Vision of a gentle coast

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I arrived in Santorini after dark, so my bus ride from the airport into the town of Karterados offered me glimpses of little else than the island’s billboards and rural storefronts, and then in typical Laurel Ann fashion, I walked straight past the discreetly marked driveway for my accommodation. (Lucky for me, I came across two young women about a kilometer down the road who were able to point me in the right direction.) I finally rolled into the reception of Caveland tired and stressed, only to have all my worries wiped away by the bubbly and fast-talking Lauren, who had arrived only a few days before to work at the hostel after a three-month stint making beds in a beach town in Portugal.

Caveland was possibly the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in.* The property is a former eighteenth-century winery where you stay in converted “caves,” each with an ensuite bathroom. They offer sunrise yoga, free breakfast, and have a pool and two dogs. It was their first week of operation for the season, as the island was just waking up after its tourist-less winter, so I was one of only seven guests there at the time, which made for a very cozy social atmosphere. We ate breakfast, cooked dinner, played cards, and talked together. We hailed from all over (Brazil, France, Australia, USA, Hong Kong), so much of our conversation was devoted to sharing and comparing information about our home countries, which is one of my very favorite parts of traveling.

My first morning on the island greeted me with a sparkling view of the Aegean and a blindingly blue sky. Over breakfast, I made plans with two of the other girls from my room, Kim and Renata, to hike to Oia, the blue and white cliffside town of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame. It was a fabulous day; the weather was perfect, the trails not too strenuous, and the endless vistas nothing short of spectacular. Once we got to Oia, however, we found it eerily empty, and it took us nearly an hour of wandering to find a place for dinner that had a view and wasn’t obscenely expensive. Apparently we were there just a few weeks too early to find the bustling Greek island we see in the movies. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over a few bottles of local wine before hailing a cab to take us back to Caveland.

The following day was significantly chillier, so the girls and I took a driving tour of the island. We saw its red and black sand beaches, a lighthouse, and several more charming little towns. After returning to our hostel, we took a quick stroll around nearby Fira, the island’s capital, before settling in for a chilled out evening. I woke up early the next morning and left paradise all too soon to return to the hustle and bustle of Athens.

*Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the place because I'm not a real blogger.

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Greece is the Word (Athens, part 1)

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If you don’t yet know, at the beginning of February I started a new job at a real live private school.* It’s really great for a number of reasons (more on this later), not least of which is that I got a week-long spring break! So as my friends still at Penn State packed up to black out in Miami, I hopped a fifty dollar flight to Athens for a week of ancient sites and island hiking.

Naturally, the first thing I did upon arrival (after checking into my hostel) was seek out a place where I could sit on wifi and charge my phone, and like the American millenial trash that I am, I ended up at a Starbucks in the Monastiraki area with a grande iced coffee and Belgian chocolate donut. I didn’t do much for the rest of the afternoon, opting instead to wander around the city center, taking pictures and enjoying the warm weather.

The next morning I woke up early to enjoy my book over a hearty breakfast (the one good thing about the Athens Choice Hostel) before heading out to the Acropolis. Luck was on my side—the weather was perfect, just warm enough to be content in a t-shirt and jeans, and the woman at the ticket counter accepted my student ID for a smooth 50% off. As I explored the ruins, I couldn’t help but feel beyond #blessed to be visiting this incredible place for the second time in my life, when others dream their whole life of seeing it. I also had a very pleasant interaction with a Spanish woman named Dora, who offered to take my picture when she saw me snapping a selfie, and then proceeded to direct me in a full-on photoshoot, telling me how to pose and telling jokes to get natural smiles. She got a perfect picture that will surely be my trans-platform profile picture for months to come.

Afterwards, I headed to the bottom of the hill for a quick look-about at the Theatre of Dionysus, which was included in the Acropolis multi-ticket, before finding a grassy overlook to eat lunch* and write in my journal for a bit. I treated myself to ice cream, witnessed a woman break down because she got a smudge on her Ray Bans, and went to bed quite content.

After checking out of my weird hostel the next morning, I trooped over to the Ancient Agora, which truly felt like going back in time. I spent more than four hours wandering around the site, sketching and nibbling on my packed lunch. After an al fresco cappuccino at a nearby cafe, it was time to return to the airport to catch my much-anticipated evening flight to the island of Santorini.

*As opposed to my old employer that sent me traveling around the city for 3+ hours each day to teach in-company courses

*IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP: if your hotel/hostel includes breakfast, pack a lil sandwich or two for lunch later! Is it classy? No. But it WILL save you around $10 per day, which is WORTH IT.