Europe and back to Latin America
Trip Start May 04, 2007
80Trip End Aug 21, 2008
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Where I stayed
Agios Georgios Beach
After traveling in India, followed by a nonstop tour of Egypt, we were in need of some down time.....welcome Greece! We knew we would love this country when we arrived at our guesthouse in Athens and they were throwing a rooftop party for us, complete with lamb on a spit and the Acropolis as the backdrop....well, it wasn't really for us, rather the Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, but who are we to refuse a par-tay! After the festivities, we fit in a day of sightseeing around Athens before heading to the islands. Since our whole aim was to relax, we thought we would only choose 2 islands versus hopping around too much. Our original plan had us going to Naxos and Sifnos. Literally, at the last minute we skipped our Naxos port and continued on to Santorini. We scored a reasonably priced room directly across from the black sand beach of Perissa. Although we canīt tell you too much about the sites around the island since we refused to stray from our compound, we can say that we loved it! We did want to see another island and we heard Sifnos was pretty chill. Unfortunately it was beyond chill, with absolutely nothing going on. Waaay too quiet for us, so we bailed and went to our original first stop, Naxos . (In a 16-year old girl voice) "OMG, it is sooooo cuuuute!!" Naxos has great beaches and a nice little town. Once again, we stayed close to home ( Agios Georgios Beach ) and reveled in not doing much for days on end. Although we were living the slow life, the time slipped away too fast and we had to leave Greece all together. Greece was everything we imagined and we really don't think you can go wrong with any of the islands - they all look beautiful. Hopefully weīll make it back someday to visit more islands.....ideally with friends.
From Greece we took the ferry (more like a cruise ship) to Ancona , Italy to begin our driving tour of Italy .
Think of a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep.....now imagine the absolute opposite of that and you'll get the picture of our Italy trip. We pretty much ingested anything and everything that came our way. Our friend Jon (met in New Zealand ) and his girlfriend hooked up with us in Ancona where we grabbed our rental car and started driving through the picturesque back roads of the Italian countryside. Our first night was spent the night in the small, medieval village of Urbino, which we thought was fantastic. Little did we know it was only going to get better when we headed for Tuscany . First stop in Tuscany was Florence , where we roamed the streets checking out the main sites, but missed the Uffizi Museum , which was booked out 2 weeks in advance (book early). Florence is a gorgeous city, but it was a bit too big and mobbed with tourists. From Florence we took a drive to the coast to check out the town (Calambrone) where John was born. We did pit stop briefly to confirm that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is indeed overrated. After a long day in the car we were happy to get out and when we saw the small village of San Gimignano we were blown away! The town sits on a hill that has 13 remaining towers that rise up from the city. Tower building was a sign of wealth and back in the day there were 72! Somehow, we managed to score a 2 bedroom 2 storey apartment in one of the towers for about the same price as we paid for mediocre hotels in other places. The town was our favorite in Italy and also made a great base for a day trip to lovely Siena , which has the coolest church (black and white striped) we've seen. We then scrambled across Italy to Gubbio just in time to catch the Festi dei Ceri. This is by far the craziest festival we've seen and is just insane! Three 10 man teams, which are based off family background, carry these enormous, heavy wooden candles through the crowded, twisted, and very steep streets up to a church on the top of the hill. The first team there wins. It's absolute madness when they come running by. After they passed us, we would dart uphill to catch them at another vantage point. Following the race, the entire town becomes one big party! Leaving the festa behind, we headed south to the hills outside of Rome where our friend Jonīs family has a house. We spent our last few Italy days visiting Rome and laying low in the Italian countryside. It was a short trip but we packed a lot in before going to Ireland .
We spent our first couple of days relaxing in small Irish villages (Rathdrum and Trim) and trying not to stray too far from Dublin since we had to head back to pick up our friends, Karen and Sam......YEEEESSSS, we have friends again!!! Ireland is cool but waaay cooler with good friends. With our crew in check, we headed out on a driving tour to the "must see" sites. Along the way, we stopped at the Rock of Cashel (cool castle) and the Cahil Castle ( disappointing in comparison) before staying in the hopping university town of Cork . We moved on through the Ring of Kerry (nice drive along the coast) and kind of fell into Killoglin, a classic small Irish town, where we had a blast hanging with the locals until the wee hours (maybe tree tertee). We hit the road again to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher before cruising back to Dublin for some big city fun. We tooled around the city taking in some sites with the highlight being the tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Sadly, we had to break up our crew and drop Karen and Sam off at the airport. We really can't express how happy we were that they came all that way to see us! So, crew -2 headed up to Northern Ireland . Somehow we completely spaced that we entered into a new country until the ATM spat out British Pounds and the road signs changed to miles.....DUH!!! The northern coast is stunningly beautiful and the trippy Giantīs Causeway is worth checking out if you have the time, but the north doesn't share the same super friendly vibe and felt a bit dead. For our last couple of nights, we wanted a quintessential Irish feel, which we found in Ardee, a small town an hour outside of Dublin .
We had originally planned to fly back home after Ireland but decided to squeeze out a bit more travel time before facing the grim reality of finding jobs in a sputtering economy. So we headed back to one of our favorite countries, Colombia . Our flight from Europe to Colombia had a layover in Madrid , which we extended by a day so we could get our fill of Spanish ham, tapas, and paella while taking in the city by foot. Not sure if we are a magnet for these things but we somehow found ourselves front and center in a Spanish riot. I guess these aren't limited to just Latin America.
Though we love Colombia , we came back to set up a sailing trip to the San Blas Islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama . We found a boat, an eccentric captain (we hear they all are a bit wacky), and 3 other people to join us on an 8 day trip to San Blas. The trip started out with a downpour and it took 3 looong, wet days, with almost no wind, to reach the islands. This was our first trip out into open waters and there really isnīt a lot happening out there. We literally went days without seeing anything but water. At night, each of us would take shifts to look for ships and squalls. Thankfully, we didnīt run into either and the nights were pretty uneventful. By day, we looked for ways just to kill time. Our favorite was hooking ourselves up to a harness, jumping into the open water, and being dragged behind our boat (think of a human lure). Itīs probably not the safest idea but itīs fun until the overwhelming creepiness of the situation gets inside your head and forces you to pull youself back to the boat. Another highlight was a pod of about 30 dolphins that came and swam with our boat for a couple of hours, so close you could almost touch them! At times, our tiny ship was definitely tossed, but fortunately our stomach contents were not. The long days, and for Diana, fighting motion sickness, were immediately forgotten when we woke up surrounded by tiny, palm filled islands ringed with desolate white sand beaches. Itīs hard to imagine that there could be a more perfect tropical location. The islands are home to the indiginous tribe of the Kuna Indians. Their living conditions are very primitive, as the culture has been relatively untouched by the outside world. Our captainīs Kuna friend showed us around his island, cooked us a fabulous dinner, then allowed us to stay the night in his hut. Island life was easy: swimming, snorkling, sun, and beach fires with lobster and crab on the super cheap. Possibly the hardest place weīve had to leave. One final rocky night of sailing had us back on the mainland wondering when the sea wobbles would stop.
Since we were so close to Costa Rica, we decided to celebrate our anniversary early by staying at the place where we were married, Sueno del Mar, in Playa Langosta. Being our 4th visit to Costa Rica, we didn't feel like we had see all the sites, so we just took successive buses straight to Tamarindo (near Playa Langosta). Tamarindo is a far cry from the sleepy surf town where surfers gathered in the dirt street on lawn chairs around the only TV to watch surf videos. 10 years (from the 1st time we came) of rapid, seemingly unsustainable and unplanned development has taken some of the charm from the town. Thankfully, Sueno del Mar is still as we remember......a little piece of heaven that will always hold a special place in our hearts.
It's also a good spot to chill until we figure out our next travel steps.
Diana and John