I want to thank a few people who made this trip one of the best months of my life:
My family: Thank you so much for everything. You guys were the ones that made this dream vacation become a reality and I could not have done it without all of your help.
Steve, Cathy, and David: Thank you guys for opening up your home to me. You guys were fantastic hosts and I am so grateful for everything you did to be sure I had a great time in England. I appreciate you going out of your way each day to help me make the most out of my stay. I had an amazing time in England and I owe it all to you.
Tyger and Buf: Thank you for the great afternoon and evening we spent together. I had a blast hanging out with you two and exchanging stories. I hope all is well with you.
Franco: Your driving skills were amazing. I thank you so much for all the long hours you put in driving the bus. I could not have handled the stress and crazy drivers in any of those cities, especially Paris. You drove the bus like it was a sports car and we all appreciated you getting us to every destination safely.
Markos and Poly: Thank you so much for your warm hospitality. It was so nice meeting you guys. I loved sharing stories with you and we were so appreciative of how hard you guys worked to make sure we had an amazing stay in Poros. It was so sad leaving you guys because in those short 3 days you felt like part of our group. I really hope to make another trip to Poros and spend more time hanging out with you two.
Everyone on the trip: I could not have asked for a better group of 40 people to spend a month with travelling around Europe. It’s so hard to believe we were all strangers at the beginning of the trip. I have made better friends with some of you over the course of 25 days than I did with some people I spent 4 years with in college. I’m so glad I met all of you and hope to share more memories with you all.
Monica: I’m so thankful that you were the UCSB representative that came on the trip. They could not have a chose a better person. Not only did you share great insight about the places we visited, but valuable insight on life in general.
Kathi: I cannot thank you enough for everything you did for us on this trip. Your effort and enthusiasm made the trip so enjoyable. I envy how much you get to travel, but there is no way I could do your job anywhere near as well as you do. It was tiring travelling the whole way and I could not imagine being responsible for 40 people and doing all the work behind the scenes to set up everything. I had a phenomenal time and you and Monica have inspired me to keep travelling. I hope you can make it out to California sometime so that we can show you some cool spots.
I woke up in Heathrow at 4:30 because I couldn’t sleep anymore and had to be at my gate by 7:45. Around 5am I made my way to the right terminal and sat around until my flight was ready to board.
Again I got a first class seat because it was the only available option and I definitely had no complaints. First class on an international flight is one of the coolest things. I had my own little cubicle where the seat reclined all the way into a bed, the tv and tray popped up, I was provided pajamas, slippers, and really nice toiletries to keep. Plus they provided Bose noise cancelling headphones to use on the flight. I couldn’t believe being in first class. At one point one of the stewardesses, Theresa, asked me if everything was ok because I had this stupid look on my face from being totally awestruck and overwhelmed with all the amenities of first class. The food was crazy good. I had steak and coconut pineapple rum french toast for breakfast and some fantastic chicken dish for lunch. For snacks I had cheese, crackers, grapes, and wine! I watched a movie and then put the bed down and slept for a few hours.
When I got to Chicago customs was a breeze and I had 7 hours to kill. So I got on the train and headed into the city. My first stop was Wrigley field because I’ve always wanted to visit that historic stadium. Then I went downtown and had some authentic Chicago deep dish pizza and a beer before I had to head back to the airport.
I got on the plane and was ready to be back in California in a few hours. I was still running on Greek time, so when I got on the plane at 7pm Chicago time it was 3am in Greece. The stewardess asked if I wanted anything to drink so I got a beer; they got ready to serve dinner and put my tray and a place mat down. I knocked out before my food made it. A couple hours later I was stoked to wake up and see the shrimp cocktail and salad appetizer in front of me, but before I could even unravel my napkin with the silverware in it I passed back out. I woke up when they announce we needed to sit upright and prepare for landing. I never even got a bite of the appetizer and apparently there was some really good pasta that was supposed to follow, but I slept through it all.
My sister, Tandell, and Brad picked me up and we went to Denny’s because they were hungry. I was super stoked that they brought me a fat Rosa Maria’s meat, bean, rice, and cheese burrito! We sat at Denny’s and ate and talked for a bit before they took me home. It was a great way to wrap up the most phenomenal month of my life so far!
Today we woke up, ate breakfast, and boarded the bus to head to the airport. It was sad saying goodbye to Kathi because she was such an amazing tour guide. She was always positive and tried her hardest all the time to be sure we were having the best trip possible. There is no way I could have accomplished anywhere near as much if she wasn’t there. We all owe her so much for her hard work and dedication because it was tiring doing the trip, but she was in charge of 40 of us and was constantly working behind the scenes to make the trip run so smoothly.
After about a 45 minute ride we made it to the airport where I left everyone to go meet up with my Mom and Randy. It was hard to goodbye to everyone because after 25 days I felt so close to everyone and was bummed that they got to spend a few more hours together travelling while I had to make the trip back home alone.
I found my mom and Randy and we loaded the rental car to head into town. We decided we wanted to go to the new Acropolis Museum since neither Randy or I had been there. That was easier said than done. We ended up getting pretty lost and drove around for almost 2 hours before finally making it to the museum. It didn’t matter though because the museum was totally worth it. They had glass floors where people could see the excavation of buildings taking place. After wandering around the museum for a couple hours it was time for me to get back to the airport. However, we happened to get lost again because the signs would point one way to the airport and then all of a sudden point the opposite direction or there were a few times where the sign is placed right at the corner that we needed to turn at. It was a little stressful, but I made it with plenty of time.
I was nervous that my bag was going to be overweight and I would have to pay the $100 fee, but luckily my bag was at 22.7kg and the max was 23kg! My flight left at 7:05 and I was stoked to be up in business class because There was way more room, the food was better, and I’ve never sat anywhere but coach so the experience was awesome. The flight took 4 hours to get to London where I had to spend the night.
Spending the night in Heathrow was an interesting situation. I had a drink at the bar and then found a spot on a bench to fall asleep. The bench wasn’t very wide and I was paranoid that someone would jack my stuff, so I slept in the fetal position wrapped around my backpack. I woke up about every 45 minutes just because it was so uncomfortable.
We had a 4:45am wake up call this morning so that we could catch our small ferry to downtown Poros and then get on the bigger ferry to Athens. The ride was so much more enjoyable than the last ferry we were on. This was probably because we were only on it for a couple hours and the sunrise over Poros and the other Greek Islands was gorgeous.
Once we got to port we went straight on the city tour. Our first stop was the Acropolis. Even though I was exhausted, this was one of my favorite stops. I had been looking forward to seeing the Parthenon the entire trip so being tired wasn’t going to ruin the day. Seeing the Parthenon and other temples at the Acropolis was so amazing because they have been there for over 2000 years! The fact that they have survived this long and how regal the buildings are now knowing what tools they had to use when building them is mind blowing. Then we stopped at the sight of the first modern Olympics. The stadium was built in 1896 and is completely marble. I was bummed that we didn’t get to go inside because I really wanted to get a picture on the podium, but we only had 10 minutes there. On the way to the hotel we drove by Parliament, the Temple of Zeus, the University of Athens, and the Botanical Gardens. The Greek National Guards had the goofiest/least intimidating uniforms. They had fuzzy balls on the end of their shoes, skirts, and these long tassels that came from their hats. The tour ended at our hotel and we checked in, rested a bit, then headed out because we had free time before dinner that night.
Derek and I went out and got some bomb gyros and then just kind of got lost walking around. We wandered all over the Flaka district before stopping at the National Gardens and just kind of people watching. We all met back at the hotel at 7 to go out to dinner. For dinner you’d never guess what I had…a gyro! Gyros were the Greek equivalent to Gelato. I could not get enough of them!
After dinner we all met on the rooftop terrace of the hotel to hang out for one last night before going home in the morning. The view was amazing because we could see the Acropolis all lit up. Kathi brought us some delicious baklava and we all sat around and ate baklava, drank wine, watched shooting stars, and reminisced about the great times we shared over the last 24 days. It was a great way to spend our last night together just enjoying everyone’s company.
Today was another free day to do whatever. After spending all day in the sun yesterday, I was feeling a tad bit burnt. Instead of basking in the sun all day, I decided lying under some shade by the pool or ocean felt pretty good too. I spent the first half of the day under an umbrella lying by the pool and then had the mixed grill for lunch. The mixed grill consisted of pork, sausage, some meat ball, and pita bread. After lunch Ryan, Alex, and I took the bus into downtown Poros to explore and check out the shops. We went to the top of a hill where the town clock tower was were able to look out all over the island. The view was stunning!
After a few hours we caught the bus back to the hotel. The weird thing about the bus was there weren’t designated stops; you had to flag down the bus and walk up to the front of the bus when you wanted to get off. When we got back to the hotel I did a whole lot more of the same and kicked it under some shade by the pool.
After dinner we all just kind of hung out. I watched the gorgeous sunset for the last time in Poros and then we all went back to the pool to spend our last night enjoying the company of Markos and Polly. We all signed a paper with the UCSB Alumni Association logo on it telling them how much we loved staying in Poros and spending time with them. Even though we had only known Markos and Poly for less than 72 hours, they seemed like part of the group and it was sad for both us and them knowing that we were leaving early in the morning. I really hope that I can make it back to Poros some day!
Today we had an entire day to spend relaxing. I woke up, grabbed breakfast, and messed around online for a bit. Then Derek, Lily, Ryan, Greg, and I used the bikes provided to the group at the hotel to go into town. I got a towel so that I didn’t use the same white hotel towel at the beach pool and for showering. After coming back from town I grabbed my new towel and spent most of the day lying out at the beach. For lunch I had my 3rd chicken gyro in a day and a half!
I wasted the rest of the day between the pool and beach. We had dinner at 8 again tonight, but tonight was pork souvlaki. Souvlaki is similar to a kebab and is of course delicious. After dinner there was a toga party planned since the next night we had to go to bed somewhat early in order to make it on the ferry to Athens.
After 4 years in college I ironically never attended or even heard of a toga party, which was the case for most everyone in our group. So it was a tad bit difficult to turn bed sheets into togas. This seems somewhat hard to believe especially coming from UCSB. The party was a ton of fun!
The couple working at the bar, Markos and Poly, were two of the nicest people we’ve met on this trip. By the first night they had almost everyone in the groups’ name and room number memorized and not for the sake of memorizing, they genuinely connected with everyone in our group. The pool and bar opened at 9am and they were the main 2 running it until the last person left which was typically around 3am or later. It was so nice hanging out with them and we all became really close with them instantly.
We pulled into Patras at around 11am this morning and it could not have been soon enough. Breakfast this morning was an absolute joke and just topped off our magnificent stay on the Ionian Queen. It consisted of 2 pieces of hard bread/crackers, a tiny cinnamon roll thing, oj, 2 servings of butter, jam, and honey. There were more things to spread on bread/crackers than room to spread them on. The funniest thing about breakfast was when Chris opened his package of stale bread/crackers and they were totally crumbled and he says, “I’m so lucky, you guys only got 2 pieces and I got like 7!” This boat provided plenty of sarcastic backhanded jokes for the rest of the trip.
We waited at the port for about an hour before our coach showed up then took a 2 hour ride to our next ferry that took us over to the island of Poros. So after 36 hours of travelling, we finally made it from Rome to our first destination in Greece. Everyone checked in and went straight to the beach. Our hotel was right across the street from the Mediterranean! Ironically, the only hotel we stayed at that had a pool was the one less than 100 yards from the ocean.
Everyone just relaxed between the pool and ocean until dinner at 8. For dinner we had Greek salad which consisted of olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, and topped with a huge square of feta cheese then chicken gyros. After dinner everyone went back to either the pool or beach. It was the perfect way to relax after all the time it took to get there and 20 some days of constant travel.