Follow:
Topics:
Browsing Category:

Europe Travel

    Europe Travel

    Touring Andalucia

    Sevilla, Malaga, Granada, Gibraltar & Cadiz

    Location: Andalucia, Spain

    Spain is a big country.  Over the past two years we have had the wonderful opportunity to see many of her charms.  From the Pyrenees to Barcelona, from Galicia to Madrid.   We haven’t seen it all, but we have loved the beauty, hospitality and pace of life in Spain.

    I recommend visiting the famous cities such as Barcelona and Madrid – but I also recommend taking the slow tour and indulging in the beautiful smaller and towns, such as in the alluring Andalucia (And-a-loo-THEE-a) region.  The rich history, bewitchingl music and dance, sublime scenery and delicious food

    Touring Andalucia

    Roughly our route

    make Andalucia one of my favorite regions in Spain.  Touring Andalucia is easy and fun.

    With a fascinating story that includes Phoenicians, Moors, Romans and Christians – Andalucia is a treasure chest of ancient history, architecture and lore.

    We had two weeks for touring Andalucia.  We wanted to take our time and languish in the towns.  So we didn’t see it all, but here are our recommendations for enjoying and touring Andalucia on your holiday.

    Sevilla

    Sah- VEE – ya

    How to get there – Most people would arrive in Sevilla by plane from one of the major Spanish airports such as Barcelona or Madrid.  We recommend starting your tour in Sevilla so arriving by plane is the best

    Touring Andalucia

    Real Alcazar, Sevilla

    option.  We flew from Madrid.

    What to do – Sevilla is an absolutely splendid city.  If you are short on time, take a Free Walking Tour which will give you a great feel for the city.  Don’t miss the Cathedral, Plaza de Espana and our favorite site, the gorgeous, ancient Real Alcazar de Sevilla palace.  Book Alcazar tickets online ahead of time.  You may still stand in line by doing so, but it will be a MUCH shorter line.

    What to eat – Well, tapas are the name of the game in Sevilla, and the Triana neighborhood is the place to go.  Here you will enjoy a wide variety of tapas, elbow to elbow with locals.  We spent hours eating, drinking and enjoying Triana.  Read our tapas blog here.

    Hidden Secret – Sevilla is the undisputed Flamenco capital.  There are

    Touring Andalucia

    Flamenco, Sevilla

    many options to see live Flamenco shows.  We recommend the Flamenco Dance Museum  for an authentic and intimate experience.

    Malaga

    MAL- a-ga

    How to get there – We took the train to Malaga from Sevilla and it was super easy, fast, inexpensive and comfortable.  About two hours.

    What to do – Malaga is a resplendent mediterranean city.  Although

    Ceiling in the Cathedral, Malaga

    we were here in the winter, it was still beautiful and I can only imagine how lovely it is in other seasons.  We did a Free Walking Tour (as usual) and learned about this amazing historic city.  The Malaga Cathedral was beautiful.  We also enjoyed the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, and highly recommend walking all the way up to Castillo Gibralfaro for the views.  It’s a tough hike, but well worth it.

    What to eat – Tapas!  Yes you will start to see a theme here about tapas.  But here in Malaga it’s all about seafood tapas, locally sourced and so fresh and delicious.  Our favorite tapas we had were the boquerones (anchovies) at the Mercado Central.

    Hidden SecretThe Picasso Museum (Picasso was born in Malaga) is well worth a visit.  Even though we have enjoyed Picasso museums in many other European cities, this one was very well done and focused

    Touring Andalucia

    View of Malaga from the Castillo

    on smaller works, including sculpture and ceramics, that most people have never seen.  Bonus secret is to go down into the basement of the museum to see the 7th century ruins of the ancient Phoenicians that this building is built on top of.  Really amazing.

    Hidden Secret #2 – if your Free Walking Tour doesn’t take you to Cofradia de los Estudiants, take the time to go there yourself to view two of the cities incredible parade floats.  These floats are owned and maintained by one of 47 Brotherhoods in the city.  They only come out during the Easter week celebration.  They are a marvel.

    Granada

    Grah – NAH – thah

    Touring Andalucia

    Easter float covered all in real silver, Malaga

    How to get there – we did not go to Granada, and I’m sorry we didn’t.  I hadn’t realized how close it is to

    Malaga.  You can go on a guided bus tour (the best way for a day trip) and it’s a two-hour bus ride.  If you want to go on your own, the train takes about three hours.

    What to doa guided tour will take you to the highlights of this ancient Moorish city including Alcazaba, Nasrid Palace, and the Generalife Gardens.  With a tour you will have a “skip the line” guarantee.

    Hidden Secret – if your day tour gives you some free time, don’t use it to shop because the shops are all the same as in Malaga.  Instead wander up the Camino del Sacromonte for spectacular views back to the city and the surrounding beauty.

    Gibraltar

    Technically not in Andalucia.

    How to get there – you can take the train to Gibraltar and you can also do a Gibraltar day trip from Malaga.  However, we chose to rent a car, and just make a couple of hour stop in Gibraltar on our way to Cadiz.

    What to do – I wasn’t frankly very impressed with Gibraltar.  And honestly, unless you are hell-bent on

    Touring Andalucia

    The Rock of Gibraltar.

    adding it to your “been” list, I would skip it.  It felt tired and in need of some serious TLC.  As a British territory you need to pass through passport control.  We had no problems but in the summer it can get very busy.  We walked the 3.5 km to the cable car.  The touristy streets are overrun with tourist “crap”.  We took the cable car up (30 English pounds – expensive), and it was cloudy so we did not see anything.  I imagine on a clear day it would be beautiful – but not sure it’s worth the crowds.

    What to eat – since we have been in Spain so long we decided to eat something truly British, and went to a pub and enjoyed a really good fish and chips meal with a pint on the side.

    Hidden Secret – had we enjoyed better weather, we would have taken several hours to hike around on top of the rock.  The trails looked excellent and I am sure, in the sunshine, the views are grand.

    Cadiz

    KAH-deeth

    How to get there – We drove from Gibraltar and easily returned our rental car at the Cadiz train station, which was very close to our Airbnb.  There are many trains throughout the day to Cadiz from Sevilla,

    Touring Andalucia

    On top of the Cathedral Bell Tower, Cadiz

    Malaga and others.

    What to do – considered the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe (although some will argue differently, including Sofia Bulgaria), Cadiz is packed with historic sites.  Start your visit with a Free Walking Tour. The old town, situated on a point that was once an island, is larger than I expected.  It has beautiful architecture and is a living, breathing city, not just a tourist destination.  Our favorite sites were the Roman theater, the Cathedral and Bell Tower (definitely worth the climb), the Camera Obscura and the La Caleta beach area bounded by the Castillo des San Sebastian and Castillo de Santa Catalina where we did our morning run each day. Cadiz is not on the Mediterranean sea.  Once you pass through the Strait of Gibraltar you are now on the

    Touring Andalucia

    Ancient Roman theater, Cadiz

    Atlantic Ocean.

    What to eat – Seafood is the name of the game here in Cadiz.  Find your way to Barrio de la Vina where the locals go for tapas and meals.  It’s not on most tourist radars, so you’ll find yourself enjoying a very authentic Cadiz experience at any of the wonderful restaurants there.

    Hidden Secret – The neighboring village of Jerez (he-RETH) is the sherry capital of Spain (the name sherry is  an anglicization of ‘Jerez’). It is an easy day trip from Cadiz on the train, but if  you can’t go to Jerez, we recommend Taberna de Manzanilla in Cadiz.

    Farewell Andalucia

    We returned to Sevilla via train from Cadiz for our flight.  We really enjoyed this part of Spain and I can imagine how great it is in the

    Touring Andalucia

    Fortress Wall on the Atlantic, Cadiz

    summer too – having spent a month in the Algarve of Portugal which is very close.  I hope to return again, and enjoy this fascinating country.  It is so full of prodigious history, diverse scenery, spectacular food and friendly and hospital people.

    Gracias Andalucia.  Gracias Espana.  Espero verte de nuevo.

    Fabuloso!

     

     

    Please share our blog! 

     

     

     

     

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Tapas of Spain

    Eating My Way Through Spain

    Location: Sevilla Spain

    It’s no secret I love to eat.  Our grand adventure involves a lot of food.  Travel is a conduit to cuisines of the world.  And I couldn’t love that more.

    I’ve been asked often what my favorite cuisine is.  It’s a tough question.  I love the comfort noodles of Asia, the rich stews and meats of the Balkans, the fresh seafood of the Mediterranean.  I adore any

    Anchovies

    cuisine made with the freshest local produce.  And I am also endlessly fascinated with the culture and history behind regional cuisine; pierogi of Poland; khao soi of northern Thailand; peka of Croatia, shopska salad of Bulgaria, tagine of Morocco.  These foods are both storyteller and palate dancer.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Shrimp

    What could be more fabulous?

    Spanish Cuisine

    We’ve been in Spain now for more than a month.  Last year we spent more than two months in Spain.  I have learned to enjoy what is really a simple cuisine here in this country – locally sourced, simply prepared and not overly seasoned.  Although the many regions of Spain have their individual specialties, the focus of the overall cuisine of Spain is fresh and seasonal.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Fried sardines

    My only complaint about Spain is how late they eat their meals.  Breakfast is barely a meal – just coffee and a croissant, maybe a tortilla (here in Spain ‘tortilla’ is an egg and potato dish, aka Spanish omelet) around 10am.  Lunch isn’t until 2:00pm and dinner rarely gets started before 9pm.  For this American, that is well past my bedtime.

    One of the reasons Spain eats so late is because they are in a crazy backwards timezone.  Ever since Franco wanted Spain in the same timezone as Germany, Spaniards have lived with a VERY late sunrise and a VERY late sunset.  So, they have adjusted their eating habits to accommodate.  Unfortunately my internal clock is not so easily adjusted.

    So the answer for me, when in Spain, is to live on tapas – the luscious

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Stuffed olives

    little dishes served all day long.  I have become a fan of tapas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Tapa Life

    We have enjoyed my favorite tapas of Spain in Madrid, Santiago,Leon and Barcelona.  But Sevilla loves its tapas bars (there are no tapas restaurants only bars – tapas are always served with alcohol) and the abundance of options is both fun and a bit overwhelming.  In fact many will argue Sevilla is the birthplace of the tapa. We studied up a bit on where to go, what to eat and some history, then we set out on our own little “tapear”, the Spanish word for tapas hopping. Time to find my favorite tapas of Spain.

    As we set out on our excursion we were happy to know there really wasn’t anywhere better we could be eating tapas than in Sevilla, and specifically in the historic Triana neighborhood.  Myths and legends abound about tapas. One of the most

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Cold tomato soup

    popular is King Alfonso the 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food. (credit A Brief History of Tapas, Pita Jungle).

    My Favorite Spanish Tapas

    We did not have the opportunity to try every kind of tapa Sevilla is famous for, but we indulged in many and here is a list of some of our favorites both from our tour of Triana and our time throughout Spain (see photos and captions of

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Pork in whiskey with potata

    several throughout this blog); croqueta (very popular bite size fried cheesy nuggets often with jamon but we enjoyed it with duck as well as mint), montadito (tiny bite size jamon and pork sandwich), solomillo al whiskey (pork in whisky sauce), los pajaritos (tiny fried quail), patata (fresh potato chip), tortilla bites (egg and potato omelette), tortillita de camarones (fried shrimp pancake), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzo beans), salmorejo (cold tomato soup), stuffed olives, thin sliced jamon iberico de bellota (acorn fed Iberian ham), pancetta frita (fried pork belly), grilled shrimp, boiled shrimp, sardinas ala parilla  (grilled sardines), mussels, pulpo (octopus), razor clams, fried calamari, boquerones (anchovies) on toast, sausages and rabo de toros (bull’s tail).  And those are just the ones I can remember.

    Simple, Cheap & Delicious

    It’s a wonderful way to eat.  But the great thing is, even if you are only stopping for a glass of wine with a friend, the bar will always set something to nibble in front of you (because the King said so).  It will

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Grilled sardines and grilled shrimp

    probably be a plate of olives, perhaps nuts or sometimes bread with ham and cheese or tortilla.   It’s said that the original tapas were probably bread with jamon, which was used to cover your drink (the word tapa means ‘cover’).

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Croqueta

    Despite the origin of the word, it now describes a cuisine unto its own.  Though southern Spain and particularly Andalusia claim it, the popularity of tapas has spread, particularly to South and Central America, Mexico and the United States.

     

    The day of our tapear we ate and drank (both beer and wine) for several hours at six locations.  And our total spending for the afternoon? Less

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Tiny fried quail

    than $50.

    We leave Sevilla and head next to Malaga – about 205 km south, on the Mediterranean.  We expect to continue our tapas exploration and enjoy

    a bounty of fresh goodness from the sea. Fabuloso and delicioso!

    Malaga here we come!

     

    Read my blog about food in Barcelona.

    Please share our blog! 

     

     

     

     

     

    Europe Travel

    A Special Treat – A Stay In a Spanish Parador

    My Camino Week Two

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain

    When walking the Camino de Santiago most pilgrims find overnight lodgings as cheaply as possible.  This usually means an albergue (hostel).

    Spanish Paradores

    Paradores started in 1928

    For us, we mix it up staying primarily in low-budget hotels, an occasional albergue as well as guest houses, pensions and Airbnb’s.

    While walking the Camino Frances last year I looked longingly at the magnificent Parador Hotel in Leon, knowing this stately hotel was beyond our budget.

    Spanish Paradores

    The beautiful lobby

    What I didn’t know is that there are 94 Paradores throughout Spain, and some are quite affordable.

    “Parador’ is the name given in Spain to luxury hotels managed by a state-run company and usually located in buildings of historic importance such as fortresses, monasteries and castles; but also new buildings set in nature reserves and areas of outstanding beauty.

    Spanish Paradores

    Street View

    Paradores de Turismo de España, the public company managing these luxury hotels, was founded by King Alfonso XIII to promote tourism in Spain. The first parador, Parador de Gredos in Ávila, opened in 1928 by the King. Today there are 94 paradores from 3 to 5 stars all across Spain, many along the Camino de Santiago.

    Spanish Paradores

    Antique furnishings

    Spanish Paradores

    Breakfast

    Parador comes from the Spanish ‘parar’ which means to stop, halt or stay. The concept behind parador is to open exceptional historic properties to the public, and use the hotels profits to maintain these beautiful buildings. Most of them also have excellent restaurants offering traditional
    cuisine at a high standard using local and seasonal produce.

    Regardless of the parador date or style, they all are refurbished to high standard offering all modern comforts, as long as they comply with protected building regulations. Prices at Spanish paradores will vary depending on the room, region and season but they are a real treat to the pilgrim!” (source www.caminoways.com)

    Spanish Paradores

    Stately furnishings

    So the other night my husband was booking rooms for us ahead a few days, and he booked the gorgeous Parador de Pontevedra as a surprise for me.  And it’s only $100. Incredible!

    Spanish Paradores

    Garden view

    The Parador, once the residence of the counts of Maceda, is located in the old quarter of the magnificent city of Pontevedra. The entry boasts a stately carved stone staircase leading to a beautifully furnished sitting area. The building is decorated with antiques and very valuable classic furniture. It combines regal, noble and stately styles with charming rural elements.

    Our room was very comfortable and beautifully furnished with a full and modern bathroom and a lovely view of the garden in back.  We did not eat dinner in the restaurant but we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in the morning as well as drinks in the stately bar.

    This Parador is not as grand as some, like the magnificent Five Star Parador de Santiago de Compostella, one of the oldest hotels in the world.  But I loved it.  A perfect little sanctuary as we make our way north on the Camino Portuguese.

    Thanks for the special treat honey.

    Read our blog about our first week on the Camino here.

     

     

    Please Share Our Blog!

     

     

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    When in Porto…Port Wine Tasting, Porto Portugal

    Top Thing to Do in Porto

    Location: Porto Portugal

    I love wine, but honestly don’t know much about Port.  I generally shy away from very sweet wines, and that is how I have always thought of Port.  The only time I ever had Port in my liquor cabinet at home was when a recipe called for it.  But when in Porto…

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Seal of approval

    I’m so glad we signed up for the four-hour port tasting tour with Porto Walkers in Porto Portugal.  Our tour guide Alex was sensational.  He really knew his stuff and I learned so very much.  We visited three different Port houses.  These houses are technically not in Porto, rather across the Douro river, in Gaia – they originally located there instead of in Porto because the taxes were lower!.  It was fun walking with our group of about twenty from the Porto side, across the Luis the I bridge (built in 1881) to the popular port tasting riverfront boardwalk in Gaia.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Grape plant in raised shale bed

    Only wine grown in the Douro region and produced here can be called Port.  Elsewhere it is known as fortified wine. The grapes are grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. (source Wikipedia)

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Two fisted

    Our first stop on our tour was the amazing and historic Ramos Pinto House.  Located in a stunning riverside big yellow building, it’s clear on arrival you are seeing something special. Founded by Adriano Ramos Pinto in 1880, Casa Ramos Pinto rapidly became noted, at the time, for its innovative and enterprising strategy, including the first to bottle wine and the first to really market and brand their wine using some risqué advertising for the era.

    At Ramos Pinto we enjoyed a full 50 minute tour of the original offices of Adriano Ramos Pinto, the cellar filled with hundreds of port-filled barrels, and a display that shows the incredibly unique shale wall system used to grow the grapes.  After our tour we enjoyed a tasting of two of their Port Wines. We tasted a 7 year white which was very sweet (too sweet for me) and syrupy with notes of honey.  We also tasted a 7 year Tawny that was deep, beautiful magenta, and also quite sweet.

    Oak barrel

    Our next stop was Quinta Santa Eufemia.  Here we got a quick lesson on Portuguese cork as well as barrels used for the wine aging process before tasting a deep red Ruby Port which we accompanied with chocolate.  It was a perfect pairing.  I really enjoyed this port.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    Roof top view

    Our final stop was Porto Cruz.  By this time our group was getting to know each other and getting loud and friendly after three glasses of port.  Pretty fun.  We started with a Rose Port.  This is fairly new on the market, conceived for a younger audience to help introduce them to Port.  I liked this light, sweet wine.  We took our Rose up to the roof top bar and enjoyed the music and the view while we waited as they prepared the tasting room for us.

    We headed to the tasting room where we tasted three more Ports.  Our guide Alex did an awesome job helping us taste and consider the “notes” of each glass.  The white was full of fruit flavors like apple, pear and pineapple while the Tawny and Ruby had notes of caramel, maple, chocolate and spice. We learned about terms like vintage and late harvest.  We tasted a White, Tawny, and Ruby in addition to our Rose (strawberry notes).  I enjoyed all four of the Ports from Porto Cruz.

    Port Wine Tasting Porto Portugal

    The four kinds of Port

    When we signed up for this tour I thought four hours seemed a really long time, but it went by so quickly because it was both interesting and fun.  I highly recommend Porto Walkers and their Port Wine Tasting.  Only 25 Euros and worth every penny.  Ask for Alex – he was great.

     

     

     

    Please share our blog!

     

     

    Europe Travel

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    My Fab Fifties Island Girl Life

    Location: South Aegean Greece

    What a wonderful decision it was for us to spend three weeks on the tiny island of Antiparos in the south Aegean.  We have truly loved our time here.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Using Antiparos as our home base for island hopping wasn’t really what we set out to do, but it worked out well for us to take short day trips to some of the other islands around the area. However, something to note – because of the unusual weather pattern (around the world) the ferry from Antiparos to Paros was shut down for two days due to wind while we were here.  Something to think about if you plan to stay only a short time.  We had lots of time so it did not affect our plans.

    Santorini

    You can hop to Santorini from here, but the off-season ferry schedule makes that tough.  During the summer more boats run.  But we had already spent three days there so no need to go back.  But if you visit and want to do a day trip to Santorini check out both the ferry schedule as well as the privately operated tour boats.  The private boats run more frequently. When we took the ferry from Santorini to Paros it costs us 58 Euro for both of us (one way) and took three hours, stopping at Ios along the way. We used Minoan ferry line for this trip.

    Mykonos and Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Delos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Mykonos

    We used a private tour boat to visit Delos and Mykonos together on one day.  We took the ferry from Antiparos to Paros and we got on a van that transported us to Naousa (the van transfer was included in the tour price).  Here we hopped on a boat that could carry about 200 people.  It wasn’t full, but perhaps 100 people.  It was an hour ride to Delos where we spent three hours touring this amazing island and its significant ancient ruins.  Guided tours were available  but we did the tour on our own and really enjoyed it.

    Back on the boat we motored 15 minutes to Mykonos.  We had three hours to wander here.  We had a fantastic lunch at Salparo, sitting on the rocks overlooking the harbor.  We then enjoyed sauntering around the historic blue and white village, visited historic sites and looked at shops.  Three hours was just enough, since we had been to Mykonos once before eleven years ago.

    That trip to Delos and Mykonos was an all-day adventure and costs us 50 euro each. We booked this through Polo Tours in Paros.

    Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa,Paros

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naousa, Paros

    We visited the island of Paros twice. The first visit we had a car and we headed to Naousa in the north part of the island.  The weather wasn’t great but we still enjoyed exploring the tiny alleys and hidden shops and homes in the old chora (village).  Naousa also has a charming and picturesque port.  We  drove up into the mountains to visit the teeny village of Lefkes.  This ancient town, far from the water, is unusual in how green it is, unlike most of the brown island landscape, and is home to a small agricultural population.  Lefkes is one of the few remaining chora that retains its authentic roots.

    The next time we visited Paros we spent several hours discovering Paroikia, the port town where the large ferries come and go.  The port area is bustling and noisy, but hidden back behind it is an incredible old chora that many people miss.  It once again had some fascinating buildings, tunnels and passageways, a spectacular old castle and temple of Athena, many lovely shops and of course, cats.

    Naxos

    Naxos

    We traveled on the lovely Blue Star Ferries to the island of Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands, about a 45 minute ferry ride from Pariokia.  We paid 42 Euro total for both of us round-trip. It was a very windy day and I  worried about the boat ride, but the Blue Star line runs large, almost cruise-ship style boats, and I did fine with my motion sickness issue.

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Pariokia, Paros

    It was also very windy in Naxos, and this port town is very exposed, so we spent a lot of time wandering the old chora up to the ancient castle and trying to stay out of the wind.  It’s another beautiful ancient town.  We enjoyed having a drink at the rooftop of 1739, which was out of the wind and offered a spectacular panoramic view.  We had a nice lunch of simple souvlaki at Yasouvlaki.  We then braved the crashing waves to cross the pedestrian manmade causeway to walk out to the famous ancient portara (door), site of an unfinished temple from 530BC.  We got wet.  Like I said, it was very windy. But it was worth it.  The Naxos Portara was worth it.

    Antiparos

    Island Hopping from Antiparos Greece

    Naxos

    At the end of the day in Naxos I told my husband that I have really enjoyed visiting all five of the islands, but in the end, I am so glad we stayed three weeks on Antiparos.  It has everything we want; quiet and peaceful, small village, beautiful secluded beaches, a handful of shops and is still close enough to visit the surrounding islands.

    I do hope to return here someday.

    Where to next?

    But now its time to leave.  Next stop – ten-day tour of Egypt and Jordan.  A definite bucket list destination for me ever since I was a child.  We hope you will continue to follow along on our Fab Fifties Adventures.

    Farewell Greece and Antiparos.   I love you.

    Please share our blog!

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    It’s Not Greek to Me

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Skid at Skala Restaurant in Santorini

    I’ve been to Greece before, and one of the things I was most looking forward to about returning here was the cuisine and enjoying my favorite greek foods and recipes.  Fresh, local and fabulous, it’s easy to see how healthy the Mediterranean diet is.  Copious amounts of olive oil, ocean to plate seafood, salty mouth-watering feta, and produce from local growers including gorgeous red and yellow tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, purple eggplant, greens, beets, onions, potatoes. Lemons, limes, pomegranate and other seasonal fruit figure prominently.

    What’s not to like?

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Dolmades so delicious and easy to make

    My favorite greek foods and recipes were enjoyed in restaurants on Antiparos, Mykonos, Paros and Santorini. I have enjoyed squid several times, it’s best I think when simply grilled with lemon and olive oil.  I’ve also had octopus with orzo (tasted very much like a risotto) and lamb souvlaki.  We’ve tried dolmades (I love these lovely little lemony pockets of deliciousness and have made these at home several times), anchovies, sardines and fried cheese called saganaki. We also enjoyed moussaka, pastitsio, rabbit stew and many choices of salads.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Making Humus

    I usually like to take a cooking class in every country I visit.  But here on tiny Antiparos there is no such thing.  So instead I have set out to cook several Greek recipes I’ve found on  (where else) Pinterest.  Everything from sandwiches to salads to spanakopita has made its way out of our Airbnb kitchen these past three weeks.  So here are my successes (and one fail) from my self-taught Mediterranean Highlights Menu from Antiparos.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes;

    Salads

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Salad

    In most restaurants you can find many choices of salads.  Most popular are Eggplant Salad, Tomato Salad and of course, Greek Salad.

    Greek Salad is fairly simple and usually includes the following ingredients; feta, olives, tomato, red onion, capers and cucumber.  Sometimes it will have lettuce, but the Greek way is without lettuce.  The dressing is olive oil (of course), lemon, salt and pepper.

    Greek Salad Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Chickpea Salad and Eggplant Chips

    Chickpea Salad is also very popular.  Chickpeas grow in abundance in the mediterranean region. Chickpeas find their way into many recipes, not the least of all being hummus.  This salad I made included lots of delicious fresh veg as well as the chickpeas.  I had left over chicken from our Greek Chicken (see below) so I shredded that and added it to the salad.  It was delicious served with the fried eggplant chips.

    Chickpea Salad recipe

    Mezes

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Bujurdi

    In Greek small bites or appetizers are known as mezes.  You will often find mezes on menus to be served with a glass of wine.  You can also enjoy mezes before your meal.  We ordered several mezes when we ate out and especially liked saganaki (a fried cheese), octopus in vinegar, and bujurdi an incredible cheesy dip.  So I decided to tackle bujurdi.  It’s amazing.  Try it.

    Bujurdi Recipe

    Light Meals

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    My homemade spanakopita

    Spanokopita has always been one of my favorite Greek dishes.  And it is so easy.  Don’t fear the filo! It is very easy to work with.  Spanakopita has simple ingredients; filo (purchase it ready-made fresh or frozen), spinach, onions, feta and dill.  Bake and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

    Spanakopita Recipe

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Sandwich

    For lunch one day we ate the most delicious, and very filling, Greek Sandwich.  This sandwich could easily be dinner, with a side salad or dolmades which is how I served it.  It’s a very tall sandwich, so be sure to get nice fresh bread that can hold up to the numerous ingredients.  I will definitely make this recipe again.

    Greek Sandwich

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Olives at every meal

    At most of our lunches we ate very simple mezes of canned sardines (so many choices available in the store) or fresh anchovies in oil and lemon along with pita, hummus, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and fruit. A very simple and easy meal and totally satisfying.  Here in Antiparos we have really fallen in love with lemon hummus.  Bright and nutty and delicious.

    Delicious Dinners

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Greek Roast Chicken

    Most any country you travel to you can find a version of roast chicken, and since we were blessed with an oven in this Airbnb I was well prepared to try this recipe.  We purchased a beautiful plump and organic locally grown chicken and with some simple herbs and lemon, created a fantastic dish. We had left overs for two additional meals. I served the chicken with a warm potato salad with feta.

    Roast Chicken

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Moussaka

    I’ve always been one to experiment boldly in the kitchen, and I tackled a full Greek meal for guests when I was just 23 years old and we were first married. This was my first attempt at moussaka.  It was a smashing success and I have made it many times over the years (35 years since!). So cooking it here in Greece seemed appropriate, even though we had enjoyed it in a restaurant. This recipe gave us lots of left overs.

    Moussaka

    Dessert

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Baklava

    I didn’t make any desserts but I must mention how much the Greeks like their sweets.  Fortunately (or unfortunately I’m not sure) the little village here in Antiparos has an amazing bakery…which we visited several times.  Of course you know baklava, but there are many other cookies, pastries, custards, pies and amazing bread available fresh every day.  We made a point to partake – of course all in the name of research!

    The Big Fail

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Seabream fail

    I love seafood, but I admit, it can be difficult to cook.  I wanted to grill a whole fish on our BBQ, but the wind has been so high we couldn’t use the grill.  We bought a whole fish, frozen, because the fishmonger has closed for the season.  I think that was our biggest mistake.  It just didn’t smell or taste fresh.  Despite the deliciously fresh herbs (dill and parsley) and lemon and garlic we stuffed the fish with – we hated it.  I didn’t even eat mine. I think the recipe isn’t at fault here – or the cook for that matter.  The fish wasn’t fresh and so it was a fail.

    My Favorite Greek Foods and Recipes

    Saganaki fried cheese

    We haven’t eaten out much during our time in Antiparos, and now many of the local restaurants have closed for the season.  But we enjoy creating in the kitchen, and we have learned a lot about the local cuisine in doing so.

    So there you have it! My favorite Greek foods and recipes. Fabulous Greece.  Fabulous Food.  Fabulous Life. Opa!

    Check out some of our other blogs about Fabulous Food Here!

     

    Please share our blog!

    Europe Travel

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos Greece

    The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Location: Antiparos Greece

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos – The Tiny Island of the Cyclades

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Fishing boats in the harbor

    Greece (official name Hellenic Republic) is a diverse country geographically.  It consists of the mainland which  borders Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as well as a vast number of islands (between 1200 and 6000 depending on the definition you are using for island).  Only 227 of those islands have inhabitants.  Some of the inhabited islands, like Antiparos (pronounced Anti- Pear-osh) are quite small, but still have a village that thrives.  Today Antiparos, like most of Greece, thrives from tourists.  I wish I could have visited here two decades ago, when the village had no shops with trinkets or cafes for coffee.  Just locals, fishermen and families.

    Greek Islands

    The islands of Greece are categorized in regional clusters; Argo-Saronic near Athens, the Cyclades in the South Aegean, the North Aegean cluster off the coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades off the coast of the large island of Euboea and the Ionian Islands west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.  Antiparos is in the Cyclades.  Other prominent islands in the Cyclades include Santorini and Mykonos.  

    Exploring Hidden Antiparos

    Streets of Antiparos

    But, if you are looking to find a place in Greece where fewer tourists go, exploring Antiparos is a great option.  It is so diametrically opposed to somewhere like Santorini, it doesn’t even seem like the same country. (Want to learn about other Greek Islands that aren’t overrun with tourists? Read this.)

    Arriving in Antiparos

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The ancient castle

    We arrived by ferry to Paros from Santorini.  At the port in Paros the rental car agency we had booked in advance met us with a car and driver.  He drove us to another part of Paros where we walked on to the smaller ferry that crosses throughout the day between the larger island of Paros (196 square kilometers) and the tiny island of Antiparos (35 square kilometers).  This half mile crossing takes ten minutes and costs 1.60 Euro for walk on and 6 Euro to take a car.  We made the crossing and found on the other side an agent from the rental car agency waiting with our little car.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    The caves

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Antiparos Time

    This is also where we met our wonderful Airbnb host Xanthippy.  Xanthippy lives in Athens, and owns a beautiful home on Antiparos that she rents as an Airbnb.  She is not always able to come from Athens and meet her guests (a four and half hour ferry ride), but she was able to on the day we arrived.  Luckily for us, because we learned on arrival that there are no addresses on either Paros or Antiparos.  Crazy.  Apparently this is true on many of the small Greek islands.  So Xanthippy led us to the grocery store for supplies, before leading us to our spacious Airbnb with a spectacular view.  We found our accommodations even better than the photos. It’s a beautiful villa.

    Xanthippy gave us some important instructions; don’t drink the water, don’t flush anything that doesn’t come out of your body, take the trash and recycling to the conveniently placed bins around the island, don’t use the grill if its windy.  She also showed us how to use the little combination stove and oven, a style of appliance we have not encountered until arriving in Greece. And it works great.

    Antiparos Time

    We have now been in Antiparos for eleven days.  We have enjoyed the laid back island life and being on “Antiparos time”.  Although we have had sun everyday, some days quit hot, we have also experienced unusually high winds.  In fact so high we had to cancel our planned boat trip to the deserted island of Despotiko (an archeology site of immense historical significance, second only to Delos in the Greek islands, just across the bay from our Airbnb) and a day on the island of Paros to visit the colorful city of Naousa.  We plan to reschedule both of those when the wind dies down and continue exploring hidden Antiparos.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Agios Georgios Beach

    The wind has not stopped us from visiting several of the islands local beaches (there are at least a dozen public beaches on this small island that boasts 57 km of coastline), hiking to the local stalactite cave, visiting the tiny village (also called Antiparos but usually referred to as the village; it’s the only one on the island) and the ancient Kastro (castle) from the 15th century and just walking, walking, walking as we train for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.

    Exploring Hidden Anitparos

    Sunset at Capt Pipinos

    Because we are trying to stay on budget, we have only eaten dinner out one time.  We ate a wonderful seafood meal at Captain Pipinos, a seaside seafood joint within walking distance of our house.  It was delicious, and watching the sunset from there was really special.  However, if we want to dine out anymore, we better do it soon.  Many of the islands restaurants and shops close down at the end of September, what is considered the “end of the season”.

    We didn’t realize when deciding to come here that Antiparos, unlike the larger more well-known islands, has a tourist season.  Basically from May – September.  The rest of the year there just aren’t enough visitors to make it viable for most businesses to remain open. When we picked up our rental car the agent told us when we return the car October 8th they will close down for the season.  We are their final customer. Fingers crossed the grocery store will stay open.  We don’t mind cooking.

    In fact, since I haven’t been able to find a cooking class on this small island, I’ve been teaching myself and trying out several Greek dishes.  Watch for a blog coming on this soon.

    Antiparos day eleven. Heaven on earth. Fabulous. υπέροχο 

    Please share our blog!