With mere hours between a week in Slovenia and a month and a half in the US, I needed to turn my European carry-on into a cross-America suitcase that would work from the desert heat of Vegas to the November chill of the Midwest; parties, hikes, a wedding, et al.
It became very clear to me very quickly how little I had to work with in my closet, so I headed to the high street with nothing but my phone to let Android Pay save the day using Mastercard in my e-wallet.
Being a woman with relentless digital intrigue and little time to spare, Android Pay is heaven sent. You simply log your Mastercard details into the app and hold your phone over a contactless payment reader to pay. No physical cards, no spending limits (like contactless cards), no faff. If you’re making a larger payment like I did, you simply use your fingerprint or passcode to add an extra layer of security to the transaction. It’s safe and secure which put my mind at ease.
As the old saying goes, “if it’s not on a vlog, it didn’t happen” so I decided to bring you along for the ride and – after such a successful trip – even treated you to a little designer clothes and beauty haul at the end!
Enjoy the video and feel free to ask me any questions if you need help!
With a day between trips to Athens and Slovenia (followed by less than 24 hours to prepare for over a month in America), I had what felt like a never-ending list of meetings, admin, and miscellaneous “things to get done” in Central London.
If that isn’t an excuse for a staycation, I’m not sure what is.
Though I had a lot to check off the list, I wanted to make the most of my favourite city in the world before I abandoned it and ibis London Euston St Pancras offered the perfect solution. The hotel is right around the corner from Euston and a few minutes walk from St Pancras, making it an ideal spot to not only get the most out of the capital but arrange super-fast airport transfers.
It is also etremely affordable for its location. Frill-free (as the ibis brand and price tag dictates) but surprisingly chic and spacious.
Between meetings, I used my room (read: puffy cloud of a bed) to get as an office, caught up with one of my favourite people in the bar over coffee and nibbles, and even had a photo shoot in the hotel’s adjacent park!
Coinciding with the discovery of Splento, I have experienced high demand for updated headshots so decided to use the hotel’s historic location to my advantage and hire a photographer.
I had little clue what to expect but was completely blown away by the experience and results (some of which you see here). As someone who prefers to be behind a camera instead of in front of it, headshots aren’t all that appealing an idea. My experience, however, was with an incredibly friendly and talented photographer (who has shot for TIME and National Geographic) that immediately put me at ease. We discussed my expectations & desired results, strolled through the surrounding area for two hours, shot constantly, and parted ways with a thousand and one shots to chose from. I could not recommend Splento enough (party photography, events, portraits – you name it, they do it!).
When ‘to do’ was ‘to done’, I returned to the hotel to for a dinner that would prepare me for a very exciting evening ahead…but more on that later…
The aforementioned consisted of two glasses of Elevado Malbec Merlot, a gigantic charcuterie platter (cured pork loin, dorset coppa, smoked mutton, dried beef, olives and toasted bread) for my dinner date, tuna carpaccio (with infused lemon oil, rocket, & sprinkling of hard Italian cheese) for myself, and bites of each other’s paneer saag masala (a beautifully spiced curry with spinach, coriander & garlic naan) and pan-fried trout (on top of a salad with shredded beetroot, cucumber, and more of that delicious infused lemon oil) for our mains.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave for Camden’s Apple Music Festival takeover of The Roundhouse as ibis’ theatre partnership left us with tickets to see Bastille! The night was as bizarre and wonderful as one could imagine; we were sat next to a toe-tapping Ed Miliband, Bastille were better live than any artist I’ve seen this year, and Craig David even popped out to perform with them for a few songs. It was the cherry on top of an already phenomenal day.
Having confirmed a 4am check-out with the hotel, I was also especially pleased to find the team had prepared us takeaway breakfast bags for our departure so we didn’t have to miss out on their celebrated breakfast faire.
The room, staff, food – hell, the entire stay – was truly great.
As much as I love travelling solo, I have been fortunate enough to have a slew of opportunities to travel with friends and loved ones over the last couple of years. In fact, It has been almost four years since my last solo travel adventure in Berlin.
When invited to explore the food in Athens, I tacked on a few extra days past ‘work’ to explore the city on my own.
It came with high highs and low lows.
I had been warned by a few locals to take extra safety precautions when walking around on my own and – as an experienced traveller – I took them with a grain of salt. Perhaps to my own dismay. Within the first two minutes after leaving my apartment on my first day of solo exploration, I was followed, harassed, and grabbed by a man trying to hit on me in a mix of Greek and English cat-calls. I did what I always do (ignore them, don’t make eye contact, look strong and charge ahead) but it seemed to only escalate the situation in this case.
I managed to sprint away. But probably should have thrown a roundhouse kick towards his face and/or genitals.
This, of course, didn’t (and couldn’t) put me off solo travel. I enjoyed the city, adventures and my own company immensely.
Later that evening I met back up with Johanna (from the previous blog) to check out a few of the more fantastical local bars, the best of which – The Clumsies – wouldn’t feel out of place alongside any of Soho’s best. The owner, Vasilis Kyritsis, has created a bar as sexy as they come; a red-tinted cavern of cocktails, couples, girl gangs and – at certain times of the day – some truly delicious nibbles. Absolutely everything is made in-house and there is even a balcony-adjacent hideaway in a secret lair upstairs for parties, events, and extra personalised service.
Don’t leave without trying the #ClumsyNegroni – the old school favourite reinvented with their own ‘Old Tom’ gin, house blend vermouth, Campari, beeswax, and pepper.
After recovering from the prior evening’s fun, I set off to celebrate my final day with a luxurious jaunt throughout the InterContinental Athens. As a massive fan of the hotel group, I thought I would meet up with an industry friend of a friend at the hotel for lunch after a little bit of a pampering in their spa.
The latter was supreme. So much so I almost blissfully missed my lunch reservations. I indulged in the ‘Magical Monoi’ – a massage blend of 1001 Monoi flowers (the self-healing powder releases thousands of microscopic bubbles to ease tension in the body) and honey to moisturise – before sipping some tea in the relaxation area (and, to be honest, considering booking into the hotel for another week or two of pure relaxation).
Food won out, as per usual, so I unrobed and headed upstairs to Cafezoe for one of the best meals throughout my entire foodie adventures in Athens. Like all Intercontinental restaurants, Cafezoe sources everything locally to create a refined menu of local favourites. A bit of greek salad, traditional “sioufikta” (a rich pasta with beef & cream cheese) and panfried ravioli?? – washed down with a perfectly balanced bottle of Asirtiko (Moderne Trilogie Greek Wine Cellar’s PGI Sterea Ellada, to be exact).
Having accidentally chatted our way straight through a potential hike up to the Acropolis, my dining companion and I took a quick ride to Le Greche for some of the most unusual and delicious gelato outside of Italy (flavours include aperol and ricotta) before one final pre-airport stop…
The stunning rooftop bar at A for Athens offers, without a doubt, the best view of the Acropolis from anywhere in the city. When you visit, you must ask for Thodoris (the head bartender) and let him take your tastebuds on an accolade-worthy journey like no other. Almost literally. His current ‘Time Machine’ menu is inspired by the evolution of the cocktail (four major changes in four major cocktail capitals), is curated to perfection, and – having had a sneak peek into his next menu – seems to only be the starting line for one of the most promising bartenders in Europe.
But you’ll see all of that in the vlog…
Tips for solo female travel in Athens (and beyond):
– Familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers.
– If you’re walking, stick to main roads and know your route before you leave. At night, use Uber. It is safe and significantly cheaper than local “tourist” fares (I asked local taxis for quotes on two separate occasions and they were both over 4x more expensive than Uber’s quote). The code uberlela will also get you a discount on your first ride!
– Carry a battery pack. If you use your phone for safety, Maps, Uber, etc – you don’t want it dying on you.
– Be careful about showing your ‘wealth’. I didn’t take my camera out unless I was eating or in a location that I felt particularly safe. I also carried my bag on shoulder farthest from the road (there have been many cases of bags been stolen from scooters/bikes as they drive past).
– Stay positive! Athens is a beautiful place with wonderful people, but is currently in a period of loss and struggle. It’s nothing a little common sense and preparation can’t handle.
My Starbucks addiction has reached new heights, lovely ones. While I was on a bit of a mad dash collecting last-minute items to prepare for a month and a half in the US, I saw that they had released brand spanking new matcha-infused Teavana lattes and I stopped right in my tracks.
My favourite place to reclaim my afternoon has created drinks to showcase my favourite green tea powder and it’s only one swipe of my phone away*? Sold.
Personally, I find nothing energises me more than taking a short break (and the lemon-sprinkled Citrus Mint Green Tea Latte certainly doesn’t help). Have you tried one yet?
Not too long ago, Giraffe sent me on a whirlwind food tour of Athens to celebrate the introduction of some incredible Greek dishes to their new menu; falafels, olives, halloumi, feta, tzatziki, hummus, et al!
I was privileged to have the incredible Johanna (of FoodJunkie) by my side to introduce me to Athens and the best Greek food it has to offer.
Enjoy the results – photos, adventures, and vlog – below!