Picture Perfect

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The heart beats in the background while the clock tells you time is almost up. No, I’m not the next Edgar Allen Poe (thank goodness) nor is this some twisted trap from any one of the 30 Saw movies. Spoiler alert: literally every single one of those movies is the same. No… the clock and heartbeat can only mean one thing in my mind—24. Bauer Hour. It’s one of the most innovative shows of the generation. After all, there is nothing quite like being against the clock.


Backstory Part 1

The following took place between 6 PM and 2 AM. Events occurred in real time.


           After months of planning, we had finally arrived at the place we all wanted to see—Santorini. It was number one on Courtny’s bucket list, so that means it had to be flawless. With only 40 hours on the island, there was no time for mistakes. It was go time. Instead of heading out to dinner somewhere, we decided to take a taxi to the Akrotiri Lighthouse. I had found this lighthouse after weeks of researching the island during my military history class at school. Based on the pictures and descriptions, it had all of the beauty of the famous Oia sunset without all of the crowds. We got to the lighthouse and hiked up the mountain just in time to watch the sun begin its trip down over the sea. The view was nothing short of amazing. It was just the three of us on the peak of the mountain, with a few more people on the cliffs below. Of course, a picture can’t do this place justice, but it’s the best I can do for you. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


 (Commercial break that we’ll skip)

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. When we had finished staring into the distance in awe of what we had just witnessed, we began to realize how hungry we were. Akrotiri is a small town without many places to go—it is not the type of place you’d see on a post card of Santorini. But it is cheap. We went to the first restaurant we could and paid a total of 40 euros. With that money, we had salads, huge entrees, and a lot of wine. At one euro per glass, Santorini wine becomes a lot like potato chips—you can’t just have one.


           After dinner, we grabbed a taxi back into town to get ready for the next day. We had a lot to accomplish and a short time to do it. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


Backstory Part 2

 The following took place between 2 AM and 9 AM. Events occurred in real time.

              We slept. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


The Big Day

 The following took place between 9 AM and 1 PM. Events occurred in real time.


            We departed our hotel determined to have the best day ever. We started off in the capital of the island, Fira. It is one of the many famous towns built right on the caldera and it is loaded with plenty of shops and cafes to spend your time. We found a great little wine store that was willing to ship to the United States, so we had to take advantage. Here’s the thing with those places, though. Even if you are guaranteed to purchase something, they still drag you around the rest of the store to try to milk you for all you’re worth. Of course, this type of thing could happen in worse places than a wine store—by the time we were finished there, we had probably sampled 15 different drinks for free. Still, the whole process took way too long and now we were looking at a much shorter period of time exploring the island. We got on a bus to Oia knowing that we likely would not be able to hit any of the other places we had planned on before getting ready for dinner. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


Tears of Joy

 The following took place between 1 PM and 7 PM. Events occurred in real time.


            As we unloaded from the bus into Oia, it was clear that this was going to be a special experience. We have all seen the pictures—the blue-domed buildings, the terrifying cliffs, the little shops in the narrow streets—but no pictures can compare to the actual experience of see Oia for the first time. We winded our way through the shops and streets with no real sense of direction. No one really talked to each other because of how amazed we were that we were finally here. Walking down those cliffs next to all of the hotels and houses was one of the best experiences of my life and something I’ll never forget. At one point I turned to Courtny and saw a few tears coming down her cheek. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Not the best picture, but I'm in a rush at the airport!

Not the best picture, but I’m in a rush at the airport!


(More commercials. One of them is Viagra and everyone has that same conversation about the awkwardness of the separate bathtubs on the mountaintop)


            We explored town for a couple of hours, stopping every once in a while to take pictures for all of you to see. You’re welcome. But as time ticked away, we knew we had to get back to the hotel if we wanted to make it to our dinner on time. We had been planning this super romantic date for months, so the last thing we wanted was to miss our reservation. Unfortunately, due to time shortages, we wouldn’t be able to do the hike from Fira to Oia at all, but at least Ryan could. I had found this hike a few months ago and from everything Ryan has said, it wasn’t a letdown. We began hiking to the bus stop and kept passing signs pointing to Amoudi Bay. The Bay was one of the areas I had wanted to see the most on the island but I knew we would really be pushing for time if we went. But as we got closer to the bus stop, that oh-so-familiar YOISO (you’re only in Santorini once) feeling took over Courtny. She told me we should try to get to the Bay and do the Amoudi cliff jump before heading back, so that’s exactly what we did. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


(And now we see the Geico commercial as everyone quotes it word for word. You know the one. Hump Dayyyyyyyyy)


            The walk down was a few kilometers, but it’s easy to walk around when you are overlooking the sea from a cliff top. When we finally rounded the corner to see the Bay, we knew we had made the right choice. Red cliffs towered above us and Oia sat on top of them. Amoudi was filled with beautiful little cafes and restaurants that I would have loved to visit if we had the time. But we had a mission to accomplish. After strolling through the restaurant area, we climbed across a rocky path and reached the drop off point. From there, we had to swim to the cliff. Fortunately, the waters around these islands is so calm and clear that swimming isn’t even tiring. We climbed up to the jumping spot—it is rather well marked and there were others doing it so we knew exactly where to climb. The jump itself was roughly 25 feet of pure adrenaline. The water was great to land in as well—with plenty of depth, there was no risk of hitting rocks below. After doing it once, Courtny and I couldn’t get enough of it. I did it 4 times and she did it 3, but we would have kept going if we had the time to. Unfortunately, the clock wasn’t stopping for us. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Here I am landing in the water after the first cliff jump of the trip! Possibly my favorite activity of the islands.

Here I am landing in the water after the first cliff jump of the trip! Possibly my favorite activity of the islands.


(Stupid fast food commercial that makes you crave food you know you shouldn’t be eating this late)


            We hustled back up the road and got on a bus back to Fira, about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. After arriving in Fira, we realized that Courtny would need to get ready in record time if we were going to make this dinner. As we speed-walked back to the hotel, a young man on a skate board lost his hat. We didn’t want to see a truck tear up his hat, so we grabbed it for him and gave it back. Our kindness didn’t go unpaid—soon after the same guy gave us a ride back to the hotel, getting us back 10 minutes earlier than we thought we would. When it comes to Courtny being on time, 10 minutes can make a huge difference. She hurried and got ready while I waited. Forty minutes before the reservation, both of us were looking snazzy and set to go. We went to the front desk to call a taxi… And none were available. Time to try the bus. With all of the stops on the way to Oia, there was no time to lose. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


Dinner and a Ring for Courtny


The following took place between 7 PM and 12 AM. Events occurred in real time.


            Relax, people. It’s not an engagement ring. Being a part-time manager at King Kone doesn’t pay for that (even though I get a healthy amount of tips). Ok now that we have that out of the way… The time quickly disappeared as we sat in traffic on the way from Fira to Oia. By the time we got there, we were already 15 minutes late for the reservation. The tiny streets no longer looked beautiful and romantic. It was like we were mice in a colorful maze; yes, it was cool to look at, but we just wanted the cheese. We got to Feredini Restaurant at 7:20. Fortunately, no one else had a reservation until 8:00 so they were still holding our balcony table. You have all seen the picture of us at our table (I felt like a pregnant woman with how many social media likes I was getting). It’s safe to say it was the best date Courtny and I ever went on. After dinner we walked around the area at our own pace, looking in the stores for something that I could buy Courtny. Fortunately, we both liked the same item more than all the others, so we left Oia that night with a little bit more jewelry than we had come with. Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel after some post-dinner gelato. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.


The famous picture...

The famous picture…

The Road People Take Less Often Than The Main Road


The following took place between 12 AM and 9 AM. Events occurred in real time.


            Yep, this section has a totally original title. It was not inspired by a famous poem whatsoever. We arrived back to the hotel exhausted from a long day on the island. As we got ready for bed, though, we knew what we had to do—head back to Oia at 4:45 in the morning to watch the sun come up over the town. So at 2:00 we went to bed for a quick nap. We woke up at 4, got ready, called a cab and got to Oia by 5. We waited on the cliffs for the sunrise, basically by ourselves. Compared to the masses of people that head into town for the sunset, the sunrise was beautifully calm. The actual town was completely empty, so Courtny and I got to see all of its beauty by ourselves. The actual sunrise made the whole process worth it. Words can’t describe the beauty of the golden sun slowly ascending over the cliffs, eventually touching its rays to the blue and white-domed buildings of the most picturesque town in the world. Ok so words can’t describe the experience but I feel like I gave it a good effort. After the sunrise, we grabbed the first bus of the day back into Fira. We stopped in a couple of stores before going back to the hotel. We got back at 9:00 and had just enough time to take a power nap before we departed for the island of Ios. Mission accomplished. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

One of many shots I took from the sunrise

One of many shots I took from the sunrise


            Ok so Jack Bauer’s escapades are a bit more risky than my own. But he’s also trained for saving the world. Me? I just trained to travel to the best spots on Santorini. And even though most of the time your travels won’t go the way you planned (like getting fooled into thinking you lost a wallet when it’s in your camera bag), there are times that exceed every expectation you had. Our day and a half on Santorini was one of those times.


Mykonos? Mykoyes Please

The Office is incredible. Not only does it give you a knack for turning anything into a “That’s What She Said” joke, but it also gives you the ability to create terrible puns (hence today’s blog title). As many of you know, Courtny and I went Netflix-crazy this year and watched the whole series in about six months. I know some of you questioned whether our relationship could last after The Office ended. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous as well.


The ferry to Mykonos was a bit of an experience. After a sleep-deprived couple of days in airplanes and Athens (which would make a great album name for any of you musicians out there), there was no way we were making it through a 6-hour boat ride without snoozing. Thankfully, almost the whole room was our group, so taking a nap didn’t feel quite as risky. So, with our bags locked and secured under our seats and our important items safely hidden on our bodies, we slowly lost the battle with sleep and dozed off.


We slept for an hour or so when Ryan woke me up with the news everyone dreads in Europe—his wallet was gone. We frantically searched through his bags and it was nowhere to be found. So with five hours left on the ferry, he had to find a way to contact his bank. A bit later, everyone started to wake up and we began compiling a suspect list. Of course, no one really knows what to do when you find someone you think is a picker of pockets, but we wanted to bust this guy anyway.


Oftentimes, thieves will use spotters or distractors to, well, spot or distract. Not long after waking up, a shady looking young man—about 5’7, 165 pounds—walked through the room and seemed to be avoiding Ryan. And I know you’re over there saying, “Really Phil? He’s shady? You’re 5’7 too.” I understand the logic, but this guy had facial hair. After monitoring him for a few minutes, though, he checked out clean. Our next suspect seemed far more likely. Some kid that was probably around 12 years old kept strolling in and out of our room. At one point, he spotted an iPod, stopped, looked around, and kept going. Naturally, we followed him out and we saw him sitting with two older brothers, presumably telling them the location of the iPod—just like the punk probably did when he spotted Ryan putting away his wallet. I stopped, chatted with the young men, and remained convinced that they were the ones with Ryan’s wallet. So I got our tour guide, Georgios, and he went out and questioned them. Of course, there was nothing we could really do—they said they had nothing to do with it, and IF they were telling the truth and we started patting them down or fighting, then that’s a whole new world of problems. So we had no choice but to let the dream team of thieves go.


Of course, they ended up being totally innocent… Just a few kids from Denmark looking to have a good time. Meanwhile, after deactivating all of his cards, Ryan found his wallet in the bottom of his camera bag. So that happened.


Once on Mykonos, we had a ton of fun. It was beautifully windy both days we were there. We started off the island adventures by going to a small beach a few kilometers from the hotel. Now that I’m in Europe I am speaking with kilometers just to be cool. After a beautiful hike up from the beach, we came back and got ready for dinner. The dinner we had was incredible—it was right on the water, the food was delicious, and we got a free dessert before going on a night walk around Platys Gialos. Walking around the island with the breeze coming off the sea was easily one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken.


But the highlight of our time on Mykonos was definitely the morning trip we took to the small island of Delos. Delos is a small island that is just a short ferry ride away from Mykonos. It was a sacred place to the ancient Greeks and many of the ruins are still in great shape. The tour was incredible, but they best part was the free time we had after. Instead of going to the museum, we hiked up the highest mountain on Delos and got a beautiful 360-degree view of the island and water.


Later in the day, we skipped out on Paradise Beach, mostly because our research earlier in the year (and our taxi driver) told us Psarou Beach was the best spot on the island. It was my favorite beach I’ve been to in my life—the water was crystal clear, the waves were non-existent, and there was no danger of creatures coming and gobbling us up. We finished the evening by watching the sunset by the windmills (unfortunately all batteries were dead, so we just have a tiny bit of GoPro footage of this). After finally showering back at the hotel, Courtny and I decided to suck it up and head out to the bars in Mykonos. After strolling around Little Venice, we settled on a spot right over the water to get a drink. The service was incredible—we both got one cheap drink and chatted with the bartenders while we sat on the balcony. In exchange for a good review on Tripadvisor, they gave us two free shots and said drinks were on the house if we came back the next night. Unfortunately, we are about to leave for Santorini. In fact, I should probably be getting off of here right now.


Oh, remember that reference to The Office at the beginning? Well one of Michael Scott’s alter-egos is a Greek man named Mykonos. That’s the connection. I know that took a long time, but it was totally worth it. That’s what she said.


Time to get you caught up

Before I begin writing about the various adventures Ryan, Courtny and I will be going on over the next few weeks, I have to give a few shoutouts. First, shoutout to everyone’s favorite Southside buddy, Jess Shannon, for coming up with the name of my blog. Next, shoutout to Benedryl for working its usual magic on the flight over the Atlantic. Lastly, shoutout to LeBron James—this trip will be much less stressful without the emotional and mental weight of free agency bringing me down. Welcome back to Cleveland, LeBrodigal Son.


            And that is where my journey began. Well, technically it began in Chardon, but for the sake of transitions, we’ll say it started off in Cleveland. And while the trip from Cleveland to Athens has been exhausting, nothing too crazy has happened, for which I am incredibly grateful. It was a bit humorous when Courtny and the fam were getting nervous as we frantically searched for her locks 4 hours before the flight. If you have ever flown with my sister, Julie, you will know why I was more confused as to why we were anywhere near ready to leave for the airport at that point. Of course, we made it in plenty of time and took of from Pittsburgh to begin our journey. Instead of boring you with details of the Alitalia in flight meals (and the freight train nature of the flight attendants when they push the carts), I will give you a brief history of how we ended up booking a trip to Greece and tell you of our journeys in Athens.


            It all began after my passport lost its stamp virginity in 2012. After a brutal 5-hour flight to LA, I popped my trusty Benedryl and slept for 11 of the 12 hours to New Zealand. In a whirlwind 10 days, Julie and I explored the countryside like the hobbits we are. That trip opened my eyes to how much I wanted to see different areas of the world.


            Let’s go to November of 2013. Like anyone who lives in Northeast Ohio, I spent many of those cold days indoors, looking at pictures of beaches just to keep my heart warm. Then on an especially bitter Monday night over Thanksgiving Break, Ryan and I did what any two college dudes would do when there were no classes the next day—drank white wine, watched Planet Earth, and decided to go on a tour to the Greek Isles. It wasn’t hard to convince Courtny to come along—just a few days earlier she was saying how badly she wanted to go to Santorini.


            After an agonizing 7-month wait, we arrived in Athens, Greece. I’m not going to lie—first impressions were not great. I was already wary of Athens before the trip, but I was still surprised by the number of tagged buildings and run-down apartments. Our first night, however, fully made up for the drive through the slums. We went to a great little hole-in-the-wall bar, had one of the best mojitos of our lives, and then spent the evening exploring the well-developed areas of the city. These spots—the rooftop bars, the shopping centers, the ancient ruins lit up for all to see—make visiting Athens completely worth it.


            After catching the metro back to the hotel, it was time to head to sleep and get ready for day two. Hopefully my writing is much more interesting when I describe day two to you, but I’m not sure. I know you’re all super hyped about this blog, but you have to understand that I’ve had 10 hours of sleep over the last 3 days (with a solid 4 more hours coming tonight). Plus it’s tough to focus on blogging when you are about to go to some of the most beautiful islands in the world. But here I am… On to day two!


            This morning we woke up at 7:30 to head to the Acropolis. Not surprisingly, Courtny and I almost missed the bus. Once we got on, we went and saw Athens’ version of the changing of the guard, which was a bit goofier and not nearly as impressive as the same event in Washington, DC. They had these weird slipper things on with big furry balls (for lack of a better term… more furry ball jokes will come later in the week).


            We then headed to the Olympic stadium, which was predictably awesome. But the main event was of course the hike up to the Acropolis. It is a truly incredible place and the city looks absolutely stunning from that high up. Instead of seeing graffiti and dirty apartments, we could only make out the beautiful rooftops and the stunning coastline. Our tour guide, Georgios, took us at the right time of day as well. There were plenty of people there, but it was nothing compared to the masses of tourists that would make their way up in the early afternoon.


            The rest of the day was spent exploring the various ruins downtown. There are plenty of ridiculous pictures that will be posted once the trip is over. A lot of them include me doing the LeBron pregame pose, as a way of welcoming him back to the 216. That’s right, ladies and gentleman—I don’t care how tired I get, I can still bring this thing full-circle.