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Posts from the ‘Greece’ Category

Santorini, Greece

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Our Tour of Santorini, Greece

Just reaching Santorini is a joy as you ride in a colorful local boat to Athinios and then join a motor coach for your driving tour. Before long, you will arrive at Santoriniʹs highest peak, crowned by the serene Mt. Profitis Ilias monastery. Here, you will have an ideal photo opportunity to capture the beauty of this gorgeous island, which is also called Thira. At the northern tip of Santorini lies the unique village of Oia, built on a dramatically steep slope of a caldera that formed after a volcanic eruption about 3,500 years ago. Many of its dwellings are nestled in niches hewn out of the volcanic rock. As you walk through its narrow cobbled streets, you might shop for handicrafts and artwork such as ceramics, paintings and semi-precious jewelry. Oia also offers spectacular views of Fira, the islandʹs other village, which you will visit, as well. During your travels, be sure to notice Santoriniʹs beaches, which are known for their black, volcanic sand. 

As you can see from the photos below the scenery in Santorini was spectacular.  Unfortunately, when we reached the highest peak of Santorini at the beginning of the tour, the fog was so thick it made photography impossible. This was probably the coolest it was on any of our tours.  We enjoyed walking the old cobblestone streets and exploring the many local shops – except for when we had to walk up a very steep hill covered in manure to get to the cable car to return to the tender pier.


The pictures in this gallery were taken during our four days in Thessaloniki.


After leaving Sklithrou we headed to Thessaloniki with Peter & Mary, the second largest city in Greece. We spent four wonderful days exploring the area and going on many long drives to explore the beautiful coastal areas and beaches.  Lionel actually went for a swim in the Aegean Sea at Kassandra and it was not as cold as he had feared.  Big surprise – although it was an absolutely lovely hot day, the others did not join him.

We visited the local markets and as usual ate many wonderful meals.  Mary & Winsome were happy to discover that there was a great shopping mall only ten minutes from the  hotel  – Peter & Lionel were not quite as enthusiastic.

One of the highlights was a visit to the village of Nea Iraklia where Peter was trying to find his house which he had not visited in almost ten years. We killed ourselves laughing as Peter drove up and down lane ways for almost two hours.  Some were so narrow that sometimes there was less than a finger width on either side of the car. Peter certainly earned his drivers merit badge on this trip.  On at least three occasions, people came out of their houses to ask if they could help and then looked at us in amazement when Peter said he was trying to find his house!  One couple even invited us in for coffee.  I am sure that they once we had driven off they also killed themselves laughing at us!  Peter even drove into the town to the bakery to ask the lady working there if she knew the lady who Peter knows next door to their house – but to no avail & once again we are sure that she thought we were crazy!  We eventually found what Peter & Mary thought was their house but then the key could not open the gate.  After all of us tried several times Peter somehow got the gate to open.  There was great relief when we went inside and saw pictures of Peter & Mary’s family, which proved we were at the right house! We now have pictorial references to aid in finding the house in the future.

Just outside the village was an amazing bar called Crystal Life which was established by a few local business men.  It is situated on a lovely long stretch of beach with over a thousand lounge chairs on the sand – some with thatched roofs over them.  All they serve is coffee, booze, hot dogs & pizza. On their May long weekend they had 9,500 people attend a concert. This place is a gold mine and as Winsome says all it take is someone with an idea!  The only part that puzzled us was that they only had 2 ladies & 2 mens washrooms. Peter did an exceptional job acting as our local tour guide & we enjoyed ourselves immensely visiting all the different areas.

While in Thessalonki we celebrated Peter’s fifty something birthday with a delicious Greek dinner! Better you than me pal!

On May 25, Lionel & Winsome flew to Athens where we spent the night in a hotel before boarding our cruise the following day. We left Peter & Mary behind for a love week-end!!!

More pictures are posted in a Thessaloniki gallery.


The pictures in this gallery were taken during our stay in Sklithrou and the surrounding area.


We spent a wonderful four days with Peter’s family in the village of Sklithrou   and the surrounding areas of Florina, etc.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all: –

Kosta & Fanny
Bobby, Koula, Constadina & Bella (puppy)
Nikos, Georgia, Stavroula & Vangelio
Kosta, Avloyitsa & George
Theo Anesto & Thea Vangelio
Thea Despina
& of course Bobby’s dad, Kosta
They all went out of their way to make us feel very welcome.  We were spoiled by everyone who prepared delicious meals in their homes for us and treated us in wonderful local restaurants.  This was our introduction to incredible Greek food.  After eating such incredible lamb we have now become extremely picky and find it very difficult to find any that can even compare and Lionel was not happy with some feta he ate on the ship!
We visited the lovely Church in the village which Peter had very generously donated the funds to have it sandblasted. In trying to show us the beautiful interior of the Church, Peter managed to set of the alarm which disrupted the peace and quiet of the village and the priest had to be woken up to turn it off!  Fortunately he was not upset and was thrilled to open it up and show it to us.
We went on many long drives in the area with our expert driver, Peter at the wheel. By the end of of holiday, Peter was driving like a true Greek!!!

A very special thanks to Nikos, Georgia, Stavroula & Vangelio who gave up their lovely home to us while we were in the village. Efharisto.

More pictures will  be posted at a later date when I have greater access to internet!


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.


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.