Archive of ‘Greece’ category

Our Thessaloniki home for the next 4 nights.

Hallelujah, we are back in Greece, more specifically, my favorite city, Thessaloniki! The most wonderful part of this trip is that in only a few hours this sweet apartment will include an Alisa from Malaysia AND a Janna from London. HOW COOL IS THAT!

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A is for Andrew-moo!

Not only did I get to hangout with my wonderful mother in Paris and Greece this past month but Matt and I got to meet up with my dear friend Andrew for a few days!

Andrew spent a few weeks touring Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos then hopped on a flight to Thessaloniki where we picked him up in the camper, cats and all. Andrew festivities included hanging out downtown Thessaloniki drinking 3 liters of wine from a tap, watching a F1 movie with Greek subtitles, going to a heavy metal bar, amazing conversations and driving to a remote seaside town south of Thessaloniki to chill out with the local people and cats. 

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View from Andrew’s apartment in Neo Karras.

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I can’t wait for next year when Andrew can come visit us again, he’s pretty much the coolest guy ever. LOVE YOU ANDREW-MOOOOO!

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Pack like a pro. A quick trip turned long.

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September 17th to 22nd, a week long trip to Paris with my Mom. I packed a carry on sized bag with 4 dresses, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of jeggings, 3 tank tops, 6 shirts, 2 scarves, 2 belts, Pjs, undergarments, pantyhose, a blazer, a leather jacket, 1 pair of slip on shoes, 1 pair of knee high boots(flat), toiletries, cellphone, tablet with keyboard, plugs and paperwork. I wore the largest things on the flight and the rest fit in my tiny wheeled suitcase once all my clothes were squeezed in an airtight space bag. The bag weighed 9.5 kg, 0.5 kg under the maximum weight requirement, the perfect pack job if you ask me.

Thank god I packed so well. Once we arrived in Paris mom and I had to take a train, a metro and then walk 2.5 kilometers to the apartment she rented in the 3rd arrondissement. Our cute apartment was behind a beautiful big blue door in a hip area and up 6 flights of 100 year old steep wooden stairs. WORKOUT!

We spent 6 days of pure bliss planning our days around our meals instead of attractions. I took 200 pictures and walked at least 10 kilometers a day. To tell you the truth, Mom and I were so busy exploring everything that we didn’t even go the the Eiffel Tower!

Part two of the trip…we land in Sofia, Bulgaria. I go through customs and get asked to step aside, mom goes through customs without any problems and waits for me behind a glass wall. Long story short, I overstayed my time in Bulgaria and Matt and I neglected to do the required paperwork when we arrived a few months back (we honestly didn’t know, apparently Polish immigration laws are very different from Bulgarians laws) and now I cannot reenter Bulgaria. I sent my mom to Burgas to meet Matt while I had to jump on a plane to Athens and go to the Bulgarian Embassy to apply for a reentry visa.

What a nightmare, well not exactly. For some reason I was assigned first class, row 1 seat A. I got a fancy meal, 2 pillows, disembarked the plane first and was driven to the airport in my own bus! It was a little ridiculous for a 30 person jet but oh well. My first night solo in Athens I stayed in a 5 star hotel the lady at the airport help me find for only 70 euros, breakfast included. This place was fancy, normal room rates go for a whopping 350 (almost $500) Euros a night. I guess the lady at the airport saw sadness in my eyes and worked her magic to help me. Big fluffy bed, 2 terrible English TV channels and a huge shower, this hotel was a perfect place to lay my head while I racked my brain as to what I was going to do next. The following day I tried to eat something from the breakfast buffet but nerves took the best of me and I miss out on the craziest selection of food I’d ever seen. A crepe station, eggs, meats, several cheeses, a variety of smoked and oily fishes, coffee, tea, orange juice, ice tea, sour cherry juice, cereals, toasts, fresh fruit, all you can eat figs, nuts and yogurt accompanied by a dozen freshly made jams and chocolate spreads! The buffet had a choice of 4 different honeys for crying out loud! Oh well, next time.

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Leg room!

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Fancy hotel.

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I jump on the bus with my suitcase and make my way to the Bulgarian embassy a few kilometers north of Athens. Once there a guard tells me to go around the corner and speak through an old ratty intercom attached to a large gate. I can barely make out what the woman says but manage to understand that visas are by appointment only and I must return tomorrow at 11am. Gulp, I ask her where can I go from here, I’m completely helpless and homeless at this point, all she replied was a dry “I don’t know”. More like you don’t give a f*, please get off my lawn stupid Canadian girl. I cross the street, sit in a lovely green park and cry for a solid 15 minutes until I run out of tissues, old receipts and used bus transfers.

A quick search on hostelworld.com and I book a night in a 4 person female dorm at City Circus. What a treat, the hostel is in a 4 story historical building, completely reconstructed and designed with funky retro furnishings and quirky artwork. The staff is AMAZING, the place is immaculate, the beds are heavenly and you can’t beat the location, downtown with a clear view of the Parthenon from the cool rooftop patio.

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Three seconds after dropping of my suitcase at the hostel I made 2 new friends; Pila, a lovely Argentinian girl living in Madrid and Mickelle, an energetic girl from Chicago living in Orlando. The girls took me out for lunch, walked around all the tourist sites and even had a short nap in the park.  

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Pila, Mickelle, Amalia.

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My appointment at the Bulgarian embassy was useless, they didn’t even know how to help me and laughed when I said I was homeless. Every time I would ask them a question they would give me different answer, I truly don’t get why they are even there, they know nothing! I tried my luck with the Canadian embassy the following day and they were much more knowledgeable. The sweet Greek/Canadian lady did everything in her power to help me, I appreciated all her work. 

That night my little suitcase and I jumped on an overnight train to Thessaloniki to meet up with Matt, Mom, the 2 cats and our camper. What a relief to be with loved ones again, I really needed a hug! The first few days in Thessaloniki I visited the Bulgarian consulate (another useless meeting) and the Canadian consulate (more hope here) and filled out a ton of paperwork, forms, pictures, lawyers, signings, etc. After that it’s just a big waiting game.

Mom spent the remainder of her holiday in Greece drinking ouzo, eating bricks of feta, playing games, sneezing (because of cats), walking on the beach with her feet in the Mediterranean, taking pictures of ruins and exploring markets. She is truly a great woman, always game for anything, unbothered by the whirlwind of events, I love her to bits!

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Fingers crossed I’ll be back home before Halloween.

Our last few days in Greece.

We met Dot and Malcolm when we stopped by the water in Vonitsa. This wonderful couple has been sailing around the Mediterranean for the last 9 years, they invited us over for coffee and we spent most of the morning swapping stories. Malcolm is a retired computer programmer and Dot, a retired nurse with a passion for food, wildlife and handmade crafts, both avid travelers.Needless to say we had lots to talk about.    

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Preveza underwater tunnel.

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We stopped in Preveza and picked up some fresh seafood, these guys were still twitching when I took this picture!

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Butter, garlic, sumac and prawns, and of course wine.

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Ancient bridge of Arta.

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A time to remember.

Oh boy, the last few days have been some of the best days this year. Driving towards Albania on a gorgeous sunny day Matt and I couldn’t resist stopping in Amfilochia, Greece for a quick walk and a beer, 5 days have past and we’re still here. Nestled in the corner of the Ambracian Gulf, this town of about 4000 friendly inhabitants is absolutely perfect; crystal blue water, mountains, mild weather, happy people, fishing, drinking, everything! We parked our rig in the marina, a perfect location with great views of the city and the sea. A few people were working outside on the million dollar yacht parked to our left so we took this perfect opportunity to ask really politely if we could plug into their electrical hub for a little while.  “No problem, free, no problem at all.” Sweet!

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I spent the afternoon reading my Kindle in the sun all while watching my sweet husband learn how to fish off the docks with group of local elderly fishermen. Matt came home with huge grin on his face, arms extended, holding a jittery parcel containing three midsized, very alive, fish wrapped in newspaper. Plop, plop, plop, he transfers them into a pot and hands it over to me lid on. The pot twitches and I scream almost dropping everything. I’m laughing, partially excited, partially hysterical, 100% not drunk enough to brave killing our dinner. Sweetie? He doesn’t want to be part of this operation either. I slip on my shoes, sport my warmest smile and head over to our yacht buddies with the pot extended as far away from me as possible, letting out small excited cries each time the fish flop around. My new hero leads me into the yacht kitchen and teaches me the proper Greek way to gut a fish. It was absolutely hilarious, if you know me well enough you know how I get when I’m excited; arms flailing, jumping up and down, giggles, lots of giggles, my new friend probably thought I was nuts (that’s because I am)!

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That evening we were invited back on the boat to drink Tsipouro and officially meet our neighbor “The Captain” and his friends. Everyone was so friendly, funny and full of life. My fish gutting hero made the best squid I’ve ever had. He simply built a fire in the parking lot, squished the squid he caught that morning in a grilling rack and placed it over the fire for about 10 minutes flipping sides occasionally, then he removed the squid from the rack and cut it into smaller pieces, sprinkled salt, pepper, fresh lemon and olive oil over everything and voila, tender squid with a nice char from the open flames! Amazing! After a few shots of Tsipouro the party really started to pick up, the guys showed me how their worry beads work and laughed when I exclaimed that at the moment my only worry was that I might have a headache the following morning from all the Greek moonshine that was getting passed around. Matt and I got a few dancing lessons and we all danced to Greek folk music in the living room of the yacht. “The Captain” spoke the most English and told us great tales of the voyages he had done and the people he had met and we of course reciprocated with our stories of the last 10 months. The night couldn’t have been more perfect.

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The next day we explored the city then returned to the yacht for a chat and a quick cooking lesson. I got sent home with my very own bag full of cuttlefish and was instructed to clean and gut the critters then simmer them for one hour in a tomato sauce with lots of garlic.

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This is a cuttlefish. I remember watching a cuttlefish documentary with my mom last year and they are discovering that cuttlefish are very intelligent and can be trained in maze just like rats, ‘Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates. Cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates’ – Wikipedia. So on top of the almost impossible task of breaking down these slippery creatures without the proper fish knife, I had a guilty conscience every time those dark eyes glared back at me.

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You must remove the eyes, the beak, the inners (ewwwww) and the bonelike shell called the cuttlebone.

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It took me ten minutes to fully clean and prep a whole cuttlefish. It was terribly hard to hold and would often slide right out of my hands plus, my knife wasn’t fine enough to scalpel out the beak and eyes. I got fed up very quick and ended up throwing out the heads and only cooking the bodies.

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My Greek friend was right, an hour of simmering and the cuttlefish was as tender as a perfectly cooked scallop and the sauce had soaked up just the right amount of sea flavor. Dinner was a great success!

(Sorry for the sad picture.)

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On the road.

Check out the canal.

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I hear that there are boat cruses you can take down this canal.

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30 minutes later it was cold, pouring rain and dark. Weird.

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Small car vs. Smart car.

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We turned the corner and saw this sunken ship and had to stop and take pictures.

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Full moon.

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Local Venus clams purchased on the side of the road.

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Sticking out his tongue.

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The Acropolis.

For the same price as a movie ticket you can explore the Acropolis from top to bottom. I’ve seen footage of people visiting the Parthenon many times yet I was still stunned as to how breathtaking the place really is.

Once you’ve hiked up the hill and pass through the gate  (the Propylaia as seen below)  you are hit with the immensity of Parthenon, Doric columns, each seven diameters high, tower over the hilltop as they have for thousands of years. 

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360 degree views of Athens, what a perfect day for it!

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First impressions don’t mean everything.

A year and a half ago Carla and I took a tram through Athens  to Pireas  Port where we caught our ferry to Santorini. Looking out the window all we could see has garbage, graffiti and people living in cardboard boxes. At the time we were happy about our decision to skip Athens, but now I’m thankful that I went back.

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Matt shows of his cabbage shredding skills.

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This is the Acropolis museum. Unfortunately the warm sunny weather begged us to stay outside, I guess the museum will just have to wait for our next Athenian trip.

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The Acropolis is perched on top of a hill  in the middle of the city center, around it are fancy cafes, million dollar apartments, parks and embassies.

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This guy had an interesting metal bowl-like instrument  called a Hang that he played by tapping it in various places. It almost sounded like a harp or a piano.

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Matt and I were lucky enough to see a changing of the guards ceremony. I took a video and will post it soon.

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This is my new favorite park for obvious reasons.

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