What a cliche of a title. “My European Adventure.” Really Benita? Adventure implies some sort of physical or strenuous activity. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret- I didn’t even hike the Cinque Terre.
Oh and because I decided to wear these cute little handmade Greek sandals in Oia, the basic activity of walking up and down the flight of stairs to Ammoudi Bay became a lot more complicated. I required rest breaks and strap adjustments and a couple cute Instagrams along the way. (In reality these weren’t really cute Instagrams because I was sweating more than those poor donkeys).
An adventure can also be defined as an experience that’s unusual, daring or somewhat reckless. And let’s be honest here, as a child of overprotective Greek parents I have always erred on the side of caution. I was told never to jump off piers (“you could become a paraplegic”), avoid watching MA 15+ movies (“close your eyes and cover your ears” during sex scenes) and definitely no jet skiing, kite surfing, parasailing, ect. Because they knew of someone, somewhere, that had died from one/all of these water sports.
The most reckless thing I did all holiday was consume five carb-based dishes in one day (the result was a hell of a lot of bloating and an awful experience involving laxatives). And coming in close second place, was my reckless walk back to our hotel in Mykonos absolutely blind drunk, downhill and shoeless. There was a lot of unexplained bruising.
Regardless, I really feel like I had one of the greatest adventures of my life. Not only do I have memories I will never forget (cliche number two Benita), but I also have a whole book-worth of indigestion stories, a couple extra kilos, a whole lot of shopping and the remnants of a tan. And some great travel tips and pictures to share with you all.
Consider this part one of my travel diary.
WHERE I WENT:
My boyfriend, Jack, and I left Melbourne on June 1st and arrived in Milan, Italy, very early on following day. (Side note here- how shit is flying for 24 hours and the succeeding jetlag/gross skin/bloatedness/swollen ankles). From Milan we travelled to the Cinque Terre where we stayed in the first town, Monterosso, for three nights and then did a little day trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then from Pisa we went to Florence for two nights and then Rome for another two (it was just bellissima!). We then caught the most bizarre overnight ferry from Ancona to the Croatian town of Zadar.
(To put it simply, Jack and me were two of twenty people on a boat designed for thousands and thousands of people. The boat looked as if it was from the 1960’s and had this freaky music playing on repeat for the whole twelve hours. And the crew definitely looked like Croatian ex-cons. And they smiled too much. We genuinely believed that we could’ve died and they would’ve made a horror film based on our experience. You know the type of horror film where they kill off each passenger until there’s only one scared survivor pulled from the burning ferry by hunky Italian sea rescuers? Well I was hoping the sole survivor would’ve been me).
ANYWAY, we made it out of the boat alive and caught a bus to Split for a couple nights and then headed onto Dubrovnik for four nights. Then we arrived in my Motherland, Greece, where I stayed for what I could probably call the best six weeks of my little life. I visited the Greek Islands of Mykonos, Paros, Santorini, Ios, Lefkada, Hydra and Spetses (all in that order, mixed in with time spent in Athens, Thessaloniki and some cute little mainland towns). I did a road trip through the archeological sites of Greece with my parents, and was lucky enough to spend some time with my family up north in Thessaloniki. There were definitely a lot of tears when I left Greece and my beautiful great aunty. From Greece I travelled to Paris where I got to spend an amazing week with my parents, and then I met up with a girlfriend, Candis, to do Barcelona and the French Riviera town of Juan Le Pins.
I realise that all of these beautiful places are worth their own posts, and I promise they are coming over the next couple of weeks.
HOW I DID IT:
Firstly, I saved up a hell of a lot of money. The more I think about it the more I wonder whether I should’ve been fiscally responsible and invested in shares or created a long-term deposit rather than go on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. But that would’ve been boring and I wouldn’t have gotten to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, bond with my parents and boyfriend, and get 300+ likes on Instagram (jkjkjkjk). I definitely wouldn’t have eaten the best souvlaki’s of my life and drink the best rosé on the planet.
Looking back, I can honestly say it was so so SO worth working Christmas in retail, not having a social life and having to outfit repeat at social functions (the horror).
I booked my flights through Stef at Student Flights Southland. Stef was an absolute jet (nice pun BK!) at dealing with a lot of e-mails from me, mainly about my phobia of flying/dying alone (she got me seated next to Jack, Candis and my parents on all our different flights). And because Jack and I are under 26 she also got us Black Market Flights, which are basically discounted airfares with reputable airlines, exclusive to Student Flights.
All our trains, buses and ferries we basically booked the day of, or the night before. For trains through Italy you can book online at ItaliaRail, but I would probably only suggest this for trains that connect you to already-booked flights or ferries. We loved getting to know each place we visited before we planned on getting out of there. This meant we got to stay in the Cinque Terre for an extra afternoon and even do a little day trip to Pisa.
Also worth adding that ferries in Greece are absolutely shambolic and almost always late so if you do have a connecting flight make sure you allow yourself hours to account for delays.
For my accommodation I booked well in advance using websites Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com. Create yourself an account with each as they give you access to great discounts and they e-mail you when hotels go on sale. By booking in advance we also scored some really cheap rates on hotels that we definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford at full price. Also, it turned out to be really clever paying for hotels in advance because we then knew exactly how much money we had for spending/eating/guzzling down Greek house wine.
It’s probably worth noting that I am not a hostel kind of girl. It’s perfectly okay to stay in hostels, and I’m sure it would be super fun when travelling with a whole bunch of friends, but as I was travelling with my boyfriend and my parents it wasn’t really something that I considered. We stayed at varying places of various stars, from B&B’s to resorts, two-star to five-star. I think the best thing we did was split up our time in Santorini between a three-star hotel in the main town and an amazing cliffside hotel in Imerovigli. We definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford the hotel in Imerovigli for the whole five nights, but by splitting up our time/budgeting wisely, we got to experience the best of both worlds. (Yep, another cliche from the queen of cliches).
MY BEST MOMENTS:
- Swimming in the turquoise waters of Greece (there’s just too many amazing beaches to list)
- Sunsets on top of rustic churches in Ios (forgive me Lord)
- Dinner in Vernazza as the sun set and the church bells sang
- Antipasti in Manarola with the town and sea at our feet
- Magical views in Santorini
MY WORST MOMENTS:
- Waiting, waiting, waiting for planes/boats/buses/trains
- Running for planes/boats/buses/trains (somehow we never missed one)
- Luggage/lifting said luggage onto aforementioned planes/boats/buses/trains
- That boat trip to Croatia
- Coming home
Each Monday over the next five weeks I’ll be sharing parts of my holiday and giving you some tips on where to stay and what to eat along the way. Stay tuned!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN EUROPE? I’D LOVE TO KNOW!
THANK YOU TO CHELCIE SCHIRRMAN- GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
Chelcie is a Melbourne-based Graphic designer with an interest in publication and typography. With a keen eye for detail, she has extensive experience in branding, campaigns and logo design. Chelcie works at APR Creative in Black Rock and freelances at www.chelcieschirrman.com.