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Month Seventy Four was a travel-filled month, just how I like it!
I started the month in Michigan where I explored the lighthouses, islands, cute towns, and beaches of the gorgeous Upper Peninsula for a week – and damn, that place is beautiful!
Next, we headed down into Wisconsin and spent five wonderful days in picturesque Door County, where we went to a fish boil, ate cherry pie, hiked in the state parks, visited a couple of offbeat islands, picked lots of berries, saw more lighthouses, and we even attended a one-man production of Hamlet staged in the woods (verdict: not my favorite).
After all that time in small towns and nature, we visited a couple of cities to round out our Great Lakes trip – Milwaukee, which was a very pleasant surprise, and Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the U.S.
We spent a week between both cities and just like that, our Great Lakes road trip was over and I was flying to Greece!
It felt so good to be in a different country after not traveling anywhere other than the U.S. and New Zealand for 18 months, and it had been 13 years since I was last in Greece so it was great to be back.
I spent my first night in Athens where I met up with my friend Heidi who joined me from Denmark for the first week.
From there we caught the ferry to Naxos and spent six nights exploring this magical island, mostly based in Naxos Chora but also spending a night in the fishing village of Apollonas with Heidi’s friend who has a house there.
I fell hard for Naxos and loved learning about the history, exploring mountain villages, eating the excellent cuisine, swimming at the beaches, and spending hours wandering the maze-like streets of Chora – this island is truly a magical place.
My last five nights of the month were spent on the neighboring island to Naxos – Paros. I met so many cool people there, visited one of my favorite towns on this trip – Naoussa, took a full day boat trip around the islands nearby, watched the sunset from a Venetian castle, visited Antiparos, and swam at some stunning beaches.
And that was the month. My Greek adventure is already shaping up very nicely.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: USA, Greece
- Michigan: Munising, Seney, Whitefish Point, Grand Marais, St Ignace, Manistique, Mackinac Island, Menominee
- Wisconsin: Door County, Green Bay, Milwaukee
- Illinois: Chicago
- Greece: Athens; Naxos – Apollonas, Chora, Plaka, Mikri Vigla, Apeiranthos, Chalki; Paros – Naoussa, Parikia, Kolympethres Beach, Monastiri Beach, and Marcelo Beach; Antiparos
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Palms Book State Park, Peninsula State Park, Whitefish Dunes State Park.
Islands Visited: So many islands this month! Northerly Island in Chicago; Mackinac Island in Michigan; Washington Island, Cana Island and Rock Island in Wisconsin; Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, and Despotiko in Greece.
Best Meals: Maple walnut fudge from Murdick’s on Mackinac Island; the incredible fish boil at The White Gull Inn in Door County; Chocolate custard at Kopp’s in Milwaukee; Dim sum at Phoenix Restaurant in Chicago; Spinocolli deep dish pizza from Pizzeria Uno in Chicago; Cheese deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s in Chicago; Allll the greek food – shout out to the Greek salads, tzatziki, fava, loukoumades (Greek donuts), saganaki (fried cheese), spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie), chicken souvlaki gyros, and all the incredible Greek pastries.
Worst Meals: Spaetzle from Mader’s in Milwaukee – very greasy. Also, not a big fan of the pasties in the UP of Michigan – I tried them at a couple of highly-rated places and found them bland and dry. Definitely not as good as authentic Cornish pasties in my opinion.
Best Craft Beer: Jam Sesh: Raspberry Sour and Mr. Boombastic Fruited Sour from Eagle Park Brewing Company in Milwaukee – absolutely exceptional beer.
- Miners Falls Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan – 1.2 miles
- Au Sable Lighthouse Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan – 3.4 miles
- Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin – 3.5 miles
- Lighthouse and Fernwood trails on Rock Island, Wisconsin – 5 miles
I haven’t done a lot of “hiking” trails this month but I have been easily hitting my 10,000 steps goal every day.
Watching: The Flight Attendant.
Reading: Honolulu by Alan Brennert, The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty.
I was lucky to have so many highlights this month that I could spend all day boring you all with them. Instead, I have tried to group them together.
Two Days Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was a massive highlight of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and I could have easily spent much longer there exploring.
In the time we had we did a boat trip along the shoreline to Spray Falls, explored a couple of gorgeous Lake Superior beaches to swim, hiked to Au Sable Lighthouse where we picked lots of wild blueberries, hiked to Miners Falls, visited the sand dunes, and stopped to look around the towns of Grand Marais and Munising.
I definitely want to return to do some more hiking in the park and maybe a kayaking trip to see the rock formations and shoreline up close.
A Day Trip to Mackinac Island
I loved the charmingly old-fashioned Mackinac Island despite it being a tourist hotspot. It is such a beautiful island and I loved exploring by hiking to Fort Holmes and Arch Rock, biking the lakeshore trail around the island, checking out the excellent Fort Mackinac, sampling the famous island fudge, and swimming in the turquoise waters of Lake Huron.
Next time I will spend at least a night on the island because I bet it’s even better when the day-trippers leave on the last ferry.
Door County – Everything
We had five days in Door County, a bucolic peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, and I am so happy that we had that time there because it was one of the parts of our road trip where I didn’t feel rushed.
Highlights were going to a traditional fish boil (who knew boiled fish and potatoes could taste so good!), discovering the lovely small towns of the peninsula, hiking in the state parks, visiting the offbeat Washington Island and even more offbeat Rock Island, touring lighthouses, picking wild raspberries and thimbleberries, and sampling the local cherries in many forms including pie, beer, donuts, and wine.
Door County was everything it was hyped up to be and more!
Pleasantly Surprised by Milwaukee
I didn’t expect to love Milwaukee but even though we only spent a day and a half there – I so enjoyed my time! Milwaukee is a great city to just wander around – along the lake, along the river, and through the city’s historic districts.
The frozen custard and the craft beer here are also very good, and we sampled both during our short visit. We also went to the beach, visited Milwaukee Public Market, went to one of the best book shops ever – Downtown Books (and not just because a kitty lives there), ogled the beautiful architecture, checked out the street art, and went bowling at Landmark Lanes.
It was a great introduction to this cool city.
Returning to One of My Favorites – Chicago
I loved Chicago on my first visit back in 2013, and I was so happy I got to return for five days this month.
Toby and I stayed in our RV at a truck marshaling yard just south of downtown and mostly got around by bike, following the lakeshore trail into the city each day.
Highlights in Chicago were sampling lots of deep-dish pizza, swimming at the beaches in the city, doing an architecture walking tour along the river walk, catching up with friends, and biking everywhere.
I knew I liked Greek food but I never delved into it as much as I have on this trip – and it is now one of my favorite cuisines. Everything tastes so fresh and flavorful and there are so many vibrant vegetable dishes that I love like the greek salads, fava bean puree, giant beans, zucchini croquettes, vegetarian moussaka, tzatziki, boureki (zucchini, potato and cheese pie) and fried potatoes.
I also love the chicken souvlaki pitas, spanokopita (spinach and cheese filo pies), saganaki (fried cheese), fried calamari, and all the greek desserts and pasties – particularly loukoumades (Greek donuts), ekmek (a filo pastry noodle dish soaked in syrup and topped with custard and cream), bougatsa (filo pastry filled with slightly sour goat cheese and topped with sugar), Trigona Panoramatos (filo pastry cones filled with pastry cream) and of course – Baklava.
I really need to write a post about my Greek food adventures!
Kitty Madness in Greece
If there is a more purrfect place for cat lovers than Greece then prove it to me because I just don’t know how such a place could exist. Greece is all about the kitty love with lots of stray cats that are well looked after by locals.
I have never seen so many cats in the street before but about 90% of them look very healthy and are ridiculously affectionate.
Greece has wowed me yet again on this trip and it has firmly cemented itself on my top five list of favorite countries for many reasons, but it is perhaps the cat culture that I love the most about this incredible country.
Highlights Day Trip in Naxos
As we didn’t plan in advance and book a rental car for Naxos, they were either booked out or exorbitant by the time we arrived.
Luckily you can catch buses all over Naxos and I did do a couple of day trips to the beach by bus, but there were numerous places I wanted to visit during my time there, and going to more than one location in a day can be difficult to coordinate with the bus schedule – so I decided to do a day tour of the highlights of the island.
I did this highlights tour and it was really great. We got to visit the Temple of Demeter, the lovely mountain villages of Chalki and Apiranthos, the fishing village of Apollonas, and the ancient Kouros statue there.
I didn’t feel rushed and I made friends with my seatmate – a friendly Greek woman from a town up north. It covered all the main places I wanted to visit in one day so it was the next best thing to having my own set of wheels.
Getting Lost in the Maze of Streets in Naxos Chora and Parikia
I love just walking aimlessly around pretty streets, taking it all in, and the narrow, cobbled, maze-like streets of Naxos Chora and Parikia in Paros were perfect for just spending hours getting lost.
Both have Venetian castles perched at their highest point, there are gorgeous stray kitties everywhere, the shopping is excellent, and there are so many colorful flowers including bright pink bougainvillea which is striking against the whitewashed buildings.
I took about a million photos because both towns are so picturesque and I never got bored of exploring them during my time in Naxos and Paros.
Lovely Naoussa and Kolympethres Beach
Naoussa is another lovely town similar to Naxos Chora and Parikia, but it has a slightly different vibe owing to its harbor lined with fishing boats.
I spent a couple of hours just exploring Naoussa town, checking out the shops, patting all the cats, and eating at the best bakery, then I took a boat to beautiful Kolympethres beach.
Kolympethres Beach has large grey boulders with small stretches of beach in between as well as super clear water. I hiked to a lighthouse from here too and it was a fantastic day overall.
Paros All Day Boat Trip
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a boat trip in Paros because I sometimes get seasick but I am so glad I did! It was a bit windy but we stopped at sheltered bays to swim and a private beach on Despotiko for snacks before having a delicious BBQ lunch on the boat.
It was really fun to experience Antiparos and Despotiko from the water and I met some cool people too.
My lip got sunburnt during my time in Naxos and it has been a painful lesson that I need to be better with applying lip balm with sunscreen more regularly.
Issues With My Ears
With all the lake and sea swimming in the past month, and then wearing earplugs to sleep most nights, my ears have been blocked on and off and there has been some pain. It’s been stressing me out a bit and I might need to see a doctor when I get a chance if they don’t sort themselves out.
I said goodbye to two big clients this month – one intentionally, and one unplanned. I have been wanting to focus more on working events and doing remote work to do with this but with COVID rates going up and some festivals and events canceling, I don’t know if this was my best plan.
Oh well, I’m sure things will work out one way or the other.
Feeling Rushed on Our Road Trip
Originally our Great Lakes Road Trip was meant to be a few months long but with lots of events suddenly on the schedule to work (more so for Toby than for me), we had to settle on only three weeks and I fell in love with so many places during that time that I wished we had longer.
Hopefully, we can revisit some of our favorites and see more of the Great Lakes Region on a future road trip.
Intense Heat in Chicago
Holy crap was Chicago hot during our five days there! I could hardly bear the hot and humid weather there and we didn’t really have an escape from it because we were dry camping in the RV so we didn’t have air conditioning at night either.
Next time I would love to visit Chicago in spring or fall when the weather isn’t so extreme.
A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.
Ouch. I spent A LOT this month but I can’t say I am too surprised because I was traveling the full month. I will say that it was worth every penny.
My 19 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of two nights at the town campground in Seney, one night at a camping ground near Milwaukee, five nights overnight parking in the RV in Chicago, one night in a hotel in Athens, five nights in hotels in Naxos (shared cost with my friend), and five nights in a hostel dorm in Paros.
My 12 nights of unpaid accommodation for the rest of the month included ten nights of free camping at casino’s, Cabela’s car parks, ferry car parks, and on city streets, one night on an overnight flight, and one night on the couch at a friend of a friend’s in Apollonas, Naxos.
Food and Drink $840
Obviously, this is a lot. I knew it would be a fair bit this month because I was on the road for the full month and eating out a lot and drinking cocktails in Greece because I was traveling with a friend for the first week. Next month should be at least a little less.
- Gas $226
- Mackinac Island Ferry $27
- Washington Island Ferry (with RV) $43
- Rock Island Ferry $11
- Lyft/Uber $19.50
- Divvy Bikes in Chicago $20.50
- Trains in Chicago $11
- Water taxi from downtown to Chinatown in Chicago $6
- Train from Airport to City in Athens $10.50
- Fast Ferry from Athens to Naxos $62
- Train from City to Piraeus in Athens $1.50
- Taxi from Chora to Apollonas in Naxos $35.50
- Buses on Naxos and Paros $17
- Ferry from Naxos to Paros $13
- Boat transfer from Naoussa to Kolympethres Beach on Paros $9.50
- Return ferry to Antiparos from Paros $3
- Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise $48
- Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum $14
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park entry $4.50
- Tandem Bike Hire on Mackinac Island $12.50
- Fort Mackinac entry $13.50
- Palms Book State Park entry $4.50
- Cana Island entry $10
- Hamlet Production by Door Shakespeare $39
- Door County State Parks entry $6.50
- Lavender Farm entry $5
- Rock Island Lighthouse Tour Donation $2
- Two games of bowling in Milwaukee $6
- Chicago Riverwalk Architecture Walking Tour $15
- Temple of Demeter entry $5
- All Day Bus Tour of Naxos Highlights $29.50
- Boat Cruise around Antiparos and Despotiko Islands from Paros $71
- Hulu $6.50
- Phone plan US $40
- Toiletries $53.50
- Books $15
- Copying $2
- Hairbrush $8.50
- Greek Hammam Towel $15.50
- Sarong $15.50
- Laundry $10.50
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van/RV Costs $50.50
- RV stuff $5
- Oil Change $20.50
- Van Insurance $25
What’s in Store for Next Month
Spoiler alert: I am already more than two weeks into month seventy-five as I am way behind in writing this recap.
So at the end of last month, I left Paros for Crete on a ferry and I have now spent 2.5 wonderful weeks on this incredible island.
I split my time between Heraklion, Rethymno, Plakias and Chania, with lots of day trips to other places including the beaches of Balos, Elafonisi, Matala, Preveli, and Kleisidi, hiking Samaria Gorge, visiting the former leper colony island of Spinalonga, and doing a day trip to traditional mountain towns from Rethymno.
It’s been a busy but amazing time here in Crete and I absolutely adore this island!
In real-time, I leave Crete tomorrow for Athens where I will be spending one day and one night, then I’ll be catching a train to Meteora in the north of the country to see the clifftop UNESCO monasteries there for a couple of days before returning to Athens for my last two nights in Greece (sob!).
And then I am flying back to the U.S. to be reunited with Toby and we will be working at Lost Lands music festival in Ohio (state number 46!) for the rest of the month. I definitely need to make back some of the money that I spent on this trip!
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here