Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Greece Day 13

6/14/2016 (written 6/15/2016)

Yesterday we got up, ate breakfast and headed out to the airport to head home. The hotel we stayed at, Crowne Plaza, was extremely nice and we loved the orange juice machine in the morning. It squeezed the fruit fresh for you right there; very cool. Overall we had a great time, but you could tell this morning that we were already to be home.

We headed to the airport -- checked in and headed to the gate. Overall, not too big of a hassle. We did have to argue with the Air France representative about the bags. Jack is Platinum with Delta which means we get 2 bags per person and we needed it coming back (I bought a few things). We booked through Delta, but they had us flying Air France for this leg of the journey, one of their partner companies and they wanted us to pay 80 Euro per bag for the 2nd ones coming back - um, no. We finally got it straightened out... there is no way I was paying that. Once we got through that hassle, we made our way to the gate. The security at the Athens Airport is by the gate so not a lot of drink/food options once you are in so we just sat and surfed the internet -- well most did. Somewhere between breakfast and the gate I lost my phone. Luckily it is insured so I'll call them later today and get a replacement :(

We then arrived at Charles De Galle Airport in Paris. Now I don't know if you all remember my tales from our trip to France in 2014, but this trip just further confirmed - this is the worse airport in the World! We had arranged for Mama to have a wheel chair because we knew the connection was tight and she gets out of air if she has to walk fast... I'm so glad we did, because there is NO way we would have made our flight otherwise. Our flight was delayed so we had literally 20 minutes between landing and our next flight boarding. We got off the plane and the elevator from the gate down to the wheelchairs was broken so... they put us on this cargo thing out of the back of the plane that had seats on it. Then they drove us across runways to a door where representatives met us with the wheelchair (there was another family too). Jack got very irritate with the flight personal because they were just saying "go here", "go there", but were not telling us what was actually going on - what they were doing. It was extremely disconcerting, though I'm not sure Jack snapping his fingers at the French flight personal who already hate Americans helped any, though I was about to do worse so... It was funny looking back - the Frenchman just snapped his fingers back and gave a half answer. Paris France - not my favorite place.

We then got in the wheelchairs and a very nice lady wheeled us to the gate. We would not have found it without her and because of the chair we got to the front of every line, so bonus. We then got on the thing that connects the airplane to the gate only to find the door to the plane (glass) shut and locked. We could see in the plane because it's door was still open, but we couldn't get in. An attendant finally came about 5 minutes later and opened it, but even the airport lady who was pushing Mama was confused.

We then got on the plane and had our 8 hour flight home. It was ok as we were in Comfort Plus and the Delta staff were great, but 8 hours on a plane is never fun. Once we got home, we grabbed Mama another wheelchair.... I think she would have been fine at this point because we were not rushing and because she actually slept on the plane, but it was there so we used it. She does qualify for handicap access and has a card so why not? I can't complain we by passed the lines and were out of the airport within 40 minutes of landing.

We then got into the area where you walk out of the airport and realized we had no idea where the car key was so we had to take bags apart to find it. It ended up being in the first bag we checked, but we of course looked past it and took 4 others apart before we found it. We were all tired and just not quite 100%. Jack then went to get the car and Mama and I waited with the bags. He took the wrong shuttle so we sat for a good 30 minutes, but it was nice outside and we were just glad to be back on American soil.

I then drove us about 1/2 way home and swapped out driving with Mama for the next half. I could not hold my eyes open - Jack was snoring in the backseat - and Mama was wide awake so it worked out.

Now we are home - Kitties are begging for petting and we are happy to be home. It was a great vacation, but I was grateful to sleep in my own bed.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Greece Day 12

6/13/16

Part 1

Today has started off extremely early. The alarm went off at 5:30 and we were eating breakfast by 6, off the ship by 6:50. We are now waiting in a lobby of a hotel for rooms... which won't be available til noon. Beth, Jack and Mama are all sleeping; I'll wake them up in an hour or so to go explore. I will say I did expect to have rooms ready for us and/or to have a Globus person here at the hotel to help us as needed throughout the day vs. being droppod off and virtually left. Our bags are sitting int the hotel lobby with the porter watching out for them... yea that gives me great comfort :(

The last "extension" leg of this trip with the crusie and this "free day" has made Globus go down a few knotches in my eyes. It will take them a bit to recover. I'll post more once we explore for now I'll sit and watch them sleep and watch to make sure no buggers get us :)

Part 2

They put our luggage into a secure room around 10 am, I woke the sleepy heads up and we were off. We stopped at the Temple of Zeus and took some pictures and then we walked over to Placka. Placka is basically a pedestrian shopping area and we did lots of shopping. I bought several souveniers and one nice piece of ceremic art for the house.

We then headed back to the hotel and rested for three or four hours, got up and ate dinner, went to get a couple of things for traveling and came back to get our luggage sorted out for tomorrow. I'm dissappointed that the vase we bought on day 1 or 2 is already broken :( I'm taking it home to see if I can try to and glue it back together, but really bummed it hasn't survived the trip. We had it in a carry on and thought we were being gentle with it, but apparently not.

Tomorrow we head back to the States. I'm ready to be home - to not be living out of a suitcase, but I'm not ready to return to reality. I'm not ready to face American Politics and the fact that Donald Trump is actually a legitimate nominee for the US Presidency, come on Republican party, seriously? Micky Mouse or the Cookie Monstor would have been better choices. I'm not ready to go back to work. I'm not ready ... But I am ready for Dunkin Donuts Coffee. . I wish I had taken the rest of the week off, but I'm back to the office on Thursday - I at least get one day at home to rest first. Overall we had a good time and I'd love to come back to spend more time on the Islands, maybe with a decent cruise ship or in a hotel.

See you tomorrow ... Sleep well blogland.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Greece Day 11

6/12/16

Today was great, same complaints with the ship, but the excursions have been wonderful. We started the morning bright and early with breakfast at 6:50 AM and left for Crete at 7:50. Crete is supposedly the birth place of Zeus; king of the gods. We arrived in the city of Heraklion and then drove up to see The Palace of Knossos. This palace is was built in 1900 BC (the first one was destroyed via Earthquake in 1700 BC. It is the palace of the Minoan civilization that once inhabited this area. Much of it is reconstructed, but it was still neat to see. It is believed this is where the myth of the labyrinth with the Minotaur is founded from as the palace was built to be very maze like; and the King was King Minas.

After visiting the Palace we headed to the city square. The city has Venetian roots and it was evident in the atmosphere of it; it had a similar feel to Venice. We saw the fountain of the four lions and then headed down to the church of Agios Titos; this church is still in constant use and the frescos were quite bright and pretty. There are two unique Frescos in it, one depicting the Virgin Mary’s birth and one depicting Paul on the road to Damascus. There is also the supposed scull of King Titan in the church. It was pretty, but at this point I think we are all a little “history and relic’d” out.

We then left there and had free time to wonder back to the ship. We got a drink, relaxed for a few in front of the Loggia which used to be a meeting haul for nobility, but now serves as their city hall. And then of course we went souvenir shopping. I’m totally addicted to postcards, t-shirts, picture frames (which I haven’t seen many of) and plates… at least it isn’t expensive jewelry.

Once back in town we boarded the dingy back to the ship and went to lunch. Mama and Jack then took a nap while Beth and I went to get details for the next excursion. The next one was Santorini and I know why it is so popular; it ties for my favorite place in Greece (with Mykonos). The water is so pretty and the white buildings. Oh – glorious. We took a windy road to get to the main road of the island and then we traveled to Oia; a gorgeous village that is just amazing. It’s mainly a walking town filled with shops, café’s and glorious views. I could live here – seriously. It is so pretty and I wish we would have more time. We bought some souvenirs and took pictures but it does not compare.

We then drove to Fira (after getting stuck in some traffic). I couldn’t have squeezed a sheet of paper between us and the busses we were going by on the road; it was crazy. We got off of the bus and walked through the town a bit, taking pictures along the way and then came to the Cable Car area. I expected a trolley, but no it’s a car that goes up and down the mountain between Fira and the Port of Skala. It was fun to go down; Beth got so excited she was like a little kid; it was really fun to watch.

We then hopped on the dingy back to the boat and I set outside; I got some great pictures of Santorni with the sunset; I hope they turned out.

Upon getting back onboard we went to dinner and ended up sitting with three ladies from Atlanta. It was actually fun to visit with them. One works for Delta, one Coke and I’m not sure about the other one. We had a lot of fun dining with them. We are now in bed getting ready for bed and are putting our bags out for the porters. 5:30 AM comes early  See you tomorrow – sleep well.

Greece Day 10

6/11/16
We woke up bright and early this morning, grabbed some breakfast (no the buffet has not improved) and met our group at 7 AM to head out to Turkey. Our first step onto the Asian continent. We were going to see Ephesus, one of the largest and best preserved cities in the world. The guide was good and told us about Turkey on the way. The ruin itself was amazing; they were able to stand the library façade back up with minimal reconstruction; it was amazing. Ephesus is the church that they Ephesians was written too; John and Paul walked the same streets. As with the last biblical location I thought I might feel more, but no. I enjoyed it for its archeological significance and its beauty, but it was a ruin, no spiritual stirring.

I did however thoroughly enjoy petting the hundreds of cats (or what felt like hundreds) wondering around. They are very used to people and come begging for petting and food, mostly petting though. I saw the staff feeding them at one point so I am not worried about their well-being. They were scattered throughout the area and just fun. I tuned much of the guide out, but did enjoy the tidbits I tuned into and taking pictures.

The tour took an hour and ½ and by time it was over we were ready for a cool drink so we grabbed a water and headed to the bus. They have a shopping bazaar set up along the way (of course) and it’s Turkey so the experience is unique. The shop owners come out and entice you to buy from them and haggling is the name of the game. One spot had a camel that Beth paid to get a picture with … lol.

We then went to a carpet store where we learned how they make the carpets (by hand) and how they harvest silk. The rugs were gorgeous, but even with haggling it was just too much. They do a hard sale over here and don’t take no for answers easily in Turkey, but finally no was no.

We then headed back to the port and walked around the bazaar. I got ripped off more than once I am sure because I don’t haggle well. For example I bought mama an eye glass case -- $2 Euro; later I saw them for sale 5 for 2. However, I got a couple of cute trinkets and I will remember it. The shop owners enticing you to come in and the hard sale is not for me though. I don’t enjoy haggling or being bothered while shopping. Beth enjoyed it though… for me it was an experience.

We then went back, grabbed lunch with a couple who had just gotten off of an Israel tour, which sounded fascinating and then … you know it, bed. I slept till tile for the next excursion.

Patmos was our next Port. At this point we are back in Greece and the feel of the city is back to what I’m used to – The line between Europe and Asia is very distinct culture wise. We took a tour that took us a great view of the city, we walked through the capital area, took picture of the rebuilt windmills and then headed to the highlight where John was given the book of Revelation by Jesus via a vision. The cave was small and again I wish I felt more, but it was interesting. We then headed back, got a free ice cream (part of tour) and did a little shopping for souvenirs before needing to be back on the boat at 8:45.

Upon re-boarding we waited for our turn at the dining room, ate dinner where we told way too much of our life stories, and then headed to bed… and that was our day :) Bright and early again tomorrow so good night.

Greece Day 9

6/10/16

We woke up this morning, ate breakfast and headed for our cruise. The next bit was frustrating; I’m going to tell you about it here, but you better believe Globas will be getting a letter from me. First and foremost Globas is a trusted company, I’ve traveled with them on multiple occasions and pretty much just trust now that if I travel with them it will be great. The land tour of Greece up to this point met those expectations. Vivian our tour guide was phenomenal, however since she left it has gone down hill.

The dinner last night was awesome, but I didn’t really care for the lady who “hosted” us and took us to the restaurant. I figured it was a personality clash and let it go. Well, this morning we meet our tour guide for the cruise portion of the trip and she is not up to Globus standards either. She is spouting facts to us a mile a minute on the way to the port, she is hard to understand and she is just … well not good. Then we have to handle our own bag from the coach to the ship porter vs. it being handled…

We were fast tracked on board which was good, but I quickly realized this boat is not what I expected. It ranks right up there with Carnival. Globus is a top of the line touring company and they partnered with a cruise line, Celestyal Cruises that ranks right up with Carnival. Cheap – Cheap – Cheap. We had purchased an “upgraded window room” which was equal to a closet with a window. No, No, No! They had our rooms messed up with Mama being with Jack and Beth with me, again.

The Globus tour person told us to go to reception to handle it. I thought that is what we paid them for. Then we go down and Jack or Beth had the forethought to ask for an upgrade so we paid 140 extra per person to get a suite. This room is much better with room to move around, but is no comparison to the Celebrity cruise we took to Alaska. I hated that cruise because I felt the excursions were too short and the disembarkation was too disorganized, but I have a brand new appreciation for them now. Please give me a Celebrity cruise.

The dining room here is cramped, the buffet lacking, the entertainment good but not top quality, the food ok, but not great and the wait staff is understaffed. I will never cruise with them again and Globus will get a piece of my mind for partnering and therefore giving their stamp of approval to this company. Globus better believe I’ll be triple checking everything from now on.
Now that being said they had a very organized exit and because we were with Globus we got off rather quickly. We made it to the island of Mykonos today and had a good 3 or 4 hours to wonder around. We took part of the guided tour with Vasilica our Globus guide and then went off on our own. I love the shops and the atmosphere. Reminds me of Venice – the feel of the city, but it looks nothing like it. Gorgeous white buildings against the blue Aegean sea. Sunsets that are out of this world and well just a great little town. The island itself is large and we only saw a small piece of it.

We bought several souvenirs, wondered around, stopped for a drink and a snack, watched the sunset and then headed back to the ship. You catch another boat to get on and off which is cool.

Once back on the ship we went to the buffet. A waiter could not be found to bring us our drinks so Beth went to get them. The food was ok, not a lot of choices, but it was ok. Mama and Jack headed up to the rooms, but Beth and I went to the show. It was a mixture of all kinds of music from different countries and eras. They were dancing and singing. Overall it was enjoyable; some costume malfunctions, some humorous moments, but mostly they did really well. There was a lady dancing on silk ribbons that was great and until they tried to do country I thought it was all good, but Lord they can’t sing country music.

I’m now up in my room which is apparently over a bar… I can hear the music like I was in the room with them. You would think there would be soundproofing or something. Cheap Ass Cruise Line, never again -- never! But alas, I’m going to try to go to sleep to the Cuban melody. See you tomorrow. Well actually this won’t get posted til I get back to Athens, but ah well.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Greece Day 8

6/9/16

Day 8 -- I think that is the longest I've ever been on a vacation. Day 8 and it's not over yet - woo hoo.

Today was alot of traveling as we needed to cross most of Greece to return to Athens, but some interesting events did occur and we saw some things. So what you ask? Let me tell you:

We ate breakfast and Mama mentioned this was the last day with our land tour guide which reminded me we needed to tip them. It is customary to tip 4 to 5 Euro per day. I had prepped prior to leaving the US and gotten the money in the envelopes and in a safe place. Well I thought that safe place was in the inside zipper compartment of the luggage and I sent Jack up to get it before the luggage was loaded on the bus. He went up - in the middle of his breakfast (yes he is a good man) and hunted for it, only to come back down and tell me it is not in the luggage. So I say "yes it is" and go look for it myself, but alas, no envelopes. Its not a huge deal -- we have the money on us to tip them -- but it's over 300 Euros for all of us so I'm obviously thinking, where is it? After much deliberation in my feeble brain I think and hope it is in my Kelly camera bag that I decided at the last minute to leave behind. It has safe spots inside and would have made sense for me to place it there. I will find out when I get home, that is for sure.

After breakfast we headed to an icon workshop where they make the religious icons. For those that have no idea what that is, because I didn't, it is the paintings or decor with the halos. See wikipeida for more information :) They hand craft them here, down to the chiseling of the wood and the painting. It was neat to see that art is still being taught and handed down from generation to generation. The facility is ran by a priest and his family. My favorite part was going in the main painter's workshop; he was not on site and it felt slightly like an intrusion. However, I think I got some good pictures and it gave you a different view into the man and his art. I'm not much one for religious stuff sitting around my home, but given this is hand made I had to buy a little something to support them.

Afterwards we headed on toward Athens with a brief stop to take pictures of the Stork nest and the young Storks. They were pretty and I will continue to think so as long as they do not bring me any presents. No babies for me.

We then got in the bus and headed back to Greece. The trip was uneventful. We stopped at a gas station that has a restaurant in it for lunch. I ordered a hamburger patty with cheese on it from the Piccadilly line and well... it was the first bad food I've gotten here in Greece. I didn't know you could ruin a hamburger patty, but well know I know - you can. Jack got the same thing and I don't think he liked it either - he didn't hate it as much as I did, but he was quick to offer to go get us grilled cheese sandwiches. He had to instruct them on how to make it; apparently it is not a common order here in Greece. It was made with a different type of cheese than we are used to, but it was good.

And then we were on the road again. The next stop was the statue of King Leonidas in Thermopylae ... We passed some hot springs on the way and you would think they put the statue there, but no - it is just on the side of the road. It is built to honor the 300 Spartans who delayed the Persian army long enough for Athens to be warned and they really don't know where the battle happened, so why they choose this random spot for the statue is beyond me. The statue itself was ok, certainly not a highlight of the trip. Vivian had the group assemble to take pictures and they were changing cameras of the group to take several different pictures of the group for people to have. It was humorous to watch them -- watching her and Yanis the driver take pictures and change cameras was so cute. I loved it.

Vivian also told us the history before we got off to see the statue and that was good. I took several notes and love King Leondias famous saying; "if you want our weapons - come and get them".

Once that was done we were back on the bus headed for Athens. Vivian detoured a bit and drove us by the 2004 Olympic Stadiums. They had to build several and I wonder what they do with them now... I don't think we built stadium upon stadium to house the games in Atlanta, at least I don't think we did.

Once back in Athens we turned around almost immediately and headed out to the Optional excursion dinner. It was down by the port and was quite nice. I actually think Mama really enjoyed it; first time I've seen her have fun all trip. The food was good - conversation flowed and well it was just nice. It is a port with very large yachts and the sun was setting so it was quite pretty. Lots of foot traffic as people came to eat and visit; great atmosphere overall. I enjoyed it though by the end of the night I was quite cold.

And now we are back at the hotel... my eyes are dropping so I'll cut this short. Tomorrow we get to sleep in a bit -- 7 AM and then we head off to the cruise. See you then and have a fabulous evening.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Travel Journal - Greece Day 7

6/8/16

I think today was my favorite so far. One of the main reasons is that Mama seemed like Mama again - she was jovial and seemed to have a good time. She still isn't 100% herself, she would argue with me on that, but she is better. The other reasons you will see as this journal unfolds. So what did the half way mark of our vacation hold?

First we walked up Delphi, the place I told you about yesterday. It was raining slightly so we had to take it slow, but it was really nice. The Athenian treasury building had been put back together with mostly original parts and it was a site to see as were the columns and the view; oh the view was amazing. We stopped where our tour guide did, but several on the trip went all the way to the top; it was cold and rainy so I took my pictures from where we were.

We then headed over to Meteora. The drive as a couple of hours and it was very windy, but gorgeous. They should really market their views and people would realize how much more Greece has to offer other than the islands; I mean wow. We were driving along and possibly through the Grammos mountain range and it was spectacular. We then stopped at a gas station for restrooms and snacks. I got a coffee and cookies. What amazed me is that when we went to sit in the restaurant area they were smoking. I've seen ashtrays here and there, but never really had anyone smoking inside the buildings before... grateful most of America is now non-smoking inside that is for sure; it took my breath away. Plus there were kids everywhere; apparently they were on a field trip and goodness - just a reminder of why I do not want children.

Once we stopped we headed on to Kalampaka which is at the foot of Meteora. We ate lunch in a family restaurant where the Grand mother, daughter and daughter-in-law all cook together. Vivian told us that in this part of Greece the women only work in the family business; they do not have careers and do not think other women should. Before Vivian got married they always tried to set her up adn bring her to live up here. They give her hard time about leaving her Son to work as well --- all well meaning of course, just that is their culture. Vivian stated it is the difference from Southern Greece (Athens) and Norther Greece where we are today. The food was amazing. You actually get a plate and walk through the kitchen where the grandmother tells you the dishes and fixes your plate. The portions were huge!

The decor was also interesting - beer bottles from over 40 years lined the walls, Religious Icons hung on the wall beside them. It was great. I enjoyed it, but wanted to get up and walk after being on the bus. So after eating we wandered around and bought a few souvenirs; some gifts for those back home, etc. We also took a few pictures -- of course.

And then we headed up Meteora to the monasteries and OH MY GOD. The views are out of this world as are the monasteries. They appear to have been built right out of the rock itself. It is just amazing; I have no idea how they built them, but they are just wow. We visited 2 -- one with quite a few steps (over 100) and Mama made it to the top. Let me digress for a moment and tell you about Anita. Anita has a cane and struggles to walk - I think she needs knee surgery if I remember correctly. However, she has been with us almost every step of the way. She fell once today on the way up, but that did not stop her from making it to the top. She is inspiring as are several men on our trip. There are a couple that you will see purposely stay back to help her ...she doesn't ask, and they are not traveling with her, but always one of them are there to make sure she is ok. This one day she was alone and she fell, but one of them quickly was there to help and stayed with her the remainder of the journey. Human Kind at it's best.

Ok, back to the monasteries. The first one we went into is Varlaam. It is original and has the original frescoes from the 1500's. They are dark from the time and unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the churches, but they were neat to see. It amazed me that they survived this long. The second one, St. Stephen Monastery, had little to no stairs and was rebuilt after it was bombed in WW2. It is a nunnery and you could tell that women lived there vs. men because they had rose gardens and pretty areas meant to sit and rest. The difference between men and women exist even there :) This building is newer given it was rebuilt so the Frescoes are newer and much brighter. It is easier to depict the stories told in them. It has me interested to really study to the difference between Greek Orthodox, Catholicism, and Protestants. Mama as well - though I think she wants to understand the Greek mythology a bit more as well.

What was also funny, at least to me, is that the Greek Orthodox church has this super sacred area. It has curtains pulled and no woman is allowed back there. Well, today one of the curtains in the 2nd church was partially open in error so me being me peaked in. Their "sacred" area is really where they get ready ... someone had left out the ironing board and spray starch. It just cracked me up to no end. No wonder women are not allowed; it's a dressing room for the male priest.

So, yes the monasteries were fabulous, but more than that the views. Oh they were breath taking! And the rock formations, oh, pictures (and yes I took hundreds) can not even begin to show the grandeur of this place. You have to see it for yourself.

We drove around and were allowed to get out and take pictures of all 7 monasteries before heading back to the hotel for dinner and rest. Tomorrow we head back to Athens with several stops along the way. Til then sleep well blogland.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Travel Journal Day 6 - Greece

6/7/16

Today was lite in comparison to the others and we needed a lite day. Mama is starting to kinda be her old self; kinda and tomorrow she will need it as it will be a big physical day.

But today -- what did we do today?

First we got up and ate breakfast. I still am pleased with the breakfast overall; I tend to get coffee, fruit, croissants and fresh jelly. Then we left for the museum of Olympia. I listened to the tour guide on the whisper device we have but stayed in front of the group taking pictures. I think I got some good ones of the various sculptures and artifacts. There were several great pieces, but the highlight was the Statue of Hermes by Praxiteles. It reminded me of David that is in Rome and later she stated that the David Michelangelo did was inspired by this statue; so it made sense. It was well done and overall the museum was enjoyable. It was kinda of awesome actually; because we went so early we were the very first group there. So we basically had a private tour.

After that we hopped on the bus for a 2 hour drive and nap to the largest cable bridge in the world, the Rio–Antirrio bridge. It was opened in August 2004 and the very first person to ever cross it was the athlete carrying the 2004 Olympic torch. We walked over the toll booth and took pictures of it. The bridge replaced a ferry system, that while still running today gets much less traffic. It was a much needed addition. On either side of the bridge is an old fortress where they used to inspect the marine vessels and their cargo. The bridge and surrounding area is pretty and made a nice restroom stop in our drive.

We then continued another hour and a half to have lunch by the sea. This drive envied US 1 near San Francisco - just gorgeous. Mountain meeting the small quaint villages and seashores; it was just magnificent. I took pictures, but I doubt the captured the sheer beauty of this area. It was breathtaking.

We then stopped for lunch in a small coastal town. It was a fishing village and we sat at tables by the sea. It was raining slightly and we chatted some, but we mainly sat and just enjoyed the scenery and the rain. The service was slightly slower than we are used to, but I suspect that is part of not being where we are used to being -- slower pace of life, which is ok by me. Vivian warned us that fish are served with the head on so I didn't go that route. I ordered Calamari which was not fried quite as much as I'm used to back home, but it was ok. Jack and Beth both got the pork chop -- odd choice for the seafood restaurant by the sea, but I wish I would have followed their lead. We then wandered around a bit and explored the little village. I think we walked the way of the Greek people vs. the touristy area, but ah well. One thing we found interesting is that there are fruit trees just growing on the streets. No one should ever starve in Greece... fruit is everywhere.

We then drove on up to Delphi and stopped at the Museum of Delphi. Delphi sits in the middle of the mountains and the ride up was extremely curvy. Sheer cliffs with 1000 foot drops - lets just say I'm glad Globus hires only the best. Tomorrow we see the archeological piece of Delphi with the ruins, but Vivian moved it to in the morning vs. this afternoon at first because of the heat but then it came a surprise shower so we were doubly glad it was moved. So today it was the museum.

Delphi was once thought to be the center of the earth and in fact Greece does often find itself in the middle of the East (Arab, Turkey) and the West (Italy, etc..) and is often brought into their "issues". Delphi was the place people came to see guidance from Apollo through his Oracle.

The Delphi museum houses many of the sculpture and items found during the excavation of Delphi. The museum was nice -- it shows Greece history through the various ages with the change in artistic style, from the 7th Century BC through the Roman period. Lots of unique pieces and I thought some of the relief pieces that used to be on buildings in the gold room were neat. I hope my pictures turned out. The pieces I liked the best were the small tiny relief piece and the The Twins of Argos (2 Egyptian looking statues that are huge). The "highlight" which I didnt' think was the highlight is the Bronze Charioteer. It was a bronze statue that was well done, but i liked the other stuff better. Or maybe it was because at that point my camera card was full and I had to limit my photos of it .. how knows (more cards were in the bus). But he was in the last room of the museum anyway so I didn't miss anything.

We then headed hotel and took a small nap before dancing lessons. They had a Greek dancer come in and teach us all Greek dances. Mama opted out, but Jack, Beth and myself went to learn to dance. The dances were simple, but I still struggled with them. However, it was fun and the teacher was really nice. Beth was teaching others by time it was over... After dinner, we ate dinner at the buffet and it was good, however the desert was a chocolate crepe that was awesome!!! Mama elected to skip dinner, but Jack did fix a plate and take it up to her.

Mama, Beth and I then walked down to the village. We bought a few post cards and the like, but overall the village wasn't really much. Some stray cats, a few tourist shops, some vacant shops and some smelly trash. So we came back up to the hotel and settled in.

Oh the hotel -- I forgot to tell you about our room. It has a huge balcony door looking over the sea and mountains and OMG the view is amazing. Jack and I are sleeping with the patio door open and letting the air in (we are on 4th floor). I can't wait to see it tomorrow in the morning light.

And with that - goodnight dear friends.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Travel Journal Day 5 - Greece

6/6/16

Today was also busy, but not quite as much as yesterday. Mama is struggling with the heat and it is zapping her energy very quickly; it worries me, but she states she is ok. I'm praying she really rest tonight and is back to her joking, jovial self tomorrow - crazy and all. So what did we do today? I took several notes as we went along regarding what we did and notes from her talk I wanted to remember so here we go:

As we left the hotel we drove past Fort Tiryns; which was another ancient fort built in the 13th century. The size of the stones these are built with are extremely large. Its amazing. Vivian did share some unique facts about Greece I thought were interesting while we were on the drive this morning. Below are some of the notes I left:

1) Greeks wear rings on the left when they are engaged, but they are on the right after they are married; which is opposite of the US.
2) The God Mother and God Father play a huge roll in children's lives and it is a magnificent honor. They are responsible for buying a cross for the child when they are baptized and the crosses cost 1000+ Euros.
3) Owl shield is Athena symbol of wisdom. So owls are popular gifts for graduations and studying luck. You see owls quite often.
4) The greek alphabet has 24 symbols instead instead of 26. B sound in English is made by the M+the Pie Symbol in Greek.

After our drive we arrived as ceramic workshop. She showed us how the ceramics were made; teh differences in price and why. It was extremely interesting or maybe she just made it so. I personally really liked our hostess there and spent money to prove it :) lol Actually I spent money because I liked the stuff, but she and the people were really nice. One of the staff was male and really thought Beth was gorgeous. He kept hugging and asking her to stay; it was cute and let's face it - he was cute. Sorry though, you are 6 weeks too late you Greek cutie. I bought a vase for myself and a couple of gifts. I also bought a plate and me some earrings... yes I bought more for myself than others... oopsie.

We then drove by the Fortess of Lycadia which I took a picture from the bus of and then we were off for a 2.5 hour drive to Olympia. Most took this opportunity to get some shuteye. Once we arrived we stopped at the village of Olympia. We ate lunch at a little cafe and I tried the Gyros; which were great. And then we walked around the little village; which is very much a tourist town and I bought some post cards, t-shirts, caps, etc.. Yes I love cheap souvenirs that were likely made in China.

We then hopped back on the bus and drove to the site of the first Olympic games which began in 776 BC. They occurred once every 4 years. At that time it was a male only, Greek only competition. The men came 3 months early and had sponsors that paid for them and their families expenses while away. The games were only one week in August, but they needed time to train. The men actually competed naked.

The games were banned in 394 AD to stop the promotion of paganism as the Olympics were to honor the god Zeus. They were a great event with alot of ceremony. There was also only 1 winner - no 2nd or 3rd place and the winner got a crown made of an Olive tree branch. it was a fabulous honor.


The site itself was neat; several columns where the various training facilities were. The temple of Zeus site had one column standing that had been reconstructed for scale; but several of the original training facility columns have been stood back up by the archaeologist. The stone is original though. It was neat to see. The Olympic "stadium" itself was disappointing... or rather not what I expected. I expected stone bleachers; pomp and circumstance; when in reality it was a field with a marble starting line.

Once we left there we went to a wine and olive oil tasting which in reality is not my thing so I kinda checked out for a few and just wandered around.

We then came to our hotel for the evening. The hotel is odd... the floors make no sense in their layout and our room smells slightly when the air is not on; so I expect we will freeze tonight to avoid the smell. However, the grounds are gorgeous. Their are fruit trees - an Olympic size pool that is gorgeous, a view that is out of this world. I'm sitting now on the back patio hearing the pool water lap while looking at fruit trees. It is so relaxing and well that is what vacation is for right :)

But alas it is time to rest so that we can tackle tomorrow. Here is praying Mama gets some good sleep and that you are all well.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Greece Day 4

6/5/16

Today was a jammed packed day and while it was neat it was also hot - really hot. Poor Mama was about done by the 2nd stop and we had a total of 4, but she toughed through it. The heat here is intense; it may be high 80s, but it's dry and the sun is more intense than it is at home so it very quickly saps your energy. I'm slightly burnt from yesterday - today I put sun screen on, used a hat and stayed under an umbrella, but still got more sun. If I lived over here I would tan or shrivel up like a raisin - only 2 options that would exist.

The day began with breakfast @ 7 AM. For anyone that has known me longer than 5 minutes you know this is insanely early for me. Our bags had to be out by 7 and we were right on the cusp. I have them more ready tonight and a different game plan because tomorrow starts at the same time.

We had a quiet breakfast that I rushed a tiny bit because I wanted to get a good seat on the bus. There is a rotation and I wanted to make sure to not get a bus seat with a window pole in it... makes taking pictures out of the bus easier. We got on the bus right on time and headed out to our first stop of the day - the Corinth Canal.

This was basically a bathroom break, but we did walk over the canal on a walking bridge and took some photos. It was amazing how deep it is. The canal is man made and it connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It was built due to the treacherous ride around the point of the Peloponnese but is only used by smaller ships now - it is too narrow for the huge freighters and cruise ships many use today.

One fun TMI thing to note that has nothing to do with the sites - I had to go bra-less today. It was showing in my tank-top and driving me insane so at the Canal bathroom I took it off. Now that I know how hot I got today I'm so glad I did ... I would have sweated to death.

So now that I was less dressed we headed on... The next was the site of Ancient Corinth; where we found the Temple of Apollo. This is one of the few buildings left from before the Romans took over Greece in 46 BC. It was a fantastic site and I think I got some great photographs. We were lucky, it was not terribly busy so I was able to get a few - a few mind you - without people in them. We also saw the Bema, where Paul spoke and was accused of sacrilege by the Jews. We saw the baths and the ruins from several other buildings in Ancient Corinth. Here is a good mock up of what it would have looked like in the day.

I do have to admit upon walking in Ancient Corinth; the site of the city where Paul founded the Church of Corinth; the city that he wrote the two letters too (1st and 2nd Corinthians) I thought I would have been more moved; but it was ruins. Neat ruins, but I had no spiritual significance to me. There were people there on a type of pilgrimage who were praying and worshiping; another group of school children were putting on a religious play for their parents and all I felt was sorry for them as they stood in the hot sun wearing those extremely hot costumes. I know they had to be sweating to death. But no spiritual revelations or moment of awe - maybe it was just too dang hot.

I did however get in trouble by the tour guide :) They give you these headsets so you can hear her from quite a ways away so I was taking pictures while she was giving her "lecture" on the area and I got in trouble for not being with the group. It was comical and as you know I paid about as much attention to it as I do anything. Came over - smiled - and went right on taking my pictures.

We left Ancient Corinth and headed for Mycenae. The drive between the two was really pretty with rolling hills that consisted of various farms - grapes, olives, oranges. It was really pretty. Once we got to Mycenae Mama was already really hot so I gave her my umbrella and Jack and I shared the other one. I was hoping it would keep the sun off of her enough to at least enjoy it a little bit - not sure if it did but hey - I can only do what I can do. Mycenae is an archictual dig site that in all honesty didn't grab my interest. Just too dang hot, but the view was fabulous.

We only walked up to the first level of hte mountain - you could have gone all the way to the top for a better view, but I just couldn't fathom it in the hat. Mycenae was a great city at one time; now it is ruins that they study. Vivian, our tour guide, told us about the battle over Helen that was won with a Trojan horse. The unique item is -Homer, who we know the story of Helen from lived several hundred years before the war. So no one knows what the war was really about they just tie it to his story because it fit so well. What we saw today at this site was:

1) Grave Circle A - Where the Mask of Agamemnon was found. We saw this mask yesterday at the museum. In this grave there were 19 bodies found and over 31 pounds of gold artifacts found.
2) The Lions Gate - Main entrance into the fortified city that Mycenae once was.
3) Gorgeous view of the fields and the sea
4) Tombs of Mycenae - Gigantic beehive shaped tomb that they have no idea what it was used for. It is outside the city walls and is large. There is one piece of Marble over the door that is gigantic... no idea how they lifted it up to that place.

We left Mycenae and headed to Epidaurus. It was a good half hour drive so all of our crew took a little nap - the sun really does zap the energy right out of you. Epidaurus is most known for it's 4th century theater that is still in use. The acoustics were perfect, which Beth proved by singing the Star Spangled Banner. She did amazing until the guards whistled for her to stop :) She knew she wasn't allowed to sing but our tour guide told her don't do it - I know nothing and then said she was leaving the area, basically telling Beth to enjoy herself until she got caught. It was incredible. Beth is a fantastic singer and the sound was amazing. Everyone kept telling her how great she did.

You could hear the same from everywhere in the theater and they still do performances here in the spring. Near this site is also the site of where they discovered some of the first medical instruments proving that medicine was being practiced long before anyone thought. We walked through the museum and saw some of the instruments they discovered; it was neat.

We then left the area - in our air conditioned bus - which by this time was a vital welcome relief. We went to a little picturesque town of Nafplio. We really only had a few minutes here for photos as it was not officially part of our tour, but I'm so glad she deviated to it for us. It was so pretty - sitting on the water. It just captured your imagination and I really wish we had a few more minutes to wander and maybe shop. It reminded me of Burano in Italy.

We then headed to our hotel where I ran to the shower to get the grime of the sun off of me. After showers we took a short nap before heading down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Dinner was good, it was a buffet and we only stayed a little while. Jack and I then went walking a bit on our own. The hotel itself is fabulous; its an oasis unto itself.

The courtyard has hundreds of birds singing
The pool had a fabulous sunset that was breathtaking
The grassy area was like carpet on your feet
The palm trees were gigantic
The rooms are spacious
And last but not least the bed is comfy and I'm about to roll over and call it a night.

Sleep well dear world - more to come tomorrow :)

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Greece Day 3

6/4/16

Today was our first real full day in Greece and it was really nice. Nice I say? Well that's descriptive... let me tell you about the day.

Wake up call was at 7 AM and we slowly rolled out of bed. I'll be honest; this bed felt good and I was tired; but up we got. We got dressed and headed down for breakfast. Now I'm dreading the coffee at this point - having experienced coffee in other countries it is typically way to strong for me. However, I was so pleasantly pleased. The coffee was good and the breakfast was great. Eggs -- not so much, but over all excellent. I had fruit, toast, sausage, and oj. It's funny things here are sweeter than back home - the OJ and Apple Juice was so much sweeter and we found the ketchup (at another meal - not with breakfast) is also sweet. Oh and the tomatoes- I can't forget about them. They are so fresh over here and well yummy! I could eat just tomatoes.

After breakfast we headed down to get our first taste of Athens and to meet our tour guide for the rest of the trip. Her name is Vivian and she is nice. She is young and has a 2 year old son. I can't imagine juggling this career where you are gone for days and weeks and a son, but she seems happy and is extremely knowledgeable.

Our tour started with her pointing out various highlights of the city and then the first stop was the site of the 1st Modern Olympic games. They started back in 1886 and were held at the Panathenaic Stadium. It was neat to see -- I loved seeing the flags billowing in the wind and seeing how awe inspiring a stadium made of marble looked in the glorious sunlight. It can hold 65000 people and is only used for special events.

After that we toured a bit more seeing unique buildings such as the:

National Historic Museum
Athens University
Catholic Church

before heading to the Greek Parliament to see the changing of the guard. In Syntagma Square they guard the the tomb of the unknown soldiers of Greece. I've been to the changing of the guard in the US as well and this was so different. A) it is ina public square next to busy roads etc... so it wasn't quiet or somber as the one in the US is. People talked and carried on like normal. B) They do this high kick; supposedly symbolic of kicking the Turks out which looks rather silly C) they wear traditional wooden shoes with pompas on them that way roughly 6 pounds a piece! It was hot and I'm sure they were hot in those uniforms, but they had a cover to stand under and even a building they could step in if the weather was bad. In the US our solider stand in the rain, snow, beating sun, it doesn't matter... Maybe it gets hotter here, but I thought that was a significant difference. You could also take a picture with them - you could not post or touch them, but you could stand beside them. I don't remember that being possible or even thought of in the US.

Once we left there we headed to what I thought was the highlight of the day - the Athenian Acropolis. The Acropolis is a fortified hill that only has one navigable side. It houses several temples and was a religious icon during pagan times. We hiked up to the first stop which was the Beule Gate; entrance to the Acropolis. The hike wasn't that bad, but the sun made it rough. Between that and the slippery marble I was surprised we didn't have people falling out by the end of the journey.

The view from the Acropolis was worth it by itself. Fabulous. They have an active out door theater (Odeion of Herodes Atticus) and I could imagine sitting there listening to the music while seeing that view.

We then walked through the Propylaia and she gave us a explanation of what we were seeing The first temple you could see, but not get exceptionally close to was the Temple of Athena Nike. It was pretty and you walked through ruins of another temple to move forward. The architecture and the grandeur of it was impressive. The columns... oh the columns.

And then we went on up to see the Parthenon and the Porche of the Caryatids. Both were amazing, but I actually liked the Porch of the Caryatids better. I loved the statues that were columns and it had windows that were extremely symmetrical (no glass of course). It was just pretty and unique. Don't get me wrong I loved the Parthenon as well and it was pretty... maybe some of it's grace was taken away by the equipment they had inside that you could see - it messed up my pictures, lol.

By this time Mama is miserable with the heat (and I can't blame her) so we headed back to the bottom. Once there we got ice cold fruit drinks (lemonade, strawberry and orange) and just sat for a moment in some very scarce shade.

I should also mention before moving further we could see the Temple of Zeus and the Theater of Dionsys from the top of the Acropolis. I got some pictures of it and hope to go see it closer on the last day of our trip.

We then headed back to the bus and that was the end of the tour, but not the day. By this time it is 1:20 and the rest of the day is ahead of us and it's free. Mama decided to go back to rest and the rest of us headed to grab a bite and then to the National Archaeological Museum.

We ate at a restaurant right outside the museum and as a local told us it was slightly pricey, but not to bad and well it had chairs. The food was good and service was great. I had a salad with pork on it. The pork had a nice flavor and the salad had a sweet vinaigrette dressing that I really liked.

Upon entering we walked into a gallery and I thought ... hmmm. not to big we should wrap this up quickly. Boy was I wrong, it just goes and goes and goes, but it was neat. I especially liked the following:

* Little miniature horses, cows, people and vases, reminded me of doll house furniture.
* The vases were gorgeous and so unique
* Their was a vase in the shape of a pig - I think it was the first piggy bank.

You could take pictures with no flash and I was amazed at how well the museum did the lighting. You couldn't even tell the glass was there in most exhibits so I was able to do photography and get some nice memories. Speaking of photography Beth got in trouble :) lol. She went to smile and point in a picture and was told "no posing". Apparently you can stand beside a statue but not make a funny face at it, very odd.

We spent 2 hours in the museum and didn't see close to all of it, but we were tired and knew we wanted to get rest before dinner tonight so we headed back. Vivian, our guide, had told us 5 Euros for a taxi so when we went to get the first one and he told us 10 we knew better. He tried to haggle, but we didn't have a good vibe so we walked down a ways. The next one was very nice and he told us 5 Euros, we gave him 6 just for being honest. He has family in CT, which is cool. His wife's mother and sisters. Yes I'm with Beth which means we get to know everyone, I love it!

We then took a much needed nap before the scheduled dinner and dance this evening.

Once we got up we headed out again to a greek dinner and dancing excursion. The food was different - mostly good. It consisted of several courses:

1) Starters -

Kidney Beans with a Sauce
Bread
Garlic cream spread - Excellent!
A grit type thing - not sure what it was called but it was ok.

2) Appetizers
Sausage Links
No idea what the other items were that were on my plate. Only that they weren't my favorite.

2) Salad
Again I can't get enough of the tomatoes

3) Main Course
This was a chicken meal with potatoes and a red sauce with cheese. It was ok ... I didn't dislike it, it just didn't really speak to me. I ate enough of it, but I also snacked on more tomatoes and cucumbers.

4) Dessert

Flaffels
Fruit

They also live music and dancers. The Greek customary dances are unique to see. They look simple enough, but my guess is they are surprisingly hard. They asked for active participants several times and Beth went up and danced with them. A couple of them she was by herself, but she did so great and well I loved watching her. She is just fun and full of life. The joy that she has is contagious.

We then headed back to the hotel and we start again at 6:30 in the AM. Hope all is well in blogland - more to come tomorrow :)



Greece Day 1 & 2

6/2/16 and 6/3/16

We woke up and went about our daily lives. I worked from home, Jack went to get a haircut, etc.… but I’ll be honest that I wasn’t very effective at work… just trying not to take a full PTO day. So even though I was scheduled to log off (I worked remote) at 11; I ended up logging at 10:30.

We then loaded up the luggage; said good bye to the fur babies and were off. I drove up to Covington while Jack did some work; then in Covington we ate Chick fila before Jack finished the drive to the ATL airport.

Now the airport was an experience. I have been having issues letting others drive – I hate to drive but have panic attacks in traffic situations if others are driving. So here we are trying to find this new “international concourse” taking the most scenic route possible because we didn’t know where we were and I’m gripping the chair like I’m on the motor speedway seeing my life pass before my eyes. Now don’t get me wrong – Jack drives perfectly safe and we were never in even a slight hint of danger; I just get really panicky.

Well after we found it Jack dropped Mama and I off with the bags and went to get parked. Beth arrived at about the exact same time Jack got back so it was perfect timing. We then went to check in our bags. Jack is a Platinum member who gets 70 Ibs a bag or so we thought. Nope that is only domestic – international it is 70. At this point I’m just like pay the overage – I can’t think – still panicked from the ride over. So I walk away and let Jack just handle it – which he did’ we ended up checking 2nd duffle bags we have at no cost and it all worked out. Just have to do something about the panic – tried Paxil, but had to come back off of it due to side effects… Will talk to the doctor when I get back from Greece.

But on to the trip… after we got checked in we shortly boarded the flight for Amsterdam. It was an 8 hour flight and Mama was in
and out much of it. In a half sleep / half awake place where she says crazy things that make zero sense.

We landed in Amsterdam, but had to sit on the tarmac for an hour while they cleared the gate. Once we unloaded the plane we were walking to the connecting flight for Athens and had to go through Customs. We realized Mama was walking really unstable so I asked the TSA agent if she could sit in a nearby chair while we waited -- instead she fast tracked us to the front which was really nice.

Once we got through there we were walking and still worrying about Mama we borrowed one of the wheelchairs and rolled her to the gate. We chilled there for a good hour before they decided to change our gate. So then we rolled her to another one…. This gate was downstairs and getting there was funny.

In Europe the elevators are very long and narrow; well this one was just narrow – so I go to roll her in and I can’t. I, she, and my book back won’t fit. We get stuck… The elevator is beeping – Mama is trying to get up and I’m telling her to stay … it’s so funny. Well then a Delta person comes by and she steps right in and helps (thank goodness) and I run downstairs to meet them.

We then sit – and sit – and sit. About 30 minutes go by and they roll up these buses. I know buses … odd right? But given I couldn’t see where a plane was going to come to down there it made at least some sense.

They loaded Mama (and us) along with another group using the wheel chairs first onto the bus and then we are off. We drive through active tarmacs to get to our plane which is sitting in the middle of a busy area. We disembark from the bus and get on the plane. Mama said it reminded her of the 1950s plane onboarding.

After we got on the plane we were told we had lost our spot in the take off line due to the delay so then we waited on the plan for another hour to take off. Now me saying this in this matter of fact way and you probably think “Oh My, how horrible” but we didn’t have any more connections and we were also tired it just didn’t matter.

Beth, Mama and Jack all took naps – In fact Mama and Beth didn’t realize we even had a delay till they woke up and we were still on the ground. We finally got off and landed in Greece around 6:20.
We then got our bags, met the Globus representative and headed to the hotel. We got our rooms, met with the Globus person here to get some basic information and went to recoup.

We decided not to go to bed right away as we want to adjust to this time so we all got cleaned up and walked down to a restaurant near here. The menu was in Greek, but the nice man spoke English and was nice enough to explain what they have. I ordered a pork plate and I have to say it was fabulous. I loved it and ate all of it! All of it I tell you.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and each went our separate ways. Jack is here with me sleeping soundly – as I hope Mama and Beth are. I am typing this up and getting bags ready for tomorrow at which time I’m going to sleep as well. Breakfast is at 8:30 in the am 

Jamaica Day 2 and Part of 3

I'm relaxed - I mean really relaxed and it feels amazing.  Yesterday after the post they showed us a new room and I was really undecided...