Holiday Magic in NYC!!

New York, concrete jungle
Where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York
New York, New York

~ Jay-z & Alicia Keys

I absolutely love visiting NYC!! And seriously, who doesn’t?! 

Whether it’s  in Spring to see the beautiful cherry blossoms at Central Park, in Summer for a cruise around Manhattan Island, Autumn for all the thanksgiving vibes or Winter for the sparkle of holiday season (or because you watched Home Alone way too many times, and really needed to see the tree at Rockefeller Center!!  Thanks a lot Home Alone and every other holiday movie!!) 

Christmas in NYC was sort of an impromptu trip but one of the best ever! 

Sleepy Nights!! 

We stayed at Hotel Indigo Lower East Side, an award winning hotel offering amazing views of Manhattan skyline, spacious clean rooms, a rooftop pool, & a vibrant bar (Mr. Purple!).  My favorite part was the lobby on the 4th floor with a lounge and floor-to-ceiling windows! After a day of exploring, we would all change into our comfortable clothes and meet in the lounge for the after party/get-together!! 

Restaurants near the hotel: 

  • Clinton St. Baking Company (Best pancakes!!)
  • Beauty & Essex (Delicious food!)
  • Benson’s NYC (Burgers & Fries!)
  • Lil’ Frankie’s (Pizza!! Pizza!! Pizza!!)
  • Vandal (OMG!! Ahhh-mazing food & atmosphere!)
  • Lombardi’s (Pizzaaaaa!!)
  • Doughnut Plant (Yum!!!)
  • Cha Cha Matcha (Green Tee everything!!)
  • Nolita (Pink everything!)
  • Dudley’s (So good!!)
  • Souvlaki GR (Greek food!!)

If you stay in Lower East Side, you will not have a problem finding coffee shops, or restaurants!! Trust Me!!

Magical Adventures!! 

Here is a list of top attractions to visit during the Holiday season, but seriously, don’t be limited by these options!! New York is amazing all over, all the time!! 

  • Rockefeller Center: You can feel the magic as soon as you approach this area; holiday music, beautiful window displays, happy tourists, & the TREE!! All of the buildings in this area are gorgeously decorated with holiday decor.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: The best & most magical light-show in the city!! Go here at night to see a spectacular music & light show! It get’s really crowded, so go earlier, walk around 5th Ave. and then catch the show!! 
  • Bryant Park Market: You will find a skating rink, gift shops, & lots of restaurants here. Shop for some very unique gifts for your family & friends at this market. 
  • The Oculus: The new train station that looks like a dove in flight now replaces the PATH train station destroyed during 9/11. It’s a must visit!! Once you’re done, walk straight into Century 21 and finish your holiday shopping!! 
  • Three World Financial Center: Palm Trees, in NYC? Yes, that’s right, palm trees!! Enjoy a beautiful light show while sitting underneath palm trees and devouring your favorite Sprinkles Cupcakes!! And of course, finish up some of that luxury shopping!!
  • Brooklyn Bridge: A stroll on this bridge is a must! It’s beautifully lit at night, and when you look back at the beautiful skyline of NYC shining bright, you will fall in love with NYC all over again!! 
  • Central Park: Maybe you’re interested in skating, enjoying a romantic horse & carriage ride or strolling through the park to enjoy it’s beauty in winter.  You’ll be thirsty and/or hungry after walking around in Central Park, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.  The Park Plaza Food Court is right across from the park, so head straight in there, and get yourself a drink, a few snacks and relax!! 
  • Cartier Building: Last year it was wrapped in a beautiful bow and I am excited to see the decor this year! You can also do a little shopping on 5th Ave!! Shopping seems to be the running theme here, even though this blog is suppose to be about holiday decor in NYC!! 
  • Time Square: You know you have to go to here. I mean, did you even go to NYC if you didn’t take a picture at Times Square!?! Amiright?!
  • Igloo Bar – 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar: This was one of my favorites!! You must visit the igloos if you’re in NYC during winter!! You can hang out in heated igloos, drink holiday beverages, & enjoy stunning views of the Empire State Building!! It just doesn’t get any better than this!! So, just book your ticket right now, and go!! An experience not to be missed!!

Wining & Dining! 

We can’t forget about the food in NYC!! Ah, the food!! There are so many wonderful restaurants, but here are a few I love!! 

  • Vandal
  • Cha Cha Matcha
  • Benson’s NYC
  • Wolfnights
  • Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
  • Magnolia Bakery
  • Joe’s Pizza
  • Carlo’s Bakery
  • Pepe Rosso Social
  • 230 Fifth’s Rooftop Igloos
  • Jacke’s Wife Freda
  • Waffles & Dings
  • Ferrara Bakery
  • El Luchador 
  • Shake Shack
  • Sprinkles Cupckaes
  • Doughnut Planet

If you’d like to catch more of the stories from my NYC holiday trip, check out the highlights on my Instagram page.  Click on “New York” and after watching these stories, you will want to go to NYC asap!!

I hope you enjoyed this post!! Let me know if you have any other recommendations in the comments!! I would love to hear from you! 

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Mykonos

Mykonos – the fun filled, beautiful beaches and good food island!! You can see the whole island in a day or two, but it would be great to spend another day here. So I recommend 3 days in Mykonos.

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We arrived in Mykonos from Santorini in a fast ferry – FlyingCat 4.  It only took 2 hours & 35 minutes, but it also caused some sea-sickness.  As soon as we arrived, everything was flying away – our hats, hair, dresses, and we realized it was going to be a very windy trip!!

July and August is peak season for high winds in Mykonos.  Other months are calmer.

We stayed at a hotel very close to the Mykonos ferry port – a short ATV drive from Mykonos Town Centre.  From here, at night we can see the sparkling lights of mykonos town.

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View from our hotel looking at Mykonos Town and Sea.

As soon as we landed, we were ready to check-in, jump into the pool and enjoy the beautiful views.  To capture the beautiful views of the Aegean Sea, I obviously brought my camera with me.  Remember I said Mykonos was very windy; I put my camera on my towel, and my towel on a pool chair.  The wind blew, the towel flew, and along went my camera directly into the pool.  That’s right, into the pool.  We pulled it out right away, took out the battery and the memory card for it all to dry.  But my camera did not work.  Yup, that’s right, my camera was destroyed.  First day in Mykonos, half way through my Euro Tour, and my camera gone. We had a few phones to take pictures, however, the quality is not the same. Nonetheless, it turned out be an amazing trip.

Day 1: Rent ATVs and Windmills of Kato Mili

After the camera fiasco, it was time to have fun!! We got ready, picked up our ATVs and drove directly to Mykonos Town.  The sweet wind flew through my hair as we drove along the curvy coast of the glistening Aegean Sea.

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We had dinner in little Italy and then walked to the Windmills of Kato Mili to watch the beautiful sunset.

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Fun fact: Some scenes from bollywood movie (Chalte Chalte) were filmed here.
Day 2: Drive to Paradise Beach for the day/Cavo Paradise for the evening

The parties start early in Mykonos – start your day off by going to Paradise Beach.  Then drive to Cavo Paradise to continue partying.

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If you want to relax (instead of partying), drive to Paraga, Agia Anna beach, or Fokos Bay.

After all the beach parties, we went back to out hotel to get ready for dinner in Mykonos Town.  The town is so lively at night.  We had dinner, and then got ice cream for our walk around the Town.

Day 3: Explore the Island on your ATV & Mykonos Town

We went to Mykonos Town for breakfast.  After breakfast, we walked through the narrow cobble stone streets looking at beautiful pink flowers, white buildings and colorful doors.  we also did some shopping at cute boutiques.

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In the afternoon, we explored the island on our ATVs before flying out.  We went to some of the highest cliffs in Mykonos, and the views were so stunning.

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What to wear:

Click image to shop

Mykonos

Tips:

  • Wear your helmet on the ATV
  • Eat lots of Gyros and souvlaki
  • Have gelato from Ninnolo
  • Look for Mr. Petros (Mykonos official Bird – Pelican)
  • Have dinner at Scorpios Mykonos
  • Regular Taxis are available from Mykonos Town
  • Keep cash for convenience
  • Catch a movie under the stars in an open air cinema

Have loads of fun!! 

PS: A special thank you to my brother for giving me some of his pictures from his recent trip to Mykonos.

Fields of Golden Sunflowers!!

As soon as I found out about the sunflower fields, I put it on my list to visit ASAP.  On Sunday, I checked the opening hours of Bogle Seeds Farm (Hamilton, Ontario), the directions & travel time.  I packed snacks, and as I am ready to leave for Hamilton, I do a final check on Bogle Seeds website.  “All photography of the sunflowers on the farm are not closed for the season!” flashed on the website.  Just like that, my dream of going to sunflower fields was shattered.  But then again, if there was one farm in Ontario, there must be another.  So I searched, and searched, and searched and then took a chance with Davis Farm & Feed.  I wasn’t really sure if there would be sunflowers, but I decided to go anyway.

As we got closer, I kept asking if there would be sunflowers or not.  We took a left turn, and nothing but green fields. Then we drove a little more, and only green fields.  Then we saw the farm, and behind it, a beautiful sea of yellow fields glowed in the sunshine. SUNFLOWERS!! SUNFLOWERS!! SUNFLOWERS!!

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Sunflowers as far as you can see!! It is such a spectacular sight, a must visit!!

Tips & information:

  • Go early morning to avoid crowds (directions here)
  • $5 entrance fee per person
  • Free parking available on farm
  • Floor is uneven and sandy with twigs (better to wear closed toe comfortable shoes)
  • 30 – 40 minutes of walking around the sunflower fields
  • Lots and lots of bees
  • Wear a hat & lots of sunscreen (no shade around the fields)
  • Washrooms near the entrance
  • Take water/snacks
  • Very friendly & helpful staff

Will you be visiting? You must!!

 

Favorite Summer Products

Recently I heard about some awesome products for summer, and wanted to share them with you.  We are half-way through summer, and that just means more time for the beach and outdoors.  Take in all the vitamin D in the next few weeks, because we all know our Canadian winter weather. (*shrugs*)

 1. Sensitive Skin: CeraVe Am Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

This face moisturizer is great for sensitive skin.  I’ve used this personally for many years, and it works well.  It’s non-greasy, very light, and works well under makeup.  This product is filled with MVE technology and 3 essential ceramides to nourish and protect your skin.  Listed for $13.97 at Walmart – shop via link.

 2. Foundation: Sweat Cosmetics Mineral Foundation SPF 30 Twist Brush

We all know what happens once we’ve added moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation and other layers of makeup in the summer.  In order to avoid that disaster, try this foundation that is already loaded with SPF 30.  It’s water and sweat resistant, dermatologist approved, zero parabens and includes vitamin E.  Listed for $54.89 at Anthropologie – shop via link.

3. BB Cream: M.A.C Prep and Prime BB Beauty Balm SPF 35

My friend is always telling me to invest in a BB Cream, and honestly, she has the most gorgeous skin.  The MAC BB cream is loaded with SPF 35.  It’s a great primer for everyday use while providing protection from UV rays.  Listed for $38 at The Bay – shop via link.

4. Lip Balms: Shiseido UV Lip Color Splash Broad Spectrum SPF30 

Often times we forget that our lips need sun protection as well! I absolutely love Shiseido products, and this one is great for lip protection.  It comes in 4 different shades, protects against UV damage, and easy to use.  Listed for $30 at Shoppers Drug Mart – shop via link.

5. Setting Spray: COOLA Organic Makeup Setting Spray SPF 30

Setting sprays are so popular right now.  All make-up artists recommend them if you’re wearing make-up for a long time.  It keeps your make-up in place, and this one also adds UV protection with SPF 30.  Listed for $49 at Sephora – shop via link.

6. Hair Spray: Alterna Haircare ALTERNA Haircare – Bamboo Beach Sunshine Spray

We always apply sunscreen to our face, body and lips – what about our hair?  That’s right, this hair spray protects your hair from UV.  It’s loaded with organic bamboo extracts, Tahitian coconut, & Sunflower Seed Oil.  Listed for $29 at Sephora – shop via link.

Let me know your thoughts about these products and if you recommend any others.

Enjoy your summer!!

**Disclaimer: Prices and products may change over-time.

Greece – Part 2: Santorini

Santorini has my heart!! The caldera houses, blue domes, breathtaking sunsets, zig-zag staircase, flavorful food, relaxing beaches, and much more! So let’s get on with it, and start our Santorini tour!!

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We flew from Athens to Santorini early morning and had the streets of Santorini to ourselves.

Day 1: Drive around the island and
 to Oia for the afternoon/evening

First things first, we had breakfast at Galini Cafe – a beautiful restaurant overlooking the glistening blue Aegean Sea.

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Our check-in wasn’t until 3:00 PM, so we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, picked up our rental car and drove around the island.  We stayed in Fira (Thera) – the capital of Santorini.  As you drive through the crisp air on curvy roads, look out at the beautiful blue domes and crisp white buildings.  I always wonder, how do they keep these buildings so white and so blue?!

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On the other side, take in the gorgeous blue Aegean Sea.

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Once we checked in, we got ready and drove from Fira to Oia.  Oia has all the romantic villas and hotels with infinity pools for the honeymooners.  The cycladic and cove houses are all painted white for protection from the sun.  Walk around the quaint streets lined with cute boutiques, and shops.

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Oia is also one of the best places to catch the sunset, so make sure you get here early to get a good spot for the sunset.  Grab a gyro, fries and a drink from a close by restaurant and have a picnic while watching the sunset.

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Day 2: Karavolades stairs, 
Nea Kameni volcano & hot springs

Visit the 3 bells of Fira and then walk down the 588 steps of Karavolades stairs (be careful not to run into a donkey), and catch the ferry from Old Port for a tour of the Nea Kameni volcano.

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Wear your bathing suit, a good cover up and hiking shoes.  There is no shade on the volcano, remember to wear your hat and a lot of sunscreen.  Also, take some water and snacks with you. The boat stops at hot springs on the way to the volcano.  You’ll have to swim a little to get to hot springs shore, and your bathing suit may change color due to the minerals in the water.  As you sail away from Old Port, look behind you to capture the stacked caldera view of Fira.

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On your way back from Old Port, you can walk up the stairs, take a donkey ride, or take the cable car up.  We took the cable car while being mesmerized by the beauty of the Aegean Sea and caldera houses.  Get yourself a gyro for lunch at a bar and then head back to your hotel to freshen up and rest.

You can go to restaurants in Fira for dinner.

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The lights sparkle like diamonds through the caldera houses at night; you will fall in love with Santorini even more.  Let the crisp air from the Aegean Sea flow through your hair while you walk through the streets of Fira. Listen to the laughter and clicking of glasses while friends and couples enjoy their evening in paradise.

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Day 3: Akrotiri Red Sand Beach

There are a few beaches in Santorini – 3 black sand beaches and 1 red sand beach.  They are all within 20-25 minutes of driving from each other.  We visited the Akrotiri Red Sand Beach – it’s very unique with red pebbles and red sand cliffs.  Akrotiri Red Sand Beach is a MUST! You have to climb down from the cliff to get to the Red Sand Beach.  The 3 black sand beaches are Perissa, Perivolos, & Kamari.

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On your drive back from Akrotiri Red Sand Beach, stop by Taverna Aeolus – a classic taverna serving Greek food.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to try the beach, you can do the Fira Trail Hike.  It takes approximately 3 hours from Fira to Oia.  But I say you relax on the beach, and maybe rent an ATV or drive your car from Fira to Oia.

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We went back to Oia for our last night to do a little shopping, have dinner while catching the magical sunset again (the sun literally disappears into the ocean) leaving you wanting more.

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Other tips:

Best places to catch the breathtaking sunset:

  • Oia
  • Imerovigli
  • The Byzantine Castle

**Get to these spots early, because it gets very crowded for sunsets.

**Carry cash with you for convenience

Best village for bars, restaurants, and nightlife:

  • Fira

What to do in Santorini:

  • Karavolades Stairs: Run down or up the 588 steps of the old Karavolades stairs. Be careful not to run into a donkey at these stairs.  You can also take the donkey ride here, it looked unstable and uncomfortable for me, so I opted out.  But if you take the donkey ride up the stairs, please do share your experience with me.
  • Cable Car: Take the cable car up from Old Port.  We took the Karavolades stairs down, and cable car up.
  • Oia to Amoudi Bay steps: Amoudi Bay is located only 300 steps below Oia (compared to 588 steps of Karavolades, this is easy-peasy lemon squeezy!).  Try donkey beer or a frappe at 39 Steps Cafe at Amoudi Bay.
  • Try Donkey Beer: This beer is served at a lot of restaurants as it is brewed by Santorini Brewing Company.
  • Hop on a Water Taxi: If you’re a strong swimmer, take a water taxi from one beach to another, but you will have to jump into the sea from the boat.

What to wear in Greece:

How to get to Santorini from Athens:

Option 1: Fly – We flew with Ryanair (airport code JTR) to reduce travel time, and spend more time in Santorini.  The flight only takes approximately 50 minutes and is inexpensive.

Option 2: Ferry – You have to get to the Ferry port in Athens called Piraeus. The big ferries take much longer, but you may avoid sea sickness.  The super fast ferry will save you a few hours, but there is a high chance of sea sickness due to the bumpy ride.  More information here.

Next stop – Mykonos – beach parties, windmills, crystal clear water, and much, much more!!

Greece – Part 1: Athens

I think I’ve read and watched way too many movies on Greek Mythology that Athens has been on my list forever I could remember.  My excitement to see the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, and have Greek food (yumm, give me all the tzatziki, feta and olives!) was unreal.  The moment we started planning our Europe trip, I obviously ensured that we hit this spot, just like Greek food hits the spot.

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We spent 2.5 days in Athens and that was sufficient.  You can easily take Line 3 of the subway (as it’s called the “Metro” in Greece) from the airport to city.  The subway runs every 30 minutes and takes about 40 minutes to Syntagma Square.  You can also take a bus or a taxi (subway is cheapest).

I recommend staying at a hotel near Syntagma Square.  This way you will be walking distance from majority of the attractions.  Yay!! Let’s go explore one of the world’s oldest cities and the capital of Greece!!

Day 1: We landed mid-afternoon and walked around the area near our hotel.

Syntagma Square:

This is the historic main square for all political protests and demonstrations.  Buy yourself a Koulouri (Greek Sesame Bread Rings) and walk around the square.  You can also see the Parliament Building here, as well as, changing of the guards.  Changing of the guards happens every hour.  On Sunday, the ceremony is quite an elaborate affair.

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Day 2: Full first day in Athens, let's go back in time!!

Acropolis and Parthenon:

If you’re going in June, July or August, be prepared for extreme hot weather (best times are between March and May or September and November).  This is the reason I put visiting the Acropolis and Parthenon first thing in the morning.  We went during mid-afternoon, and it was BOILING HOT!! So, I switched the itinerary a little for your convenience.  The earlier you go, the smaller the crowds.

As you walk up to the Acropolis, imagine yourself going back in time.  Acropolis – the high city, built to honor Goddess Athena, took roughly 50 years to build.  As you stand on the Acropolis, try to find the Temple of Zeus & Panathenaic stadium in the distance.  You’ll spend around 2 -3 hours visiting this ancient site and then head back down.

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Tip: Carry enough water for this entire visit.  Once you start the climb to the Acropolis, there are no vendors to provide you with any beverages or food.  Also, wear lots of sunscreen, a hat and comfortable shoes.  It’s a sunny and rocky walk up. 

Odeon of Herodus Atticus:

This is an open air theater that show cases live classical theater performances.  You may be able to catch a performance here.  This is located on the Acropolis.

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Tip: There are several options for tickets of the Acropolis, check online for your perfect option. We bought our tickets at the booth.  More information here. 

Acropolis Museum:

Visit this museum to get more knowledge about the history of Athens, the Parthenon, the surrounding temples and much more.

On your way back from the Acropolis and to The Temple of Zeus, you will notice restaurants that you can stop at for lunch (try all the different varieties of olives and have lots of feta cheese!!).

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The Temple of Zeus:

You can get a view of the Acropolis in the background from this temple.  Also, notice the impressive size of the columns.

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Plaka:

Go back to the hotel, freshen up, and come back out to Plaka.  This is one of the oldest neighborhoods lined with beautiful houses, pedestrian streets, restaurants, cafes and stores.

Day 2: Olympic Stadium, National Garden, Highest Peak in Athens!!

The Ancient Agora:

Start your tour of by visiting the Museum of the Ancient Agora, and wander around until you reach the Temple of Hephaistos.  You will notice that this temple is very well preserved compared to others.

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National Garden & Zappeion:

Walk through the 15.5 acres of National Gardens of Athens to get to the Panathenaic Stadium.

Panathenaic Stadium:

The first modern Olympic Games were hosted here in 1896.  You can go for a tour inside the stadium, although it doesn’t have a roof and you can see it all from outside.  The thought of building these amazing monuments in 1800’s is so impressive.  Imagine the hard work of the labor force to carry the stones, and working in such hot conditions.  Unimaginable! During our visit, the stadium was closed for maintenance, however, I would love to go for a tour on my next visit!!

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Mount Lycabettus:

From this mountain, you will get a 360 degrees view of all of Athens.  It’s spectacular!! You will notice the mountains surrounding the city of Athens for protection.  Mount Lycabettus sitting 300 meters above sea level with an elevation of 277 meters.  If you’re up for a hike, hike up to the top!! Otherwise, you can take the cable car (we took the cable car!).  There is a cafe at the top where we enjoyed delicious milkshakes with a view.  I highly recommend going to this viewing area. If you arrive just before sunset, you can see the Acropolis glowing in lights. It’s a gorgeous site!!

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Tip: From Syntagma Square, you can take the St. Syntagmatos Metro line to Evangelismos station.  Then walk 15-20 minutes to the Lycabettus Cable Car.  Alternatively, you can take a taxi to the cable car entrance from your hotel.

You can go back to the hotel to rest for a bit, or freshen up.  Then come back out for dinner in Psyri Square/Monastiraki. You will find a lot of restaurants and shops in this area.  If you’re tired from walking, take the Metro to Monastiraki station.

Tip:  We enjoyed Gyros & Chicken Souvlaki from a number of local restaurants. They were super delicious!!

Food to try:

  • Gyros
  • Souvlaki
  • Moussaka
  • Greek Salad
  • Tzatziki
  • Baklava
  • Halva

Other items:

  • Exchange money at a bank
  • Metro is easily accessible & tickets can be purchased at metro stations
  • Validate your tickets in/out of the Metro
  • Wear lots of sunscreen
  • Bring a hat, sunglasses and comfortable shoes
  • Pick up a map of Athens
  • Electricity adapters required – 230 V, 50 Hz. Power sockets are Type C and Type F

PS: We walked everywhere in the city and only took the Metro from and to the airport. 

Now that you’ve learned all about the history of Athens, seen a 360 degrees view, the glowing Acropolis, ate delicious flavors of Greece; it’s time to go see gorgeous blue domes, white houses on cliffs, and sandy beaches!! Let’s go to Santorini!!

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment!!

Trip to the Falls!

Niagara Falls – connecting Ontario, Canada and New York, USA is made up for 3 waterfalls.

– Horseshoe Falls

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– American Falls & Bridal Veil Falls

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Niagara Falls was created approximately 1000 years ago with glacier activity.  Niagara falls produces the highest flow rate of any waterfall on earth.  Every time I visit Niagara Falls, I feel a bit nostalgic.  Every time someone visited us from anywhere, we would take them to the falls, have a picnic, walk around, watch the fireworks, and have the most wonderful time.

A few of my favorite things to enjoy in Niagara Falls are:

– Walk around by the falls

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– Walk on Clifton Hill

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– Ride the Ferris Wheel

– Lunch at Queen Victoria Place Restaurant (finger licking burgers)

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– Dinner at Antica Pizzeria & Ristorante

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– Stay at Embassy Suites, Hilton, Marriott or any hotel that provides a falls-view room

(it makes a difference!)

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Other fun activities:

– Journey Behind The Falls

– Hornblower Niagara Cruises

– Zipline to the falls

– Whirlpool Adventure Course

– Primal Swing

– Bungy Jump

– Skylon Tower

– Plan a day trip to Niagara-on-the-lake

So much to do! Such little time!!

Have you tried any of the above activities? Which is your favorite?

Have fun this summer!!

~ Jap

PS: Click on the picture to shop my outfit