Imagine a glossy eyed “younger” Jennifer watching Mama Mia for the 100th time promising herself she would get to Greece one day. At the time if felt like a pipe dream between running three boys to hockey, baseball, football, karate, etc. Even as she belted out Dancing Queen alongside Meryl Streep in her living room while her boys looked on in confusion, she did not think it was a possibility in her lifetime to gaze upon those turquoise waters of Greece. It was dismissed as a dream that could never transform into reality.
Fast forward 15 years and that dream became a reality! And the frosting on the cake was two of those boys were able to tag along on her Mama Mia dream.
Let’s start with the beginning of the planning of this trip. As our followers know, we have an extensive bucket list that we strategically attack. Greece, of course, was on this list. How you go about checking places off is a personal choice. We use our physical health as a big factor. Once those joints start making themselves known you realize you will not be able to climb all the stairs to reach the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and live to tell the tale at a certain age.
All of Europe has ancient buildings and gorgeous cobblestone streets. While this will make the history lover within you cheer, it will make your physical form sob. Most of the ancient buildings do not have elevators or handicap accessible entrances. The streets are uneven and a little more strenuous on your body. HOWEVER, with a little planning this is easy to overcome.
Greece is even more unique due to the hills. I am not talking about a gradual slope like the rolling hills of a fairytale land. They are the type of hills that make you question if when you reach the top you will see Frodo tossing the ring into Mount Doom. Ok, we are exaggerating, but you see where we are going with this.
We knew Greece needed to move up our list as far as physical ability. There was also an added factor to the rise in rank. In April of 2020 we were supposed to take our younger two boys to Italy. We were beyond excited to expose them to Europe. We wanted to open their eyes to the possibilities and help them develop a love for travel. The travesty that we will not name dashed those plans, and we instead went on a family vacation to Hawaii in July 2021 after multiple attempts at rescheduling. Even with that spectacular trip under our belts we still itched to get them overseas and the clock is unforgiving in its swiftness of passing.
The youngest is graduating high school in June. The other is wrapping up his second year of college. It is time to take them on one last adventure with us as their guides. Both had a slight obsession in their younger years with Greek Gods thanks to the Percy Jackson series. What better place than Greece?
We love it when we can achieve what we set out to do with this blog and our travel agency business: Get people out traveling. Take away the stress and anxiety that’s holding someone back from making their dreams a reality. Two additional passengers achieved this goal.
My sister was stationed in Germany while she served in the Air Force and traveled all over Europe. While she misses exploring, she has not made the leap to get back over in almost 35 years. One of the boy’s girlfriends missed out on a high school European adventure due to the travesty that shall not be named in 2020. While both have different experiences, we were getting them out in the world, and we can tell you there is no better feeling than that!
As you may have gathered from that last paragraph, we have varying ages in our group of six heading out. We need activities that will reach each and every person’s soul. We need to create memories that would last them a lifetime – no pressure!
Can we just tell you that foreign countries offer all of that at every corner? Each person has their own unique perspective. Their own unique taste. Their own unique passion, What one takes from a destination will be completely different from the person standing right by their side. So, in a nutshell, you can’t go wrong.
We planned our trip for Spring Break 2023, April 9-15. We had limited time, so we didn’t want to waste any time traveling from one location to the next. With that in mind we chose our base to be Athens. Home of the Acropolis and 1 million cats. This was an easy choice for us. Easy commute to and from the airport and Piraeus Harbor is a quick taxi ride away. Not only that, if you choose to stay in the city center, all major attractions are a quick, albeit hilly, walk away.
We quickly found the Divani Palace Acropolis after a quick search of location and reviews. This hotel is a two-minute walk from the Acropolis and every amenity. Rooftop restaurant, pool, bar and outstanding and accommodating staff. We cannot rave enough about this hotel.
Next up for planning was excursions. We knew the Acropolis with the infamous Parthenon was must-see. From our research we knew this would take up to a half day. When we travel alone, we tend to navigate our own tours or grab an audio guide. With additional travelers in tow, we wanted a bit more so everyone would get the most out of the experience. Best decision ever. We booked a guided tour with Athens Walks and lucked out with the best tour guide, Dimos.
We have a couple of history lovers with us and a couple that can at least appreciate the architecture. Dimos blended it all with added humor that made this tour perfect. He told stories about each structure we could not read in history books, nor that we would have heard from the monotone audio guide. He took group photos for us at every turn and made sure each of us had a great time. Dimos made the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaia come to life. In our opinion this should be your very first stop in Athens. It is a site that can be seen at any location in the city of Athens. After your tour you will look above with a bit more awe and appreciation.
If you read our Rome 2022 blog, you know we have found a love of the city E-bike tour. This is a great way to weave through the city streets and get your bearings. You will also whip through some hidden gems that only the locals know about. Since they are E-bikes, people of all ages and abilities can join in on the fun.
This tour was again with Athens Walks, and we lucked out again with Dimos as our guide. The best way to tell you that this was a great decision is the picture below. Look at those smiles. This was one of our stops that we honestly might have missed due to time. We were able to take a peek at the Panathenaic Stadium and capture this moment.
As if this wasn’t enough, our incredible tour guide took us to a neighborhood we were unable to find on our own, but were dying to walk through. Anafiotika is a tiny taste of the island of Anafi with its narrow walkways, blue windows and white houses. It is stunning in its other worldly charm and beauty. You literally feel like Scotty beamed you to another land. We absorbed all the sights and sounds this little slice had to offer.
All too quickly our first full day in Athens came to a close. We dined over tzatziki, gyros, Greek salad and souvlaki, reminiscing about our favorite parts of the day and how many cats Jake and Lydia befriended. We spoke over each other with excitement and laughter filled the air.
Travel brings out the best conversations and bonds people close through experience. As parents of teenagers/young adults, we can tell you that the years pass quickly. Anything that strengthens your bond should be taken.
We have more to share with you about Greece! Sun filled days, turquoise water, more cats and tzatziki! Stay tuned.
As always, thanks for reading, and #NeverStopPlanning.
Jen and Craig