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Where in the world is Wendy?
Everyone's a Critic
Dancing Tweens
South American Scene

Where in the World is Wendy?

Wendy Johnson Greece MykonosI just recently got back from a fun-filled work/play vacation through Europe.... actually, now that I think about it, my whole life is work and play... how lucky am I?

My first stop was Athens, Greece where I was judging the Athens Open Festival of Dance. This was my first time in Athens and I was not disappointed. What an amazing country with so much history and charm. I had arranged for my daughter, Misty, who lives in New York, and my niece, Emma, who currently lives in London, to join me in Greece and just that alone was a joy for me. To be able to spend time with my family in such a great setting... what can I say.

The competition was held at the Pantheon & Athens Arena, an event space normally used for concerts so of course the lighting and seating was elaborate and created a great atmosphere. There were couples from Italy, Estonia, Slovenia, the U.S. and of course Greece. This was the organizers first attempt at a major event and they did a good job. Tonia Kosovich and Jason Roditis helped promote and emcee the event and added both humour and class in their Aussie style. Christopher Koutinas was the Organizer and he extended such warmth and hospitality to us all, thank you so much.

Emma and Misty explored the city and of course have some amazing photos. While I did not have time to climb up to the Parthenon and actually experience the grandeur of it, we did experience an open air bus tour that showed and explained all the major historical sites. We spent a short time in the open air market and managed to partake of some great Greek cuisine. I love their family style restaurants where you get to sample a broad cross section of foods that we would not otherwise know to order.

On the Monday after the event Misty, Emma, Didio Barrera, Jukka and Sirpa Haapalainen, Tonia and her boyfriend, Yanni, and I went to the island of Mykonos for 2 days. This was the off season but we loved it... not too busy and easy to explore. We were all staying at amazing resort hotels. We swam, sampled the cuisine and explored the town. Our friends all went home on Wednesday but Misty, Emma and I took a ferry and cruised to the island of Santorini. How spectacular is this island. We were staying on the Kamari Beach side which is a black sand beach resort with lots of shops, restaurants and little hotels. We spent some nice hours under an umbrella on this beach having our feet massaged. Life is good! On the other side of the island is Fira which is perched on the top of a cliff. This little town is amazing with great restaurants and beautiful views of the sunset. I counted 11 cruise ships moored at the bottom of the cliffs in the harbour. The streets are narrow with lots of souvenirs, jewelry and clothing shops. Little ancient churches are sprinkled everywhere with an abundance of chandeliers...they seem to like lots of them in a little space.

Wendy Johnson GreeceWe went on a boat trip to an island that is entirely a volcano...trekked to the top, went swimming in hot springs and moored finally on another side of the island where the only transportation to the top of the cliff was a donkey. Of course we had to try this and it was scary but fun. The donkeys like to go close to the edge of the path where it is a sheer drop down and the wall is only about 2 feet high. The view of the sunset was amazing and we ended up catching the bus back to Kamari Beach.

It was with sadness that this trip was over. Misty went back to New York and Emma back to London. I however then went on to Germany to see a friend I had not seen for a couple of years. He lives in Bonn and I got to spend some fun times talking and exploring Bonn and Cologne. He runs a dance school there and I got to introduce American Smooth to his staff. They were fascinated with the style and were going to add it to their teaching classes.

My next stop was Arnhem in Holland. Everything is close in Europe and I caught the train from Bonn to Arnhem, a journey of less than 2 hours. A short taxi ride and I was in Papendal at a modern eco friendly hotel where the competition Holland Masters was being held and I was the American judge. This hotel is in the woods and is a training centre for the Dutch Olympic team. The competition was great... such a friendly audience and couples from all over Europe. Over 700 couples competed in both Amateur and Professional Ballroom and Latin events. It was a hard job judging as no one was familiar and in the higher levels everyone was good. I spent the weekend here and then was off on Monday for my next adventure.

I love London and the hotel Royal Lancaster is in a great location near Hyde Park, Oxford St and walking distance to Knightsbridge. All my favourite areas for shopping and generally mooching around.

I met up with my son, Marcus Johnson, and his partner, Yuki Haraguchi, here and together we traveled to Brentwood for the preliminary comps for the International. My friend, Philip Nicholas, visiting from Australia, accompanied us and we all spent the day in Brentwood, not my favourite venue but the dancing was great.

We enjoyed dinner with Barbara Ambroz, Peter Maxwell and John Kimmins and caught up on old times. John, Peter, Philip and myself all used to compete against each other so you know there were some stories about the old days.

I love the International in the Royal Albert Hall, such grandeur and history. The dancing was spectacular with the best of the best competing. I love seeing lots of my friends and catching up on their lives. All in all a wonderful night.

I'm not done yet! The next leg of my journey brought me back to Germany to judge an invitational competition in Wiesbaden. I have judged this for quite a few years and love the grand old hall it is held in and seeing all the spectators dressed up in tuxedos and ballgowns. Nine couples from all over Europe compete in a Ballroom and a Latin competition dancing to a live orchestra. There is a casino attached to this venue and, unlike Las Vegas, everyone is dressed up which adds a certain panache to the whole evening.

Wiesbaden was my last stop and on the Sunday I boarded my flight and headed home to San Diego. It was an exciting and interesting trip... seeing lots of old friends, judging some great dancing and of course spending time with my family was the best of all of it. Loved everything and I'm ready for my next adventure which happens to be judging in Puerto Rico and scoping out hotels for my daughters wedding. Until my next trip... as they say in New Zealand, Haeri Mai.