MONTENEGRO Travel Diary

KOTOR

Montenegro was never a place that crossed my mind as somewhere I wanted to go, but I’m so glad I did. The views, the food, the people were all so amazing and made it a place that I can’t wait to visit again. After looking at pictures, I was expecting Kotor to be blue, green and very pretty, but it exceeded those expectations. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and I truly mean that. The beautiful was as deep in color as the Santorini water, but a little more turquoise, reflecting the green hills surrounding the bay. There was just a natural, serene beauty to the town that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words. I was genuinely awe-struck, and there’s not many times that that’s happened to me.

The port of Kotor was filled with yachts and sail boats, big and small, all shaded by the mountains around it. One morning we drove up to the top of one of the mountains to get a picture-perfect view of Kotor Bay, which was absolutely breathtaking. There was nothing but blue water, green trees and scattered terra-cotta colored rooftops that could be seen. The bay was almost fully enclosed by surrounding mountains. A 30 minute drive to the old town of Perast along the coastline was a great way to see more of the city. Filled with AirBnBs and boutique hotels, we spent the ride talking about when we could visit again next. We walked around Perast for a few hours, admiring all the small boats and yachts that people were sailing around the water. Piers were filled with locals and tourists laying out on towels, enjoying the summer. Waterfront hotels had lined lounge chairs along the piers where even more tourists were out under the sun. A mid-morning break called for local unfiltered beer which was, surprisingly, really good.

Another highlight from Kotor was spending an afternoon in the down-town area, the cutest little square. The city center is contained by old, brick walls, a historic way to protect. We spent time looking around the stores and shopping for souvenirs and gifts from the unique destination. We bought so many things to remember the trip, from snow globes to stickers and Christmas ornaments. After walking up an appetite, we were ready for lunch and a short break. Wanting to find local foods and dishes, we found a local restaurant hidden in the backstreets where we ordered a selection of local cured meats and cheeses. Sipping on glasses of wines and cocktails, we enjoyed every bite of the local delicacies. Everything from prosciutto to salamis and cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheese were incredibly delicious.

Not knowing much about Montenegro or Kotor, we were so surprised by how much we loved it. Like I said before, everything about it was amazing. The moment we got there we were flocked by tour guides and car drivers ‘selling’ their tours and drivers to us. We decided to hire a driver one morning to drive us everywhere, and I’m so glad we did. We typically like to explore new places on our own and do everything on our own schedule, but this time it worked out so well. Our driver was so sweet and knowledgable about Kotor. He was simply a driver but was able to explain everything about his home city. He took us everywhere we wanted to go and gave us time where we wanted it. If you’re ever in Kotor, I would highly suggest hiring a driver or tour guide at least for part of one of the days you’re visiting the beautiful city.

I could say this until I’m blue in the face, but Kotor was such a surprise and I can’t be more grateful that I was able to visit. If it’s not on your list, it really should be. Now onto Italy!

GREECE Travel Diary

The first of four travel guides to come. First stop- GREECE!

ATHENS

Marking the beginning of our three week trip, we landed at the Athens airport in the wee hours of the morning before hopping in a short cab ride to our AirBnB in Kolonaki, which was an amazing place to stay. Right in the middle of the local hustle and bustle of the city, but not too far from any of the things anyone would want to do. We spent our mornings trying out different neighborhood coffee shops for breakfast drinking Freddo Cappucinnos (Greek iced lattes) and having different kinds of pastries and sandwiches. During the days, we walked around the Syntagma Square/Ermou Street area where there are tons of high fashion stores and boutiques. Right at the entrance to that area is Parliament where we watched the changing of the guard (takes place every hour). One day we walked a little further down Ermou Street to reach the Plaka area which was a bit more touristy, but filled with lot’s of cute little stores filled with everything and anything Greek. We did a bit of shopping around there to get some souvenirs including evil eye keychains, bracelets and red wine soap. We would often grab lunch back around the Ermou area and share some combination of Greek salad, souvlaki or gyros, spanakopita, and moussaka with a cold glass of 1.50 euro wine, no better way to spend your days.

We also had drinks a couple of times at the rooftop bar of the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma Square. The drinks are a bit on the pricier side, but it’s accompanied by the most stunning view of Athens and the Parthenon so it’s well worth it. And speaking of the Parthenon, we also spent half a day at the Acropolis (quick tip: buy your tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines). It was beautifully sunny with very few clouds scattered in the sky making for a perfect day. Although it was crowded, it didn’t make the experience any less special. We had visited Athens and the Parthenon in 2006 and I had very few memories of that so it was fun to be able to see the wonder again. Our last adventure in Athens before moving on was up to Lykavittos, the highest point in Athens. We took a little cable car up to the top and enjoyed a glass of coffee accompanied by a stunning panoramic view of the city. Lykavittos is also known as Mount Lycabettus who’s peak sits around 300 meters above sea level, making it arguably the best view of Athens. It was a beautiful way to start our last morning in Athens before heading onto Santorini.

For dinners, we tried to mix it up every night. Dexameni’s is an establishment that has been around forever. Located at the bottom of Lykavittos, it’s scattered tables sit sprawled out on a hill. For our dinner there we ordered a bunch of small dishes to share including a tomato salad, taramasalata and roasted potatoes. It was such a fun atmosphere with good food. Another one of our favorites was the Stinking Bishop which had some funky fusion dishes and a great bar. Although a bit on the pricier side, very worth it. But our favorite had to be Zurbaran which serves Greek food with a modern twist. A swanky bar, a picturesque terrarium-like dining section and bustling outdoor seating, it was hands down our best meals (we actually ended up going twice) in Athens .

Favorite Restaurants: Dexameni, Zurbaran, Stinking Bishop, Le Grande Bretagne Rooftop Bar (for happy hour).

SANTORINI

As beautiful as I had painted Santorini to be in my head, it was even more beautiful in person. We took a boat into Santorini and I was instantly in awe of the natural beauty of the island. The water was a deep, royal blue, glistening and sparkling as it reflected the sun. I had dreamed of visiting this magical place ever since I can remember, and it’s incredible how much it exceeded my expectations. People were so incredibly friendly and seemed genuinely happy to help and serve us. There seemed to be a natural light in everyone’s eyes and everyone’s spirit was as warm and welcoming as the Santorini sun. The overwhelming sense of bright blue just made my eyes glisten with joy and was paired so well with all of the sparkling white buildings. See, just like you’d imagine it to be.

We took a little bumboat from the one side of the Island over to Oia, to explore that area. Again, in awe of the stunning water. After walking up to the top of Oia, we basked in the sun and took hundreds of photos of the photogenic scenery. Mid-morning coffee/cocktail (we were on vacation, it was always happy hour!) pit-stops filled with Aperol Spritz’s and iced coffees made mornings even more serene. After hours of walking down the pebbles sidewalks, we had always worked up an appetite. 218 Cafe was one of our favorites, serving local, Greek food with a perfect balcony view of the ocean and parts of Oia. We sat forever eating all grilled octopus, stuffed squid, pita and hummus we could, simply in awe of the setting we were in. The Teleferic (cable car) down from the top to the waterfront is an absolute must-do, no matter how long the line is (trust me- I hate lines but this was well worth the wait). It’s about a ten minute ride with an incredible view of the whole island and ocean from the sides and bottom of the cable car. As sad as it was to leave, the trip was incredible and made for infinite memories.  Santorini was an absolute dream and I cannot wait to be back again soon!

Favorite Restaurant: 218 Cafe & Restaurant

Now on to Montenegro!

A Day At Disney- Tokyo Disneyland

Hello everyone and happy hump day! One of my last posts was my Winter Tokyo Travel Guide, and in it I talked about spending a day at Tokyo Disneyland which is what today’s post is all about. Since it had been over ten years since my family and I had all been to Disneyland, we decided to go again this Christmas in Tokyo. It was the best decision we made because it was so much fun! It was all decked out for Christmas which was done so beautifully and tastefully. Although everything is in Japanese, these days almost everything is in English as well and most of the workers also speak English. I highly highly recommend spending a day at Disney if you’re ever in Tokyo, especially around the holiday season.

I hear a lot of people who are skeptical about Tokyo Disneyland when they compare it to the original park in Anaheim, but there is honestly no difference. And if there is I would argue that the Tokyo one is much better. It has all of the same, original rides with the exception of the Matterhorn, including Space Mountain.

The tickets are currently selling for 7,400 yen (about 67 USD) which is extremely reasonable, especially compared to the Anaheim prices that can be well over $100. What I was really impressed by was how inexpensive the food was. We had gone expecting to have to pay and arm and a leg for dinner, but were able to get meals for about 1,000 yen (9 USD) each. It makes it easy to spend a whole day there without worrying too much about how much you’re going to have to spend on a whole day’s worth of food.

While it is a bit far from the central city, public transportation makes it so quick, easy and inexpensive to get there. There are multiple trains and buses that leave from big stations like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Yokohama and even Narita Airport that take you directly to the park. From the city it takes, on average, 30 minutes to get out to Disneyland. Trains run from 6am to 11:55pm everyday, so you can spend as much time at the park as your heart desires!

Another thing I loved about Tokyo Disney was how clean and spacious it is. Sitting at 115 acres, it’s over 30 acres larger than the Anaheim Disneyland, and you really do notice the difference. And in true Japan fashion, everything was just so nice and clean. I mean everything from the sidewalks and the rides to the bathrooms, all just very well maintained.

We also decided to stay to watch the daily light show and the electric light parade which were so well done. It was jazzed up for Christmas as well which just made it even more magical. It really just made me feel like a little kid again which was very much needed. I’m so so glad we decided to go and won’t be surprised if we decide to go again next Christmas. That day really just was one of the most festive days this holiday season, I loved it!

Quick Tips:

1. Buy tickets online to get them at the best price (buy through the website).

2. Avoid Golden Week (usually around April 29-May 5), it’ll be insanely crowded.

3. If you don’t want to buy food in the park, bring your own. Tokyo Disneyland allows you to bring food in.

4. Bring water, it’s a bit hard to find water inside the park. And you’re going to want to stay hydrated, especially if you go during the summer.

5. If you’re going without young kids, the late afternoons/early evenings get fairly empty and quiet.

6. If you’re interested, check out DisneySea as well. I haven’t been personally, but have had a lot of friends who have been and say it’s super fun as well! It’s located right next to Disneyland.

7. If you’re going in the winter, make sure to pack/wear layers. It can be fairly warm during the day, especially with all the walking you’ll be doing, but can get much cooler in the evening.

8. If you’re wanting to stay at a hotel around the park, check out the non-Disney hotels like the Sheraton and the Hilton, they are typically much cheaper than the official Disney Hotel/Resort.

Website: https://www.tokyodisneyresort.jp/en/tdl/