Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Great Greek Summer Vacation

It's been my dream to travel to Greece with my family since Shaun and I got married.  I squirreled away money each month, saving and dreaming of the day we'd get to see this country.  For our ten year wedding anniversary, we decided it was time to try our hand at international travel.  We decided to do our journey as simple as possible but still see as much as we could.  We packed our backpacks (carryon only) and our sunscreen and headed on a 10 day adventure.

After a very long day of travel, we arrived for our brief stay in Dublin.  Shaun booked us for a Viking tour which was great because we only had 24 hours in Ireland and we were able to see some key things, learn some history and go on this neat old army vehicle that could go on land and water.
Sam got a chance to drive on the water!!!
We stayed in the Clontarf Castle.  Had some interesting history, neat decor, yummy little pub and an awesome place to rest our heads after sitting on planes for so long.
We took a little walk after supper which was lovely.  It finally wasn't chilly out and we got to explore the grounds of the castle a little.  

And onto our next portion of our vacation... GREECE!  In the 10 days we took 12 flights... the shortest being 45 min and the longest being 5 hours.  The key to our success was that we didn't have any checked luggage and made sure our packs would fit in the overhead.  I was nervous before we left, but I'm so grateful we traveled this way.
Santorini... it is definitely one of the most surreal places I've ever been.  There was 10 different instances here that I caught myself near tears.  It is just so beautiful.  This is the view from our hotel room.  We stayed at a place called Manos Small World.  It was incredible.  Nice room built into the side of the caldera.  Absolutely perfect.
Sun squisher!  There is nothing like the sunset from Santorini.  We got to see the sun come down 3 nights and each time was perfect.

Our first meal in Greece at a cute little cafe watching the sunset.  Amazing.
In the morning, we'd walk out our hotel door and sit at this little table and then a Greek breakfast would arrive.  Fruit, pastry, bread, yogurt, tea, cake... a tiny feast to start the day.
Our first attempt to get around in Santorini was a challenge.  We took many little pit stops where ever we could find shade.  We finally found the bus station which was a parking lot filled with coach buses and confused tourists all speaking different languages.  Children begging for money and a bus schedule that was about 20 minutes early (or maybe it was 40 minutes late), we were a little overwhelmed.  Our second time taking the bus was much smoother when we knew what to expect.
Our bus adventure took us to this black sand beach.  There are many beaches on Santorini but we picked a quiet one and we were so happy we did.  Sam got his first face fulls of salt water, Shaun got his first bits of sunburn and I bought our first towel (which turned everyone blue with lint after!)
My loves.
Another sunset stroll.  Best moments.
We decided to take a boat tour to see some things.  To get down to the boat we could take a cable car or go down the stairs.  We had about 25 minutes so we thought we'd hike down as it seemed to be no big deal... then we encountered these guys.  Hundreds of donkeys hauling people up and down the stairs.  My guess is that it was about a 2km hike of cobblestone stairs, switchbacks, poop and these furry friends.  Everything you are taught as a small town Albertan goes  out the window trying to pass by their hind end or duck under their heads.  Needless to say, at the end of the tour we took the cable car up.
Our little boat took us (and 75 others) to the volcano.  The island of Santorini builds the mouth of a volcano (the caldera) and this little island is lava overflow.  The last time it erupted was in the 50s.  Black volcano rock was pretty hot so we didn't make it quite to the top, but we did explore and enjoy it.
Just the sweetest little traveller.
The boat took us to some hot springs.  Shaun dove in and Sam dipped his toes in.
Our final stop took us to a very tiny island for lunch.  Camera man Sam took our photo together, we ate and headed to a rocky beach for a swim before it was time to go.
A view from the water of the cliff we climbed down in the morning.  
Back on Santorini, Sam points out the volcano that we climbed earlier today.
One final Santorini sunset.
The caldera filled with clouds... not going to lie, I did think that we were going to witness the volcano erupt (don't worry, it didn't).  We started our supper with clear sky and ended it sitting inside a cloud.  So cool!

We didn't see many children in Santorini.  I think it's a common place that people come for a romantic get away.  The edge of the cliff probably also deters people from bringing their children.  Sam seemed like a bit of a novelty.  The Greek people were very kind to him, many touching his face and always stopping to ask his name.  This man owned the restaurant we ate at a couple times, and he just adored Sam.
From breathtaking Santorini, our path led to the rural island of Limnos.  We booked into a family surf camp.  The first night we stayed in a tent with this wild animal and luckily we had a 'cabin' (larger tent with it's own bathroom) for the other two nights.
My birthday... some people get a little freaked out about gaining another year.  I love my birthday, even though it usually passes by quietly, I like to think that I've made it another year and have earned the knowledge and experiences of that time.  I spent my 33rd birthday in the sea on the loveliest beach in the world with my two favorite people.  The sun shined bright, the food was amazing, the air was fresh.  Nothing more I could ever ask for.  Makes me think that 33 will be a year of adventure and opportunity.  I'm excited.
Our beach - Kero Surf Club.  Doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.
This is the view from our cabin door.  Just awesome. 
Being that it was a wind/kite surfing camp, the misfortune that there was no wind made for some extremely hot weather.  Ice cream was definitely on the menu!
These two could have spent all day for days on end playing in the sea together.  Shaun became Sam's life raft, surf board, swimming partner, dunker and so much more.  Makes my heart happy they have one another and that I get to witness their love for each other.
It was about 1km between our beach and our camp, so sometimes Sam got to catch a ride home.  Love the rural setting.
Due to the absence of wind, the mosquitos came to camp (along with jelly fish to the beach but I didn't get any pictures).  No one had any repellent because they rarely had mosquitos  so we spent some time each night treating our bites before going to bed.
The wonderful thing about the light wind was that it's the perfect for beginner lessons.  Sam took a private lesson and Shaun got to listen in and then try his hand at wind surfing.  I'm always amazed at how quickly he picks up board sports.  He popped up and headed on his way on the first try.  Pretty awesome!
They told us that usually 6 year olds don't get to take lessons but since they weren't busy (dang wind), he'd be happy to work with Sam and see if he could do it.  He told us wind surfing is very technical.  I heard him repeating his instructions over and over to Sam.  He was very patient and kind.
Then, all of a sudden, he let go and Sam and the boy was off and sailing.  In less than an hour he had the basic technique down and could turn the board from side to side.  I was amazed!
We ate all our meals in this common area.  In the evenings there was yoga classes, so I sneaked their picture because I thought it was so cool!
Our final destination was a whirlwind tour of Athens.  We got there early and dropped off our backpacks at the hotel.  We were soooo hungry and soooo hot, so we ducked into a cute little spot for some breakfast and soon we realized it was called Eris (the name of a special little lady in our lives!)  Pretty neat coincidence!
We took a little train around Athens that allowed us to hop on and off at different spots.  We stopped at these ruins... much to Sam's surprise there is a lot of nudity in Ancient Greece.  On the front of our pamphlet was a naked statue and Sam thought it was hilarious to put him in many photos that I was taking!
The detail blows my mind.  
Greek bums!
Just a little boy in awe of these statues... heads and penises.  Just couldn't even believe why they did that!  
Stopped for a frozen drink before hiking up the Acropolis.  

From one of the highest points on the Acropolis we needed to try to see our hotel (which we did).  This city goes on FOREVER!  Quite humbling to stand in the presence of the ruins and think of people who built it and lived there.  The craftsmanship is unreal and so much has happened in the world since it was built.  Quite unreal.
The view from our hotel... Acropolis to the right...
Arches of Zeus and columns of Hercules to the left.  Insane!  When the sun set I stepped out to hear live Opera musical floating to my hotel room from here.  

Our Athens supper... just a table on a slanted busy street.  Delicious food, great service, excellent people watching.
Shaun's fish came with head still attached!  Eeeek!
Arches of Zeus
Just a very strong little boy carrying his momma!
Connolley's in Athens!
We're sooooo excited!
The Olympic Stadium.  Really enjoyed looking at this and thinking of the history of great athletes that have competed here.
We spent some time eating breakfast and watching the national guards.  We eavesdropped on a mini tour with an excellent guide that gave of some terrific historical relevance of this site and the men that are stationed here.  Perfect last stop before heading to the airport for our long journey home.

When Shaun asked me what exactly I wanted to see in Greece, I didn't have a list of must visits.  I just felt like I needed to see it with my own eyes.  At the risk of being super cheesy (sort of how I exist), I felt my heart was being called there.  Shaun did the most amazing job booking hotels, planning adventures and selecting our path through Greece.  The trip was everything I could have asked for.  Three very very different locations and experiences, sights that most people will only ever know from TV, rich culture that we managed to maneuver around with our deer in the headlights look.  I can't explain how happy the trip made me and how important it is to me to share the world with Sam.  For him to see different landscapes and watch the sunset on different horizons; for him to taste foods even if it's only a bite before he opts to eat the same thing for 10 days (thank goodness for tzatziki!); for him to see how others earn their money and live their lives; for him to not be afraid to take a chance and travel the world.  And also for him to come home to this big beautiful country and appreciate the life we have and the people he meets.  
My mind wanders to our next big adventure and what I can be saving my hard earned dollars for...   

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