Honeymoon in Greece

Hello world,

Kathleen and I leave today for Greece. We fly in and out of Athens, but we’re also visiting Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete. Given that it’s our honeymoon, we make no promises that this page will receive any updates before we return. However, your best chance of keeping up-to-speed is to look here.

-Jon & Kathleen

Photos!

Monday July 7

Kathleen and I arrived at PIT courtesy of Scott, and brought Alexa who
also needed a ride to the airport. First attempt at begging for a
complimentary upgrade was denied, though we did get adjacent exit-row
seats directly behind a bulkhead, providing ample space for the long
flight to Athens. Kathleen and I managed to write and mail 16
thank-you cards before our flight began boarding. Depart PIT at
10:49am for a layover in PHL. Several attempts at procuring a
complementary upgrade while in PHL were denied. Wrote 18 more
thank-yous and mailed them. We also bought a magazine full of logic
puzzles, word searches, etc. for use on the long flight.

Total air time to Greece was approximately 9 hours. Kathleen got a
little bit of sleep, and I got a little bit less. They fed us dinner
and provided drink service several times. With less than 2 hours to
go, we smelled breakfast cooking, but they never served it. Across the
isle was a Greek man and his son, who provided some useful advice
including a suggestion for where to eat dinner. We landed, got
through customs quickly without being asked anything at all, and then
ran into a gentleman holding a sign with our names on it. He directed
us to the appropriate baggage claim, carried our bags to a waiting car
(many taxis are Mercedes, and ours was no exception), and then we
drove about 30 minutes to the Delphi Art Hotel in Athens, where we are
to spend our first 2 nights in Greece.

Tuesday July 8

Really, it became Tuesday some time while we were in the air. One
notable omission was a night’s worth of sleep.

The hotel has very nice rooms, complete with a small balcony looking
out over a plaza. Despite arriving around 10am, our room was ready for
us. We put down our bags and set out on foot to see the National
Archaeological Museum. They had some amazing metalworking displays
(complete with lots of gold and stabbing weapons), pottery (including
a display of cups reminiscent of Indiana Jones’ need to “choose
wisely”), and sculpture (bronze and stone). At this point we agreed
life could not continue without a nap, and retired to the hotel.
After a solid six hours of sleep, we woke up and decided to set out
for St. George’s Church on top of Lykavittos (actually the highest
point inside of Athens at 909 feet). We took a cable car up the
steepest part in the interest of sweating less, and had dinner at the
Orizontes Restaurant on top. This provided us with amazing views, a
nice breeze, good food, and two kittens to watch scramble on the
hillside.

We refused several taxi rides and walked back to the hotel. Tomorrow
morning we have an organized tour that is part of our travel package.

Wednesday July 9

Though our schedule said 20 minutes before 8:30, a woman from the
hotel showed up while we were eating breakfast and told us our bus was
here. It turns out there was a small bus to take us to the big bus.
Though we didn’t eat as much breakfast as we would have liked, we made
it. The big bus had stops at the Olympic Stadium of the 1894 Olympics
(the first modern Olympics, and the finish line for the 2004 Olympic
marathon), and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. We also drove by
Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. The bus then let us
off at the Acropolis (containing the Temple of Nike, the Parthenon,
the Erechtheion, and other constructions including the Propylaea,
which was the only way on and off of the Acropolis. From the
Acropolis we could see the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Lykavittos
containing St. George’s Church where we were the previous night. It
was easy to understand the layout of the city. On the way up to the
Acropolis we passed the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. On the way down we
climbed the hill called Pnyx, then walked through the Agora, where we
saw up close the Stoa of Attalus and the Temple of Hephaestus. This
temple had the most intact roof of any that we have seen.

We then walked down into the Plaka district of Athens, which is a
street market of sorts. We first had lunch in the shade, having
consumed nearly 8 liters of water between the two of us during the
tour. We had a Greek lunch consisting of a Greek Salad for Two and a
Spinach Pie. We were also served bread with oil and vinegar. We then
walked through many of the shops, some of which appeared to
exclsuively deal in items originating in California, and others
containing some very impressive Greek artwork. We bought ourselves
some new decorations. After this it was a quick walk back to our
hotel (still the Delphi Art Hotel) for a 3 hour nap.

Upon waking we showered and caught a taxi to our dinner reservation at
Mamacas. After repeating warnings about cabbies trying to scam
tourists, we put on our game faces and the whole ride was less then 4
euros. We arrived an hour early since our close call this morning
made us afraid of being late. The restaurant wasn’t even open yet, so
we walked to a nearby cafe and relaxed in some very comfy chairs in
the shade and drank some water and iced coffee. Very tasty.

After an hour we went back to Mamacas and started looking over the
menu. When the server came by we told them about our reservation and
the food just started coming. We had water, wine, salad, two
hummus-like dishes and some pitas to eat them with, a zucchini dish,
and some kind of salty pork with french fries. These dishes came out
slowly, but when the pork and zucchini arrived we believed it was the
main course. After eating this we were stuffed, but the waiter asked
if we were interested in the specials. Instead, we said we were ready
for dessert. I ordered something chocolate and Kathleen ordered lemon
sorbet; both were excellent. After starting in on our second 1.5
liter bottle of water, the server showed up yet again, this time with
a plate of fruit and some dessert wine. We decided we had a little
more room and enjoyed this as well. There were some very cute dogs
looking for handouts, but we stayed tough.

We caught a cab back to the hotel and opted to shower before bed.
Tomorrow we get up, pack up, and fly to Mykonos. Hopefully we’ll be
on the beach by 3pm local time.

Thursday July 10

Woke up, packed, and ate breakfast at the hotel. Checked out of the
room and sat in the plaza outside writing post cards. The same driver
in the same Mercedes taxi wearing the same pink shirt showed up right
on schedule to take us to the airport. The check-in line proceeded at
Greek speed, but we had plenty of time so there were no issues. There
was a minor rush at the airport when the time came to board our plane,
since they had our gate double-booked for busses to take us to the
plane. It was a typical prop plane with 2 seats on each side of the
aisle. The flight was uneventful although the landing was impressive,
as there was some major wind blowing on Mykonos. Our bags made it,
and there was a shuttle waiting to take us to the Petassos Beach
Hotel. Checked in without issue, and hit the beach. The ocean is the
bluest water I’ve ever seen, though Kathleen claims Aruba is similar.

The beach we went to was fairly packed with umbrellas and chaise
lounges. An enterprising fellow helped us find two open ones. We
soon realized he was so friendly because there was a fee, but it
counted towards the nearby restaurant, where we ended up eating lunch.
The water was a little on the chilly side but the sun was a little on
the hot side! There were many yachts anchored nearby, and several
sizeable sailboats. After our fill of beach, we went back to the room
for an outside shower (we have both a normal bathroom and a private
outdoor shower!) and a nap. Upon waking, we went to the hotel pool.
Eventually, we had dinner at the beautiful and delicious hotel
restaurant, before retiring for the night.

Friday July 11

Woke up and had a delicious breakfast at the hotel restaurant by the
pool. Got some prime chairs by the pool looking out over the bay and
worked on our books and suntans for numerous hours. I took a break to
buy water, goggles, a ball, and ice cream for both of us. We had
lunch at the restaurant across the street, and then returned to the
poolside until I finished my book. Then, we went to the beach and
swam and played for a while. Time again for an outside shower. Time
for more reading by the pool until the jacuzzi was free. At this
point, the sun dipped behind the mountain, so we returned to the room
for a nap before having dinner at the restaurant across the street,
complete with live music. All in all, a successful day.

Saturday July 12

Woke up and ate breakfast overlooking the water in Mykonos, the same
as yesterday. Packed up and took our bags to the front desk, and
checked out of the room. Spent the next several hours by the pool
reading and getting a sun tan. At 1:45 our shuttle was due to take us
to the port on Mykonos. We had tickets for the Flying Cat 4 to take
us to Santorini. Two shuttles arrived and there was some confusion
and language barrier, and we ended up just having to trust that our
bags from the front desk made it onboard. The shuttles departed and
we arrived at the port shortly thereafter. There were several huge
ships docked already, at least one a ferry. The wind was blowing hard
and a lot of sand was in the air. We then got word that the Flying
Cat 4 was delayed by an hour as a result of the high wind. We did see
a bit of a spectacle however, as a mob of passengers and even a car
swarmed the docks _after_ the ferry departed. Apparently they thought
it was canceled, but it wasn’t. The crew actually lowered the loading
ramp with the ship untied, stabilized only by its own engines, and let
the stragglers on. Lawsuits galore in the US, I would say.

An hour later, the Flying Cat 4 did in fact arrive, and we queued up
to get onboard. It turns out our tickets were for first class, so we
climbed to the second level and had a lot more space. The baggage
situation was a huge disorganized pile, but we got over it. The main
obstacles were the rough seas, which caused even this large boat to
rock noticeably, and Kathleen’s seasickness. She says it was
“touch-and-go” for a while, especially since we made two stops before
reaching Santorini, but we made it without incident.

There was an enormous cruise ship loading when we docked at Santorini,
and people were running everywhere. Kathleen and I followed the mob
that left our ship and managed to spot a fellow holding a “McGune”
sign. That was close enough! He loaded our bags and we wound our way
up a ridiculous set of switchbacks with inadequate guard rails, sheer
cliffs, and a driver bent on passing the other shuttle busses. But we
made it to our hotel, the Aressana.

The Aressana Hotel is very nice and is located along the caldera on
Santorini. The caldera is a bunch of cliffs and is the former lip of
the volcano that formed Santorini. The island is only a fragment of
its former self, after half of it sank and blew up in the largest
volcanic eruption in the history of civilization, in the 2nd century
BC.

Tomorrow we plan to visit some museums, and sail to the more active
volcanic island next door and see if we can melt our shoes. We’re
also going to swim in some hot springs!

Sunday July 13

Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. It was inside but down by the
pool. Quite beautiful and tasty. The wait staff brought us water,
which was a nice change. Next on the agenda were both of Santorini’s
museums. The one to do with the oldest civilization was definitely
better, as it included descriptions to give each exhibit some context.
The more recent museum struck us as yet another collection of old
pottery, without any descriptions to clarify things.

Next on the agenda was a quick lunch on the edge of the caldera. We
then walked the several hundred stairs down to the water, passing many
donkeys. Kathleen and I had a disagreement about some ice cream, but
we’re over it. At 3:30 our ship, the Thalassa, set sail to tour the
volcano on Nea Kameni, swim in some hot springs (complete with diving
from the side of the ship), sail by some other nearby islands, and
then anchor for a wonderful perspective on the sunset. We did all of
these things and more. The crew prepared us some food shortly before
sunset, and one of them was a talented saxophone player. We chatted
with some interesting characters from London, Moscow, and Hollywood.
All in all, I would say this boat ride was the highlight of our trip
so far.

Monday July 14

Slept in a bit then got up around 10:15 and had breakfast at the
hotel. Packed a bag to spend an entire day at the beach. Caught a
city bus to Perissa Beach. Passed a lot of Santorini vineyards on the
way. Laid out our towels on the coarse dark grey sand and noted the
brilliance of bringing flip-flops, as the dark sand gets hot! Read
our books, worked on our tans, and did some swimming in the ocean.
This beach actually had some waves, and the shallow water had a solid
rock bottom. No body surfing here! The surf eroded some very unusual
patterns in the rock, and algae made it slick. Walking out through
the waves was very exciting! The water was on the chilly side, so we
kept our swims just long enough to ward off the sun.

Got back to the hotel by way of the bus, showered, and went out to
dinner. Watched the sunset from a restaurant on the edge of the
caldera. The waiter talked me into ordering the kebabs, and swore
he’d remember us for the rest of his life because of the speed with
which our food was ready. I suspect, though Kathleen gives them more
credit, that the kebab was already made for a departed customer. The
food was good though, and we enjoyed ourselves before heading back to
the hotel for the night.

Tuesday July 15

Our last day on Santorini. We woke up and had breakfast at the hotel,
and then packed our room and checked out, leaving our bags with the
front desk. We were wearing our swim clothes with a change of clothes
prepared. We executed the standard read-swim-read for a few hours,
until we decided to wander out for lunch. After lunch, we decided
that we’d rather just get showered and stay out of the sun (i.e., not
get sweaty) until it was time to go to the port for another ride on
the Flying Cat 4. This went much more smoothly than our departure
from Mykonos, as the seas were calm, there was a cafe at the port
where we could wait in the shade, and even the queues were air
conditioned. They also had staff handling baggage, which had been
quite a fiasco en route to Santorini from Mykonos. Heraklion is the
name of the town on the island of Crete where we will dock. I believe
our next hotel, Porto Del Colombo, is in the same town. We will soon
see, as I am writing this while onboard the Flying Cat 4.

As it turns out, I was _wrong_. Our hotel is in Chania, and it was a
2 hour drive away from Heraklion. We arrived exhausted and hungry, so
we checked in, got some dinner nearby, and went to bed.

Wednesday July 16

Got up and ate breakfast at the hotel. Decided to set out on foot an
explore the area. Our hotel is near one end of a large harbor, with a
lighthouse that is near our hotel as the crow flies, but at the
farthest possible distance via land. We walked around to the
lighthouse, then stopped on our way back at the earliest opportunity
for some much needed refreshments, i.e., water and Coca Cola “Light.”
We stopped in one of the much celebrated historic ship-building houses
that had been converted into a museum. In 2004 some researchers
reconstructed what they believed were the boats used in ancient times,
and spent a month rowing it several hundred miles. This was the
primary focus of the museum, and was quite interesting and impressive.

Some more walking and then a visit to the Maritime Museum of Crete,
which was a much larger and more traditional museum. It was primarily
centered on naval history, including the Battle of Crete in 1941.

More walking lead to the discovery of the nearest beach, where we plan
to spend the bulk of tomorrow. By this point I was wanting lunch, and
Kathleen agreed, and we stopped and ordered pizza. It was
exceptionally good pizza. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon as we
were walking back towards our hotel, and we realized that most of the
shops along the way were closed all afternoon. We tried to enter one
but were told it was closed until 6pm.

The whole country is napping, why not us too? Back to the hotel for a
late afternoon nap. We then woke up and enjoyed a “Grill for Two”
dinner special, which included chicken, beef, lamb, pork, french
fries, Tzatziki, watermellon, and ouza. Tasty tasty.

Finally, we bought a DVD from an enterprising street vendor and
retired to our room to watch it.

Tomorrow we plan to beach it all day, and Friday we plan to hike
Samaria Gorge, which is 11 miles through Europe’s longest gorge. It’s
an all-day affair and should be quite awesome.

Thursday July 17

Got up after sleeping in a bit, breakfast at the hotel, and set out on
foot for the nearest beach. We rented some chairs and commenced
reading our books. Again the water was a little chilly so its sole
purpose was for when we became overheated, which was around four
times. We had two snacks from a big loaf of bread we had purchased
the night before, then got hungrier and Jon went and bought a pizza
and some water to go from the same pizza place as before. Went back
to the hotel for showers and some more reading, then decided it was
time to go out for ice cream. Ended up wandering away from the
harbour a little bit and discovered plenty of shops. Got a little
hungry again and ate a club sandwich, french fries, and a spinach
pie. Our hike was early the next morning, so we turned in early.

Friday July 18

Got up at 6:15 to get ready to hike Samaria Gorge. Packed some food
and water into our bag, along with our bathing suits and a towel, and
went downstairs to get picked up. Some other guests from our hotel
were also waiting there, but due to some logistical error we couldn’t
comprehend they ended up not coming. In the end there were three
newly wed couples from the US on the trip, two from New York (a young
couple of both teachers in West Chester, Libby and Jeff, and an older
couple of people “who work in finance” from Manhattan, Stacey and
Jeff. Their wedding dates were July 3 and 12. After a rather intense
drive up to the trailhead, again in a Mercedes bus, Likos, our guide,
directed us into a taverna for cup of coffee and any more supplies we
might need. We turned down his offer of walking poles and a helmet.

The trail started out steeper and got less steep. The sides of the
gorge started out far apart and got very close together. There are
lots of pictures to explain this part.

When we finished, we hiked out into a very small town, reachable only
by boat. We immediately had some ice cream, put on our swim suits,
and went to the beach. This was the best swimming beach of the trip
by far. The water was the perfect temperature and clear, the beach
had dark pebbly sand, and it dropped off quickly once entering the
water. Kathleen and I swam with Jeff and Libby for over an hour. We
returned to the restaurant where Likos and all of our stuff was, and
changed and ordered some french fries and a greek salad. Very tasty
and devoured completely. Then, it was time to catch our ferry. We
took the ferry to the nearest town, allowing us to see some amazingly
beautiful water. Also of note is that the mountains we hiked on are
still growing, about a quarter of an inch per year. Once the ferry
docked (about 50 minutes later) we got back in the Mercedes bus for
some more white knuckled driving. We made it back intact, and plan to
have dinner with Jeff and Libby.

We had dinner at a restaurant tucked away between many buildings.
There were a number of very acrobatic cats leaping in and out of the
shrubberies and walking across pipes high above the street. Jeff and
I drank Mythos, a Greek beer, which I enjoyed. Kathleen and I think
it would make a good dog name.

After dinner we walked around the harbor and encountered some pretty
amazing break dancers. We were all tired from the hike, however, and
called it a night.

Saturday July 19

We decided to spend our last full day in Crete on the beach. We went
back to the same beach as a few days ago. It was even hotter, so the
water temperature proved to be ideal. We visited our favorite pizza
venue again, and put some serious dents into our respective books.
Kathleen objected to some of the small fish that swam in the ocean and
seemed to be trying to nibble at our legs.

After the beach we got showered and set out to get dinner. We chose a
nice restaurant with some candlesticks covered in what looked to us
like many years worth of melted wax. Unfortunately, their electrical
systems was also using technology of many years ago, and the waiter
informed us well after we placed our order that they are unable to
cook it. We changed our order to salads, since we were tired and
wanted to eat and get to bed.

Sunday July 20

We were expecting to be picked up from our hotel (Porto Del Colombo)
at 10am. We got up, showered, ate breakfast, and went to the lobby to
wait. It turned out they sent a mini-bus for us which couldn’t get
all the way to the hotel, so we wheeled out to the bus and drove 2
hours to the Heraklion Airport. We checked in and got through
security uneventfully, and arrived at our very crowded gate. Smoking
was allowed here in the airport, which was somewhat unpleasant, but
soon enough we boarded and flew to Athens. Got our bags, a car was
waiting holding a “Cune Dingus” sign, which was close enough. It
dropped us off at the Delphi Art Hotel in Athens, where we will remain
until 8:30 tomorrow morning when it becomes time to fly home to the
US.

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