Carrie's Adventures

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My 'Honeymoon' with Beth

When Beth planned her trip to Athens for our wedding, she wasn’t sure if Marcus was going to be able to come. As it turned out, he wasn’t able to join us for the Big Fat Greek Gathering and Beth asked if I would want to go to an island with her after the wedding.

While it might seem strange that I would jet off after my wedding to hang out with a friend instead of spending this time with my new husband, but when asked, Akis said that he wanted me to go and spend time with Beth. He felt that I had been in Greece for almost 2 months without being able to spend time with just my friends so despite the timing, he said that he didn’t want to come and sent me on my way for a wee travel adventure with Beth.

Now each time Beth and I travel, there is always a story. It may be pickled garlic, it may be insisting to Thai receptionist that ‘It OK if Friend sleep street? Friend sleep lobby??’. This trip was no different. We were originally going to head to Santorini, however the long ferry ride from Athens to Santorini for a 3 day stay made it a less desirable option. Beth suggested we head to Mykonos. Because the island is so well know, it is also one of the more expensive islands. We researched hotel options and finally decided that we would go with the ‘Reserve a Room in a Category A hotel’. Now prior to booking this, we did talk about the fact that this could be a crap shoot ~ we could end up anywhere on the island.

Our adventure began on Monday morning as we agreed to meet at the port. I didn’t have my passport with me, only traveling with my ‘International Driver’s License’ so I was hoping they weren’t checking ID. We boarded the ferry and it was quite a nice 3.5hr ride to Mykonos. As we got off the ferry, we wondered, ‘Hey would anyone be here to meet us?’ I had contacted the Agency we booked through a couple of times, changing our ferry, etc., so who knew if they were going to keep up with the changes I made. We walked out of the ferry and there was the sign… ‘LAVERY’. This is a good start. We were introduced to Caroline and got into the van that escorted us up to the hotel. We were 1.5km from town and the bus ran every hour. We were 300m from the beach. This isn’t so bad… until we get there.

While it doesn't look that bad from the outside, Beth and I were wondering where the pool was that comes with the Cat 'A' hotel.

When we walk into the hotel, Beth and I just look at each other. The reception area leaves a little to be desired for a 4 star hotel. The clerk at the reception desk is wearing a Corona T-shirt. Not quite the attire we expected. I didn’t need to sign anything for the room and was handed the key to Room 22. Here is what was behind door number 22.

Yes, you read that rate sheet right... They can charge 120E a night for this!

The Red phone stood out, and it took just one look around the room and a peak in the bathroom to know that we shouldn’t be staying here. Both Beth and I looked at each other, but neither of us were saying anything, like ‘this is no #$^(#ng 4 star hotel’. I’m not always so great in lodging complaints ~ not saying that this is something that Beth enjoys doing either, however she has also learned the art from her husband Marc, so I left her in charge of calling to say we were not going to stay at the hotel. We attempted to call on the mystery Red phone by it did not allow us to dial a mobile number. When we went to the front desk, we asked for instructions and before the boy in the Corona shirt could explain to us how to call, the man who I presumed was the owner, wearing nothing but a white undershirt informed us that the phones don’t work and won’t work until the end of the season. What he didn’t know was that I understood some of the Greek he spoke to the younger guy and he wanted to hear what our complaints were about the hotel.

After calling Caroline twice and being directed to call the office and speak to Lucy, Beth firmly explained that we were not going to stay at this hotel and they needed to find us another one. When asked about our hotel voucher, we said that we didn’t have a voucher as it was booked over the internet. It appeared that there was some confusion about the Class of hotel, and we were taken to a ‘C’ Class hotel and not an ‘A’ Class… Hmmm, that might explain it. So to correct this we needed to email her our reservation. Well, the hotel doesn’t have internet. We were informed that we needed to go into town and find an Internet Café. Once Lucy understood that there was nothing we could do at our current location, no phone, no internet, we were instructed to go to the hotel next door and use their internet. Turns out, the next hotel was quite nice and we were really hoping we might end up here.

We spent some time at the Mykonos Grace, having lunch, sitting in their air conditioning, as this was definitely going to be better than sitting at our hotel.

I had to head back to get something for our mobile phone, and while I was entering the lobby, I saw another exasperated couple where the woman was going on to the fellow about the hotel and that they were not going to be staying there either… When I came down from the room, he was on the phone saying that he too didn’t believe this was what they had booked ~ coincidence?? We were picked up by Lucy at our old hotel and after telling the owner that we would not be staying, we were whisked into the absolute middle of the island. We mistakenly let Lucy go, and were shown to our new room which was in the basement of the hotel. As we walked down the stairs, Beth entered the room and just as quickly turned and walked out. It was one Queen bed and a crappy little bathroom ~ once again, we headed for a table and sat while we pondered what to do. We didn’t have Lucy’s number, so we called the office in Athens to say that a basement room was not acceptable. They basically told Beth, this is what you get, and we wondered what to do then. We decided to have Akis call our buddy in Athens and do the Greek ‘taka taka’ and tell him that it was his wife that he was putting in the basement. As it turns out, we were ‘upgraded’ to a room above ground and this is what we settled for. In the end it worked out, but both of our husbands thought we were idiots.

We spent the rest of that first day around the pool and Beth attempted solid food after a nasty bout of the Gastric Flu. The following day we did pretty much the same thing, sat around the pool and made plans to head into the town in the evening to check it out and have dinner.

Dad, Jane, Aunt Flo and Uncle John were on the island so we called their hotel and made plans to meet up with them. We agreed to meet at the windmills at 6:30 to 7pm, however we didn’t manage to meet up as there apparently are more than one location in the town for windmills. Luckily enough, a couple hours later as we were walking around we met up and went out for dinner. We heard all about their luxury hotel and made plans to go there the next day.

Beth and I caught the bus the following day to the Royal Mykonian Hotel. Definitely a 5star place. When Beth and I checked out the rates for the rooms they got, the going rate was around 300 to 500Euros a night. They had upgraded to stay here and I have to say, the upgrade fee was well worth it.

Beth and I ate lunch down on the beach and lounged by the pool for the day. As we were heading back, we almost missed the bus as the bus driver started to drive away without us. God, just our luck!

I love traveling with Beth. No matter where we seem to go, we always end up with a bit of an adventure. I think this definitely rates with Pickled Garlic Man and Friend Sleep Street.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our Reception

The reception was scheduled to start at 10pm. This was approximately 90 minutes after the ceremony and greetings had finished. I had warned the family in advance that it would be a late dining hour so that they didn’t end up starving waiting for us to arrive. In Greek receptions, it is customary to have a ‘BIG’ song to announce your entrance. Akis being a huge 80s rock fan had chosen Guns and Roses ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’. Not sure what Grandma thought of that, but hey, we made a huge entrance.

The hall itself overlooked Athens and when outside, you were able to see the Acropolis in the distance and the lights of the city. The hall inside was a nice size and felt very intimate. The hall decorations were subtle, with only centrepieces and crystals and M&Ms scattered on the table. The colour being white with blue accents. Our table setting with the traditional boubounaire:

The customized M&Ms were a hit with some folks ~ most of them were eaten off of the Canadian table, and a baggie of them apparently flew back over the pond for relatives who weren't able to come... Greek weddings have NO speeches. Imagine that? 45 minutes of a reception you get back! We did buck this trend as well when Akis and I opted to make one very short statement, mine in Greek and Akis’ in English, where we thanked everyone for being with us and acknowledged family and friends who had traveled from Canada and Hong Kong. I am told that my Greek wasn’t half bad. Akis’ dad was very happy!

The food was buffet style with enough food to feed an army. Rumour on the street was everyone enjoyed the food ~ both Akis and I were disappointed that we were unable to eat that night, perhaps all the excitement of the day, as it did look really good!

After dinner, we greeted everyone at their tables and then proceeded to cut the cake to Dido’s ‘Thank You’. The cake was fantastic, even though we only got one bite. I do know of a relative that had at least 2 pieces if not more. It was just as well as we had 14kg of cake to go around!

Our dance followed ~ ‘Still the One’ by Shania Twain.

The Greek music soon followed and the ‘Opa’ moments began. The pictures tell more than I ever could describe. I believe looking back at the photos that everyone enjoyed themselves, in particular the Canadian contingent and Aunt Tula!!

We danced and danced until about 2am, when things wound down. I got an email a few days ago from a friend who asked if it passed in the blink of an eye, and yes, for all the time you agonize over the food, the flowers, the dress, the day come and goes and it is amazing just how quickly it passes you by. We had a lot of help from both the manager of our Reception Hall ~ Mr. Thanasis, and our Wedding planner ~ Despina. Many thanks to them for their support on our day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Cermony...

As the sun was setting in Athens, I stepped into the car outside of Akis' parents with Dad and Krista. Akis’ uncle drove away from the curb honking as we go. Unlike North America weddings where the honking is done after the ceremony, here the parade of cars drives around honking to announce the arrival of the bride. The ceremony was held outdoors, and decorated with flowers and candles ~ everyone gathered waiting for the 3 of us to arrive.

My exit from my chariot...

I walked into the area with both Dad and Krista and seemed fitting to have them both ‘give me away’ as the three of us have been through so much together.

We arrived to find Akis standing there in his suit, holding my bouquet. I was so overwhelmed by the moment, it was hard to take it all in. The flowers that I worried about for hours, I didn’t really even see, the crowd of public observers, I didn’t notice. What, or should I say the person who was important, was standing in front of me, ready to hold my hand.

The ceremony was a civil ceremony, which Akis and I altered to add our own touches. The Greek ceremony does not include vows, but we opted to exchange vows in English. The legal portion was completed in Greek by the mayor and then translated to English by the wedding planner. The major difference was that Akis and I didn’t place the rings on our own fingers, our witnesses ~ Krista and Stratos ~ placed the rings on our fingers.

The rice and flowers were tossed and the greetings began. It was a bit strange for me as a number of the people there I had never met before and I don’t know enough Greek to be able to ask who they are!

We took photos around the park and along with some family group shots. Despite telling the photographers that I preferred candid photos ~ I never look good when I pose for a picture, we seemed to do our fair share of posing!

While we were taking photos, 2 friends showed up, a bit lost, but better late than never. It was great to see them ~ they had just gotten married the week before and were originally not going to be able to make it.