Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Big Trip Video--Greece Highlight Reel

Because I had a kidney transplant, Ben and I had to postpone our honeymoon.  Instead of jet-setting immediately after our wedding, we ended up going to Greece for ten days in May.

Enjoy this video installment of my Big Trip Diary!

Since last year, I've become a bit obsessed with making videos whenever we go on a trip.  I'm a child of the 80s and 90s.  Which means there are a lot of VHS tapes floating around my parents' home of me walking, talking, riding my bike.  My parents even walked around with a camera the size of a boombox to capture my little adventures growing up. I miss those times.  I miss them so much in fact that I'm starting doing something similar.  The only difference is that my camera is not even bigger than my hand when I'm using my iPhone. 

I recorded all of this video footage during our honeymoon in Greece and compiled it on Windows Movie Maker.  If you're curious what I did with our last video, I burned it onto a DVD and put it in a binder which will be designated "Home Videos."  

If you're looking to plan a trip to Greece in the future and visit all the same places we did and stay in the same places and eat in the same places, then you'll find this list of hotels, restaurants and tours useful.

Our entire trip was planned by the wonderful Petros at Hellenic Holidays

Hotel Amalia
Chat Tours
 Lagos Mare Hotel
Astra Suites
Santorini Sailing
To Psaraki

Friday, June 13, 2014

Just Shy of One Year Married

So I had a really long post written about the one thing I learned at the end of one-year of marriage.  It was really long and really corny and really boring. I thought that it was what I wanted to write to sum up my first year of marriage.  But the post wasn't a true reflection of how I really feel about this first year.  So I deleted the whole thing.  I think it was like 600 words and it took me several days to write.  
But this is what I really think about our first year:

June 15, 2013
  The first year of our marriage was easy.  I'd say it was the easiest and best of Ben's and my 9 years togetherAnd I don't say this to downplay any other couple's experience with their first year of marriage. We've heard countless times how hard the first year of marriage can be.  So we expected the worst.  But we've been blessed.  We know we have hard times coming, but we're happy that we've avoided them thus far.  During this incredibly easy year I've discovered most of all that Ben and I were made for this.  We were made to be married to each other.  Getting married was kind of like the missing link in our lives, so once it all went down, everything else just started falling into place.  Someone at a bar jokingly asked me if I missed being single.  I non-jokingly replied, nope.  Not one bit.  I know that this is where I'm meant to be-- being Ben's wife and creating a life together.  

Trip to Arizona, August 2013

We get a real kick out of referring to ourselves as the Ashman family.  It's just the two of us plus our cat, which I guess in some people's mind isn't a family because there aren't any kids.  But we think of ourselves as more than a couple, more than two people in a relationship.  We're relatives! We have to write each others' names on forms and paperwork. We get mail that's addressed to both of us.  We have savings accounts, dammit!   And we know that not having kids to raise right now, doesn't make us any less of a unit. 

Christmas 2013

We still have disagreements.  Just because our first year of marriage was awesome and easy compared to some of our previous years of dating does not mean we didn't have any fights/arguments/yelling matches this year.  For me, the big difference between fighting pre-marriage and fighting now is that I don't start coming up with to ways to get out of my relationship because we're much more than that.  Ben is just like my sister, mom and dad. We can't stay mad at each other for long.  Just like with my siblings, we may get into a heated argument, but at the end of the day we are a family.  Nowadays, we apologize quicker, we forgive easier, we resolve things a hell of a lot faster, and we keep it moving because we know that we're all we've got. We're bound to one another.  

Death Valley, Calif., February 2014
  I love Ben so much more than last June 15 or any day really.  We've been together for almost a decade so you'd think, how much more can you love a person or learn about a person.  When you've been dating someone for so long, it's easy to get caught up in wishing for that "new love." That infatuation that was present when we first started dating.  One thing I've noticed this year:  I have no desire to go back to the newness of love.  I love where we are right now.  And I think I'm MORE obsessed and infatuated with Ben now than I was during our first year of dating.  It's kind of bad actually.  I'm pretty sure I have a problem.  

Pre-Greece with Grayson, May 2014
  SO, in sum, being married, it's pretty great.  I think I'll keep doing it.

Us Before "$5 Movie Night," June 10, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Big Trip Diary: Santorini

Because I had a kidney transplant, Ben and I had to postpone our honeymoon.  Instead of jet-setting immediately after our wedding, we ended up going to Greece for ten days in May.
I'm sharing a few pictures and our daily observations in this last installment of my Big Trip Diary.  Come back next week for our vacation video!

Being in Greece for a such a long time you expect there to be at least one day of less than spectacular weather. The day we left Naxos, it was overcast with a few rain drops in the air, which made us thankful that we were able to see the Naxos beaches in all their sunshine glory the day before.
At about noon we were driven to Chora to catch our ferry to our final destination, Santorini. We boarded the Blue Star speed ferry and 12:50. This was by far the nicest ferry Ben and I had been on ever. It was like riding a boat that looked like the inside if an airplane, Starbucks, and mall food court all at once.  Then as we we found our seats and the boat started moving, motion sickness hit Ben like a ton of bricks.  We didn't talk for the entire two hour ride to Santorini.
Upon arriving in Santorini, our driver, Yannis, picked us up at the small "in the middle of nowhere" port, along with a bunch of other hotel vans, buses and sightseeing tours. Then we started the winding drive up to the top of Santorini's cliffs. As we ascended higher we began to grasp the awesomeness of the majestic view of the dramatic cliffside and the sparkling sea stretching forever into one direction. 

The view from our hotel room on arrival day
We arrived at our hotel, in the quiet village of imerovigli. Astra suites. Things that we adore about Astra Suites:
  • The service is better than anything you would receive in America...ever...I think.
  • Every morning they bring breakfast to your room and you have the option of sitting outside on a private balcony to eat or not. Its located right on the caldera, so the view is break-taking.
  • The rooms are more than just rooms. They're spacious studio apartments with a kitchenette.
  • The robes and the towels are plush and smell like flowers.
  • The food at the hotel restaurant.
  • The little gifts: wine, glasses to drink out of, chocolates, and fresh fruit.
The first night, we didn't do much but sleep, recover from our ferry crankiness and try out the hotel restaurant.
But even though it was cloudly, the sunset still lit up the sky that first evening with its radiant pinks and reds.
The next day...
Waking up in Santorini is waking up in paradise. The first thing I see shining through our windows is the glow of the sun rising on the other side of the mountain. It casts little bits of light across the caldera.

The view of Scaros in the morning
We are served breakfast in our room: a basket of delicious croissants, smoked ham, cereal for Ben and a frittata for me. We ate, and read the daily newsletter that accompanied the breakfast. The newsletter told of us different things we could do on the island and the weather forecast. As the sun continued to rise we started to think about our day. At about noon the sun was completely on top of our caldera and balcony, so we thought it would be a nice time to go out and sit.
Once we showered, we walked out onto the balcony and took in the amazing views of the Aegean Sea. We figured that we'd kill some time before our planned sunset sail and go to Fira, the capital, for about an hour before leaving. Big mistake. The sun was shining direction onto the caldera, which meant that we were baking as we started our walk to Fira, up and down cement steps on cobblestones. We decided to quit early while we could and head back to the hotel to prepare for our sailing tour. 

Our catamaran, Triton, coming up to shore.
The sailing tour was wonderful. The positives: good conversations with other guests; the views from the boat; the funny and knowledgeable crew; the delicious DELICIOUS food.
As one point Ben jumped from the boat to swim to the "hot springs" which were not actually hot. He ended up dotted with sulphur. He also enjoyed quite a helping of grilled calamari. After dinner and a good chunk of wine we started the sail back to port while watching the sunset. 

The "hot springs"
When we arrived back to Astra, we were once again exhausted from a day of exploring and fell right to sleep.

A Santorini sunset

The Next Day...
We woke up to quite a surprise, weather wise this morning. The forecast predicted a very SUNNY day so we were prepared to head out early for our walk up to Scaros. We didnt want a repeat of the previous days attempt to walk to Fira. We figured we'd beat the sun to the top of the mountain, and the cool off in the pool after the descent. The temperature was fine when we awoke, but the entire island seemed to be covered in thick fog. Too the point where not seeing the mountain was a bit scary. 

Our vacation cat, Zorro, hanging out on our balcony in the fog.
Our breakfast delivery guy assured us that it would clear up as the day went on. We had planned to leave for our hike at 11 am. We didn't end up going until around noon. The fog was still a bit heavy but clearing up. By the time we reached the mountain, sunshine was peeking in and out of the clouds frequently. 

After climbing Scaros, we decided to rest for a few hours, watch a bit of CNN, the first time we'd used our TV on vacation.  Then we finally decided to make our walk to Fira, about 20 minutes from our hotel in the village of Imerovigli.  I stopped for a couple pictures along the caldera...

While in Fira we completed our souvenir shopping and Ben tried his first ever gyro...authentic Greek fast food.

The Final Day...
Our last day in Santorini we spent exploring some of the beaches on the south, including a red sand beach...

And a black sand beach.  There's a special place in our hearts for black sand beaches since we first encountered one in our other paradise, Maui.

We ended our vacation in Oia having dinner with probably the BEST VIEW in the history of views (you'll see more in our video). Until then, enjoy this picture of me in the pretty dress I bought just for the occasion. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Big Trip Naxos: Naxos

Because I had a kidney transplant, Ben and I had to postpone our honeymoon.  Instead of jet-setting immediately after our wedding, we ended up going to Greece for ten days in May.
I'm sharing a few pictures and our daily observations from this amazing trip!

Our last day in Athens, which was really half a day, was spent walking through the national park. The national park is basically the "central park of Athens." Athens is quite green for a city, but the park has its highest concentration of trees, walkways, and benches. The park is also home to turtles, ducks, peacocks, and goats.
Around noon we caught our ride to the airport and boarded the tiniest plane ever for our trip to destination number two: Naxos. There were maybe 30 people boarding the plane, and it had propellers. Ben and I made several jokes about dying in a fiery crash that would most definitely have broken the vessel in two solid pieces if it had met the Aegean Sea. We also prayed a lot.

As the plane started to take off, I started to get this feeling that I was doing something bad, a feeling I've had since I became an adult. I felt that if our parents had seen the plane we were about to board the would have made us turn right back around and go home. They never showed up obviously. We had to go through with the flight or lose hundreds of dollars of our own money. 
Even after all the panic and prayer, we did successfully arrive in Naxos on the tiniest plane ever at the tiniest airport ever. Baggage claim was one room, with one conveyor belt, and Ben had to help pull all the luggage off because it wasn't much of a conveyor belt.  Just 10 metal bars that were supposed to roll the luggage forward. They didn't.  Each piece of luggage instead stalled at the entryway from the baggage area to the claim section.
We met our driver and went to our hotel, Lagos Mare. The landscape of Naxos is somewhat hilly but the beaches are beautiful. Bright blue water with coarse sands. We were the firsts guests of the season, we were told. The hotel had opened for spring/summer travel the day we arrived. And we could tell. There were just four other tourists (from Canada) with us when we ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel.  The hotel was all white, with blue accents, that traditional Cycladic look. We had two sets of double doors that led to our balcony, and provided tons of natural light during the day. During breakfast we loaded up on cappuccinos and croissants, yogurt and chocolate and eggs. 

Our only full day in Naxos, we decided to rent bicycles in the town of Chora and ride them to the "best beach in Naxos" according to our concierge. And Agia Prokopios did not disappoint. Because it wasn't busy season, there were very few people on the beach so we could see the stretch of sand and bright blue waters of the Aegean. In the distance we could see the mounds of other Greek islands waiting for exploration.  

For dinner we decided to check out Faro's taverna, near Agia Anna. And since it was only a mile and a half away from our hotel, we decided to walk back to our hotel, hugging the coastline, looking at luminous blue waters and listening to waves brush up onto the shore.
We know we didn't get much of a chance to explore the entire island, with just one full day in Naxos. The island is the biggest in the Cyclades and requires a car to navigate most of it.  

Fascinating Discoveries:  
  • Kitron, a strong liquor made only in Naxos, comes in green, orange and white; 
  • Not many stray dogs on the island, but we did encounter a stray cat sitting on the beach staring at the sea. Why stay in the Athens plaka when in Naxos you have ocean views. 
  • Naxos is very much a beach town. Because busy season hasn't start yet, several of the hotels were not yet open and the restaurants were pleasantly I uncrowded. 
  • I had to walk my bike up every hill and almost wiped out on a gravelly part of the road. Meanwhile, Ben didn't even break a sweat. sweat..

Monday, June 2, 2014

Living for the Weekend: A Spring Weekend

A wedding and a baseball game.  Does it get anymore springy than that?  Well, maybe.  Last weekend rivaled this one with a trip to the strawberry festival and a winery.

Ben and I agree that it's during the summer when time just FLIIIIEEESS by.  There's so much more to do, especially outdoors.  As much as it flies by, sometimes I feel like I don't get much chance to relax.  I'm writing this post at 10 PM and feel incredibly exhausted, but thankful.  I spent most of my time with good friends and my family, eating good food and having wonderful conversations, outside.  Doesn't get any better than that.  

How was your weekend?