A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: vicki_h

Get Her to the Greek: Travel Day

Keep Going…..We’re Getting There

T.S. Eliot said, “The journey, not the arrival, matters.” Obviously, T.S. Eliot never flew American Airlines from Tennessee to Greece in a coach seat.

I had, but, inexplicably, I found myself doing it again.

Apparently, flying coach to Greece is like having a baby. You forget how bad it is until you find yourself panting and screaming for an epidural.

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We left our house at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, only to arrive in Philadelphia at 7:30 a.m. for a 12 HOUR LAYOVER.

Yes. You read that correctly.

A 12 HOUR LAYOVER.

That was American Airlines' way of making sure we were exhausted when we finally boarded our 7 hour overnight flight later that day.

The only silver lining in this very dark cloud was the fact that my childhood BFF lives in Philadelphia and I got to spend the day with her. We dropped Matt off at a cheesy downtown casino and we spa’d, sipped champers, and laughed like we were still 13 years old. We picked Matt up and enjoyed our final non-airport meal for a while, then headed back to the airport to endure the next 24 hours of abject misery.

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How miserable?

We enjoyed a delightful 7 hour overnight flight in crap coach seats only to arrive in London….an overnight flight where we did not sleep but instead watched lots of movies and drank lots of beer and wine (which we thought would make us sleep, but which only made us have to get up to pee a lot). I did get one brief moment of joy when my meal turned out to be vegetable lasagna. Who doesn't remember "vegetable lasagna" from Seinfeld??? Matt had to endure an hour of punchy vegetable lasagna jokes.

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Once in London, we waited 4 hours to board a 4 hour flight to Athens. Once in Athens, we waited 2 hours to board a quick 1 hour flight to the island of Zakynthos.

Funny enough, all of that travel was forgotten when we neared the tiny Zakynthos airport, the sun setting over the mountains. We'd been in transit for 2 solid days, but here we were.

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When we landed in Zakynthos, we were rumpled, cranky, and bleary eyed. We had been awake for 33 hours, other than a few sad, wine-soaked hours trying to sleep in an upright position while listening to the guy eating pretzels in the row behind us. All we wanted to do was fall into a soft bed and sleep. Unfortunately, we had to get our rental Jeep and make a 30 minute drive in the dark, on twisty roads, with signs we couldn’t read.

“What did that sign say?” Matt asked.

“Anapafseos?” I muttered, staring with hope at the Google map on my iPhone and hoping it knew where we were going.

“Bless you,” Matt replied.

Somehow…we made it. In the dark. Starving. Exhausted.

Paradisso Beach Villas was a welcome haven. A complex of 3 villas set on an oceanfront cliff, the property was an oasis of rest and peace. The ornate villas were only 25 feet from the sea.

As we swayed with exhaustion in the breezy oceanfront air, our exuberant hostess, Antonia, came running out of her small cottage with open arms, followed by Jackie O, a giant schnauzer, bouncing cheerfully like an overgrown child.

This first stop on our Ionian journey was the island of Zykanthos, often called Zante. It is known for the famous “Shipwreck Beach,” or Navagio Beach, one of the most over-Instagrammed locations on earth, but beautiful nonetheless. I am not ashamed to admit it is what drew me to the island.

Zakynthos is deserving of the moniker ‘schizophrenic’. The southeast end of the island is heavily commercialized, littered with overcrowded beaches and 20somethings jacked up on Red Bull and hormones. Jet skis and giant inflatable sofas pulled behind speed boats fill the water as techno beats pump through the air. Thankfully, this part of the island is easy to avoid. Paradisso Beach Villas sat on the northeast corner of the island, where more common sights were street side tables selling locally made olive oil and wine , livestock, and low key beach tavernas.

“Vicki, Vicki, Welcome!” she said, hugging me and planting a kiss on my cheek as though we were old friends.

It was 8:00 p.m., so she gave us the world’s fastest tour (knowing we were exhausted) and showed us the little footpath that would take us just a moment down the beach to several restaurants. As we were walking away, she was shouting something about a boat ,her nephew, tomorrow morning….we were too tired to listen.

Mistake.

We found ourselves at Ammoudi Fish Taverna in just moments. It was a simple seafront restaurant with the most delicious smells emanating from the kitchen. We literally fell into chairs and enjoyed a dinner of goat cheese and arugula salad, mussels, pasta Bolognese, and seafood pasta. As we were paying our bill, they brought out a little plate of watermelon and limoncello. I never tired of Mediterranean hospitality.

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When we arrived back at the villa we had a note.

“Arrive at boat below house tomorrow. 7:00 a.m.”

WTF? (which obviously means, “What the Feta?”)

Posted by vicki_h 05:40 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

Get Her to the Greek: Intro

Five years after our trip to the whitewashed enchantment of the Cyclades Islands in Greece, I found myself dreaming of a return to those idyllic islands. The simplicity, the food, the stunning beauty….it had been intoxicating and it was luring me back with its siren song.

I was ready to do it.

But….WHERE to go???

One minute I’m all like "time to hit the Greek islands ," and the next I was faced with the daunting task of choosing a tiny smidge of some 227 inhabited islands, each one as beautiful as the next. It was like being at an exquisite buffet and being told I can put 3 things on my plate.

The struggle was REAL. With so many beautiful islands to choose from, how were we supposed to settle on just a few? I Googled. I Binged. I Instagrammed. I read every article, blog, and book I could find. I even put together a powerpoint of options and made Matt watch it. You think I’m joking don’t you?

At the end of my search, I found what I was looking for. Once Matt and I saw it, we knew it was where we wanted to go.

Just barely west of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands are a far cry from the Cyclades Islands. Flat, dry landscapes are replaced by towering green mountains vaulting out of the sea. Simple whitewashed block structures with striking blue doors are swapped for anything from Italianate villas and beautiful neoclassical mansions to stone built houses with tiled roofs and vivid colors splashed on their walls.

This verdant sprawl of striking landscapes clutching to the northwest bit of mainland Greece caught our eye, filled with seaside towns, endless breathtaking vistas, and lush mountains, dense and overgrown with olive, cypress, and fig trees, plunging into shimmering turquoise waters. It appeared to be a true Garden of Eden. But with lots of feta cheese.

With only enough time to visit a few islands, we settled on beach-blessed Zakynthos, naturally beautiful Kefalonia, and cosmopolitan Corfu.

It’s time to go back to Greece, y’all!

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Posted by vicki_h 18:10 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

Hit Me Baby, One More Time

Back to Abaco we go....TWICE!

I have been SUCH A SLACKER lately! I am going to attempt to get caught up on some trip reports from summer and fall but I have just been so lazy lately!

This will be a very non-trip report blog post. Why? We go to Abaco so much that a "trip report" seems stupid at this point. Right? So, I'm just going to share some funny stuff and some photos and call it a day.

We ended up making 2 trips to Guana Cay in July. One was planned, the other was very last minute.

We scooted down unexpectedly in early July to look at a big sister for Bikini Hut. We love our little Guana cottage, but we love it so much, we've outgrown it! We really needed a second bedroom and Matt was itching for a dock. We had an opportunity to take a look at something, so we ran down with less than a weeks notice.

We hadn't planned to go for the 4th of July this past summer. We had totally sworn off the most crowded week of the year, filled with crazed millennials wearing trucker hats bearing the logo of Daddy's yacht; families with 17 children jockeying for position to see the fireworks; and every yahoo with a boat or jet ski that believed they could make it from Florida. Yet somehow we founds ourselves right down there in the middle of it, sweating in the impossible July heat and dodging the hordes of golf carts that uncharacteristically filled Guana's streets.

We spent a few great days eating our body weight in Bahamian mac n'cheese, visiting our Guana friends, and buying Bikini Hut a big sister.

We founds ourselves back down at the end of July for my birthday - the 10 year anniversary of my ill fated 38th birthday debacle on Guana that ended with one very bruised friend. I'm happy to report that we are older (I'm not sure about wiser) and managed a low key birthday where no one ended up with a black eye.

My favorite moments from the summer trips:

Thinking we were surprising our friends by showing up at their July 4th bonfire unannounced and dressed like creepy clowns only to find out they already knew and we were just two imbeciles in hot latex masks:

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Seeing the ACTUAL Bam Bam at Nippers.

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Spending my birthday on Guana and not ending up like this:

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But instead like this:

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Seeing this:

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Finding out a good friend has surprised me with a new Bikini Hut sign:

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Discovering that there is something even scarier than my childhood Jack in the Box:

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Being in the Bahamas for the opening day of lobster season:

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Discovering that each time my friends stay at Bikini Hut, they appear to have a compulsion to buy giant jars of peanut butter and leave them behind:

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Realizing that I don't only love this place, I love these people:

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To wrap it up, here are some favorite photos from the July trips:

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Up next: FINALLY......Our return to the Greek Islands! Wait for it!

Posted by vicki_h 10:05 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (1)

What's next?

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In addition to catching up on some summer trips to Abaco, stay tuned for 2 weeks in the Ionian Islands and some quick fall trips to Banner Elk, NC; Charleston, SC; Townsend, TN; and Cumberland Gap.

Posted by vicki_h 06:25 Comments (2)

The Cays to Paradise: Boating the Exuma Cays IV

Days 10 - 12: Little Farmer's Cay to Great Exuma

Day 10: The Exuma Blues.

Little Farmer’s Cay to Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma (35 miles)

It was our final day on the sea. Originally, we were going to keep the boat out 10 days, but shortly before our trip, we all (wisely) made the decision to bring it in early and spend our last 2 nights in a villa so that everyone could see a little bit of Great Exuma (but mostly because the guys decided they wanted to go bonefishing).

We had to make the final 35 mile stretch in one day, so it would be a long trip.

The day dawned with a spectacular sunrise.

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Rather than spend a lot of time on breakfast, I made waffle sandwiches to go and everyone settled in for the long ride. This part of the trip would be remote and uninhabited islands, no real civilization to speak of. It was a long, final journey through hours of beautiful nothing.

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We had learned to sync our rhythms with the tides. High tide? Move the boat. Or don’t. Maybe just sit and stare at the water. Low tide? Take the dingy and explore undiscovered sandbars or stare at the starfish on the bottom that look close enough to caress. Our skin was salty and our hair was sunkissed.

It was mid-morning and we were far….so far…..from anything. Blue stretched above us and as far as our eyes could see beside us, below us, with only the occasional dot of emerald green island to break it up. We were floating in a sea of gin clear water and we were perfectly alone. Wherever we looked, there was no one there. And it felt as though no one had ever been there. And we were perfectly happy with that.

After 8 days on the boat, we found ourselves lost between the sky and the sea, surrounded by blue. The colors of Exuma defied belief. The words to describe the color of the water haven’t even been created yet.

We officially had the Exuma blues.

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And then we exited paradise and found ourselves at the Emerald Bay Marina.

Just like that.

We made a final lunch on the boat while we waited for our rental car: an antipasta platter and tortellini with salad.

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And then we said "goodbye" to Lion of the Sea.

After a literal eternity (don’t get me started on Airport Car Rental and how grossly unreliable they were), we got one small car for 6 large adults (instead of the van we had reserved). One small car with a huge hole in the sidewall of the tire. One small car that made us sweat within seconds because 4 of us were crammed into the back of an economy sized vehicle. One small car on terrible roads with a tire that could blow at any second, particularly given the number of people jammed inside.

But our villa (https://www.vrbo.com/4715545ha) more than made up for it. The place was AMAZING.

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And what a treat after being on a cramped boat for over a week.

We sprawled out in the spaciousness, drinking in the air conditioning, and lounging in the pool. With a couple of beaches within walking distance, it was a perfect place to wind away what was left of the afternoon.

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Our original plans for dinner were to head to Shirley’s at the Fish Fry. However, given that our boat wi-fi never worked, we didn’t have a reservation. Thinking we could show up on a Saturday in June with a party of 6 and just sit down at Shirley’s was madness.

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It was obvious there was no way they could accommodate our large party without making us wait until midnight or putting us outside with the horrendous swarm of mosquitos, so we cut our losses and headed back to La Palapa at Grand Isle, just a moment from our villa.

What it lacked in ambience and food quality, it made up for in proximity, lack of mosquitoes, and fast service.

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Besides, all we really cared about was getting back to the house and sleeping in an ACTUAL BED.

Day 11: Chattin' & Chillin'.

The guys woke up early and headed off to meet their bonefishing guide. The plan was to meet up at lunch at the Chat n’ Chill.
With no galley breakfast to prepare for the group and all the girls sleeping in, I enjoyed a quiet breakfast and morning by the pool.

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Shortly before noon, with me as the designated driver, we drove our small, crappy car to Georgetown where we caught a water taxi to the Chat n’ Chill on Stocking Island for their Sunday pig roast.

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We two fisted while we waited for the guys to finish up their fishing and join us.

It was our last day together, so we made the most of it – drinks, barbecue, and swimming in the water with the stingrays that Chat n’ Chill is known for.

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We wrapped up the day with snacks by the pool and dinner at nearby La Fourchette, an utterly delightful little restaurant not too far from the villa.

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Day 12: Hey Now, Hey Now, Don't Dream it's Over.

Sadly, two of our group had to head home, so we did a late breakfast/early lunch at La Fourchette before seeing them off to the airport.

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The Knoxville based crew was there for another day, so we moved from our posh villa to the much less posh (and somewhat moldy) Hideaways at Palm Villa to be close to the airport. Our 2 bedroom suite smelled strongly of bleach with an underlying odor of mildew and the hotel bar thermometer registered the inside of the bar at a stifling 96 degrees. Otherwise, it was great.

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Because it was actually cooler outside than it was in the bar, we made the short walk to Jolly Hall beach. On our last trip to Great Exuma, it had been our favorite. Would it still be as beautiful as we remembered?

It was.

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We lounged the afternoon away in the cool water before heading back to clean up for dinner.

Because we had been unsuccessful at Shirley’s the night before, we decided to give it another try and were glad we did.

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We were seated immediately and had frosty drinks sitting in front of us within moments.

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Shirley’s coconut crusted grouper was out of this world, as was the ridiculously decadent coconut cheesecake.

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Not quite ready to let the trip end, we stopped at Blu for after dinner drinks and enjoyed one final, spectacular sunset.

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The trip had been everything we hoped: (mostly) beautiful weather, great friends, and spectacular views through the Exuma Cays. We had truly been immersed in paradise.

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But it was time to go home.

I only wished I could bottle the colors of the sea and take them home with me.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:10 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sailing nassau catamaran exuma out_islands lion_of_the_sea highbourne_cay Comments (5)

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