Saturday, October 31, 2015

Two-and-a-Half Days in Mykonos: Party Capital of the Greek Cyclades Islands

Arriving at the New Port in Mykonos, September 2015

 I recently took a short trip to Mykonos and Santorini via a package I purchased through Jetsetter, which, by the way, I do not recommend. The package vacation was not a good value for the money, and it was very poorly planned, but regardless, I was excited to see these two much-photographed islands for myself, and I had a lovely visit.

There were stray cats everyway on Mykonos, Santorini and  Delos. They begged for food at your restaurant table.
The title of this blog post references Mykonos island as the party capital of the Greek islands, and that is certainly what it is know for, but that was not my experience of it. First of all, I was there in late September, when apparently, the "party scene" has all but wound down. And also, I am 50 years old this year, and as usual, I traveled solo, so I'm not really party-scene-material anymore. After a full day of walked thither and yon, I am usually pretty spent by midnight and ready to retreat to the quiet of my hotel room.

Looking back towards the hotel from the Aegean Sea!
My 2.5 days on the island were spent walking around the picturesque old town of Hora, with its labyrinthine stone streets that seem to all funnel out to the old port, where I did a lot of shopping, trying out different restaurants, and just staring out to sea in the peaceful, sunny days, and balmy nights. Here are links to my hotel review and some of my restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor:
1. Review for the Mykonos Palace Beach Hotel
2. Review for the Petasos Beach Hotel Spa
3. Review for the restaurant Avli Tou Thodori

Shopkeepers sat in chairs outside their shops in the "Latin Quarter" part of Hora on Mykonos

All pedestrian roads led down to the Old Port in Hora, on Mykonos.
Some of my shopping purchases on Mykonos included sunscreens with ingredients that you can't get in the U.S., a Grecian style cotton gauze dress that was very reasonably priced, and was ubiquitous throughout the shops on the island, in various colors, some postcards, of course, some of the beauty products produced in Greece using the local olive oil and lavender, and these cute woolen slippers with pom poms. I love pom poms!!!

Cute woolen slippers with pom poms, purchased from a beach front shop in Platys Gialos, Mykonos.
None of the stores I shopped at seem to have websites, at least that I can find. The exception is the Hondos Center, which is a chain in Greece. (There was one at the airport, too). I purchased a lot of beauty products and accessories there. It was really nice. Some of the other shops were (according to my credit card bill) Olga Markaki Cosmetics, Zorbas souvenirs, Sunrise grocery store, Agrari Pharmacy, Greek Art, and Vasilios Antoniou Clothing. I was surprised that almost all signs on the two islands (Mykonos and Santorini) were in English, which made it very easy to navigate. And all the shops stayed open very late at night, to take advantage of diners out at restaurants until eleven or twelve p.m.

The entire island of Delos is an archeological site, still undergoing excavation.

On Delos, you can walk among the many ruins, altars, homes and public buildings, built by the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.
I also took a morning boat ride to the island of Delos to see the ancient ruins of a thousand+ year old trading post and sanctuary. Unlike the ferries to and from Athens and the islands, this ferry ride was very short (less than an hour), and I could sit outside and enjoy the weather and the view. Although I should note that outdoor seating is limited, and on the ride back to Mykonos, I did not score an exterior deck seat and had to sit indoors. It was very simple to get a ticket to the ferry. I simply walked down to the Old Port in the town of Hora (all the pedestrian streets funnel down to the port), and the signs were in English, like almost everything else. I purchased my ticket the day before, but I did see several people purchasing their ferry ticket that day.

Inside the small museum on the island of Delos, that housed the artifacts recovered there. Stunning!

The ruins of a temple devoted to the Egyptian goddess, Isis.
The entire island of Delos is a site of ruins, and it's fantastic. There are very basic restrooms, and a snack bar in one building, but other than that, it is all ruins. It is easy to walk around (not too strenuous) but if it is a very hot day, you might be uncomfortable because there is no shade. It's all very open. It was very beautiful and awe-inspiring. There is a small museum where many of the artifacts are housed, and that is included in the entry fee, which was 5 Euros, at the time of my visit. It's a fantastic deal and I highly recommend this trip. You can opt to spend only a couple of hours on the island, as I did, or several hours. There are guided tours, for an additional fee, but I chose to walk around on my own, and follow the information given in the guide booklet they give you. At the time I visited, there were four ferries going and four ferries returning, throughout the day.

The entryway to the Spa at the Petasos Beach Resort. The architecture in the Cyclades was amazingly beautiful and serene.
In addition to shopping, and the trip to Delos, I did some lazing on the narrow strip of beach in front of my hotel in Platys Gialos, the Mykonos Palace Beach Hotel. See my review of that hotel on TripAdvisor here.

The Spa at the Petasos Beach Resort
On one afternoon, I enjoyed some treatments at the spa at the Petasos Beach Resort, a few blocks from my hotel. I highly recommend this spa! One of my favorite treatments was the Thelassotherapy pool. The pool area is really pretty with blue mosaic tiles, lounge chairs and a separate enclosed shower area. The pool is filled with salt water, warmed to body temperature, and it just feels fantastic on your skin, and extremely relaxing. I felt very buoyant and really enjoyed floating around to the various jets of water, that are placed at different positions in the pool, targeted to massage various parts of your body. For instance, there are water jets on the floor of the pool to massage your feet, and water jets at the height of your lower back, shoulders, upper back, etc. You get the pool all to yourself, and I just wish there was something around my area here in Chicago, so I could do it again, It was very lovely! After my session in the pool, I also got a foot and leg massage, and a manicure. My aesthetician was very friendly and she did a good job. The spa itself is really pretty, and the changing room was nice and peaceful. A great experience all around!

Here is the saltwater pool for Thelassotherapy
One thing I would note about Mykonos: there are very few taxis on the island, and the ones that are there charge a fortune!!! For instance, 50 Euros for a 20 minute ride! The bus system works very well and is super cheap and safe, and runs frequently. So I would advise using the bus whenever possible. Many people rent cars, but those cliffside, narrow roads are not for the faint of heart, and driving in Mykonos is not something I would have the nerve to do. The roads are extremely narrow, and in many places, very, very steep. Yikes! The downside of bus travel, though, is that you really need to think ahead of time where you want to go. For instance, I wish I'd known how pretty the area called Little Venice was, because I would have taken a bus there for the afternoon. But I missed going there. My advice is to do your research and have a plan of places you don't want to miss. Then once you are on Mykonos, you can use the buses to get where you want to go.

Here I am about to leave Mykonos on the ferry to Delos
Mykonos really is as beautiful as the pictures show. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable (with the exception of taxis), compared to other resort areas in Europe. And even though I am not a partier anymore, there was plenty to do, see and enjoy, for all ages.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Gone Crazy for Beauty Products! Many Reviews Forthcoming!

I've gone a little bit crazy with new beauty products recently. It's become more of a fun hobby than just simply a practical every-day usage. I have purchased and tried so many new beauty products, including American brands, Japanese Brands, British and mostly, Korean brands. I think it has to do with turning 50 this year. Suddenly my feelings about skincare have become, "This shit just got real!"

I had been kinda lazy about my skincare up until now. Yes, I have been wearing sunscreen daily since my early 30s, after I had a pre-melanoma spot removed (from my lower abdomen, which never sees the sun! Go figure). But aside from that good habit, I had lots of bad habits; the worst being going to bed with full make-up sunscreen on! Gasp!

Anyway, having rediscovered Beautypedia.com, the scientifically-oriented critique website for beauty products, along with the explosion of the availability of Korean beauty products in the U.S., I have found a new love for taking care of my skin. So let's get on to the first review:
Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Hydropeptide Solar Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen, $44
This sunscreen looks sooo good on paper. I was really excited to try it. It is chock-full of lots of helpful ingredients. Here's a link to the description on the company website. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. First impressions: I loved the look of the tube container with the pump delivery system, but it seemed like you would waste a lot of product because the pump was not very efficient at getting the lotion out of the tube, and there was no way to open the tube and scoop out the product if you needed to. The lotion seemed lightweight (a plus) but had a scent that reminded me of melon flavored candy, and had a slightly lavender cast to it (a con). It spread on my face reasonably easily, without my having to drag my skin around too much, and it looked good in the mirror, UNTIL I checked my 10x magnification mirror! Then I saw that it left behind a white cast and didn't fully blend in to the skin, and was streaky. And it feels a little greasy on my face. Boo! So, I will continue to use up this product, but only on my neck, chest, arms, etc. Not good for my face. And I definitely will not purchase this again.

If you still want to try it, it is widely available online, including here at Nordstroms for $44 including free shipping, which is where I bought it (because I love Nordstroms' great customer service and they are part of Ebates, so I get some money back). 

The First One-Minute Review: SkinFood Platinum Grape Cell Toner

As you know from previous posts, I have gone crazy lately for Korean beauty products. Maybe it's my mid-life crisis, since I turned 50 this year. I don't know - but whatever the cause, trying out these new products has given me a little something fun to dwell on and has made my beauty routine, a little less "routine."

I have either purchased or received free-with-purchase, many, many samples of beauty products, so I thought I'd start a series of posts called "One-Minute Review" to give you my first impressions of the samples I try. The sample sizes usually contain enough of the product for one or two applications, so these will not be in-depth reviews. I will give you info on the product from the manufacturer, where you can buy it online (that delivers to the U.S.), and my initial thoughts on using the product twice.

First Product: SkinFood Platinum Grape Cell Toner
I was really predisposed to like this toner because SkinFood is one of my favorite brands. They have fun names, enticing-sounding ingredients, and lovely packaging that remind me of the beauty products aimed at teenagers, that I use to love in the 70s and 80s. Here is a picture of the sample size I received:

I really tore into it!
And here is a picture (from the web) of the full size product:

(Photo from Amazon website)
The appealing aspects of this product are that it contains wine grape in it - everyone knows wine grapes have anti-oxidants that are good for you body, in and out. And how cool is it that there are little flecks of platinum in the toner. Unfortunately for me, right off the bat, I did not like the texture of this toner. My personal preference is for a watery toner, and this one has a goopey gel formulation. I didn't notice any strong smell, and the platinum specks dissolved immediately (I don't understand how!), so it won't leave your face sparkly. But the other thing I didn't like is that it left my skin really shiny, and a bit tacky. I like it when a toner leaves my skin soft, supple and with a matte finish, after it dries.

As far as performance, after using only twice, I can not really speak to that, but my one-minute review is that, no, I will not be purchasing a full size of this product. So sad! I really wanted to like it! If you think the Platinum Grape Cell Toner is something you might like, you can purchase it through Amazon for $28.96 with free shipping, or from TesterKorea.com for $19.26 (at current Won to Dollar conversion rates). (There is free shipping at TesterKorea after you order a certain amount.)