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Saturday, October 6, 2018

We drove along the winding coast road from Stavros to Chania Harbor town. And with only a few wrong turns and one short terrified stint going the wrong way down a one-way street, we made it.

As with the rest of Crete, the harbor was no exception when it came to beautiful turquoise waters, ancient buildings and clear blue skies.

We were treated to the this view along the waterfront. There are fishermen selling fresh catches and straight from the ocean sea sponges for mere pennies, compared to what you pay back home. There are horse drawn carriages and boat captains waiting to take you on a tour.

And above all else, the smell of espresso mingling with the scent of roasting chestnuts from the little cart next to the old harbor warehouse, and always a sea breeze at your back. 

One of the most notable features of the waterfront is at the mouth of the harbor, this Venetian (and later rebuilt Egyptian) lighthouse is nearly blinding in the sun as it reflects off the clear blue waters. 

I can never resist a good bit of history so I walked the sea wall to explore what I could, and was thoroughly impressed and delighted. It's hard to be anything but relaxed when there's warm stone beneath your feet, sunshine on your face and a cool sea breeze blowing through your hair.

Plus the view back of the harbor wasn't half bad.

It was far too beautiful out to simply let my eyes do all the exploring. So, finding our way past boat after boat, we found one who was willing to take us out despite the rather boisterous sea conditions that the wind was causing.

I never feel more at home than when I'm on a boat and on the ocean, it's really a feeling that just can't be beat. And if I can be on a boat, in the sun, slicing through the waters of the Sea of Crete.

It was such a blast, the people that made up our little group were such a fun collection of different cultures, and  everyone was up for a some adventure. The captain had some fruit for us and a few generous pours of ouzo to warm us up before we hopped off the boat into the water.

We made it safely back to the harbor and after thanking our captain it was time to get some food, because all that swimming definitely gave me an appetite.

But not appetite enough not to stop for a few photos along the way of course.

Thankfully in Greece you don't have to go very far to find food. And all of it is amazing.

Plus all the little alleys are just so cute with the awnings and the sun streaming in.

And because the walk back to the car was long, it would have just been irresponsible to not stop for a freddo cappuccino, don't you think?

Chania was such a charming and beautiful place. Someday I'll get to make it back with more time to really do it justice.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Last fall after more than 24 hours of travel, one lost reservation in Amsterdam, a missed connecting flight that ended with a strange and wonderful night in a hotel overlooking a secluded bay in Athens, I finally touched down in Crete just as the sun was rising. 

I can honestly say I don't remember ever being as relaxed as I was while I was in Crete. From the moment I got there, time slowed down. People seemed friendlier, things just seemed simpler. And I was working the whole trip! 

Lunch time was inevitably spent at Loukoulos, which I cannot recommend enough. Not one thing on their (incredibly reasonably priced) menu was less than delicious and the view simply can't be beat.

We had the beaches and the restaurant almost entirely to ourselves everyday since it was just past the season. If I ever find my way back here, I'll be immediately jumping into that ocean since I didn't get the chance.

Every single day here felt like it couldn't be real. There's no way a place as perfect and laid back as this could exist in real life.

Thankfully, nothing is far from the ocean on Crete. Our hotel (which I loved) was just a short walk down a dusty road to Zorbas beach. At the end of the day I raced to get to there before the sunset to enjoy the absolutely incredible view.

If you look closely to the right half of the mountain, towards the end of the ridge you can just make out a cave.  According to local history the cave used to be used as a place of worship for the goddess Artemis, although more recently has been used as a place of Christian worship.

I've honestly never been anywhere like this, it took my breath away every time I saw it. One day I managed to make it with enough light to delve into some Ancient Greek mythology, which satisfied my soul knowing that I was in the very birthplace of Hercules.

There are quite a few local restaurants around the area but in the off season many of them are closed or only open for limited hours.

Thankfully Thanasis was open. I wouldn't be able to get myself to go anywhere else after going there anyway, they have the most beautiful views, amazing food/drinks and the friendliest staff. The swordfish was to die for!

Now, personally I have never seen the movie Zorba the Greek, but apparently this little beach in Stavros was where it was filmed. 

I just wandered here on an evening walk and found new and beautiful gems everywhere I turned. It wasn't until later having a chat with the owner of our hotel that I found out about Zorba.

I saw these ruins and had to explore. While they were fascinating I would not recommend doing this in sandals like I did, turns out those rocks are sharp as knives, the pool that looks so inviting is too slippery to walk on and during that time of year almost no one ever comes by here.

Being able to watch the sunset here made the climb completely worth it.

If I ever get the chance to stay in Stavros again, I would do it in a heartbeat. There's just such a feeling of history and mysteries to be uncovered here that you just can't find in the states. 

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

With summer quickly coming to an end I find myself by the water more and more, determined not to miss out on a single beach day before fall arrives.

Luckily for me and Gloria, a friend of ours lives on Coronado and had some beach cruisers for us to wobble around on while we waited for her to get off work so that we could get to the real summer pastime of Californians -- drinking mimosas and lounging by the pool.

 After being fueled with coffee from our lovely bike benefactor, we roamed around stopping every time we found a spot that demanded a photo - and on Coronado that happens pretty often.


The view of downtown San Diego really can't be beat, so we plunked ourselves down on a sandy little beach to take it all in.

I swear we didn't plan to wear matching outfits, it's just a thing that happens when you've been best friends as long as we have. At this point, we just laugh when we see each other and don't bother changing.

As our friend's shift came to an end, we rode off into the sunshine -- ready for mimosas and poolside gossip with the girls, the perfect summer day in Southern California. 

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Monday, August 21, 2017

The day I went on the City Tour of Singapore was one of my favorites while I was there, despite the fact that I don't generally enjoy predetermined, group-type outings. 

Our first stop of the morning was to Little India, which was as colorful and intriguing as you would imagine it to be. It's probably a good thing I didn't have more time or space because I probably would have bought more food than my belly could hold and more decorative items than my suitcase could bear. 

There were so many incredible handmade items here, and the shop tenders were lovely about telling you all about the items, where the materials were sourced from what different symbols meant, just very friendly in general.

After our quick tour of Little India, we found ourselves at Merlion park, home to a statue of the country's national animal, the Merlion, as well as home to some rather spectacular views. There were stalls selling all kinds of delicious foods and drinks but I was most impressed by the man making sugar cane juice by literally juicing stalks of sugar cane.

I probably looked rather silly staring like a fool as they juiced as fast as they could and still couldn't keep up with customer demand.

That giant building that looks like a spaceship is the Marina Bay Sands hotel and an architectural marvel.

Our next stop was Chinatown, where this gorgeous Hindu Temple resides. Right next to it you'll find stall after stall of souvenirs; full of everything from pocket watches to faux silk robes as well as plenty of food and drink.

You might think that after a day at the Gardens By the Bay, it wouldn't be high on my list to find myself at the Botanical Gardens. But you'd be sorely mistaken, it was 100% worth the trip.

I only got to see a small portion of the extensive gardens as our time with the tour was limited, but what I did get to see was so calming and beautiful that I didn't want to leave.

A Few Notes From One Traveler to Another

- I would absolutely recommend the City Tour but if you have more than a few days to explore, it's a good idea to start with this tour to give you an idea of where you'd like to spend more time later in your trip since you only get 20-30 minutes of time to explore each stop

- The flower wreaths that you see in Little India are made for taking to the temple. As such they are not to be touched by women because a woman gets a menstrual cycle, which they consider to be "unclean". So if a woman touches them, the flower wreaths (made by men) are no longer fit for the temple. Even if you don't agree with this, please be respectful and aware of their beliefs and customs. 

- Haggling over prices in Little India is acceptable --- as long as you are inside the shop. Prices will not be discussed outside the storefront, even if the item you wish to buy is displayed outside.

-Haggling in Chinatown is not acceptable. The prices listed are the prices they will accept. Most things here are cheaply priced anyway so there is no need to haggle anyway.  

-Pay attention to the time that your guide tells you to meet back with the group, we left quite a few people in various locations around the city as they couldn't make it back when they were supposed to. If you want to stay at one of the stops longer than the tour allows, simply tell your driver so that they know not to wait on you, they're very used to this.

- Lastly, this is a rather strange one but something that might help fellow travelers. If you decide to return to the Little India area at night and need to arrange a ride home afterwards, it's best to do this beforehand. Many Indian taxi drivers, for whatever reason, will not pick you up if you are not Indian. Uber is available and there are many Metro stations in the area so you're not short of options. This might save you from wandering the streets unsuccessfully trying to hail down cabs like my companions and I had to do before we realized what was happening. 

As this is the last of my (rather drawn out) Singapore posts, I hope you enjoyed them or at least learned something useful for your future travels!

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