Charleston, South Carolina

I took a quick weekend getaway to Charleston, South Carolina for a weekend as a Southern Belle.  I will fully admit I had preconceived notions of what Charleston would look like, a charming, cute, historic beach town with lots of handsome southern gentlemen, and a more built up city.

I may offend Charleston lovers, but I didn’t fall in love with the city.  To me is was very run-down and that’s just not my style.  It was also a different feeling there, you definitely felt like you were in the south with all the “Yes Ma’am” and “Sir” that you hear.

While there, I took pregnancy shots for Aline.  We went to several different locations, so I just posted some of the best shots that I edited.

Click on the picture to see the rest of the photo shoot.

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Tourist Attractions:

Downtown Charleston

The main streets in the city were cute, but outside of the area was very run down.  The streets were filled with a lot of bars, restaurants, and small shops.

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Hurricane Proof House

Since it does flood, a lot of homes are raised and don’t have basements in order to avoid damage.  This builder took it to the next level, he build an oddly shaped, hurricane proof house that looks like spaceship.

To read more on it, click here.

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Newest Bridge

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Boone Hall Plantation

This is one of the more popular plantations. The road to the plantation is gorgeous.  It’s $20 to get in and it was just interesting to see a little piece of history.

For information, click here

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Angel Tree

This tree is more than 1500 years old. It is gigantic!  Aline thinks it is ridiculous how much I wanted to see the tree, but it’s HUGE!  The roots are growing out of the ground.  It’s free to go see.

FYI- The tree was closed by the time we got there, so I only got to enjoy it from afar and took pictures through the fence.

For the location, click here.

Restaurants:

Saveurs Du Monde Café

This is a cute little French café. It is very cute and the food is delicious. I had breakfast here.  The atmosphere was nice, the staff was very friendly, and the food portions were very large for the price.  When I got a crepe, I expected a something small and folded, oh no, I got something so large, I could only finish half.  I got the East Coast crepe, very fitting right?

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Here is Aline’s dad being very French with his cappuccino and baguette.

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Here is the menu.

Prohibition

The restaurant made you feel like you stepped back in time. There was a swing teacher and it was fun to watch the students and the host was in a simple flapper outfit. The downfall was the selection of food on the menu. It was very limited and most of the foods were fried, which you know is not my cup of tea. A+ on atmosphere, but C on the food selection.

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Here is the menu.  Below is the crab roll. It was very tasty, but again, very fatty.

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Sol

This is a very cute place with a great selection of food. I got the Sol Salad and it was delicious.  The ambiance was nice and the price was very reasonable.

Here is the menu.

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Memorable Moments:

  • I wanted a new profile picture for the header of my blog and when I saw Aline’s white bed, I got the idea to do it there.  I wanted something light, fun, bright, and happy similar to my personality.  So I staged the place and had Aline take the pictures.  She is a very good photographer and it was fun to be the model for once.  Here are some of the pictures.
  • Alvaro, the grandpa happened to be in town at the same time as me.  He is such a wonderful and kind man and I am always happy to see him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak a lot of English and I hardly speak any Portuguese.  Actually, I tend to combine a little Portuguese and Spanish when I speak.  So how did we talk the whole weekend?  Thank heaven for Google Translate!  Aline laughed because it would be dead silent as we wrote back and forth to each other.

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  • Ramin surprised Aline with an actual baby shower while I was there.  Our MBA class had a virtual baby shower for her before, but he communicated mostly through Alvaro, which caused a slight confusion.  We got Aline out of the house to go out shopping and to see the gym. Ramin meant the clubhouse gym, but Aline thought her gym and even said why does my dad want to see it so badly?  Oh well.  The surprise turned out great and I happen to be the only one who attended both the virtual baby shower and the actual baby shower!

Virtual Baby Shower

Best group call EVER

Live Baby Shower

  • One the photo shoot, we saw turtles on a dead fish.  Ramin took like 5 million pictures of them.  We make fun of him because he loves nature shots, he hates people shots.  He’s a very good photographer and very serious.  While I use two lenses, look how many he owns. This is a legit photographer.

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  • Alvaro made us fish. We actually got the fish fresh from the fish market.  While cooking, he had a slight accident, but he’s still happy!

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Other Items for Discussion:

Airport

The airport was TINY.  There is one bathroom, one gate, one entrance, and the worst…No Wi-Fi.  It is going through a revamp, so hopefully it will be much nicer the next time I’m visiting.  This is our good-bye picture.

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United Flying Fiasco

I was supposed to board at 7 PM, so I arrived at the airport at 6 PM.  They kept saying there was mechanical issues and that once the passengers boarded, we would be ok. I had a feeling it might be cancelled as the flight kept getting delayed, I even asked the United agent if I could switch my flight and if they are sure this flight was still happening.

They assured me yes.  Finally they announced the plane was boarding and would arrive at 11 PM, but that our flight was cancelled because the pilot “timed out.”  Yes, timed out, what does that mean?  He reached his maximum flying time for the day and could not fly.

After that it was a mad rush to the ticket line to get everything resolved. I ended up getting on a 5:30 AM flight with Delta.  On top of that, they put us in the wrong hotel, so after a long game of shuffle board, I was at the hotel at midnight only to go back to the airport at 4 AM.

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Other people were getting rebooked on United, but I refused to go again, so I told them I want them to switch me and it was a lucky thing I did.  In the morning, I went to the airport, every flight was on-time, actually Delta got us there early, but the 6 AM flight for United was cancelled.

Before, I was indifferent to United. I’ve always been loyal to Delta, but after this, I hate United even more that words can say.  Delta is still my #1 choice and look, they serve Starbucks now.  It’s a sealed deal.

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Pay It Forward

After landing at IAD, I went to see if I could take a super shuttle. The guy told me to take the Fairfax Connector to Reston and then catch the shuttle home to save money. No, it would have been so much better to pay the extra cash or a straight shot home. Since it was in the daytime, the buses don’t run as often, so it took much longer than expected.

When I got there, the shuttle just left and the next one was going to be 40 minutes late.

I met Tanya also going my same way, so we wanted to split a cab.  Unfortunately, during that time, there were no cabs, so she booked an Uber, the Uber driver never arrived.  So it was time to go back to the bus.  When I got in, there was a little old lady who was lost and confused. She got on the wrong bus and needed to go to a location about 15 minutes from my house.

I looked at her flustered as the bus driver really didn’t help. She said, she can’t go to another location because the person picking her up doesn’t really speak English or know the area well enough.

She just reminded me of my mom and how confused my mom would be in the same situation.  I told her to come with me and we’d have to walk to my house to get my car, but I can take her to where she needed.

After Tanya, me, and Lisa (the old lady) got off the bus, we all trekked it to the location.  I got my car and as I was driving her, she told me she doesn’t have any family here. She works in the area and doesn’t drive, so she is meeting a friend to go to the outlets for her birthday.

I told Aline, I guess all the issues were meant to happen, so I could help this sweet little lady out.  All things happen for a reason and it really taught me never to stop being nice. I really did this because I felt bad for her, but this small deed ended up making it possible for her to celebrate her birthday.

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5 Reasons to See a Financial Planner

downloadWhen you hear the words “Financial Planner,” I think it is evenly split that some people have positive thoughts while others have negative thoughts.

You hear that all financial planners do is take fees or some people are scared that they are embezzlers.  And truthfully, it can definitely happen, but there are different types of financial planners.

Some that have total control over your accounts and others who do not.  I personally never thought I would never go to a financial planner until I met Abe through a mutual friend.

I live in the financial world and I work in budgets. If I can budget a portfolio of over $20 million, I can certainly do my measly paycheck right?  Well, not necessarily.

I was introduced to Abe with Abich Financial through my best friend Moon, I thought it was worth a shot to get his opinion on my savings plan or who knows, maybe lack of.  I think I’m doing a good job, but this is his expertise: Help people save for retirement and in my hopes and early retirement.download (1)

With an open mind and nothing to lose-since he is free, I made an appointment to see him.  I learned a great deal from him about how I have been saving.

Overall, my portfolio is fantastic for someone my age and I’m on target for all my goals.  He did help me consolidate some of the avenues I’ve been using to save: Mutual funds, 401K, Roth IRA, and a bare bones savings accounts.

Abe goes through each one of your accounts to see what you have and the growth rate.  He will honestly tell you to move certain funds if he doesn’t see that it is worth it.

He has also helped me out with any type of financial questions, including if it’s smart to move from my current job to another one.

He is absolutely fantastic to work with, so feel free to contact him. His contact information is  on his website: Abich Financial. Tell him you heard about him through me.  It’s definitely worth an appointment to make sure you have all your bases covered.

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Aline and Ramin-Expected May 2015- Baby Kiara

Aline wanted me to do pictures for her since Ramin really feels comfortable with me.  I did their photos in a few locations.  This is their first baby and I can’t wait to see what she looks like. Ramin has been waiting for this day for as long as I’ve known him.  You will see that Aline is all about profile shots. She is particular about her arms and a straight shot of her face right now, so I did my best to please her.

This is my first time doing a pregnancy shoot and I learned a few things:

  • Pregnant women have very limited poses
  • It is hard to get good angles
  • It’s much easier to do them in several sessions

Here are some of the photos below:

Kiara’s Room

Aline

Aline and Ramin

Aline and Grandpa (Vovo)

Posted in Photo Shoot | Tagged | 1 Comment

Love in the Modern World

One of my best friends, Sanam told me that she wants a partner who wants the same things as her.  She wants someone who wants to be in a committed relationship that will lead to marriage, kids, the picture perfect life, but also someone she enjoys to be around, but she hasn’t found that right person.

images (1)I’m sure you are all asking these questions right now…Is she too picky?  Where is she meeting people?  What can she change?  Whether the answer is yes or no, it does not change the fact that dating today has become a giant game of Jenga.

Each person you date is equal to one block.  For the first few blocks you pull, the entire game is still stable. As you carve your way through all the people you choose to date: The bad boy, the heart-breaker, the casual fling, the nerd, the workaholic, the one that got away, and the list goes on, you are one step closer to being the person who is responsible for knocking the tower down. Each block is one more you can’t get back, just like the time or emotions you spend with each wrong person.

Just like in Jenga, you have to be smart about which blocks you choose and have a strategy.  Same as in dating, you have to be strategic of who you date.

It shouldn’t be so hard to find someone who wants that right?  There is always some obstacle that prevents your happily ever after.  Sometimes, it is wrong timing.  Other times, I hear girls say that things didn’t work out because they were on two different paths.

Why is it that our parents did it and we just can’t?  Her answer: She was born in the wrong era, when chivalry wasn’t completely dead.  I laughed at her and said, in some sense that’s true, but there are pros and cons dating during our parent’s generation versus ours.

I asked Karen this question.  Why is it that dating has become so convoluted, so messy, so hard that at times people just like many of my girlfriends and co-workers have thrown their hands up in the air and said, I decided to be single forever.

images (2)Her answer: the rules and expectations of dating has changed. Society has created an impossible image for women to live up to.  Women today are taught to be independent and self-reliant.  We are educated. We have careers and a handful are high level executives and some are even CEOs.  Even with a demanding job, there are so many expectations that men have of their perfect woman.  And in the metropolitan areas filled with extremely talented men, the bar is even raised higher in a city like New York or DC filled with talented women. If they can’t find what they are looking for, it’s too easy for them to simply move on to the next well-put together girl.

We are not in the 1950’s when the man “brought home the bacon” and women were expected to run the household and raise the kids.  Karen said, dating has become hard for both men and women.

The expectations of keeping old-fashioned expectations like what their mom’s did for them growing up, but mixing in the expectations of the modern day independent woman is creating something unrealistic that they keep chasing for. Even if the woman meets 90% of the check-list, they will move on until they get 100%.

Women on the other aren’t necessarily looking for someone who is just a provider.   In most cases, we can support ourselves.  As we date, we look for someone who is a partner, a best friend, someone to share a life with.  We don’t need them in the same sense that the baby boomer generation did.  A man now has to offer more than a solid paycheck to make us commit, but as part of the package, we still want someone who can and wants to provide.  Again this is due to the melding of the expectations that we watched as our father’s took care of the family financially and did all the laborious jobs outside, but because we have our own income, we want to be able to do what we want too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

download (2)She said, in our parent’s generation, the man was the bread-winner and the woman took lesser role in the financial piece.  The man was in charge of the household and the woman was more dependent on them for many aspects in their life.

Now, not only do women work full-time jobs to contribute to the family income, but their checklist is just as demanding. They expect the woman to stay in shape. Be beautiful and sexy, a little devious in the bedroom, but a perfect could-be politician’s wife in the public eye. They want a woman who cook gourmet meals, run all the errands, can keep the house spotless, while being able to talk about world issues and keep their mind stimulated.

We are expected to be able to be a party host, manage the family social calendar, and eventually be the perfect mother.  This is nearly impossible in this day and age.  As times have changed, we have changed.  Unlike our parents, more women are making a career one of their top priority, if not their top, so with that comes less time to spend on the relationship and the family unit.

Life wasn’t as challenging as it is now either. Every day is a battle with traffic, the cost of living is higher, the expectations for wants versus needs has grown and many of us run the household without the help from anyone else.  I remember growing up, we had very helpful neighbors since we didn’t have family around.  They would help baby-sit us, we had a neighborhood carpool, and my parents felt safe with me at school.  You’ve heard the term, it takes a village to raise a child. We simply don’t live in an era where that is possible.  Many times, you don’t even know the neighbors next door, other than a nod once in a while, let alone drop off cookies, do neighborhood block parties, and play dates.

I wish there was a simple answer, but the term “it’s complicated” describes love in the modern era perfectly.  Both men and women have unrealistic expectations at times and they go through block after block trying to find the perfect one. Some of us are lucky to find love after just a few blocks, others get to the point where almost nothing is left and a slight wind could knock the whole tower town, while others may never find someone and call Jenga.

 

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7 Tips for Great Family Photos

I am extremely picky when it comes to pictures, even during my sister’s wedding, I was directing the photographer. Actually, I secretly took a bunch of pictures for her to make sure my sister got some great shots.  This is why I do my own family pictures.  It is a little extra work, but it is worth it.  This time, I had a small accident, which is why I am out of commission.  I was setting up the timer and running to get in the picture in heels and my booty knocked over the camera and broke the lense.  Luckily it was at the end of the photo shoot.

If your family is like mine, they kick and scream because prepping for pictures is simply annoying. No one likes all the time spent getting ready, matching, etc…, but in the end my whole family loved the pictures.

Here are 7 tips to help you get some professional looking shots without the price:

  1. Find a great location for the shoot.  I love using an outdoor setting, plus it’s free.  I love finding fields, parks, and areas filled with flower beds.
  2. Pose everyone.  As the photographer, it’s your job to take a look at see if everyone is posed correctly. Take time to move people, repose, and frame the shot.
  3. Use a self-timer and tri-pod.  This is your best friend, not only can you take a really good shot, but it keeps everything steady. Just be careful about the camera tipping over as you rush in for the shot.
  4. Go in the early morning or evening. Try and go when the sun isn’t too bright.  First off, it creates a lot of shadows and because it is so bright, everyone squints in pictures.  One big bonus: If you go early or late, you avoid all the other brides and families trying to get their money shot.
  5. Break up the location and times.  Last time I was home, we did 3 different locations and I made sure to do them in 3 days so my family would not shoot me with a gun.
  6. Plan the wardrobe. Your outfits really make or break a picture.  You want everyone to dress similarly for the occasion.  I don’t always recommend having to match perfectly, but you want to let everyone in your party know the expectations.  For example, if you are doing a casual shoot, you would want everyone in jeans and a shirt versus a more high-end shoot that requires heels, big and gaudy jewelry, and full-on glamour shot make-up.
  7. Sneak in some candid shots.  I always try to sneak in some shots without people looking because I think some of those shots turn out so much better than posed shots. Here are a few below that I took when my parents weren’t looking.

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Not everyone knows how to pose.  My mom is one of them. She really struggles on where to place her hands, turn her hips, etc… This is simply the cutest picture in the world, which I captured while my sister was trying to pose her.

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Type of Photo: Dressy, early morning lighting, at a local park with a wedding ceremony location on site. You can 

Type of Photo: Casual outfits, evening lighting, and local park

Photo Type: Semi-Dressy, Late afternoon/dusk lighting, open field

***Make sure to focus on framing and be creative.  Below, I used the branches to provide a soft frame for my parents.

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I hope these tips help you to get the perfect shot. Don’t be afraid to try new poses, backgrounds, and most importantly, have fun!

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4 Steps to Create a Layered Cake

Sarah and I have bonded a lot over the past year and now that her birthday is coming up I wanted to make her something special.  Of course, cupcakes are always a crowd-pleaser, but this time for this special girl, I wanted to bake my first cake ever.  Yes, ever.  I think everyone is shocked because I cook, but honestly I’m a HORRIBLE baker.

This was a big project and I didn’t want to mess it up. So I did research because I heard layering a cake is really hard to do.

Here is a great step-by-step that I read up on.

  1. Bake the cake.  I baked it at 275 degrees and it came out flat.  I actually did not have to cut it at all!  And right when I got it from the oven, I pressed the cake down as well.
  2. Let the cake cool and wrap it in saran wrap to place in the freezer overnight.
  3. Take the cake out and put a light layer of frosting in between the layers and start building.  Mine was 3 layers (2 red velvet and 1 chocolate).  It was supposed to have one more, but you will see in the picture, it failed so I made another cake from it.
  4. Once you have all the layers placed, go ahead and start frosting the outside.  It’s simple and easy and trust me, when you cut in the cake, it’s so pretty.

Below is Sarah’s cakes. The little one on the end was my “oooopppssieee” cake that actually ended up being everyone’s favorite!

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Here is a better picture of the cake.

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Opa!!! How to make the most of 9 days in Greece

Why Greece?  The simple answer Mama Mia!  Just kidding, we were deciding our next adventure, which was supposed to be Peru, but tickets were SO expensive.  We started scouring for tickets and Greece was extremely cheap during the month we went, probably because it was freezing, but it was worth it.  Plus we have always wanted to go to Santorini, so we checked that off the bucket list.

Planning:

I will tell you, this was probably one of the most difficult trips to plan because Greece’s tourism is seasonal.  A lot of the tours were limited that we could do in the winter versus the summer. Just make sure, if you want a more relaxed trip, going in the summer is much more feasible for you.  In the winter, it’s cold, there aren’t as many options, unless you are flexible and in Santorini, they close 90% of the island.  But if you go during tourist season, most tour companies and hotels charge you anywhere from 2-3 times as much.

I used a lot of websites to figure out what to do and see:

Time of the Year Traveled:

  • February 2015 (Middle of Winter)

Transportation:

  • Swiss Air- We took Swiss Air from the US to Greece. The airline wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t horrible either. What we learned is in other countries, there aren’t always plugs that are easily accessible to plug your phones.
  • Aegean Air- This was the flight from Greece to Santorini. The flight is 30 minutes long, it was the best flight ever.  Some people love the boat ride from Athens to Santorini that is about 6-8 hours long depending on what ferry is available.  For $160 round-trip, we decided it was worth it.  *One of our tour members said if you look ahead early enough, you can get round-trip tickets for $80 round-trip!
  • Cab- Taxis in Greece are cheap. From the airport to the hotel, it’s a flat fee of $35 during the day and $50 at night. I would recommend getting a cab versus a shuttle service.  It’s also cheap in Athens, a 20 minute ride might cost around 5-8 Euros.  One night, we got ripped off for a 5 minute ride around the corner, he charged us $3.50.  The next morning, we saw him again, we asked for directions and instead of hopping in the car, we walked around the corner just to make him feel what it’s like to be gipped!

Hotels:

  • Herodion We LOVED this hotel. The staff was amazing and the rooms were fairly large.  We really liked that there were two beds and a couch.  The hotel had a modern look to it.  It was clean, fairly priced, and the service was excellent.  It includes breakfast in the morning and their selection of foods is amazing.  $83 a night per Hotels.com
  • Airotel Parthenon– We had a great experience at this hotel too.  The front desk staff was incredible. Debbie helped us with every single question and need and trust me I have a lot of questions.  The rooms were roomy and clean.  The breakfast had a good selection and very good coffee. $58 per night per Hotwire.
  • Amalia We stayed here when we went to Meteora.  It was so cute. The bathroom was huge and the space in the room is good as well.  It was one of the largest room we stayed in during the trip.  The hotel had a nice lobby and the breakfast was amazing.  We did feel very bad because there were only 6 of us at the hotel and they did an entire spread for us.
  • Alexander’s Boutique Hotel We stayed here in Santorini.  I will have to say, we had the PERFECT view here.  The hotel is very unique, it is built in a cave formation.  I totally understand why igloos are so warm after sleeping here.  The place was wonderful and so unique.  The beds were comfortable, the view was incredible, and the bathrooms were very big!  In Athens, it’s hard to find that. We also go breakfast delivered to us in the morning. We met Alexander, the owner of the hotel and he was so nice, including the fact that he was willing to take us to dinner.  The manager there, Atif was so nice!  He took care of all our needs, he even went out to dinner with us…and he saved me by speaking with a pharmacist to get me cough medicine when he was trying to close. $71 per night per Hotwire.

*You probably cannot find this good of a price now just because its tourist season, but we got a steal on the hotels, especially because each hotel we stayed at provided free breakfast.

Tours & Excursions:

I used Viator and KeyTours.

Corinth Bridge

This is the bridge that links the Sarconic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth.

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Epidaurus-Mycenae

Mycenae is a site of ancient ruins for Agamemnon. There isn’t much left, but you can walk through the Lion’s Gate and get a glimpse of what it would have been like to be part of this kingdom.  For more information, click here.

Epidaurus was created as a theater.  In the theater, they once used it as a place of healing for the sick.  The theater is very large and the way it was designed, if you stand in the center everyone in the stadium can hear what you say very clearly.  For more information, click here.

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Meteora

Here, there are 24 monasteries built on top of these large rock formations.  It is considered in the “middle of the sky,” because it literally feels as if you are in a different world.

If you get a chance to go, please do.  There are 6 active monasteries and the history behind each one is fascinating.  Each monastery had a different feel and a different story behind it.

For more information, click here.

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Battle of Thermopyles

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Poros-Hydra-Aegina

Boat Ride

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Poros

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Hydra

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Aegina

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Delphi

Delphi is one of the most important sites in Greece. It is considered the center of the world back in ancient Greece.  Here you can find the Temple of Apollo close by.  You can also see how each room was built, some to place treasure, others to entertain, etc…

For more information, click here.

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Acropolis Museum

This place was amazing.  Make sure to check out the hours that it is open because on certain dates, it closes early or stays open late.  I would recommend you do this on your own, versus a tour.  Click here for the site.

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Cape Sounion

This is the Temple of Poseidon or what remains.  On this day, it was so rainy and windy, that we all struggled to keep our umbrellas under control, let alone take nice pictures.

For more information, click here.

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Scootercise- Trikkes

This was such an amazing experience.  The tour guides (more like owners) were fantastic.  They were friendly and because we went there in winter, we got a private tour.  We didn’t know how to get to the meeting point, so they even arranged transportation.

This is much easier than segways, I would definitely recommend it.  Plus, my picture taking skills got me the tag line “You have a PH.D in photography.”  Um…yes I do!

Click here for the site.

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Hamman Baths

This was an awesome experience.  The price was extremely fair for the service you got here.  You start off in a nice wash room (in a bathing suite of course) and then you get on a table where someone will massage and wash your body and hair.  It feels like heaven.

*This is also where I learned that Lisa is ticklish in the shoulders.

After the bath, you sit in the tea room for tea and snacks.  I would highly recommend this for a relaxing evening activity.  Please email them to book a time before you go.  They are very responsive and they take VISA!

Click here for their services.

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Things to See in Athens:

Acropolis

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Theatre of Dionysus

This is right across from the Museum. We spent almost 1 hour searching for this.  It’s a small entrance right across from there.

Temple of Zeus

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Mount Lycabettus

You can hike to the top or take the Funicular. I recommend the Funicular. It’s an easy ride to the top and it’s on 7 Euros per person.

We went around 5 PM, so that we could take pictures in the sun and at dusk.  It has the best view of Athens!

Click here for more info.

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Temple of Hephaestus

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Parliament & Temple of the Unknown Soldier

Be warned that you cannot point towards the solider.  They will slam their gun to the ground. Also, you can’t have two people stand for a picture in front of them.  All I have to say to that is if there are rules, put them up in writing.

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Syntagma Square

Benaki Museum

This is one of the most famous museums. There are multiple locations, but the most famous one is located a few blocks from the Parliament building.

Again, check the hours here. They open late on some nights and close early on other nights.

Arch of Hadrian

Stoa of Attalos- Ancient Agora

Technopolis

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Gazi

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Dromeas Runner

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Zappeion

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Choragic Monument of Lysicrates

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Library of Hadrian

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Vouliagmeni’s Lake

This lake was beautiful.  It apparently has healing powers and is cleaner than a pool. The water stays warm all year round, so people go in to swim and it’s supposed to help with things like arthritis. Here is more info.

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Tower of the Winds

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Olympic Stadium

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Church of Soteira Kottakis in Plaka

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Metropolis Church

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Kapnikarea

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Here is another church, which I forget the name, but it’s is the smallest most random church in the center of Plaka.  It’s just a tiny door in the middle of the city.  If you walk along the street, you would just think it’s a very random building, until you see candles and pictures of Jesus.

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Other Places:

  • Plaka
  • Monastraki (Flee Market)
  • National Gardens
  • Thissio

Streets of Athens

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Things to see in Santorini:

Santorini in a Nutshell

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Megalochori

Emporio

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Perissa Beach (Black Beach)

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Red Beach

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Volcano

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Mini- Parliament

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Pyros- Tallest point of Santorini with the best 360 degree views

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Venetian Castle

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Ancient Thera

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Famous Doors- Atif told us these are a few of the famous 3 doors. I’m not sure why, but that’s what he said.

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Port- This is where you take the cable cart to the volcano

Alexander’s Boutique Hotel

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The sexy little yellow car that took us all over Santorini

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Food:

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Favorite Sight:

Meteora- This was our favorite place. It was fascinating and beautiful as well.  If you can get there please go.  It’s a far drive, so make sure that you do a dual tour and make the trek.  You won’t regret it.

Favorite Memories:

  • Lisa falling asleep everywhere.  I literally mean everywhere.

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  • My selfie-stick is everywhere!  And this is how I walk around with it.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_061610.jpgBeing photo-bombed and getting free wine.  We got photo-bombed on our first use of the selfie-stick.  He promised us wine, well of course we don’t really drink.  But we came back a few days later and asked him if he remembered us. He paused for a second and he said you are the selfie girls. Come in and wine is on us!  And they gave us free dessert too!wpid-img_20150208_144800.jpg
  • I got really sick when we headed to Santorini all the shops were closed.  Atif came with us and luckily he had the guy open up the pharmacy for me, but the guy looked like he was going to kills us.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_085729.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064206.jpgWhat I buy as gifts for people: Soap, Evil Eyes, Nuts, and Spices. That combined with my medicine costs, put us in trouble for the purpose of savings, but even with that, we were still under budget.  Our entire trip: Excursions, car rental, food, flights, hotel, etc… costed us below $1800 for 10 days. Lisa laughs at what I buy.wpid-cymera_20150216_063236.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064227.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_084206.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_060919.jpg

Tips:

  • Pack light. I totally over-packed and had to carry this giant luggage everywhere.  Lisa had the same amount of outfits and look how much more I packed?  And it made a mess everywhere.
  • wpid-cymera_20150211_033218.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_063336.jpgwpid-cymera_20150216_064257.jpgPre-plan ahead. It was absolutely worth getting all the tours ahead of time because it saved a lot of time for us.
  • Exchange your cash in the US.  I told Lisa to exchange cash to Euros in the US.  When I went to my bank, they did not have any Euros and told me it was cheaper to exchange it there.  That is not true, when we got to the airport, to the hotel, and into random stores in the city, the exchange rate was $.20 to $.30 higher per dollar.

Trip Highlights:

  • Pretending it’s sunny and warm. So you look at our pictures and think, wow Greece was such nice weather.  Wrong, it was cold, windy, and miserable.  When it wasn’t raining, it was snowing, but that never stopped us and part of the reason I got sick was from this.  We did NOT want everyone to see including our future kids to think we only packed one thing…A coat, so we would take our coats off just for pictures.  On our tours, all the friends that we made would make fun of us.  For example, the picture below was at Meteora. It was snowing that morning and so windy.  The wind was so strong that it hurt, but we took our coats off for a new picture.  We sacrifice a lot for a good picture.

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  • Being there during the protest for the debt crisis protest.

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  • Being proposed to by a random waiter in Santorini.  He expects me back next summer actually.  Lisa and I were just eating our food before our flight and the waiter started chatting and next thing you know, he’s trying to become my husband.  Again…we have no idea how this happens.
  • Meeting Damien who can take amazing jumping pictures in one try!  We were at the Parthenon and we saw him wandering, so we asked him to take a picture.  First try, we got this!  We decided it would be good to keep him around, just kidding.  He was traveling alone, so we had him tag along!  He’s actually a med student in Dallas and we still keep in touch with him.  Also, without his guidance, we probably would have missed some of the sites we needed to see.

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wpid-cymera_20150216_061057.jpgLessons Learned:

  • Greeks do not know how to give directions.
  • Taking random pictures saves you in random situations.  One day, we got completely ripped off by a taxi cab driver. He took us to the WRONG place and he also made us pay 4 times as much.  List took random pictures outside and after we went back to the hotel, the concierge said they can call him in for doing that and he was probably illegally doing it.  Lisa had a picture of his car, blurry, but it was better than nothing and we hope he gets caught!
  • We always have battery issues.  This time we had to depend on two phones and a camera to take the amount of pictures that we did.wpid-cymera_20150216_085650.jpg
  • wpid-20150206_164023.jpgBring pens.  Every single time we were on an airplane or out somewhere, we could never find a pen. Every trip this happens, especially when it comes to filling out the customs papers.
  • Bring an adapter.  We completely forgot this because we are completely ignorant that everywhere is like America.  Luckily all our hotels had adapters, but they didn’t always fit, so we had to make makeshift ones.
  • wpid-fb_img_1423590586644.jpgUpdate your GPS before you leave.  We did not, so in Santorini we just had to wing it and I am the worst co-pilot ever when it comes to giving directions.
  • No place is as good as America.  From all our travels, we realized that people don’t follow rules or proceed in an orderly fashion anywhere. In the airplanes, it became a mess because people from the back would try to get out first causing a bottleneck.  Even though America is not perfect, at least we understand lines.

Imperfect Moments:

Overall, I would say we had such an easy trip.  We had very few obstacles and got to see everything we wanted. If we never went back to Greece, there isn’t anything Lisa or I would regret not doing.

  • Car Rental Fiasco.  I always book everything ahead of time, including the car rental from Santorini.  I guess I did not know how small the airport was, but it’s tiny.  There were 3 rental car places and none of them had our reservation. I had the airport call the number listed and they would pick up and then hang up.  I was so upset waiting for someone, I actually sat in this wheelchair until the airport closed completely.  Luckily there was one taxi left and he called the place. Of course, they claimed they did not have a reservation, I started yelling, which is when Lisa knew that guy was in trouble.  The taxi cab driver took us to the only open car rental on the island and we got a car, but from all the frustrations, I was livid.  Then I emailed them for a credit and to explain what happened, Holiday Autos had nothing to say except sorry.  I am still demanding something be done because it was their fault and the fault of their vendor.
  • wpid-cymera_20150216_064217.jpgBad juju for the taxi cab driver from hell.  Our trikke tour went longer than expected and we had a segway tour right after.  Well, we missed it, but we thought we could get another one if we could get to the place in time.  We decided to take a taxi.  I went to the end of the street and asked one guy if he knew where this was. He said yes, but because of the protests, it would be 12 Euros. Lisa had a bad feeling, but I didn’t at the time, so we hopped in.  Well, the guy took us all the way across town and we had to figure our way back.  When we get back, we find out it was 5 minutes from our hotel and where we picked up the cab. That guy not only overcharged us, he wasted our time on our last day and made us miss SEGWAYS!
  • Where am I?  We were trying to find the Theater of Dionysus and literally we were 5 minutes away from our hotel, but everyone we asked kept telling us different directions.  I swear we asked about 15 people and they told us conflicting directions.  I was so tired of walking and finding this place!

What We Learned About Each Other:

I will have to say that on this trip, we definitely had a moment of realization and appreciation for each other.  We met each other when we were young, wild, and free and bonded over our love of Hannah Montana. Sadly, to date our love of Disney, Miley, and Justin Bieber has not changed.  But we did realize how different we truly our from our lifestyle, viewpoints, to even our personalities.

As we spoke to each other, we understand that it doesn’t mean we love each other any less. Actually, I think we love each other more if that’s even possible after this trip.   We learned a lot of things and some of the reasons why we have become the person that we are today.  For example, I am a planner because I have been forced to be, but not because I enjoy it.  I enjoy organization and making the most of each trip, but the planning process is very stressful.

I think overall, we realized we are more different than “twins,” but the love for each other is not any less. We appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Honestly, we are a perfect pair.  My good side for pictures is Lisa’s bad side.  So we never fight over which side to be on. I am horrible at directions, she is really good with directions. Even our phones compliment each other. My phone takes really good forward facing pictures, her phone is much better at taking selfies.

And I love after so many years, we still learn new things about each other all the time.  It is just proof that you can’t know 100% about everyone in a short amount of time.

Lisa:

  • Lived with her dad growing up because her parents had the restaurant in two different locations
  • Pickier with foods than I thought. I knew she was picky, but this trip, I learned she is super picky
  • Does not care for make-up. Her dad didn’t like her with make-up growing up, whereas my parents make sure we always have some on.
  • Twin doesn’t take her contact lenses out and sometimes they stick to her eyeballs
  • She is a light packer.  We go on the same trip and I take almost double what she takes with the same amount of outfits, but she didn’t pack warm enough, so she says she’s a light packer, not a good packer, there is a difference (Her words, not mine LOL).
  • Loses things easily
  • Really good with directions
  • Does not drink water
  • Ticklish in her shoulders
  • If it comes to breakfast or sleep, she chooses sleep
  • Sleeps in her clothes to save time. This cracked me up!
  • Lisa wishes she would have focused on academics
  • Her income is at poverty level and we never knew it
  • She is okay watching shows on repeat
  • Really good at backing a car out, I mean insanely good.  We got stuck in one long, narrow street in Santorini.  I would have honestly just sat there and cried until a man came and backed me out, but Lisa backed out without even thinking.  I was so impressed.
  • Her nails grow really slow

*She NEEDS Chinese food:

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Linda

  • Frequently gets bronchitis-Poor twin could not sleep because when I’m sick it intensifies my snoring.  She could not sleep one night and I felt so bad, I wanted to get her ear plugs.
  • I take the bad genes from my mom and dad and have really dry hands and feet.  I have bad eye-sight from my Dad and many other minor problems.
  • Good at planning, but it’s not what I love. I hate being a planner because it makes me such an adult, a control freak, but when you have no plans and free-flow through life, you just keep going in circles.  It’s such a double-edge sword.
  • I am a tea hoarder. Yes, I am.  I would call downstairs to ask them to bring tea and hop in the shower, Lisa always had to be the one to open the door and get the tea, hehe.
  • Chose coffee over food anytime.  One morning we were so late and I grabbed coffee and food.  The bus driver did not allow coffee on there.  I was so upset, I told Lisa that he could take my food, I don’t care. I just want my coffee.
  • Afraid of steps.  She thinks it is SO crazy I can jump out of a plane, but I’m scared to climb a ladder or steps.

***Ladies and gentleman, we broke the fighting streak with the selfie stick. We did not fight once over a bad picture. Why the heck didn’t people give me that selfie stick sooner in life or why didn’t I invent it?!?

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