My Viking Journey: A Visit To The Beautiful Island of Mykonos

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50It’s so cold outside that I’m going to click my slippers three times and see if they will take me back to the beautiful Greek island of Mykonos. Join me as I reminisce about the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner and my Viking journey to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. My boyfriend L and I traveled courtesy of Viking Cruises.*

A Tour and Taste of Mykonos
Are you ready? We just docked in sun-drenched Mykonos, the smallest of the Greek islands. Can you feel the warmth on your face? The island boasts white-washed houses, centuries-old windmills, and stunning landscapes over the blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

Mykonos; Viking Ocean Cruise; Greece; luxury travel

Mykonos is one of the most famous islands in the world.

We’re going on a tour called The Tastes of Mykonos, which includes a walking tour through a labyrinth of narrow streets, a stop at the old bakery of Gioras, and a tasting at a private organic farm and vineyard.

Vioma Organic Farm; Mykonos; Greece; Viking Ocean Cruise; luxury travel

The owner of Vioma Organic Farm plays classical music in the vineyards and has a pet sheep.

A Famous Island For Famous People
Our tour guide Amaryllis likes to share the history of the island: Continue reading

My Viking Journey: A World of Ancient Treasures in Athens

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

It was day two on the luxurious Viking Star ocean liner on my Viking journey to the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land. My boyfriend L and I were traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.Our first port of call was Piraeus, one of the biggest ports in Europe and the third largest in the world.

After a delicious buffet breakfast at World Cafe, one of the Viking Star restaurants, we boarded the coach destined for Greece’s Capital. We would have a panoramic tour of Athens and then visit the National Archaeological Museum, which travel writer Rick Steves says, “is far and away the top ancient Greek art collection anywhere…and is a great way to begin or finish off your sightseeing through Greece.”

Port Piraeus; Greece; Viking Ocean Cruise; luxury travel; boomer travel

Port Piraeus in Greece is one of the largest in the world.

A Lesson in Greek Philosophy and Mythology
Our leader Vessia was a professionally trained guide of the country and told us about the special school she went to in Greece to become a tour guide. She had an incredible knowledge of Greek history, language, culture and philosophy and was eager to share.

Viking Ocean Cruise; Athens; luxury travel; boomer travel

Our guide Vessia had special training in all facets of ancient and present day Greece.

She explained how different words stem from the Greek language. “You are speaking Greek but you don’t realize it,” Vessia said. “For example, Acropolis means the highest point or extremity. Acrophobia means an extreme phobia. That’s why you say ‘it’s all Greek to me!'” Continue reading

My First-Ever Ocean Cruise On The Luxurious “Viking Star”

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Are you ready? It’s time to embark, as I share highlights from my journey aboard my first-ever ocean cruise on the luxurious Viking Star. It was a “star-studded” 15-days traveling courtesy of Viking Cruises.* My lucky, lucky boyfriend L was my companion for the trip.

Our voyage on the Cities of Antiquity & The Holy Land took us to Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Italy. During the two weeks, we spent time exploring the cities of Athens, Mykonos, Rhodes, Limassol, Naples, Rome and visiting the holy land in Jerusalem. (Note: We missed visiting Crete due to weather conditions.)

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Greece; Israel; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travel

Our Viking Ocean Cruise took us to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy.

An Elegant Vessel For Ocean Cruising
Having been on two previous Viking River Cruises — on the Douro in Portugal and on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland — I was familiar with Viking Longships. With its Ocean Cruises, as they say, Viking has taken “that same small ship, destination-focus experience to the seas with an elegant fleet of vessels setting sail in Scandinavia and Baltic, the Mediterranean, North America and the Caribbean.” The ocean itineraries have been carefully designed to access the best destinations up close, with more time in the port than other cruise lines.

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travell

Viking Star is an elegant ocean liner designed for small ship destination cruising.

Accolades Galore For Viking Star
With Viking, I knew our ship, the Viking Star, was going to be special. Viking was named a #1 Ocean Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure readers in the World’s Best Awards 2017 and 2016. Plus, Cruise Critic editors honored Viking Ocean Cruises with two awards in 2016: “Best Luxury Cruise Line for Value” and “Best Luxury Cruise Line Spa,” (Ooh, ooh, ooh, wait until I tell you about my treatments at the spa. I had to try a massage and facial. It was part of my duties as a blogger. Did I say I love my life? I do. I do.)

Viking Ocean Cruise; ocean cruises; Viking Star; boomer travel; post 50 travel

The spa has a relaxing warm water pool with jets.

Cruise Critic editors also selected Viking Star as the “Best New Ocean Ship” of 2015, noting “the ship is so beautifully designed—with terrific al fresco restaurants, a beautiful pool area, a superb spa and the two-level Explorers’ observation lounge—that you’ll be hard-pressed to go ashore.”  (We spent three days at sea and it was so relaxing to walk around the deck and sit on lounges looking out over the Aegean Sea.) Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Sea-Worthy Adventures in Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

 

My first trip to Greece with my sister N and daughter A would soon be coming to an end. Thankfully, we saved our sea-worthy adventures in Santorini for the later part of the week, including a trip to the Perissa black beach and a sunset catamaran cruise around the island.

Santorini, Oia, Greece

I went to Greece with my daughter A (center) and sister N (right).

Breakfast and a Visit to the Black Beach
On Thursday, we headed out for breakfast at Passaggio, a cute spot on the edge of Oia’s town center. Passaggio is a small bistro where you can takeout or eat in. We each ordered coffee and yogurt and fruit bowls. They also make homemade smoothies which looked yummy. We decided to sit on the terrace where there is a beautiful island view. Passaggio’s breakfast bowl was the creamiest  Greek yogurt I’ve ever eaten and the honey on the bottom thin and light with just the right sweetness. It was so good, so good, so good.

Passaggio bites and drinks

Passaggio is a cute place for breakfast with a view.

Passaggio bistro in Oia; Oia restaurants; Santorini restaurants

A lovely view from the Passaggio terrace.

Knowing it would be a long trip to the beach, we were glad our tummies were satisfied. We boarded the local bus to Fira (the capital of Santorini) and from there took another packed bus to the beach all the way on the other side of the island. It took about 90 minutes one-way for the trip. (Note: Originally we had planned to rent a car. However, after seeing the rugged roads we decided against driving in Santorini – which was a wise decision. That’s why I’m still here to tell you all about my travels.)

Santorini black beach, Perissa black beach; Santorini, Greece

The black beach in Santorini has pebbles for sand.

While it was a hot and long journey, once we arrived at the black beach, it was very relaxing. The “sun beds” and thatched umbrellas are free as long as you buy drinks or food from the beach’s restaurant. There are also bathrooms in the restaurant should you need to change into or out of your bathing suit. Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Enjoying A Wine and Food Tour In Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Are you ready to hear about my culinary explorations and libations in Santorini? While a few months have passed since returning from my first-ever trip to Greece with my daughter A and sister N, I so love reminiscing about our travels.

A Fabulous Wine and Food Tour in Santorini
It was mid-week in Santorini and A and I were looking forward to learning more about the food and wine culture of the region with Santorini Wine Trails. We had registered in advance for the “Foodie Tour,” which includes visiting a family-owned farm, walking in an 80-year-old vineyard, and sampling local wines and beer. (Note: N didn’t join us for the tour. She wanted to rest after our previous day’s strenuous hike from Fira to Oia.)

Prickly Pears; Santorini; Greece; Santorini Wine Trails Foodie Tour; travel; boomer travel

Prickly Pears grow on the family-owned farm in Santorini.

Iliana, our guide, picked us up at the Oia Post Office around mid-morning. Three other women who were vacationing from Chicago joined our group at the next pickup.

Iliana was filled with history about the island. We told her we were enjoying the beauty of Oia and our lodging at Nicoletta’s Loukia Cave House. She shared details about how Santorini and Oia have changed over the years.

“Everything that has happened here – roads, businesses – has happened in the last 20-25 years,” said Iliana. “After the 1956 earthquake, people were scared and left the island. In the 1980s, more investment happened and people started to return.”

Santorini; Greece; travel; boomer travel

The Santorini countryside has changed a lot since roads have been built.

We shared our story about our hike through the mountains from Fira, the capital of Santorini, to Oia. “Oia was always isolated from the rest of the island. The hike was the only way originally to get there. Not until the mid-90s when they started to build the roads could you get there by car,” said Iliana. Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Soaking In The Splendors of Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Now that the weekend was behind us and we had experienced city life in Athens, it was time to spend a week soaking in the splendors of Santorini. My first trip to Greece with my sister N and daughter A was about to get even better.

We packed our bags and headed for the Athens airport for a short flight aboard Aegean Air to Santorini. (Note 1: You can also take a ferry ride to Santorini but a friend recommended flying as a quicker and calmer option. Note 2: It is cheaper to book your luggage fee online before you get to the airport.) Upon landing, our transport was waiting to drive us to Nicoletta’s Loukia Cave House, our Airbnb booking, high up on the hill in Oia. OIa is at the northern tip and one of the most popular and picturesque villages on Santorini’s 15-mile-long main island.

Santorini; Oia; Greece

The Loukia Cave House was perfect for the three of us and could have fit up to six. The house had everything we needed for seven glorious days in Oia – comfortable beds, hot water for showers (as long as you remembered to turn the hot water on before you showered), a kitchen for cooking, a patio for sunbathing, and daily maid service.

Santorini; Oia; Loukia Cave House; Greece

Loukia Cave House; Santorini; Oia; GreeceOne BIG thing to remember in Santorini is that toilet paper must not be thrown in the toilet – it must go in the trash. The sewer system throughout the island is not very advanced. That’s why you need the daily maid service. Got it?

Exploring Oia
Not wanting to stay inside while the sun was shining, we lathered on sunscreen, put on our hats and visors, and ventured out to explore all that Oia has to offer. Despite the crowds of tourists from multiple cruise ships, we managed to find our way to the town center to scope out the shops and restaurants and bask in our spectacular surroundings. Continue reading

My First Visit To Greece: Climbing To The Top Of The Acropolis

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50

It was day two of my first visit to Greece with my sister N and daughter A. As I mentioned in my previous post, “The Amazing Old World of Athens,” we were spending a weekend in Athens and then going for a week’s vacation on the island of Santorini.

It was a hot and sunny Saturday. We woke early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet, which was included in our stay at the Athens’ Electra Palace Hotel. There were eggs, fresh Greek yogurt, cereals, homemade waffles, fruit, croissants and more. With our tummies full, we were ready to climb to the top of the Acropolis, the most popular Greek landmark.

Athens; Greece; Acropolis

Touring The Acropolis
The Acropolis sits high up on a hill. We followed the signs and bought our tickets on site. It costs $20 euro for a ticket to the Acropolis and $30 euro if you want to see all of the monuments around the city. You can get your tickets in advance online or at the entrance. There was hardly any wait time on site. (Note: Wear sneakers and be careful under foot as it is not an easy climb. Plus pack plenty of water bottles to stay hydrated in the summer time.)

Athena, a local guide was offering tours for an additional $20 euro. We decided to join her and were very glad we did. There is so much to learn about ancient Greek culture and without a guide it would not be as interesting.

Athens; Greece; Acropolis

We ascended the rocky path to the Theater of Dionysos. “The first theater of the world was born in Greece. The Odeon was the auditorium. Theater means viewing things in Greek,” explained Athena. “The orchestra is in the middle. Actors are called hypocrites. Group therapy was the theater of psychotherapy. Soma means soul. The soul is the psyche. They improved the soul through the theater. ”

Continue reading

My First Trip To Greece: The Amazing Old World of Athens

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“Let’s plan a trip to Greece,” said my daughter A the day after we arrived home from our summer 2016 family vacation to Italy. “I want to go to Greece,” followed my sister N. They didn’t have to twist my arm for me to say “yes” or “ne” as they say in Greek. I love feta cheese, spanakopita, and baklava. I knew it would be a great vacation as we had traveled together to Spain a few years ago and all gotten along.

Baklava; Greek pastries; Greece; Santorini

By January 2017 our flights were booked for a June journey.  We would spend three days exploring the amazing old world of Athens and a week in Oia on the magnificent island of Santorini.

Greece; Athens; travel; Santoriini; Oia

I went to Greece with my daughter A (left) and my sister N (right).

It was a wonderful trip and now that I’m back I can’t wait to share the details. For sure, you’ll want to book a trip to Greece when you’re done reading about our travels.

A Smooth Flight to Athens
We left from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Taking the train to the plane from Manhattan was quite easy to navigate, even with luggage. I packed light, using my favorite Eagle Creek compression bags (highly recommend these bags for organizing clothes in your suitcase) and a 21-inch Samsonite. Delta was our airline of choice with a non-stop flight – on time, clean plane, lots of movies, good food. Eight hours later, we touched down in Athens. Continue reading