Radiant Rhodes

Rhodes, (Rodos) is one of the most beautiful of the Greek Islands.  Situated in the gorgeous Aegean Sea and the largest of the Dodecanese islands, it’s actually closer to Turkey than it is to mainland Greece.  We have traveled to Greece several times, primarily to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, and somehow had never made it to Rhodes, until last summer.  And boy am I glad we finally made it.

To begin with, out hotel was magnificent. Rhodes was the last segment of our 17 day trip and we were exhausted from so much sightseeing, not to mention the August heat.  After extensive research (like we typically do), we decided to stay at the Atrium Platinum Hotel in Rhodes Town. This place was gorgeous from the moment you walk through the lobby and we had the luck of getting upgraded to an Executive Family Suite which had a sea view and a personal pool on the balcony! The room itself was super spacious and our daughter had her own bedroom and bathroom. The beds were so comfortable we had a hard time leaving the room after our nap. The breakfast buffet in the mornings offered everything you could possibly imagine, my hubby’s favorite being the crepe station with all sorts of toppings, especially melted white chocolate! However, if you’re planning on having dinner in the restaurant, men have to wear a jacket and pants (no shorts), and since we packed light for this island trip, we couldn’t have dinner there.  Not a big deal for us though, we rarely have dinner at our hotels, as we love to explore and find recommended places in town. And the hotel’s main pool is amazing.  My daughter never wanted to leave.  Also worth mentioning is the mini-mart by the pool, selling everything from food and suntan lotions to souvenirs. Extremely convenient and less expensive than ordering from the poolside café, which took 30 minutes to bring us cold drinks.  And if the beach is more your thing, just cross the street and enjoy the water. Take a look at this:

The pool at the Atrium Platinum

The pool at the Atrium Platinum

The Atrium Platinum Hotel

The Atrium Platinum Hotel

Crepes with white and milk chocolate.

Crepes with white and milk chocolate.

Our daughter enjoying the heated private pool on our balcony.

Our daughter enjoying the heated private pool on our balcony.

The Old Medieval Town of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the oldest continuously inhabited medieval town in Europe. To wander through the town is a unique experience for all to enjoy, since it’s mostly a pedestrian area, with streets full of shops and restaurants. Although the back streets are mostly residential, particularly in the Jewish Quarter.  The town is surrounded by medieval walls with several gates as entry points, most folks enter through Marine Gate, the main entrance to the town from the harbor. Inside of these walls are roughly 200 streets or lanes that simply have no name. However, in my opinion, getting lost and wandering around the streets is half the fun.  It reminds me of the winding streets of Mykonos, which also have no rhyme or reason.

The entrance through Marine Gate.

The largest shopping streets appear to be Orffeos, Socratous and Aristotelous.  Orffeos Street is a wide road with tourist shops and restaurants near the Gate of Saint Anthony, which connects with Socratous Street, the main shopping street of the old town. This becomes Aristotelous Street when you get to Ippokratous Square, the main square in front of Marine Gate, which surrounds a modest Castellania fountain, and is framed by the old Chadrevan mosque on the west and the Palace of the Castellan on the east. All around, coffee shops and restaurants are bustling with tourists hanging around, eating ice cream, sipping drinks and snapping a million photographs.

IMG_0891

Shopping on Orffeos Street

IMG_0895

More shopping streets

IMG_0918

Shops on Socratous Street with the Suleiman Mosque in the background.

IMG_0939

My daughter not knowing where to go next?

IMG_0945

Beautiful ceramic hand painted crosses

After touring the sites of the old town, you might want to walk around the walls, which is a remarkable example of a fully intact medieval structure, although it can be viewed from just walking around the outside. Here are a few more photos for your enjoyment:

The d’Amboise Gate

The d’Amboise Gate

The beautiful Suleiman Mosque, located on top of the town's hill at the end of Socratous street.

Beautiful Suleiman Mosque, located on the town’s hill at the end of Socratous street.

Ippokratous Square, the main commercial hub of the old town.

Gorgeous ceramic pottery sold at various stores.

Gorgeous ceramic pottery sold at various stores.

St. Catherine’s Gate

The beautiful fountain on Ippokratous Square

Beautiful building behind us.

IMG_1009

Another view of the shops.

A view of the harbor from St. Catherine’s gate.

A view of one of the island's beaches.

A view of one of the island’s beaches.

View of the Acropolis of Rhodes from the taxi.

I would also strongly recommend if time permits, to take a day trip to Lindos and to also visit the nearby island of Symi. Unfortunately we ran out of time, but both places are high on our bucket list when we return to Rhodes. And don’t worry about driving if you aren’t renting a car, there are plenty of bus and ferry excursions available.

Have you been to Rhodes or any of the other Greek islands?  I would love to hear what you enjoyed most…My Signature

Advertisements

What’s In My Carry-On?

With summer is full swing, and many of us getting ready to leave on vacation, I thought it would be the perfect time to come up with a quick list of what to pack in your carry-on.  First let me say that I always over pack, even after so many years of traveling, I just always feel as if I’m leaving something behind. And I’m also not the kind of person that likes to go shopping for toothpaste when I get to my destination…I want to spend all my time sightseeing and relaxing.  So naturally, packing my carry-on is very important to me.  Since most of the  flights I take average 9 hours, after a while, I start to feel a bit claustrophobic, so I need to feel comfortable and keep busy to make the time go by faster.  I also like to carry some snacks for all of us, as we sometimes forgo the plane meals, or fall asleep during the meal times.  Here are my carry-on must-haves:

Snacks for the flight...

Snacks for the flight…

I love to buy a large bottle of water at the airport and keep myself hydrated during the flight. Snacks like almonds, Cheerios and peanut butter are healthy and yummy.  We always pack gum too, as it helps with the ear popping during take-off and landing.  And of course, a little piece of chocolate never hurt anyone!

My carry-on essentials...

My carry-on essentials…

My husband always makes fun of me saying I carry a small CVS in my bag.  I always bring my travel document holder (which includes itineraries, boarding passes, emails from hotels and our passports), my iPad to watch movies, with of course a good set of Beats headphones, a good book and some cozy socks. But I also need to pack things like Advil for headaches (which I tend to suffer from), Visine for my eyes, which get very dry when I’m flying, some hand cream and a travel toothbrush.  If you’re wondering about the Afrin, I also get very congested sometimes.  And of course I never leave home without some hand wipes and my camera!

So, what are your carry-on must-haves?  I’d love to compare notes in case I’m forgetting something!

My Signature

Stunning Santorini

I fell in love with my favorite place in the world, the island of Santorini in Greece, when I was 14 years old and I watched the movie Summer Lovers.  Right there and then, I decided that this idyllic island would (hopefully) be my honeymoon destination (regardless of where my future husband would want to visit).  Well, 14 years later, my wish came true. When my husband and I were planning our wedding and he suggested Hawaii as a place to honeymoon, I very sweetly suggested the Greek Islands instead, and the rest as they say, is history.  Our honeymoon included a few days in Athens and also in Mykonos (click here for my Mykonos blog post).  Santorini went above and beyond all of my expectations, it is simply breathtaking.  It is so beautiful, that most of the photos and postcards that you will see of Greece, will typically be of Santorini…it is the most photographed of the Greek Islands. And trust me, the postcards don’t do it justice!  Luckily I have had the opportunity to visit Santorini many more times, and I always leave with the feeling that I can’t wait to visit again!

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

There are so many things to see and do on this special island that this blog post could go on for days…LOL!  So, I have decided to round-up my Top 5 experiences on all of my visits!

Fira. Fira is the largest town on Santorini, and is also the first town many travelers experience, as Santorini’s ferry and cruise ports are located in Fira.  While most of the pictures you will see are of the town of Oia, I actually prefer to stay in Fira, the island’s capital. Fira also has a thriving night life, something for everyone, clubs, bars, restaurants, and shops stay open past midnight.  Nothing like walking around at 11PM having some gelato, and feeling like it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I love places that stay open late when I’m on vacation.  I also find that there is a larger selection of hotels to choose from in Fira, extending to Firostefani and Imerovigli, the two towns immediately north of Fira.  This past summer we stayed at the Adamis Majesty Suites, which we loved, a spacious cave house with a perfect location, and million dollar views!  Fira also boasts great shopping with many boutiques and local designer shops. Make sure to visit some of the gold and jewelry stores, with amazingly beautiful 18 karat gold jewelry, showcasing the very distinctive Greek designs.  Also not to be missed are the delicious restaurants Fira has to offer.  Sphinx and Archipelagos among my favorites, and if you’re looking for amazing gelato and homemade Greek desserts and pastries, make sure to stop in at Zotos Cafe & Bakery, on the main pedestrian path.

A view of Fira

A view of Fira

Delicious homemade Greek pastries at Zotos Cafe

Delicious homemade Greek pastries at Zotos Cafe

A Visit to Oia.  Having said this, the village of Oia, located on the northwestern end of Santorini, is magical. I always like to visit during the day and also in the evenings.  Oia is special (fun fact: the house that the Summer Lovers characters lived in is located in Oia, not Fira).  Oia is a sleepier, quieter version of Fira. Here you’ll find those red cliffs, white windmills, and blue-domed churches from the postcards.  It’s famous for its sunsets and great for honeymooners.  You can find smaller art galleries and many unique shops in Oia. Oia is a short bus ride away from Fira, a must see.

Beautiful Oia

Beautiful Oia

Summer Lovers house...

Summer Lovers house…

Breakfast with a View.  Many of the hotels in Fira and Oia have rooms with a view to the caldera.  There are many other areas in Santorini where you can stay as well, such as Perissa or Kamari, if you prefer to stay near the beach.  But in my humble opinion, there is nothing quite like opening up your window and seeing the beautiful blue waters and the gorgeous views of the caldera and the cliffside town.  Many of the hotels will serve you breakfast on the terrace outside of your room, so you can enjoy these views, while having your meal.  My husband always says that he could spend an entire day just sitting in a café or in one of the hotel balconies, overlooking the caldera and taking in this view. Absolutely magnificent!

Breakfast on our terrace, priceless.

Breakfast on our terrace, priceless.

Dinner at Sunset.  Similar to the views in the morning, Santorini is famous for its gorgeous sunsets.  Fira and Oia both have plenty of cafes and restaurants that advertise their sunsets. Many people flock to the old Kasteli (Castle) of Agios Nikolaos in Oia, which has become the most desired spot for sunset watching.  It can also get pretty crowded, so get there early to claim a spot.  You can also catch the sunset with no obstructions, by walking the northwest end of the village above the steps leading down to Amoudi and find a place to park yourself.   While most folks prefer to watch the sunset in Oia, I have also seen the sunsets in Fira, and they are just as amazing. And watching the sunset while enjoying your dinner with a glass of wine is an experience all on its own!

Our daughter taking in the view...

Our daughter taking in the view…

The beautiful sunset...

The beautiful sunset…

The crowds forming to watch the sunset...

The crowds forming to watch the sunset…

Blue Domes Everywhere.  And then of course…there are the numerous, beautiful, blue domed churches that the island is famously known for.  Almost everywhere you look, in every town throughout the island you can’t miss these brilliant, blue domes!  Most of these churches are open during the day, stop in and take a look, they are just as beautiful inside as well.  One of my favorites is the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the center of Fira.

Dome Collage

The many domes of Santorini!

Some more fun things to do while visiting Santorini:

  • Visit Akrotiri, the ancient and fascinating archaeological site.
  • Spend a day at one of the beaches, Perissa and Red Beach are my favorites.
  • Take a donkey ride or cable car from the port up to town.
  • Rent a scooter or ATV and spend the day cruising the island.
  • Relax with a kissing fish spa pedicure (yes folks I tried this and actually liked it).
  • Visit one of the island’s wineries, Boutari is my favorite.
  • Visit the traditional village of Megalochori.
  • Visit the Argyros Mansion in the town of Messaria.
  • Take a boat ride out to the volcano, Santorini should be viewed from the water.
  • And for those of you traveling with small kids, you can always spend an afternoon at the Perissa Water Park, although it’s just a very large pool with a few water slides!

Here are a few more photos for your enjoyment:

Our hotel this year...Adamis Majesty Suites, perfect location!

Our hotel this year…Adamis Majesty Suites, perfect location!

The largest church of Santorini, the Orthodox Cathedral located at the center of Fira.

The largest church in Santorini, the Orthodox Cathedral located at the center of Fira.

Hubby and daughter taking off on their ATV adventure!

Hubby and daughter taking off on their ATV adventure!

One of their stops...Red Beach!

One of their stops…Red Beach!

Beautiful shop in Oia.

Beautiful shop in Oia.

More of Oia...

Oia…

Fira at midnight...

Fira at midnight…

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

IMG_0706

More of Oia

The colorful ceramics sold on the island, hard to choose...

The colorful ceramics sold on the island, hard to choose…but of course I purchased a few…

Strolling through Fira

Strolling through Fira

Is Santorini on your travel bucket list?  If it’s not, it should be.  Have you visited this gorgeous island, I would love to know what you thought of it…

My Signature

Flipping Out at Old Navy

If you’re planning on shopping this weekend, then head on over to your local Old Navy this Saturday, June 28, 2014, for their annual $1 Flip Flop Sale.  If you have a Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic credit card you can stop in stores on Friday and get the deal a day early.

This is Old Navy’s biggest sale of the year (as you can imagine) and the stores are super busy with very long lines.  But how can you beat $1 for a pair of summer flip flops?  Unfortunately, this offer is only valid on in-store purchases, so for those of you who enjoy internet shopping (like me), the deal is not available online.

According to the Old Navy Facebook Page, each store will be opening as early as they are permitted. The stores will be updating their store hours on the store locator at oldnavy.com.  So make sure you check your local store’s opening time to be certain you don’t arrive two hours later, and be faced with much less selection. There is a limit of five pairs per person.

While you’re there, check out the mix and match bathing suits styles, which are also pretty well priced.  My daughter just picked up a few pieces for our upcoming trip!

Photo Courtesy of Old Navy

Photo Courtesy of Old Navy

Keurig and Snapple…A Perfect Combination

Ready for some refreshing drinks on this Memorial Day?  Take a look at what I found! A few months ago, I finally caved in and purchased a Keurig coffee maker.  This is one of the best purchases I have ever made for my kitchen, it’s so easy to use, I love it.  Since I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, I was getting tired of wasting a whole pot of coffee, every time I wanted a cup. I love brewing the different Starbucks coffees and the Swiss-Miss hot chocolate too.  Iced coffee though…that’s never really been my thing, I like my coffee drinks hot.  But recently, I came across a cool new concept, Brew Over Ice K-Cup packs (where else…at Target of course). Now I can also prepare cool iced drinks with my Keurig, perfect for living in this Miami heat.

My favorite Brew Over Ice K-Cups are the Snapple Iced Teas, which come in lemon, peach and raspberry flavors. I’ve also tried the Celestial Seasonings Half and Half (Arnold Palmer) and the Green Mountain Naturals Lemonade, which are both pretty good also.

These drinks are just as easy to make as the coffees.  You just fill your cup to the top with ice and place the Brew Over Ice K-Cup into the brewer. Press the brew button, stir and enjoy your drink! It’s so easy, even a child can make these…which reminds me, I think it’s time for me to teach my daughter how to use the Keurig brewer…

Photos courtesy of BrewOverIce.com

Watermelon Cupcakes

I love the seasonal section in Target, especially when we’re entering spring and summer.  It’s always full of patio furniture, beach toys, aisles upon aisles of suntan lotions, and season specific items, such as…Watermelon Cupcake mix.  The first time I tried a watermelon cupcake was at Baked by Melissa, my favorite cupcake shop in the world (in NYC of course).  I’ve never again seen or tasted a watermelon cupcake in any of my local cupcake shops in Miami, so when I saw the Betty Crocker Watermelon Cupcake Mix (and also green watermelon flavored frosting), well I just had to try it!  Sold exclusively at Target, they are available for a limited time and will provide the perfect treat after a picnic lunch or barbeque this summer. Luckily, my daughter announced that she had to participate in a bake sale at her school the next day, so I thought, why not try these cupcakes (after all, we don’t want 24 of them in our house)! The only item I added that was not included in the box, were mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels on the top to make them look like seeds. They came out really cute and they tasted delicious!  My daughter said they were a hit at school too.  For the next bake sale I think we’ll try the Pink Lemonade cake mix or the Key Lime cupcake mix, both available at Target…

Yummy Betty Crocker Watermelon Cupcakes

Yummy Betty Crocker Watermelon Cupcakes