Adventures in Greece & 10 Greek Tips

Good news: We found our next home! Phew. I am so excited to get to know a new neighborhood (East Passyunk!) and rearrange furniture to my heart’s content. It’s larger than our current apartment by about double, and it offers amenities we’ve never had before: Central air! Washer and dryer in unit! Second bedroom! DISHWASHER!

Until then, you can find me on the living room floor, purging old papers and slimming down craft supplies such as scrap paper and saved ribbons from gifts past. (It’s official. I’m a crafting hoarder.) Organizing my embroidery thread box was nearly the death of me, but now it looks GOOD. We’re also going to visit Anne’s family in Chicago for the next week! I think a Cubs game and a trip to the family farmhouse in Wisconsin will do us some good.

While we were in Greece, we took a lot of pictures, and below are some of my favorites. I hope that they give you a little flavor of our three weeks away. Our destinations included Athens and six Greek islands: Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Koufonisi, Santorini, and Crete. If you have any questions at all about my pictures (like where exactly they were taken), please leave a comment below! I’d be more than happy to give you specific details.

Also below you will find my “10 Tips for Traveling Greece.” I did a lot of research before leaving Philly about all kinds of Greek things. These ten tips are ones that I did not find elsewhere. If you are planning a trip to Greece (which you should REALLY do), I hope these recommendations help!

  1. Bring a sturdy pair of sunglasses. Athens and the Greek islands are incredibly bright–both from the intense sun and the white, reflective architecture.
  2. Pack shoes with traction. Many streets in Greece are made of marble, which is surprisingly slippery.
  3. The metro system in Athens is the most efficient I have ever experienced. Taking it to and from the airport, or to and from Piraeus (the main port in Athens) is very easy.
  4. It might be wise to book ferries for late morning/early afternoon. Early morning ferries require a very early start time, while ferries too late in the day will require you to navigate your next destination in the dark.
  5. The smaller the Euro bills, the better. Paying with bills over 10€ can be tricky at times. If you have 50s on you, break them in places like supermarkets or museums.
  6. Tipping about 8% in restaurants is normal and expected.
  7. Bring your own water bottle when eating out. It is much cheaper to purchase it from a corner store or supermarket than it is to purchase it at the restaurant.
  8. Bread is often an added expense at restaurants (0.50-2€/person). If you do not want/need bread, leave it on the table untouched and it shouldn’t be added to the bill. If you are gluten free/allergic, ask for them to not bring the bread as the host is seating you.
  9. That being said, dips do not come with bread/pita. So if you plan on ordering a dip, hold onto your bread because you will want every last piece of it. (The dips and hummus in Greece are unbelievably tasty.)
  10. Know that everything will work out. Prepare yourself, be organized, and pack as little as humanly possible. The less you need to lug up and down cobblestone streets the better. Bring Woolite to hand wash clothes, or find a local laundromat for a few Euros. Less luggage = happier traveler!

Have a great week!

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DIY Travel Backgammon & Checkers

As Anne and I get ready to leave for Greece (8 days!), I’ve decided that our packing list should include games we can play on our trip. Playing cards are a no-brainer, but I was curious how I might go about creating a travel-friendly backgammon and checkers board. Backgammon is widely popular in Greece, so learning to play is something I’ve been very interested in. Checkers I already have down pat.

After scouring the Internet and a local art supply store to get ideas on how to make this vision a reality, I ultimately settled on a design that is freakishly easy. So easy that creating a blog post tutorial on it is almost cheating. I wanted to use materials I already owned, though, so creating two board games for $0 is a win in my book! The supplies are few, and the steps quite easy.

This board game takes up virtually no room in your travel bag, and is sure to be fun no matter where you are: a local taverna, the beach, your room, a long plane ride, etc.

DIY Travel Backgammon

Materials:

  • 8.5″ x 11″ chipboard (I purchased mine here)
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie marker
  • Ruler
  • 30 buttons, 15 each in two colors (or any other checker-type object)
  • 2-4 dice, depending on what style backgammon you are playing (or download this dice app if you’ll have wifi on your trip)

Step 1: Using a pencil and then a Sharpie, draw a thick line down the short side of the chipboard at 5 1/2″. To make this as accurate as possible, make a tick mark at 5 1/2″ on either long edge of the board. Then, connect the dots.

Step 2: Working outward from either side of the thick line, use a pencil to make six tick marks every 7/8″. There should be 24 tick marks in total.

Step 3: Use the ruler and Sharpie to begin creating the backgammon points (or triangles). Place the board in landscape position. The long edge closest to you I will call Side 1, and the farther long edge will be called Side 2. Connect the farthest left tick mark on Side 1 to the second most left tick mark on Side 2. This should create a diagonal line. Continue this across the board to create 12 parallel lines. Next, go back and create 12 more parallel lines going in the opposite direction (i.e. connect the second most left tick mark on Side 1 to the farthest left tick mark on Side 2).

Step 4: Create the two-toned backgammon board by filling in every other point with stripes. The points facing each other should be opposite colors.

DIY Travel Checkers

Materials:

  • See above! This board requires the same materials as backgammon, except only 12 checkers each.

Step 1: Turn over your brand-new backgammon board to the blank side of the chipboard. Create an 8″ x 8″ square using the ruler, pencil, and Sharpie.

Step 2: Make tick marks every 1″ along all four sides of the square. Create smaller squares by connecting all opposing tick marks. There will be 64 squares total.

Step 3: Create the two-toned checkers board by filling in every other square with stripes. No striped square should be touching another striped square.

P.S. Have you seen my DIY Scrabble game? It was the subject of an early blog post on Scissors & Sage, but it might be one of my favorite projects ever.

Airplane Mode: We’re Going to Greece!

I’ve always liked this quotation from the Dalai Lama because you don’t have to travel halfway across the world to go some place you’ve never been before. “Travel” might take the form of visiting a new neighborhood in your very own city, or experiencing nature in a new way. Traveling is something that has always interested me. It stretches you in new ways, makes you think creatively, and, if done right, can be a very humbling experience.

For me and Anne, our trip to Greece is five weeks away. WHAT?! We have been looking forward to this since January. It’ll be our first time traveling abroad together, and I couldn’t be more excited! After what was a long year for me, exploring Greece with Anne for three weeks is going to feel incredible. I hope that it is just the rejuvenation I need.

As we plan and map out our trip, I’ve come across some really wonderful inspiration, both for Greece specifically and travel more generally. I thought I’d share some of that with you today. Are you traveling anywhere this summer? Tell me where in the comments below!

Greek Inspiration

A colorful fishing boat (source)

Santorini (source)

Gala Beach on Pano Koufonisi (source)

Fresh sardines and Greek salad on Antiparos (source)

Sunset in Santorini, and other helpful tips (source)

Delphi, one of the world’s greatest ruins (source)

Design*Sponge's Athens city guide

Design*Sponge’s Athens city guide (source)

A mix and match color scheme (source)

General Tips & Tricks

Learn how to best use your iPhone while abroad here.

Learn how to download offline Google maps here. Beware that offline Google maps expire after 30 days. Add this to your to-do list just before you leave!

These tips in Travel 101 are incredibly helpful for any kind of trip you plan on taking.

Rick Steves on the importance of packing lightly.

Here’s a great blog post on upping your travel photography game.

Suggested travel apps:

Before you leave:

  • Hold your mail and any current subscriptions.
  • Set up a self-watering wicking system for your houseplants.
  • Notify the bank of your upcoming travels.
  • Sign up for the smart traveler enrollment program (STEP).
  • Photocopy all travel documents (leave one copy in your luggage, and one copy with a family member at home).

This just skims the surface. What are your go-to travel tips and tricks? I’d love to find out more, so leave a comment below!