Hey Everyone! Welcome to my blog. I will like to invite you to read and see pictures of my personal travel journey around the world from the very beginning. I will post every week the continuation of the last week post. If you like to be keep updated please click the follow button to get notified when theres a new post. I hope you can travel the world with me through my blog. xoxo
Besides going to beaches in Chalkidiki I did other things too. I went scuba diving. First let me explain, I never scuba dived or done any water activity EVER. I didn’t even know how to swim but at this point in my trip I felt dangerous and adventurous so I said why not?
The scuba diving staff was very nice and the price was really cheap too. It was 55 euros for 45 min. They briefly explained the basics and put the gear on me while I was sitting down. I was so exited! I always wanted to do this and I couldn’t believe my first time would be in Greece.
When I stood up to go to the water I almost felt backwards. Wow, how heavy that tank is. It caught me by surprise. When they placed the tank on my back I was sitting down and the tank was resting on the seat so I didn’t feel the weight. I know it is common sense but at the moment I was so exited to go scuba diving that I forgot all about the weight of the equipment. On top of having the tank on I had about a 20 pound weight belt. It took me a minute to find my balance but I did eventually. When you go into the water, you immediately start to sink. It reminded me of how in the movies they put heavy weights on peoples ankles to send them down to the ocean floor and drown them. This is just like that.
Scuba diving wasn’t as difficult AFTER I got used to the basic rules:
- Inhaling through my mouth
2. Exhaling through my nose
3. Keep kicking GENTLY because one good kick can get you 6 to 7 feet forward.
I did lose my sense of direction. Is dark and cold down there and everything looks the same. I was so glad I was with an expert because otherwise I would’ve gotten lost. We didn’t get to see an insane amount of fishes, most of them were hiding in the seaweed but it was still a very cool experience. I would love to do it again one day but in the Great Reef of Australia.
Up to this point I only been to beaches in the Caribbean and a few beaches in the States. Most beaches I visited have been big, crowded and loud. Chalkidiki beaches were nothing like that, as a matter a fact they were the opposite. For the most part the beaches were small, quiet and pretty empty. By empty I mean about 10 more people besides us most days. One time we had the entire beach for ourselves the ENTIRE day. I felt like a celebrity. I couldn’t believe it.
The water was crystal clear and different shades of blue. The water was a bit chilly but a good kind of chilly nothing like the freezing temperatures of Coney Island (NYC) beach but a bit cooler than let’s say Puerto Rico (Caribbean) beaches. The water was saltier too and there were no vendors around. It felt good not being harassed by vendors trying to sell to me on a beach day. I also felt secured. I didn’t feel like I had to be so conscious about my belongings all the time and that’s a miracle because is really rare for a New Yorker to put their guard down. Every beach in Chalkidiki had free beach chairs. There was no fee to use them, you just had to consume food/drink with no minimum. That literally means you could consume the cheapest item in the menu and still rent the beach chair for the day. I know what you thinking, everything must cost 3x the price just because they giving you the chair. Nop! It was regular price. Although I wouldn’t had minded paying 3x the price because I’ll be getting a free beach chair rental anyway but it felt good not getting ripped off as a tourist.
Each beach had just one family owned restaurant. I thought that was great because the owners were Greek locals and kept things authentic. They took pride in their businesses. All their food was prepared from scratch and was fresh. Often the owners were both the cooks and the waiters. After the meal they will come over and chat with you. They really cared about giving you the best experience. It made me feel like family.
One beach in particular had two businesses, one that sold drinks and the other sold food. I found that odd because every beach I went to in Chalkidiki had only one restaurant. There was never competition. I later found out one business belonged to the father’s and the other belonged to his son. I thought that was nice how they worked together and not against each other. There was a true sense of family in Chalkidiki and I loved it!
Side note: All beaches in Chalkidiki were different. Some were rocky some were sandy some had fishes others didn’t. That’s how I met Fernando the crab. I was collecting shells one day and I picked up what I thought was a empty shell then realized there was a little person living in there. I named him Fernando after making sure he was good I released him back to the ocean.
What makes Chalkidiki beaches unique is that the beaches are enclosed by cliffs. The fact that you could see what looks like mountains far out and cliffs surrounding the beach is very special. It reminded me of Neverland. It felt like the cliffs and mountains? were enclosing us from the real world. It was perfect! At this point I forgot about every worry and every problem I had. I was truly happy. Everyone around me was happy too. There was a chill vibe, some people were listening to music on their headphones others were reading a book others sunbathing. All you heard was the beach waves. I felt like I was in heaven. There’s only a few moments in my life where I felt at true peace and this was definitely one of those moments.
After a few days in the city I traveled to a region called Chalkidiki (Halkidiki). Chalkidiki is about a two hour drive from Thessaloniki. We drove through the Greek countryside and a few small towns.
Side note: The video below is when we bumped into a shepherd with his sheep crossing the road while driving in the countryside. I thought it was super cute to see the sheep crossing.
On our way to Chalkidiki we stopped at a bakery in a small town for breakfast. The bakery had a big selection of pastries. It was my first time in a Greek bakery so of course I wanted to try everything. After paying we noticed our bag had pastries that we didn’t pay for so we questioned the employee and she said the pastries was on the house because I looked undecided so she wanted me to try them all. I thought that was so sweet.
We finally arrived at Chalkidiki! So to give you a quick rundown; Chalkidiki is located by three peninsulas in the Aegean Sea. The Greeks nicknamed the peninsulas the 3 legs. One of the ”legs” belongs to monasteries which only allow men. With that being said, I was only allowed to visit the other two. I’m ok with 2 legs anyway because the other legs are full of beautiful beaches. You can literally drive from beach to beach in matter of minutes.
Soon after arrival we headed the beach, but to get there we had to drive along the coast which was basically cliffs. The drive felt longer than it really was because we were driving at the edge and I was terrified we were going to fall over. The road is curvy and we were really high up. There is an amount of skill needed to drive a manual car on the edge of a cliff I must tell you but the view was definitely breathtaking.
THESSALONIKI: Hello Thessaloniki! I finally arrived at my destination. After much needed rest I went to explore the city. The vibe is so different from home. It has a Caribbean feel. It seams like there’s a sense of community where everyone knows each other. The city is not very loud and the pace is much slower than New York. There are no tall buildings and most apartments have balconies. The streets and sidewalks are narrow therefore people drive very small cars, scooters even 4 wheelers. I loved it!
Side note: The ambulance in Greece don’t ring the siren unless someone is literally dying to avoid noise pollution.
WHITE TOWER: I went to explore the White Tower of Thessaloniki (which was a fortress and a prison at some point) and the surrounding area. Is located right on the waterfront looking on to the beautiful Aegean Sea.
THE THREE BOATS: Those three boats above was one of my favorite things to do in Thessaloniki. These boats are actually bars playing reggae music. The inside is furnished with stools and tables and sells pretty much any drink just like a bar on land. The cool thing about this is that the boat leaves every x amount of time and sail around the waterfront (a 30 min ride) giving you a beautiful view of the White Tower and the city. (The ride is free) Afterwards the next boat will do the same and so on.
FOOD: The food in Greece is different that what I’m used to. They are very big on salads. Their food is mostly grilled and they use lots of olive oil. Everything taste super fresh, healthy and delicious.
Side note: The waiters are so nice. They kept giving us wine even though we only paid for 1/2 a bottle. They even gave us deserts on the house.
Side note: If you buy a bottle in an establishment in Greece and don’t finish it, the establishment will save the bottle for you for the next time you go. I think that’s awesome!
ARRIVAL: Hello Athens! I survived the flight. To my surprise everyone I encountered spoke English and most of the signs were also translated to English. It made me realize how unhelpful New York is to tourists that don’t speak the language. Athens airport is much smaller than JFK, is only two floors one for arrivals and one for departures. Pretty simple! I followed the signs to the train and got on it. The train was very different from what I am used to. It was clean, quiet and modern. I took a look at the map and immediately recognized where I needed to get off at “Acropolis” it even had a drawing of the Parthenon in case you were still confused. In case you STILL don’t get it the train announces the name of the stop in Greek and English. Why on earth did I think I was going to get lost? This was easy.
ACROPOLIS: I get off the underground train and as soon as I look up I see the Parthenon on top of a hill. It didn’t look like a big deal. It looked small to me. I bought a ticket and walked pass the gate then continued walking down the path. There was no one around just dirt and sun. It must’ve been 90 degrees at least and barely any shade. Now I am searching for an elevator. It must be an elevator to take me to the top I thought; this was supposed to be fun. Isn’t exploring all about fun? well that was my first lesson as an explorer. Exploring is not always comfortable, in fact now I know is the opposite. I continued to walk the path up the hill (no elevator in sight) and it felt like an eternity, I was tired and cranky. All of a sudden I stepped on what it looked like limestone floor covered in dirt. I turned the corner and saw the most beautiful and amazing sight I have ever seen so far. It was a magnificent limestone staircase with columns at each side and more at the top. It blew my mind how beautiful this structure was. It completely exceeded my expectations. No words can express the joy I felt at that moment. My mood completely changed. What a beautiful sight! I can’t believe my luck.
PARTHENON: I walked up the staircase to explore the rest of the Parthenon. There was nothing small about this place. I made the mistake of judging the Parthenon before actually being in its presence and man was I wrong. Unfortunately some parts are broken down but when you consider how old it is, is incredible how is still standing. From up there you can see the beautiful city of Athens. It felt so surreal. I MADE IT! After facetiming everyone who pick up (NY is 7hrs behind) and absorbing the amazing view I headed down to explore the neighborhood and headed back to the airport for my midnight flight to Thessaloniki.
Side Note: Athens until this date is still finding ruins underneath the earth every time they brake the concrete to build more subway lines. Amazing!
READY: I finally had my life in order. Now felt like the time to start doing what I wanted to do for as long as I can remember TRAVEL. I always been interested in visiting other countries . Naturally, the first step was to find someone to go with me. Easy enough I thought, but I soon found out it wasn’t easy, in fact it was very hard. Just because I was in a good place in my life at the time it didn’t mean everyone around me wasn’t struggling with theirs. I spend a month looking for someone who would share this amazing experience with me but no success. I almost gave up. Who was I kidding? Traveling has only been “MY” thing anyway no one around me has traveled far. Most people I knew had only just traveled to their native country.
DISAPPOINTMENT: One night while contemplating my disappointment I remembered that I knew someone in Greece. I got in contact with them and luckily they were free in the summertime and invited me to stay with them. That was exactly what I needed to help me break out and explore the world like I always wanted. I started researching Greece landmarks but soon realized the people I was staying with didn’t live near any of these places. How can I travel so far and not see any of the country known landmarks? That was not an option. I had to at least see Acropolis in Athens, but that meant me flying to a different city ALONE.
FEAR: That’s it! I booked everything. Now fear started to take over me. By myself? In Europe? Not knowing the language? Not knowing where to go? What was I thinking? But too late, I already paid for it. To make matters worst my loved ones reaction to my plan was not optimistic. When I told them, all hell broke loose. Why so far? What about terrorist attacks? By yourself? But you don’t even know greek… I understood that they were concerned for me and they have never traveled beyond their comfort zone so they felt scared. But at the moment it was not what I needed to hear.
GETTING PREPARED: The next upcoming months I focused on researching and perfecting my plan. From what to do on a 9hr flight to Athens to the currency to the ground transportation. I had to make sure everything was perfect and safe. In a desperate moment I called the people I was going to stay with in Greece and expressed my safety concerns and they responded with “ you live in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. A city that is constantly under threat” and that hit me. They were right! I’m from New York if I make it here I make it anywhere.
THE FLIGHT: Finally July arrived and it was time for me to start my journey across the Atlantic. Time to put on a brave face and pretend to my loved ones that I was totally fine and that I wasn’t worried about a thing! After goodbyes and worried looks I get on the plane. I drank sleeping pills, put on aloe socks, a blanket and a sleeping mask in hopes of knocking out ASAP to avoid being anxious for 9 hrs. At this point, I just hoped to prove everyone and myself that if you step out of your comfort zone you may discover amazing places/things and wonder how you have lived without it all your life. Good bye New York.