adventure

“…And because there is nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars…” Contiki Honeymoon Part 1 of 3

untitled-1

I’m back. I’ve been back in Winnipeg for about a week now, after a much-needed adventure overseas in lands vast and beautiful. J. and I had booked our honeymoon long before I lost my job (ironically scheduled to take place at the time my vacation days would kick in),  and though this meant zero employment insurance for three weeks (despite having used up my vacation payout to, well, survive since August), I tried my best to put aside my feelings of guilt and anxiety, leave the stresses of the preceding month behind, and venture off with my new husband who’d worked extra, incredibly hard to take care of us. We had three back-to-back Contiki trips planned (seriously, after last summer’s trip seeing what I think ended up being 14 cities in 16 days and meeting some of the best people I’ve ever known, this was the only way to travel – yes, even for a honeymoon!): Mainland Greece, a cruise through the Greek Islands, and a week in Ireland. #diversity.

contiki-1-of-3

After a bit of a surprise getting to Winnipeg Airport, we soon discovered we wouldn’t be flying Air Canada, but instead Air Canada Rouge, their best kept secret for travellers on a budget whose retro idea of in-flight entertainment included such joys as Name That SmellAdventures With Strangers (Because You Aren’t Allowed To Sit Together), and Cake in the Face (and other surprise wake-up calls). Slightly baffled that a two-hour domestic flight came with a nice glass of wine and TV screens for all, yet 8+ hours across the Atlantic was to be spent wondering if that green sauce was actually food and playing the world’s most limited edition of I-Spy, we promptly took a couple of sleeping pills and attempted to knock ourselves out until we got to Greece.

We arrived in Athens to clear skies, warm temperatures, and the happiest taxi driver in the world, who ended up taking one of my EPs! We were dropped off at the lovely hotel a few hours before check-in, so ended up crashing in all our jetlagged glory with our suitcases in the lobby. We were to meet the rest of our group later that night, and after getting in to our room, taking in the view from the rooftop pool (no Ibis here!), and discovering iced coffee wasn’t going to be hard to find at all (“uhh, we’re kind of famous for it”), we met our first tour manager Alex and our group of fellow travellers for the next few days.

Our first day spent as a group started in Athens, where we ended up walking through the city centre, exploring the Plaka area and ending up at the most picturesque Greek scene for dinner, at a restaurant built over several areas up some steps canopied with a roof of open-air ivy and vines. Traditional dancers and ALL THE CATS (Greece = cat lady heaven) provided a gorgeous atmosphere, we dined, made new friends, and got to see the Acropolis all lit up under the moonlight. A beautiful first night topped off with a walk back where poor Alex was trying to give us a bit of a tour by night but we all got distracted by playing with the dog with a ball instead of paying attention to the story of the monument in the city square (oops).

Day two was pretty chocka. We began by hiking it up to the Acropolis and the Parthenon itself, which was nothing short of breathtaking – both in terms of view and for the less fit of us. Being at this spot, next to these impossibly big old structures (constructed in 447 BC and finished by 438 with no modern-day machinery? Somebody get those Greeks time-zapped over here to maybe do something about our roads!) completely reinspired my love of Greek mythology, and everything we learned was a brilliant combination of folklore, myth, belief systems, and history itself. We then trekked over to Mycenae to visit some cool tombs, took in Agamemnon’s Palace, where we learned tales of murder, incest, treachery and Troy, and ended the day in Olympia, where we spent the evening getting to know our new friends, played tonnes of games, drank one too many Mythos, and climbed a tree. My scrapes from falling out of it were nothing compared to the misadventures that ensued after we’d gone to bed – apparently poor Alex had been called at 3:00 a.m. to be informed that some of his group had launched themselves heroically from their second-floor balcony in an attempt at subterfuge so a fellow dedicated adventurer could go skinny dipping in the (very much closed) pool. Love you guys 🙂

Our second-last day of this trip began in Olympia, and the spot of the very first Olympic games in 776 BC. I wish you could capitalise numbers; the history of some of these places is mind-blowing. We had a really in-depth tour of the site of the games, met Olympic Dog, visited the temples of Zeus and Hera, and the exact spot the Olympic flame is lit every four years. Some of the guys took it upon themselves to have a race (James!! You’re supposed to win!), which was tonnes of fun, and we had a bit of time to ourselves to pick up some goodies and our first real gyros of the trip – HEAVEN! (They even put chips in them over there!) We had a stop in what might have been my favourite spot on this leg of the trip, the relatively untouristy little town of Nafpaktos. We all enjoyed the most turquoise water ever, splashing around, soaking up the sun, and a quick margarita before heading off to Delphi for a night of dancing in a local bar (we are feeling our age a bit on these nights, but I’ve decided that the Aussies are just born with the superpower of being able to drink copiously and constantly and still manage to be upbeat and functional the next day regardless), and a surprise – because it was our honeymoon, they’d arranged a special room for us in the hotel there – the actual Presidential Suite where Hillary and Bill had stayed!! It was breathtaking. I only wish we got to enjoy it for longer!

The final day of Spotlight on Greece I spent hanging with the girls at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. Everyone was feeling slightly rough from the night before, but we had in front of us one of the most magnificent sights and amphitheatres, so we went for it and climbed as high as we could to enjoy the view!

After making our way back to Athens, we picked up some last-minute souvenirs, ate more gyros, and transferred to our new tour group for the Golden Fleece. Only three of our group were moving on to this next cruise, so we said our goodbyes and made our way to the next spot, where we’d be joining a new group to set sail through the Greek Islands on board the beautiful Celestyal Crystal. We’d already packed so much into four days I couldn’t believe we still had over two weeks left, and though I was sad to say goodbye to a couple of really awesome people (AJ, Steve, we’ll meet again, and Ashleigh and Carime, all the hugs in the world to you ladies), I was excited for another two Contikis and thirsty for more sun, sea, and mythology.

Stay tuned for parts two, three, and compilation video! 🙂

 

Advertisements

Code Red: That time I nearly got shot, and somebody else lost a life…

Last month, I was away for a few weeks as a result of a nasty injury to my hand (sidenote: Dragon is proving absolutely invaluable), and since then, it’s come to my attention that I may have omitted several incidents that took place then that would probably be worth mentioning.

The first of which involves work, when late one morning, the head of the entire organization comes down to my office to inform me that the building was going on lockdown, and that we were not to leave or allow anyone else to leave or enter the premises until further notice – because a man with a gun was threatening to open fire.  I know.  Being in the closest office to the door outside, I immediately started panicking, dead certain that if anyone was going to get shot first, it would definitely be me. I paced the floors, closed the blinds, my heart racing the whole time, my thoughts darting between “what if this morning was the last time I see my husband?” and all the people I wanted to tell how much I loved them.  Of course, this was entirely self-induced panic, as the boss had told us it was just a precaution – and the likelihood of it actually happening were slim-to-none. But if I’m good at one thing in this life, it’s Worrying Unnecessarily, and for about twenty minutes, I think I can say I had a near-death experience! Everyone was fine – except me, two days later, when I was informed this man was coming back to the building between 7:30 and 8:00 that morning. Being the one who generally arrives half an hour before everyone else, I was asked to stand guard (at the completely transparent glass door), keep the door locked, and only let in people who I knew were supposed to be in the building. Me. The 5’3” waif of a girl who could clearly take on a potential assassin before any other staff arrived. (Sidenote: I did take jiu-jitsu for several years, but that was over ten years ago, and throwing a big scary man is slightly different from throwing other twelve-year-olds.)  Thankfully, he soon arrived with police and security, and all went on as normal. Phew.

The other noteworthy incident took place at home, and sadly, involved my little cat. I’m usually the first one home on weeknights, and I generally arrive to Miss Rose Kitten racing to greet me at the front door, meowing excitedly as if she’d been estranged for over a week, at which point I pick her up, take her out with me to pick up the day’s post, for all two minutes of which she soaks up her brief and glorious encounter with the outside world. This day, however, was different. I opened the door. There was no cat. I immediately thought she’d been accidentally locked in a room, so I quickly threw off my bag and coat, when I saw her coming down the stairs, strangely slowly. The usual mad dash was replaced by slow, cautious steps, and her head seemed to be hanging low – as if she were carrying something in her mouth. I didn’t have my glasses on, and my first instinct was something to the effect of crap, we must have mice, and she’s bringing me a present – until she got to the bottom of the stairs and didn’t look up.

Now, I should probably mention that Rose is pretty much the most fantastic cat in the world, and has an extensive repertoire of excellent qualities (case in point) – one of which most definitely isn’t her determinedness to stick her head in every glass of water, try and drink from it, then knock it over, spilling water everywhere. I turned the lights on, and to my horror, she had stuck her head in the glass carafe from the coffee machine (the lid had broken off months ago) while we were out, got said head firmly stuck with the mouth of said carafe around her neck, jumped off the counter in presumed terror, and smashed the glass on her head and all over the floor. This hadn’t removed the problem of it being stuck around her neck, and she’d spent the rest of the day in a chokehold with the spikey glass remnants sticking out around her face. One life very much lost. Thank HEAVENS she hadn’t cut herself, and I managed to get it off her quickly – but she’d probably been stuck like that for hours, unable to eat, sleep, or do pretty much anything. She was thoroughly traumatised, and I spent the rest of the evening keeping her cuddled close – until she saw a fresh glass of water on the coffee table. Head went straight in. At least we know her ordeal was short-lived…