Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flying High!!!

Hi All,
Well, we went from complete boredom to complete adventure!!!! Let me explain! Last Friday we landed in Varenna, Italy! It was so VERY beautiful... but we found out quickly two very important, very sad things! #1 they don't like tourists, well...people in general, but especially Americans and #2 there is ABSOLUTELY nothing to do!!! After touring the city, which took about an hour and eating at this really lovely lake side cafe we looked at each other and said - now what! We couldn't even get on the internet - thus our absence! The good and God thing was, Amy had come down with a bad head cold and this gave her time to sleep for a full day (Sunday) and not feel like she was missing out on anything cuz Amy can't miss out on anything!!!! I had a pleasant day sitting by the lake reading, but by dinner time I was bored and so very lonely!!! The people person that I am was so deprived - we could not get locals or even other tourists to even say hi, let alone converse. It was a bummer. But like I said Amy got to rest and by the next day she was feeling so much better.

The one thing we did find to do - and I mean find - because we couldn't find it at first - was, we climbed (we like to climb if you haven't noticed!) a mountain path up to a very old, crumbling, abandoned Castle. It had a drawbridge that actually worked, up until the point it was chained, but Amy had great fun with it anyway. She also had fun pretending to chop my head off with the sword/spear-like thing that the suit of armor was holding!

Adriene, you will be so excited, I went to a real Italian Catholic Mass. I didn't understand a word, but God was there and that was what was important to me! I could follow along though, because it took the same format of service that we have in the States.

On Monday morning we hopped a train to Gimmelwald, Switzerland. We were so very proud of ourselves, hopping trains without getting lost - but trust me, we are not going to get overconfident! Our hotel, or Pension, as they call it, is at about 4000+ feet above sea level overlooking snow capped mountains, green valleys and over 17 waterfalls. I kid you not - it is heaven come to earth... AND... they like us!!! AND there is soooooo much to do. This morning we hiked down the mountain about an hour and a half to the valley floor called Lauterbrunnen where we booked a wonderful adventure! Hold on to your hat Mom!!! We went Paragliding, which means we ran and jumped off of a mountain side!! (don't worry we had a parachute attached to us!) We were jumping tandem with an instructor and then proceeded to F-L-Y!

For about 20 minutes we swooped and spun and floated and it was incredible and beautiful and fun and exciting. The views were AMAZING. Because of the wind and the thermals we actually soared higher than our take off point! You could see the glacier and the water fall that is formed by the melting ice, and sheep grazing and cliff rock faces - WOW! What an experience!!! We have more adventures planned for the next few days - one every day. We even plan to stay here a day, probably 2, more. We found out that August 1st is their "4th of July" and they have a parade and fireworks. Amy had said when we got here, long before we knew about this that she wanted to see fireworks in the valley between the mountains - and so she shall have her wish! God is good to her (and me)!

SO... that is the Adventures of Sherri and Amy for today... definitely more to come! We are certainly having the time of our lives! Miss you all!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Athens to Barcelona...what a ride!

After leaving the amazing natural splendor of Milos Island, we hopped a ferry and landed in Pireaus port, Athens. This is not a place for the timid traveler, to say the least! We arrived after dark, and having not been to Athens before, had to navigate the port and the metro to find our hostel in the dark! Not to worry though, God has had our backs non stop!! Due to the help of a very considerate Athens native with a blackberry who happened to be sitting next to me (Amy) on the ferry, we received some detailed directions nearly to the door of our hostel and got there quite safe and sound at around 11pm...and quickly collapsed into our bunk beds! The next morning we ventured out into the oven also known as Athens, Greece. In the heat of the day we explored the Acropolis, waiting in lines and dodging other tourists at every turn. Although it was quite amazing to walk on paths that were so ancient and realize the number of feet that had tread the paths before us, it wasn´t our favorite place to be!! It was still fun, though, for me to see up close and personally the quintessential structures that I had to study in architecture history.

After the sweltering heat of the Acropolis hill, we made our way to the next line where we waited to get into the new Acropolis museum. Our motivation to visit this had a bit more to do with the air conditioning than with anything we could see inside! After recovering in there, we decided to tackle the other major tourist attraction right around the corner, the Agora and Areopagus. It was quite humbling to climb the slick marble of the Areopagus and know that we were standing in a place where Apostle Paul once stood and delivered a sermon to the Greeks (Acts 17).

Dripping with sweat, we walked the narrow streets back to the hostel, collected our bags and headed off for the metro to take us to the airport. Then the adventure really began...the metro line we wanted to take was closed and we had to take the much longer route...if we thought we were sweating before, that was nothing!!!! We arrived at the airport about 40 minutes before our international flight to Barcelona was scheduled to take off! We had to find our way from the metro station to the check in point, and the signs were less than helpful. We did make it to check in though...and then ran through the airport (we are not even kidding about that one....just so grateful to only have a backpack and no other luggage in tow!). I don´t know that I´ve ever traversed an airport where the gate was so far away from the check-in. I also don´t know if I´ve ever come across a security station that moved as slowly as the one we had to pass through, or if we had ever dripped with so much sweat as we did that entire day. Fortunately, the line was short and we made it to our gate with a few moments to spare before boarding! What an adventure that we will not soon forget and hope to not repeat ever again on this trip (or any other)!!!

So, upon landing in Barcelona, the adventure continued. Again, we landed after dark and had to navigate another unfamiliar metro system. We made it to our metro stop, but couldn´t quite seem to find our hostel. We literally wandered up and down the same street for about 45 minutes, carrying our 20 lb bags on our backs, until a helpful taxi driver and some students were able to point us in the right direction. I don´t know if we have ever been so relieved to see a sign in our lives. When we crawled into bed that night, we vowed that we will NEVER arrive in a new town after dark EVER AGAIN!!! We decided to take the next two days off from everything and bummed around the hostel all day, napping, reading, doing laundry... Yesterday evening, we finally emerged from the hostel where we were being travel-weary slugs, and Sherri discovered her perfect food, spicy chocolate chicken! What a combo, but she loved it!

During our two day travel sabatical, we also seemed to take a sabatical from our posts (sorry about that!) and used all our internet time to do exhaustive planning for the next legs of our journey! That exhaustive planning has continued until today when we finally were able to make reservations for our train out of Barcelona to our next destination, Varenna, Italy. We also had success in booking some nice places to stay in Varenna and the following spot, Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

With the planning done, we finally felt relaxed enough to really take in the sights of Barcelona today. We visited the most famous work of architect Antoni Gaudi - Casa Batlo, Casa Mila, and Sagrada Familia (an incredible cathedral that continues to be built more than 117 years after construction began). What a site...it was awe inspiring. We´ve also enjoyed exploring the famous tree-lined street, Las Ramblas, and the narrow, crooked, personality-filled streets of the Bari Gotic, where our hostel is located. Tonight, we simply strolled the streets and listened to the various talented street performers....only blocks from one another were an accordian player with the fastest fingers we´ve ever seen, a sax player, and a guitarist. Amazing sounds, and what an atmosphere! It was quite relaxing, and Jen, you would be so proud that we just sat and soaked it all in!

Tomorrow night, we take the night train to Varenna (so that we arrive in the full daylight the next morning to find our next home!). Before that, though, we plan to explore the well-known park, Monjuic. Hopefully our next post won´t be so delayed as this one was...

Love you all, Amy and Sherri

ps...We so enjoy reading all your comments! Please keep them coming!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Have Map - Have Moto - Will explore!!!!

Hi All,

Wow, so much to say!!!!!

Where do we start?!?!?! Well, we landed in Milos on Thursday night at 8pm with no place to stay - no worries, God had us all covered. In two phone calls we had the cutest little room! They were a really nice couple who came and picked us up at the bus station - they spoke no English but we managed ok!! The next day they took us to rent a moto bike and off we went!! We chose our destinations by the post cards we saw in a local shop when we got off the ferry!! First to Pollonia, a small fishing village where we had lunch on the coast at this quaint little restaurant not 4 feet from the water - ahhhhhhhh!!! Then off to Papafragas - talk about amazing. We hiked down this precarious stairway built into the rock and there at the bottom is an inlet of water with a white sand beach and a cliff on each side - the width was probably 30 feet! We of course couldn't just splash on the edge - we swam all the way out into the open water and around the adjacent cliffs just to see what we could see!!! We also explored an undiscovered cove and swam through a hole in the cliff about 10 ft high 6 ft wide and 25 ft in distance! It was so cool! It landed in another part of the ocean where we looked around a bit, swallowed some waves and swam back! The water was crystal clear and you could see the rocks on the bottom so clearly you would think you could touch but you couldn't. We hiked to this other area where there were no people, only rocks and water and lo and behold, there in the middle of nowhere there were two beautiful, very comfy beach chairs sitting on a rock surrounded by water - they had no earthly business being there. So, of course, we couldn't resist. Jennifer, you would be so proud, we sat still and enjoyed the view - for AWHILE!!!

Then it was off to Sarakiniko - it is like being transported to the moon. It is white volcanic rock - can you even imagine! You could see the swirls in the surface from the flow of the lava. It was surreal - the pictures don't do it justice! Then we explored some caves, which Amy loves, but is not my favorite - never know what might be hiding in the darkness!!! We had chicken gyros for dinner for only 2 euros!!! Mind you, we have been here for over a week - and lamb gyros do not exist - at least we couldn't find any!

Today we are hopping another ferry to Athens - we get in late and it should be an adventure to find our hostel, although - at least we have one booked! We spend one day in Athens and then off to Barcelona. I want to see a bull fight! From there - we haven't a clue - we are adventurers, after all!

Questions to answer - yes, Peggy, we see the big dipper every night! Which is faster the motobike or the high speed ferry - with me(Sherri) driving, definitely the motobike - just ask Amy about nearly flying off the back!!!! Thank God for the handle - and no I was not trying to lose her! Oh, Pam, I forgot to tell you I tried a local Santorini wine in your honor - you would have liked it! Mom, Amy says we pull "Grand Canyon's" every day, but there is no one to notice we are gone! Sorry about disappearing from the internet - we didn't have time or access. Peggy, in reference to Greek driving - think Wayne!!!!! And see the next post...we'll try to upload some video from the scooter!

Love you all and believe it or not - we do miss you! :-)
All our hearts - Sherri and Amy

PS Uploading pics takes FOREVER!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Driving in Santorini

No, it's not a Harley, but we'll race anyone anytime!! Sherri is getting better and better at navigating tight spaces and hairpin turns (lots of busses and switchbacks here on the islands), but sometimes the acceleration still takes her by surprise! Let's just say, it is a good idea to hold on tight during takeoff!!! :)

Sorry guys - we tried for 20 minutes, but the video is too big and it won't upload :-(

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Santorini Adventures...

Hi everyone,

Well, day 3 in Santorini has been another perfect, albeit windy, day. That might be an understatement!!

To begin, after posting yesterday Sherri and I watched a beautiful sunset over the caldera (the bay that formed where the center of the volcano dropped out) from a village called Megalochori. It was georgeous. Also an understatement!!

Afterwards, we drove the fun little motobike back to our room and took a walk down to the beach, just a half block away, and watched an amazing display of stars over the ocean. Absolutely incredible!! We saw a galaxy glowing, possibly a planet (or at least a very bright star), and Sherri saw a shooting star. Again, like yesterday, quite surreal!!

Today we did not get up for a sunrise, Mom, but we did get up and get some great exercise in!! We took a 6 km hike up to the highest point on Santorini. It took us 4.5 hours and was exhausting, but exhilarating. The views were outstandingly unbelievable. The remains of Ancient Thira were at the top of one of the peaks, and the top of another (which was the higher of the two and the one that we took, not surprisingly) was home to a monastery. The mountain was all marble, so it was a beautiful view out as well as underfoot.

After we recovered from that (and showered!!) we took a drive to watch the sunset from the lighthouse at the furthest point south of the island. Again, breathtaking.

We've decided to stay on Santorini an additional day and then are taking another highspeed ferry to the nearby island of Milos on Thursday. Having some trouble finding a place to stay there though.... Milos is supposedly another beautiful island, with bright white beaches to contrast the black beaches here on Santorini...still the same awesome architecture, though.

We'll make it back to Athens for just one evening so that we can see the famous sites of Athens before heading to Barcelona on the 19th.

Tomorrow, we have planned to spend the day exploring the main town of Fira and Oia, which is at the northern tip of the island and famed for its sunsets. We'll be saving the best sunset for last!!! Not planning to catch any sunrises though!!! One thing we've noticed here is that at least on the islands, there is a different time frame that everyone functions under. Everything starts late and ends late.

For now, time to go....only 4 minutes left on the internet... hopefully more soon!!

Love, Amy and Sherri :)

Monday, July 13, 2009


So..... I am so sorry for you all who are working right now! We look out and see the bluest of blue skies bumped against the bluest of blue water!! We keep looking at each other and saying - are we really here! Or are we just dreaming - if we are, don't pinch me!!!!

Yesterday we took a hydrofoil here (Santorini!) - really big - really fast boat! Then we took the public busses the rest of the way! That was interesting as they had so many people on the bus we had to stand in the aisle and the aisle was so full you couldn't fall over even if you tried - you won't see that in the states!!!!

Our "hotel" that is really a hostel is one very white room with one window and one picture on the wall and two twin beds!!! It is small and nothing to write home about but it is clean and comfy and... cheap!!! And it has a fridge, and AC - you can't beat that for about $30!!! Our landlord came in last night about 11pm and scared the beegeebies out of Amy after we had been asleep for over an hour- I had my ear plugs in!!!! He came to fix our toilet and we guess he assumed we would be out partying like the rest of the tourists here!!! Guess we are not that exciting! :-)

Today we had double adventures!! First - we went scuba diving off of the coast here!!! Beautiful and something Amy had not done before! We got to hold sea urchins and hermit crabs and we petted some sort of coral that felt like silicone - it was strange!!! We saw fishes and coral in very CLEAR blue water!!!

Now, Mom, hold on for this next one! Well, maybe you better sit down!!! We have rented a motor bike!!!! It feels like it goes really fast although we can't tell because the speedometer is broken!!!! I am getting better at right turns but they are little rugged!!!! Pastor Carol - you would be so proud - but no, I haven't taken the safety course!!!! Our instructions were as follows - bring it back without any damage - here is the gas, here is the brake - go for it! When we finish here we are going to take a drive through the southern part of the island and see some coastal villages and a lighthouse and some churches! There is a town called Megalochori that is known for its georgeous sunsets - we plan to see one tonight!

Tomorrow we will ride the motobike up the coast to the main town of Fira in the center of the island that is famous for its white buildings that jut out of the rocks and silhouette against the bluest sky you have ever seen! It is what you see in the post cards! Then to Oia, which is "THE" spot to see sunsets and yes Jen, we plan to take a dip in the swimming hole! We will leave here on Wednesday to go to a different island not yet determined.
We are having the time of our lives and it has only been a few days! God is very good to us! We've even gotten some good deals and seen the favor of God as usual!
Love you all!!! :-) Sherri and Amy

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We made it!!!!

Hi All,
Well, its Sunday morning here in Greece and in a few minutes we leave for the island of Santorini! We arrived without any difficulty and easily found our way to the proper bus to get us to the port at Rafina, Greece, we're we booked a small, but modern room in a hotel. Our room even had a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. After relaxing in the room and being "horizontal" for an hour (since we had been sleeping sitting up for so long), we went down to the beach and jumped in the blue, blue water. Ahhhh!
We went to a little outdoor restaurant last night in the small port town here, which really only consists of a shop lined street, and experience our first Ouzo! Wow! Don't think we'll be trying that again!!!! :)
Our hydrofoil to Santorini takes off shortly, so time to go! We plan to stay in a little hostel in Perissa near the south east end of the island. Hope to say hi again to you soon, next time with pictures.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Destination Day!

Good Morning All!

Well, today we leave for Europe. Our bags are packed (to the gills!) and we are all set! Neither Amy or I are sure we really realize what is happening!!! Maybe finally getting on the plane will cure that! But we are certainly ready for our adventure of a lifetime!!!

We leave Pittsburgh at 11:26am today for Philly, 6 hour layover in Philly, Leave Philly at 6pm and get to Frankfurt, Germany at 8:10am (a 13 hour flight!!) leave Germany at 9:15am and arrive in Athens, Greece at 1pm on Saturday! Woo Hoo!!!!! First stop - Santorini Greece! Swimming holes, caves and ancient ruins to explore, black sand beaches, bluest of blue waters, cities jutting out of cliff sides - Ooooooooooo, I can't wait!

Gotta go now - Europe awaits us!!! :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A new era

Today begins a new era in my life...
Two days ago I finished my to do list (at work only...the "at home" to do list is still quite long!), packed up my desk, hugged all my coworkers, and walked out of my office. Not for the last time, but for a long time. On my final day, I received such an incredible send-off of cupcakes, cards, laughs, hugs and generosity from all of my coworkers. My coworkers, who are really not simply coworkers, but rather a family of folks who come together day after day, for hours on end...they are the ones I share such a huge piece of my life with...they are my work family. And on Thursday, they made me feel very special and very loved. I am monumentally blessed to work where I do, with each of them...whether or not they are in the same office as me...whether or not I have even ever met them face to face.
Yesterday, I moved my best friend Sherri into my home. It is now "our" home. With the help of many enthusiastic and highly organized friends, Sherri and I packed up her little apartment in Youngstown and relocated her things into the small guest room in my house...and into a small niche in the attic as well. She has decided to move in with me to take care of me when I return home from the hospital in October. Together, she and my mom will provide the round-the-clock care that the doctor has said that I will require for around 2-3 months. Sherri selflessly has decided to give up so much in her life - her independence, her time, her address - to relocate and be here for me. Again, I am a very blessed girl!!

This Friday, less than a week away, Sherri and I will hop a plane to Athens, Greece, where we will begin a six-week adventure backpacking through six European countries. Following Greece, we will visit Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. My mom, Erika and Jen will meet up with Sherri and I in Germany, and together the five of us will explore Germany and Italy, visiting the places of my mom's childhood. It will be the adventure of a lifetime, and my last hurrah before embarking on another adventure of a different flavor, my donor stem cell transplant. I have so many to thank for making this trip even a possibility, from the doctor, who gave me his blessing to go and enjoy life, to my work family, who so generously provided the time off and the funds to take the trip, to my loving big sister, who immediately offered to pitch in all that she could to help fund this trip as well...
I don't think I can say enough how immeasurably, abundantly blessed I am. And how overwhelmingly grateful I am to everyone who made this dream come true. If you are one of those ones reading this right now, Thank you, Gracias, Merci, Danke and Grazie! I hope to be in touch again soon!