Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Honeymoon Recap

Phew! We're back from our 17-day whirlwind adventure through Paris and Greece. (I apologize for our stealthy departure--it didn't seem wise to broadcast to the wide, wide world that our house would be empty and vulnerable and awaiting any wannabe burglars for two solid weeks!)

We took an evening flight on Air France (which, by the way, happens to be my new favorite airline for international travel--I love on-demand movies!). I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I Love You, Man. Other than that, I either slept or stuffed my face (they served us two full meals + snacks!).

We arrived in Paris first thing in the morning. I thought jet lag wouldn't be a problem (um, why exactly did I think that?). We stopped at a cafe for a bite to eat and a game of travel Scrabble. We walked around for a bit and I even bought a vintage-inspired yellow dress from the GAP for 17 euros (Matt was the one who wanted to go in...). By hotel-check-in-time, we were seriously ready for a nap.

Once we awoke, we hit the streets and scored some falafel for a picnic on la Seine. The teen and twenty-something culture is a sight to behold on la Seine. Picnic after picnic after picnic. The French and I seem to be kindred spirits on that front! Matt and I then hopped on a boat tour and watched the sun set behind hundreds of years of history.

The next day we hit a Parisian market and bakery to collect supplies for our picnic on the expansive lawn at Versailles. Bread, cheese, fruit--oh my! Afterward, we played some more Scrabble at a Canadian bar while watching the American lose Wimbledon. We worked off the fatty Canadian poutines (french fries swimming in cheese and gravy) by climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower (of course) at sunset (of course).

On Monday, we switched to another budget hotel (while dodging prostitutes) and then wandered over to le Louvre (only to the foodcourt, which overwhelmed me so much (I hate tourists!) that I requested we leave immediately and try to find a real restaurant).

That night, Matt's brother, John, took the train from Britain to visit us. We ate Tibetan food and walked along the Champs Elyssees.

The next day we goofed around on a local playground and watching The Hangover. Then we found an amazing fondue restaurant for dinner (which requires you to literally climb over the table to sit down and to drink your wine from baby bottles). We worked off that fatty meal by climbing to the top of Montmartre (well, I kind of cheated and hitched a ride with John). And, of course, we finished the day with crepes (which most definitely counteracted our hike up the hill).

During our last day in Paris, we spotted famous paintings in the Musee d'Orsay and then headed to the airport. We spent the night in Milan and then flew on to Santorini, Greece, the next morning.

After many frustrating attempts to procure a taxi from the Greek airport to the marina, we managed to meet up with our GAP tour group (think MTV's Real World on a 50-foot yacht with nine people total).

The cast of characters:
  1. Alice: a thirty-something pediatric neurologist from Canada (who turned out to be a Scrabble kindred spirit)
  2. Roswitha: a thirty-something psychiatrist from Germany with a stunning smile
  3. Ellen: a twenty-something MBA student at Northwestern with a bottomless pit of movie trivia
  4. Lise: a twenty-something first-grade teacher (and fellow Ashtonga yoga enthusiast) from Canada
  5. Kent: a twenty-something pilot from Canada with a passion for sailing
  6. Eric: a thirty-something entreprenuer from Oregon
  7. Ludwig: the thirty-something vegetarian captain with a passion for saving the animals and listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival
We started sailing right away. That evening, we arrived on Folegandros, a small island in the Mediterranean. We went for a swim and then trekked to the top of a mountain for the sunset and a delicious dinner in a quaint courtyard. In the morning, we hiked to the other side of the island for a morning dip.

We pretty much followed the same pattern for our ten-day sailing excursion: wake up (we slept on the boat at a port each night), head into town for breakfast, sail for 3-6 hours, arrive at a new island, eat lunch while playing Scrabble and relaxing, going for a swim in the ocean, and meeting up with the whole group for a late dinner.

On one of the islands, Naxos, we rented a car and had a fun adventure (that included climbing a rickety ladder to stand on top of a remote church). We also went to an outdoor showing of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (oh, how I love outdoor movies!). One night we threw down the anchor in the middle of the sea, had a dinner party, and played games (and Matt and I skinny-dipped in the moonlight before bed). We saw dolphins, got a massage on the beach, played insane amounts of Scrabble, swam on a black beach, took showers off the back of the boat, and incessantly talked about how much we missed our dog.

We ended our trip by spending the day by a hotel pool in Santorini, spending a night in Athens, and flying home on Continental (which pales in comparison to Air France).

What an adventure! I ate lots of pain au chocolat (croissants filled with chocolate) and crepes (filled with nutella and bananas), read lots of books, held Matt's hand a lot, got lots of sun, and met new friends.

At the end of every book, trip, or movie, I try to ask myself: "How will your life be different now?"

Here's my answer after this annual adventure:
  1. I'm going to learn more about inquiry-based learning and Canadian education.
  2. I'm going to add British Columbia to my "Must See" list.
  3. I'm going to stop being a pure pescetarian/vegetarian and start eating a little meat (based on my conversations with the pediatric neurologist and the staunch vegetarian captain) but make sure the meat is produced organically, locally, and humanely.
  4. I'm going to recommit to doing at least 15 minutes of yoga five times a week.
It's time to start saving money for our next Annual Adventure (maybe Kauai or British Columbia?), we well as my Thanksgiving trip to Belize with my best friend...

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Aarika said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I also liked how you shared with us what you learned as a result of your vacation.

Atulya said...

Welcome back and thank you for "posting" during/before your trip.

Precision from a french girl : pain au chocolat aren't really croissant filled with chocolate! The shape are different : croissants are like crescent moon and pain au chocolat are rectangular!
But it seems that in US a chocolate croissant is un pain au chocolat...
In France there are also almonds croissants (croissants with almonds on them)

Unknown said...

Wow, it sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing. By the way, how did you do updates to the blog while you were away? You didn't take time out to do it on your trip, did you?

megan said...

I could've SWORN you said you were leaving on or around the 11th, but you never mentioned it, so I figured I remembered wrong. Thanks for posting during your vacay!

Your trip sounds delightful! I was hoping to hear good reviews about GAP adventures, as I'd like to try them one of these days. I also liked how you learned stuff that you'll take with you from this vacation. The trip sounds so romantic, in every sense of the word.

Kaitlin Wainwright said...


I think you're Canadian fans will love you for posting about BC and Canadian education--or at least, I do!

I'm curious--what did you think of the poutine?

Glad that you had such an amazing trip; I should use that question when I travel...

Sara E. Cotner said...

Ahh! Sorry for the croissant inaccuracy, Atulya! Thank you for clearing up my misconception...

And, no, I didn't actually post every day during my vacation (too busy sleeping in!). I wrote a bunch of posts before I left and set them to auto-publish. However, the auto-publish feature on Blogger wasn't working that well, so, as a back-up, I asked my best friend, Andy, to press the publish button every day whenever he updated his own blog about reality TV (http://realityblurred.com).

As for the poutines: I can't say I'm a big fan. I really thought I would be. I love french fries and cheese (both separately and together!) but there was so much grease it made me queasy. Also, since I ordered the vegetarian option, I couldn't eat the real gravy. They put pesto on it instead, which ended up being a weird combination. I'll definitely give it a try whenever I'm in Canada proper, but I'm skeptical!

Amy said...

Your trip sounds wonderful! My boyfriend and I are heading to Paris and Greece (and Italy) in September. What did you think of Hotel Baby? We're trying to find a hotel now!

Marian said...

That sounds like a lovely time! I want to visit Europe again! (Went to Germany once and LOVED it!) So many places to see! I'm very glad you enjoyed your trip!

Anonymous said...

The recount of your trip made my heart literally soar. I feel like I'm floating off of my chair here at work in ohio. We're trying to plan a honeymoon and I'd LOVE to get over to Europe, and Greece is my number one desire of places to visit.

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Amy: All the prostitutes on the way from the metro stop to the hotel threw me off a little bit (it was 10am), but the hotel itself is great. It's very close to the metro, it's within walking distance of a lot of stuff, our room was clean and comfortable, the staff was friendly, and the price was reasonable for Paris. You definitely have to go into it expecting a budget hotel, but we liked it!

Married In Chicago said...

Your trip sounds wonderful!! It sounds like like you really liked your GAP adventure. Would you use them again? Or recommend it to others?

Jennie said...

I'm from BC and I agree - you should definitely check it out! I think you would especially like the local/organic/"hippy" culture of the Gulf Islands, Victoria, and Tofino! And I can recommend some great hostels if you decided to do BC on a really tight budget!

AmberGale said...

What a great recap! We're looking at the 10-day Santorini cruise also, for September. I was hoping to add a quick jaunt around southern Spain like you did in Paris... can you enlighten me about intraEuropean flight resources? How did you book your Paris to Athens flight... I haven't traveled in Europe before and would love a point in the right direction!

cait said...

as a Canadian, I vote that you DEFINITELY go to B.C...it's stunning!

Amy said...

Thanks so much! We'll definitely check out the baby bottle place!

AmberGale said...

Oh! And I hope we get to see a photo of you wearing your Amy Butler Honeymoon hat!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ AmberGale: I uploaded a honeymoon hat photo for you! (Like someone mentioned in a comment a while back, I wish I would have added a strap to make it more sailboat-friendly!)

Rachel said...

You're answer at the end begs the question: what did the pediatric neurologist say that convinced you?

Katy said...

What a fun trip. THat sounds great, and not too "beachy" which has turned off my FH to most of my choices. He likes water, but not crowds or sand. Your dessert of nutella and banana crepes makes me crave Paris again. It was a staple of my trip to Paris in 2005, and I wouldn't have a crepe any other way now. People look at me funny, but it's the best, and I don't like hazelnut or bananas. Thanks for the recap!

love-v said...

This sounds like a fantastic trip. I also recommend heading to B.C. my family spent many summers camping and exploring there and it is wonderful. I'm really excited to hear more about your planned trip to Belize, it's where we want to spend our "honeymoon" next year.

The Websters said...

Were you pleased with GAP Tours? We are thinking of using them on our next vacation (once we go on a vacation that doesn't involve a friend's or relative's wedding)

Ms Bear Cub said...

welcome back! sneaky ;)
I absolutely recommend BC!!! That's were we're honeymooning this year, actually.
We're going here:

Atulya said...

You welcome!
And I'm also interested about the no-veg' blurb of the pediatric neurologist...
Is it about health reason?

Anonymous said...

Sara, I'd love to hear what you and your fellow travelers thought about Gap Adventures - there are some very positive and negative opinions out there. I'd love to take one of their trips in Africa w/ my husband but am a little worried after reading about them online.

Unknown said...

I linked to you on my blog, love yours!

Aaron and Marcy said...

Regarding meat, the really important part is 100% grass-fed.

Feeding cattle grains is the reason red meat shows up with negative health implications in so many studies. Grain makes them sick so they make us sick.

Same for chickens - they need fresh air, sunshine, grass, and bugs!

I'm a recovered vegetarian so I wish you well!

Sara E. Cotner said...

About GAP: I found this tour company very reasonably priced, very organized, and very professional. It attracted like-minded people, and I had a great time with my group and our tour leader. On the negative side, I didn't feel particularly connected to the culture of Greece like I did when I went to India with Intrepid Travel. Part of this stems from the fact that my tour leader was from Spain, not Greece. Also, I was turned off by some of GAP's policies (like flushing our bathroom waste into the ocean) and not giving tour leaders much time off between groups. Our leader had exactly 24 hours off, but he had to take care of boat maintenance and other things during that time.

About my slight movement away from vegetarianism: The pediatric neurologist and I talked about the need for nutritional diversity in our diets and the idea that the best approach to our diets is moderation. I've been a vegetarian for eight years because the meat industry is disgusting (both for our bodies and the environment). I'm okay eating meat 2-3 times a week (for more nutritional balance), as long as I can get my hands on meat that is produced in healthy ways. I think I will be healthier if I have a more nutritionally diverse diet, and I think it will help my body be more prepared for pregnancy down the road. So far, I haven't eaten any meat...

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