Girlfriends in Greece
As I write this, I'm fresh off my return from a week in Greece with six wonderful women I'm blessed to be friends with. This was meant to be a life changing adventure and I believe that after some jumped off cliffs and some swam in the sea, that the goal of returning as better, more focused individuals was accomplished. Here's our journey.
I said back in November 2017 that I was going to make Greece happen in 2018. I started looking at flights and saw most roundtrips were around $700 for June. I vowed to buy my ticket by February and prayed the price would stay in that range because $700 was all I was willing to spend. Fast forward a couple of months to January and I was browsing and saw a ticket for $587! I won't even lie, I moved some things around and made that purchase happen. I mean, people are spending that amount to fly domestically so I couldn't pass it up. Now, the routing was a little funky on the return but well worth the savings. My number one tip for traveling is to be flexible on where and when you go and how you get there. That has saved me tons of stress and money when it comes to booking travel.
We flew from Chicago on Finnair through Helsinki, Finland going and for the return we flew Vueling to Barcelona and Madrid and Iberia from Madrid to Chicago. Chicago had the cheapest flights to Santorini. Going back to my rule of flexibility, since the ticket was booked six months out we had six months to find a decent domestic ticket there. We all came from various places to catch our flights out of Chicago for this reason.
This actually wasn't as terrible in planning as most would expect. I didn't realize the dates I selected were the start of the high season and places started booking up pretty quickly in mid-April. I set the budget at just under $4,000 for our six night stay in Greece. I was able to lock in two different villas and a hotel to house us.
This was a four bedroom, four bathroom villa that was three stories. It came with a full kitchen and private pool and patio. It was so close to the airport we thought the planes might land on us and we were a short walk from Kamari Beach. The staff was so nice and amazing. They arranged our transportation from the airport and to the port the next day, gave suggestions for where to go and what to do and brought us breakfast the morning we left.
So, this was heaven on earth. I mean, I've always imagined staying in places like this but never have because I'm a budget traveler for the most people. I came across this place while frantically looking when I realized that 95% of the island was booked for the dates I needed. I made a decision and booked it before everyone paid because we couldn't lose it. This was the best service I have ever had. The staff was there to assist 24 hours a day, breakfast was brought in daily, maid service was phenomenal, and they just raised the bar on what hospitality and service should be. They told us not to ask for stuff and to just say what we wanted. WHAT!?
Okay, this was a three bedroom, three bathroom villa that had a shared private pool but we never had neighbors to share with. Although there were seven of us, the indoor and outdoor lounge areas served as a bed for someone so it was perfect.
Kalisperis Hotel Santorini
This hotel was our last stop and we stayed two nights here. This was a simple place fo bus to lay our heads and prepare to leave. We ended up with three hotel rooms here since they do not have suites and villas. The owner was great! He worked with me on making sure he was there when we arrived super late and arranged our transportation. He wins that award because one of the drivers he got us turned out to be the plug for sure. I'll go into more detail about him a little later.
One of the things I wanted to do was create gift bags that had items we could use and create a memorable trip with. I also wanted to support some women owned businesses and creatives. Each gift bag included a travel journal and pen, daily motivation note cards, a Girlfriends in Greece shirt and tank, a charm bracelet, a Brunchnista stemless glass, and sheet masks for the plane. The ladies loved them!
We arrived at the Santorini Airport on Saturday evening around 7:00pm. That is the smallest, most raggedy airport I've ever seen. I would have thought for this to be a big place for tourism that it would be nicer but they said eff the tourists. Our hotel transfer was late because someone hopped in thinking it was for them and realized after they arrived at the hotel that it was incorrect so the driver had to come back for us. Once we got settled in, we went to the bar just outside the property for drinks. I normally wouldn't hitchhike but I felt safe with six other people. A Benz runner stopped as we were walking along the road and offered us a ride to town so we took it. The main town on the island is Fira (Thíra). It was live little area and had lots of restaurants and bars.
We woke up the next morning and prepared to check out and catch our ferry to Mykonos. I actually woke up early enough to watch the sunrise and it was beautiful. It's super windy so it made for a brisk morning but as the sun came out it warmed up. Once we got to the port for the ferry we had enough time to relax before hand. Now, the port in Santorini is a pure shit show. It's chaotic and has no organization and just overwhelming for a group who had never experienced it before. It's nothing like boarding a cruise ship. Read about the Greek Ferry System here.
Once on board, we found some seats and chilled. Well, I took some dramamine and went to sleep. Everyone else explored to ship and even went on the deck to check out the views and breeze. I eventually made it up there but it was too windy so I came back in. After docking and making our way off the ferry we met our transportation and made our way to My Aktis. Again, this is by far the best accommodation I've ever had and the bar was set for the service they gave. The views were breathtaking. The first thing we did was jump in our private salt water pool and just live in the moment. This is when things got interesting.
Brittany, Cara and Jasmine all decided to take a walk down to the cliffs below and jump because they saw two local kids jumping. Desiree, Keila, Seimeka and myself all stayed up top and tried to talk them out of it from afar. After about 15 minutes of looking, testing out the water, and being nervous, each one took their turn jumping into the sea from a random cliff.
After that adventurous start, we took showers and went into Mykonos town for dinner. The villa recommended a place called Ling Ling. At first, we were all unsure because it was Asian inspired and we were definitely seeking something more local. So, after a little back and forth we grabbed drinks and started ordering. You would never know our hesitation ever existed because our bill was just under $1,000. After dinner, we walked around to different clubs within the alleys and just had a good time.
I can't write any further without mentioning the amount of gelato we had while in Greece. I know I had it three times in one day at one point. So, before we left town to head back we stopped at a gel spot where I get the fattest dessert I think I've ever had and it was delicious. The gelato waffle was a hit for me. They also have an obsessions with waffles and pancakes for dessert. The two combined was like magic.
TURN UP DAY! We used this day to be a day of pure, drunken fun. We threw our bathing suits on and headed to Paradise Beach where all the day parties and beach clubs exist. I had my eye on one in particular called Guapaloca. We made a pitstop along the way because we couldn't find that club at first. The pitstop resulted in bottle service and dancing on tables but that wasn't even the beginning of the fun to be honest. After we wandered around a bit more we came across the club and that's where it all went down. A big bucket of Long Island, a table near the dance pods, and several gay men ready to show some black American women their dance moves and the party was popping! The host even made his way over to a little dance session with us. Day 3 was epic but because we are all professional women I'll post the classy pictures.
The crazy part of being eight hours ahead of home is that most of us found ourselves up and active at 5 and 6 in the morning. So even after a day of drinking and jumping in the pool in the freezing cold, we were up enjoying the sunrise again. Today was our last day so we kept it kind of chill. We went into Little Venice to scope out some shops and grab a light lunch. We had a photoshoot planned at the villa and dinner to follow.
I had been online for months searching for a photographer but most companies were too expensive for the amount of time and photos they were going to provide. I started using Instagram hashtags in my search and came across Vivo. She had a great page and plenty of work. She agreed to be our photographer and she was great. I can't pose at all and she coached me right on through it. If you ever get a chance, be sure to look her up on her website. After the photoshoot we got dolled up and headed to dinner at Jackie O where they played all the old school hits and we relaxed with our wine and delicious food.
There is where my one regret came into play for the trip. I knew I wanted to do a sunset cruise on a catamaran and once everyone agreed I started to look for one but it was so close to the date and it was high season we couldn't find one. I was stressing a bit because I wanted everyone to experience this and if only I had booked in prior to us going we wouldn't be hunting something down last minute.
We took an early ferry back to Santorini to try and catch a cruise from the port that afternoon. There were vendors there so we took our chances on finding something on the spot. Well, we did. We found a fucking pirate ship! It was only 70 euros which was cheap considering all the others were about 180 euros. So, we paid up, hopped on the pirate ship with all of our luggage, changed into our swimsuits and set sail. The cruise about six house and included a hike up a volcano, swam in the sea, had a fabulous buffet dinner and of course watched the beautiful sunset.
We checked into our hotel super late and two of our members left a few hours after we checked in. We made our way back to Fíra town for a dinner and drinks, well lots of shots before turning in at 4.
We woke up that afternoon and decided to check out a different part of Santorini. The town of Oia was about a 40 minute drive north but we figured why not. Our hotel called a driver who turned out to be the plug I mentioned earlier. As we drove along the steep cliff he stopped for us to take in the view and take photos. He gave a wonderful history lesson and recommendations for dinner. Oia was probably the best decision of our trip to babe honest. I counted it out because of the distance the people saying it wasn't that great. They lied. The shopping was amazing, the restaurants were endless and most importantly the views were everything you see on postcards. Oia is where people line up to watch the sunset. We were there early enough to walk around and shop peacefully. By the time we finished dinner the streets and alleys were packed. Since we saw the sunset the day before we weren't pressed. However, some of us wanted a fish pedicure and we found one! Yes, I let fish bite me and paid for it. It tickled and felt so weird but totally worth it.
After that, the same driver from before volunteered to come back and get us to take us back down to our hotel. Again, he stopped along the cliffs so we could take pictures of the sunset from different points and get some really great shots. Cara was dying to get to a Greek grocery store so he even took us to one for us to do a little shopping before we left. Once we got back to the hotel we walked into Messería town for dinner at a place called Mike's and it was so bomb! Our last day and night in Greece was perfect.
If you ever get the chance to visit this place, please do. It has truly left a lasting impression on each and every one of us. We are still talking about how good the food is and searching out local cities for the best Greek restaurants. Everyone was so nice and so respectful and made us feel wanted and welcomed. I wanted this trip to be a reset for everyone. We get so bogged down with our day to day work and drama that we often times forget that there's beauty all around us. We don't really have to go half way around the world to find it. We can find it in our backyards but nothing beats a girlfriend getaway. I was corny and created packets that proved self care and self love for everyone because I wanted everyone to walk away feeling renewed. I think we all walked away ready to take on new roles in life and to do it with much more joy.