Quit Horsing Around
After a few days of seaside lounging, we added activities to the mix – you know, to break up the monotony of sunshine (she said sarcastically). Mom and Les were keen to do a trail ride exploring the Naxian farmlands but you’ll need a bit of backstory to understand why I was hesitant for another horse riding adventure. You see, I have a bit of a reputation in my family for my riding ineptitude... unlike my mom and sister who are much more graceful on these majestic equine quadrupeds.
Let me help paint a picture. My first significant riding experience was in Costa Rica about 17 years ago. Walking I could manage with reasonable success but things started to unravel once we started trotting. Ahhhhh, sitting trot, how I loathe thee, let me count the ways. Jolting up and down in the saddle astride a handsome chestnut mare, I can be best described as a spineless rag doll flopping about. I’m pretty sure me lost contact with my stirrups because my legs were like wet noodles. (I had not yet learned legs are an integral part of riding). Attempting to ‘post’ only made matter worse. Instead of moving in sync with the horse’s two-beat rhythm – up, down, up down – we were dancing in two different songs like a bad remix. I was going down when and should being posting up thus smashing my pubic bone into the saddle with every step. I probably should have been duct taped to the saddle for my safety but more importantly, for the horse’s. I can’t imagine it felt great to have me pounding into its spine.
Then came galloping. What horseman hasn’t dreamed of dashing along the shoreline, waves breaking behind you and spray thrown up behind the flying hooves? Locks, mane and tail, blow wildly in the wind with every breathtaking stride. This was not my experience. As we approached the shoreline and Mr. Majestic instantly morphed into a prancing, snorting, smoke-bellowing runaway express locomotive. He’s full steam ahead! I’m hanging on for dear life because I’m not sure how to find the brakes. Through the entire adventure, my mom and sister were in stitches... So now every time horseback riding come up, the laughter returns. How can I ever live this down?
Chasing the delicious feeling of redemption, I dawned a bobble-head helmet and suited up. The best part was taking the horses to the beach and looking back over the Chora (aka the old town) from the laguna. My sister had to be vigilant because her horse has a tendency to roll in the sand and when we went into the water, mom’s horse had to be roped to the lead horse or else she’d go swimming.
Despite my best efforts to avoid a repeat performance, the following day my inner thighs were killing me. Foal me once, shame on you. Foal me twice, shame on me. In order to truly move with a moving 1,000-pound animal, you have to learn to coordinate body parts you never knew you had. Next time I ride a horse, I’m adding a pillow to my saddle to soften the blows that your butt has to endure.
Surf's Up: Vitamin Sea
Summer winds called meltemi and the shallow lagoon create a perfect windsurf playground on Naxos. Les and I were windsurfing newbies (unless you counted my maiden voyage while still in mom’s belly) but mom tamed the wind a lot B.C. (Before Children). However, the technique and equipment has evolved considerably since those days so she had some old habits to unlearn.
After a few words of guidance from our instructor, we snapped the sail into place and hauled our gear into the water. Like a newborn foal, my legs trembled as I try to stand up. Once stabilized, I began to bring the sail to my chest to catch the mid-afternoon breeze while it flapped and weaved like a boxer avoiding a punch. Within a couple hours, we’re getting the hang of it and could stand straight holding the boom and tack clumsily. As the wind picked up, we could lean our weight again the sail and glide fast enough to imagine the board was just skimming the rippling water... well... fast for a beginner that is.
Onwards to Santorini
Santorini is paradise. What can possibly be more magical than turquoise waters, silky sand, and crisp white houses capped with royal blue domes perched romantically on the cliff tops of a volcano? Over the next few days in Santorini, we would take approximately 3,000 photos of the view from every imaginable angle. And honestly, it never got old.
When in Greece - Wine Not?
I wanted nothing more than to laze permanently at our super luxurious hotel and explore every one of its seemingly infinite terraces. While Santorini’s stunning views and private hillside pools are tempting, did you know you can go wine tasting? When you think of wine regions of the world Greece probably doesn’t automatically come to mind, but Greece is by far one of the oldest wine-producers in the world. I know, right?
As part of the official birthday celebration activities, we begrudgingly "rescued" wines from their constricting glass cages. After touring the wine cellars where we learned all about the wine making process, we sat down for the fun part: tasting (or should I say drinking because I have no intention of spitting it out?). We compared the tastes of local indigenous varietals (all of which have impossible names!). The best part? There wasn’t a hint of snooty pretentiousness. The vineyards themselves look unlike the vines I’ve seen anywhere else in the world – they’re scrubby bushes hugging the ground. The vines have distinctive growing pattern of growing in baskets close to the ground, rather rolling hills lined with trellises, as we’re accustomed to seeing in photos of Napa or Bordeaux. Hovering near the earth allows the vines to quench their thirst from the island’s dry volcanic soil.
By the end of the day, we were prepared to skilfully tackle restaurant wine lists with confidence. A few wineries later, overlooking the sea at Gaia Wines, we clicked our glasses for eigtheenth and final time that day and called out a hearty cry of “Yiamas!” — cheers, in Greek.
While most of the photos of Santorini are from the cliffs, it has been argued that it really needs to be seen from the water so we took to the water for a sailing trip around the caldera. It is a quite a contrast. From afar, the island’s cliffs appeared as though they were covered in a dusting of snow and you can see the different layers of volcanic rock caused by many years of eruptions.
As they pack up their bags to go home, I’m already feeling heavy-hearted. It seems like no coincidence that I’m reflecting on family while in Greece – a culture defined by strong family connections. It’s weird and comforting to know that there are no other women on this planet who have had a closer view of my life. They know pretty much everything about me and a few things I wish they didn’t!
My mom knows me inside out; even in silence she can understand what I’m saying. Like many momma bears, she’s sounding board for all big (and small) decisions, anchoring me through the topsy-turvy moments. She is also my living, breathing, walking, talking perspective check. In her calm and grounded way, she is always ready to splash metaphorical water on my face to bring me back down to earth. Plus she’s really fun. I mean, who else’s mom windsurfs at 60?
No matter how you frame it, having a sister is weird. One minute you may want to strangle them for using your embarrassing family nickname in public and the next moment you are doing dramatic duet of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. (That’s is actually our theme song and at least once a year Les and I warm up our vocal cords for a performance, whenever we feel the need for a little levity). When I asked Les what she missed most about me, she said my “ridiculousness.” I think what she means is that she loves my joie de vivre – my desire to make a joint Hungry, Hungry Hippos Halloween costumes a reality, to eat cheesecake for breakfast, to adopt a French persona when I’m doing her make-up, to demonstrate the joy of Ministry of Silly Walks at any moment, to create piñatas because well, why not?
Setting off across the globe together can be a delicate art for any family. But for the most part, the three of us are peas in the pod and when we catch up, there’s always a reason to laugh. Trips like these give us more material for reminiscing, something else to laugh about usually recalling something that one of us said or did, some hair disaster, day-drinking on the sailboat or horseback riding adventure.
Somewhere down the line, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll hear, “Remember how long it took to get the cheque in Greece?” (An hour and three free ouzos after asking for your bill, you still be waiting). “And the smell of swimming in the thermal water at Santorini?” “And remember the 40-year-old dude doing a mermaid-esque beach photo shoot – presumably for his Tinder profile?”
P.S. I should admit we did some funny photo shoots ourselves so who are we to judge? We tried 8 times to capture a sisters-in-flight photo with no success.
“Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.”
- Shel Silverstein
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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