Hello Family and Friends,
We hope you all are doing well and enjoying your summer!
We last left off saying our goodbyes to Margherita (we miss you) and fighting an awful stomach bug. Leanne was able to dig deep and make it through the 17-hour bus ride from Istanbul to Athens with no emergency stops. As soon as we checked into our hotel, Josh was hit with the bug and was out of commission for a couple of days. People have asked us if we think we get sick more often on this trip. To be honest, we are not really sure. Leanne's always had a terrible stomach so that's nothing new. We didn't pay much attention to how often we were sick during the course of a year when we lived stateside. We both agreed that it's probably about the same amount but when you are away from a soft couch and the comforts of home, it just feels worse. We are happy to report that after a few doses of self-medicated strong stomach antibiotics for both of us, we were on our way to explore Athens.
Greece was a place that both of us really wanted to see when we set out on our around-the-world trip. Who wouldn't want to check out the ancient history of Athens and the beautiful Greek islands?
Athens is an interesting city with a balance of seediness and it's own charm.
The bad: there's a lot, and we mean a lot, of graffiti throughout the city. We also witnessed a man shooting up heroin on a street corner...that was first and something we could have done without seeing. The good: there's incredible history and frozen Greek yogurt!
Armed with an outdated edition of Lonely Planet, we set out on our own walking tour of the city. Our first stop was the Parliament building. We were just in time for the hourly changing of the guards.
No uniform's shoe is complete without a big, fluffy pom-pom on it.
The pom-pom shoes had lifts so Josh was at a height disadvantage against this guy.
That's the swagger of a true manly-man.
Pom-Pom shoes? Check.
Large gun? Check.
The first glimpse of The Acropolis of Athens perched up on the hill.
It's no Red Rocks...
The Parthenon, the most famous of the ancient buildings of the Acropolis of Athens.
Leanne was in awe of its splendor.
Josh enjoyed the view of the city from the top of the hill.
Leanne working it. She even matched the Greek flag colors.
We climbed a small hill opposite of the Acropolis and just like that, The Acropolis was in the palm of our hands.
We wrapped up the rest of the day by checking out the remainder of the city before hitting the market.
Homeless. Yep, that's us for the past almost 18 months. For us, home is where we lay our heads each night after night after night after night.
Look at that sleepy guy. He stayed up all night to watch the NBA finals, hoping that the Spurs would pull off a victory. Sadly, they lost and so did he for seven nights of sleep. Leanne let him sleep until noon and then her ADD kicked in and she had to get out of that tiny room.
It was an overcast day but we welcomed it because it helped cool things off in the city. We did a lot of walking and saw many sites, One of our personal favorites was the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was the site of the original Olympic Games. It wasn't big or fancy but it let our imagination run wild.
Our little Olympic goddess.
Our last stop was a visit to the modern Olympic Stadium. This was the site of the first modern olympics.
The following day we woke up at 5:00 am so we could take the metro to the port to catch the ferry to Santorini. We had been in Athens for 4 days with no transportation problems. Of course, the day we need to take the metro was the day they were having a labor strike. It wouldn't be Greece without some sort of strike against working. On this trip we have won some and we have lost some when it comes to transportation. This day was a loss of $10 because we had to take a taxi to the port.
We boarded what was more like a cruise ship rather than a ferry and sat back in our comfy, plush seats for the next 7 hours as we made our way to Santorini.
Welcome to a little undiscovered Greek island called, Santorini. Undiscovered? More like over-discovered.
When the doors on the ferry opened our eyes were fixed on a scene of blue beauty!
We settled into a nice hotel by the name of Smaragdi. Our travel buddies, Liz and Andrew (thiskentuckygirl.com) recommended it to us. They had rooms with kitchenettes and a great pool to relax our weary bodies. This would be where we would call home for the next 6 days.
Our appetites were back and Josh was thrilled he could snack on some delicious olives, salami, bread and wine.
It had been almost a year since we have stayed in a place where we could cook in our own kitchen. Dinner at home? Yes, please! Leanne is not the biggest fan of eating out so this trip has really been a struggle for her at times. Josh, on the other hand, loves eating out so there hasn't been an ounce of struggle for him.
Josh thought our motorbike days were behind us. He was beside himself with happiness when he found out we could rent a motorbike and make our way around the island. We rented a motorbike the whole time we were there and discovered every inch of the island.
We bounced around several little towns and took photos the entire time.
It looks like Greece to us.
We made a stop at Red Beach. It's obvious how the beach got its name. After 5:00 pm this place was deserted.
The beauty of having a motorbike is that you can find secret spots on the island.
This is the last picture that Leanne would take with those green shorts. Later that night it was a laundry in the sink kind of night. We carefully hung our laundry out to dry on the line in our patio and even secured each item with a clothes pin. We were awoken around 5:00 am by sounds of huge gusts of wind. Leanne rushed outside to collect our laundry which was scattered all around the patio. Sadly, the green shorts were a casualty to the wind storm. Dear Colombia shorts, Leanne would like to thank you for your durability over the past 17 months. If only you could have made the whole journey.
One of the "must do" things to do on the island was a hike from Fira to Oia. Oia is the famous town with the blue roofs that you see in pictures of the Greek Islands. The hike took 3 1/2 hours one way and was hot, hot, hot. However, the hike was 100% worth it and will always be a fond memory for us. Look at these pictures! It was a unbelievable day.
That pool looked so inviting. We dreamed about what it must be like to be on a fancy vacation and stay in a fancy hotel with a fancy pool overlooking the ocean. It's no wonder why Santorini is called "honeymooners paradise".
We made it!
Here are those famous blue roofs we mentioned. It was a beautiful town. The only negative to this little town is that one hour before sunset every tourist on the entire island shows up to watch the sunset. Imagine a Broncos game filing into a small town. It really felt that crowded. We decided to clear on out before we got trampled.
There are amazing views of the sunset from the entire island so we chose a little more remote spot. This particular spot was beautiful.
We enjoyed a few beers as we watched the sun vanish into the horizon.
After our time on Santorini it was time to work our way back to the mainland so we could head north. We looked at the map and just sort of picked Naxos. Naxos is a little bigger island with a ton of history. Legend has it that this is the island that Zeus was born. No, Not that Zeus!!
We found a nice little hotel in Naxos and were actually able to rent a motorbike for our entire time here too. We spent much of our time exploring the island and riding around the rolling hills enjoying the landscape.
Naxos is famous for their Ouzo so we obviously had to stop off at a distillery to see how it was made. Both of us are not big fans (putting it gently) of ouzo but it was still interesting.
Somehow it doesn't taste as awful when it was made two days ago. Who are we kidding? It was still awful. However, it was free so we tasted every single one of them.
The rest of the time we visited lovely small towns and walked around narrow alleys.
One of the days we rode as far as we could without using the map. After about an hour and half we ended up on a remote beach wondering where we were. We rode dirt roads, sand roads and trails to reach it but we were at the southern most point of the island.
After such a long a ride we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon laying around our little "private" beach.
Leanne checking out the beach.
There were plenty of hikes to be made around the island. This particular one was to the Cave of Zeus.
One of the symbols of the island is their windmills. There were several to be seen.
There were also plenty of pottery shops sampling their that Greek blue.
We made several stops along the way for photo opportunities.
That helmet wasn't doing much use in the protection arena so Josh told Leanne to keep it on for this picture so it would be useful for something.
We discovered that Josh is most likely the most inflexible person in the world. It took him almost 5 minutes to try to bend his hands to make it appear like he was pushing on the column. Leanne had to show him several times but he finally got it!
We reluctantly left Naxos behind and headed back to Athens early in the morning.
When we finally arrived in Athens, we had 4 hours to waste before boarding our overnight bus to Albania. To pass the time we sipped on coffees and Leanne went shopping for a replacement pair of shorts. Before we knew it, it was time to board our bus. Albania or bust!
Leanne & Josh