Athens by Bike

At our third cruise port, Athens, we decided to explore the city by bike!  We were able to cover a lot more ground to get a good overview of the city, but it did not allow us to visit specific sites (like the Acropolis). 

We had a great guide who stopped regularly to tell us myths about the city and the gods... Like why is Athens called Athens: 

Here is the short version: Athena (God of Wisdom) and Poseidon (God of the sea) fought to be the patron god of the city. They both presented a gift to the king so that he could choose a winner. Poseidon made a spring while Athena gave the city an olive tree seed. Unfortunately, the spring water was salted so the king choose Athena and named the city Athens.

Here is the slightly longer version:

One of the best stops on our tour was at a local bakery where our guide bought us some traditional Spanakopita, Bougatsa (a traditional dessert), and other delicious treats to taste :)

Barcelona to Dubai Cruise

We decided to join Jen’s parents on a 16-day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai on a new Royal Caribbean ship called the Spectrum of the Seas. This was a good way to spend some time with them and relax. The Spectrum was a brand new boat and our portion of the trip was considered the inaugural trip.  The full journey was destined for Singapore where the boat would be stationed to serve the Asian market. 

Although this was a long cruise, it only stopped at the following ports: 
  • Barcelona 
  • Civitavecchia (Rome)
  • Naples
  • Athens
  • Aquaba
  • Dubai

The rest of the time we kept busy with multiple activities. Here are a few that we enjoyed: 

  • Progressive Trivia: Every day, we participated in a trivia contest that tested random knowledge. We learned a lot about South Africa (since that's where the trivia host was from), a lot about different phobias, and what random groups of animals are called.  Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament?

  • Flow Rider: Yay

  • iFly: No better way to dry out your gums 

  • Fencing: This was their first attempt at having this activity on a ship, so the experience was pretty short, but it was fun to give it a try since neither of us had ever tried fencing before.. plus there is nothing like being equipped with a sword and saying, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" 

  • North Star: The North Star is a big bubble on top of the ship that gives you a bird's eye view of the ship. It seemed like a silly idea at first, but in the end, we were surprised at how impressive the view actually was.

  • Morning Yoga: Every other day they had free yoga classes :)

  • Comedy, Music Shows, and movies on the top deck: At night we had a variety of entertainment opportunities with semi-known performers.

Jen's parents stayed on the boat for another journey all the way to Singapore. But we had to go back to work after Dubai. 

Friends in Kos

What better way to pass summer than to return to Kos for another reunion with our nomadic kitesurfing friends for a couple of weeks!  Peter's school was pretty busy this year, so Dom even helped teach some of the initial land and water lessons.

Kitesurfing and hanging out by day

BBQs and parties by night

Many friends and family were surprised that we were going to Kos this summer given that Greece was were in the middle of a Financial crisis and Kos is one of the main islands impacted by the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  

The 60euro daily ATM limit only applied to locals so we weren't technically impacted by that, but we did hear that some people had trouble because the ATMs would occasionally run out of cash.  We did bring some Euro in with us just incase, but overall, paying for stuff wasn't nearly as problematic as the media made it sound... plus most of the stores/restaurants still accepted Credit Cards.  

Kos is located only a few kilometres from Turkey, so there were a lot of refugees making the crossing while we where there.  When they arrive, they walk to and stay in camps near the centre of town.  Since we were staying about 5km east of Kos Town we pretty much never saw them.  However, the gravity of the situation was evident by the number of new life vests, inflatable boats, and tires abandoned on the kitesurf beach every morning.  According to the locals, refugees make the crossing in the dark and puncture all of the inflatable boats/tires as soon as they are near the land so that the coast guards are forced to rescue them rather than tow them back to where they came from.  Usually they cross on inflatable dinghies, but often the boats are full so they tie a bunch of plastic inflatables or scooter tires together, and tow people behind the boat on them!

Hanging Out in Kos

In the end, the most memorable thing in Kos wasn't necessarily the kite surfing, the city, the food, or the sites.. it was spending time with all of the many great new friends that we met there.  

Beyond their constant attentiveness in helping us out with kitesurfing, they also all made us feel so welcome... we were invited to numerous BBQs at the school and went out partying at the local bars a couple of times.  Stevie taught us how to play poker at their weekly poker nights (while Krisztina emptied our pockets ;)).  We played with Peter& Krisztina's 5-year-old daughter, Bogi, who also tried to teach us a bit of Hungarian.  And we really enjoyed everyone's company when we were just hanging out at the school with all of the Kitesurf and Windsurf instructors and students.. everyone we met were just so friendly and kind!

Hanging Out at the school
Playing with Bogi
Poker Night
Going to Pub Street
We would have loved to stay longer, but our Shengen visa was running out so we had to leave the EU.  We were sad to go and already miss everyone... but we really look forward to meeting up with them again in Vietnam!

Spear Fishing

For our farewell BBQ, Dom went with Giannis to fish a few sea monsters to enjoy at the BBQ.  Armed with a harpoon, mask, and a pair of fins, he followed Giannis into the deep sea.  With an ocean as clear and beautiful as it is here, you imagine that as soon as you go into the water you'd see millions of fish all lined up before you, that you can just start shooting at... not exactly so... turns out that spear fishing involves a lot of swimming, diving, and searching under rocks.

After a couple hours, they finally returned with 3 fish tied to Dom's shorts and 3 octopuses.  Dom caught the smallest Octopus... with his hands! ...and we later released it since it was still a baby.  Luckily, Giannis was there to catch the rest of the fish and octopuses for us to try out on the BBQ!
The next part, was the actual hard part.  Giannis showed Dom how to prepare the octopus... 

Here's a summary:
  1. Find a big rock
  2. Clean the octopus by removing the organs from its head
  3. Take the octopus and smash it 50 times on the big rock
  4. Remove the octopus' mouth
  5. Take the octopus and rub it into the rock in a "wax on - wax off" karate-kid style.
  6. When the octopus stops making foam and turned white, you are ready to cook it.  
By the end, you pretty much smell like fish... but once cooked, it was worth it.. so tasty! :)

Kitesurfing in Kos

Our main reason for going to Greece was to join Peter and Krisztina, whom we met in Mui Ne (Vietnam) while learning to kitesurf.  Peter is one of the owners of our kitesurfing school, Surfpoint Vietnam.  One day he emailed us that he was planning to open a new school in Kos for the summer...since we were looking for another opportunity to continue learning Kitesurfing, we were sold.

We took a few refresher lessons again to get started... 

It took us a few tries to get the hang of it again....check this video of Jen :)  

After a couple of weeks, we enjoyed it so much that we decided to buy our first kite!
... and by the end of our stay, we now own 2 kites, a board and a harness :)

Here are a few more fun pictures of Peter and Steve riding and jumping
Let's not forget Krisztina :)
And finally, some random pictures

When Life Gives You Lemons ...

Actually, it was our landlord (Giannis) who gave us lemons ... so we made Lemonade!! 

This may seem like a ridiculous post, but... after being gone for so long, our appreciation for visiting tourist sites has gone down and we've really started to just appreciate the day-to-day of living and working abroad.   Not many of us city-folk (especially in Canada) can say that during our coffee break, we strolled into the backyard, picked some fresh lemons from the lemon tree, and made our own fresh lemonade!

It was cool. :)

Working in Kos

Our next destination was Kos, Greece:  A small island just 20km South of Turkey.

We decided to come here because our friends Peter and Krisztina, whom we met in Vietnam, decided to start another Surfpoint Kitesurfing school here for the summer!  Before we arrived, Peter helped us find a nice and affordable apartment that was only a 20 minute walk from the Kos City Center. 

The place has a huge backyard where our landlord, Giannis, grows all sorts of stuff like oranges, lemons, figs, olives and a variety of other vegetables... He even has chickens and bees! 

On one day, Giannis's mom asked if we would like to try some of their home-made olive oil.... for sure!! 

...she came back 15 minutes later with 1.5 litres of it!!  Wow...!  we'll be cooking with lots of olive oil for the rest of our trip :)