How to: $1,500 Extended Weekend Europe Trip for 2

We both have full time jobs in the United States, and due to that we have some constraints around how much time we can take off for travel. We have been experimenting with the idea of how to pull off a long weekend trip with two major constraints that everyone has: time and money. This only works if you are within driving distance of a major hub airport in the US (we are closest to Chicago and Detroit so we look at both fares when planning trips). This post is broken out into the top expenses and how we minimize them.

How to Find a Cheap Flight: $800 for 2 Round Trip Tickets

Usually when I talk to someone about traveling they think the flights are going to be extremely expensive to go to Europe. A lot of this is due to their inflexibility: you can easily pay over $1k per ticket to go over to Europe, or you can often pay less than $400. When I say flexibility, that means both time and location: in the summer you will have a harder time finding cheap fares. Also if you are not too picky on where you are going it broadens your options even more. Here is what we do:

  • Go to Google Flights
  • Type in your nearest major international airport (Chicago O-Hare for us!)
  • In the “where to” box type in “Europe
  • Type in your date range – we have been doing Thursday to Tuesday trips because most flights to Europe leave late at night (after 7 or 8 pm) and return during the day on the way back – remember you lose time on the way there but make it back up on your return.
    • For example: we found a flight from Chicago to Copenhagen that departed at 10:05 pm CST and landed at 1:20 pm CET. If you can power through that first day you can get a good (if not a bit delirious) afternoon at your destination before having the best sleep of your life Friday night.
  • When you hit “search” you won’t just get a list of flights. A map will pop up which has the cost of the flights from your airport to the different destinations. As you move/zoom the map, it will reload for those locations. If there is nothing looking good at the moment, change your date range a bit or look back in a couple of days. Flights prices change all the time. This is where you might need to be a bit flexible.
    • You can also add in a “non-stop” filter to make sure you are only looking at direct flights. This will narrow it down even more, but it’s just that much more time you don’t have to be in an airport.
    • Google Flights also lets you track prices if you find a route that you are interested in
  • Don’t believe us? Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights for inspiration. Also, here is a direct flight we found to Stockholm just doing a quick search:Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.04.49 AM.png

Lodging $50-100/night = $300

It is a good idea to keep proximity to mass transit in your consideration when booking your lodging. Some countries are obviously more expensive than others which you should keep in consideration when booking your place. A couple of tips to keep your costs down:

  • Stay away from major hotels
  • Use AirBnB & Booking.com, find where you want to stay and sort/filter by price
  • Stay in a hostel if you are on the super cheap
  • Keep transportation in mind from a location standpoint: you can find a farmhouse out in the country for very inexpensive but you’re going to spend more than that on Uber/car rental.

Food: $50/day = $250

We are foodies. This is where we will gladly blow our budget and probably be willing to spend a bit more. You can definitely spend less than $50/day. There are a couple of key things you can do to keep your costs down:

  • If you are on the super cheap – go to a grocery store. You don’t eat out every day at home so you can save a ton by cooking at your AirBnB. Even if it is just some basics like fruit/granola bars/bread/wine (yes we know that last one isn’t food!) will save you a bunch of money in the long run. It’s also just fun to go into international grocery stores!
  • Look for lodging that includes breakfast (a true B&B) we always look at Booking.com
  • Avoid buying alcohol and ‘fancy’ mineral water at restaurants
  • Get to where the locals go. For example, if you’re in Athens, don’t eat in the Plaka neighborhood. A few blocks away you’ll pay 1/3 the price for a more authentic gyro. It isn’t too hard to find these spots, there are are a few things to look for
    • Away from the tourist areas (not filled with tourists… they are easy to spot)
    • Be cautious of TripAdvisor – we use it a lot and it can be a good for info, but it is heavily used by tourists so its typically skewed. Lonely Planet is a good second source that can be a bit more reliable.
    • This is not to say there aren’t really good restaurants in the touristy areas, but you will definitely pay a premium for them.

Transportation: Stick to a Plan $100

With transportation you typically have a trade-off: time vs. money. Public/mass transportation has economies of scale going for it, but it usually has the downside of not dropping you off where you need to be and taking longer than the alternatives. Bus/train/subway/etc. are all inexpensive options – especially when you are leaving the airport. The more individualized and faster but much more expensive option is Taxi/Uber. Maybe not nearly as available but what of a middle ground is an UberPool, which can be surprisingly economical but will take a bit more time. As for airport parking, you should look at parking at a hotel – we use Way.com with success. You basically rent a parking spot from a hotel near an airport and they let you use their shuttle service. We have paid as little as $5/day to park but the rates can vary.

Summary – $1,450 Total 

$50 left over! You can travel on the cheap – and you will probably feel like a baller if you take a weekend trip to Europe. Most of the travel tips in this post are principles that apply to more than just Europe. Everyone has their own priorities to keep in mind when planning a trip.

Would you ever do a long weekend to Europe? Please drop a comment below!

-TFWY’s

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Long Weekend in San Diego

We did a short trip to the San Diego area visiting Erika’s aunt who lived there at the time. This worked out well since we had a place to stay and basically a free tour guide during our trip! She actually lived in Carlsbad so we did not stay in the city of San Diego, we were just outside in the surrounding areas for most of our trip. We did some site seeing, got to do some kayaking, surfing and beach time and finally ended our trip with some wine tasting in Temecula Valley which is about an hour outside the city (we will talk more about that in a separate post). We don’t have as many food recommendations in this post since we did a lot of eating in or packing picnic lunches since we were staying with a local. We will share with you a couple places we did enjoy.

One of the first places we went was to Mt Soledad National Veterans Memorial. The memorial sits on top of a hill which offers great views of the city, the surrounding mountains and the coastline. The memorial is meant to honor all veterans ranging from the Revolutionary war to more current events. The memorial is open for visitors daily and admission is free.  It is a nice place to go to get some great views of the city.

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From there we headed to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This is a park that overlooks the ocean near the La Jolla area. We spend some time walking around and taking in the ocean views from up on the top of the cliffs along the coast line.  There are multiple hiking trails in the park to explore. If we had more time we would have loved to spend more time here and do some hiking. We were told that often times you can see people hang gliding from the cliffs. We didn’t see any the day we visited but it would definitely be a beautiful spot for this if that is something you are interested in doing.

We spent the rest of our first day in La Jolla which is along the shoreline. This area offers lots of shops and restaurants as well as beautiful views of the ocean. While wandering through this area we stopped at the Sunny Jim sea cave which was an old bootlegger cave during prohibition. There is a cave store where you enter and you can buy souvenirs it is about $5 per person to go down into the cave. From the store there is a tunnel that was dug out by hand to allow access to the sea cave. It is a pretty short path, less than 5 minute walk from the store to the cave. The stairs in the tunnel are pretty steep and small and can be slippery with the water. From the cave you get views out to the ocean and you can see the water coming in and out with the waves. We would highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area!

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One of our favorite things we did in La Jolla was sea kayaking. We did this through a company called La Jolla Kayak. They had tandem kayaks and single kayaks available. We went in a tandem. The hardest part was getting out past the wave break. We were instructed on how to do this and most people in our group got past it without a problem. After you are past the wave break the water is calm and it is pretty easy to kayak around the area. We had two guides and a group of about 8-10 people. The guides educated us on the history of the area and the wildlife in the area. They brought us over to where the sea caves are so we could get a good look at the caves. It was a bit wavy by the caves the day we went so we couldn’t get up super close. If the water is calmer you can kayak right up to and into the caves. We did get to kayak by several sea lions as they were sun bathing on the rocks nearby. The water is fairly cold, on average 55* to 61* F. If you do want a wet suit to help you stay warm during your tour they are available to rent. Coming back in with the waves was a lot of fun because you are basically surfing them. That being said about a quarter of the people went sideways and got a bit wet. Check out their website for specific tours and pricing options. https://www.lajollakayak.com/tours/.  

La Jolla has great park spaces near the waterfront to take advantage of. After we did our kayaking tour we had a picnic lunch in the park and spend some more time walking along the coastline.

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The next day we headed to the beach in Carlsbad for some surfing. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it but surfing is big in California!  There are multiple companies to do lessons, and people that offer surfing lessons. We booked a lesson ahead of time online with Carlsbad SoCal Surf Lessons. This was a private lesson that was one hour followed by an hour of surfing on your own. Rusty the instructor was a great teacher and awesome guy in general. If you’ve never surfed before, this is a great place to learn (not too crowded).

After surfing we headed into San Diego. We spend the afternoon in Balboa Park. This is where the zoo is located if you choose to visit. The park has a lot of other attractions worth seeing as well. This is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park that is absolutely beautiful to walk through! The park has many gardens, walking paths and open green spaces to sit and relax as well as museums and theaters. There are also several restaurants and shops in the park to enjoy.  We would definitely recommend visiting if you are in San Diego. For a full list of events happening in the park you can check out their website. https://www.balboapark.org/Sunset is a really pretty time to see the buildings and the theaters in the park.

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Food: We do have a couple recommendations

In-N-Out Burger: This is going to sound funny to anyone on the West Coast. But In and Out is a must try while in California. It’s a fast food burger place offering burgers, fries and shakes. It is a chain that you can find throughout California and maybe in other states as well. We do not have them in Michigan or anywhere we have been in the midwest of the U.S. If you are craving a good, greasy burger this is your place! Yes it is fast food which we normally do not enjoy but this place is worth a try. 

Harbor Fish Cafe: This place is right on the beach in Carlsbad. It is a causal place with great fish tacos! Fish tacos are definitely a must eat while in California. The tacos here are huge! There are fried and grilled fish options available. 

Cardiff Crack: This is a term used locally to describe Burgundy Pepper Tri Tip. You can buy this at the Seaside Market– here is the address 2087 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007. This is a tri tip steak with a Burgundy Pepper marinate. Our last night we picked one of these up and grilled it up for dinner with a nice bottle of wine. It was really good! We will be attempted to recreate it at home at some point. It isn’t easy to find tri tip steaks in markets/grocery stores where we live in Michigan so that will be a challenge. We would highly recommend getting this while you are in the area!

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Our final full day we spent heading out to Temecula Valley for some wine tasting. We will do a separate post on that with more information.  After that we unfortunately had to head home the next day. This was a pretty quick trip for us,  we would love to spend more time in this area at some point. California has a lot to see and do. We will eventually make it back to the west coast!

-TFWYs

Rivero Gonzalez Wine Tasting

During our weekend road trip to Parras del la Fuente one of the wineries we visited was Rivero Gonzalez. This winery is kind of in the middle of nowhere. We got lost and drove in circles through some small side streets around Parras before we finally found it. We had a reservation for our tour so we we talked to the gate attendant who let us onto the property and showed us where to park. We were still a few minutes early even with getting lost. When we walked back to the winery we could not find anyone who looked like they were planning to give a tour. The only people we saw were a few guys cleaning some farm equipment in a back building. We wandered all over the property without anyone questioning us or offering to direct us to where we needed to be. We decided to go back towards the first building we had seen which was a store where you can buy their wine and other products. We figured that would be most likely where our tour guide would be. After waiting a few more minutes our tour guide arrived and everything went well. So all that being said- remember that the rest of the world doesn’t operate on a American schedule/time table where being a few minutes early is normal and somewhat expected. Also since this isn’t a huge area for wine tourism you may be the only tour the winery has that day or week. Our guide was truly surprised he was showing two American’s around without any locals. I think we wondered how we even found this place!
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We had a private tour (in English) through the vineyard and winery before sitting down for our tasting. Our guide was very helpful and willing to answer whatever questions we had. He was nervous about his English but we felt he did a wonderful job and by this point in our trip we were so happy to find anyone who spoke any English! We sat outside for our tasting with great views of the vineyard. Along with our wine we had some chocolate covered pecans, bread, goat cheeses and jams all made onsite by the winery. The winery had pecan trees all along the property. The chocolate covered pecans were awesome and you can buy a bag of them before you leave! We also tried some pecan and whiskey cream liquors at a small street market in Parras which we would also recommend trying if you are in the area.
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We were given plenty of time to relax and enjoy our wine and snacks during the tasting.  We really enjoyed all the wines we tasted here. We would recommend their Scieno Reserve line as we felt that was the best value. These wines are their middle line of wine (they have a cheaper line and a more expensive/premium line you can also purchase) We purchased the R2 Scieno Reserve Cab Sauvignon and the R3 Scieno Reserve Syrah. We also really enjoyed their Naranja which was an interesting experimental wine they had. It is a Palomino and Riesling blend that is aged in oak barrels which gave it more body and a light orange color. It was very unique with the distinct Riesling characteristics. We found this wine to be really refreshing and we always enjoy when wineries are doing something different so we can expand our wine tasting pallet!
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Here are the links to our other Parras de la Fuente and wine tasting posts from this region of Mexico.
-TFWYs

The Oldest Winery in North America

The oldest winery in North America surprisingly is in Mexico. Casa Madero was founded in 1597. It is located near the small town of Parras de la Fuente of the South side of the Coahuila desert. The winery does offer tours but do be aware they are in Spanish only. You do not need a reservation ahead of time but it may be helpful to secure your spot. They day we went we ended up joining what we think was a large family who had reserved their tour and tasting ahead of time. It worked out okay but we were the only two not from this group of people on the tour. We are not entirely sure the winery staff knew we weren’t part of that group when they sold us our tickets.
The tour doesn’t take you through the vineyards but focuses on the wine making process in the winery. You see where fermentation happens, where they make Brandy, and where they store the barrels. You also get to see some of the very old equipment still on the property. Our Spanish was not very good when we did this tour so we missed a lot of the smaller details. It was still cool to walk through and see everything. If you don’t know a lot of Spanish you can definitely still enjoy this tour.
The tasting is separate from the tour itself, meaning there is a separate fee. We had our tasting with our tour group immediately following our tour. We tasted several of their wines, again the tasting is in Spanish. One of the staff members pouring the wine did know some English to help us out but the details given about each wine we did not fully understand. We really enjoyed the 3V which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo as well as the Shiraz Reserva.
Overall this tour is more established that the other wineries in the area. Not that you are not getting a good experience but you will likely be on a bigger tour with lots of other people. They are more prepared for tourists than the other wineries in the area as well which can be helpful to you when trying to communicate your needs if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker. Being the oldest winery in North America seems to bring them more tourism. While it was not the greatest winery tour and tasting we have ever done we would still recommend visiting if you are in the area.

 

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The town of Parras is not well set up for tourism. It is a very small town with few hotel options. There are other wineries in the area so if you are looking to a day or two of wine tasting that is possible.  Mexico does not have a strong wine drinking culture so wine tourism hasn’t taken off here as it has in other parts of the world. It was interesting because we were told that they are trying to establish higher end wine in Mexico and a lot of the tours we took focused on that education that leads to a greater appreciation for wine in general. We really enjoyed the wine at all the wineries we visited. We also visited Rivero Gonzalez and Don Leo winery. Check our our other posts for more details on both of those wineries:
We visited Parras de la Fuente as a weekend trip from Arteaga and felt that was a good amount of time. We found some great family run restaurants in town and enjoyed walking around the small streets.  For any wino this is a great off the beaten path place to do some tasting.
-TFWYs

South Haven: West Michigan Summer Getaway

South Haven may be our second favorite beach town in Michigan to enjoy in the summer. The Black River flows through South Haven and out into Lake Michigan. Most of the restaurants and bars are on the south side of the river and so is the main beach. The municipal marina is also on the South side within walking distance of downtown. There is a nice pathway from downtown all the way out to the beach as well so you can walk along the river watching to boats go in and out.
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The beach is the big draw to this area in the summer so that is where you will likely be spending the majority of your time. While your at the beach or at sunset would be a great time to walk along the pier and take in the views of the lake. If you want to do some fishing there are charter boats that leave from the municipal marina. There is also a sunset cruise boat that does tours. That boat also leaves from the municipal marina area. Another boating option is to see the tall ships (replicas of older ships) in the area. They are anchored at the Michigan Maritime Museum when they are not out on the water. We have not been to the museum or on the tall ships ourselves. They do offer tours so you can go out onto the lake on these ships. We have seen them out on the water, they are cool to see and watch as they sail along. You can visit their website for more information on specific events and tours http://www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org/
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There are several good food/drink options in town to enjoy. Here are a few of our recommendations:
Bunde’s Bakery- This place is on the north side of the river so it is a bit further away. It is still within walking distance if you are staying near downtown on the South side of the river, just be prepared for a bit longer of a walk. You will walk through a park on the North side and some residential streets with beautiful old houses. You can sit and enjoy coffee and baked goods there or get something to go. We were told the scones were very good so that is what we ordered and they were definitely worth the walk! They are more like a cookie than a true breakfast scone.
Clementine’s– Like most of the restaurants right downtown South of the river be prepared for a bit of a wait if you are looking for dinner on Friday or Saturday night. The restaurant is very large so wait times were not as long for us as some of the other restaurants. This place has a good variety of food on the menu. We had Salmon and Walleye and both dishes good but a bit overpriced in our opinion. You should definitely get the onion rings though!
Phoenix Street Café- We ate here for brunch on a Sunday morning. We really enjoyed the eggs benedict. They had a good variety of items on the menu.
Taste- This is a popular tapas restaurant right downtown. Do be prepared to wait if you haven’t called ahead for a reservation. They have a variety of small plates or tapas as well as larger more traditional dinner sized portions if that is what you are looking for. They also have soups, salads and sandwiches. The beef sandwich came highly recommended to us by some friends and we agree it is a must try while you are there!
South Haven Brewpub- We stumbled upon this place while wandering around downtown on a Saturday afternoon. They have outdoor seating as well as indoor seating and they are fairly close to the waterfront. They have your standard pub food and several beer options. The food wasn’t the best we had in South  Haven but if you are looking to try some different beers it is worth a stop to sit outside and enjoy a drink.
Wine Tasting
Several of the wineries from the Lake Michigan Shore wine trail have small shops/outposts in downtown South Haven. If you are up for some wine tasting you can walk downtown to 12 corners tasting room, Warner winery tasting room or the Channel wine bar. This is also a nice option if there is a long wait for whatever restaurant you are going to for dinner. If you want to head out of town for even more wine tasting you can find the whole list of wineries on the Lake Michigan Shore wine trail here https://www.miwinetrail.com/winery-map/
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 There are also a lot of bars and restaurants right on the waterfront in South Haven that offer great views of the river. So even if you aren’t a boater you can still be right on the water. South Haven has something for everyone! We are looking forward to more summer adventures here and finding more great things to do!
-TFWYs

Grand Haven- Our Favorite Michigan Beach Town

We happen to live about 20-30 minutes from Lake Michigan and we try our best to take full advantage of this beautiful lakeshore area! We spend most of our summer time with our boat renting slips at municipal marinas exploring up and down the cost. But you don’t have to be a boater to enjoy the wonderful beach towns of Lake Michigan. These aren’t tropical beach locations but the beaches are lined with soft sand and sand dunes to climb or hike if you are feeling up for it. The water of Lake Michigan is very clear and you could easily think your on the ocean except that the water is fresh not salt!
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Grand Haven is our favorite beach town along the Lake Michigan cost. There is a lot to do and a lot of great places to eat after spending a day at the beach or on the water if you happen to be a boater. The set up in Grand Haven is really nice and allows you to make the most of your time in the area. The downtown area is within walking distance of the water front area where the channel leading from the Grand River to Lake Michigan is located. Downtown is also within walking distance to the Lake Michigan beach area. The municipal marina is located along the waterfront area. This is also where all the charter boats leave from if you are looking to do some Lake Michigan fishing. The waterfront is lined with small shops were you can get snacks, ice cream, rent kayaks, stand up paddle boards, surf boards and other beach/water equipment. There is a nice walkway all the way down past the channel and out to the big lake. They have also recently renovated the pier so there is now a nice, wide walkway all the way out to the lighthouse along the south pier.
If you want to do some fishing there are several charter boats you can book with. We haven’t done this ourselves but we frequently see the charters come back in and hang all their fish on the hooks so guests can take photos before they clean the fish. If you have a boat or a friend with boat, the fish cleaning station at the Chinook pier is available to you if needed. The charters seem to do quite well here. Depending on the time of spring/summer you go you can catch lake trout, coho, king salmon and steelhead. We are still working on perfecting our fishing skills so we’ve only caught a few so far!
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In the evenings/night all summer there are events along the waterfront you can enjoy. There are fireworks on the 4th of July which go off over the water. People will line the lawn and sidewalks all along the waterfront starting early in the morning the day of these fireworks so if you do plan to attend 4th of July here we would recommend securing your spot failry early in the day.
The Grand Haven musical fountain is located right on the waterfront near the channel. There is a fairly large viewing area with bleacher seats available, you can’t miss it if you are walking around the area. In the summer Months there are nightly shows after dusk. Show times are based on when sunset is so that you can get a good view of the lights and the fountain during the show. The shows run about 20-30 minutes long. There is a variety of music featured in the shows. For more details on the start time and the music selection for each night you can check the website https://ghfountain.com/showtimes/
Coast Guard festival runs around the last week of July/the first week of August each summer and brings a ton of people to Grand Haven. During this time there are some nights were there is live music playing on the waterfront in the musical fountain viewing area. If you are a boater you can book a slip at the municipal marina the first weekend of coast guard fest before all the big activities have really kicked off. The second weekend is the final weekend of the festival is when all the big events happen. To book a slip at the marina that weekend you have to enter a lottery and be physically present when they do the drawing in early spring. If you are not a boater and just going to Grand Haven for the coast guard festival we would recommend booking hotels well in advance as well. For a detailed list of events happening at the festival check out their website https://www.coastguardfest.org/
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Food:
Food is of course the most important part! There are a lot of great options, here are some of our favorites
Paisley Pig- This place is not right downtown but it is only 5 minute drive from downtown. Everything we have tried there is really good and the portions are quite large. We end up ordering too much food every time we go. The nachos are definitely worth a try but if you do order them you probably don’t need much else, they are huge!
Odd side ales- This brewery is right down town. they make all different types of beers. They do not have a kitchen but you can order sandwiches and snacks from a sandwich shop down the street (Electric Hero) and they will deliver it right to your table. The brewery has plenty of tables both inside and outside and has dart boards you can play as well.
Mr Kozac- This place is great for fast take out or eating there. Their gyros are amazing and the portions are huge!. There is typically a line but it is worth the wait!
Pronto pup- This is a must while in Grand Haven but fair warning the line is typically quite long on a summer weekend. Pronto pup is a small shack along the water right next to Snug harbor. They serve only corn dogs and drinks (water, pop, non-alcoholic drinks). The corn dogs come on a stick for eating on the go. You can get them plain or ask them to put ketchup and/or mustard on it for you. They fry these up all day long right next to the order window so you can watch as they make them. Even if you are not a huge corn dog fan these are delicious. The batter frys up really crisp and is thin not super thick like on some corn dogs. Definitely a stable that you must try!
Snug Harbor- This restaurant is right on the water at the channel so you can sit outside on the patio and watch the boats come in and out from Lake Michigan. There is often a wait if you are going for dinner around sunset so that is something to be aware of. The food is good and they definitely have the best view of any restaurant in town. Prices are moderately high so don’t expect to have a cheap meal here but it is worth it for the view.
The Kriby House- This is a huge building right downtown. There are several restaurants inside so it can be kind of confusing- bear with us as we try to explain. On the main level of the building they have their Kirby house menu which is burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta (a general variety of dishes). To the left of the hostess’s stand if you are facing it there is their more upscale restaurant which offers steaks, seafood (more expensive dishes). Upstairs inside is a pizza place with wood fired oven pizzas. There is also a patio outside on the upstairs and we believe they also serve a different menu.  What makes this even more confusing is when you arrive and go up to the main hostess stand they will ask you which menu you want to eat from, if you want to go anywhere other than their main dining area they direct you to a different hostess stand where that host or hostess will then seat you. There can be a bit of a wait on a weekend night but it typically goes petty quickly since they are such a large restaurant. They do also do take out if you call ahead and want to pick up food and take it to go to enjoy outside by the water. Even with all the confusion it is still a place we would recommend for dinner. We have eaten in their main dining area off their Kirby House menu and we have eaten upstairs at the pizza place. Both menus are good and their bars have an extensive drink selection. They make a great old fashioned if you are a bourbon drinker! Their website can offer more information on each of their menus- https://www.thegilmorecollection.com/kirbyhouse/
Another great food spot is the farmer’s market at the Chinook Pier. This market is full of venders selling fresh fruits and veggies, homemade bread and other pastries. You can also find coffee, kombucha, salsa, honey and a few other goods at this farmer’s market. It is open every Wednesday and Saturday beginning at 8AM.
Summer is obviously the best time to enjoy Grand Haven. Do be aware it takes a bit for Lake Michigan to warm up so in spring and early summer you could still have quite cold water temps at the beach. July, August and early September are the best times to go. The lake shore is also beautiful in the fall you just won’t be taking advantage of the water as much that time of year.
We love Grand Haven and can’t wait for more summer adventures!
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-TFWYs

Sailing the Greek Islands with Bearing True South: Part Two

This is the second part of our sailing trip with Bearing true south. In part one we were sailing the Cyclades, here is the link to that post- https://thefoodiewinoyogis.com/2019/01/29/sailing-the-cyclades-with-bearing-true-south-part-one/

After Kythnos and Serifos we crossed the Aegean and went on to the Saronic Gulf Islands. This was not our original plan but with high winds and a storm heading towards the Cyclades we changed course to stay in calmer seas as we sailed. The crossing took about 7-8 hours of sailing. After that we spent time on Ydra (Hydra is the English spelling and pronunciation), Ermioni peninsula, Poros and a few small uninhabited islands on the way back to Athens.

Ydra Island:

The port town on Ydra was more crowded than the other islands we visited but don’t let that deter you. It has a lot to offer and was one of our favorite spots. The street facing the water is lined with tourist shops and restaurants but if you walk further back into town you can find some really amazing and authentic food. There are no cars on the island so the streets are lined with donkeys to carry supplies. This island is also the one with by far the most cats we saw on this trip!

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Ydra is one of the wealthiest islands in Greece and has a long pirate history. There is a pirate mansion in the town (Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion) that is open for tours and offers great views of the water. There is a small entrance fee to tour the house. The house is beautifully restored and decorated. You can take pictures of everything you see inside. It takes about 45 minutes to walk through. We would highly recommend seeing this place!

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There is also a small museum in town, The Historical Archive. The museum focuses on Ydra’s cultural history, it took us about an hour to wander through. It is full of paintings and different artifacts relating to the island. There is a small entrance fee. Next to the museum is the old fort which you can walk up to and take photos of the water and the port town itself.

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After exploring the pirate mansion and the museum we headed to lunch at Xeri Elia. This is a small family run restaurant a few blocks back away from the water and the tourists. We have traditional stuffed tomatoes and soutzoukakia or traditional Greek meatballs in a tomato sauce with greens locally grown on the island.

 

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After we toured the museum and the mansion and stopped for some lunch we were ready for a swim! We walked along the road near the water until we came to Spilia. This is a small café with tables offering water views and steps down to the water so you can swim, snorkel or just lay in the sun and relax. It was a bit wavy the day we were there but that didn’t stop us from snorkeling and enjoying the water. This was actually one of our favorite snorkeling spots on this trip. We saw the most variety of colorful fish in the spot. You can get to the water from the cafe, but there is also a public beach just past it. The cafe had changing rooms you can use and great coffee!

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Ermioni

The marina at the port of Ydra was actually full when we went by so we ended up staying on Ermioni and taking the Ferry to Ydra for a day. We stayed on the south side of the Ermioni peninsula. The ferry leaves from the marina on the north side. It is just a short 5-10 minute walk through town from one side to the other. The ferry ride is only about 15-20 minutes and we were able to leave in the morning and take the last ferry back in the evening so we still enjoyed a full day of Ydra.

Ermioni itself is a really nice area. There is a small park on the far end of the peninsula. The landscape here is more forested, it reminded us of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with its pine trees along the cost. There is a path which goes along the park in the forested area which only takes about 30-40 minutes to walk through. Along the way there are a few areas with steps down to the water if you wanted to swim.

 

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We stayed in Ermioni for two nights. The night after we sailed across the Aegean and the night after we had spent the day on Ydra. The first night we ate dinner at a restaurant right on the water called Tzieris. This place offered authentic Greek food and awesome views with tables right on the water! We did not take as many pictures of all the food here but everything we had was great. Here we tried several appetizers including tzatziki, a fava bean dip, saganaki (Greek fried cheese), we also had grilled octopus and muscles in a tomato and feta sauce- which we did take a picture of.

 

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The second night we had a lighter and more casual dinner on the boat. We happened to be anchored right across from a restaurant called Souvlaki Bar. They had some tables outside on the side walk but we just did take away and ate on the boat.

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Another food recommendation on Ermioni is the Drougas Bakery. This is on the north side near where the ferry leaves. They have amazing coffee, breads, pastries and desserts. They also sell wine, olive oils, and jams that you can buy to take back home.

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Poros Island: From Ermioni we did a short sail to Poros.

The clock tower on Poros is an iconic landmark on the island and a must do! The clock tower is located on the highest point of the island so it is a bit of a walk up to see it. From this area you will get amazing panoramic views of the water, the view cannot be beat!

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The Archaeological Museum of Poros is a museum located on Koryzis Square in Poros, Greece. The displays of the museum date from the Mycenaean era to Roman times. There was also a small modern art exhibit there they day we went through. The museum is very small and only took us about 30 minutes to go through. There is a small entrance fee to walk though. You can take photos but are not allowed to use a flash went photographing inside the museum.

 

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After walking up to the clock town and through the museum we had some time to kill in the afternoon. We walked from the marina to Mikro Neorio Bay Beach Bar. This place is located on a small, quite beach. They offer lounge chairs with umbrellas at no cost as long as you purchase something from the bar. We enjoyed relaxing, taking in the views and doing some swimming.

 

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We headed into town for dinner at Platanos Taverna. This may have been the best meal we had the entire trip! We ate really well the whole time so that is really saying something. We loved this place, we ate outside and had great views of the water and the boats at night. The restaurant is up high on a hill in the town just a short walk from the marina. We had zucchini ball appetizers which were awesome and highly recommended by our guide. He talked them up all week and they lived up to expectations. We had roasted lamb and veal in a tomato sauce with sweet onion for our main courses. Both dishes were excellent. If you are on Poros you have to eat at this place!

 

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Our last day we left from Poros and stopped at a few very small uninhabited islands for more swimming, snorkeling and relaxing on the boat before heading back to Athens. We ended back in Athens in the evening after our day in the sun. We spent one last night on the boat in the Athens marina.  Once we got back to the marina our skipper left us for the night. Our guide went to dinner with us one last time in Athens before also leaving us for the night. The next morning our skipper came back to help get us all checked out and on our way. Again we would highly recommend Bearing True South, they were awesome! Here is the link to their website again- http://www.bearingtruesouth.com. They also offer hiking, biking and other adventure travel in Northern Greece if sailing isn’t your thing.

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 -TFWYs