After 15 days abroad — I am back! There is so, so much to say about the trip. Not only did I tour Paris, Rome, Athens and other places alongside my family, but I was able to meet cousins in Athens and Crete as well. It was a life changing trip — to say the least.
But, after living out of a carry-on suitcase and on some very questionable mattresses (one in which I broke, oops), I am happy to be home. Beyond happy. Especially spending nearly 13+ hours in the air yesterday.
The length of the trip was perfect though. Usually when I am heading home from a vacation I am not ready. But, being able to see and do what I was over the past half month — I got in what I wanted to do. It was the perfect vacation.
The hardest part about leaving was leaving behind my family that I met in Athens and Chorafakia. They were the highlight of the trip for me. In both instances our family was welcomed with open arms and an unquestionable embrace of love. Even our cousins in Chorafakia that we discovered on this trip. My feelings for them and the moments we shared are hard to put into words — it just makes me more grateful for family.
I shared a bunch of my trip on social media — some on Facebook and mostly on Instagram. I have over 200 pictures spread across both @josherwalla and @ketoshua, but I thought I’d share a few of highlights here on the bloggy blog. But, feel free to browse my pictures on Instagram — again, I have tons.
I also have tons of pictures I never even posted on social media.
I won’t recap the entire trip, but I will share some of the pictures from each location. Enjoy the pictures.
We flew into Paris on a red eye flight from Dallas. Half of our party was staying three days, while the other half was flying to Rome for a couple days (including me). After landing we crashed for a couple hours and hit the town — mainly the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower — with dinner afterwards. It was long and tiring, but fun day in Paris.
Because of the long night in Paris, I only got two hours of sleep before leaving for the airport to catch a flight to Rome. We couldn’t crash at the hotel when we landed like Paris, because it was an Airbnb — so it was a very looooong day. We took a city tour bus that ended up being about a two hour nap for us. We got in the Colosseum and some other places, but we got back to the Airbnb room and crashed around 5pm for the night.
The next day was spent mostly at the Vatican City along with Trevi Fountains and eating lots of gelato. Probably too much. But, that’s debatable.
The following day we left Rome for Athens and the next leg of our trip.
We flew into Athens on Sunday and met up with our family at the airport. After getting situated in our Airbnb, we headed to the Valavanis for dinner. We ATE and ATE and ATE! It was a great evening. One that won’t be forgotten. We spent about 5 days in Athens — touring Corinth, Nafpoli, The Acropolis, Marathon and around Athens.
We spent Thanksgiving Day in Athens — first with a little family Turkey Trot in the Olympic Stadium. We had a brother’s sprint contest — Freedom won. I came in fourth (which is last), but as I told my brothers — challenge me in a marathon or longer and I’ll win! We had a meal with the Valavanis that night with some amazing Greek food — the best Thanksgiving ever.
It was perfect.
I’ve made my pilgrimage to the homeland as a Greek and now as a runner. I’ve made it to the birthplace of the marathon, where Pheidippides famously ran from to Athens to tell of the victory over the Persians. It was hard not to think about my journey, my first marathon and the places running has taken me. My trip is nearly complete with this visit. 💙🇬🇷
I made friends with a stray dog at Corinth. I know I shouldn’t have gotten attached (or touched him for that matter), but we’re basically BFFs now. Since he’s from Corinths I named him Paul. It was only fitting. He’s likes face kisses, half eaten granola bars and road side rubbish. I’ll miss Paul, but I’m 99.99% sure I’m not getting him past customs let alone into the family’s rental van.
Cheese pie … yum! Basically a feta cheese street food, that was the perfect bridge between meals while out shopping. ———————————————————— #ketoshua #fitness #wellness #health #running #runnerslife #runner #run #weightloss #weightlossjourney #hashimotos #hashimotoswarrior #thyroid #hypothyroidism #workout #wod #instarunner #run4fun #runningcommunity #keto #ketodiet #ketonics #ketorunner #cheesepie #feta #streetfood #greekfood #athens #greece ———————————————————— @ketoshua @josherwalla @joshruns180 ———————————————————— Follow my blog at www.phatjosh.com
I don’t recall what this was called (it was all in Greek), but my cousin explained this was a traditional dish eaten in Smyrna, Turkey where our family was from before being displaced during the Greek Holocaust. It was touching having that connection to this dish. It felt like an honor enjoying it with family connected to that past. ———————————————————— #ketoshua #fitness #wellness #health #running #runnerslife #runner #run #weightloss #weightlossjourney #hashimotos #hashimotoswarrior #thyroid #hypothyroidism #workout #wod #instarunner #run4fun #runningcommunity #keto #ketodiet #ketonics #ketorunner #athens #greece #thanksgiving #thanksgivingdinner #feast #notketo———————————————————— @ketoshua @josherwalla @joshruns180 ———————————————————— Follow my blog at www.phatjosh.com
On Friday we flew from Athens to Crete. The 40 minute flight was highlighted pretty much by a 40 minute tantrum from Thalia. We might have disowned her for about 40 minutes. We spent a night in Heraklion before driving to Chania and the western part of the island where my Propapou was born.
The mission of our trip to Crete was two fold — one, see the island and, two, find any family members. We don’t much about my Propapou’s family. His life is quite remarkable — he was born in a cave on the island and then joined the army at 17 where he eventually met and saved my Yia Yia in Symra during the Greek Holocaust in the early 1920s.
On Sunday we did find family in Chorafakia — a whole clan of them! It was amazing how we came as strangers and were immediately embraced as family with a bond that was unshakable. It was amazing. Amazing. They invited us to dinner that night, but we had other plans — so we came back the following day and we ate like kings!
They shot a wild goat for us that morning and fed us some wonderful food — Greek salad, lemon rice pilaf, weed salad something or other (how’s that for a guess? It was really good though!) and other traditional Greek foods. It was perfect. It was hard to leave and many of us left with tears in our eyes for the newfound family. This was the highlight of the trip for me.
Cretan Paella with mussels, shrimps and saffron (ie-love). This is the dish I wanted this whole trip — and I got it! ———————————————————— #ketoshua #fitness #wellness #health #running #runnerslife #runner #run #weightloss #weightlossjourney #hashimotos #hashimotoswarrior #thyroid #hypothyroidism #workout #wod #instarunner #run4fun #runningcommunity #keto #ketodiet #ketonics #ketorunner #cretanpaella #paella #seafood #notketo #dinner #crete #greece ———————————————————— @ketoshua @josherwalla @joshruns180 ———————————————————— Follow my blog at www.phatjosh.com
This is the life. A slice of heaven here in Crete. ———————————————————— #ketoshua #fitness #wellness #health #running #runnerslife #runner #run #weightloss #weightlossjourney #hashimotos #hashimotoswarrior #thyroid #hypothyroidism #workout #wod #instarunner #run4fun #runningcommunity #keto #ketodiet #ketorunner #greece #crete #villaveggera #greecetrip #poolside #island ———————————————————— @ketoshua @josherwalla @joshruns180 ———————————————————— Follow my blog at www.phatjosh.com
I felt like we experienced our own episode of Who Do You Think You Are? today here in Greece. One of the reasons we came here to Crete was to connect with family from my Propapou’s (Great Grandpa) side of the family. And, we found them! I can’t tell you the joy and tears of happiness as we discovered our Tsitidakis cousins in the hometown of my propapou. We came unannounced and as strangers, but we were quickly embraced with a familial love and warmth as we visited and compared our family lines and relations. This has been a great day. One, that’s been too long in happening. But, I look forward to tomorrow when we’ll meet again and strengthen this newly found bond! Οι οικογένειες είναι για πάντα 💙🇬🇷
Just like spanakopita, the tyropita here in Greece is diverse and delicious. We were greeted at our villa tonight with a honey drizzled tyropita. 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼 ———————————————————— #ketoshua #fitness #wellness #health #running #runnerslife #runner #run #weightloss #weightlossjourney #hashimotos #hashimotoswarrior #thyroid #hypothyroidism #workout #wod #instarunner #run4fun #runningcommunity #keto #ketodiet #ketorunner #notketo #tyropita #greece #crete #cretegreece #cheesepie #cheese ———————————————————— @ketoshua @josherwalla @joshruns180 ———————————————————— Follow my blog at www.phatjosh.com
Our cousins gifted my father this beautiful cross handmade needle work lace made by my propapou’s sister-in-law. This is a significant gift and a heirloom passed down generation to generation — my aunt was given the hand stitched cross my Yia Yia made which will be handed down to my cousin. This was beyond touching and an example of the embrace we now cling to after being out of contact with each other for years.
I found another runner in the family! This is my cousin Michael and we’ve both tread similar paths. He’s lost over 45 kilos (around 100lbs) through running and exercise. He’s done a number of marathons and other races. We invited him to the US and Utah and I told him when he comes we’ll go run! 🏃🏻🏃🏻💙🇬🇷
Somewhere, not far, from these cliffs my propapou was born in a cave sometime in November at the tail end of (one of many) a conflict with the Turks. Women and children hid in these hills and caves to protect themselves from the Turks. It wasn’t until years later that my propapou adopted November 10 as his birthday because it happened to be his friends’ birthday. He had no confirmed date of his birth. Being here is humbling. Finding family here has been a blessing. This place holds my heart as I contemplate this humble beginning and the hopes and dreams my propapou held that propelled him toward America. 💙🇬🇷
After leaving Crete, we made our way to Paris via Athens. We had one more day in Paris and we were torn on how to use it. Some of us wanted to do Versailles, others Disneyland, while some wanted to do the Louvre. We settled on Disneyland, but switched to Versailles last minute because it turned out rainy and cold.
Versailles was neat — over the top neat. It really made you sympathize with the French Revolution. The opulence was too much. Beautiful, but it made you thankful for our government and constitution — even as crazy as it might be right now.
But, needless to say, I was in AWE of the amount of detail on Versailles and the palace. It was nothing short of amazing.
This was truly a life changing trip. I had a blast. I was able to reconnect with family — connect with others. I was able to see some amazing places and just forget about work, running and everyday life for two weeks. It was perfect.
It really makes me want to travel more. I want to see more of Europe — the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and Norway. I want to connect with family there if I can.
But, I will also come back to Greece. I made the promise to my cousin that I will come and run the Athens Marathon in 2019. That’s the goal. I want to start planning that trip, because I plan on visiting Crete and my family there as well. Greece became more than just where I’m from, it really became home for me during the trip.
It was hard to leave Greece — but, as I told my cousins — I don’t believe in goodbyes, just see you laters!
So, Europe and Greece — see you later!