{south africa: stellenbosch}

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Thankfully, there’s only so much you can write about a day of wine tasting but fret not, i have plenty of photos to overcompensate for that. Matt impressed us again with his knowledge during our second day with him but this time, it was all about that vino. The scenery in Stellenbosch is straight out of a dreamy magazine so it was hard to decide what made me want to stay forever more: the wine or the view. I got a little bit of backlash about spending an entire day at wineries while there’s a lot more culturally enlightening things to do in another country, of course, but yet again, Matt came to my rescue. One specific person (who will probably never read this but if you are, hey!) gave me grief for not doing a township tour. And while I can totally appreciate that that is an eye-opening experience and everyone should be aware of the extreme poverty that exists in both other countries as well as pontentially your own back yard, something about it felt a little icky to me. As in, these people aren’t zoo animals and who am I to trample through their living arrangements for my own betterment of educating myself? Matt made this exact argument to us before I could even express my guilt so it was nice to hear from a local that I wasn’t a horrible person. It’s a controversial situation in the Cape Town area that I could now go into depth about but I’ll save that for an in-person debate with those who are interested. Now that we have that out of the way..

Let’s talk about some grapes, people. If you find yourself in the area, I’m now not ashamed to admit this is a must-do (if you have the time). Stellenbosch was like entering another country in itself and accompanied with delicious wine all day had me falling in love over and over again. It’s a university town with charm pouring out of every corner. We did a quick drive through the quiet campus streets lined with Dutch architecture and changing leaves before winding through the mountains and vineyards. To me, it seems like you really can’t go wrong with what wineries you choose but obviously I’m impartial to the ones we visited. 


Our first stop was the gazebo tasting room at Stark Conde. I don’t even care how many times I say it: this view was epic. And going during off season of course meant we had the tasting room to ourselves. Matt also used to work here so he did our tasting himself which allowed me to ask 15,378 questions guilt-free! Aside from the bubbles that we ended our day with, this was my favorite wine. And gun to my head, if I absolutely had to choose, probably my favorite venue. PS that castle up in the mountains is supposedly a replica castle someone built to coax his wife into moving here from their homeland so she’d feel like they were still at home in their old castle but she still said no. Yet another story I was unable to verify but my middle name is gullible so it makes no difference to me. 


Next up: Rustenberg winery which reminded me of Steenberg. It was very Dutch influenced and serene but I will say if there was one winery I’d compromise and not return to, it was this one. Although, they did have a Chardonnay I ACTUALLY enjoyed as the queen of hating all things Chardonnay. And I took essentially no pics here which is a bummer because the tasting room had a mind blowing spiral staircase and chandelier that looked like they made their way there straight out of 1800.


Oldenburg was next and I WILL be going back there. It started to rain as we arrived so photos don’t do justice (but the websites can show what was behind the clouds). Instead, check out the renovated home you can rent on the vineyard. I’ve already mentally planned a return trip to stay there! They had a party in the main room when we walked into the tasting “house” so Andy and I were treated to our own private room that made me want to cuddle up in all day. If a fire had been roaring, I’m not sure I could have left!


I insisted on lunch at Delaire because of Pinterest, of course. The views were just as beautiful as they seemed in photos and the estate itself was larger than life. The front doors alone are bigger than our house. And the details were just mind blowing like the water throughout the entire building that made you feel like you were walking on a bridge from room to room (2nd & 3rd photos above). The rain cleared just in time for us to get a photo after lunch which made the visit worth it since the wine was probably my least favorite, sadly.


We ended the day with bubbles at Simonsig because Andy casually mentioned to Matt the day before that I’m Heather Dubrow’s spirit animal (jk but I’d be so impressed/scared if he understood that reference). But again, another reason we loved him! He went out of his way to make sure we were going to wineries that would accommodate what we like. After a delicious flight of bubbly, we called it a day and headed back to Cape Town. 

We capped off our (early) evening with a cocktail at the Oprhanage Cocktail Emporium and burgers/shakes (both vegan for me, whaaaat!) at Royale. It was the perfect way to send us off on our last night in Cape! Which means.. Finally, getting to the safari! I can’t believe y’all are still reading. Til next time..

PS if you find yourself in the area, here’s a few other things I wish we had time to do:

  • Robbed Island tour
  • Kirstenbosch gardens (still really bummed we didn’t just do this when we got there)
  • And if we really had a lot of time, I would have loved to spend some time along the garden route.
  • Cape Aghulus (and Hermanus for whales but we were there at the wrong time)

‘merica: vegan style

Friday, July 8, 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the 4th of July. Last year was the first year in a while where I had the entire 3 day weekend off but thankfully, I didn’t have to come up with plans because I was celebrating two of my favorite people getting married! 

This year, aside from a late night in the office Friday night, I didn’t have to put in too many work hours at all. Saturday was a low key night that turned into way too much fun and way too much alcohol and Sunday, we joined even more friends for a fun BBQ. Its crazy to think its been six months since I intentionally eliminated all animal products from my diet: meat, dairy, eggs, seafood- the vegan works. And since the question I get almost daily is “but what do you eat?”, here’s a glimpse into what I bring to a BBQ. 

First off, my intention is always to bring as much vegan-friendly food I can when someone invites me over for two reasons. One being that I pounce on any opportunity I see to convince all of my friends that vegan dishes are SO DELICIOUS and the other being that I never want to feel like I’m inconveniencing my hostess. It’s never my intention to be that difficult guest with tricky dietary requests and people roll their eyes about having to accommodate me. So on Sunday, I brought an appetizer and a dessert. Full disclaimer: the dessert fell apart somewhere between our house and the 30 minutes to our destination but it was still delicious, albeit hideous. Lucky for you, I didn’t get a photo after it collapsed but there were plenty of live witnesses. 

 For the appetizer, I brought a southwest dip from minimalist baker. And all of the non-vegans loved it! Even a cilantro-hating one. How can I out resist avocados, black beans, and maple baked sweet potatoes? I highly recommend her website if you’re vegan or not. All of her recipes are extremely easy and almost always crowd pleasers. Her cookbook and website are my go-to when I need a dish for the masses. 

For the dessert, it was a little bit more involved from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. I actually have had this cook book for a year and a half but am often intimidated by the majority of her recipes. However, Erin Ireland is my snapchat dreamboat and is constantly motivating me with all of her vegan cooking EVERY day. She makes it all look SO yummy and more importantly, so easy. So I revived this cookbook after I saw Erin recreate a few of her recipes lately. The filling is a macadamia nut milk vanilla bean custard – holy camoley. Does anyone else get weirdly excited over baking with vanilla bean? I love scraping every last bean out of those pods. 


For the main event, I had a ton of veggie burgers left over from our trip to Arkansas so I brought a burger (current fave), some vegan cheese, and vegenaise. It might be a St Louis thing but since everyone always BYOCooler of booze, it’s easy to throw this stuff in as well. Easy peasy!

{south africa: the cape}

In case you missed our arrival to South Africa, you’re welcome to relive it in all its glory here. I also just want to address the elephant in this room because I’m so incredibly vein and I know what you’re all thinking: yes, I look so tired with extra eye baggage in every photo from this trip and it’s because (surprise!), I was tired. Apart from the jet lag, we got up super early every morning and the night before the wineries, I got no sleep at all thanks to all the jabronies partying outside our room.

Anyways. I digress..

Day three had us sadly departing the Steenberg and all it’s delicious scenery and champagne. Sigh. Our tour guide for the next two days, Matt, picked us up for our journey through the peninsula. I cannot even begin sing Matt’s praises enough. Yes, he did a great job showing us the sites and giving us background on all of those but he also had so much information to share about his country as a whole from culture to animals to politics to history and it made the drives between each stop incredibly enjoyable (the scenery didn’t hurt either). It was extremely eye opening and because our time in the cape was so brief, I’m really thankful we had him to educate us on things we may not have learned otherwise.

We started with Boulders beach as our second touristy adventure of the trip: the Penguins. I’m glad we saw them in the winter because it broke my heart to think of all those little guys baking in the African sun during the summer. I probably would have put them all in our car and taken them back to the states had I seen that. But I didn’t! So Matt’s car survived another day. Only happy chilly penguins, thank the artic gods. 

Continuing on, we drove through Simon’s town and made our way to Cape of Good Hope. Matt informed us that he won’t even take people there during the summer months because it can take over 3 hours just to get into the park. KEEEL me. Yet another reason I would rather travel on the offseason of wherever we’re going! We breezed right in and finished so quickly that poor Matt didn’t know what to do with us. With the park so empty, we had the luxury of forcing Matt to stop in the middle of the road for me to capture some pics of ostriches and baboons. Fun fact: the baboons are bastards and will beat you up and steal all of your belongings. I wish I was joking- we were warned everywhere. When we made it to Cape of Good Hope, Matt asked if we were up for a “quick hike” to the top and since he was wearing flip flops, I incorrectly assumed by “hike” he meant a flight of stairs or something. He didn’t. The wind as you climb is a little nerve wrecking and I was constantly tempted to flatten myself up against the boulders JUST TO BE SAFE. 

For those interested in a little schooling session hosted by yours truly, Cape Of Good Hope is the most Southwestern point of Africa, not to be confused with Cape Agulhas, the most Southern point. Which a local did in conversation with us the day before (confused them, that is. which obviously confused me). Sailors used Cape of Good Hope as a navigational reference because this is where ships begin to travel more eastward than southward (Wikipedia that shit). Travel a little further east and you’ll find Cape Point, the south east corner of the peninsula. When you reach the point, you can turn around and see both coasts of the peninsula, which I generously documented for you here (5th photo down) in . Somewhere between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point is where the Atlantic meets the Indian. Are we all still following along here? Matt tells us this is also where the legendary Flying Dutchman originally disappeared? crashed? but I have yet to fact check that so do with it what you will. However, the tram that takes you up to the lighthouse is called the Flying Dutchman so it must be true.

We tried to catch a cable car up to Table Mountain but we barely missed the last car up before they shut it down due to weather (first picture below). I’d say we were the victorious ones here. Sadly, that was about our only opportunity to make it up table mountain so we went all the way to Capetown and didn’t do it. Tourist fail. 

Dinner was nothing to write home about but possibly because we spent 50% of our evening eavesdropping on the table next to us (you would have to, I promise). Although we did have a pre-dinner dinner that I personally thought was fabulous at Plant. See! So vegan-friendly! We strolled through the rain after dropping our bags off at our new home for two nights, More Quarters. Which was fine. The space itself was very nice and loved the concept of having a kitchen had we been there a little longer. But I wish I had known in advance that no soundproofing could protect us from what was going on outside. The Chicago in me has really worn down… or I just cherish sleep much more in my old age. 

The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast as we waited for Matt to pick us up and start our day in the winelands of Stellenbosh…

{south africa: the beginning}

Friday, June 17, 2016

This one is going to be a novel, folks. Aside from the fact that I want to share all 500 photos I took and therefore need blog posts to house said photos, this was the most incredible experience of my life. Cliche? Yes. But totally true and therefore pardoning the absurd amount of cliches I promise to hit you up with as this novella continues. This trip was so much more than I ever could have imagined and I can’t even count how many “pinch me” moments I had throughout those 9 days. Ironically, that autocorrected on my phone to “punch me” which you may want to do after this series of posts. And yes, I’m writing on my phone because I am THAT excited. We’re about to endure the long 38 hour trip home (14 of those hours in layovers) so what better time than the present, ay?

We started our trip in London but I’ll save that for another time because as mentioned: SO EXCITED about South Africa. Breaking up the trip this way was genius (thanks for the suggestion, pops) because by the time we arrived at the Steenberg Farm, we felt fairly adjusted. Okay, fine. We took one little nap when we arrived. But the afternoon was pretty much shot anyways so no regrets. Oh and it was after I indulged in a champagne + bath combo. And a visit to their gorgeous tasting room (Bistro 1682). AND a leisurely stroll back to our room through the vineyards. So totally valid use of our time.

Let’s all pause to appreciate this room (and aforementioned tub. Yum.) To reach our room, you walk into the Manor House dining hall, decorated to reflect it’s history. Right outside our windows were the immaculately kept Steenberg Gardens. The Steenberg Estate was so inviting and serene that I immediately felt right at home and relaxed, a key to topping my list of favorite places to stay. And when you’re welcomed with a glass of champs to fill out paper work then yes, you had me at champs. Also really cool: the clouds rolling in over the mountains- such a weird thing to be fascinated by but I couldn’t stop watching!

After our nap, we snuck in a quick pre-dinner champs (round 3 of the day for those keeping score at home) at Catharina’s (that decor though!) before heading over to the Greenhouse for dinner. I have to mention that one of my many favorite things about South Africa was their exceptional accommodation to a vegan diet. I would write an entire blog post about traveling vegan but I have a hard time taking photos of my dinner without feeling like an embarrassingly tacky tourist and I can only imagine my tortured audience (of one) demanding a refund as their eyes glazed over from boredom while reading it. Anyways, The Greenhouse set the bar high for animal-free eating in South Africa with each dish in our seven course meal only getting more creative as the night went on, both aesthetically and palatably. And this rookie wouldn’t let some wine pairings cloud that kind of judgement.



Moving on! I thought cage diving with Great White sharks was a “when in Rome” kind of thing for South Africa. I mean, Gansbaai’s shark alley is regularly referred to as the great white capital of the world! But it turns out I’m just an easily influenced touristy American. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally a must-do in my book and hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever done but most of the locals there say you couldn’t pay them to do it (probably because, sharks). Anyways, this is an instance where I am perfectly content with my tourist trap because I feel like a total badass checking that off my bucket list. So go do it.


Gansbaai is a leisurely 2.5 hour drive from the Steenberg estate and thankfully, going in the winter meant a later pick up time (of 7 AM). It also meant freezing ass water but it’s okay, it distracts you from the fact that you’re volunteering as tribute for shark bait. The long bumpy drive was probably my least favorite part of the whole adventure and not even because fifteen minutes into the trip a fellow passenger kindly held their vomit in their mouth, puffed cheeks and all, until the car came to a complete stop at a light and she could easily jump out to relieve said chipmunk cheeks. Shit you not. She was keeping my faith high in witnessing some stomach brewed fish food go overboard at some point but that was thankfully the only up chuck I had to see for the day. Had we swayed on the water just a little bit longer, I’m not so confident the outcome would have been as promising. 

Everyone I’ve talked to about cage diving with great whites has said how brave etc we are but to be honest, it was most definitely not the scariest thing on our trip. Haunted houses are much more terrifying. Or maybe I’m just too trusting of people who tell me to get into a cage while 7 great white sharks swim by? Toh-may-toe, toh-mah-toe. The shock of how cold the water is on your hands and face was harder for me to cope with than those teeth chomping 10 feet from my face. And the fact that you have seconds to get under the water when they yell “down!” as the shark approaches and on occasion, you swallow some water and simultaneously try not to think about the chum you may have accidentally consumed by doing so. I was a little slow on getting a hang of hooking my feet on the cage to keep me under as the sharks were approaching as well as holding my breath for a long period of time despite the shocking cold literally taking my breath away so by the time I was getting it all together, it was sadly time to get out. 


We finished up our night with another spectacular dining experience at La Colombe and actually documented it with a photograph! 

And there you have it.. Just two days. That’s all I’ve covered so far. In 2.5 weeks. Yikes! Until next time my friends. 

{i built that}

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I’m thoroughly enjoying this new persona I seem to be portraying through these blog posts as a crafty, outdoorsy, lady of the house. In reality, I just snapchat so often that I forget to take actual pictures to document my life (and pair that with the lame factor of my daily activities) so this is somehow what I end up with on my camera roll.

My avid readers (looking at you, mom) may recall my post about how our little “yard” has come together over the last two years.  But it was still missing something around the seating area (see above). The radon tube is such an eye sore that I wanted to make something to cover it up and a ladder planter fit the bill. Even if it didn’t fully cover it, it at least drew the eye away from it. And to answer your question, yes that’s Chloe’s glass of champs #casual.

I loosely followed an Ana White plan to build what I had in mind. And when I say “I”, I surprisingly don’t mean Andy. He served as an assistant/eye candy for this project. Also, I’ve decided I need a nail gun now. While borrowing one from a friend, we indirectly discovered that nothing builds trust in a marriage like holding some wood together while your spouse comes at it with a nail gun.

I know, contain your awe of this action-packed shot.

The hardest part was actually attaching the ladder legs onto the boxes and making sure they were going to be level when all was said and done (spoiler: they’re not). In hindsight, I may have have taken “loosely following” the plans into straight-up guessing at a certain point which may have been my problem. You live and you learn. And still end up with a suitable planter ladder.


Better, no? Stay tuned for what crr-azy business I have in store for that door off to the left.

{santorini}

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A better title for this post would be “the story Brynna can’t stop writing”. The finale! Finally. 

Choosing where to stay in Santorini was arguably the most difficult part of planning this trip and I must have sent 40 different options to my mom for her feedback. San Antonio ended up taking the cake for a few different reasons. 

The aesthetics were quintessential Greek island to me with white walls carved into the side of volcanic rock. The lobby is a long hallway that brings you out to breathtaking views over the Aegean Sea. And I mean, that pool? That was all the convincing I needed. 

I am a major sunset junkie. As basic as it may be, nothing gets me giddy like a glass of champs and watching a fiery sky as it transforms into a million shades of sunset. I knew Oia and Imervoglio were our best bets for this but the general set up of Oia with stacked hotels wasn’t as enticing to me, as picturesque as it may be. The privacy of San Antonio was priceless although it was much less convenient to have to then rent a car and drive to dinner. 

We really didn’t do much in Santorini which was the point of capping off our trip there. Of course we had to do the touristy-musts: fish pedicure, sunsets in Oia cheered on by the masses, and shopping in Fira. My dad and Andy checked off the black sand and red sand beaches (in one day) while my mom and I got full blown couples massages at the hotel, really taking our mother-daughter bond to a whole new level that we cannot turn back from. 

Okay, I’ll stop yada-yada-ing and let the (excessive) pictures do the talking. 

 

and then even more because I just found these while cleaning off my GoPro just in time for the next trip..

{call me martha}

Monday, May 9, 2016

..minus the securities fraud & related jail time.


I had this strong urge to grow veggies right after we moved into this house after learning about the adorable community garden around the corner from us, but if we’re being honest, I completely forgot about it probably less than 24 hours later. Fast forward more than 2 years later, I impulsively emailed some people and joined the garden wait list while laying on  a Cancun beach, two or three Miami vices deep. I didn’t really think I’d get a bed right away so imagine my shock 2 months later when bed #11 was mine.. followed by panic because I had no idea what to do.

So I did what any other green-thumbed horticulturist would do: googled like crazy and showed up at the nearest nursery begging for help.


I had some big dreams for growing everything from seeds but apparently in the last week of March, I had already missed that boat. So baby plants it was. Maybe next year? I also got a little carried away thinking I could fit a million little veggies in one 12×5 bed but eh, it worked. My plan was to spend grueling HOURS cleaning out my messy bed I had inherited but in real life it took less than 20 minutes soooo I planted! In March. Crazy.

So purty, amiright?! Chloe has also become an avid gardener as well.

The final contestants to make it in for my premiere garden debut were: spinach, dinosaur kale, Merlin beets, Bulls blood beets, purple asparagus, strawberries, sweet Spanish onions, and carrots. A few weeks ago I also started some tomatoe and pepper plants. Full disclosure: I wish those strawberries below had com from my garden.

Everyone seems to be doing shockingly well, especially given my half ass efforts as a vegetable care taker (I can count on one hand how many times I watered them in one month). I actually can barely keep up with the spinach so I think 8 spinach plants was a little overkill. It might be too early to tell but I’m calling my clear instinctual gardening techniques as one of the few good things I’ve inherited from my mama (jokes, mom, jokes.. all of your genes are great). 


I did apparently have some little sluggy beasts nibbling at my kale that my mom kindly found and discarded. Ignore the weeds in the last two photos- we had a lot of rain last week and in hindsight, I probably should have taken the picture after weeding (oops). 

Now I just need to find someone to eat all of my spinach..

{friyay}

Friday, May 6, 2016

It felt pretty right to keep the blogging trend going this week so hi, friday! 

In all things basic, we “celebrated” cinco de mayo yesterday with burritos and margaritas. I am a shame-free snapchat addict and cannot miss an opportunity to use a festive filter. 

Sunday was my 29th birfday (wah) so we celebrated with my parents all weekend long. It’s been so long since I’ve spent my actual day of birth with them so I throughly enjoyed every minute of it. Of course, my favorite part was food oriented (that cake!). It was so delicious even Chloe couldn’t tell it was vegan.. Because that bitch ate the last piece. At least it didn’t have any chocolate in it? Bad fur parents.

If my hair looks wet, it’s because we sprinted inside in the rain. Not because I’m getting old and can’t keep my hair well styled. But I miss them already!

This weekend will be much less exciting with a baseball game tonight and adult sorts of things tomorrow and Sunday and this is officially the most boring blog post I’ve ever written #thisis29?

I’ll leave you with this.

Greece {part two}

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It makes perfect sense to recap the second part of our Greece adventure seven months after returning, no? Better late than never? Great, let’s dive in.

I’ll back up and mention that we actually started this trip in Athens (but I was just so excited to write about Spetses!) and stayed there for our first night. It seemed a little intimidating to knock out Athens in 24 hours but I’m glad we did it this way. We checked out the new Acropolis museum after we dropped off our bags, and my dad and I quickly started fading soon after. Once we were able to check into our rooms, I was aching for (way too short of) a nap. 

We spent the evening on the rooftop of our hotel with incredible views of the Parthenon before waking up nice and early to tackle the Acropolis the next day. I read that it’s worth it to get there early and beat both the heat and crowds and I absolutely agree. By the time we started the trek back down, it was a madhouse. That wrapped up our short stay in Athens, and we loaded up the car to begin our eye-opening drive through the Peloponnese Peninsula. We had quite the family bonding session trying to get out of Athens without any cell phones and a very confusing GPS system but we managed (by finally turning on someone’s cell phone and deeming it worthy of the international charges).

On our drive from Athens to Spetses, we stopped twice to make the most of the long journey. We stopped in Corinth to see the Corinth Canal (or the ‘gateway to the Peloponnese peninsula’) and Epidaurus to see the the Great Theatre of Epidaurus. I feel terrible saying this, but I don’t have much to write about either of these! They were incredible to see and I’m so glad we made the stops but we didn’t spend a ton of time at either place.

We then made Spetses ‘home base’ for three nights so that it was easy to make some day trips back into the Peloponnese peninsula. As I mentioned in part one (ahem, five months ago), Spetses ended up being no where near where I thought it was so we tried condensing our day trips so that we could enjoy one full day on the island and minimize all the driving. At times, the drive was equal parts breathtaking and terrifying. I couldn’t believe how high we’d suddenly be while our ears popped and we looked out over a STEEP drop off into the water. I will always be incredibly thankful that we invited my parents on this trip if only to have my dad’s skilled maneuvering on those roads (thanks for keeping us alive, pops!).

On day two of road tripping, we made our way to Mycenae in the morning and Nafplio in the afternoon, both of which I give raving reviews! The tomb of King Agamemnom nestled into his citadel was something spectacular to see. And to imagine how they built that citadel at the top of that hill is still mind boggling to me. In Nafplio, we stopped for lunch before trekking up the 999 steps of the Palamidi fortress. I hadn’t exactly planned on climbing because I read it could be brutal in the afternoon heat but it was absolutely worth it. The views from every step kept getting better and better (hence the 20 million photos). And I’m fairly certain we ended up in places you weren’t supposed to climb as we got near the very (very) top. The first photo below is from the very bottom just to give an idea of how far we climbed.

Well, this clearly is turning into a part three cliff hanger but kudos to you if you made it to the very end of this post! Cross your fingers I finish this saga before a year from now.

going greek {part one}

Monday, November 23, 2015

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say Santorini has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Who wouldn’t want to see those pure white buildings against the deep blues of the Aegean Sea?? So I’m not ashamed to say I planned a trip to Greece around the views from this pool  but to my surprise, I fell in love with some place else before we could even get there.

Spetses3

{dinner views in Spetsai}

Spetses6

{just joining us for lunch} Spetses11

{on the front steps of Poseidonion}

Those who know how I travel are already aware that I research and plan meticulously. I know the ins and outs of where we’re going and what to expect months before we leave. So imagine my shock when I realized a few weeks before we left that the hotel we chose in Nafplio was not actually in Nafplio. Instead, it was on the island of Spetsai, 90 minutes south of where I thought we would be. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but this added on about 4 hours of total driving time across the three days we spent exploring the Peloponnese Peninsula.  I panicked, called my parents, and offered up a couple of options (we had less than a week if we wanted to cancel and stay somewhere else and hell, I couldn’t even figure out how to get ONTO the damn island at that point) but they calmly reassured me that they didn’t mind the extra driving time because we all loved the hotel and, why not? #YOLO

Spetses10

{the ferry to Spetses} Spetses13

{deep in thought} Spetses14

{a leisurely ride to dinner – no cars allowed!} Spetses

{Poseidonion Grand Hotel}

The second we stepped off of the ferry next to a handful of celebrity sized yachts, I knew we made the right choice. The Poseidonion  made us feel like we were spending the weekend at a friends’ glamorous island mansion instead of a hotel. The front doors were always open so you immediately caught sea views through the classic black and white foyer upon your descent of the grand staircase. And the back doors were always open to the cozy ‘back yard’ enveloped in pristine landscaping and a chic dipping pool.

Spetses9

{the Armata celebration from my parents’ balcony – I love that you can see everyone’s cell phones lit up on the bottom right hand side!} Spetses1

{sun setting as we walked to dinner} Spetses7

{found a little beach tucked away from the crowds} Spetses8

{drooling just thinking about my every morning breakfast routine}

The day we arrived was the famous Armata Festival to honor the Spetses naval battle of 1822, one of the most important battles in the Greek War of Independence. Everyone gathers near the central port to watch as the battle is reenacted, burning a mock Turkish ship and all, followed by a spectacular fireworks show (this coming from someone who is rarely impressed with fireworks). The celebration happened to be on the front steps of our hotel and thankfully, we received an email before we arrived explaining that guests have first priority to the Armata seven course dinner celebration on their veranda. What we didn’t know was that the island essentially shuts down to witness this festival so we were glad we took their advice! When our waiter indicated that the sinking of the ship was getting close (the reenactment was narrated in Greek), we ran upstairs to my parents room to watch the display from their balcony. Words cannot describe how remarkable the entire evening was- it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed and for the rest of the trip, we joked that it was the best mistake I’ve ever made.

Spetses12

{following Andy into the caves} Spetses5

{my driver for the day} Spetses2

{rooftop rosé}

Spetses4

{i loved watching the sunrise each morning from our front steps}

On the days we were not driving into the mainland to go site seeing, Andy and I rented a four wheeler to see the entire island and find the underwater caves I read about. If you find yourself on Spetses at some point, I definitely recommend venturing around the island this way. The majority of restaurants, hotels, and beaches are located within walking distance of the central port (no cars are allowed) but there are some breathtaking estates tucked away and isolated once you start breaking away from everything. This too quickly became one of my favorite parts of the entire trip and felt so quintessentially European, roaming around on the back of a boys’ scooter. My only regret was not having enough time to hop over to Hydra, but there’s always next time..

P.S. these are 98% unfiltered iPhone pics just to put into perspective what a beautiful island Spetses is.