Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

When I think back to our Caribbean cruise,  the day that brings the biggest smile to my face is our visit to St. Kitts!  Not only is it the most diverse of the islands (in my opinion), but our local guide, Royston, provided a fun and interesting first-hand look at this picturesque, history-rich gem of an island!

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Royston was like a ray of sunshine with his friendly personality and pleasant smile. He greeted us just outside the terminal and walked us over to the Royston-mobile (as I like to call it) – a fresh air, windowless van that proved (as we would soon learn) that it could handle any terrain St. Kitts had to offer!  Stocked with ice cold beverages and 2 fun married couples from Utah, we boarded the Royston-mobile eager for the adventure ahead!

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Basseterre

Our tour began with a drive through the charming capital city, Basseterre.

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IMG_5717Built in 1883 and modeled after Piccadilly in London, The Berkeley Memorial is
an ornate clock tower and drinking fountain that sits in the heart of Basseterre.

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IMG_5745The stunning Government House.

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Did you know that St. Kitts has a Veterinarian school called Ross University?
I had no clue that it existed!  And an ocean view too…score!


Around the Island ~ Royston Style!

The thing I think I enjoyed the most was the spontaneity Royston provided on the tour.  We already knew what sights we’d see that day, but Royston added something special to it.  He sprinkled the day with the unexpected…like for instance, taking us to non-touristy spots that he enjoyed as a child…or gathering sugar cane so we could feed donkeys…or driving us right on the beach!  It was moments like those that made his tour better than we could have hoped for!

IMG_5969Royston gathering sugar cane.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFeeding time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoyston knew exactly where to take us for superb photo opportunities!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy hubby found his Jeep twin in St. Kitts on a random cliff overlooking the ocean!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid I mention Royston was funny?
He pulled a “photo bomb” with the Royston-mobile while I was taking a photo of hubby!

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The Royston-mobile brought us up close & personal to the stunning
beaches of St. Kitts!
As you can see, our tour-mate enjoyed the drive on the beach!  🙂

IMG_5731What’s better than a flock of egrets in a tree?…

IMG_5763A flock of bottles in a tree!  😉
I’d like to introduce the “Rum Tree” – a mango tree adorned with empty
bottles from oh-so-happy men from a nearby bar!

IMG_5765I just loved holding this sweet little monkey!

IMG_5778Bath, anyone?
This oversized “tub” was really used to melt down sugar cane.

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The Rainforest

Driving through the rainforest was like entering a different world.  The light rain dripping from the canopy of trees created a magical ambiance.

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IMG_5873My tarzan swinging on a vine!

IMG_5868The lush rainforest was a sight to behold…

IMG_5823…and so were these cute goats…

IMG_5813…and so was my hubby!  🙂

Black Rocks

On the northeastern coast of St. Kitts is Black Rocks, a picturesque collection of lava rocks adorning the coast from the nearby volcano Mount Liamuiga.

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Wingfield Estate

Back in 1625, Wingfield Estate was the first working estate on the island for sugar, molasses, tobacco and rum.  And it happened to be owned by Thomas Jefferson’s great-great-great-grandfather, Sam Jefferson!  It was fun to explore the remains and learn about how they cultivated the land that included a water wheel!

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Romney Manor

Formerly owned by Sam Jefferson, this gorgeous 6 acre estate is now home to Caribelle Batik, a shop that sells a variety of popular batik products that are hand-printed in the studio using an old Indonesian wax-and-dye process.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAColorful batik products

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Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

History buff or not, the Brimstone Hill Fortress is a marvel to behold!  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a wonderfully preserved fortification and an architectural masterpiece with unmatched sweeping views in every direction!

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Designed by British military engineers and built by African slave labor, this magnificent fortress took over 100 years to construct beginning in the 1690’s.

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Looking into the horizon, I could almost see the fleet of 50 French ships coming in to storm the fortress!

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If you’re ever in St. Kitts, put Brimstone Hill Fortress at the top of your list!  It’s only $10 to get in…so why not experience this rich piece of history?
Oh, & be sure to bring good walking shoes for those uneven steps up to the fortress!

IMG_5916The Royston-mobile sure got around!

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Did I mention the a-ma-zing views?

The Peninsula

Did you know that Royston has an adventurous side?  Yep!  The Royston-mobile was not afraid to take us off the beaten path and into places other tour companies would not go!  We’d be driving along a paved road, and he’d suddenly veer off into the brush and drive us somewhere simply stunning!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANOT the Royston-mobile!
Others may have tried, but only Royston will get you there in one piece!  LOL!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can’t tell from looking, but Royston pulled that van right up to the edge for a simply stunning outlook of the Peninsula!
The parking area for the “other” tour vans was well below us!

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Behold – the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea!
Simply stunning!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy day!

IMG_1900If this is a dream, don’t wake me!

Lunch at South Friar’s Bay

Lunch was included in the tour, and Royston stopped at his friend’s little eatery to pick up 7 ‘rotis’ – a wrap with potato, mild curry, spices, and a choice of beef, chicken, conch or veggie.  With lunch in tow, Royston drove us to “The God Father” – an empty beach bar by day (but not by night!) that acts as the perfect place to enjoy the delicious food and gorgeous views of South Friar’s Bay!

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IMG_1912South Friar’s Bay

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IMG_1927During the tour, Royston stopped by his dad’s house to pick something up.
As the van pulled away, we could hear his dad shout out,
“You hired the best man!”
We couldn’t agree more!

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Our wonderful day in St. Kitts was over, but as our ship pulled away,
there was one more surprise awaiting us…

IMG_6022Until next time St. Kitts…

What part of this tour would you enjoy the most?


St. Kitts is lucky to have Royston represent them!

If you’re ever in St. Kitts, please consider taking Royston’s Tours!
For $45, this is a quality tour that you won’t soon forget!

Royston Tours

 

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july 4
God Bless America!

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For seven days and nights, we called the Carnival Valor our home. 

Although we spent most of our time exploring the various islands on our cruise itinerary, we got to know the Valor very well and discovered that it was more than just a floating hotel. They don’t call it the “Fun Ship” for nothing!

So come aboard and discover all the fun you can have on the Carnival Valor without leaving the ship!

1. Share your room with different “animals” in your room every night…or just take a towel folding class and make your own!

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2. Enjoy a bon voyage party on your first night at sea complete with music, games and fun!

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3. Try different culinary masterpieces every day…

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4. …or satisfy your sweet tooth craving with 24 hour soft serve!  My husband agreed that dessert before dinner was perfectly acceptable! LOL!

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5. See entertaining shows every night!

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6. Enjoy a party at sea complete with a “Hairy Chest Contest!”

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7. Gaze out into the vast blue.

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8. Watch movies outside…in the middle of the sea…in a pool…or a hot tub…or on a lounge chair…the choice is yours!

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9. Get competitive with games like “Name that Celebrity.”

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10. Snag a beach chair, & work on your tan.  These empty chairs were a rare sighting!

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11. Get windswept!

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12. Enjoy perks of being a return Carnival Cruise customer.  The perks get better with each cruise you take. We were treated to a jumbo bottled water…and it came in handy!

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13. Go on a photo safari.

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14. Play miniature golf…in the desert…and on the sea!

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15. Do absolutely nothing…

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16. Make new friends. (Ours were from Montreal, Canada)

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17. Watch your server shake his money maker!

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18.  Release your inner child!  (And we released it twice!)

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19. Watch the sky turn into a brilliant shade of coral.

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20. Awaken to a breathtaking view.

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21. Indulge in a decadent dessert!

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22. Be curious & explore the ship!

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23. Get gussied up and have a professional take your photo!  (There are backdrops for every mood…so be creative and have fun!)

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24. Realize that you love cruising and can’t wait to do it again!

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And that just scratches the surface!  The list goes on and on…from comedians to karaoke to yoga to the casino to dance lessons to kids clubs…the Valor has it all!

Never once was I bored!

The selection of activities was endless, and at times, we had a hard time fitting it all in!

So if you’re on the fence about cruising, trust me when I say, go for it!

It’s an experience you’ll always cherish for years to come!

 I know we will!

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Last year, after spending 5 blissful days on the beautiful island of Maui, my husband and I boarded the Mokulele Express, and for one hour, we lazily dreamed of what awaited us on the Big Island of Hawaii.

You see…on our Hawaiian vacation, we wanted to experience something other than a typical hotel room.  We searched for something unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and so may I introduce…the enchanting Bali Tree Cottage in Captain Cook, Hawaii.

Bali Tree Cottage

A 12 year labor of love for long time residents, Ron and Karen Repan, the delightful Bali Tree Cottage combines rustic charm with modern conveniences blending the best of outdoor with indoor.  A true glamping experience!

Bali Tree Cottage

Arriving at 4:00pm, Karen met us at the entrance of the driveway leading to the cottage.  Her hospitality was genuine and abundant!  After settling into our new accommodations, Karen suggested we take a less than two minute walk over to the gorgeous Manini Beach Park overlooking the Kealakekua Bay.  She gave us a brief tour and history of the area (post to come!), and upon our return, the sound of relaxing Hawaiian music filled the air.  Ron, Karen’s sweet husband, had turned on the cd player in the cottage and stood on the porch welcoming us with a warm smile and two glasses of vino!

We felt like family!

Welcome

Staying in the house next door, the Repans always respected our privacy and were just a few steps away if we had any questions or just wanted to say hello.

Curious about the origin of this open air cottage, Ron and Karen entertained us with the story of how it came about.

“Ron loves beautiful things.” Karen said, smiling his way.

Never experiencing Bali but loving the architecture and feel of Thailand, Ron expected to see many outdoor Bali-style cottages or huts upon moving to Hawaii, but he couldn’t find a single one…and so began his 12 year labor of love.

Visiting several antique shops through the years, he invested in gorgeous Balinese hand carved teak panels with intricate details, many which were left in the jungle for possibly over a hundred years.

Ron spoke enthusiastically about the panel on the front of the cottage.  “This panel is worth $12,000, but I got it for $6,000.  It took five men to lift it.  This wood doesn’t interest termites – it’s too heavy.”

Bali Tree Cottage

Nothing was overlooked in the Bali Tree Cottage.

On the balcony you will find a full service kitchen stocked with just about everything you need. A refrigerator, freezer, oven, sink, towels and dishes were all available for our use.  Just be sure to clean up after yourself…or the ants will!  A variety of spices, sauces and condiments are available to add to any dish you make.  There’s also a BBQ located in the garden that came in handy for preparing our steaks one evening.

Outdoor KitchenOutdoor kitchen

When you’re ready to enjoy that meal, choose from the lovely outdoor garden dining area or cozy up indoors.

Outdoor Dining

Bali Tree Cottage - Dining Room

Relaxing is something that comes easily here.  Rock back and forth into a peaceful state to the sound of the ocean waves on a comfortable rocking chair or on the garden hammock. Or enjoy some time reading, listening to the radio or just spending quality time with whoever you choose to in the thoughtfully eclectic living area (ficus tree included!)

Relaxing Porch

Bali Tree CottageLiving area

A unique sleeping experience awaits you in this four-poster bed with net draping.  Recycled metal for the roof keeps the raindrops and tree nuts at bay.  A decorative double vanity opposite the bed has a basket full of soaps, sun screen and heavy duty bug repellent (which was greatly needed and appreciated!)

Bali Tree Cottage - Bedroom

Double VanityDouble vanity in bedroom

Bali Tree Cottage

From the bedroom, exit through large wooden doors and wash the day away in the refreshing outdoor shower. Complete with soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, towels and therapeutic rocks to stimulate the shiatsu zones in your feet, your main job is to simply enjoy.  The sound of vibrant birdsong and rustling breezes comes into high definition as you become mesmerized by the truly special ambiance.  A definite highlight of our stay!

Shower HeavenOutdoor shower area

Outdoor Shower

Ron’s passion for surfing is also apparent in his large collection of surfboards inside the cottage and outside in the garden.

Surfboard Collection

Being a former surfer himself, Ron would also buy broken surfboards off of their owners for around $20, and he would have them sign it for his collection.  Some were designed by the best artists of the era while others are just beautiful to look at.

A special surfboard known as “Da Bomb” hangs from the bedroom ceiling.  Hand built on a warship in the Gulf War, Ron found this surfboard in a shop in Hawaii.  Just hanging in the surf shop for 5 years, Ron asked the store owner if he could buy it off of him, but the shop owner wasn’t receptive to his request, so Ron suggested they flip a coin.

Heads, the shop owner keeps it, and tails, Ron buys it off of him.  It landed on tails.

Although not shown here, a female on the back of the board is a copy of the one on the nose of the B-29 “Enola Gay.”

"Da Bomb" “Da-Bomb” (the gray one pictured here)

The outside of the cottage is as intricate and methodically thought out as the inside!

Step out of the cottage and into a wonderland filled with everything to delight the senses!  Lose track of time by simply getting lost in the lush garden and decorative elements including paper lanterns, tiki torches, stringed lights and surf boards.

Bali Tree Cottage

Surfboard Collection

Enchanting YardBackyard paradise

Pathway to Cottage

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Beautiful Flowers

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Various diverse plants decorate the landscape making you feel worlds away.

“Let me show you the sensitivity plant.”  On a table was what looked like an everyday fern.  “Now touch the leaves.”  I did as Ron instructed, and the leaflets folded in as if protecting themselves from predators.

The next plant Ron showed me had a more threatening way of protecting itself.  It was called the serenity plant.  Coming out of the trunk were dozens of razor sharp thorns.  “Touch the point very softly.”  And as I suspected, this plant was no joke.

A large ficus tree is an integral part of the cottage.  Intertwining in and out of the living room, you truly feel like you are camping in the jungle.

Ficus Tree

We quickly learned that combining both the indoors and outdoors meant that we would be sharing our lodging with visitors of all kinds.

“Now don’t be afraid.  That’s only a kane spider.  They’re gentle and shy…and they don’t bite.”

I stared at this thin, branch-like spider that fell on the table right in front of me.  Ron ensured me that I could pick it up and it wouldn’t harm me.  “It’s like holding a tarantula.”

These experiences had become an expected part of our lives for 3 fun-filled days here at the cottage, and we started to look forward to meeting our new four and six-legged friends (minus the mosquitoes!)

Peek-a-boo GeckoThis gecko loved the camera!

GeckoHe enjoyed hanging out with us in the outdoor kitchen.

IMG_0228Not sure who this little guy was, but what a unique looking creature!

Purry the CatPurry, the Repan’s sweet kitty, was always a welcomed guest!

There were so many things I loved about our stay at the Bali Tree Cottage.  From the vibrant birdsong greeting us in the morning, to the outdoor shower experience, to the unique ambiance of the cottage, to the simple act of relaxing.

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The list can go on forever, but what I enjoyed most was the warm hospitality from our wonderful hosts, Karen and Ron, who made us feel like family and ensured we had a memorable time. Whether it be enjoying each others company while watching a glorious sunset…or sharing stories…or Ron supplying me with treats for my solo walk to the nearby Keii beach…or bringing us delicious coffee one morning while we were enjoying an early morning sunrise…or Karen stopping by to say “Good Morning” with her darling dog Chloe and offering recommendations on places to visit. These heartwarming acts of kindness played a large part in shaping our trip into the wonderful experience that we will cherish forever.

Upon asking Karen what she thinks draws travelers to the Bali Tree Cottage and Kealakekua Bay year after year, she replied,

As to our success with Airbnb, I think the fact that we are here onsite to check people in and help them with any questions really helps.  I don’t know of any other vacation rentals in the bay that have onsite owners.  Also, because of all our great reviews, we are #1 to come up on site!!  We really want to share the Aloha of this Island!

Karen, our wonderful hostessAnd Aloha they did share!
One last photo with Karen before leaving the cottage.  We missed Ron 😦

If staying in an open air, Balinese style cottage experience in beautiful Captain Cook, Hawaii is something that sounds like fun (and it is!), check out this jewel on Airbnb.com, and contact Karen and Ron to book your stay!

I guarantee it’ll be an experience you’ll cherish forever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After our enchanting stay in Maui, we arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii and drove for about an hour until we reached our new island dwelling.  This tranquil coral and lava-filled beach was a mere 1.5 minute walk from our tropical sanctuary.

Can anyone guess what beach this is?

Whoever guesses right will get a ray of California sunshine sent their way!  😉

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Twin Falls

The 52 mile Road to Hana on Maui’s east coast is full of wonder and beauty around every hairpin turn.  The first waterfall on our journey was the stunning Twin Falls located in a peaceful cove surrounded by lush foliage.  The scenic and oftentimes slippery 30 minute hike was well worth it!  To get there, you’ll need to cross a small stream and walk over other tricky, slippery surfaces, so leave your flip flops in the car, strap on a pair of sturdy waterproof shoes and be sure to bring your camera!

Twin Falls is the perfect way to kick off your Road to Hana experience!

Check out more Photo Bliss!

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Have you ever stayed at a hotel that left you speechless?

Back in 2010 when my hubby and I planned our dream honeymoon, we decided to splurge (just a little) on one hotel throughout the entire trip so that way we’d have more spending cash for other things like excursions, souvenirs and dining experiences.

First we had to decide on our splurge location…and that was an easy choice – the stunning Greek island of Santorini.

Now the hard part – choosing a place to stay among the many cliff hugging, magical, white washed hotels that just oozed charm.

After going back and forth, we decided on this gem:

Hotel KetiHotel Keti is located in Fira Town, Capital of Santorini

The “Cavehouse Suite” was our first choice, but it was already booked, so we stayed in a “Double Superior” room which worked our perfectly!  At 120 euros a night, it was a splurge to us, but compared to the neighboring hotels…it was quite a bargain!

Room in Hotel KetiThe room was quaint, simple & modern.
Hotel KetiThe bathroom was spacious with a jacuzzi tub.

But here’s the real reason we chose this hotel:

View from Hotel Keti
 Stunning views right outside our door!
 
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View from the front doorDoorway to paradise!
 
Hotel KetiTalk about grand entrance!
 
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View of Fira from our terrace.
 
Enjoying vino and the viewsVino + Gorgeous Views = Happy Jen!
 

Sure, you have to walk down almost 100 winding cobblestone steps to reach the hotel, but with views like this…it’s so worth it!  (And if you need a little assistance, a porter is available to carry your bags…for 20 euros.)

 
Breathtaking viewsCruise ships in the harbor.

The front desk personnel were extremely friendly & very helpful with directions, excursions & suggestions on things to do.

Welcoming committeeWe even had a welcoming committee (who was very cute!)

Little did we know that on our last night in Santorini was the annual  fireworks display commemorating the eruption of the volcano.

Fireworks advertisement

All we had to do was step outside our door to the best seats in the house, kick back & be awed by the vibrant, beautiful display in the distance.

Virtual volcanic eruptionFlares and fireworks created a virtual representation of the volcanic eruption.

 

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IMG_0737_r1Fireworks then continued over Fira lighting up the town.

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Fireworks

Honeymooning in Santorini and staying at Hotel Keti was definitely the highlight of the trip.  If you ever consider traveling to Santorini, I wholeheartedly recommend getting swept away by this magical jewel!

Hotel KetiTrust me, you won’t be disappointed!

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