Stranded on an Island

After the most magnificent trip to Corfu, bad things were bound to happen.  Scarce are the trips where nothing goes wrong.  We should have seen the bad omen when we woke up on Sunday morning to find it raining.  Our flight was not scheduled until 11:30pm that night, so we had a lot of time to kill that day.  We had to check out of our room by 12pm, so we had about 9 hours of free time before we could head over to the airport.  We had been on the west side of the island the whole time, so we decided to check out the main town in our remaining time.  Unfortunately, it was downpouring when we arrived in town, so we rushed over to the first restaurant we could find.  We decided to order some food so we could waste some time, but we felt guilty staying at each restaurant because we had so many bags.  We ended up going to three different restaurants because we did not have anything else to do in the pouring rain.  Eventually the rain stopped and we were able to stroll around town and buy some souvenirs.  We found a marvelous baklava shop, and I got a beautiful piece of dessert filled with nutella-y goodness (yes, I did gain weight while I was there if you were wondering).

My roommates got tired, and they decided to sit for a while, but I still wanted to explore.  I roamed around the streets and found cute little stores, beautiful parks, and a fish spa!  We still had about four hours left, so of course we had to go to the fish spa.  If you’ve never heard of this type of spa, there is a certain type of fish that can eat the dead skin off of your feet.  Although it is a strange idea, it left my feet feeling soft and refreshed.  At first it was hard to stay still because the nibbling tickled, but after a few minutes, I was able to relax and let the little buggers eat their hearts out.  The store was completely empty, and the saleswoman was so sweet.  She let us stay for as long as we wanted.  After that relaxing spa experience, we headed over to the airport where we thought we would be on our way back to Valencia.

No matter how many times I hear complaints about RyanAir, I still decide to fly them because they are cheap.  I had not experienced any inconveniences with RyanAir yet, so to me, they were just another budget airline.  For short flights, I could care less about the amenities.  Just get me to my destination safe, fast, and for as little money as possible.  That was the case with the many RyanAir flights I had taken before.  But that soon changed.

It began with a simple flight delay, then it turned into two, then it turned into four flight delays, and then finally a cancellation.  We should have known this would happen when we woke up to rain.  The plane that was scheduled to come had been redirected because the storm was getting bad.  At first it was no big deal because we thought we would be able to hop onto the next flight tomorrow.  I rushed over to the desk where a huge mob of people were yelling at the poor old RyanAir attendant.  I truly felt sorry for her.  She couldn’t control the weather, and there was nothing she could do about the absent plane. Originally, we had planned to sleep in the Rome airport between our connecting flights to Valencia, so we were overjoyed to hear that they would be housing us in a hotel that night ( we still thought we could make our flight the next day from Rome to Valencia).

We quickly grabbed our bags and followed the mob of people out to the check-in desk to reserve our spot for the night.  After waiting in line for quite some time, we heard some yelling from the front.  I rushed over to see what was happening. Everyone just kept hearing people shouting “Thursday! Thursday!”   They had just notified us that the next flight would not be able to come until Thursday (may I remind you that it was a Sunday).  At first, I found it funny because it seemed unreal. However, the majority of the people there did not find any humor in the situation.  A couple of fights broke out between some angry Italians and security guards, and the police had to come and break it up.  We had started to go over our options of getting home because we could not miss a whole week of classes when we saw some of our friends from the Pink Palace.  It turns out that they had booked this last minute flight because all of the ferries had been cancelled due to the storm.  So that ruled out the only two options for getting off the island.

We were literally stuck on an island

After reserving our spot for the hotel, we were redirected to yet another desk to try to get ourselves onto the next flight.  We waited another hour in line until we were able to talk to a godsend of an employee.   She told us that they were trying to get another plane to come the following day, but it was not guaranteed.  She gave us two options. We could either get refunded for this flight and then find our own way home, or we could just stay the night in the hotel and hopefully get onto the flight the following day.  The problem was that this flight was only 18 euros, and our connecting flight from Rome to Valencia the following day cost us 150 euros.  We would only be refunded the 18 euros, so we just decided to take the latter option.

They bussed us to a fancy hotel where we spent the night sleeping in uncertainty.  We woke up the following day bright and early to talk to the front desk.  No news.  We curbed the pain with free breakfast.  The food was great and the hotel was beautiful, but we just wanted to know when we would be able to go home.  After many agonizing hours of waiting, we finally heard back.  The flight was hopefully coming that evening, and they would send a shuttle for us at 5pm.  We slept as much as we could before the flight because we knew that we still had a long voyage before us.

When we arrived at the airport we immediately went to the counter to see if we could be rescheduled onto another flight from Rome to Valencia because we had missed that connecting flight. In most cases, RyanAir would not be responsible for rebooking our flight, but we got extremely lucky.  The lady at the desk was an angel and booked us onto the flight free of charge.  Unfortunately she was only able to get three out of four of us on to the new flight because it was full. She told us that one of us was on stand-by and we could talk to the employees once we arrived in Rome to try to get on the flight.

After that was sorted out, we boarded the plane.  We were finally getting off the island. When we arrived in Rome we immediately went to the customer service desk to try to get all four of us on the next flight to Valencia.  Unfortunately we had to deal with an extremely rude employee who would not give us any straight answers.  The way he acted, it was like his own mother didn’t even love him.  We had no luck trying to get all of us on the plane, so my friend Haley was forced to buy a ticket for a different flight.  Stressed out and exhausted we decided to splurge on a hotel for the night because our flight wasn’t until the next day. As usual, everything was expensive in Rome; but we were way too tired to care. We ended the day with a glass of wine and pizza, and we slept our little hearts away.

The next day, we were FINALLY GOING HOME.  I could not wait to be in Valencia again. It had really become a second home to me, and I did not want anything more than to snuggle up in my big IKEA comforter and eat a magically delicious Valencia orange.  After the most wonderful, stressful, and memorable trip to Rome and Greece, we were finally home.

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Racing and Relaxing in Corfu

After saying our goodbyes to Thessaloniki, we headed over to the beautiful island of Corfu, one of the greenest Greek Islands.  It was the off-season, so the day that we arrived, the island was completely empty.  The only people on this side of the island were our lovely hotel concierge and a couple of other random locals.  I must say that it was marvelous having the whole island to ourselves.  I felt like a super rich celebrity who had her own private island.

Even though it was pretty chilly, we headed down to the beach to explore.  There was the sweetest dog from the hotel who followed us everywhere we went.  We called him Buddy, and the next day we found out his name was actually Buddy.  After walking along the beach, we found the only open restaurant on the island and had the most relaxing dinner while watching the sunset.

The next day, we found out that an enormous group of Americans would be coming to the island.  They were staying at the famous Pink Palace which was located about 10 feet from our accommodations.  The Pink Palace is a famous party hostel, and they had a lot of events and amenities.  However, I was very glad with our decision to stay at the Panorama Apartments right behind the Pink Palace because their rooms were much nicer and cleaner, the views were beautiful, and the manager was so accommodating (plus they had amazing gyros).  Thankfully, we were still able to use some of the amenities of the Pink Palace.

The next day, we went over to the Pink Palace to sign up for their ATV tour.  We had a hell of a time dealing with their staff, and it made me even happier that we were not staying there. The day before, when the island was still completely deserted, we had gone in and spoken to the front desk asking if we could participate in the ATV tour the following day.  They told us that it would be perfectly fine, but that we should come in at 7am the next day to sign up.  We woke up the next day bright and early and headed to their front desk.  To our dismay, they said that they were still waiting on the big American group to come, and they were not allowing anyone to sign up yet.  What a waste of sleep.  We came back two hours later, per their instructions, and they told us the same exact thing.

Angry and frustrated, we came back an hour later,and we were finally able to sign up for the tour.  However, the large group had finally arrived, and the lobby was utter chaos.  One of the employees was particularly stressed out, and he tried to take us off of the ATV list, after we had already paid and reserved our spots.  In addition to that, we could hear him complaining about us and telling us to “F*** Off.”  Okay buddy.  I get that you’re stressed out, and that you need to get everybody checked in, but under no circumstances is it acceptable for you to curse at a customer.  We brushed off the comment and headed over to the ATVs.  Again, we had to wait over an hour for the tour to actually start.

However, when it finally did start, it was completely worth it.  I think it was the most fun I had the entire time I was in Europe.  Now I understand why people ride motorcycles.  Nothing feels better than flying down the road at fearlessly fast speeds and navigating through twisted turns and bumpy dirt paths.  It was exhilarating.  And the cheap side of me could not be happier with the price.  The six hour tour was such a bargain at 25 euros.  In America, the cheapest ATV rentals I have seen are no cheaper than 75 dollars an hour.

Our guides took us all around the island and up to beautiful viewpoints.  It was pretty cold that day, especially at the top of the mountains, but we still had an amazing time.  Thankfully it was pretty easy to control the ATVs, and none of us had problems.  However, one girl actually drove off the side of the mountain.  Thankfully, it was a shallow cliff, and she did not get hurt.

Later that night, we headed over to a party hosted by the Pink Palace.  It was nothing spectacular, but it was something to do that night.  As we were walking home, we had the spontaneous idea of jumping into the ocean at two in the morning, unclothed.  We eagerly dashed to the ocean where we hoped we would find an empty shoreline.  We ran into two random girls walking along the beach and told them our plans.  They energetically asked to join us, and five minutes later, we were running into the freezing cold water.  It was a classic “spring break moment,” and I do not regret one second of it.

After a very adventurous day, we spent the entire next day relaxing at the beach.  We had a couple of drinks and mingled with the big group of Americans.  Later that day, we tried to get into the Pink Palace’s infamous toga party.  It took us a couple of tries, but we were finally able to get in.  We spent the rest of the day figuring out how to tie the damn togas, but we still went out looking like a sack of pink potatoes.  The party did not live up to the hype, but at least I can say that I’ve been to a toga party, and I feel like it was an appropriate end to our last night in Corfu.


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Thessaloniki, A Modern Take on Greece

When I picture Greece, I see ancient cities, old ruins, and tons of history.  That was exactly what my first trip to Greece was like back when I was younger, but this time I got to see a different side of this wonderful country.  Our first stop in Greece was Thessaloniki, a city I had never even heard of before my roommate Athena (obviously she is Greek) told me that her family was from there.  After seeing a super cheap flight there on RyanAir, I was sold.

We only had two short days in this lovely city before we moved on, but it was enough to get a taste for what life was like there.  Athena’s friend happened to be studying in Thessaloniki at the time, so we met up with them.  Our first stop was gyros (aka food from the Greek Gods themselves).  I was amazed at both the portion size and the price (three euros!).  As a born thrifter, you have me sold if something is cheap, and the whole country of Greece was insanely cheap.  The taxi rides were never less than five euros, and the food was always delicious, filling, and economical.  After staying in Rome for a few days, one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been to, it was refreshing not to have to worry about money at every corner.  We filled our tummies to the brim and then went out for drinks.  The whole street that we walked down was completely filled with bars.  I don’t think a single person over age 30 lived in this area.  The whole area had a young, fun, and relaxed atmosphere.

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The next day we were able to see the city in the daylight since we had only been able to see the nightlife.  I felt like no one ever worked in this city. It was a weekday at 11am, and the streets were filled with young and old just strolling around and relaxing.  All of the bars were just as full as the night before, and the atmosphere had not changed.  We had a wonderful breakfast, and then we explored the waterfront a bit more.  We did not do much sight seeing, but it was a welcome break after our hectic trip to Rome.

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