dear santorini, greece

Dear Santorini,

Oh, where do I start with you? You were as breathtaking as all the photos I’ve seen of you before I got there, but you were also not anything like I expected. Sure, you’re beautiful, but was there anything more to it? I felt like I got more of a cultural experience out of Athens than I did with you, just because you were filled with tourists and workers on the island who so strongly targeted tourists. The entire time, I felt exactly as that: a target, a target to buy this, drink that. A little annoying at times, but overall it’s part of the experience of being on Santorini.

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Getting to Santorini

Julia and I boarded our ferry a 6:30am and even though we were groggy and still half-asleep, we immediately got super excited when we saw the inside of the ferry. It was boujee, y’all. We found a glass table with comfy armchairs near a window and made ourselves at home since it was going to be an eight-hour ferry ride.

Julia started out with a nap while I did some reading, and then we decided to color in her book. I started listening to Lean In by the infamous Sheryl Sandberg while I was coloring. Then we ate some leftovers for lunch. Julia got some blogging in after that while I took my nap, and before we knew it, we got to Santorini at 3pm.

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Right when we got off the ferry? Utter chaos. I didn’t get a chance to look anything up on Google Maps beforehand because I didn’t have access to internet on the ferry and the when I did have WiFi the night before, I didn’t know where exactly the port in Santorini was, so I couldn’t route anything. Up until that point, I had been successfully navigating Julia and I everywhere. Thus, I went into full panic-mode. I hate not having a plan, and there I was with Julia, suitcase in hand and already profusely sweating because we did not know what to do.

There were so many different signs advertising bus tours, taxis, and more ferries. Everyone who just got off the ferry with us was also milling about, trying to avoid getting run over by cars and motorcycles alike. The taxi drivers were aggressive: they ran around asking the tourists where they were going and shouted out absurdly high prices just to get there. I was tempted for a second, but then they said 20 euros and there was just no way I was going to succumb to the ease, convenience, and expensive price of a taxi. Eventually, Julia and I decided to hop on a shuttle bus that the driver claimed would drop us off at Firostefani, where we were staying for the next couple of days.

The bus system in Santorini is probably one of the most absurd things I’ve experienced so far. All the buses operate on shuttle/charter buses, and everything is non-digitized. We literally got on the bus, and then someone came around to each person on the bus and collected the fare by hand. Mind you, it was only about 2-3 euros, but they ripped off a ticket once a customer paid them by cash/coins. When they stopped in Firostefani, the money collector shouted, “Firostefani” to let the passengers know, and that’s how we knew to get off the bus. It made me truly appreciate Seattle’s wonderful data and information bus system.

After the bus rolled away, Julia and I didn’t know where else to go so we stopped in a car rental shop and asked for directions. The employee was extremely nice and pointed us directly to our villa. Turned out, we were only a 2-minute walk away.

Eventually, we found our way to Firostefani where we were staying. We checked in with our host, Maria at Villa Fotini and she was just the cutest – she acted as not only our villa host, but also half tour guide. She gave us plenty of recommendations about what to do, eat, and how to get from point A to point B.

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And our room was so cute! Everything was super clean; I have to say that the balcony and the shower were my favorite parts. I’ve never showered in a curtain/doorless shower before though, haha. One reservation I do have about this villa is that the doors locked oddly, in that they didn’t feel 100% secure. Santorini as a whole felt pretty safe since it was all tourists though, and most hotels seemed pretty low on security.

After we settled down, Julia and I headed out to explore the area! We grabbed souvlaki gyros at a small restaurant near our villa, Why Not? They were delicious and super cheap – only 2.70 euros! I would say that’s a little cheaper than the standard gyro price, but it was so good and didn’t feel unhealthy whatsoever even though there were fries inside.

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We couldn’t have chosen a better spot to live. Firostefani is located in the center of the island in Fira, where it’s still busy and fun, but away from the most crowded touristy part of Santorini in Oia. We spent some time taking a lot of photos of the white cliffside – it was so hot but so worth it.

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The 75 degree weather felt like 90 degrees because of the sun reflecting off all the white. We found numerous adorable alleys and corners, with bright blue doors adorned with fresh flowers. After that, we stayed in to rest until sunset, and walked right outside and watched the sun go down. Y’all, Santorini sunsets can’t be beat.

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Julia and I were in the mood for dessert after the sunset, so we headed back to Why Not? And got banana and chocolate crepes to share. Something about Greek food, I’m telling ya.

Day One

The next day, we left the house at 9am and upon Maria’s recommendation, we walked two minutes from our villa to go eat at Galini Café. Right when we walked into the restaurant, we saw that it had quite the view. Clearly, part of the experience was the food and the view of the ocean. It was quite breezy up there so we opted to sit undercover, and Julia even asked for a blanket (which was easily supplied, they were sitting in a basket near our table). We ended up but ordering the Eggs Florentine, which consisted of poached eggs, spinach, hollandaise sauce, and warm toast. We both scarfed it down in about 10 minutes because it was so good, and quite filling. The staff at the restaurant were so pleasant as well.

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After breakfast, we decided to go to Fira to explore the markets and hit up some of the restaurants we had bookmarked. The flea market in Fira felt a lot like the ones in Athens, but perhaps with much more to eat and drink. I was so tempted to purchase the miniature sculptures of Santorini, but I decided not to, considering how full my suitcase already was.

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We stopped by Chillbox yogurt, which was a Greek frozen yogurt place. We loaded up on fruit and chocolate sauce, it was delicious!

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After that, we headed back to our room to change into swimsuits and jumped on the bus to go to Kamari beach in the southeast part of the island. Once we got there, we saw that it a) was a black beach, and b) had tiki umbrellas and lounge chairs for people to relax on – for free! It was a pretty sweet deal; Julia and I picked a spot and immediately started sunbathing. We dozed and eventually went into the water. We stayed for about 4 hours at the beach, and headed back to Fira.

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We were on the lookout for some more Greek yogurt (it’s an ADDICTION now, y’all. Greek yogurt from the States will never be like the yogurt from Greece though, I don’t know how I’ll cope). We wandered in the streets of Fira again, and stumbled upon a line of donkeys!! We finally saw them!

Then we walked in to Café Zafora around dinner time, and promptly sat down to each order our own Greek Yogurt with fruit. They served it in a high glass bowl, and oh my it was heavenly, probably the best Greek Yogurt yet – and with a view.

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We made it back to our villa just in time to see the sun go down again, and once again, it was absolutely stunning. We went back to Why Not? really quick to grab some more gyros for a late-night snack, because as much as we wanted Greek Yogurt to suffice as dinner, it doesn’t.

Day 2

Since we loved Galini Café so much the day before, we went back. This time around, it was a lot less windy and much warmer, so it was a more pleasant experience for sure. I ordered the Eggs Royale that day, which consists of salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, and warm bread. Julia got the Eggs Avocado. Mine was 10 euro, the priciest of the breakfast eggs, but so delicious.

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After breakfast, we headed back to Fira and went down the cable cars to head down to Old Port. Once we got to Old Port, we picked up our tickets to for a volcano and hot springs tour package we bought. We boarded the Poseidon boat and headed out to the volcano!

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Lathered in sun screen, Julia and I jumped off the boat and swam in the hot springs. There was a ton of sulfur in the water, so people wearing white swimsuits were out of luck. Definitely quite the experience swimming in hot springs! Then the boat took us to the active volcano. Julia and I had no idea it was a 90-minute hike up to the volcano – we were only wearing flip flops! Alas, Julia and I did it (it wasn’t a rigorous hike at all), sweating and scalding under the sun.

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Funnily enough on the boat, we met a couple who also hailed from Seattle! I had initiated conversation when I saw the woman wearing Moss Adams sunglasses (a public accounting firm) and asked if she worked there. Turned out, it was the boyfriend who worked there and the girlfriend was starting in the operating room in Seattle. So cool, and what a small world!

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After we got back to Fira, we stopped by V Lounge Café and Cocktail Bar, to stop by for no, not drinks, but more Greek Yogurt. This bar also had a spectacular view, and Julia and I shared a bowl of Greek Yogurt with fruit together. We met some people from Tennessee and Atlanta. It’s always fun to meet other people from the United States. We headed back home to Why Not? for yet MORE gyros. At that point, we were regulars and the waitress recognized us, it was hilarious.

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At around 5pm, we headed out to Oia. Santorini’s famous sunset-viewing spot is in Oia, and we had yet to explore that part of the island. To be honest though, it fell pretty flat. There were way too many tourists and the cliffside wasn’t as great as the one outside our villa.

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We walked down the cliffside through many many steps, and stumbled upon more donkeys! We walked all the way down to Ammoudi Bay, where we searched for the cliff-jumping spot. We eventually found it, but the cliff was really low- not even really a cliff. I decided to stay out of the water, but Julia jumped in. She swam for a bit before we climbed back up the cliff and watched the sun go down.

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This view was unique – the boats were coming into the bay. While we waited, Julia and I saw a literal cat fight go down. We watched the two cats yell at each other and chase each other up and down the cliff side – absolutely insane. Undomesticated cats are wild!

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After watching the sunset, we had yet to eat dinner, so we stopped at a café/restaurant called Vitrin. I ordered a salad and shared a fruit salad with Julia, and it was probably the most mediocre food we’d had so far in Greece, unfortunately. Then we caught the bus back to Firostefani at 10:30pm.

We made it back and got ready for bed. That’s it for Santorini!

Santorini’s one of those places that you visit once and feel pretty satisfied with however many days you spend there – enough to suffice for a couple of decades, I think. I don’t feel the desire to return to Santorini again anytime soon. I’ve seen the things that I wanted to see, and other than that, it’s not like the culture and the people of the island are one-of-a-kind.

xx,

Jen

 

 

dear athens, greece

Dear Athens, Greece,

You welcomed us with open arms, two Americans entering Europe for the first time (excluding our London layover). Let me recap what you were like:

If you missed my first 24 hours of traveling, read it here!

I had looked at how to ride the train prior to landing in Athens, but y’all, Greek letters are confusing. We got onto what we thought was the right train, and had to confirm with Greek people on the train. It took about 40 minutes for us to arrive at the Monastiraki station. When we got out of the station, we were immediately hit by the chaos and nightlife that is Monastiraki square. Julia and I immediately linked hands because the square was poppin’ at night! It was super crowded and we didn’t want to risk losing each other. There was a live band playing on a stage and my nose was filled with the scent of cigarette smoke. With my Google Maps pulled up and my phone in hand, I successfully navigated us through the square and through the narrow streets to our hostel.

On the way, we passed several night clubs and bars, where we heard Soulja Boy and some Fetty Wap. I guess some things never change? We checked into our hostel, City Circus Athens, right at midnight and got our room. We booked a mixed-gender 4-person room, and when we got there, the other two people were already sleeping. The hostel was impressively clean and modern. Julia and I went to sleep in the same clothes we had been traveling in for the past 30 hours since we still hadn’t received our lost luggages.

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Monastiraki square during the day, about half as many people compared to at night!

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The view from our room’s balcony!

Day 1

We woke up at around 9am to recover from jet lag and then got breakfast downstairs of the hostel, called Zampano, and it only cost 6 euros for a buffet-style breakfast. Y’all, this breakfast made my morning. Not only was the food amazing, but there’s also something about eating breakfast with the doors open. It was lovely!

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Hotel lobby

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The delicious buffet breakfast! A.k.a real Greek yogurt and very non-greasy food.

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After breakfast,  we decided to make our way up to the Parthenon. We saw some cute streets on the way and had to take pictures. The line to get a ticket wasn’t actually too bad, and we only to pay 15 euros since we are students from the States. The walk up to the Parthenon was a slippery one, especially since there was white dust everywhere and the steps are mostly marble. I was trekking my way through the Acropolis in my two-inch high heels with blisters on my heels – please sympathize. It was so beautiful though!

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On the walk up the Parthenon ticket office!

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On the walk up to the Parthenon!

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The Parthenon

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The Parthenon x 2

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Propylaea

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Erechtheion

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Erechtheion x 2

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Erechtheion x 3

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Roman Agora

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Tower of the Winds

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I don’t remember which site this one is 😁

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Hadrian’s Library

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Hadrian’s Library x 2

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Ancient Agora

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Temple of Hephaestus

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Temple of Hephaestus x 2

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Stoa of Attalos

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Stoa of Attalos x 2

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Stoa of Attalos x 3

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Cute streets!

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Hans and Gretel candy shop, so adorable!

The ticket we paid for had access to many other attractions in the Acropolis area, so we just hopped from one site to another. The crammed streets were surprisingly easy to navigate.

At around 3pm, we headed back to the hotel and just blogged and uploaded photos, and good thing we were back inside because it started raining. Um, excuse me, us Seattle-lites did not sign up for rain!! We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and decided to finally go on the hunt for dinner around 7pm. We stumbled upon a gyros place, Savva’s, and it looked fancy, but the prices turned out to be pretty reasonable. Julia and I both got veal gyros and it was so delicious.

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Right when we were leaving, a little girl and her mom came up to our table and threw a sign on the table, and while I was baffled for a second, Julia reacted quickly and grabbed her phone out from under the sign. Turns out, the little girl and mom were trying to distract us and steal her phone! The little girl was going to grab the sign back and also grab her phone from underneath the sign at the same time. The waitress quickly hurried over and shooed the mother and daughter away. Thank goodness Julia reacted quickly because I could not have dealt with a lost luggage and a stolen phone.

We ended up heading back to the hostel right after dinner because it was getting dark, and then we sat in the lobby for a bit getting ready to watch a movie, when the hostel host WALKS IN WITH OUR SUITCASES. Julia and I fell off the couch scrambling to our suitcases and clung onto them for a bit, we were so happy.

Day 2

The next day, we got breakfast downstairs again (let’s be real, a week later, I’m still dreaming about that breakfast). Then we made our way to Athens’ oldest neighborhood, Plaka, because I had heard that this neighborhood has the cutest streets. I wasn’t wrong!

We first stumbled upon a beautiful church, and then turned into Plaka. Julia and I took an extremely long time taking cute photos as we strolled down the narrow streets. There was a long street that was a flea market and it was so fun seeing all the different shops.

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After exploring Plaka, we started walking in the direction of the National Garden, because honestly, we had nothing much else on our agenda. On the way, we stumbled upon the Congress building, which I thought was super majestic with all the pillars. We spent a long time in the National Garden because it was pretty big, and super peaceful. We made our way back in search of a different, cute neighborhood, Anafiotika, but couldn’t find it, unfortunately.

 

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Julia and I grabbed some food nearby the Acropolis Museum; I bought an iced Greek coffee out of curiosity (apparently adding ice is NOT a thing for Greek coffee specifically). It was extremely gritty and quite bitter – not sure if that’s what Greek coffee is or because there was ice in it. Julia grabbed a smoothie and then I also grabbed a spinach and feta pie from Lulu’s bakery.

It was around 3pm at this point and so we slowly made our way back in the direction of our hostel. Julia needed to pick up a few clothing items for our next leg of the trip so we spent a few hours shopping before actually getting back to the hostel. Then we made a pitstop at a gelato place, where I got a mango gelato and ugh – so good.

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We finally got back to our hostel at around 7pm, and we kind of just hung out and uploaded photos and did some blogging. At 8pm, the hostel offered free wine for all their residents, so of course I had to grab some! I had a few sips before Julia wanted to mail off a letter to a friend back in the states, which meant going out to look for a mailbox.

It was late at night, but we made a few pitstops once again. We stopped by a toy store because Julia wanted colored pencils to prepare for our 8-hour ferry ride to Santorini the next day. We got some and promptly made our way to the post office near Plaka. Once we got there, Julia realized her phone was not on her – that she might have possibly left it in the toy store. The toy store had closed right when we left the store. We were leaving at 6am the next morning, way earlier than when the toy store would open again. We both hyperventilated for a few minutes, but we kept calm. There was a huge possibility that Julia had left her phone back in our room.

On the way back home around 10pm, we made a quick stop at Lulu’s bakery again to pick up tomorrow morning’s breakfast. When I was taking out my wallet to purchase the pastry, I audibly gasped in shock. The corner of my Longchamp back was slashed open. I quickly scrambled through my bag, and sighed in relief when I saw that everything was still there (SUCK IT, THIEF). I couldn’t believe that that had actually happened to me, and I hadn’t noticed until then! I had no idea when my bag actually got slashed; it must’ve been when I was in the really crowded areas near the shopping area or flea markets. Alas, I’ve decided that Longchamp totes are a bad idea for traveling in Europe, especially because the material is so thin and easy to slash through.

We made our way home, and right when we turned on our room’s lights, we nearly cried in relief when we saw Julia’s phone lying on my bunk ladder. I swear, we are both incredibly blessed. TOO many close calls within the first two days, y’all.

I went to bed at midnight and packed everything before heading to bed that night, and woke up at 5am with Julia to head out to the ferry.

End of Athens trip

The walk to the train station was a little sketchy, especially at 6am, but we made it to the Piraeus port just on time. We picked up our physical ferry tickets, which we had booked a few days in advance, and then boarded the ferry (Blue Star Ferries).

That concludes my trip to Athens! It sure was an emotional rollercoaster and I learned so much about what everyone warned me about.

Look out for my next recap coming soon!

what i learned in my 36 hours of traveling so far

Hello from Greece!

I’ve been traveling with my friend Julia for the past couple of days and wow, let me tell ya – I’ve already learned a ton.

We left Seattle and took a BoltBus to Vancouver (since the flights from Canada were cheaper) on Friday at 10am and went through customs, and arrived to Vancouver at around 2pm. We immediately took a train to the Vancouver airport (and frankly weren’t too impressed by the airport). On the way, we stopped at a train stop to grab calzones, which were delicious and hit the spot.

We checked our bags and then waited to board. We boarded smoothly at around 6pm, where I pretty much started and finished reading The Hating Game on the plane (SUCH a good book!) The flight to London was 8 hours and overnight. I could barely sleep though because my right leg was pressed against the leg of the man next to me and there was a toddler across the aisle from us who would not stop crying. I woke up from my naps with sticky eyeballs and a parched throat. Overall though, I had a great experience with Air Canada considering it was an international flight.

We landed in London for our layover at noon (their time), and settled at our terminal. The Heathrow airport was pretty cool because it’s an open, airy space with tons of shops and fancy cafes. We bought a salad and almost sat down to eat it when I luckily re-checked our boarding time and realized we were supposed to be boarding right then and there. Eeeek, it was such a close call! We got on the much smaller plane and sat for about 3.5 hours before we landed in Athens International Airport.

This is where the nightmare begins: we went to baggage claim and whomp whomp, our suitcases weren’t there. We were told that Air Canada and Aegean Airlines operate their baggage system differently, so Aegean may have delayed the flight for the baggages. It was already close to midnight, and we needed to check into our hostel, so we went ahead and left the airport.

Julia and I weren’t sad, or angry, or annoyed about our lost luggage. We told ourselves that everything would be okay, that it would turn up. We refused to have lost luggages ruin our trip. Everything valuable was still with us, it was only everything that would make our trip comfortable that was gone. We were determined to remain positive and optimistic – and we did.

Yesterday, I realized that Julia and I are really good at looking at the glass half full – we focused on what we wanted to do that day and all the sights we wanted to see – albeit being stinky and greasy and overall not photogenic – and being extremely open-minded with one another and the culture around us. We were talking at dinner and noticed that we haven’t had much of a culture-shock; we didn’t meet anyone who didn’t speak English when we were asking for questions, and the people are generally friendly in Greece (except when late at night). But for the most part, I think it’s because both Julia and I are super open-minded and flexible (physically and psychologically, ha).

Julia and I are also staying in a 4-person mixed dorm in a hostel in Athens, and call us having a lucky experience, but we have had no issues so far. Before leaving for the study abroad programs, our directors told us to be flexible, because so many things can go wrong.

Personally, I’m excited to see what other challenges we face because it really tested our temper, personality types, and overall capability to keep going.

last coffee in seattle (for now): anchorhead coffee

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Happy Friday!

As you’re reading this, I’m most likely already in Greece! After finishing my exams on Monday, I’ve spent the last few days running errands and tying up some loose ends in preparation for leaving the states. One of my good friends (s/o to Tanner!) recommended I hit up Anchorhead Coffee in Seattle. I knew for myself that I wanted it to be my last coffee in Seattle.

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I took the bus to Anchorhead – it’s right next to the Westlake station stop, and at first I was a little confused because it’s in the same complex as a business. Right when I walked in, I got the business-man-on-lunch-break vibe. Still, I ordered their Quaffle (cinnamon roll made in a waffle-maker) and an iced latte, and sat down with my Kindle at the bar.

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The barista got my order wrong but they were super friendly and fixed it immediately, and I really enjoyed the food itself. But in the hour I sat their reading my book, groups of professionals came in and out to grab coffee really quick, chatted with their co-workers, and then left the coffee shop to go back upstairs to work. So yes, it felt like a very professional environment. I feel like it would be a great place to be productive since they have tables and leather office chairs, but it’s not the best to sit down and read a book to relax in.

just a little color

Hello hello!

As you’re reading this, I am most likely DONE with my finals for the quarter! Bless. Up. This quarter was legitimately so rough: sophomore slump + spring quarter = no motivation. I’d say that in comparison to the majority of the population my motivation for doing well in my classes was still relatively high, but compared to my usual standards, it was pretty low. But y’all, I’m heading to GREECE in just a few days!! I can’t wait!

In the meantime, you guys can bet I’m packing this dress into my luggage for the summer. It’s colorful, light, and perfect for strolling around cities in.

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Dress (on sale for under $20!!) // Sandals // Bag (similar)

Definitely keep your eyes peeled for my travel posts (and possible vlogs!) in the coming months!

Talk soon,

Jen