Photos of the Day: Oia (Santorini, Greece)

Some say that Oia is the prettiest village on the Greek island of Santorini…but honestly, I found it hard to choose!  The entire island is gorgeous.  From Fira to Imerovigli to Oia, the views are absolutely stunning.  The white buildings accented with blue paint are enhanced by the masterpiece of the caldera.

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Oia, Santorini #travel

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It's like you are walking down into the #caldera

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#sunrise in #oia #santorini #greece #greekislands

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Photos of the Day: Imerovigli & Fira (Santorini)

I miss Santorini…the peaceful walks around the caldera, the amazing sunsets, the fragrant & colorful bouquets of flowers & plants that add a pop of color to the white facades…it’s the perfect place to relax & unwind. You can use up an entire memory card in one hour. Have you been to Santorini? If so, what was your favorite thing to do?  What other Greek Islands would you recommend to visit? I’m looking to book my next excursion 🙂

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Photos of the Day: Life’s a Beach

It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach.  Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness 🙂  Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time.  Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!!  As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places!  And I’d like to share a few of them with you.  So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail, sunglasses and let’s go!!!

Mimosas on the beach? Yes...please & thank you! (Cancun)

Mimosas on the beach? Yes…please & thank you! (Cancun)

A Hilton Head sunrise...best way to get your day started!

A Hilton Head sunrise…best way to get your day started!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it's absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

I know this may be a stretch...but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands...and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey :) So serene & peaceful!

I know this may be a stretch…but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands…and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey 🙂 So serene & peaceful!

The famous Santorini caldera sunset...

The famous Santorini caldera sunset…

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The marina in Monte-Carlo

The marina in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Photo of the Day: Santorini Sunset

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I took this photo while sitting on my balcony at the Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa.  I sometimes just stare at it for stress relief…and then continue to plot how to get there again this year.  If only I could disapparate…hate being a muggle.  *sighs*

Nikki’s Nest: Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa (Santorini, Greece)

Planning a trip to the beautiful Greek island of Santorini?  I recommend Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa which is located on the outskirts of Imerovigli, at a distance of 1.5 km from Fira.  You can hike or take a local bus to the bigger villages of Oia and Fira.   My Mom and I spent a lovely week at this resort the last week of May 2011.
 

Getting There

From Athens, you can either fly (via Olympic Airways or Aegean Airlines) or take a ferry (via Hellenic Seaways or Blue Star Ferries from Piraeus port).  The ferries offer an eight-hour trip (which could be either during the day or overnight depending on the season) and a 4 hour hydrofoil.  We opted to take the 4 hour hydrofoil ferry (Blue Star Ferries) as it was cheaper than flying.  If you decide to take the ferry, you need to know the following:  1) Ferry schedules are suggestions, not fact.  You should arrive at least 1 hour in advance as the ferry could leave early (it will state this explicitly on your ticket).  Therefore, plan accordingly.  A ferry with a 7:25 scheduled departure could actually end up leaving the port at 7:00; 2) Buy insurance.  This is Europe and strikes happen.  And with the current state of fiscal affairs in Greece right now, I’d definitely recommend buying it for peace of mind.  If you happen to purchase your trip via Viator, they will re-book you on a flight to Santorini in the event of a strike; 3) There are assigned seats.  You may want to consider an upgrade for more room.  Four/Eight hours is a long time to be packed in with other people.  The ferry can start to get a little musty by the 2nd hour; and 4) Bring snacks.  There is usually a food concession on board but it is a bit expensive.  There are plenty of shops around the Piraeus port.  Pick up a meal or 2 to go.

Rocabella provides transportation to/from either the airport or port for a fee.  You will need to call the resort prior to your arrival to arrange pick-up.

Promotions

I found a great deal thru Expedia which saved me some money.  If you prefer to book directly, the resort website also has special deals and discounts.  Santorini (and Greece in general) can be a bit expensive.  I highly recommend pre-booking to take advantage of early booking discounts and/or free-night offers.  Also, if you are planning to visit during high-season (June – August), pre-booking will guarantee your room is available as the island gets overcrowded.

Rooms & Suites

Each room or suite has a jacuzzi, flat screen tv as well as a minibar.  There are several types of rooms:  Senior and Superior Rooms (full or partial ocean view) and Suites.  Be sure to check out the pictures on the resort website or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different (I love the one with the ceiling made of stars!).  I pre-purchased the Superior full ocean view room (definitely upgrade to a full ocean view.  You will never get tired of watching the sunset over the caldera from your balcony…it’s heaven on earth).  When we arrived, we found out we were upgraded to a Superior Suite with a full ocean view.

Nicknamed “The Cave”, this suite was very spacious.  However, we asked to switch the next day due to the room having a mildew smell.

The front desk was very accommodating and actually let us choose from several other rooms.  We ended up in a Superior Room with full ocean view that was perfect!  Notice that a portion of the ceiling has a “faux sky”.  Marvelous!

   

Even with all the concrete, the rooms are comfortable.  Each balcony has a private jacuzzi, loungers and a table where you can waste away an entire day while drinking mimosas and reading your Kindle or listening to music while looking at the beautiful blue ocean.  The best part?  Watching as the sun sets over the caldera.  Hint:  Order room service and eat “alfresco” on your balcony while the sun descends into the sea.  You won’t want to leave!  The beds lull you to sleep with the soft featherbed under fresh, crisp linens.  The shower is spacious and modern.  I could spend all day in there. 

Hiking the trail towards Oia. Great workout for hips and booty.

The Fitness Center

I worked out at the fitness center once during my week-long visit.  It’s very small, hot and the equipment is a bit dated.  I ended up skipping the gym and hiking along the caldera to Oia then back to Fira.  Plenty of hills to work the glutes and the views are breathtaking!

The Spa

The resort offers spa services.  Unfortunately, they were booked solid when I decided to go so I can’t review this area.  Therefore, I recommend booking your services prior to arrival.

Dining alfresco.

Dining

The resort has 1 restaurant.  We ate there for breakfast and ordered room service a couple of times.  Overall, the food was fine.

Activities

In addition to a small fitness center and spa, the resort also has several pools with a DJ playing music in the afternoons.  You will find that most of the activity will be around exploring the beautiful island of Santorini.  Hike along the rim of the caldera.  Go shopping in Fira (which had some fabulous boutiques).  Take a walking tour of Oia.  Enjoy a sunset dinner cruise or relax at one of the many beaches.  There is so much to do, you will find that the time slips away much too quickly.  You may have noticed that I mention (repeatedly) watching the sunset over the caldera.  Words cannot adequately describe how magnificent it is.  You will find yourself waiting for the end of the day to enjoy those magical minutes of breathtaking beauty.  So, if the only activity you do is to sit on the balcony and watch the sunset, you’ve done enough.  You can read my review of Santorini here.

Rocabella pool at sunset

The magical Santorini sunset in the caldera.

Nikki’s Rating: Fabulous 4

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!

coco3

3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.

Emma

4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.

MM

5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.