Amazing. If I had to sum up Greece in one word it would probably be just that. Or Stunning. Or Tranquil. Or Mesmerizing. Or if I get 4 words it would be “just what I needed after 5 months of hostels and wearing shower shoes.” Okay, so that's 13 words, but you get the idea. Our Greece experience is one that will standout in a lifetime of memory books. While we will definitely be back to Greece (there’s so much to see), we may likely never get to see it the way that we did with Jenny and Rob.
It all started when we finally, after 4 months of emails, phone calls, and sometimes even tears, met up with my sister and Rob (with their son Ethan and nanny Jen in tow) on the island of Rhodes. I couldn't have been happier to see them (as much fun as Kevin and I had touring Turkey for two weeks -- meeting up with my sister was all I could think about!). Kevin and I caught a quick ferry from Marmaris, Turkey to Rhodes, Greece, which is where our journey with them began.
Our plans for the itinerary included a visit to three different islands: Rhodes for 3 nights, Crete for an additional 3 nights, and then finally Santorini for 4 nights. Then we would be flying to Athens for a one night stay and that is when we would part ways. In addition to meeting us in Greece, Jenny and Rob also planned this entire leg of the trip – including picking up the hotel accmoodations and transfers. And these weren’t just any accommodations – they were five star hotels and suites. When we arrived at our first hotel we knew we were in for an amazing two weeks (check out these pics of our Rhodes hotel -- the last one is of our private pool
The island of Rhodes was a lot of fun and a worthy visit. Outside of being the site of the hotel (which, in our opinion was enough of a reason to visit alone), Rhodes is is one of the most popular islands of Greece and the capital, Rhodes Town, is surrounded by stone walls of a very well preserved Venetian castle. It is one of the biggest and best preserved medieval settlements in all of Europe. And like any proper European castle district, this one didn't disappoint with its narrow cobblestone streets filled with restaurants, shops, and sites that are restricted to pedestrians. (In fact, the streets are so narrow I don't see how cars could ever fit).
Most of the buildings in this part of the city date from Italian rule and are thus adorned with neo-Gothic and Venetian architectural style. This adds much charm to the city and is evident in the types of restaurants -- we definitely had a lot of Greek and Italian food!
Another must-see of Rhodes is a visit to the village of Lindos. It is located south of the capital, on the eastern coast of the island. It is dominated by a magnificent and imposing acropolis, which can be visited either by foot (quite a steep hike to the top) or with the aid of a donkey. Initially, Jenny and I were psyched about the opportunity to ride a donkey up the hill. However, our better sense won out when we learned via our guidebooks that donkeys should not be ridden by persons over 115 pounds. It was quite disheartening to learn and observe the amount of weight that these small animals bore over gruelling conditions -- apparently the Greeks apply no restrictions on who can hire them. Donkey or no donkey, the hike to the acropolis was well worth the effort. It rewarded us with ancient ruins and amazing views of the town of Lindos.
After a few sun-filled days touring the island of Rhodes and spending lazy days sunbathing in our private hotel-room pools, we set off for our quick flight to Crete. Once in Crete, we ended up at a resort town called Elounda, and at a resort we will forever fondly refer to as "The Palace." The actual name of the resort is "The Blue Palace," and it is like nothing we have ever experienced before. I know I sound a bit like a broken record, but believe me when I say that this made the resort on Rhodes feel like a DoubleTree. (Oh, am I really back to the "hotel-snob Amy" that I was before I left on this trip? And here just a week ago, I would have reveled in the thought of staying at a DoubleTree. Wow, what a little 5-class resort treatment will do to a person!).
Unfortunately, with just two full days in Crete we did not have adequate time to see much of the island and were focused on just those areas close enough to our hotel. (I would recommend dedicating at minimum 5 nights in Crete...it's just too big of an island to do in 2 days). However, we did manage to visit Knossos, which is a must-see for those interested in ancient history (you're welcome, Kevin and Rob).
But truly the highlight of Crete for me is probably swimming in the Mediterranean Sea at the Blue Palace hotel. After a day spent kyaking and paddle boating out to a nearby island with ruins to check out, we returned to the comforts of our resort. Rob and Kevin convinced my sister and I that we needed to join them in the sea, as it was probably our only opportunity to actually swim in the Mediterranean. We were convinced --- and the feeling of floating through the crystal blue waters of a sea on the other side of the world from Seattle -- well, it never gets old. And retiring to the terry-clothed comfort of our bathrobe and slippers with glass of syrah in hand - I just don't think it ever gets better than this...
Rhodes and Crete have blown us away. And now we can't wait to see what is in store on our final Greek island stop: Santorini.