After a day to unpack a little and get ourselves in the right time zone, we flew to the lovely island of Skiathos in the Sporades islands. Skiathos, Skopolos and Allonosos are all ‘green islands,’ not as arid as the Cyclades (e.g., Santorini, Mykonos). Pine trees and dense shrubbery abound, and walking to the beach smells more like Colorado than the ocean. Our hotel had a beautiful pool area surrounded by huge oleanders that had been tied together with a metal cable so they looked like trees. We parked ourselves under them each day. The boys played with other children from England and Serbia. It seemed that most of the guests at the hotel were from Great Britain and Russia and we were the only Americans. Skiathos was one of the first islands to have direct flights from London, so it’s been a popular destination for Brits for many years. Skiathos town was lovely, with an old Venetian fortress in the harbor that has been converted to an amphitheater and a restaurant/bar. Opposite the fortress is the harbor town with tons of tavernas and grill restaurants and cute little shops. The gelato, yogurt and ice cream stores are lined up next to each other. Though we did not go over, Skopolos’ claim to fame is being the film site for “Mamma Mia” and there are boat cruises to Skopolos to see the places in the movie – and the film plays every night somewhere on the islands. Peter continues to skip.
Meet Papou (Greek for “Grandpa”) – Demetri’s dad, biggest champion and most recently serving as both Owner’s Rep and GC on our apartment in Voula, a little town on the water south-ish of Athens. Papou’s real name is Panagiotis, and he goes by Peter in the US and Takis in Greece, just like his red-headed grandson. He and Sandy (Demetri’s stepmom) have been living here since February 2016. Papou and his sisters spent summers here as kids when the only thing besides the beaches was a hospital. Now it has a lovely little town square with restaurants, groceries, bakeries, and boutiques. We live a block from the square, a block from the ocean and a floor below Papou and Sandy! We had been looking nearby (i.e., Glyfada, a bigger city just up the road) so we could be close to them, but being downstairs is like a dream come true. Michael and Peter love having them right upstairs. Our first morning here they took plates and croissants (all previously purchased by Sandy) upstairs to ask Papou for a side of eggs and to eat on their veranda. Demetri’s aunt had an apartment on the first floor that now belongs to cousins Jim and Melina. It might not be Windsor, Kennebunkport or Hyannis, but doesn’t “Fefes Family Compound” have a nice ring to it?
Left Denver 8 pm Saturday 6/24/17. Arrived London & cleared customs noon Sunday with about 18 hours to enjoy the city. Our big bags were checked through to Greece so we just have backpacks to carry. London has a nifty 15 minute express train from Heathrow to Paddington Station and we booked a hotel across from the train station. We got to our room, closed the curtains and slept very hard – I’m talking drool on pillows hard — for 2 hours, then pulled ourselves out of bed and took the subway over to Westminster so Peter could see Big Ben in person. We walked along Westminster Abbey and Parliament, to the Thames River and then boarded a double decker bus for St. Paul’s Cathedral. The weather was lovely today – not hot, not cold – perfect for being tourists. And Peter learned to skip – and like with everything else he does, he needs a running start to get going. He remains ecstatic.
Left London 9 am Monday; arrived Athens 2ish. Papou met us at the airport. We loaded all the bags into his car and the 4 of us into a taxi. Greek cars are not built to have 30 inch suitcases in the trunk. Knowing this, and hoping to do a little travel on our way to Athens, we boxed up clothing and other items to ship to ourselves in advance so as not to have giant suitcases. However, at the post office a few weeks ago, with said items all boxed up, we learned that Greece does not allow used clothes to be shipped into the country without a certificate from the point of origin that the clothing has been disinfected. I tried to explain that these boxes weren’t used clothes, they were just our clothes. With a sympathetic nod, the postal clerk reminded me that these were not his rules. Suitcases it is. And as long as they are less than 50 lbs, we get 8 of them checked for free. We only have 6, not including our carryon backpacks. The bags include stuffed animals, a scanner for work purposes, 2 laptops, 3 ipads, 2nd grade math books and our clothes. Pretty good on the packing eh?
Demetri is running fast to get his business even more mobile than it is already. How he’s incorporated technology and efficiency into his one person (ok, one and a half – me) business is astounding. Google Voice, Asana, Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, Virtual Post Mail, Scan Snap, Venmo, Zelle … you really can work anywhere without an ounce of paper. And with solid thinking and planning, you can get your business to a point where you can live elsewhere. He’s thinking of writing about how to do it. I’ll link when he does.
I know I’m not the first to utter this … I don’t know how we accumulated all this STUFF. Our house is tidy enough (at least half of the time) and I am amazed that aforementioned stuff is EVERYWHERE. We sold furniture, donated toys/clothing/gear, recycled electronics … and packed most of the rest. We sold both the cars and rented our house to a super nice family who was looking for a furnished place. We flew to Los Angeles to visit the Greek Consulate with our visa applications and a binder with all required visa materials. It was a 300 page, numbered and color-coded coded masterpiece; sadly the visa bequeather did not appreciate the stellar organization (and thank you Mom, Amy, Allison, Susan, Valerie, Andrea, Erin & Becky who did oooh and ahhh as I’d hoped the consulate would. I really needed validation). We left LA with our visas in hand and a side trip to Legoland under our belts.
Back in Denver, we rented a nifty storage unit about 5 minutes away for the stuff that our renters wouldn’t use. These indoor units are immaculate – dust free, shiny floors, locks that don’t get stuck, huge but manageable carts to transport items from car to unit. Demetri took great care in organizing our unit that it reminds me of the little apartment showrooms at Ikea – camping stuff here, boxes of clothes there, artfully bubble wrapped frames and bicycles all lined up neatly. Those shiny floors were extra fun for the boys who tooled around the building on their scooters with each load.