Our First Guest

Sorry we have not posted since our Easter trip to Italy but the week after we got back our first guest arrived from Canada! Dan’s dad, Doug, arrived late on Friday, April 29th after a grueling flight over. He was only here for one week so we tried to cram in as much as possible. His first day here we let him sleep in a little(trying to get over that jet lag asap), enjoyed mimosa’s and brunch out on the patio, went for a “macchiato” coffee, and that evening we enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant.

Sunday, May 1st was a holiday to celebrate International Workers Day(similar to labour day in Canada) and we were invited to an Albanian picnic on the island of Zvërneci. Doug got to try his first “raki”, aka the local firewater, and saw his first goat carved. Along with the main course of goat, we enjoyed byrek, qofta, salads, eel, local wine and tollumba for dessert. After the Albanian picnic, we drove to a cliff side restaurant for coffee, which had some amazing views of the sea.

On Monday, Dan took us out to the oil field in Gorisht. We drove through Drashoviçe to see the Communist monument and up to Gorisht where we stopped to have a macchiato(keep in mind you cannot get American coffee here). We then drove to the oil field through amazing winding and bumpy roads with some serious elevation gain.  Afterwards, we stopped in Pochem for a local beer from Korça and then onto the historical site of Byllis, which dates back to the 4th century(I will post more details about Byllis and another archaeological site Apollonia later). After touring the 30 ha of ancient ruins we enjoyed another traditional style lunch – Qengji (lamb) with potatoes and salad. From there we drove to Peshkepi to see Ilia’s small plot of land and visit his family for dinner. Along the drive we saw some local wildlife including chickens, roosters, turkeys, a snake and a tortoise, as well as the occasional donkey cart. Once we arrived at Ilia’s, we had Turkish style coffee and raki as an aperitif, followed by another amazing dinner of freshly cooked byrek, salads, homemade bread, liver and rice, potatoes, and fresh cheese.

During the Albanian picnic, Doug had mentioned liking to visit a school and it just so happened that Lilian works at a school here in Vlora. So on Tuesday, May 2nd Dan went to work while Doug and I went to visit a private school. We met with a couple English-speaking teachers and also the principal. We toured the school viewing the kids artwork and we visited a couple of elementary school classes. Our last visit was to a more senior class where the students asked Doug many questions about Canada. They seemed to love practicing their English and had many questions including “What is your favourite football team? Barcelona or Madrid?”. It was a great experience-one neither of us will forget.

Wednesday and Thursday Dan had to work so Doug and I spent the days walking into town and shopping in the Pazar markets. Unfortunately the weather just wasn’t cooperating with us but we made the best of it anyways! On Wednesday we went to the Israeli pastry shop and then visited Independence Square and the mosque in the centre of town. That evening after work we went up to Kanina castle to try to catch some views however we ended up in the middle of a political rally and then a rainstorm! It’s always an adventure.

On Thursday morning we went to the Pazar and picked up some fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. That afternoon Doug and I took the “furgon”(ie local mini bus) to Fier to meet up with Dan and visit the ancient city “Apollonia”.  On the way home we stopped at the Fish Shop and picked up some kalamari and shrimp to barbeque for dinner.

On Friday, Dan took the day off work and we enjoyed Doug’s last day in Vlora. We walked down to Sunset Beach for our daily macchiato(P.S. I don’t think Doug really liked the espresso coffee…by this point he had created his own filtration system for making American coffee at home). Then the boys walked into town to do some last-minute shopping and in the afternoon enjoyed some beers out on the patio. We enjoyed our last dinner out at a local restaurant and the next morning we made the drive to Tirana to drop Doug off at the airport.

To say the least, we had an amazing time with our first honoured guest and will have many great memories of his visit! If I could guess what Doug’s impressions were I would say that he didn’t like the strong coffee, was amazed by the road and driving conditions, and was touched by the hospitality of the people. We were very happy to have some company from home and do hope more will visit soon.

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About rrettenmier

In September 2010, Dan and I received working visas for the United Kingdom. We sold our condo, quit our jobs and packed our bags to move to London. This blog (though a few months late) is designed to update our friends and family back home about where we are and what we are up to.
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One Response to Our First Guest

  1. Doug Erickson says:

    Thank you to Dan and Rebecca for an unforgettable holiday. After reading Rebecca’s blog I realize why I was so tired when I got home. Dan and Rebecca are wonderful hosts and we did certainly pack a lot into one week. They have a great condo for entertaining as the huge deck overlooks the sea and it is a good place to enjoy the sun, watch the frenetic driving or catch a spectacular sun set. I really enjoyed the local food and wine and learned how truly hospitable the Albanian people are. Guests are treated like royalty and given the best of everything. Dan and I shared the kidneys from the spit roasted goat at the picnic and they kept filling my plate and glass until I nearly burst.
    The roads and driving habits of the Albanians make any trip an adventure. Watching the no rules approach to motoring made me realize that they are actually good drivers as we saw only one near accident as a car loaded with hay pulled out onto the road. The rototiller car is an ingenious invention where the rototiller is replaced by an axle and two wheels and attached to a two seat wagon (and they take it out on the highway).
    I had some trouble getting used to the strong local macchiato coffee that is typically drunk with sugar. I resorted to pouring boiling water through a paper towel in a colander to act as a coffee filter for my morning coffee. I think the strong local brew is something the Turks left behind.
    The visits to the oilfield, Byllis and Appolonia were very interesting and the terrain is very rugged. I particularly enjoyed my visit to Ilia’s (Dan’s driver) village where we met his family and enjoyed a home cooked meal.
    My school visit was a highlight too as the children seemed delighted to have a guest and to get a chance to practice their English. The classes are very advanced in comparison to Canada although we were in a private school that had access to more resources than a public school. Rebecca and I watched a grade three play about the Three Billy Goats Gruff in nearly flawless English. If I had stayed longer in Albania, I would have spent more time at the school.
    I cannot say enough about how great Dan and Rebecca were in hosting my visit. Dan took time from work and Rebecca went out of her way to keep me entertained while Dan was working. The crib lessons for Dan and Rebecca went well and I am sure they are practicing before they see me again. The week flew by and left me with great memories, it was special to see how the kids are doing on their adventure overseas and to be a part of their life over there for a short time. The week in Albania left me with a keen appreciation for what we take for granted at home.

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