A Travellerspoint blog

Greece

Picture Perfect Santorini

sunny 36 °C

Santorini is one of those places they say you must visit if you go to the Greek islands. Now that I have visited, I can see why. It looks exactly like the postcards and pictures you see. It's characteristic blue domed churches and white homes built into the hilly landscape are breathtaking (not to mention the steep walks along the stone steps, which are not very stroller friendly! :)) Around 1500 BC, the volcano of Santorini Island in Greece exploded and the eruption was so strong that the centre of the island sank and took the shape with the caldera that can be seen today. Santorini, and specifically the town of Oia, where we stayed, is perched on the side of one of the extinct volcanoes, but one of the other volcanoes is still active. The whole place is just so dramatic and stunning. Oia has cute town, with lots of shops and restaurants. Lots of jewelry and art. There were families there, but Abha and I both felt Santorini might be a nicer place to come without the kids!

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We enjoyed three nights in Santorini, two with the Mooneys. We stayed at the Danai House, a caldera cave apartment, a traditional cavernous home built inside the rocks, with a dome-like roof. They are very famous in Oia and all have amazing views of the Aegean Sea. Many caves have been transformed into apartments and hotels. Here is a pic of ours:

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Danai House had a nice outdoor seating area, but it was pretty cozy for two families and two baby cots, with one bathroom (which left a lot of be desired for) and Santorini was boiling! Naxos had a strong breeze and felt a lot cooler than here. We had an A/C, but it would shut off after every 5 minutes and so we were all a little sweaty at night. This is when Zavian began to get a very mild heat rash on his chest and shoulders. Night time was cooler, though, and Abha and I sent the boys off in search of cakes to bring back and share outside on our patio, while the children slept. Mmmm!

We all took a day trip to the capital, Fira, one day. Well, Naim, Zavian and I almost didn't make it as there was a mad rush for the jam-packed bus. We were slowed down by trying to sort out the stroller, but didn't worry too much as Abha said she would save some seats for us. But then the driver said no more, there was still loads of people ahead of us, and Abha and family couldn't get off at this stage. It was to be a 20-30 minute journey, and as we saw Abha wave and mouth "don't worry, we'll wait for you," we wondered how the heck we were going to get to Fira and find them without mobile phones. Luckily we got a cab and it was only 15 euros to Fira, so we sat back, Zavian had a little nap and by some miracle we all met up in perfect time in Fira. It was a nice day in the end and we enjoyed a cable car down the side of the cliffs and Cara and Adrian took a donkey ride back up to the top!

That last night with the Mooneys in Santorini we had delicious Greek pizza with a sea view...
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...and we were able to enjoy a gorgeous full moon in Santorini, too!
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We'll miss you Mooneys!

Posted by jknazef 14:42 Archived in Greece Tagged greece caves oia fira Comments (1)

The Race for Apollo's Arch

Chasing the sun

sunny 33 °C

On our last night with the Mooneys in Naxos, we wanted to visit one of the most popular spots, Apollo's Arch, and we wanted to do it at sunset. We drive into town and ate a great dinner not far from the waterfront, and started to walk toward the arch, which is close the main port where all the ferries come in. But we were literally chasing the sun as it was setting quickly. The whole day was planned around going to the arch in time for sunset, and now we were late! We were pushing the stroller at high speed, poor pregnant Abha was huffing and puffing as fast as she could (she was fantastic and so energetic for 6 months pregnant!), and Cara was starting to tire, too. I finally decided to grab the camera and race ahead to capture some pics. I literally ran (although I am sure I heard the others laughing that I wasn't running fast enough and wouldn't make it, whatever, slow pokes!). But I did make it and it was stunning!

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We spent some time enjoying the view. You can great an amazing view of Naxos island from the arch, too.

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A great way to end our fantastic time in Naxos. But it wasn't really over yet.

We walked along the boardwalk, got some ice cream, checked out the many tabepnas (greek taverns/restaurants) which hang their daily catch of octopus from their entrance ways and enjoyed our wee stroll.

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We enjoyed it, until we got back to the car. We had parked along the boardwalk, where we had parked the day before without issue. Interestingly, we were now the only car parked there. Even more interestingly, there were only people walking everywhere- on the sidewalk, along the boardwalk and in the street where we were parked. I did say it seemed fishy to park there at the time, and did suggest we quickly hop in and drive to the arch when we raced by our car after dinner (lazy, I know, but we were late!).

Yet of course we were all surprised to see the big, fat, 80 EURO ticket stuck to the windshield. And the whole thing was in Greek except for the info about how and where to make the payment. Ooops! To only add to the embarrassment of the situation, everyone was starring at the six of us squeeze like a bunch of clowns into a clown car, and then as we slowly tried to drive out into the sea of pedestrians, old Greek ladies sitting along the boardwalk shook their fingers at us and said, what we can only assume is, "you can't park here!" Then, a ship officer in a white uniform came to the drivers window and told us we can't park there (thanks, man), told us to put on our hazard lights and then he cleared the road and we followed him down the entire way until the end (which was Apollo's arch, may I add, and there was ample free parking). People stopped and parted to either side of the road, all eyes were on us. I think they thought we were famous, as who else would be personally escorted down the boardwalk by an officer. Then we decided to joke back and began to wave at everyone and unknowing tourists waved back in hopes of a glimpse of some Greek royalty or pop star.

To pay or not pay... their systems surely aren't as sophisticated as those in the US or UK...they are just a small island...no one will ever know...no, we should pay it...it is not that much if we split it...after much debate, the guys decided not to mention the ticket to the car rental agency and we have our fingers crossed it won't catch up with us later! Opa!!!!!

Posted by jknazef 14:08 Archived in Greece Tagged greece arch naxos Comments (0)

Naxos Continued

sunny 32 °C

We hired a car to get around as the villa was pretty removed from it all. It gave us the chance to explore different beaches and see lots more of Naxos. We even spent one day driving almost 6 hours around the northern side and rest of the island (by accident), as Naim and Adrian were told it would only take a couple hours to see the whole island, and to expect the north to be much more quiet. Yes, I think we would all agree that the north was in fact desolate, spread out, and not worth it! :) We would also suggest skipping the Kouros and the village of Apollon. However, for all those insect-lovers, you can see some interesting stuff, including huge cicadas if you've never seen one before! Cara was amazed!

However, the beaches were gorgeous. We spent time at two in particular, Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios. Agia Anna's new claim to fame is that our son took his first steps on their sand and splashed in their water!

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The next evening, we came upon Agios Prokopios, had a lovely dinner and then enjoyed the sunset.
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We spent the following day at their beach for a few hours, had lunch on the beach. Zavian hung out in his sun tent.
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Naxos beaches are great for families, have lots of facilities and easy parking. Be sure to rent a beach chair with an umbrella though! Naim is still peeling almost 2 weeks later!

Cara, Zavian and Baby Mooney (in progress) with Abha
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Posted by jknazef 13:26 Archived in Greece Tagged greece naxos Comments (0)

The Nazefs and Mooneys take on Greece

Belogna Ikons Villas in Naxos

sunny 32 °C

Ahhhh, can I say heaven? That's what I thought when we arrived at the stunning Belogna Ikons Villas in Naxos. Greeted by our good friends, Abha, Adrian and Cara, we spent five nights in a secluded, luxurious villa. It was perfect for our two families, with a kitchen, 2 large bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, living room, and outdoor porch, where we ate all our meals. Zavian had his own crib, and took his very first swim in their pool! There were lots of nice little touches, complimentary local wine (although we did find a caterpillar or insect of some sort in it after we had drank most of it and poured the last glass), amazing coffee machine, and everything from the sheets to the dishware had the Belogna Ikons insignia. Here are some pics of the villa:

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The villa

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Dining al fresco every meal! Including one night when Naim and Adrian made octopus!

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Our room

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The pool

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Zavian chilling out

Zavian's first swim was such a delight! We weren't sure if he would like the cool water or not. After a couple whimpers, he began to really enjoy it and kicked and jumped around. Cara was sweet to share her ball which he also loved!

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Zavian was so appreciative of Cara's kind gesture with the ball, he let her feed him, too! Cara was great at it, not to mention all things when it came to Zavian. She played with him, help change nappies, sang Baa Baa Black Sheep (purple, pink, green, red, orange and yellow sheep, too). Great practice for the big sister-to-be! In this photo Zavian is also modelling the Snazzy Baby Travel Seat in red, a super-compact, soft high chair which attaches to any seat, shopping cart/trolley, etc. Great for babies who can't sit up yet!
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All in all the villa itself was a great place. Everything was new and gorgeous. The staff were very helpful. It was removed from the hectic beachfront area, so we had a lot of privacy, amazing views of Naxos as we were up on a hill (which Adrian actually ran up and down almost every day in the heat in preparation for a half marathon! Okay, Naim went twice, too.) And best of all, we were enjoying time with the Mooneys!

Posted by jknazef 13:04 Archived in Greece Tagged greece naxos belogna ikons Comments (0)

Everything's Betta with Feta

Arrival in Greece!

sunny 36 °C

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We survived the looong journey with Zavian to Athens. Boy, it was long. And the Heathrow staff made me taste 50% of Zavian's baby food and milk. We had far too much luggage (my fault) which Naim lugged around while I managed Z. As a welcome to Greece gift, Naim's bag didn't make it with the luggage and our taxi driver tried to rip us off. But we were only in Athens for less than a day, so we were going to enjoy it!

We crammed in as much as we could into our short stay. Our home for the night, The Acropolis Ami Boutique Hotel, had a cool rooftop terrace with an amazing view of the Acropolis at night. They upgraded us to a larger room, and a deathtrap of a baby cot that none of their staff could sort out, so Z ended up in our bed. :) For dinner we picked up some souvlakis and beer (for free as Naim paid with 50 euros and got the same in change- opa!!!). We think the confusion was a direct result of Zavian's distracting tactics by smiling at the staff.) We enjoyed the meal in a nearby park and by the time we returned, Naim's bag had been dropped off and all was good again in the world.

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The next day were strolled through the area of Plaka, which was filled with cute cafes and shops, walked up the amazing Acropolis, and toured the market areas. The Acropolis was a trek, especially with Zavian and not being allowed to use the stroller, and conveniently leaving the baby carrier back in the hotel for the morning. And it was HOT. It was scorching, and I felt really bad for Zavian, but he held up very well all things considered. We had a great lunch with lots of Greek mezze and FETA mmmmh, and learned how much the Greeks love babies, as the staff did everything they could to make Z comfortable, including bringing him some delicious greek yogurt and a wee spoon.

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We unfortunately took the long way home and literally just made our ferry to Naxos late that afternoon. The 4 hour ferry ride allowed for some bonding with our seat neighbor, a 30-something Greek woman from Paros who tried to be our personal DJ from her laptop, despite the fact Zavian was sleeping. Arriving in Naxos at about 9 pm, the sun had only set a short while ago and the sky was still pink. Our driver was thankfully awaiting us, helped with our brick-loaded baggage and whisked us off into the hills our Naxos where we were eager to meet our friends, the Mooney family at our shared villa.

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Posted by jknazef 15:52 Archived in Greece Tagged athens acropolis Comments (0)

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