30th June 2017

Note to self: Always make sure you take your noise cancelling headphones in your carry on.

For my last morning in Athens I decided to walk to the other part of town and eat at a cafe known for their dairy products. Along the walk old Greek men sell circles of bread, known as κουλούρι (koulouri) for €0.50, of course I got one. At the dairy place I ordered sheep’s yogurt with honey and walnuts. Hands down best yogurt of the trip, it had so much flavour and was so thick, it sat on the plate in a perfect square.

I walked back to the hotel, finished packing and made my way to the airport. None of my bags are overweight, yay! However, I’ve packed my noise cancelling headphones in my checked baggage so my flight home to Sydney is going to be rough.

Lunch was a τυροκολουρι from the airport, basically a circle tiropita. Mmmm.

That’s about it now! I’m currently on the plane to Abu Dhabi, I’m so excited to go home and see everyone, especially Dad and Γιαγια, but I’m also sad that this amazing holiday has come to an end. I really can’t believe how quickly 6 weeks flew by, but at the same time it also managed to move so slowly. I’ve always admired the duality of time in that way.

Whenever friends come back from holidays I always ask them 4 questions:

  • What was your favourite destination and why?

Zakynthos, hands down. For the time I got to spend with my family, the amazing fresh food I got to eat while I was there, for the beautiful beaches and amazing coastline, and for all the Greek I picked up and continued to use for the next two weeks. I honestly can’t wait to go back.

Paros comes in at a very, very close second and I can’t wait to go back there again and spend more time exploring the whole island.

  • What was your least favourite destination and why?

I would have to say that Santorini was my least favourite destination. It’s probably an amazing place to go to for your honeymoon, or if you’re in a relationship. When you’re travelling solo though, it’s a bit too geared towards loved up couples. The hordes of tourists doesn’t help the case either. 

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  • What city did you have the highest expectation of and did it meet them?

I had the highest expectations of Florence and they weren’t totally met. Maybe my memories of watching Under the Tuscan Sun with mum time and time again as a child created an unrealistic image in my head of what it was supposed to be like but it didn’t come close. I did love it for it’s country side, the cooking class and amazing foccacia’s though. 

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  • What city did you have the lowest expectation of and did it surpass them?

Paris, it’s one of those love it or hate it places and I loved it. Was it because my expectations were so low that they were easily surpassed? Possibly. Would I go back there again in a heartbeat for 2 or 3 times the length? Definitely. There is so much I didn’t do and knowing what I know now about how the city operates I wouldn’t be put off by the ‘pick pocketing’ or ‘rude French’ because I didn’t experience it at all. 

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For the purpose of this blog I’ve added a few extra to properly reflect on my trip;

  • Favourite day:

Tie: My day in Venice with Carly and Jeff and the day I spent sailing around the coast of Zakynthos with my uncle and cousin’s.

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  • Least favourite day

Easy, the day I spent trying to get from London to Paris. 

  • Happiest moment

Four way tie: Riding a bike and picnic in the park in Lyon and being totally okay with spending the entire day silent and alone after having woken up very sad. Standing on top of the hill in Zakynthos and feeling like I’d been hit by a tonne of bricks with the meaning of life. Seeing Emilie arrive at Rome train station after 4 weeks away and giving her the biggest hug ever. Sitting on the dock with Θεός Νικος on my last evening and managing to convey in broken Greek and English how thankful I was for the time I spent in Zakynthos and how much it meant to me that he treated me like his own grandchild.

  • Scariest moment

Sitting in the taxi on the way to Calais and not knowing if the driver was going to leave me on the side of the road. 

  • Best adventure

Day in Tivoli with Mary-Catherine.IMG_20170615_022550_341

  • Best breakfast

Tie: home grown/made fresh Πρετζα with tomatoes and olive oil on bread, chocolate pistachio escargot from Du Pain et des Idees.

  • Best lunch

Tie: Lyle’s – specifically the squid, artichoke and green almond dish. Mmmmmm, that jus. Cooking class lunch – specifically the bruschetta, most amazing tomatoes ever. The La Favolosa from All’antico vinao, will have dreams about that foccacia. 

  • Best dinner

Tricky, three way tie. NOPI in SoHo (specifically the tomato salad), Clown bar in Paris (specifically the caramelised onion buckwheat crepe), bbq we had in Zakynthos on my last night (specifically the lamb which was so tender, fresh and simple).

  • Best dessert

I didn’t eat much “dessert” while away but the 2 cannoli’s in Florence were delicious. 

  • Best gelato 

Gianduia and pistachio from Suso in Venice, Fragola from Giolitti in Rome, Pistachio from Gelateria dei Gracchi in Rome. 

  • Best snack 

Tie: spanakopita anywhere in Greece and little breadstick twist things from Italian supermarkets. 20170628_1652462.jpg

  • Where would you go back?

Everywhere except Santorini, Turin, Siena, Florence and Rome. 

  • Where would you not go back?

See above, I feel as though I wouldn’t need to go back anytime soon, I’ve seen all that I need to for now. 

  • Biggest learning?

This is a big question. One that deserves more than just a few sentences. I also think it’s a two-fold question.  What did you learn about travelling and what did you travelling teach you?

What I learnt about travelling

My ‘note to self’ come in very handy here, by far the biggest learnings were:

  • ALWAYS arrive minimum 45 minutes before depatute
  • Read all of the fine print on travel documents
  • Always carry some cash
  • Make sure you do one last sweep of your room before checking out
  • Use maps on your phone so you don’t look like a tourist when lost
  • Look out for other solo travelers when travelling to make life easier
  • Not every day has to be perfect when travelling, some days can be shitty
  • Schedule in some down time when constantly on the move every day
  • Learn how to say hello, please and thank you in a foreign language, it goes a long way
  • Offer to take someone else’s photo, it guarantees your photo being taken
  • Pre book tickets to major tourist attractions
  • Females – always cover knees and shoulders when visiting a church
  • Take a hat
  • Always carry a bottle of water
  • Have a back up transport plan

What travelling has taught me

  • The world is small – Australians are easy to find even when on the other side of the world, always kind, they make for pleasant conversation
  • Saying hello to strangers doesn’t have to be scary, you can develop some pretty good friendships out of some too!
  • Being alone is not bad at all. Before travelling to Europe I’d spent a total of 5 days on my own in my life. After 6 weeks of travelling solo, eating alone, visiting museums and tourist attractions with no one beside me, I’ve realised I actually enjoy my own company. I’m totally fine with experiencing things on my own, making my mind up as I go, changing it at the last second if I want to, stopping and eating, or not, depending on my hunger levels. The independence awarded to you when travelling alone is amazing.
  • I’m more outgoing than I thought I was and I’m excited to see how this new found sense of confidence changes my day to day life.
  • Deep down, I’m a traveller, and I can’t wait for my next adventure.
  • This trip was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be and more, I’m a completely different person now and I can’t wait to get home and start living with this new found feeling.

A huge thank you to everyone I met along the way that made my trip as amazing as it was. A bigger thank you to everyone who took the time to read this blog!

It was actually #21 on my #25while25 list, so another one can be ticked off!!

See you all in Sydney. Xxx

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