Travel

My week at Corfu

I was reading Leandra Medine’s account of how she managed to go on holidays with nothing more than a carry-on and I was captivated by her writing of how she “watched the sunset steal [her] vacation” at the end of her trip. And this was my exact feeling when I was leaving Corfu, although in my case it was a bus stealing away one of the best weeks of my life.

This year we did not make fancy plans for our summer holidays so we ended up saying “let’s just go home”. Corfu is actually home for my boyfriend, he was born and raised there and his family still lives there, so we thought to keep it simple. I was happy to go, but totally freaked out as well as this would be the first time I would meet his parents (or anyone’s parents for that matter — I mean parents of a sexual partner, I’ve met parents before of friends, classmates, random parents on the street). Two years after starting dating and one year after living together, it was probably about time.

And yes, I was totally freaked out, because I’ve no idea how to behave in these situations. I want to be my best possible self so that my boyfriend can proudly show me around to his family and friends. At the same time, I get mad at myself for wanting this very thing, like I have to leave my true self on the side….but to cut a long (and dramatic) story short, things went really smoothly. I should probably know by now that lovely children (my boyfriend) come from lovely people, and his parent were no exception. Would probably be good sometimes to write an article dissecting why I get so stressed whenever the “meet the parents” discussion comes up!!

So, Corfu. To put it plainly, I fell in love. And I will go again next year. And I would recommend to anyone I know to go. Again and again. It is such a big island and so full of things to do and see, it can really cater to many different types of tourists: families, teenagers, young couples, older couples, groups of singles, girls’ groups, boys’ groups, anything really, foreigners, Greeks. Maybe mountain lovers will be disappointed, but for the rest, I’m sure there is something for everyone.

IMG_0865
Behold my dream house at Rovania beach.
I catch myself thinking several times per week: what am I doing in Brussels? Why don’t I go back to Greece, things are difficult and people are struggling but all this beauty will heal our hearts. I know of course it’s not that simple, but that week at Corfu made me really relax, take my mind off anything that was bothering, I managed to leave my stressed and anxious self behind and enjoy summer at its fullest.

IMG_0924.JPG
The restaurant at Yaliskari beach is definitely worth trying.
IMG_0887.JPG

Beaches at Corfu are stunning. You can find the very crowded and touristy ones (like Paleokastritsa), the quiet and still-virgin ones (like Rovania) or the friendly and unpretentious ones (like Yaliskari – if you go there try the restaurant on the beach, it’s a lovely spot and the food is pretty spectacular). You can do some kitesurfing at Halikounas or have a completely cosmopolitan swim at the Mon Repo (which is actually IN the city of Corfu – please take me back now!).

The most Instagram-able beaches? Some of the small bays at Paleokastritsa and Canal d’Amour of course. Also, the ground at Canal d’ Amour is very rich in clay so you’ll find plenty of people walking around covered in mud essentially. Which gives you the feeling of this amazing natural spa right on the sea. Gosh, the beauty!

Corfu also has spectacular spots to enjoy the sunset. Cape Drasti and Logkas at Peroulades are great although potentially too crowded. If you manage to snatch a spot at the 7th Heaven Bar at Logkas a couple of hours before the sunset, just stay there and wait for the moment to come. The moment is almost magical – the bar starts blasting dreamy lounge music and everyone goes quiet for the last seconds before the sun is lost behind the hill. The funniest thing is that people actually start clapping once it’s over!! Yeah sun, good job!!

Do you want to enjoy the sunset while comfortably sitting at a restaurant enjoying some of the best food on the island? No problem at all, the Mouragia area is full of restaurants with great views of the sunset. My personal favourite was Andranik — we went twice there to try moth sofrito and pastitsada – two of the most traditional dishes on Corfu (I’m officially hooked on sofrito, it’s probably the best thing about dating a local…!)

The city of Corfu is magical in the evening. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live your day to day life in a place like this. Do you get the constant feeling that you’re living in a movie? Or do you ever get enough of all this beauty and just get used to it? I suspect the latter – like with everything in life – but still, strolling around these little streets, holding the hand of a loved one, can transform you in a way. Thinking back to that moment in the middle of a rainy, stressful day at work, can have an even bigger impact.

IMG_0900.JPGIMG_0902.JPGIMG_0903.JPG

Go visit the Paleo Frourio, aka the Old Fortress, that was keeping Corfu safe from pirates. The views are great in the day time, but at night it turns into a magical place (don’t be afraid to go late at night, there are a great number of tourists and locals visiting event until midnight and there’s also a great bar in the Tower).

Another great spot to visit is the Kanoni, where the views of Pontikonisi and the church of Panagia Vlaherna are one of the most soothing sights you can enjoy on the island. We went for a late coffee around 20.00 and we were lucky to see many planes come and go from the airport that’s just next to the Kanoni. ​

​And then there is of course the music. Corfu has a huge tradition in music, there are hundreds of marching bands in every town and village and it seems that most locals play at least one instruments. They also make for a great sight with all their different costumes, so make sure to try and catch a live performance when you’re there, which won’t be too difficult anyway.


I was a happier version of myself at Corfu. I’ll be looking at these photos and try to preserve the feeling for as long as possible. Until next time.

Life · Miscellaneous and interesting

Checking in

sabri-tuzcu-197978
Source: unsplash.com

A month passed between my last blog post and today – a full month, 31 days, maybe 32, I’m not sure any more to be honest. I was so busy at work that I didn’t have time to think, let alone travel, eat at fancy restaurants, go to cute cafés or take pictures. And the few fun things I did, I rarely thought to capture on camera.

But I’m back!!! Not that work is less or that I have more time, but I do have a reinvigorated will to do more things. I’ve started volunteering! I’m looking for new fun stuff to learn on Coursera. I’m flying to Venice this weekend! I’m planning the concerts I’m seeing at Werchter this summer! There are a million exciting things happening and although time going by is the thing that stresses me the most in this life, I just can’t wait!!!

Leaving you with a tune today – I hope you are all happy and healthy, preparing for a great long May 1st weekend (or not-it really does not matter as long as you are happy and healthy!!)

Travel

Things to do before boarding a plane to the other side of the world

Tomorrow sees the start of a new week and myself on a plane to my adopted city of choice – San Francisco. I’ve ended up having to travel to SF almost twice per year since I got my job in August 2015 with this amazing company that has its HQ there. I had been to the US twice before then, so I did know a thing or two about getting ready for long-haul trips (and waiting time in airports) however I really feel now that I’m starting mastering the art of getting ready -both physically and emotionally- for the huge shock that is translatlantic travel.

Union Square, here I come (again!)

 

So here we go in no particular order, I’m just writing down these things as I’m actually doing them today:

  1. Take your time : My flight is on Monday, so I’ve spent the better part of my weekend doing the things on this list. Taking your time is important when preparing for such a long trip, there is no way getting away with waking up an hour in advance and throwing stuff in your hang luggage hoping you haven’t forgotten everything! Even if you are the most well-prepared person on earth, I would strongly advise packing the night before so in the morning the only thing you have to throw in your carry-on is your toothbrush. Otherwise let me assure you that you will reach your destination sans underwear (no, no, it’s never happened to me).
  2. Make sure all your tickets, visas, check-in’s, etc. are in order: If you require a visa for the country of your destination I’m sure that you’ll have already gone through quite a procedure in order to get it, so I’m not too worried that you’ll forget. However, if you only have ESTA to worry about (like Greeks do for the US), it is pretty easy that you forget that you need it (or that it has expired without you noticing – almost happened to me the last time). The best strategy is to check right after you book your tickets, this way you will have plenty of time to organize yourselves and follow any procedural steps in case your papers are not valid any more.
  3. Do laundry: It’s kind of a super mundane task but to me is equally important is bringing all my chargers and adapters with me!! I spent my Saturday and Sunday doing laundry and ironing because going off to a work trip means that I want to have as much of my “work wardrobe” available to me as possible. There is nothing worse when packing for a week full of work meetings and realising that your go-to white button down has this tomato sauce stain still on!
  4. Think hard of what you need with you on the plane and pack smart: I’m thinking books/magazines, snacks and bottle of water here, as well as a few cosmetics you need with you on the plane. I have to admit I looooove flying long-haul. It’s the only time I really get 10 hours to myself, no email, no phone, no way for anyone to reach you or annoy you. It’s the best time to catch up on reading, and that’s very much what I intend to do in the plane tomorrow 🙂 I am also going to prepare a sandwich with healthy stuff I have at home as well as get my Hidrate Spark bottle with me to make sure that I don’t feel hungry or thirsty at the airport or on the plane. Remember: it will be a long day, you need to treat yourself a little bit!
  5. Download the Netflix app: It often happens to me that I’m traveling in planes without individual screens for every passenger, meaning I have to put up with two hours of StarWars, two hours of the Mupper Show, and another 6 hourse of American reality television. I’ve nothing against these entertainment choices, however the one after the other can drive me to an overdose of boredom and anxiety, that’s why I was so doped when Netflix announced we can now download stuff on our phones and tablets. I still haven’t watched The Get Down and I’m totally planning on doing so at this trip!!
  6. Choose your outfit for the plane: Again, this is something I never leave to the last minute. I’ve made too many mistakes in the past and ended up wearing too tight jeans, too short skirts or extremely uncomfortable shoes for 15 hours. This time I’m going with an oversized pair of jeans, my trusted black sweater and my beloved over sized scarf to keep me warm. Wearing a pair of VANS trainers to keep my shoe game comfortable as well. #win
  7. Have your documents ready: Needless to say you can go nowhere without your passport, so make sure it is the first thing you put in your purse. I also always have with me foreign currency and a public transport card/ticket. I usually keep these items in a separate bag so I can always find them quick and neat.

    Little pink wallet from Narciso Rodriguez, purse from YNot?

So, wish me luck for my big trip tomorrow. And let me know what tips you have for before boarding long-haul flights!!! xx

Life

March savings

Money is definitely not #worthlivinit. However, the things money can buy us, totally are.

I took this decision at the beginning of March to start saving rigorously to be able to both sustain myself financially AND be able to get a little spoiled (but just a little, otherwise saving would not really make sense).

Did I succeed? Not completely – but did not fail either. Which I think is a very good start. By that, I mean I missed my saving goal by 20%, so I had to withdraw some more money at the end of the month to meet my financial obligations, but the 80% I managed to save was already good. So kudos to me for that 🙂

And these were my rewards:

  • 2 tickets for the Muse concert in Athens on 23 July: I really can’t wait for this one. The concert venue is next to the sea, and all I can think about is the sea, the moon, the crowds, the perfect Greek summer breeze and music.
  • A Hermès tie for the boy: This was the first time we celebrated his bday together as a couple, so I thought an expensive gift was in order….I actually feel to be victimized by this idea  of caring so much about someone, because I ended up buying him something more expensive than almost anything else I have in my closet. And I’m not really sure he got what an Hermès tie means in fashion currency…Anyway, that’s what I think about money – its best use is either for traveling or making the people you love happy. Btw, the Hermès website is SOOOOOOO cool and the app EVEN COOOOOOOLLLERRRR. I could actually spend serious amounts of time playing with the app, while pretending I’m digitally window shopping for my man. The tie itself is super playful as well. The pattern looks like simple dots from afar, but moving closer you realize it’s adorable hazelnuts. And on the back, you can actually see two little squirrels if you look really close. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT??? And for 100% silk, I think it was actually a pretty cool deal. I hope you enjoy it, my love 🙂

So, where does that leave us? I’m more decided than ever to continue on this path. I believe March went well, so I will continue my financial fasting in April, trying to make it even more successful. I will be adding two steps though:

  1. Keeping records of what I spend at the super market: This might seem a bit radical, but believe me, I have no intention of actually cutting down on shopping for my daily needs! I just want to keep an eye on what goes out of my pocket for such things, exactly to be able to calculate my budget more accurately. I also want to do a little comparison between super market brands. I’ve never been the person comparing prices of products on the shelves or knowing instinctively the answer to the question “How much is a kilo of tomatoes?” So, keeping records will help me see what are the most beneficial choices for me budget-wise.
  2. Draw a little list of the things I know I will want to make mine in April 🙂 I already know my splurging goals for the next month: Deco, deco, deco. Because of the recent change in my living conditions, I’m looking to give a new feel to my apartment to make it look more “our” than just “my”. This means a good amount of euros will go into furniture and plans for the balcony. (Btw, I’m so excited about this move, I want to document every single step of it – from the emotional turmoil to the fight over the color of the couch!)

I feel very grown up with all this planning taking place. I also feel bored. But I’ve realized keeping things in order HAS helped me feel calmer and more organized myself, in order to be surprised only positively. Plus, there are so many things we can’t control in this life anyway. Important things. Let’s start with sorting out our financial messes to leave room for panic when the actual problems hit. And have a fabulous life in the meantime 🙂

HAPPY APRIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I stumbled upon this very interesting piece on Refinery29 a few weeks back. It’s a bit complex for my understanding of financials and probably best suited for U.S. readers, but is an overall very good guide to help you get a better grasp of your budgeting goals and also save some money while doing so 🙂

 

City life · Life

The first day of spring

So it’s here. At least according to Facebook that told me so on Sunday morning. And my response to Facebook (and by extension to the whole world) was SHUT UP.

Because the calendar might indicate that March is almost over. But the weather in Brussels does not want to let go. It’s still really cold, not even sunny, and I think it’s getting me down. Having grown up in Greece, I never really thought how weather can have an impact on my mood. It was usually sunny and warm and years went by just like that without having to think twice how blessed the country is with this amazing weather.

And then I moved to London but again I didn’t care, because London was such a wildly new city, so fascinating and full of things I wanted to see and do, that I didn’t give much thought to the cold and the rain.

And then I moved to Brussels. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love this city that I’ve learnt to call home, but there are a few things that really SUCK, one of them being the weather.

I can’t remember another time in the past years that lack of sun and warmth made me so cranky. I want to escape, I’m no motivated to work AT ALL, I’m thinking at the clothes in my closet and feel desperate, I don’t even know why I went on a diet a few days ago – it’ll never be warm enough for anyone to see my thighs anyway!

And all this is getting me seriously down.

And there’s not much I can do about it. Except for (1) traveling (2) trying to enjoy my little city as much as possible.

And so I went for number 2 this last weekend with the company of very good friends (omg, I’m so blessed to have good friends, it’s like the greatest consolation in life…). Saturday was about coffee at this cute little place (that I couldn’t recommend more to Brusselians – yes, this is how I call people living in Brussels (like I would do for Brazilians – lol)) and then dinner here (super delicious meatballs with yogurt sauce, fresh mint and some eggplant spread – no, I did not take any pictures of my meal!!!) and then dancing the night off listening to Destiny’s Child and Busta Rhymes which means pure and total bliss.

And Sunday was about getting my culture juices flowing 🙂 We visited Wiels, a contemporary art center, i.e. a great place for my weekly dosage of hipsters (and their adorable children!!!!), and then we went to a listening session of Leonard Cohen’s first album at the Ancienne Belgique* and then I returned happily at home to this view.

IMG_6951[1]
At Place Flagey, aka my neighborhood in Brussels.
And it kind of made me feel better and ready for spring.

So how did you spend your first day of spring?

IMG_6938[1]
At Wiels (this is probably one of the most artistic pictures I’ve ever taken)
IMG_6935[1]
The panoramic view from Wiels’ terrace. One thing I love about Belgium is the skies – cloudporn big time!
IMG_6930[1]

IMG_6946[1]
At the Ancienne Belgique bar after the Leonard Cohen listening session. There are a few times in my life I’ve felt as serene as when the session was over.
*(AB is one of the most famous concert places in Brussels. Everyone and their mother have played there. Every few weeks they hold these listening sessions of classic albums for free, where after a short introduction of about 30 minutes on the artist and the album, you get to listen to the whole album with super good sound quality and without any interruptions. Is this the best meditation you can think of or what??????

 

Life · Travel

Saving

In March, I’m going to save money. Like big time saving! And I’m now looking how to achieve this.

A few months ago I started implementing this strategy whereby I save a big chunk of money AT THE BEGINNING of each month. Which makes for a good plan and for months to look like they are going by waaaaaayyyyy slower than before (I’m actually broke by the 25th, and I’m checking my account balance every hour in hopes of some surprise transfer suddenly made to me while at the same time looking at my saved amount singing “you can’t touch this”).

 

giphy
Me looking at my bank account on the 25th day of every.single.month.

So, I have the means (deducting money right at the beginning of the month), but I was completely lacking the motivation. Why would I need to save money? I’m still 30 (yeah, yeah, 30 is super young, don’t you know that already?), I’ve no family obligations, no intention of buying a house or a car, and I’m not spending THAT much anyway. I struggled with this question for a little while, and I still am sometimes – why would I stress myself at the end of every month? The amount I decided to save was totally arbitrarily set by me for me and noone really pushed me for that. I shouldn’t feel I’m failing if at the end of every month I need to take a couple of hundred euros out of my savings (assuming I’ve saved more than a couple of hundred euros…)

And I actually came to this conclusion: I save to be able to do crazy things whenever I feel like it. Book a trip to Mexico. Buy a Chanel bag. Surprise your boyfriend with a weekend away. Take you mum to her favourite restaurant.

Coming from a financially challenged country (to say the least) as I do (I’m Greek 🙂 ), you could also add “potentially save your family from total disaster – but hopefully nobody will have to do that and we can also spend our money on chocolate.

I have a few advantages for saving money right at the beginning of the month:

  1. After paying your rent, bills and usual debts, you think you know know exactly how much money you have left until the end of the month.
  2. Which helps really planning your activities and eliminate stress. You can better manage your budget and buy your tickets to concerts, plan your dinners out with friends, buy a book or two and renew your perfume that is close to running out. Also keep a little on the side to donate if possible.
  3. Saving and budgeting has actually also helped me think of more fun stuff to do (in a weird way…I really don’t know how this has worked). If I find 30 euros  that don’t really need to be attributed to anything, I can consider spending them on this 1-day seminar on mindfulness or buy a knitting kit and spend my Saturday on YouTube rocking at knitting that scarf.
  4. With whatever money you have left at the end of the month, you can buy yourself/a loved one a little something (even if you can only afford 3 pairs of parrot socks from Primark). Or donate again – even better!

So, there you have it! All-grown-up me saving like a pro. Hopefully, this will turn into a good habit that I can continue mastering during more stressful periods of my life – e.g. children coming along, planning a wedding, taking a loan, losing my job or booking last minute tickets to Hawaii. Because money can’t make you happy, but the things you can do with money certainly can #thewisestthingyouveheardalldayImsure

Below I have a small selection of the things I wouldn’t mind spending my savings on – let me know yours 🙂

Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta).
Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta that my boyfriend prepared a few weeks ago – perfect for a winter day!).
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there - I seriously have to go back at least once)
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there – I seriously have to go back at least once)