Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Home again

Well, we made it home safe and sound but not without issues.

The biggest one being that after getting to the airport (thankfully, after!) the clouds covered Athens and it DOWN-POURED! I'm talking in sheets. The sky darkened and we just couldn't believe the change in weather. The last two weeks have been hot and sunny with blue skies and on the day we leave, downpour. Our flight was delayed two hours because of the rain. We weren't thrilled but what else could we do.

Once we boarded we were told the flight would be 10.5 hours - and it did. Thankfully though it went quite quickly (for me anyway - I watched three movies).

We had arranged a ride home through a drive service before we left so we found our ride and got home around 8pm (3am Greece time). Seeing as we'd been up since 6:30am Greece time, we were pretty exhausted. We grabbed food (customary sub sandwich, lol - funny because after overseas adventures, we (me) always ends up getting a sub upon return), showered and crawled into our SUPER comfy, cool, soft, clean, OWN bed. Oh how I missed it! I was up at 6:30am this morning regardless.

We're now home having done some unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping and picking up our kitty and just trying to stay awake until bed time so that we can get back into routine as soon as possible.

Once I get some pictures uploaded, I'll post the link here.

Thank you for following our adventure!!

I'm glad to be home safe and sound and with loads of great memories :)

Amanda xo

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Adio Greece: thanks for the memories

It was another hotter than hell kind of night for me - I'm tired of it. Only one more to go. Tomorrow night I'll be in my own bed! H urray!

We got up and going this morning a little later than usual, leaving around 9:30am to the Acropolis bus stop to catch the hop on, hop off bus that would take us to the Parliment building. I had been told a couple of times by different folks that the changing of the guard on Sundays at 11am is quite the sight to see, so that was our morning mission. We arrived early and found a spot along the rope that outlined where we could stand. We were in the sun, which wasn't ideal but had a good view. The soldiers protecting the parliment building and the prime minister's home are from an elite military class which requires special training, character and even height! It reminded me of the Swiss Guards at the Vatican. They have 3 one hour shifts in a 48 hour period where they have to stand super still outside of the parliment or PMs house. Tourists pose beside them and try to get them to move (within reason) but all these guys do is blink! 

Two of the guards stand outside together, watching over the tomb of the unknown soldier (at parliment building) and they change guards every hour on the hour. On Sundays and special occasions, the changing of the guard is a bigger deal. A band played, a whole lot of soliders marched and they all wore matching ceremonial uniforms (that take ages to make!). They also moved in synchronization; the two at the tomb moved very slowly to regain their circulation after standing still for an hour. The whole process was really neat to see.

After that we hopped on the bus for the  audio tour of Athens - it was a bit of a bad idea as we sat up top on the bus in the sun and heat, but we learned about different sites and areas in Athens which was neat to know, especially after wandering around quite a few of them over the last few days. We managed for awhile and then got off at a square to find some food. We had kebabs (beef and lamb mix) in a pita - very yummy. We then wandered through the area of Plaka which was really touristy. Aside from the ancient sites, most of the areas we came across were really geared to tourists - lots and lots of shops and restaurants, essentially all offering the same stuff. 

We found our customary trip magnet and then found the bus to go home.

We showered and prepared our bags for our trip to the subway and airport tomorrow.

We haven't seen much of Evita, preferring to be on our own. We've just hung out in our room for a few hours with our feet up. At times our schedule and Evita's are totally opposite and we don't see each other for more than a brief interaction. She's nice, no problem there. We realized we made the goof when booking the room, that it was a private room and not private apartment. Whoops. Lesson learned. It hasn't been so bad. The biggest downfall is the heat, the being confined to our room for privacy, having hushed conversations, and sneaking around in the morning to be quiet. 

We left to find dinner at "God's Restaurant" (LOL). It was about a 20 minute walk from our place. We found it and enjoyed our last dinner in Greece. We shared bread and tzatziki and then I had  moussaka (delicious) and Jeff had beef with orzo pasta (it looked like thick rice pieces - he said it was good). The service was good, the food was good, the atmosphere was lovely as we sat out at a table outside (as is typical). On the walk back, I had a very lovely sensory experience - it was dusk and we had full bellies of Greek food, there were children playing games outside, Greek women having conversation, couple's holding hands, a guy putting on a marionette show to a crowd, musicians playing for money, vendors selling wares and the Acropolis lit up for the night on our right. It was all the Greek I could take in all at once and it was perfect.

We're now back to our place to pack so we're ready to go first thing in the morning.

We're ready to go home, despite having had a great vacation. 

Next I write will be to inform that we've made it home safe and sound.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to journey with me on another adventure as I Holler Around the World.

Ciao for now.

Amanda xox 

Saturday, September 19, 2015


So, last night's sleep was hot again. I can't wait to be back in my own bed, in my own room, where I can control the thermostat so it's at my exact comfort level. Jeff has a sweat/cool fabric that you can wear on your head or around your neck. I keep drenching it in cool water and then move it from body part to body part throughout the night; it seems to help but isn't the ideal solution.

We got up a little later today than yesterdy. We grabbed a banana and a croissant from Evita's kitchen and headed out to the grocery store to get more water. We then headed to the entrance to the Acropolis as that's where the hop on, hop off buses were. We each got a ticket that would last us two days on the bus. The bus offers a 90 minute audio guide tour around Athens as well as the option to get on and off as often as you like (at designated spots).

We started at the Temple of Zeus. More columns and ancient stone - pretty amazing really. We didn't have a guide or anything so we kind of made it up or guessed the best we could as we went along. I had Jeff pose as if he was throwing a lightening bolt, lol. He's a good sport. We then saw Hadrian's arch (a big arch...lol) - he essentially gave a lot of money and wealth to the city (thus became the emperor) and he was worshipped as a "coequal" to Zeus - must've been some guy to be worshipped alongside a god.

We then took the bus past the parliment building and prime minister's home - most bautiful street in Athens. It was lovely! Bautiful upscale homes (apartment buildings) and trees, gardens. We'll go back tomorrow.

We got off at the Panathenaic Stadium (over 2500 years old but renovated in 1869) where the first modern day Olympics were held numerous times since 1896, most recently for 2004 summer Olympics. It was big!! I can't imagine how many people it could hold. Let me Google it - wikipedia says it could initially hold 80,000 people but now can hold 45,000 - I wonder why the decline?

We then took the bus to Monastiraki square as Jeff wanted to have gyros from the 'best/oldest place in town' - they were good but to me didn't taste any different than anywhere else. We wandered through the tourist area that had lots of shops flogging their wares. We still need a magnet for our collection. I guess that will be tonight or tomorrow's goal!

While passing a shop, I said hello in Greek ("yasius") and  the shop girl continued on in Greek. I laughed and said I spoke English. She was so impressed, shaking my hand and saying I had the tounge for the language. I said a couple of other things and she waved me off laughing, impressed. Perhaps I should be picking up a second language... I doubt it will be Greek. Better return to my Spanish.

We stopped at the Hardrock Cafe (they're everywhere!) for a drink - Jeff had a beer and I had a delicious fruit smoothie. The air conditioning was glorious. We were able to cool down and use the restroom before continuing on. 

We walked (unknowingly) to the area of Ancient Agora - essentially ancient Athens below the Acropolis (ancient hill) and decided to wander through. It was  so hot so we kept to the shade as much as possible. The ruins were neat, if not nearly indecipherable... It's challenging to see rock and stone that is 2000+ years old and try to conceptualize what it might have looked like. Eventually it all starts looking the same, but we could appreciate how old it was and the history attached. We saw a church (that in the grand scheme of things was quite young) that had original wall paintings. We also saw a temple that is the best preserved in Athens (especially compared to the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus) - most columns were in tact as well as the roof. It was neat.

One of the things we've noticed while touring through ancient sites are the number of 'security' guards (actually, whistle blowers, literally) that have to tell people not to touch anything. Today we saw some people place a minion toy on an ancient stone ledge thing and boy did they get told off! How hard is it, people?? Don't touch the ancient stuff! Every time we heard a whistle blow we knew someone had touched something, lol. 

We were close to home so walked back, picked up some more water, as well as  juice and chocolate milk (I hadn't had milk in nearly 2 weeks - it was good!).

We got back about 3:30pm. We showered and laid down for a bit. It was siesta time afterall. Jeff fell asleep despite himself (he said he wan't tired and then started snoring). I really do believe the heat and walking takes a toll on us. 

We left for dinner around 6:30pm. We didn't know where to go and ended up at a restaurant I had seen on our Athens map. The food sounded delicious but it was also crazy expensive (I should have known). We ordered appetizers and left (and it was still stupid expensive). We ended up getting gyros on the way back to our place. I don't even know how many gyros we've had at this point. It sure is a lot. It's been such an easy and cheap default meal.

We sat outside for a bit on a pedestrian road as there were a ton of vendors out selling their products (mostly jewelry and art) and an African band playing the drums. It was quite the scene - the two of us eating gyros, observing the Parthenon all lit up beautifully, listening to an African band and people watching (with little English heard). Jeff had a bit of a bellyache so we headed back to our place for about 9pm.

Tomorrow is the last day of our trip. We have a couple of ideas for things to do which we're looking forward to - seeing the change of guard (special on Sundays) at parliment, and taking the athens bus tour with audio guide. We also have to find our trip magnet! And possibly eat more gelato... lol.

For now, it's R&R before bed (another hot night I think, urgh and the dog down the road won't stop barking!). Can't wait to get home to my own home and my own bed.


Amanda xo

Friday, September 18, 2015


After a sweaty night's sleep (for me anyway - Jeff seemed to do okay), we got up and going to the Acropolis (essentially a big hill with ancient buildings) before it got too hot out. It isn't that far away (10-15 minutes?) from where we are staying but anything uphill or in the sun (which it is both) is tough. We were there by 9am (it opened at 8am) which seemed to be a good time because by 10am the crowds were really flying in. We toured around on our own, taking in the wonder in architecture and art from over 2000 years ago. We were awed by the size and the work that would have had to have gone in to build the various buildings, such as the famous Parthenon (which was built as a temple for Zeus's daughter, Athena - which Athens is named after). Did you know that the story goes that Zeus swallowed Athena's mother, Metis, when she was pregnant, and then he had his head axed open and his daughter, Athena essentially jumped put of him fully armed for battle? I had no idea that was her birth story! 

We toured around the Acropolis for an hour and then to a couple of ancient outdoor theaters where dramas were performed to the mass of 17,000 people. That was really a neat site to see. We even got to sit on the stone seats - imagine how many people have sat there over thousands of years - pretty amazing. The other theater is still used today!

Side note - we have seen so many dogs lying all over the place, presumably trying to keep cool. They're everywhere and appear quite uninterested in the people walking by. We've also seen lots of cats; one was waiting outside of the grocery store meowing at people, lol. Smart kitty!

We've also seen our fair share of street people (including children - often playing instruments), all asking for money and looking worse for wear. It breaks my heart. It's everywhere.

To cool off, we went to the Acropolis museum. We watched a short video about the Parthenon which helped us understand how it was built and the art/sculptures that can be seen there. It was interesting and helped us appreciate what we were seeing.

After the museum we ended up in tourist town (the area of Plaka) without planning on it. We needed food and water (already having consumed a litre each this morning) and paid astromical amounts for both (although comparable to home). Yesterday, 2 gyros cost 3.80€ in our neighbourhood and today, nearly 8€ because of where we were. Urgh! When you're desperate though, you'll suck it up.

We got back to Evita's around 2pm and Jeff had a nap while I wrote blog entries and put my feet up. My feet have been sore and swollen for days now. Walking around is losing it's appeal. We're pretty much always tired and hot.

We showered and prepared for dinner, leaving around 6pm. We opted to try a restaurant we learned about on tripadvisor. It was a bit of a walk but at that time of day, the weather was much more manageable. It took about 20 minutes to get there. Jeff had the directions all mapped out so it was a piece of cake. The walk was through town - comparable to many down town areas we've seen (lots of shops, kiosks, restaurants, fast food, even a "euro store" like a "dollar store"). There continues to be graffiti everywhere - some of it just tags and others quite elaborate. The restaurant was a deli - selling loads of different deli meats. We were lucky to get a table as it appeared that people had reservations. We sat right in front of the deli counter at a small table.  We were given some shaved deli meat and cheese to try (cheese was strong!) and then some bread. Jeff had a beef with peppers and potato dish (he said it was "so tasy") and I had mini sausages with Greek yogurt, mustard, tomato, and pita. It was all good. On the way back to our hotel, I had a chocolate mousse cup from a bakery (delicious!).

We were back in our room at 8:30pm and have been reading and watching youtube. I'm tired. I have a huge blister on my foot, which really hurts. I've done some "surgery"' lol, and have wrapped it up with polysporin in hopes that it will feel better tomorrow.

Tomorrow's plan is to take the 'hop on, hop off' bus tour so we learn more about Athens and see some more sights (without having to walk eveyrwhere in the heat). 

I'm hoping tonight isn't as hot as last night, but I'm sure it will be. Ah well. We're trying to stay positive.

Ciao for now. 

Amanda xo

Arrival: Athens

Yesterday was the first day that I didn't want to/was too tired to write a blog entry. It wasn't a fabulous day.

The day started at 4:30am and without breakfast (our choice but we couldn't muster an appetite so early). Our bus to the airport picked us up at 5am and despite stopping at a few other hotels to pick up guests, we were still at the airport for 5:17am. We located our Oshawa friends and chatted with them while waiting to board. There were no seats available at the boarding gate so had to stand (not the end of the world but a little annoying).

Our flight was only 35 minutes long (shortest one I've been on, I think, other than a flight at Buttonville airport when I was a girlguide) and they still managed to get everyone a chocolate croissant (that was good although came in an aluminum package that said "7 days", lol).

We arrived to Athens just after 7am. We couldn't check in to our next place until noon and we had all our luggage with us so we killed time at Cafe in the airport. It was a long few hours. We looked over the Athens map to plan our next few days and Jeff had a Greek coffee (it was way too strong - he had just wanted a regular coffee). 

We left the airport at 11:30am to go to the subway station. We took the subway quite a ways and then walked a fair bit to the new place; it definitely is in a residential type area. There are lots of apartment buildings, although no more than about  10 floors at most.

We met Evita, our host.  We learned she is also staying in the apartment with us (it's her home). We weren't expecting that. We thought we rented her apartment privately. We were disappointed because we really would have preferred our  own space and privacy to hangout (our only private space is the bedroom - not comfortable to sit).  Evita is very nice though; we just were planning on something different. Not how we wanted to end our trip. We are trying to make the best of it. 

We had a nap as we were hot and pooped, then went exploring. We didn't get too far as it was too hot out.

We found food and water, both of which we needed badly.

We headed back to Evita's and chatted with her for quite some time (maybe a couple of hours?). I showed her pictures of home and the snow we had in February. 

We went out to find dinner and stopped at a burger place we had seen on the way to Evita's. It was cheap and good.

We got lost on our way back from dinner (in the dark) and being so tired and sore made being lost really unpleasant, but we made it.

We then went to bed after watching a Seinfeld episode on our ipad. The traffic outside was super loud and it was so hot that I had a really crummy sleep. I kept a cool cloth on me throughout the night to help.

Yesterday was the first day I really wanted to go home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Adio islands!

Today went by really quickly; our best guess is because it was our last island day before heading back to Athens (which means we're nearing the end of our holiday).

We started the day with breakfast - as usual there was lots to choose from and so we filled our bellies easily. We then prepared to go to one of the unique beaches on the island. We had a hard deciding which one to go to as they all sounded neat. We opted to go to the beach in "Perissa" as it had black sand! 

The bus ride to the beach took about an hour; although it was long, we got to see more of the island and some small towns. I told Jeff it was a cheap tour, lol. 

The sand and pebbles/rocks at Perissa beach were dark due to the volcanic nature of the area. Neither of us had ever seen a black beach before and it was really something!! Leading into the water the ground turned from sand to pebbled and the coloured pebbles really stood out against the black ones. We rented a couple of beach chairs and umbrella at a restaurant and spent the day there. We read our books quietly and occasionally went swimming to cool down.  Jeff said there were fish that were biting his feet when he set them down - he said it felt like last night's fish spa adventure. It kind of creeped me out (I mean, last night was in a controlled space, free ocean is freaky) so I got out promptly after ensuring my feet didn't touch the ground. I'm about done with sun bathing this vaction - too hot - so I found comfort in the shade for the day. We ordered lunch on the beach and around 4:30pm we grabbed the bus to head back to our hotel. This time it only took 20 minutes; must've been an express bus or something.

We stopped for a bubble tea and an iced coffee (very popular here) on our walk to our hotel. 

Side note - the driving here is crazy! Stop signs are only suggestions, buses can fit into nearly any tight space, and apparently a road appearing for one way traffic can fit both. Not everyone wears helmuts on motorcycles and honking is the fastest way to communicate all sorts of things. I forgot to mention yesterday that we witnessed our bus driver throw eggs onto parked car windshields to (presumably) show his annoyance that they were parked where they shouldn't have been, making his driving the big bus harder. It was pretty funny. I wonder what the car drivers would have thought to return to egg that had cooked on their windshield in the heat!

We stopped at a little restaurant (a "taverna") for dinner; nothing fancy. We both got pasta plates. I wasn't feeling Greek tonight, so Italian it was! It was good, if not rather simple. Jeff grabbed a gyro on the walk back to the hotel for some meat.

I've had more compliments on my Greek accent today. I'm slowly learning more words and have impressed some locals. I think they enjoy helping me.

It's nearly 8:30pm and we're back in our hotel room. We've got to pack our bags as we have to be up and ready for the bus to the airport for 5am - urgh! 

It'll be an early night so we can be up and going around 4:30am - only 8 hours from now. Ewww.

Next you hear from me will be when we're back on the mainland.

Have a good afternoon!

Amanda xo

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another long and enjoyable day!

We were up at 7:30am to prepare for our hike from Fira to Oia.  At 8am we grabbed breakfast at the hotel's "breakfast room" which just so happens to be located right beside our room. Breakfast surprised us as Jeff had read some crummy reviews; it had a ton of stuff!! Pre-made omelets, french toast, something deep fried that Jeff said tasted like stuffing, cereal, yogurt, toast, pastries, hot dog weiners, bacon...plus juice, coffee, cappuncino. There was no shortage of options to fill our bellies. We didn't have too much though as we were heading right out for our hike. 

We left the hotel about 8:30am and made our way to the path that would take us to Oia. The hike took 3 hours and we were sweaty messes, despite being in the shade for the first half. We traversed up, down and around towns, and HUGE hills (mountains?) following the ocean. For a good portion of the hike we could see the ocean on either side of us (either side of the island as it was really narrow). The path changed often, from gravol, to large rocs, to cobble stone, to charcoal brick looking pieces... It made the hike really tough at times as we had to watch each step we took! A few times I slid and it was a little scary - especially when out in the middle of the mountains and with bad knees and ankles!! Let me tell you, it sucked to climb up - I mean climbing up endlessly. It was gruelling at times leaving us out of breath. We took water and picture breaks to keep us going. I was feeling overheated and had a headache - not a good sign. The saving grace was the view - STUNNING!! If it weren't for it, I probably would have just sat down and refused to move, lol. It was especially hard seeing how far the town was and the two mountains in between! Climbing up hurt my lungs and calves and climbing down was rough on the knees and ankles. We made it though and aree glad we did it.

At about 11:30am we made it to Oia. It was hot there and very touristy. We became sick of the crowds almost immediately. We didn't want to shop so we stopped for gelato; Jeff had pistachio flavour (his favourite) and I had coconut and lemon (light, refreshing and delicious!). We were so dirty from our hike (all the dirt and dust) that my legs were nearly black! I felt gross - sweaty, dirty and hot. We looked around town a bit but soon took a bus back to Fira. Once there, we each grabbed a chicken gyro to go and went back to the hotel; It was about 2pm at that point. 

I showered off the dirt and then we headed to the hotel pool. Jeff went in a number of times but I stayed in the shade and read my book. It was nice to relax and stay out of the sun. We noticed a couple of skinny kitties wandering around the pool and they came to see us. One even jumped up next to me on my beach chair to cuddle! He nearly fell asleep! It made us think of our own furbaby, Clyde, who is getting spoiled at Jeff's parents.

We headed to town around 6:20pm and sat on a bench to wait to watch the sunset (7:30pm). We sat next to a fellow Canadian and chatted with her for some time. She immigrated to Canada from China as a teenager in the 90s with her parents. She had an interesting story to tell.

We watched the sunset and although it may be slightly better in Oia, we've opted to enjoy it from Fira only; we just can't fathom the chaos of tourists in the area and then filling packed buses afterwards. The view we've had the last two nights has been lovely.

After the sunset we went for dinner at "Momma's House" as recommended by our guidebook. The service was excellent and the food was delicious; we shared bread that came with a feta garlic spread, Jeff had moussaka again and I had an eggplant dish (eggplant "nest" stuffed with goat cheese, green peppers, sun dried tomatoes, beef).

After dinner we thought we'd try an experience that we came across the other day - a fish eating foot place, lol. This is a place where you put your feet and about half your bottom leg into an individual tank filled with mini fish that lick your dead skin off and leave an enzyme that betters it. It was wild!! lol. Jeff told me he always thought it would be neat to try (as seen on TV) so we decided to give it a go. There were two other couples in the shop who encouraged us as well. Jeff did it for 15 minutes and I did for 30. They start with cleaning your feet before putting them in the tank. When your feet go in, the fish swarm immediately. It's quite the sensation! Jeff said it was "tickly" where I thought it felt like a dozen or more small vibrations - not at all painful. It was quite the sight to watch! We had a good laugh and our feet came out softer.

We then checked out the bus station schedule because we plan to hit up a beach tomorrow.

Side note - I've been getting many compliments on my Greek! I think the locals appreciate the effort and some have said I'm doing really well - some even have asked if I was Greek!

It's now 10pm and we're pretty beat.

Tomorrow is our last day in Santorini; we hope to see a cool beach.

Until then, 


Amanda and Jeff xoxo