I first fell in love with Europe when I was 17. It was magical, and ever since then, it has become my favorite place to travel to. I have to say a huge thank you to Courtney Cwiek with Courtney Cwiek Travels for picking excellent hotels and putting all our transfers and activities together. If you know me, you know this is actually my least favorite part to do on any trip. But she got us ready for the entire trip and planned around my Greece Photoshoot!
Getting Ready for All My Greece Photoshoots!
My cousin Natalie got her passport two weeks before and joined me! It was such a fun bonding trip. Since I moved to SC, we have gotten closer since she lives in Augusta. Would you believe she has never been to Europe?! I was so excited to be with her and see her fall in love with international traveling as I have!
I have read all the horror stories about lost baggage, and I have to say, I TRIED with all my might to pack it into a carry-on, and it just wasn’t happening. So I checked a bag and got apple tags. I have to say the apple tags stressed me out way too much. Here’s why. When we were leaving the ATL airport, it said my bag was still there as I was on the runway taking off. Natalie’s bag was on the plane, but not mine.
But low and behold, my bag appeared in Athens. To say I was relieved is an understatement because I packed NOTHING in my carry-o, except for my camera for my scheduled photoshoots in Greece. Also, if you need a carry-on, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Bamboon to the moon bag! It’s my favorite. The quality is top-notch! I got the full-size one, and Natalie got the mini. I recommend the mini.
We Flew into Athens, and Courtney put us right in the heart of the City Center. It was perfect. We were a 5 minutes walk from Acropolis, restaurants, and shops. Athens Gate Hotel is about a 45-minute drive from the airport. We didn’t get any sleep on any of our flights, but we didn’t want to lose an entire day. So we took an hour’s nap and then ventured to “Yard” to grab some food. Natalie had a pasta dish, and I had a Gyro. European food is pretty clean, so we were both adjusting to how bland everything tasted. We Americans have grown customed to putting so much junk into our bodies. We walked around, explored, and headed back to our hotel by evening to see the Acropolis lit up from our hotel’s rooftop bar before heading to bed.
We started our day with a fresh Greek Style breakfast at God’s Restaurant. It was so good. Greeks get a late start to their days, so we usually beat crowds but also watched the workers bring in fresh bread and goods off their mopeds or super tiny, cute trucks. Oh, and smoking in Europe is no joke. That is the only thing I struggle with when visiting. We had plans to get to Acropolis bright and early at open, but we slept in some. This was our only regret. It was PACKED, but we hiked up that mountain and explored. It was a neat exhibit but too crowded for much of a photoshoot at this Greece hotspot.
After our tour, we got ice cream at Sweet Art Under the Acropolis, which became our favorite dessert place, and continued exploring before it down poured! I didn’t want us just to sleep the day away, so we ventured out to get a massage. Now, this isn’t just any ordinary massage place. It looks sketchy to the average American, but this was one of our best massages. Ministry of Massage was only 40 Euros. Just book it! We made reservations at Xenious Zeus, which took us through a new part of town, and we loved it. It was so cute and more our jam. If you are a shopper like Natalie, then this is your kind of market. They stay open until midnight too! Natalie was in heaven, and I just walked around as I am not a shopper.
And we are off to Mykonos! Mykonos is a very touristic Greek Island. Also, it belongs to the Cyclades. Most of the Cyclades work in the tourist industry, but Mykonos is well known for its nightlife. We woke up at 4 AM. Now, I quickly learned that Natalie doesn’t function well without coffee. Also, our driver was very talkative for this time of the morning and gave quite some advice to us both about the seasons of life we are currently in. European airports are super-efficient but short-staffed, so patience is a must. It was supposed to rain all day, but we lucked out with a stunning day, AND Petasos Beach Resort & Spa let us check in at 9 AM!! Felt like we gained an extra day!
We grabbed a buffet-style breakfast at our hotel and took in the cliffside views. It was like watching Below Deck live with all the yachts. We saw guests helicoptered in and everyone prepping for dinner. This was our favorite breakfast spot on the entire trip! We could have done a whole Greece photoshoot right there!
I decided now was the best time to brave the roads, so we rented an ATV to get around the island. Pretty sure Natalie did more Kegel exercises holding on for dear life that day. Driving here is not for the faint of heart, as she will tell you. There is something about being in another country that just makes me braver! Are you like this?! We ventured out to Ano Mera. This is the second settlement in the center. Later was lunch at a place called Paprika and it was so good! We really liked this place. PS – don’t be like me and forget sunscreen and wear a multi-crisscross shirt in the front for the sun to paint a picture.
We got up early and headed to Chora, the Old town of Mykonos and capital. A lot of people are from Athens that work there and on most of the islands from April-October. This is the worst season, yet many waitresses said. They don’t get days off, either. Tourists have flooded Greece since it opened back up. Everyone is so friendly, though, and we had no issues with language barriers. We went and sat on the water at Mykonos Gyplaira. This is next door to Negrita’s, and we loved it better! Get the “Porn Star” drink. It is fantastic – coming from someone who doesn’t really drink! We had a lovely view of the windmills and Little Venice, as they called it. I even got my picture taken with the donkey! Chora is a party town, but the people-watching was worth it.
The one thing we quickly learned in Mykonos was that we loved getting up early before everyone and exploring, having downtime at the pool, relaxing, and then getting ready for dinner and more exploring in the evening. It’s hot, no doubt. We had dinner reservations at “Interni,” and we THOUGHT it was the one 5 minutes from our hotel, so we got all dressed up and wore heels to find out it’s the one back in Chora. You all – DO NOT WEAR OR EVEN PACK Heels for Greece. OUCH! We had to get flip-flops coming back. Parking is crazy, but I managed to park in a super tight spot like a Pro. Yes, I am still impressed ha-ha.
Now do your research, as some of these places that had been highly recommended, aka Instagrammable spots, are pricy. We got their burger, which was $36, and didn’t touch drinks. Water isn’t even free. I have never been more thankful for free water in the US than now. It turns out it can be pricey to get your Greece Photoshoot done in Mykonos. It was yummy, but it wasn’t worth the tab we had that night. The atmosphere was super neat, though, and it’s in the heart of all the bougie shops (Loui Vuitton, etc.) As we headed back home, the entire city lost power, and I have to say, it was so cool, but it was even cooler to see all the lights come back on a few minutes later and light back up. We made it to bed most nights around 10–11 PM.
Greece Photoshoot Day with Steven and Grace!
I started my day with Steven and Grace at the Windmills for a sunrise Greece photoshoot! It’s true! Go at this time. It was so peaceful and so pretty without all the people! Riding down into Chora, all the partiers were still walking out. Some were half-dressed, some stumbling, but it was funny. Take me back to my early 20’s in Panama City on Spring Break. Okay, back to Adulting. We had a blast exploring CHORA together and capturing special moments for them.
I went back to get Natalie and headed out to see the Armenistis lighthouse. This is where you should catch the sunset, and we could definitely see why! It wasn’t until we got up to the tallest point on the island and I got off the ATV that I realized “E” was flashing in my face. I wasn’t worried but calmly let Natalie know that we might have an issue getting back, but by the Grace of God, we made it to the gas station. How? I honestly don’t know!
They pump your gas for you, and the gas attendant asked if we would like to come back for Whiskey and Weed that night at 9 PM, and we politely declined.#Safetyfirst
We visited a beach, grabbed lunch back in Little Venice, and I may have had a few more drinks than the day prior and thought it would be a good idea to go swimming in the Aegean Sea. It felt so good but be careful. Those rocks on the bottom are slick!! At this point, we ended up canceling all of our dinner reservations for the remainder of the trip. We had no issues getting into anywhere we wanted to.
Ferry day to Santorini! We woke up and jumped on a Ferry. We had no idea what to expect, but it wasn’t what we thought it would be. These ferries are HUGE! And they have a bar/restaurant and super nice seating set up like an airplane. They don’t waste time. They pack you in like sardines asap, drop your luggage off and head up to find your seat. I get seasick, and I was super thankful that Natalie had Dramamine for me, and I took the max dosage to get me by. Being clammy, hot, and nauseous just isn’t fun.
A few hours later, we made it to Santorini. Here, we stayed in their capital, FIRA, at the Katikies Garden Hotel on the Caldera. Katikies is a fantastic Boutique hotel. It is an old monastery, and 12 nuns still live there today. It is over 200 years old. The incredible architecture made us want to set up another photo shoot in this Greece town. We had a lovely meal at Selene and then explored the Caldera. Again, make sure you have solid shoes. It is steep and filled with cobblestone stairs. Many of them! Sunset was just as magical as I read about.
Few things about this hotel
– Their pool opens at 11 and closes at 6 – we didn’t like this
– Tons of stairs and steep, steep ones, so be careful
-Most transfers/tours don’t pick you up here. You have to walk down the hill a little
– Driving here is crazier than Mykonos
We woke up, ate our complimentary breakfast, and got ready for our Wine Tour. We started the tour at the Cave Wine Museum, which was neat. I am personally not a tour kind of person; I am there for the wine! We made our way to our second stop, Estate Argyros Santorini, and our third, Venetsanos Winery. The wine tour wasn’t something we would do again. It was $400, and we didn’t like but maybe one wine, and it took up 4.5 hours of our day. We ended up relaxing by the infinity-styled pool, got some drinks, and shared some laughs. I still have a video of Natalie getting out of the pool that we both just lost our cookies laughing at. We went to Zafora for dinner and then to Kastro Cafeteria Bar for Baklava and Banana ice cream to catch the sunset.
We braved an ATV here, and this seems simple, but it was scary here! I didn’t voice my fears but just embraced them. I didn’t want to scare Natalie that I didn’t even feel confident driving these straight down super windy roads at the time, but I knew I could. We ventured out at 5 AM to catch the sunrise in OIA and get our pictures by the famous blue domes to beat the tourists, and it was so worth it! We had a dog run out at us randomly, which made us jump. Now here’s the thing, I had always envisioned Santorini covered in blue domes. It’s not at all. I think we saw maybe a total of like 5!
We had breakfast with a view of the domes, which was pretty. Next, we headed to the town of Kamari, and honestly, we LOVED it. We wish we had more time but had to return our ATV to hop on a catamaran. It is where the black sand beach is, on the front side of the island. We ate at Hook Bar, and it was so good. We could have hung out all day or stayed in this part of town and been just as happy.
The catamaran was cool but wasn’t our favorite. It was full of people, and we felt rushed at each stop. The Mediterranean is super salty, so don’t rub your eyes! The first spot we visited was a sulfur spot, and I didn’t get in there. The 2nd spot was fun, but we only anchored for about 10 minutes. The water was a little cold but nothing you couldn’t get used to after a few minutes. We ended our night with a stunning sunset on the boat before climbing back up the port, reminding me of driving in Switzerland.
Travel day to our final spot – PAROS! It was about a 6-hour ferry ride, so you can imagine I wasn’t feeling my best. I was so excited; I thought we were on top of it, but it turns out this Ferry is free for all as far as seats go. It was not assigned. We got to Yria Boutique Hotel & Spa and ended up getting upgraded here because of some issues with our other room. The upgrade was way better, thankfully. Yria is on the West coast of Paros. It is 7 minutes from the Port and 10 minutes from the airport. There is also a beach 2 minutes down the main road! Check it out! The Sunsets here are breathtakingly magical! We traveled most of the day, so we ended up having dinner at the hotel.
Happy 50th Birthday, Natalie!! Time for a birthday photoshoot in Greece! We went to an adorable fishing village in Paros filled with Boutique styled shopping that was right up Natalie’s alley! We got to see all the Octopuses hanging, and I was excited because I had been on an octopus and champagne kick for months. Weird combo, I know. In fact, even I enjoyed shopping here! We stopped for lunch at Anixos Seafood Restaurant and Bar. We came because I had a cake delivered to celebrate Natalie! It was not time to freshen up, have dinner by the port, and catch the sunset. It was a great day. We fell in love with Paros! And can I just say, Paros made all my “Pink” dream envisions come to life!
So one thing you should know is I am obsessed with flowers and anything pink. Not only are they beautiful, but they also make for incredible photoshoots in Greece. If you have seen the pictures, Greece has gorgeous flowers hanging everywhere, and they are PINK! Anytime Natalie lost me, all she had to do was look for the next batch of pink flowers. There is a little town called Lefkes Village, and I wanted to visit it.
Now Paros is more of a countryside island. We got up bright and early to catch the sunrise, and seeing the sun rise over the mountains was so pretty! Next, some heavy searching for some coffee for Natalie, but it wasn’t until about 5 hours later that she got her fill. We were both thankful at this point! We went back to Nassou to explore and shop more since it was the last day and we were sad about it! This little town was so lovely. The tourists don’t really come to this one, which I wanted—more of that traditional Greek experience. We were torn between Crete and Paros, and we were thrilled with Paros.
Travel day to Athens and we stayed at the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel, which was really nice and convenient!
Travel Day to Home! It was a long flight back, but I was so impressed with Delta, and I had no delays and didn’t lose my bags. Customs was a breeze. I did have my global passport, which sped it up, but everything was so smooth. The trip was such a wonderful experience, and this topped it off nicely after getting to not only vacation but also get to fit in a Photoshoot in Greece!
If you are ready for more of my photography travels, then check out the blog links below!