We just got back from an amazing trip to Greece, and I’m so excited to share all the details along with one of our favorite dishes we ordered almost every other day while we were there. I don’t think I saw a single menu without a Traditional Greek Salad on it, and we loved how it did not include any lettuce (unlike the American version) and was always finished off with big blocks of flavorful feta cheese (never crumbles)! Continue reading or jump to the recipe.
Our Trip To Greece
Before we get into the recipe though, let me share about our trip! I have to tell you I really had to talk my husband into this one. I don’t know why, but the Greek Islands were just not on his bucket list like they were mine. The beauty of it is that I got to say “I told you so” to him many times on the trip, haha … he ended up absolutely loving it (as did I)!! :)
Oh and for those who asked, I did not use a travel agent. Just the internet, guide books, advice from friends, etc. It was A LOT of work to put together all the logistics, but worth it in the end because I did learn a lot about where we were going in the process (and it helped while we were there)!
We were drawn to Greece by the islands, but Athens ended up really exceeding our expectations! My younger daughter is really into Greek mythology, so there was no way we could fly through Athens without hiking up to the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon. We also went to the new Acropolis Museum and walked all around in the “trendy” (according to our guidebook) area of Athens, and it was such a fun and vibrant place with lots of yummy food and beautiful views. The city has no skyscrapers and there are loads of pedestrian-only streets, so getting around was very easy. Oh, how I love a city that’s so walkable and friendly!
- Our AirBnB was super affordable and also in a great part of town within walking distance to the Acropolis.
I know, I know … picking Mykonos and Santorini for our two other stops is very cliché and touristy for a trip to Greece, but it was our first time there so we wanted to hit the highlights. I’d heard plenty of times that Santorini was the real gem to see, but I have to say—we LOVED Mykonos! It was actually my older daughter’s favorite stop on the whole trip.
Mykonos is just so darn adorable with it’s winding little stone walkways and picturesque white buildings, it was hard not to take a thousand pictures a day. We stayed in Mykonos Town, and it cracked me up seeing all the “Instagram Models” in literally every single corner of town. It amazes me how they can just strike a not-at-all-modest pose like no one’s looking … and of course have someone willing to take dozens of shots at all different angles for them.
We just loved the vibe of this place, truly the town that NEVER sleeps. Bars, shops, and restaurants were open well past midnight, very much living up to its party reputation (not that we “partied” at all with our two kids in tow, but that’s okay)! And Mykonos is also known for its beaches, which we took full advantage of. Their beaches are a little rockier with colder water than Florida and the Carribean, but the crisp Mediterranean waters were crystal clear. We even went scuba diving one day in Mykonos, again nothing like the coral reefs of the Caribbean to see, but since we all four recently got certified (1 year ago) we want to practice our skills whenever possible. It was fun!
- Our AirBnB was one of the cutest we’ve ever stayed in! Here is also a similar neighboring unit with front row seat to the amazing view.
- We got the scoop from a local to try Ornos beach, which is not crazy overpriced like many of the more touristy places (and we did feel like some of the only Americans there)! We walked down to the beach club farthest to the right from the main road.
And finally, Santorini! We stayed on Oia because that is the town with the famed “Santorini Sunsets” and so much to do (restaurants, shops, vistas, etc.). It absolutely lived up to its reputation and also had the bonus of some fun black volcanic beaches (for something different)! We loved looking at all the pebbles on the beach, and I even collected a full rainbow of colors—so pretty. The crystal clear water was a little warmer here compared to Mykonos so we enjoyed plenty of swimming and snorkeling.
We also enjoyed the spectacular views and 360-degree sunsets. The nice thing about the Greek islands, in general, is that it’s beautiful and sunny literally every day of the summer. So you’re almost guaranteed to have perfect weather and clear skies no matter when you go! And while Santorini was another white island town overlooking the sea, we couldn’t believe how different the overall feel was compared to Mykonos … definitely two very different places (with Santorini boasting a more chill vibe). In addition to the black beach, we swam at our hotel pool, walked around the town, and hiked down to Amoudi Bay (a fun adventure that included cliff jumping) on the last day.
Family Pictures in Santorini!
For the first time in my life, I hired a photographer to take family photos for us on our trip! We were due for photos, plus it gets old asking random tourists to take them and (9 times out of 10) being disappointed with the results. And I did not want to come home with mostly pictures where I am behind the camera! This was something else I really had to talk my husband into, LOL, but I have to say it was the Best. Decision. Ever!! I was like, why take them once again in Charlotte when we can do it in one of the most photographed places in the world? And the price for 30 digital photos was not that much more than we’d pay at home.
I started by finding a photographer online. I really spent time on this one to make sure his work was the right style for us. Then I called up my awesome friend Erin (who picked out all our clothing for all three of my cookbooks) and said, “What the heck are we going to wear?” I am terrible at picking out coordinating clothes and am happy just doing whatever she tells us. After striking out at many different stores I ended up borrowing a pink dress from her (and belt and necklace—thank you Erin!) for the pictures. I was a little skeptical about the dress at first (it felt like “too much” when trying it on in her bedroom), but then it fit in so perfectly with the backdrop of Santorini. See, she knows best! For those who were asking, she bought it last season at Poole Shop in Charlotte.
Looking back at the photos we got makes me so happy. Even though it was a lot of effort—and definitely not the most fun hour of our trip—it was well worth it in my opinion, especially for someone like me who loves pictures. I shared some of our favorites on social media and below … this year’s Christmas Cards are done! :)
- Our photographer—loved what he did for us and he was great to work with!
- Our hotel had a huge room with plenty of space for four people, including a loft with twin beds (a rarity in Europe!).
- The hike down to Amoudi Bay (with a great “Taverna” and cliff jumping for the thrill-seekers!)
- One of the many black beaches, we went to Kamari Beach and loved it.
Stopover in Paris
We had to fly through Paris to get home, so my younger daughter and I decided we’d stop over for a few days together! My other daughter was just there 6 months ago on a school trip, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for some one-on-one mother/daughter time with my youngest (which isn’t always easy to do when you have two kids that are the same gender)!
I basically let my daughter decide all of our activities, which included an “intensive” macaroon cooking class (I was totally game for that!), a Segway tour around the city (this was 100% out of my comfort zone … I was very nervous about “levitating” on one of those things, but she REALLY wanted to do it!), a walk up to the Eifell Tower summit elevators (which was “only” 600 steps, roughly between 40 and 50 flights of stairs—phew!), and a dinner cruise on the Seine.
She also wanted to go to the Louvre, but I had a total mom fail when I realized on our last day there (and the day we were planning to go) that almost all museums in Paris are randomly closed on Tuesdays. Who knew? Something like that did not even cross my mind to check … I guess I was too focused on our Greece plans to have figured that out before it was too late. :( I felt so bad! Next time I go to Paris (or any big city, really) I’ll definitely be looking into the “skip the line” tickets online in advance for big attractions to avoid any more pitfalls. Lesson learned!
Despite that little oops, and also the heat that started to roll in on our last day there (luckily we left just before it got really intense!), we had a fun couple of days exploring the city together. I am so used to traveling with our whole family that I was honestly a little nervous to do something international “all by myself” (meaning, the only adult in charge). But navigating Paris was surprisingly easy to do! With help from the map program on my phone, we took the metro almost everywhere we went. And we had no problem communicating with the locals by simply starting off with a polite, “Parlez vous anglais?” (“Do you speak English?” in French) to at least show a little bit of effort/respect for their language and culture.
I’m so glad we did this, and I am already plotting more stopovers in our future! :)
- Our macaron class (our teacher Eline was sooo good and knowledgable—loved her!!)
- Our Segway tour (they were very helpful and patient with someone like me who was super nervous and apprehensive about riding one of those things)
- Our hotel was super cute and in a great location within walking distance to the Notre Dame.
Traditional Greek Salad Recipe (+ other food highlights)
We loved eating the Meditteranean diet on our trip, which traditionally includes lots of real food! Some highlights…
- Greek salad (as I mentioned we could get this everywhere and it never had lettuce as part of the dish, recipe below).
- Gyros, gyros, and more gyros (pronounced “YEE-ros” and, surprisingly, always with fries inside!).
- Moussaka (I realize this is a traditional Greek dish, but I’d honestly never heard of it before our trip—it’s kind of like a Greek version of Shephard’s Pie).
- Baked feta cheese in filo dough with honey and sesame seeds (a common appetizer that was warm and oh, so tasty … we saw lots of sesame seeds on all different dishes).
- Of course lots of Souvlaki dishes (grilled meat on skewers) and Tzatziki sauce on everything, we love Tzatziki!
- Surprisingly, loads of amazing pasta and risotto dishes (I guess Greece is close to Italy … not sure if that’s why? We did not expect to get some crazy good freshly made pasta, often topped with shaved truffles, and boy was it TASTY).
Without further ado (congrats if you made it this far in this LONG post LOL) … here is the Greek Salad recipe we came home loving and will be making again and again!
Traditional Greek Salad
- 4 medium tomatoes (or 3 large), sliced into wedges
- 1 cucumber halved longways and thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives with or without pits
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers drained
- 6 ounce block feta cheese cut into quarters
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toss together the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, olives, onion, and capers in a large bowl. Nestle in the feta cheese pieces on top. Sprinkle with oregano, olive oil, salt, and pepper and serve.