Sailing the Greek islands, ancient Athens and scenic Santorini

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July 31st 2016
Published: July 31st 2016
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6th July - 19th July 2016

The 4 or so weeks before we left for Greece were very stressful weeks. We had a huge decision on our mind on whether to leave the UK early to go home for a great job offer for Matt with his previous company or to keep living our humble lives in Edinburgh, travelling to Europe on the weekends. When we had decided that it was definitely the best decision to take the job, it still took a few weeks for it to be confirmed on the NZ side which meant a lot of uncertainty for us. This meant we only ended up giving about 1 weeks notice to our work as we had already planned our Greece trip and arranged annual leave for it, so we decided we would finish up work before leaving for Greece and do a few weeks Europe travel before going home to NZ in mid August.

Our last day of work was on Wednesday 6th July, which is when Felicity, Matt and I flew down to London, before flying from London to Athens the following day. It was a very exciting time as we no longer had to think about work and could focus on relaxing and enjoying our time sailing the Greek Islands. When we arrived in Athens we settled into our airbnb and then walked around the streets to take in the vibe and style of the area. Despite Athens being quite a poor city, it has really cool buildings, with verandas and shutters on the windows and a lot of character. The touristy part of town is really pretty with nice back streets filled with bars and restaurants and little market-like shops, but also a lot of hawkers trying to sell you extremely unnecessary things. We found a Greek bar where we spent a lot of the night, and a local restaurant where we shared some delicious Greek tapas and learnt some essential Greek words from the waiters. Turns out Greek people love it when you say 'Efcharisto', which is 'thank you' - they seem to really appreciate it and are quite surprised that you are making the effort to speak Greek!

The next couple of days in Athens we wandered around a lot more as it is a great way to see the city and appreciate the architecture, the people and the local way of living. We went to the Acropolis on a very hot and busy morning where we were absolutely blown away by the ancient remains. The Parthenon was undergoing some work but was still very fascinating to see. The only criticism I would have is that there were no signs with information on the history of the remains and what use to stand there, instead it was all on the restoration - which was a shame. However, after our sailing trip, Felicity, Matt and I went to the Acropolis museum which taught us a lot more about the history of Athens.

On the Saturday all of the sailing crew met down at the marina where we were shown our boats and introduced to our skippers. We had two boats worth of people from our friends group, but there were 10 boats in total from Medsailors touring the islands. On our boat we had the three of us, Emma and Matt (Snowy), Jamie and Sammy, and Simon (all from NZ but living in London or Edinburgh), and our skipper Dudley who is from York. We all got along with Dudley really well and he was a great skipper. He taught us how to sail, he made breakfast and lunch everyday while we were swimming, and he would take us all to excellent local restaurants on the islands as well getting sweet deals with hiring bikes etc. The yacht was large, with four rooms and two bathrooms, and a kitchen, with lots of area on deck to sunbathe, and there was a hammock, and a basil plant and a mint plant (as you'd expect for a yacht).

We went to 6 different islands; Ermioni, Agistri, Perdika, Poros, Aegina and Spetses. The first night, after 4 hours of sailing, we had a delicious Greek dinner right on the water and then went down a couple of doors to a bar. All 10 boats of people were there plus some locals which was the first time we all got to meet everyone on the trip which was awesome. It turned out to be one of the biggest party nights. A pretty great introduction to the week ahead. We would sleep on the boat at port as there were rooms for everyone, and in the morning when we woke up Dudley had taken us out of port to a good swimming spot where we could swim for an hour and have breakfast that he would prepare. Often we had scrambled eggs and fresh bread which was an amazing hangover cure in conjunction with the refreshing swim. After that we would sail for a few hours (if there was enough wind, otherwise we would use the motor) until we got to the next island. It was so relaxing sitting on top of the boat, taking in all the beautiful scenery, the waters were so blue and so clear, and we passed so many little islands which were so picturesque (even though they were quite desert-like, and the water had a lot of rubbish in it, but of course we look pass that to the beauty of the place!). We usually got to our next island in time to explore for the afternoon until the group dinner and party.

On the second day, we were told about this bar we would be going to that night, where the owner gave out free shots, threw napkins all over the bar, and at the end of the night would light the inside of the bar on fire.. Sounds odd I know.. So we were preparing for that all avo, still recovering from the night before. When we arrived at the port and were drinking with the other half of our group on their boat, the owner came over with shots for everyone and a full, cold, beer maiden to get us pumped for the night at his bar! Before dinner we also had a punch party with endless amounts of punch and then another amazing mezze style dinner looking out over the water. After this Matt and I walked to the other side of the island to the atm, and were going to meet the rest of the crew at this notorious bar after but ended up getting a wee bit lost on the way home. By the time we got back, we could see everyone partying in this bar with napkins everywhere and decided to pass, and instead sleep on top of the boat under the stars. Turns out the bar owner did light the bar on fire...

On Spetses we hired bikes and cycled around the island to a couple of great beach bars which were hidden away. Such beautiful, picturesque spots. The islands were very brown, as it was so hot, and most islands didn't have sandy beaches, rather they had pebbled beaches or just coves to swim in, which were really nice and perfect for what we wanted, as it was way too hot to lie on the beach. After the beach bars and dropping off the bikes we waved down a local taxi - which was a horse and carriage - and we were taken into town for dinner. The town was really beautiful, with wonderful, colourful buildings and stone pathways, and cute little boutique shops - and the horse and carriages just made it even more dreamy. I think this was my favourite day of the trip.

One of the days we stopped in a little bay for swimming, snorkelling and paddle boarding for a couple of hours, and then when we started to sail off again toward the next island we did some skurfing. Skurfing is surfing behind the boat with a rope, but we used the the paddle board. It was so much fun - but so wish it was a behind a speed boat! Another day was a watersports day where we were all dropped at this Jetty which had a fridge full of cold free beer, and options to do biscuiting, water skiing, wake boarding and parasailing. Most of us decided to do the biscuiting which was so much fun. There were three or four biscuits being pulled behind the speedboat and it was the drivers goal to get us all thrown off! Our arms and pecs were so sore the next day from holding on so tight! We had a great set up this night on the island, with all the medsailors boats next to each other at the pier, and we all went to this delicious restaurant for dinner. Our table had a mezze style dinner, with garlic bread, tzaziki, grilled goats cheese inside a filo pastry drizzled in honey, chicken and beef souvlaki, and fresh fish! This was all accompanied by free wine - so delish!

One of the islands we were meant to go to, Hydra, had a wrong facing wind into the port we were meant to be docking at so we had to go to another island, called Aegina. This island didn't have enough space for us all to dock, so about 6-7 boats had to raft up together a couple of hundred metres from shore. One of the skippers then ferried us all across to shore for dinner and had to pick everyone up again later on. We all had gyros for dinner this night, which is a delicious Greek fast food, consisting of a soft pita wrap, doner chicken or beef, salad, tzatsiki, and hot chips. These cost 2€ each. Matt had three! We wandered around the back streets of Aegina town which were so cute and quaint, with lovely shops with flowers out the front, and lots of local Greek restaurants.

On the last night of the trip we had a massive toga party, where all 10 boats were dressed up in their handmade togas - using the sheets off their beds. We all had dinner, accompanied by Greek live music and then all participated in some Greek dancing around a pool, which was fun but way too hot (it was around 38 degrees this night). We all then moved down to the bar overlooking the bay, where the toga party continued. There was heaps of jäger bombs and heaps of dancing this night, such a perfect end to the trip!

After the long trip back to Athens, we had a late night flight to Santorini where we were staying for three nights. The first day we spent relaxing and exploring Oia, which is the most beautiful town; white buildings, blue doors, and bright pink flowers blooming out the front, overlooking the ocean and other islands of Santorini. The pebble pathways interweaving between the lovely jewellery shops and summer Grecian clothing shops were a perfect addition to the stunning scenery. It was a very hot day, but also very windy, as the island is quite high and small.

Our second day was a lot more full on with hiring two quad bikes to explore the whole island. Matt was on one and flick and I on the other (unlike my ruthless parents in Mykonos - we actually wore helmets). We drove from the top of the island to almost the bottom, stopping at a beach for a swim on the way down. It was so much fun quad biking and such a good way of seeing the island. We ended up at a long black-sand beach paralleled with lively beach bars and met Emma and Snowy for lunch and a well needed swim - as even in the shade it was roasting! After biking back up to Oia, we walked down to Katharos beach to watch the famous Santorini sunset. It was more than beautiful and so peaceful watching the sun slowly drop to the skyline, with amazing oranges, pinks and purples lighting up all of the sky. Not to over do it, but the following morning we had a very early flight out so woke up in time to watch the sunrise from our balcony whilst eating cornflakes - not sure which was more peaceful and warming, the rise or the set of the sun, but both beautiful. A very surreal ending to our 2 week Greece trip! Next up for Matt and I was Milanooooooo 😊

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