The Best Places to Beach/Eat/Drink in Wilmington, NC

Wellll I planned on recapping our December Asheville trip for this Travel Tuesday, but with all the moving, I am not even close to going through all of the pictures on my camera. So that will have to wait for another day.  Try to contain yourselves.

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If you missed it, we are in the process of moving from Wilmington to Greenville, so I thought it might be a good time to list some of our favorite Wilmington spots before they are all a beloved distant memory and I have no recollection of the beautiful beach dream that I’ve been living (not dramatic at all).  This past weekend was likely my last weekend in Wilmington for the forseeable future, so we spent some time hitting up my favorite spots.

Beaches:

Aka, the best part of the area.  There are three main beaches in the Wilmington area, and even more if you look across the river in Brunswick County or north at Topsail.  For the sake of this post, I’ll focus on the three around Wilmington.

Wrightsville Beach is probably the most popular beach near Wilmington.  It’s easily accessible from downtown (a straight shot on 74), has a ton of restaurants, is home to “The Loop” (a popular running route), has more beach houses than hotels (which helps keep the beach less crowded), and is generally a “nicer” beach.  You will also see more boats and activities like kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, thanks to the lovely Intracoastal Waterway.  If you are looking to really explore Wilmington and/or are an active vacationer, Wrightsville is your jam.

Look at all that empty sand space

 

The Intracoastal.  via

Carolina Beach is a little further away from Wilmington proper and is more….touristy?  than Wrightsville.  There are more souvenir shops, kitschy beach themed restaurants/buffets and bars, more high rise hotels, etc etc.  This reminds me of the beaches that I would vacation at as a kid.  There is a boardwalk with an arcade and a small amusement park.  Definitely a family vacation vibe.  If you have kiddos on board, Carolina is a winner.

My hot dogs hanging out at Carolina Beach

Kure Beach is just past Carolina Beach and is the quietest of all three.  It has less restaurants (but still enough to get you by) and shops than either Wrightsville or Carolina.  There is also free parking so Nick and I hit this beach a lot (is there any harder pill to swallow than having to pay for parking at the beach where you live?  In Virginia Beach there are some lots where you can park for free as a resident, get with it Wrightsville.).  If you plan to be a total beach bum and want quiet and serenity, Kure is the beach for you.

Eats:

Oh, the food.  The glorious, glorious food.

This is definitely one of the things I will miss MOST about Wilmington.  For the first six months we lived here, we talked nonstop about how much we loved the weather and the food.  We couldn’t shut up about it.  We annoyed and alienated all of our friends.  But it’s ok, because we filled that void with MORE FOOD.

Fish Bites – This isn’t a surprise to anyone that knows us.  This is stop 1 on our Wilmington tour when people visit us.  Fish Bites is very unassuming, it’s in a shopping center in the middle of Wilmington, far from downtown or any of the beaches.  But it’s our number 1 recommendation if you are looking for simple seafood.  We had family members want to go here 3 times in one long weekend visit, it’s that good.  Their fresh catch is my default choice, and I highly recommend the coconut sauce with that (unless it’s tuna).  They also serve raw oysters during oyster season that are delicious if that’s yo thing.  The mussels appetizer, the crab dip, the zucchini fries, all amazing.  I could go on and on about this place, but I’ll spare you.  Just be sure to go.  We tell everyone we know about it and have never gotten anything less than glowing reviews in return.

 

Delicious, free corn muffins
Salmon and zucchini fries for me, Scallops and mixed vegetables for Nick

Catch – Catch is located on Market St., also in a shopping center and not near downtown or the beaches (I guess I have a type?).  The chef was featured on Top Chef Texas and is a bit of a local celebrity.  It’s a bit more expensive than Fish Bites (~$30 per entree) but the food is a little more high end/modern/creative as well.  Their menu changes frequently, so my recommendations are probably useless, but their asian-ish entrees are always amazing.

Las Olas – Mexican food is my favorite food.  Period, the end.  And for me, Mexican food really comes down to the salsa, and the salsa here is FANTASTIC.  It’s super fresh and super cilantro-y.  Their seafood tacos are amazing, and you have to get the Street Corn as a side.  Nick and I used to live across the street from this place when we first moved to Wilmington, and I could have eaten here weekly.  Or daily.  The owners of this restaurant own a couple other in the area, I’ve tried k38, but not Tower (which is located in Wrightsville), and it was just as good.

Britt’s Donuts – I will preface this recommendation by saying I don’t even like donuts.  Whaaat?  I know.  But here I am, recommending a donut joint.  We heard about Britt’s from our apartment maintenance manager when we first moved here, and after the conversation I promptly forgot all about it, because I am anti-donut.  We were checking out Carolina Beach a week or so later and walked right by it and I was all “oh yeah, that’s that donut place that guy was telling us about.”  We were between meals and decided just to have one each to see what the BFD was.  OMG IT WAS HEAVEN.  These are the lightest, sweetest, fluffiest donuts you will ever have in your entire life.  They only make one kind, but it’s the only kind you will ever need.  They created the absolute perfect donut and it would be an insult to you to serve you anything else.  There is usually a line all down the boardwalk during the summer, but it’s worth it.  I recommend getting at least half a dozen per person.  My brother-in-law holds the current record of eating an ENTIRE dozen in one day.

Nick and I got a half dozen for a between meals snack
Oh baby
Looookk at it

 

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This is what the line looks like at 2 pm

Mott’s Seafood Channel – I know, this isn’t even a restaurant, but it is hands down the best fish market in Wilmington.  If you are visiting and have access to a kitchen, do yourself the kindest favor you possibly can and make dinner in one night.  And buy that dinner at Mott’s Seafood.  It’s located near Wrightsville Beach, and after trying a ton of different fish markets in the area, it’s the only one we go to now.  Their seafood is always SO fresh, and we have fun trying all kind of different things according to what’s in season.  The employees are especially helpful and we always ask what is the freshest/what looks good.  If you happen to be visiting between October and May GET THE STUMP OYSTERS if they have them.

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Look at the color on the tuna (far right)
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We went with Wahoo and Tuna and both were amazing

SO, those are my “must-do” places in the Wilmington area, and now I’ve successfully bummed myself out about not being able to visit them again.

I’m going to go be sad about not living at the beach anymore, K bye.

 

This post is part of the Travel Tuesday linkup!

Greece Days 8-10: Athens

Athens.  The birthplace of modern society, democracy and philosophy.  It’s interesting to read travel recaps and tips/advice for visiting Athens because there seems to be one of two themes, the “Athens was kind of gross and I didn’t love it” and “Athens is amazing and gets such a bad rap”.  So I was a little apprehensive and curious to see which side of the fence I would fall on.  My boy Rick Steves doesn’t love Athens, so I went in with my expectations slightly lowered.

We arrived in Athens after another 4 am flight (zzzzzz) and were taken straight to our apartment, which was within rock throwing distance to the Acropolis.  We set our bags down and geeked out over the apartment a little bit (another amazing patio, my patio game was so strong on this trip), then got our heads together to figure out the day.  We decided to head to the Acropolis (I think we were so enticed since it was RIGHT THERE and felt the ancient draw), which ended up being a poor planning choice.  By the time we left, it was around 10 am.  We walked around to the front entrance of the Acropolis and bought our tickets.

At the Acropolis, you buy one ticket (for €12) with approximately 12 stubs.  There are separate entrances to a lot of the specific areas and other sites throughout Athens, and each entrance costs you one ticket.  However, you get one specific stub to the main Acropolis area (with the Parthenon) so that you can only enter that area once.  The remaining tickets are valid for :

  • Roman Agora
  • Ancient Agora
  • Hadrian’s Library
  • Olympieion (Temple of Zeus)
  • North and South slopes of the Acropolis
  • Kerameikos
  • Dionysus’ Theater

Our crew was starting to get a little hangry, so we decided a snack would be a good choice before heading in.  We got some little (overpriced) sandwiches from the snack shop out front.  They were just ok, but they got the job done.  While we were eating, we watched the droves of tour buses come in and drop people off.  We briefly debated if we should do something else with our time since it was going to be obviously crowded, but we ultimately decided to head in.

SO. MANY. PEOPLE.  We knew it would be crowded, but wow it was really, super duper, extremely crowded.  There was no freely walking around to be had.  We were basically part of a large mass/line that just moved along from site to site.  Once we got up to the main Parthenon, it opened up a little bit and we were able to walk, but there were still people allll around.  We immediately knew that we had made a mistake, but given that we had used our one entrance to the Parthenon, we fired up our Rick Steves audio guide and made the best of it.  The temples here are amazing to see.  The Parthenon is MASSIVE, and the view of Athens from up high in the background cannot be missed.  I also particularly liked the Erechtheion (a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon), the statuettes here were very well preserved.  Something interesting that we learned in the audio guide was just how many times the Acropolis has been attacked.  To hear it all laid out, it’s a wonder any of it is still standing!

After we left the Acropolis, we headed to the Acropolis museum.  The entrance here is separate, but a great deal at only €5.  The Acropolis museum was recently redone and was beautiful, open, and modern looking.  Here they had a lot of the sculptures and pediments from the top of the Parthenon in front of a picture, so you could get a great idea of what the whole thing looked like.  It also delved into some of the pre-golden age of Athens art and sculptures, which derived a lot of inspiration from Egypt.  The museum isn’t huge and took us about an hour to get through.

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Outside the Acropolis museum, pretty cool setup to see the ruins below.

One of the things we talked about in the islands was that we didn’t see a lot of the “typical” Greek foods that we were expecting, like gyros, hummus, pita, grape leaves, etc.  In talking to others, we concluded that those are more typical of mainland Greece, so we were excited to get our fill of those foods here.  We set off to Kostas, a small souvlaki place.  Kostas has been operating since 1950 in Athens and has a limited menu and a long line, both signs of great quality food!  They cook all the of food fresh, so the line doesn’t move extremely fast, but it’s well worth the wait.  We were chatting in line with a woman that was originally from Athens, but lives in Germany now for work, and she said when she’s back hom she always makes a point to visit Kostas.  We each got one souvlaki and a beer, but the souvlakis are on the smaller side, I probably could have split a third with Nick.

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After Kostas, we walked back to the Acropolis area and walked through the Ancient Agora.  The Agora is down the hill from the Acropolis and was the central meeting place in Ancient Athens (probably similar to the Roman Forum in Rome).  We got to the Agora around 3, and it was practically empty.  Such a refreshing change from our crowded morning at the Parthenon.  We again, used our Rick Steves audio app to guide us through.  The Agora was a lot larger than I expected and had a lot of buildings and art to view.  This ended up being one of my unexpected favorites from our time in Athens, I highly recommend making some time for the Agora during your visit.

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The Ancient Agora also includes a stoa, which is now a museum with artifacts and information about the Agora.

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The main road through the Agora

We apparently went through the Agora backwards (the main entrance is in Monastraki area, we came in on a back road), so we ended at Monastraki and decided to walk around and check out the shops.  The shops here were filled with some of the more popular Greek items, leather sandals, oils, olives, jewelry, etc.  We ended up finding a really cool local foods shop (in our quest to locate some beer to carry back…) and got some meats and cheeses to enjoy as a snack, and also picked up some Greek yogurt for breakfast the next day.  I was pretty excited about having an actual legitimate breakfast option.  We also ended up getting some fruit (figs and grapes) from one of the food carts in the main square.  We also decided to pick up some lunch for ourselves for the next day (we went on a tour to Delphi) from Thanassis Souvlaki, another highly rated Souvlaki shop in Athens.  We had these wrapped up to-g0 and put them in our fridge when we got home for the next day.

When we got back, we started our normal routine of showers and enjoying beers on the patio before heading to Scholarchio for dinner.  I would not consider Scholarchio to be a great local joint, but the food was quick and fit the bill.  And more imporantly, we were in bed nice and early after our 4 am wake up time.  The menu is set up that you can order a set amount of dishes based on the number of people in your party.  Since we had 4 people, we got to pick 10 dishes (from 15 that they brought out on a tray) and each got wine for  €15 per person.  All in all, not a bad choice if you are nearby and want a quick meal!  We got meatballs, stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, greek salad, calamari, braised lamb, tzatziki, and fried zucchini among other things that I don’t remember.  The meatballs and the grape leaves were our highlights!

*****

The next day, we had an excursion to Delphi on the agenda.  We were heavily considering going to Delphi before our trip, but talking about it with some of the other folks on our wine tour in Santorini really sealed the deal for us.  A couple on their honeymoon did an excursion during their stay in Athens and absolutely loved it, and even raved about the tour group that they used.  We got the name of the tour company (G.O. Tours) from them and booked our trip during our first day in Athens.  The tour ran us €86 per person, but we were assured it was well worth it.

In the morning we got up and had our super legitimate breakfast of yogurt, figs, honey and pistachios.  It was everything I had been dreaming about for a week and a half.  We met our group at a local hotel at 9:00am to get picked up by the bus.  It seemed like the buses went around and collected people from their various hotels around Athens and brought them all to this main spot.  From there, people got off the buses and were re-boarded according to their tours.  It was pretty interesting and seemed like a good logistical way to accomplish that (the industrial engineer in me was very pleased).

The ride to Delphi is about 2+ hours from Athens.  On the way there, the tour guide told us a few stories and tidbits about both Athens and Delphi.  The most surprising was that the Greeks prounounce it Del-pheee rather than what I am used to, Del-f-eye.  Just kidding, there were way better stories than that.  According to our tour guide, Delphi was formed by Zeus.  He wanted to find the center of the world and sent two of his eagles in opposite directions, with the theory that where they met would be the center of the world.  The two eagles met in Delphi, and the rest is history.  After Zeus found the center, Delphi was taken over by Python, a son of Gaia (Earth).  Eventually Apollo defeated  and slayed Python and the people built monuments and performed games in his honor.  Delphi is probably best known for being a major site of the Greek oracles.  The oracles were women that Apollo was said to communicated through.  People would travel far and wide to visit the oracles with questions.  The woman would speak and the priests would translate her answers.  Our guide said that the priests usually used clever wording and vague answers to get around not actually knowing the future :).

The bus stopped once at the halfway point for a bathroom break and snacks.  Here Nick and I split a couple of pastries, baklava and kataifi (the bird’s nest looking item).  I also had a cappuccino.

When we made it to Delphi, there were a few other buses and tours coming in, but nothing like the Acropolis the day before.  The road up to Delphi is windy.  The setting of Delphi is absolutely beautiful, it’s surrounded by mountains and olive trees and we got some of my favorite pictures here.

After our tour guide walked us through, we had about 45 mins of free time to walk around and revisit anything that piqued our interest before we met at the museum.  The museum was fairly small, but with our tour guide I felt like we got a great overview of the traditions and examples of art in Delphi.  Most of the art was in the form of sculptures that were built to honor Apollo and other gods.

After we left the museum we were let off in the town by Delphi, where the majority of our tour group went to a local hotel for lunch.  We had heard from our Santorini friends that the lunch was just ok (and would run €20 extra per person) so we found a nice outdoor area and ate our sandwiches before shopping around a little.  I’m so glad that we did, because Debbie and I had our best Athens score here!  We both were looking for some olive pottery, but were being pretty picky about it having to be made in Greece and of good quality.  I got a bowl and Debbie got a few olive oil dishes.

Our ride back to Athens went by quickly (and I may have even snoozed a little).  Our tour guide and bus driver were a little concerned about traffic getting back, as there was an upcoming election that week for Prime minister and a speech was planned that night in one of the main squares so lots of traffic was expected.  We asked to be dropped off in Monastraki, but the closest they could get us with road closures was a few blocks away.  Which was totally fine!  We got to walk a little back through Monastraki and see a few more shops.  We decided to take another route through town and hit up a restaurant that I had read about called Melilotos.  Melilotos is considered to be “Modern Greek cuisine” and had a great sounding menu.  We ended up getting four things to split, including a salad with goat cheese, stuffed chicken, pasta with mushrooms and chicken, and pasta with beef and truffles (this was the clear favorite).  Everything was delicious!  One of our favorite spots in Athens.

We stopped again at our favorite shop on the way home and picked up some more yogurt.  We chatted a little with the owner there and sampled a few different kinds of nuts.  We ended up getting some more pistachios.  The owner told us that all of the foods and snacks they had in their deli case were made by his grandmother daily and brought in.

More drinks and patio sitting once we got home!

***

For our last day, we slept in a little, ate another yogurt and fig breakfast, and headed out to the National Archaeological Museum.  The museum is the largest in Greece and has the largest collection of Greek artifacts.  The museum is organized by historical period  and medium and goes from Prehistoric, through Classical and ending with the Roman period.  The museum has both tour guides and audio guides available.  However, the cost of the guided tours isn’t very clear and seems to depend on the number of people that you have present.  Of course, all of this was irrelevant for us, as we had our Rick Steves audio guide fired up and ready to go.  My favorite statues were the ones in the Classical and Hellenistic period that depicted the Greek gods (this was a personal favorite).  We also got to see the actual frescoes that were retrieved from Akrotiri.  We took about two hours in this museum.  In my opinion, this is a must-see if you are visiting Athens!  It gives you a great view of the history of the mainland and a lot of the islands as well.

We originally intended to find a nearby place for lunch, but struck out with two locations being closed.  We eventually decided to just go with something easy and open, and ended up at a pretty touristy location, Smile Restaurant.  This place checked all of my normal “do not eat here” boxes, a lot of advertisement, pictures of the food, menus in multiple languages, advertisements for other tours around Athens, etc.  But it was also pretty highly rated on Trip Advisor (#39 out of 2000+ restaurants in Athens) and we were hungry. I was pleasantly surprised with the food and I finally got my pastitsio that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere.  Nick and Bob got the souvlaki, and we also ordered the Greek salad and the Special Smile Salad.

After lunch, we set out to cross off the rest of the sites that came with our Acropolis ticket, as well as the Olympic Stadium.

We started with the Olympic Stadium (officially called the Panathenaic Stadium), which housed the first instance of the modern Olympics in 1896.  The original ancient Olympics were held in the Greek town of Olympia.  It’s only €5 to enter the stadium (and that comes with a free audio guide and the opportunity to run around the track!), but we were more interested in continuing on to some other sites and didn’t want to invest the time.

Our next stop was the Olympieion and Temple of Zeus.  We saw the columns that make up this site from walking around town, and they seemed to be the largest and very well preserved.  Seeing them up close was really cool.  They are located at a big intersection in Athens, so it’s really neat to see the old and the new so interspersed.  To get some background on these sites, we listened to parts of the Athens City Walking Tour from the Rick Steves app.  You are able to select specific tracks from the tour, so we just did that for whichever site we were at.

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Right around the Olympieion, you are also able to see the Arch of Hadrian.  Hadrian was an emperor of the Roman empire, but held a great admiration for the city of Athens.  He did a lot of work to restore and preserve the city, and aimed to make it a cultural center of the empire.  The arch was built by the Greeks to honor Hadrian and all he did for their city.

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Next we headed to the Acropolis to see if we could sneak back in to the main area during a non-crowded time.  This was a no-go, so we explored the North and South slopes.  This was really neat, there were a lot of intricate caves where people used to place statues and trinkets to honor the gods on their trek up to the main Acropolis.  We also got to enjoy some more great views from this vantage point.

We decided to head to dinner close by again, we were all a little worn from all the activity of the whole trip and wanted to have a relaxing last night. I actually don’t even remember the restaurant we went to, and have no pictures of the food, so it must not have been that great.  We took one last walk through Monastraki and headed back for some beers and patio sitting, the perfect way to cap off our trip!

 

All in all, I really enjoyed our time in Athens and Delphi.  I would certainly add Athens to your Greek itinerary, there are things that you see here that you don’t get from any other place in the world.  It was inspiring to me to be among such important and ancient artifacts, and in a spot where so many events and people existed that affect our culture and way of life, even today.  However…I can kind of see why some people dog Athens.  The easiest comparison is to Rome, they both are large cities that have similar ancient culture and ruins.  Athens certainly isn’t as pretty as Rome (SO MUCH GRAFFITI) but I found it easy to overlook that to appreciate the food and the culture here.

And that’s it for our Greece trip!  Next I want to do a “planning” post with tips and tricks that we found useful, specific to Greece.  Then it’s on to recap our December trip to Asheville, NC

Have you ever been to Athens?  What was your favorite site?  Did all of the graffiti turn you off at all?

 

 

Santorini Days 3&4

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Day 3 in Santorini was a big one, because it was the day of our WINE TOUR.  We booked our tour through Santorini Wine Adventure.  Going into the trip, I knew that I wanted to visit some of the wineries, but wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to do a guided tour.  Guided tours tend to have a big markup and you are “stuck” with a set agenda and are somewhat at the whims of the other group members.  However, the reviews on this company on Trip Advisor really changed my mind.  The company has a five-star rating, but what really stuck out to me was the fact that the tour guide themselves were called out specifically in a lot of the reviews.  Usually when I read tour reviews, I look for nuggets on aspects of the trips that were enjoyed, so I can use that to plan my own thing but the glowing reviews of this host had me intrigued.

Santorini Wine Adventures offers a few different options, you can do a simple winery tour, a winery tour + visit to Akrotiri (a ruins site), or a winery tour + cooking class.  Akrotiri was also on our list of things to do, so we decided to combine and do the “Trails of History and Wine” tour.  The price was €125, which seemed a little expensive but I felt like we were getting a lot for the price, including visit to 3 wineries, 1 brewery, snack plate of meats and cheeses, entry and a tour guide at Akrotiri.

We were picked up at 9 am and were the first group to board (1st choice of seats, hell yeah).  Our first stop was Akrotiri.  If I’m being completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed with Akrotiri.  I had seen it referred to many times as the “Pompeii of Santorini”, which, um, no it’s not.  And the comparison isn’t really doing Akrotiri any favors.  Nick and I enjoyed Pompeii so much, so I think the comparison set my expectations just a little too high going into this tour.  Had I gone into it with an open mind, I may have enjoyed it much more.  The site is not NEARLY as large as Pompeii, it’s basically one warehouse sized building.  Also the ruins haven’t been “dug out” as much (that’s probably not the right term) so it’s hard to get a mental picture of what the buildings/roads/etc. actually looked like.  The way the building is set up, you are looking down into the ruins, rather than walking through them like Pompeii.  Also, most of the artwork has been taken out and is on display at the National Archaeological museum in Athens, and there aren’t large replicas in its place (like in Pompeii).  The tour guide has a laminated picture of the paintings that they hold up throughout the tour, but it doesn’t quite have the same affect.  Overall, meh.  It was an OK way to start the morning but I don’t think I would strongly recommend visiting here.  And I don’t think it was really worth the price difference from the regular wine tour (€85 vs. €125).

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Here you can see the railing and walkway all around the ruins.  That’s as close as you could get.
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This was one of better buildings of which to get a good picture

After that we were on to our wineries!  We made a pit stop before we hit any wineries to look at the “vineyards”.  Because of the wind on the island, grapes are unable to grow traditionally on vines here.  Instead, they wrap the vines and make these little grape nests, to protect them from the wind.  Another challenging aspect is the lack of rain in Santorini (it seriously didn’t rain a single time we were there).  Our guide explained that the grapes are “watered” by the dew at night.

We started at Boutari which was really cool.  It was a large space and very modern looking inside.  The decor was all wine themed (obviously) and it had a lot of the cool little grape nest things everywhere.  At this tasting, we really focused on food/wine pairings, which was cool because I didn’t know anything beyond the basic white meat=white wine, red meat=red wine.  We tried a variety of meats and cheeses and took turns trying them with each kind of wine to see how it changed the flavor of the wine.  The takeaway from this portion was that there are no bad wines, only bad pairings!  When Elias said this, our group took great delight in explaining to him what “Boone’s Farm” was and he was appropriately horrified.

The second winery was Gavalas, which has a fairly no frills tasting.  We did get to see some of the older wine making tools and barrels they had on site, which was really neat!  We had four different wines, including a Vinsanto, they were all really good.  The most popular Santorini wine is Assyrtiko, which is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite), so I was pretty much in heaven.

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Uh-huh, uh-huh….but where is the WINE.
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I think we are pretending to stomp grapes, but clearly Debbie is not committed to the charade.
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I totally got suckered by the pretty blue bottle on the left and ended up purchasing it, even though I preferred the second (they were the same type, but one had a natural ferment).

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We also made a stop at Santorini’s only beer brewing establishment, Santorini Brewing Company.  Beer brewing is relatively new to the island (and Greece in general), but these beers were excellent.  We  tried a couple of their beers leading up to the tour and really liked all of them.  I was partial to the Yellow Donkey, Nick was into the Red Donkey.  We hadn’t been able to find Crazy Donkey (which is their IPA), but our neighbors had and said it was really good.  After the tour, we can confirm!  All of the donkey beers are really good.

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This is apparently the only picture I took there.

For our third winery, we went to Artemis Karamolegos which was REALLY beautiful.  The wine may be skewing my memory here, but this might have been my favorite of the day.  Their outdoor area was large and shaded and it had a really lovely atmosphere.  We also saw a few of the other Wine Adventure tours here, one that looked to be on the “regular” tour and one that was setting up for the cooking class.  We got to try another four wines and were also served our meat and cheese plate.  I totally thought the plate we got at Boutari was going to end up being our snack plate, so this was a lovely surprise.  The size of this snack plate was awesome and totally served as our lunch.  Also, you can totally tell that we had many tastings by this point, because my commitment to taking photos of all the wine completely fell apart.

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We had a great experience on this wine tour, and I do feel like it was worth it to book a tour, rather than drive to a few wineries by ourselves.  However, I don’t think I would include the Akrotiri tour given the chance to do it all over.  If you do the regular wine tour, there is an option to do it in the afternoon and through sunset time.  I think this sounds like a REALLY awesome way to have a fun wine tour and experience the famous sunset in a unique way.

After our wine tour we headed back to our patio for more sitting and drinking and looking at amazing views (after showing all of our new friends from the tour the best place to go watch the sunset).

Never tired of this view
After drinking all day, I thought the cliff by our apartment looked like a woman’s profile.

We had already made plans for dinner two nights ago, we made reservations for a sunset dinner.   A lot of the restaurants in Santorini have a 7:00/7:15 dinner seating so that you can watch the sunset sans crowds.  We tried to book this our first day in town, but a lot of places were booked up, our third night was the first available reservation we could find at Pelekanos (we did only check like, two places).  This was a really cool way to watch the sunset.  We got to have a relaxing dinner and enjoy the sunset and take all the pictures we wanted.  We weren’t shoved around at all, not even once.  I highly highly recommend doing a sunset dinner.  If I could do it all over again, I would have a sunset reservation at a different restaurant every night.  The food and service here were really good, so I would even recommend this restaurant specifically.  Great all around!  We ordered a Greek salad (are you tired of hearing me say that yet?  We couldn’t get enough), Moussaka, slow cooked beef in a pot and lamb.

Side note: I was less drunk after a day of sampling wine and wine with dinner than I was the previous night, after two large beers.  Wtf, self.

On day 4, we didn’t have any set plans, in fact we didn’t even set an alarm.  Nick and I woke up “late” around 9 and decided to go off in search of a real breakfast.  That is one thing that I feel like we didn’t really master during our trip, what are the good options for breakfast?  We subsisted on granola bars, fruit, and sometimes a pastry from a corner shop.  But a lot of times, our activities started early (the wine tour started at 9 for example), so what are people supposed to do for breakfast?  Is this just the fat American in me?  Do normal people not prioritize breakfast?  I don’t know.  Nick and I ended up finding a cute place that opened at 10 and got ourselves some real breakfast with a side of caldera views.  I got my normal frappe, a greek yogurt with fruit and nuts, and Nick got a banana chocolate crepe that was enormous.

After breakfast, we went back to the apartment and worked on a game plan for the day.  One thing left on our list was the Red/Black/White beaches, located on the southern side of the island.  The famous Santorini Red Beach is frequently featured on all kinds of “best beaches” lists, so we were excited to explore it!  The day before, we asked Elias what is the best way to view those beaches.  He recommended a water taxi service that is run out of the port right by Akrotiri that runs €5 for a round trip .  He even went down to the port and asked for their time table while we were on our Akrotiri tour!  The water taxis run every half hour. We decided to do that and went to find a rental car to drive to Akrotiri.

It was fairly easy to find the boat, and we paid our euros, hopped on and waited for the boat to fill up.  There were several restaurants lined up by the boat area, and lots of yachts pulling up with groups of fancy people coming to land.  It was fun people watching for sure!

The boat goes by the three beaches in the following order: Red–>White–>Black.  We didn’t have a set game plan as far as which beach we wanted to get off at, and this was a mistake.  There isn’t a lot of time to get on/off the boats and the guides really push you to be prepared and get on and off quickly and efficiently (rightfully s0).  Because of this we ended up hemming and hawing until the last stop, the Black Beach.  The Red beach looked beautiful, but actually pretty dangerous.  There is a large cliff hanging over the beach, and there was actually a land slide a few weeks prior.  You are also let off in relatively deep water at the Red Beach, and if you are like us, you have your backpack of a towel, phone, money, change of clothes, etc. that you don’t really want to get wet.  You could definitely do it, but would have to plan the logistics a little better than us.  The white beach looked awesome, the drop off was in medium height water but there were no beach bars for food or drinks.  The Black Beach was nice, but very rocky and the black rocks were pretty hot.  There was a restaurant with chairs that you can rent.

If we were to do this again, I would either bring water/snacks and get off at White Beach, or make a day of it and rent chairs at the Black Beach.  Since we weren’t sure we wanted to hang out for a long time, we didn’t want to cough up the cash to pay for a chair and just laid on our towels.

After 20 or so minutes we decided to just catch the next boat back and grab some lunch.  Unfortunately the boats were on a different schedule than us and we probably waited upwards of an hour for the next boat back.  When we got back, we decided to hit up Nikolas Taverna.  This place was mentioned by a few of the travel apps I was using and the menu looked great.  Guess what we ordered?  You are corect, more greek salad.  And also tomato fritters, calamari, and moussaka.

This was another of our favorite meals of the trip, and it reminded me of our lunches at Rhodes.  Really good seafood/food at a great price.

We took the other road back to Oia and got to see a different side of the island, which was really cool.  We drove by a few of the other beaches with lots of hotels and inns.  Kamari Beach looked like the coolest, at least from a distance with lots of beach front and chairs.

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We got back to our apartment and hung out some more on the patio (theme of the trip) and decided to grab something quick for dinner.  We had a later lunch and also had another 4 am flight on plan for tomorrow.  Nick and I ended up getting gyros from Pitogyros and they were REALLY good.  After so many nights of long, more elaborate meals, a quick street gyro really hit the spot.  We enjoyed a beer while waiting for our sandwiches and then headed back and tucked in early.  After honoring our patio with a few final beers of course!

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Our last walk around Oia at night
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Bye patio, we will miss you.

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A few final thoughts on Santorini: There were a lot of times throughout the trip where I thought “Wow, I can totally see why Santorini is so popular” and probably just as many times where I was resenting that popularity (bc of crowds, high prices, hard to get reservations, etc).  This, of course, is totally to be expected at a place like this, but I think we got a smidge spoiled by the ease and relaxed vibe of Rhodes.  I enjoyed every one of our four days (and am glad we didn’t go any shorter) but I can say its a place I don’t feel like I need to return to.  On my next Greek island vacation (hear that, Nick?) I would choose to explore some different islands instead.  But I will always fondly remember this patio, one of my greatest life decisions:

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An aerial view

 

This post is part of the Travel Tuesday link-up!  Thanks for hosting, Courtney and Lauren!

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