Sunday, May 30, 2010

Heraklion, Crete, Greece - May 10-13 2010

After the magical time we spent on Thira we headed to Crete, the biggest of the islands of Greece. First stop: its main city and port, Heraklion. We were hosted by a Couchsurfer here and aside from seeing some ruins at Knossos, we just took it easy for a few days and relaxed!

A view of the waterfront, one of the first things we saw when we got off the ferry from Thira!

Another waterfront photo...

A Venetian fortress on the water.

Another view of the harbour with the fortress in the background.

Random residential street just outside the centre of Heraklion.

Faces only mothers could love...

Ruins by the water.

The main square in Heraklion--we think it was called the Lions square, named so after the fountain seen here with the four lions. Cliff is tasting the air to test it for us...(Actually, he was imitating the lions' faces!)

Ruins at Knossos. Knossos, "also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture," according to Wikipedia!

Stelios (our really hospitable CouchSurfing host in the black and white stripes) took us out to dinner with his brother, his brother's girlfriend, and some friends.  In usual Greek style, there was a ton of food and drink on the table, and everyone made sure we got sent off from Heraklion with a great feast! 

Sadly, we forgot to take photos of the spread of awesome deliciousness that was dinner. Some highlights included deep-fried mushrooms (which are amazing dipped in tzatziki) and baked feta in olive oil with freshly sliced tomato, green pepper, red pepper, onion, and oregano. What you see in the photo above are the remnants of dessert: fresh fruits, preserved orange, watermelon, and carrot (they're soaked in honey until it sort of resembles dense jelly), halvas (the semolina-based sweet you see next to the watermelon in the photo), and sweet-cheese-filled loukoumades (deep-fried homemade dough balls smothered in honey...amazing!!!). As is customary in Crete you are also given some complimentary Raki, a grape-based spirit, alongside dessert. Though we got some free Raki at the end Stefan drank lots while enjoying his Cretan feast!

Here you can see Margarita shocked at Stelios's and his brother George's food babies! We had some major food babies too!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Oia, Santorini, Greece - Part 2! - May 9 2010

This post is mostly about the evening we spent in Oia and the restaurant we had dinner at where we got engaged!

Walking through Oia Stefan noticed this little table out on the edge of a little peninsula. Stefan then decided to undertake the mission of finding out how to wind your way through the steps and paths to get to the table and see if we could eat there...or if not, just sit there for a minute or two!

Another (closer) view of this magical table!

A broader shot of the hillside with the table in the middle of the photo!

The sunset in Oia is touted as a must-see thing in Santorini. Once we completed our mission of finding the table: it was actually part of a restaurant that belonged to a hotel called Andronis Suites. Lucky for us, they had a free spot that night, so we made a reservation and went to check out the sunset before our dinner!

Here is the view of a part of the hotel from "The Table"!

Here's looking out over the infinity edge pool at Andronis Suites! The pool was one level below the table we sat at on the peninsula!  Someday, when we can afford to do more than eat a one-course meal at this hotel, we might get to swim in the pool too!

A view looking southward from the table during sunset over Oia!

A view from the edge of our table looking out towards some other islands that make up Santorini.

A view from the lower level (where the pool is) of the peninsula and Cliff at the table!

Us sitting at the table waiting for the food!

We scored some free food from the chef! We were the only people who ate at the restaurant that night, and we had only ordered a main each...maybe the chef was bored and wanted to make something! It was a feta-filled spanakopita with a tomato type chutney, which was sooooooo yummy! (and free! hahaha)

Our mains: for Stefan, sea bass and bean salad, which consisted of black-eyed peas, roasted red peppers, some other veggies, olive oil, and a whole hell of a lot of amazingness! For Cliff, a lamb souvlaki with hand-cut fries, toasted pita and tzatziki!  This meal was one of the tastiest meals we have ever had!  The food was as good as it looks!

Later in the evening, the view from our table as the sun sets over Oia.

Andronis Suites at night...

Here we are some point after Cliff popped the big question!  We even match, how gay is that!?  Stefan was actually totally surprised.  It was a pretty ridiculously romantic moment, being in the place we were and all.  That, and of course, getting engaged is super romantic any time or place!  


In case you are wondering, the ring is black, made out of carbon fibre, but cut on the cross grain, so you don't see the square pattern you usually see on carbon fibre, but you see the wave strands running around the ring, and they appear more in the light.  

The north end of Oia at night! After the dinner we spent some time walking through the town again to experience it at night.

The south end of Oia at night!

Even though these are two posts on Oia, we only spent a day there. And in case you're wondering, YES! We have more photos! :D
So far it's been the most beautiful and breathtaking place we've been to on this trip...maybe ever!

Oia, Santorini, Greece - Part 1! - May 9 2010

Our next stop on the island of Thira... Oia! Oia is a town on the northwesternmost point of the island. It is also located much closer to sea level than Fira. While we thought Fira was beautiful when we arrived on the island, it didn't quite knock our socks off like we had hoped. Well, Oia sure made up for all that. This place is absolutely spectacular!!! Sit tight, because this is going to be one long post! Picture smorgasbord!!!! Oia is too beautiful!

Oh, and in case you are unaware, you can click on any of our pictures to make them full-size!

Here is a view of Oia from the ferry into Thira.

We walked from Firostefani to Oia, which was a 10-km walk across the northern section of the island. Here you see the sign for the town of Imerovigli.

A view from Imerovigli. In the distance, right where the telephone pole is, you can see Oia.

Someone's private garden that we saw on the way to Oia. Notice the scarecrow family on a Sunday ride through the garden!

A cool shot of a hill into which the road to Oia has been carved out.  When you pass around the hill on the road, you can see the volcanic rock which makes up the entire island chain of Santorini, as all the islands were once one large volcano, which exploded and made a few smaller islands.

Another cool shot of the road cutting through the hill. You can see all the layers of volcanic ash and lava!

A neat view from the hills of the west side looking to the low lands of the east coast. All the steps you see on the hills are actually manmade levels for agriculture.

Yay, we're here! Vanna and Pat presents... Oia!

The outskirts (non-cliffside) of Oia.

We saw this sign as we approached Oia, had a little chuckle!

The first thing you see when entering Oia via the 'highway' we walked there on!

Once we got into the town and got to the cliffside this was the first thing we saw. Heads exploded thusly.



Oh yeah...

Stefan, in a portrait with his future husband, if Oia were a man!









Postcard shot courtesy of Stefan!  Oia has three small coves on its coastline; this is the northernmost one, perhaps the nicest and most picturesque!

This is Oia as seen from the northernmost point looking south.

Ridiculous! This is a photo that is commonly seen on postcards of Oia...not hard to see why!

Santorini tomato balls!  They are worth the trip to the islands!  We are not sure exactly what they are made of, besides tomatoes, but we think there is a little bit of red pepper, onion, flour and a whole hell of a lot of goodness!  They are deep-fried too, which makes them that much more awesome.  We apologize for Cliff's face looking so hideous, but the balls are just that good that they put his face outta whack!

Oh, and by request of a fellow food lover, we also thought it was a good idea: we are going to include as many photos and info on all the great and new food we eat during the trip!  Stay tuned for more Oia, and more food!