Friday, June 24, 2005

Finally, A Real Update!

Hooray for free internet! I can't quite tell you how excited this makes me! I do have to warn you in advance of a few things, though: (1) It's been a long time since I've written, and lots has happened in between; you may want to take this entry in in four to twelve separate sittings. Or prepare a few meals before you begin, to keep up your stength as you read. (2) I'm typing on a French keyboard, which has several key differences (ha ha, I hope you apprecited that pun) from the American keyboard; Chiefly, the A and the Q are transposed, as are the W and the Z, and the M is up next to the L. All the numbers require a shift (if you hit the keys without one you get the punctuation) and the punctuation is all awry. So if things look a bit funny because I miss a mistake or two, consider it a cultural experience.

And now, on to the updates! Looking back over my past hasty posts, I seem to have managed at least a general overview of our Greek adventure. One point I don't think I mentioned was how similar the climate and plantlife was to that of Southern California. (They must be on the same latitude, or something...) If you ignored the architecture, most of the time we could have been back in San Diego. Which was a bit trippy.

I also didn't get to very detailed descriptions of our fellow boat mates. The Canadian couples were fentastic! When they joined us at the table to await the arrival of our skipper, they announced "Your parents are here!" One of the husbands, Leo, was a carbon copy of that one actor from the Waiting For Guffman/Best In Show/Mighty Wind films--you know, the one with the blck hair ans the super thick glasses? And they really did say "eh?" all the time, and "aboot." Hee! Lorraine, the Puerto Rican actress, was quite a character--so full of energy and attitude. She led us in yoga on the beach, and spent much of the time we were sailing perched on the bow, wind and mist in her curly black hair. Kathy, the other canadian, was supercool, had what Kate describes as a penchant for souvenirs, and was taking seven weeks off work for her first experience of Europe. She hung out with Kate and I for a lot of the time, and joined us in enormous crepes, shopping, and scrabble at a Greek cafe, among other adventures.

Our few days alone in Santorini were also nice. By then we had definitely internalized the rhythm of the country, where dinner starts around 9pm at the earliest and can drag on for hours, which had sounded insane when Sotiris described it at the start of the trip, but by the end was a hard habit to break when we departed for countries with earlier bedtimes (or at least dinner times). We stayed in the hotel of this darling Greek couple with a 6 month old baby, who were so sweet we stayed for the full three nights we had reserved despite the fact that we spent the 20 minutes before bed our first night there scooping up little brown beetles from my bed and depositing them in the hallway.

We took an 8 hour ferry back to Atehns for a final night in Greece, exploring the agoras (Roman and ancient) and getting kicked out 15 minutes before closing time in the midst of a cacophany of bells and whistles (literally). That night we had a roommate in our hostel, who was described as "another American guy" at reception and turned out to be this middle-aged, highly excitable, slightly off-his-rocker middle shcool teacher from Miami who claimed to teach geography and world history but couldn't pronounce the names of the Eastern European countries he was going to visit, and had hung up, to dry, a tiny baby t-shirt and a pair of underwear, having been forced to buy the former when unable to find a washcloth at a local souvenir shop, qnd then accidentally employed the latter instead. He was just eccentric enough to have Kate and I a bit concerned about sharing a room with him, but when we went down to recption to request a swap we were informed, quite rudely, that the hostel was now full and that out options were to "take your stuff and leave or stay in the room". We did the latter, and aside from a nightmare Kate had that he was strangling her, all was uneventful.

The next morning we had a flight to geneva, which was only half of the return ticket on our flight from London to Greece. We were a bit worried by their initial hesitation to check our backpacks only halfway along our route, but we finally persuaded them to do so and were soon flyin over the alps nibbling swiss chocolate.

When we arrived at out hostel, we were warmly greeted and directed to the entrance by a Parisian guy named Adil who was working at the taxi stand next door. He offered to answer any questions we might have about the city, and ended up leading us on a three-hour tour of the city when we asked if he could recommend a restaurant for dinner. There turned out to be a crazy international festival of music and food going on all weekend throiughout the city, so we spent the night serenaded by all vqrieties of music and then the next day walking around looking at booths from all around the world and eating Angolan chicken and plantains.

Tyhe next morning, we took a series of trains up to the tiny alpine village of Lauterbrunnen, awhich Kate had visited last summer with her family, where we befriended the cool British crepe guy and slept in a hostel whose beds were arranged seven-dwarf style (aka side by side with no gaps between them; picture one long bed) with a bunch of Korean students and a rather creepy Swiss old man who wandered around while we were brushing our teeth cooking soup and muttering to himself in an unknown language. The next day we explored these awesome waterfalls inside the mountain, which had cqrved out crazy tunnels and were viewable via other tunnels. Then we took a gondola up to Gimmelwald, where we stayed at a classic backpacker hostel 5with, again, the seven dwarf beds), watched the summer solstice sunset tint the clouds and mountains ruby red, and stargazed in a hot tub while eating more swiss chocolate and discussing gender roles with two South Africans, a Georgian, a San Diegan, and a Norweigian. Amazing!

The next day we took a few more gondolas up to the top of Schilthorn and ate vegetable soup in a revolving restaurant with a view of most of Switzerland, and then went for a hike amidst wildflowers, waterfalls, and cows, snacking on crackers with authentic Swiss cheese, and then went back down to Lauterbrunnen for the night.

The next day we took five trains to get to Annecy, stopping for a few hours in Geneva so I could visit an ear doctor specialist to have my right ear vaccuumed out (did I mention my and Kate's adventure to find a hospital on our last night in Geneva before Lauterbrunnen, where we sat from 10:30 pm to 1 am to find out whether I had an ear infection and Kate had a virus?). And now we're in Annecy, in a hotel on a hill overlooking the city, right next door to a chateau which we visited this afternoon, and which contained exhibits of art and the animations of this french guy from the 70s, back when they did it all by hand. So cute! Last night we had spinach crepes for dinner, and a lemon and sugar one for dessert--yummy!

So, that pretty much brings us up to the moment, at which I stand in our hotel lobby, as I have for the past few hours, typing away, as thunder begins to roll in the distance. Tomorrow we're off again, to spend one night in Chqlon sur Saone before joining my Meeting House friends in Taize for a week's chilling with the monks. So my next post will probably either be from Scotland, or maybe Sussex as we pass through to pick up Kate's laptop, or maybe even not till I return to San Diego.

As a final note, can I just point out that Kate and I have taken to checking out our felloz travellers' backpacks like some people check out members of the opposite sex... Seriously, one of us will turn to the other and say, in a low voice, "Hey, look at that one." And then we'll both look over and groan longingly, and then look at our own pile of luggage (which, to give us credit, we have managed to handle so far) with quiet sighs, and vow that on our next journey our possessions will fit in our pocket. So, future travellers, although you hear it from everyone, be warned!

And for now, c'est tout!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cue Angelic Music

Kate and I have just arrived at our hotel in Annecy, France, after a long day of lugging our bags all the way down from the Swiss Alps, to discover the Holy Grail of European backpacking in the 21st century: FREE INTERNET! It's been a hot, sticky, and tiring day, so we're off to find some dinner, or ice cream, or something, but I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be spending a few hours on this puppy tomorrow to give our inboxes a good scouring and update friends and family about our whereabouts and recent adventures. Until then, ciao! (The universal European goodbye)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Leaving on a jet plane

In the athens airportat a (free!) internet portal. Off to Geneva!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Having A Blast in Santorini!

Those of you aware that santorini is an island now half underwater as the result of a volcanis explosion will be able to appreciate this entry's title's little pun. And as this is the last island on our tour of Greece, Kate's expression of hope that we will "go out with a bang" will hopefully not be too literally fulfilled...

But it's true, we two travellers are having a grand old time so far as we explore Europe and revel in the freedom of this time in our lives. Santorini is beautiful, of course--the site of most of the photos you see in the postcards--but really all the islands have had their own unique charm. We started off in Athens, and our boat trip took us to Poseidon's Temple, as well as the quiet island of Kythnos, where we sat in the hot springs and hiked up to a mountaintop village, the rather boisterous island of Syros, where we docked right into a harborside taverna where the patrons partied and smashed beer bottles (apparently) until sunrise, much to the dismay of the lighter sleeprs onboard (trained by my months living up the hill from the drunken revelries at East Slope Bar, I was out like a light from the moment my head hit the pillow), and the island of Paros, which Kate and I grew quite familiar with after several days of crisscrossing by boat, foot, and bus.

I wish I could convey to you the superb randomness of the conjunction of people who travelled together for that week on the boat. Kate's description of it as a game of CLUE approaches the effect. Our skipper topped it off, though--a tanned Greek man who hid behind his sunglasses for most of the trip in stoic silence, but when he did open his mouth it was to let loose either deeply philosophical musings on the nature of life and travel (examples: "There is no such thing as adventure, there is only trouble" "Convenience is always an enemy to learning") of hilarious jokes delivered in a deadpan manner and Greek acent which made them almost unbearably funny, and which no typewritten example could possibly do justice to.

Shoot, once again I've run out of internet time. But more stories shall follow soon, so please stay tuned. I love you all and hope you're well, and can't wait to return home and see those of you I have missed so desperately for the past six months.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Greek Island "Adventure"

The "adventure" is in quotes because, according to our tourguide, there is no such thing as adventure--there's only trouble. this came out during the first night of our trip boating around Athens, during which he waxed philosophical on many matters concerning travelling over a dinner of various delicious Greek appetizers. We joined the yacht several days ago, along with a Puerto Rican theatre major grad student named Lorraine, a Canadian DNA-analyst named Kathy, and two older Canadian couples--Dan & Connie and Leo & Marylin. All of whom are absoltuely fantastic people. Our skipper, Sotiris, is also fabulous. We've been sailing around the Cyclades over the past few days to superb sunny weather (a bit toasty, but sailing along kicks up a nice cooling breeze) and eating delicious greek foods like tzatziki, gyros, feta cheese, greek salad, eggplant dip, etc. Having a wonderful time, and taking lots of pictures, which I shall try to post when I'm not on such a pricey internet connection. Will also hopefully post more updates and details at that time. much love!

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Great Adventure Begins!

Kate Fox and I have set off at last for the final chapter in our semester abroad--40 days of travel around Europe! Today we made our way to Delphi to consult the oracle. Quite an adventure! Goodness, these posts might be quick until we get somewhere with more internet service. Until then, we're safe and having fun so far! Tomorrow--Athens.