Santorini, Greece

Thursday, 14 October 2021 No comments

The last island in Greece I visited was Santorini and it was just as beautiful and amazing as the rest.  Our time in Santorini was short, so we were prepared to make the best of it.  After delays with the ferry, we arrived midday to check into our amazing hotel!  It was my favorite of all the hotels with a spa-like atmosphere.

We had a cooking class scheduled for half of our group on the evening we arrived, so that was the main thing on our agenda for the day.  I've never taken a cooking class, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The chef was very entertaining and it turned out to be more fun than I imagined!  Since there was a small group of us that attended, it was a very personal experience.  We worked together to prepare a traditional Greek dish called Mousaka.  I'm a picky eater, but it turned out to be delicious.  We even had a wine pairing in which I discovered that I think I only like dessert wine.

After dinner, we spent some time walking around, grabbed some gelato, then headed back to the hotel to take advantage of the jacuzzi in our room.  The end of our trip was nearing and we just wanted some time to hang out with each other.

The Mousaka we prepared for dinner was delicious!

The next day was our last full day in Greece.  A group of us made plans to meet up and explore together, so we were up early to experience the best of Santorini!  We hit the shops and grabbed the last of our souvenirs.  The people are super nice in all the shops and if you look around you can find great deals.  There was a beautiful church at the top of the town, and we stopped in there to explore.  It was gorgeous inside like something you'd see in a movie.

Outside of the church we ran into a man that was making custom jewelry.  He could take your name in English (or probably whatever language) and write it in Greek letters.  Then, he would bend the wire to create the design.  You could choose a necklace, bracelet, or keychain.  Of course it's a very touristy item to buy, but we had to get the full experience and it was so neat to watch him make it right in front of us. 

Ready for a ride down the mountainside on the cable car

As we went on our way walking and shopping, we saw signs to the Old Port.  We just had to explore, so we rode the cable car down the mountainside to get to the bottom.  There were more shopping and restaurants at the bottom and just sights to see.  To get back up the hill, we had to choose to walk up over 500 steps or ride a donkey up the steps.  Most of us opted for the donkey, but props to Nicole for trekking her way all the way to the top!  We dubbed it the Santorini Challenge for those of you that decide a mule ride isn't for you. πŸ˜‚

Riding the donkeys back to the top

To end our day in Santorini, we selected a restaurant that had a rooftop seating area with gorgeous ocean views. I had the Margarita Pizza and, for the most part, it tasted just like pizza in America with a different crust.  But, I didn't really expect any different.  We finished lunch just in time to head back to the hotel and get read to go on a sunset cruise!

Gorgeous lunch views

Our sunset cruise was on a traditional boat that looked kind of like a pirate ship.  We spent a few hours out on the water enjoying the views.  We saw an active volcano and got to swim in the hot springs that are at the bottom of it.  It's always a cool experience to swim in the ocean, but to feel the warm, bubbly water was a difference experience.  It was a little messy because the water has sulfur in it so it has an orange tint and can stain your swimwear.  You can touch the bottom as you swim closer to the edge and it's very muddy and kind of slimy.

The boat ride ended with us finding the perfect spot in the middle of the ocean to watch the sunset.  We made our way to the upper deck of the boat for the best view.  It was one of the most amazing views I had seen all week! The weather was perfect, the water was blue, and seeing the sun drop lower and lower in the sky was just magical.  I can't think of a better way to spend my last evening in Greece.

On to Ios, Greece!

Monday, 2 August 2021 No comments

On the second day of my trip, I was up bright and early before sunrise to head to the ferry.  I've never really been on a ferry boat and I had this idea in my head from what I had seen on television, but it was waaaaaay wrong. haha  The ferry ride to the island of Ios was about four hours and it was a super nice boat ride.  The seats were leather and similar to airplane seats in that they reclined a little and there were tray tables so you could enjoy any snacks and drinks you purchased on the boat.

Far Out Beach Club view by the pool

Pulling out from the dock, the views were gorgeous as they were all along the way.  Once we arrived in Ios, our first day was spent just relaxing at Far Out Beach Club by the pool and beach.  The views were gorgeous, the blue water was crystal clear when you walked out to it, and it all just felt like a dream.

Enjoying a beach day!

We had a few days in Ios, so I had plenty of time to explore the whole island.  We spent lots of time in the town square, where we hiked to the top where there was an old church for some amazing views of the island.  I also tried a pork gyro, which was delicious and more food than I could handle.  We went to the square on most evenings to shop and enjoy the night life.  There was just so much to see and plenty of desserts to try! lol

The next day we went on a speed boat tour, which was way more fun than I could have imagined.  The boat ride was several hours long and we spent the time cave crawling, snorkeling, and visiting a private beach.  The water there is very salty and the buoyancy is so different than any water I have every experienced.  I was quite nervous the first time they stopped the boat and told us we were going to jump off and swim to the rocks...without a life jacket!  But I soon realized that you literally float in the water and it's truly amazing!  It made the swim so much easier and was great for snorkeling!  

Our last day in Ios was to be spent however we wanted.  A group of us decided to rent ATVs and I was totally on board with that!  I rented my own small four wheeler, they handed us a map, and we spent the whole day riding around the island together.  We found lots of beautiful beaches, stopped for lunch, saw some goats, found some gorgeous lookout points, and even made a visit to Homer's Tomb!  It was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Ios.

I had many delicious meals and treats while in Ios, including veal for dinner on my last night.  I also made sure to stop by the Nutellaria while I was there because I'm a HUGE Nutella lover!  The food was always amazing and is one thing I miss from my time in Greece!

Ios was a blast and one of the most beautiful islands, but it was time for the last leg of my adventure in Santorini.  Keep watching the blog to read about all the fun I had at my next destination!

The beach was just gorgeous!

First Stop-Athens, Greece

Saturday, 31 July 2021 No comments

My flight to Greece was the longest flight I have ever been on.  It was around 9 hours, and I really hoped I could sleep for most of it.  Unfortunately, something I have learned about myself on this trip so far is that I don't sleep well on airplanes. lol I packed pajamas and a blanket in my backpack for the plane, but it's so hard to get comfortable enough to actually sleep.  I was so envious of those around me that were able to do it so easily.  Next time I fly internationally, I will have to bring some melatonin or something....and definitely save up some money to score one of those awesome first class seat that lay flat!

Since this was my first big international flight (I don't count the time I flew to Jamaica), I got to enjoy a meal and snack on the airplane.  The food wasn't bad at all and it was nice to have a hot meal to enjoy while in flight.  I had a choice of chicken or pasta and the girl beside me said to go with the pasta. πŸ˜‚ Either way, I knew that I would be finishing it off with some ice cream, so that was an awesome bonus.  I also got a snack during the flight and then a hot breakfast snack before the airplane landed.

My flight landed in Athens at 10:00am on Monday morning to begin my real adventure.  I was a day later than the original itinerary since one full day of travel turned into two days of travel, but you can read more about that here.  The first order of business was to exchange some American money for Euros.  I had no idea what I would need for the week, so I just took a guess and headed off to grab a cab.

Since I was a late arrival and nobody else in my group was there at the same time as me, I was in a cab by myself to head to the hotel.  It was a real experience to ride in a foreign country with a driver that didn't speak any English! During this ride, I determined that Greece may not have any traffic laws and pedestrians better move out of the way! πŸ˜†

Thankful to have survived that taxi ride!

I safely arrived at Hotel Herodion in Athens and was excited to meet up with my group and check in.  I had missed the Acropolis tour that morning, and I only had one day in Athens, so I was excited to explore and check everything out!

I was able to visit the Acropolis, walk the town and visit some of the shops, enjoy my first authentic Greek meal, and meet up with all the other girls on the tour during my one day in Athens.  It was a great way to kick off my trip and I headed to bed knowing the next day would be an early morning since we had to catch the ferry for Ios in the morning.

Stay tuned for more on my trip to Greece coming soon!  Let me know if there's something you want to hear about!

The Beginning of My Big Fat Greece Adventure

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 No comments

For teachers, summer should be a time to rest, relax, and recharge.  I've never felt the need to do that more than I did this summer.  Between teaching during a pandemic (virtual start, hybrid schedule, back to virtual, hybrid again, in person, repeat) and things changing in my personal life, I NEEDED a break.  I wanted to do something big and amazing in my life...something I always dreamed of!  So I did.  I booked a solo vacation to Greece!

Now, before you all panic about me traveling alone, I would like to clarify that I wasn't really alone.  This trip was actually a girls trip, but I didn't actually know anyone before I went.  We all came from different parts of the country, so our flights and things didn't necessarily align.  I actually didn't get to meet up with anyone from my group until I arrived in Athens, Greece, so I definitely felt alone.  But now I'm getting a little ahead of myself.  Let me start from the beginning.

So, I was totally ready for an adventure.  International travel has been something I always wanted to do and I really didn't have anyone that could drop their lives and just travel with me.  I'm a pretty independent woman, so I just decided to find some people who were interested in what I wanted to do and make some new friends.  Why not?!  I actually found out about the trip in a women's travel group on Facebook (there are tons out there) and just booked the trip on a whim and never looked back.  Best decision ever!

As if it wasn't exciting enough to know that I was going to an amazing destination for a week, traveling there turned out to be a complete adventure in itself!  I typically fly a few times a year, but take direct flights as often as I can.  So, spending a whole day hopping off one airplane and catching a connecting flight to another airport was more exhausting and fun than you could imagine.

I started my day at Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV.  My flight left at 7:00am, so I made sure to arrive there early to get through security and all that.  Turns out I was so excited I was one of the first people there and waited nearly 2 hours before boarding my flight. πŸ˜‚  From Charleston, I was flying to Atlanta, Georgia, so it's a pretty quick flight--around 1 hour.  Once in Atlanta, I had a few hours before I had to board the next plane, so I grabbed some breakfast while I waited.

From Atlanta, I flew to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.  I was a little excited because I had never been to NYC and should have a little time in the airport...but then plans changed.  As we were nearing the airport, our pilot announced that we weren't able to land in New York, but nobody knew why.  We were delayed and circling in the air for what we thought would be just a few extra minutes.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  Due to a water line break in one of the control towers that damaged equipment, they weren't letting any airplanes land at JFK.  So, we were rerouted to Baltimore....what?! 

At this point, all the passengers on the plane were stressed about what to do next.  They didn't tell us how long it would be or what was going to happen.  They just told us to stay put on the plane and they brought us drinks and snacks.  One hour later, we were still sitting on the plane as the realization set in that I was going to miss my connecting flight, which was my final flight that was taking me to Greece. 😱

The pilot made another announcement to update us that he basically didn't have any new information, but we were going to deplane so we could sit inside the airport and at least be a little more comfortable.  During our time just sitting on the airplane waiting, I had made friends with the girl sitting next to me.  So off the plane I went with my new friend Jessica in search of some food.

Jessica and I set an alarm on our phones so we didn't lose track of time since they told us to return to the gate in 2 hours.  We grabbed some dinner, hung out, had lots of laughs, met some other strangers we didn't know πŸ˜‚, and then headed back to the gate a few minutes before the time they had given us.  When we got there we stopped in our tracks--it was like a deserted island...we looked at each other and panicked just a little.  Luckily as we arrived at the counter, someone walked out and told us we better get on our plane because they were boarding and getting ready for takeoff!  We took off in a mad dash and made it just in time. 

Once our plane finally took off from Baltimore, we soon arrived at JFK and into the madness.  So many flights had been missed due to the delays and lines were loooooong to get a flight rebooked.  There were thousands of frustrated and upset people.  I was fortunate that my Delta app was updated and I was able to rebook my flight from there....but not until the next day.  I was going to miss a whole day in Greece. 😒

While rebooking my flight on the app, I phoned a friend to see if I could get some help finding a hotel.  It was a holiday weekend, thousands of people were in the same situation as me, and the chances of finding a hotel to stay in for the night weren't looking good.  Hotels were full everywhere and on top of my exhaustion since I had been awake for over 30 hours, I started to feel a little panicked!  Luckily, my friend had a friend that lived in NYC and I was able to stay with them.  So yes, I stayed at a strangers house in's all part of the adventure, right?! lol

I was thankful for a bed to sleep in and a nice, hot shower the next morning!  My flight wasn't until 5:15pm, so I was able to sleep in and rest before I continued my journey to Greece.  I was pretty bummed about missing a whole day there, but I knew that it was out of my hands and I wasn't going to let it ruin my good time.

The rest of the day went smoothly.  I headed to the airport super early, just in case of traffic delays.  There were plenty of restaurants in the airport, so I was able to slow down and have some lunch.  I met another couple traveling to Greece while I had lunch.  They were celebrating the wife's 60th birthday and were excited for their trip as well.  

When it was time for my flight to leave New York, the plane boarded and left on time.  I was finally on my way and ready for a big adventure!  Off to Greece I go!

Watch my blog for the next post as my adventure continues and to find out what I did while in Greece.

Beachin' Not Teachin'

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 No comments

Congratulations are in order to all you educators out there (teachers, admins, food service staff, transportation staff, custodians, OT, PT, and speech therapy--everyone)!  We made it!  This past year was HARD and it's okay to admit that.  I think we can all agree that it wasn't just hard on us professionally, but also on a personal level.  Now, it's time for us to take a break, reset ourselves, and prepare for next school year (but not just yet!).

I am a pretty flexible, go-with-the-flow kind of have to be if you teach the littles!  But, goodness did this year test my limits.  From starting the school year virtually, to going in person for a month, back to virtual, trying out a hybrid schedule for a while, and then FINALLY my kiddos made it back to me the last couple months of school.  Whew--what a roller coaster ride!  The year proved to be anything but normal, and I am super proud of my students and their amazing parents.  The pressure was on everyone this year and I was fortunate to be blessed with an amazing class with amazing family support.  I just hope we never have to go through that again and look forward to a normal start to the upcoming school year. *fingers crossed*

Waylon and I sitting by the water

Before I can even mentally think about another school year, I had to have a break though.  I needed some downtime to reset myself and just relax.  Thankfully, my family and I were able to find a nice beach house at one of the most relaxing beaches I have ever been to.  My siblings and I gathered up our families and headed to Topsail Island, NC.  I have been there a few times, so I knew what to expect, and a low key vacation was exactly what I needed.

Hanging out with my nephew Carter

I spent a glorious week relaxing on the beach, enjoying the sand between my toes and the sound of the ocean waves.  The kiddos had a blast building sandcastles, digging holes to bury themselves (and their parentsπŸ˜‚), catching little fish in their buckets, and playing in the waves.  For the most part, everyone was happy!  I even got to celebrate my birthday (and my nephew's) while at the beach--so we enjoyed a lot of cake!

Happy Birthday to me!

In the evenings, we hung out at the beach house, headed out to the little shops, and enjoyed dinner at some of the local restaurants.  We also had LOTS of donuts from the most amazing donut place!  The Fractured Prune makes delicious, hot, hand dipped donuts with any topping your heart desires.  I have so many favorites, but this year I was totally loving the Pebble Beach donut topped with a delicious glaze and Fruity Pebbles!  Mmmmmmm!

As you can see, I already took a bite out of the Pebble Beach Donut πŸ˜†
Waylon loves his shrimp and crab legs!

All in all, it was a great week at the beach, which is definitely one of my happy places.  Hopefully, you can find some time this summer to relax and unwind before it's time to get geared up for another school year.  Just do what makes you happy-a pool day, beach trip, projects around the house, get a massage, quiet time to yourself, read a book....find time for yourself.  Teacher self care is so important, so take some time to address that this summer and just enjoy the rest!  Happy summer!

Disney During COVID--Just As Magical!

Sunday, 18 April 2021 No comments

Yeah, so I'm a little late on this post, but here we go. lol Waylon's surprise Disney trip for his birthday was AMAZING!  (If you missed the birthday scavenger hunt I used to surprise him, you can go back and read that post here.)  I was concerned about going to Disney during COVID and missing out on the magic, but let me tell you...the magic is still there!!!

We traveled to Florida with Allegiant Air.  They have awesome direct flights to lots of our favorite, sunny places, so we fly with them often.  This wasn't the first time we have flown during COVID, but guidelines for flying are pretty much the same and we had to wear masks the whole time at the airport and while in flight.  You can lower it to eat a snack or meal, but that's about it.  The airport did offer free masks and gloves and sanitizer to everyone, which I thought was awesome and helped us feel super safe.

Okay, on to Disney and how our trip went...

1. Masks, masks, and more masks.  You do have to mask up EVERYWHERE at Disney and I felt completely safe while I was there.  Of course, that doesn't guarantee that you won't contract COVID, but I feel like they were very on top of things and doing their best to keep everyone safe.  I know they are constantly updating their guidelines and procedures as things evolve with COVID and right now you are allowed to pull your mask down for a picture.  Other than that, you are masked all the time unless you are sitting and eating (no walking and eating, but sometimes life just needs to slow down anyway).  I would also like to give a big kudos to their staff because I never once saw a cast member with their mask down....not even a nose showing!  I know that's tough, but they were amazing!  (Note: I am not guaranteeing that you won't get COVID, but I feel like Disney and their precautionary measures were on point!  Use your own judgement and do what is best for your family, as you would when traveling anywhere.)
A little rain doesn't ruin our ride on Dumbo!

2. Low Crowds.  
Crowds are low!  When we went in January, parks were only at 30% capacity (it is still only at 35% now).  When you purchase tickets,  you reserve your park days.  That may be a lot of pressure for people that operate on the fly, but I promise it's okay!  We always loosely plan our days in advance because of dining reservations anyway, so it wasn't a big issue for me and totally worth it.  We rode so many rides!  The wait time was minimal on EVERYTHING!  We rode most rides multiple times--if we enjoyed a ride, we got in line and rode it again.  I remember riding some of our favorites such as The Haunted Mansion three times (we love it!), Little Mermaid twice, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin three times, and we even rode Star Wars Millennium Falcon three times...and we got a boarding pass for the amazing Rise of the Resistance, which is like the ultimate Star Wars experience!  I can't say enough about going during this time simply because of the low crowds.  It was so nice to not be trampled on, feel like you're riding bumper cars, or constantly feel like you're racing from one thing to the next.  Relax and truly enjoy the magic!
I was so excited to be a "Galactic Hero" on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin!

3. Characters in the parks.  
One of my biggest concerns is that we would miss all things character (even at 11-years-old, Waylon gets excited and I love it!), but we still saw them plenty!  Instead of big parades, Disney is now doing lots of mini parades throughout the day.  From what I could tell, they happen on the typical parade routes (that's definitely how it was at Magic Kingdom) and we saw more characters than ever!  The day that really stood out to me was the day that we went to Hollywood Studios--we saw soooo many characters!  It just seemed like they were always randomly zooming through the parks and waving to everyone with all their fun music.  We loved it and didn't feel all the crowd anxiety you have as people gather before scheduled parades and "fight" for the perfect spots.  For us, this was so much better!

4. Dining.  My only "complaint" is that I missed the dining plan so much!  I know some people love it and some hate it, but I'm a dining plan lover.  For me, I like having it paid for in advance so it feels like I'm eating for free (leave me alone with my mind games, peopleπŸ˜‚).  I like no fuss and just scanning my Magic Band with a smile so I can go on my happy little Disney way! haha  But, I will say that I totally understand what they are doing right now to keep people safe and it didn't ruin my good time.  Quick service restaurants that are open require mobile ordering, which I had never actually used, and I kind of loved it once I adjusted to it.  You use the app (or you can walk in and order at one of their stations), put in your order, select your pickup time window, pay on the app, and the app will alert you when your order is ready.  The app will tell you where to pick up your order, someone will be at the pickup window to help you, and you simply walk away with your food!  It was actually nice once I understood the process (I'm a bit of a control freak and HAVE to know what is going on and understand why sometimes--okay most of the time!πŸ˜‚).  I enjoyed ordering from my room, then just going to pick it up and sitting down to eat.  No big wait in line or the fuss with checking out.
Here is Waylon with his breakfast from Topolino's Terrace, which is a table service restaurant in Riveria Resort.

5. Character Dining fun!  All character dining restaurants aren't open, but Disney is working on these experiences and opening more all the time.  The only character meal we made a reservation for (these are considered "table service" so reservations are a must to make sure you get a table) was Topolino's Terrace and it was our first time there!  We LOVED it and will always go back!  We are pretty picky eaters and breakfast proves to be one of our favorite meals always!  Their breakfast was amazing!  We saw four characters while there several times.  They didn't come directly to our table, but they were amazing at interacting with everyone from a distance!  They even stopped for pics and did cute poses.  It was great and so was the yummy food!

6. Where to stay.  We always stay on site when we go to Disney World.  I love the overall experience and convenience.  Since we fly and plan to stay on site, I never need to rent a car and we just Uber to the resort (if you fly into MCO you can take Disney's Magical Express for free).  From the resort, we always use Disney's transportation to get to the parks and any other resorts we need to go to.  We love the buses and our newest favorite way to get around is on the Disney Skyliner.  This trip was the first time we got to ride it and it was so much fun!

Riding the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios

This was our second time staying at Caribbean Beach Resort and it's definitely one of our favorites!  The last time we were there, there was a lot of construction going on and I had mixed feelings.  So I knew that it needed another chance.  We stayed in the Pirate Rooms, which are so fun!  I always love the theming and these rooms will not disappoint.  This resort is huge, so there is a lot of walking, but I feel like that should be a given when going to Disney.  The Skyliner was not far from our room (we could see it) and the pool at Caribbean Beach is my absolute favorite!  We love the two water slides and the kiddie area is the cutest!  Food options at this resort are also great and highly recommended by me!  If you haven't been to Caribbean Beach, you'll definitely want to check it out and it's also one of the most affordable moderate resorts.

Pirate Room at Caribbean Beach Resort

Pirate Room at Caribbean Beach Resort

7. Book your trip.
  I know this has been one of my longer posts and thanks for sticking with me!  If you are now all pumped for Disney and ready to book your trip, I got you!  You can book well into 2022, so there's plenty of time to book in advance and make payments (this is how I do it!).  I NEVER book a trip on my own.  USE A DISNEY PLANNER!  They are FREE for you to use (your trip does not cost extra--I promise!), and you can let them handle everything to keep you from being overwhelmed, or they can just take care of a few smaller details for you.  They know all the ins and outs of Disney and will hook you up with all the secrets, so use them for their Disney knowledge!  And if you ever have an issue while on a trip, let them know and they can take care of it for you while you continue having all the fun!  My all-time favorite Disney Planner is Ernay of Pixie Dust by Ernay.  She is the absolute best and can't be beat!  She is always on top of things and has the answers to all your Disney questions!  I promise she will not disappoint you and make your trip so smooth and magical!  And she is FREE so be sure to message her today for a FREE QUOTE if nothing else!
Click the pic to connect with Pixie Dust by Ernay!  She is the best Disney Planner around!

So, I'd give Disney during COVID a 10/10!  It was different than the experience I was used to, but just as amazing and magical!  I'm ready to start planning my next trip!