Everything they say about Santorini is True!

Everything they say about Santorini is True!

I have been dreaming of Santorini for over a decade. Villages of white and blue perched atop rocky cliffs. Aegean sea waves meeting caldera backdrops. Donkey traffic jams and Greek salad dinners. Nightly sunset photo shoots. Needless to say… I was expecting a magical place and was mildly concerned that reality could not possibly live up to the hype. Fortunately, my fears could not have been more misplaced. Santorini was everything they said it would be and MORE!

I had heard rave reviews from friends, family, and travel bloggers. Everyone told me that it was amazing! Touristy? Yes. Overcrowded? At times. Worth it? Most definitely.

Santorini was so intoxicatingly gorgeous that I started to hate myself just a little bit. As I wandered the streets of Oia, you could hear me exclaiming “Look at this view! This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” Only to hear me say, just minutes later, “I take it back… THIS it the most beautiful view!” And then again around the next corner, “Here we go. Money shot! Is this real life?!!!” You get the idea.

The pictures do not come remotely close to doing it justice but here’s a little teaser of what I saw in Santorini.

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I’m not quite done with Santorini yet because I had one of my favourite travel days of all time when we rented ATVs to explore the island. Stay tuned for the full post to come.

Santorini was a dream destination for me. But I want to know… Have you ever been to one of your dream destinations and did it live up to the hype? Leave a comment below.

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Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!! Summer is swiftly approaching and with it… my next big travel adventure!

In many ways, this trip has been 5 years in the making. It all started in a crowded pub after the first day of an economic conference. My university friends, married couple Rachel & Caleb, were hilariously sharing the story of their disastrous honeymoon in Paris. It was a 3-week comedy of errors and the retelling had our table in stiches. But this story was more of a tragedy in truth because poor Rachel virtually swore off international travel ever since. Being the travel evangelist that I am, I promised that someday I would take her back to Europe and show her how awesome it can be. Well, that someday has finally arrived.

In just a few weeks I am travelling to Greece and Turkey with both Rachel & Caleb (wish me luck!) as well as my frequent travel partner Mindy. If summer in the Mediterranean can’t win them over, then nothing will. We only have 2 weeks but I am confident that our itinerary has something for everyone: Beaches, History, Culture, Adventure, and Food!

Itinerary

June 20-21: Athens, Greece

June 22-25: Santorini, Greece

June 26: Bodrum, Turkey

June 27: Ephesus, Turkey

June 28: Pamukkale, Turkey

June 29-30: Goreme, Turkey

July 1-4: Istanbul, Turkey

These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Renting ATVs and driving around the island of Santorini.
  • Drinking wine while watching the famed Oia Sunset
  • Exploring Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world
  • Riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia!
  • Sinking my teeth into Turkish cuisine (rumored to be A-MAZING!)

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I am SOOO excited for this trip and I can’t wait to start posting about it. Stay tuned this summer for all the details!

Where are your summer plans taking you? Have you been to Greece or Turkey? Any tips? Leave a comment below.

I left my heart in Barcelona

I left my heart in Barcelona

I’ve experienced love at first sight before. It just took one glance at Dubrovnik‘s old town to knock me off my feet.

But sometimes you meet a city at the wrong time. Maybe the weather is bad or you’re feeling under the weather. First impressions are important and can really affect how you feel about a particular place.

Over the past couple of years, I have given out some second chances and revisited past cities that didn’t thrill me the first time. Each of these second impressions gave me a new outlook and a remarkably better experience.

So nine years after my first ambivalent visit to Barcelona, I returned for a do-over. The result: LOVE! In fact, I could see myself happily living there someday. It was just that good.

Here are five reasons why I’m crazy about Barcelona:

1. Mediterranean Climate IMG_0365 It’s no secret that I hate cold weather so any city that boasts palm trees and year-round sunshine gets my vote. I love that winter in Spain feels like spring anywhere else. Some people like having four distinct seasons but I could easily do without the rain and snow.

2. Delicious Food IMG_3025 One word. Tapas. Spanish cuisine is based around these bite sized delicacies that essentially turn every dining experience into Happy Hour. Not to mention the cheap alcohol and relaxed drinking laws in Europe. What’s not to love?

3. Coastal CityIMG_3067I’ve grown up living within 45 minutes of the Pacific Ocean and now live a whole 1 minute walk from the beach. I don’t think I could ever be happy living away from the coast. Fortunately, Barcelona has a gorgeous pier and great beaches.

4. Cosmopolitan CataloniaIMG_0486Let’s be clear about one thing. Barcelona is not Spain. Although it’s technically located in Spain, it’s actually the capital of a region called Catalonia. They have their own language, customs, and culture – giving it a distinctly modern and classic European flavour. Whereas the rest of Spain is a bit rough around the edges, Barcelona is clean, organized, and reminds me a lot more of Paris than Madrid.

5. Drop Dead Gorgeous IMG_0518Unique architecture. Palm Trees. Plazas. Beaches. I could go on and on but I think the pictures say it better than I ever could. Barcelona is beautiful.IMG_2961 IMG_0479 IMG_3076 IMG_3080 IMG_0500I’m not sure why Barcelona didn’t wow me at first but it definitely stole my heart the second time around. I don’t know when I’ll be back but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being sooner than later.

Hvar: The sunniest spot in Europe

It was a cold, dark, and rainy January evening when I randomly met my first Croatian at a Pita Pit in Vancouver. We struck up a conversation that started with olives and ended with an email exchange of must-see places in Croatia. I had never heard of Hvar before and I certainly hadn’t planned to go there, but my new friend Davor assured me that it was not to be missed.

Fast forward 6 months and I spent two amazing days on the beautiful island that claims to be the sunniest spot in Europe! We stayed a short five minute walk from the harbour and spent our time strolling along the promenades lined with cafes where we enjoyed dinner, drinks, and dessert al fresco every night.

And of course no Mediterranean vacation is complete without a beach day. After a mere 30 minute water taxi ride we reached the tranquil and even more remote Palmižana island.  A part of the Pakleni chain of islands, this popular spot is the perfect place for yachts (both big and small), swimming, and sunbathing. We rented some luxurious beach chairs and spent a blissful day soaking up the sun, which played hide & seek, but fortunately, mostly seek.

Another highlight of our time on Hvar was our hike to visit the Fortica (Spanjola). After an easy 20 minute “hike” up the stone steps and winding pathway we reached the 16th century fortress that provides stunning panoramic views of Hvar town and the surrounding Pakleni islands. We were once again blown away by the beauty of Croatia (see Dubrovnik post) and took an embarrassing number of photos to document the stunning vistas. At this point, Croatia is a top contender for the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited… although it does have some stiff competition (I’m looking at you Italy, Ecuador, Spain, Costa Rica, and Switzerland).

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Dubrovnik: The Pearl of the Adriatic

Nearly 8 years ago, I received a book of the 100 most beautiful cities in the world. Croatia had never really crossed my mind until I opened the page to Dubrovnik – The Pearl of the Adriatic. One glance and I was sold. Someday, I told myself, I will go there! And now, after many missed connections, planes, trains, ferries, and buses, I’m finally there!

Dubrovnik is a tourism mecca. As a popular cruise port, throngs of visitors pour into the old town’s narrow streets in search of the quintessential European charm and coastal beauty that makes it a UNESCO World Heritage site and a top contender for the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

The city is steeped in stunning architecture and sculptural detail, boasting spectacular churches, monasteries, museums, and fountains. And despite past violence and destruction from earthquakes and war, the magnificent 13th-century walls that surround the Old Town still stand as the highlight of my trip so far.

This is where we found ourselves after a leisurely dinner in the main square observing three joyful wedding parties on their celebration marches. The 2km city walls that wrap around the Old Town provide the most beautiful panoramas of the city including Lokrum Island nestled near the harbour mouth and beyond… the Mediterranean Sea. We spent more time than we care to admit wandering around the walls on this warm summer evening, drinking in the picture perfect vistas and filling our cameras with complimentary souvenirs. Every turn led to more ooh’s and aah’s and I really never got sick of photographing those red-tiled roof tops. Trust me, I have evidence. And isn’t it curious how laundry hanging to dry somehow becomes magical in a foreign land? In the end, our one  night in Dubrovnik was all too short but worth every bit of effort.

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