abu dhabi sunshine

life, times...and opinions from Abu Dhabi

Friday, August 25, 2006


Having been on a boat for far too long and not getting proper sleep for 3 consecutive nights, I completely crashed throughout the 4 hour boat trip to Spetses...seriously, I don't think I'd ever slept so soundly outside a bed!

M and I got off the ferry at Dapia in Spetses, the island's tiny 'capital'. The island was bustling...we were approaching August 15, a big Christian holiday, and definitely a big holiday for the Greeks. It seemed like half of Athens was on Spetses during that long weekend!

(Water taxis at Dapia harbour)

We struggled a little to find a hotel, but ended up staying in a really shitty hotel room for another 50 euros a night. There was no natural light at all in that room...it was awful, but surprisingly, we spent the most time indoors in that room! I think we were just completely spent from all the excitement of the 2 weeks that had gone by.

Anyway, we put our bags down and crashed for a good 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Once up, we headed out to explore the town...and it was really tiny, with motorbikes and scooters everywhere. There are no cars allowed on Spetses, and you needed a motorbike license to rent scooters...so we were a little screwed!

Pine-covered Spetses really is not your stereotypical Greek island. Its architecture is Venetian-influenced, so that was quite a change from all the white and blue domes from everywhere else. We crashed early that night after dinner on the harbour.

Next morning, the two non-athletes rented bicycles and headed for Vrellos beach. The uphills were quite a struggle, and in the midst of the midday Greek sun, there were many a time I thought I was going to die on the spot. We stopped off at another beach on the way to Vrellos and chilled for a while. Vrellos wasn't too far off, and we could hear the music pumping from way up the hill!

Typical young hangout with a bar, good house music and loaaads of Greeks getting away from the big cities for the weekend. We cycled back at the end of the day through the woods, had a shower, went out for dinner and settled on a beach-side bar for drinks.

A nice young man came to chat to us, telling us he worked there and that they would be having a karoeke night later on. Turns out he was a Canadian from Toronto, and since M and I both lived in Montreal at one point, we bonded a little with karoeke man. We eventually headed up to the karoeke bar, drank way too much, danced our hearts out again...and ended up singing Summer of 69 with the Canadian!

One song lead to many others...We sang I will Survive with 2 Greek guys, Wake me up Before You Go Go with a German, a Serbian and a Frenchman, and for the grand finale, a group of us sang Can't Take my Eyes Off You. We of course made complete fools of ourselves, but it was the most fun I'd had in a while!

The next morning was naturally a little rough, but M and I managed to get our butts on a little boat excursion to a couple of beaches. The day was quite uneventful as M and I took turns falling asleep in the shade...by the end of the trip, we were hiding from the sun, it was just too hot!

Back in Dapia that evening, we hopped on a horse-drawn carriage to go to the Old Harbour for dinner and drinks. The place was lovely, but we ate at the most expensive restaurant we'd been to in 2 weeks and had really shitty food. We headed to a club afterwards but I could hardly keep my food down, so we left and walked back to our hotel for some much needed shut eye.

(Old Harbour)

Our last day in Spetses was also very chilled out. We had a late breakfast, shopped around for last minute gifts in the afternoon, had an early dinner and headed back to the hotel to pack our stuff and sleep some more. I know, lazy...but things had winded down nicely by then.

The next morning it was off to the port for our boat to Athens, and I can't say we didn't leave heavy-hearted. We got to Athens airport 5 hours before our flight as there was no way we were going to lug our backpacks around a very hot Athens, and besides, it would have only made the goodbye to Greece that much tougher...

It was my first trip with my friend M and it was really quite the experience. I was a little apprehensive before leaving...new place, no fixed itinerary, possible fights from spending too much time together. But I was incredibly pleased with the way things turned out between us and the things we saw. A lot of times I would sit there with incredible views before my eyes and think of Abu Dhabi and how far away it seemed.

It's hard to imagine that such beauty exists in the world when you're living in a place that's mostly devoid of any soul...but I count myself lucky that I'm able to see the world at all.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


After a 5 hour boat ride to Milos' port of Adamas and very little sleep the night before, M and I were hoping to find a hotel very quickly. But rather than the usual greeting by dozens of men holding up boards advertising their hotels, we were met with a bustling tourist office, lined with people struggling to find a place to stay.

Milos island was filled to capacity...there wasn't a single room available. At the tourist office, M and I met two French girls who'd gotten in on the same ferry as us and were also looking for a place to stay. We decided to all look for a place together, so we hopped in a taxi and headed for the town of Pollonia.

(More squid the Greek way in Pollonia)

One of the girls and I stayed with the luggage, while M and the other girl went in opposite directions to find a vacant hotel room. They both came back with nothing, except the French girl had been told by one guy at a hotel to come back in an hour or so, as they would maybe have a free room for 4. We went for a bite to eat and a cup of coffee, headed back to that hotel to harass the guy at the reception, but still, he couldn't tell if the room would be available or not.

We arrived to Milos at 11 am, and it was 6 pm by the time we finally got that hotel room in Pollonia. I was so happy I was about to lunge across the reception desk and hug the poor guy we harassed. For 120 euros a night, it was a good deal for the four of us. Meanwhile, we'd met a couple of French guys who had been on the island for 2 nights and had slept on the beach because they couldn't find a place to stay.

(Pollonia harbour)

As M and I walked back from an early dinner that evening, one of the French guys spotted us and asked us if they could take a shower at our place. We happily obliged, and ended up going out with them for drinks later that night. They ended up crashing at our place as well, albeit on the floor :) At least they had a roof over their heads!

Next morning after breakfast, we headed off to a beach (of which the name I forget). It was a gorgeous, burning-hot, pebbled beach. We walked to the end of it where it was the most secluded and enjoyed the gorgeous view. M, one of the French guys and I swam out along the coast for about an hour or so, until we reached a completely secluded beach, stopping off in little grottos on the way there.

(Gorgeous beach...name I forget?)

I didn't think we'd make it back alive...I'm not the most athletic of people and we were really quite far off from where we'd started. We began the trek back after resting on the secluded beach for a while, and rather than swim the whole way, we hiked most of it on the coast's really raggedy rocks. I cut myself more times than I care to remember and scraped my butt on those rocks a fair amount of times. Seriously, I didn't think I'd make it back. We swam against strong waves the last 15 mins, and I was this close to giving up...but we made it! And it was quite an exhilirating experience.

Back on shore, we headed to a little Greek restaurant overlooking the beach. We headed back to Pollonia while the guys went back to their newfound hotel room in Adamas. They picked us up later on that night and we went out to a bar in Adamas, then we set out to look for a club for a little boogie. Strangely enough, it seems the nightlife happens outside on the streets rather than in the clubs, where people line the walls with their drinks and socialise.

By 4 am I was famished so we headed to a little creperie, and I only got to bed by 7 am. Three hours later we were up and headed for yet another beach (forget the name again!). I slept in the shade most of the time, until we headed off to Sarakiniko beach to watch the sunset. WOW! That beach is quite unusual as it seriously looks like the surface of the moon. It's a white rock beach that is a true testament to Milos' volcanic nature. The sunset was even more spectacular than in Santorini.

(Sarakiniko beach)

Later that night, we were off to Milos' capital, Plaka, for dinner and drinks. It wasn't too much of a late night as the next day, we'd planned an all day boat excursion to see Milos' most beautiful beaches, that are inacessible by land. We were off at 10 am and stopped off at 3 different spots. We couldn't stop saying 'wow'. Really, we were in complete awe of the island's beauty and diversity.

At the first stop we swam about in the caves for about an hour. Next stop, Kleftiko, was a 2-hour one, with lunch on the sail boat. The last stop was a half hour long at Agio Dimitrio. Only the pictures can do justice to the beauty of those places.


(Our sail boat)

(I've yet to see more beautiful waters...)

(Church at Agio Dimitrio)

By 7 pm we were back on dry land and had to get showered and ready for our overnight ferry ride back to Athens at 11pm, in order to catch a boat to our last destination, Spetses, in the Saronic Gulf islands. The two French guys were on the same ferry back to Athens; we found a few free seats and ended up crashing until we reached Piraeus at 6 am. I am truly surprised I did not get sea-sick after being on a boat all day and then all night.

It was goodbye to the two Frenchmen in Athens, and M and I caught the boat to Spetses shortly after.


Off we were on a huge old ferry to Santorini. We didn't have assigned seats, so we sat on the upper deck for a little while, until we nearly suffocated from the heat and drenched our clothes in sweat. We snuck back into the cabin and found a couple of free seats, and we caught up on the news of the world for the first time since we'd left Abu Dhabi.

As we approached Santorini, we headed out to the deck as the island is known for its dramatic coast...and truly, it was a spectacular sight. The port was tiny and very busy, we quickly caught a bus and were headed for Oia (pronounced ee-ah) to look for a place to stay, when a guy from the international bunch we'd met in Paros sent us a text message telling us they'd booked a hotel in the Firostephani area and that they'd be arriving the next night.

So we got off at Firostephani at about 4 pm, smack in the middle of siesta time. The streets were oh so quiet, and we could see Santorini's caldera in all its glory. We put our bags down and M went off to look for a hotel while I guarded our luggage. It was so peaceful and so, so pretty.

M managed to snag a great deal for 2 nights in a hotel called the Blue Dolphin. For one night we'd get a standard room for 50 euros, and the second night, the lovely man in charge was going to give us a 200-year old cave room, also for 50 euros a night. Original price: 200 euros a night!! Firostephani is quite an expensive area in Santorini, so we were extremely lucky!

(M and I on our hotel terrace...and I'm no longer blonde!)

We quickly showered and headed off to Oia, where people gather to watch the famed Santorini sunset. We walked the little streets, stopped at the many jewellery stores, bumped into one of my sister's classmates from Montreal (tiny, tiny world!) and then settled on a rooftop restaurant to watch the sunset. We were surrounded by couples, and M and I quickly felt out of place. Santorini is known as a honeymoon destination, and we were worried the romance would quickly alienate us.

(Santorini sunset from a rooftop restaurant in Oia)

The sunset was of course spectacular, and then we kept walking Oia's little streets for a good few hours. M pointed out that all restaurants were set up for couples with only tables for two...all we could do was laugh at the fact that we were in one of the most romantic places in the world together...two girls...really, I was this close to falling in love with her :p

We crashed like logs that night, got up the next morning to a fog-covered island and had breakfast on the terrace. We moved our stuff into our cave room, which was unbelievable! It was huge! Once the fog cleared, we headed down to the capital, Fira, to catch the bus to Kamari beach, a black pebbled beach that got so hot we felt the burn through our towels. I have to say though, I did not like Fira at all...it was filled with tourists and felt very dirty for some reason...definitely not something I expected to see in Santorini.

(Kamari beach)

After a few hours of sun-lounging, we made our way back to the bus stop to head back to Firostephani to meet up with the international bunch. We joined them at their hotel, had a bottle of wine and headed back to the Kamari area, where the beach front is lined with pubs and clubs. We got some drinks and walked along the strip, stopped off at a few places before settling on a club called Albatros, where YMCA was blaring from the speakers. Just what we wanted, cheesy music!

We drank countless watermelon Bacardi breezers and danced our hearts out to really good cheesy music before heading back to our cave in the wee hours of the morning. I would have loved nothing more than to sleep off my hangover, but we had to check out of our cave and find another hotel room for the night.

(Our 3rd hotel room in Firostephani)

So off we were to the corner coffee shop for some much needed caffeine and a good breakfast, and we found a hotel right across for 55 euros a night. Very basic cute room with of course, a view on the caldera. We hung out at the international bunch's hotel pool all day and drank some wine, had a siesta and then met up to walk up to one of the volcana rocks.

(View from the international bunch's hotel pool deck)

The walk up was spectacular, and we passed through the town of Imerovigli, one of Santorini's poshest and most romantic areas. We reached St George's chapel way up top and my fear of heights was definitely acting up...the view was really breathtaking. M and two of the guys walked to the volcano rock, while the girl and I hung out by the chapel to watch the sunset.

(View on the walk to the volcano rock)

(The volcano rock)

(Sunset as seen from volcano rock)

Back in Firostephani, we headed to a restaurant for one last meal with the international bunch. We said goodbye to a couple of the guys, while the Cypriot and his sister came back to our hotel room to hang out a little longer. M and I went to bed around 2 AM, and were up at 4 am to catch our 6 am ferry to our next destination, Milos.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I arrived to Athens early in the morning and took a taxi to my hotel at Omonia Square. I'd done some research and knew that the area wasn't exactly posh, but when the taxi driver told me "Be careful at night, lots of immigrants...Albanians"...I kind of freaked out.

My friend M wasn't due to arrive until later in the evening, so I had the day to myself. Got to the hotel and wanted to check in, but the very aggressive man behind the counter said I couldn't check in for another couple of hours. I headed straight to the nearest internet cafe to put down my uncomfortable backpack and read Gulf News online (I know...sad!)

I'll skip the Athens part as I really didn't do much, but the hotel was AWFUL! A hole in the wall really...I couldn't wait till M got there and it was a huge relief to see her! We slept early that night, as we had to be up at 4 am to catch our 7 am ferry from Piraeus port to the island of Paros.

(Parikia's busy harbour)

I was a little nervous about being on so many boats as motion sickness can get to the best of us...but luckily, the 4-hour boat trip to Paros' capital Parikia went smoothly. As soon as we were off the boat, we were met with dozens of people holding up boards advertising their hotels. I know we should have shopped around more, but we went with the first guy who told us about a little hotel called Fransisco's, where we found a cute little room with a balcony for 50 euros a night.

(view from our hotel room in Parikia)

We settled in, made ourselves at home and headed straight to the beach for some much needed tanning. Parikia didn't strike me as particularly pretty, but it had a really nice, laid back attitude to it. Lots of international tourists, not many Greeks...The beach was also so-so, but at that point, we couldn't believe we were finally on our holiday.

As we braved the chilly waters and got a little shut eye on the sand, I think M and I started to feel right at home. Just then, we saw a group of guys and a girl we'd spotted on the ferry from Athens. We got around to chatting to them and exchanged phone numbers (don't even remind me about my upcoming roaming bill!)

M and I went out for dinner at a little taverna that night. Naturally, I had calamari and ouzo :) Except 2 consecutive nights of very little sleep and a glass of strong ouzo got to me very quickly, so I headed back to the hotel for some shut eye, while M went to walk around the market.

(Squid...the Greek way)

Turns out that M bumped into the guys from the beach that night, and told them we'd meet up with them for breakfast. The international bunch (as we ended up calling them) consisted of a German, a Lithuanian, two Cypriots and an Australian. After breakfast we headed off to Punda beach on their scooters. It wasn't really our idea of a gorgeous Greek island beach as it was more of a thumping music and drinks kinda beach, but it was fun nonetheless.

(Punda beach)

Later that night, we walked to Parikia's main square to look for a place to eat, and settled on a little cafe nestled in the market's sinewy streets. We headed back to the international bunch's hotel room after saying goodbye to the German who was leaving that night, chit chatted for a while and then went back to our hotel. It was so lovely to walk around everywhere, and at 5 am, in the dark and silence of that night, M looked at me and said: "Don't you feel like we live here and we're just walking back from a friend's place?"

Really, we felt right at home.

Next morning we met up with the international bunch for breakfast again before heading for Livadia beach, across from Parikia's main harbour. The place was quiet, with big white couches under palm trees and great music playing in the background. Not exactly authentic, but definitely idyllic. That night, we headed back to that same beach, where the area turns into a lounge/restaurant kinda place. Extremely romantic...but definitely enjoyable. We had the unavoidable discussion about politics which kinda killed the holiday buzz for a good hour, but all was not lost as we made our way back to the international bunch's hotel once again for some more drinks and cheesy French-music.

(Livadia Beach by night)

We said our goodbyes as they were headed off to Mykonos next...but not for long, as we were due to join them in Santorini a few days later.

M and I spent the next day in Paros' Naoussa village, a gorgeous little place. We walked for what seemed like lightyears to find a beach under the Greek islands' relentless sun. Seriously, the UAE sun has nothing on the sun there! We chilled on the beach and went for our first topless experience. Needless to say, liberating!

(Naoussa village)

Waiting for the bus to go back to Parikia that evening, M and I were badgered into feeling like two old farts by the hundreds of swarming 16-19 year olds hanging out in Naoussa. For the first time in my life, I really felt old, and really felt insecure in the presence of people who are probably 300 times more insecure than I am.

Back at our hotel in Parikia, I crashed from too much sun, too much walking, and feeling too old, while M went out and did some last minute shopping before we left for Santorini the next day.


I'm back!

What 2 weeks away from this place can do to you...I so needed that vacation!

I teetered back and forth between wanting to write about my trip or not, but I decided I would...if only to anchor the memories for a little longer :)

I'll separate the posts in 4, as my friend M and I visited 4 islands. We didn't get up to much cultural stuff, but it was an experience nonetheless.

Hope you enjoy the virtual tour!

Edit: Having trouble posting any pics! Will keep trying!