sand Beach

The Beach at Perivolos

There is plenty to explore in Santorini from the food, shopping, wine, beaches, towns and more. What are your favourite things about Santorini?





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Monday, June 24, 2019

Opa! Greece






This is where it all began. I blame you Greece. This is the place where my wanderlust got sparked. This was also the first time hubs and I went away for a WHOLE WEEK away from the kids. Hmmm... coincidence? Or was it just the magic of this amazing country? I'd have to go back to do some more research to really get to the bottom of this!

Greece was the start of my wanderlust and also the unofficial start of my blog. Back then I had written down a bunch of notes for a few friends who were planning on going, and in the 3 years since these notes have been used several times by some very lucky friends (lucky in that they went to Greece!).

So as late as a blog post can be, here are some of my thoughts and findings about our time there. 




How to get there and get around:

Flying from Toronto to Athens was an easy(ish) direct flight on Air Canada ROUGE. An overnight flight got us into our destination and ready to start our adventure!

Inter-island travel has a few different options. We wanted to make the most of our time away so we opted for the fastest transportation to and from Santorini, and Aegean Airlines filled the bill. A quick flight from Athens to Santorini on an airline that was efficient and pleasant. 

Getting from Santorini to Crete it was suggested we enjoy a high speed ferry, so we looked into Hellenic Seaways. We booked tickets online ahead of time and went for the business class berth which was super comfortable and gave us great views. 


Cabs/Taxis: We had our hotels pre arrange airport/port transfers as well as calling a cab for other transportation in Athens and Crete.
Santorini only has about 35 cabs on the island, so it is not a reliable way to get around on that island. Renting a vehicle or taking public transportation are other options on this island.


Car Rentals: We opted to rent an ATV to get around Santorini since it was just the two of us. For families, apparently there is only one mini-van on the island of Santorini(!), but plenty of smaller vehicles to rent. Crete is a very large island so if you are getting around to explore a car rental is very much suggested.

Stay:


Athens: 
The King George Hotel in Athens was lovely, clean, and had plenty of charm.  It's location was great as it was central and easy to get to the Acropolis.  


The Grand Bretagne next door is one of  the nicest hotel in Athens, and is a sister property to the King George. It has gorgeous rooftop views of the Acropolis from it's restaurant. A dinner reservation here is highly recommended for the views alone!

In Santorini we stayed at The Vedema. It is centrally located in the small village of Megalachori which is very quiet as opposed to Fira or Oia. The property is gorgeous and we highly recommended. Although friends of our went more recently and reported back that there was more wear and tear than they expected. We had been upgraded to a one bedroom villa with our own private pool - so we had nothing to complain about! I personally loved the location as it gave us opportunity to go to the black sand beach (they provided a transfer there and access to the beach via a sister hotel).


Views in the Vedema Hotel in Santorini
In Crete we stayed at The Elounda Bay & Elounda Beach Hotel which is an incredible resort in Elounda (which is where many celebrities go and dock their fancy yachts). Its very large property with many amenities and a gorgeous location right on the bay. Our amazing room had a balcony and we could walk down a few steps tp jump right into the gorgeous refreshing water.

To Do:

Athens: Our stay in Athens was very short and we squeezed in the basic must do through our jet lag. Obviously The Acropolis is a must - try to go early morning or late evening as to avoid the sun and heat. Just purchase the basic entry price, as no one checks your ticket once you are inside.
Bring a hat and a full water bottle before you go in!



Acropolis

The Acropolis Museum across the street is a lovely, modern, air conditioned building. It is very inexpensive to go in. The restaurant upstairs is a nice place to grab a quick bite to eat or to have some coffee.

The market place is a great place to walk around and get souvenirs and to stop for something to eat.

Santorini: Oh Santorini! We rented an ATV and set off to explore the whole island! Some of my highlights were:
Black Sand Beach
  • Black Sand Beach : Gorgeous black sand beach stretching from Perissa to Perivolos along the east coast of Santorini. The sand gets extremely hot, but the water is beautiful, crystal clear and refreshing. There are lots of restaurants and bars along the long strip to enjoy a full day.
  • Red Beach : a steep hike to get there, but on the way there are breathtaking views of the Caldera which are a must. 
Red Sand Beac
  • Ammoudi Bay - a walk down from Oia, where there is no real beach but crystal clear gorgeous waters and cliff jumping. Great tavernas in the bay by the water for lunch, although they are overpriced but the views are stunning. 
Ammoudi Bay
  • Thira/Fira - is the modern capital of Santorini and has a central hub for shopping, restaurants, market place and nightlife. We made a quick stop here to walk around.
  •  Oia - This is the quintessential Santorini town that you see on all of the postcards. Lots of accommodations here, and people go for the sunsets there but you have to go EARLY to get a good spot. We walked around a little and took in the gorgeous views.
  • Santo Winery - Wine production isn't what Santorini is known for, but their unique volcanic soil produces some unique wine. Santo Winery has amazing views at sunset over the volcano though even if you aren't a wine drinker
  • While we did not did not take a ferry to the volcano,  a boat excursion was highly recommended to us by others,. It'll have to be for next time!
Sunset views from Santo Winery

Crete: The largest Greek Island wouldn't have been on my radar except for the fact we went to a wedding there. When we first got there however I was let down. The terrain is vastly different from Santorini (where I NEVER wanted to leave!). But it most definitely grew on me, and then I never wanted to leave Crete! 

Since we were in Crete for a wedding and all of the festivities we didn't get a chance to explore as much as we would have. But some of our highlights from here included:


Spinalonga in Crete

  • Spinaloga: an old leprosy colony that you can take a tour of
  • Food: I can never eat Greek food outside of Crete again. It is outstanding! Fresh seafood,  tzatziki, Santorini salads, Greek salads, honey, yogurt, wine... honestly, the food was  one of my highlights.  
  • Gorgeous crystal clear blue waters. Stunning. That's all.
  • Crete had the flavour of authentic Greece, which is what I was told. That Crete is what Greece really is. Next time we would visit and stay in Chania and visit the Minoan Ruins as well.
Have you been to Greece? What are you recommendations? We definitely want to go back and take our kids, since they've been infatuated with its beauty after watching Mama Mia 4,763 times!

Read my 3 day Santorini itinerary here



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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Summer Scramble

"Mom, I'm soooooooooo bored!"

Ah - music to every mother's ears, if you like screeching sounds of alternative metal (hey - not judging!) But these are the words that most of us moms hate to hear. The kids in return hate to hear the suggestions we have "go play outside", " clean your room", "read a book!"

As a stay at home mom, I'm fortunate enough to stay home with my kids and delusional enough to think that the entire 9 weeks of summer vacation (yes I counted) will be filled with magical moments together relaxing by the pool, going on hikes, bike riding and exploring all the culture of the city.



While I do try to spend as much time with the kids doing fun stuff, or just allowing for us to have lazy summer days, I also need some time where the kids are NOT at home. The invention of the day camp is maybe my favourite parenting find of all time. These day camps aren't just about getting these kids out of my hair for the summer.  In fact I prefer them to just do 1/2 day camps and get out for a few hours a day every other week. For starters day camps are a luxury. They are expensive, especially when its for 3 kids, so we try to be picky about what we actually choose to do. Because I'm pretty sure I could use all that money to just go to Italy for the summer. Except what would I do about the kids?( You didn't think I was taking them with me did you?)




Even though the cost of summer camps denies me of my Italian getaway, this is why we like them:
  1.  They give kids a chance to try new activities: The school year is pretty hectic with hockey, school and homework, and gives us little time to try different activities. I've tried to schedule in more activities during the school year but end up frazzled. So a one week day camp trying out tennis or coding gives the kids a taste of other things they may want to keep doing.
  2.  Make new friends: I don't often book day camps based on what their friends are doing (I'm mean like that), so they end up in a new group activity where they have to meet with other kids. With school and hockey, they don't get the chance to meet new people as often as I would like them to.
  3.  New Environments: Are my kids always happy about trying a  new day camp? Nope. Do they have sometimes have anxiety about being in a new environment and trying something new? Yep. But being thrown in new environments and new situations helps they learn to adapt and develop resiliency. All the parenting books tell me.
  4. Good for my sanity: I love my kids and usually love spending time with them, especially during a lazy summer. But after about the 17th snack request of the morning, this mama needs a mental break. Having a routine and getting the kids out of the house gives me a chance to regroup and be able to focus on being more present and hopefully a better parent. 
  5. Device Bans: Keeping the kids busy means keeping them off of devices. I know I can limit their screen time (and I do), but getting them out at a summer camp helps me achieve my goal a little easier. 



But alas, it's mid-June and my lazy self has just realized that the kids are booked into ONE camp this summer. ONE. Gulp. This should be a fun summer (said in a slightly panicked voice).

Give this mama some ideas, what do you do to keep your kids busy in the summer? Share in the comments!



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Sunday, June 9, 2019

My Bahamas Outfits : Daytime Edition

A beach trip is always the best - in theory. It becomes a bit of a nightmare though when I have to start thinking about packing swimsuits and (gulp) having to wear them around other people! There is something about having to wear a swimsuit that can bring out your worst insecurities about your body image.

The reassurance from my good friends and my husband that I was dumb (yep - their words), and would look just fine in a swimsuit was somewhat reassuring. Even more reassuring was pulling out the swimwear I had that I had always felt good wearing and trying them on at home before packing them. By throwing on some cute accessories and using linen pants or a skirt as cover-ups, you can transition swimwear into day outfits that work for the beach or pool and for wandering around the massive resort and just feeling put together even though I'm always a hot mess inside.

1. Swimsuit: J Crew, Linen Pants: Zara, Sunglasses: Tom Ford, Hat: Zara, Bag: Zara
2. Swim Top: J Crew old, but I like these here & here; Skirt: Zara, Bag: Zara, Slides: Zara, Earrings: Zara
3. Bikini: Swimfolly, Cover Up: Something Navy, Shorts: Levis, Slides: Zara, Bag: Zara, Earrings: Zara

Zara Slides & Hat

Yacht life

Mirror Selfies for the Win



Seriously, did I mention mirror selfies?











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Monday, June 3, 2019

How to deal with the Mom Guilt


Guilt: The most unproductive of emotions.  These are the words that my best friend said to me when I was waxing on about this feeling I get. This feeling that we shouldn't do what we really want to do because ...well just because. Because we feel guilty. Because we feel like we should be doing more. Because we feel like we should be more.

I'm a good mom. I know this. I love my kids and I try my best but I make mistakes. ALL. OF. THE. TIME. I usually forgive myself and move on, but somehow this mom guilt business keeps coming back. For me, it usually rears it's head when I plan a trip sans kiddies. It seems to be my biggest trigger - maybe because that's when the kids complain the most. There's a lot behind this "mom guilt" thing, but the most important things that I've learned from it are:
  • The feeling of guilt will come back, again and again, and again.
  • I'll survive. So will my kids.
  • I'm not alone. This mom guilt thing isn't just something I've got going on - its all over the parenting universe.
  • It's not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. 


In reality there really wasn't any place for mom guilt here, in the Bahamas - where I went without the kids (gasp!)

I know this isn't the first time I have written about mom guilt nor I'm certain will it be the last. Unless somehow I figure out how to permanently banish this feeling.  But to be completely honest, I don't think my mom-superpowers extend that far. But I have worked out some methods, strategies and resources that have been helpful.


How I deal with my mom-guilt:
  1. Be prepared: Whenever I have travel induced guilt, I throw myself into prepping and planning - for my kids at home. They are always left in great hands because I'm so fortunate to have family members around who are amazing care givers.  But I still feel this sense of stress that I'm burdening everyone else by having them watch my kids. So really it's a double dose of guilt! I like to stock the fridge and pantry, leave all emergency numbers, health cards, organize play dates, leave a detailed schedule and even sometimes a little present (ahem - bribes!) for the kids. Does it always go as planned? NOPE! Hardly ever in fact, but somehow it all works out. 
  2. Friends: They are my not-so-secret weapon. My girlfriends round out my support system and always know what to say to help relieve my feelings of guilt. Or sometimes they know to tell me to shut up and just do it. Either way works.
  3. Schedule Quality Time: I know, life is insanely busy and we are over scheduled about EVERYTHING. But I try to make a conscious effort to spend time with the kids doing something fun or just sitting and really being present with them. Even though I try this on a daily basis, I am trying something new: " a mommy & me day." Scheduling in a full day with each kid, one on one.
  4. Embracing it: as with most feelings, it's usually best to not bury them someplace deep down inside or to ignore them. I'm usually pretty good about facing my emotions and even unfurling them if I have to (not always a good thing - just ask my hubby!) But facing my feelings of guilt and just vocalizing them out loud (to an audience or not), helps in alleviating these feelings. Acknowledge what you feel and why. That takes away the power the guilt has over you.
  5. Being Honest: My kids are old enough now to have real honest, open conversations with.  I do explain to them sometimes what it is that I feel and why. Particularly that I try my best, but I make mistakes as a mom and that I love them always. I don't want to burden them with my feelings, but I hope that by sharing with them I can teach them to see me as a human and to help them develop empathy, compassion and understanding. It's actually been the most rewarding and helpful tool in battling "mom-guilt". They have shown greater compassion and understanding than I could have ever hoped for. 

This is me: Not feeling any mom guilt...well maybe just a little!

These strategies have helped me when I'm faced with this guilt business, but it sure is a process. I know that I will always feel it in my parenting, but I also know that I will get through it. That if I choose to do something for myself instead of for my kids ( like travel!), the feeling will inevitably arrive, but it will also pass. Because as my friend recently told me: "mama, you're allowed to enjoy your life."


Do you ever have feelings of guilt in your parenting? How do handle it? Please share in the comments below!


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