Island Hopping in Greece

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If there is a perfect place, the Greek Islands may just be it! From the crystal clear, turquoise-hued water to the utterly unblemished, white plaster architecture everything is so beautiful and so perfect that it barely seems real. However, beyond the idyllic surface, Greece is incredibly rich with history, culture, art, dining, shopping and more.

 

 

We started and finished our trip in Athens. As a big city Athens is not as picturesque as the islands, but it more than makes up for it with history. It is amazing to see a modern city that has built up around some of antiquity’s masterpieces.

A highlight for us was seeing a traditional Greek music and dance show in the ancient theater, Odeon of Herodes, at The Acropolis.

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From Athens we boarded the M/Y O’ceanos and were swept away.

 

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The first stop in our weeklong dream was the Temple of Poseidon  in Sounion. Built in the 5th century B.C. this ancient sacred structure overlooks the azure sea on three sides. Poseidon’s Temple is one of those places that makes your heart skip a beat. It’s incredible to stand on the stones that were put in place by the hands of man thousands of years ago while gazing into the same sea that the great leader, Pericles, looked upon.

 

That night we docked at the island of Poros, with streets of marble.

 

Each morning we would set sail early, dock at a swimming spot and then head to an island…

Swimming in the Aegean…

Swimming off of a yacht may have been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. We jumped off the top deck and dropped about 30 feet into the crystal clear water. We flew down the inflatable water slide. We swam through caves in Melos. We snorkeled. We ate fresh sea urchins. And we PLAYED!

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That water though…

 

Caves…

 

Playing…

 

FRESH Sea Urchins…

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The Islands…

Mykonos: hip, beautiful, great restaurants, great shopping and lots of parties…

 

 

Paros: Beautiful fishing village, picturesque, and great shopping. This might have been my favorite island. It was so quaint and lovely…

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Santorini: beautiful, crowded, well-known and a great place to  watch a sunset. In Santorini you can’t help but feel like you may have stumbled upon the lost city of Atlantis (but it seems like 1/2 of the world might’ve too). We opted to drive up to Fira rather than take a donkey or fight the cruise ship crowds for the cable car…

 

 

 

Milos: The port area is lovely, but you will definitely want grab a taxi and head up to the city center. Small windy streets give way to lovely churches and breathtaking vistas. We spent most of our time in Milos swimming in caves, which you should definitely do if you’re there (there are plenty of day trips from the surrounding islands). Swimming through these caves is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, it was eerie and amazing. Part of me expected Cyclops or the Sirens to appear at any minute…

 

 

Hydrea: There are no cars or bikes allowed in Hydrea. Transportation is either by donkey or walking.

 

 

Sailing back to Athens…

 

Thanks to the amazing crew this trip was perfection…

 

Stay tuned for the video.

 

The Paris Opera House

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There are some places in the world that are so beautiful that it almost defies logic. We always speak of the places in nature where God’s hand or Mother Nature’s work simply takes your breath away, but then there are places where the talent of another human seems nearly impossible.

The Paris Opera House is one of those places, a place that has collected the incredible talent of so many for more than a century.

The gilded walls of the Opera House are filled with the ghosts of passion, art and creativity. Like an electric current that uses your heart as a conduit, the history here is palpable.

We toured the Opera House on a whim while we were spending a couple hours in Paris, before heading out to the French countryside. We were able to peek in on the performers rehearsing that evening’s show, then take in the beauty and history of the building.

Even though Jake and Zac are so young, I welcome the opportunity to show them such beauty. The passion, creativity and talent of others has always sparked connections between my mind, my soul and my heart and I hope it does the same for my little guys.

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Maquoketa Caves State Park

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Every once in a while we stumble upon an unexpected adventure and Maquoketa Caves in Iowa is one of those places. Nestled between emerald green rolling hills that are dotted with grazing cattle and golden fields of grain, Mother Earth has twisted herself into a wondrous system of tunnels and cliffs. Oozing with adventure, the trails at Maquoketa Caves take you up and down, in and out and through some of nature’s most fun scenery.

If I had told Jake and Zac we were going hiking, they would have complained all the way there. They don’t like walking around for the sake of walking around, but they will walk for hours in search of something… So we don’t go hiking we go hunting for dinosaur bones, fairies, elves, gnomes, smurfs and anything else that strikes their imagination.

I wish I could claim this parenting hack as my own, but as anyone that has ever ventured out in nature knows – it’s simply filled with a sense of magic. The valleys and peaks of Maquoketa Caves seemingly captures this magic, and it took less than five minutes for Jake and Zac to spot a possible gnome village carved out of a fallen tree nearly lost in the tiny white flowers that covered the forest floor.

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There is also a sense of danger that precariously balances on each tree and boulder dangling on the edge of every rocky outcropping. Some of the tunnels get very tight and you have to crawl to get through. Consequently, you will want to bring head lamps and a possible change of clothes if you plan to go that deep into the caves. We were not able to venture that deep into the caves because it was too rainy and wet when we were there, so we stuck to the larger caves.

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Maquoketa Caves is filled with a sense of magic that kids will love! It’s also brimming with the adrenaline-inciting sense of danger that grown-kids adore!

The “Getting There”

We love to travel, but let’s be honest getting there sucks. What I’ve learned is that you have to leave your expectations at home. On those long-haul international flights that you expect a TV, ya won’t get one… but on that 1 1/2 hour flight, you will have a TV and charging station.

I also learned that having a child that was easily lulled to sleep by the simple start of jet engines, doesn’t mean they all are. There are kids (ZAC) that could be exhausted and almost asleep walking onto the plane only to kick into hyper-speed the moment those engines purr.

So what do I do… 1. Don’t EXPECT anything and 2. Bring everything that you can carry and not an ounce more!

Below is my carryon packing list:

  1. At least one pair of headphones per person, then a backup.
  2. Portable DVD player with a few movies.
  3. IPAD
  4. Computer
  5. Phone *I’ve been on flights that stream entertainment via free, but limited wifi so have the Gogo Entertainment App ready to use. Then be ready to hand your phone to your toddler the entire flight while you watch the Spongebob movie on the portable dvd player.
  6. Snacks, obviously or so you’d think. Silly me assumed that we could just buy food at the airport until I had a showdown on the candy aisle with an angry two-year-old. Let me just tell you, one of us left crying and it wasn’t him. (Thank goodness for in-flight beverages).
  7. A sense of humor. Don’t even bother packing your sanity, cause you’re going to loose it but if you can step back an laugh when the flight attendant suggest Benadryl next time – you’ll be fine.

With that said, I always try to be considerate of the others on the plane. I let Jake and Zac torture me, but I stop them from being loud, bouncing around and kicking the seats in front of them… Or at least I try (we can all have goals).

Getting there may not be the best but being there is.

Scotland – Ghosts, The Queen, Castle Knights and an underground city.

Simply put… Scotland is magical. From Edinburgh to the Highlands, fairy tales do exist!

We began our trip in Edinburgh, where we explored Edinburgh Castle and the underground city (although only older kids are allowed). We opted for the Real Mary Kings Close tour, which is a little more kid-friendly and not as scary as some of the other tours. If you have brave or older kids there are some really scary and fun underground ghost tours.

We were in Edinburgh during the famous Fringe Festival, so there were shows for all ages and tons of street entertainers. It’s a fun, busy and exciting time of year for this amazing city.

From Edinburgh we drove about 30 minutes to Borthwick Castle. This 15th century castle is incredibly well-preserved and one of the coolest places that I’ve ever stayed at! Mary Queen of Scots was one of the castle’s most famous guests and you can still see the exterior damage that Cromwell’s cannon caused. There are tiny winding stairwells to get to your room, you can play croquet on the front lawn and eat in the grand hall… or in other words you can live like royalty. Just be warned, you may receive an uninvited guest in your room – we had doors that opened swung open on their own and door nobs that rattled. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, this was something we couldn’t explain. Never-the-less, I had the best night of sleep ever. (If you’re curious we stayed in the Mary Queen of Scots room ;).

The magic didn’t stop there. Scotland is full of amazing places:

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Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel was built in the 1400’s and is still a place of worship. The chapel is glorious. Its rose hue and unique craftsmanship is beautiful, but it is also filled with incredible stories so make sure you take a tour or take the time to hear these tales.

Walk in the steps of royalty:

Stirling Castle is a must-see. It shows you just what life was like for renaissance royalty and those that served them.

We also loved our Highland Safari. A Land Rover took us up into the Highlands where we hiked and enjoyed a picnic lunch and whiskey in the Hilltop Bothy.

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Enjoy a Dram at Meldrum House Hotel in Aberdeen
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Cameron House Loch Lomand