Here and There

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Greece

Greece has been at the top of my bucket list since I was a young girl captivated by Greek mythology. Our trip to Greece was amazing and the beautiful country will always hold a special place in my heart because it is where my fiancé asked me to marry him.

We flew to Athens immediately following our time in Slovenia. In hindsight, because the countries are so close together, we wish we would have rented a car and driven down the coast of Slovenia, Croatia, and Greece. Maybe next time!

Athens

When asking other people what they thought of Greece, many people said that they weren’t very fond of Athens. However, when my fiancé and I arrived late in the evening, we were happily surprised to be greeted with a lively city square. We quickly checked into our hostel and went back into the city to grab a bite to eat.

We stayed at Students and Travellers Inn while in Athens. This hostel was not the best hostel we had stayed in, but it had a great location in the city. It was okay to stay in for the two nights we were there.

While in Athens, we had a lot of fun just walking around the city. There is so much to see and a lot of fun little shops. We also visited the Acropolis. However, on the day that we went it just happened to be “free museum day” or something in Athens, so there were A LOT of people. It was kind of stressful, but I would assume it isn’t normally like that.

BE CAREFUL!

I have been fairly lucky and have not had any major travel hiccups on any of my trips. However, in Athens I almost had my wallet stolen. My fiancé and I were approached by two women selling roses. We politely declined, but the women were getting very forceful and getting very close to us. This is when my fiancé noticed one of the women reaching into my purse. Luckily he called her out and she quickly ran away. Lesson learned to not use an open satchel-like purse while traveling. It is much too easy for someone to reach in, especially when you are not paying attention taking in a new city.

Santorini

We flew via Volotea from Athens to Santorini. We considered taking the ferry, as it was slightly cheaper, but finally decided to save time by flying. Upon landing, we were picked up by our hostel, Villa Manos. This hostel was really more like a hotel and probably the nicest “hostel” I have ever stayed in. The prices were very reasonable, probably because it was so new and it was kind of in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived at 9 am, so we couldn’t check into our hostel quite yet. So, we ended up doing a day tour organized by our hostel. I think the bus tour was around $50 per person and it brought us to many worthwhile sites. The first stop was Akrotiri, an archeological excavation of an ancient Greek city destroyed by a volcanic eruption. We stopped at a few viewpoints and then went lunch at the black sand beach. After lunch we went to a winery where we did a tasting. Our last stop was the city of Oia. This is the more high end part of the island, probably because it has the best view. Everyone flocks here are the end the day to catch the sunset, which was truly breathtaking. However, I must say that I am glad that we weren’t staying in Oia as the vast number of people and small alleys were quite stressful.


As you may have been able to tell, we normally stay in hostels while traveling. This is because they are usually much cheaper and we normally are so busy we pretty much only sleep there. However, because it was Greece, we decided to splurge a little while in Santorini. Using our credit card rewards, we booked three nights at the Avant Garde hotel (pictured above). This was a very small, luxury hotel with incredible views. It is located on a quieter part of the island which we really enjoyed.

Last Thoughts on Greece

Greece definitely lived up to my expectations. However, I do wish we would have been able to explore some of the other islands.

RATINGS

OVERALL: 8

FOOD: 6

FRIENDLINESS: 7

LODGINGS: 8

SCENERY: 8

ACTIVITIES: 4

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Slovenia

I’m going to be totally honest and admit that I didn’t really know anything about Slovenia prior to my travels there. I’m not even entirely sure why my fiancé and I had decided to go, but we did and it far exceeded my expectations. 

LAKE BLED

We flew into Ljubljana, the country’s capital city, late at night and took about a 40 minute cab to our hostel near the city of Bled, as there is no Uber in Slovenia. When booking our trip, I was surprised at how few hostels there were in this town as it is a popular tourist destination. However, we found a quaint hostel called Garden House Bled. The workers here were very kind and helpful and allowed us to check in late using a code. 

The main reason we went to Lake Bled was because we were going to climb Mt. Triglav. Unfortunately, when we arrived to Slovenia it was uncharacteristically cold and Triglav had poor weather conditions, so our guide ended up cancelling on us. This left us with a few extra days in Bled that we had to fill. 

The first day we rented bikes and biked a few miles to Vintgar Gorge. This is a park and does have a small entrance fee. Upon entrance you walk around the beautiful turquoise gorge on a  wooden walkway. 

We also hiked up to Bled Castle one evening. The Castle is perched up on a cliff overlooking Lake Bled. Besides the amazing view from the top, there is also a museum, restaurant, and honey shop to check out.  

The final activity we did while in Bled was a day tour of some of the most popular natural attractions in northern Slovenia. This tour was called the 7 Alpine Wonders and we booked it through Altitude Activities. Our guide was very knowledgeable and passionate about Slovenian history and culture. Due to the surprisingly cold weather, most of our stops didn’t have a lot of tourists and there was a dusting of snow which made the experience much more private and magical. I would imagine that in the summertime it gets much busier. Our stops included two waterfalls, the Soca River, two lakes and a short trip to Italy. I truly did not expect these beautiful water features surrounded by majestic mountains. 

Ljubliana

Following our time in Bled, we took the bus back to Ljubljana. This was obviously much cheaper than taking a car back. In Ljubljana, we stayed at AdHoc Hostel. This hostel had a great location, but was unfortunately under some pretty major construction during our stay. They gave us a discounted rate, but it would have been nice to have been informed of this prior to our booking. Ljubliana is a beautiful city with a canal running through the middle. We only had one day in Ljubljana, and we pretty much just walked around without a plan and had a great time. We visited the Ljubljana Castle, shopped, and ate a lot of food. We indulged in pizza, ice cream, and some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. 

Last Thoughts on Slovenia

If Slovenia isn’t on your bucket list, it should be, especially if you love to hike. This small country has a lot of pride and beautiful scenery to take in. 

RATINGS

OVERALL: 7

FOOD: 4

FRIENDLINESS: 7

LODGINGS: 7

SCENERY: 9

ACTIVITIES: 4

Morocco

Morocco was definitely a culture shock. This was our last stop on our May 2019 trip after Greece. We flew into Marrakech and quickly found our driver who we had found through our hostel. We planned to visit the coastal town of Essaouira for a few days before returning to Marrakech and flying home to the states.

Essaouira

Our hostel, Hotel Riad Al Zahia, was at the center of the “old town” in the Medina. One of the workers was kind enough to come pick us up from where our driver dropped us off and led us through the maze that is the Medina to our hostel. We were caught a little bit off guard because the streets were pretty empty when we first arrived and even when we went out after checking into our hotel, it was difficult to find food and there was still nobody out and about. I’m not going to lie, we were a little spooked not to see many people in this town and we were contemplating leaving. However, the next morning we learned that we were visiting Morocco during Ramadan. I felt so dumb and selfish for not doing my research ahead of time. For those of you who aren’t aware, Ramadan is a month in which Muslims do not eat or drink (among other things) from dawn until sunset. This explained why there were few restaurants open, as the sun was still up. Several Moroccans that we spoke with told us that we should try to participate in Ramadan even if we weren’t Muslim as it is a very eye opening experience.

After learning more about Ramadan and the traditions of the Muslims in Essaouira, we opened our eyes to just how beautiful and different this ocean city is. It appears that most people take day trips to the city, but we really enjoyed staying here for multiple days. I think my favorite activity was riding horses on the beach. You will find horses and camels to ride if you just walk down to the beach, but we booked through our hostel to ensure safety and to make sure we were supporting people who took good care of their animals. The ranch that we booked through was called Ranch de Diabat. We did a two hour ride which included galloping on the beach and walking through some of the native scrubland.

One thing to note about Essaouira is that it is EXTREMELY windy. But, if you are into extreme sports this is a great feature. Kite surfing is very popular along the beach. My fiancé took lessons through Explora. One thing to note about kite surfing is that it takes time to be able to get out on the water on your own. I think my fiancé spent 3 hours learning how to direct his kite on land and then 3 hours practicing in the water. It was very physically demanding, but lots of fun!

Marrakech

After a few days on the coast, we arranged another ride back to Marrakech. Once we arrived, boy did we miss windy Essaouira. Marrakech is HOT. Very hot. I gained some real respect for the women who wear traditional Islamic clothing in 100°F, especially during Ramadan with no food or water.

While in Marrakech we stayed at Dar Rocmarra. This was a beautiful riad, but it was very difficult to find.

While in Marrakech we did a lot of walking. We explored the market and bought a lot of souvenirs for our family and friends. Although it is a beautiful city, I definitely wouldn’t spend more than a few days here.

One of my favorite things about Morocco was all of the cats. They are EVERYWHERE! These little guys lived in the alley on the way to our riad in Marrakech. The people of Morocco seem to enjoy them too, as many leave out scraps and milk for them.

Last Thoughts on Morocco

Morocco is probably the country where I have felt the most out of my element, but I loved it. Definitely do your research on the customs, especially if you will be visiting during Ramadan.

RATINGS

OVERALL: 7

FOOD: 5

FRIENDLINESS: 7

LODGINGS: 7

SCENERY: 7

ACTIVITIES: 4