The view of the city from above is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Porto. From the Dom Luis I Bridge you get an unblocked view of the city and its mix of medieval and red-roofed architecture. We went over the bridge three times, twice by foot and once by tram, and each time it was right before sunset when the city had a haze over it. It was a great time to take in the view, talk to some strangers, and listen to the music flowing from the boardwalk below.
These next two photos are of Porto from Gaia, which you can reach from across the bridge. It’s probably one of the best views of the city, although Gaia itself isn’t as appealing.
The week before
I’m an inherently high-maintenance gal, no thanks to my great genetics that have forced me to wear night contacts since third grade, slather on skin products that probably don’t do anything to fix my acne, take the occasional Claritin, and get sick about 15 times a year…..
That being said, there are a lot of important things I need on my person at all times. This means big bottles of makeup remover, contact solution, and moisturizer all have to fit into my backpack or my carryon. I usually order travel-size contact solution on Amazon because it’s a lot cheaper and then squeeze other things into smaller bottles (from Muji or CVS). I don’t know what I would do if my luggage got lost and I didn’t have access to these things.
The day before
Always check-in to your flight! I used to not do this but it has changed my life. It’s so much faster, especially if you don’t have luggage to check in, and you also get to choose the aisle seat and make your life 10x easier.
I make a huge personal fuss about greasy hair on the plane, having to stare at ugly nails, and feeling gross in general, even if those things don’t bother me much on regular days. If I’m in China, where services are cheap, I’ll get these things out of the way so I don’t have to think about them on the plane or on the road.
The day before a flight I get my hair done so that I get through the flight and maybe a day or two of the trip with perfect (clean) hair. And I’m honestly too tired on those first days to wash my hair anyway. It saves time and energy and makes you feel a lot better on the plane. Getting my nails done is the same, and it’s nice to have them done well for the next week or two.
The minutes before the flight
Yes, I wear makeup on the plane. I’m not at that stage of self-confidence or skin where I can just waddle onto a plane with all eyes on me and feel fine. For short flights, I just leave it on the entire time. For longer ones, I hog the plane bathroom for a good 15 minutes (sorry), take it all off and do an extra hydrating skin-care routine, and then brace for the angry stares I get when I exit. Then two hours before the flight lands, I’ll go back in and put my makeup all on again. It sounds tedious, but getting up and walking is a blessing on a 14-hour flight.
I grab all the fruit I can in the stores around my gate. Apples or fruit cups are great. I do this every single time, even if I don’t always eat them on the plane. I don’t really mind airplane food, and if it’s bad I just stick it out, so I rarely buy full meals to replace flight meals. I will, however, always buy a bottle of water because flight attendants are the hardest to get a hold of for a dumb cup of water on the plane.
I also make sure I have all my good playlists on Spotify downloaded. This last flight I had to go all 14 hours without this one song I’d been addicted to for the past week. It sucked.
I’ll pee 5 minutes before boarding time so when I come out the line is just starting. It’s not the most important to get onto the plane first, but getting a good spot to store your carryons is, and it also helps avoid finding someone already in your seat because they want to switch seats with you.
Lunch: Les Enfants Terribles; penthouse of one of the tallest buildings in Montreal; viewing terrace but not good when it’s foggy out. Evidently
Bar: Big in Japan, $16 drinks
Club: La Vôute; free entry, $12 drinks, Old Port
Vintage shopping: Empire Exchange, Citizen Vintage, Sachika (more expensive); all on Saint Laurent Boulevard
My Greek friend told me the other day that Cretans are crazy. “You’ll notice if you ever, like, talk to one,” she told me. As our first stop in Greece, I have to say I couldn’t tell the difference, but I did get the sense from our first taxi drive who drove so haphazardly we I thought we’d fly off the edge of the hills overlooking the Mediterranean.
Crete is Greece’s largest island, marked by historical landmarks like the ruins of the Minaon civilization, and often overshadowed by its touristy counterparts, Santorini and Mykonos. Crete is easily as far from what you’d picture of Greece based on Instagram thank you’d think (as is the rest of Greece, and Athens especially).
The day we arrived, Crete was recovering from a sweep of wildfires that had killed dozens of people. We flew in on a red-eye from Shanghai, through a transfer at Abu Dhabi, before taking the shakiest Sky Express flight to Crete. We flew from Shanghai to Athens via Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airlines. I got to listen to the fusha playing over the Etihad speakers and was forced to eat the weird mixture of Chinese ramen noodles and a ham sandwich they fed us.
I came down with something on the flight, and so I spent that first great (great) day withering in bed while my parents strolled around the city. Our hotel was perched in the middle of one of Heraklion’s many winding hills, in the center of the capital city with everything important within walking distance, but because I was sick, we took a cab, fixed the price, and had the driver drive us too all of the important sites.
We ended up choosing three cities to visit in Crete: Heraklion, where we were staying, and then Rethymno, and Chania, both reachable by a single train that costs a few euros. In simplicity, Heraklion is a port city, Rethymno was marked by a fortress overlooking the city, and Chania has the most beautiful, bustling boardwalk I’ve ever seen.
On this fateful day I decided to forget to put on sunscreen and agree to an hour-long walk at noon. And so today, five months later, I still tan lines from the dress I wore that day. On our walk up to the Fortezza of Rethymno I saw no less than 5 groups of already-burnt Italian grandmas sunbathing in tube floats. The fortress was built by Venetians, conquered by the Ottomans, and then obliterated in World War II (except for a few buildings. It was essentially patches of dead grass surrounded by old walls.
We had a quick lunch at a mom-and-pop shop and explored its colorful winding streets.
Chania (pronounced kheni-YA, not chaneeya, not khaniya, because of the accent on the a in Greek), It might have something to do with the fact that we got there at sunset. We made our way through dozens of shops and maitre-ds shouting “ni hao” at us to get to to the promenade. With the backdrop of the Mediterranean sunset and the Chanian lighthouse in the distance, we made our way around the half-circle of shops and buildings, watched fishermen fish, and children dip their toes in the water. We sat down to dinner at a restaurant facing the water and I can tell you there’s no better sight.
We circled our back to Heraklion on the last day to see the historical sites in the capital. At Knossos Palace, we saw the ruins of the Minoan civilization (where the Minotaur legend comes from, who lived in the Labyrinth that King Minos created), which was later absorbed by the Mycenaean civilization. In the palace you’ll find the first working toilet, used by a queen at one point. The rest of the excavations can be found in the Heraklion Archaelogical Museum.
My two biggest takeaways from Crete: Chania, as with the other places, is a must-see in Greece, and that the chicken I had at the Aquila Atlantis Hotel is the juiciest chicken I’ve ever had, hands-down.