Monday, July 16, 2012

Visiting Alicante, Spain

When I started this blog I wanted to write about my travels, both as they happened (or shortly after returning home) and as trips down memory lane. The idea was for this to both be a travel journal for me, and a place to share my experiences with other people who would be interested in hearing about or visiting these places. The thing about only writing about travelling though, is that it doesn't include writing about one's own hometown! I've often pondered what to do about this... So when I saw the opportunity to ask a friend to write a guest post about her visit to Alicante, you can bet I jumped on it! Annette is a family friend from Minneapolis. She has known me since I was 6 months old, when we moved there from Panama. Long, long time ago! ;o)  She and her husband Tim were part of the adventurous travellers who accepted my parents' invitation to join them on the week's sailing in the Saronic Islands in Greece to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. They also joined in the visit to Athens and Crete and then came to Alicante for a week to enjoy our crazy holiday the Hogueras de San Juan! Here's Annette's tale of their visit to Alicante. Enjoy! :o)

Visiting Alicante, Spain                                                                         July 19 - 25, 2012
by Annette Gagliardi

As part of a larger vacation sailing the Aegean Sea and touring Crete, my husband & I spent the week of “Fogueres de Sant Joan” in Alicante (June 19 - 24, 2012). If you find yourself in Spain, Alicante is a wonderful place to see and to visit. We are lucky enough to have friends who allowed us to bunk with them, showed us the sights and did a fair amount of translation as my husband’s Spanish is non-existent and mine is deplorable. Our friends, Len & Paquita, are the ultimate hosts. Len organized our week on the sailboat, the Stressbuster, drove us around Crete and still had the generosity to want us in their home for the Fogueres week.

And what a festival the Fogueres de Sant Joan is! With fireworks at 2 pm each day, statues erected around the city over the several days of the festival, and a final night of fireworks and bonfires as each Hoguera is set ablaze in its neighborhood. 

The Festival:
setting up the "official" Hoguera in front of the Ayuntamiento
Hoguera Oficial Plaza del Ayuntamiento
Hoguera Alfonso el Sabio

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Athens to Poros, Saronic Sailing Day 1

Let's get this Saronic Sailing trip started!

Day 1. June 2nd 2012. We left the hotel in Athens to have lunch just across the street at a little place on the beach, and from there headed over to find our two sailboats, the San Giorgio and Stressbuster, in the nearby Kalamaki Marina.

Half the gang stayed at the Stressbuster, while the rest of us loaded our bags on a trolley and followed our Skipper Vassilis to the San Giorgio where our First Mate/cook Lorella showed us around and explained where things were and how things worked on the sailboat (for example the very important lesson of flushing the sea toilets!).

Welcome aboard the San Giorgio!

We settled in, started unpacking, and headed out right after Vassilis gave us a security briefing (safety first, always!). In no time Athens was behind us and we were on our way, 31 nautical miles to go! :o)

the Stressbuster, with Athens in the background

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sailing the Saronic Islands in Greece

How's your summer going? Mine started a bit early this year, with a lovely week of sailing around the Saronic Islands in Greece! 

40 years and still going! :o)
How did this come about? Just the usual bit of craziness when my family starts organising an event! My dad was looking to do something special to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, and I suggested they go to Greece since it's something my mom has always wanted to do. So, he started digging around online, looking at options... and then thought "Hey! We could go for a sailing cruise!" There's no way you'd ever get my mom on a big cruise ship (the idea of being herded around like cattle when you land and are told you have x minutes here then back on the bus/boat/whatever is NOT her - nor my - idea of travelling), but on a sailboat -if that sailboat were to stop at islands with archaeological ruins- then yes! And my dad loves sailing (he keeps hoping someone will give him a 40ft yacht, lol!)! No sooner thought than suggested, accepted, and done! He planned a fabulous trip for them which included a week sailing and then a week to visit Athens and Crete. Only problem? Cost! Yup, chartering a sailboat ain't cheap! Well, at least not when you're just two people 'cause basically you pay a fixed rate for the boat (and captain and 1st mate/cook) and it's up to you to decided how many passengers will be on board (the boat had 4 double cabins for passengers). So my dad had to find people who would be crazy enough willing to embark on a Greek adventure! As he started contacting family and friends it looked like it would be tough to find enough people for the cost to be reasonable... then all of the sudden there was 1 person too many for the boat! Since he didn't want to go back and tell anyone "Sorry, you can't come after all", well, he just chartered a second boat! And then started convincing more people for that one! One of which included me! :o)

13 crazy adventurous souls from 6 different cities in 3 countries on 2 (or 3?) continents!

There were a couple of routes possible for a week's sailing, and my dad finally chose the Saronic Islands because a) they didn't involve very long distances between islands (so shorter sailing bits, good since there were people who'd never been on a sailboat before and he was worried about seasickness etc.), and b) they were historically important islands, some with interesting archaeological sites!

"Flying Dolphin"
So, where are the Saronic Islands (sometimes called the Argo-Saronic Islands)? They're an archipelago of islands in the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea, between Athens and the Peloponnese Peninsula. Of all the Greek isles, they're the ones closest to Athens, and many of them are just a couple of hours away by ferry or "Flying Dolphin". They're popular day trips from Athens, and are popular with mainland Greeks as holiday destinations in summer. Salamis (which we didn't visit) is closest to Athens, Aegina was modern Greece's first capital and in Classical times was a force to rival ancient Athens! Angistri (didn't visit) is very close to Aegina, and Poros (in reality two islands connected by a bridge) just a couple of sailing hours away. Going further south around the Peloponnese Peninsula towards the Argolic Gulf, we can find the quaint Hydra whose fleet played an important role in the war of independence against Turkey, and where you have to move around on foot or on donkey/mule/horse: no motorised vehicles allowed! A short hop away is Dokos, at present uninhabited except for lots of goats and the shepherds who tend them, but with some ruins indicating inhabitants over 3000 years ago! And finally, at the entrance to the Argolic Gulf, Spetses, another important island in the war of independence.

our route (click bigger)

We sailed out of Athens to Poros on Saturday June 2nd in the afternoon, arriving in the early evening. Then on to Spetses (with a lunch stop at Dokos), back to Dokos, then Hydra. From Hydra we went to Epidauros, VERY important archaeological site on the Peloponnese Peninsula. Then Aegina (pistachio capital of Greece) and finally back to Athens on Friday June 8th.

I'll be reliving this trip here on the blog this summer, with photos and videos and anecdotes, and you're welcome to join me! Tales of sailing and snorkelling and wandering around and visiting archaeological sites... So sit back, grab a daiquiri, and enjoy! I sure did! ;o)