Crate Expectations (Kate + Craig = Crate)
Kate: Helen Keller said that life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. I couldn’t agree more and when I met Craig, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. Two months after we met, I started an intense two-year Master’s program at Pepperdine. Six months later, I made a major job change. Five months after that, we got engaged and started planning our magical wedding which was in Scottsdale, AZ in April 2012. The next month, we bought our first house and in August I graduated from Pepperdine. So how could we top these adventures? Well, the best honeymoon ever, of course!
Craig: Kate and I love food and travel and we wanted a honeymoon trip that would cover a lot of bases -- city lights and starlight, high speed rail and mule rides, fine dining and farmers’ markets, fast-paced and relaxed. We studied our options, laid out our route, and then shared it with friends and family thanks to Traveler’s Joy. Since I’m a big sports fan, how could we pass the opportunity to be in London during the Olympics?
Kate: After a beautiful graduation weekend in Malibu, Craig and I were off on Sunday evening, LAX direct to London on United.
Craig: And what better way to start off than fish & chips with a pint at Lamb & Flag? It was Olympics time in the city so off we went to Hyde Park for a viewing party to watch the tri-athletes on one of the big screens set up everywhere. We checked into The Grand at Trafalgar Square for our three-night stay and were quite pleased with the room -- good size, great location, reasonable prices and double espressos in the lobby bar to cure the jet lag fog. Plus we’d had a mix-up in the initial planning and had to extend the room for an extra night. Even in the middle of the Olympic games, they were able to make it work.
Kate: London being London, we had to have a curry. Moti Mahal in Covent Garden was just the spot. Delicious! Another favorite was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, one of the oldest pubs in London. We loved this place because we felt like we’d been transported back to the 17th century, simple yet oh so fabulous! Before leaving town, we ventured out to The Grenadier, a spot touted as serving the best Bloody Mary in the city. This tiny popular neighborhood pub is a challenge to find, but once you do be prepared for great food and new friends from around the world. Being something of a worldwide connoisseur of this tomato libation, I would agree that it’s pretty darn good and worth the trip.
Craig: After three days in London, we flew to Rome with the plan of catching a train to Florence where we had booked a room for that night. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in Rome, there was only train left to Florence and it was sold out. What to do with the 12 hours until morning?
Kate: I’d been in Rome once before and the first thing that came to mind was the Trevi Fountain. At 10 p.m., we found ourselves hailing a cab and off we went. After walking around for about 10 minutes and doing some online scouting, we walked into the compact lobby of Hotel Fontana and asked about availability. They gave us a fair rate and an amazing room with a straight-on view of the fountain. I love it when travel plans go awry and end up with such pleasant surprises.
Craig: Now that we had a room for the night, we could relax. We ate gelato and sat outside by the fountain until 2 a.m., soaking in as much of Rome as we could in a few short hours. The next day, we visited the Forum, the Colosseum and the Pantheon in about two hours. We finished up our time in the Eternal City with a boozy vino lunch overlooking the Pantheon, enjoying people-watching, before we made our way back to the train station and set off through Tuscany en route to Florence.
Kate: This was my second trip to Florence and it was just as magical as I remembered, even more so now that I was here with Craig. On my first trip, I was traveling with fellow students and we had enjoyed a delicious dinner at Trattoria Marione. I had to take Craig back. We enjoyed authentic Italian cuisine -- pasta, caprese, pizza, washed down with ample prosecco (my drink of choice) and vino (Craig), and topped off with limoncello shots courtesy of the owner.
Craig: No trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell Accademia so that was our first stop, then we were off to the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. Our journey was fueled by endless coconut gelatos and nutella waffles topped with fresh cream. While it’s almost impossible to have a “bad” gelato we kept returning to Caffe Fiorenza -- Kate was addicted to the coconut.
Kate: Our next stop was Lucca, a little hidden gem. Dating back to the 6th-century, this walled Renaissance city was filled with tons of charm, but not so many tourists, and had a lot to offer. We enjoyed biking the city wall and attending a free Puccini concert in one of the local churches. We found a small restaurant along a side street, we never saw a sign or name, just lots of people crowding around tightly-placed tables devouring huge plates of pasta. We were in! The menu was so tempting, so why order two dinners when you can order five?
The cozy tables allowed us to make friends with our neighbors, two young Australians. We discussed world travels, politics, education and entertainment. The starving college kids were delighted that we treated them to a good meal, explored the village with them afterwards, exchanged emails and are staying in touch. Who knows where we’ll meet again? But we do know that our travels are never predictable, much like life. Craig: The next day we made a trip to the seaside resort of Viareggio for a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea, followed up by a stop in Pisa to see if the tower is still leaning (it is!) and then back to Lucca for the evening. We refreshed at our adorable hotel San Luca Palace before getting lost in the tiny streets yet again.
Kate: The next day we were off to Milan for some fresh air. We stayed at Hotel Villa delle Rose, a charming hotel in the countryside about a 10-minute shuttle ride to the Milan airport. We were pleasantly surprised to find this place. It provided the rest and sound night’s rest we needed to be ready for an early wake up call for our 7:00 a.m. flight to Santorini. Craig: At this point, words fail us. We’d seen the pictures, we’d heard others’ stories, but nothing could prepare us for the actual beauty of Santorini. We checked into Fanari Villas in total amazement -- the room, the service (we adored Nikolas), the pool, and most of all, the sunset. I don’t think there could be a more perfect honeymoon experience.
Kate: It was truly stunning, I just couldn’t believe how incredible this place was. This was the quintessential Greek Island experience I had dreamed about. We had a great day on a catamaran tour where we made friends from nearly ever continent while we grooved to 70s disco music, consumed tons of island wine, and enjoyed a special Greek meal prepared by the onboard chef while sailing the Aegean Sea. The day ended at the northern tip of the island as we watched an unforgettable sunset. Craig: The next day, we hiked down the 300 steps from Oia to Ammoudi Bay for fresh seafood at Sunsets. After picking the fish out of the tank and enjoying an incredibly delicious and fresh lunch, we took a dip in the Aegean.
Kate: We had another incredible lunch the next day on the rooftop restaurant at the hotel. No exaggeration -- it was the best meal I’ve ever had. The tomato fritters, baked feta, and fresh Greek salad were almost as fabulous as the view. Did I mention it was simply incredible? Later that night, Craig chilled a bottle of champagne and we watched the sun set on our final night in Santorini, both agreeing that it was a sight we would never forget.
Craig: On the next-to-last day of our 15-day trip, we had a flight from Santorini to Athens. We thought it was appropriate, since we began in London with the 2012 Olympics, that we would wrap up our journey in Athens at the site of the first Games.
Kate: Our hotel, Athens Gate, was directly across from Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus. Since our time was short, we didn’t waste any. The Parthenon was closed by the time we arrived, so we wandered around until we found our way to Olympic Stadium. We both are Olympics fanatics so we really loved this tour and viewing the Olympic torches. Next stop was the Plaka where we strolled around, taking in the sights, and doing a little last-minute shopping. We wrapped up our final evening with local wine at Brettos.
Craig: Our trip began in LAX on Sunday, August 5, 2012 and wrapped up on Sunday, August 19, 2012 when we boarded the plane in Athens to return to Phoenix, Arizona via London. It was an amazing two-plus weeks and worth the cost. Even with plane tickets, hotel costs, and food, our total bill was less than $8,000.
Thanks to Traveler’s Joy and the generosity of our friends and family we enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon. We wanted to share our experience with everyone, so when we got home, we made a movie with hundreds of pictures and sent it to out with our love and gratitude. Everyone got excited about the honeymoon registry and agreed that it was a great way to participate in our joy as they watched the trip being planned and then saw the photos of what their gift had enabled us to experience. Several friends have since started a Traveler’s Joy page.
Crate: Thanks Traveler’s Joy!