Athens Travel Guide

One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is a gritty metropolitan mecca rich with culture, history and magic. If you plan on traveling to Greece, it is a must for your itinerary.

I fell in love with Athens years before I ever set foot on its soil. An avid fan of Greek mythology since junior high and a theater geek in university, Athens was always high on my bucket list. Of course, when one thinks of Greece, the stunning cliff view, blue topped roofs and white washed walls of the buildings in Santorini come to mind. After all, it is a mind-blowing island. Santorini holds a special place in my heart and my boyfriend and I did travel there after Athens. But if you are going all the way to Greece, the capital city should be top on your list.

Athens is home to the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, a must-see for any travel enthusiast and history buff. The history of ancient civilizations and the birthplace of democracy, theater and philosophy is juxtaposed with bustling modern cafes, shops, markets and bars. There really is something for everyone in this city.

My boyfriend and I spent three full days in Athens, enough time for its charm and spirit to woo us, while leaving us with plenty of days on our two-week vacation to island hop.

What to see

Acropolis: The Acropolis of Athens is one of the world’s historical marvels. It’s a complex of ancient structures built on a hill, consisting of the Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike and other wonders. The Parthenon and the other main buildings were built in the fifth century, giving you a glimpse of the marvels of early human ingenuity. It was the crown jewel of my trip to Athens. If you’re heading there in the summer months, it’s best to get there early or close to sunset because of the heat and crowds of tourists. The site closes at 8 pm. I got there about 8 am and there was a line already forming. Take a hat, bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

greece (16 of 180)
The Acropolis in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

You have to pay a small admission fee to get in and you can also get a tour guide if you want, but my boyfriend and I decided to wander around by ourselves, which many other people were doing.

Athens
Me at Theatre of Dionysus, Acropolis, considered the world’s first theatre.

I think it took us about two or two and a half hours to tour the site, inclusive of taking lots of breaks to drink water, sit down and also snap photos.

greece (17 of 180)

There are lots of places to get amazing city views of Athens as well.

greece (18 of 180)
Athens skyline. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Acropolis Museum: Across the street from the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum. The entryway to the museum has a transparent floor and underneath you can see excavation of an underground ancient city. The museum has several collections, including marble statues from the 7th century, BC, and other early periods. It’s best to fit in a view of this museum after touring the Acropolis. It was not my favorite museum that I have visited, but the statues are beautiful and it definitely worth a visit.

National Archaeological Museum: This museum was founded in the 19th century and, according to its website, houses antiquities from all over Greece. It is also the largest archaeological museum in Greece. Here you will find lots of artifacts and statues, as well as an exhibit dedicated to Ancient Egyptian culture. I also ate lunch here before my boyfriend and I toured the museum (there is a nice restaurant on the grounds) and was able to get a delicious grilled veggie sandwich and fries.

Monastiraki: Monastiraki is a flea market neighborhood in Athens filled with lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. You can spend hours roaming around this area, just soaking up the sights. Have a beer at one of the many cafes, sit outside and people watch, then wander around for a bit, picking up gifts for yourself or loved ones back home.

What to Eat

If you are vegan like me or just trying to eat more plant-based foods, Greece got your back girl. While most restaurant menus are filled with meat, seafood and cheese dishes, nearly everywhere I went I found a vegan option or something that could be made vegan with the removal of cheese or yogurt. Also everyone spoke English, so even though I did memorize a few words, I didn’t have to embarrass myself with mispronunciation and just asked if things had yogurt/cheese and if so, could they be removed. At some places a few things like stuffed vine leaves and falafel came with a side of yogurt, so be sure to stress you don’t want it.

Avocados: A dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was so good, I ate there two of my three days in Athens! It’s a cozy, quirky little place with outdoor/indoor seating as well as an upstairs area where you can sit on cushions on the floor. My first time there, I had the Avocado’s Burger without cheese.

greece (24 of 180)
Veggie burger at Avocado in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

It was massive and I wasn’t sure if I could finish it, but I did and went into a food coma after! It was honestly one of, if not the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. It’s served with a side of sweet potato chips and at first I was disappointed it did not come with fries, but after struggling to finish this beast I was happy I didn’t have them. The chips were light, not greasy and a perfect complement to the veggie burger.

On our last day, we had dinner there. I had the Life’s a Rainbow stir-fry with tofu added (a small extra cost but worth it) and the Raw Chocolate Tart for dessert. Both were delicious, especially the tart which was decadent.

Local taverns: There are lots of little restaurants around Athens to get some vegan friendly food. Near my Airbnb I had a dish called ‘large beans’ according to the menu and Greek salad, no feta cheese, which funnily enough had no lettuce unlike the Greek salads I get at home. I also ate a lot of stuffed vine leaves with rice, spinach pies and falafel.

Where To Stay

There are so many Airbnb offerings for Athens I was overwhelmed during my search. Many of them were reasonably priced (under 50 euros a night), a much better deal than the hotels I searched. But until this trip, I had never stayed at an Airbnb so I was a bit hesitant. I ended up going with the first option that caught my eye because it was well-priced and I liked the decor. It turned out to be an amazing choice. The place was homey and cute, and looked exactly like the photos online. Our host met us at the apartment, gave us the rundown on everything and some advice. There was also homemade jam and some toast, coffee and tea provided as well. The Airbnb was in Athina and the metro was about a minute’s walk from our front door. There were also lots of small food shops, a coffee shop and a tavern right near our doorstep.

Tips

Don’t bring a lot of cash with you for money exchange. There are lots of ATMS around Athens and the other Greek islands. Changing money at the airport kiosks is expensive. Most restaurants and shops take credit/debit cards as well.

Use the metro. We mistakenly took a taxi to our Airbnb which was in the Kato Petralona area, because the metro would have been a longer (but cheaper) ride and we had never used it. After being overcharged we learned from that mistake. There was a metro stop minutes away from our Airbnb. We had to ask people for help with directions a few times but overall it felt safe and we were able to get where we needed to go. Just be careful and watch your valuables while riding. If you are taking a taxi in Greece, save yourself a headache and get the price upfront.

Good luck in your travels, xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Go Vegan: A Simple Guide

I firmly believe becoming a vegan is the best decision a person can make for their health, well-being, the environment and the animals. Vegan diets can prevent diseases, are full of fiber and micronutrients, and if done right, can help you lose weight. Factory farming is one of the biggest atrocities humans have inflicted on this planet. More than 50 million land animals are killed each year by humans for food. By becoming a vegan, you are making an ethical decision with your wallet and your stomach that will no doubt lead to a paradigm shift in how we view food and other animal species.

How To GoVegan

When someone finds out that I’m vegan, many times they are curious and want to know what I eat, how I did it and how they can make the transition. While I extol the virtues of this lifestyle to anyone who wants to listen (and even some who don’t!!) I know firsthand that it can be a daunting process to someone who is eating a diet heavy laden with meat and dairy.

To the uninitiated, a vegan diet may seem extreme. After all, most of us have been conditioned by society to view eating the body parts of dead, mutilated and abused animals as normal. We have even been conditioned to think that eating corpses and animal byproducts is healthy. Milk does a body good, remember? However nothing could be further from the truth. So many people in the western world are riddled with preventable health problems, obesity and chronic, non-communicable diseases. It’s all down to what we are putting in our mouths.

Some people think vegans live off iceberg lettuce, carrot sticks and tofu (I love tofu, btw), when in reality vegan food is so varied and tastes effing awesome! You can have pizza, burgers, ice cream – all without harming animals and having a gentler impact on your health and the environment.

 Read on and I will show you how to go vegan step-by-step.

How to go vegan the right way

    1. Educate yo’self. When I first became interested in a vegetarian (now vegan) lifestyle, I did what I always do when learning about a new topic. I researched the **** out of it. I scoured the internet for recipe ideas, the health benefits of not eating meat and how to go vegetarian. But I didn’t stop there, I also read a lot of peer-reviewed medical research which showed that many plant-based eaters had lower incidences of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension) and those who adopted a plant-based diet after getting one of these diseases had a higher rate of recovery than those on a standard diet. I also found that on average, vegans and vegetarians live longer than omnivores, another win. Additionally, through my research I found humans can get almost all the nutrients we need from plants if eating a well-rounded diet, but there is one supplement vegans need to take – B12. You can also find it in fortified plant milks or nutritional yeast, all of which I use including a daily tablet. Moral of the story is, if you’re going to do something, do it right. The Vegan Society’s website is a good place to start.
    2. Clean out your closets and pantry. Once you decide to go vegan, it’s time to clean out your fridge and pantry of anything containing animal products. The way you do it is up to you. You can wait until you eat all the meat and dairy you have on hand, as well as all the packaged/frozen food containing animal products. Or you can donate these items to family, friends, or a food bank. I don’t recommend throwing away anything unless it is something spoiled or half-eaten, etc. Food waste is a serious problem in the developed world while there are so many people going hungry and starving in other places. If you choose to eat through your stored food before making the switch, set a timeline for yourself for the transition and stick to it. In the meantime, avoid purchasing meat and dairy products for your home. You should also extend your purge to your beauty and cleaning products. Use up any cosmetics and toiletries that were tested on animals. When making new purchases, look for things which have not been rubbed or dripped into a bunny’s, dog’s or monkey’s eye. The leaping bunny symbol or the words cruelty-free on the back of the product are things to look for. Same goes for your leather and fur (shudder) items. Some persons continue to wear used leather after going vegan but I think that sends a mixed message. Donate them to a charity and buy sustainable vegan alternatives in the future.
    3. Experiment in the kitchen. As you start your vegan journey, focus on adding not subtracting. When people first make the switch to veganism, too often they think about what they are giving up instead of what they are gaining. Trust me, a whole new culinary world will be opened up to you. You will learn that you can bake without eggs and dairy and your desserts and baked goods will come out the same, even better sometimes. You can make ice cream with bananas, coconut milk  – even avocados. You will learn that soft tofu is a perfect dupe for eggs in a scramble and you can even make omelets and cheesecake with it. Raw cashews can be soaked and blended to make vegan cheese and sauces, the list goes on. And you will begin eating an array of vegetables and fruits you never thought of before as you expand your palate. Sure you can subsist on fries, potatoes, Coca-Cola and mock meats, and all those things are vegan, but you want to thrive, not just survive. Buy vegan cookbooks, watch vegan cooking tutorials on YouTube, try some of the recipes on this blog (shameless plug) and embrace your new world.
    4. Tell your friends and family. A good way to hold yourself accountable as a new vegan is to tell friends and family what you are doing. To be honest you will probably feel so great in the first few weeks (improved digestion, weight loss, more energy and feeling lighter) that you will want to scream from the rooftops that you are vegan. I found when I became a veg, many of my friends were supportive. When I’m invited to parties people do think of me and try to have something vegan there, even if they aren’t too familiar with the lifestyle. And by spreading the word, you may open the eyes of more people about the health benefits of going vegan, thus saving the lives of more animals. Win, win!
    5. Research menus before dining out. Eating out. Perhaps the biggest fear of a new vegan. What will I eat? Will they have anything on the menu besides a garden salad? Will the waiter and my friends judge me for asking about the ingredients of dish after dish? Just because you are a new vegan, doesn’t mean you have to hole yourself up in your apartment eating plate after plate of veggie curry, watching Netflix and turning down dinner invitations. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience). But eating out will be tricky unless you are going to a vegan place. The best bet is to call ahead or Google the restaurant where you will be eating and scope out their menu. See if they have vegan options, or anything that can be veganized. Or if you show up to a place unexpectedly with no vegan options, you can always ask the waiter if the chef will make something vegan just for you. Most places should be able to do a simple pasta with veggies in oil or tomato sauce. And if all else fails, just order fries and a small salad and try not to think of all the amazing vegan food you have at home, while hating your friends.
    6. Dust yourself off and try again. I have been a vegan for just over three years and was a vegetarian for 10 years before that. I am far from perfect, but every day I try to make choices for the good of animals, my health and well-being. But there have been times when I have inadvertently eaten meat or dairy. Cheese hidden in pasta that I thought was vegan. Or chicken in a Chinese dish even though I specifically told the waiter no meat. I do not consider these things food or healthy, but I did not beat myself up about it. If you make a mistake, whether you knowingly or unknowingly eat an animal product, it doesn’t do anyone any good to hate yourself over it. Just recommit yourself to the path that you are on and realize this is a marathon, not a sprint.
    7. Be ready to defend your choices. I said earlier that when I went veg, many people were supportive of and open to my decision. But there were those who chose to deride my choices, make fun of me at work or social gatherings and for some reason shout at me that they could NEVER, EVER give up meat. I have even had a person tell me at a dinner party that not eating animals was not solving anything and my lifestyle wasn’t doing any good. I was so angry that I started to shake. But getting into a shouting match with people over being a vegan doesn’t help anybody (been there, done that), however you should have about five talking points memorized for those uncomfortable conversations. People will ask you why you are vegan and tell you how good bacon or steak tastes and that they don’t care if animals are murdered. They will say these things because your choice not to exploit animals scares them and shakes the core of their pre-conditioned thinking. And because of limited diets, many people don’t realize how good vegetables can taste and all the amazing things you can do with them. They have yet to be enlightened. Instead of being flustered when you encounter a person like this, having a well-thought out response with some statistics will show that you are serious and on the right path. It will also shut up those ignorant people who just want to troll you. And if not, you will still come out looking like the better, more educated person.
    8. Stay healthy. Another stereotype of vegans is that we are all twig, waif like things that will blow over in a slight breeze. In truth, there are vegan body-builders, athletes and performers who go against this cliche. And while some vegans are thin and yoga-toned, it is beneficial to remember that we come in all shapes and sizes, cuz we’re human. I would love to lose ten vanity pounds and I am working on that, but my main goal every day is to be healthy. I don’t worry about dieting, but focus on eating as many whole, plant foods as possible with a few vegan treats here and there. I also try to get a lot of sleep (which is hard since my day job is in journalism which is full of anxiety and adrenaline), drink lots of water, exercise and take vitamins. When you get sick as a vegan, there will be people who will gleefully say it’s because you need to eat a steak. In actuality, I hardly ever get sick and my digestion is much better than when I ate dairy, which often made me bloated and gassy. Stay in tune with your body, if you are feeling sluggish on a vegan diet, try upping your intake of leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, etc and also eating more plant-protein. Don’t rely on processed foods (anything in a package) but eat organic foods from the earth. I also take a mix of supplements which I rotate in my smoothies such as maca, Spirulina, wheat grass powder, and ground flax. I also take magnesium, B12, and a vegan probiotic. Your health and how you look will become a reflection of this lifestyle to society. I take care of myself because I care about myself, duh, but also because I want to show those around me the benefits of this way of life.

I hope these tips have helped you. If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow my blog and share this on social media. xox

Chocolate Cake For One

Some days I feel like baking a whole cake and getting all fancy, other times I get a chocolate craving at 7 pm and just want a few bites of something sweet, without having leftovers in the fridge to tempt me the next day (and the next!).

That’s where this chocolate mug cake comes in. It’s dairy-free, egg-free and a cinch to make. You can make this in the microwave, but I decided to bake mine because I try to nuke things as little as possible.

I have made mug cakes in the past that have just been okay, but this chocolate baby came out moist, fluffy, gooey in the center and fudgy. I knew it was a win because my boyfriend finished it off for me after I got full.

If you enjoy this recipe, please like and comment and follow this blog for more content.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake for one

Vegan Chocolate Mug Cake

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Print

Ingredients


– 4 tbsp flour
– 3 tbsp sugar
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 5 tbsp non-dairy milk
– 1/2 tsp white vinegar
– 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients in a mug or ramekin. I used a ramekin. Add liquid ingredients and stir with a fork, being careful to scrape the bottom to combine the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. You can also make this in the microwave by nuking it for one to three minutes, starting at one minute and cooking for 30 second intervals until desired doneness is reached. Let cool and enjoy.

Mango Chia Seed Parfait

Happy Monday everyone!

I’ve only been back home from Greece for about two days and finally getting back into the swing of things. While I had an amazing time on my trip (which I will detail with posts and lots of photos on this space later) I did miss blogging and creating content. So I am very happy to be back, although my travel lust is already in swing and I am planning my next big trip.

Also, I can’t believe it’s October already! In no time at all it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving (which isn’t a holiday in the Bahamas but since we’re so close to the US, it might as well be) and then Christmas. Then a new year will be upon us and we will all be wondering where the time has gone. Normally the end of the year tends to get me a bit depressed because I think about all the things I haven’t done, goals I haven’t met, and the general pressure over holiday shopping etc.

But this year I am taking a different approach and instead reflecting on all the good things that have happened this year and all I have accomplished. I finally travelled to Greece, which was number one on my bucket list and my first time to Europe, I overcame my fear of swimming in the ocean, bathed in a hot spring, (another bucket list item), hiked up a volcano and I have been working on this blog as well as other creative projects and I feel a new sense of commitment to getting the things I want out of life.

Today I am sharing a simple breakfast/snack recipe with you. I love making intricate dishes, but sometimes you also want something that is simple and easy to make.

This mango chia seed parfait fits the bill. I hope you enjoy.

IMG_0331

Easy Mango Chia Seed Parfait

  • Servings: 1
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • half cup of non-dairy milk plus three tablespoons
  • 1/4 tsp of green superfood powder of choice (optional)
  • 2 tsp of agave nectar
  • 1 cup of mango chunks (I used a fresh mango)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water

Directions

  1. In a mason jar, combine chia seeds, agave nectar, non-dairy milk and green powder. Mix and cover in the fridge overnight, stirring twice after 30 minute intervals.
  2. The next morning, place mango chunks into a high-speed blender and mix, using the water 1 tbsp at a time if needed to thin the mango puree.
  3. Layer the mango puree over the chia seed pudding. Top with granola, oats, or fruit. Enjoy!