Planning The Trip
We LOVED Greece. As we were starting to plan, we researched several fun islands and cities to visit. I had narrowed down my search to Naxos, Paros, Santorini (and maybe Mykonos and Crete)… but then we landed on an amazing private rental that only cost us 400 Euros for the month in a place called Patras (thanks to travel FaceBook groups!!), on the opposite side of Greece to the Aegean sea, and far from any of those islands.
Our plan, to keep our costs down, was to find a monthly rental, and then do a few shorter out trips from there. This place was small, but big enough for all 6 of us, and on a town with a beach (score!). That narrowed down our planning significantly, as we knew we wouldn’t make it to any of the islands on the east side because we would be in a port town on the west side (Ionian Sea). We started looking around again and landed on Zakynthos (our research showed that it had some of the most crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches in the world). We also chose Meteora because it looked amazing too!
Start Out in Athens
We started our trip with a few days in Athens, flying directly from England. We heard that it was pretty noisy and busy, and not the most fun for kiddos… so we only planned to stay for a few days. It was nicer than we expected- and we landed a cute little Airbnb close to the downtown core.
Taxis were cheap, and we could also walk to most of the big sites in under 1 kilometre. We walked to Hadrian’s Arch and the Acropolis (booking in advance is a good idea for this one- because the lines are long, and the time slots fill up quickly). We walked around some cute markets and streets and stopped by a few other smaller archeological sites as well.
We enjoyed the gyros (food in Greece is quite a bit less than Canada, even with the exchange rate to Euros, so that was nice). It was quite crowded and busy, and all of us were happy to move on after the few days we were there (especially the kiddos that got sick the first couple of days there- we had to take turns going out).
Off to Patras: Not Our Favourite
We took a train to our rental for the month, which took about 3 hours. There is a train that goes almost all the way there and was easy to navigate (around 100 Euros for all 6 of us), and then hopped on a bus for the rest of the trip.
It was neat to drive through the countryside and see what rural Greece looked like, which was quite different than what we had seen in Athens.
We landed in Patras and took 2 taxis to get to our place (they never had taxis big enough for us in Greece- and we always had to take 2). Our landlords were welcoming and kind, and we were in a great location, within walking distance to everything we needed, it was nice to be able to go to grocery stores and make a few of our meals that month. The downside to being close to downtown was that it was very loud, day and night (church bells, sirens, loud people). Our house was not super comfortable (2 of the kids on hard pull-out couches, a toilet that didn’t always work, the tiniest kitchen ever, and sliding doors that would get stuck often), but it was very inexpensive, and it had everything we needed.
The bakeries in Patras were lovely, but the beach/water weren’t as nice. There was one small beach with sand, but most of it was rocky, with big waves (not big enough to body surf on, unfortunately). Patras was not one of our fave places, or somewhere I’d recommend going to -but it was a good jumping-off spot. It was also nice that it’s not a tourist area- so we got to see what local life was like- and were the only ones at the archaeological museum.
Zakynthos: The Island with the Crystal-Clear Water
One of our top spots in Greece was the island of Zakynthos- with its crystal-clear waters, sunny weather, and sandy beaches- we spent an amazing week there. It’s an easy drive from Patras to Kyllini, where the port is (we rented a car to drive there), and then a gorgeous ferry ride of just over an hour.
We found a freediving class for Ashur to take for his 17th birthday present, which he was excited about- and the trainer was amazing (you can check out what he does here and here). I highly recommend him!
We went to the Olive Museum and bought the most delicious olive oil, super nice lotion, shampoo, and conditioner (my fave!! I’m going to try and figure out how to order some to Canada once we get back!).
Every day was spent on the beach, and every evening we watched the sunset or lightning and thunder from our lovey patio that overlooked the forest and ocean. Zakynthos has lovely trees, big hills, and stunning beaches- we would love to come back here.
Meteora: Stunning Monasteries Set on Rocky Cliffs
This was one of the places I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint! I only wish I had a drone to capture its magnificence. We stayed in a little Airbnb in Kalampaka not far from the famous monasteries (in fact, you can wake up early and hike right from the town to the monasteries). We opted to rent 2 small cars because they were cheap, and vans are quite pricey to rent throughout Europe. Almost the whole drive is one toll road, and you can expect to pay 20-40 Euros per car each way (coming in from Athens there are also toll roads- they are all over Greece… they are very well taken care of, you can find bathrooms every few miles, and they have a high-speed limit- usually 130 km/hr, from what we found).
Meteora is full of huge rocky cliffs that jut upwards, and almost seem to be floating in the sky, with monasteries built on the very top. I’ll share some photos below, so you see what I mean. Geologists still don’t totally know how they were formed- there are a few theories, but not one overall accepted theory- which kind of adds to its unique magic.
There are 6 monasteries in total and a LOT of stairs (warning: it is NOT accessible… I didn’t see any elevators for public use… and there are HUNDREDS of stairs you must go up and down). We scheduled it well, as there is always at least 1 monastery closed for the day (you can find opening times and hours here)- so with a little planning, you can stay overnight for 1 night, and catch them all.
Some of them were smaller and older, and some were newer and massive- but they were all stunning! Huge cliffs with walls of vines and flowers were my favourite part (like always!).
Tour Train from Diakopto to Kalavrita
The last place we stopped before we flew from Greece to Rome was Kalavrita. We found a cute little tour train you can take back and forth between Diaphkoto and Kalavyrta- there are no other stops- and the cute little town of Kalavirta is worth spending some time at.
The train takes you through long stone tunnels, past steep gorges, around rivers, and up and down mountains. It is a cog-wheel train, so it can go up and down steeper hills, even in rain and snow. It was hard not to video the entire thing- as it was SO pretty!
We passed by several hikers on the tracks. It would be a fun hike to do, even for just a little bit- but it would be precarious going through the long train tunnels, and not knowing exactly when a train would come (there is no room on the side of the tracks in tunnels or over bridges).
We opted to take the scenic drive to Kalavrita- and start there. Most tourists start on the diakopto side, so it wasn’t a very busy trip on the way there. The drive was beautiful- although we had to stop a few times for breaks from the winding roads, with motion-sick kids.
We found caves close by, which is one of Reuben’s favourite things, and did a tour through the Cave of Lakes after our train ride. It houses the highest number of bats than any other cave in Greece- and the inside of the cave was spectacular, just as stunning as any of the basilicas we had seen. As we walked through, I kept thinking how it had the feeling of being nature’s basilica- like a holy place.
They also have a small, but very high-tech/modern museum that you get entrance to with our ticket- and we enjoyed a tour through that as well. The guides answered all our questions- and we learned a lot about cave formation, the history of the rocks, and the history of the people in that area from what they found in the caves.
This was a fabulous last trip before we headed back to Patras, packed up all our gear, and took an express bus right from Patras to Athens (and then a bus from there to the airport).
Have you been to Greece? Did you love it? I’d love to hear your favourite spots! I’ll definitely be back- although Greek food was not my cup of tea, and I was glad to move on to different foods in Italy (everything was SO sweet!).
Regulate Your Emotions While Travelling (and life-ing)
Emotional regulation is hard to teach if:
1) You have a deeply feeling or Neurodiverse kiddos that has a hard time with big feelings.
2) You haven't been taught how to feel your own feelings (in childhood if your own big emotions weren't talked about, safe to be expressed, understood, or validated this can feel especially tough).
To help get you started on your own journey of feelings, and to help you teach your kids about emotions... I've designed a custom Feelings Wheels that helps you recognize and identify what emotion you are feeling. Put your info in below and I will send it to you (and I'll email over a quick list of tips to get you started)!
Awareness is the first step to self-regulation and co-regulation with your children.
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