A Travellerspoint blog

Santorini

City among the clouds!

semi-overcast 77 °F

We arrived in Santorini in the afternoon, without anything booked, ready to bargain a room for the night.
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Hairy Scary part deux.

After haggling at the docks we decided on Villa Murano, located in Fira, the city center. It was an easy bargain as this is the end of the season and everyone is desperate for guests. We were able to work it out to 30 euro a night for a sunrise view, bathroom ensuite and pool…pretty nice. The downfall we realized was the lack of internet…thus the lack of blogs posted about our previous island experience.
That afternoon after getting lost a few times in the small curvy sidewalks of the city, we finally made it to the caldera…a steep mountain cliff formed from the explosion of the volcano in the center of the port. The city was everything you picture and see in movies and postcards, steep cliffs with houses (mainly hotels) perched ever so slightly on the mountainside.
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The beautiful city.

The views were amazing from atop the mountain. We decided to celebrate our arrival with beers at one of the many “Volcano View” bars. After spending a few days in Naxos we were used to paying almost nothing for everything and we were jump started back in to saving mode. We wanted to experience the city but made sure to notice our payments.
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Cheers!

That night we found a cute family run Greek restaurant in the city center that had two specials, moussaka in a clay pot and pork souvlaki…so we ate both. Santorini is known for its many vineyards on the island so we decided to try the house wine, and at a cool price of 4 euro per half liter, it would be rude not to. It was rather refreshing and knew that wine was ahead of us on the island. After dinner we decided to head to one of the many local bars, with wifi of course, to set up our next host in Lesvos. That finished the night and we were excited to get a nice rest in the hotel.
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Fixing hairy scary.

The next morning we decided to rent a car to venture out of the city and see the different beaches Santorini had to offer. The island boasts red, black, and white sand beaches in different areas. Toyota AYGO, manual transmission, jet black…with a little dust coating.
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AYGO, you go, we all go.

The car handled well and was a thrill to drive…it took me back to the days when I owned go-karts, that baby could turn on a dime. We filled it up just a quarter of a tank and it never budged the whole day after travelling to both ends of the island and back.
We first visited the red sand beaches formed by a cliff-side of red rock, obviously. Climbing to the beach down a small path of rocks reminded me of scenes from Total Recall as the Governator squirmed from lack of oxygen. As with other parts of the island the view was stunning and the beach was rather empty…other than the few banana hammocks worn by Europeans, obviously.
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Hey, they named the beach after me.

We were excited to see the black sands beach next and were getting hungry anyways and left soon after arriving. A quick stop at the supermarket for a lunch of bread, cheese, ham, and beer…just 8 bucks!! We enjoyed the meal in the comfort of our trunk then hit the beach for some fun in the sun…or haze as it was.
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And I thought I had a small car at home.

After chillaxing a while on the beach we decided to venture into wine country for a go at some tasting.
After multiple attempts down small roads and closed vineyards we gave up. Unfortunately most of the vineyards are only open during the high season. Our next visit was to the cliff-side city or Oia, pronounced ia. The city was a lovers paradise…marble walks, pristine villas, and the famous blue topped chapels seen in the postcards.
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Isn't it pretty...the city is also.

This also came with the unfortunate price tag associated with luxury. We watched the sunset over the city while eating dinner at a wonderful restaurant and then headed home.
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No tag needed.

This was an interesting drive to say the least…through the mountain tops with fog just beginning to roll in. The city was literally among the clouds. With the luxury of having a car we picked up some drinks for the hotel…Mythos beer and wine from Santorini…only 4 euro for 1.5 liters and oh so classy in its plastic bottle.
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Class, class, class...

After making it home safely we worked a little on the computer and went to bed. This little work while at the hotel and its moisture outside that night, is what we attribute the following day’s computer malfunctions to.
The next day we tried the computer and couldn’t get the monitor to come on, hence the frantic emails to brothers for any assistance and the delay of posting additional blog. In any case, we were able to use the phone for internet purposes and after waiting for hours the computer worked later that night.

As for the activities of the day, it was pretty light. We woke up late, returned the car, walked the city, got coffees, ate gelato and walked to Firostefani, 10 minutes up the mountain. Jen had the chance to relive “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” with a photo in the same spot as the movie.
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The movie.
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The movie star.

For dinner we had some fast food gyros, mainly because of the price, and headed back. As the trip to Santorini comes to an end we have really enjoyed taking the extra time on the island to relax a little and prepare us for the ferry back to Athens and the overnight to Lesvos. The last day we took it even slower…checking out that morning, enjoying beers atop the Caldera one last time as tour groups from cruise ships passed by…a standard we were used to seeing everyday…and one last meal of Greek appetizers, fried squid, and Greek salad. We still haven’t adjusted to the portion sizes in Greek restaurants…every time we order food we manage to have leftovers, and I thought we were heavy eaters. In any event, it left us with dinner for the ferry.
After a short ride to the port we boarded our ferry to Athens and this is where we leave you now. Our next blog will update our travels to Lesvos and abroad. Cheers!
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Posted by smart alec 23:52 Archived in Greece Comments (4)

Naxos...traditional Greece

Boat, bus, and beach

sunny 68 °F
View Surfing Europe on smart alec's travel map.

We last left off with the beginning of an exciting adventure in a big city…Athens. Now it was time for us to head to one of the few islands we would be visiting on our trip. The day started very early with an alarm @ 5:30…we gave us plenty of time to catch the ferry because we had to catch 3 metro trains and still purchase our tickets for the boat. Everything went as planned and an hour later we were on the boat headed for Naxos…the greenest and one of the largest of the Cycladian Islands.

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Get on the boat...

Once on board we found a nice spot on the top level and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise as we left Piraeus…the port city outside Athens. The ferry ride was quite fun as we passed smaller islands to the left and right of us…the weather on the other hand had dropped dramatically and was quite chilly with a heavy chop. We were able to catch up a little on our sleep and enjoyed a nice lunch of olives, bread, and some type of salami we had picked up the day before. We had only one stop before our island in the small island of Paros.

Five hours later we were arriving on Naxos and had just 45 minutes to catch the last bus to Apollon, the small fishing village where our host opened up his family hotel for couchsurfers.
This bus ride was more than exciting…if any of you have been on a trip through the mountains in a foreign country with a driver from that country, I’m sure you can relate. We have compiled this TOP TEN reasons you should definitely ride the bus to Apollon for your viewing pleasure.

TOP TEN Reasons You Should Definitely Ride the Bus to Apollon
10. The local lady on the bus who insisted on echoing the bus driver at every stop that we approached.
9. Having to stop for a herd of goats crossing the road.
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Local traffic jam...

8. The contrast between windmills that are centuries old and wind turbines that are brand spanking new.
7. The ability of the bus driver to smoke, talk on the cell phone, and steer the bus around hair pin turns at break neck speeds.
6. Missing local buildings and structures by mere inches at high speeds.
5. Watching school children, who weren’t as large as our backpacks, board and unboard the bus without any trouble.
4. Sitting with local senior citizens as they try to speak to you in Greek.
3. Watching old men pass by riding side saddle on their donkeys.
2. Hearing a large crash and realizing we had just struck a parked car.
1. Rounding the last valley, seeing the town below, and arriving a short time later to find ourselves alone on the beach in the Mediterranean…

That afternoon we met our host Christos, a native to Apollon who owned operated a beautiful hotel just a few steps from the beach, centered between the village and a steep cliff. He was an amazing host and even greater cook who prepared us two amazing meals while we were there. The time spent there was much different than that of Athens. Island life by nature is more relaxed and slow paced and we enjoyed this immensely. That afternoon we took a long nap after arriving and awoke for dinner with Christos and 4 other surfers, Birinise and Christoph from France, Popi from Athens, and Chrystal from Toronto… all who had come the last week and spent a few days there. After dinner we all watched a film and went to bed…we were especially tired and wanted to be well rested for exciting day of doing nothing on the beach the following day. We didn’t rise till about 11:30 the next day and immediately went to the beach…which was covered in stones, all sorts of sizes and colors.
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Paradise...

The temperature was a brisk 70 degrees with water temperatures around 68…just perfect for a swim. Yeah right! We were in for about 10 minutes after taking about a half hour just to build up the courage to enter. We couldn’t compete with the Canadian and her thick blood. After that we warmed up and went to town to enjoy a late lunch of grilled mackerel and sardines…delish. We also had our first try of ouzo…talk about hard to drink, it tastes like concentrated licorice with a strong kick…gave us both a chill at each sip and Alec coughing for a while. After that we walked around town again and then went to the Kouros...an ancient statue that had been carved out of the mountain.
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The big man!

Later we enjoyed our customary nap in the afternoon and had dinner again with everyone, meeting one of Christos’ friends Stuart from the UK…who was now a resident of Naxos. He was a great person to meet and really had fun talking to him about the history of Naxos and why it had changed over the years. He was a photographer currently studying the many terraces up and down the hillsides. We enjoyed a great film that night, “The Boat That Rocked”, a film about Radio Rock, the underground rock’n’roll station in the UK in the ‘60s. We said our goodbyes and went to bed afterwards to ready ourselves for the 6:50am bus ride back to Naxos town. The next day we took again the dreaded bus to Naxos and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise in the mountains. We were sad to leave Apollon and wish we could have stayed longer. It was nice to slow down for a little bit and just enjoy the view. We were excited though to head to Santorini today, the real reason why we had started this entire trip in Greece. Two hours later we were in Naxos town at the port with a few hours to kill. We walked pretty much the entire town and enjoyed a nice lunch on the coast.
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Atttempt two at jump photo...failed, we gave up

We were both lagging because of lack of sleep and were ready for the boat to get there so we could sleep some more. Once it arrived we boarded and headed straight to the padded seating upstairs and fell fast asleep…later we arrived in Santorini, the city on the Caldera. We will right more once we leave there…if you want to see where we have been be sure to check out our map through our profile.

Posted by smart alec 03:28 Archived in Greece Comments (5)

Athens...from above

Jet lag and history...was that two days or one? We can't tell.

semi-overcast 66 °F
View Surfing Europe on smart alec's travel map.

Well, the day finally made it here...destination Europe. With our bags packed we set out across the Atlantic to a whole new world...man that sounds cheesy. Let's be real, we were starting a great adventure, one to remember the rest of our lives, and we just hope it will all sink in some day. The first few days have had some challenges but nothing that hasn't worked out for the better.

We started at TPA for destination one, ATL, Hotlanta what? Originally our flight had lots of extra seats but since it was rather early there were those excited business men and women who love to catch the early flight so unfortunately we were bumped from plane number one. Missy had prepared for this, giving us a 3 hour layover in ATL and there were flights every hour there from TPA. Smooth sailing getting on and into ATL on the second flight. Our prayers were answered by the travel gods for our flight to Athens...Business Elite, rather posh.

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Yo yo yo it's DJs Red and Suga Duga

What an experience, actually sleeping on a plane...I guess enough free wine will calm any nerves about flying. Though I'm not sure how much sleep was going on with so many choices for movies and more food than any one person could eat.

Athens - Day 1

After 11 hours in air we finally made it to the playground of the Gods, Athinai. Quite possibly the easiest customs in the world, no questions just stamp and go. The metro into town was nice and our hosts were even nicer. We met Socrates, I know that's actually his name, and there dog Alma...Iliana was still at work when we got there around noon. Time for a quick nap and then off to Athens, we were staying about 30 minutes from the Acropolis by foot. The city was bustling with activity...typical of a large urban neighborhood and we were excited to finally be here. We decided to just take a quick look at the Acropolis and found out to our surprise...it was free today. On our way there Jen had her regular munchies and we decided to stop for some bread. What we got was a large crouton, as we called it...don't break your teeth. We had just an hour till closing so we double timed it to the top, what a view...watch your step. The wind was quite strong and Jen had a hell of time posing with her hair everywhere, hilarious.

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Hairy Scary

We couldn't believe we were standing among buildings that had been around for centuries. After the awe wore off...even though we still have moments where we can't believe it...we headed home before it got dark to enjoy the company of our hosts. We could smell the amazing food when we arrived and were excited to try traditional Greek fare. The meal consisted of beats, giant beans with feta, meat pie, bread, and soup...meatless though, thanks to alma who had eaten it while everyone was gone. A friend came over and we had beers to finish off the night...first day so far was great!!! It is quite troubling though...Greek is not the easiest of languages and it can be frustrating when you realize the dog understands it better than you do.

Athens - Day 2

The next day, after suffering from jet lag, we woke around 11:30. We were excited to visit the market today where Iliana works, a very old restaurant in Athens. We had breakfast/lunch there around noon. The place was a vegetarians worst nightmare, meat rack after meat rack with whole rabbits, goats, lambs, chickens, etc...and innards. We made it to the restaurant in the middle of the market and sat down for some traditional soup. One was lamb innards in a lemon sauce and the other was meatballs in a very lemony white sauce...the greeks sure do like there lemons. After purchasing some lamb for dinner from a butcher we walked across the street to the vegetable and olive market, mmm hmm. From there we traveled to Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guards, and some fancy footwork.

High Foot!

Then to the Temple of Apollo Zeus and Hadrian's Arch.

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Largest in Athens

After walking the south side of the Acropolis we were able to get in for free again for the last half hour and saw the Theatre of Dionysis, what a sight...sitting where ancient butts had sat before.

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Complete with cup holders and all.

Leaving there we finished walking around the Acropolis as the temperature dropped below 60 and headed home...stopping to get some snacks for the ferry tomorrow and a cheap bottle of wine (2.80euro) which was really good. Lamb for dinner and then a walk to a hip neighborhood on the east side of town, Exarchia...with lots of nice graffiti and not a bum to be found. Crepes and beer at the park and then the riot police surrounding the park...no worries, they were just practicing.

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Jen never passes up a sweet!

After walking back home with everyone, including alma and her new boyfriend she picked up at the park, we readied for another early day...heading to Naxos in the morning.

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Iliana, Socrates, and Alma...our couchsurfing hosts.

Posted by smart alec 15:15 Archived in Greece Comments (4)

Packing and Pre-Flight Check In

Adventures in cramming, packing, repacking, and packing again...oh and a few goodbyes in there as well.

sunny 88 °F
View Surfing Europe on smart alec's travel map.

So we last left off with us preparing to back our bags, apartment, and getting ready for a last day of work and a LEED Exam. After studying to the max I successfully passed and am now a LEED Green Associate, woo hoo. Jen finished her work at SCS, with a little bittersweet feelings, even though I can remember many nights after a stressful day reassuring her that she would make it through.

So on to stage one of packing...the apartment, ahhhhh. Many days were spent amongst the things. After two years in one place you realize that you have accumulated a lot of stuff.

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Wall o stuff!

We have dubbed this our new wall of stuff, thanks to Jerry moving in with us we were able to keep most things at the apartment. Living with him was interesting the last month, I'm not sure if he actually was ever there.

On to the good stuff, packing for our trip. After researching the past few months and making purchases, we settled on two bags for the trip. I myself am entrusting my things to the Gregory Z65, especially for its lumbar support. Jen on the other hand was more suitable to the Osprey brand and decided on the Aura 65, in the ever exciting color "Brown Sugar". Now that all the odds and ends were purchased, it was time to pack the suckers. This involved a few nights work, some great camera work by Jerry, a little infomercial fun, and print outs from a number of lists online, thanks Rick Steve.

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Does this bag make me look fat?

This task would have proved to be much easier had we not been travelling for 3 months and during some bitter cold months.

We decided to take a few days off from the hectic schedule and have a Celebration for Nan and meet with our family and friends for one last hoorah!

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The two days helped with the stress levels a bit other than a little mix-up with my wallet traveling to Clermont without me, thanks for driving halfway David. Now with everything settled we sat down to wrap up some last minute details for the trip...Eurail passes, shoes, and last minute packing.

As we went to purchase the most expensive piece for our travels, we realized to our distress that Global Passes could not be printed from online and must be mailed two days prior to departure, what day was it? Monday...leaving on Wednesday, oh crap! What time was it? 9pm, oh crap we can't call till tomorrow. Needless to say there wasn't much sleep that night, between the packing that had to continue and the minor panic attacks in between. Be it the busyness of the last week of parties or two weeks of packing...we are to blame, don't trust a website that ensures tickets can be printed online, not mentioning that one ticket meets that criteria and none of the other 15 or so.

After we finally spoke to the company the next morning they told us that it could be shipped to us in Athens and would arrive the same day as we did, glad to have that taken care of.

The night before we left we had some dinner with the rents and guess what? more packing...off to Europe the next morning!

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Is that Everything?

Till next time...

Cheers

Posted by smart alec 05:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Leaving on a jet plane

So....time is ticking down. One more day of work and one LEED accreditation exam stand in our way. Then it is time to pack and plan and pack some more. We are excited to see what the future holds, but a little sad to wrap things up in Tampa. This time next week we will be on a jet plane headed for Athens!!!

Can't wait to start our adventures and to share them all with you!

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Alec studying hard

Posted by smart alec 19:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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