Monday, May 30, 2011

Volcanic Sand Burns Feet

Hello from Santorini! We spent a lovely day basking in the mid eighty degree weather by the placid, blue shores of the Aegean. Not a bad way to spend the day, huh? However, this day wasn't quite as painless as one might imagine. The beaches around our side of the island come from the volcanic lava crushed into small pebble size pieces. And, as one might imagine, hardened lava still retains its capacity to get hot. Actually, hot might be an underestimation. Fire hot. Like, mad-sprint-from-the-beach-chair-to-the-ocean hot. But it sure is beautiful. We took sanctuary under the umbrellas most of the time, so it wasn't too bad. Another interesting fact about tanning on a beach previously inhabited by molten lava is that the entire ocean floor around the island is not sand, but rock hard lava that hardened when it plunged into the Aegean. So walking in the water can be a slippery trek. Even more so if you are afraid of the fish...not naming names.

When we finally managed to get our bums off the beach, we ventured to the western most tip of island, Oia (pronounced ee-uh). Because Santorini is shaped like a giant crescent moon cradling it's active volcano in the middle, Oia also happens to be the very tip of the island and a perfect place to watch the sun set. That is, if you have the patience. Which Jon and I don't. So you will have to settle for the pre-sunset scenic pictures and hope we decide to truck the 30km back another night. It was not the most eventful day, but we sure found it relaxing. For those of you I will see on Saturday when my big brother (finally) graduates, i look forward to sharing my tales with you then! Enjoy your Memorial Day, and long weekend and salute the American flag for us!


Sunday, May 29, 2011


We have arrived at the last destination of our trip and it has not disappointed. We are currently on the small south Aegean island of Santorini. It is a rocky island with lots of beaches and famous blue domed churches in the north. It is a popular day stop for cruise ships due to the abundance of shopping and photo ops. So far we have encountered many friendly locals and GREAT food. Let me just talk about the food for a second. I am a huge fan of spicy food, in fact pretty much everything I eat is spicy; however, up until now I hadn't had a single spicy dish anywhere else in Europe. Thankfully Greek people, like myself, are fans of Tobasco sauce, and I have been able to get it wherever I go! Also the actual food dishes we have been eating have been fantstic.

Our hostel is really nice, it features a completely private room with our own bathroom and balcony overlooking a clear, blue pool. We have been getting around on a four wheel ATV. This is the common way that people traverse the 30 km island. There are some cars and busses, but lots of ATV's and mopeds. In the main city of Fira we also walked 650 ft down a mountain to the port just so that we could take a donkey ride back to the top... It was quite entertaining. We walked all around the city of Fira and are planning to visit the other big city of Oia tonight for what is supposedly the best sunset view in the world.

We absolutely love it here.. It is hands down our favorite part of the whole trip. We like it so much, in fact, that we are going to stay an extra day and not leave until Thursday. This should give us plenty of time to explore the whole island and have a restful end to our trip. That's all for now... We are heading to dinner at a local seaside taverna before sunset. Thanks for reading.


Friday, May 27, 2011

When in Rome......

Hello, yes, we are back from the dead. Don't worry; nothing happened to us. Just Rome lacks the resources of the 21st century and Internet is a scarce resource that is denied from all those not possessing an Italian SIM card for their phone. Guess no tourists can entice future visitors with blog posts regaling their adventures. But to make up for lost time, we are now in Athens, Greece happily awaiting our next plane ride to Santorini, Greece. If you don't know of it, take a moment to google image its name and be prepared to be jealous. A recap of our life in Rome, though, since that is the subject of this post. We saw all of the major attractions: the Colosseum, the Vatican museums, St. Peter's basilica, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, the Roman Forum, and much more less notable ruins dating from the second and third century. Here are a few of our favorite pictures:

So for all of the Catholics reading along, the Vatican was an impressive showing. While we were unable to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, so you won't see 'The Last Judgement' and 'The Creation of Adam', we did some other pretty ornate ceilings. So decorated that by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel, we were almost desensitized to the beauty of gold crowning and detailed frescos. But it truly was an amazing sight. And the sheer volume of art! I believe the Catholic Church is attempting a corner on all relics. We started going through three 400+ yard hallways completely full on each side of sculptures before seeing a 2000 year old Egyptian corpse de-mummified. Pretty neat stuff. And St. Peter's house was pretty surreal too. My pictures were pretty bad because it was dark and lofty, but we did see the Swiss guards! The Pope was busy though...

That's all from the Ruins of Rome! While overall, not our favorite Italian city, it was definitely full of history, action and some crazy people. For those of you who prefer Jon's take, don't worry; he will be back in Greece. And we will attempt to not be Pompeii-Ed by Santorini's very active volcano. Just kidding, Mom...

Until we meet again!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Chianti was full

Not bad, huh? Well once we got to the top, it was even better. So here's what I learned on our tour: 1) this vineyard produces 350,000 to 400,000 bottles of wine each year 2) the explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, lived on the estate in the 1400's, discovered the Hudson Bay before Hudson, but only got the bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staton Island named after him, and was eaten by cannibals in the Caribbean on his last voyage to the New World. Oops. 3) the large barrels they store the wine in cost roughly €20,000 a piece (and there are rooms of them), and must be replaced at a maximum of 25 years. It's one if their most costly expenses 4) Jon likes vineyards and if the whole law thing doesn't work out, his chemical engineering may steer him in that direction... 5) there are wild boar roaming the woods around the vineyard, which are also shot and eaten and finally, 6) don't touch electric fences because they will, in fact, shock you. A fellow tourist can attest to this.

After the tour was the tasting, which was really cool. We tried four of their different wines--their classic, two others that my refined wine taste discerned to taste exactly the same and a dessert wine. It was a very cool experience. Anyone who goes to Italy should definitely consider a vineyard tour. The people know more than I knew possible about the taste of grapes, and it made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

Today was our last day in Tuscany. Tomorrow is Rome-time. Our next post will be our visit to the Vatican, and probably feature of a picture with me and the Pope. I have been working on my Latin in case he wants me to sing at the evening mass. Until then, be safe, send love and check back in because I am sure we will have a good story!



Also for the concerned mothers in Jon and my lives, this is our current hostel room. I was packing at the time of this picture, but basically it is just a bedroom. Jon wasn't a fan of the dorm style, so we haven't done those since the stinky one in London. But yeah, nice and safe. Toddles!

Let It Be Known: These Pictures Do No Justice

As the title alludes, the following pictures do nothing to capture the sheer beauty and magnificence of the Chianti winery region. Rolling hills laced with grapevines and dotted with olive trees...I am quite certain I have never seen a place so completely serene. And thus, I apologize that we cannot rightfully show you the beauty we saw today. But, what a day it was. It started off with an hour bus ride through the region to Greve in Chianti, a small Tuscan hillside town. We hiked to the top of a mountain. In 85degree weather, this was, uh, an unwelcome feat. But it was worth it...

Deciding that this was an appropriate place for our picnic lunch, we ate in the shade and basically gushed over the scenery. Somebody got a little tired after our salami and cheese...

After lunch, it was off to explore the little town. Filled with artists from the area, china, fruit stations and the butchers. Good grief, who knew a town of 13,000 needed at least three butchers! However, one such place has been in operation since 1724. I should say they have a handle on cutting meat. Now, I know those of you who have been to Spain will know what I am talking about, but the whole town, practically, was covered with those ham legs. Just hanging everywhere. Jon actually had some later and reported it was tasty, but the scent is...overpowering, if you ask me. And not in a good way.

And now for the Grand Finale of our day. In attempt to describe our experience with the vineyard, I will do in sections. So after making our reservations to visit the vineyard, we asked at the tourist desk how to get there. And the girl says, "Take this bus to this stop, and the you will have to get off and walk up the driveway to the vineyard. It's about a kilometer from the bus to the vineyard." Oh, okay, we think. No. Not okay. Well over a kilometer of hiking straight up a mountain. I LIKE to believe I am in decent shape. Har har, Dad, I know I haven't been running that much, but that was one heck of a climb. Sweaty sweaty. And, obviously, just like all places it seems in Chianti, so worth it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun

It has been brought to my attention by a fervent follower of the blog that the Amanda to Jon posting ratio has recently become one sided. Thanks to this helpful comment, Amanda has the day off today.

We arrived in Florence yesterday by train from Venice. We checked in to our hostel and then started exploring Florence. The one thing we were not counting on, however, was scorching 90 degree heat and relentless sun. Is forced us to spend part of our afternoon in a shady local bar with a pitcher of beer. We did manage to see some things however...

This is the massive Duomo cathedral which was constructed in the thirteenth century... This thing is huge and this picture does not relay the sheer size of it.... But here is another picture.

Today we took a bus trip from Florence to the town of Siena to see a smaller, more rural town. It also had a Duomo cathedral which we were able to see from a distance. The town also had some cafe's, a park with a fountain and some other churches. It also had some scenic vineyard views that we could not capture from the bus.

That is Amanda's new hat she bought to wear to UVA football games next year (google UVA football student dress). Anyway the last few days have been a little more relaxing with a little bit of downtime which has been nice. We will update tomorrow from the Chianti region where we will have a vineyard tour and hopefully some scenic photos. Thanks for reading.

By the way, we finally had some great Italian food tonight. I had the spicy tomato garlic pasta, and Amanda had white wine chicken. It was kind of a long time coming, but worth the wait.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Day Seven, Post Seven

I can't believe we've been in Europe for a week already. It has gone so quickly, but so slowly at the same time. It seems so long ago we were packed into the flight for six hours soaring over the Atlantic, but we have seen so much! From Piccadilly Circus to the top of the Arc de Triumph and now working our way down the boot. Tomorrow we head to the Tuscan sun--land of the wineries and country glory. Probably the part of Italy I am most excited for. But that is not to discount Venice. Today brought gelato (for the third time since we entered this country...), basilicas, city squares, spanning bridges and beautifully scenic canal rides. And just for my mommy, here are our eyes!

We took a 30 minute vaporetto, or water bus, ride down to San Marco Square to see Saint Mark's Basilica. We decided to save our church viewing for Tuscany, but it sure was impressive from the outside. And towering over the square was an extremely tall clock tower--it's bottom half is on the right side of the picture. Put poor downtown Chelsea to shame...those Italians sure knew how to decorate.

And lastly, but not least, we explored yet more of the maze of streets. Jenn, if you're reading, Jon even got you your souvenir. The one downside to Italy's beautiful weather is they still have mosquitos! And apparently they like the taste of me because my bites are huge. Jon is bitter tasting; he didn't get any. But we all knew I am sweeter ;)

Until we are sun kissed in Tuscany, see you all later!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

And We Move Again

Well hello from Italy now! After 15 joyous hours on a train, we have arrived! And boy was it worth it. Apart from sharing our train cabin with a drug mule (3 am drug searches with the CUTEST labrador retriever revealed the "nice" Russian girl being taken from the train by a customs officer after Fido found something. Not a situation I would care to be in...), it was uneventful. The south of France was absolutely gorgeous. Definitely a pleasant ride until it got dark. About the only thing we did in Paris yesterday was go to the Louvre. The sheer volume of art was a bit overwhelming, but, yes, we did see Mona and all of her splendor.

As for Venice, it is amazing that a city can be so reliant on water as it's sole source of transportation. Every way we look vaporettos and gondolas crisscross the canals, it is very beautiful and like nothing we have seen before.

Our hostel is located literally just down the road from the coolest market ever. Think seaside farmers market. There are strawberries, raspberries, apples, peppers, cabbage, potatoes, leeks, swordfish, mussels, scallops, lamb, horse salami (yeah...), kabobs and more. A very fun Welcome to Venice. Off for more adventures! Miss you all!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Last of England and an AdFRENCHture

On our last day in England we decided to see a smaller town instead of another day in the big city. We took the train into St. Albans which was a pretty nice town with lots of little shops and many pubs. We ate at a pub in town and then walked around the streets and visited the abbey that is pictured above. It was a nice day trip and it was close to the airport so we could fly out to Paris in the evening.

When we got to Paris the first thing we saw was the Notre Dame Cathedral. We took lots of pictures because it was quite an amazing building. We were really hungry so we stopped in to a little bakery and got a baguette and two sandwiches and ate on the banks of the Sienne River.

We then ventured over to the Arc d'triumph. It was in the middle of a busy traffic intersection so the only way to get to it was underground tunnel. We paid six euros to walk up the hundreds of stairs to the top and get a great view of the city.... Here are some of the things we saw....

Thanks for reading and tune in next time for the Louvre and our arrival in Italy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Smelly Hostel and Warm Beer

Well, despite the title, we actually had a successful day. We started off heading to Westminster Abbey for a tour, but...funny thing really...they use it for services on Sundays! Who would have thought! We did, actually, but the next service was too far away so we just looked in St. Margaret's Church instead.

Then we spent a good portion of the day wandering the streets of London. We got a hotdog from a nice German vender on the bridge, watched some street performers including a woman whose only talent seemed to be tolerating the pain and shame of boasting herself "world's most pierced lady." She was quite terrifying actually.

We finished our day with an eventful trip to Buckingham Palace (see previous post). After a quick trip back to the hostel, we got some fish and chips and a pint at the local pub. Now let me explain our title. For those of you who have been to Europe, you understand the warm beer part. Who in their right mind would intentionally serve beer at room temperature? And our hostel...well smelt terrible. I wish I could contact someone at Unilever and let them know they should kick up their European ad campaign. PU. We are happily moved onto Paris in a clean room and smell-free.

Tomorrow's adventures will be updated as they arise. Until then, love from Europe!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Breaking News

We interrupt this day to post. Today, outside Buckingham Palace...Prince Harry was unmistakably spotted. Then confirmed by British police and men with fuzzy hats. Oh, and Jon's suitcase came too.

Here But Not Without Mishaps

We arrived Saturday morning at Heathrow airport in London after a sleepless plane ride from Boston. I went to retrieve my luggage from the carrousel only to find out from the friendly Delta employee that my bag was enjoying it's own journey to Louisville Kentucky. So I am pretty much stranded in London with just my carry on bag. I bought a shirt and some other stuff in town that Delta will reimburse me for and hopefully my bag will arrive today.

We still managed to get out and see some of the sights yesterday though.

The Westminster Cathedral was the first well known landmark that we ran into. It was a beautiful Catholic church with a tribute to St. Patrick and St. Andrew for the McKenzie's and Maher's.

This was our first look Westminster Abbey from the outside. We plan to return on Monday to take a look inside and see what we missed at the Royal wedding.

We had dinner at Lyric's just outside of Picadilly Circus for anyone familiar with the area. I had traditional fish and chips and Amanda had pie and mash (basically shepherds pie). We both loved it and recommend it to anyone coming to London.

We are going to spend the day in Oxford on a recommendation from our elderly English friends we made at dinner. More to come later!