Athens, Greece

Greece: My future honeymoon destination. I fell in love with this country while studying abroad in Athens in Fall, 2013. Walking those limestone pedestrian streets, gazing up at the illuminated Acropolis with a pink sunset behind it, or dipping my toes in the epicly blue Aegean Sea are all magical experiences. For me personally, it also brings up memories of feelings of excitement and freedom that comes with living abroad for the first time.

During my year of working as an Au Pair in the Netherlands, I took a long weekend to revisit Athens, and all the old feels rushed back immediately. I didn’t stop smiling my whole time wandering and enjoying the capital of this gorgeous Mediterranean country. I’m now sharing my favorite photos of the city, along with suggestions of food to enjoy, places to wander, and a hostel that I loved so that hopefully you will fall in love with the city too!

My Favorite Route to Wander:

Start the day for a rooftop coffee at A is for Athens in Monastiraki Square.

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After you are sufficiently caffeinated, wander through the streets of the Plaka area. Here you can just have a look around or shop for souvenirs- maybe some leather Greek sandals?! If you’re hungry, stop for lunch at whichever restaurant catches your eye (they tend to be pretty similar in terms of menus and prices in this area).

After you’re full of delicious Greek food, making sure to wander up hill through the neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis, Anafiotika. This neighborhood was built in the same style of architecture as many of the Greek Islands. You may also feel like you’re not meant to be walking there, as the walkways are narrow and close to people’s front doors!

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If you still have energy at this point, continue walking up the hill to the entrance to the Acropolis and appreciate the monument and the views over Athens.

Tip: If you’re interested in ancient history and want to see a lot of these sites, purchase a ticket package that also allows admittance into a few other historical sites.

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If you still can’t stop looking at the Acropolis in amazement, finish the day off with a rooftop drink in Monastiraki Square. 360 is a good option!

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Food to Try:
  • Souvlaki, which is a gyro with chips, tzatziki, onions, and tomatoes inside. If you order it from a restaurant, though, it will be a platter rather than a pita wrap.

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  • Tiropita, bougatsa, kolouri, spanikopita, etc. Just order everything you can. 12764751_10153961221203980_143293300939617545_o
  • Greek Coffee. It tastes earthy but it definitely grew on me while I was studying abroad there!
  • Frappe- a delicious, milky version of instant ice coffee. Definitely worth a try!12768169_10153961232018980_3062510717028660372_o
  • Courgette or tomato balls as an appetizer
  • Greek Salad obviously. Don’t expect lettuce!
  • Moussaka, which is a lasagna-like dish with mince meat and eggplant
  • Fresh fish or octopus

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Places to Go Out: 
-Bretto’s bar in Plaka area- the oldest distillery in Athens, with a beautiful setup
-The Clumsies Bar: Trendy vibe, and there are a few other bars on the street to check out as well
-360 Rooftop Bar if you want to have a good drink right under the lit up Acropolis
-Psirri: a neighborhood next to Monastriaki Square with heaps of outdoor, street vibe bars, full of people chilling and smoking hookahs
-Gazi: the clubbing area
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Where to Sleep: On my most recent trip, I stayed in the City Circus Athens which I loved! Such a beautiful boutique hostel! It had a rooftop area to chill, a restaurant downstairs, comfy beds, and is close to a great area with bars and a metro station, Monastiraki. Another small tip- if you book directly through their website, you will get a free breakfast buffet!

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A few of my friends have asked me about places to stay in an Air B&B- A few options for neighborhoods to stay in would be Monastiraki, Plaka (touristy but nice) and Syndagma (city center), Kolonaki (a bit of a fancy reputation).

What was your highlights of your Athens trip? 

 

 

 

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Melbourne: The First Few Months

I’m in love: I found my new favorite city!

Melbourne, the capital of Victoria in the southeast part of the continent, is an absolute dream to live in. The only aspect of Melbourne that I’m not thrilled with is it’s famously sporadic weather, but the weather’s really not even that bad. I have been here for six months on the Working Holiday Visa, working as an Au Pair and in a few hospitality positions.

Today I thought I’d write a bit about the reasons why I chose and fell in love with Melbourne. 

City Life: Before my move, people would always tell me that Melbourne is a cultural, artsy city with a European vibe, and I definitely understand this reputation now. There is always something fun to check out in Melbourne. Pop up beer gardens, food truck parks, art galleries, a variety of markets, gigs, festivals, outdoor movie cinemas…. the list goes on and on.  When the weather is behaving, people flock to beer gardens, rooftop bars, and sidewalk cafes. During winter, the fun continues as footy (Australian Rules Football) season starts. I’ve never seen a city come to life so much over a sport! It’s really exciting to watch the games, even if, like me, you get seats in the literal top row and don’t fully understand the rules.

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Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or ‘the G’

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The Docklands Backlot Drive-In Cinema-  Passengers with a view of the moon rising over the CBD in my car with a blanket

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So stoked I got to check out the Australian Open in January!

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Melbourne’s Night Noodle pop up market was the perfect place to enjoy after work sunshine in November

Getting Outside the City:  I have had such a blast on heaps of day trips and weekend adventures to some seriously gorgeous nature spots. I will be writing a blog post about my trips in detail later, but here are photos of a few of my favorite spots, all within a few hours drive away from the city!

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Public Transit: The key to making a city liveable, in my opinion! The bus, tram, and train network is extensive and not at all difficult to figure out. I will say that it’s not exactly cheap, at $4.10 for an unlimited 2 hour travel period. This means that even if you are only going 1 km down the road, you are paying the full fare. However, a beach day down the coast will also cost you the same price!

Food: The brunch scene is unreal. Smashed avo, sourdough toast, poached eggs, and lattes are ubiquitous, thank god.  I could not be happier about the abundance of brunch spots to explore.  I honestly wasn’t one of those people who photographed their food until I moved to this city, but look what I’ve found!

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Both photos are from Top Paddock in Richmond

People: I have found Australians to in general be laid-back, smiley, and good-natured.  I think I’ve noticed the friendliness and sincerity in the tone of small talk. Every Australian I have met has put in effort to make me feel welcome, which makes it a great place to be a foreigner. I think this probably stems from the fact that Aussies tend to be world travelers.

All in all, I am stoked to be here, and I’m already looking into the Working Holiday Visa extension… more on that later 🙂

What’s your favorite part about this amazing Aussie city?!

30 Before 30

30 Things I Hope to Do Before Hitting Age 30

I am a 23 year old Au Pair, and I have designated this time abroad to squeeze in as much adventure as I possibly can. When I’m not with the children, I am usually spending my time reading articles or blogs about dreamy destinations, browsing for cheap train and plane deals, or tweaking itineraries. However, my departure date is approaching way too fast, and I will (should) soon be seeking a more professional job. I wrote this bucket list in the hopes that it will serve as a reminder to never settle and to always be planning the next adventure, no matter where I am working or living. I love to read other blogger’s similar bucket lists and would love to hear any comments or suggestions!

I hope that I complete the following list during my second decade of life:

30 before 30

  • Wander Madrid and enjoy pinxos and sangria
  • Go to a European sporting event
  • Temporarily work in a hostel
  • New Zealand- Milford Sound
  • Go to Canada
  • Take a road trip around the American Pacific Northwest- hit Portland
  • Hike around Crater Lake, Oregon
  • Run across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA
  • Walk on a glacier
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Go to Macchu Piccu, preferably with a llama

Check!

 

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How to Hostel 101

HOW TO HOSTEL 101

“Ew, ew, ew, ew,” a stranger in my hostel room squealed, “Wake up! There’s something moving on your bed!” I sat straight up right away, freaked out by my roommate’s tone of panic and disgust. After both a headlamp and a Google search, we had confirmed that there were actual bedbugs in both of our beds. These little guys are a nightmare- they suck your blood, are easily spread by travelers, and are extremely difficult to get rid of.

We were grossed out and grumpy, with our skins crawling and annoyed to be missing out on a night of sleep with a full day of exploring Venice on the horizon. However, we migrated to the hostel common room and surprisingly ended up having a hilarious time staying up all night, chatting and swapping travel stories, and forming a group of instant new friends from all over the world, the self proclaimed bed bug buddies. Our night concluded as we watched a gorgeous sunrise over the Venice canals, a magical memory for all of us.

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After a successful trip to the laundromat the next morning, I actually left this infestation scare and hostel laughing, and a few months later, I’m happy to have another adventure under my belt. Even in the rare worst case hostel scenario like this bed bug story, hostels are the best. They’re affordable, fun, and I always leave a hostel with a few more friends than when I got there- they provide a unique environment for you to easily meet and mingle other travelers. Staying in hostels has become arguably my favorite part of traveling.  

However, definitely best to stay away from hostels with bed bug or other problems….  Read on for a guide on how to survive the process of finding and staying in a hostel.

    1. Go to HostelWorld: This is definitely the best place to start when choosing a hostel. This website only shows reviews from the past year, and I have found that their reviews are much more accurate and updated than those from other similar websites.
    2. Once you find the reviews, READ THE REVIEWS! So, so, important, and I learned the hard way! For this bed bug instance, I only focused on the cheap price and the awesome view from the bedroom windows without reading what fellow travelers had to say. Bad idea! On HostelWorld, you can sort the reviews by how recently they were created or by the age, nationality, or gender of the reviewer so that you’re reading thoughts from like-minded travelers.
    3. When choosing between a few, make sure to Research the Location: It’s almost always worth the extra money to be in the heart of the city that you are traveling to. Sometimes it’s tempting to save a few extra bucks a night on a hostel that is farther from the main touristic attractions, but you can end up either spending more money, time, and effort trying to get to the center, or just being in a sketchier location.
    4. Next, read about the hostel vibes. Especially if you are traveling alone or want to make friends, it’s very important that your hostel has high ‘atmosphere’ ratings! Hostels that have bars in the common area tend to be really fun, and it’s also smart to check out the photos of the hostel common room to see if it looks like somewhere you’d want to hang out. In my experience, too, it is easier to make friends at smaller, cozier hostels, especially when the hostels host nightly events. 
    5. Perks? AC? Discount at the hostel bar for guests? Outlet by your bed? Breakfast included? Towels available? Usually these details don’t make or break your hostel experience, but are all really nice to have. As for hostel breakfast, don’t expect a giant buffet; It typically is just some sort of bread product and coffee, but it still can hold you over until lunch which is great for travelers on a budget.
    6. Wifi: All hostels should have WiFi, but there are a few that don’t offer it in the bedrooms, or the connection is really spotty or difficult to access. It’s always pretty necessary to have good internet at your home base to be able to research activities, catch up with people back home or plan your next travel step, so make sure people in the reviews were pleased with the Wifi.
    7. When booking, it’s a good idea to choose flexible booking and look at their cancellation policy. When traveling for an extended period of time, often times I wish I had more freedom to reroute my trip, as so many of your new friends will tell you about their adventures and give you awesome travel suggestions that you never considered. For a long backpacking trip, it’s usually worth it to pay the few extra dollars for ‘flexible booking’ if you have any doubt about the solidity of your plans.
    8. Get a Good Night’s Rest: Just know that the more beds in your hostel room, the less likely you are to get a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re in a party hostel. If I’m on a long backpacking trip, I’ll make sure to book a room with fewer beds every once in awhile to allow myself to catch up on sleep.
    9. Pack a headlamp, a mobile USB charger, shower shoes, earplugs, and a lock for a hostel-heavy vacation!
    10. During your planning, do an independent search for directions to get to your hostel. Even though directions are supplied with your confirmation email, often times they are badly translated or unclear, so I always find it helpful to look it up on GoogleMaps as well and have both printed for my journey to a hostel.
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The actual view from Hostel Brikette in Positano, Italy

What has been your make or break hostel story?

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