Thursday, December 3, 2009

Guest Stylist - Elaina Samaniego

Elaina Samaniego is a traveler at heart. Sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with her over lunch, she will give you the low down on your next three trips and why. My own top 5 list has changed completely to her tune. That’s one of the reasons we are such good friends, just two dreamers who have a whole lot of fun together. Elaina is one of those rare people who dropped everything she had in sunny San Diego and moved to Bali (next door to me luckily!). She’s the owner and buyer for 4 Corners Design where she can easily and efficiently transport all the wonders of Bali to your port and home. On my design projects, I love working with her as my project manager…you’ve never met a woman more on top of things. And now, I can safely say that Greece and Turkey have moved right up my list to a near #1.

Enjoy a little daydreaming and if you are thinking of taking a winter holiday, I think we might just have the answer for you.

Elaina Samaniego

Greece and Turkey took me by surprise. It’s not until you see the snow-white buildings with the cobalt blue splashes or taste real Greek yogurt or dive into the crystal clear waters along the Agean coast that you appreciate the rich beauty these two countries have to offer. If I could do it again, I’d give myself at least two months. I only had a month to cover both locales. I know that’s not practical for most, but going to Greece and Turkey isn’t about being practical. It’s the kind of thing you do when you need a sabbatical or your life has taken an unexpected turn and it’s time to find yourself. I was 25, by myself and on a budget. If I could hit repeat I’d do it like this:

Most people think going to Greece is all about the islands. The islands are indeed the icing on the cake, but before you hit the beaches you should consider exploring the Peloponnese region of Greece. The charming seaside city of Nafplion located on the Argolic Gulf in the Northeast of the Peloponnese is an easy escape from Athens and a breath of fresh air. This city is a sweet slice of strolls, shops and eateries. Rent a car so you can stop along the way and enjoy the countryside.

Nafplion is small and quaint with gorgeous views. For something more traditional, check into the Ippoliti Hotel, no need to stay for more than a day or two but definitely worth the visit. Moving further down the coast to the very tip you can’t miss out on Monemvasia, the enchanting fortress city where cars are not allowed (mainly because they can’t fit). No more than two people can walk side by side down the cobblestone streets of this cliff-side city. What reigned as the main port during the Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman empires, Monemvasia is a must see for those interested in a glimpse of post-antiquity Greece. Stay inside the fortress walls for the true experience. An old medieval castle adds to the intrigue at the Malvasia Hotel. The rooms are simple but the views are spectacular looking out over the Mirtoon Sea. While you’re here be sure to dive into the deep blue water and swim out far enough to look up at this amazing fortress city carved into the cliffs. Hard to believe it still stands so strong. For some real Greek fare you should check out Marianthi’s Tavern along the main path in the lower part of town close to the main square. Don’t miss out on the local amygdalotas (sugared almond cookies) found at any café or specialty store, and be sure to enjoy a glass of the Malvasia wine at any of the cliff-side bars. Before leaving, enjoy a morning hike to the Aglia Sophia. It’s a mid-12th century, Byzantine church that remains in perfect condition and makes for great photos with the sea in the background.

seaside city of Nafplion

Ippoliti Hotel

Malvasia Hotel

City of Monemvasia

Now it’s time to head back to Athens. Jump on a ferry and cruise to Santorini, the famed Greek island that you’ve probably seen in photos. Check into the Santorini Grace Hotel for a slice of luxury, drop your bags and start dreaming. This is the perfect place to just relax. In fact, stop reading for a moment, close your eyes and count to five.


Santorini Grace Hotel

Ah, wasn’t that nice? Okay, time to go to Turkey. Head to the island of Samos and make sure you book your layover hotel in advance (unlike me). You’ll have about 8 hours before the ferry, so catch a nap or wander the foggy streets of Samos. Start dreaming of Turkish delight.

There are many ways you can do Turkey, but coming from Greece, I recommend a cruise down the Agean coastline. From Samos dock at the port town of Kusadasi and make your way down the coast in a traditional Turkish gulet yacht. It’s a week-long journey filled with some of the best sunsets and sunrises, snorkeling, cave swimming and great meals on board. It’s definitely one of the best ways to experience this beautiful coastline. Along the way, don’t miss the gorgeous and pristine beaches of Fethiye. For some fun shopping you should visit the sweet fishing town of Kas. Great boutiques and relaxing seaside cafes make this spot a nice treat. From here head into the town of Olympos, where you can adventure through scattered ruins and find secluded beaches with amazing cliff dives (if you’re up for it).

Turkish gulet yacht

Shopping in Kas

Ruins in Olympos

Fethiye Beach

Before heading straight for Istanbul, stop by Cappadocia for a glimpse of the famous cave dwellings, where houses and churches have been built into the stone cliffs and where the cities exist underground. Stay for a few days, at least, and check into the Museum Hotel, to savor the true experience of living in caves. Hot air balloon rides, shopping at the covered bazaar dating back to Ottoman times and enjoying some good food inside one of the many famed cave restaurants are great ways to keep busy.


From here, head towards your final destination of Istanbul, where the East meets the West. This is by far one of the most enchanting cities you’ll ever visit. There is plenty to keep you busy and just about every nook and cranny of this city is filled with eye candy. Give yourself a week to enjoy this gem of a city.

Check into the Ajia Hotel and plan to pamper yourself. Don’t waste too much time, as The Grand Bazaar is big enough to keep you occupied for days. This infamous bazaar is a must see and overall great cultural experience. If you’re a fabric lover like myself, I suggest checking out the Sivasli Istanbul Yazmacisi, located inside the bazaar.

Ajia Hotel

The Grand Bazaar

Turkey is famous for their carpets and it’s hard getting out of Istanbul without being wooed into one of the many carpet shops that line the streets of this city. For a good selection, try the Orient 100, which houses carpets from not only Turkey but Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. If you’re an antique fan or overall enthusiast for all things beautiful, make time to check out the famed shop, Alaturca House. To round out your shopping experience go for a taste of some high fashion at the Arzu Kaprol boutique. They have some fantastic dresses that are hard to walk away from.

You can’t leave Istanbul without clocking in some cultural time. Besides what is Istanbul without the architectural wonder of the Hagia Sophia? Make sure your camera is ready to go. On the same note, don’t leave Turkey without experiencing a Turkish hammam. The centuries old Cagalogluh Hamami is ideal for a real sweat. And if you’re up for a glimpse of some history, check out the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.


Orient 100

You’re probably starving at this point. For what is considered some of the best kebab in the city, heads towards Develi. Above the spice bazaar, you’ll find the city’s famous Pandeli Restaurant. Take note of the tiles that cover this place. If you prefer a nice dinner out, I suggest Mikla Restaurant for some modern Turkish cuisine and hip atmosphere.

Istanbul is not meant to be rushed, so give yourself some time to explore the wonders of this famed city. And don’t forget to try some Turkish Delight. Rose is my favorite.

Oh... and what to wear while on your travels? Here are my favorites...


1 comment:

  1. New hostels and recent renovations even offering modern entertainment such as plasma screen TVs and internet.

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