One of Those Moments

We’re listening to the sermon at church, watching a clip from the movie Miracle on Ice (about the USA hockey team’s win over the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics), and Joel leans over and whispers “Would this be an inappropriate time to start a U-S-A chant?”

That’s my husband.

Speedos and Sunshine

This post is a continuation of our trip to Greece in June 2011. Part one can be found here.

After four and a half hours hunched over a table on a crowded ferry, we were certainly ready to climb off the boat in Mykonos.

We had booked our hotel room ahead of time, but judging by the number of hoteliers trying to lure us their way, you probably wouldn’t need to. If you do book a hotel, learn for our mistake and book your transportation as well. We ended up standing in line for a cab for two hours before snagging one and getting a ride to the Carrop Tree Hotel. Our accommodations weren’t quite as luxurious as our last hotel.

But the view from our balcony definitely made up for it!

As soon as we put our bags down, we were out the door and headed to the beach. Paradise Beach was packed with sunbathers, both clothed and unclothed. We certainly got an eyeful in every direction we turned, so we trained our gaze on the ridiculously clear water instead.

By 5 pm the beachside bars were blasting music and bikini-clad ladies were climbing on top of the tables to dance. It was quite the scene so we hung around until we’d soaked up every last sliver of sun, and then hopped the bus back to our hotel. We made it back in time to watch the sun set from our balcony before rinsing off the sand.

After cleaning up, we walked down to the Little Venice area for dinner at Casa di Giorgio’s and stopped into a few bars before settling down at Skandinavian Bar for the night.

On our second day in Mykonos, we thought we’d try to check out one of the other many beaches on the island. We headed back over to the Little Venice area to find a bus.

From Little Venice, we were told that the buses to the beaches left from the Old Port area.

But once we got to the Old Port, we found out we had just missed the bus and would have to wait two hours for the next one. We could have taken a taxi, but we couldn’t find any of those around either, so we made our way back to Paradise Beach.

We spent the afternoon lounging around in the sun and taking in the sights. After squeezing in showers and a quick nap, we walked to Niko’s Place, a restaurant we had seen on our walk around the island earlier in the day.

The food was delicious and the limoncello shots were even better. We checked out a couple bars after dinner but ended the night at Skandinavian Bar again. We should have made it an early night because we were leaving the next day, but that’s not like us at all. Instead we were able to get a few hours of sleep in our twin beds before checking out of the Carrop Tree and making a bed on the beach nearby.

We thought we knew exactly where we needed to go to catch the ferry to Santorini. The port we arrived at, right? Wrong. We showed up an hour early, as suggested, presented our tickets… and were told we were at the wrong port. Apparently the “old” in Old Port doesn’t mean it’s not still in use. With the taxi wait looking to be more than the hour we had, we begged a lady in the parking lot to give us a ride to the Old Port. She dropped us off with ten minutes to spare and by the time we boarded that ferry we were ready to get to Santorini.

Cappuccinos and Cigarettes

On our first anniversary we visited family in New Orleans and spent some time exploring the French Quarter. So for our second anniversary, we knew we wanted to take another trip. We threw around ideas like Machu Picchu (my choice) and Iceland (Joel’s choice) and in the midst of frantic ticket purchasing that just wasn’t working out, completely changed our destination and booked tickets to Greece without thinking twice. The second anniversary is the cotton anniversary, and cotton we received… in the form of plush and fluffy bathrobes waiting for us at the Eridanus Art Hotel in Athens.

We arrived in Athens Sunday morning and navigated our way to the hotel, with the help of a few hand-gesturing people near the subway stop. Our location couldn’t have been better as we were a short walk or a quick subway ride away from everything we wanted to do. After depositing our enormous backpacks in our room, we got our first taste of the city by hiking up to the top of Filopappos Hill.

Filopappos Hill was across the street from the nearest subway station and offered a cool view of the city of Athens and of the Parthenon. We saw people lounging and picnicking on our climb up and we promised to do that ourselves, but Athens just had too much to offer and we never made it back.

Once back at the base of the hill, we meandered through the Monastiraki flea market area and stopped at a restaurant along the way called Souvlaki Bar. We ordered up a sample of the local beer selection and a couple gyros. Now, I’ve never been much of a gyro fan, but these changed my perspective. I don’t believe I’ll ever find a gyro that can compare!

Athens is such an interesting city because at every turn you will run into preserved ruins. We bought a pass that allowed us access to all of the ruins including the Parthenon, and had some fun attempting to track down each of the places on the list.

On our first night in Athens, we took a recommendation from the hotel bartender to try out the Gazi area down the street for dinner and a little nightlife. We ate at a place called the Butcher Shop that was overpriced and just not all that good. And soon found out that the whole Gazi area was overpriced and just not all that fun. Of course we still gave the bars a fighting chance until 2 am when we ventured back to our hotel to call it a night.

On Monday morning, we woke up as early as we could manage and headed out to climb the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. We had heard that the earlier you can make it to the top, the better, because the area gets crowded with tourists. Somehow we arrived early enough to be a part of the first group of the day and were able to snap a few shots without random people wandering in and out of our picture.

By the time we felt we had taken enough pictures from every possible angle, the place was swarming with tourists. Many were carrying umbrellas to block the sun, which I think is just the weirded concept ever. On our way down the hill, we took the path that led to Ancient Agora. The area was like a town square where the Athenians would gather for public meetings and selling goods. 

The path out of Ancient Agora led into the cutest little neighborhood I’ve ever seen. The name was way too long and contained too many vowels for me to remember, but restaurants, bars and shops lined steep sets of stairs and ivy covered the walls and balconies.

Joel and I picked a table balancing precariously on a step and ordered a beer. We realized we were fairly hungry from all of our hiking and walking, but we wanted to hold out for another gyro from Souvlaki Bar, so we just sipped on our Mythos and snacked on the pretzels the waiter provided.

After another life-changing meal at Souvlaki Bar, we headed back to the hotel to wash off our grime and plan our evening. We decided to watch the sunset from Lycabettus Hill, so we hopped on the subway and got off at a stop that seemed pretty close on the map. We had absolutely no clue where we were going and ended up walking around for an hour just looking for a way to get up the hill. The first part of the hike was all stairs, which was not awesome, but once we made it to the top we felt like we made the right decision. 

While we waited for the sun to go down completely, we ventured over to the restaurant on the top of the hill. We weren’t about to pay the insane prices for a meal there, but we did nurse a few drinks. I ordered a cappuccino freddo (iced cappuccino), taking a cue from all the locals I’d seen who are obsessed with those things. Beginning at 2 pm each day we’d see groups of locals gathered at restaurant tables sipping coffee drinks and smoking cigs. And they didn’t leave for hours. I actually hate coffee flavor anything, so as good as my drink looked, it tasted awful.

But the view from the hill at night was worth choking that syrupy sweet sucker down. We stared open-mouthed at the scenery for awhile before making our way back down the hill.

The walk back to the subway was much less confusing than the route there. We made our way to a bar we had seen earlier in the day called the James Joyce. It was full of Americans and Australians and right up our alley. We had fun chatting with an Aussie about where he had been and where he was off to next.

We stayed out late enough to make the next morning a little rough. But we had to catch a ferry to the island of Mykonos, so we navigated to the Piraeus port, climbed aboard our ship, and found a table to call our bed for the next four and a half hours.

Backtracking

So because we took a much-needed nine month sabbatical from posting on our blog, we missed out on writing about some of the best parts of 2011. You know, like where our blog header came from? (Hint: we took a trip to Greece in June.)

Well, since we like to think of this little blog as a diary of sorts, we had always planned on re-capping some of the most important moments as soon as we felt like writing again. And now that we’ve gotten back into the rhythm, we’re ready to do just that. I’ve already started that trend with posts about our family vacation in Cabo and our trip to Milwaukee in September, and we plan to continue looking back on our missed year in between our updates about what’s going on right now. We’ve added a new category on our side bar (aptly named, don’t you think?) to group all of the posts that are written in hindsight, and we might continue looking back on the past even after our lost year has been recovered. Your guess is as good as ours.

Adventures with Minivan Ange

The first weekend in March Joel and I flew to Phoenix for our good friends Beth and Matt’s wedding. Beth was my roommate when we studied abroad in Alicante, Spain the summer after my junior year in college (oh, the stories we could tell). And that trip was also when I met Joel, so Beth’s really been there from the beginning.

We flew into Phoenix late Thursday night and attempted to rent a car. What a nightmare! We started out by just walking up to the National rental desk and asking for a car, but when the quote came back at $500 for three days, we turned right around. From the lobby Joel used his phone to book a car for a little over $100 and we headed up to the Budget desk to claim our prize. They were all out of the compact cars that we booked only two minutes before, so we were “upgraded” to a minivan.

Joel maneuvered our minivan Ange (her name was on her license plate) out of the garage and down the street to our hotel room where we quickly fell asleep. The next morning we found a breakfast place that came highly recommended, Matt’s Big Breakfast, and waited for a table for about an hour. It was worth it though, as the food, especially Joel’s (I’m notoriously bad at ordering) was delicious.

After breakfast, Joel dropped me off at the nail salon where the bride and the rest of the bridesmaids were getting manis and pedis. I joined the crowd and had my tootsies painted a dark orange.

Meanwhile, Joel met up with the groom and some of his buddies and went for a hike at Camelback Mountain. They hiked a different path than the girls and I had last year, but the view from the top was still amazing.

We met back up at the hotel and got ready for the rehearsal and dinner. The rehearsal dinner was at the wedding venue in a barn out back. It was rustic and cute with chandeliers hanging from the rafters and heat lamps scattered throughout. The food was so tasty, even though it was just cheeseburgers and sweet potato chips. As my mom would say, “it was the best I ever had.”

After dinner we all headed back to the hotel. Joel’s friend Jeff, who lives in Phoenix, picked us up for a night out on Mill Ave. We played some beer pong at Blondie’s and then headed down the street to The Big Bang piano bar, where Jeff is an occasional drummer known as Iowa Jeff. Not long after we found a table, they called Iowa Jeff up for a rendition of “Summer of ’69”.

It was a little rough getting up on Saturday morning, but I made it to the hotel lobby by 9 as required. We all headed to Luxe Salon to get our updos while sipping mimosas. I nearly fell asleep in the chair but came out looking like a fairy princess with a head full of ringlets.

While the ladies were all being beautified, Joel and the boys belonging to the other bridesmaids walked over to the Angels’ spring training stadium and watched Pujols take batting practice.

Pictures started at 2:30 pm, so after we were all curled, pinned and hairsprayed, we headed to the wedding venue to start getting ready. The wedding was outdoors at The Secret Garden, and it was an absolutely beautiful spot. Everything in Phoenix is beige, but that is not the case inside The Secret Garden. Beth and Matt had their friend Tony officiate, and it was perfect. We laughed and very nearly cried, and I was so honored to be standing up for Beth.

The reception was also on-site, so we were able to mingle with the guests before venturing into the room. Dinner was awesome, the speeches were sweet, and the first dances were adorable. But the dance party was definitely the best part. Beth hired a cover band called The Elements to play, and I am so in on bands over DJs at receptions. Everyone was out on the dance floor.

Beth’s brother and I started a game of Flippy Cup on the back patio at one point during the night. It was the bride’s side versus the groom’s side, and the groom’s side won. I’m pretty sure we need to have a rematch every year on their anniversary!

The end of the reception just meant it was time to take the party back to the hotel. Beth and Matt booked the presidential suite, and it was bigger than my townhome. Pizzas were ordered (twice) and drinks were drank, and by the time we ventured back to our room, we were zombies. Our 5 am wake up call to catch our 8 am flight came mighty early. And with the return of minivan Ange, our quick trip to Phoenix was complete.

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Belokin!