Monthly Archives: May 2014

My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Paros)

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We spent just two days on the island of Paros, which is much less rocky than Mykonos and a lot more green.  It’s also older, dustier (even with some rain), smaller and quieter.  Except for the cooing doves.  It felt like they were following us everywhere.   Our room at the High Mill had the hardest beds I’ve ever slept on, and you could drive around the entire island easily in less than a day.  So I suppose two days here was long enough.  Although like every place we visited it had its own unique charm.

The first day we walked down into the town where places were just opening for the season.  It was sad to see some businesses boarded up or abandoned, and the foundations for buildings that were never completed scattered around the island.  We ate at a place called Del’s Kitchen (their first day open) where the owner gave us complimentary shots of Ouzo (an anise-flavoured aperitif) after our meal.  The meal was great, the Ouzo was truly horrible.  Just my opinion.  I drank it down anyway, because – hey – free booze.   That night we ordered take out to be delivered to our hotel room, and their half hour delivery time turned into at least a 90 minute wait.  So they gave us a huge water bottle filled with white wine to make us feel better.  We carted it all the way to Santorini before working up the courage to try it.

On our second day in Paros we rented a car and toured the island.  I thought my slide show would be shorter for this part of our journey, but apparently I was very impressed with the Moraitis Family Winery and took a lot of pictures of important things like wine bottles.  We also visited an ancient marble quarry.  And by visited I mean we’re pretty sure we drove by it.  It was on a rather awful road that we were directed to by a tiny sign.  By now we were getting used to winding, hilly, bumpy, twisting potholed roads from hell, but this one went in a loop so we didn’t have to do any backtracking.  Whatever we missed, it’s going to stay missed.

We stopped whenever something looked interesting enough to photograph, and found a beautiful little hill-top restaurant where we sat on a high open terrace for lunch.  This really does sound like all we did was drive around and stop to eat.  Which is basically true.  And maybe the best way to spend your time in Paros.  Because once again the ‘home cooked’ food was excellent.  This family had a sweet little three or four-year old girl who timidly approached our table wanting to talk, but gave up on us when we couldn’t make ourselves understood except with lots of smiling.  They also had a beautiful big shepherd dog that was happy to get some dog treats from Andy.  We asked for directions when we were leaving, and the husband had to summon his wife Flora to help him explain things in English.  And still none of us got it right.

I’m embarrassed to say we drove by the same place at least three times after that trying to figure out where the hell we were going.  Maybe four.  They kept pointing us in the right direction and we just kept getting turned around and coming back. The dog was always happy to see us.  I think Flora and her husband may still be rolling their eyes.

One more sleep on the cement beds and then we’re off to Santorini.

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My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Mykonos)

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Kalimera – good morning!

The length of this slide show reminds me of my dad.  Back in the olden days when W would start setting up his projector to show everyone pictures of our life in the Arctic, my dad, in anticipation of being bored to death, always fell asleep before the first picture made it on to the screen.  I’m hoping you won’t do that, because these are not pictures of snow.

We spent four days on the island of Mykonos and it’s hard to condense all that glorious scenery and sunshine into one blog post.  This is the Greece we anticipated with hot windy weather, stone steps and walkways, marble floors, blue and white everywhere.  The plan for the 14th of May was to be in the hotel lobby in Athens at 5:30 a.m. to collect a boxed breakfast and depart for the ferry at six.  Except for a bunch of bleary eyed tourists showing up on time, none of that happened.  Thanasis wandered in at 6:30 surprised that no one at the hotel had passed the message on to us the night before about high winds and changing to a later ferry.  We did not get our boxed breakfast.  What the hell could possibly be good about a boxed breakfast at five in the morning anyway?  However, one lady took particular exception to this, extremely miffed that breakfast in a box was now out of the question.  We ran into her and her husband several times over the course of our holiday, and referred to her forever after as the breakfast lady.

We were bussed to a different, speedier ferry, whipped across the sea to Mykonos, bussed to the Kamari Hotel and given a complimentary late breakfast there.  Our little rooms and balconies were delightful, the staff was wonderful.  Birds and cats and gorgeous trees, great restaurants, cooing doves (those got to be not so delightful after a while as they absolutely never shut up….)

We spent a relaxing pool day, walked down to the beach to the Tasos Taverna for more wonderful Greek food, and signed up for a Jeep tour of the island the next day.

We thought because it was called a Jeep tour that we would all be riding around in Jeeps.  We thought we would have guides driving the Jeeps with three passengers in each one.  It was another day for things not going exactly as planned.  Too many people, not enough Jeeps, and only two guides.  So Andy got to drive an actual Jeep with his mom and cousins as passengers.  A lovely couple from Calcutta on their honeymoon got to share a car with my sister and me.  Just what every newlywed couple wishes for – two strangers who speak a different language tagging along in the backseat on a day long tour.  They were disappointed of course that the car was not a jeep, he was used to driving on the other side of the road, the roads were narrow, rocky, twisting, steep and rough.  I know how to drive a standard, so trust me when I tell you he wasn’t an expert at changing gears or staying far enough behind the car in front so that you don’t have to brake on a hill and stall and roll back to get going again.

I think I got whiplash.  I had a stiff neck for two days after that.  But they were such sweet people and we did make a lot of stops so it wasn’t a day of complete unending terror.  Sometimes the roads were bordered by rock walls, but often they weren’t.  Sometimes we had to stop for oncoming traffic.  Sometimes we risked having our side mirrors lopped off.  There were wonderful views, amazing beaches, horses, cows, goats.  Rocks.  Lots and lots of rocks.  Stop signs in Mykonos are just a suggestion. No one takes them seriously.

On the 16th we rented a car and went to see Little Venice.  It’s a long row of shops along the waterfront.  I have no pictures of it because, come on,  SHOPPING!   Who has time for a camera when there are euros to be spent.  We also went to Ornos Beach.  On one of these days I drank an entire bottle of red wine all by myself.  My notes aren’t all that clear.  On the 17th Andy rented a scooter and went touring all over the island on his own.  Ann did some laundry.  Jo relaxed on a lounge chair and read.  The girls got lots of sun by the pool.  I watched a pair of doves build a nest under a pool umbrella.  So really, who had the most exciting last day in Mykonos??  Hard to decide, I know.

Mykonos is absolutely beautiful.  The people are friendly and helpful and incredibly nice.  Although a few of them could use some driver ed.  We’re off to Paros in the morning.  It’s pronounced PAW – Rose, and does not rhyme with Paris.  Duh.

Efcharisto – thank you.  Kalinikta – goodnight.

My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Athens)

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And we’re back!  Well, we were back two days ago, but serious jet lag and disorganization has prevented me from making this announcement in a timely fashion.  There is a nine-hour time difference between Alberta and Athens.  We flew into the future and then back into the past.  That can really mess with your equilibrium.

My holiday started on the 10th of May with a packed four-hour fight to Toronto (on which there were many screaming babies). (I remember those days of travelling with small children and don’t miss them much).   It was 1 degree C. in Edmonton when I left, and 19 in Toronto when I arrived there.  I kept a travel journal and actually wrote this shit down.  With a lot of other extraneous information about my luggage and boarding pass and some big scary dude sitting in my assigned seat in error, and taking a shuttle bus to the hotel and waiting for family to arrive.  Also there was a lady in the elevator with me at one point who would have shared her life story with me if the ride had been longer.  She was off to somewhere to pick up more beer.  I never saw her again.

Yes, it’s going to be that kind of travel log, so feel free to bail at any time if you were expecting intelligent discourse and historical information about points of interest.   I also take photos through bus windows while wearing polarized sunglasses.  With surprising results.  Remember that not all surprises are good ones.

Our party of six (including me, my sister Ann, her two daughters A and K, my sister-in-law J and her son Andy) were at the airport on Sunday at noon, baggage checked and all of us through security for our 3:40 departure.  I have no idea why it’s necessary to be there so early.  But there are lots of wonderful internet café type lounges at the Toronto airport so we consumed many beers and much wine before boarding our transatlantic flight and soaring off into Monday morning.  One o’clock in the morning our time suddenly turned into eight a.m. in Athens, and one night of sleep vanished into thin air.

While we waited for our rooms to be ready our Transat guide Thanasis booked all of us for a city tour by bus and a hike up a steep hill to see the Acropolis/Parthenon.  This seemed like a great idea at the time, and turned out to be very educational.  It taught me that I’m too old for all-nighters when the next day involves hill climbing via great long flights of winding stone steps in the hot sunshine.  My neice A referred to these sites as the Apocalypse and the Pentagon.  I wish she had kept a journal.  I think it would have been way more interesting than mine.

At this historic ruin Andy and Ann both bought table cloths that neither of them really needed from a lady highly skilled in the art of selling things to tourists who are suffering from sleep deprivation.  People like her were everywhere with booklets and postcards and souvenirs.  Sometimes it was very hard to say no.

Back at the hotel we had a late (early) supper, depending on your time zone, and I enjoyed my first of many Greek Salads.  If you don’t like tomatoes and cucumbers, you should not visit Greece.  They are in just about everything.  My salad also had black olives and capers and a slice of feta cheese the size of my face.  It was delicious. So was the wine.

And then we slept.

On the 13th we walked to a subway station and figured out how to get to Plaka and the Athens Flea Market.  What an amazing place.  It was so amazing that I didn’t take any pictures of it except for this fruit stand.  And I didn’t remember until halfway through the day (after glancing at my watch) that it was my birthday.  There were walking streets filled with shops and stalls selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, books, bags, leather, hats, scarves, shoes…an endless list.Greece 2014 026
We had my birthday lunch at a place called the Bush Bar where our waiter helped us decipher the menu.  We sat outside on a quiet little side street across from two men smoking and playing an intense game of backgammon in front of their store which sold wooden chairs.  It was a slow chair day I guess.

Greece 2014 030
Here’s a travel tip.  Take a chef like Andy along with you to a new country.  He was super enthusiastic about trying every dish specific to Greece and was often able to identify mysterious ingredients in whatever we ordered.  I don’t remember having one bad dining experience even when the menus had very little English on them and we pronounced everything wrong.

Later we went up to the roof top bar of the hotel to take some photos, and then walked a few blocks to the Big Bad Wolf Souvlaki Bar to eat AGAIN because, you know, some time had passed….  We did not go hungry.  The night life in Athens is busy and noisy, although we were assured it is one of the safest cities to wander around in after dark.  There were people and smart cars and motorcycles everywhere, families with little kids, buses, taxis, everything open for business, nobody in a hurry to go home to sleep.

Although maybe we should have been, with a bus to our first ferry to catch at 5:00 a.m.

 

The Twenty Third Day of May

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Theseus_Minotaur_Ramey_Tuileries.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Theseus_Minotaur_Ramey_Tuileries.jpg

Where in the world am I today?

Today is the first day of our last three day stay on the last island in our island hopping extravaganza holiday in beautiful Greece.  And that would be Crete.  This is yet another annoying scheduled post in which I am trying to look into the future and imagine what the hell I might be up to at this point in time.

Are we winding down?  Some of us are shockingly old, so that’s a possibility.

We are done with travel by ferry, and from Crete we fly back to Athens.  Then it’s Athens to Toronto, and Toronto home on the 26th.  That is a lot of time spent flying through the air.  I took a notebook with me.  It may or may not be filled with astounding memories to share, along with many MANY photos of dubious quality.  That’s all the warning you’re going to get.

Back to blogging in real time as soon as jet lag wears off.

 

The Twentieth Day of May

santorini wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ia_Santorini-2009-1.JPG

Where in the world am I today?

Santorini!  This is the spot I’m most excited to see, because my brother liked it the most when he visited Greece.  And this trip was lovingly planned for all of us to remember him.

I’ve heard the red wine in Greece is an acquired taste, so I will do the polite thing and try to acquire a taste for it.  Because Canadian tourists are supposed to be known for how ridiculously polite they are.  I would not like to disillusion anyone about that.  No hanging over the balcony railings here!

 

The Eighteenth Day of May

Where in the world am I today?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paros-collage-c.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paros-collage-c.jpg

It’s another scheduled post, written in anticipation of actually surviving my trip to Greece.  If I am in Paros like I’m supposed to be today, that means I made it by ferry across the deep blue sea. Yay me!  And yay everybody else who may have noticed me turning either white or green and politely ignored it.  Or told me to snap out of it.  I’m going with family – they’re unpredictable.

We will be in Paros for two days and then we sail (can you call it sailing if you’re on a ferry?)  to Santorini.  I’m sure I must be having a wonderful time, wish you were here, etcetera.  ♥♥

 

In Real Time

Kamari Hotel, Mykonos, Greece
Kamari Hotel, Mykonos, Greece

This is one of the views from where I’m sitting right now on our last day of four in Mykonos.  What an incredible place.  I’m going to try to bring some of this sunshine home with me.  They seem to have plenty to go around.  It’s our first truly lazing around doing nothing day, so I’ll get back at it.

The Fourteenth Day of May

Where in the world am I today?

Scheduled (and therefore wonderful) post number two by the world traveller herself.

If all is going well, today I am in Mykonos at the Kamari Hotel.  If all is not going well, I could be at the bottom of the Aegean Sea.  But nobody wants to hear something like that, so let’s assume I’m alive and well and had a fun birthday yesterday.  We will be in Mykonos for four glorious days.  How could the days be otherwise in a place like this?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:View_of_Mykonos_03.jpg photo credit Bernard Gagnon
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:View_of_Mykonos_03.jpg photo credit Bernard Gagnon

 

 

The Twelfth Day of May

Where in the world am I today?

Post scheduling is a wonderful thing. This is a scheduled post!  Therefore please go ahead and consider it wonderful.   If you haven’t heard of any horrendous plane crashes with Canadians aboard, today is my second day in Athens, Greece.

Did you know there are 60 places in the world called Athens?  Most of them are in the U.S., but you can also visit Athens in Brazil, Scotland, Portugal, Italy, Serbia, Cuba, Finland and Germany.  The world is a crazy place.  I’ve never been to Athens, Ontario, but I have been to Paris in my birthplace province.  It was a long time ago and I don’t remember it.  Sorry if you got excited there for a second.

Our flight was ten hours and three minutes on Sunday from Toronto to Athens.  I have no idea if I’m lying or not, because all this is actually in the future.  Imagine going so far away in just ten hours.  I imagine I said that to myself a lot on Sunday.  Or whatever day we’re currently experiencing.  Always wanted to time travel, and here I am.

Parthenon/Acropolis/Athens, Greece http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_temple
Parthenon/Acropolis/Athens, Greece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_temple