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Saint Mike's Travel Blog

"If you look like your passport photo, you're too ill to travel."
-- Will Kommen

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."
-- Susan Heller

Hi! Thanks for visiting my travel blog.

I'm going to kick it off with my European vacation June 16 - July 14, 2007.

Diary Entries

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Location: Calgary, Canada

FINAL ENTRY.

Well I'm back in Canada and I must say it's good to be back. The trip was good but travelling alone sucks sometimes.

I have one more tale to tell about leaving London.

This morning I got to the airport 3 hours early for my flight back to Canada. I had bought my Dad a model pistol in Greece and I have declared it at each flight. I had a bit of trouble getting it out of Athens.

So when I checked in I told them I had a model pistol and the woman at the counter said "NO WAY". I explained that I had already flown through other airports and they had checked it and said it was fine. So the woman said she'd check it with security and to step to the side.

About 10 minutes later a policeman came up with her and asked me to come with them. The officer asked me some questions and looked at the gun. He could tell it was harmless and he was fine with it. Still, it needed further approval.

About 10 minutes later the REAL cops showed up - two of them carrying machine guns. GULP! They were cool with it too and hve seen them before.

I should mention that I had been out of touch with the news and was unaware of recent car bombings and such. Not the best climate to be transporting suspicious looking gifts.

But like I said, they were fine with it. I just needed to take my check-in baggage to another area where it was seperately scanned and checked. Had I not done this I would have probably been in big trouble.

So that was the excitement of the day and the end of my trip. Well, except for the drive back to Saskatoon.

Thanks a lot for reading and for the kind messages and comments. I have enjoyed writing this out and I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I will post photos in the next week or so.

Regards,

Saint Mike - the weary traveller

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Location: Gatwick/London, UK

Well I am in London where it is *relatively* cooler than Greece. Must be down to 20C or so. Good thing I brought a fleece!

I booked a hostel near the airport so I won't have to get up at 3am. Gatwick airport is quite a ways out of town. At least I'll be able to go to a real english pub tonight. Last time I was in London I mostly hung out at the hostel.

I forgot to mention that I was at the Athens Backpackers hostel last night and I went up to the roof for a drink at their pub. I started to talking to this girl and of course she was from Canada (Toronto). We talked about how we miss Tim Horton's coffee. BTW, the first thing I'm doing when I get to Canada is getting an XXXL Timmy's - one sugar, no cream.

It was an early night as I wanted to get up early for my flight. I told the woman at the Easyjet desk that I wanted to bring back a model gun and she went to ask about it. I was told to check it through a different gate and it would be checked. They would page me if it wasn't allowed.

Well I wasn't paged and it seems like it was okay. Hopefully I can get it into Canada now. It's a really cool looking pistol.

Well this is my last night in Europe. See you all soon.

I'll post photos when I get home. I'll keep checking the page if there are any new questions or comments.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Location: Athens, Greece

Yesterday was interesting. I dropped off my rental car at the airport in Ioannina and then proceeded to check in for the flight to Athens.

By the way, I drove all over Greece (left to right, not top to bottom) and both me and the car were completely intact.

Anyway I had packed some gifts into my checkin luggage. I put the bag through the scanner and the woman suddenly yells.

DO YOU HAVE A GUN? DO YOU HAVE A GUN?

I had packed a model gun which I bought for my dad. They sell them all over Ioannina so they must be common in the airport.

So I had to unpack everything and show it to her, plus the bottle of wine I was packing too. I was annoyed because I had everything nicely packed and now it was all a mess.

I think everything arrived in Athens intact. I expect I will go through this two more times for my flights to London and Calgary. I am going to the airport extra early to minimize any inconveniences.

London is my next stop.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Location: Ioannina, Greece

I'm just printing off my ticket for my flight to Athens this afternoon. I have a few hours to kill. I must say I am getting a bit sick of this place! I've walked all around it and seen all the shops.

I have to say that now I understand why Greeks thumb their noses at lakes. Having been to the seas (Ionian and Adriatic) and seen just a fraction of the many beaches, lakes don't really stack up.

That's why they don't swim in them or waterski.

Monday, 09 July 2007

Location: Ioannina, Greece

I'm back in Ioannina for the night. Tomorrow I drop of my gutless POS car and fly back to Athens.

Not much to report today. I drove back the same way I drove in but this time WITHOUT getting lost. I had tentatively planned to drive back along the sea for a more scenic trip back but we decided it was risky trying to drive this myself and not get lost or something.

Oh well, now I have a reason to come back and do more sight-seeing!

Sunday, 08 July 2007

Location: N. Kallikratia, Greece

The last few days have been quite relaxing. Sleeping in late, having coffee and lunch, swimming, eating, going to seaside bars.

One bar in particular was pretty nice. It was set up right on the beach with deck chairs in the sand and lots of candles floating in the water. Very peaceful and nice.

Saturday, 07 July 2007

Location: N. Kallikratia, Greece

Visiting with Kien and Stavroula in N. Kallikratia

YESTERDAY - Part II - the drive to N. Kallikratia

I made the trip almost all the way until I hit Thessaloníki. I ended up in a wrong lane and suddenly I was in the city. I stopped at a gas station (narrowly avoiding an accident) and called Stavroula. Kien answered and told me to get the guy at the gas station to help me as they didn't know where I was. I made it back to the right road and thought I was in the clear.

Unfortunately Kien neglected one important detail - the village name. I thought I needed to find a town called Calchidia but actually that was the name of the region. So I was lost again.

Now let's make something clear. I'm a guy and I take pride in finding my own way. That is, I don't like to ask directions. BUT, when I'm in a strange city I am not averse to getting help. Problem is, not many people understand me when I ask questions.

When I figured I was lost again I called Stavroula again from a toy store I stopped at. It was here I realized I needed the town name. This time they told me to WAIT there and they would come get me.

About 15 minutes later Kien, Stavroula and her dad drove up. I was quite relieved because it was getting dark and I was worried I would need to find a place to stay the night. Turns out I had stopped pretty close to where they lived.

We went to eat and I wolfed down a greek pizza. (No feta on greek pizza by the way). Then we went for a walk along the beach. It was dark so I couldn't see too much.

Stavroula wanted to go to this club in Thessaloniki that is pretty famous for having greek musicians playing there. Kien was coming down with a bad cold and couldn't drive and they really want me to drive since it would be crazy there. Did I mention people drive like nuts here on these narrow streets?

We decided maybe to do this tomorrow. So we went for drinks at one of the bars along the beach that was nearby. Some girls were dancing on tables but unfortunately I forgot my camera!

We crashed around 3am or so...

Friday, 06 July 2007

Location: Thesalonki, Greece

I packed up my things and checked out. I said goodbye to Murray and Leona who are staying here for a few more days.

I said goodbye to Galen's family. I've enjoyed hanging out with them the last few days. We've drank a lot of beer and told lots of stories. Great, great people.

I drove to Arta to update my blog and now I'm driving to Thesaloniki for a few days to visit with Kien and Stavroula at their summer house. I will drive the short waty there and take the sceninc route on the way back. So I'll be on the Aegean sea part of Greece. I will head back in a few days to Ioannina to return my car and fly back to Athens. Then I'll start making my way back home.

Updates when I can get to a computer. I will fill in the details of the tours later.

Later...

Thursday, 05 July 2007

Location: Prava and around, Greece

Touring Day 3 - Parda and around

Today was an extra day ot sight-seeing. We just car pooled it.

1. Tour of Gates of Hades

I don't remember exactly the actual name of the village where this is located. I bought a post card but I don't have it on me now. It was close by the Kanali hotel.

We had a tour guide and Dino translated what he said. I didn't get a fraction of what was said but essentially there was an ancient church that Romans later destroyed. It was eventually covered up and another church was erected above it. Eventually the ruins were found and excavated.

The gates of hades refers to a room underneath the church that was found empty. There is a history around it but I don't recall enough to type it here. I looked on google but couldn't find a reference. Anyway, I have photos.

2. Lunch and tour at Parda

Parda is a coastal town north of our hotel. The beaches again are beautiful. There were some ruins on a hill and I explored them and took pictures. Later we had lunch.

3. Paradise beach

Our last stop was a beach that is off the beaten path. Emie's cousin and boyfriend found it a few years ago. The water was warm and that same beautiful blue. The beach was nice and sandy.

A few of us swam out to a rock to dive off. The rock was pretty sharp so we couldn't really climb it with our bare feet. As it was I cut my hands and feet trying to get on it while the waves were crashing into me! We swam for a few hours and then left.

Since I was riding with Murray and Leona I accompanied them to a restaurant with Dino and Tala. There was avout 10 in all that went for dinner. It was a great seafood meal with lots of different fish and other seafood. The grilled octopus was great.

Later we went to see a group of houses that Dino's contractor was building. The contractor was the guy who made Dino's house and he came well recommended. Dino was trying to persuade one of his colleagues to buy the house which he said was a great bargain. I don't know if any of them are considering it.

I ended the night with some drinks with the rest of Galen's family.
Darren had a laptop playing some tunes. He's got good musucal taste - like me!

Once more we had to jump out a window to get out of the building as we were locked in again.

Wednesday, 04 July 2007

Location: Lefkada, Greece

Touring Day 2 - Lefkada

Yesterday was a long day with lots of walking. We were glad to hear that today would be more relaxing. Here's what we did:

1. Monastary

We went to a Greek monastary on the island of Lefkada. Lefkada is so close to the mainland that you can drive there via an underground tunnel. The monastary was nice and had some intersting historic relics.

2. Tour of Scorpius

This was the highlight of the day. Scorpios I learned is the private island of the Onassis family. The boat tour took us all around it and the tour guide gave us the history. He told it in Greek and Dino's translated so I didn't get all the details. Essentially Onassis bought the island and it is totally private with it's own docks, staff, roads, etc. You can see a bit from the boat. The water here was a beautiful turquoise blue and I hope my photos do it justice. We ended up at an area of the island where the public can dock and swim and that is what we did. The beach was beautiful and sandy and the water was warm. This was a great tour.

3. Beach

Finally we drove to another beach on Lefkada and swam some more. There was a big rock that we climbed up and jumped off. The water was beautful and warm again. We ended the tour by having a few drinks on the shore and then drove back.

I ended the night with drinks and dinner with Galen's family. Not much sleep these last few days. We partied in one of their rooms and later a few of us who were staying in another section of the hotel realized we were locked in. We found a window to jump out of and then jumped to the ground.

I'm going to take off now. These kids at the internet cafe are playing games and screaming.

More updates to come.



Tuesday, 03 July 2007

Location: Ioannina and other places, Greece

Touring Day 1 - Ioannina region

Emie and her family knew that many people coming to wedding would be visting Greece for the first time. So they arranged a series of tours to see some historical sites as well as some nice beaches.

Their hospitality has been overwhelming to say the least. It's been nice to see all these sites and not have to worry about anything.

These are the things we saw on the first day of touring.

1. Wax Museum

The wax museum is located near Filippiada and has been an ongoing project for the artist for many years. The museum depicts famous events in Greek history - especially concerning the Ottoman occupation. Very interesting. Photos were not allowed unfortunately.

2. Lunch of greek pies

For lunch we went travelled up a mountain to a cafe that is famous for making traditional Greek pies. We each had spinach and cheese pies.

3. World's deepest gorge.

After lunch we walked down to see the world's deepest gorge (according to Guiness's Book of World Records). The path was a bit hairy near the end and some people didn't go that far. I braved it. The mountains and the gorge itself are quite impressive.

4. Perama Caves

After the gorge we piled into the bus to had back to Ioannina. We decided to visit the Perama caves which consist of a vast series of underground tunnels and the largest collection of stalegmites and stalectites. It was quite eerie down there and I was glad to get out of there. It reminded me of Aliens.

5. Ioannina

Finally we went to Ioannina for shopping. We were behind schedule when we got there so we didn't have much time. Luckily I had been there for a few days so I had seen it all anyway. I went to the internet cafe to check emails and update this.

We ended the day by going back to the hotel for dinner and drinks. It was a long day...

Monday, 02 July 2007

Location: Kanali, Greece

I slept in as late as I could before the noon checkout. Today we are moving to Kanali which is by the sea and will be our base the next few days. Tonight there is a party and Dino and Tala's new house. The next few days there will be bus tours.

Did I mention I was a hurtin' unit the last few mornings? Lots of wine and beer will do that apparently. I think all the dancing minimized the effects a great deal. I'm glad I was riding the bike a lot before I left to get in shape for this wedding.

I drove to the hotel around 1pm and checked in. It is right next to the sea Ionian sea. The room was nice and there is also a pool here. We spent the day swimming and hanging out. The beach here actually wasn't that great. The beach is full of rocks and so is the water. By Greek standards it's a so-so beach. The view is amazing though...

Around 7:30 Dino (Emie's brother) came to lead us to his new house. They have just finished building it and are getting ready to move in. It is a beautiful house next to the sea and was about 10km north of the hotel in Kanali. The sunset was beautiful with Corfu in the distance. Tonight there was no dancing but the wine and beer were flowing.

NOTE: I didn't drive after any of these nights. We car pooled and I was always a passenger.

I don't remember when we left exactly. Around 11pm or so. I rode back with Kien and Stavroula.


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Recent Messages

From Susan
You are sooooooooo going to be detained or arrested or something bringing that gun in your luggage you crazy terrorist!
Response: They let me through but I may be on a wanted list now! No more gifts from me!
From Tara
Wishing you a safe trip home!!!!!
Response: Thanks Tara. It'll be nice to be home actually. I need my own bed and different clothes!
From Eryk, Ala and Wayne
Mike, we are following your Greek adventures. Have a good trip home,
Eryk, Ala and Wayne
PS. We are waiting for pictures! Our friends are going to Greece soon. Any advice?
Response: Bring sun block!
From Simon
You can always tell when someone starts to have a really good time travelling - the updates start to dry up. Glad you're having a greatime Mike!
Response: I just haven't been able to get to a computer the last few days!
From cami
I believe that this last entry is missing some key details between "...and then the dancing began." and "...we shut it down."

;o)
Response: I'll try and fill in the holes. It seems like a month since I was in London.
From Greg
Hey Mike - Happy Birthday - I did not forget.
BTW, karen may not be able to meet you in Calgary, may have to cab it.
Response: Thanks Greg. I don't have the details here but I'm sure my flight comes in thursday July 12 at 12:30pm or so. I can cab it if need be.
From Camster
Mike: Sorry... I missed wishing you a happy, happy birthday!
Response: Thanks Cami.
From Pat (Mom)
Hi Mike,

Happy Birthday. Great way to spend it huh? Sounds like you're having a great time, and the pictures are good. See you when you get home.

Response: I was driving and/or waiting for cars that day. The parties start tonight though. See you soon.
From Wayne
Happy birthday Mike from Ala, Eryk and Wayne
Response: Thanks guys!
From Erin
Hey Mike,

Happy Birthday! Hope you are living it up in Greece!

Ben defended his PhD on Tuesday so he's excited about that. Its the beginning of the end!

Ciao
Erin
Response: Thanks Erin. I was driving today and it was not too bad. Pass on my congrats to Ben. I'll have a beer for him here.
From
This is a very refreshing commentary. I particularly enjoy the “Joe traveler” perspective on your whereabouts.
Response: Thanks for the compliment stranger! Writing it out helps me remember it all so it won't be a big blur..
From
Good update Mike, Keep'em comin. Nothing new here.
Response: Thanks whoever you are!
From Tara
HEY BUDDY!!! Thanks for the updates, this is great! I am a slight bit jealous though, as I sit here at my computer, slaving away. ;) I hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow. I'm sure it will be fantastic!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

TARA
Response: Thanks Tara. It's actually a weird feeling being in a place where hardly anyone speaks english. I'm surrounded by people but feel all alone. I'll be glad to get to the wedding and see some familar faces.
From Jill McDonald
Great updates Mike! Sounds like you are having a good time, and seeing lots of territory. Keep safe!
Response: Thanks Jill. I'm in a smaller centre now but people are friendly.
You were totally right about London. Unfortunately I didn't have any rain gear. Looking both ways before crossing streets definitely kept me alive!! Great advice.
From Cami
Hey Mike! Glad to hear that you are enjoying the sites and hooking up with some new peeps... keep the updates coming... always a pleasure to read!
Response: Thanks Camster. It helps me to remember everything I've been doing too. Hopefully more photos soon. I've already filled up a 2gb memory card.
From Mark
I saw on the weather that it is crazy hot in southern Europe.
I'm glad to see you have made a few friends. Keep it up!
Response: Yeah, it's crazy hot. > 45C I think. I've felt worse though...
From Mark
Girls from Saskatoon??? Way to go Mike!
Remember...you do what you gotta do!
Bye,
Mark
Response: I got a good story to tell you about last night. I'll put it on the blog.
From Wayne
Zapiekanka its called Zapiekanka Polish fastfood found at train stations not airports... Enjoy Greece
Response: I didn't stay at the train station very log. Oh well, next time.
From camster
Mike:

I am glad to see that I am not the only one to do "my bads".... keep up the diary... I enjoy the entries!!!!!
Response: Thanks Camster. I just found the message board. I thought no one was sending me any messages :(
I think the faberge egg does sort of resemble a penis now that you mention it.
From Simon
Nice pics MIke!!!
Response: Thanks dude.
From Cami
Is it me? Or does the Faberge egg look like a penis?
Response: Might be you!
From Cami
Mike: It sounds like the trip is off to a good start!

Response: I'm getting my travel legs now.
From Erin Sawyer
Hey Mike, Glad to hear you survived your trip to London. Enjoy the city! Your journal entries are good!!!

Erin
Response: Thanks Erin! I just now found the message board.
From Simon
Hey Mike, glad you made it. Looking forward to your photos. -Simon
Response: Was a rough few hours with the jet lag and all...