What Birthday Trip Would You Take?
She chose the Greek Islands full of sun, sights, and stairs
Whenever a sibling in the Mikan family turns 40, they get to choose a destination for an epic birthday bash. They’ve celebrated birthdays in Costa Rica, London, and Vegas. This past August it was Sondra’s turn, and she chose the picturesque islands of Greece.
“Greece has always been that place for me,” Sondra says. Her wanderlust has been drawn toward that quintessential shot of Santourini from the Aegean Sea. The stark white buildings with blue shutters, the cascading bougainvillea, and, of course, the cats. So, after a little research about how to maximize 10 days in Greece, she, her sisters Stephanie and Marilyn, and her brother-in-law Rick, decided the best way to see the islands of Greece (there are a whopping 6,000 of them) would be by boat.
Island hopping takes a lot of time and planning, and since Sondra is not a cruise-ship-type-of-gal, she found the perfect solution: Windstar, a 150 passenger, luxury catered ship (because you only turn 40 once, right?) that travels throughout the Grecian islands (with a stop-over in Turkey). Aboard the white, sail-studded ship, the family could have a home base, prepared meals, and a full bar — and still have the opportunity to view many destinations in a short period of time, because all the traveling would be done for them as they slept.
Beginning in Athens, the Mikans toured the Acropolis and the Parthenon — two of nine UNESCO sites on the 10-day tour — before boarding the ship. Once the ship set sail, the crew meandered through the ancient islands of Nafplio, Mykonos, Kusadasi (Turkey), Padmos, Santourini, and Monemvasia, anchoring for the day at each. If guests chose to, they could take a tender boat ashore on daily excursions organized by Windstar or on your own, or guests could choose to stay aboard, sunbathe, and relax. After a long day of shopping, touring ancient relics, and, as Sondra says, “always walking up” (the Greek isles are filled with steep, hilly terrain), they could come back to the ship, sip Greek cocktails, and eat dinners of fresh octopus and Greek salads on the ship’s teak deck. Each night dinner was accompanied by a stunning sunset over the crystal blue waters of the Aegean.
“The sunsets are bananas. Every picture I took was as beautiful as the ones you see in professional pictures. The colored shutters and cats — I think I took a picture of every cat and donkey I saw — the hanging flowers, windmills, rocks, and granite streets…it is all so gorgeous,” Sondra says. “But, you will be hot, and you better be ready to walk up. I’m a little afraid of heights, but in order to get the best view, you have to climb to the top.”
Sondra walked away from her birthday trip to Greece with newfound confidence and a deep appreciation for the things going right in her 40 years — like a close connection to her siblings, who are not only willing to travel together but will all walk 999 stairs alongside her so that she can make it to the top. Happy birthday indeed.
A few tips from Sondra if you should go to Greece:
- Don’t pack anything that is tight. Breezy, wispy clothes are the way to go. The sun is hot, but there is a lot of wind to cool you down if you wear loose clothing.
- Learn some conversational Greek before you go. The Mikans spent a lot of time learning conversational language that they wish they would have known before the trip.
- Stay away from crowds. Some of the relics are extremely crowded, and you can see them perfectly from a bar across the street.
- Be lovely to the shop owners and they will reward you with gifts. Sondra said the people were friendly and wonderful — and after she would make a purchase, they would wrap up little extras, like gold coins, figs, and trinkets, and slip them into her bag.