Twenty-four hours in Athens: a vague itinerary for the non-planner

For some reason Will and I had a little mix-up on the timings of our trip to Greece. We found ourselves with an extra day and a bit to explore Athens, and not a lot of time to plan due to limited Internet access -- Greece isn't on the Three Feel At Home list -- and the fact that we figured this out on our first evening in Athens prior to leaving for the islands. So, we winged it.

Athens, as you might imagine, is soaked in history, much like how my clothes were soaked in sweat in the stifling Greek heat. I really can't hope to do it justice (the city, not my sweaty clothes), so here is a rough breakdown of what we did in our bonus holiday time. I hope you find it useful if you're actually reading this in advance of planning a trip!

9AM: Our group returned the boat to Alimos Marina, I booked a cheap hotel on Last Minute, and we caught a 20 minute taxi to the Apollo Hotel (Metro: Metaxourghio), a perfectly serviceable place which was £40 a night at the time. This included what turned out to be a slightly lacklustre breakfast -- we ate like kings on the boat, whereas this stuff probably came from giant catering tubs. We cleaned ourselves up, napped, then wobbled downstairs on our sealegs. 

12PM: I started scribbling over a free tourist map while frantically Googling things like "Athens must do". By this stage I was getting hangry, so we walked a few blocks towards the Psirri district through kind of a rundown looking area. There was some amazing street art, most of which was of a political persuasion. Lunch was moussaka, salad, souvlaki, and my new favourite dip, taramasalata (which is also super fun to say, especially if you pretend to be a pirate).

Nikitas Athens Lunch

1.30PM: My Googling had turned up Melissinos, the Poet-Sandal Maker of Athens. Stavros Melissinos' literary work is taught around the world, but his day job was working as a sandalmaker, and now his equally-accomplished son Pantelis has taken over the tiny, colourful shop. The service is pretty great, despite the swarms of tourists hemming and hawing over which of the 30-odd designs to have custom-fitted to their feet. Bob Saget has a pair, and a photo with Pantelis on the wall. Sarah Jessica Parker loves her No.22 Prince style so, according to a poster featuring her face. (FYI I got the No.26 Thebes.)

Trying on my Thebes. They adjust the straps and hammer them down for you.

Trying on my Thebes. They adjust the straps and hammer them down for you.

Inside Melissinos.

Inside Melissinos.

3PM: Monistiraki Flea Market (Metro: Monistiraki) is the place to go if you're wanting souvenir t-shirts, key rings, and painted icons. I'm sure there are legit shops full of wares made by artisans, but it's hard to get past the hordes of tourists, literally and figuratively. Head for the hills! Adrian's Wall and the Agora are nearby, or even better, the Acropolis Museum (Metro: Acropoli). This was a refuge from the heat and the crowds, and well worth the €5 entry fee, with some great exhibits for a Classics novice like me. You also get a really great view of the Parthenon. 

She was sketching <3

She was sketching <3

That light!

That light!

5PM: I convinced Will it would be a good idea to see a Greek play, so we waited around for tickets at the foot of the Acropolis. This took a while -- the ticket office didn't quite get around to opening when it said it would -- and by then it had cooled down enough for us to tackle the Acropolis. This was, as you can imagine, pretty spectacular! 

You've all seen photos of the Parthenon but have you seen the Cats of the Parthenon?

You've all seen photos of the Parthenon but have you seen the Cats of the Parthenon?

7.50PM: Sunset. People clapped.

Athens Sunset from Acropolis

8PM: Time to head to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (or the slightly more catchy Herodeon). We'd gotten cheap tickets to Ajax by Sophocles, which, by the way? Was all in Greek, funnily enough. Two hours of it. BUT IT WAS AWESOME LOOK AT US SITTING IN AN ACTUAL GREEK AMPHITHEATRE. (N.B. I think performances end around October, and this may have been the tail end of the Athens Festival.)

Odeon Herodes Atticus Selfie
Will took this sneaky shot at the end of the performance.

Will took this sneaky shot at the end of the performance.

9.30PM: We were pretty tired by this stage, and I really can't remember where we went, but we must have caught the Metro to Syntagma because I took a photo of the Greek Parliament.

Hellenic Parliament Athens

10PM: Most of the bars we came across were pumping, but we really weren't up for drinks -- the heat had taken a lot out of us. So we stopped for a quick souvlaki at a joint somewhere on Ermou, I think. 

10.30AM: We checked out of the hotel, left our luggage, and set off for Anafiotika, a tiny neighbourhood built by workers from the island of Anafi in the 19th Century. Apparently they were working on the King's palace, and sneakily built their own digs in in this prime location in their down-time. The whitewashed houses are seemingly stacked on top of each other on the hills above Plaka, with loads of cats loafing about in the shade of the bougainvilleas. You can also make your way to the Acropolis from here -- a calmer, more scenic route compared to going through Monastiraki and the Agora. 

Anafiotika houses
Anafiotika bougainvillea house
This way to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This way to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

12PM: We were boiling by this stage, having climbed up and down the streets of Anafiotika and the Plaka, and were about to stop for a drink when we ran into a couple of friends (also Kiwis living in London). Pretty nuts! Bars and restaurants are a little overpriced in this area, being a popular spot with tourists and well-heeled Athenians. The shopping options here are a bit more upmarket compared to Monastiraki, including quite a few art and design shops. I kept to my new tradition of buying a towel from holiday destinations (see my Sicily pick in this post), and picked up one of these guys from Pestemal

Cafes, bars, and restaurants all spilling out into the Plaka terraces.

Cafes, bars, and restaurants all spilling out into the Plaka terraces.

1.30PM: It was time to hoof it back to the hotel and pick up our luggage to head to the airport. A note about Athens Metro: it looks like they've changed the pricing and structure slightly as of September 2015, just after we were there. For a quick stop in the city, all you would probably need is a €4 daily ticket which is valid on basically any mode of transport except the airport Metro, or maybe a €10 five-day pass if you're there for a little longer. A single ticket costs €1.20 and is valid for any mode of transport within 70 minutes. For the airport, the best option is probably the €8 one-way Metro ticket (€14 for two people), or you could go for the €20 3-day ticket for everything, including a round trip to the airport.

I dropped those sunnies down a dirty toilet shortly after this :(

I dropped those sunnies down a dirty toilet shortly after this :(

I wish we could have spent a bit longer in Greece. It was a really affordable place to travel, the food was amazing, and there's obviously so much more to explore and learn about the country. I would love to hear your recommendations if you've been before, to Athens or elsewhere -- I'll definitely be heading back!

Photo by Will

Photo by Will

Any excuse: how sea sickness led to a Korres makeup haul

I got complacent.

Three days into our Greece sailing trip I missed a dose of my motion sickness medication. I woke up the next morning and felt fine, and thought that my experience seven years ago of throwing up my breakfast pancakes over the side of a yacht was a one off. So I went ahead and missed the morning dose as well.

That day we set sail for slightly more open waters, with bigger swells coming from the side. Dozing on the netting of our catamaran probably didn't help either -- there's not just the jolting and slapping of the two hulls, but the independent motion of the nets as well. Apparently everyone else started feeling queasy, but I went the extra step of hurling my breakfast of fresh figs and Greek yoghurt over the bow of the boat. So glam.

Said breakfast of Greek yoghurt and fig.

Said breakfast of Greek yoghurt and fig.

We changed our plan of heading to Hydra, and stopped off on the island of Poros instead. I was running out of medication so kept my eagle eye out for a φαρμακείο (pharmakeio, pharmacy -- I was trying my best to learn the Greek alphabet). It wasn't hard, because there seemed to be one on every block in Greece! God knows I love a good foreign pharmacy, and this was a good one: hello Korres makeup!

Korres makeup Zea Mays Blush and Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks

Korres makeup Zea Mays Blush and Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks

Korres skincare is pretty easily found in the UK, but this was the first I'd seen their makeup range (available in the UK at House of Fraser and Lloyds pharmacies). If you take a look at the names you'll notice the references to botanicals and minerals, which goes back to their Greek origins and ethos of using products from nature. I'm not sold on the whole "natural products" thing (and that goes for all brands), but I like that they carry out research and scientific validation into their ingredients. Whether having active ingredients in makeup has any effect is dubious (see: Tarte Cosmetics), but it makes for a point of difference! 

I went for the Zea Mays blush in Orange, and the Volcanic Minerals Twist Eyeshadow in Golden Pink. I liked the eyeshadow formula so much that I went for the Golden Bronze when I came across it later on, along with the Morello Creamy Lipstick in Pearl Berry.

I didn't end up being such a fan of the lipstick on me, but I think I will include it in a pink lipstick round up soon. Here are arm swatches (roughly NC30) of the blush and eyeshadow sticks:

Korres swatches, L to R: Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks in Golden Bronze, Golden Pink, and Zea Mays Blush in 44 Orange on NC30 skin

Korres swatches, L to R: Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks in Golden Bronze, Golden Pink, and Zea Mays Blush in 44 Orange on NC30 skin

These are the first eyeshadow sticks I've ever bought, although I have swatched offerings from Lancome, Bourjois, and Charlotte Tilbury before -- they're all fairly similar in that they set pretty fast so you have to blend quickly, and once set they don't budge or crease; you'll need a decent eye makeup remover to get it off. Both Golden Bronze and Golden Pink have a very fine shimmer. I've tried taking photos of them on my actual eyelids but dammit if I'm terrible at taking makeup selfies. Golden Bronze is warmer and deeper in colour than Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, for reference (I'll update the post with a comparison swatch soon; the original turned out rubbish). 

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange -- it's a touch more true orange in real life!

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange -- it's a touch more true orange in real life!

The blush formula is quite silky and easy to blend. It's not super pigmented, which I find really helpful when it comes to bright shades like this peachy-orange. I'd call it a satin finish, which you might be able to tell from the swatch above -- there's an ever-so-slight sheen which doesn't emphasize my textured skin, but helps give a bit of a glow (not that I needed it, what with my naturally oily skin and extreme humidity at the height of the Greek summer). I was around NC35 after a week of sunshine and it showed up well, so I would think it'd suit a fairly wide range of skintones. Here it is on my face -- this shot is from my last post, and I've brightened and enhanced the contrast a bit because the original is pretty underexposed:

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange on my NC35 Greek tan. Base is the Maybelline powder I mentioned in my last post.

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange on my NC35 Greek tan. Base is the Maybelline powder I mentioned in my last post.

So I'm pretty happy with what I picked up on the trip. If you're planning to visit Greece any time soon, I'd recommend keeping your eye out for the Korres makeup range; the quality is great, and it's reasonably affordable, particularly with the current GBP-EUR conversion rate. They have a number of standalone stores throughout the EU, too, plus various online stockists shipping worldwide. Kiwis, you can find it in Kit Cosmetics and Mecca Maxima in Australia; I couldn't find any that shipped directly to NZ. 

If you've tried the range before, what did you think?

Keep Calm, Carry On: What I Packed for Greece (Skincare, Makeup, Packing List)

Bangkok, around seven years ago: Will and I were about to head to the airport to go home. We struck up conversation with another Kiwi (who knew someone I knew, funnily enough - two degrees, etc) and went on to share a taxi.

I was impressed by how lightly she packed -- an everyday sized backpack and a tote bag, from memory, whereas I had been lugging around one of those big 60L backpacking monstrosities for three weeks around Tokyo and Thailand. Those packs have their place (tramping, festivals, or transporting your favourite possessions when moving across the world, like I did last year), but I couldn't help thinking how I would have been a much happier traveller had I not had to constantly schlep around a good fifteen kilos on my back.

Ever since then I've tried to pack light, with varying levels of success. For this trip, a week-long Greek sailing holiday, I went as minimal as I could. It helps that it was hot, and that we pretty much only fly with the budget airlines where you have to pay extra for checked luggage. This is SO NERDY, but here's what I packed, for anyone out there who obsesses over this stuff like I do:

Sunset in Aegina: the black &amp; Other Stories maxi is a little boobilicious at times. Wearing the Soap and Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude over Marc Jacobs Nude(ist) Lip Pencil.

Sunset in Aegina: the black & Other Stories maxi is a little boobilicious at times. Wearing the Soap and Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude over Marc Jacobs Nude(ist) Lip Pencil.

  • Three dresses -- a long black maxi (similar to this one, but in stretch cotton) and a short racerback tank dress (similar to this one, but with a twisted back), both from & Other Stories, plus a white linen sundress with crochet panels from Country Road several years ago (second from left in this pin).
  • Soft white button up shirt from Miss Selfridges, similar to this, and denim shorts from H&M - I probably could have done without both of these.
  • Two pairs of shoes -- jandals from Muji and plain black chunky sandals (£10 from a local department store).
Same day I threw up my breakfast Greek yoghurt and figs over the bow of the boat.

Same day I threw up my breakfast Greek yoghurt and figs over the bow of the boat.

  • Two pairs of togs -- a one-piece and a bikini. Next time: two bikinis, which would double as bras.
  • Undies! And two bras.
  • Blue cotton towel from Sicily -- chartering the boat included towels but I used this as a sarong as well.
  • Two plain black singlets (H&M) and a pair of soft black shorts (Trenery) for sleeping.
Calzedonia bikini top and a blue cotton towel from Sicily.

Calzedonia bikini top and a blue cotton towel from Sicily.

  • My beloved Saben Tilly's Big Sister handbag for going onshore, and a backpack from H&M (similar to this) as my carry on "personal item" for stuff like my diary, camera, notebook, phone, and travel documents. The challenge for next time is a smaller personal item. 
  • Sunglasses, an aviator style. I dropped them in a dirty toilet just before we left for the airport BAHAHAHAHAH. Luckily they were $5 from Cotton On.
Evening in Hydra. Wearing the makeup in the next shot, applied on-deck! Mostly piled on the Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange.

Evening in Hydra. Wearing the makeup in the next shot, applied on-deck! Mostly piled on the Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange.

Cosmetics-wise, I tried to fit everything into this Muji case and the regulation-sized ziplock bag (although I cheated and put some stuff in Will's). It's a mixture of favourites and a few new things I've been playing with:

Muji travel case with everything shoved in it. Applying makeup on-deck while moored up in Hydra: Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush, EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Estee Lauder Doublewear Eyeliner, Korres Wild Rose and Vitamin C Treatment, Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher.

Muji travel case with everything shoved in it. Applying makeup on-deck while moored up in Hydra: Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush, EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Estee Lauder Doublewear Eyeliner, Korres Wild Rose and Vitamin C Treatment, Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher.

Maybelline Powder, Coppertone Facial sunscreen, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher in Queen of the Jungle.

Maybelline Powder, Coppertone Facial sunscreen, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher in Queen of the Jungle.

Soap &amp; Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

Soap & Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

  • Maybelline Clear Smooth All In One Shine Free Cake Powder SPF25PA++ (£1 at the local pound store! I think this is an Asia-only release), applied using the Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush (from the duo fiber collection). I know from past experience that liquids and BB creams would simply melt off my face in the 30+ degree heat, so I just used the powder over the top of sunscreen if I felt like a bit of coverage.
  • ArtDeco Queen of the Jungle Bronzing Glow Blusher (limited edition from a couple of years ago, but still available here and they seem to do a variation on the theme every now and then), applied with the EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush
  • Estee Lauder Doublewear dual ended eyeliner in Onyx and Coffee (I think this was a limited edition release; the full sized version has a smudger on the other end), smudged out with the Real Techniques Shading Brush, and the Makeup Revolution Awesome Double Flick Liquid Eyeliner. I probably could have done with leaving one of the liner options behind.
EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Makeup Revolution liquid eyeliner, Marc Jacobs Lip Pencil in Nude(ist), Real Techniques Shading Brush, L'oreal False Lash Telescopic mascara, Estee Lauder Doublewear eyeliner, Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush

EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Makeup Revolution liquid eyeliner, Marc Jacobs Lip Pencil in Nude(ist), Real Techniques Shading Brush, L'oreal False Lash Telescopic mascara, Estee Lauder Doublewear eyeliner, Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush

Soap &amp; Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, Lush Solid Perfume in Karma, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

Soap & Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, Lush Solid Perfume in Karma, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

  • Coppertone facial and body sunscreens (these were three for £1 at the local pound shop; another Asia-only release I think), contact lens solution (FYI: no one seemed to sell solutions for RGPs in Greece, and mine got confiscated at customs because it was 120 mLs... woe), and mini shampoo and conditioner (I got the Charles Worthington Sunshine Protector range from Boots).
  • Collistar Glycolic Acid, previously reviewed here.
  • A freebie pack of Simple Face Wipes (although I've bought them in the past) to remove makeup and sunscreen, and then I would do a second cleanse with the (shock horror) freebie soap on board.
  • Lush solid perfume in Karma, in the old push up packaging -- such a gorgeous scent! It's an orange and patchouli blend, and almost smells fizzy, if that makes sense.
  • Skinny cotton buds from Muji, a few cotton pads, tweezers, and hair ties.

Looking back, I could definitely have gone lighter, but hey... [insert something about minimalism being a journey, not a destination]. What about you -- what can't you travel without? How many lip options would you be happy with? And would you mind if I write more travel posts? I've got a lot more to say about Greece!

Ahhhhhhhhh take me back.

Ahhhhhhhhh take me back.

Extras for experts: How to Pack Like Joan Didion (Into The Gloss).

Travel: Scent Memories and Zagara di Sicilia Colonia perfume

I like doing the mundane when I'm travelling. Because it's not really mundane then, is it? Grocery shopping became a scavenger hunt when navigating a supermarket with scraps of Italian. Deciding which of dozens of cheeses to take on a beach trip in Spain was an exercise in restraint. Even buying mouth ulcer gel in French was an experience.

Supposedly, people are happier in the long run spending money on experiences, not things. It makes sense! We all have different priorities, but for now I'm putting a lot of my money towards travel. I don't think it needs to be a zero-sum game, though -- I've made a point of saving up for beauty-related purchases on my travels this past year, and subsequently have enjoyed using those products in my every day life.

Looks as good as it smells.

Looks as good as it smells.

Scent always plays a bit part in my travel memories (related: food). Our accommodation hosts in Sicily welcomed us with pastries in the fridge, and a plate of home-grown lemons on the patio table. There were still blossoms attached to the stems, and that, combined with the zagara (orange blossom) trees surrounding the property and dotted around the landscape, will stick with me for a long time to come. 

Zagara di Sicilia Colonia by Profumi Zuma

Zagara di Sicilia Colonia by Profumi Zuma

Along very similar lines is the Zagara di Sicilia perfume by Profumi Zuma, found in a shabby chic-style souvenir shop in Scopello, a town quite close to where we were staying. This has the slightly bitter opening note of neroli -- a bit like when you squeeze a lemon and the essential oils burst out from the skin -- and mellows out to the sweet, heady combination of orange blossom and something warm (I can't find a list of scent notes anywhere, and I'm crap with them anyway, but I think it might be amber).

I can't be the only one who makes a point of shopping for beauty products when travelling, so tell me: what's your favourite beauty-related souvenir?

This is part of the Brunch Club #BlogGreatness link-up -- this week's theme is travel. Read other bloggers' posts here!

You can't always get what you want: Sephora lip product review and swatches

It's been almost a year since I started my life afresh in London, and I've done some major damage to my bank account in various European cities. To wit: three Sephora own brand lip products, and a dilemma -- what do you do when you love a lipstick colour, but the formula is shite?

Sephora own brand lip products:&nbsp;Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed, Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony, and Craig &amp; Karl Lip Color Last in West End Swirl.

Sephora own brand lip products: Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed, Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony, and Craig & Karl Lip Color Last in West End Swirl.

I visited one of the smaller Sephora stores in Barcelona during my recent trip, and picked up:

  • Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 03 (aka Strawberry Kissed in the States), a matte bright berry red
  • Sephora Rouge Infusion Lip Ink in 19 Peony, a neutral dusky pink
  • Sephora Craig & Karl Color Lip Last in West End Swirl, a matte orange-leaning red.
Swatches, top to bottom: Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed, Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony, and Craig &amp; Karl Color Lip Last in West End Swirl.

Swatches, top to bottom: Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed, Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony, and Craig & Karl Color Lip Last in West End Swirl.

Bloggers and Youtubers alike rave about the Sephora Cream Lip Stains, and I feel like in this case it's justified: this is easy to apply, comfortable to wear, and fades evenly with a stain. Number 19 Peony is opaque and creamy, and the doe foot applicator is perfectly sized and shaped. Liquid lipsticks can be a hassle to apply perfectly, so I often end up blotting them on with a finger and wearing it more casually rather than as a precise lip. With the Cream Lip Stain I don't find it to be much of a problem.

Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed: berry nice!

Sephora Cream Lip Stain in 03 Strawberry Kissed: berry nice!

The Rouge Infusion in Peony was sitting in the Aisle of Doom, i.e. the cattle run leading up to the checkouts where perfectly priced samples suck every last penny out of you. This was the mini version (0.068 fl. oz. compared to the 0.152 fl. oz. full size), and almost made me drop my delicately balanced pile of goodies when I picked it up. (Do you do that? Don't get a basket when you go shopping, whether it be groceries or makeup, because you're "only getting a few things" and then regret it when you almost smash a dozen eggs?) This is a gloss-lipstick hybrid which strongly reminds me of the YSL Glossy Stains -- glossy, non-sticky, and has that slightly cooling sensation when you apply it. I like it.

Sephora Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony: don't ask what was going on with my hair. I was cleaning.

Sephora Rouge Infusion in 19 Peony: don't ask what was going on with my hair. I was cleaning.

I had to look up who Craig & Karl were, but props to them on the eye-catching design and colour choices for their collection. I chose the Color Lip Last in West End Swirl because I'd been wanting to try more orange-leaning reds, and this one just perks up my face. I love it! But (and this is a big one (haha butts)) the wearing is torture. Application is fine; I really like slimline lipsticks because the bullet is a good size, and it applies evenly without tugging, unlike MAC's Ruby Woo as an example. I don't usually have dry lips and often go without balm, but this just sucks every last bit of moisture out of them. It's very long lasting -- drinks and meals -- and there is only very minor transfer, but when it does wear off it does so patchily. It pills as you rub it off as well, so reapplication is a bitch.

Sephora x Craig &amp; Karl Color Lip Last in West End Swirl: I'm smiling now...

Sephora x Craig & Karl Color Lip Last in West End Swirl: I'm smiling now...

I found that it helps if I put something like Clarin's Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector over the top, but then that takes away the impact of the colour. It's so reminiscent of MAC's Lady Danger, though, so all is not lost -- the satin-matte finish might suit me better. 

What's your latest product disappointment? Coral and orange lipstick fans, any other recommendations for me?

Sephora own brand lip products