Stalis, Crete

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As I have mentioned countless times in my posts, by the end of my trip I was not feeling the best physically. Crete came after Athens and Santorini, both of which took the last ounces of energy I had left; therefore, Crete became a place of rest for me. This photo is from my beach front hotel, which while not nearly as glamorous as it appears here, was very comfortable and clean. The view was by far my favourite part about my stay; I mean just look at it! My time on the island was spent in those beach chairs below. Safely planted in the first row by the water, I ordered a lot of drinks and food and sunbathed until my hearts content. In my spare time, I ventured along the single street my hotel was situated to do some shopping or dine out. No, I didn’t see much of what Crete has to offer, but I had a blissful experience to say the least. I will say this though, Greece had some of the best food I ate on my entire trip! Luckily, on my arrival I befriended a nice taxi driver who gave me a discount to my hotel (saving me because I had no more cash on me and couldn’t find the bus station). He gave me his number and I called him to take me to the airport when I left. Another person I met was Bruno, my server on the beach. He was such a nice man and took especially good care of me; even saving my chair for me on both my second and third day. Being in the service industry myself, I sincerely appreciate it when someone goes a little above. Thank you to those two men, you made my time in Crete that much better.

September 24-27, 2013

St. Tropez, France

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This first picture is the epitome of beach life. I love the contrast of the sea and sky against the soft white sand and the way the colourful umbrellas add that pop of colour. St. Tropez is more than just beaches though; it has the most adorable little town filled to the brim with every designer store your heart could desire. Made famous by Brigitte Bardot, St. Tropez is located on the French Riviera between Toulon and Nice. Without a car, getting to St. Tropez can be difficult. I opted for a day trip with my school, which included a boat tour, free time in the old town and a trip to the famous Nikki beach. Since I find cemeteries quite peaceful and beautiful, I made a beeline there first. Most of the other students headed to the top of the park, which has stunning views of the town. After that, I went in search of the elusive Tarte Tropezienne. Found at a restaurant/bakery by the same name; it is a custard filled sugar bread concoction, that is to die for! While waiting to board the bus to the beach, I took a walk around the port to digest and to take in the fancy yachts that line the docks. The beach is like a secret hideaway, located at the end of a long road. Sea front bars and lounge chairs line most of the beach but free space is available. Anchored boats line the horizon, floating in the shallow waters. Nice, France, where I was staying, has large rocks that make up its shores; the soft sand was a reprieve and I took every opportunity to wiggle my toes in it. We were only there about an hour and I enjoyed every second. You don’t need a lot of money to enjoy places like this, just know when to splurge and when to cut back. I will say though, I wouldn’t object to laying out on one of those yachts!

August 3, 2013

Capri, Italy

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I took a boat tour to Capri on my fourth day in Postiano. The tides had been high and the waters were rough for days leading up to my tour but I got very lucky and we were able to go into the grotto! My tour boat was filled with a group of Americans from New Jersey about my age, and they were so unbelievably nice. Even offering me to continue on to Rome with them so I wouldn’t have to be alone; I didn’t take them up on it as I was going to Cinque-Terre next but it was a nice offer. They were a sister and her two brothers along with their significant others and they definitely got the party started early and we all had a great time listening to music and talking. I should note they looked nothing like the cast of Jersey Shore and they hate that show for ruining their city’s image. We stopped to swim in the open water before getting to the grotto. Swimming in the sea was the first thing I did to conquer my fears and it was terrifying but I was so proud after. The line up was long and it took us about an hour to get in plus approx. 15 Euros but it was so worth it! They say you can’t swim in the grotto but for 5-10 Euros extra (depending on your boat) they will let you. You are transferred to smaller boats in groups of 3-4 people and you have to lay flat to enter. Once inside we jumped into the water and swam a bit in the glowing blue water before getting back in and leaving. It’s a short time but breathtaking and amazing. It was probably one of my top 5 experiences on this trip and well worth it to anyone who has the opportunity. I should also tell you that it was the first time in my life I got sea sick and while it passed quickly thanks to some medicine, I was grateful to learn that early on before some other much longer boat rides later in the trip. I am telling you this because I grew up on boats with my dad and both him and I got sick on the waves of the seas, it’s a different beast so be warned. Afterwards we docked on Capri and had some lunch before they took a taxi to the top of the island for a birds-eye view. I opted for looking around the local shops and sending a post card home to my family. Lemoncello is a delicacy here and another must to try. Because of our long wait at the grotto we didn’t have much time in Capri and we were headed back to Positano before we knew it. It was short but sweet and I loved Positano so much I was happy to get back in time for dinner on my last night. If you can’t stay in Capri because of cost or time restraints, then a boat tour is a fun way to see the island and grotto without spending a fortune. If you’re lucky you might even meet some great people too, like I did.

June 27, 2013

I’m trying something different this week, click above to see my video of entering the Blue Grotto!

Tangier, Morocco

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In keeping with last week’s topic of tours, I decided to tell you about my day in Tangier. One of the first bookings I made (next to my flight to Europe) was this guided day trip to Morocco. It almost didn’t begin when I had serious difficulties locating my pick up spot as no one else was waiting and there was no clear sign and my bus was late, so I thought I’d missed it. Note: Be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes early in case the bus arrives a few minutes early too. I took a seat on the bus and after a few more stops we were on our way. I chose to stay in Marbella, Spain because of this tour and its proximity to Tangier; if I had to do it again though, I’d opt for Marrakech or Fez. Remember, you are entering a different country (and continent) so passports are a must! After a ferry ride, security clearance and customs, we finally arrived in Tangier. I don’t know what I was expecting but what I saw was not it. I guess it slipped my mind that Tangier is a port city and like most it’s industrial, dirty and an actual city! This is why it is important to see the world, because from the comfort of home watching television, movies or reading magazines, you forget that actual people live in these places and therefore things like commerce exist. We boarded another bus and our multi-lingual guide began telling us all about Tangier and its people. We drove through the new part, but primarily we were in the old town. First we were shown the doorway of an ancient mausoleum which has been made famous by Henri Matisse and then we turned a corner to see a real live snake charmer. As I’ve said before, most of my trip was about conquering my fears; which is why I not only jumped at the chance, I paid 2 Euros to have a snake placed around my neck! This is the photo above, taken by one of two Irish guys I became friends with because of this moment. Afterwards, we made our way to lunch at a very authentic restaurant, complete with live music. Next, we were taken to a multi floor shop to get a lesson on rugs and to purchase souvenirs (I got a bracelet with a red stone, that has since broke). Our shopping tour continued at a spice market where I bought real Moroccan Argan oil. We got to wander the souk a little bit too before continuing on and magically (just as we were about to depart) I spotted a souvenir spoon for my collection, which I had all but given up on finding. I still can’t believe my luck with finding that spoon! As I’ve also said in past posts, I have a thing for water; so getting to see where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea at our next stop, was a real treat for me! Next we got to ride camels for the bargain price of 1 Euro! I’ll admit I was like a little kid when it came time for this. Our last stop was a brief look at Hercules’ cave (it was okay) and then we were back on the bus heading to catch our ferry. On the bus ride home, my new friends pointed out the Rock of Gibraltar too, which I found kind of fasinating and made a mental note to return for a visit. This tour was the longest at around 13 hours, but my new Irish friends and getting to see a whole different country made it a wonderful adventure. I would go back to Morocco in a heartbeat and as a female I think, personally, I’d chose a tour again if I were to go back; although I do know two women who went unaccompanied and had no issues whatsoever. The best part though; for one day I got to say, I was in Africa!

September 6, 2013

Monterosso, Italy

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It was my second time in Cinque-Terre but the first time I got to stay overnight. It’s really no wonder it’s such a popular tourist destination, from the hiking, to the scenery, to the idealistic little villages; it’s colourful in both its energy and ambiance. I stayed in Monterosso, which is the last of the five villages that makes up Cinque-Terre. Monterosso is the epitome of a beach town and I felt like I was almost camping in my little single room at the hostel (which I loved). I had such an amazing time here that one post would never be able to fully express that. The other day I found a little blip I had written in my phone while there. I was sitting at a sea front bar, drinking an Aperol Spritz and looking out at the lights of the neighbouring villages. I thought for this post, I’d share that note and some photos from that moment.

June 29, 2013
I’m sitting here at a seaside bar in Cinque-Terre, Monterosso to be exact. Glittering in the distance is Varnezza! Sparse twinkling lights, shimmering up the cliff side, but at dusk they almost look as though someone has put Christmas lights on the hills. Monterosso is buzzing with locals and tourists alike. It is high season and the feeling of summer in is the air. The feeling of long nights and even longer days; of sand and salt mixed into every inch of your body and no desire for it to be any other way. A boat sails into the harbour, a momentary distraction but gone as quickly as spotted. Boating is second nature to those here. The sea is a part of life; of everyone and everything, as it is with most coastal towns. It is with blurry eyes I try to stay awake, I’m exhausted from the day but I do not want it to end. At the sea is where I feel most at peace. And although another vision of the sea awaits me, I have enjoyed my time here so… Maybe that is all Cinque-Terre is ever meant to be for me; a fleeting moment of utter happiness, destined to be repeated but not revelled in for long. How else could you truly understand the immenseness of being complete? Even if only for a day.

June 28-30, 2013

Malta

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I’m still at a loss why more people aren’t aware or intrigued by this beautiful little island. Every time I mentioned it as a destination on my trip, people wondered why and some even asked where it was. So for those who don’t know; Malta is a tiny island off the coast of Sicily and is made up of 3 islands including Gozo and Comino. It has an amazing history (I’ll touch on that at another post) filled with pre historic temples, knights, war and is definitely worth learning more about. I can’t even remember when I first learn about Malta, that’s how long I’ve wanted to visit. Unfortunately, I became really sick the night before my flight. I was in Madrid and had been feeling a little off since Barcelona, but then I woke in the middle of the night with full body aches and chills. I made it to Malta the next day and basically showered and went to bed. Not wanting to waste my stay, I ventured (sick and all) to the beach the next day. I stayed at a great little hostel near St. Julian’s but the beach of Ghajn Tuffieha was apparently a must see. I ended up on the bay beside it because it’s a little confusing unless you ask, but Golden Bay is lovely too. I bought some snacks and lots of water and I laid on that beach all day long, cooling off in the water when needed. I slept a bit, I read a bit and I relaxed. After a lot of go-go-go, I definitely needed it. I can’t even properly describe the peace I felt there, surrounded by the cliffs of the bay, the sun overhead and the beautiful water. The scenery is rustic and worn, making it feel more like a far away land. However, there is charm that’s indescribable. The beach front restaurant made a great environment for a satisfying dinner and the next day, I did the exact same thing. From the hostel it was a short walk to a bus that took me directly to the beach, so over all it wasn’t a lot of effort. Half way through my week in Malta, a friend from back home came to visit. I knew I had to be in better shape for her arrival, which is why I chose to do nothing for the first few days. The owner of the hostel was amazing too, she answered all my questions (which were a lot) and even let me hang out during the day while I waited for my friend (kind of rare in the hostel world). The next few days were much more eventful, which just goes to show you; Malta has something for everyone. I can’t begin to mention everything there was to see and do, during this one post; so I’ll leave that for another time.

September 14-20, 2013