Travel - Page 2

Crete: Balos Lagoon


Crete definitely takes the cake when it comes to unusual beaches! Prior to visiting Seitan Limania, one of our first stops on the island was the Balos Lagoon. I’d discovered it during my travel research and knew it wasn’t to be missed, despite reading a few off-putting comments regarding the drive, hike-in and the occasional unpleasant scent (thanks to shallow and fairly still water). Thankfully, none of those were an issue for us.


We left Chania around 10 am, driving westward on the freeway until it turned into a dirt road. It was dusty and bumpy, with never-ending twists and turns, along with errant goats that would pop out to say hello. But the lovely views of the aquamarine water butted up against the vermillion colored sand and desert-like coastline made up for any irritating anomalies.

All in all, it took a little under an hour to get there. Eventually the road ended at a nondescript plot of land, also known as a “Greek car park”. With what appears to be only goats (and maybe one guy) in charge, cars are squeezed into impossibly tight spaces, angled in all directions, with no rhyme or reason. Somehow, it works despite the disorganization and haphazardness.


The hike there isn’t too bad. It’s mostly downhill on a well worn trail. And while the heat can be a bit intense, as soon as the lagoon comes into view, it propels even the whiniest of children right down the hill. Besides, there’s plenty of places to stop for a breather or take photos of the bizarre blip of land and sea below. 



At the bottom, there’s another several hundred yards of sand to trudge through before getting to the actual beach. On the left, is a knee-high, shallow pool filled with what feels like warm bathwater. To the right, is a fairly normal, albeit incredibly turquoise sea, with glints of pink in the soft, white sand. When we arrived, they were just setting up the loungers and umbrellas, so we rented ours right away, knowing the beach would soon be full. I’m glad we did, because they ran out quickly and people had to wait for others to leave if they wanted some reprieve from the sun. 





Now, the hike back up is a slightly different story. After relaxing in the hot sun and sea, trudging through sand and then hiking in even warmer temperatures through the desert — it isn’t so appealing. Our 11 year old was bright red and thought she was going to have to flag down a donkey taxi. I had a toddler on my back and a 9 year old to prod along, so I wasn’t too sympathetic. She managed to rally, but even I will admit — the return trip was much more challenging. 





  • Go early! The boats arrive around noon and bring loads of people to the area.
  • Be prepared for the drive, hike-in and lack of facilities. In other words, expect a bumpy ride and about an hour total of hiking. 
  • If the drive/hike doesn’t appeal, you can also arrive by boat. 
  • Bring everything you need with you: money for lounger and umbrella, snacks, sunscreen, water, towels, etc. 
  • Plan to rent a lounger/umbrella. There’s no shade to speak of and it’s nice to have a place to take a break from the hot sun. Ours cost €8 ea. 
  • This is a great area for children to play and swim — just mind the reef and rocky spots!
  • There are donkey taxis for hire if the hike is too much. 
  • On your way back, stop for a late but traditional lunch at Gramvousa Restaurant in Kalivani. Delicious and beautiful! (see photos below)





Positano: What dreams are made of


There’s a certain breed of people that are not Italian but feel as though the country is deep within their soul. I am one of those. I can’t really explain it other than I’ve had an intense connection to the place for as long as I can remember. It couldn’t be any further from my current home and even less like where I originally came from. It wasn’t inherited nor learned, for even at a young age, I was drawn to all things Italian. Over time, it has only heightened thanks to my ever-expanding knowledge of food, wine, art, and culture.

We’ve been slowly working our way through the country and although the Amalfi Coast has been on my radar for years, it wasn’t until 2014 that we were finally able to go. It certainly helped that my friend Jora was also going to be there with her family and we could spend time together. It was the first time I’d travelled abroad with a friend on the other side and hopefully it won’t be the last! What fun it was to experience such amazing places together and especially with someone who knew the area quite well. It was a magical 6 days.


Unfortunately, our time there was cut short due to a major passport mistake on my part. I will write a separate post about that, but it sort of changed the scope of our trip because we lost a full day and our planned rental car, plus it made for an even more stressful journey.  Thankfully, it all worked out in the end and the good news is, we will definitely be back to see all of the things we missed the first time around! 

I also didn’t take many proper photos when I was in Positano. (Most of these are from my phone.) Oh how I wish I had a better reason… but the truth is, I carried a baby on my chest 90% of the time and our flat was at the very top of the town — 695 steps up or down, multiple times a day. That number probably seems inconsequential unless you’ve been there, but let me tell you, the rest of my family heaved and ho’ed, whined and whinnied while I used it as incentive to burn off those pesky post-pregnancy pounds. By the end of our stay, we were seasoned climbers! We ate and drank nonstop and still managed to lose weight on this trip! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about it since, but I dream of living somewhere I have to get a workout nearly every time I step out the front door. (Sigh, one day!) 




To Do

• Spend at least one day at Da Adolfo for the amazing food, charming location, staff, peach wine and the ultimate Italian beach experience. (Take the Red Fish boat at Spiaggia Grande.)
• Enjoy the view with a cocktail in your hand at the famous Champagne Bar at Le Sirenuse hotel.
• Stock up on gorgeous produce, wine, delicious antipasti and other prepared foods at the Delicatessen on Via dei Mulini.
• Rent a “lettino” (umbrella/sun bed) and spend the day at Bar Bagni Da Ferdinando on Fornillo Beach.
• View the coast from the water, whether it’s on a water taxi headed to a nearby beach or from a hired boat for a private tour.
• Eat a Sorbetto al Limone (Lemon sorbet in a frozen lemon; my children’s favorite treat!)

These are all the things I didn’t get to do but will next time:

• Hike the Path of the Gods.
• Visit all the neighboring villages: Nocelle, Montepertuso, Maiori, Minori, Praiano, Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani, Furore, Sorrento.
• Go to CAPRI!!!
• Sail and swim in all of the grottos.
• Beach day at Bagni d’Arienzo.
• Spend time in Naples.





GETTING THERE: We flew from London to Naples via Easy Jet. We then took the first taxi we saw to Positano. I’m not entirely sure that it was a legit driver, but we made it in a little over an hour. On our way back, we had a much better driver that drove us to Pompeii and waited in the parking lot while we looked around, then took us to the airport. It cost a little extra, but helped us kill time before our late flight.

TRANSPORTATION: You can definitely get by without a car. In fact, we were kind of glad that we didn’t have one in the end. There are a couple of private car parks but they are pretty expensive (about €25/day) and you’d likely still have to walk up/down the hill to get to them. That said, a car would be useful for visiting all of the neighboring towns like Ravello, Praiano, Furore, Maiori, Sorrento. But should you decide to not rent one, there are local buses to take you around Positano and beyond. You can also take the boats/water taxis to various nearby beaches or for a cruise around the coast. They are found in the Spiaggia Grande and some are free provided you eat and spend a good chunk of the day at their beach. Call for reservations in advance.

LOCATION: I spent a ridiculous amount to time trying to figure out where our apartment rental was in relation to the main areas of town. It was really difficult to tell how high up it was and how close it would be to everything. Turns out, it wasn’t marked correctly on Google Maps. HA! I would probably recommend staying in Positano town if it’s your first visit (ie. not in Nocelle or a neighboring village.) This way, everything is within walking/climbing distance and you can get a real feel for the town. Clearly, this town requires a certain amount of mobility. We managed to do it with an 11 month old, 8 + 10 year old — but it would be really challenging for some people. I’d also recommend you bring as little luggage as possible. There’s a great chance that you’ll have to haul it up or down stairs to get to your place (or pay a porter to do it for you). Second, make sure you have a view of the sea. It’s a lovely reward after all the stairs!

LODGING: I never bother looking at hotels because most can’t fit our family, so I spent hours perusing Airbnb, VRBO, Summer In Italy, Owner Direct, etc. until I managed to find a place. I would link to the apartment we stayed in, but it’s no longer listed. 🙁 Either way, know that Positano books up quickly during the high (summer) season, so it’s important to book as early as possible! 

FOOD: I made a list of restaurant recommendations prior to leaving and we barely made a dent in it! In the end, we had many of our meals at the beach (Da Adolfo or Da Ferdinando). We ate at Saraceno d’Oro a few times, as it was closest to our rental. Or we kept it simple and picked up mozzarella, bread and tomatoes from the deli and picnicked on our large terrace. Needless to say, we ate well the whole time, even if it wasn’t as I’d expected. (Restaurants on my list: Da Vicenzo, Il Puppeto, Bucca di Bacco, Bar Bruno, Bar Mulino Verde, La Tre Sorelle, the restaurant at il San Pietro, La Tonnarella, La Sponda, Saraceno D’Oro, Cove dei Saraceno, Le Sirenuse, Next2, La Tagliata, Donna Rosa, and La Terra.

KIDS: My children loved Positano. Some of this was because they had friends to play with, but I genuinely believe they enjoyed it for all the same reasons we did. Italy is truly one of the best places to take kids. Italians are so friendly and children are welcome everywhere. Plus, most kids love Italian food. There’s swimming, boats, cliffs to jump off of, gelato, grottos, etc. Sure they grumbled at first about the stairs but soon it became a fun challenge to see who could get to the top first. Like everything, it’s just a matter of getting used to something different. Besides, children are smart — they can sense the mystique and magic just as much as their parents. Sometimes more! My kids give Positano a double thumbs up and are also longing to go back. 


You’ll often hear Positano being called the Jewel of the Amalfi Coast, and rightly so. From the sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the gorgeous and colorful houses perched on the cliffs, to the bougainvillea and ivy covered walls, to the endless, winding stairs that weave through this vertical town — it’s truly hard to beat. There were multiple times where I felt like I’d been plopped into a 1960’s Italian film where beauty abounds and everything is insanely chic and sexy but at the same time deceptively simple. I think Italians have mastered that “un certo non so che.” (ie. Je ne sais quoi!



Perhaps John Steinbeck said it best,

Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide. Nearly always when you find a place as beautiful as Positano, your impulse is to conceal it.”


Another 100 Miles


It started well over 20 years ago — the fall of ’93 to be precise. I’d get in my car and just drive. I had moved from Fairbanks, Alaska to San Diego, California, and to say I was in a complete state of shock, would be an understatement in the extreme. It was one thousand and eighty degrees different and what felt like a million miles from home. Every chance I got, I’d hit the road like a prisoner out on bail.

I suppose at first it was a defense mechanism. Somehow, the wild and unknown streets of San Diego seemed a safer bet compared to the angsty college freshmen I was holed up with in the Tenochca Dorms at SDSU. I’d drive as though some unknown beacon was beckoning me in any and all directions. I went everywhere. And nowhere. Most of the time I didn’t even know where I was. I just drove. 

Before I knew it, I started venturing further. In ’94, I picked up a car in Seattle and drove it back down the coast. The following year, I did it again, only both directions this time and with my cat, Nico. (Don’t judge.) We listened to Mazzy Star and slept in seedy motels; living on poetry, wine and Camel Lights. On weekends, I’d drive up to Santa Barbara and visit old friends or head to LA (and/or Vegas) with my college buddies for a weekend of revelry. Sometimes, I’d drive to see my sister who was going to school in Phoenix. Eventually, I moved to Las Vegas and continued my nomadic ways, driving all around the valley. Anywhere. Nowhere. Everywhere.

Fast forward to the next century and countless journeys later — I was married and soon after, a mother. I imagine most people slow down a bit after having kids, but I believe I sped up. It quickly became my mission to share the world with my children, as well. In fact, our road trips grew exponentially after they were born. One day they will almost certainly tell people, “Our mom took us on the craziest adventures.” Though they’d gripe and complain at first, we’ve come to a mutual understanding now and I think they love it. They realize I can’t stop; that I don’t want to stop. 

That’s the way it works, you see. Travel is a dangerous drug — with unimaginable highs and equally empty lows. But more importantly, it’s also a love song. There’s a power that comes with being connected to more of the earth and there’s an energy that propels us to keep looking. Some might say it’s an escape. Others may argue it’s about discovery. Perhaps it is both.

I find there’s a space on the road where time doesn’t quite exist in the same manner as real life; an amalgamation of past and present. It doesn’t matter if it’s an epic, “must-see” place or just an obscure, little town in the middle of nowhere. Often I’m struck most by the minutiae; the old-school diner, the perfect font on the storefront’s sign, the lone horse watching from the side of the road, the random people we meet along the way, or finding fragments of what once was.

For the roads that have been so often traveled, I’ve learned to find beauty in looking at the same thing over and over again. The expanses of empty, desert land easily become a moving meditation. I memorize the hills. I know every exit and photo opportunity. I scan the landscape like a hawk, looking for what I’ve missed; that which I haven’t noticed yet. There must be something else there…

But in my dreams, I’d be able to keep going. I’d simply take off and never come back. There’s so much more for me to see! Some might say I must be running from something, but I reckon this constant need to travel is more like a puzzle. I’m collecting pieces and pictures, understanding the lay of the land, in both a physical and abstract manner. If life is about the journey and the story is in the details, then perhaps the road is just a map where we find the world within ourselves. 


Crete: Seitan Limania


If you are dreaming of the bluest water and the most unusual beaches, then look no further. Crete is the place for you!


As we flew south from Santorini, the first thing we noticed were patches of stunning, turquoise sea surrounding the island of Crete. One of my all-time favorite beaches was Seitan Limania (aka Stephanou Beach). I’d read about it while researching for our trip and from what I could tell, it was a local secret; slightly off the beaten track and required a hike-in. Frankly, it looked too good to be true in photos. I simply had to see it for myself! 


Although it seemed complicated to find, it wasn’t really. We followed the directions from this site and they were spot on. My advice is to head towards the Chania Airport, continue past it to the village of Chordaki, then follow the road until you start seeing signs for “the port.” Eventually you’ll arrive at the top of a hill and from there you can see the inlet. After a couple of serious switchbacks, voila! You are at Satan’s Beach.

HA! Almost.


When I got there, no one else was around and it was kind of hard to tell where the path lead to the beach. I decided to head to the canyon to the left of the parking lot (see above) and hike down that way. WRONG. It got me there, but was much crazier than the actual trail, which is on the right hand side of the parking. Whichever way you take, it’s steep but not especially challenging. Here’s the proper trail…



Although I went on my own, I wish I had brought the children. They would’ve loved it! There were other kids there and lots of people were climbing up and jumping off of the cliffs.



The more I travel, the more I seek out those one-off, different places and this beach was no exception! It felt so exotic and special. It is a must-see on Crete! I will never forget it. 


Santorini / Part 1


The first travel magazine I remember reading was when I was around 15 years old. Long before I’d dreamed of being a photographer, the cover caught my eye and the photos inside were seared into my memory for life. They were of Santorini; purple-tinged images of quaint, white cave houses and tiny alleyways perched on a cliffside. I thought, “I must go here one day.

A decade later, I started traveling to Europe, but by then, other locations had jumped in the queue of “Places to go” and Santorini was knocked back several spots. The funny thing about life is that experience sort of changes everything. By the time I finally made it to Greece, I’d already been to one of the most beautiful places on earth the year before… so it had to compete with Positano and the Amalfi coast, which is next to impossible in my book! Is this to say Santorini isn’t charming and lovely? Not at all. It is absolutely photogenic… in places.

We rented a cave house in the village of Oia and after touring the entire island, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else. Oia is the depiction of Santorini that everyone knows and loves. Sadly, it’s not the most accurate representation of the rest of the island. Every afternoon and evening, the appeal wore off as cruise ships let loose countless groups of obnoxious tourists with cameras, numbered signs and selfie-sticks. Hundreds of people flooded and congregated the quaint alleyways vying for the best photos until the sun went down. It made me embarrassed to be seen with a camera.

I still managed to find my repose. Thanks to jet lag and sick children, I was awake more than asleep. While everyone else slept, I was up early, coffee in hand, climbing to the terrace above to watch the sun rise over the sea and slowly illuminate the houses on the hillside. After coffee, I ran and climbed the myriad of dodgy steps and trails that laced along the cliff through the old pedestrian houses. The only other living things I came in contact with were stray dogs and cats, as most tourists stayed on the main paths above. I found peace in these winding passageways throughout the day and they will forever be my favorite part of Santorini. Although the rest of the island wasn’t quite what I expected, I was able to experience that magazine cover in person — in the wee hours of the morn, lavender-lit and tranquil, just as I’d imagined it would be.
















Old San Juan, Puerto Rico


At the tail end of our trip to Puerto Rico, we spent one night in Old San Juan. Although it’s known for being a touristy cruise ship port, San Juan’s charming mix of influences (Spanish, Cuban, Italian, and Caribbean) and colonial history easily make up for its short comings. I found it to be a lovely, little town with some of the most colorful buildings, quaint architectural details and perfect cobblestones I’ve ever seen. In a short amount of time, we managed to visit the El Morro fort, the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cementerio, eat a delicious brunch, snack on a classic Mallorca (the must-try pastry), and peek in a few shops along the way. I could’ve easily spent another day wandering the quaint streets, popping into galleries, bakeries and cafes. I suppose we’ll just have to go back! 



The Gallery Inn 


St. Germain Bistro + Cafe, certainly not authentic to P.R. but fantastic food and beverage all the same!

Cafeteria Mallorca for an authentic bakery experience.


El Morro Fort

Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis