Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Carpe Diem…

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September 6

We woke up with two plans today. Black sand beach in the morning followed by a sunset cruise around the Caldera in the evening. We had our lovely poolside breakfast and grabbed the first shuttle out. The Parissa beach is entirely made of black volcanic stones (hot as asphalt) and the clearest, calm blue waters ever. We lounged about in a couple of long chairs under the palm fronds of an umbrella, relaxing and reading to the soundtrack of the breeze and the small waves gurgling through stones. Very nice, if you ask me.

After a few hours, we grabbed the shuttle back in time for our ride to the port. What are the chances. Our boat maties were another lady couple wrapping up their honeymoon. Of course we hit it off right away. Add to that they’re from brussels, one of our favorite places, and we had a blast.

The catamaran sail boat (named “Carpe Diem”) took us all around the caldera (the old volcano that made those black beaches… the red beaches and white beaches and made the wine taste so good). It’s probably the worst/best thing that could have happened there. We saw the largest lighthouse on the island, those aforementioned beaches, high cliffs with endless white-washed buildings. Then we pulled into a small inlet where we swam in the icey, then jaccuzzi waters of a volcanic hot spring. The rocks were midnight black and the waters hot, orange and very much sulfur. You could smell it and see the rust forming on your skin and bathing suit. It was incredible (not to wash off). .

After boarding again, we rode around to see where a hermit lives on the island. He believes he owns it. He and his goat, dog and apparently, cell phone. I can’t imagine how he pays his bills. The dinner bell sounded and we were invited to the dinner table for a feast. They grilled right on the boat: pork chops, sausages, fresh pita bread, grilled feta, salad, homemade tatziki and eggplant dip. The works. We toasted with wine and with our new friends and ate everything. Gluttony at it’s finest.

After dinner, we returned to the front of the boat and watched the sun set orange and lavender across the endless sky and the mountainous islands strewn across those waters. A truly spectacular sight.

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Happy birthday in Exo Gonia

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September 5

I turned 31 today. 30 was a year full of wonderful, but starting off 31 in Greece AND with my new wife was pretty darn awesome.

I sleep with a mouthguard to prevent grinding, because I am a masochist and work in advertising. Jaime woke me with a big hug and proudly presented me with a cute card of a dog missing its dentures. “I wuv thist” I said through the plastic.

We started the day with an in-room breakfast. A feta and tomato omlette, fresh pastries and a whole pot of delicious coffee. We agreed to take the 11 am shuttle to the island of Fira.. then take the day organically.

We perused the shops specializing in glass work, figures of porcelain and tourist shit and wriggled through the narrow streets, snapping photos like paparazzi; the angles, shapes, views and colors could not be captured as we saw with our eyes, so we blinked hard and saved the memory.

We continued to wander through the labyrinth of stone streets until we hit the top of the donkey trails. The asses, though very cute, stunk like hell. We opted out of the ride and instead took pictures in their direct path. Jaime was nearly trampled. I have a photo to prove it.

After our donkey photo session, we ventured up to a taverna which clung to the edge of the cliff. We got a seat with one of the better views and ordered some lunch. I had the spanikopita and Jaime a fresh fish with a sweet grill. This time she deboned herself (sans the teeth)… even pretended to swallow a bone at which I played along and said I did see something protruding from her esophagus. Aren’t we cute.

After lunch we wandered back through the streets, raced past the creepy guy trying to sell us wine and cheese and slowed to a casual pace to catch the 2:15 (pronounced here as “two-fifty”) shuttle.

We returned to the room and rested for a bit. The heat and climbing hills take the juice out of you.

Refreshed, we headed over to see Demetria and do some grape stomping.  What was it like? Awesome.  The grapes tickled my feet. The family takes the process quite seriously – they even have a system where they stomp for so many minutes and then rotate the grapes. They were very kind and welcoming, though… even let us try the fresh stomped juice. I declined because I am not that cool. Jaime said it was delicious however. (This particular bottle of Vincento wine will be out in 2017. ‘It’s shake-n-bake and I helped’). Demetria comped us a couple of tastes for our labour and then we were on our way.

For dinner, we dressed nice and took a taxi to MetaxeMas in Exo Gonia (the place recommended to us by the man with the photo store). The taxi dropped us off in a parking lot next to a church. There was nothing else around for at least. .25 miles. Jaime noticed a wall painted to read “taverna” and shepherded me down the stone road to the taverna entrance.

We sat at the edge of the cliff – overlooking the village, the mountains, the distant ocean and the Caldera. The sun and moon were trading places in the periwinkle sky and Jaime and I were speechless.

The waiter brought us some Raki, bread, green olives and fresh greek gruyere cheese. Jaime and left the olives for the gods and enjoyed the rest.

For apps, we shared the sesame crusted fried gruyere and the baked eggplant with tomato sauce and feta. Amazing. For dinner I had pork tenderloin with feta creme sauce and rice pilaf while Jaime enjoyed the pork ribs and potatoes dripping with a honey-orange sauce.

When I asked for the bill, the waiter said “No. You have dessert, then you can go.” (Jaime had told him it was my birthday). He returned within minutes with two tiny portions of the fluffiest strawberry cheesecake and some cinnamon-honey homemade Raki. What a treat!

Our taxi on the drive back took us through the pitch dark back roads and talked on his cellphone. It was so fun! I had one hand on the door handle and another on my seatbelt the entire 8 min. We got to the hotel safely and in time for the church bell to ring 10 times. Jaime smiled.

In the room was the most beautiful vanilla cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate icing. She got me a cake! They gave us two serving spoons (awesome) and when I blew out my candle I wished I would never take for granted how lucky I am.

Arctic Char?

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September 4

After our ferry rocky arrival in santorini (puny no?), we made it to the wildly hectic port where tourists heaved bags and attitudes every which way and locals kept offering their rooms to let. Our driver picked us up and took us through wine country and across endless dry fields to the tiny village of megalachori where our hotel was. The village still maintained its authenticity as we were probably the only commercial entity for miles. The hotel blended in with its volcanic rock walls, some white-washed, and cavernous rooms. The tunnel like shape of every room kept it naturally insulated. Its the method they’ve built for wine storage but later realized it kept an even temp for living in such extreme heat or cold winters. The wine bar is in a 400 year old wine cave and the restaurant is medieval, dark and only lit by torches and candles. The rooftop pool overlooks an old church clock tower that chimes every ten minutes or so and the grounds host dark metal sculpture work, the one out our bedroom window is made of old boat parts reconstructed haphazardly.  We were welcomed in with a glass of local sparkling wine and a grand tour. Our room is completely white with hints of volcanic rock peaking through. The floors she tells us are made of sand painted over. Each window is a dark blue shutter with ancient facets and handles. From each you could look out to our terrace or bouganvilia flowers creeping past pomegranate trees full of fruit.

We get settled in and spend the day poolside reading, hearing faint sounds of a dog, sometimes a confused rooster and the ever-persistent clock bell.

After a few chapters and hours we decide to explore the village with its narrow stone paths, quintessential white domed or squared house with blue doors, bell towers and churches. At the top of a hill we could see the mountains in the distance and those fields of grape vines. They train the vines into low wreathes on the ground instead of across trellis because of the high winds. Even the cherry tomato plants look like tiny half dead bushes on the dry sand. But the fruit is ripe and sweeter than anything. We discover a family winery. Gavales winery is 5 generations family run and their method hasn’t changed. The building is over 300 years old. We see grapes laying across the grounds drying for what the daughter Gavales tells us is the method for making the famous vincanto sweet wine. Dimitria gives us tastes of most varieties and tells us they are stomping grapes tomorrow. We could help. Of course we will.

We leave and discover some small art shop. The owner tells us about his work. I, as always, get dinner recommendations. Ill save that for Kate’s birthday.

We go to Rake for dinner right by the clock tower. Its simple taverna tables are shaded by a trellis with pink bouganvilia vines twisting around it. Above that is a giant tree filled with chatty finches. The table next to us has a group of old men gossiping about whatever. Their wives pass by with the children rolling their eyes and hollering across the square. Another group of older kids run and play hide and seek up and down stairs and around the houses.  Its more than local. We order the special. The waiter says what it is. Kate repeats “arctic char?” The waiter “yes”.  We start with the most fantastic eggplant salad made with their white, sweeter eggplants and then dinner arrives. “Where’s the fish?” “I don’t know”  “ohhhh” “artichoke”  “ohhhh” it was delicious anyway. We’re bound to lose some things in translation. It was a perfect start to our days in santorini.

The restroom on the ferry to Santorini

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A lot happened today.

We’ll start with the most fantastic sunrise. We both slept nervous the night prior…fretting that we would oversleep and miss the boat. Literally. We woke just a few minutes before the sun stretched it’s coral red beams out from Spinalonga.

Jaime ordered coffee sans bread. They brought coffee with 4 mini chocolate chip cookies. I saved those for the boat ride.

Our taxi driver was a nice man…57 and eager to get his pension so that he may have more time to enjoy his garden. He took us up through the winding backroads at 85 mph. He too drove a Mercedes.  The views were spectacular…we saw goats and sheep and even some grapes. He explained to Jaime how much he loved to garden. Jaime bragged about her cucumbers and he told her to try them with some salt and a drink of liquor I could not pronounce. He explained that with the right crops and animals, you could survive just fine. And then I realized… there were no supermarkets or targets/walmarts. Life is so simple here and people are happy.

We got to the ferry 45 min early, which gave us ample time to get our tickets, find our seats, use the restroom and fight with a lady (very rude ) over our seat. I won the fight. Jaime was in the bathroom. The woman’s husband convinced her she wasn’t reading her ticket correctly. She did not apologize.

In the final stretch of the ferry ride – when the wake was at it’s highest and we had been airborne about twice, I decided that I really needed to use the restroom. I expressed my love to Jaime, grabbed the metal handle and hoisted myself into the pinball machine. There was a handle on every other row, so I recalled my learnings from gym class with Mr Kensy and flung myself from row to row as if I were on vertical monkey bars. This was amusing to both myself and other passengers until I hit the peukers in the back. I held my breath, put my hands to my sides and cried “WC?” to the man behind the stale doughnut counter. He pointed to a metal wall draped with sick passengers. I frowned and flung myself in that direction.

The door was a push which is just dumb. I understand the safety rationale, but when you’re on a ferry in 5′ waves… well – you turn the handle, fly in, bash against an occupied stall door and then bash in the other direction into the sink counter only to get your shorts wet with what you pray is water.

I entered the stall. The seat was up. There was a “brace-yourself bar” on the right. There was pee on the floor. What happened next can only be reenacted… but I am sure all of the angels and saints in heaven laughed their asses off.

I made it out clean and safe, ping-ponged my way past the peukers and into my seat. Jaime was laughing when I returned – I suspect she had been laughing the entire time.

We arrived to our hotel around 1. We will tell you about it – and of our trip to Fira – tomorrow.

Spinalonga and the hanging drawers

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I was woken around 8:30 to the glorious sunlight bursting into the room. Jaime had ordered us breakfast which would be arriving in moments. I covered my face in blankets and waited until she called for me outside.

Breakfast was amazing – delicious coffee with fresh creme, fresh fruit, warm pastries and enough bread of four varieties to feed our entire floor.

We ate outside and gazed out to Spinalonga Island cradled in the gulf of Elounda. We would visit there in just over one hour.

We took a 29 Euro half mile speedboat ride to Spinalonga. The water was so crystal clear ice blue that I longed to jump off and swim. The gentleman docked us and we hopped on to the island which to our dismay was oozing with tourists waiting for their guide to start. We got our tickets and rushed past them and up. We went all the way to the top where the wind yanked our clothes nearly off. The views were incredible. Every angle was a photo opp. The island itself is peaceful, but sad. This was a refuge for people with leprosy. We could not imagine how they must have felt… under the hot sun with no coverage – surrounded by salt water. There are remains of their small town, what’s left of homes, probably a post office, wood burning stoves and before that, an ancient Venetian fortress. We have a perfect view of the whole island from our fancy private terrace and pool. We spent over an hour climbing around the stones and through tunnels.  Would you believe wild onions were growing in the desert-like sand and gravel. It made me miss my garden. I thought of how I might prepare them then. though picking onions from leprosy island might not be the best idea.

Zeus and homer gave us a lift to Plaka, a tiny old fishing town near the resort. Since all the men here look like greek gods or part of some epic- not to mention one of course had a tattoo of posseidon – I named them as such. Plaka was about a minute big. You could see all of it and the walk back would take more time. But it was charming. Little shops and fish restaurants haggling you to eat there. Zeus recommended giorgios so we went there. Kate tried to order the sword fish but the waiter said “you don’t want. It’s frozen. You have Dorado. Fresh today.” We both got the Dorado. A whole fish a piece that was cleaned by a sailer who travelled the seas of the whole world. It came with potatoes and zucchini. It was the best meal we’ve had in so long. The most simply spectacular grilled fish ever. We ate everything while sitting on the water overlooking our newly conquered island and the boats that catches our meal. Kate mistakenly shared with a tiny stray kitty who then wouldn’t leave her side.  It was perfect. Sometimes you have to trust the source. We thanked them and complimented the chef who sent us a plate of watermelon in gratitude. We’ve had more desserts on the house this week then I can count. I don’t know if it’s because they want to feed us or if they’re just not used to such gracious american tourists. Probably the latter. The rest of the day was spent poolside, had a midday ice cream because we could and dinner at the italian restaurant at the resort. Did we mention they sent champagne and nibbles to the room? We still haven’t fished the fruit bowl and ouzo from yesterday. Though, we didn’t touch the ouzo. Ick.  Licorice.

Tomorrow is already here. Im thinking beach and spa day. Maybe another Dorado. 

Wait! Jaime forgot the funny story! So I did some wash…underwear and some tanks…and lain it outside to dry. When we were walking back from lunch, the wind picked up and I worried it may all be in the neighbors pool. It was not. Instead it was strewn all about the outdoor furniture like Christmas decorations. Apparently the cleaning staff wanted to ensure it was dry by our return. Emotion = mortified.

More soon!

About Crete

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We woke to our 6:40 wakeup call, chugged some coffee, hustled out of the hotel grande bretagne and into a taxi to the airport in Athens. We decided to take a cab vs. The metro… didn’t want to deal with the commuting rush hour. The ride was nice…got to see the changing of the guards and some really awesome sculptures. 

A 45 min plane ride and we were in majestic crete. We collected our bags and hailed a Mercedes cab. An hour drive into the island and we were at the resort. Holy crap. Words can’t describe it … so here are some pictures.

Tomorrow we check out the village and neighboring island, spinalonga

Day 1

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We had a very awesome first day. We woke to a march at 11:34. Slept 12. Jaime got us coffee and we walked 20 min to the Acropolis.  It was incredible to see the work from over two thousand years. Athena was nowhere to be found. But we saw plenty of columns, street performers and the most spectacular view of the city.

Afterwards we walked around the Plaka. We bought some souvenirs including two more pieces for my car collection. Then I lost my mind from hunger. We ate at a nice place. Had eggplant dip with warm pita for an app. Then I ordered the Moussaka and Jaime had a souvlaki mix…chicken, beef and sausage. She gave me the sausage.

After lunch we wandered into a rug shop. Jaime had spotted a pillow case she liked. The owners took to us. Asked us about our lives, gave us wine and showed us 15 floor rugs…each with a different story. Susie (owner) had us pegged. Jaime would say “how much” then “no”  kate would say “but it’s so pretty” and “it’ll go great in your office.”  Sue “squeezed lemons” for us with her calculator and we left 20 minutes later with two glasses of wine, a rug, a pillow case wrapped like a handbag in ductape by herkules and a recommendation for Theo’s aunt’s taverna for dinner.  From there we walked past the seedy flea market, the ancient agora and back to the hotel pool for a quick and needed frozen rooftop dip. Now for showers and dinner with Theo’s aunt and maybe a glass of grappa in thissio. I probably spelled everything wrong. Meh. Happy honeymoon day 1. Tomorrow off to Crete. Weeee.

Ps. Jaime hijacked my post… can you tell?

PPS. No toilet seats in public restrooms. Squat or you’re screwed

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