Tuesday, 4 August 2009

I Heart Mykonos

Day 8

Athens – Mykonos

Woke up – SO EXCITED. It’s funny because Miranda and I have been so excited about this cruise from the minute we booked it. We would be on the top of the Eiffel Tower going “we’re going on a Greek cruise!” then in the Duomo going “we’re going on a Greek cruise!”. Pretty good that it was the last stop on our trip. So we walked to the cruise ship at Port Piraeus and got in a line to board. They made us fill in forms asking if we had swine flu and so on – no one looked like a swine so our bags were scanned and taken to the ship. In the line the various crew members were asking people questions and so on and they would just switch languages to suit everyone – they’re amazing! French, English, Russian, Italian, Greek and Turkish! Probably more... We got to the gang plank and as one guy was going up he yelled out “I love you all!”. It was a pretty exciting event. We found our room – at the bottom of the boat – it was the cheapest and it had no window... only one bed – hey we’re on a cruise okay? We were just unpacking our things and I started really noticing the rocking of the boat – turned out we hadn’t even left yet – things were going to get rather interesting ... nausea wise.
Afterwards, we headed to the top of the boat (big walk) to see it take off. Damn it was windy. It was funny because we hadn’t even left yet but there were all these old woman and men who had got their clothes off and were sun baking – come on people! We haven’t even left yet – pace yourselves!

We then had to practice a safety drill – I’m not joking – and wear our life jackets into the dining room as if it were a real emergency. Can’t say Miranda and I were paying a lot of attention... I just thought the whole situation was hilarious – life jackets at the dining table – latest fashion statement DARLING. It was about this time I looked around the room to realise that Miranda and I were amongst the other 15 or so people NOT on a tour group and that the other tour groups mostly consisted of really loud American teens. One of these teens started screeching to her friend at the other end of the table that she “had FIVE martinis, Katie. FIVE. KATIE! I had FIVE martinis already” Five. Wow. Go home. They started making Titanic jokes as well which was lame because Miranda and I made the same jokes eons ago – oh yeah... they’re well behind.

After our life jacket fandango we went up to the top deck to have lunch – buffet. It was perfectly fine as we waited in line but then as soon as we sat down it was SO WINDY. HOLY SMOKES IT WAS WINDY! I’ve never been in such a gale. Food was being blown off my fork before it even reached my mouth! My slice of ham was whipped off my plate and was bobbing about in the pool... oh well. After our windswept lunch we decided to take the advice of the oldies and sun bake for a bit. And bake I did – my poor little leggies got toasted and were rather sore. We learnt our lesson the first day!
It was really nice being in the sun and relaxing though. I felt pretty self conscious though with my English tan and all these bronzed/handbag people around me. Some of the older people looked like leather works because they had just cooked themselves over time – probably weren’t much older than me... ha ha just kidding. In our relaxed state we went back into our dungeon room and had a nap. Because we have no window it is pitch black in our room and the concept of time is completely revoked. When we woke up the boat was really bouncing around... it wasn’t bothering me too much but Miranda wasn’t feeling too great. We had arrived at the island of Mykonos so we got off the big boat onto a smaller one and were bounced all the way to shore.
This island is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL place in the world. You know how various places are depicted in movies and they look amazing? Well Paris is picture looking amazing in films and you get there and – yeah – it’s nice but it’s not as good as the films make it out to be... Mykonos, however, is like a postcard – like a movie set it’s just stunning. Every corner we turned was perfection. Miranda and I decided walking all over the little island that this would be our new home and we weren’t going to our respective countries – so thanks everyone but this is my home now.
Cobblestone streets, few cars, white walls, flowers and pink pelicans! Really – these pelicans are one of the main features of this island and just walk about as if they own the place. They would come up above my hip so they’re pretty big and Miranda almost tripped over one coming out of a shop! And, yes, they are pink – just slightly. One guy was walking beside it patting it on the head. Made me laugh. Another great site of this island is the windmills. They are these really old windmills which I don’t think are used now but are pretty neat. I was more impressed with the general splendour of the island and the colour of the ocean! It’s a beautiful greeny blue – clear and breathtaking. There are just so few words to sum up this beautiful place... I can only really show you a whole bunch of pictures because I need a thesaurus. We had chicken souvlaki for dinner and hopped back on the boat – bye Mykonos! I WILL be back... I swear.
On the cruise ship we decided to be entertained with a stage show called “New York to Paris”. All I can say is – thank god we had strawberry daiquiris. It was the most cheesey and terrible thing I’ve seen. It really made me laugh though because the performers looked like they were enjoying themselves. Especially this one guy in it who was so focused and perfect in his movements despite wearing sequined chaps. They sang songs in various languages across the different countries and did dances too... rather amusing. I can still see the hilarity in my head... There was a sweet part – before the show the musicians were doing their thing and this old couple got on the stage and started like jive dancing – it was so sweet! Everyone applauded them... they certainly gave the performers a run for their money.

After the ‘show’ we went back to our room and were being thrown from wall to wall the boat was rocking so much. It wasn’t so bad – the worst part was having a shower! I don’t know why but the water and the rocking just intensified the nausea and also the nervousness that I might cut my leg off shaving. Trying to sleep was kind of difficult and there was that up and down squeezing in my stomach... managed to sleep though only to be woken up at 5am the next morning... (in Turkey).

How to Achieve Cardiac Arrest.

Day 7

Naples – Milan – Athens

This morning we awoke to the racket of the downstairs market... people selling fake designer handbags, wallets and sunglasses as far as the eye could see! We felt the need to have a browse so filling our socks, bras and pockets with cash we set out. Miranda is an excellent haggler and managed to get some guy down from 10 Euros for a wallet to 5. She was like “Well there was a guy around the corner selling them for 4 so...” then she pulled out a five saying that was all she had – brilliant! Back to the hostel for “breakfast” and some really weird juice that was like blood orange juice or something... more like cordial. We got our bags packed and made the short journey from the hostel to the bus stop crossing the roads with ease – you just go – forget the consequences and just move.
On the bus – at the airport – and it was pretty empty – good o. We had to check our bags which was daunting because we had a connecting flight which means we had to fly to Milan and then catch a flight to Athens. The woman said she would put the bags through to Athens so we shouldn’t worry. Okay... then she tells us that her little conveyor belt thing was busted so we had to leave our bags in this random corner with all these other people clustered around. My bag didn’t even have my name on it so I was freaking – what if we got to Athens with no luggage? We were getting on a cruise the next day – we needed clothes! So this man wheeled our bags into the corner and Miranda goes “Bye bags... forever”.
We thought that was the main part of our worries – oh no – it gets better – and by better I mean much, much worse. Just to set this up – this day goes on record for the most stressful and gut wrenching day of my life. So keep in mind while reading this that every second I was ready to puke and cry at the same time.
We were waiting at our gate for our plane and given that we were supposed to bored in ten minutes and there were no flight attendants or planes nearby we started to wonder. It wasn’t until minutes later an official-type woman comes up and announces something in Italian. Just because it was in Italian doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on – looking at the really angry faces of the other passengers kind of gave it away. One woman translated saying that the plane hadn’t even left Milan yet! Come on! How did they just realise that? There was another woman who had a connecting flight to Athens so she was in the same rubbish boat as we were. Given that our connection left 45 minutes after we should have arrived in Milan – yeah we definitely missed it. The people of Naples airport said there was nothing they could do about our Athens flight and we would have to wait until we got to Milan. Nervous faces all round...
Now that I look at that photo... Miranda doesn't look so much nervous as... err...special? Makes me laugh! But we were both very panicked...
Today we dealt with a lot of escalators and let me explain something to you all – Miranda and I like to keep ourselves entertained in these situations by imagining that on the escalator we are running “at an incredible rate of speed” so we are standing still, pumping our little arms and it looks like we are running... Especially when there are two escalators side by side – as seen here – like I said – kept us entertained!
On the plane to Milan. I mean – finally – small victories... We were both really relaxed on the flight – as soon as it landed though we realised we still had a whole lot more worrying to do. Did we even have a flight? Would we miss our cruise? These were all serious worries going through our head. Miranda and I did some sweet team work at this time though – we split up as I managed to wrangle our bags back and she got new tickets – yes – we’re going to Athens! We had to queue for a million years though because the poor man at our counter was alone and said that this should have been sorted out in Naples – poor guy. Then there was this girl in the queue who was trying to push in front of us inch by inch and kept sighing dramatically and tutting every five minutes! Miranda and I were ready to hold her down and punch her in the throat. She did tell the girl that we were next in line “RIGHT?” and she timidly agreed and moved back – we were in NO mood for people being annoying – I mean we all missed our connections. Oh then there was this other woman who was convinced that if she didn’t get back to Athens tonight she would die. Literally, she was saying that her blood pressure medication was in Athens and if she didn’t get it tonight she would have to go to hospital and started shrieking the place down – soon as she got to the front of the queue and got her tickets she seemed quite fine – hmm. As I was saying I had to get the bags and I managed to get through security really quick and have all these people be really nice to me as I put on my sad concerned look – the world is then my oyster. My puppy dogs eyes got our bags back and peopled stepped aside as I hauled them to the new check-in area. Everything was okay again! Hallelujah!
In the airport we were surprised with a giant lego Hagrid... and that Twisties here are called... Fonzies...Ayyeee...
They put us on a way nicer plane than the one we paid for so that was awesome. We were with Olympic airlines and on the side of the plane it read “Hellas Jet” meaning HELL YEAH we’re going to Greece! We were served a meal consisting of Greek food served by Apollo himself – holy smokes this flight attendant was SO ATTRACTIVE – he was a Greek god – I’m sure.

We arrived in Greece! Hooray! Praise – whoever the Greek flying god is – Hermes ... I... guess. There was no way we were taking a bus to our hostel because a) it 11pm and b) it was really far away. So we got a cab – it ended being about 50 Euros but that didn’t matter because we just wanted to arrive safely and get to bed. It was a really long drive to our hostel because we chose somewhere near the port so we could walk to our cruise ship the next day. I started getting a little nervous given that the driver was a chain smoker, had two mobile phones and a condom rattling around in his middle compartment thing – eep. He was really nice though and gave us pamphlets about Athens and we arrived. This hostel was fine – own room – the only thing was that you couldn’t put toilet paper in the toilet! EW!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Hey Hey it's Pompeii!

Day 6

Woke up and met up with Geoff. Sadly there was no free breakfast – no cornflakes for me... don’t know if I’ve mentioned but the corn flakes in Europe are literally that – flakes of corn. They don’t taste like the cereal but rather as if someone has whittled a corn cob into flakes and served it... strange.
We walked to the train station – not the one we knew but one that the guy at the hostel suggested. Glad he did because the stop he sent us to was the one before the stop where all the people get on meaning we each got a seat. Thank goodness because the train was packed... it was a weekend which meant that the people of Naples all haul ass to the beach. The train was like a disco! All the people had brought boom boxes and were playing techno music and clapping... it had everything a disco does – especially body odour. Miranda and I like to find signs that are warnings with people doing various things and making them into dance moves. This train had a sign with a person getting stuck in the door which meant the dance move would consist of gyrating with the door. Most entertaining. Geoff thought we were quite mad but laughed along as thought the train was making Transformer noises and soon we would transform and run to Pompeii.

We made it! Our newly formed trio... Audio guides were a rip off so instead some other tourists gave us the extra little guidebook they had and we audio-guided one another. Miranda was mistress of the map and Geoff would read the descriptions of what we were seeing. Navigator and narrator were very helpful as the place was HUGE! I didn’t realise how big this place was until we had spent several hours in there and not seen everything. Oh in case you don’t know – Pompeii is this town that was hit with an awful earthquake in 75AD. The Pompeii-ens being the optimistic people they are figured that this was the worst thing to happen and they could only look up from here. No. In 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and the entire city was covered in volcanic ash in minutes. Sad for them – but for the history junkies this meant that a really old city was perfectly preserved. And it is SO preserved... all these beautiful tiled houses and frescos – painted and still perfect on the walls! The whole place is mind boggling and completely worth risking your life in Naples for... One of the tiled houses has a tiled picture of a dog and then the words in Latin “Beware of the dog”. Sound familiar? Well this is where it was invented! Pretty cool...
The only downside of Pompeii is that there is little shade and it was a very hot day... so hot we kept making jokes like “it’s so hot I feel like I’m being smothered in volcanic ash” and so on. On the main street there were loads of different little areas with tables that had big holes in them and the guide/Geoff said that these were like snack bars and this was the high street! How cool is that? I played the role of the gelato vendor “What flavour do you want? I’ve got pebbles and dirt”. Made us laugh. Also was this shop which had this symbol outside. Either it was a restaurant or a shop that sold tridents. I’m going with the latter.

We saw the vineyard which had some very unripe grapes that Miranda and Geoff tasted. We saw the coliseum... the theatre... the temples... the houses of important people – they wrote their names out the front of the houses so people walking by would know who lived there! We also stumbled upon the brothel... it had all these paintings on the wall which served as a ... menu of sorts... and the beds were still there too – mattresses would be put on top of them obviously... I’m trying to look like Kate Winslett in Titanic by the way...When I got up I had all this dirt on me which I thought was “volcanic ass” given the building. We went into the massage house which is NOT the brothel again – seriously people get your minds out of the gutter... Every place we went was covered in random dogs! They were everywhere just lying in the shade – seemed like a good idea to me... Also whilst we saw these various buildings we kept wondering what it was like on that day that the volcano erupted... on one side of town some guy was like “what flavour would you like with tha-AHHHH!” on the other side was someone being like “has anyone seen my dog-AHHHH!” and so on. It was a fun day. The sad part came when we found the preserved people. Eurgh. The guy who uncovered the place realised that the ash had formed pockets around the bodies so he filled them with plaster and so you can see the people’s expressions and fear filled positions... You can see their bones and teeth. That was sad but the sadder part was seeing this poor dog that was preserved... I didn’t take a photo because it made me too sad... There were also children – it was haunting.

After many, many hours we went out to have some lunch and I had the best orange juice and sandwich of my life. It was SO GOOD. It was funny too because the guy that ran the little cafe thing had a hose and was just hosing everything... the road... the tourists and so on. It was weird. We went into the ‘town’ area and looked at the souvenirs which mostly consisted of – drum roll – doodles! What is with this country and doodles? I mean really. Does anyone really want to bring home a plaster doodle for their grandparents as a souvenir? No. At least I hope not. There was also a shop there giving out samples of limoncello which is this lemon liqueur that is delicious... glad that I got to taste some real stuff in the country... Back on the train. We decided to go to the Castle Nuovo which is the main palace of the city. It’s mostly a military castle which was really weird. Each floor had random art – abstract, 18th century and so on – it was the most eclectic mix of stuff. It did have a good view though... and a random staircase that seemed to go nowhere. It was SO HOT... we managed to find the best thing about this castle - the air-conditioning! In that same room was a freaky glass floor with skeletons that had been excavated in the foundations... Again - very random place.

Afterwards we went and had delicious gelato – okay this was really good... it rivalled Madrid because I had this flavour – Ricotta and Pear and it was AMAZING. Delicious. Back to the hostel where we said our goodbyes to Geoff – thank goodness he was there... we didn’t get hardly any cat calls with him there... no more comments on Miranda’s “beautiful eyes”. We had a rest and then went to get some dinner. We went just down the end of the street and I got a slice of pizza which I thought was ham and pineapple. On my first bite I then deduced that it was not pineapple... but chips. Chips on pizza? What the HECK? It was gross... We had a different girl in our room that night. She seemed to unpack and repack her bag a million times and her belongings seemed to consist only of plastic bags... she was nice enough though. Off to sleep because tomorrow holds Greece! Yippee!