In this Journal, I will attempt to strip away my protective veneer to view and communicate honestly what the truth is as I perceive it. My intent is to grow, for without an honest evaluation of the truth, how else can one fully absorb life's more difficult lessons and benefit by them. If I do this in secret, then I am still hiding behind a protective veneer, so it is being published online. If you find this Journal, you are welcome to read it and hopefully grow from it as well. If you like, you can also share some of your own lessons in life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kyle & Family Vacation, 8/1/17 - 8/21/17

Kyle and Diane, and their sons Keoni (age 17) and Ikaika (age 4) went to Sicily, Croatia and Greece. The following three-part series written by Kyle is a funny summation of the trip:


          Dear Family,
First my apologies to any and all who could not enjoy the remaining days of summer because you were awaiting my vacation recap(s).  At work, I'm deeper in focus on raising money for our latest fund and focusing with the team on the "high" stress that is marijuana operations.  Getting into relaxation mode happened but not without more difficult struggles than usual.  I am grateful that I have such smart and dedicated people in my life so that I can duck away for 3 weeks with Diane, Keoni and Ikaika.

The vision was clear: I would NOT be leading the family in a last second, beat the door before closing in an OJ'esque dash through LAX.  Unlike the Hertz commercial where the people cheered old #32 on, Diane never appreciated my extreme efficiency.  This time would be different!  I would leave the office early, we had a car ready to relaxingly drive us to the airport and I'd enjoy a spot of tea in the luxury lounge like the English Gentleman I've always aspired to be.

I left the office early, arrived home to the family and Diane put my suitcase into the elevator to add with the other 3 and gave me instructions to turn the power off of televisions, computers and air conditioning.  Check, check and check.

Into the car and the driver gave me a reassuring head nod that smooth sailing was ahead.  Arrival at the International gate with 2 hours before our flight was to depart.  Unheard of time to decide between Chamomile and Jasmine, perhaps I would enjoy a cup of each.

The driver unloaded the luggage and my suitcase was still sitting ready for vacation in the elevator at home.  Thankfully however, the televisions and computers were powered off!

I insisted that Diane and the boys go to the lounge while I waited for my Mommy (big thanks to mom!) who kindly drove to the house and brought my bag to the airport.  That dreamed of idle time was used to stare at the smokers who sit curbside presumably also waiting for their mothers.  Crisis averted, a quick dash to the lounge to pick up the family and off the Swiss Air for our journey to Sicily via Zurich.

It is never too early for a frothy glass of German beer and a pretzel when in a Germanic country.  Even an airport...  For you loyal readers of my off beat food tastes, you may remember that there is a kiosk in the Munich train station which sells wonderful sausages.  To the family's dismay, I can't pass without patronizing this wonderful institution of gastronomical indulgence.

Sicily was the first stop.  The rationale was that it was going to be hot in August in Europe so all visits would be near the water and Keoni loves 🇮🇹.  We stayed in a lovely hotel on the island of Ortigia.

Plenty of pizza (not for your favorite cheese-avoiding author of course), pasta and gelato.  We hiked the volcano Mount Etna (we actually took shuttles up the mountain due to the small legs and feet of Ikaika) and saw the steam rising from this active mountain.

Of note on this leg of the trip was the afternoon we spent on the beach which the hotel rents that is a 20 minute boat ride away.  I brought my book Shoe Dog (thank you Laura) which I was close to completing and simply wanted to read as a way to get into relaxation mode.  After sitting a while and enjoying the lovely setting, the littlest person in our group came over and said, "Dad, is it important to you for everyone to have a good time?"  I responded that it was and he said. "I am not having a good time and you need to take me in the water."  Indeed I did...

Off to Split, Croatia.  We thoroughly enjoyed Croatia.  The people are friendly and happy you chose their country to visit.  The Dalmatian coast is beautiful and we stayed in a Starwood (note: paying with points!) about 20 minutes in an Uber from the city center.  Note that when you laughingly waive off your wife after she wants to hail a van at the airport in favor of saving a few Kunas for an Uber, it might backfire when the online ride shows up in a Yugo (perhaps if my mother hadn't have brought that 4th suitcase to the airport, we could have bungied it all in - thanks a lot Mom!).

Back to the van idea and the eye roll from Diane and we were off to the hotel.  Keoni's job (assigned, not volunteered) was to arrange tours.  We went on a walking tour of the old city which was actually a retirement palace for Diocletian from the 4th Century.  Very interesting and a lot of apartments were built over the centuries inside the old city and can be purchased to rent out through Air BnB.

Ikaika got some pool time (a given wherever we stay) and Keoni wanted to scuba dive with me so that we could explore the Adriatic Sea.  It would violate one of my key diving rules (only dive where a wetsuit is NOT needed).  We went to the dive shop at the hotel and all dives were booked for the time we were in Split but there was a chance she could get the dive master / captain to come in on his day off to take us out.  So 3x the price in comparison to the dive boat and we were off with Captain Vlado (who I found out later was the co-dive shop owner and boyfriend of the woman who told us everything was booked up).  
We enjoyed some great art including a visit to Ivan Mestrovich's (štrović) estate / museum and we liked the gallery of work at our hotel by Vasko Lipovac (  After asking the staff a couple of times about purchasing a piece, we googled and Ubered to his studio.  We met his son (Vasko is deceased) who is enjoying his father's rising popularity.  We bought a signed print and they are contemplating selling an original.  

Diane decided that we should go on a tour of a national park.  The concierge arranged for us to join a large group on a bus.  I must confess that this is not my favorite way to see anything.  Crowds and Kyle do not go particularly well together.  That said, the park was beautiful along with the many waterfalls and we were worn out by days end

Our favorite dive-shop sold us on 20 minutes of SeaBob time.  These are mini-rockets to hold on to and take you around above and below the water.  Keoni and I enjoyed playing with them!

A car was arranged to drive us the 2 hours + to our next Croatian city.

Dubrovnik is a wonderfully preserved Medieval town with a fun and frankly amazing history.  Suffice to say their past revolves around trading / business and they were able to stave off being taken over by the Ottomans among different marauding empires by offering to pay a tax.  They were Christians and Catholics but also welcomed some Jewish people as well.  I highly recommend a visit to this city...

We decided to walk the top of the walls around the town one late afternoon and the heat from our entire time in Europe finally caught up with us..  While on the wall, Ikaika started throwing up.  Not an easy situation but we cleaned up the mess on the wall, got him hydrated and off to bed.

Next was our flight to Athens.  It has been 28 years since I visited this city and have fond memories of the Acropolis as being part of the Kazan Five.

From the beginning of this trip I have been battling yet another stye.  Before taking matters into my own hands (or in this case fingers), I sent a photo to Dr. Clayton.  

He advised me to go and see an ophthalmologist to have it lanced and cleaned properly.

At the airport, I called ahead to the concierge at the very nice hotel in Athens where we were heading to and asked him to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.  Upon arrival, we had a taxi waiting for us and an appointment so Keoni and I headed out while Diane and Ikaika made the obligatory visit to the hotel pool.

When I shared the advice I received with my new eye doctor, she asked if my brother was an ophthalmologist. I told her no and worse yet, he trained at UCLA (which she taught me in Greek letters spell DUMB). She said it was too infected for her to open and advised me to buy some medication to calm it down. The visit and the medication cost me about €50.  

Dinner at a street café was superb. Kebabs and pita bread and yes, more gelato made for a lovely welcome to Athens.

The concierge described our tour options. This time, I opted to see the Peloponnese via private van with a tour guide instead of with 60 new friends on a bus.  That painful shot to my wallet was a prophetically good choice as the heat now caught up to Keoni.

After crossing the bridge into the Peloponnese, we arrived at Mycenae which was a city/state built over 3,500 years ago.  Keoni felt nauseous and tired so he opted to skip the walk and lay on a bench with Ikaika.  He wasn't getting any better as we drove to the site of a tomb so he opted to stay in the van.

Unfortunately, things went downhill as he started throwing up and feeling terrible. We were now in search of a medical clinic but first we opted to wake up Dr. Clayton at 3 AM in Los Angeles. Keoni was on the ground in a parking lot throwing up as the good doctor told us he needed some IVs and anti-nausea medication.

We visited 2 medical clinics in this city (about 2 hours from Athens) and the medical care/service was abhorrent. Long waits with no triage caused us to seek other alternatives as Keoni's condition worsened.

The concierge at the hotel organized an appointment at a private hospital in Athens. My idea of sipping water only caused more vomiting. We had a stressful ride for over two hours with Keoni moaning while laying in my arms.  

The hospital or better described as medical clinic was far better than the first two places we visited. The doctor agreed with Clayton's diagnosis and said Keoni would be fine after getting some fluids into his body through an IV.  My biggest struggle was to get them to give him the IV. I did not understand the delay as I became more anxious/agitated until our tour guide asked me if I would pay €780.  I angrily said yes but that they needed to give him the IV right now.

The story ended happily as they did as I asked and the IVs magically brought Keoni back to life.  As an aside, I have traveled around the world and have made use of medical facilities inside and outside of our country.  We need a nationalized healthcare plan in the US that maintains a profit motive as the only hospital we visited gave us service because they were profiting. The other two left people in the hallway and the behind the scenes description from our tour guide (whose sister is a doctor) was a civil-service nightmare. She said the nurse spent 15 minutes telling her why she could not come out and see Keoni for two minutes.

Back to the hotel to meet up with Diane and Ikaika as I asked them to do some pool time instead of waiting in a germ filled building.  The next day was to be the Acropolis and that is when the heat hit me…
Apologies for the long Part 1.  When we left off, Keoni had returned to life after our tour guide and driver were kind enough to audible from antiquities into a fun romp through the Greek health care system.

As an aside (to avoid a political statement, skip this paragraph), I've had much time to think about health care since Dr. Bruin made clear we've always had nationalized health care albeit totally inefficiently through the ER.  We as a country decided long ago that we wouldn't let people die even if they couldn't pay (I've seen many a credit report with BK's because noninsured couldn't pay the bill for a serious illness however if that was the only issue, we still rented to them because we understood that our system was so screwed up).  And Diane and I were rejected due to preexisting conditions.  As I'd like to both maintain the finest hospitals / health care available on the planet and take the burden off of American businesses (puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to almost every other nation), I'm in favor of Medicare for all.  Then the hospitals and drug companies can compete for the business so we don't have a DMV style health care.  If anyone would like to debate this with me, I have bottles of wine, a nice view and more anecdotal stories (some including vomit as you've read) at the ready...

We were advised by Dr. Hippocrates locally and The Medical Director for LA County Fire via phone that Keoni should take it easy and introduce clear liquids back into his system.  As soon as we got back to the hotel, he asked if I would go down to the jacuzzi with him.  Being the absentminded parent that I seem to be (remember that 100% of my children suffered from heat exhaustion within 72 hours), I said sure and off we went.  There was no jacuzzi so Keoni said that a steam bath would be good for my eye (quick update on the eye was that after applying some medicine, the gigantic abscess <the family called it my 3rd eye> quietly drained but now appeared to be making a comeback).  So into a room to cause profuse sweating went the young man who just recovered from heat exhaustion along with Father of the Year (FOY).  Within the first minute FOY said, this is not smart and the not yet sweating duo exited the hot box.

Both boys wanted room service.  Before FOY could remind everyone that elegant street food just a few blocks away was 1/3 of the price, Keoni was ordering spaghetti, pizza and ice cream.  I'm no chef so as FOY, I made mention to my 17 year old that absolutely none of that order sounded like clear liquid.  I didn't want to hear negativity so Dr. Firehouse wasn't called.

The boys were settled and off to save some Euros for Diane and me as we dined with the people.  If you are keeping score at home, I had a very tasty chicken Giro and cold Greek beer.  Diane had a Greek salad which befuddled me as I would think when ordering in Greece, you should only need to say "salad."

I woke up the morning excited as it was our last full day in Athens and we were scheduled for a tour of the Acropolis.  Shocking news, Keoni slept great except for waking up in the middle of the night to throw up the 🍕, 🍝 and 🍦.  Other than being quite hungry for breakfast, he said he felt normal.

After a nice buffet breakfast (yes, I had my usual green drink plus a waffle and almond milk hot cocoa), we were off to the Archaeological Museum.  It should be noted that the day was again quite hot and I got walking directions from the restaurant manager.  As we wandered out into the fiery inferno which was Athens, things could not have been more positive.

After about 45 minutes, it became clear that the directions I was following were taking us to the Acropolis.  Keoni, always the supportive son  laughingly said, "Dad, you have taken us in the opposite direction."

In the interest of not retracing steps and not because we felt like we were waking on the sun, I ordered an Uber which whisked us to the museum where we would have one and a half hours to take in a couple of centuries of artifacts.

Within 20 minutes, someone pulled the pin which drained me of all energy and simultaneously took my stomach and put it into a washing machine. Thinking back of Ikaika coating the walls of the old city in Dubrovnik and Keoni leaving his mark around ancient Hellenistic sites, I started looking around for the best place to discreetly deposit my breakfast.

I told the family that I think it best for me to Uber back to the hotel.  That said, I shared that this had been a big deal for me to see the Acropolis again on this trip and perhaps if I just got a rest on a bench in the lobby of the museum, I might be able to pull off a second wind.

After vying with the crowd for an empty bench, I was able to procure one where I laid down and passed out.  I had a plan that if a staff member came over and asked me to give up my peaceful sanctuary, I would tell him/her that my back was flaring which is why I put my feet up on the bench.  That would be foolproof!

I was left alone for the better part of 30 minutes until Diane and the boys came over and oddly at the same time so did a female staff member. She asked what I was doing and while Diane told her that I was not feeling well, I tee'ed up the lie about my back being hurt.

Diane instantly became alarmed and said, "oh my God you've hurt your back!"  I was not prepared for this conundrum so I just looked it Diane and said "please!?!?!"  Thankfully, the woman just walked away, likely figuring that this couple had bigger issues than my multiple ailments...

I decided the goal of seeing the acropolis with the family was worth risking almost certain death and the likely event of sharing the contents of my stomach with hordes of tourists. Off to the Acropolis museum where we met the tour guide whom Keoni had arranged.  

No word short of heroic (Zues-like) should be used to describe my making it through the museum and then hiking up the Acropolis.  In fact, if there was no Hanukkah, I'm pretty sure we'd all be buying 4 candle menorahs to signify each hour that I kept my food down.  Note: I didn't wake up Dr. Condescending as I did not need groggy applause from half a world away.

Goal completed and I wanted nothing more than some room service and early slumber.  Room service for the family (I encouraged them to go out and enjoy <discounted> Athens but they kept me company) as I ate soup and bread.

The next day we were off to the airport for our flight to Santorini.  Everyone felt great or at least nobody appeared to be turning green.

We arrived on this lovely island and noted a warm (not hot) sea breeze.  Our hotel is a repurposed 400 year old winery up in the hills surrounded by a quaint (albeit one can buy Santorini tchotchkes) town.

While in Split, we had dinner with a potential investor in the marijuana fund from Manhattan Beach named Groovy Singh (what else would someone named Groovy want to invest in?).  He said that his buddy in Santorini could hook us up for a catamaran cruise.  I called the buddy Sasa and he said that our best option was a private (of course!) in the morning instead of the semi-private afternoon/sunset cruise which seemed like the best deal.  Given this trip's propensity for needing to deviate from the standard tour, I opted to pay up for the private which was coincidently manned by Sasa's girlfriend and a nice Greek captain. 

We had a wonderful time and I rushed to put this update together before we do a two hour hike which is a top-five thing to do here on this island. I did not want to leave you in suspense with my ominous ending to the first update.

As we are in the final third of our vacation, the clock calendar is moving much faster for us then the rest of the world. Tomorrow, Keoni has arranged for us to again violate my rule of scuba diving while wearing a wetsuit.

Please make sure you mark in your scorecard that we took advantage of the free cocktail hour yesterday (Keoni tried Ouzo for the first time) and they have another one on Wednesday.  If you absolutely need to know where I will be, you can find me surrounded by my relaxed family at cocktail hour in a couple of days :-)

With love,
Kyle The Greek


          Dear Family,
When I ended my last missive, we were preparing for a leisurely 2 hour hike from Fira to Oia.  Instead of doing a quick Google search, I took the advice of a guy (who seemed smart) at the first cocktail hour and from two fun ladies at the front desk who seemed sure of themselves when saying it was an easy, flat two hour stroll.  They did mention that they'd never done it but they were Greek so...

The taxi dropped us off in Fira at 6:30 pm (sunset was about 8:10 pm) and up the first hill we climbed.  The city of Fira is magical and was built on the cliffs above the ocean.  Layers of restaurants, hotels, bars, apartments stacked like stairs down the steep terrain.  

It didn't take long for my fellow hikers to become a peanut gallery questioning why we were doing the hike, the tour planning (why didn't we stay here? - about 50x at nearly every hotel we passed) along with a general airing of grievances like I was their shop steward.

It did alarm me when we asked a couple of different shopkeepers early in the trek if we were heading the right way and they looked at us in bewilderment and said, "you guys aren't going now are you?!?!?!"  When quizzed, they backed off and said no problem but you will need water.
As the sun was disappearing in the distance while we were about 1.5 hours in, the cute old city setting (civilization) turned rustic and very hilly (ups and downs).  The peanut gallery turned painfully quiet and that great guy who booked the two boat rides was now Captain Bligh or more appropriately, the poor leader of the Donner Party.

If we weren't going down an extreme decline or challenging incline, we were temporarily dumped onto the skinny highway which was filled with motorcycles, cars, quad runners and busses (yes, we were the pedestrians hugging the weeds on the side).  A funny thing when you take advice from the guy at the bar, you realize that asking a few questions of this traveling know it all might have been advisable.  For instance, will Monday evening be a moonless night?  It was, UGH!

As the happy hikers trudged along and hit the 2.5 hour mark, the lights of our iPhones lit the way.  By this point Diane became an agitated mute while Ikaika asked me for the umpteenth time who played with me at PV High School and USC and what were their numbers.  A nice distraction except that I barely remembered what number I wore over 20 years BI (Before Ikaika).  When he asked Diane, the clear impression I got was that #14 on USC was no longer her favorite player and dating him (much less marrying him) was what led her to this death march.

3 hours in and Oia is in site as we walk down another sharp decline.  And then I saw them, stairs towards a road!  Yes!!!!

Your fearless leader noted what looked like a restaurant off in the distance (did I fail to mention that besides tired and angry, the tribe was dying of hunger too?).  Indeed it was and thankfully a very good one which served seemingly all kinds of food.  The team came back to life, ate and laughed heartily but failed to thank the visionary responsible for their newfound happiness...

Time for a cab ride back (phone call to a longtime investor who decided on joining the new green fund) and off to bed.  Keoni had organized a dive the next morning.

We are now in a dive shop putting on our 5mm wetsuits (reason #16 for not liking wetsuits: wearing clothing which the last several wearers urinated in) and then walking out to get into the boat.  The little skiff took Keoni and me, a nice Columbia guy (his nom de plume shall be Pablo Escobar) and 8 or so snorkelers out to sea.  The Captain / owner of the company was a Spanish guy who left the trading desk during the crisis so that he could chainsmoke before and after diving.

Into the water went Keoni, Pablo, Marlboro Man and me.  We dove into a volcanic cave (flashlights were given) and into some "swim throughs."  All in all a very nice dive including a wall filled with sponges in different radiant colors.

My neck was tired so I sat the 2nd dive out and paddled around with the snorkelers.  Back to the hotel and pool (yes, Ikiaka needed more pool time).  It should be noted that besides swimming in chlorine, our 4 year old can't accept any suggestion or order without a discussion.  For instance when I say, let's go to the beach, a likely response would be, "Daddy, lets go to the pool."  When I persist, it is now, "Daddy, ok but let's go to the pool after. Ok?"  If one says, "ok" or "fine Ikaika," consider it a contract signed in blood which he will not forget (or let you forget about).

Dinner in the old city in which our hotel is located and off to bed.  The next day, we took the hotel shuttle to the beach and enjoyed a quiet day relaxing.  Yes, they served chocolate shakes delivered right to the lounges under the straw umbrellas.  Multiple rounds of those along with steaks for Keoni and Ikaika (when Keoni eats, it typically includes 2 orders of everything).

Dinner in Fira (yes, the city which began our triumphant stride to Oia a couple nights earlier) and off to bed.

Sea Jet (big, fast boat) to Mykonos the next day.  As we waited on the dock (after the taxi driver serpentined down the cliff side road and kept saying "relax lady" to the gasping one in the back seat), I watched the Sea Jet whisk in about 30 minutes late.  A large group of people shuttled off as did many cars before we like a giant hoard of refugees raced aboard.  Once inside the bowels of this gigantic ferry, the back doors rolled up and the boat took off while we all deposited luggage and looked for our seats.  Perfect organized chaos!

Mykonos was a party island 28 years ago.  A gigantic blend of gay and straight revelers jammed the place.  Not much has changed in this city except a perfect night for me starts with the enjoyment of the sunset and then a few hours later, I'm Fred Mertz (sans the sleeping cap) wondering why these young whippersnappers insist on the debauchery and hullabaloo until morn.  

When our travel agent asked if transfers should be arranged (rides from trains, planes or boats to the hotel), I thought "why waste money?"  Interestingly on Mykonos, there are very few cabs yet a big line of people at the cab stand (did I mention there was no proof that cabs would actually be coming?)...

I saw a Stereotypical Greek guy (not Zorba but a hairy fat guy with a dirty t-shirt and a cigarette hanging out if his mouth) roll up in a 3 wheeled contraption which would be lucky to hold the 4 of us much less our bags.  As I was fighting the exasperation of the family (yes more eye rolls), I negotiated as my best hope for a solution (even if I had to put my wonderful walking skills to use).  We came to a totally unfair deal (again, I'm under pressure but am frustrated about being screwed) so I asked him to help me load the bags.  He said, "can't, bad back."  I said' "me too" to which he responded, "this won't work, I find other people.."

Diane looked at me and I nodded to her knowingly as if to say, this is all going to plan.  I often forget that Diane has seen this look a few times over 31 years and sadly she knows that the majority of time, the emperor has no clothes and is just figuring it out...

Turns out the hotel will send a free van with a call and presto, 10 minutes later, we are picked up.  Just as I planned it!

The old city of Mykonos is one which is fun to simply wander and not worry about getting lost.  Eventually you'll pop out by the water.

We had sunset drinks on the waterfront in "Little Venice" along with gyros and kebabs for dinner.  Plus our nightly helping of gelato (yes, plenty of fat free dessert)...

The next morning Keoni had arranged another dive.  That boy can not get enough search time for the Lost City of Atlantis.

We were to be in two dive groups.  Ours included a nice couple from Orlando who were "Advanced" in their certification.  Your humble author has dove over 100 times and has done everything necessary to achieve this certification except go through the class and pay the fee.  I try never to offer advice unless asked or if I see that it is desperately needed (potential safety issue).  Ms. Orlando the Advanced took it upon herself to tell me that it was easier to put on my wetsuit if I put my foot in first.  I guess she figured it was even money that I might attempt to put my head through one of the leg openings and wanted to save me from the embarrassment.

Keoni and I rolled into the water (yes, another day and another 5mm urine sponge wrapped around me) and awaited the dive guide's signal to descend.  Thumb down and I release the air from my BC and I sink to the bottom with Keoni.  The non-Advanced waited while those with the pedigree did some sort of hand over hand maneuver down the anchor line.  After finally reaching bottom, the dream team swam about 100 meters (yes, the Europeans insist on using that logical system of measurement) to a shipwreck.  

Not so funny story about this tourist site is a cargo ship had engine trouble in a storm between two islands (about 500 meters from the dive spot).  A rescue bot arrived which towed the vessel over a reef and caused water to rush into the cargo hold that was loaded with bags of quick drying cement.  And now Keoni, the dive guide, Micky and Minnie from Orlando and I are enjoying the view of this sunken insurance claim.

After puttering around for a short while, Minnie the diver, Phd, gave the signal for half of her air being gone.  WTF, really?!?!?!  We swam back to the anchor line at which point she failed to recognize that when rising in depth, one needs to dump air out of the BC or the diver turns into a cork which shoots to the surface.  The guide rushed over to assist since she was trying to release air in a prone position with the valve below her BC (for you non-divers, this is a Barnum and Bailey show which is not likely to end tragically but a reminder that paper accomplishments can give false confidence).  Once all of the divers were holding on to the anchor chain and preparing to surface, the dive guide came over to Keoni and me who were hanging out in the reef safely away from the Big Top (the other dive group was also not impressive either) to check our air supply.  Since we had plenty remaining, we enjoyed a peaceful trek around some large rock formations (he took us with the current which moved us along and was quite fun).

Up on the boat and the 5 minute ride back to shore where we drank some water and chilled out.  "That was my first shipwreck" declared Minnie.  I nodded while I hurriedly took off my wetsuit before she wrote out instructions for me.

Keoni needed another dive so the trio headed back out with the dive guide and the boat captain.   My sore neck and I paddled around a lovely beach.  For those of you wondering if I was in need of another trip to the eye clinic, the answer is not yet.  The salt water, I believe has really done wonders to put everything back in place.  I do "eye therapy" (swimming with my eyes open in the ocean) every chance I get.  The Aegean is chilly but refreshing and clear.

Back to the hotel where Diane and Ikaika (you guessed it) were at the pool.  At the Grace Mykonos Hotel, there were many lovely rooms with stunning ocean views and inviting jacuzzis on their balconies.  Ours had neither and as if Ikaika had designed this hotel, we had adjoining rooms feet from the pool and pool bar.  Our view: the pool....

Since we weren't paying with points, I was more than happy to make our four year old ecstatic and save a few Drachmas... 

The dive guide told us that we should enjoy the sunset from a bar above the old city called 180 degrees.  We did just that and you know the evening is a winner when people cheer the sunset.

The next day, we walked down (about 100 meters) to the beach.  For 7 1/2 euros each, we could rent a lounge under an umbrella for the day.  While there is nothing too good for my family, I thought as a tribute to those beachgoers back home, we would simply lay our towels on to the sand.  We did until everyone was hungry and back up the 100 meters to the pool where steaks and fries were immediately ordered.

Yes, another island, another dive (check) and of course the family is addicted to private boat charters.  The owner picked us up and drove us to his sailboat where two crew members took us out for snorkeling, dinner and a sunset sail (sort of).  It should be noted that we went by the island of Delos whose city/state had a population of approximately 35,000.  They were traders and lived there about 1,000 years BC.  There is evidence that the Greeks welcomed Persians, Egyptians and Jews to live and worship as they pleased.  Amazing that 3,000 years later, our world struggles with this...

So as we turn past Delos and begin heading home with the wind behind us, I ask if they will be raising the main sail (they had only raised the front sail - same earlier in the cruise).  They said that the main sail was damaged a few days earlier but would be repaired tomorrow.  The Diesel engine continued to push our "sail boat along."  For those of you who think I'm unreasonably going off course again (remember the gouging in Seoul last year after I was told they had no fruits), not being told that there will be no sailing on your sailing cruise is like taking Ikaika to Disney World and find out that Mickey and Minnie are diving in Mykonos...

We tipped the crew handsomely as they made for a lovely afternoon and sunset.  As Keoni said immediately after the owner dropped us back at our hotel, "the ride was awkward."  The discussion was straight forward although he quizzed my knowledge about sailing ("the front sail was up, yes?") We came to an agreement that a small refund was due given that there was no disclosure given prior to the trip.  Diane agreed with me and gave me the compliment(?), "nice job Dick."  She often graces me with this phrase when I order piping hot cocoa which I like to pour into my cup (instead of being served - to keep it piping of course).  There is an assumption on my part that she means the name and not the body part...

The next day was beach/pool/steaks until the Sea Jet took us to Athens.

Once there, we checked into our hotel which is literally in the middle of Athens airport.  Jamie introduced me to the CEO of Eurobank and he and I agreed to meet for a drink at the hotel bar.  It should be noted that Canada's Warren Buffett (a friend of Jamie's) was part of the recapitalization of Eurobank in 2014 and 2015.  Fokion is a very nice and interesting guy with whom Keoni and I spent just over an hour.

Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don't want thoughts on the Greek economy.  Fokion shared that prior to the financial crisis, unemployment was about 7%.  The peak was 27% and it is now at 21%.  He said the only comparison for Greece's pain was the Great Depression in the 1930's in the US.  Banks have been recapitalized (the 2015 round was due to the Grexit vote which alarmed investors - the Greeks voted out but the govt didn't exit the EU).  Property. Laura from peak to trough plummeted by 40% which made half of the loan book "non-perform" (NPL). The ECB is allowing Eurobank to sell 40% of their NPL by the end of 2019.  He said wages are stagnant although people are fearful more austerity (wage cuts / taxes) are coming (I verified this from conversations in Ubers, hotels and restaurants during the trip).  The bank used to have a commercial property division which was spun off and Fairfax (Canada's Berkshire Hathaway) has a controlling interest.  Market cap of the bank is about 2 billion euros while the REIT is about 1 billion euros.  He said positives are tourism is doing great with some high end hotels coming into the market (Four Seasons Athens), German investment in Greek airports, Chinese investment in the port of Athens which he believes will be the European hub for Asian goods along with wind and solar energy.  The commercial property values have already starting moving up while residential has not.  There are no large apartment blocks and units are bought one by one (although my guess is that portfolios can be purchased from the banks as part of their NPL books).  There are no residential REITs but the Fairfax owned property company is looking to get into this space.  He thought leverage was available for a residential fund of at least 60% LTV or higher depending on the strength of the borrower and that leverage returns could be 8-10%.

Jamie and I should discuss further as this smells very interesting...

The hotel made me my green blend, delivered it at 5:30 am, opened the fitness room for me at 5:45 am and checked us out at 7 am.  I am completing this on our flight from Athens to Zurich and will hit send as I search for that special Germanic pretzel and beer before jumping on that jet airliner bound for home.

A great time spent with Diane, Keoni and the 4 year old debater ;-)

Thanks for reading (or skimming),
Kyle the Sicilian, Croatian and Greek

No comments: