After a short hiatus due to work, vacation, life and some more work, I finally found time to actually sit down and recap my family vacation to the Greek Isles and Venice. We had such a wonderful time on our cruise and I feel so lucky to have been able to visit a new country with my family. We have never traveled outside of the U.S (all together) and my brother had never traveled to Europe. It was exciting to experience his first European adventure with him, as well as visit Italy with my family. We spend so much of our time talking about being Italian and eating Italian food, so it was such a great experience to actually BE in Italy with my family.
Our first stop was in Athens, where we spent the day walking around the Acropolis and enjoying our first Grecian meal! The view from the Acropolis was amazing and it was unreal to be standing two feet from the Parthenon. We had spent the entire day traveling so after visiting the Parthenon and the new Museum, we had to stop and eat.
This is my one and only complaint about the entire vacation. The food. When I studied abroad I basically ate my way through Europe. The pizza, pasta and bread in Italy, the sausage and beer in Germany, the cheese, bread and crepes in France…the croquettas and churros in Spain. I could go on, but I will spare you. The food in Greece and on the cruise ship was, well, disappointing. So disappointing, in fact, that I ended up losing weight on this vacation.
While the food was a disappointment, there were a few highlights in there – starting with my first meal in Greece. I didn’t like what I got, but I definitely enjoyed sharing my brothers lunch of chicken and potatoes. I love Greek potatoes and these were unbelievable. I also had my first cup of Greek coffee, which is thick and delicious. One thing to note if you are traveling to Greece; their version and the American version of the Greek salad are not the same thing. My sister and my Dad both ordered Greek salads and while I didn’t try it, I don’t think the salad actually came with lettuce or even half of the ingredients the American version does.
After a very long, fun and tiring day in Athens we were excited to board the cruise ship and head to Mykonos! Oh, Mykonos. With beautiful white buildings everywhere, crystal blue waters, small winding roads and beautiful beaches, Mykonos was like a dream. It was perfect and we had a perfect day there. We walked the streets and shopped our way around the entire island town. I bought my first evil eye charm and we enjoyed Greek coffee at a small cafe while watching locals sweep the streets and talk among one another.
My sister and I worked on perfecting our Greek by saying “kalumera” to everyone we encountered (the only Greek word we knew) and also learned a few along the way from the extremely nice locals. Kalusera (good evening), kalunita (good night) and effatso (thank you). Mind you – I can’t speak or write in Greek, so I just spelled those words the way I believe they sound.
We were told by a local guide on our ship that there was a famous church we could not miss. We had our map, but mindlessly stumbled upon the church. We were there on a Sunday and were lucky enough to find the church right before Mass was ending. My Dad, being the man he is, somehow found a way to involve himself in the ceremony and convinced a young boy to let him help ring the church bells at the end of Mass. My sister and I were also lucky enough to get the homemade bread and cookie a little old Greek lady was handing out to the locals after Mass. She overheard us talking about how we wanted to try them and quietly called us over to sneak it to us! The bread wasn’t very good and when we tried to throw it away in a shop the owner wouldn’t let us and told us to eat all of it. The cookie on the other hand was delicious!
The next day we headed to Monemvasia, a small island with two towns. The Old town and the New town. I am a planner, so I had attempted to do some research before the trip, to determine what we should do in Monemvasia and to learn a little bit about the city. After reading a few blog posts and articles, I determined there really wasn’t anything that exciting about this sleepy town. One travel writer even said “there is nothing to do here, but sit and have lunch and enjoy the beautiful view.” So when we landed on the tiny island of Monemvasia, to my surprise, it was not only gorgeous, but there was more than enough to do in my opinion! Yes, we sat and had lunch at an amazing restaurant on the cliff overlooking the ocean and enjoyed the view, but we also climbed all over the giant rock, which is the Old Town, and explored the ancient ruins, churches, stores, and so much more. The Old Town is actually an old castle and everywhere you turn is a reminder of the way they used to live – with arrow holes so they can protect themselves from invaders, peep holes and so much more. My Dad said this was the first home of the Knights of Templar, but I have yet to confirm or back that up with research. My Dad, brother and brother-in-law climbed into uncharted territory and found a small church with painting from around 1100 B.C.
We spent the entire day in the Old Town and did some shopping and exploring. They had beautiful Olive Oil Wood items to buy. I bought two stirring spoons for when I make sauce and I can’t wait to use them. Monemvasia was also the only place in Greece where I had an amazing meal. As we sat on the edge of the Old Town at a quaint little restaurant, we enjoyed some of the best Saganaki I have ever had. We ordered it again in Corfu and not only was it not that good, it was fried and had no flavor. This particular Saganaki was cooked perfectly and was full of flavor.
Check back later for Part II of my Grecian adventures and my return to the beloved homeland, Italy!