Rob and Mel getting married with our new friend Mina officiating

August was a busy month for us, including lots of time waiting and waiting and waiting for a building permit so we could start the condo renovation. It was supposed to happen and then it got rejected because the reviewer didn’t see an item our architect had specifically included. And then they lost our file. And when they found it the inspector was out on vacation. So the month ended as it began, with no building permit.

Except for that we had lots of fun in August. The big excursion was an eight-day trip out to San Francisco and Napa County, ostensibly for a wedding but since we have family and friends we had lots to do there. First up was three nights in San Francisco. Lots of walking around and some last-minute clothes shopping for the wedding (it was a gay couple getting married and we couldn’t show up in the wrong outfits). Dinner one night with an old work colleague and friend of mine, a woman I worked with 30 years ago and have stayed in touch with since. That was great fun. And then one evening we took the trolley out to Mark’s brother’s house in the sunset where we enjoyed pre-dinner wine with John and Alma and their kids before going out to Third Cousin, and incredible restaurant where they did a tasting menu – a low-carb tasting menu – for us.

In graduate school Marie was a year ahead of Mark & me. Normally I wouldn’t have known her well or even at all except she was roommates with a classmate and great friend of ours. Then she was my coworker for two or three years and then even my boss for a while. Thirty-plus years later I still love hanging out with her.

From there it was up to Napa Valley for the wedding. It was a little strange insofar as we didn’t know anyone except the two grooms … and we didn’t know them that well. We’d met Rob & Mel back in the Seychelles where they were celebrating Mel’s 50th birthday. And then celebrating Rob’s proposal and Mel’s saying yes. We just really hit it off so when they invited us for the big event we had to go. The weather was hot but the wedding was beautiful. We even made some new friends.

Mark & Patricia. Like Rob she’s a surgeon. Except she’s an African American woman who grew up in Anacostia, the poorest section of DC. In other words, started with every disadvantage and today a surgeon. Pretty impressive!

And then we stayed in Napa for a few more nights on our own, moving to the Las Alcobas hotel just a few miles down the road from the wedding venue. The attraction to this particular hotel is that it’s owned by a friend of ours, a guy we met touring the Galapagos way back in 2002. We’d stayed at his hotel in Mexico City some years ago and it was fantastic (not surprising as at the time it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor) so we figured we’d give his newer California hotel a shot. And while Sam wasn’t around – he was down in Mexico – the hotel was great.

While we were there we did a day trip up to Healdsburg in Sonoma County to visit an old friend of mine from my Minneapolis days. Dan and Mark (Dan’s Mark, not mine) moved out to Sonoma four or five years ago and Dan telecommutes to his job in Minnesota. They have a great place with killer views but sadly we had so much fun visiting that I didn’t take any pictures.

Mark, Vlad, & Alex

Then it was back to New York. And after eight nights in the laid back Bay Area, it felt fabulous stepping out of Penn Station back in the intensity of New York. Except for waiting to get our building permit our time in New York included a visit from Boston friends Vlad & Alex and their very cute toddler Victoria. Plus a visit from Keith & Nic, and even a quick drop by from John Lee. Shakespeare in the Park one evening which we enjoyed even though neither of us are really Shakespeare types. Then there’s always the time hanging out in parks reading, going to the gym, cooking; all that normal stuff.

And just in case you’re wondering, eight months in and we’re enjoying New York and really not missing traveling. Of course, I supposed it’s easier to “not miss” traveling when you’re spring and summer have included London, Italy, Greece, and California.

Out for tapas with Nic and Keith

Virgin Mary Over the Toilet (seriously) at a mescal bar we love

Vlad, Alex, and Victoria. The little one kind of stole our hearts.

Mark and a pig. What else can you say?

I love that I’ve become the guy who can just hang out in Union Square in the middle of a perfect weekday and read

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in August. How did Mark celebrate? By having a root canal on our anniversary!

Mary Beth & Sven had extra tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, so we were guests. Now that feels New York!

One night our former intern-programmer-project manager-lead project manager-COO-CTO, soon-to-be first-time father, and still great friend John Lee was in town and joined us for drinks at Excuse My French, our favorite neighborhood hangout

Mark and niece Ava, days before she was starting college

Me and Alma out for a great dinner

Mark out for a long walk in San Francisco

And me

All the nieces and nephews on my side of the family — Nico, Ava, Lydia, Leigh, Jasmine, Jamal, and Molly

Summer in New York gets hot and muggy. So it was nice that we had planned a 3-week summer “vacation” in Greece nearly a year ago. We planned the trip around a week-long family get together for my immediate family — my parents, their four kids, their spouses, and all seven grandchildren. Jim and I added a week onto each end on our own.

For many years we’ve said that our favorite country to travel in is Italy. But during this sojourn in Greece, we seriously discussed whether Greece has overtaken Italy as our favorite. Greek islands are about as close to heaven as it gets. Who needs anything more than a perfect taverna on a bright blue stretch of Mediterranean beach?

And every Greek island has its own personality. We made it to four islands in the Cyclades on this trip, and we loved every one of them.

Paros

Our first stop was the island of Paros, where we stayed in the lovely town of Naoussa at the northern tip of the island. The town just reeked with charm. We’d easily get lost in the narrow streets full of great restaurants, elegant outdoor bars, and appealing shops.

One of many amazing bars in the charming town of Naoussa

From Naoussa, you could hop a water taxi to a handful of beaches across the bay

Arriving at a beach by water taxi. Oh that water!

Did I mention the water?

I am very happy in Greece

Approaching the town again by water ferry after a morning at the beach

A seaside lunch spot on Naoussa town

Mykonos

Mykonos (and Santorini) are different from the other Cycladic islands. Each is incredible in its own way, but they are both considerably more touristy, crowded, and expensive than all the other islands. But it was a good choice for our family get together for a few reasons.

First, it’s hard to find a really nice rental house that can accommodate 17 people without anybody being stuck in a crappy room. I scored by finding a pair of houses with common outdoor spaces and two beautiful pools in a very nice part of Mykonos. Second, Mykonos is relatively easy to get to, with direct flights coming from various parts of Europe. And finally, there are so many beaches to visit for all flavors of tourists. Nobody is going to be bored here.

The place worked out well, and I’m confident everyone had a great week here. It’s the second year in a row that we got all 17 of us together (Tuscany last summer). And I consider myself quite fortunate because I really like every one of these wonderful people. I know that Jim and I had a great time this week, and I’m pretty confident we all did.

Me and the glorious views from our villa

There was lots of fun to be had on the day we discovered that you could sip Metaxa in the pool.

With my fabulous sisters-in-law, Jenny and Alma

Lunch with my parents at a taverna on a beautiful beach in a remote corner of Mykonos

With my sister Jeanne

The Ann Arbor Sullivans — Molly, Jenny, Pat, and Lydia

One day most of us drove to a beach a half hour away. But Jim and Jenny decided to hike there. It was apparently somewhat treacherous.

Nico and I and our very Greeky shirts

Dinner at the villa was a fine affair every evening

Our chef displays the evening’s catch

Leigh and I trying to lure a sweet little kitten onto our patio

Lydia at an elegant lunch spot over the beach close to our villa

The San Francisco Sullivans — Nico, Jasmine, John, Alma, and Ava

A hug from my mother!

Tinos

A short ferry hop from Mykonos took us to the island of Tinos. Here we stayed at hotel up in the mountains near a tiny little town called Triantaros. The town only had a couple restaurants, but they were truly gems. During the day, we hiked about an hour to get from the town down to a beach. It was a really beautiful hike, if you can overlook the part where Jim got stung by a wasp.

At a charming, but unassuming little restaurant in little Triantaros village…

…where we were amazed by the quality of the food.

And this was my seat mate at that place!

The view from the restaurant out toward the sea

Charming decor

Oh. My. God.

Syros

Yet another short ferry ride took us to the glorious island of Syros. Here we stayed in the main port town called Ermoupoli. This elegant town serves as the capital of the Cyclades, and perhaps for that reason seemed less touristy and more like a real city than most Greek island cities.

On our first full day here we decided to take a taxi to a particular beach a half hour away. We rode out of town and up, up, up a mountain, with beautiful views, and then descended down, down, down to a tiny beach town. The beach was calm and lovely. And nearby was a restaurant with great reviews — though some reviewers criticized the place as awfully expensive. With some reluctance we decided to try it anyway.

We love Greek food in general, but the food here was extraordinary — way beyond what you expect at a seaside taverna in a little town. And not that expensive really — cheaper than anything in Mykonos!

What did we do on days two, three, four, and five here in Syros? Made the same drive over the mountain, to the same postcard-perfect little beach, and ate at the same incredible restaurant. When you find perfection, why mess with it?

For some reason we have very few photos from Syros, but this shot of a calamari dish we ordered at our lunch spot pretty well sums it up

And let’s close out with one more shot of that kitten from Tinos

Some siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews as we start our little hike to the Little Sucker River

A key part of our thinking in establishing a home in the U.S. again was to be closer to family. And what better time to visit family in northern Minnesota than over the 4th of July weekend? Not only is it a great holiday on its own but my Dad’s birthday was the 5th of July, making it always a big couple of days for us. So off to Duluth we went.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a cousin’s 40th wedding anniversary. I grew up amongst a large number of cousins and I figured going to her party would be a great way to see a lot of them at once. That all worked and while I probably enjoyed it more than Mark did (I come from a big extended family and he didn’t), it was great fun reconnecting. Or, in the case of some of their now-adult children, great fun getting to know them. Sadly, though, there were no good pictures as the bar where the party was held just didn’t lend itself to good photos.

A little pool formed by cascading water made for a great little break in the day

Another highlight was a family hike up to a little swimming hole on the Little Sucker River just outside Duluth. I laughed when I saw it and started playing around: Mark & I travel the world looking for just the right little isolated spot like that, and there it was in my old home town.

Otherwise the long weekend was just about hanging out with family. Mark & I took my mother out for lunch at a favorite restaurant up the North Shore. She always loves having guests even when – as in this case – she wasn’t at all sure who we were or why we were taking her out. Sad, but Alzheimer’s only goes in one direction and it’s not a good one. The rest of the family, though, is doing well.

Dropping off Mom at her assisted living facility after lunch

The Little Sucker River

Some years ago Duluth created a fabulous trail along the north shore of Lake Superior. Great for running and walking, you have views like this of the city.

A double rainbow over Lake Superior

Mark & Karen

Me and Rebecca, outside a cousin’s home in Superior. When I was a kid an uncle used to cook Sunday pancakes for whoever was there and while he has long since passed away, his kids keep the tradition going when there are cousins around. Such fun!

Anita with flowers from our hike

While the focus of our stay was to visit family I carved out dinner one night for Mary, an old graduate school classmate and friend of ours who lives in Duluth. Over the years she’s become friends with my sister Rebecca, so we made it a five-some along with Mary’s husband Bill.

And Mark taking the best selfie ever