Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Sunday, May 15th 2011
Geneva’s first (and lasting) impression was made as soon as Laura and I left the airport. We were off to a great start, grabbing a few extra Swiss chocolates as we exited the plane and snagging a free bus ticket after we had collected our luggage, Laura and I were excited to find the place we would call home for the next 8 weeks.
Following the directions we were given from the airport, we piled our luggage onto the #10 bus, keeping an open eye for our stop. Arriving in the center of Geneva, there was an announcement in the bus (in French of course) and everyone exited the bus. Being the only ones on the bus, and slightly confused, we gathered our bags and exited as well. Not knowing quite where we were, Laura and I stopped in a nearby hotel and asked what the best option would be to get to where we were staying.
Laura and I did not fully understand the directions given to us, but gave them a go anyways. We hopped on a tram hoping it would be going in the right direction. After talking to the tram driver we concluded that we would be better off just taking a taxi to where we were staying.
GENEVA FACT: The city is EXPEN$IVE!
A less than 5 min drive resulted in almost a 20 Franc bill. That’s over $20 for less than 5 minutes! Laura and I learned never to take a taxi in Geneva unless we were willing to empty our wallets a little.
As Laura and I were checking in, we discovered that we would be sharing a suite together. I was slightly (okay, okay, maybe more than slightly) disappointed with the room and its sad excuse for a kitchen. The only redeeming quality of the room was its fantastic view of the Rhone River. Growing up spending my weekends on the Mississippi, I never knew a river could be so clear!
In Switzerland, just like most of Europe, all of the stores are closed on Sundays. Laura and I arrived hungry and opted to grab a donner down the street with Karla and her family where all the rumors of Geneva being expensive were again confirmed for us.
Monday, 12 September 2011
Thursday May 12th – Saturday May 14th
Day One in Mykonos
Laura was on a roll in finding great deals. First it was the airfare, and then our fantastic hotel in Santorini, but it was our place in Mykonos that took the cake.
But getting to our place in Mykonos was a whole other story. The ferry we had planned on taking to Mykonos got canceled in light of extremely rough seas. Laura and I opted to wait it out and see if the next ferry would be making the voyage between the islands. Luckily for us, it was.
On board the giant ferry, we were tossed from side-to-side while at the same time being rocked back-and-fourth. Laura and I sat, trying to keep our composer while people around us where using the motion sickness bags that were being passed out to their fullest potential. I don’t know which was worse for me, being aboard a boat being tossed around the sea like a chew toy in a dog’s mouth or the smell and sound of people getting sick around me. I am going to call that a draw.
Despite arriving on a different ferry, our hotel was waiting at the port to pick us up. Laura and I tossed our book bags in the back and hopped in, relived to be on solid ground and enroute to our hotel.
When we were showed our room, I think my jaw dropped just a little. For 15 Euros a night, I shared an amazing room with a view of the sea with Laura.
After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we made our way to Mykonos Town, the main town on the island. Aside from the blue domed churches, Mykonos Town looked very similar to the towns on Santorini. Mykonos Town is known for a line of windmills that were built in the early 16th century. They are no longer functional but still serve as a landmark for the Cycladic Island. From the windmill you can see “Little Venice”, a popular spot that was named for the two and three storey medieval houses that were built along the sea’s edge.
Fun Fact: The tiny maze like streets of Mykonos Town were built to confuse the pirates who came to pillage the village. (Oddly enough, they are still serving their original purpose of confusion, though now it is the American tourists who are falling victim to the town’s architecture.)
Laura and I caught the last bus back to our part of the island and enjoyed sleeping in our comfortable accommodations.
Day Two in Mykonos
Awakened by the sound of birds out our window, Laura and I enjoyed the hotels’ complimentary breakfast (cha-ching!) before walking down to the beachside to soak up some Grecian sun.
Our hotel was located just steps away from Psarou Beach, where we spread out beach towels and read between naps throughout the afternoon.
That night, we headed back into Mykonos Town where Laura and I met two gay men from the UK. We spent the rest of the evening talking to the couple on an outdoor terrace.
Day Three in Mykonos
Our time in Mykonos was short. By the time day three rolled around, Laura and I found ourselves on a Ferry back to Athens where we stay one last night before boarding a plane to Geneva, Switzerland, our last stop in the pursuit of Global MBAs.
Wednesday, 24 August 2011
Sunday May 8th – Wednesday May 11th
Day One in Santorini
Laura and I traveled by ferry from Athens to Santorini, a volcanic island in the Cyclades famous for its cities built into the cliff side with whitewashed walls and churches with blue domes. Upon our arrival, a man from our hotel was holding a sign with our name written on it as we walked off the boat.
We loaded our bags into his van and drove up the switch backs to the main part of the island. Villa Manos, our hotel, was amazing. What would have gotten us a bunk in a dorm room with 11 other people in France got Laura and our own room, with our own bathroom and kitchenette AND a great view overlooking the pool with the sea in the background.
The best part of Villa Manos was it’s staff. Poppy, the owner of the hotel was the most hospitable person I have encountered throughout my entire travels. When we arrived, she had coffee and a snack waiting for us after we checked in. We were hungry, so she called her friend to come and pick us up and take us to a restaurant in the nearby town of Fira.
The food was great, again: Stuffed peppers and more dolmades.
Fira is one of the two classic Greek cities. Its presence on the cliff was simply picturesque. Looking out onto the horizon in Fira, Laura and I were able to watch the Sun fall behind a volcano as it set in the sky filling the sky with bright colors of red and orange.
After the sun set, we went to a restaurant to enjoy fresh fish. Despite my previous distaste for seafood, I could resist giving it another shoot, and I sure am glad I did. This Salmon was delicious…
Day Two in Santorini
Laura and I decided to spend the day on one of the beaches of Santorini. We had quite the variety of beaches to choose from: Red beaches, black pebble beaches, and white sandy beaches. Having never been to a black beach, we opted to go there first.
Funny Story: To get to the beach, we had to take a public bus, which on this island happened to be old coach buses. Waiting at the stop, we flagged down the bus as it passed, the doors opened and Laura and I just looked at each other. The bus was packed! How were we going to squeeze in, much less the other 5 people waiting at the stop? Everyone on the bus shifted a little and we managed to squeeze into the stair well of the bus, with the feet of a Greek teenage girl dangling inches from my face. Despite clearly exceeding the capacity load intended for the vehicle, a ticket collector still managed to maneuver his way between the people so everyone could buy a bus ticket.
We hopped off the bus a little early, eager to get off, we stopped at what we thought was a beach area. The beach was a little further down the coast, but before we started to walk, we had lunch at a seaside café with two girls we had met at the bus stop. At the cafe I had the FRESHEST octopus I have ever had in my life, take it, it was the first time I have ever had octopus, but it tasted even better than chicken! (and I really like chicken.)
Post meal the girls and I walked down the pebbled beach until we reached a quite, secluded area which turned out to be a prime tanning location.
After soaking in plenty of vitamin D from the sun, Laura and I made our way back to the bus stop we were dropped off at earlier that afternoon. Looking at the timetable, we realized we had a whopping hour and a half until the bus was to arrive, so we decided to walk a bit more, which was a great call. We wound up at the Red beach, which looked like something out of an alien movie. Iron rich sediments in the rocks had not only turned the beach red, but the cliff backdrop as well.
The bus ride back to the hotel was much more comfortable. When we were dropped off, we walked to find dinner before calling it a night and returning to our room.
Day Three in Santorini
The next day on the beautiful island Laura and I decided to join a tour that we had seen advertized at the front desk. The first stop on the tour was to Pyrgos, a monastery perched on the top highest point of Santorini and offered a picturesque view that we enjoyed as the wind nearly blew us over.
From Pyrgos, our next stop was a small town with tiny streets that ran through white washed buildings and blue domed churches.
Eye Catcher: While going through the small town, I got a glimpse of the town’s water delivery system. An older man weaved his way through the city with a donkey fully loaded with drinking water followed closely behind him, at each door him and the ass dropped off the mornings water and continued on to the next door.
From the small town, we headed to the port and sailed to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island seen from the cliff side of Fira. It was the first volcano that I had actually seen in person, we walked along a rocky path to the creator where you could feel hot air coming from the vents. Rocks were EVERYWHERE. Hardly anything was growing on the volcano and the smell of sulfur filled the air.
Simi Funny Story: Next on the agenda was to swim in Palia Kameni, a hot spring near the volcano. The boat pulled into a cove and the captain announced that we were there. He pointed to a spot in the water that looked to be at least four football fields away and told us we had to swim to the hot spring. Keep in mind that it was windy, and the water was COLD. One by one people from our boat leaped into the water emerging to the surface still in a slight stage of shock. I jumped in and swam towards the hot spring like it was my job. Getting there, I found I was nothing but disappointed. I looked and looked for this so called “hot spring” but all I found was some slightly lukewarm water that smelled like rotting eggs. Not one to settle for disappointment for long, I began my swim back to the boat which seemed to be a little further than I had recalled. Climbing up the latter, I made a bee line to the top deck to catch some rays and let the sun warm me up while Laura tried to find the hot part of the hot spring.
Before traveling to Oia, a small town known for its stunning sunsets, we stopped at another small island for lunch.
Oia was one of the highlights of the tour. The town was beautiful! Arriving by boat, Oia’s first impression was made from the bottom of the cliff looking up a path that zigzagged for what appeared to be miles. There were two options that could be taken to get to Oia. Option One: Walk. Option Two: Hop on the back of a donkey and be lead up the cliff as you swayed from side to side on the back of the donkey.
With the promise to save riding donkeys for when I come back to Greece with Bas, I went with the first option and dodged donkey doo-doo as I walked back and forth up the cliff side. At one point I nearly got pummeled donkeys on their decent.
Warning for future walkers: Keep an eye out for the donkeys, because they won’t be watching out for you!
Oia’s beauty is not a very well kept secret, especially among brides from China and Japan. While Laura and I admired the beauty, newlyweds filled the city, taking advantage of scenic the backdrop. Waiting for the sunset we enjoyed Santorini wine and watching the brides strike one pose after another.
The sunset was beautiful.
Tired, Laura and I filed into the tour bus and headed back to our hotel. Tired, we opted to order in food from the reception desk. Poppy, the owner of our hotel overheard our order. Knowing that we didn’t order anything to drink, she brought by a bottle of wine that she thought would go great with the meal.
Her hospitality and the great atmosphere of Samtorini encouraged Laura and I to stay another day!
Day Four in Santorini
Laura and I opted for a day of relaxation. Staring our day off slowly, we made plans to meet with other Globals who happened to be in Santorini at the same time. We walked to and around Fira for a while before meeting enjoying wine on a terrace with the other Globals.
Our next stop in Greece: Mykonos!
Sunday, 21 August 2011
Saturday May 7th
In the morning, while Laura and I were creating our game for the day, we came to the conclusion that the third day we had planned in Athens wasn’t needed. We had seen everything that we had wanted to in a mere day and a half so we looked for day trips from Athens and came across Rafina, a nearby port town on the east cost of the Attica Sea.
After pursing a local market for a bit, we hopped on a bus headed straight for Rifina.
Simi Funny story- We had looked online as to where to catch the bus. The directions led us to a strip of bus stops. With our eyes peeled, we walked the entire block of bus stops but didn’t see the one to Rifina. We made a U-turn and gave it a second pass, this time asking for directions from a vender who said we were just 100 meters away. Walking in the pointed direction we made it all the way to the end of the street without seeing our stop… again. Laura and I walked back and forth on the block of stops for possibly ten minutes, asking multiple people for additional specifics, narrowing down the location of the stop until we were standing in front of an unmarked bus, at an unmarked stop. We found it!
Offering a nice view of the cost, Laura and I took a stroll along the sea that was crashing against Rafina’s cost. The wind filled the air with the scent of the beautiful wildflowers and gave the windsurfers along the water’s edge the power to send then soaring along the top of the water.
Before heading back to Athens, we grabbed lunch and enjoyed a Greek beer.
Once back in Athens we moved our luggage to another hostel to hold while we went island hopping. The hostel pointed us in the direction of a fantastic, slightly hidden restaurant we were indulged in another authentic Greek meal.
Monday, 25 July 2011
Thursday May 5th – Saturday May 7th
Athens Day One:
Classes in Vienna had ended Wednesday and by Thursday morning Laura and I were on the first flight to Athens, Greece. Laura with her keen eye for a deal had found jaw dropping airfare to Athens.
Arriving in Greece, we hopped on the metro and headed to the city center to put down our luggage before heading out into the city to explore.
As we started to walk, our stomachs began to growl and we stopped at a small restaurant along the road. We ordered the infamous gyro and split a Greek salad. The food was surprisingly tasty. This was the mark of what I would consider a “food vacation”. During the trip, Laura and I enjoyed one delectable Greek after another.
Here is the gyro… they actually put the fries right in the sandwich. Delicious. And look at how much feta is on that Greek salad!
Great Timing- The hostel did not have much help to offer, so we were on the hunt for local tourist office to grab a few maps. After 30 minutes of walking, we wound up at Syntagma Square in front of the Royal Palace where a group of people were gathered. Curious about what the gathering was about, we went in for a closer look. It was the changing of the guards, one of the funniest things I have seen. Grown men sporting short khaki dresses, which were a little on the short side if you ask me, with white tights under them were wearing red brays with a random piece of black fabric attached to them and a gun slung over one shoulder as they walked in unison down the street to the entrance of the palace. The best part? The uniform didn’t stop with the khaki dresses, oh no, it also included shoes with giant fluff balls attached to the toe of each shoe. Clearly the Greek guards were not going for an intimidation tactic. When the guards made it to the entrance their dramatic performance continued as the guards switched places at a painstakingly slow speed, slllllllooooooowwwwwly swinging both their arms and legs high in unison. It was quite the event.
The tourist office was closed so we ducked into a local hotel and asked the front desk for maps and city recommendations which might have been even better than finding the tourist office. They pointed out all the points of interests, helping tailor an Athens experience specifically for us.
Eye Catchers- Walking through Athens, two things stuck out to me. The first thing that stood out was the very (VERY) attractive police force that was heavily sprinkled throughout the city. On every corner there was another pair of tall, dark, handsome officers keeping an eye on the area. The second thing that I noticed was all the graffiti. It covered buildings, walls, benches. Spray painted works of art defaced every city surface available giving the impression of a very dirty city.
Laura and I walked around for hours, enjoying a meal on the opposite side of town before returning to our hostel where we had a beer on the roof top café and enjoyed an amazing view.
Athens Day Two:
Before starting the day as tourists, I wanted to get my hair cut. I hadn’t had it cut since I was in Thailand and my curly locks were getting pretty scraggly. Walking down the street, I popped into a store along the main shopping area and asked where I could get my hair cut. I was directed to a close hair salon. I walked in and asked if I could get my hair cut, but the woman I asked did not fully understand what I was asking for. First bad sign. After a couple hand gestures she understood what I wanted and told me I could make an appointment but would have to come back. As she was flipping through the appointment book I started to look around a bit more. There was one hair cutting station, just one, so clearly it was not their specialty. Bad sign number two. On top of almost no places to cut hair, none of the women who worked there had good looking hair; I am talking beauticians with two inches of roots showing and bleach jobs that would have resulted in baldness if the bleach had been left in a minute more. That is never a good sign: bad sign number three.
Clearly not feeling satisfied with the first salon, I kept my eyes open for an alternative. I found one just a few blocks down the road, walked in and inquired about getting my hair cut. Not only was this place more affordable, but they could see me right then. I was feeling good about the alternative until my stylist came from around the corner. She had long dyed rusty blond hair (yes, rusty blond) that looked as if it had just be introduced to a crimper. Oh no! I thought. It was too late to back out. I was under the sink having my hair washed before I knew it.
Despite my judgments on the stylist, she turned out to be fantastic. I loved how she cut my hair, and while she cut it she gave me a hot cup of coffee which made the experience even better.
With the map in our hand and a new hair cut, the game plan was to circle around the city. Before arriving at the destinations marked on the map we stopped into the local market and then continued on our way to #Lycabettus-Hill, a 200 meter hill that offered a great glimpse of the city. The walk to the funicular was up lots of stairs which made the decision to wait for the funicular opposed to hiking up the hill an easy call. From the top of Lycabettus Hill we were able to see the place we were headed to next: #Panathinkaiko-Stadium. It was where the first Olympic Games were played in 1896.
We opted not to go into the stadium. The outside of the stadium offered a pretty good view of the stadium and right when we walked up, two tour buses pulled up. As the heard of tourist flocked to the stadium, Laura and I headed for the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate.
The ancient ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate was a preview for the Acropolis, the famous Parthenon of the ancient “high city” of Athens. Only observable from behind a gate, we snapped a few pictures before moving on to the Parthenon.
The main attraction- #The-Parthenon. It was huge and over looked the entire Athens. It looked just like what you see on the post cards… aside from the cranes.
The awe inspiring aspect of The Parthenon did not set in until Laura and I went to The Parthenon Museum.
:::: Delicious Food Interlude::::
Before we went to the museum, Laura and I found a small restaurant that was recommended to us: #Zorbas, east of the Parthenon. After we ate there, it was clear as to why it was recommended. I ordered the lamb, which nearly melted like butter as I pulled pieces away from the shank with my fork. This was the first place where the Greek hospitality really stood out. After providing Laura and I with great service throughout the meal, they topped it off with a complimentary dessert plate of fruit before pointing us in the direction of the museum.
The museum is what really made The Parthenon great. Located right next to the ancient icon, the museum was actually built on top of ruins. The first floor was made of glass where you could see part of the ancient city below you. The museum was crisp, clean and very informational. There was a film that was shown on the 3rd floor that helped set the history. I would recommend the museum to anyone who goes to see The Parthenon.
We closed the museum down, and made our way back to the hostel where we enjoyed another beer at the roof top garden and gave our feet much needed rest.