My darling friend CG and her lovely boyfriend are taking a trip to Greece this spring/early summer! CG had a couple of questions about our Greece trip last year when they were planning, so I decided to write an itinerary post! This itinerary is actually fairly close to the trip we did last year (posts on that coming soon), with a couple of extra days thrown in, and a bit more of a romantic tilt to it (ours was a girls' trip).
Greece - Athens, Mykonos and Santorini
11 days, 11 nights
A view of the Parthenon from the hotel we stayed at's roof in the Plaka district.
Looking for hotels can be a really fun or really frustrating part of a trip. For our Portugal trip, it was fun! There were a ton of options, so it took a bit of time and research to make sure we were ending up somewhere decent, but within budget. Our budgets were low for Portugal (we were shooting for $800 for the 8 nights), and we had no trouble sticking to our budget! We spent more in Lisbon, but were able to make up for the pricier Lisbon hotels with cheaper Lagos, Sintra and Porto hotels. Here's where we stayed and what we thought of each place!
Our room with a balcony at the Hotel Florida in Lisbon!
Capping off our trip to Portugal was a visit to Porto, in the north of the country. We arrived to Porto in the early evening and checked into our hotel, then went exploring for snacks. We stumbled on an amazing little spot for a glass of wine and tapas style appetizers on Rua das Flores called Cantina 32, and spent a lovely hour sitting out on the pedestrian street with glasses of wine and beer and an amazing cheese platter. They also had amazing lemonade and lupini beans! Highly recommended!
Cheese platter and sausage croquettes - make sure to get extra pumpkin jam!
Living in California, it's easy to take for granted all of the amazing scenery and activities there are locally. Off of the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are a series of channel islands that make up the California Channel Islands National Park. We look at them every time we drive up the coast, and we'd toured near them on some whale watching trips, but we'd never been out to visit them!
SD came to visit California for work a few weeks ago, and we decided to do something we've been wanting to do for a long time - take a ferry out to the Channel Islands and have an adventure!
was immediately thrilled by the idea of this - a winding staircase with
moss covered stone walls and hidden passageways... and was determined
to find it when we were visiting Sintra.
The Quinta Da Regaleira is beautiful and magical. The entire property is gorgeous - with outstanding park grounds full of paths and tunnels, lakes and grottoes, fountains and structures, including a chapel.
A few months ago, I got the amazing news that my dear friend Sis is engaged! It's been a while since I've gotten to spend time with her (almost 5 years since our timein London, to be exact), so I am really looking forward to visiting her in Austria and being present for her special day.
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna
Hubby and I have been wanting to explore a few different parts of Europe, and he's never been to Austria, so at first I thought we'd explore Austria some more, or take a train to Prague for a few days, or check out Budapest or some cities in Germany. But he's had a hankering to see Croatia, and Sis has been on a couple of incredible sailing trips there, so we figured - why not check another country off our bucket list!
We decided to stay in Sintra for two nights of our Portugal trip almost on a whim. We wanted to stay somewhere close to Lisbon, but not *in* Lisbon, which made Sintra and Cascais very appealing choices. After I researched the area a bit, we decided on Sintra, since there were a handful of things we wanted to see there: Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors, the Quinta Da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace and Park... there are some amazing things to check out in Sintra!
Castle of the Moors, Sintra
I, of course, had way too many things I wanted to see in the one full day that we had in Sintra - especially considering we arrived later in the evening on our first night, and were driving RW to the Lisbon airport halfway through the day. It's ok, though, because we still got an amazing sampling of Sintra, and a return trip is definitely in our future.
Renting a car in Portugal was easy, and totally worth it. Ok, slight correction - DRIVING in Portugal was easy - the car rental part was a bit of a hassle, but still worth it.
RENTING THE CAR
We started our driving adventure of Portugal in Lisbon. I had researched a few different car rental companies, and had finally settled on a booking with Budget Rental Car, through Expedia's website. Since we were planning on driving pretty extensively throughout the trip, and since RW was going to be traveling with us for half the trip, we ended up with a slightly larger car than we normally would rent in Europe.
Cabo da Roca and the little town of Óbidos were two spots in Portugal that I absolutely loved. We visited both spots on the day of our trip dedicated to driving from Sintra up to Porto.
Cabo da Roca
TRAVEL TIP: Road travel in Portugal often takes longer than estimated when you're using smaller roads instead of highways. Along our trip from Sintra to Cabo da Roca, we got stuck on a small, winding road behind a large (especially for European standards) RV from Germany. The drive ended up being an adventure in itself, as the couple in the RV actually needed our (and other motorist's) help in a couple of tight spots! Make sure you give yourself plenty of drive time, especially if you're going on a tour or have a reservation somewhere!
One of the things we like the most about exploring a new place is checking out places that are along our journey from one place to another.
Hitting the road - and using an actual map rather than GPS!
Knowing we like to do this, we planned basically an entire day each for the drives between the Algarve and Sintra, and from Sintra to Porto, even though we'd spaced out our overnights so we never had more than about 200 miles to drive each day.
Another one of my favorite Los Angeles spots is the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, CA. The grounds are really magnificent! They have gardens structured from around the world - the photo above is from the Japanese garden, which is probably my favorite one. They have many different halls of artwork, a tea room as well as a few more casual places to grab a bite to eat, and a lovely museum shop as well!
Blue Angel Villa. The saga continues! I recently wrote about our booking and pre-stay experience with TravelKeys for the Blue Angel Villa in Santorini, and here I'll continue with a review of our stay and some post-stay drama. Quick recap: Shorty fell in love with the villa, which we then booked for 7 guests for 4 nights at $3,170.
Panoramic view from the rooftop of the villa - it was stunning.
Another quick disclaimer: I am not trying to nitpick the details of the villa in this review - I am just trying to give an honest review of what we were expecting from our booking process and what we ended up with when we arrived. The bottom line for us was that we were expecting something much different based on what had been presented to us, and when the reality didn't quite match, it was disappointing.
On our trip to Greece, the place that Shorty was the most excited
about was Santorini. In fact, the whole trip was based almost entirely
around her desire to wake up to the gorgeous Santorini views on her
birthday. She spent a massive amount of time researching places to stay.
Which town was best? Which side of Fira offered the best views? Was a
villa or hotel better? And in her research, she found photos of a villa
that she absolutely fell in love with: the Blue Angel Villa in Fira,
The view that Shorty fell in love with and weaved many daydreams out of!
The Gloriette is a gorgeous building built at the top of the hill behind Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. I have visited there each time I've been to Vienna, and have many nice memories of hiking up the hill in the heat to get to the cool and relaxing cafe inside! There's also an old fashioned hand water pump behind the structure where you can refill water bottles! I can't wait to see it again when I visit Sis for her wedding a year from now!
Angel's Flight is a unique piece of Los Angeles history! It originally opened in 1901 as a way for the wealthy residents of Bunker Hill to make it down into downtown Los Angeles, and then it was refurbished and reopened from 2010 to 2013, then was closed to investigate safety issues, which are still ongoing. It's unfortunately not running today, but you can check in and see if it's up and running again by following the Angel's Flight Railway page!