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Athens

The pictures in this gallery were taken during our stay in Athens, Greece.  Also attached, is a short video clip taken by Peter of Lionel feeding the pigeons at the parliament buildings.  At the end of the video you will see some tourists taking pictures of the crazy Jamaican feeding the pigeons.  Who knows where these pictures will end  up!!!

Meteora Monastaries

On our drive from Athens to Sklithro we visited the Meteora monasteries.  It was very windy, cold & rainy and we arrived at the top of the hill only fifteen minutes before closing so unfortunately we were unable to go inside.  This may have been fortunate as to get across to some of the monasteries you have to cross the abyss in a very small cable car. Not so long ago, visitors were hauled up the rock face in baskets secured with ropes by the Monks.  When one tourist asked the Monks if the ropes were ever replaced, he answered “Of course, when they break.”  Lionel & Peter bravely ventured out of the car into the howling wind & freezing cold to explore & take photos while Winsome & Mary only briefly came out of the car, wrapped in blankets, to have a quick look around.

Spectacularly, perched atop rocky pinnacles in Thessaly, the Meteora monasteries are among the most striking sights in Greece. The name Meteora(Μετεωρα) is Greek for “suspended in the air,” which perfectly describes these six remarkable Greek Orthodox monasteries. The sandstone peaks were first inhabited by Byzantine hermits in the 11th century, who clambered up the rocks to be alone with God. The present monasteries were built in the 14th and 15th centuries during a time of instability and revival of the hermit ideal. They flourished until the 17th century but only six survive today; four of these still host monastic communities.

Greek Coffee

Greek coffee is a strong, rich brew, served in demitasse cups. It’s made from a fine grind of specially roasted beans.  Greek coffee can be made in four different ways. It can be sketos (without sugar, strong and bitter), metrios (medium, usually with one teaspoonful of sugar), glykys or vari glykos (almost honey-sweet) and glykys vrastos – sweet but boiled more then once so it loses most of its froth.
While in his ‘village’ of Sklithrou, our Greek host, Peter Petsopoulos explains how to make the perfect cup of Greek coffee.

Athens

During our 3 days in Athens we spent a great deal of time exploring the city with our great tour guides, Peter & Mary; including Plaka, the old city of Athens with its narrow pedestrian streets with many stores, coffee shops & restaurants. 
In addition to enjoying all the cafes & wonderful Greek cuisine we visited the Greek Parliament buildings and watched the changing of the guard. While there Lionel wanted to know what would happen if he tried to feed the many pigeons some Greek pastry, and was shocked when they landed all over him.
Yes, Vicki, Lionel went on the Athens subway – stay tuned for that post under one of his challenges!!!
We went on two great organized tours.  The first was a full day cruise where we visited three of the smaller Greek islands – Hydra, Poros & Athenia.
All of these islands had shopping and cafes close to the ports & as you have seen in a previous post, Hydra had donkey rides.

The second was a half day tour of Athens where we visited the Acropolis with its many incredible monuments including the Parthenon, the Propylea, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. We also viewed the Roman temple of Zeus and the Panathinaikon Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games. The tour ended with a visit to the new Acropolis Museum.
More pictures will be posted under an Athens photo gallery at a later date.

Amazing Race – Rohit’s Challenge

In true amazing race fashion, this task is a roadblock – you have the option to choose between one of the following two tasks; but beware, as each one is fraught with danger and could be…messy:

1. Ride a donkey down a hill in Greece.
(bonus points awarded if you do this in Santorini) or

2. Find an Indian restaurant in Spain (the seedier, the better) and polish off a plate of butter chicken! (bonus points awarded if you complete this task in Africa)

You decide which option will yield the greatest risk adjusted return – the choice is yours! 

For this challenge, I choose the donkey, even thought the last time I rode one I got tossed and landed on my head!  This challenge took a fair amount of courage and for that reason, I am looking for the bonus points even though I rode the ‘beast of burden’ up hills & down some very narrow pathways on the Greek Island of  Hydra instead of Santorini.

 

Welcome to our Greece Adventure

On Monday, May 14th, we arrived safely in Greece to begin our holiday with Peter & Mary Petsopoulos. As this trip is going to involve so many different adventures we have decided to do numerous short posts to keep the blog more interesting.

Stay tuned!

Trelawny, Jamaica

The last leg of our wonderful Jamaican adventure saw us, along with Suzie & John, leaving Treasure Beach on the morning of Wednesday, April 25th for Trelawny with stops along the way at Appleton Estate and YS Falls. Unfortunately, Philip & Jeanne were unable to continue touring with us & returned to Kingston that afternoon.


This leg of the trip was carefully planned to ensure that we would pass through the village of Middle Quarters, outside of Black River.  Middle Quarters is known all over Jamaica for one thing, Pepper Shrimp.  “Higglers” line the sides of the road and sell this spicy treat in small bags. The shrimp are actually crayfish caught in the river and boiled in salt water with crushed scotch bonnet peppers. Yummy!

Appleton Estate is located in the Nassau Valley of St. Elizabeth on 11,000 acres of land on which the sugar cane is grown and harvested to make the rum.  There is documented history of rum being produced at Appleton as early as 1749.  We enjoyed an interesting tour during which we learned the differences between how the rum was made in the past and how it is made today.  Winsome and Suzie showed their skill at operating the old press that was used to extract the sweet cane juice which was then used to make the rum – we got to drink the lovely fresh cane juice that they squeezed out. The tour ended with a visit to the tasting room where we were able to taste several of the various liquors & liquers which they produce.  There are a number of excellent rums produced under the Appleton banner, including 21 & 30 year old rums. There is a rumour that Appleton is planning to release a special rum in a very limited quantity to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence in August of this year.  No price has been disclosed but we understand that it will be extremely expensive!
During our tour we had learned that rum evoparates at 6% per year from the storage barrels, meaning that only 9.18L of the origional 195L would remain in a barrel stored 50 years ago!
Winsome & Suzie “jucing” the sugar cane.
After leaving Appleton, we headed to YS Falls about thirty minutes away.  YS Falls are a collection of seven tiered cascading falls many of which end in natural pools suitable for swimming.  In addition to swimming, YS Falls offers canopy rides, tubing and ropes from which you can swing into one of the many pools.  John did the canopy rides and I photographed him gliding through the trees as proof of the event. 

After we left YS, we headed to Breezes Resort in Falmouth. Breezes is an all inclusive resort where Winsome’s cousin, Richard Bourke, is the General Manager & where we had stayed before.  We were happy to be returning as the resort has a great beach – we had a great stay and enjoyed many fine meals. 

On the Thursday we woke up to pouring rain but it held up, mid morning, JUST long enough for us to go rafting on the Martha Brae River which was a wonderful experience.  We spent a relaxing hour on the river being guided by captains Frank and John. Our captain, Frank, has been doing this for twenty eight years.  If you wish you can stop to swim or buy Jamaican crafts from the vendors on the river bank. Winsome tried her hand at guiding our raft downriver and after a few minutes was doing a great job.  Rafting is a truly Jamaican experience that must be experienced if you are visiting the Island.  The Martha Brae River is located in Falmouth, and is one of many locations that offers river rafting in Jamaica.  It is about twenty miles from Montego Bay and forty miles from Ocho Rios.  The name, Martha Brae, is a corruption of the Spanish name for the river, the Rio Mateberion.  An alternative history of the name is that it comes from the legend of Martha Brae, a Taino witch who was tortured by Spanish settlers until she divulged the location of a stash of gold hidden in a cave along the path of the river. After divulging the location of the gold she changed the course of the river, killing the Spanish and blocking up the cave, where the gold is hidden to this day.  There are about eighty raft captains who guide their thirty foot bamboo rafts down a three mile stretch of the river. The captains make their own rafts which only lasts up to six months before they have to be replaced.  Once the captains have completed a run down the river their rafts are hauled back up the river on a trailer.  On other rivers in Jamaica, the rafts are pulled back up the river by youngsters hoping for a chance to be a captain one day.  During the plantation era the river was used as a vital artery, connecting the sugar estates in Trelawny to the port town of Falmouth.  Bamboo rafts were used to float sugar and other crops to the harbour before being loaded on to ships bound for Europe.



Thanks to Richard that evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Breezes Japanese restaurant, Munasan. 
On Friday morning we went into Montego Bay & stopped off to enjoy some wonderful Jerk Pork at Scotchies before returning to the hotel.  
That afternoon, after two days at Breezes, John & Suzie  left to return to reality in Grand Cayman. We greatly enjoyed touring with them and missed them after they left.  That night Richard’s Dad (Winsome’s, Uncle Paul) and his wife, Yvonne, joined Richard and us for dinner at Casablanca, one of the speciality restaurants at our hotel, and we had a wonderful evening.

Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny so we planned to spend the day relaxing on the beach but by early afternoon the rain came down.  In the afternoon, Richard kindly took us to visit and see his Dad’s & Yvonne’s house in Duncans.  That night we enjoyed a delicious Jamaican buffet dinner at the hotel – oxtail, curry goat, bammy, festival, plantain, etc.  Yum, yum!

Sunday morning was again another beautiful sunny morning but once again by noon the rain came down.  Although it was Richard’s day off he most generously drove all the way from Ocho Rios to Trelawny to pick us up & take us to Carol’s & his lovely home at, Jewel Dunn’s River.  Carol, Richard’s wife, is General Manager of this nice hotel & they have a lovely home on the property.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch and had a wonderful afternoon with family & friends.  Yvonne & Uncle Paul kindly drove us back to our hotel in the evening.

The jerk chicken at the Seashell Bar & Grill by the Breezes pool was great & most days we chose to have jerk chicken & patties there for lunch.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Breezes, Trelawny & wondering what changes will occur when the new owners take over to do renovations at the end of May. 

On Monday, the 30th, we sadly bid farewell to Jamaica and returned home to Markham.

Kenya – Musical Slide Show

Since returning from Kenya I wanted to create a slide show of photographs from the four fabulous camps I visited. The challenge was selecting the right photos and keeping it short enough so that people would take the time to watch the slide show. It’s just under seven minutes!

Hope you enjoy.

Jamaica – St. Elizabeth

These pictures were taken during the St. Elizabeth portion of our wonderful Jamaican adventure.

Jamaica – St.Elizabeth

On Monday, April 23, we had an early start leaving Kingston at 7:15 am with Suzie and John to begin our trip to Treasure Beach.  We stopped in May Pen, Mandeville and Alligator Pond to eat at Little Ochie before going to our hotel in Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s south coast.  As we were stopping in May Pen & Mandeville, Jeanne & Philip decided to leave later & join us in Little Ochie for lunch.

Winsome grew up in May Pen where her father worked at the Citrus Company so she went to see one of the houses where they had once lived.  There is a new highway from Kingston to May Pen so it was a relatively easy drive.  Once in May Pen we found their house on Camille Drive without much trouble.  We tried to find the Citrus factory but discovered that it has been torn down & been replaced by a gas station.

From May Pen we went to Mandeville & then headed in the direction of Little Ochie – or so we thought! We drove through some beautiful countryside for over 30 minutes before seeing an old abandoned church & grave yard which we stopped to explore.  We later learned it was a former Anglican Church, the Church In The Wildwood in an area called Mile Gully. The bottle of white overproof rum on the entrance steps was likely used to ward of evil sprits – or so we would like to believe!

Continuing on we drove for another 15 minutes before determining we were really “temporarily missplaced”!  We stopped in the middle of nowhere & flagged down a car going in the opposite direction and asked for directions to Little Ochie.  The driver looked at us as if we were crazy and then told us to follow him.  We followed him for about 45 minutes until we approached a round about at which time the driver got out of his car and told us how to get to Alligator Pond from there.  We stopped frequently after that to ensure we were on the right track – we had no more time to waste in order to meet Jeanne & Philip in Little Ochie at the arranged time.

Little Ochie is off the beaten track, being on the South Coast of Jamaica, which is less frequented by overseas visitors.  However, over the past few years this hidden gem has become far more popular and serves amazing authentic Jamaican seafood in an unique setting.  It is considered one of the best restaurants on the South Coast and is a ‘must do’ for people driving through the area.  The roads to get there are something else but once there it’s an experience you will never forget.  You pick your own fresh fish, lobster, crab or shrimp from an ice cooler, then it is weighed prior to being cooked to your liking. The fish can be roasted over an open flame, steamed, escoveitched, jerked or baked in foil and the lobster, shrimp & crab can be curried, jerked, boiled, roasted or prepared in garlic sauce.  Bammy, festival, breadfruit and plaintain are available to compliment your seafood.  While your meal is being prepared you relax and enjoy the scenery and the ambience with a drink from the bar which has a wide variety of beverages – of course including Red Stripe Beer!  We had an incredible experience and plan to go back one day!

From Little Ochie we drove towards Treasure Beach with Philip leading the way.  Treasure Beach is also on the unspoilt South Coast of Jamaica.  It does not have the mega hotels of the north coast, favouring much older and smaller hotels and inns.  Although the beaches have darker sand than those of the north coast they are lovely beaches which add greatly to its appeal.  Our hotel, The Treasure Beach Hotel, was nice but is showing its age and is definately in need of some sprucing up.  However, our room was very clean and had a great view of the beach, pool & gardens and the staff were all wonderful and accommodating.

The first night we were there we had a delicious light dinner at the famous “Jack Sprats” – we were still full from our Little Ochie lunch!

On the Tuesday we took a boat ride up the Black River with Suzie & John. We left from the beach just down from our hotel with Captain Joseph in his 28 foot fishing canoe with a 40 hp engine.  This was great, Captain Joseph explained the coastline along the way and we were fortunate to see a school of dolphins playing close to the boat.  The Black River has become a tourist spot – tour buses bring them from their hotels and they are herded onto a pontoon boat for a trip up the river.  There are 30+ people on these pontoons and they travel at great speeds creating a huge wake which is not good for the mangroves.  While on the river we saw a number of crocodiles lazing on the river bank.

On our return from Black River we made a stop at the quaint ‘Pelican Bar’, which is build on a sand bar in the middle of the ocean.  Here you can swim, have a few drinks and even a meal if you so choose.  This is another ‘must see’ for people visiting the area.

After we returned from our boat trip we ate lunch at Jack Sprats and then went over and checked out the infamous ‘Jakes’ – very unique cottges.  We spent the afternoon swimming and chilling together at the hotel.  For dinner that night we wanted to go to ‘MarBlue’ restaurant but unfortunately it was closed for the season, so we ate at Sunset Resort.

Wednesday morning we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast together at our hotel & then we left with Suzie and John towards our Trelawny destination.  We left Philip & Jeanne to enjoy the rest of the morning at hotel before they headed home to Kingston.

More pictures will soon be posted in the Photo Gallery under St. Elizabeth.