They say traveling takes a lot out of you. Normally, I don’t agree with that, but let me tell you… the trip I recently came back from, has COMPLETELY solidified that sentiment for me in a very real way. I’ve been back for a little over 2 weeks, and I am JUST starting to feel like a human being again.
Rather than bore you with details of how I got a cold at the end of my trip, then strep throat last week, and have had zero energy to unpack or do laundry since my return, I’ll instead share a few highlights of my trip to Rome, Greece, and Turkey!
For the reader with very little time to spare — here are my highlights & favorite moments (not in any particular order):
- Climbing 100+ steps to reach the Acropolis, which includes the Parthenon, and seeing the gorgeous early-morning view of Athens from atop the highest hill in the city.
- Late-night eats and wine on our first night in Rome, including major flirting from the waiter at the restaurant!
- The best gelato I have EVER had. Not the ice cream disguised as gelato that they sell to the tourists (yep I had that too), but REAL gelato (which can be found not very far off the beaten path).
- The moment I stood on the edge of a cliff in Santorini, looked at the most breathtaking view ever, and realized I MUST return to this place again.
- Laughing with my travel buddies at the hilarious interactions we experienced and witnessed while onboard our cruise ship.
- “Welcome to Jamaica!” (Ask me, and I’ll explain it)
- The many times I was called “Sister” or “Brown Sugar” or even “Beyonce” while in Turkey.
- The feeling of instant relief when, after the sketchiest and most confusing bus ride in Turkey, we actually arrived in the correct place!
And, for those who want the play-by-play (with pictures!):
Day 1: Arrival in Rome
We arrived in Rome in the morning, slept through the afternoon and evening, and woke up really late at night, very hungry. The only place open nearby was across the street from our hotel, so we went there for a bite.
Maybe it was the excitement of being in Rome and sitting at a tiny table on the sidewalk eating “real” Italian pasta for the first time, accompanied by a delicious bottle of wine, great conversation with my friend whom I hadn’t caught up with in a really long time, and a some super-cute waiters (all of whom were veeeery friendly)… but that meal was one of my favorites from my entire trip.
After our meal, wine, and conversation, we returned to the hotel and finally went to asleep around 3am. It was a perfect first night in Rome.
Day 2: Boarding the Ship
The next morning, our group took a pre-arranged charter bus from Rome to the port in Civitavecchia, Italy (which means “old city”), where the cruise ship — Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas — departed from.
That first night on the ship, it was all about getting to know my travel party. Our travel agent (who was also on the trip with us) organized this trip for about 20 people, most of whom I had never met before, which made for quite an interesting travel experience, to say the least. 😉
Day 3: At Sea
Our first day at sea, all I wanted to do was sleep. Part of what I love about cruising is the relaxation. We had a balcony in our stateroom, which I loved for being able to crack the door and fall asleep to the sound of the sea and waves crashing. Sometimes it felt like the ship was rocking me to sleep. And given how crazy life has become for me lately, I definitely needed this time to just… do absolutely nothing.
Anyway, I managed to wake up at some point and go have a couple of drinks with my friend. Later, it was the first “formal” night of the cruise, and since I’m a girl and love to dress up, that was lots of fun!
Day 4: Chania, Crete
Before we went to Chania, I had never heard of it before. After we left, I honestly didn’t feel a strong pull to come back someday… but it was on the cruise itinerary, and I’m glad I was able to experience it.
One major highlight from Chania — this really yummy bacon-wrapped souvlaki!! Also, we stopped at a candy shop before returning to the ship, where I bought some of the best dark chocolate I’ve ever had. That stuff didn’t last until dinner time.
Day 5: No Mykonos!
We were supposed to go to Mykonos, but the ship decided to skip it due to a bad storm. Cannot even BEGIN to tell you how bummed I was!
Days 5 & 6: Kusadasi, Turkey
Instead of Mykonos, we ended up at Kusadasi, Turkey a day early, so the ship stayed there overnight and through the next day. Kusadasi (pronounced koo-sha-da-see) is home to the ancient city of Ephesus — yes, the one from the Bible.
We didn’t book an excursion to Ephesus through the cruise line — it was pretty expensive — instead, we simply got off the ship and located transportation that would take us to Ephesus for approximately $11 USD round trip.
The process of finding the bus, making sure it was the right one, trying to communicate with the driver, riding a “bus” which was basically a van with WAY too many people on it to be considered safe, and then walking the rest of the way to Ephesus once the bus dropped us off on a random road seemingly in the middle of nowhere, proved to be an adventure all in itself! But once we got there, it was amazing.
Day 7: Athens, Greece
So. Chania didn’t wow me, we didn’t get to go to Mykonos (which was one of the main places I wanted to go), Turkey was awesome yet kind of stressful, plus at this point we’d been traveling for about a week, so I had very high expectations for Athens. Let me just say… Athens delivered, and then some!
For Athens we did book an excursion through the cruise line, which consisted of a tour of the Acropolis, plus 3 hours of free time in Athens. Of all the excursions we booked on this cruise, the Athens one was my favorite.
Up until now, I hadn’t yet had my “moment” — the one that makes me feel like the money, time, and energy spent on this trip were all worth it. It wasn’t until I reached the top of the Acropolis and looked over Athens in the early morning light, that I finally had my moment. The view of the city from that vantage point took my breath away, and almost brought tears to my eyes. I thought to myself, Finally, I’m here. Greece. The place I’ve been dreaming of going for 15 years. I’m actually here. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
After the Acropolis, we had 3 hours to walk around the Plaka — a bunch of narrow walkways paved in what I assume is marble, lined with tons of shops and restaurants. I definitely have to return to Athens, if only to spend more time in this part of the city. It’s freakin’ AWESOME!
Day 8: Santorini, Greece
In terms of Greek Isles, for me it’s always been about Mykonos and Santorini (island of the blue-roofed churches). Since we didn’t go to Mykonos, Santorini had to work even harder to make me a believer in what the Greek Isles had to offer.
It started off kind of iffy, because it was overcast, chilly, and rainy when we arrived. I thought, Man, this yucky weather isn’t going to bode well for my time here in Santorini.
But I still had high hopes. On the bus ride up the INSANELY steep and rocky terrain which took us to the village of Oia, I was stunned by the view, and spent my time trying to consider what it must be like to live there. By the time we reached Oia and stepped off the bus, I didn’t care about the weather at all. I was in Santorini!
We strolled through the narrow streets — literally at some points we had to walk in a single file — and took in some of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen, including a couple you may recognize from tourism photos!
Before we returned to the ship, we sampled some of the local wine at a winery. The view from that winery took me completely by surprise, and ended up giving me my favorite photo from my entire trip (see below) — what I like to call “the cloud islands” because it looks like the black volcanic rock is floating in the clouds, instead of in the sea.
Finally, we took a cable car from the top of the volcano back to sea level. Did I not mention Santorini is a volcano? Yeaaaah.
Day 9: Katakolon, Greece
The site of the first-ever Olympics sounds pretty cool, right? Well… for me, it was just a place with a bunch of old s**t because half the buildings/excavations weren’t labeled with any kind of placards.
But anyway… here are some pictures. Of what, I couldn’t tell ya.
Day 10: At Sea
Our final day at sea, I spent a lot of time resting and enjoying the gorgeous view of the sea from our balcony. I didn’t take as many pictures this time, because, quite frankly, I’d reached the end of my rope on the ship and I was SO ready to get back on land. So, another thing I now know about myself is I can’t be on a ship for more than 5-6 nights, maximum.
Never know until you try, right?
Days 11 & 12: Exploring Rome
When we returned to Rome, we stayed there for 2 nights prior to returning to the States. With so little time, everything whizzed by in a blur. But I did manage to take photos of lots of food — oh, and the Vatican museum. Or as I like to call it, “Marblestatuepaintedceilingpalooza.”
Day 13: Returning to USA
We traveled for almost 24 hours, missed our connecting flight — thanks UNITED — and ended up having to catch a train from Newark to Baltimore, then I stayed in Baltimore for 2 nights to attend a B’nai Mitzvah and visit with family… but eventually I ended up back in Florida!
– The End –
Whew! Are you as exhausted from reading this as I am from writing it? What do you think? Does it make you want to go to Greece? Rome? Turkey?