Carrie's Adventures

Monday, June 30, 2008

Meeting more of Akis' family

I had 3 days of rest and attempts to catch up on the time change before I met with Akis family. We headed to his house on Saturday to see his parents and have lunch. Keep in mind that we are now on Greek time and lunch means eating around 3pm. We get to the house where I meet his Aunt for the first time ~ she lives next door with her husband and daughter in front of the grandparents.

We caught up quickly with his mom and Akis believes this is one of the first times she has spoken English since I was last here 2 years ago. His dad on the other hand, still does not speak English ~ nor I that much Greek ~ so there were a lot of hand signals and looking to Akis for interpretations. This scene continued at his Grandparents, as I was only able to say 'Eimai kala' which means, I'm OK. There was also a whole lot of nodding going on...

Akis' Aunt came in and she would speak some English and some Greek. She would try in English but when there were words that she didn't know she would change to Greek, then look at Akis and say 'Explain her'... At this rate, Akis could get a job as an interpreter.

I'm sure we will be spending a lot more time there, and I'm going to need to beef up my vocabulary... Here's to spending time doing my Greek lessons.

The Flight to Athens

So not knowing when we will be finishing Akis' paperwork, this means we don't know when exactly we will be returning to Canada. Although we are aiming for the end of September, you never know what might come up.... As such, not having concrete plans, I decided to get a One-Way ticket ~ Olympic Air flying through Montreal.

Dad graciously agreed to drive me to the airport, however on my eTicket, I didn't have the terminal that I was to be flying out of. I thought at the time that Olympic and AirCanada were partners, so we took a guess at Terminal 1 which houses Air Canada. We were wrong. As we took a turn and headed to Terminal 3 ~ fortunately there are currently only 2 terminals to choose from, so this made the choices that much easier. As we drove through departures however muttered to ourselves ~ Olympic, Olympic, no Olympic, Olympic... I was becoming a bit concerned that we weren't going to have a clue where to go. Fortunately it was the last stop on the departures, although I'm not sure why as their check in booth is in the middle of the terminal. Either way ~ I get my belongings on a trolley as I have this dress to cart with me and head to check in. Before they will check me in, they want to see my ticket... hmmm, it is an eTicket that I hadn't printed out. I was lucky that I had a screenshot of it on my laptop so I was able to show the agent. Next question: where is your return ticket... Hmmm, I'm getting married, hence the big white garment bag, and I will be flying back with my husband in September. So after a number of questions, they finally agreed to check me in, provided I signed papers stating that I would not hold Olympic responsible should I be denied entry into Greece. Hmmm, OK. Being one of the last to check in, I get one of the last seats and I am in the last row ~ read DOES NOT RECLINE ~ and I think this might be a long 10 hrs. I am fortunate however in Montreal after they have loaded everyone into the plane, there are 2 empty seats further up beside the window. So I got them all to myself and in my yoga not so strechy way, I was able to make a make-shift pillow from my bag and lie down for a few hours. Yes, I know, being in Business Class the seats automatically do this, but hey, we are on a wedding budget here....

When I arrive in Athens, I need to pass through Passport Control. This is the moment when they either let me in, or I end up buying another ticket to another country that will accept me... As I approach the desk, no questions were asked, free space was located in my passport and 'Kachunk', you have an entry stamp to the EU. It's good to travel on a Canadian Passport... =)

I collected my bags, headed out to find Akis with a goatee hopping up and down trying to see over the crowd. After finding our way to the car, luggage thrown in, I was officially here.... Now the planning begins!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Visits...

I have been very fortunate this last time home. I was able to meet up with a number of people over the 2+ weeks I was home and catch up on all I have missed while being away....

The Murrays
Yes I got a chance to meet with all of them who reside in Canada. It has been quite some time since I had seen Julie or Mark, so it was a real treat to see them and Maddie were able to join us for dinner at Aunt Flo and Uncle John's. True to form, we had a great dinner, great company and got to catch up with everyone.

Jen and Serena
With the advent of Facebook, I have found that I have been able to locate/catch up with a number of people that over the years I had lost touch with. During my highschool years, I spent a lot of time with Jen and Serena and they know a lot of those highschool stories that you think are just better forgotten.

It had been MANY years since we had gotten together despite being back in the area on a somewhat regular basis. Jen lives in Port with her daughter and new man and Serena has just returned to the area ~ not sure if this is a passing fancy or if it is for good. So with all of us here we decided to head out for lunch one day.

We met at Jangle's and what started as lunch at 1:30, turned into a patio afternoon once the food was finished along with a HUGE trip down memory lane. I tell you, I had forgotten some of those stories.

Despite everyone heading off in their own direction, it seems that each of us are happy with things in our world. There don't seem to be many negative things to bring us down, and those that are there, we seemed to be able to laugh off as just being part of life. Even though some things around us had changed, the laughs, the stories were still the same. It's good to know that somethings you can always seem to count on, no matter what.

The girls ~ Part Deux
Later that night, I met up with some other friends from Highschool in the new trendy coffee shop we have in Port ~ who knew we could have our own 'Central Perk'???

Molly, Sue, Nina and Cindy met up with me to catch up on all our latest adventures and just generally check in with each other. We don't always manage to get everyone together at the same time, so it was great to be able to see everyone out on a school night.

Janice and John
I'm very lucky to have had the chance to have dinner with Janice and John ~ even if I am not able to read the bill total... Honestly John, could you have found the total???

It had been about 18 months since I last saw Janice and John and they again drove the distance from Ottawa to Quebec City to see me. This time, they came from Ottawa to Port Elgin, but they have assured me that they were taking the opportunity to visit many folks over the weekend ~ I was just lucky to get them all to myself for dinner on Friday.

The Fam...
The last group of visitors included 2 sets of Aunts and Uncles. Aunt Sharon, Uncle Don, Aunt Cath and Uncle George made the trip up to Dad's for dinner on Saturday and while I would like to say it was to see me, I think the fact that Chloe was there was also a bit of a drawing card... We had a spectacular day and were able to sit out on the patio, enjoy the company and BarBQ dinner. Does it get any better than that.

Next Stop....
So the next visit will be to Athens where I will get a chance to see all of Akis' friends and family. I will be there for 3 months. While I won't be 'employed', I will be busy enough with the planning for the wedding. Perhaps it is a good thing we don't have other commitments to keep us from getting stuff done!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shopping for the dress

Part of the deal with deciding to have a shorter timeframe for the planning of the wedding is that we would not be ordering a dress. This meant that I was playing a bit of Russian Roulette with coming back to the city after getting off the ship and going to find a dress off the rack. After looking for dresses with Liz, I did have some criteria ~ primarily, minimal poof and material as Athens could be quite hot in August.... To get a bit of an idea of what was out there, Krista and I did go to a Dress shop in Peterborough. We checked out to 2 or 3 dresses at which point I did have a bit of a panic attack thinking, what if I don't find a dress???

I had done some research online and found a couple of bridal 'warehouse' type stores in Toronto that we decided we would check out on the Thursday. The first one required an appointment so we booked for 3 to 3:30pm. The other 2 did not require appointments.

Through a whole series of events, things looked a bit skeptical as we headed out. We had made arrangements for a family friend to come over to meet Chloe and see Krista's house, however they knew we were off to the city so we had a timeline. What we didn't expect to encounter was the ailing baby raccoon that needed to be saved and taken to the Humane Society. After trapping the baby raccoon, we discovered that they were not able to come and get rid of the injured guy, so we had to take a wee side trip to get rid of him, putting the dress shopping on a bit of a delayed start.

With Chloe in tow, and a late start, we managed to get into the city just before 4pm to the first store. For being a 'warehouse', I did suffer sticker shock as we looked through the dresses. I couldn't believe that these discounted dresses were still selling for $999 and $1299. What is that? You wear it for ONE day!! After trying on a few options and realizing I would melt in any of the boufant beauties, we opted to try the next store.

As we drove into the parking lot, the sign on the store said 'All Dresses under $699'. Now this was a good start. We walked in and the woman there was very helpful. I think I tried on more than 12 or 15 dresses and it got to the point that you forgot what the first one looked like. In the end, she was pulling things off of the rack for me to try. The last one we tried was potentially the one. I looked at the price tag, looked at Krista and tried to bring myself to purchase a dress for over $600. This was more than I wanted to spend. Looking at Krista, I couldn't help but think how beautiful the dress was and when I mentioned the price, Krista grabbed the adjacent tag and said the magic words... 50% OFF. Sold to the woman in front of the 5 way mirror. One more thing to take off the list!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chloe at 6 months

She has grown. I thought I told her when I left that she was to stay the same size... Hmmm, so much for listening to me on that. Although during the week, I got to see a lot of her personality and discover what a great baby she is. She is very happy go lucky and will tend to entertain herself a great deal which is fantastic as you are able to go about doing some 'big people' things while she sucks on her toes, plays with her toys or just generally takes in the sights and sounds around her.

Big events that happened while I was there ~ we have the first tooth. While it isn't really that visible, it is definitely something that you are able to feel when she decides that she wants to use your finger for a teething ring. Along with breaking in the new tooth, some of the drooling has apparently stopped ~ according to mom.

The other big event ~ we have solid food. Yes, after her 6 month birthday and the photo event, we were able to see how well Chloe did with eating from a spoon. Things weren't a hit the first time, but after that we struck success... to the point where Chloe would grab the spoon and shove it in her mouth. Needless to say, this has been a big moment and now means that mom has a bit more freedom as dad can provide the meals...

With all this going on I think mom is now hoping for another first ~ a whole night's sleep, but we'll see how that one goes...

The trip home

I'm not sure why it is, but I seem to be able to take simple trips and turn them into bigger ordeals than they would need to be. I have flown all over the globe, in and out of airports all over the place, you would think that a flight from Seattle to Toronto would be a walk in the park. Well of course this isn't how it went... As it turned out, packing everything I had into 2 suitcases resulted in both bags being at max capacity ~ even with the overweight allowance... =( That said, aside from LAN, Air Canada does have one of the lower charges for overweight bags, so I was only to happy to part with a few bills if that meant that my bags and all of their contents were going to make it back to Toronto.

I get into the airport, find my gate and settle in for what should be an uneventful journey. I am to arrive into Vancouver, 90 minute connection to a domestic flight ~ this should not be a problem. I get off the plane in Vancouver and yes, in west coast fashion, there is rain in Vancouver. I get my bags, ask the woman if there is a separate area to pass customs for connecting flights and am told I need to go to the Customs Hall. Of course as we get in, so have flights from Hong Kong, Bangkok, London and a few other international destinations, and the lines are not in my favour. After standing in line for 30 minutes and noticing that it is now 1:25 and my flight is at 2pm, I advise the woman I have a 2pm connection and she tells me I am in the wrong line, and I didn't read the signs that said to go to the 'Connection' line. Yeah, ok, whatever. There was no sign from the satellite gates where the prop planes come in... There was however another couple on the flight with me from Seattle who were also on the flight to Toronto. I mentioned that she might want to fetch them as we were now encroaching on the 30 minute mark. We managed to fly through the shorter customs line, gather our baggage, however with all the construction for the Olympics, it was not clear where we were to dump our bags for the connecting flight. What also was a pain in the @ss was that we had to exit the secure area to traverse the airport to the domestic side for our connection. Yes that is right ~ this means with under 30 minutes, we needed to pass security AGAIN. My newly acquired friends didn't know where they were going so we played follow the leader through the airport. Arriving at the domestic side, I found the Gate B15 ~ which is wierd cause when going to Toronto we are usually out of C41 or C43. Yes, I have flown it often enough to know... So we get through security up to gate B15 ~ but this flight is going to Calgary. So with 15 minutes to 2, I ask and we are in fact at gate C50. BUGGER, and we haul butt down to the other side of the domestic terminal. I haven't run for a flight like this in a LONG time. So once I get on the plane and settled in, I'm please to hear that with the strong tailwind, we will get in early. I think that listening to these predictions is sometimes like listening to the weatherman. They only disappoint you when they are wrong and despite promised that we would be at the gate 15 minutes early, it was in fact 28 minutes late... Go figure. Although I guess this wasn't the end of the world as my ride to the 'Pete' got a bit lost on his way to the airport... at least he didn't need to wait long.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Last runs through Alaska

My final 5 weeks on the ship after Dad and Jane left included the repositioning cruise to Alaska and then 3 one week runs out of Seattle. I can't say that I am overly disappointed that I am not going to be in Alaska this summer. The only run which wasn't a true disappointment from a crew perspective was the first run which was the reposition. During this 10 day cruise we had regular port days and times ~ meaning that we were in port for more than 5 hours. Once we got to Seattle, the itinerary changed and even though we had one more port day, the time we had off in port was significantly shorter and as a result, we didn't get much time to enjoy anything... Embarkation day was on Friday and we finished up around 4pm. From there we went like a bat out of hell to get up to Sitka and tender for the day. We left at a reasonable hour ~ 6pm, but out departure from Juneau was 3pm and Ketchikan was 1pm with a crew all aboard at 11:30 am. Yes, that meant no Burger Queen for me... How utterly disappointing. Once we left to head to Victoria, we arrived there at 7pm, only to leave again at midnight. So in my humble opinion, the itinerary blew...

Needless to say I didn't get out much during the final weeks, but I did manage to find an amazing shoe store in Juneau and now I am cursing myself for not discovering it earlier! How could that be??? I am now in love with 2 pairs of shoes that they didn't have in my size and I will need to find them online I think. Zappos here I come!

The other good part of my final weeks on the ship was the return of Ms. Conny. I had seen her about a year ago when I was on the ship visiting Akis, however she was uber busy taking on the Hotel Director's role and we didn't get much of a chance to hang out. She was back and in the role of Revenue Manager so we had plenty of time to sip martinis, visit the crew bar, eat healthy occassionally and dine out in Victoria on my weekly outings.

That said, my favourite part about this itinerary is the approach to the Hubbard Glacier. Captain Kafetzis is quite good at taking us into the glacier and getting a close look. Here are some of my favourite pictures this season, both in the approach through the ice and once we arrived at the glacier.

The Millenium ~ we were only at the glacier with her once, but you can appreciate how big it is when you compare it to the ship!

You also can see how big the chunks of ice are.... This is our tender which holds 150 people and the ice showing is almost as long as the tender.