Zakynthos, Greece

One of our favourite trips of all time was about two years ago when we spend a long weekend in  Santorini, Greece.   When we sat down  this spring to decide where we should visit for a long relaxing weekend, we both quickly agreed on going back to a Greek island.  We settled on Zakynthos as it was super easy to reach and offered some great resorts.

This will quite possibly be my shortest blog post, as we pretty much spent 90% of the time lying by our resort’s infinity pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.  The remainder of our time we spent on our motorcycle winding through the olive tree farms to see the dramatic coastline or out to eat the most incredible Greek food.

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How we spent our whole first day 🙂

For our first night on the island, Dan found the most amazing Greek restaurant for dinner, Bassia.  We actually ended up loving it so much, we went a total of 3 times throughout our week there!

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The next  morning we drove across the island over to Porto Limnionas, a sheltered cove for swimming.  The 1.5 hour drive was so beautiful, passing through olive farms, vineyards and tiny little towns.  When we arrived to our lunch destination, we were greeted with the cutest little restaurant set high above the cove overlooking the most crystal clear turquoise waters!  After a quick bite, we climbed down the steps to the water where we went swimming and explored the caves.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was – you could see the sandy bottom the whole time and the water was at least 30 feet deep!

That night’s dinner treated us to one of the best views on the island. Lofos Pizzaria is set up in the hills, overlooking the middle valley of the island.  It is quite the trek to get to on a motorcycle…lots of hairpin turns and a steep climb!  But after a somewhat eventful trip there, we made it in one piece and enjoyed some Greek pizza and a perfect sunset!

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The next day, we did nothing but move from the pool to the beach 🙂 It was perfection!

IMG_3918In the evening, we rode over to another incredible Greek restaurant.  The entire “dining room” is set outside, underneath a canopy of greenery and fairy lights.  It’s magical!

For our last excursion, we drove across the island and to the north to see the Island’s most famous sight – Shipwreck Beach!

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From there, we explored another beach, Xigia Beach.  This area is incredibly unique, as the water has a layer of collagen on the top!  The natural springs flow sulphur and collagen, making the water feel silky and smooth against your skin (although quite stinky too!).

 

For our last night, we went back to our favourite restaurant where the staff treated us to a “going away” meal which included 5 courses of their best Greek dishes.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we made some great friends that we hope we can go back and visit some day.

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We were really lucky to have a late evening flight back to London and were able to spend the WHOLE day pool and seaside again.  It was the perfect trip.  We were able to actually relax, read (and finish!) books and soak up the Greek sun.  I cannot recommend this place enough, particularly our hotel.  It was a 10/10.

Venice, Italy

Last week I was SUPER lucky to have one of my friends come visit us in London.  Courtney and I went to university together and met each other on the women’s hockey team.  We instantly became friends and she’s been by my side ever since.  She even stood up next to me on our wedding day as one of my bridesmaids.  Just before we moved to London, she started dating her boyfriend, Dan.  As we were leaving, I never had the chance to meet him – so when they arrived in London it was our first chance to meet.  And it was hard to believe by the end of the week we had just met – we loved Dan – I mean it doesn’t hurt that his name is also Dan ;)! The four of us had such a wonderful time together.

They arrived Saturday morning and without skipping a beat, we took off for a quick tour of some of the London sights.  We started with a walk through Hyde Park to see Kensington Palace.  After a quick pub lunch nearby, we made our way up to Notting Hill to stroll through Portobello Market.  It’s so easy to forget about these incredible streets and markets when we’re busy living our fast paced London life, so it’s extra special to go back and visit these places with friends and see the excitement on their faces when seeing it for the first time.

That evening we met up with the Ives and Phelps for a night of darts.  Flight Club is easily one of our favourite group hang out spots.  The atmosphere is so much fun!  After a few hours of hitting the bullseye, we made our way over to a speakeasy for some cocktails and live music.  Again, I just love having our US friends in town to visit.  Dan and I love London so much, and it’s so amazing to show our friends the city we’ve made our home.

 

Sunday was a full day of sightseeing.  We started with brunch at Dishoom before making our way across the city.

 

On Monday,  Dan  and I had to go to work for the week while Courtney and Dan made their way over to Paris then Munich.  Courtney’s brother and family live in the Munich area so they were able to spend some quality family time!

Friday night we all met back up in Venice! We had the cutest Airbnb! It had a fab terrace where we enjoyed many, many pizza’s and vino!  We were so lucky to have stumbled upon an uhh-mazing pizza shop just near our apartment on the first night.  We ended up visiting them every day (I think maybe even twice in one day?).

All day Saturday was spent sight seeing.  We quickly checked off all of the main tourist sites in the area.  These areas were SO busy with people, so we wanted to make sure we saw them and then were able to spend the rest of our time enjoying the quieter spots of Venice.

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Saturday evening was probably the best part of our trip.  Our apartment’s concierge service connected us with a local boat owner/guide (Marco) for a sunset cruise around the islands and canals.   Marco was incredible!  The five of us quickly became friends as we cruised around enjoying local prosecco and snacks.  The gondola’s on the main canals in Venice are SO expensive and touristy.  Again, it was nice being able to enjoy the quieter side of Venice and he even took us out to Burano which is one of the most colourful islands in the area!  The three hours with Marco flew by, and we all struggled to say goodbye and not book him again for the next evening!  I would HIGHLY recommend going with Boat Skipper Marco if you’re planning a visit to Venice in the future!

Sunday was spent meandering around and enjoying all of the hidden gems Venice has to offer.  All of the bridges, canals, boats, cute buildings make it so easy to just walk for hours.  And not to mention all of the homemade pasta shops and gelaterias! I also can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning Bellini’s!  Venice is the home to the Bellini!  Prosecco and fresh peach juice – how can  you go wrong?  We made many pit stops along the way to enjoy fresh Bellini’s and spritz’ throughout the weekend!

 

 

 

We flew back to London early Monday morning for one last day of exploring and spending time together.  After a bike ride through the city, we ended up at Louis Vuitton where Courtney and I decided to celebrate our friendship with matching handbags 🙂  We had so much fun picking them out then flaunting them around the streets.

 

On our last evening together, we went to one of our favourite food markets, Mercato Metropolitano, for dinner before capping our trip off with drinks at the top of the Shard.  We had such a great time with Courtney and Dan!  The hardest thing about living abroad is not being close to friends and family.  And it’s even harder to say goodbye after such a special week together.  But…we’re already trying to plan our next trip together!

 

Lisbon, Portugal

If you follow us regularly, you’ll probably notice both Dan and I have been travelling a lot for work.  Our last weekend trip was stapled onto a work trip Dan had in Oslo, Norway  and this time it was my turn to travel for work and have Dan come visit me on the weekend!  I’m working on some really cool projects across Europe right now, and lucky for me, two of them are in Portugal.  After a few days in Lisbon and Porto for work, Dan joined me Friday evening for a weekend of exploring.

For some reason (which were both still not entirely sure why) we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We rarely do this, but it ended up working out great as it got us quickly to some of the main sites…although in retrospect, we only used the bus about 2, maybe 3 times 😉

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First stop:  Belém Towera stunning tower structure that from afar looks like it is floating off of the Lisbon shoreline.

After snapping a few photos and walking along the shore, we walked over to Pasteis de Belem, the world famous bakery known for its Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)!  We were warned that the queue would be quite long, but it would be worth the wait.  Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes before we had the most delicious, warm custard tarts in our possession!  Unlike a lot of places that are very hyped up about being “the best”, this place totally lived up to the hype – they were outstanding!  Totally worth it if you’re in the area!

A quick Uber away (not the bus :)) was the, also very famous, TimeOut market, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around various neighborhoods, while gawking at all of the gorgeous architecture and TILES. I fell in love with the tiles.  I took close to 100 photos of buildings and tiles.  We even ended up visiting a tile shop to purchase some to bring home with us!

That evening we had a really good Portuguese dinner at a really cool, funky restaurant and topped off the night with some incredible wine at what is now possibly my favourite wine bar ever.  The entire building was covered in beautiful green glass wine bottles and their service and selection was FAB!

On Sunday we did a bit more exploring, but mostly just enjoyed relaxing and walking in the sunshine.  We had the most perfect weather while in Lisbon, about 65-70 degrees and sunny the entire time.  We loved the food, the wine, the culture, and just about everything!

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’m so grateful that I am able to work on a project in this incredible country!

Wine Weekend in Bordeaux

Woo hoo!  Another long bank holiday weekend! Thank you England! Dan and I love wine, and when we moved over to London we said we wanted to be sure we did at least one long weekend in one of the best wine regions in Europe. SO off to Bordeaux we went!

We rented a car at the airport and headed over to spend our first day just east of Bordeaux in Saint-Émilion.  The town and surrounding area is really cool and worth checking out.  The medieval town is full of beautiful churches, ruins, shops and history.  It sits up on a little hill, so it looks very majestic among all of the vineyards below.  We did a morning tour/tasting, lunch in the town then another tour/tasting in the afternoon.

DSC05692Our morning tour/tasting was at at Château Franc Mayne.  Out of all of our tours from the weekend, I think this one was the most unique.  We were able to walk through their underground tunnels!  In the Saint-Émilion region, there are approximately 200 kms of underground limestone tunnels.  A lot of the chateau’s are interconnected and can lead all the way into the town.  They were originally limestone mines and were later used as shelter during the wars. Now they are used to store and mature wine.  It was fascinating to walk through!  We were surprised to learn that all of the wines in the Bordeaux region are blends.  Typically, the grapes used are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.   Most of the wines we tasted had Merlot as the base (60-80%).

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Château Franc Mayne

After our first tasting, we went into Saint-Émilion to explore and have lunch.  No surprise, we had wine, fromage and Charcuterie!

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For our second tour and tasting, we went to Château Soutard.  It is a beautiful working winery and is very modern compared to many of the other Chateau’s in the region.  The facilities are incredibly posh, which made it really fun to explore and learn about the history and their wine making process.  We learned that this was one of the first chateau’s to start planting grape vines in rows versus clusters.

Unfortunately, out of all the tastings and visits from the weekend, this one ended up being our least favourite.  The wines were very acidic, which is true to the region’s taste, but definitely not one of the flavour profiles we love in wine.

After our tour, we drove over to Château La Mothe du Barry, where we were staying for the night.  We nailed it with our lodging for this trip!  Our room at this chateau was UHH-MAZING! It was an old wine vat!  It was super modern and unique.  And the place had the most perfect little pool, which is where we spent the remainder of the afternoon.  We were able to taste the chateau’s wines poolside.  The owners of the chateau were so accommodating and nice. And the breakfast was worth the stay itself!  So delicious and all homemade.  Can’t recommend this adorable place enough!

For day two, we drove up to the Médoc region, just north of Bordeaux.  This area is absolutely brilliant!  The region is filled with tiny villages and massive chateau’s dotted through the rolling hills and vineyards.  It was so beautiful to drive around with the windows down, music up and smiles on our faces.

The first chateau we stopped for a tour and tasting was Château D’Agassac.  Talk about storybook chateau!  WHOA!  I still can’t believe this place was real…it was so cool! And our guide was amazing and their wine was the best we tasted from the weekend!  We found that most of the chateau’s wine making process is pretty much the same, but at this one we learned that they put in egg whites with the wine during the aging in the barrel’s to collect the sediment from the grapes.  The egg whites have no taste and do not alter the wine at all, so it is an easy way to extract the unwanted sediment.  Very interesting…

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Château D’Agassac

After our tasting, we drove up to Pauillac for a quick lunch by the river.

We then decided to drive over to the coast to cool off and spend the afternoon by the sea.  We went to Soulac-sur-Mer and immediately hit the beach!  The weather was so fantastic the whole time we were away – mid 80’s and sunny!

For our second night in wine country, we stayed at Hotel Rollan De By.  Again – totally nailed it with the accommodations!  Everything was perfection!  The room, the chateau grounds, the vineyard, the host…everything! Oh, and the breakfast! SO GOOD! We were even given a tour of the operations and a tasting.  We got to taste the wine straight out of the vats too! We ended the evening with a wonderful French dinner at Table Tartine.

On our last full day in wine heaven we drove over to another seaside town, Arcachon.  The area is known for their fresh seafood, especially oysters and mussels which are harvested locally.  So we immediately hit up a local spot for some fresh mussels!  We then went over to the Dune of Pilat, which happens to be the largest sand dune in Europe!`  We spent about an hour swimming in the sea and exploring the coast (which was filled with mussels!).

We finished our weekend off in Bordeaux’s city centre.  The city is very small, so we were able to hit all of the highlights in just one afternoon/evening.  We walked the river, saw the Palace and the large cathedrals, before finishing the trip off with one last French meal: wine, cheese and meat (again)! It was the perfect end cap to an amazing long weekend away.  The city of Bordeaux is cute, but pales in comparison to the countryside!

Adventure to Greece [Santorini + Athens]

Another fabulous perk of living in the UK are the “Bank Holidays”. Each year, we get a handful of Monday’s off for long weekends. Dan and I decided to take full advantage of the late May BH and took the prior Thursday and Friday off as well and headed to Greece! For as long as I can remember [probably since I watched The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants] I’ve always wanted to visit Santorini. I’ve dreamed of this place for so long – it was finally time to adventure over there!

I really can’t write too much about this trip, because it is one of those places where you
just need to see it to believe it. It’s by far the most beautiful place we’ve ever been. Everything about this trip was perfect: the location, the views, our villa, the friendly locals, the food, the weather, the adventures and of course – the company. I’ll do my best to put the beauty into words!

We arrived super early Thursday morning and checked into our hotel. We stayed in a villa at this adorable boutique hotel called Dana Villas in the northern part of Fira. Our villa was more than we could have ever asked for. It was perfectly situated in the cliff with a private balcony. The staff was amazing and the location was optimum.

We spent the entire day lounging at the awesome pool, enjoying the breathtaking views.

That evening, we took the bus up to Oia for the world famous sunset. We explored the city a bit before out booking at a local restaurant. One thing I was really excited about for this trip was the Greek food – and it did not disappoint. Throughout our time there, we ate our weight in feta cheese, olives, tzatziki, pita bread, gyro’s, and anything and everything covered in phyllo dough.

20160526_183923Oia was SO busy with tourists!  It was so funny to watch the masses come to watch the sunset.  Luckily, I had done my research and had booked a table at the restaurant that has the “best view” of the sunset.  So we were able to enjoy the sunset at our table and not have to fight the crowds for a view! It was so beautiful, and was the perfect first evening on the island.

The next morning, we hiked from our hotel to Skaros rock. This is where the remains of the old capital of Stantorini once stood as a fortress, high away from pirates. Over the years, nature took quite the toll on Skaros and all that remains are ruins and a really great hiking path. It was nice that we started so early in the morning, as we were the only ones up there. The scenery was sensory overload – absolutely breathtaking. Again – you have to see to believe! We spent some time just admiring God’s creation and relaxing at the top.

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After another satisfying Grecian lunch, we rented a motor bike to explore the rest of the island. We actually forgot to pack our drivers licenses [common mistake as we don’t drive anymore!], so we had to find a place that would rent to us without one. Well – we found one – and we were given quite the bike! It was missing the front plastic panel, leaking coolant and as Dan says, we were basically given the most hooptie bike on the island. BUT – it got us around, and it was quite the laugh. *Recommendation for when you visit – BRING YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE!* We took the bike out around the east side of the island and checked out some of the beaches as well as the Santorini Brewing Company.

We spent the evening enjoying another lovely meal in Fira then headed back to our hotel to enjoy the sunset from the jacuzzi. I think this was one of my favourite moments from our whole trip. Out of the four nights we had there, this night had the best sunset. The sky turned the most gorgeous shades of yellow, pink, blue and purple. It’s moments like this where I have to pinch myself and remember to thank God for His blessings. It’s so hard to believe that we live in London and are so fortunate to be able to take these weekend getaways. Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting in a jacuzzi with my husband in Santorini just relaxing. How amazing.

On Saturday, we traded in our hooptie bike for a quad. We started off early and headed down to the south side of the island for some more adventuring. Our first stop was the lighthouse. Again, we were the only ones there, so it was fun to hike around the cliffs and take in the beauty. It was cool to see the island from this view along with all the other islands.

We then adventured over to some of the famous beaches of the islands, including Red Beach, Agios Georgios, Perissa and Perivolos.

We had another lovely dinner in Fira and spent the evening walking around the town, searching for souvenirs to bring back home. Between Oia and Fira – we both preferred Fira. Oia is VERY touristy and busy, whereas Fira was less crowded and felt more local.

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Sunday we spent the day on a catamaran cruise through the Aegean Sea.  It was so wonderful sitting in the nets and being jetted around  and exploring all the little nooks and crannies of the little islands.  We were able to check out some hot springs and go snorkeling.  It was so relaxing, and again, so incredibly beautiful.

We had a really early flight the following morning, so we just grabbed some quick street food (Gyros’s!!!) and spent the evening relaxing at our hotel and packing up to head to ATHENS!

We left our hotel at 6:00 am – and just look at the beauty we woke up to! It was SO hard to leave this magical place, but luckily we still had some adventuring in Athens to do 🙂

We only had one day in Athens before our flight back to London.  Luckily, it’s a really easy city to see all of the sites in one day.  Both Dan and I agreed that one day was plenty in the city.

All of the big tourist sites are all located in one spot together, so it made it really easy to see everything quickly.  We were able to see:  The Acropolis, The Parthenon, Temple of Hephaestus, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Agora, and the Arch of Hadrian.  We also made a quick stop to the Acropolis Museum!

We made it back to London after a typical EasyJet flight delay :).  Overall, this was our absolute favourite trip.  It was so so so hard to leave.  It’s not often where Dan and I say we want to return to a location, as we always say there are so many other places to explore, why do a repeat? But we both decided this was a spot we’d love to make it back to someday.  If you ever get the chance, do go to Santorini – it’s magical!

We’re off to MICHIGAN this week!!!  Can’t wait to see all of our friends and family and celebrate some beautiful weddings!!!