Day 1: Sightseeing in Amsterdam


After a solid night’s sleep, and some strong coffee to fight the jet lag (I made friends with the hotel’s cappuccino machine!), we started off on a full day of exploring the city!

We had an idea of what we wanted to see, but mostly set out with our bus passes, good appetites, the curiosity and desire to see everything we could, and plans to take in an evening canal boat ride.  We walked about 9 miles during the day, and really enjoyed every step.

A few words of wisdom for those who set off to explore Amsterdam:

  • As per our research, the weather really does change throughout the day… we started with a drizzly rainy, cloudy day, had some great periods of blue skies and perfect breeze, and ended with a cool and drizzly night. Definitely dress in layers, prepared to take it all on!
  • Be aware of the bicycles! No kidding, there really are over 100,000 bikes in the city, and they definitely have the right of way. Both Rabbit and I had our near-misses, and we heard a few tourists yelp as they had theirs. The bike lanes are much more intimidating than the car lanes, with motorbikes and bicycles sharing the lanes and moving in many directions. Look in every direction before attempting to cross!
Parking garage for bicycles! There were bikes throughout the city.

We knew that we wanted to at least see the Rembrandt and Van Gogh museums while we were in town, but the weather changed from rain to bright and sunny, so we snagged advance tickets for Van Gogh, and took advantage of the sunshine by walking the city.

Amsterdam is a very clean and beautiful city (other than the red-light district, perhaps), filled with friendly locals and tourists – most, if not all, of whom speak English- making it very enjoyable and easy to navigate and enjoy everything Amsterdam has to offer.


We passed through a canal-side street of market stalls selling tulips, souvenirs, and local wares, and a row of old shops, including the Amsterdam Cheese Store (a must stop!! try the coconut cheese – it is amazing!).  It was at one market stand that we got to taste our first stroopwaffel… WOW! Freshly made thin, tender, cinnamon infused waffles brought together with a wonderfully gooey layer of caramel… one of my new favorite foods!

We strolled through an open market in a beautiful town square, and perused through a local bookstore – and a few other local shops, letting us get a real taste of the city.  The buildings of the city are so beautiful and inviting- it was difficult to resist the temptation to walk into every building, take photos of every archway and facade, and explore every corner. It helped that there was an unexpected power outage in the city, which closed about half of the city’s shops and restaurants.

After our adventures we found a perfect spot for lunch, enjoying the outdoor deck of a cafe, overlooking a gorgeous view of a canals and an amazing row of crooked canal homes.  The menu was full of delicious things to try, including the long-awaited bitterballen!

Bitterballen are deliciously bad-for-you, fried balls of diced meat (beef and/or veal), swimming in a rich, comfort-food worthy, delicious mac-and-cheese like roux. Served with coarse mustard, and REALLY hot inside, they are an incredibly decadent must-try Amsterdam bite. (…now my mouth is watering and I’m wondering how I can make them at home).

After enjoying the sights and tastes of our lunch, and attempting to warm up under the cozy fleece blankets on the patio, we set off to explore again, this time headed towards the Rembrandt museum.  The museum, which is housed within Rembrandt’s actual home, includes rooms of artifacts the artist and his students, pieces of his original furniture and belongings, and a chance to interact with his studio.  Moving through the space alongside the audio tour provided a great chance to learn some history, enjoy the surroundings and be immersed into the artists’ home.

Next, we headed back towards the Centraal Station, and the ticket counters for the canal boat tours.  Due to the research I did in advance, and their prime location, we decided to go with Stromma tours.  As luck would have it, the rain started to drizzle as the sun was setting, and our (dry, warm, enclosed) boat pulled away from the dock! The tour guide provided a great narrative of the city’s history and descriptions of the buildings, as we coasted through the waters, taking in the beautiful city illuminated by the white lights on the canal’s bridges, and streetlights.  It was a perfect, romantic, relaxing way to finish our day’s tour of Amsterdam.


After grabbing some dinner at one of the Argentinian steakhouses in town, we headed back to the hotel to relax and prepare for our day-trip to Brussels – coming on day 2!


Away We Go! : Amsterdam and Brussels



…Another title for this trip could be… “Amsterdam and Brussels: The trip that almost wasn’t!”.

This past March, we were both thrilled to plan a trip to Amsterdam! This time, we snagged train tickets for a quick day trip to Brussels- something that had been on Rabbit’s list for a while, and we were both very excited for.

View from our window during de-icing.. the storm started to slow down a bit!

Then… a nor’easter came. A real, two-feet-of-snow, state-of-emergency type nor’easter, coupled with power outages, zero visibility, hazardous roads, and – of course- cancelled flights. Determined to make it, we packed our bags and started our very snowy trek to Newark Airport, hoping to be able to take off.  Upon arriving at the airport, we learned that pretty much every flight had been delayed or cancelled due to the weather conditions – except ours. Lesson learned: fly an Icelandic airline during the winter months- they can take off in anything.  Somewhat shocked at our good fortune, we heard the pilots commenting before boarding that this storm was pretty run-of-the-mill for them (insert huge sigh of relief here).  We did have some delay due to the de-icing process (which per the pilots was far less organized than it is for them at home), but took off and had one of the smoothest flights of all time.

After racing through the Keflavik airport to switch planes, we landed safely, happily, and a bit exhausted in Amsterdam!


Whereas we relied upon taxis and (mostly failed) Ubers in Athens, this time we decided to utilize the public transit system the city had to offer.  Upon doing our initial research, we learned that the city is only a brief train ride away from the airport (which is also the train station), and that a bus line could bring us directly to our hotel, just outside the main city.  Though very hesitant, I finally got Rabbit to agree to give it a go, and we purchase transit passes for the duration of our stay. The trip was surprisingly even easier than anticipated, and the passes were one of the best parts of our stay in Amsterdam!

After finding our way to the hotel, and taking a much-needed nap, we used the bus to get back into the city where we took to the streets in search of dinner, and an opportunity to explore.

While in the hotel, the tourism channel had been sharing information about various places – one in particular, Blauw – a highly rated and reviewed Indonesian restaurant – had caught my eye.  Though we didn’t pay particular attention to where we were going within the city, we followed the traffic, and figured that we’d stumble upon something good.  We ended up in the Red Light District (more on that later), and when we stumbled upon a sign saying “Blauw”, we hungrily jumped at the opportunity.

…Where we ended up was far different than the publicized Blauw, and even more incredible than we could have hoped for.  We had stumbled into Blauw aan de wal, and simply and honestly, the best meal I have ever eaten.

Housed on a side street, the quiet and un-assuming building was a complete surprise.  The intimate dining room itself, with exposed beams, brick walls, and candlelight had ambiance like no other.  Greeted by our waiter at the door, we received a quick run-down of the menu/plan for our meal. Our choice was simply the number of courses, (which were explained to us after we asked). The menu was set, but we were able to easily request a simple modification to one dish that was happily received.  Everything was incredible.  Our 4-course menu for the evening included: razor clams with pearl couscous, sous-vide octopus (Rabbit’s favorite bite of the whole trip!); beef with bone marrow mashed potatoes; and a chocolate mousse for dessert.

Three months later, I am still in complete awe of the composition, presentation, and flavors of our meal- the entire experience was absolutely wonderful.  Though we were lucky enough to snag the last walk-in table of the evening, I would highly recommend making reservations if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. It is the most perfect spot for a date-night or special meal that I could imagine.

After our meal and experience was complete, we returned to the streets to see what we could.  Outside of the Red Light District the city was pretty quiet, so we tucked in – and away from the drizzly rainy night – to prepare for a full day ahead of sightseeing.


Ahead in Day 1: walking the city, a canal boat tour, and yummy eats!




Day 5: Kalispera Athens!

Changing of the Guard in Syntagma Square

Our last day in Greece was a full, but relaxing day spent strolling the city to enjoy our favorite places to say goodbye, and taking in some new sights.

First on the list was getting to Syntagma Square to witness the changing of the guard ceremony at the Hellenic Parliament (Old Royal Palace).  The tomb was unveiled in 1932, and serves as a monument to Greek soldiers who have lost their lives in various conflicts throughout history, through to WWI.  The ceremony was a nice way to honor the people we had come to visit and enjoy, and to get a glimpse of some not-so-ancient history.  The soldiers were impressive, and after learning that their shoes weigh 3 kilos, I am even more impressed by their ability to remain composed while moving through the ceremony’s kicks and controlled movements while maintaining such perfect composure.

After the ceremony, we took our time strolling the streets near the Ancient Agora, stopping to have lunch and to enjoy the street vendors who had set up for the day.  Of course, stopping to grab a few last-minute souvenirs for our family (and some gelato), we made sure to soak in all of the fresh air and beautiful sights the city had to offer before catching our flight.

Boarding the plane was a little bittersweet!! I have to say that my first international trip was a tremendous success – full of wonderful moments and memories, delicious food, and very friendly people. We both agreed that we would love to come back to Greece to explore the islands someday in the warmer weather – and I hope that we are able to make it back.




Day 4: Day Trip to Istanbul

Beautiful view of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque

It has been too long since my last post, (I blame school) but I am happy to finally share the stories of the rest of our trip to Athens and Istanbul!

…I warn you, this is a long one; we packed the day full!! (for lessons learned, and quick favorites, scroll to the end)…

The fourth day of our trip we spent on a whirlwind trip to Istanbul – though it was an incredible day, and we saw most things on our lists, we both agree that we would like to go back for a longer trip if we ever find ourselves back in that corner of the world.

We started with a quick flight from Athens to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.  It was a little plane, but the staff was incredible and the flight was smooth – I honestly fell sound asleep and even missed the snacks! (Unlike me, though I’m starting to have a pattern of falling asleep on mass transit…)

The airport in Istanbul was quite a different experience from the smaller and slower airport in Athens- we were immediately greeted in Istanbul by lines of car services, tour groups, and others trying to get our attention… we did end up registering for a car service to take us to our first stop (which ended up being our rendezvous point), but the jury is still out as to whether or not that really was the best way to go. We had a clean car, safe drivers, and a pleasant experience… but perhaps paid a bit more than we could have.


Our first stop in Istanbul was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque, built in 1616. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and one which I will never forget.  I have been in many different places of worship, but this was my first trip to a Mosque.  I was humbled to be taking in the beautiful building, the history of the place, the feeling of the religion, and the reverence in the air all at once.  I think if we had more time, I would have liked to find a quiet place to sit and just soak it all in.  It was a very peaceful, yet captivating visit – remembering brings a smile to my face. (*Please note, out of respect, all visitors adhere to an appropriate dress code – head coverings and material to cover legs is available for use for women during their visit; all visitors are asked to remove their shoes while inside; and visiting hours are adjusted to allow for prayer times).


Our second stop, just a short walk across an open square, was the Hagia Sofia.  Built sometime around 532-537, it has served as both a church and mosque, and is now open to the public as a museum.  The line to purchase tickets was a little daunting- particularly in the cold weather- but after getting a snack from the vendor outside, and chatting about the plans for the day, time passed quickly. (I definitely recommend trying some simit while you are in Turkey- simple sesame covered savory pastry – ours were filled with Nutella- they are the perfect little snack. Not too sweet, but definitely satisfying!).  I am still not sure which was more spectacular- the view of the outside of Hagia Sophia which we enjoyed while in line, or the many views that we enjoyed as we walked through! Stone corridors, massive doorways, marble worn from years of visitors, prayer, and now admiration for this incredible place. I am so glad that we were able to make it here and take it all in!!

Next, we took a short walk to the nearby strip of sidewalk cafes and shops to find some lunch. As per our experience so far in Greece, the service was a bit slow- for the first time, I actually witness Rabbit become impatient as we waited- he was anxious to continue sightseeing!


After lunch, we stumbled upon our first Hafiz Mustafa location, and were totally enticed by the beauty of the desserts on display.  After purchasing two boxes to take home as souvenirs (they vacuum pack in the store for you, at no cost), along with some loose tea in a souvenir tin- we continued on our way through the streets of little shops and sights.  [The baklava, by the way, kept really well through our journey home and was delicious! Light, not too sweet, filled with pistachios- I thoroughly enjoyed it!]…

We walked the stone streets passed the Basilica Cistern and through the entryway to the Topkapi Palace Museum before catching a cab to take us towards Istiklal Street, and the other sights on our list.  We did not visit the inside of the Palace, due to the long lines for tickets, but the grounds were beautiful. (If we go back someday in warmer weather, I would like to go back and really see the palace).

We successfully hailed a cab somewhere to take us to Istiklal street, which is across the water (I believe the Bosphorus strait) from where we began our day… it was then that we really got a good look at the city as a whole- getting to see the modern city sights near the bridges, in contrast to the incredible history we began the day taking in.

I have walked busy streets, I have spent hours in Times Square, I have fought crowds in Philly, New York, Boston, and a few other major cities… I’ve been to Disney in the middle of summer when everyone in the world seems to be on summer vacation seeing Mickey… but I have never seen and experienced something like Istiklal Street.  It was an amazing (and slightly overwhelming) mix of old and new, a massive mix of people, music, language, architecture, shops, foods… everything.  Rabbit commented that he had never known me to be as quiet as I was when we walked down the street- it was almost impossible to take it all in! (I have noticed that I have no photos, either!). Although slightly exhausting, it was completely worth it, and something that I would revisit in a well-rested heartbeat.
Galata Tower

We meandered down the street, past Galata Tower and through to another, less bustling area of restaurants and shops. We stumbled upon an interesting steakhouse, and had a restful and delicious lunch, enjoying the heat of being inside, and a chance to talk and process the sights of the day!  The service was wonderful, everyone was very attentive (even insisting upon taking my steak back a second time to make sure that it was perfect), and delighted that we had come to visit their beautiful city.

After lunch/early dinner, we strolled a bit through Taksim Square and the remaining streets in the area before hailing a cab back towards the Blue Mosque. The view of the Mosque and the Hagia Sophia at sunset was an unforgettably peaceful and beautiful site to behold… I might have 15 pictures just trying to capture it.

We successfully found, and met up with our hired driver at our rendezvous spot, and embarked on our trip back to the airport.  Thankfully, we had been a bit early to meet him; traffic heading back to the airport was intense- the main road was even shut down for a period due to a diplomatic visit, or official motorcade of some kind. After enjoying the airport for a little bit, we had another great flight back to Athens, and somehow stayed more-or-less awake until we reached our hotel!

This side trip was a likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see amazing places, meet the friendly and delightful people of Turkey, taste some delicious food, and get some exercise (about 8 miles walking…); and it taught me a few travel lessons:

  • First, we have decided to try to limit our “second city” trips to places we can reach by car or train on future trips- although the flight was great, the time and stress added due to the airport experience, etc. was something that we’d prefer to do without for a day trip. (That being said… it depends on what the second city is!).
  • Second, I learned the importance of preparation… this day was planned entirely by Rabbit, who did an incredible job putting together our must-see list, and accounting for the logistics of it all, however, I wish that I had done some more prep in advance for myself, accounting for the historical background of the places we were seeing, etc. to enhance my understanding of the sights such as the Palace, the tower, et al.
  • Third, plan ahead for transportation! We had looked into it and saw that Uber, taxis, etc. were all available, but didn’t have it priced and planned ahead of time. In the heat of the moment, tired, and concerned with getting our day started, we likely overpaid for our transportation – our less than reliable Uber experiences in Athens made us question it here, also.
  • Most wonderfully… this trip reinforced that I could and would go anywhere with Rabbit. Taking on an itinerary such as this one with just any travel companion could have been disastrous… but, once again, he proved to be my perfect match, and my home away from home.

This was an incredibly long post, and I’m sure I’ve lost some of you by now, so here’s a quick recap:

  • Favorite Sight: Blue Mosque
  • Favorite Bite: simit – with Nutella
  • Favorite Moment: sunset in Sultanahmet square

Any questions, comments, feedback?? Please share!! We’d love to hear what you think!




Day 3 : Athens and Best.Sunset.Ever.

One of the views on the way up Mount Lycabettus

Our second full day in Athens began at a leisurely pace.  Having had a very busy day of sightseeing, and a late night (thanks to some delayed sleep phase and odd jet lag finally catching up with us), we didn’t really start our day until about noon.

Our only two real goals for the day were to visit the Olympic stadium, and complete the widely recommended sunset hike up Mount Lycabettus. Thankfully, the two aren’t very far apart, and we were able to navigate somewhat easily from one to the other by foot… we initially had planned on grabbing an Uber to take us through town, but after an unexpected road closure, some kind of police activity, and being dumped by our Uber driver, we decided to just go for it.

Deciding to wing it despite our tired feet from the previous day, was one of the best things we did. The neighborhood around Mount Lycabettus was very different from where we had been spending our time, and we had the opportunity to duck into a mini-mart for some much needed snacks (and “souvenir” Greek chocolate bars for later).

Panathenaic Stadium (“The” Olympic Stadium)

I am a bit ashamed to admit that when planning the trip, the Panathenaic Stadium hadn’t even been on my radar… it wasn’t until the end of our first full day in Athens when Rabbit suggested it as a must-do, that I had an “a-ha” moment and added it to the list.

I am so glad that we made it!! Especially in an Olympic year (though this year is the winter games), it was incredible to be where it all began.  Rabbit took to the stairs of the stadium as a personal challenge- which are far bigger than what I think we would normally think of for stadium seats- but you could see that there was something invigorating about doing it there.  We also took turns running short sprints on the track in the middle – we didn’t win any medals, but it was a very memorable experience!!

View looking up Mount Lycabettus, from about halfway up!

After a few bumps in transportation, and our little side-trip for snacks, we made it to Mount Lycabettus!! Unlike my planning for the stadium, this hike was one of my must-do’s from the minute I began planning.  All of the blogs and stories I read in preparation, along with the guidebook I purchased, simply stated the sunset hike as something that had to be done, and I was in.

The entrance to the trail doesn’t have much marking, but thankfully, Google Maps had saved the day and brought us right to one of the paths. Faced with the choice of dirt/rock trail vs. stairs, we opted for the trail initially… don’t be fooled! This isn’t the leisurely, romantic stroll you may have been thinking- though it truly was one of the best things we did during our trip!! (There is a lift on the opposite side of the hill for those who aren’t able to hike, or if you’re not on the kind of date that it’s ok to break a sweat).

Stairs on the way up!

Several times along the way, we had to stop and look around… the views from the trail seemed somewhat even more remarkable than those from the Acropolis, and just got more and more beautiful as the sun got lower in the sky.

At the top of the mountain, there is a small bell tower, a chapel, and a restaurant (near the lift entrance). After catching the beginning of the sunset, we grabbed a table at the restaurant for a late-lunch/early dinner (the Greek salad was delicious!!) and continued enjoyment of one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen.


As the sun was going down, we started our descent, and ended up finding a different side-trail than the one we came up on, which took us through some different streets in Kolonaki. The neighborhood was very pretty, had a younger crowd, and had some very good-looking restaurants… however, we both agreed that it seemed too much like a neighborhood we could stumble upon in New York or Philadelphia (near home), and found our way back to the area around Parliament and Monastiraki.

Here, we checked another to-do list item off our lists, and grabbed a souvlaki from one of the small cafes that opened into the street. We were able to sit outside and share our second dinner and enjoy more people watching! The souvlaki was delicious, and it was a great way to wind down the evening.

…my mouth is actually watering a little just thinking about these bites!

We called it a night pretty early in preparation for our early morning flight, and busy day planned the next day in Istanbul!

– Gabby


Day 2: First Day in Athens


Day’s Agenda: See all of the historical ruins and sites that we can.

What we saw: Temple of Olympian Zeus; Hadrian’s Arch; Acropolis – including the Theater of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Temple of Athena Nike, and Parthenon; Ancient Agora … and all of the streets along the way!

Inspired by one of the “Best of” walks outlined in the guide book I had picked up, we set out on a mission to see as much of ancient Athens as we could see. Though the walk outlined in the book was logged as being 2.4km in total- we logged over 11 miles in walking for the day (including our walks to and from the hotel, etc.).  Walkers be aware: the winding streets can be a bit disorienting sometimes! We found that Google maps worked well to help us navigate …. even with the occasional re-calibration!

Our first stop (after the Bread Factory) was the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was an amazing sight to see, and very humbling to imagine that it was made by human hands long before cranes and power tools. With the Acropolis in the background (see photo above), it was a very inspiring way to start the day.

Next, we snuck a quick peek at Hadrian’s arch as we found our way to the Acropolis.

The Propylaea, serving as a gateway to the top of the Acropolis

The view of the Acropolis throughout the city is breathtaking, and awe-inspiring… the view from the top is completely unforgettable and one of the best moments of our visit. The climb to the top can be a bit intense at times- please note that there are no handrails, fences, or other security-blankets for use on the way up. (Which was a little intimidating at moments, but really helped to ensure that the view and the experience of the site was as pure and un-touched as possible). On our way up we got to enjoy the Theater and Odeon before getting to the top. Again, it was incredible to remember that all of it was built by man.  We chose to skip the Acropolis museum in favor of spending more time in the sunshine, and more sightseeing.

After our descent from the Acropolis, we found our way to a small site which housed the Fethiye Mosque- which is now restored and repurposed as a museum.

Poised and ready for lunch!!

Next, we had lunch at a great sidewalk cafe overlooking the ruins, with the Acropolis as a backdrop.  It was the most picturesque place I’ve ever eaten- the food was delicious also! One of my favorite things to eat during the trip was tzatziki with bread or pita- unlike the tzatziki I have had at home, the authentic versions are creamier and are served as a delicious and fresh dip – there were slight variations between the restaurants we sampled, but each one was delicious!!

ancient agora
Temple within the Ancient Agora

Our last Ancient site for the day was the Ancient Agora, which we found a bit by accident during a walk through some neighborhoods, and around Monastiraki. (We saw some great street vendors in the area around the Agora which are definitely worth seeing also!)  The Agora had a relaxing park-like atmosphere with a temple, some various ruins, and an interesting museum about the area, and all of the people and purposes the area has served.  During our leisurely walk through the Agora, we chatted about our day, and agreed that we both enjoyed the Ancient sites much more than anticipated!

After our full day of walking, we grabbed a snack and headed back to our hotel to relax for a bit.  After dinner, some evening sight-seeing and sampling of some different entertainment, we headed back to Monastiraki where we found a great place for dessert and live music… It was here that we did (what I consider) the most daring thing we did on our trip: we danced! There was such a relaxed and family-like atmosphere at every restaurant we visited… and the bouzouki was too hard for Rabbit to resist- very reluctantly, I followed… and though we had no idea what we were doing, we danced arm in arm just long enough for me to feel completely out of my element, but thrilled and happy at the same time!

I’ve shared more photos from our day below… even as I look back at them now, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I saw them in person!! It was a really incredible and amazing experience …and that was just the first day!

It was on this day that we learned that Uber is not as reliable in Athens as it is in other cities – though the taxis may be a little more pricey, they might be worth it to rest your tired feet.

We headed back to the hotel around 1am (leaving many Athenians behind, still dancing!), in need of some sleep.

Ahead in Day Two: Olympic Stadium, a hike up Lykavittos Hill, Kolonaki, and souvlaki!

– Gabby


Day 1: Away We Go!



Not sure how else to start!!

Rabbit and I were away exploring a new (very old) corner of the world! This was our first international trip together… and my first.

It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life, and definitely the best trip I have ever taken…. setting the bar pretty high for our next adventure.

Our itinerary was a bit ambitious, including three-ish days in Athens, and one day in Istanbul. Busy home and work schedules mean that four nights, five days is the perfect length of time for us to be away.  Thanks to Travelzoo, Rabbit’s amazing research, and some reasonable planning, we were able to see everything we had hoped to- and really get to enjoy Athens!

Our basic itinerary:

  • Day 1: Flight from Newark to Athens; depart midnight, arrive 4pm
  • Day 2: Full day in Athens
  • Day 3: Full day in Athens
  • Day 4: Flight from Athens to Istanbul, full day in Istanbul, flight back to Athens
  • Day 5: Half-day in Athens; flight from Athens to Newark, land 10pm

We spent all four nights at The Stanley Hotel in Athens.  Though the location of the hotel was a bit away from where we spent the majority of our time, we were both grateful that we had the chance to see more of the city by walking the neighborhoods, and getting away from the center of things. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, and the view of the Acropolis from the rooftop was breathtaking.

From the moment we hailed the cab to the hotel, we felt welcome. Our cab driver gave us the run-down during our half-hour drive from the airport to the hotel. Unfortunately, I was a bit too awestruck to remember to try to take photos of the drive… but it was wonderful to enjoy the scenery, see the city a bit, and take it all in!

Despite what we had thought about potentially needing a nap once we were checked in on our arrival day… we were able to drop our bags, freshen up, and head out in time to catch the city as it was starting up for the night! Having an overnight flight helped us to both catch a few hours of excited sleep on the way.

Having read about the restaurants in the Plaka district and Monastiraki, we asked the doorman at the hotel which way to go… stopped at the Bread Factory on the corner (YUM!) for a snack, and set out on our way.

Our walk introduced us to the rhythm of Athens traffic, and the hidden excitement of some of the neighborhoods…. Athens is an endearing and intriguing mix of old and new, beautiful and boarded. As the taxi driver had told us though, we were safe… and despite the kidding and the dark corners, we never really felt uneasy.

After stumbling upon some delightful little streets lined with patio lights, interesting windows, narrow walkways shared with motorcycles, and Athenians who were just beginning to start their evenings… we landed in Monastiraki.

We strolled down a long street of cafes and restaurants bordering the Ancient Agora, and found the most perfect, romantic spot for sharing the most delicious cheese plate we’ve ever had.


It was here, in our new favorite place, that we first encountered the slower pace that life seems to offer in Athens. We were able to sit and enjoy each other’s company, the food, the beautiful atmosphere, the live music, and really savor every minute of it. It is definitely a meal that I will never forget.

After dinner, we meandered around a bit more to get a lay of the land and do some planning for the next couple of days before heading back on our walk to the hotel to try to get some rest for our first full day in the city.

I cannot think of a better way to start the trip!

I will share a run-down of each day’s activities, and outline a list of lessons learned/FYI’s that we think would be helpful for anyone setting out to explore Athens and/or Istanbul… but for now, I’m going to close my eyes and remember the taste of that cheese, and the sound of a bouzouki playing…

– Gabby


Chocolate Babka


There is something wonderfully magical about making bread, particularly yeast dough.

Even though I typically follow recipes very strictly when I’m baking bread, there is something whimsical about the process that captures my imagination and fascinates me every time. The smell of the yeast… watching the rises… kneading and molding it into something delicious and beautiful… I truly enjoy the entire process.

Add chocolate into the mix, and I cannot think of a more delightfully intoxicating way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen!

For a late holiday family get-together, I decided to embark on a kitchen adventure and create some chocolate babka, using my favorite recipe from one of my favorite food blogs: (Find recipe for Better Chocolate Babka here!)


This recipe (though it may seem a bit intimidating at first glance) is very simple, easy to follow, uses normal ingredients (I was low on chocolate for this batch and used Hershey’s cocoa powder and some remaining chocolate chips, and it tasted incredible!), and is pretty forgiving! I started my bread at home, and then packed my towel-covered loaves for a traveling second rise, to be baked in my aunt’s oven upon arrival… despite the freezing air temperature and unconventional place for rising (a cardboard box in the trunk of a car, covered with a dish towel…) the dough behaved beautifully and was just as stunning as it was when I first attempted this recipe in completely controlled conditions.

The original author provides many helpful notes within her post, which I cannot do justice here…  I hope that you will follow the link provided above to her posting, to explore this recipe for yourself …and enjoy every delicious bite!!!

– Gabby


Cheers to the New Year!

cropped-stairs-lights-abstract-bubbles1.jpgAs I do every year, I’ve made some pretty ambitious New Years resolutions for 2018.

Though I haven’t dropped my holiday weight, finished graduate school, landed my dream job, or mastered the art of mindfulness just yet (it’s only January 1st!)… I’m feeling pretty optimistic that 2018 is going to be quite incredible.

Beginning this blog is part of my biggest resolution of all: to live and enjoy life with those I love, particularly my other half (Rabbit), and our families.

This blog will serve as a space to share our adventures in food, travel, home projects, and whatever else strikes our fancy!

I hope you’ll join us!

 – Gabby