Saturday, May 26, 2012

Santorini Honeymoon – Day 9

We had a slow start to day today. We didn’t want to leave, so we took our time. We were going to see some of Amsterdam in the day and when we ran out of time, we’d head back to the hotel to grab our things before heading to the airport. Sigh...

We found a nice place to have breakfast, first off. B&B Lunchroom. We walked by a shop that had people standing outside taking photos of the muffins in the window. Really. Of course, that means that’s the kind of place we want to go and have a little snack before starting our day. We had a sandwich and a nice muffin, juice and espresso.

We hit up the pedestrian flower market, like you’re supposed to do, and just kept on walking. We headed in the direction of the previous night’s street festival and it was going strong. Looked like a lot of fun, actually.

Then, we came across a Febo. Our good friend Rocky reminded us we had to eat at Febo for him when we went to Amsterdam, and it was a staple of my diet when my old band toured over here a while back. Febo is like an automated snack shop out of the Jetsons cartoons from the 80’s. Delicious fried food is put in tiny warming compartments (a wall of them). You put in a handful of change and you get something tasty out. You can order fries at the counter, if that’s your thing, but it wasn’t today. Just the fried curry chicken roll.

We walked the red light district during the day, and while it’s toned down a tiny bit from the previous night, it is still the red light district. I will say the 1st shift ladies you have to choose from are a far cry from the 3rd shift ladies you have to choose from. I just calls it like I sees it, people.

We popped into the Amsterdam Sex Museum, which is a hilarious collection of artifacts, paintings, animatronic people, sculptures, peep-show negatives, and a host of other odd things. It’s worth a look, especially for the price.

Again, more shopping. Not for anything in particular, but just to look and see. We still had some souvenir ideas we were looking to complete, after all. It was getting close to that time where we had to leave, but we had just enough times to get a cone of fries at Chipsy King.

Rocky had suggested we get the Oolong sauce on them, so we did. Oolong sauce is like a Thai peanut sauce, which I’m fine with. Then she quickly squirted on some mayo (which I can power through), and then a huge cupful of onions (which my guts don’t like me to power through).

We collected our fries and then went and sat in the plaza and watched swarms of people going to, from, and around the street fair. It was a beautiful day.

We collected our things from the hotel and I asked if they still had the bread sprinkles. I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but only in Amsterdam have I seen these small boxes (like Nerd-size boxes) that contain chocolate or sprinkles for your bread. I love them. It’s like someone didn’t like cinnamon on their toast in the morning, but their kid dumped a box of cake sprinkles onto their bread and hit the jackpot. The lady working the counter told me I could take some for the road. So I did!!! Hooray!!!

We headed to the bus stop to catch our bus back to the airport and it started to rain. Perfect timing, in fact. Even the weather was sad we were leaving. We were having so much fun and then… bam. Back to reality. It was a long flight home and the adjustment back to working life has been awful. But we’ve got these awesome photos and stories from our honeymoon. I wouldn’t change any of it. It was perfect for us both.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Santorini Honeymoon – Day 8

Worst day of our lives. The day our honeymoon ends. Sigh….

We woke up and took as long as humanly possible packing our stuff for the flight out. We had our breakfast delivered to our upstairs balcony, because now that we’d done it once, we were already spoiled. So that part was nice… But then back to packing. The airline had delayed our flight two hours, so we had time to kill.

When we went to settle up, we (meaning me) realized I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet to pay for the rental car, so Mike told us to take the rental car back into town, find a cash machine, and buy some souvenirs. As usual… no problem.

So we ran out of the reception area and up to the car, fired it up, hit the accelerator, swerved onto the road, and then… crept forward about 2 miles an hour. We were behind the donkey wagon train. Hahahahaha. See, everything IS slower in Greece. That was just a nice reminder to bring the blood pressure down a notch.

We drove the five minutes to Fira and walked through the streets one last time. We bought a couple bottles of the awesome wine we had the previous night at Ambrosia, and then we bought a couple souvenirs, including this awesome monkey on a toilet wall hanging for our basement bathroom (if you haven’t experienced our basement bathroom, this wouldn’t make sense to you, but if you have… you know).

We got the cash we needed for the rental car and headed back to say our good byes. It was a sad affair. Truly it was. These people were absolutely wonderful to us and made sure we had an awesome honeymoon. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

They got us on the shuttle back to the airport (the awesome Canadian-Greek guy from the first day of our trip), and we settled in for a couple of airplane flights to Amsterdam. We started the voyage home with some bacon chips and some girly cocktails – Gin N Juice and Smirnoff Ice.

Quick layover in Athens, and then we landed in Amsterdam. We had help from the information desk to hop on a bus to our hotel and we made it without any problems at all. We only had to walk one block from the bus stop to the hotel – The Boutique Hotel View.

The place was nice and the people there were very friendly. They helped D.Rough carry her luggage up to the smallest room ever. Hahahaha. Our bathroom in Santorini was bigger than the entire room in Amsterdam. Oh well. We’re in Amsterdam – it isn’t like we’re going to hang out in the hotel, now are we?

The best part was the bathroom. The toilet and shower are basically the same thing. D.Rough couldn't stop laughing when she heard the toilet flush in middle of my shower. You do the math.

I’d been to Amsterdam before, but wanted to show D.Rough around a bit. So we headed out. It was a 15 minute walk to a small city street fair and then another 10 minutes to the red light district.

We were starving so we found an Indian and Indonesian Restaurant in the red light district called… wait for it… Kama Sutra. Dur! What else would it be called? All kinds of hilarious sounding dishes (and positions) on the menu. Take a look at this awesome wall painting behind my new wife!

We ordered a lot of things. Basically two different sampler menu items. And honestly, the food was delicious. We really didn’t dislike anything at all. Excellent flavor, no gristle, no grease, and plenty of spice. We would actually recommend this place to anyone!

We headed out into the red light district to check it all out. It’s just as I remembered it – not scary, not seedy, not dangerous. It’s a culture shock if you haven’t been here before, but it’s just the way things are here. If you’re in Amsterdam, you need to go here for a night and walk around. There’s people, food, music, “adult” entertainment, bars, coffee shops, pizza/fries/donut/waffle places, and a ton more. I looked for some of my old band’s stickers, but didn’t see any (we blanketed the entire red light district with stickers when we toured over here a few years back).

We found a donut shop and then walked back to the hotel (again, perfectly safe), and cashed out for the night.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santorini Honeymoon – Day 7

It was our last full day on the island, so we were going to do a lot of things today. We had arranged to have breakfast brought to us in our private pool area (because we’re baller like that). It was another perfect day in paradise.

We rented a different car (our Micra had already been rented out that day) to drive up to Oia. This time, a manual (stick) transmission. I got to impress D.Rough with my Mario Andretti driving skillz. We took the scenic route just to ensure we saw as much of the island as possible. There isn’t much in the way of directional signage, so we got a little lost, but we managed to do just fine (despite some amazingly steep hills with cartoon-like bands to navigate).

We passed through some really quaint small towns along the way. We were really glad we took this route.

We stopped at a beautiful church to take some photos and they were having a festival. We listened to the music a bit and watched the live band and dancers. How’s THAT for a Greek experience?!?

We got to Oia and decided to do some walking. We hadn’t actually seen it during the daylight and this was our last chance. It really is a pretty little tourist town. Every photo you take could be a postcard on a rack somewhere.

We needed some lunch and our friends from Lucky’s (Avi and Ben) told us about these small shops in the bay at Amoudi – down a HUGE set of winding stairs from Oia. We headed to the port at the bottom and, after taking photos of the donkeys we passed, found the restaurants they were talking about.

We saw a guy pull a fish out of the water and cut it up on the cement stoop right next to a restaurant, so we thought we’d better try that. It also looked the nicest and had the most Greek people there. Dimitri's Amoudi Taverna. The waitress was very nice and formerly American, so she took us back into the kitchen and showed us the case where they kept all the fresh fish. We saw the one the guy had just cut up and picked that one for lunch. Then we also had some greens, the biggest baked beans we ever ate, some delicious octopus, and the Grouper the guy had just cut up. Amazing meal. Right on the water. Literally.

The,n we actually had to go BACK up the stairs. Which was a bad idea, since we had booked a couple’s honeymoon massage with Antonio at Caldera Massages Studio & Spa, thanks to my friend Coach. We showed up to do our massage soaked with sweat and breathing hard. Quite funny, but the no one said anything about it. I won’t go into detail on the massage, but it was fun to do.

Couple’s shower (how long are you supposed to spend in there while the masseurs wait? We had no idea!), followed by a 1+ hour synchronized couples massage while wearing paper thongs they provided, then a bath soak for two in a hot bath with mud, honey, milk, and some essences of something-or-other, then finally a “Healthy and Tasty Break” for two – which was decidedly unhealthy and delicious!!!!! Greek Cheese Pie covered in tzatziki, Bulgar Salad, and Tiramisu cheese cake. I could eat “healthy” every day in Greece!!!

Despite having this “snack”, we had made dinner reservations at one of the nicest restaurants in town (Mike at the hotel made them for us before we left – I told you it would be “no problem”) called Ambrosia. We left the Spa and immediately ran to make our dinner reservation. We didn’t know theese two activities were going to conflict like this. We were greeted by a fabulous man with flowy hair held back by sunglasses, and a colorful scarf. We knew we were going to like this place. We had already missed the sunset (since we forgot to bring the directions to Ambrosia from the Spa), but we still had the best seat in the house (thank you, Mike) – right on the edge of the balcony, overlooking the town of Oia and the waterfront.

We had an incredible meal served by a delightful Romanian server who took care of us. After I impressed him with my wine ordering ability (Sigala barrel from Santorini), he helped us decide on a few entrees, since we had already just had immediately prior to this, our huge healthy snack which we couldn’t even finish. Absolutely the most romantic dinner we’ve had here. The restaurant even had blankets on the backs of chairs for when it got cold. Which was funny because we didn’t have time to change after our massage and I was still wearing shorts and a t-shirt (whoops!). Candles, roses, music – the works.

We had lamb chops, mixed seafood linguini, and a fantastic bottle of wine (which we bought more of the next day and brought back to the U.S. with us). We ended with a nice glass of Visanto (Santorini dessert wine) and a very delicious and fancy white chocolate mousse with dark chocolate leaves covered with Anglaise sauce and strawberries. Brilliant dessert!

We didn’t want to end this night, but (as usual), it was getting late and we still hadn’t packed for our flight the next day. Sigh. Bittersweet…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Santorini Honeymoon – Day 6

We woke up excited for this day. Like, DISNEYLAND EXCITED! Today we were going sailing. You can tell we’re stupid happy about this trip!

I want to show you every photo from this incredible day, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

To begin with, when the Greek-Canadian who picked us up from the airport the first day told us to charter a boat with Captain Ted. Ignore anyone who tells you to pick another charter, Ted is the guy to go with. Ted is apparently from New Jersey, and fell in love with Santorini. He now owns three or four catamaran sailboats and takes people – like FAMOUS people – out on them around the island. He was featured on TV when he took Giada DeLaurentiis out on his boat. He’s a big deal.

The shuttle picked us up at the hotel and had two people inside. Two Australian girls meeting for a holiday (one of them lived in Amsterdam currently). Lauren and Alexandra were super nice people and we could tell we were going to have fun. When we got to the port, we followed the guy (Aristotle) to the boat and he introduced us to Ted and his crew – Chris and Mike (or Miccccchhh-al-eyyy, as Ted liked to say). He told us the rules (there aren’t many) of the boat and how to use the toilet. He chatted us up as he drove us out to sea.

This is Captain Ted.

Life was immediately perfect. Beautiful wife. Beautiful weather. Slight breeze. Open bar. And… we’re on a boat.

He sailed us past the Red Beach we saw the previous day.

Then he sailed us past the White Beach, which we opted NOT to swim out to, due to the “refreshing” temperature of the water.

Then we sailed back behind the volcano. There’s a small cove behind the volcano where the sulphur hot springs are. Ted backed up the boat and told us to head for the springs. Oh yeah, into the frigid water and swim for your life.

10000000% worth it. The springs were glorious. All kinds of orange iron in the water (so don’t wear a white swimsuit, as we found out), and bubbles everywhere. There was an old abandoned snack stand set up years ago that shut down. Why? Because normal people don’t swim with a wallet. Dur.

We played in the water for 40-45 minutes before it dawned on us that we had to swim back out through the ice water to get to the boat. Hilarious, when the people are on the boat are pointing and laughing at you while you’re treading water in 50 degree water.

Once back on board, Ted sailed us to a small cove he rents, and Chris and Mike made us one of the best meals we had in Santorini, utilizing the grill and kitchen on board. Calamari, giant prawns, grilled vegetables, Santorini salad, fish Roe dip, grilled pork, grilled turkey breast, and lots of wine and beer.

Alexandra commented about how racist it was to have the Aussie working the barbeque, and we all got a laugh. Then Chris told us how you can find anything you want in Greece EXCEPT for BBQ tongs. Immediately after saying that, they slipped out of his hands and into the water. Soooo hilarious. Here is everyone watching them sink to the bottom of the cove.

We then climbed into the netting at the front of the catamaran and enjoyed the most beautiful day ever.

Best money we ever spent – and for the record, it’s ridiculously inexpensive. Food, drinks, and shuttle are included and D.Rough and I spent more than that for some meals. If we had known how incredible this sailing thing was, we would have done it every day. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. We have tons of photos from this 5-hour adventure, if you’re interested…

Ted drove us back to our hotel and D.Rough and I took a nap. But when we woke up, we weren’t done with the water. It was pool time. It didn’t matter how cold it was! The day was perfect.

We had picked up a few bottles of local Santorini wine the day before, so we decided to have our own little self-guided wine tour while watching the sunset. We had some bread and some snacks and got all set up on our upstairs patio at our hotel. The wine we had chosen was NOT good. None of them. But we powered through as much of it as we could.

We chatted with Mike at the reception desk for a bit about the moonshine we kept getting served all over the island. He explained it is called Tsikoudia or Raki if you're in Crete. He told us everyone in the smaller towns has a friend or relative that makes it. We told him we thougt it was moonshine. Mike then asked us what the name of the movie with the orange car was - D.Rough said, "Dukes of Hazzard?" Bingo. Mike told us everyone has an Uncle Jesse and makes their own hooch. Hilarious!!! Some places get enough of it, that they serve it with food. Apparently, Mike and his family have a little Raki operation going back in Crete, as well. And since he was headed back for a family wedding the weekend we were there, he'd be doing some sampling with the family. I'm beginning to think my Alabama relatives with family stills int he woods might be part Greek, after all.

We took a cab to Firostephani to have dinner. Captain Ted, aside from his sailing chartering business, also owns the only sushi restaurant on the island – Ginger Sushi. It had gotten fantastic reviews, so we wanted give Ted even more of our money.

Thankfully, this was money well spent. The prices were extremely reasonable and the sushi was top notch. Ted was there and we sat near him, which was the right thing to do, since he could recommend the best things on the menu – which he did – AND he was right. We had Snapper prepared two different ways, Teriyaki Salmon, and a Rainbow Roll. Then a spicy tuna roll. He also recommended we finish with the black sesame seed crème brulee. An excellent choice!!! We had a fantastic dinner and enjoyed the only cocktails in town with actual ice cubes!!! Ted knows what he’s doing. If Ted had any other businesses in Santorini, I would have gladly donated even more money to them.

A fantastic end to the absolutely best day we had on the island. Today was the “Day of Ted”.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Santorini Honeymoon – Day 5

We woke up extra early for our chartered sailboat ride and went and head a small breakfast (I didn’t want to hurf up a delicious full breakfast). We finished our food and then went up to wait for our shuttle to the port. We waited a bit and then went and asked our hotel folks to call and check things out. The guy put the phone down and immediately music came on the loud speaker. Yup, Rick Rolled at the EXACT instant we found out our sailing day had been cancelled due to wind and choppy water. Bummer, but it was rescheduled for tomorrow, which was fine.

Our pool was being drained since there so much sand and grit in the bottom of it, so that was out. We decided to do more exploring!

We got our car rental contract “updated”, and we headed to the ruins at Akrotiri. The ruins had been closed for 15 years or so and had only recently opened back up to the public. Sounded awesome to us. We got all slathered up with sunscreen in the parking lot and went to buy our tickets. Once through the gate, we were herded into a HUGE building with air conditioning containing the ruins. So THAT’s why we were the only ones glistening with sun screen in the area! The building is like 5 football fields and keeps the climate consistent for the ruins. The ruins aren’t labeled at all, so you have no idea what you’re looking at. Also, all of the artifacts are in the historical museum in some other city, so it’s really a combo deal if you want to see it all. We snapped some photos and bailed out.

We went right down the street to the Red Beach. The island is all volcanic rock, so most beaches are black. The only two that aren’t are the Red Beach and the White Beach (only accessible by boat). The Red Beach is absolutely stunning. It’s a beautiful formation of red rock that looks like it is sliding into the water.

None of the other tourists wanted to make the treacherous hike down the rock slide of red volcanic rock, so there were literally two people on the beach. D.Rough and I don’t do anything half assed. If we’re there, we’re seeing it ALL. We hiked over the rocks and slid down a 50 foot drop of sharp red rock slide and hit the beach. It was worth it. We did some wading up to our knees, but the water was REALLY cold this time of year. It was still magical.

We got back in the car and drove to another beach – today was beach day! We drove to Perissa, a beach on the eastern side of the island. We had a delicious meal at Tranquilo, while watching the waves roll in. Tranquilo is kind of an Aussie healthy bar/restaurant. They’re known for the biggest salads on the island – which I can say, they’re REALLY huge. The woman working was incredibly nice and chatty and made sure we were having a good time.

We (of course) had a bunch of girly drinks and even went out and drank them on the beach (Tranquilo has their own private area of the beach with chairs and umbrellas on the black sand). It was a glorious day.

We drove to find the only waterpark on the island (right there in Perissa), but it was closed and not yet open for the season. Bummer. It’s a good thing we’re easy travellers and can roll with it.

We hopped in the car and made the drive to Oia to watch the sunset (probably less than an hour in the car – we were beginning to see just how small the island really is). We did some shopping in the touristy area and saw an absolutely beautiful sunset there. This is where people go to watch the sunset – lots of tourists here who all leave immediately after the sun goes down. Very weird, but still fun.

We were hungry for some Mexican food (yes, you heard us), so we drove back to the Senior Zorba’s (literally 500 feet from our hotel. It sounds weird, but we had a pretty delicious meal there. The hostess was a really fun lady from Denver who chatted us up about all kinds of things. She smuggles in Cholula hot sauce a couple of times a year so her restaurant can serve it. She also helped us celebrate our honeymoon in true Mexican fashion. And like we said, for being 5,000 miles from Mexico, it was quite good. She boxed up our huge amount of left overs (something we’ve never seen in Europe) and we all hugged good-bye. D.Rough and I are getting good at hugging restaurant owners when we have great service. It’s our thing, all of a sudden.

The amount of food we ate was Ex-Zorba-tant (hahahaha I just made that up!), so when we got back to the hotel, we passed out. Which is surprising since we were both SUPER excited about our sailboat ride in the morning!!!!!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!