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!

*200 Posts* Looking Back

Wow, here we are, 4 years and 200 posts later. I’m going to try not to make this too mushy, but I’m truly amazed, proud, in-awe, and every other positive adjective of myself, this blog and all the places it’s gone. When I first started I was a bored high school student sitting in a class I really didn’t care about. I didn’t know who I was and I was desperately looking for answers. Swimming, school, friends, family, I didn’t know what my true life’s purpose was. And it surely wasn’t to just float through life doing whatever, I needed a purpose. The driving force to get me going. I started writing about things I enjoyed: food, fitness, travel, body image. I wrote for myself. But suddenly I realized the power that I had with my words, the power this platform I created had. People started coming up to me at school, “hey, I read your blog post the other day on body image and it was so inspiring”, “you’re blog post on those Singapore brunch spots was awesome and I tried a bunch out”. I was reaching people, people were reading my blogs. That’s when writing about things I enjoyed or cared about became my passion. It wasn’t about putting on this front that everyone would like, it was about sharing my story, my journey and my experiences while promoting what I cared about, kindness, self love and positivity. No matter what I’m writing about, how old I get or where I am in the world, those three things will always be where I’m rooted, and those three things will always be where SwimEatLove is rooted. I’m beyond grateful everything this blog has given me. It’s connected me to some of the most incredible and inspiring people, allowed me a creative outlet to express myself without any limits, and it’s given me purpose. So while I’ve now hit this milestone of 200 posts, there’s no slowing down. I want to share my story, be open, honest and vulnerable as long as I possibly can.

So to celebrate, I thought my 200th post would be a look back on the last 4 years, the posts I’ve loved, the ones you’ve loved and a bunch of others in between.

It all started with me sharing my love for swimming, the good, the bad and the ugly. Butterfly or Butterdie “When you are floating there in the water desperately trying to grab onto the lane line, is when it hits you. You are gasping for air and using the lane line to keep you above the water, while also trying to rip your super tight goggles and cap(s) off your head.”

I’ve shared photos through Life Through A Lens to give you all a little peak into my life. I’ve shared my love for food through my Food Adventures from around the world and many recipes I’ve come up with myself (some heart healthy, some healthy for your soul).

I began to share my journey to self-love, although a hard one. The ‘Perfect’ Self. “It blows my mind that I can pick up a magazine with the header “The New Plus-Sized Model”, flip it open and see a gorgeous woman wearing size 8 clothes. As a society, we have painted a picture of what the ‘perfect’ woman looks like; long skinny legs, a flat stomach, thin arms, and narrow hips.”

When I traveled, you traveled. You came with me around the world; Thailand, Paris, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Cambodia, California and so many more. My adventures became your adventures and I loved that. I shared my journeys in those places and also what it took to get there. Holiday Travel Tips. “As this post is going up, I’m in an Uber on the way to LAX ready to hop on a plane and head back to see my family for the holidays. Since traveling is something that almost everyone does during the holidays in one way or another, I thought I would share my holiday travel guide/tips for today’s post. I’ve done some other “travel tips” posts in the past (be sure to check those out!), but this one will be my updated one specifically for the holidays. Enjoy and happy traveling! xx”

I found myself becoming interested in new and different things, and I shared that with you. Never thought I’d be a little fashion guru. Natural Glam- “No Makeup” Look. “Good morning lovelies! Now that it’s back to school and work, there’s a lot of 5 minute, easy makeup looks going on. Today I thought I’d share my natural, go-to no-makeup look with you all. I wasn’t always a ‘wear makeup to school’ kind of gal, but lately I’ve found that it helps me feel put together and ready for the day. Having basic makeup done makes me feel like I’ve made an effort for not only people around me, but myself as well. For me, natural looks are all about keeping your skin healthy and glowy while still covering up all the imperfections.”

And along with fashion, I’ve become obsessed with beauty, as well as all things summer and the beach but we already knew that. Summer Beauty. “It’s finally that time of the year where we’re all whipping out our bikinis/suits and headed to spend time at the beach, the lake or even just by the pool, soaking in every ounce of sunlight in hopes to get that perfectly sun-kissed skin. Today’s post is going to be all of my summer beauty tips and go-to’s to get you looking fresh, relaxed and glowing. Under each section I have linked some of the products I have been loving this summer.”

I shared by true and lasting love of my beautiful island of Singapore with you. Mega Guide to Singapore. “Planning on visiting Singapore or always wanting to visit? These are my top 10 things to do in Singapore. It may only be 31 miles wide and 17 miles long, but the beautiful island is PACKED with fun things to do!”

For two years now, I’ve brought you into my life during the holidays. Trying to share my profound love for Christmas and the season, 12 Days of Christmas has allowed me to do so. Christmas Tag. “Red or green – which color occupies your life during Christmas? Red, and red glitter. What’s your favorite Christmas accessory? Gold hoops. Do you buy presents or try DIYs? Buy presents, but I love putting together gift baskets/sets. Chocolate, Strawberry, or Vanilla – what do you prefer the most during Christmas? None of them… everything PEPPERMINT! What is your favorite Christmas slogan? Be naughty, save Santa the trip;)”

And what I’m most proud of is how open I’ve been about the hardest parts of my life. Sharing about my struggle with an eating disorder with you all was the hardest decision, but the best decision I ever made. As scary as it was, the number of people who reached out thanking me for trying to break the stigma was life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly. It was become a big part of my life and will stay with me forever, even way after recovery. That’s what this blog has been about, helping others feel less alone. Mental Health Moments are a way to make sure that this important conversation is being had. If no one else will talk about it, I sure as hell will. To My Eating Disorder… “Today is National Love Your Body Day, and while I try to preach and live by the idea of self-love, I’ve been struggling with this by a battling with an eating disorder. It’s not something a lot of people talk about, and it’s not something a lot of people talk about publicly. But I’m ready to break that mold. The scariest thing about this whole battle has been feeling alone in my fight. But I know I’m not the only one. I’m here telling my story with hopes that it can help others out there feel a little less alone. I’m not posting this looking for pity or attention, I’m posting this because reading other peoples stories was such a big part of the start of my recovery. If this can help even just one person feel a little less alone, then it’s worth it.”

How crazy is that, 200 posts. And guess what, I already see 400 on the horizon.

Much love always, Aime.