Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

This week’s real honeymooners are my college friend Mike and his wife Jennifer. I backpacked around Europe with Mike* and a couple of other friends eight years ago, and I think it’s safe to say that this trip was much, much nicer. Read all about their amazing honeymoon in Greece and Turkey below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We started off with Greece – first in Santorini, then Crete, and Athens.  We ended the trip in Istanbul, Turkey.**  We began our trip two days after our wedding, in late May [2014].

Santorini Honeymoon

How long was your trip?

Our trip was two weeks long.

greece honeymoon

How did you decide on your honeymoon destinations?

We had heard that Santorini really had the honeymoon thing down pat so we were very excited about that – we were focused on starting the trip with some rest and relaxation.  But we also wanted to mix in some adventure and culture, which is where Athens and Istanbul came in.  Crete provided us with another island experience and we chose it over Mykonos because we heard that Mykonos was very similar to Santorini except had more of a party vibe – which we were not looking for on our honeymoon.

Santorini honeymoon

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Exploring Santorini on foot and the walking tours of Istanbul.

Santorini honeymoon

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

We splurged for a private pool in Crete however the weather was too cold in early June for us to use it.  The pool water in Santorini and Crete were both too cold to swim in, if unheated, so I would consider that when booking.  In hindsight, I should have booked a room with a private jacuzzi instead of pool.

santorini honeymoon

How much planning did you do in advance?

Very little.  We honed in on the locations that we thought we wanted to hit, and then consulted with and used a travel agent.

Santorini honeymoon

What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

The room with its own private pool.

santorini sunset

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

Groom (Ireland); Bride (Thailand). So, Thailand it is.***

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* Funny story from Mike’s and my 2006 Eurotrip: Our other friends had just left us to go back home, and Mike and I were alone on a train in the south of France headed to Spain. We were tired, dressed like typical backpackers, and were holding our noses because someone in our train car was eating the stinkiest cheese known to man. Another traveler smiled at us and asked in French if we were “on the vacation after the wedding.” I looked and Mike and shouted “NON!” I’m so relieved that both of our honeymoons turned out much better than that.

** Below are some extra recommendations from Mike:

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED our hotel, Astra Suites in Santorini. It was in a perfect middle location and the service was the best I have ever received anywhere in the world. There are only 24 rooms so it is quaint and every employee knows who you are; it makes you feel special. If you are on your honeymoon they give you a free, private tour in their spa, so you and your spouse can use the steam room, jacuzzi, etc.
  • In Crete we stayed at Blue Palace which is a Starwood resort. It was very nice; however, it’s a big resort nevertheless so you never really felt too special.
  • Athens we stayed at Electra Palace. It was in a perfect location near the Acropolis and Plaka (the neighborhood for good shopping). Great guest experience and location – I would recommend it.
  • In Istanbul we stayed at the Marti Istanbul Hotel. Excellent hotel and amenities. Very close to Taksim Square which was nice. There are multiple other points in town to stay at and visit which required us to take cabs, but I would stay here again.
  • In Istanbul we had a wonderful dinner at the Turkish restaurant within Reina which is a multi-restaurant/club on the Bosphorus. Great for people-watching but very, very expensive. It’s fun to get dolled up and get “Euro” at least once, and I’m glad we did it at this place.

*** Smart move, Mike!

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How I’m Dealing With Travel Envy

You know those people who seem to constantly post amazing travel photos on social media sites? I’m not talking about full-time travelers or professional travel bloggers here; I’m referring to those friends of yours who have regular desk jobs but just always seem to go skiing in Vail one weekend, then lounge on the beach in Hawaii, and then somehow go sightseeing in Paris shortly after that. Yeah, you know the type.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t help but feel the tinge of travel envy whenever I see posts about other people’s travel adventures. This is especially true for me these days because my next international trip might not be until the end of the year. However, I know that the best way for me to deal with that envy is to just unplug. If I don’t want to see so-and-so’s photos from her fifth beach vacation of 2014, then maybe I shouldn’t look at her Facebook profile. It’s just that easy.

And yet, there’s someone in my life who’s been traveling a lot this year from whom I can’t unplug: my husband Aaron.

istanbul

Some of Aaron’s photos from his first Istanbul trip, January 2014.

We found out earlier today that Aaron’s about to go back to Istanbul for the second time this year. Last month he spent a week taking depositions in Istanbul, then spent another three days in London going to multiple Premiere League soccer matches. Granted, these trips have been for work and he doesn’t get a lot of time to just relax and play the tourist, but it’s still pretty awesome that he gets to experience one of the oldest and most culturally fascinating cities in the world, even if it’s just for a few meals and late afternoon wanderings.

Last time Aaron went to Istanbul, a lot of people asked if I was going to join him. I said that I declined because I’d prefer not to go there in January when it’s so cold, I had a lot of things going on back home in SF that week, and I knew Aaron would be really busy with work. But this time around, joining him in Istanbul sounded really tempting, especially because Wendy Perrin just published this blog post about how winter is such a great time to visit Istanbul. How could I let this opportunity pass me by a second time? I should be more spontaneous, right? I could make this happen!

Excited with the possibility of spending a long weekend in Turkey, I started researching flights right away. There aren’t any direct flights from SFO to IST, so the shortest travel times with layovers in either Amsterdam or Frankfurt are around 16 hours each way. Also, since I need to save up vacation days for a big trip at the end of the year, I couldn’t/shouldn’t take more than three days off for this one. So after comparing prices, travel time, and flight schedules, I’d really only have three full days to be in Istanbul, and the chances are that I’d be alone most of the time. If I was lucky, I’d maybe get a few dinners with Aaron and a free place to sleep. Hmmm, this was starting to not sound so great.

Sure, I’d prefer to sightsee with Aaron, but the “being alone” part didn’t bother me too much; I backpacked solo for several weeks in Australia and Spain a few years ago, and I really enjoyed the freedom and challenges of being on my own. But the part that was most unsettling was the price tag, and the fact that I’d fly for 32+ hours just to be in Istanbul for three days. Was that worth it?

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Where Should You Go on a July Honeymoon?

Last week Condé Nast Traveler’s resident travel expert Wendy Perrin wrote a blog post answering the question, “What are the best travel destinations for July?”  While her article wasn’t necessarily honeymoon-specific, she mentioned many popular honeymoon destinations that would be wonderful in July, and a bunch of others that should be avoided.  Check out her recommendations below:

The Good:

Tahiti (As if you need another reason to choose Tahiti for a honeymoon, in July you can also celebrate Polynesian culture at the Heiva Festival.)

– Seychelles (A great tropical-yet-cool-and-dry destination that isn’t too crowded in July.  August, however, is another story.)

– Barbados (Big off-season deals are easy to come by in July, and you can check out the Crop Over Festival.)

– Anywhere up north: Canada, Scandinavia, The U.K. (Warmer weather and extended daylight hours – what’s not to like?)

Tahiti

Tahiti in July? Yes, please!

The Bad:

Belize (Humidity + mosquitos?  No thanks!)

– The west coast of Mexico (It can be so hot that the sand will burn your feet.  Yikes.)

– Eastern Turkey (Also suuuper hot.)

– The French Riviera (Lots and lots of tourists.)

– Croatia (Too many cruise-goers in Dubrovnik, but other seaside towns should be alright.)

– Rome/Venice, Italy (Really overly crowded with tourists; the prices skyrocket.)

– Southern Spain (Yep, just too hot.)

Belize

Belize is totally gorgeous, but probably not the best destination in July

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My two cents?  I think that Greece is also an excellent destination for July even though it will be high season.  The Aegean Sea doesn’t get super warm, so if you go too early in the year you might find the water to be on the chilly side.  But if you go in August, the islands get extremely crowded with Italian tourists.

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Real Honeymoon: Greece & Turkey

Last week I published Jennie and Chris’ Napa mini-moon post, and this week we have all of the details on their longer European honeymoon in Greece and Turkey!

When and where did you honeymoon?

Greece and Turkey in May/June 2012. We went to Athens, Santorini, Ephesus, and Istanbul.

Turkey & Greece

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We’d heard great things about Greece and Turkey, and we wanted to take advantage of living a bit closer to Europe (we were living in DC at the time but live in California now).

Greece

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Spending a lot of time reading and laying in the sun in Santorini. We stayed at a great little hotel overlooking the caldera, and it had nice beach chairs right outside our room, on a balcony with a gorgeous view.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I’d spend maybe one less day in Istanbul. It is a really cool city, but six days was one day too many. We just got tired of sightseeing and walking around a city.

Turkey & Greece

How much planning did you do in advance?

We booked hotels, flights, and ferries in advance. We also booked a nice dinner in Istanbul for our first wedding anniversary. Otherwise, we planned everything else once we arrived.

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