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My 5 Favorite Gluten-Free Dishes in Greece

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece | Adelante

Remember that one scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when the family finds out that Ian is a vegetarian and Aunt Voula implores, "What do you mean he don't eat no meat?"  The whole room falls into a shocked silence until she proclaims, "Oh, that's okay, I make lamb." Well, that's pretty much what I expected as a Celiac in Greece. 

Thankfully, I could not have been more mistaken. Not only is the majority of Greek food naturally gluten-free, but the country itself is much more accommodating to food allergies than I had originally expected. Although it broke my heart to say no to pita bread and spanakopita, I still managed to have a delightful time feasting upon traditional Greek dishes. 

While I loved every bite I tried, here are my five favorite dishes that made eating gluten-free in Greece a delectable dream come true:

1. Dolmades

Dolmades | My 5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece

What is it?
Stuffed grape leaves with rice and herbs

Where I ordered it: 
Stelios in Chania, Crete

2. Melitzanes Fournou

Melitzanes fournou | My 5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece

What is it?
Baked eggplant with tomatoes, onions, and of course - feta!

Where I ordered it: 
Roka in Oía, Santorini

3. Gyros (without pita)

Gyros | My 5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece

What is it? 
Meat roasted on a spit, served with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki inside a pita 
(but if you're gluten-free, ask for no pita)

Where I ordered it:
Thanasis in Athens

4. Baked Feta

Baked feta | My 5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece

What is it?
Melt in your mouth goodness, topped with oregano, fresh tomatoes and peppers

Where I ordered it: 
Stelios in Chania, Crete

5. Apaki

Apaki | My 5 favorite gluten-free dishes in Greece

What is it? 
Smoked Cretan pork marinated in vinegar

Where I ordered it: 
The Well of the Turk in Chania, Crete

Naturally, I also couldn't get enough of the classic Greek salads, flavorful tzatziki sauce, fresh olive oil and savory Greek yogurt with honey!

If you have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, be sure to print out a gluten-free restaurant card like this one to give to your waiters at restaurants. While most Greeks speak excellent English, not everyone knows what gluten is - so it's important to explicitly communicate what you can and can't have. Using this card helped me try many unfamiliar Greek dishes without getting sick.

Do you have any food allergies or intolerances?
 How do you survive them while traveling?
What are some of your favorite Greek dishes? 

Anafiotika: Inside Athens' Hidden Village

Friday, July 25, 2014
As we were weaving our way through Plaka, we accidentally stumbled upon Anafiotika - a small Cycladic village at the base of the Acropolis. The village was built in the 19th century by stonemasons who had emigrated from the small island of Anafi. The workers stayed true to their roots by using architectural styles and colors that evoke the charm of island life. Everything about this tucked away neighborhood is charismatic and picturesque, and I could have spent hours admiring all of the little details. Vibrant flowers crawl up towards faded shutters, while friendly cats lounge in the shade of colorful buildings. Although this is exactly the kind of place where I'd expect hordes of tourists, it felt seemingly undiscovered. This quiet escape from the cacophony of the city was by far my favorite place to wander in Athens. 

How to Get to Anafiotika: 
Anafiotika is located on the northeastern slope of the Acropolis.
From Monastiraki square, walk towards the Acropolis and wind up the narrow streets. 
Metro: Monastiraki or Acropolis

A Little Life Update

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Greetings from AMERICA! As many of you might already know, I'm back in good ol' Washington State. I'm spending two months at home in Seattle suburbia before heading back to Madrid for a second year of teaching abroad. It feels good to be home, but it's also been a strange adjustment. So, I'm taking a quick break from Greece posts to update you all on what's going on in the upper left USA:

Reverse Culture Shock is a real thing.

What do you mean I have to pay TEN DOLLARS for a glass of wine? Why is everyone so nice here? Why are strangers asking me how my day is going? How do I tip? Why is everything so big? Do I remember how to drive? How is it possible to buy everything you need in one place? Why aren't the stores closing after lunch? NOTHING IS ANY MAKING SENSE, YOU GUYS.

Wide open spaces? What are those?

Jet lag is overrated.

Friends from the east coast, you have no idea how much I envy you. This nine hour time difference is a giant fun-suck. The full 24 hours of travel didn't help either. I know this is what I signed up for, so I have no right to complain... but "zombie" really isn't a good look on me. Bring on the Melatonin.

I turn 24 in three days.

...and I just found my first gray hair. Cue panic attack. And to make matters worse, I still haven't received my acceptance letter from Hogwarts. What's up with that?

I know how I'll be celebrating this year.

I already miss Spain.

A lot more than I thought I would, quite honestly. While I'm soaking up everything that I've missed about home - like kale salads, Nordstrom, chardonnay, and being able to leave the house in work out clothes without being publicly scorned - I'm realizing that I miss the heart & soul of Madrid so much more than I missed these random comforts of home. But at the same time, it feels SO good to be reunited with my friends and family. Can't I just bring everyone I know and love to Madrid with me?

I miss you, perfect balcony view. See you in two months!

Fellow expats: do you have any tips for dealing with these weird transitions? 
How do you handle having more than one place to call home? 
Please share your wisdom with me!

Athens in Ruins

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

While the city of Athens can't quite compare to the natural beauty of Crete or Santorini, somehow it remains unexpectedly charming in all of its dilapidated glory. Between the ruins of the Acropolis and the unkempt hipster neighborhoods of Psiri and Monastiraki, the derelict gems of Athens exude character and personality. Sure, it wasn't one of the most pristine or aesthetically pleasing cities I've ever been to, but it has life.  

It's abounding with bustling cafés serving iced freddo espressos, trendy froyo shops nestled between boutiques, all-organic restaurants, and vintage bars like Osterman - a Gatsby-esque wine bar recently converted from a run-down Victorian fabric shop. Locals amble down the streets yelling to one another in Greek and convening on outdoor terraces, joyfully sipping their frappés and taking refuge in the shade. The chipped paint, colorful graffiti and boarded up windows contribute an unlikely charm to the surrounding urban jungle.

From exploring the awe-inspiring Parthenon to sipping freddos inside hip cafés with crumbling exteriors, the disrepair and hidden beauty of Athens is to be celebrated.

My Athens Picks:
Best Coffee: Lukumades
Best Views: Atop Mount Lycabettus
Favorite Restaurants: To Kafeneio, Thanasis
Best Place to Wander: Anafiotika 
Favorite Bar: Osterman

5 Travel Tips for Greece

Friday, July 18, 2014
5 Travel Tips for Greece | Adelante

1. You can never bring enough Dramamine (or Lactaid Pills)

Between the winding roads and rocky ferry rides, I probably consumed a lifetime's supply of motion sickness pills in Greece. If I hadn't bought the kind with added caffeine, I would have been in a Dramamine-induced coma my entire trip, drowsily ambling from one destination to the next. While I am naturally prone to motion sickness, even those with strong stomachs should stock up before traveling through Greece. Especially if you plan on taking a high speed ferry.

Also, the mouthwatering cuisine of Greece isn't exactly conducive to us lactose-intolerant folks. Greek yogurt with honey for breakfast every morning, multiple iced cappuccinos before lunch, and feta cheese and tzatziki sauce with every meal... it's foodie heaven, but also a lac-tard's worst nightmare. Thank Zeus I brought an overabundance of dairy pills, otherwise I would have been in excruciating pain the entire trip - because I was not about to miss out on the joys of Greek cuisine.

Rose are red, violets are blue, feta is delicious, and tzatziki is too.

2. Allow plenty of time for navigating the ports

In typical Mediterranean fashion, the ports in Greece are chaotic and incredibly confusing to navigate. Allow at least an hour to pick up your tickets, grab a snack, and figure out where your boat is. If you can, avoid taking a ferry out of the Athens (Piraeus) port. It's a hot mess. Between the nausea and the port pandemonium, next time I think I'll try to avoid ferries altogether and opt for taking airplanes when I can.

Can't I just ride one of these back to Athens?

3. Start saving in advance

While Greece was one of the coolest trips I've ever taken, it was also one of the most expensive. As an English teaching assistant, I'm not exactly rolling in the dough, so this trip probably wouldn't have been possible if not for my USA tax returns (thanks, Pottery Barn!) and six whole months of saving up. In other words, I went six months without shopping for clothes. Every time I was tempted by a cute dress at Zara, I thought to myself, "How many Ryanair flights could this buy me?" Moral of the story: saving €€€ means making sacrifices - and the sooner you start saving, the better!

No shopping = lots of outfit repeating

4. Master the art of picking a good restaurant

My travel buddy Jen is an absolute genius when it comes to finding good restaurants. Thankfully, I got to reap the benefits of her remarkable skills, because we didn't have a single bad meal in Greece. After 11 days of diligently observing her tips & tricks, here's what I learned about hunting down the best restaurants in Greece:

- Utilize Tripadvisor.
Check out the highest rated places around you and read the reviews!

- Find out where the locals go.
Listen to what language is being spoken by the customers. Hearing Greek is always a good sign!

- Don't be afraid to wander off the beaten path. 
Sometimes the best restaurants are the least convenient to get to. Head outside the touristic center to find the hidden gems!

One of our favorite restaurants in Chania, The Well of the Turk, was one of the hardest to find!

5. Bring a spare memory card

This one I learned the hard way. Greece is arguably the most photogenic place I've ever been to, so naturally I took an obscene amount of pictures. Unfortunately, I failed to pack an extra memory card, and had a serious moment of panic when I ran out of card space in the midst of exploring Oía, Santorini. (Thankfully there was an electronics shop in nearby Fira, and their memory cards were much less expensive than in the USA.) I recommend using a memory card of at least 16 GB and bringing along an extra one just in case. And always, always pack a spare camera battery!

There's nothing worse than running out of memory card space in picturesque Santorini.

Have you ever been to Greece? 
What tips would you add to this list?

Greece via Instagram

Monday, July 14, 2014
I just got back from a whirlwind 11 days in Greece, and I think it's safe to say that I'm obsessed with this beautiful country. It hasn't even been 48 hours and I'm already dying to go back! Between exploring gritty but charismatic Athens, watching the Mediterranean glisten in Crete, and witnessing the breathtaking magic of Santorini - it was impossible not to fall in love with Greece. And as it just so happens, these three places happen to be ridiculously photogenic. Hence, I may have gone a little Instagram crazy...

The view of the Acropolis from our hotel in Athens
Words cannot even begin to describe my obsession with Greek food. I already miss the heavenly salads, eggplant, yogurt with honey, and fresh tzatziki sauce!
The Venetian Harbor in Chania, Crete
One of my favorite parts of Greece was making friends with cats everywhere we went
I couldn't have asked for a better travel buddy. Love ya Jen!
Elafonisi Beach in Crete. Can you believe those turquoise waters?!
Lounging poolside in Oía, Santorini
What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't color-coordinate with the buildings...?
Exploring Fira, Santorini
We enjoyed a delicious sunset dinner thanks to Canaves Oia Hotel & Suites
Selfies fo' dayz.
Okay, you can take me back to Santorini now.

I hope these will suffice for now, seeing as it's going to take me a while to edit all of the pictures I took (2,019 to be exact... I have a problem). And feel free to follow along on Instagram @courtneylikkel!

Summer in Seattle: What I'm Looking Forward To the Most

Sunday, July 13, 2014
In just a few days, I'm headed back to Seattle for two whole months of American paradise! While I'm really looking forward to being reunited with my family, friends and the comforts of home, it's also painstakingly bittersweet having to say goodbye to an epic  first year in Madrid. These past 10 months have undoubtedly been the most fun of my life, and it's been really tough to see this chapter come to a close. 

Of course I'm excited to spend a second year teaching English in Madrid, but it will be an entirely different experience. I've had to say some pretty hard goodbyes these past few weeks, and right now I can hardly fathom having new friends, coworkers and roommates next year. I just have to keep an open mind and accept all of the changes ahead, and recharging at home seems like the perfect way to prepare myself for that.

And of course, seeing as I haven't been home since Christmas, there are so many things that I absolutely cannot wait for! Here are just a few things that I'm looking forward to this summer:

Backyard BBQs

Pacific Northwest nature
Trees! Mountains! Water!

Brunch at Portage Bay Café
The holiest of all holy brunches.

Being a crazy cat lady again
See you soon, Kitty Purry and Chairman Meow!

Walks around Greenlake

Boating on Lake Washington
My happy place.

Doing really American things going baseball games, eating Chipotle, and wearing as much red, white & blue as I want
Go Mariners!

And most importantly, being reunited with my wonderful family and friends!

(And also, Whole Foods, dryers and air conditioning.)

See you soon, AMERICA!