Overview - Greece 2009 (with a bit of London)

Purpose of trip:
1) Get back to nature after a month in the wonderful, but dirty New York City.
2) Explore the white mountains of Crete by foot
3) Relax in style

The trip is smooth, stress-free, and successful
Since I was in New York, and just a quick flight to Europe, I figured I'd fly to London for a few days. Then I'd do a 1-week walking holiday on Crete, which is Greece's largest island. After that, I decided to visit the amazingly beautiful and surreal Santorini. The only volcanic island in Europe, Santorini is considered to be the lost city of Atlantis.

~ great greek food, goats, sailboats, yoghurt, churches, honey, sunsets, libyan sea ~
Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Until next time, NYC
I roll out of bed around noon in NYC and say 'goodbye' to my Manhattan apartment. I store the 24 inch computer screen and a few clothes in the Scion tC which I keep at the parking garage below the building. I'll have to go back there at some point to deal with the car - either drive it back home across the country, or just ship it and then fly back to California.

One of the best Whole Foods stores is literally a 30-second walk from my apartment, which is the main reason I chose the Time Warner Center location. I enjoy one last bit of deli food while sitting in Columbus Circle, watching the world go by.

Its a bit difficult getting a taxi to JFK. Most of them don't want to go to the airport. I get there a bit early and switch to a flight boarding in half an hour. I have a quick snack at the Virgin Atlantic lounge and then settle into my seat in the quiet upstairs cabin of the huge Boeing 747. The flight is almost 75% empty.

Virgin Atlantic's upperclass is technically not a first class product, but more like a business class seat. It is a bit narrow and at a weird angle. It turns completely flat at 180 degrees into a full sleeper bed. I got a super deal on it. I guess no one wants to fly to London now?

7 am, arrive at London Heathrow, ready for a full day ahead. After clearing customs, I go to the Virgin Atlantic 'revivals' lounge. Wifi, hot shower, complimentary breakfast, and massage. Best airport lounge I've seen.

I figure I'll hop on the express train to central London, and then take the 'tube' to Hyde Park Corner. That sounds like a nice place to explore. After a bit of wandering, I come across the Buckingham palace and watch the changing of the guards (yes, super touristy). The flag is at full mast. I think the queen is in.

Wander around Trafalger square, and up a random road. I sit down on a bench outside a starbucks, to rest and maybe pick up a wifi signal. There's an Audi R8 parked out front, and a Nigerian man driving a nice Mercedes shortly pulls up. He sits next to me on the bench, and I ask him if that building across the street is a hotel. He says, "Yes, I think its the St. Martin's hotel. A very nice hotel". It has a cool greenish automatic revolving door. It's completely devoid of signage. I wander in and enquire about a room. Its an amazing boutique hotel, and I've never seen something quite like it before.

Elevator - cool blue LED lighting & LCD screens
The elevator has blue LED mood lighting, so when the door closes, it is quite surreal inside. There's 3 tiny LCD screens behind a stainless steel bezel. They play rotating videos of either gold fish swimming, or a full moon rising.

There's loads of other small design details, for example, the room key is similar to a high end car key, and the motorized blinds are sandwiched between two pieces of glass.

I walk around Westminster and Soho districts, taking in all the new sights and sounds. I go to Yauatcha, a dim sum restaurant with super modern atmosphere. It is ranked among the top 50 best resturaunts in the world.

Crazy day!
I sleep in, and meet a friend in Leicester square. We take the tube to Camden Town to go to inSpiral, a vegan restaurant I heard was good. Camden Town is really colorful, with cool looking buildings, and shops. I check out Harrods (the worlds best store) for a bit. Meet up with some friends to talk about a sailing trip perhaps in the British Virgin Islands or the Mediterranean. Grab some Sushi near Leicester Square and go to bed.
Up at 6 am. Nice breakfast in hotel, catch a taxi to Victoria station, and take Gatwick Express train to the airport. After about 30 minutes of flight time, the plane has to turn back for technical problems. Have a bit of couscous salad. Find out the flight will take off again in 5 hours, so I buy a day pass into one of the executive lounges. Enjoy free wifi and a place to charge laptop (its nearly impossible to find a working outlet in the Gatwick airport because for some reason they've all been switched off). I finally land in Chania, Greece at about Midnight (8 hours later than expected). Clear customs and an take hour long taxi ride to the mountain village of Omalos. Fall right asleep.

Scramble up Mt Gingilos to 6500 feet
Up at 7:30 am, chill breakfast on patio including fresh yoghurt and honey. Scramble up to the top of Mt Gingilos at about 6500 feet. 7 hours total including a summit break for lunch and a nice nap.

Listen to the wind and distant sound of goats wearing bells around their necks. Beautiful scenery, with a view of the Libyan sea, and both sides of Crete. Dinner, and desert of something similar to a cheese blintz, but covered in honey, and a bit smaller.


Yum @ ice cream after 7 long hours down a gorge
Up at 7 am, give bags to driver who will put them on a ferry. Trek through the famous Samaria Gorge, take a nap nestled among pines and cypresses.

7 miles later I arrive at the remote sea side village of Agio Roumelios. Jump into the Libyan sea for a very refreshing cool off. Marvel at the classic whitewashed and blue buildings. Absolutely amazing dinner.

Lazy day of relaxation at the beach.
Read Amazon Kindle.
Sore knees from the yesterdays intense downhill trek.

Cooling off in crystal clear and smooth, Libyan sea

A real treat for the senses - a delightful coastal walk to another seaside village. Crossing deserted beaches, wandering through pine trees, and along stunning sea cliffs. A pleasant break at a small Byzantine church of Saint Paul, where he is said to have landed on his voyage to Greece. After 9.5 miles and 6 hours, I stay in a small family-run hotel overlooking the sea.

Stunning scenery, all to myself, and the goats.

iPhone international roaming.
Surprisingly reliable.
Beautifully scenic drive up to the base of Mt Pachnes, the highest in Crete at 8048 feet. Weird lunar landscape of high desert region. Kill a few hours in a random roadside cafe. No other tourists, and just an occasional dusty car or motorcycle passing by. A bit difficult to communicate here. I ask "posso caani", trying to figure out how much to pay for the meal. Sweet, they understood me. 5 Euros for a mediocre potato omelette.

I'm about to leave this lazy village. All of a sudden a shiny Mercedes, Audi, and Volvo pull up. 8 men in suits and sunglasses get out, shake some hands, talk for 2 minutes, and continue on their way. Quite startling. I later find out they were running for a government position.

Massive swaths of pink oleander in the gorge
A steep hour's climb to a cliff-top chapel. Watch griffon vultures as they soar along the edge of the plateau. Back down to the beach through a long gorge filled with beautiful pink oleander. And an occasional not-so-beautiful dead goat corpse.


Bee boxes everywhere
Delicious fresh honey
After a boat taxi, mini bus, and large bus, I end up on the other side of the island, in Heraklion.

At first glance Heraklion seems big and dirty, but I find the people to be quite friendly. Beautiful culture just like any other European town (fountains, squares, cafes, live music, gelato, enjoying life).

I wouldn't mind exploring for a few more days.

Santorini: 1-week, relax, surreal, heaven-like

100's of these blue domed churches on the Island
Having heard great things about Santorini I decide I must see it for myself. I catch the 2 hour Iraklio-Thira ferry. Rent a car at the port, and drive 30 minutes to Oia (pronounced e-ahh).

Everything about this private villa is amazing. It is a modern, zen-like white washed cave dwelling dug out into the side of the caldera, high above the Aegean sea. Stunning, surreal views. Just steps to great restaurants.

Santorini is one of the most beautiful places I've seen. The beaches are rubbish compared to Hawaii, but there's a lot more "depth" here. Considered to be the lost city of Atlantis.

Oia can be touristy, especially when the busloads of cruise shippers trample the streets, but there's plenty of unspoiled areas to explore.

Originally planned to stay for 3 nights, but I extended it to 6 relaxing nights.

Can you say, "corner office?"
Beautiful evening in Oia villa high above the Mediterranean sea, watching sailboats, and listening to the sweet sound of Greek music.
Back to London for a few days
Catch a quick flight up to London. Stay in London for 2 nights. Greek food is great, but after 2 weeks of nothing but Greek food, I'm salivating for Thaiiiii Food. Yelp an amazing Thai place for dinner.

Lunch at a healthy vegetarian eatery. Fresh juice concoction with spirulina.

World class shopping, with unique clothing styles we don't really get in the US.

Covent Garden is fun. Street performers. It makes me wonder what life was like here 300 years ago.

Front row seat at the Queen, We Will Rock You musical. Quite entertaining.

Try a random Indian restaurant near my hotel for an awesome vegetable korma. No wonder London is famous for their Indian food.

Because of the tube strike, I hire a taxi directly to Heathrow for 60 GBP. Relax in the Star Alliance lounge.

As usual, the airplane is quite empty, so I've got plenty of space to spread out on this non-stop United biz class to Denver. Its no sleeper seat, but I'll manage, haha.

Gonna miss the lovely British accent.
... 20 days later, back in the US

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