By Amanda Sperling, Guest Blogger and Friend of The Gingers
Hi! I am Connie’s and Scott’s friend Amanda and a guest blogger for Gingers on the Move. Connie and I met working together at Cox Automotive and over the years have become great friends. So, when the Gingers invited all their friends to pick a place and meet them there during their travels — but only after I asked a thousand times, “are you sure about having a third wheel?” — I was in.
With only eight days to spend in Greece in March, we had to narrow down where we were going. We settled on Athens, Paros, and Santorini, and with that, a plan was created. We decided that I would meet The Gingers in Athens. I am not sure what I was more excited about: Greece itself, where I have wanted to visit since I was a kid, or eight days with my Connie — but either way… Greece better look out!!!
We met at the airport Saturday morning and boarded the subway to get to our first Airbnb. We decided to hit the ground running, so we dumped our stuff, changed clothes, and started the adventure. We grabbed lunch at a cute little place close to where we were staying. We had our first AMAZING cheese appetizer and our first Greek salad (which does not come with lettuce… who knew?!).
There, Connie did some Googling over lunch (of course, since she’s great at research!) and discovered a list of the top 25 Greek dishes to try in Greece. We decided we had to step up to this challenge and proceeded to try (almost) all of the Greek dishes throughout our trip.
After lunch, we met our guide for a four-hour walking tour of the Acropolis and Museum. Our tour guide, Anna, was FABULOUS! We learned a lot and promptly forgot a ton. She was so informative! We found out that acropolis means “highest point of the city,” and it was true. Everywhere we walked, we could turn and see the Acropolis off in the distance. After the walking tour, we hit the Acropolis Museum, where we saw the key statues and enjoyed the A/C. It was really warm in Athens when we were there. Everyone told us it was warmer than usual. We weren’t sure what the norm might be, but I can tell you it was HOT!
The next day was laundry day for The Gingers: the real life of traveling for a year! It was also Labor Day weekend in Greece, so we got to walk through an amazing little street fair that was happening for the holiday. We reached the laundromat and put the laundry in, and then we walked through the shopping district. We found this beautiful church in the middle of the square and got a new shirt to replace one of Connie’s, then celebrated with gelato. Who know laundry could be so productive!
After dropping the clothes off at the Airbnb, Connie and I got some henna tattoos (temporary, but which will probably lead to a permanent one) and we all grabbed drinks at a rooftop bar called “360.” It has awesome views and some very yummy beverages. It started to rain a bit, so we made our way to a gyros vendor for a late-night snack.
On Monday, Scott had to work, so Connie and I were reduced to a duo. We made our way to see the changing of the guards at the palace of the president. It was fascinating! We were lucky enough to get to talk with some off-duty guards who educated us on what we were watching. We learned that their uniforms were very hot and the ritualized stomping they did was to honor the horses that they used to ride in the past. We also learned we could get very close to them for pictures, and even though selfies with the guards aren’t allowed, there might be one that happened… maybe. (I affirm nothing!)
From there, we walked to see the first Olympic stadium and then made our way to a little port where Scott met us for a great seafood dinner.
I really liked Athens, a big city with a lot of history.
On Tuesday, we headed to the subway, on our way to the airport for our flight to Paros… only to find that the subway was closed for Labor Day. Instead, we grabbed a cab (or was it a race car?) to take us to the airport.
The flight to Paros was short, and we walked off the plane in love with the place already. We grabbed another cab that took us to the town center where our next Airbnb hostess met us. She walked us along brick-paved sidewalks through streets of white-washed houses trimmed in blue, and we finally felt like we were in Greece! Our place was absolutely adorable, white and blue, with a balcony!! After settling in, we walked the streets and found more picturesque streets, churches, and more amazing food. This time we got a true gyro on a pita and another item off our list, spicy cheese dip in a clay pot — YUM!! We then made our way to the rocks to enjoy our first sunset on the water. It was amazing!!
Along the way home, we stumbled into another beautiful church, did some shopping (Paros had amazing shopping), and ran into more street cats. Athens had had a ton of street cats, but Paros had more. Connie made it her mission to try to tame them. All of them. We found out that they have very high food standards. Note: They don’t like french fries.
Day two in Paros, we had a delicious breakfast at a quaint little place called Daphne’s (which is the namesake of Scott’s and Connie’s cat, and also the name of Connie’s home town in Alabama). After eating, we said goodbye to Scott so he could go make a living, and then we were off for a true girl’s day.
First task: secure transportation. We decided that a dune buggy was the only way to go. Connie was the driver and I was the co-pilot. And let me just say, we had so much fun! We found our way to a cave and wandered in a little, and then after that we found a pottery place and met the potter. Then we found a charming shop in Leykes (a little village) and discovered what our dream boutique will be one day!
On the way back, we stopped for lunch on the beach and crossed some more food items off our list. It was truly a great day.
Finally, we headed back to grab Scott for our donkey ride up the mountain for sunset. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this day, does it!!? On the three-hour ride up a mountainside, we discovered and decided several things: (1) wooden riding saddles are not the way to go, (2) Connie is always inquisitive, and asks way more questions when she’s nervous, and (3) Paros will be the place where we’ll buy three houses in a row: one for Scott and Connie, one for me and my boy Porter, and the third for our own Airbnb place to rent out. We will of course have to start with one and go from there… so stay tuned for that!
After making our way up the mountain for beautiful views, we stopped at a monastery but couldn’t go in to the church due to my bare arms. However, Scott was able to provide Google Street View with a 360-degree location pic, and now my feet are famous!
On Paros day three, we fueled up with breakfast by the water. I had my absolute best Greek yogurt and honey. The honey is so much better in Greece, light and fluffy! On the way back, Connie and I found a second wonderful boutique and quickly formed a girl-crush on the owner. We both walked out with some amazing jewelry, and I finally found a hat to protect my face from the hot Grecian sun.
After that, we rented four-wheelers and spent the afternoon touring the rest of the island with Scott. We hit Moraitis Winery, where we tasted some delicious wines (and bought a few), and then made our way to the Aegean Sea. The views of the countryside were absolutely stunning! Not only did we see water views, but we also saw much of the idyllic countryside. We made our way through dirt pasture roads on the hunt for local cheese. (We found the place, but it was closed. ☹) Either way we had a blast, saw some amazing views, grabbed some great pastries and got to hear Connie say her famous catchphrase, “I’m doing the thing!” about ten times! Dinner that night, after we dropped the four-wheelers off, was at a great Mediterranean restaurant.
Paros is a true gem and my favorite place we visited in Greece. We will be back!
The next day, we boarded a ferry that felt like a mix between a cruise ship and an immigrant ship, packed full of people, cars, and animals bound for Santorini. The ride was about three hours long, and between my Dramamine-induced smiling trance and various people’s goofy selfie picture-posing on the deck, we had plenty of entertainment.
Upon arrival, we got off the boat to a completely different feel than Paros. Much bigger and busier. It took us a minute to get our bearings among the throngs of tourists, and we decided to rent a car thanks to a local restaurant owner who gave us some advice. Car safely rented, we made our way to the last Airbnb, where we were a bit disappointed by the difference between the pictures we had seen online and what we found when we arrived.
After dropping off our things, we decided to make our way into Fira. There, we had an awful driving experience that ended with Connie declaring she would never drive again in Santorini. Finally, we parked and made our way into town. It was packed with people and felt like NYC. And all we kept saying was, “this is not what we thought Santorini would be” and “where are the pictures that we always see?!”
Moving away from the crowds, we ended up riding a cable car down the mountain to the water and had an amazing dinner of fresh fish, which we got to pick. Over dinner, we decided that the Airbnb was killing our vibe; it just wasn’t what we thought it would be, so we decided that the next day we would try to find another place. We headed back, a bit dejected, but hopeful.
The next morning, we got up and decided to drive around the island and pick where we wanted to stay. The views we kept seeing were beautiful, but not the white buildings with the blue tops. Scott educated us about how Santorini was formed from a volcano, which lead to the cliff views we were seeing. We saw Red Beach, Black Beach, and climbed to see a lighthouse. We also found a great hotel, Casa Del Mar, on Perissa Beach — where we decided to relocate. We checked in, and Scott was right: our mood changed instantly!
We walked over to the beach, played in the cold water, picked up some pretty stones, and drank some wine. All was right with the world again. Dinner was right down the street, with some Italian pasta and a waffle with chocolate sauce.
Day three on Santorini started with breakfast delivered to our door and enjoyed on the porch, maybe 100 feet from the water. Then, Scott settled in to do some work. With me behind the wheel, Connie and I headed to another winery, Estate Argyros, where we had a fabulous tour and tasting. We headed back to grab Scott a bit later and headed to Oia, the town on the north side of the island, which is known for the best sunsets in the world. And guess what, we finally found the “postcard Santorini” we’d been seeking, with its white buildings and blue tops!
We ended up staying in Oia for a sunset that turned out cloudy, but we still enjoyed our (rather overpriced) drinks and appetizers. We headed back to the hotel and walked to dinner right down from our new place back at Perissa Beach. We ended up at a super-swanky place where, we found out, famous Hollywood actors sometimes go while in Santorini. We didn’t see anyone famous, but we did have some wonderful food!
The next morning was an early airport drop off for me, as it was time to head back to reality… and for Scott and Connie to continue on to their next adventure.
All in all, Greece was a wonderful time! Paros was the true prize, and we can’t wait for all of you to come and stay at our Airbnb there one day. I had eight days of laughter, singing (we would break into song almost every day, of course), and memories that I will never forget.
Scott, thank you for sharing your wife and for your patience putting up with our silly singing episodes and shopping sprees.
Connie, thank you for your friendship and for our unforgettable girl-time in Greece.
And thank you both for allowing me to be a part of your wonderful yearlong adventure. What you guys are doing, while awesome, is not as easy as it seems from the outside. I thank you for letting me be a part of it and for letting me bend the budget a little. 😉
And who knows, maybe I will join you again! Stay safe. Love you guys!