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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
We're Outta Here
 
Had a delectable good-bye dinner at Zorba's (where else???) last night.  Grilled Octopi for all (except Tex, who is still raving about the lamby chops), Tzatziki, Greek Salad, Ouzo, Fruit, and plenty of Mythos all around.  May I say YUUUUMMMY one more time?
 
Mike's home, visa in hand, getting all packed up.  I would do it for him, but I'm sure I would do it wrong. . .
 
And, kids, we are almost wheels up and outta here.  This is the last report from Athens.  You will need to retrain yourselves and hit the Israel button up above.
 
Roger, we have lift off.  See you all inTel Aviv.

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KRUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHH (That's the sound an airplane makes)

Monday, July 16, 2007
A Report on Andros Island, and PACKING (which I should be doing instead of this)!
 
ANDROS ISLAND
 
This is a Cycladic Island in the Aegean sea, about a 2 hour cruise from the port of Rafina (which is northeast of Athens about 25 miles or an HOUR on the bus).  It's a fairly large island, by Greek Island standards, and definitely off the tourist track, although you wouldn't know it by the HUGE ferries pulling in at frequent intervals all day and night. 
 
And, it's very, very windy.  Not breezy, not gusty, but a constant wind (think about 35 mph with gusts).  Not a lot of soil.  And best to hold on to EVERYTHING, including beach towels (especially very expensive ones like ours), ball caps, and even sunglassess. 
 
We decided to stay in Gavrio, the port city.  We had high hopes of getting on the bus and exploring a little, but we never left the resort and the town.  Just too busy eating, drinking and laying in the sun.  Walked into town on Saturday night, pretty quiet, but had a nice dinner.  Ate a lot of seafood, jumbo shrimp, calamari in tomato sauce, mussels, grilled octopi (all of this by me, in just two days!), plus a pizza.   And a gelato.  OMG, no wonder I'm getting so big.
 
It was pretty.  Lots of blue sea and blue sky (and a blue pool, too!). 
 
What wasn't fun was the bus ride to Rafina (so unfun we spent the big dollar and took a cab back to Athens) and the ferry ride.  I was surprised as it was a very large ferry, but I think 2 hours is my max.  It wasn't really the ferry, but (and I hate to say this) the people.  Yes, the Greek people.  They are sincerely, as a whole, getting on my nerves.   Common courtesy?  What's that?  A line?  Never heard of it.  Sit up on a long upholstered seat so someone else can SIT DOWN?  I don't think so.  C'mon people. 
 
I don't think there are many "random acts of kindness" going on here.  Unless I'm doing them. . .  Geez.
 
Okay, enough about that (I think, it's possible I might derail into more venting).
 
The Andros Holiday Resort where we stayed was a (European) three star, which in state standards equals something a LOT less.  It was run-down romantic chic.  The common areas were quite quaint, but the room was, well, substandard.  How much does a screw cost anyway (all that was keeping our shower from working properly).  And a little noisy.  But, it was on the other side of the hill from the port, secluded and quiet (although it was hard to hear ANYTHING over the roar of the wind).  And the staff were friendly and nice.  Always a plus.
 
PACKING
 
Yep, doing that again.  Actually almost done, and almost sure I'm overweight (well, me AND my luggage).  Will have to see what El Al thinks about that. . . Probably nothing good.
 
IN OTHER NEWS
 
The Embassy was getting Mike's visa for Israel.  He was suppose to have his passport back Friday or today.  Found out this AFTERNOON that they needed to RESEND it back to the Israeli Embassy because they forgot to send some paperwork with it.  Who knows if it will return tomorrow?  Apparently not the people from the Embassy who sent it over there.  Not much concern, either.  Nice.
 
And, ATHENS IS BURNING.  Well, at least the mountain right next to our house.  They've had some severe forest fires this year, on the mainland and the islands, and one other in Athens, but this one is the closest.  Looks like they've got a handle on it, though.  About seven "water bearing sea planes" (don't know what they are called) circling over our apartment right now. 

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Leaving Rafina Friday night

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The ferry we rode in on

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A crooked view from our balcony

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Our little swatch of Aegean Heaven

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Around our hotel, notice those wind-swept hills.

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Along the harbor front

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Pirdy lighthouse

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Cutey fishing boats in the Gavrio Harbor

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Fire. Fire's cool ehhehehehee

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Circling the fire and our house

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The water dump

Thurday, July 12, 2007
Travel Update and Random Things
 
TRAVEL UPDATE
 
  • I'ts all real.  I've bought my ticket (one way on El Al airways, always wanted to fly with them, they're in the crosswords all the time.  Come to think of it, so is Tel Aviv!), changed my return to 11/17/07 from Tel Aviv to Atlanta, Atlanta to home.  Mike gets his passport back from the Iraeli Embassy tomorrow.
 
  • And, TJ is going too.  AND, his friend Natalie (from Hong Kong, and our friend, too, but TJ's friend friend, know what I mean??) is coming to visit in two weeks.
 
  • And we will be there in 6 days.  Holy cow.

 

  • I'm experiencing very little emotion about the whole thing.  Not sure it it's denial or what.
 
  • But, we are still going to Andros Island tomorrow!  Yea us!
 
RANDOM THINGS
 
  • I just sneezed and it sounded exactly like. . . my MOM!
 
  • Wondering if relocating to Tel Aviv will make Mike and I's pee stop stinking.  It really stinks.  BAD.  Would worry about it, but it's both of us.  We can't both be dying of the same makes-your-pee-pee-smell-bad disease, can we?  Must be something we are eating (too much of) or drinking (again, probably too much of).  Whew.  It smells.

 

  • Somhow I lost Mike's favorite pair of shorts.  Last sighting was after returning from Mati last weekend.  They are gone. . . probably with the wind, off the clothesline.

 

  • I wonder how hard it is to design/make crossword puzzles.  Maybe a side job?  Hmmmm.

 

  • It's still HOT in Athens.  And it's almost as hot in Tel Aviv.  Click here if you care.

 

  • I don't think I'm going to miss Athens very much.  Although we've had some nice times here and made some great memories, I'm not experiencing that normal sense of melancholy I get when it's time to leave somewhere.

All for now.

 

 

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Holy Meshugass*, Batman!
From Santorini and Souvlaki to Shawarma, Just Like That!
 
A klog is mir**.  Just when I thought I had everything handled - NOPE!
 
Everything is scrapped.  We leave Wednesday the 18th for Tel Aviv, Israel for 3 months.
 
I must scramble.  I'm so fachadick***.
 
Yiddish is cool.
 
Of course, this is totally my fault on two accounts.  When Tel Aviv hit the schedule I said, "Cool, I'd like to go there,".  But, Mike said it wouldn't happen, as it was starting before we were done here.
 
Then, last night at dinner, I said, "Well, maybe they'll call you with some cool place to go", meaning in September or something after we'd had our island vacation and some time at home.  But, when we got home, there was an email to call the office. 
 
Holy hashem****.
 
*Meshugass is Yiddish for insanity
**A klog is mir is Yiddish for Woe is me
***Fachadick is Yiddish for confused
****Hashem is how you take the name of the Lord in vain in Yiddish. :0
 

Monday, July 9, 2007
Two Weeks, Baby . . . Maybe!
 
Theoretically, two weeks from now we should either be:
  • Enroute to Santorini
  • Already on Santorini
  • Still working in Athens

Life's so hard.  Project still giving Mike minor fits, so no way to plan our upcoming supposed vacation of the Greek Isles, hypothetically commencing at 5 PM on Friday the 20th.  We have no ferry tickets, no hotel reservations, NADA.  And, to add to the bedlam of trying to plan a vacation, I absolutely, positively have to be out of Greece on the 31st, or face some (?) unknown, unmentioned, undescribed punishment from the Greek government/immigration control/EU.

Fortunately, I do have a seat secured (with Mike) on a flight that day.  Unlike some of the other poor folk working here who can't seem to change their tickets, as there are no seats, because this is when EVERYONE and his BROTHER come to Greece (not my brothers, though).

We are making a run to Andros Island next weekend, leaving Friday evening, returning Sunday evening.  It is rumored it even has SAND beaches.  Forgive me for being a Paris Hilton-y spoiled rotten brat from a state with over 200 miles of SANDY COAST, but when someone says beach to me, I envision long swathes of sand and crystal blue water.  Not a bunch of rocks abutting the sea.

Anyway, Andors Island is the road less traveled for most tourists, and should prove to be interesting, and at least as much fun as hanging in Mati.

Which we did again this past weekend.  I tried to get reservations at the same hotel we were at Tues/Wednes, but they were full.  Had to settle for the 3 star down the road, which was only 5 Euro less a night.  But, boy, what a difference one star and 5 Euro maketh. . .

A nice getaway, and good to spend two nights away, makes you feel more like you actually went someplace.  A few snags with the bus to return worth mentioning, though!

Wednesday we were told the bus from Mati to Athens runs every 2 hours and we walked down to where our hotel this weekend was to catch it at 4 PM.  It arrived at 4:35.  Okay.  Sunday, we were out front with our bag at exactly 4.  At 4:10 I thought, "Hey, it's Sunday, maybe we should check and make sure the bus schedule is the same, eh?".  That's me, always thinking.  So, I go inside, guy tells me the bus is at 4:15. 

Back outside.  Wait until 5 PM.  No bus. 

Walk a mile UPHILL to the main road.  Find bus stop.  WAIT.  WAIT.  WAIT.  In the sun.  Shade from bus stop cover is in the middle of the road at this time of day.  WAIT.  WAIT.  I have seen no busses.  Are they on strike?  Will we have to walk back to Athens?  What the heck is going on?  (And the Mati bus never came up from the ocean, either).  Finally, a little after 6, here comes the bus.  And again, they will not open the luggage compartment for our bag.  NICE.  We waited two hours for a forty minute ride back to town.  ARGHHH.  Note to self:  Do not set your watch by the Athens bus.

A little annoying.  And disturbing, as we are planning on using the bus on Friday to get to the Rafina port to go to Andros, and if they are that late we won't make the ferry!  What to do, what to do. 

But, we did make it back in an air conditioned bus, with two seats left for us.  AND, we went to ZORBA's for octopus and tzatziki (which was the first tzatziki we'd had there, and it was THE BEST!).  Life is good. 

When Greece gets you down, remember the old adage, "Well, at least the food is good!"

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The "beach". That is rock, folks, not sand! Although to be fair, about 20 yards out it's all sand

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Windsurfer out in the big blue. . .

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Wait?!? It's JULY!?!? Then we might as well just leave these xmas decs up, then!

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Mike waits patiently for the bus. . . at first, and then we both LOSE IT!

In other news, the New Seven Wonders of the World have been voted on by the general public, and selected.  They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Chichen Itza - Mexico
  • Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
  • The Great Wall of China, China
  • Machu Pichu, Peru
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Coliseum, Rome
  • Taj Mahal, India

Which, I have seen 4 of, and Mike 5.  And, to be fair, Egypt pulled the Pyramids of Giza out of the running, as they are the ONLY remaining wonders left from the ancient world (and we've seen those!).

However, I have to say, I think Angkor Wat was sorely overlooked and could have easily replaced the statue of Christ or Chichen Itza (and possibly even the Coliseum, whose spot I think should have went to the Acropolis). 

But that's my untraveled, unknowing, pithy opinion.  And, I still need to see the Great Wall to complete my 7 Wonders of the World.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2007
A Day Away
 
Packed up our new and expensive beach towels and headed for Nea Makri on Tuesday evening.  Staying at a lovely four star hotel called Aquamarina. 
 
(Dear Aquamarina-you have a lovely hotel, with great views of the sea and a gorgeous spa.  You need to hire someone to go out on a boat and take some pictures of your hotel, perched just on the edge of the Aegean, as all your website pictures look like you are located on a PARKING LOT!!  You are totally underselling yourselves!  Also, you have the WRONG MAP on your bookings page, which for neophytes on the bus, makes it a bit difficult to find you!  Other than that, BRAVO!)
 
Arrived in Nea Makri, where Bob and Maria (BBQ at their house friends, Mike works with Bob) picked us up at the bus stop and drove us back to our hotel, thank you, thank you, thank you!  Checked in, had no electricity, moved rooms, hit the bar and waited for Bob and Maria to come and pick us up for dinner at the Taverna Argentina, located up on a mountain above Marathon.   
 
A long and winding road, but the temperature is soooo nice, about 15'F cooler than Athens.  Restaurant specializes in BEEF, BEEF and more BEEF.  You pick your cut on the way in, they throw it on the BBQ, you eat a bunch of stuff first, and then they bring half a dead cow to your table and toss it in the middle on a wood slab.
 
I honestly never saw such a big piece of beef for four people.  But, we did pretty good with it.  A nice chunk left over, but we tried.  It was the best beef we've ate in Greece, so hard to stop.
 
And, cheap too!
 
Wound back down the mountain, stopped and had a nightcap on the ocean, and were dropped back at the hotel around 1 AM. 
 
Wednesday we lounged around the pool until 3 PM, then caught the 4 PM bus (actually arrived around 4:40, but whatever) back to Athens. 
 
Today, it's very warm again.  Trying to find someplace to head for the weekend.  Ferry schedules are about impossible to anywhere we want to go and am getting FRUSTRATED.  May just head back to Aquamarina on Friday, stay until Sunday night.

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Lovely, cool and perfect for an overnight escape. . .

Tuesday, July 3, 2007
American Diversity in Athens
 
Last night we ventured down to an area just below the Acropolis for a pre-dinner drink and some food. After stopping at Bretos for a beer, we walked up to a restaurant with a nice outdoor garden directly underneath the most eastern corner of the Acropolis.
 
It was not a great epicurean experience, but the night air was wonderful, we had a family or two of cats and kittens to entertain us, and besides one other table, basically private dining for most of the evening.
 
The other table was a table of five. We discovered they were American by the simple act of eavesdropping on their conversation. Now, five Americans in a taverna in Athens does not a blog-entry make, but after observing them and thinking about it, I thought, "Well, maybe it does!".
 
You see, they were a veritibal sundry of Americans. Three guys and two girls. One guy definitely of Middle Eastern descent, probably Iranian, another guy Chinese descent. One girl of un-known origin, but guessing would say Latino and Asian or Inuit mix, looked somewhat Polynesian, but different. One gay guy (whitebread) and one girl that if you close your eyes and think of Iowa, this is what you would see. All middle-aged. All Americans.
 
Which led me to think, if they were five people from Japan (or China, or Korea, etc), Russia, Germany, India or almost anywhere, you would know. They would be pretty much uniform.
 
Which makes me celebrate our country, America, where so many different races, religions, sexual preferences, and cultures can co-exist if not in perfect harmony, at least without blowing each other up or civil war. And, in the whole scheme of things, based on how youthful our country is, we're doing it quickly compared to a lot of the world.
 
Plus, they kept calling the Acropolis (which we were RIGHT underneath) the Apocalypse, which is damn funny. Not only diverse, but humorous.

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Cool bar. Roger and Frederique went once, we've walked by 100 times, finally went!

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Give me souvlaki or DIE, BIOTCH!

So, Happy Birthday America, and Happy Fourth of July to readers back home.  We're taking off for Nea Makri and the beach tonight, return Wednesday evening.  Possibly off to Andros Island this weekend, if I can get a stinking hotel to answer my email!  Arghhh.

Monday, July 2, 2007
What's In Your Closet????
 
Remember this dress?
 

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July 26, 2001, On the Nile, Cairo, Egypt. . .

This dress is what is referred to by many in my family (and myself) as the "tree dress".  My Mom was with me when I bought it, and she was not enamored by the dress, told me it made me look like a tree. . . Okay.
 
But, the point is, this is THE oldest piece of clothing in my closet.  And, you might ask, how old is it????
 
I'm really not sure.  But it's old.  I'm thinking mid-90's.  I bought it at Casual Corner (the outlet!).  I'm sure it's pre-Mike (11 years).  Is that a crime? 
 
But it travels so well, and works great for hot climates as it barely touches my body!  I made my brother bring it over with him.
 
Is it still in style?  Was it ever in style?  I guess I don't care. 
 
What's the oldest thing in your closet?
 
Yesterday, I made Mike go to the Acropolis.  Four months in Athens, and he hasn't been.  He's seen it from many angles, but never paid the obligatory 12 Euro to enter. 
 
Someday he'll thank me (wishful thinking).
 
I now have take-out menus to every restaurant in Athens.  They shove them under the door every day.  Unfortunately, none are in English.  But they have pretty pictures. . .
 
Weather has been PERFECT!  Don't want to say that, but it has!  Cool at night, nice breeze during the day.  Lu-u-u-u-VING it!

Sunday, June 30, 2007
Thank GOD!
 
The heat broke.  It's been liveable for the last two days.  However, now we've heard that monsoon rains are on the way. . . HUH?
 
Didn't leave for the weekend, but have been very comfortable here in Athens.  Only (only?) in the 90's during the day, and it's 68F tonight.  Feels cold. . . BRRRRR. . . heehee.
 
Loving it.  Had dinner outside last night in Kolonaki and tonight in Thissio (another full moon over the Acropolis).
 
Awesome.

Thursday, June 28, 2007
This Just In!
 

As reported in the International Herald Tribune Today:  (Reprint not by Permission!)

International Traveler Update

Athens

Temperatures in Greece rose to record-breaking levels in a heat wave that has already killed five people, let to dozens of forest fires, power cuts and disruptions at archaeological sites like the Acropolis.

A meteorologist, Manolis Anadranistakis, said Wednesday that the temperature of 44.8 degrees Celsius (112.6 Fahrenheit) in central sthe day before had been the hottest since temperatures were first tracked there in 1897. The heat hit 36.2 degrees Celsius (115.2 Fahrenheit) in the Athens suburb of Philadelphia, where records began 52 years ago.

Employees at state-run museums and archaeological sites threatened to walk off their jobs. "Marble reflects the heat - temperatures reached 55 degrees Celsius under the sun at the Acropolis," a labor leader, Costas Oikonomou said Wednesday. 

Temperatures were expected to drop below 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) starting Thursday.

Yes, folks, we are the harbingers of bad/hot/wet weather, where ever we go. . . Didn't want you to think we were just being babies.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Happy Anniversary to Us, Seven Years and Counting!
 
Another hot wedding anniversary.  I swear, it was hot as heck the day we were married, and it's been hot every time since, no matter where we were.  But, we had a lovely ceremony at St. Paul's with the Reverend Malcolm Bradshaw officiating in full clerical garb and all.  It was great.  Very moving.

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Pre-renewal jitters. . . NOT!

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The kiss. . . well, almost!

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All done!

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Ah, grilled octopus is such sweet reward. . . . LOL

And, I got a "chain" made out of #6 ground wire (?whatever?) that is too big for my wrist and has no clasp, so is therefore, too small for my neck.  Maybe some worry beads/chain?  Who knows?  But it is COPPER, which is better than what Mike got from me.  GIFT FROM ME TO MIKE=NOTHING.  (Except I did make him a nice homemade card).
 
Afterwards, we headed to Zorba's for grilled octopus!  YUMMY!  And, lots of beer, as required for any festivities. . . heeheee. 
 
That's it for this year's anniversary folks. Stay tuned for next year!  Who knows where we shall be. . .
 
But, it is nice to be married to such a wonderful man who loves me so much, and who I love so much, too!

Addendum to 7/25/07
Fact of Life
 
If you are 37 years old and you burn your neck with your curling iron, in 5 days you will look like a 37 year old WOMAN with a HICKEY.  Nice.

Monday, June 25, 2007
"Only" 96' F today. . .
 
Forgive me for not posting lately, it is so difficult to see the computer screen through the sweat pouring off my brow. . .   And the fact it requires me to leave the bedroom, the only AIR CONDITIONED room in the house, to do so. . .
 
In response to the unbearable heatness of being, we decided to escape to the coast for the weekend.  I thought it would be wise to leave Friday night, but Mike cabashed that and we left on Saturday morning.  Our destination?  The Eden Beach Resort on Sounion Road on the way to the Temple of Poseidon (those who were here and made the trip, it's on that road). 
 
Snagged the LAST TWO seats on the bus at 9:40 Saturday morning and had a nice AIR CONDITIONED ride to the hotel.  Arrived at 11, checked in, cranked the AIR CONDITIONING in our room, put on our suits and hit the pool.
 
Oh wait.  Not true.  First we had to plunk down 38 Euro (yes, that is almost $50US) for two beach towels, because apparently in Greece a Beach Resort does not provide you with towels by the pool, but they do provide you with a boutique where said objects can be purchased for outrageous amounts of money. 
 
But, in a fashion totally unlike me, I willingly payed and hardly bitched at all.  Nor did I even worry/care/obsess (hardly at all!) about putting on my bathing suit for the first time in over a year, at my most fattest in over a year. . . I just rolled with it, kinda like a roly-poly!  No pictures, though.  Hardly took any pictures at all.
 
Got spots in the shade.  Swam in the water (which was a salt water pool, how odd).  Heaven. 
 
At 2 PM we moved to the beach, had lunch at the cafe there, watched the people, realized you probably had to arrive around 6:30 AM to get a chair with an umbrella, and went back to the poolside.
 
Swam.  Slept.  Burned.
 
Cleaned up for dinner (included in our room rate!  Nice surprise), but first decided to go and watch the sunset at the beach bar.  Had a couple frosty beers, watched the sun disappear into the haze, enjoyed a nice breeze off the sea.  Watched the Greeks continue hanging in their chairs under the umbrellas til well past 8 PM.  Realized we were not fully accustomed to "beach lifestyle".
 
Went to dinner at about 9:15 and seriously ate the worst meal ever in Greece.  Dog food buffet.  But, we were a little buzzed up and it filled the pit.  No nightlife to speak of, went back to the AIR CONDITIONED room.  Slept for TWELVE HOURS!  Missed breakfast.
 
Did manage to find some coffee, get acclimated to being vertical, check out by noon.  Spent the afternoon enjoying the pool, some Stella Artois', a nice Ceasar Salad, and the shade.  Jumped the 4 PM bus back to Athens, back in the hot 'hood around 6.  Stopped and had a couple beers on the way home.
 
Sign said it was 42' C (107' F) at 7 PM.  Egads. 
 
Unpacked, took cold showers and went to Pizza Hut and sat in the AIR CONDITIONING until 10 PM.
 
Confessions of a tired traveler. . . Last week we actually ate at TGI Friday's one night for dinner.  Not that we were to lazy to walk further (which we were, and the Friday's is right on our corner), but we thought that possibly being an American chain restaurant, it might be MORE AIR CONDITIONED than a "Greek" restaurant.  It wasn't, but it was more overpriced than a "Greek" restaurant.  So, chalk up one TGI Friday's visit and one Pizza Hut visit and one Hard Rock Cafe Happy Hour for our 4 months in Athens.  Not bad.
 
It is SOOOOO hot.  But, it does look like it will cool down this week, only be in the 90's, and they are calling for 68 in the evening on Monday, July 2.  PLEASE LET THAT BE TRUE! 
 
Anyway, you know what we will be doing every weekend starting at 7 PM on Friday until the time we leave here.   Us and the entire population of Athens will be beach bound.  And next Tuesday night, too!

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This is how we do it. . . even though we didn't do it this way, pretty beach, though!

UPDATE ON BURMA PROJECT:  Seems we dodged the bullet and Scott and an unknown accomplice will be doing the Burma project, starting June 27. 
 
UPDATE ON VACATIONS:  Besides our weekly upcoming jaunts to the beach, we will NOT be going to Helsinki at the end of the project, but instead are looking at doing a 9 day, three island hop around the Aegean.  Planned islands for now are Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete.  Still departing Athens on July 31.
 
So, besides trying to survive the heat, our plans for the week include our wedding anniversary tomorrow!  Seven years - whew-hoo.  Time for the seven year itch already!  Will be renewing our vows tomorrow night, in the heat. 
 
Also, a complete absence of home cooking is assured, and possibly a strike on laundry as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Our original leave date. . .
 
Oh dear God in heaven, it's going to be 97 degrees tomorrow. . . HELP ME.
 
 
 

Saturday, June 16, 2007
 
MWF seeks intimate relationship with air conditioner.  Must have large BTU capacity, able to fulfill all cooling needs.  Willing to relocate.  Non-jealous husband interested in menage a troi.  Current air conditioner unable to meet demanding needs of user.
 
It is bone-melting HOT here.  No reprieve in sight.  I know it's a dry heat, but it's still 90 degrees of dry heat!  In a big city.  It's HOT.  And yes, Mom, it's hotter than when you were here.  I'm dying.
 
Telephone widow again this weekend as Mike is working hard trying to move this one step closer to completion. . . again.  Keep your fingers crossed, friends.
 
We will, however, be here until the end of July.  I changed my tickets this week to 7/31/07 return.  Hopefully, we won't be working that long, and can still bop on up to Helsinki to visit our friend Freddy sometime late in the month.  I can't stay any longer (in the entire EU) than August 1, so I gotsta go. . .
 
Ideally, what we want to happen after this project is to go home for 4-6 weeks, get Mike all chilled out, let him play a little golf, visit his family, then go to Peru in September.  However, while talking to his office the other day, they asked him, "How would you like to go from Athens to Burma?".  Yikes.
 
That would be Mike's third trip to Burma, and my second.  On the upside, we could go to HK and get our visa's.  On the downside, no break.  There is a strong chance that neither Burma or Peru will pan out, but it's hard to turn down work in this unstable climate. 
 
I bet it's hot in HK. . . and Burma.
 
Was planning on going shopping today (for something other than foodstuffs and TP), but man, it's HOT (have I mentioned that?!?!).  Only 10 AM and our apartment is stifling.  Can't be much worse on the street.  Air currents have shifted and even our balcony is not getting any breeze.  But, I haven't left our neighborhood since Wednesday, so should probably get out.
 
Remember our friend "Fred" from my last post?  His wife and son (he sent his other son home a week early, per his request!?!?!) are supposed to leave this morning.  Mike got a call before going to work from Fred, who is at the airport with said wife and son.  Apparently, they are saying his son has no ticket out of here.  What's up with that?  The hits keep on a coming for Fred. 
 
Did stock up on books from the Embassy yesterday.  I get a bit nervous when there's only one unread book on the shelf.  Could just stack them up at arms length of the bed, sit in the air conditioning and "chill".   Actually, sounds like a dream. . .
 
In other news, my computer keeps shutting OFF, not down, OFF.  Anyone know what would cause that?  Does it while I'm working on it, and while it's idle.  In fact, just had this all typed out and it shut down, so had to redo.  Aggravating.  Only 18 months old, and not behaving well.
 
Maybe it's just HOT!
 
Miscellaneous Messages:
  • HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, to my Daddy-O and to all and any Father's reading this!  Have a great day, put your feet up, pop a beer, and ENJOY!
  • Sympathies to my sister-in-law and brother on the loss of their precious kitty, Pearl, who was put to sleep due to cancer on Monday.  She was a cute cat, who didn't care for me much, but will be sorely missed. . . 

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sundae Sunday, drugs, and a discussion on TP
 
Those of you who know Mike know that he doesn't eat sweets very often.  In fact, he sometimes almost tips his nose down in disdain at those of us who absolutely need chocolate in order to survive.  So, it was quite surprising on Sunday when we went over to Thissio to have a late lunch and enjoy the sunshine, and Mike ordered a chocolate mocha sundae for lunch and a large vanilla shake to wash it down with.  WTH?  I, of course, gained 3 pounds just watching him eat it.  I'm sure he considered it a "light lunch", as it really is a liquid, right?  Dang.
 
Finally got off my duff and made dinner last night, including a salad despite my "brush with death" the last time I made one.  Dined al fresco on the patio, was lovely.  Okay, enough cooking for a week. . . heehee.
 
So surprised at the disparity of drug prices here.  Most things aren't cheap, but those drugs that border perscription/non-perscription are inexpensive.  For example, my high blood pressure pills are $10/month at home.  Here, they are 4 Euro.  At home my inhaler costs $25 stinking dollars.  Here, 4 Euro.  Why do we pay so much at home for drugs that are generic, have paid for their patent by a million times, and we usually need to go to the doctor to get a perscription for?  So troubling. . . Can't buy any valium or anything "fun" though. . . Sigh.
 
Okay, there's this guy here named Fred (name changed to protect identity) who Mike works with.  His family recently has come to visit.  This conversation took place at work, so I have to rely on Mike's memory, which can be a little sketchy, but anyways. . .
 
Mike:  So, how's the family visit going?
Fred:  Man, I can't believe how much toilet paper they use.
Mike:  What do you mean?
Fred:  Well, when I got here (NOTE:  that would be in FEBRUARY) I went down and bought two rolls of toilet paper and carried them to the house.  And last week, I had to go buy two more!
Mike:  Two ROLLS?  Or two packages?
Fred:  Two rolls.
Mike:  For four months?  Two rolls?
Fred:  Yea, and now I'm probably going to have to get two more.  I don't know what they are doing with it!
 
I think I have an idea what they are doing with it.  My question is, what is Fred doing WITHOUT it?
 
Two rolls, four months.  Not an equation I'm familiar with.  Then again, maybe I'm just a wasteful person.

Thursday, June 7, 2007
Living in a DREAM. . .
 
Went out for grilled octopi at Zorba's last night, going to the cutie patootie place in Psiri tonight. . . I should have went on cooking strike a long time ago. . . 
 
I'm getting spoiled.
 
In other news. . . NOTHING.  I have read 9 books in the last 7 days.  Junkie.  Nothing but a junkie.  Oh, I did some laundry, and a couple crosswords. 
 
Slug.
 
Have recovered fully from alien encounter/self-concussion/Mike kicking me in the head (?).  No worries. 
 
Did have a dream last night were I woke Mike up telling him, "Oh, so now we have a new jail".  You can't keep me quiet, even in sleep. . .
 
Also, for those paying attention, we have secured a location and a Reverend to do our marriage renewal ceremony here in Greece on June 26.  Rev. Malcom Bradshaw at St. Paul's Anglican Church, the oldest Christian church here in Greece. . . Wow!  Gifts are copper or wool for 7 years, any ideas?  Anyone?  HELP.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007!
How I concussed myself, or was abducted by aliens. . .
 
A boring weekend with Mike working WAY too much.  Put in 16 hours on Friday, 11 on Saturday and 8 on Sunday.  I was going through major Mike withdrawal.  Should be the same as during the week, but I didn't get my Mike-facetime.  Missed him. . .
 
Sunday night was relatively calm, went out and had a bite to eat, came back and watched a movie (?what movie. . . hmmmm. . . oh yea, Hollywoodland, about George Reeves, the orginal Superman's murder/suicide.  How strange his last name was Reeves, never made that connection with MY superman, Christopher).  A normal Sunday evening.
 
Except I woke up Monday groggy, dizzy, light headed and with a headache (and no, this is not normal, despite my lifestyle).  I wandered around feeling odd for a while, then went back to bed. . . until 11 AM!  Got back up, was on the computer, and rested my left side of my head in my hand, and OUCH!  Sent shooting pains all through my head and body.  Upon further investigation, found my head to be all swollen, right above my ear.  Took some aspirin and laid around for a little while longer.
 
What the HECK?  Did I bang my head on something in the night?  Did Mike kick me in the head (I probably deserve it sometimes)?  Did aliens come down from space and put a brain probe in, providing themselves with liquor soaked brain matter to dissect?  It is a mystery.
 
I still have an egg sized lump just behind and above my ear. 

Friday, June 1, 2007
HOLY COW, IT'S JUNE ALREADY!
 
Thursday night I kept my pledge to stay out of the kitchen and we went to Thissio to eat.  This is one of my favorite areas of Athens, as it has the best, most unobstructed view of the Acropolis.  And, I wanted to see it at sunset and at night.  We invited Mike's workmates Tex and Donna (who had never been there) to come along.
 
And, much to our chagrin, they had display tents set up all along the perimeter of the cafes there, almost completely obliterating our view.
 
But, much to our enjoyment, it was a full moon rising over Athens.  Which, once you snuck behind the tents, was awesome.

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At twilight. . .

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You know I have at least 50 pictures of this. . . .

It has come to my attention that my hits on this page have decreased by almost half since last month.  So, either I bored everyone to death with my family visits story, there was one, strangely addicted visitor that hit my sight 20 times a day for a month, or it's summer and everyone has something better to do than read my drivel.  Any input on this (if you're the stalker, you were bored, or you're busy), let me know.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007
How I Almost Died Last Night
 
Those of you who know me, know this.  I am honestly, entirely, and completely afraid of worms.  All worms.  Anything that looks like a worm (except, oddly, a snake).  I cannot tolerate these creatures are allowed to live on the same planet as me.  I will NOT come into physical contact with them for all the darn tea in China.  They scare me, and quite often will get up on their hind legs, hiss, show their fangs and threaten to kill me.
 
In other words, I HATE WORMS.
 
So, last night, I'm innocently preparing another fine dinner for my husband an I, including a lovely fresh salad prepared from exquisite and inexpensive Romaine lettuce.  The potatoes were nicely browning in the skillet, the red cabbage getting warm, the salmon broiling beautifully in the broiler.  I had shredded the lettuce, peeled and chopped the onion, cut up the red pepper, crumbled the feta and went to do a little clean up in the sink (of course we don't have a garbage disposal, this ain't America folks!).
 
And, there, right in my sink, was a light gray, dual antennaed SLUG!  Oh God, I'm glad I took my blood pressure pill this morning.  I think Mike is napping on the couch, waiting for his call to dinner, and I make appropriate "I'm going to die" sounds, but quietly, so as not to wake him.  I think, "It's okay, you can do this, you don't need a man,".  I had just killed a big ole spider stalking my stovetop earlier that day.  No biggie.
 
But, I'm freaking out.  FINALLY, Mike comes into the kitchen to see what all the low level whimpering is about, and I scream, "THERE'S A WORM IN THE SINK!!!!!".  And do the uggah buggah dance and run for the safety of the living room.
 
Knowing fully this irrational fear of mine, he bravely goes directly to the sink to remove the offensive object.  But, he's in there going, "What should I do with him?", and I'm wondering how he knows it's a male (okay, I'm NOT, I'm wondering what the H3LL he's asking me for, just get RID of it!).  So, I suggest throwing it out the window above the sink (No, there are no screens on our windows, this ain't America!).  And he does.  And I live.
 
And, I toss the entire salad into the trash.
 
It's nice to be married to a hero.
 
Although I am afraid he didn't launch the little guy out the window far enough, and he may be slowly edging his way back up the wall, leaving a trail of slime and gore, to our unscreened window, waiting to take his revenge on me while I sleep. . . .
 
The whole experience lends credence to a thought I've had recently (READ:  most of my life), that I should just STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN (unless it's to get another beer. . .).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
A Percentage of the World, a Sunday BBQ and a whole lot of nothing
 
I found this to be quite interesting.  Even though Mike and I have been to over 60 countries cummatively, between the two of us we've only seen 26% of the world. . .   Unfortunately, the link doesn't provide the percentage calculation, but looks like we still have a long way to go (especially me, who's personal percentage is only 36 countries, 16%)

Click here to see world map
 
It's also a little misleading, as the web page I "stole" this from does not classify Hong Kong as an independent country, but part of China (and Macau as well), which technically it is, but are still recognized, like Taiwan, as a country.  So, even though neither Mike nor I have ever set foot on mainland China, we get the whole country colored in.  It DOES, however, recognize Gibraltar.  The percentage thing seems a little screwy, too, as there are about 200 recognized countried (according to Wikipedia), which would put our percentage a little closer to 30%.  Oh well, an interesting tool.
 
Anyway, it was kind of fun going through the list of countries and checking them off.

I'm having a VERY hard time believing it hasn't even been a week yet since my parents and brother left.  It seems like a long time ago.  Time is a strange thing.
 
Bob, a guy Mike works with at the Embasy who has been here as retired military for a long time, and is married to a great Greek gal named Maria (who loyal readers may remember I spent an afternoon with a while ago at the museum) invited the whole crew out to their house for a BBQ on Sunday.  What a riot.  Everyone made it but Herb, as his wife had just arrived from the states on Saturday.  Most of us caught the bus in our neighborhood and rode for about an hour, where Bob met us at the stop and walked us to his house.
 
If you are EVER invited to a Greek BBQ, I have one piece of advice.  GO HUNGRY. 
 
Upon arrival, I peeked out back and saw Maria's Dad, George (my new boyfriend), at the grill with 3 chickens and about a half of pig going round and round on the spit. 

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Papa George minds the grill

Needless to say, there was a little wine, a little Raki and a whole lot of beer consumed pre-feast.  And then, the food!  In addition to enough meat to feed an army, we had 12 pounds (!) of mashed potatoes and gravy, hot peppers, sweet peppers, greek salad, pita, grilled bread, feta, olives, corn, grilled eggplant, tampanada of spicy cheese, and green salad.  INSANE amount of food, but delicious.  I passed on the dessert, but heard that was great, too.

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Pre-dancing and craziness photo (minus papa George and baby George)

After dinner, things took a serious turn toward some serious drinking.  Enough to get everyone up and dancing.  Some higher up than others (although, in fairness, Bob doesn't even drink!).

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Our host with the most. . . on the bar

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Trying to learn some fancy footwork from our hostess. . . .

Regrettably, I don't have pictures of what this eventually turned into.  Maria and her friend (who's name escapes me) got into some heavy dancing, joined intermittently by Donna, Vicki and myself, and flower petals were thrown in abundance.  The tile floor was turning all colors of red, pink, and purple from the trampling they were taking.  Probably as close to a Greek wedding as we are going to get as far as celebration craziness.  No one seemed remotely concerned about the mess, though.  You know my anal self would have been going nutso.
 
After a couple dance lessons, a group of us wanted to walk down to the water (only about 1/4 mile from the house), so off we went with some travelers to see the beach.  Very nice.  The whole area where they live is great.  Quiet, serene, green, clean (that's a whole lot of rhyming).  I'm sure it can be a madness when the hot weather hits, but much preferable to living in Athens, even with the hour commute to work every day.  I was jealous and ready to move there. . .

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View down the coast, a mere 10 minute walk from Bob and Maria's house

The property surrounding Bob and Maria's house is mostly owned by their family still.  Maria has a school there, and her parents live next door to the school.  On the way back we stopped off to re-visit with them, have some ice cream, chat a bit more.  We had arrived around noon, and it was approaching 8 PM, and everyone (but Bob and Maria, I think) had to work the next day (it was also a Greek holiday in addition to being Memorial Day for the Americans, although Memorial Day is not one of our FIVE, count 'em, FIVE paid holidays a year, so everyone still had to go to work).  Decided catching the 8 PM bus would be a good idea. . .

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Tex takes a break. . . from the Raki. . .

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My two boyfriends. . . .

While we were on our walkabout, Doug and Vicki caught a cab back home, so it was just Tex, Donna, Mike and I on the bus going home.  Arrived back in our neighborhood just after nine, so invited Tex and Donna up for a nightcap and to lend them some movies.   And then, BED.  FULL!
 
The weather was awesome, the food terrific, the company great.  Bob and Maria are wonderful, fun folk who made us feel at home in their home and with their family.  Unfortunately, Momma and Pappa didn't speak English (and we, of course, don't speak Greek), but Maria did a lot of translating for us.  Her Dad is 72 and looks about 55.  He was a cutie.  I told Maria to tell her Mom I was going to steal him away, and she said, "You can have him!".  Too funny.  Her Mom was awesome, she prepared a lot of the food, danced with us a bit, and was still going strong when we stopped back to see them.  Maybe there is something to this Mediterranean lifestyle. . . I'm kinda getting used to it. . . Eat, drink, rest, and be very merry!
 
I also love the way Greeks on a whole still respect and honor their families.  It's a very refreshing aspect of the human condition that sometimes seems to be lacking in our own (American) society. 

Thursday, May 24, 2007
Recap of last days of parental visit, more semi-humorous stories, and a good-bye to Denny
 
Okay.  Saturday, my last post day, the parents and Denny went to Delphi.  They followed my instructions to a tee and ditched the tour halfway through and ran down and took pictures of the circular temple that Chris, Jen and I missed on our trip.  I told them they weren't allowed back in the house without these pictures.  They were a little intimidated by how far the other excavation looked from Delphi, but made it there in 10 minutes, spent about 7 minutes there, and hoofed it back and were early for the bus departure time.  But, I got my pic - even though I wasn't there to see it with my own eyes (except from a vast distance).  Kudos to them!

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Dad and Den go get me photos of the temple Chris, Jen and I missed. . . THANKS!

They returned Saturday evening a little earlier than we expected them, but had a successful tour.  Fed them pasta salad and we all sat around and chatted, called it an early night. 
 
Dad and Den got up and went to the flea market at Pireaus and in Monastiraki on Sunday morning, while Mom and I cleared out and left Mike to a leisurely morning.  Finally got Mom her Mother's Day present while strolling through the Plaka.

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Dad and Denny go to the flea market. . . both of them!

About 1 PM, I called Den and Dad, and they were just finishing up in the flea market. Called Mike and we all met up for lunch at Zorba's (I HAD to have the grilled Octopi again, and Dad joined me).  Also, was Mike's first time to Zorba's, and that area of the "upper" Plaka.  Sent him back home to rest, and Denny, Mom and I continued shopping while Dad went off "exploring" on his own.  We returned to the apartment about 5:30 and Dad made it back a little after 6.  Don't think he really saw anything "new", but he had fun wandering around on his own, and didn't have to shop. . . .
 
He did see a guy sleeping (we hope) in the bushes and took his picture, but didn't take his pulse!  Also, got a "crack" picture for Denny, the dirty old man. . . heehee.

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Zorba'as for lunch. . . I should be getting a commission from these folks!

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Dad takes a picture of some dude who appears to be dead. . . but we don't know, and he didn't check!

Out to dinner at the old taverna by our old hotel, so Denny could have the experience.  Not much of a selection tonight, but had a nice time.  We had a bit of rain during the day, and no one but Mike had an umbrella, so we were all packing umbrellas to dinner.  Mikes was in his back pocket and he had his fleece on over it, and it looked like he had a tail wagging back and forth all the way to the restaurant.  I didn't notice it until about halfway there, and almost had an accident from laughing so hard.  I wish I had a video.  He looked like a puppy dog.
 
Monday we sent Mike back to work to make the bacon, and the rest of us headed off to Hydra. . . after we got Denny out of his comfy sleeping spot. . .

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Denny snug as a bug in a rug. . . his bed for the last 10 days

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Dad and Denny at the ferry pier. . .

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A taste of the islands for the visitors - for more Hydra pictures, scroll down

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Apparently, there are freaks and crack ho's everywhere. . . even Hydra. Girl or Guy? Hmmmm.....

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Stairs on Hydra

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Don't even think about it. . .

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Dad takes our picture from the high road

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One of the windmills on Hydra

Had a nice lunch on the island, and a gelato, did some shopping and a little more exploring than my first trip (due to Dad's intense desire to climb every hill and flight of stairs), so saw a few new things.  If you want to see more scenic pictures (and haven't already), you can scroll down to past entry when Mike, Roger, Frederique and I went to Hydra. . . Otherwise, enjoy the family photos. . . :-)
 
But, for some reason, Denny was intent on going for a donkey ride.  He talked Mom into it, tried to shame Dad and I, but we resisted and they went off on a 15 minute amble through the side streets of Hydra town on donkeys.   Dad and I sat down and had a beer (or two). 

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The highlight of Denny's trip to Hydra. . .

In order to remain in the will, I will not post the extremely hilarious pictures I have of Mom getting on and off the donkey, but know that they do exist.   Also, upon request, will send hilarious picture of Dad sitting on the subway, unless it interferes with my inheritance. . .
 
Also, saw my same litter of kitties that made the website last visit (with the messed up eyeballs), and although some of them are still seemingly blind, they do not look as hideous.  And someone is feeding them, and their Mom, so I feel better.

Jumped the 5:40 "bus" back to Athens, called Mike and Herb to join us for dinner at the Taverna known as "Sederis'".  Found out the actual name is Faga something else Greek, which translates to eat and drink, which explains why we like the place so much.  Mike suggested going to play some darts, but we were all pretty tired, so went home instead.  The trip is starting to get draining, we haven't had much "down time" for recuperation.
 
Tuesday was Mom and Dad's last day, and it was slightly overcast.  Decided we HAD to go to the top of Lycovittos Hill, as no one would hear the end of it if Dad had to go home without this experience.  Walked up about a million stairs to the tram and rode that up the steepest part (the part I made Chris and Jen climb).  It was pretty hazy up there, and the views were not spectacular. 
 
We watched the rain move all around Athens, but it missed us up on the hill, Denny got his dome burned, and we sat down at the cafe and I revisited the yummy mushrooms and feta cheese rolls with honey and anise (two of our appetizers from our dinner with Chris and Jen).  Everyone agreed they were delicious (except Mom, who doesn't care for mushrooms, but dug the cheese rolls), had a Mythos and walked down.  Walked home from the hill, and everyone was getting pretty draggy.  
 
Arriving home, Mom went directly to her lounge chair on the balcony and laid down.  She had such a smile on her face.  I think it was the happiest she was all day. . . heehee.

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The happiest Mom looked on Tuesday. . . :-)

Mike had to work a little late, so Denny and I sacked out on the twin couches, Dad played on the computer, and we all were revived for dinner at Craft, Dad's treat!  YUMMY!  Thanks Mom and Dad!

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Last family dinner at Craft micro-brewery

The parental leaving was scheduled for 6 AM on Wednesday, as they're flight was at 8:45, so up at 5:30 to have a cup of coffee and hugs and kissess good-bye.  They insist they had a good time. . . and I don't doubt it.  It was a great visit for everyone.
 
And, this was DenDen's last day, so I took him for some last minute shopping, lunch at Goody's, a surprise find and gift for Mom, a stroll through the Central Market and a visit to the Archeological Museum.  It was a little more interesting this time, as we had actually visited some of the locations that the major treasures had come from.  And, I noticed a whole collection of bronze statues called the "Ambelokipi Hoard" (Ambelokipi is our neighborhood) that the water and sewer department found about 20 years ago.  It was in the same room as that gear mechanism thingy, so it was no wonder I missed them the first time.  Worth a second trip for me, and Denny enjoyed it too.

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Interesting marketing skills at the Central Market

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Denny finds a hedgehog at the museum he likes

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Big old urn

And, I just walked Denny up to the subway station to catch the train to the airport.  Also received an email from the parents this morning informing us they are safely home and extremely beat.  So, all is well in the universe and my webpage will return to it's orginal banality instead of a recap of visitor's excursions and pictures of family members.  The hotel is closed and Mike and I have some exploring of our own to do.  Thinking about a weekend trip to Helsinki to visit a friend of ours we met in Bolivia, and of course, some island jaunts.  Going to try and fill our weekends with fun and relaxing activities.
 
RANDOM THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED OVER THE LAST THREE WEEKS THAT MADE ME LAUGH:
  • My sister-in-law Jen is prone to taking headers/falling down/running into things, especially on vacation.  Even with much ribbing to this effect, she made it through her time here without anything happening.  Their last day we were returning to the apartment and I sprawled myself out on the stairs.  Seems karmaic. . .
  • My Mom (and myself) have a habit of stealing food off of other people's plates.  Last week she reached over and picked something off my plate and threw it in her mouth.  I didn't see what she plucked, but she immediately spit it out.  Seems she thought my olive pit looked appetizing. . .
  • This is only funny because he didn't get hurt, but walking home from dinner one night, with Mom and I out front and Mike and Dad following, he suddenly heard the unmistakenable sound of someone falling down.  It was Dad, sprawled out on the sidewalk.  The sidewalks are a bit treacherous in this town.  He popped up pretty quickly, but I guess he suffered some bruising.
  • I was sharing some of Mike's uneaten meat at the Taverna with Denny, and as I was delicately moving it from Mike's plate to his, I dropped it directly into his beer glass, which in turn looked like a science experiment gone wrong. . . or something that should be packed away in formaldehyde.
  • SOMEONE left an unexplainable wet spot on my couch. . . harmless, though, I think. . .

NEW HERB-ISM:  "giving him down the country".  As used in a sentence, "I was giving him down the country about the job he was doing."  Any idea?  I guess it means a chewing out.  Another new one on me!

 
 

Saturday, May 19, 2007
Day tour through the Peloponese, a trip to the Temple of Poseidon, a welcome reprieve from the heat, and some mildly amusing anecdotes of a family reunited. . .
 
Oh, we are keeping busy around here!  Today is my day "off", as I sent the family unit to Delphi and poor Mike is at work.  It's been raining off and on all morning, but now it's pouring.  Hope the weather is better over there, although I did equip them with umbrellas.  Those marble rocks get a bit slick in the rain, however. . .
 
I've been trying to do laundry (3 loads!), but keep having to run in and out with it, due to the rain.  A bit of a pain in the neck, but I'm sure it will get dry. . . eventually. . .
 
So. . . even though I was excited about Mom, Dad, and Denny all coming to visit, I have to say I was a little hesitant to have us all under one roof for such an extended period.  But all is going very smoothly (although I'm not there to referee today, so who knows).  It's been really a pleasure, and I can't believe there are only a few days left to show them more of my favorite places in Athens. 
 
Wednesday, after we had lunch at our fave cafe in Thissio, the boys went into the ancient agora and climbed Mars hill while Mom and I wandered around Monastiraki, doing a little cheap clothing shopping.  We both got an outfit (surprise!), and Dad and Denny got lots of pictures of more old rocks.  Met back up around 6 and headed home.  Made a brief stop at Syntagma station in order to show Denny the old skeleton in the wall. . . if you know my brother, you know he likes "dead things". . .

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What you will look like after your dead 2400 years; ruins in subway station found on excavation

There's a nice looking little restaurant very near the house (next to Applebee's, for those in the know) that I keep saying we need to check out, so decided to head over there for our evening meal.
 
Was delicious, the staff was GREAT, and we found out they also own our cheap eats place on the way to the subway.  It's called Agora, if anyone cares.  WAY too much food, though.  Huge portions.  Came home, had some nightcaps and conversation, and went to bed early, as the four of us who aren't working were off for an early tour Thursday morning to Mycene and the theater at Epidaurus (and a couple other stops).
 
Got to the terminal for the tour on Thursday morning (without going the wrong way on the subway this time).  And, as always, there's always some annoying dude (or dudette) on every tour.  Ours was sitting behind us while we were waiting for the bus, griping about how unorganized everything was and what a mess the tour operators were making of everything.  Felt like telling him to go down to the Aliens Bureau if he wanted to see inefficiency in action. . .  More about this idiot later. . .
 
Off we go to our first stop, the Corinth Canal.
 
A BRIEF HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY LESSON:  Mainland Greece is connected to the Peloponese area of Greece by a small Isthmus called the Corinth Canal, dug to connect the Ionian and Aegean seas.  The project was actually started in the 7th century BC, and re-attempted by many ancient rulers, but never completed until 1883.  It cuts through solid rock and is over 4 miles long and 70 feet wide.  The sides are about 200 feet high.  An impressive sight!

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The Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponese region of Greece from the Greek mainland

CON'T LESSON:  I'm sure you've all heard of the Trojan War, started by Paris stealing Helen away from Agamemnon's brother.  Well, Mycene is the city that Agamemnon started the Trojan War from, along with his brother, and the Argolis Plains surrounding Mycene and Argolis is where the battle of 300 was staged (from the movie of the same name out now).  So, very historical place and grounds.  Not quite as impressive of an Acropolis today as what stands in Athens, but in it's time was probably a major center of the ancient world.

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The Acropolis at Mycene

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Lions Gate, above the entrace to Acropolis at Mycene

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Looking out over the country side from Acropolis at Mycene

Dad has a habit of wandering out onto rocks and such were he probably shouldn't be (as I may have mentioned in some previous posts).  Anyway, we let him wander off to check out the cistern at Mycene, and then we went to "hide" from him.  Waited, and waited, and he didn't come, so I went back to look for him.  As I rounded the corner, I saw this dude standing up on top of a wall about 12 feet high over a cliff. . . and for a brief moment, I thought it was Daddy-O.  But, it wasn't, so we let him live.  Dad finally came crawling out of a dark hole and I led him back to the pack. . . We really shouldn't leave him alone, although he didn't do anything bad. . . this time.
 
Then, a short stop at Agamemnon's grave, recently discovered when a small church built on top of it's floor caved in, and there was this large abyss underneath it, which was the entrance to the grave.  The inside is built in a beehive Egyptian style, but there's nothing in there but a few random rocks, dirt, and a small side room where they buried Aggie's horse so he could ride it into the afterlife. 

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Quick stop off at the tomb of Agamemnon

Next, the required souvenir stop at a store in the middle of nowhere with museum knock-offs and jewelry.  Spent about six minutes in there, walked out and saw Dad sitting on a rock across the street (of course, they lock you out of the bus for the stop - everyone IN the shop, NOW), and Denny points at Dad and says, "Look at that ancient relic!".  Then Mom went over and sat on him, and I took a picture.  We bought nothing.

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At out required souvenir stop on the way to lunch. . .

By this time, we are STARVING, and it's time for lunch at a large restaurant in the Argolis Plains region, surrounded by orange and lemon trees.  Our group of 29 were the only diners, and they overfed us, as typical of Greece.  First course, Moussaka, second course, Greek Salad, third course Souvlaki and French Fries, and oranges for dessert.  At least I didn't hear anyone ask if the oranges were local. . .  But, the grumpy guy didn't want to eat his lunch, nor did his wife. . . and was really rude to the waiter, who couldn't speak English.  Oh well.  We knew he was a jerk from minute one. . .

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After our HUGE lunch, I'm holding our desserts

Like always, we stop in this really cool town. . . for ten whole minutes.  We had to pick up another couple for the Epidaurus tour and transport them back to Athens.  Anyway, the town is Nauplia, and it's absolutely islandesque (I may or may not have made that word up).  I want to go BACK.  It was the capital of Greece for five years, glad they moved it to Athens and didn't "destroy" this little gem of a place.  Appears to have some ancient and medieval ruins, as well.

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Medieval fort in the port at Nauplia the first capital of Modern Greece, for five whole years. . .

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Acropolis at Nauplia above the modern town

But, we must push on to the ancient theater of Epidaurus (the main reason I took this tour, really).  I didn't know, but the town of Epidaurus' main attraction in ancient times was actually a hospital, and was revered as far away as Rome for its healing powers.  Seems those ancient Greeks were pretty smart, and knew the surroundings could affect health, so they built this sanctuary and practiced a lot of holistic type healing, including hypnosis, aromatherapy, herbal treatments, and SNAKE LICKING.  They didn't lick the snakes, but rather had the snakes lick you.  This is believed to be why two snakes winding around a staff is the symbol of modern medicine.  Most of the hospital is in ruins, but the theater is the most preserved in the world, and is unsurprisingly a World Heritage site. 
 
The theater itself was built in the 3rd Century AD, seats 14000 people, is still used today during the summer for performances, and has AMAZING acoustics.  It is said that a coin dropped in the center of the stage can be heard from the highest seats.  I tried to get Mom to sing or Denny to belch, but no takers.  Many people did "take the stage" and read poems or sing while we were at the top, and it really was astounding how well you could here them, even above the average tourist noise.
 
Mom and Denny both looked at the size of the theater and debated about climbing up.  It became a "shame game", as neither would let the other go without going themselves.  Didn't want to hear about "well, Denny did it", or "well, Mom did it", so they both ended up going up to the top (really wasn't that bad, looks a lot worse than it is).
 
And, our idiot in the group FELL DOWN while descending.  Fortunately, he didn't get hurt, but I think it bruised his pride a little. . . .heehee.  Hate to laugh at others misfortunes, but I did find it a little amusing. . .
 
After the theater took a quick run through the museum to see some ancient medical instruments, some preserved parts of the hospital facade, and some statues and heads. . .

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Cute rooftop above the entrance to the theater at Epidaurus

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What a setting!

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It's a big ole theater. . .

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Mom makes it to the top, no problemo

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The relics on top of relics. . . heehee

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Statue of Hippocrates, Father of Medicine at the Museum at Epidaurus

So, that was the end of the tour, hopped back on the bus and had a nice view of the Saronic gulf for about the first 45 minutes, then I took a snooze as we turned inland.  Did wake up in time to take a picture from the bus of the other side of the Corinth Canal (I was too lazy to walk over there when we stopped the first time, but Dad did it, so I can always steal his picture. . .).  Pretty nice weather most of the day, never really got too hot, even with all the climbing.  Helps to have an air conditioned bus. . .

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View along the coastal road of the Saronic Gulf, back to Athens

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Catching some Z's on the tour bus, Mom thought I'd be to "proud" to put this up. . . NOT

Called Mike as we arrived back in town and he walked down to near our subway stop for a quick dinner of fast food pizza and a couple of beers.  We were whipped.  Mom and Dad split a Bailey's Irish Cream/Chocolate/Banana crepe for dessert, came home and crashed out.
 
Slept in a bit on Friday, as our plan was a self-guided (read: Rachelle guided) trip to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.  Loyal readers may remember that Mike, Herb and I did this about 7 weeks ago.  Walked down to the bus stop and JUST MADE the 11:30 AM bus.  Seriously.  We stepped on and sat down and it dropped into gear about the time our butts hit the seats.  Cool. 
 
Once you get out of Athens and down past Glyfalda, it really is an idyllic drive.  The last time we did this, I said, "It sure would be nice to stop at one of these little restaurants right on the sea for lunch before going up to the Temple", (as there really isn't much to see up at the Temple besides the Temple, which takes about 40 minutes).  Today, we did that! 

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Resort town on the coast, one of many

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Greek dog and greek doghouse, on the side of a hill, kinda in the middle of nowhere. . . odd

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Fishing boats along the coast on the way to Cape Sounion

And, it worked out pretty good, as far as having lunch.  Dad and I split the grilled octopus and fried mussels, Denny had the octopus and fried eggplant, Mom had the greek salad . . . and it was DELICIOUS with a nice seafront view.
 
If it seems I spent an exorbiant amount of time WRITING ABOUT FOOD, it's because the food here, as I may have mentioned a thousand time, ROCKS!  It is sooooo seriously yummy. 

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My attractive brother with a mouth full of grilled octopi

We/I was told the busses run from Athens to the Cape every hour, so we got off the bus about 1:30.  While having lunch, we saw another bus go by, well less than an hour into our lunch.  I asked our waiter when the busses usually go by and he said on the "hour and twenty minutes", so we skipped the bathroom break we kind of needed and rushed over to the bus stop.  And sat, and sat, and sat.  We didn't even see a bus coming back from the Cape.  We seriously waited for almost an hour for the next bus, which did come at 3:20.  Geez.  Bad tour guide, bad, bad.  Back on the bus for the 25 minutes more to the Temple, and it was chilly!  First stop - Water Closet!  And it was National Museum Day or something like that, so we didn't have to pay to go in, which was cool. 
 
THINGS I'VE LEARNED I INHERITED FROM MY MOTHER:  The ability to hold my water forever.  I always claimed I was part camel.  That if I get off my eating schedule, I get VERY grumpy and must be fed (not that she got grumpy, we were just talking about it).

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Waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the bus. . .

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Here's that dang temple again. . .

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And again. . .

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One for the scrapbook

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European Vacation - Greece edition

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Denny holding up Temple of Posiedon, bad camera angle. . .

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Better camera angle with me. . .

Grabbed the 5 PM bus back to Athens, arrived at Syntagma about 7.  Called Mike and he and Herb met us in Psiri at the cute place (they're all cute places, wish I knew their names. . . ).  Again, ATE WELL, and Mom ordered a 'large' wine (which is a liter, the equivalent of almost a bottle), and pretty much drank it all.  What a gal!  Possibly another thing I inherited from my Mom!  She was in a good mood when we left.  Sent them packing home and Mike, Herb and I went and played darts til 1:30 AM.  They needed to get home, as they went to Delphi today at 8 AM.
 
Has taken me pretty much the whole of today to get this down, what between dragging laundry in and out of the rain, ironing, a little grocery shopping, dishes and making pasta salad.  There goes my "free day"!
 
Dad and the Den are planning on going out to the flea market in Piraeus tomorrow morning, saving our Hydra trip til Monday on account of rain (not supposed to rain there on Monday).  The weather is sure a LOT cooler when it rains, but the forecast is calling for rain for the better part of the remainder of the familial stay. . . that's a bummer.  We'll see. . . have about as much faith in the Athenian meteorologists as American ones.

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Mom posing outside our cutie restaurant in Psiri

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Bring on the FOOD!

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Happy Momma, after a liter of white wine. . . she shared. . . a little. . .

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Arrival of Dennis, Metro Strike, and other fun. . .
 
Den's flight arrived on time, and he made it to the apartment okay on his own, although the cab driver seemed to have charged him an exorbitant amount of Euro (more on that reason later).  Dad had went down to greet him at the door, but took a walk around the block and missed him.  So, when he arrived, I went down and brought him up, but there was no sight of the Daddy-O.  After about ten minutes, I went back downstairs, hoping Dad wasn't lost, and he was sitting on the stoop across the street.  I hollered, "Hey, you want to see your son?", and he came up. . . Silly Daddy.
 
Den had bought a bottle of whiskey on the plane, and he seemed to have consumed a "bit" of that, plus he didn't get much sleep.  We gave him a shot of Ouzo, and he was pretty pleasantly buzzed, but didn't really want to lay down or anything. 

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Holy Cow! Tell me Denny isn't turning into Dad! A slightly buzzed up Denny tries on the hat. . .

We decided to go to our cheap eats place for gyros (do you see a pattern here), and then take him around town for a bit.
 
After lunch, we walked down to the subway station, and it was CLOSED!  Not knowing there was the possibility of a strike (I hadn't bought the paper since Sunday), we walked over to the station next to the Embassy, and alas, it was closed as well.  Uh oh.  Now we know why Denny was charged so much for his taxi ride. . . the rates go up when the metro's on strike!
 
Being the ambitious people we are, we decided to just walk on down to Syntagma Square and figure out what to do from there.  Leisurely walk down Vassilios Sofias, past all the Embassies and Museums to Parliament. 
 

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Marathon man on the way down to Syntagma Square, made out of green plates of glass

Arrived at Syntagma Square pretty hot and thirsty around 2:30.  Grabbed some water and took a break under the trees.  Dad wanted to see the changing of the guards (on the hour), so we rested until just before 3 and walked up and watched this silly ritual.  They walk like ostriches!  Took about 10 minutes, and Dad took a video which I tried to post on here for anyone interested, but I think it takes up to much space, so may or may not be here, and may or may not load. . . .

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Waiting for the changing of the guard, and getting Denner sobered up a bit. . . :-)

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Finally caught the changing of the guard at Parliament, these guys are strange walkers. . .

You can try to download Dad's video here

Afterwards, we cut through the National Gardens to Zeus' Temple and Denny caught his first good glimpse of the Acropolis.

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The bro and I on the ancient soil around Zeus' Temple

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Everyone chilling at Zeus' Temple

Pretty tired by this time, especially Denny as he had walked off his buzz by now. . . Took about 25 minutes to get a taxi to agree to take us to our neighborhood (for double the normal price), but hey, we weren't about to walk it back. 
 
Stopped at the Carrefour for a few provisions (basically beer and salad fixings), came home, washed up the chicken to find it had gone bad in one day in the refrigerator, so off I went to the store to get more.  Finally had fresh chicken to put in the oven and had a nice family meal on the patio. 
 
A good first day for the Denner.

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Another meal at home on the terrace. . . and yes, we fed Dad, too. . .

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Dad likes the pink light on "our" mountain at twilight

Up and about at a decent time this morning, called a family meeting to plan the remaining days.  Everyone wants to do some field trips out of Athens, but we needed to plan on what, where and when.  So, they are pretty booked up for the remainder of the time. 
 
Tomorrow we are doing an all day tour to Mycenea, Nauplia (the original capital of Greece), and the Epidaurus Theatre, Friday off to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, Saturday here in Athens, including Lycovittos Hill, Sunday and Monday are interchangeable, depending on the weather, but one day they will go to Delphi and the other to the island of Hydra.  Tuesday we are all off to Corinth for a half day trip and Mom and Dad leave early Wednesday morning, leaving Den and I to have that day to play catch up on anything else he wants to see, as he leaves on Thursday morning.
 
Going to be busy, busy, busy, but I'm glad they are going to see some "new" things.  I should have plenty of pictures of "new" old rocks by the time all is said and done. . .
 
Weather looks iffy starting tomorrow night.  Calling for three days of rain.  I would hate it to rain, but the country surely needs it, treacherous walking around in it, especially on slippery marble surfaces.  Hopefully, they will be wrong as always, or maybe it won't be raining where we are!
 
Sent them all off to the Acropolis in the heat this morning, waiting for the call to meet them for lunch in Thissio, then either all of us will go to the Agora, or just them. . . hard to say right now.  My energy level is a little low. . . their's probably is, too, but I have TWO MORE MONTHS here, as it looks like the cut date for the project just got pushed another week.  Of course, by July I probably won't want to leave the apartment due to the heat.  IT'S STILL HOT!
 
More adventures and photos as I have the time. . . which looks to be pretty full!

Monday, May 14, 2007
Orientation, Mother's Day and another Island Expedition
 
Thursday night Mom and Dad slept like rocks. . . until 11 AM!  I actually went up around 10 to see if they were still breathing.  Reminded me of when I was a teenager and used to sleep in til noon on Saturdays. . . made me want to go up there and yell at them to get out of bed, they're sleeping their lives away (just like they used to do. . . heehee).  They must have needed the rest! 
 
Took them to our cheap eats place up the street on the way to the subway for their first Greek meal in Greece.  Mom loves Tziziki now, and we all had gyros for lunch.  And, Dad and I had a couple Alfa beers.  Mom gave me a hard time about having beer for breakfast, but HEY, it wasn't MY breakfast, I'd been up since 8!  It was Dad's breakfast, but he didn't get much grief. . . hmmmm. . .LOL.  In Mom's defense, I've always told her I don't drink during the day (and as a rule, I don't), but when I have someone to drink with during the day, well, WHY NOT!?!?
 
Got their weekly subway passes and jumped on the train to Monastiraki for a quick walk around the front of the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis over to my FAVE area in Thissio for a quick refreshing drink with the second most awesome view in Athens of the Acropolis. 

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Mom and Dad enjoy a drink with a view in Thissio on their first day

Continued down and around the Acropolis, bypassed Hadrian's Arch and Zeus' Temple for today, and headed up into the Plaka and around.  Did a little browsing, grabbed another pair of sandals for my sister-in-law Jen (she requested another pair, as she LOVES the ones she got while she was here), bought some pistachios and just enjoyed the afternoon.  Stopped by the post office to get Mom some stamps for her postcards, took a quick glance at Parliament and jumped the subway home.  Went out to Kolonaki to our fave little tavern there for dinner (otherwise known as Sederis', as he's our waiter there most of the time and we like him!).  Then, off to the Red Lion for some after dinner drinks and darts.  Got the parents up to the line for a few games of killer.  It was getting a little late, and they decided they were going to catch the last train back home, so off they went by themselves to the subway. 
 
Mike, Herb and I stayed for a couple games with our friends Michael and Costas, but the day was catching up to all of us, so we left shortly after. . . by cab, and caught Mom and Dad just as they were heading to bed.  They didn't believe that we didn't just stalk them home as a test to see if they could do it on their own.  And, they did, with no problem, so we were pretty proud of them!
 
When I got home, I checked my email and our friend's the Shooks informed us that my Mom and Dad's friend Luie's Mom had died the day before (she was 96 and had been pretty ill, so was rather a blessing), but our sympathies go out to their family.
 
Saturday morning was another slower start, as Mom didn't get much sleep the night before.  Mike had to go into work for 4 or 5 hours so I decided to stroll with them to the National Gardens, the old Olympic Theater and Zeus' Temple and then decide what the plan was.  Nice walk through the gardens, although it's more like a park/zoo/aviary than finely manicured gardens.  But, the weather has been extremely HOT, and the gardens are shaded and nice, so seemed better than Dad's grandiose plan of climbing Lycovitto's hill, which can kill you even when the sun is down.  So, I gained "Mom points" from saving her from Dad's plan. . .

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Itty bitty Mommy and Daddy under the HUGE palms at the National Gardens

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Future site of Mike and I's renewal wedding ceremony. . . I think. . . in the National Gardens

While sitting in the shade outside of Zeus' Temple we debated on whether or not to go in, or wait for the Denner (my brother) to get here, and then go.  It felt so good to sit down in the shade we talked about it for longer than necessary. . . :-), and finally decided to save it.  But, we were all feeling pretty good, and it was still early, so we decided to go over to the backside of the Acropolis and climb up Filopappos Hill (my ABSOLUTE fave view in Athens of the Acropolis).  Grabbed some water and continued on. It's really not that big of a climb, and most of it is shaded, but the reward is phenomenal!  Mom and Dad liked it, too. . . although it's quite slippery up there and Dad was hanging out on the side of the rocks a little too much for my liking. . . again, I'm starting to feel like there's some role reversal going on in my life. . . Although I don't think my Dad is quite of the age that I'm allowed to tell him what to do, it seems I can't help myself!  Of course, part of this is how would I explain to everyone else that I let my Dad fall off the mountain whilst trying to get the perfect photo of the Acropolis!

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Hanging out on top of Mount Filopappos with the Acropolis in our background

After climbing down, we decided to go back to the same cafe we stopped at on Friday for a drink to have a late lunch (very late, it's about 4 PM now).  Split a pizza three ways with a Greek salad starter, and beers (even Mom).  Jumped the train back home, where Mike was finishing up some work, snacked our way through supper time, and then we ALL went back to the bar for more darts.  They are showing some improvement!  Grabbed a cab home around 11ish.

Sunday was, of course, MOTHER'S DAY.  And, again, VERY hot.  We had kinda pre-planned taking Mom to an island for lunch, and after much debate, decided to go to Aegina, as a price vs. time on the island thing.  Didn't have prepurchased tickets, and on a Sunday this might have been a good idea (bad me, bad, bad me), but arrived at the port around 11 AM and were able to catch the noon high speed boat, which got us there around 12:45, in need of lunch!
 
I am ALL ABOUT the grilled octopus, so we find a nice waterfront cafe and proceeded to eat our way through fried cheese, crab salad, mussels in a very nice tomato, garlic, feta sauce (they even took them out of the shells for us), a loaf of bread and mousakka, all washed down with a couple icy cold Mythos.  HEAVEN.
 
As before, we walked over to the ruins of Apollo's Temple, but we only had a half hour to go through, as the site closes at 3, but plenty enough time out there in the baking sun.

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Dad and Mike hanging out on the ferry

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First stop. . . Mother's Day lunch!

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What some of us HAD for lunch, albeit grilled. . . . YUMMMMMMM

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The Momma and me on Mother's Day in front of Apollo's Temple on Aegina

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The Weaz strikes a pose "on top of the world"

Walked through the shady back alleys of Aegina Town, doing a little shopping, wandering, etc.  Dad had tried on a couple Greek Fisherman's Hats in the Plaka the day before, but finally found the right one. . .Not sure, I may prefer his ballcap with the ponytail, but he looks pretty cute in this one. . .

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Daddy-O gets himself a new Greek Fisherman's Hat. . . .

And, so did Mikey!

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And lets Mike try it on. . .

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Just ANOTHER quaint little alleyway. . . I can't help myself

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Monkeying around while taking a much needed break walking around the island

Moseyed down back to the waterfront, and back out into the beating sun (did I mention it's like REALLY HOT), and looked around at the church and the boats, and the beach, and saw a cute bar right out over the water, and decided to have a couple afternooners before jumping the boat back to Athens.  Mom had TWO (count 'em) margarita's, but as it was Mother's Day, we let it slide. . . heehee.  We (Dad, Mike and I) sucked back two cold Heinekens a piece, and back on the boat.  NOTE:  Although these were the long, tubular ferries that in the past when we rode them were SUFFOCATINGLY hot, they weren't really bad this time, either way.  Nice surprise!
 
Everyone had a nice day on the island.  Happy Mother's Day Momma!

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still loving this cutie little landmark on the ferry pier at Aegina Island

Had planned for (and on) making dinner when we returned, as I figured we'd be too tired and whipped (and possibly smelly) to go out somewhere.  Although everyone insisted they weren't that hungry, six porkchops, a loaf of bread, a huge salad, and some yummy dessert disappeared quite rapidly.  We ate out on the terrace by candlelight.  Very nice.  Off to bed. . . whew.
 
Today Mom and Dad headed off on their own to the Central Market and to the National Archealogical Museum.  I gave them some strict rules to follow, we'll see how they did. . . They ain't back yet, and it's 4:30.   And, the elevator quit working!  I myself did shopping, laundry, and ironing (and of course, this), all day while my lovely Albanian cleaning lady, Mimosa, scrubbed our apartment clean.  I've tried to call them twice (they have Mike's phone), but apparently they can't hear it ring.  Just want to make sure Dad isn't killing Mom by walking her too much.  I'm sure he's still inside the museum, in awe.  Mom did bring her book with her, just in case. . .
 
Tomorrow Denny arrives!  Updates on that when I can!

Friday, May 11, 2007
The Parents have Landed
 
Just in case anyone is checking this site to make sure my Mom and Dad got here okay, they did.  Made it to the apartment at about 11:30, their flight was a little early coming in.
 
Dad left/lost his wallet at security in Frankfurt, though.  How convenient, now they have no money. . . heehee.  Spent a little time reporting credit cards lost, etc., and then Dad remembered where his wallet was. 
 
Will try and call them this morning about it.  No proof of life photo yet, but I guarantee they were alive when I dumped them into bed last night.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Next Guests, please!
 
Sunday night we met up with Frederique's friend Magda's god-daughter who lives here in Athens.  Nice night in Kolonaki, followed by snacks as dinner at home. 
 
Last night was Roger and Frederique's last hurrah, and after a day at the Central Market and the Museum, we decided to go down to Psiri and find the restaurant I've been wanting to go to since the first time I walked by.
 
Psiri is an up and coming area of town filled with Taverna's, and we have ate down there a couple of times, but never at this ONE PARTICULAR place.  I had intended on bringing Chris and Jen down there, but we never made it, but the Frenchie's got to go!  And, me too!
 
It was as cute as I remembered, and everyone said their food was great (Mike and I had the same spicy kebab, and it was really good, and spicy), and the prices were very reasonable.  Service fast and good.  Just can't tell you the name of it. . . heehee

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My cutey cutey restaurant tucked away in Psiri - FINALLY!

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The kids mugging for the camera, waiting for food!

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The kitschy inside. . . so cute!

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The owner just looked to typical, had to take the pic!

So, a good last night.  Met a nice couple from Australia, Hank and Joanne, was going to post their picture, but they didn't turn out so well (sorry you guys, if you are reading).  Their son was married on Santorini (Greek Island) last week, and now are off to England for the reception and then a week barge trip through France.  How cool.
 
Good to catch up with Roger and Frederique, always a pleasure to have them. 
 
COMING SOON:  Adventures of the parents and the youngest bro in Greece. . . Stay tuned. . . .

Addendum to May 6, 2007
Omission of Roger
 
Just got an email from sister Kathee yelling that we didn't post a picture of Roger. . . He's alive and well, and here's the proof!
 
 

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There he is, Kathee

Sunday, May 6, 2007
Becoming a Legal Alien, the arrival of the "Frenchies" and a day on Hydra Island

Finally wrapped up the saga of extending my visa on Thursday morning (and afternoon, truth be told).  One of Mike's colleagues, Doug, also needed to go to the Aliens Bureau, so we met at the Embassy around 8:30.  Went and checked our paperwork with Human Resources before we left, and of course, I needed another letter.  Went and had a coffee while they prepared it, finally in the cab to go around 9:30.  Our driver spoke a little English but was not familiar with our destination, until we pulled up in front of the place, and he says, "This is police station!", to which I replied, as Doug paid him, "Yes, we are coming to bail out my husband,".  He looked slightly startled. 
 
Anyway, through all the rigmarole and chaos, it "only" took two and a half hours to take our money (464 Euro!) and stamp our passports.  The same "helpful" young lady was there who wouldn't help me last time, and she attempted to tell me, "I was too early," one more time, but I was having NONE of that, and I think she might have picked up on my seriousness to have this done TODAY. . .
 
Exasperatingly, there is no number system there.  You just walk in (with the numerous other people there) and swarm the counter.  No order, no system, just nuts.  Also, I needed two copies of each of my letters from the Embassy, plus copies of my bank book, so I had to LEAVE the station, go down the street to a little box on the side of the road, and get photocopies made.  For 10 cents a piece.  I would have paid them 50 cents at the station, and there were several photocopy machines there, but OH NO, that would be too easy. 
 
In addition, we were sent to the back of the building to Counter 1 to pay our money.  Obviously, this is were Greeks probably come to pay parking tickets and other minor offenses, as there was a large counter and waiting room back there.  With a LCD display of the number being served, chairs with backs on them to sit it, and an overall feeling of organization.  Thank you, Greek government, for making each little step in this process for foreigners who want to stay and spend MORE money in YOUR country so easy and friendly.  NOT. 
 
BUT, I'm a legal alien now, at least until August 1!
 
Thursday was also the day (although to be specific, it was really very early Friday morning), Uncle Roger and Aunt Frederique arrived from Paris.  Their plane landed at 11:45, so we expected them around 1 AM.  I was very tired from a late night before, and early, long, and tedious morning at the Aliens Bureau, but caught a nap between 11 and 12:30 and was "fresh" for their arrival.  Chatted for about an hour, then to bed.  No Ouzo for them, just some beer and wine. 
 
Friday morning was beautiful and sunny, so we went off on a circular tour of downtown Athens.  Did a full circle around the Acropolis, they decided to wait until Sunday morning to go up to the top, and then down to Zeus' Temple.  Of course, did some various shopping for sandals, jewelry, postcards, sunscreen, and hats along the way.  By the time we had finished at the temple, we were all in need of lunch, so I walked them up to Zorba's so Frederique and I could have grilled octopus (same place Chris and Jen and I went while they were here, and this time was done to perfection!).  Roger doesn't care for octopus (putting it mildly), but found their lamb chops to be delicious.
 
Walked down through Monastiraki and the Plaka, enjoying the atmosphere and looking for a place to get ferry tickets to Hydra the next morning.  Success, although a slight misunderstanding.  Frederique had read in her guidebook (which is much more recent than mine) there is a new high speed ferry to Hydra that only takes an hour.  We asked about it, and were told, yea, this is what we were getting tickets for, and all the routes were direct.  HOWEVER, we had one stop on the way there, and it took two hours, and the trip back was only an hour and 15 minutes with no stop.  NOTE TO SELF AND OTHERS:  Let's make sure we get the right tickets next time. 
 
Plus, we were all stunned (especially me, after riding around Hong Kong on very cheap ferries) at the cost.  Round trip it was 43 Euro. .  . A PIECE!  Dang.
 
Friday night we had dinner in Kolonaki at our favorite place, then walked down to The Red Lion for a quick drink and a couple games of darts.  Home early, we were all worn out.

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View of Parthenon through the trees. . . DUH

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Should be spending more time here. . . wonder how this actually translates into Greek

Our boat for Hydra left at 10 AM Saturday, so we were out the door here at 8:30 AM.  Arrived a "bit" early (about 35 minutes), but were able to get on the boat, have a coffee on board, and just relax. 
 
Hydra is an island in the Saronic Gulf, about 55 miles south of Athens.  Unlike most of the other Greek Islands, there are no cars or scooters allowed, except police and service vehicles.  It is an old island, and used to be quite rich, so the architecture is all very nice, with large private homes scattered upon the hills. 
 
Very quaint, and we all enjoyed just wandering around, doing a bit of shopping, enjoying the peace and quiet, watching the ferry, cruise, fishing, and private boats come in and out of the harbor, and having some eats and beers.  We were there for around 5 hours, and it seemed like plenty.  Saw the largest privately owned boat I've ever seen.  Was probably over 100 foot.  Beautiful.  And, a seemingly extravagent extravagance!
 
Not really a lot to "see" in Hydra town, although there are beaches on the other side of the island (accessible by water taxi's, don't know the prices), but a nice place to while away some hours eating, drinking and shopping (although, like Athens, things seemed quite expensive, but Frederique found a ring and I found a pair of earrings and a necklace to buy fairly inexpensively).

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Hydra Taxi's (does that translate to water taxi?)

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Charming Hydra Town. . .

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Short break before lunch, Frederique and I, harbor in background (DUH AGAIN)

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The piece of rock we had lunch on

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Mike and I and the boat we rode in on. . .

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Parked Taxi

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Typical fishing boat in the harbor

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Check out this goof ball. . . Jerry Garcia LIVES

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To Jen, with love. . . heehee

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Biggest, baddest boat I ever did see. . .

Hydra, like Cyprus and Athens, is overrun with cats. When we were in Cyprus, we were told the reason for this was snake control.  Initially, the island was infested with snakes, so they imported cats to the island to kill them.  And, they did.  But, as cats will do, they reproduced to a problematic proportion.  
 
While we were having drinks, Frederique got itchy feet and went on a little walk.  When she came back she told us of a window around the corner where there was a mommy cat and five kittens.  Roger and I walked over there to see them, and three out of five had SEVERE eye infections, and two were fully blind.  And, one was a monster.  It's been a while since I took a disturbing photo and posted, so if you are a huge lover of cats, and can't stand to see them suffering, don't click this link, but if you are like my youngest brother, who will probably put this on his refrigerator, go ahead and look.  It's basically a advertisement for why you should spay your animals.  This poor little kitten.

Stopped at our little local cheap eats place (I STILL don't know the name) for a quick dinner, then grabbed some cold brewskies at the party store while Roger and Frederique browsed the pastry store on the corner and Frederique had some ice cream.  Everyone tuckered out. 
 
A little cooler this morning, so Roger and Frederique headed for the Acropolis, some shopping in the Plaka and hopefully, time allowing, the Archealogical Museum.  We are meeting a god-daughter of a friend of Frederique's for drinks in Kolonaki tonight at 6.  Don't know what the plan is for dinner, as I've been WAY too busy to get to the Carrefour (it's closed today).  Tried last night, but they were already closed. 
 
All for now!  For Mom and Dad and Denny, the weather is definitely heating up!  Whew.  Was much cooler on the island, but is quite warm here in Athens today! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Of Earliness, Elevators, Eczema, and Extraneous Images
 
EARLINESS:
 
Before I forget to admit to this (I promised Mike, Chris, Jen and Herb I would put this on the website),  you may remember last week Thursday we went to the Badminton Theater to see "Jesus Christ, Superstar", which, incidentally, I also forgot to review for you.  Okay, first the review (from my perspective):  It was pretty good.  I had forgotten the play was entirely portrayed through song, however.  And I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.  The production company that brought it here did it a little differently than it's original.  If you've seen the original, you know everyone was protrayed as hippies and flower children.  This was more industrial/grunge/gothic in costume, setting, and scenery.
 
Herb had never seen the play, but we were joking around, and I said to him, "You know how this ends, right?", and he says, "Yea, I read the book,".  Was funny.  (FYI - If you've never seen the play, it ends with Jesus dying on the cross.  No resurection scene, just, "It is finished").
 
ANYWAY, the thing I promised to tell you was I made us all an hour early to the play.  You see, I have some kind of mental block when it comes to military time.  Now, obviously, I know how it works, but for some reason if you say 21:00 to me, I have to stop and think. . . HARD. . . about what time that actually is.  When we originally talked about going to the play, we were going to go on the weekend, and because they do two productions on Saturdays and Sundays, the times are different than during the week.  So, on Sat and Sun, the play starts at 8.  In HUGE numbers on our tickets, it says 21:00, but me, being military time challenged and basically an idiot, just assumed (and we all know what that means) it was at 8.  We raced through dinner (at the Chinese/Greek place in the basement of our building), and because we were walking and didn't know exactly how long it would take to get there, we "lit a shuck"* (explanation on that one in a minute) out of there , and got to the theater at 7:45.  There were a few people around, but not many. 
 
When I had went to buy tickets, there were lots and lots of seats available, so at this point I am attributing the lack of people there to two things.  1.  The Greeks are inordinately late for everything, and 2.  They didn't sell many tickets for the show.  Well, Jen and I needed to use the bathroom, which was downstairs where they admit you to the theater, so an usher begrudgingly let us down there, and as we exited the bathroom, we were immediately told by another usher, "You are not allowed down here right now!", so we scampered back upstairs.
 
But, I'm thinking, "Curtain is in less than 10 minutes, why aren't they seating us?", so Chris goes and asks, and they tell him, "Curtain is at 9 PM,".  And, of course, it IS, because that is what 21:00 MEANS!  FOOL!
 
I did this to us in Bali, too.  Made us four hours early to the airport instead of two.  I am no longer in charge of interpreting military time. 
 
To make up for it, I did buy us all a round of beer to idle away the time.  And, in perfect Greek style, the curtain went up at 9:20. . .
 
*"lit a shuck"- Our dear friend Herb, being from Alabama, is full of southern colloquialisms like this.  Apparently, if you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, or sometimes just leaving someplace, you "light a shuck out of here", or "He lit a shuck home".  It comes from "olden days" (READ:  pre-flashlights, or cars, or whatever) when they would light a corn husk to see their way home.  Anway, he says it occasionally and it never fails to crack me up.  Other personal favorites are, "Well, golly-bum," and "diddybop", as in "I diddybopped on over there," (seems Herb does a lot of this diddybopping).  Also, Herb never takes or brings anyone or anything anywhere, he is forever "carrying" them or it.  As in, "I carried my family out for dinner last night,".  Now, I promise, I'm not making fun of Herb, or even of how he talks.  I just get a kick out of some of the things that come out of his mouth!
 
Okay, that was a long and drawn out explanation of being early to the play. . .
 
ELEVATORS:
 
We live in a fairly old building, with a fairly old elevator.  It is posted on the outside of the elevator and on the inside, not to have more than three people or 250 kg (around 550 pounds for the metrically impaired) in the elevator at a time.  Now, in the 7 weeks we've lived here the elevator has been fully operational, as far as we know.  HOWEVER, after walking Chris and Jen up to the President's Hotel for their cab ride to the airport at 2 AM on Tuesday morning, upon my return the elevator was broke.  Now, we just rode it down not 20 minutes prior.  Apparently, us three and their luggage weigh more than 550 pounds (a rather scary thought indeed, I'm blaming it on the olive oil).  So, I got to walk up six flights of curving stairs in utter darkness.  To the buildings credit, it was up and running when Mike left at 7:30 AM for work.  Make note of this, future guests!
 
ECZEMA:
 
Sometimes I have a slight case of eczema on my index fingers and elbows.  Definitely an adult onset thing, and definitely not chronic, but somewhat reoccuring.  Obviously, something here in Athens, be it the water, the air, the weather, I don't know, is making it flair up quite painfully on my right elbow. 
 
I went to the pharmacist about three weeks ago, looking for some hydrocortisone cream, as this usually takes care of the problem.  The pharmacist (and no, not the HUNKY HUNKY one), told me in Greece they do not sell hydrocortisone, but sold me something different they use for eczema.  For about 4 Euro.  When I got home, I googled it, and the NUMBER ONE INGREDIENT in it is hydrocortisone.  Okay, whatever.  But, it hasn't really been working well.  So, yesterday, I stopped into a different pharmacy (they are everywhere!) and talked to the pharmacist there (and old, fat man), who recommended Elidel.  I go to pay for it, and it was 42 EURO!  Golly bum, it better work!
 
EXTRANEOUS IMAGES:
 
I made copies of most of the pictures Chris and Jen took while they were here, and here's a couple to share (all photo credits to them, except the last shot, which is SO GOOD I need the credit - NOT).

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A great picture down from the Acropolis looking at Zeus Temple on a much clearer day than my photo

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Three card monty game on the street in Psiri, Chris identified the shill and the lookout. Pic by Jen

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Taking a break on the way up Lycovittos Hill for dinner Saturday night.

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Remember those lamb's heads from the market? Here they are on a BBQ spit on Aegina! YUCK!

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One of many, MANY animal shots Jen took, this one on Aegina

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This is particularly funny, as our friends Pat and Molly have a book called "The Field Guide to Shopping Carts" or something like that which features shopping carts abandoned in odd settings.  Yes, a strange book indeed, but also strange to have a shopping cart on our roof.  The explanation seems to be it's for transporting the laundry from the machine to the line. . . Okay.  I would have LOVED to see them get this thing up here!

Not a whole lot else happening (yet) this week.  Had our first home-cooked dinner in a week last night and watched a movie ("The Contract" with Morgan Freeman and John Cusack, pretty bad).  Raining and cloudy today, so the Carrefour is probably as far as I'll get. 
 
Getting ready for Uncle Roger and Aunt Frederique, our next guests who will arrive on Thursday night.  Also have ANOTHER trip planned to the Alien's Bureau either tomorrow or Thursday, always a treat.  Hopefully this time we can get it all sorted.
 
Also, a special thank you to friends and family who have sent us emails of sympathy regarding Jerry.  Thanks for helping us through this very emotional time. 
 
Love to all!

Sunday, April 28, 2007
A Brief History Lesson, a walk through the National Museum, and another fine dinner atop a different hill
(This entry dedicated to my Dad, as he's the only one who will probably read ALL of it!)
 
Crazily, Chris and I stayed up til 5:30 in the morning on Thursday night/Friday morning, chatting and "doing some sibling bonding", so by the time we were up and about on Friday (around 10:30), Jen was itching to get going.  There were several different plans floating around, Chris wanted to go to the Athens Chess Club, but decided to save it for the weekend if he was going to go, Jen wanted to re-visit the Acropolis, I was along for the ride depending on what was decided.  After some debate we settled on the National Archealogical Museum (which is near the Chess Club, so if afterwards Chris wanted to go there, it was close).
 
Now, truly, I have almost unlimited opportunities to go to museums around the world, and I usually don't.  Firstly, because I really don't "dig" museums, never have, and secondly, it's not real fun to go by myself, and thirdly, I kind of feel like I've "been there, done that" and I would rather see the artifacts, sculptures, frescos, etc., in their natural environs.  But this was worth the trip.
 
We walked down to the museum and checked it out!

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Outside the National Archealogical Museum

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Europa. . . sculpted in 2006!

BRIEF HISTORY LESSON:
 
Evidence exists that human habitation in Greece dates as far back as 700,000 years ago (Stone Age).  Next era that is mentioned is the Neolithic Age (Prehistoric), which dates from 7000-3000 BC.  During the Bronze Age, the most important civilization was the Cycladic, centered on the islands of the Cyclades, and ranged from 3000 BC to 1100 BC.  Concurrently was the Mionean, which was the first advanced civilization to emerge in Europe,and was centered on the island of Crete, drawing influence and inspiration from the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian Cultures and ran from 3000 BC to 1100 BC.  The decline of the Minoan's coincided with the first rise of a great civilization on the mainland, the Mycenaean's (1900 BC - 1100 BC), named after the ancient city of Mycenae.  They had a written language (an early form of Greek), a legacy of magnificent gold jewellery and ornaments, and worshipped gods who were the percursors of the later Greek dieties.  During the Archaic Age (or Middle Ages), Greece was recovering from their conquering by the Dorians, and was divided into approximately 50 city-states.  It was during this period that the Temple of Delphi was built, the Olympic Games were begun and Homer wrote the Iliad and The Odyssey.
 
The next prominent chapter was around 150 BC when the Roman's completed their conquest of Greece, and then in the mid-1400's, Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire, for 400 years until in 1867 Greece became an independent country.
 
Chris is really interested in Cycladic Art, as it was definitely an inspiration for Picasso.  The museum had a large enough collection of Cycladic Art to make going to the Museum of Cycladic Art redundant.  Plus, we all decided Picasso was nothing but a copy cat.  Heeheee.  Genius my butt. . . .

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Cycladic art which inspired Picasso

Next, we checked out stuff from the Neolithic Age.  I think this was some of the oldest artifacts I've ever seen, as they dated from 6800 BC to 3000 BC.  Looked like the people were fatter then. . .  but, they had tools, and pots, and musical instruments.

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The oldest stuff I've ever seen

On to the Mycenaean displays, with lots of vases, paintings (frescos), and GOLD, GOLD, GOLD. . .

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Rare painted head from the Mycenaeic Age

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Gold, gold, and more gold

Then, off through the sculpture exhibitions (room after room after room) ranging from the Bronze age up til Roman times, and probably just beyond.  It was a little overwhelming.  The next picture I was in the previous room while Chris was reading about this particular statue, and I said as I approached, "Is that Zeus or Poseidon?", and he said, "Yes,".  Seems even the museum doesn't know. . . 

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Zeus or Poseidon. . . even the musuem doesn't know!

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Cute little man faces from an old urn

Then, we found what we all decided later was the coolest thing in the entire museum, which was this gear apparatus thingy (explanation follows).  Imagine, this was 500 years before Da Vinci and his creations, and seemed unfathomable to all of us that this technology existed then!

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The coolest thing we saw. . .

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For those who are interested in what this was and what it was for. . .

Wandered around through the rest.  I'm sure Jen and I were the only people to ever to the following. . .

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Jen on her throne

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Aphrodite fending off some unwanted advances

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Kid on a horse, who appears to be throwing "the bird" at someone. . . Hmmmm

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Post museum stop for liquid refreshments

After we left the museum, it seemed some beer was in order.  We knew Mike would probably be napping after work (we were all up late, just not as late as Chris and I), and Chris' guidebook said the "Greatest Internet Cafe" in the whole world was right across the street, so we peeked in there (smelled like a toilet, according to Jen, and was nice, but the "greatest", I don't know. . . ), and then discovered a BAR right next door.  So, we had a few more, then walked back home (I was trying to walk off my buzz).
 
Friday night we went to our usual "upper class" Taverna in Kolonaki for a yummy traditional dinner, then introduced the kids to the Red Lion Pub, where our Cypriot friends (plus a new one) we met last week were, Herb, and Dustin and his fiance.  Had a fairly late night playing darts, socializing, etc.   Home in bed around 2:30.
 
Saturday, poor Mike had to go to work, and Chris and Jen went to re-visit the Acropolis, walk around, etc.  I stayed home and played housewife after having lunch with them in the neighborhood at a little restaurant I've been walking by since we got here and never went to.  It was AWESOME, and CHEAP!  Seriously the cheapest meal we've had in Athens, including "fast food".  Mike and I went back there to eat today!
 
Decided it would be cool to have dinner at the restaurant on top of Lycovittos Hill.  And, I took a lot of crap from everyone for making us walk up there, and it was pretty steep and long and hard, but the views were incredible.  The sun was just setting, and Jen thought the park pre-peak was like an Enchanted Forest.  We took a couple wrong turns through the park, but finally made it about 7:30. 
 
Now, I expected the views to be awesome, the prices to be a bit inflated due to the location, and the food to be mediocore, but only the first was really true.  Although beer was a bit overpriced, the appetizers and main courses were pretty averagely priced, and the food ROCKED!  We had three appetizers (!), feta spring rolls with honey and anis, grilled mushrooms with balsamic vinegar, and a meat and cheese platter (we should have stopped here), and then Jen had Mousakka (finally), I had veal in mustard sauce, Chris had a veal steak and Mike had the Greek salad.  And, it was all SOOOOOOOO good. 
 
And, Chris and Jen were nice enough to buy our dinner.  Thanks!
 
Walked down and home, even though we were going to go play darts.  Chris and Jen had decided to head for the island of Aegina on Sunday (and the flea market in Pireaus), so they needed to get an early start, and we were all pretty tired.

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Sunset on Lycovittos Hill

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Night shot of the Acropolis. . . I forgot MY camera!!! Arrgghh

Chris and Jen are currently out at the island, enjoying a beautiful day.  Mike and I took a little tour of an area near our house we've been meaning to check out, stopped for a late lunch (as I mentioned earlier at the cheap, good place), and came home and laid around, read, etc.
 
Mike's cold seems to be just about gone, which is good (finally!).  We also got a very nice email from Mike's sister Kathee who went to Jerry's funeral yesterday, describing what a wonderful tribute it was.
 
Chris and Jen have to leave for the airport at 2 AM tonight/tomorrow morning (WHATEVER!), which stinks.  It's been great having them, and I think they've had a ball.

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Signing off with a "moon" to all of you!

Thursday, April 26, 2007
Lots of news and lots of photos
 
I apologize for going a week without any updates.  It's been a little crazy around here.  Mike's cold kept him down the entire weekend, never seen him sleep so much in my life, but he seems on the road to recovery, finally.  Chris and Jen arrived on time on MONDAY evening (even though until Sunday afternoon we thought they were coming on Sunday, our mistake).  They didn't get to the house until about 7:45 PM, so had a light dinner of pasta salad and sat around and talked until late.  Had a "few" beers and the requisite Ouzo.  Don't think Jen liked it much, and Mike only had a little, but Chris and I took care of the rest of the bottle. . .

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"They're Heee-rrrreee"

Woke up Tuesday to a beautiful day, so Chris, Jen and I went on a orientation run through the subway and the downtown area.  Saw the Temple of Zeus (again, not that I mind, it's cool and right downtown), walked through the Plaka, had a wonderful lunch at a Taverna in a quaint area just the other side of the Plaka and above Psiri that I have walked through before, but never this way.  The restaurant was called Zorba's and Chris and I had grilled octopus (my first time, and it was yummy!), and Jen had a Greek Salad.  Stopped at a gay bar to use the toilet (we didn't know it was a gay bar, but it was very apparent after about 60 seconds, I seem to have in ingrained skill at finding these places), then continued on through Psiri to the Central Market, Jen's dream afternoon.  She bought spices and cheese, sampled olives and stroked eggplants.  Also, she was amazed at the size of the strawberries, even though she saw the picture on the site, she really didn't think they could be that BIG.  And, of course, the lovely and smelly meat market.
 
We also had to pick on Jen a little bit for taking over 20 pictures of stray cats and dogs on the street.  She almost adopted one big mutt, and Chris almost adopted some old Romanian women who was shaking her money cup at him for about three blocks.

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Panathinaikon Stadium

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Jen and I at that silly Temple of Zeus again. . . .

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Lamb head, anyone?

We also decided to go on a day trip to Delphi on Wednesday, so Mike organized that for us through the Embassy.  We decided to just spend the money on a tour rather than try and figure it out on our own.  A good choice and a bad choice, as we all hate tours, but at least the transportation issue was easily solved without being on a long-distance bus that stopped a lot and would take more time.  But, we did have to be out of the house on Wednesday morning by about 7:40 AM!  Egads. 
 
Went to dinner at our famous local Taverna we go to alot but don't know the name of and everyone but me had the lamb chops, and of course, olives, fried cheese and chickpea soup as starters.  FULL UP!  Had an early night as we have to be up early!
 
All four of us are up and about, getting ready on Wednesday morning when the phone rings.  It's Mike's contact at the Embassy, informing him that due to "security issues" no one can go to work today.  Unfortunately, Mike feels it may be a temporary thing, so he chooses not to go to Delphi with us (he has A TON of work to do and is hoping to be able to get some done).  So, off the three of us go to the tour office to catch the bus.  And, of course, for the first time in Greece, I get on the subway going the wrong way.  With witnessess.  But, for only one stop, so no harm, no foul. 
 
Make the bus and off we go!  Once we get out of Athens and into the mountains the scenery is spectacular!  Huge mountains and deep valleys, big lakes and vast plains.  It is amazingly beautiful, but impossible to photograph through the bus windows.  But, really, WOW!

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On the way to Delphi

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Arachova ski resort town hanging on the edge of the mountain

After about 2.5 hours on the bus, plus a stop in some little town for coffee, pastries and a toilet, we make it to Delphi.  Now, in the guide book for the tour company we are with there is a picture of the famous circular temple at Delphi.  This is the ONE thing we most want to see.  But, guess what, it's not on the tour!  It's a stone's throw from where we are, but WE ARE NOT GOING THERE.  What!?!?  Now, we didn't know this initially, or we would have bagged the tour and headed over there ourselves after seeing the temple at Delphi, but oh no, we don't find out until 20 minutes before we need to get on the bus.  Now, don't get me wrong, the Temple of Delphi, the stadium and the theater, and even the museum are impressive in their own rights, but DANG IT, we want to see the circular Temple of Athena, and we can almost see it from the hill!  How irritating to be all the way there and not see what you really want to see.  I hate tours. 
 
But in our tours defense, our guide was nice, cute and knowledgeable, and there weren't TOO many extremely irritating other tourists with us, but STILL!
 
DELPHI FOR DUMMIES:  Brief history and overview of what this place is all about.  In days or yore (ancient Greek times, 2500 years ago) when they still believed in all the Greek Gods like Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, etc., it is said Zeus sent two eagles in opposite directions from atop of Mount Olympus to find the center of the earth.  When the eagles met up, somehow, someway, a rock fell from the sky at that point, and became "the navel of the earth".  Okay.
 
Then, Apollo, after years of wandering around Greece, found it to be a pleasing spot, and decided there should be a temple there.  And, within that temple there should be an Oracle (one who tells fortunes, or futures or predictions, or whatever) where people could come from all over, make sacrifices to the Gods and to the oracle, and have their futures told and their questions answered. 
 
Through the life of this temple, they would bring a woman there, who would abandon her life outside the temple (husband, children, whatever), become celibate, stand in the temple and get high from gaseous vapors of some sort, spout nonsense, and then have the nonsense interpreted through a priest who would then give the fortune/prediction/answer in a very ambigious way to the people who came.
 
All this is before Greece is a country, it is instead like 50 or so different states, so each state brings sacrifices (animals, not humans), and statues to Delphi and builds "treasuries" to ensure they will get to have their questions answered first, or best, or something.  All of these things are gone now, housed in a museum in Istanbul (when it was Constinople), brought their by the Ottoman empire when they conquered Greece.  In the museum there are still a few "finds" and statues which used to stand there, but for the most part everything is gone to Turkey.  Another reason for the Greeks to hate the Turks.
 
Anyway, here's the pics from Delphi.

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Looking down at the Athenian Temple that we don't get to go to. . . BOO HOOOOO!!!

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The navel of the world. . . okay

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The mountains here are breathtaking

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Delphi Kitties (pulling a "Jen", but they were pretty cute!)

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The agora

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Looking up at the temple

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Athenian Treasury

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Another view of the Athenian Treasury

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Looking down on the theater and the temple

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The temple of Delphi

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The stadium.. . .

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Pretty flowers on the wall below the columns

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The Sphinx

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Pieces of an old bull made of silver and gold

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Ancient gold and ivory Apollo, the ivory is black because it was burned in a fire

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Zeus almighty

After the tour it's time for lunch.  It's 2:30, and the pastries from our coffee stop have definitely worn off.  We're HUNGRY.  They take us to this restaurant for a four course lunch (included in the price of the tour), which consisted of some kind of egg/quiche/souflee thing, cabbage salad with olives, and chicken with rice.  Dessert is an apple.  And everything but the apple is absolutely DRIPPING in olive oil (which is to be expected, as we are in Greece).  In the valley below Delphi is the largest olive orchard in the world (?maybe Greece? can't remember).  And one of the "smarties" in our tour group is raving about the olives, and then she asks the waiter if they are local olives.  No lady, we are only sitting on the largest olive grove in the world, but we fly these olives in from Spain.  Here's your sign.  Can people really be this dumb?
 
But the worst thing is during lunch my cell phone rings, and it's Mike.  Now, we are all feeling a little bad about Mike sitting home by himself while we're off "touring".  So, I ask him how his day is going, and he says, "Not so good," and I say, "Why, did the Embassy blow up?", and he says, "No, I just got a call from Jeff Schaeffer," and I say, "Why did Jeff Schaeffer call you?", and he says, "Jerry Grinwis died last night."  OMG.
 
Jerry is/was Mike's BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD and has been since they were teenagers.  He was a unique and coloful person who I loved dearly, and of course, Mike, too.  And, I am five hours away from being back home and able to give him a hug and a kiss, and he is all by himself.  It was all too sad, and definitely put a damper on the rest of the day, and night, and I'm sure, the rest of our lives. 
 
I know I've said it before on this site, but it is so impossibly hard when people back home die while we are out here (SO QUIT IT!), as the reality just doesn't seem to sink in.  And, you don't have the normal grieving processes to help you through it, i.e. others to sit around and talk about the life of the person you've lost, trading stories and anecdotes, crying on other people's shoulders who are sharing your grief.  Our hearts are hurting, and our love goes out to all those back home who are sharing in this great loss. 
 
Jerry was Mike's age, and as of right now they are saying he had a heart attack.  The story we got from Mike's sister is that Jerry and his girlfriend Dollie were getting ready to go to the Golden Gloves gym for some event (Jerry gave his time freely to helping young men in this program), and suddenly he became violently ill.  Dollie had to help him from the bathroom to bed, and was ready to stay home with him.  But, in typical Jerry fashion, he said, "Lots of people are depending on us being there, you go on and make sure the event happens,".  And, she did.  When she returned, he was unconscious with a very faint pulse.  She called the paramedics and they worked on him for a couple hours, but he didn't make it. 
 
We had our own quiet memorial service for Jerry at the apartment last night, and although Chris and Jen never had the privilege to meet Jerry, they shared in our grief and let us tell them about Jerry and his life, his idiocyncrasies that made him who he was and who we loved. 
 
It's all very sad.  And hard, especially for Mike.
 
Okay, thanks for listening/reading that, but I felt it important to share this loss.
 
OTHER THINGS WE LEARNED ON OUR TOUR:
  • Olive oil has 9000 (that is NOT a typo - nine THOUSAND) calories per liter.  This explains my growing butt and gut, and the abundance of fat Greeks.
  • There is no such thing as a Roman column.  Actually, we already knew that, but some woman on our tour was asking what the difference between Roman columns and Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian columns was.  Uh, HELLO.
  • Some people (not naming names here), don't/didn't know what an "oracle" was.  One person with us, and several in the tour group.
  • If a bus in Greece is supposed to leave at 8:30, and you are supposed to be at the terminal at 8, the bus will not leave until 8:45, and you could have got another half hour of sleep.
  • All tours in the whole world stop at rug factories.

All in all, an enjoyable tour, but a sad day.

Chris and Jen are off to the Acropolis today, and to a couple museums.  I'm laying low, doing some laundry, this blog, and sorting through pictures.  Tonight we go see "Jesus Christ, Superstar". 

Oh yea, Mike was able to go to work today.  Seems there was a "bomb scare" yesterday, according to the local paper.  Some Iraqi dude came to the Embassy Tuesday  night and said there was going to be an attack carried out by some of his acquaintances, who he claimed were part of Al-Qaida.  The police sealed off the Embassy, inspected cars in the area and raided several homes in Athens, detaining more than 75 immigrants, mostly Iraqi's (which 54 of were charged with violating immigration laws).  Upon further questioning it was discovered to be a hoax, and that the man was cheated out of 5,000 Euros and was trying to "get them back".  He had asked for a reward in exchange for his "disinformation". 

Cool.

 

Thursday, April 19, 2007
Howwible Cowdes and Movie Critiques
 
Well, once again, we are sick.  Don't know if it was from the wind on Sunday or what, but Mike and I both woke up Monday with coughs, runny noses, the works.  His is more in his chest, and he sounds like Barry White (which is kinda sexy), and mine is the head draining, achy, feverish one. 
 
The cleaning girl (her name is Mimosa, she's from Albania, she speaks no English, the only way we can converse is in my poor Spanish) came Monday, and I ran around to the stores getting provisions, the pharmacy for cold medication, and did some laundry.  Stayed in Monday, watched "The Queen" (two thumbs up).  Tuesday I spent the entire day INSIDE, and most of it IN BED, but it was cold and windy, so was a good day for it.  Had nothing for dinner, so went downstairs to our Chinese restaurant in the basement and ate.  Watched "Broken Trail" that night.  Mike gives it one thumb, I didn't care for it too much.  It was a made for TV two night mini-series.  Was kinda like Brokeback Mountain only without the sex (thank GOD!).  Okay, was a little better than that. . . but not much!  Yesterday continued laying low, but did make it out to the Carrefour for dinner supplies.  Watched "Corpse Bride", maybe a half a thumb.
 
Saw an article RE:  garbage in the paper yesterday.  Said the sanitation workers may go on strike. . . NICE.  There were some pics from someplace here in Athens of garbage piling up on the streets, but I haven't seen it.  Of course, I haven't BEEN anywhere this week, so. . .
 
Chris and Jen arrive Sunday!  Will probably have to start acting like tourists. . . :-)
 
Still missing Hong Kong like a phantom limb or something. 
 
Also, I think body-snatchers have taken me and added 10 pounds to my frame.  We have no scale (HURRAH!), but everday in the shower I look down and think, "Now, who's body is this?!?!".  I've heard the Med diet is supposed to make you lose weight.  Maybe it's the olives, and the bread, AND the cheese, AND the beer and wine combined.  Ugh.  I don't know, and I'm trying not to care, but it STINKS! 
 
And, I have a slight case of exzema on my elbows and fingers which will flare up ocassionally, and it's been on FIRE for the last week or so.  YUCK!  And, for some reason, it's always way worse on my right elbow, almost makes it purple or something.  I did buy some cream, but it sure doesn't seem to help the appearance, just the itchiness. 
 
Okay, enough about me and my flaws.

Monday, April 16, 2007
A field trip, an annoying dude, and starvation
 
Finally, the weather, my husband, and myself all decided to cooperate (or so we thought in the way of the weather) on the same day and enable us to go on the much talked about but continously postponed "field trip" down the coast to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.  The weather in Athens is HOT, feels great.  Mike and I spend the morning sitting around the house and veranda (where he actually went inside as he was too warm), so we figure we're good. 
 
My guide book (Lonely Planet) gives very little information about what to expect, but we expect a 1 1/2 hour bus ride, some old rocks, someplace to eat and drink, and a bus ride back.  We leave late afternoon, as we heard this is "the best spot" to catch a sunset in mainland Greece, and we want to be there.
 
I have seen this particular tour advertised widely throughout Athens, and the going cost is 38 Euro/person.  I thought this seemed inordinately high, as round trip the bus costs 10,80/person and the Temple admission is 4 Euro, so for approximately 30 Euro, not withstanding food and drink, we could do it on our own, right?  Right. . . .
 
Take the subway to designated pick-up spot for bus and meet up with Herb, as he's decided to brave the trip with us.  We walk a couple blocks to where the bus stop is supposed to be.  Completely unmarked.  Have to ask two different people for directions and finally figure we are at the right spot, as we are surrounded by white-haired English speaking tourists all yelling at each other, "It's right here Wilma/Bertha/George," whoever else is on the trip.  Bus arrives, and after a delay of about 10 minutes while they are scrubbing it with a bucket and brush (?), we pull out at about 3:40 PM.  And then circle Athens picking up other people at other bus stops much closer to home.  And, easier to find.  And more clearly marked.  Okay, live and learn. 
 
Off we go, on the same path as the tram took us to the coast a month ago.  And then we are into unchartered territory, clipping along the coastal road at a pretty good pace.  It is pretty, if not a bit stark, and the sea looks gorgeous.  See lots of people along the way sunbathing, swimming (I think it's a bit early and a bit cold for this, however), fishing and enjoying themselves along the rocky seaside. 
 
After 90 minutes we still don't see anything that looks like the end of the road.  The Temple of Poseidon is built up on top of a large cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, and supposedly can be seen for miles from the ocean.  These Greeks liked to build things high up.  So, another 30 minutes on the bus (which was comfortable enough, climate wise and seat wise, so okay), the Temple finally comes into view.  It looks big.  And high.  And we hope the bus is going to drive us all the way up the hill.
 
We were planning on arriving around 5, but it's now 5:45.  The bus does take us directly to the entrance, where there is a kiosk selling drinks and snacks, a gift store and a cafe/restaurant underneath the Temple.  I ask the money taker dude on the bus when the busses go back to Athens, and he tells me on the hour.  The last bus is at 8 PM.  Barely enough time to catch the sunset, see the Temple and have something to eat.  As we are really there for the sunset, we decide to have some sustenance first. 
 
Go and have a seat in the restaurant.  Wait 15 minutes for someone to come to our table (not unusual in these touristy spots), order a beer and ask for a menu.  We are told, "We have no food."  This seems odd, as it IS a restaurant, there is a sign there declaring this fact, but we figure maybe it's off-season and they aren't serving food.  About halfway through our beers we see plates of FOOD going to other tables.  Now, we're mad.  Our last meal was at noon.  Okay, whatever, not like we've never been slightly hungry before, but knowing we will have to wait until we return to Athens to eat is somewhat bothersome. 
 
Instead of making a scene regarding the blatant lie we were told, we decide to go look at the Temple, watch the sunset, then grab some snacks from the kiosk for the ride back and have dinner in Athens.
 
Climb to the top, and my goodness, it is COLD!  The wind blowing in off the sea is biting.  Mike didn't wear a jacket (see above where he was too warm to sit on the balcony at our house), and I had on capris and a hoodie, and I was freezing, too.  Managed to stay up top about 40 minutes, decided to come back down, skip the sunset, grab some snacks and get ourselves on the 7 PM bus.   

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First view after we actually arrived

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I think the sea views from up here were just as impressive as the temple ruins

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More ocean. . .

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And another look

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A lovely photo dead nuts into the setting sun

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Okay, it is rather beautiful, but sure looks like a lot of other rocks we've seen

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Into the setting sun. . .

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Good-bye cold pile of marble. . . .

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This just seemed to "greek"

Mike and Herb go to hit the bathroom before the ride back and I walk down to the kiosk to get some snackies.  Except it's closed!  Arggh.  I'm hungry, and cold, and getting a little grumpy (as I do when I need to eat!).  But, we are leaving an hour earlier than planned, so food is in our near future.  We plan on jumping off the bus at Syntagma, about a 20 minute shorter ride than on the way there, and going to this restaurant we've been scoping out but never been to for dinner.  Figure by 9ish we'll be dining.
 
On the bus, Mike and I take a seat in front of a youngish Greek couple (possibly late 20's, early 30's) and they never shut up.  And, not in "indoor" voices either.  They are loud and giggling, and kissing.  Plus, the dude keeps throwing either wads of gum or hard candy into his mouth and is making noises which would shame a cow.  It's disgusting.  Not to mention he keeps ramming my seatback with his knees. 
 
His girlyfriend disembarks after about 45 minutes, and another innocent gal takes the seat next to him, and off they go with another loud conversation, more lip smacking, and more kicking of my seat. 
 
And, his phone rings incessantly at a completely unnecessary volume with a most irritating ringtone, and he refuses to answer it, so it just rings and rings (it's probably his wife and he seems to be chatting this girl up pretty hard).
 
Of course, this all may have been more interesting if they were speaking English, as at least I could have eavesdropped then, but no, alas, they are speaking Greek.  FINALLY, they shut up and he quits smacking his candy, and he goes to sleep.  Ah, peace and quiet. 
 
But now we are two hours into our return trip and no where near Athens.  Seems the thought of incoming traffic to Athens from the seaside on a Sunday night completely escaped us.  We are CRAWLING!

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The pace we returned to Athens

Finally, we are on the road to Athens, and the traffic patterns pick up a bit.  Reach Syntagma about 9:30 (!), walk two blocks to the restaurant, and it's CLOSED!  WHHAAAH.  But, across the streets blinks the neon sign of the "Golden Chopsticks" restaurant. 
 
Looks like we're having Chinese.  I would have probably ate anything at this point, but the food was good, better than our basement Chinese restaurant, but not quite as convenient.  Even had a Tsing-Tao beer to complement the flavor!
 
Home around 11:30.
 
Now, I'm glad we did this trip, but as far as recommending it, I don't know.  Ideally, if you knew the name of a couple of the stops along the way, you could purchase a ticket to there, then get back on the bus and go to the Temple and make a day of it.  There appeared to be many great restaurants along the coast on the way, right on the water.  This is where not having your own transport really stinks.  It would be wonderful to tool around this country at your own pace.  However, even if we wanted to, we can't rent a car here, as neither of us has an international drivers license, a requisite for non-EU citizens.  And, once outside of Athens, I don't think we would be so afraid to drive.  But, alas, it's not to be.  As usual.

Friday, April 13, 2007
Another Friday the 13th. . . Wha-hah-hah-hah
 
Unbelievably, this ran in the Kathimerini English Edition (supplement to the Herald Tribune) yesterday.
 
Workers warn just 10 days remain before landfill reaches capacity.
 
Workers at Athens's (sic) only legal landfill in Ano Kiosia, northwestern Athens, warned yesterday that rubbish may soon pile up on the city's streets as the dump has almost reached capacity again and that work to create more space has not begun.  The head of the employees' union, Giorgos Hardas, said that the stopgap unit that had been built in nearby Fyli to hold garbage until new dumps are constructed will fill up with trash in the next 10 days.  He said that work on a new unit has not begun yet and that it would take at least two and a half months to be completed.
 
WHAT?  Where the heck are we?  Now, there are approximately 190 countries in the world today, and of that 190, about 150 of them are "developing" (read:  third-world) countries.  And, guess what?  Greece is NOT one of them!  When I read this I was in shock.  10 days?  2 1/2 months?  Was there some run on garbage they are failing to mention?  Can you imagine the outrage if this article appeared in your home town newspaper?
 
And, don't even get me started on how many avoidable "that"'s are in "that" article. . . my major pet peeve.  Or, how poorly sentences were constructed.  Geez. 
 
So, maybe next week I'll be taking pictures of garbage filled streets, eh?
 
In other news, nothing doing here.  Haven't been much of a tourist, although the weather has been mighty fine 3 out of 5 days this week.  Get out and about, but really haven't seen anything "new" as of late.  Loving our roof-top terrace.
 
I'm being a housewife, I guess.
 
Ironically, I am now listening to them pick up the garbage on the street.  Wonder where they are taking it?

Sunday, April 9, 2007
Easter Day
 
A interesting Easter Weekend.  Like I said, it's bigger than Christmas, so EVERYTHING was pretty much closed all weekend (except the churches), but it was still neat. 
 
Friday we went out to eat and played darts, nothing was really different. . . except the weather.  It started out as a pretty decent day, low 60's and I went out and walked around a bit (as you know).  On my way home, though, I was walking into the spookiest sky I've seen since the Vatican in Rome right before the Pope died.  It was nice and sunny downtown, but as I walked toward our house. . . major gloom.  Looked like tornado weather.  But, still sunny behind me.  Was perfect mood for Good Friday.

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Formidable weather on Good Friday, very fitting

Saturday was okay, but we just lounged around the house most the day (well, all the day).  Made pancakes for breakfast, tacos for dinner, had a couple naps, read some books.  Watched some 4 hour long movie about the New Testament on Greek TV (in English), which was nice, and then at 11 PM we went up on the roof and watched fireworks all around the city and listened to the church bells.  They broke into the movie with the Mass ceremony, and it was really noisy and colorful on the roof.  Like being in the very middle of a fireworks launch, and one of the churches bells' was playing Halleluiah.  And, instead of saying Happy Easter here, they say Happy Ressurection.  So, Happy Ressurection!!

Easter morning broke out as a beautiful sunny day.  The nicest we've had since we've been here.  No coats, no scarves. . .  It was probably 70 degrees.  After breakfast we went down to Thissio, the stop on the metro just past Monastraki, and walked around the Acropolis (below) and then up on Flipappos Hill.  I saw this from the Acropolis, and it looked really high and far away, but it was an easy climb and gave us the most marvelous views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon yet.  It was awesome.  And hot.  And we LOVED it.

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Cannot seem to stop taking pictures of this particular pile of rocks. . .

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And again. . . .

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Greek God Mike

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Greed Goddess (?) Rachelle

Walked back down and around and stopped and had a relaxing drink in the shade on a really nice, quaint side street that I walked down when I was trying to find the Aliens Bureau (a long way away from it, bt I still walked down this particular street on the way).  Came home and I made Easter dinner of marinated pork chops, mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage, bread, and greek salad.  Watched Wild Hogs (I bought a bunch of bootleg DVD's today, it played great, but had a demo logo on the top of the screen the entire time).  Mike liked it, but I thought it was a bit silly.
 
Now time to call home and talk to a bunch of full family members.
 
I hope the weather sticks, and I hope the grocery is open tomorrow!
 
Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2007
HAPPY EASTER!
 
I don't know why, but until the beginning of this week I was in denial this was Easter weekend.  Had it in my head as MUCH later in the month. . .
 
But it IS!  So, HAPPY EASTER to everyone!  It is, of course, a HUGE deal here in Greece for the Greek Orthodox Church (which all Greeks are), some say bigger than Christmas.  Apparently the individual churches set off fireworks on Saturday night, and they have candlelit vigils through the streets.  More importantly, our favorite bar will be CLOSED.  I wonder what else will be closed.  I hope we don't starve to death!
 
The weather was awesome yesterday, hopefully a taste of things to come, so I cruised the streets of Athens for hours, took tons of pictures.  I think what is going to happen is we will get no real spring.  It will probably just get WAY HOT overnight.  From sweaters to shirtsleeves. 
 
I decided to do a most circuitous tour of some of the sighs, starting at Hadrian's Arch and The Temple of Zeus (entry fee 2 Euro).  I have been by these two things alot, but never paid to go in until yesterday.  Not that big of an area, you can see it from some of my Acropolis pictures, it's a square green area with a bunch of white columns standing in it.  Snapped about a bazillion pictures, as the columns change colors depending on the sunlight and your view (same as the Parthenon, sometimes it looks white, sometimes pink).  When this temple stood in its entirety, it was the largest temple of the ancient world.
 
 

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Hadrian's Arch

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The great Temple of Zeus, or what's left of it

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Over 2000 years old, and still falling down. . .

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Two lonely pillars off to the northeast of the Temple

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The other side of Zeus. . . :-)

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Looking up the pillars. . .

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Looking back up at the Acropolis

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Natural frame of the Acropolis

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Lykovittos Hill from the Temple of Zeus

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Ancient patio furniture

From there I entered the maze that is Plaka, Monastraki, and Psiri from the opposite side.  Basically just wandered, as this ancient part of town does have it's own particular charm, if you look through all the T-shirt, handbag, and cheap clothing vendors.  And the graffiti.  Man.  There is a lot of graffiti here. 
 
I still get lost in this area, but at least it's the kind of lost where I still know basically which way to go to get somewhere else.  But, that's half the fun because you rarely see the same things twice.  Like the house pictured below, and the dudes playing backgammon between two parked cars (?).  And, I did find the restaurant I wanted to eat at a couple weeks ago when we returned from Aegina.  It was ONE BLOCK OVER AND ONE BLOCK DOWN from where we ate.  It looks so different at night down there. . .

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Lamb in the window of a Taverna in Plaka

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Dudes playing backgammon in the street in Monastraki

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Cool old house overlooking the Agora in Psiri

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This place is COVERED in graffiti

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Crazy!

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A bunch more old rocks over in Psiri

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Lamb and cheese for sale in Psiri for Easter. . .

Wandered until about 3:30, jumped on the metro, got off a stop before our house to go to the "Crazy Store" (basically like a dollar store, but not everything is a dollar/Euro) to replace my spatula that I gave to Herb the other night (poor man has been making pancakes without a spatula since he got here).  Also grabbed a whisk, some liquid soap and a big ole coffee mug for Mike to bring in to work.
 
Decided to splurge and buy tickets to go see "Jesus Christ, Superstar" here.  Haven't picked a date yet, looks to be lots of availability still.  Will be nice to do.  Kind of Eastery, but after Easter.  Sometime when I thought Easter actually was. . .  I haven't seen this play in over 20 years I'd bet.  And, Mike too. 
 
Other than that, had dinner in and then met Herb at The Red Lion for a night of darts.  Laundry morning (sheets and towels and such) today, so hanging out watching sheets dry. . .

Thursday, April 5, 2007
 
Okay.  Sorry I haven't posted all week.  I decided I needed to calm down after Tuesday before I wrote about my adventure to the Aliens Bureau.
 
Now, I know it isn't possible, but if by some chance I'm reincarnated as a country (let's say GREECE for example), and I was giving Americans a hard time about staying in my country for more than 90 days, and I had to have a place for them to report to extend their visa's, here's a few things I would do:
  • Place the Aliens Bureau IN TOWN, and not way out in some seedy neighborhood that is hard to get to, find, etc.  I took the train (as advised by the Embassy) and then tried to walk there, discovered I couldn't find it, see next point, then tried for 20 minutes to get a cab to take me there)
  • Put the STREET NAMES on the STREETS.  Every street in Athens has a name.  And a street sign.  Except Petrou Ralli, one of the biggest streets off of Pireous Street.  No sign.  Nice. 
  • Employ more than one person at the Aliens Bureau who speaks ENGLISH!
  • Make that person be helpful and kind.
  • Let people renew their visa's anytime.
  • And, maybe, just maybe, if I was feeling in a really generous mood (as a country), I would make it a law that taxi drivers must pick up customers and take them where they want to go, instead of rolling down their windows, asking, then saying no and speeding away.
  • Have a website explaining all the rules and regulations, necessary paperwork, directions to the Aliens Bureau, a phone number, people staffing the phone, etc.  The Cambodians have a better systems than here.  And that is saying something people!

So, obviously things did not go so well Tuesday.  The basic outcome was I was there "too early" and need to go back 25 days before my current visa expires.  I have to PAY THEM 470 Euro (which is $620 dollars) to get this extension.  You would think they would be glad to take my money anytime.  What a strange government.  And, I get to go again.  What a treat.

When I finally convinced a taxi to take me back to town (20 minutes standing outside waving frantically at taxi's), I had a light lunch in the sun in Syntagma, tried to calm down, was unable to, went shopping for dinner and came home.

We did go out and play darts and drink beer that night, just to take my mind off HATE!

Yesterday I met Mike and his Embassy contact and his wife for lunch.  We had nice greasy Gyro's down at Monastraski.  I dragged my camera, map and stuff to go exploring after, but it clouded over and started to spit on us.  Maria (the wife) is a teacher, so she is off for Easter this week and was running around doing the museums, so I hung out with her for the afternoon at a museum.  She's nice, but a busy person and they live about an hour outside of Athens.

Had Herb over for dinner last night.  Sat around and STS until about 10:30ish.  Was a nice night.  And day.

Suns out this morning, so I'll try again to get out today.  I know you all want some more pictures of old rocks and stuff.

Monday, April 2, 2007
19 days until our first guests!
 
Another boring and cold weekend, outside of a couple dinners out and dart playing on Friday and Saturday.  Our field trip didn't materialize, as it started raining on Saturday afternoon (we were planning on leaving around 3 to catch the sunset, suppose to be one of the "best in the world", whatever).  And Sunday it was just windy and COLD!
 
Have all my materials and money to go to the Aliens Bureau tomorrow.  Wish me luck with that one.
 
Off to investigate a neighborhood bar we've been walking by.  I doubt it's anything special, but am tired of being cooped up.  Did go for a walk today, and got lost again, while Mimosa cleaned our apartment.  Plus three (count them THREE) trips to the market. Then spent the afternoon trying to get the internet to work (which it DOES NOW!  After Mike came home and fixed it, he does have his uses. . . ).
 
And no new photos, as I didn't have my camera while I was "lost".  Did find out there's a Hooters in the mall (which is like 10 subway stops away), and a Ruby Tuesday.  We still haven't broke down and went to TGI Friday's, Applebees, Pizza Hut, or McDonald's yet.
 
Maybe I'll check out the mall after the Alien's Bureau tomorrow.  At least there won't be any protests way out there, and it's near the Olympic Village.

Saturday, March 31, 2007
 
Mike's toe is recovered.
 
Started the process yesterday of getting my visa extended.  First stop:  the bank.  Now, about two weeks ago I stopped into the Eurobank next to the Embassy and asked them if I could open an account  with just my passport.  "Sure, sure," they said.  So, Mike wrote a check for $3665.66 (!) and I went and picked up the 2750 Euro and went to the bank. 
 
And, they told me I COULDN'T open a bank account with just my passport.  Seems I need a FMA number (which I can't get without an extended visa, which I can't get without a bank account).  The proverbial Catch-22.  I didn't even THINK this was going to be easy.  Anyway, they told me if I went to a different branch, MAYBE they could do it.   Okay, fine.  Walk over to the other branch, go through the same rigamorale (sp?), except now they want my work permit (right) and a letter from the Embassy saying Mike is working there. . .  
 
Patiently explain the situation to two different people, they make some phone calls, speak in Greek to each other, and finally after about 30 minutes decide I can give them my money.  Fine.  90 minutes later I have a Greek Passbook Account at the Eurobank.  One step closer. 
 
Decide to go home and hang out our laundry to dry while we still have sunshine.  It was a beautiful day, and I grabbed my book and newspaper and land line phone and went to the roof.  And locked myself out there.  For FOUR HOURS!  In all fairness, I didn't realize I was locked out for two of those four, just sitting out there enjoying the nice weather and sunshine.  At 3 I decided to go in and do some chores, make the bed with our clean, dry sheets, go get some eggs, etc., but alas, NO.  And I didn't have my cell phone so I couldn't call Mike to come and rescue me (it was on the charger), and I don't know Mike's phone number (or mine, for that matter), so the land line was no help.
 
Patiently sat up there for another 2 hours and 15 minutes until Mike came home and rescued me.  Reminded me of our friend Dave who used to work for Mike's company.  His wife came to visit him (somewhere) and when he left for work in the morning, he LOCKED HER IN THE APARTMENT (unknowingly).  Too funny, as long as it ain't you!
 
Needless to say, I had a most unproductive day.  Besides getting the bank account opened and a sunburn on my chest.
 
Went out to dinner last night and then played darts.  We played darts Thursday night, too.  Mike won 5 games on Thursday!  Last night, he did not.  But, he enjoyed the glory while it lasted.
 
On other fronts, Athens is enduring the worst streak of violence and vandalism since the 1970's, due to protest from students about education reform (or something like this).  All the universities have been basically shut down since last fall, and the students are protesting (and other trouble makers as well).  Plus, they've had their share of soccer hooligan incidents recently, including one death.  The shop owners in the center claim that the protests have cost them over 400 million dollars.  I did walk into a protest accidently on Thursday, going to the mall.  Didn't make it to the mall, but almost got myself spray painted.  All the grief made the second page of the International Herald Tribune yesterday.  Too bad.
 
All for now.  Going on a field trip to Cape Sounion today to see the Temple of Poseidon, have some dinner, see the sunset.  Pictures tomorrow if the connection holds.  Oh yeah, got our modem on Thursday as predicted, but no password yet.  The phone company called yesterday while I was locked out on the roof (but had the phone), but wouldn't give me the password because I'm not Greek.  Hmmm.  Another weekend with dial-up.  Oh well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
 
As impossible as it may seem, we have been here a month today.  Wow.  That is truly unbelievable.  My Dad retired (YEA DAD!) in January, and yesterday he sent me an email expounding on how much longer the days seem now that he's not working. . . I told him it was temporary, and pretty soon they start to tick away at the same rapid speed. . . unless you are in Chad or Brunei. . . :-)
 
Maybe you remember about two weeks ago I was talking about the moon rising over the mountains here, and us watching it from Herb's apartment, and me not having my camera?  Anyway, Herb finally got me the photos.  Photo credit to Herbie!

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I'm sure this happens more often than I know, but we've only seen it 3 times

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I think I actually may have taken this one, I was grabbing Herb's camera, not that it's any better.

Hawaii, Jordon and Greece now have something in common for us, as these are the only three places we've witnessed this "phenomenom".  Is it a phenomenom?  I don't know.  I should investigate how often this happens around the world.  Maybe it happens every night somewhere.  That would probably make sense. . . hmmm.  Note to self:  Brush up on astronomical phenomenom.  Am I spelling that word right?  All these questions. . . :-)
 
Actually, we heard later it was a lunar esclipse.  Okay.
 
SOOOO, anyway, last night after a lovely dinner of spaghetti picante (don't know WHY it was picante, the previous tenant left an array of spices, and I only used the ones that smelled vaguely Italian, but it was defintely HOT, and GOOD, but probably not replicable) prepared by yours truly, we decided to venture over to Mike's Irish Bar, which is right in our neighborhood, and purported to have all the necessary ingredients we seek in a bar (i.e. Beer, a dartboard, some ex-pats who might make our lives here a little easier, etc).  Walked over about 9:15.  About three people who were not staff in the bar, the dartboard was in disrepair, and we were charged 8 Euro apiece for our beers!  WHAT!?!?  Now, this is the MOST we've paid for beer since we've been in Athens, and believe me you, this ain't no Tokyo or Rome, or London for that matter in way of prices.  We looked at each other, stunned, and nursed our way through it and split.  Unfortunate, as it is really close, but hey, come on!  That's almost $10US/beer.  Those who know us know we could easily burn through $100 in about 3 hours there. . . Whew.  Coudln't figure it out, though.  Why were they soooo expensive??  Is it because they hold pretty much a monopoly on Irish pubs?  As much as we enjoy a good Irish pub, we probably won't be back. . . it's the principle of the thing!
 
In other news, our ADSL box comes tomorrow!  I did find out that does not mean we will have automatic ADSL, we still have to wait for the phone company to call us and give us our password.  I wonder how long that will take?  I wonder if they will speak English this time?  I wonder, wonder, wuh-under. . . .
 
Can't go play with the tourist police about my visa until next week, as Mike can't get $3500 US from the Embassy bank until Friday.  Oh boy, I can't wait.
 
My camera has been sorely neglected as of late, as my days have comprised of going to the market and walking aimlessly around the neighborhood, but I did snap this picture from the roof the other day, as it was VERY VERY clear for once (it was Friday, after a torrential rain on Thursday).
 
 

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Holy COW! Are there mountains over there, under all that haze???

We are still enjoying our apartment very much, and thankful they haven't shut the heat off in the building yet.  I can't believe how wicked cold it still is getting at night here.  I just don't have the coats/clothes for this weather!  The wind kicks up and blows right through you.  BRRRRR!
 
In completely unrelated news, something is wrong with Mike's "second toe" on his left foot.  It started hurting Monday night, and last night it was so bad he was limping.  It appears to be only in the bottom joint, and he swears he didn't stub it or drop anything on it.  But it was swelled up like a pickle and all red and inflamed looking last night.  Maybe he got bit by something, I don't know.  I told him to go to the doctor today, we'll see if he obeys me.  It is a little strange, though. . .
 
Also, I keep forgetting to tell you that Robert/Lobert, the ugliest dog in the world that used to sit vigil outside the Island Bar, died.  Now, Robert was a street dog who belonged to nobody, but was fed and watered regularly (and more than adequately) by the seafood restaurant next to the Island Bar and by the patrons of the Island Bar.  He was about 16 years old, and oddly enough, the owner of the restaurant died just before we left HK, and Lobert followed just a few weeks later.  EVERY TIME we were on Lamma, Lobert was there, waiting for us with a lopsided smile.  I know he didn't recognize us, or hardly anyone, but he was a staple to our days and nights on Lamma.  If he had a tombstone, I'm sure it would read, in the immortal lines of ZZ Top, "You didn't have to love me, but you did, yes you did, and I thank you".  Poor Lobert.  I'm sure he's sorely missed. 

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Lobert the wonder dog

And, I also keep forgetting Mike now has my old camera, and as he is a bit lax in taking the photos off it, I never see what he took pictures of.  So, here's a few pictures he's taken over the last month of a couple "interesting" things.   Actually, I promised Roger I would put his picture up on the website, and I forgot we had Mike's camera that night. . . and while looking for it, I found a picture of the Queen Mary II which was in port when we went to Aegina and I missed because I was sitting below in the hot, hot cabin trying not to toss my cookies in the waves. . .
 
So, there you go.

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There seems to be a lack of empty beer bottles on our table. . .

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Now, that's a big BOAT! Dwarfed everything else in the harbor, according to photographer MIKE

UPDATE OF MIKE'S TOE:  He just called, and he went to the doctor (good man!), and the doctor said he was slightly dehydrated and asked him if he'd been drinking a lot of wine and eating a lot of cheese here (YES, and YES), and said that may be the cause and gave him some pills and told him to drink lots of water.  I wonder what part of my body will become inflamed and red, as I've been doing my fair share of wine drinking and cheese eating as well.  Odd.  Better go and drink some water. . .
 
Also, better go, as the sun is out, the winds not blowing, and I feel the need to play tourist again, FINALLY!

Monday, March 26, 2007
 
Enduring a mild spring shower as we speak.  The weekend was uneventful, both Mike and I needed some "unwind, downtime", and we found it!  Played hard both Friday and Saturday night and lounged around the house all the day on Saturday and Sunday, except while Mike was playing gardner man with the plants on the roof.
 
We were in the bar until about 3 AM on Saturday, playing darts with a host of people working for GE Electric from around the world (we met Swedes, Germans, and Welsh).  Odd, as GE ain't much of a company outside the US of A.
 
Did a bit of shopping this morning before the rain, and our cleaning gal is tidying up the place yet.  She sure takes a while, glad she's cheap and I don't have to do it. . .
 
Watched "Lady in the Water" on Sunday night, both enjoyed it, even though I didn't think we would, and hadn't heard much about it. 
 
Sorry this page is running to the mundane and boring, but I guess that's what we've become.  Ho Hum.  Will try and do/say something exciting this week.
 
I do have to go and file for an extension for my visa this week, which should prove to be a bureacratic fiasco.  In addition, I get to have a CHEST X-RAY and TB TEST!  WOO-HOO.  Must be the US government is hassling Greeks in the US, as they sure make it difficult to stay here longer than 90 days.  In all other EU countries all we would have to do is leave, and come back.  But, oh no, not here, that would be too easy.  In addition to messing with the Tourist Police and all the BS that will involve, and the hospital for X-rays, I have to have a bank account here with at least $3500 US in it, and PAY 470 Euro to extend.  GEEZ!  Will keep you updated on this particular brand of fun.
 
Other than that, nada!

Thursday, March 22, 2007
 
I would be embarrassed to tell everyone what I've been doing this week, which is basically NOTHING (so, now I've told you all).  Mike and I have pretty much hibernated since the weekend.  Throwing books down like Chex Mix, cooking, doing laundry.  No excuses.  Just lazy.
 
And maybe in a FUNK.
 
Anyway, our ADSL modem comes next Thursday!  :-)  Then it won't take me 2 hours to check and answer email, lurk on my favorite sights, and I'll have more time to do nothing. . . right?

Monday, March 19, 2007
 
Finally feeling better!  Managed to get around a bit this weekend after laying pretty low most of last week.  And, we found a BAR!  With a DART BOARD!  How exciting. . . .
 
However, our newest problem is that I put a load of laundry in last night before we went to bed, and it appears the laundry machine broke during the night, as it was halfway through the cycle and apparently quit.  Now it won't come on.  Our landlord is coming over with the cleaning gal at 10 AM, so hopefully he can fix it then.  I have no idea. . .
 
The aforementioned bar is called The Red Lion, and it's near the Hilton and Herb's house, and we went and threw darts there on Friday and Saturday night.  Works out pretty well, as they get busy about the time we're leaving. . . no competition for the dart board.  Big drawback, it's soooo smoke filled in there!  Doesn't seem to be any ventilation!
 
Saturday and Sunday we played tourists.  Saturday around town, and Sunday we went to the island of Aegina. 
 
Lykavittos Hill is in the middle of Athens, behind the Embassy, and it's basically a big rock with a park on the side of it.  On the top is a monastery (small), and a cafe (expensive).  You can easily walk up to the top, but we decided to take the tram (rip-off, only goes about 50 feet, although it is the steepest part of the hill, but cost 10 Euro/apiece round trip). 
 
Anyway, we get off the tram and walk up the steps to the top of the hill, and there sit Tex and Donna (two other crew members) at a table at the cafe.  So, sat down and had a chat, then wandered about and took some pictures.
 

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Looking northeast from top of Lykavitos Hill

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Small monastery at the top of the hill

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View of Acropolis

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Sprawling Athens. . . this would make a good puzzle

After staring down at the sprawl for a while, we spotted what appeared to be an outside market on the opposite side of the hill, so instead of using our very expensive tram ticket to "return", we walked down the other side of the hill into a different neighborhood.  And, we had a little miscommunication, as Mike thought this was Psiri, which is where I wanted to go, and I thought he knew that.  Anyway, we got straightened around and he showed me the way to Psiri from where we were, and I showed him around Psiri.  Such a cool area, right underneath the Acropolis, overlooking the ruins.  Lots of taverna's and shopping.

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Dude drinking in the sunshine on his veranda

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A late lunch in scenic Psiri

Came home, took a nap, and met Herb for darts after stopping off at a local pizza joint for a light dinner.
 
Sunday we decided to go on an island adventure and go to the closest Greek Island, Aegina.  We had NO IDEA what we were doing, but arrived at the port about ten minutes before the noon ferry was leaving, jumped on board and took a pretty rough 40 minute trip to the island on the Flying Dolphin Fast Ferry.  It was a beautiful day, and the island was very peaceful and tranquil, compared to Athens, and BEAUTIFUL!
 
And, they have the best pistachios in the world!

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First view of the seaside in Aegina

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Looking out at the pier

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Fresh Octopus, anyone? Where we had lunch. . . .

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Even the horses have worry beads. . . .

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Not sure what this is/was, appears to be a watchtower, but pretty far inland. . .

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Quaint little side street

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Nice place to build an ancient city. . . .

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All that remains of the great Temple of Apollo

Spent about 3 hours wandering around, saw some old rocks, old churches, old horses, old men, old women, an old Ford Fairlane. . . etc. 
 
Was nice.  Jumped on the 5:30 (last boat) back to Piraeus (the port town outside of Athens), then back on the train to Psiri, where we had dinner and a few drinks and home around 9:30. 
 
A nice weekend.  And it only took about 4 hours to load these pictures, so enjoy!  :-)
 
Oh, and for those who care, my laundry problem is solved.  Seems I turned off the outside power switch last night on my way in (duh), and that turns off the washing machine.  Okay.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Russians are coming!
 
Went to dinner tonight with some Greek/Americans.  I met this gal Carole over the internet while looking for apartments here in Greece (she and her husband, Basil, own several serviced apartments here that are VERY VERY nice), and we have been corresponsing since then.  Even though she couldn't help us with space in her own places, she has been very helpful in other respects.
 
Anyway, we met them in Pagrati for dinner, plus another couple from Connecticut who just moved to Greece permanately, and a gal on a Fulbright scholarship (Sheila, Matthew, and Stephanie for my own memory), and we went to a local taverna for lots of food and wine and beer and moonshine and dessert and I'm stuffed.  Nice people.
 
So, we had to get a cab back, and we didn't get robbed, but all the major roads were shut down because Vladmir Putin is coming into town tonight.  It's a Russian invasion.
 
Okay, off to bed, it's late.

Monday, March 12, 2007
Two Bulls in the China Shop
 
Had to pass this story along, as it was too funny to keep to ourselves.  On the first floor next door to our house is a Greek/Chinese restaurant that never appears to be open.  However, due to the inclimate weather, my failing health, and our laziness on Saturday to provide provisions for dinner (the Carrefour IS closed on Sunday), we ventured over for some Chinese food last night.
 
Had a decent meal of Hot and Sour Soup, some Fried Rice, and Beef with Fresh Vegetables (the place is owned by some Vietnamese people, no Greeks or Chinamen to be seen).  Had two beers, and just before leaving, I knocked my beer glass over (empty) onto the table (glass topped), and it BROKE.  Now, I have a tendancy to be somewhat clumsy at times, so this isn't the first time Mike has witnessed such a feat, but he's always embarrassed (as I am, too).  But, we made our apologies, were assured it meant good luck for us, etc., and proceeded to get the heck out of there.
 
So, Mike stands up to put his coat on, and in that grand sweeping gesture of swinging it around to his other arm, knocks a wine glass off the next table onto the floor, shattering it. 
 
Now we are both laughing profusely, while trying to apologize AGAIN to the owner.  I don't think we'll be back soon.  Or, they probably will only let us have one beer apiece, instead of the mighty two we had.
 
Oops.

Sunday, March 11, 2007
I think I have Bronchitis
 
Friday we moved into our apartment, and despite a few minor glitches, everything is great!  Spent the entire afternoon doing laundry, then picking it up off the deck as it would blow around (need a new system there), ironing, and going to the store for basic supplies. 
 
Decided after all that work, I deserved PIZZA, so we headed down to Kolonaki (very near Herb's apartment) to a cafe I saw there.  They had excellent pizza!  Moved across the street to a bar, and I drank way too much Ouzo and came home.
 
Woke up Saturday, knew I no longer had just a cold.  Pretty certain I have bronchitis.  Don't know yet if they will sell me antibiotics over the counter, going to investigate today. 
 
While trying to figure out how to use the internet yesterday, we somehow blew all the power out of the majority of the apartment.  Thankfully, Tassos (the owner) was on his way over to aid us with the internet when that happened, so he called an electrician.  Prior to his arrival, I had taken a very tepid, then cold shower, and was NOT HAPPY, as you can imagine.  However, after the problem was solved an hour later, Mike had a scaldingly hot shower.  Good.  I was worried we weren't going to have hot water for 4 months!  Seems we have plenty.
 
Also, it appears heat is something not controlled by us, as we sat around in a pretty cold apartment all day.  Every other time I've been here, it's been quite warm inside, but due to the warm weather we've been having it appears someone decided we didn't need heat anymore.  It was on when we came home last night, thank GOD.  Although may be fun to be one of those tenants that bangs on the radiators when they need heat. . .
 
Had big plans to go to the Carrefour yesterday and buy a grill, toaster, food, etc, but never made it off the couch.  Instead watched "Casino Royale" under the blanket.  It's been pretty chilly this weekend, windy, and no sun.  Did venture out for dinner at the local Taverna, but came home and watched another movie, "Happy Feet".  Maybe we'll make it out today (if they are open), it appears we have some sun right now to go with the wind.
 
So, that has been our exciting weekend thus far.  No picture, no funny stories, and my chest turning to concrete. . . But, we do have an address and a phone line in Athens!  YEAH!  And, even though all we have is dial-up internet, it seems to work pretty fast (for dial-up).

Friday, March 9, 2007
It's MOVING DAY! 

Okay, I'm trying to squeeze in one last, fast entry before we move to our NEW APARTMENT where we only have dial-up until the telephone company decides to come and install our ADSL (which I'm sure will not be on the weekend).  Just packed up (even though we really never un-packed) all our crap, and I'm not sure how we ever got all this junk here!  It's only been a week, and I think the stuff has multiplied by at least two!

So, Wednesday I went to the Acropolis.  The Acropolis is actually the name for the hill that the Parthenon is built on (Acropolis means "old city" I think), so the Parthenon is the cherry on the cake, but the whole thing is referred to as the Acropolis. 

Here's the pics from that.


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Rocks on the way up to the Parthenon

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Parthenon from below

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Some impressive churches from the slippery slope up to the Parthenon

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Looking down at the theater, which is what the first picture's walls were hiding

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The actual Parthenon. . . under construction, can't go inside, BUMMER

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Another temple at the top, can't remember the name right now. . .

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Lykavitto's hill looming in the middle of Athens

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Looking down at the rooftops of modern Athens under the Acropolis

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This temple is down in the Ancient Agora, below the Acropolis, same one I saw Tuesday, from afar

While I was there, this gal asked me to take her picture, we ended up talking a bit, she's originally from Azerbaijan, but has lived in Toronto and all around the world.  Her and her husband own a couple restaurants and a bar in Baku (the capital), and it is an area of the world in HUGE growth (it's just above Iran, next to Armenia, on the Caspian Sea). 
 
She is traveling alone, so we spent the next couple hours roaming around the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the museum, and then settling down for a shot of Ouzo and some pistachio's (my lunch, how fortifying).  Then, she proceeded to tell me her life story, including how a year ago she found out her husband was having an affar, etc, etc, TMI!!!  What do I look like?  A psychiatrist?  Geez.  Anyway, blew her off about 4 and came home. 
 
THEN, I accidently ran into her yesterday!  This is a small town.  She wants to get together again, but I have to make excuses not to.  Nice enough, but come on.  I don't have the inkling or the patience to listen to some complete strangers problems.  Let alone any advice!  It's her life, right?!?!
 
Okay, enough of that.  Been eating good, drinking moderately, sleeping well, and are good and ready to get the HECK out of this hotel!  Our apartment rocks!
 
Seems to be an extreme absence of "western" style bars here.  Nothing like Hong Kong.  Mike said to me last night just before bed, "I miss Hong Kong", and I said, "Me too".  Sigh.  Nothing seems as convenient here.
 
But, we are still adapting, so will give it a little more time.  I know Mike's plans for the weekend are to lounge around the apartment, so I guess mine are to do A WEEKS WORTH of laundry, a ton of ironing, unpacking, and shopping.  Have to stock the larder, plus all the other essentials like beer, toilet paper, kleenex, air freshener, laundry soap, etc.  Work work work work work.  :-)  Like I have a lot to complain about. . .
 
Anyway, all for now, and maybe for a while, depending on the internet at the apartment.  Will try and keep in touch via email, as that won't be quite as slow to load as this page!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Missing well marked street signs and the Latin alphabet!
 
I don't know if it's my cold, my dependence on HK signposts to tell me which way to go, or just the overall messiness of the street system here, but I am very easily lost and turned around in this city.  And Mike as well, so either it's contagious, or it really is confusing.
 
Yesterday, I left the house with one goal in mind, to investigate an area called Psiri (pronounced Sigh-ri, for those who care) and go to the Central Market, which lies on the border of one side of Psiri.  Supposed to be a quaint part of town on the rebound from years of being abandoned by the rich for the suburbs, and full of places to eat. 
 
Well, maybe I had two or three goals.  Was also in search of brown tights and a new pair of jeans, but that was peripheral to my main goal.
 
Jumped off at the metro station closest to said destination (I've been there before, by accident), which is pretty much surrounded by shopping areas and flea market type stuff.  So far, success!
 
 
 
 
 

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Now that's a lot of good looking berries!

Also near this metro stop are some ruins, which I feel somewhat ambivilent about, I may be maxed out on old rocks and columns after Rome.  But, stopped and took some pics.

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Some old rocks that used to be Hadrian's Library

Decided to do some wandering around before proceeding to final destination, as it looked to be pretty close on the map and I wanted to see what was here.  Which of course, may lead to why I got a little lost, but who cares.  How lost can you get, right?
 
Plus, I was on or one or two blocks off the main drag most of the time.  Even stopped and tried on a pair of jeans (didn't buy them, rethinking another pair of jeans idea, with the weather so warm and wondering if I will want some flouncy skirts or something else instead).
 
Saw a few cool things before basically accidently tripping over the Central Market.

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Grandma Moses' Greek counterpart

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Some church in some square. . . I'll try to figure it out. . . .

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Greek Goddesses outside same church

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Chinese New Year in ATHENS!

Now, I've been in Central Markets/wet markets in probably almost every city we've been in, and they tend to be pretty much the same, fish and other sea creatures on ice, meat hanging from hooks, overflowing baskets of fruits and vegetables, spices and nuts, with the rich aroma of all those things settled in one smallish enclosed space.  But here, you have the Greek stall owners SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS IN GREEK trying to lure you to their particular stall.  I even had a dude shaking a fish at me. . . . Snapped a few pictures and got the heck out of there!

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Fresh lamb, anyone?

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The best olives in the WHOLE WORLD

Wind/find my way into the area I think I want to go to.  Stop and take some pics of some dilapidated old buildings along this street/alley, and some big (BIG) old Greek guy with some nasty teeth and a spitting problem (although well dressed and carrying his shopping from the market), stops to give me a history lesson.  Now, I always enjoy interaction with the locals, and learning new things, but this guys was so animated, and his English so bad, that I caught about a third of what he was telling me. . . maybe.  But, it was a way to kill 15 minutes or so, and he assured me I had found Psiri (and corrected my pronunciation).  Cool.  He finally wandered off, I stayed under the pretense of taking a few more photos, then wandered off myself.  Saw a lot of eating establishments, but most were closed.  Must be a night time destination. 
 
Finally emerged from the rabbit warren streets (where I did find some used English books, bought a Robert Ludlum one and one by Lorenzo Carcaterra that I fear I've read before) onto a terrace overlooking the Acroplis and the Ancient Agora.  Snapped a photo of large building I can't find on my map.  Sat down and took a break, trying to decide what to do next.

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More old rocks that I don't know what they are in the Ancient Agora

I'm a little road weary, and a little hungry, but decide to walk back to Syntagma Station down Ermou Road, one of the more famous shopping streets in Athens.  I've been on and off of parts of it all day, but not the part between Monsastiraki and Syntagma.  And, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get lost on this stretch. 
 
Browsed around and window licked a bit on the way, got to Syntagma Square and had a sit down.  Now what?  Do I get on the subway and go home, or do I walk it?  And, if I walk it, do I walk down the busy, nasty street the Embassy is on that we walk down all the time, or do I try and find an alternate route?
 
So, I decide on the alternate route walking thing, and spend a half an hour walking in a complete circle right back where I started from.  DANG IT!  This is the SECOND time I've done that from there!  Time to get on the Metro.
 
As I exit at our stop, my phone rings and it's Mike telling me they are leaving at 3:30 PM due to some drill at the Embassy.  It's now about 2, so I grab a bite, go to the ATM (we are stockpiling money for our rent), and come home and answer some emails.  He calls at 3:30 and tells me everyone is at the cafe/bar next to the Embassy.  Okay, walk up there and have a couple beers, come home and take a nap until about 6.  Met the rest of the crew, seem like a good bunch.  Two chicks on this crew!  A miracle!
 
Leave for dinner at about 7.  Heading toward our new apartment area to a street that appears to have a lot of restaurants on it (including a TGI Friday's and a Applebee's).  Well, thinking I know where we are going, we end up taking 40 minutes (in the cold) to walk to a destination that is 10 minutes away.  And I'm getting grumpy.  This is my second time TODAY walking in circles, plus Mike is SURE we are going the opposite way I know we are going (he was wrong, and he admitted it), but finally we arrive. 
 
Had dinner at a microbrewery called Craft.  Was good, beer was reasonable (4,50 Euro a pint) and we could have easily split my dinner.  We were both tired to called it a night around 9:30 and walked the RIGHT WAY home in 10 minutes.
 
SIDE NOTES: 
 
I have forgotten (or blocked out) how forward Mediterranean men are toward women.  They have no problem giving you the head to toe check-out, saying anything they feel like to you, winking, and trying to strike up a conversation.  It's a bit flattering, and a bit annoying whilst walking around on one's own. 
 
Moving to our apartment on Friday!  I'm so excited.  We will only have dial-up internet for a week or so (hopefully less!), so coverage may be spotty for a while, as I'm not sure I have the patience for dial-up anymore.
 
This place has the BEST FOOD OF ANYWHERE WE'VE EVER BEEN!
 
I am very familiar with odd smells walking around large cities, but I walked down an entire alley yesterday smelling something I couldn't place.  I don't know if it was food or chemical, and can't even tell you if it was offensive or not.  It was strange. . . .

A LOT of the pavement here is MARBLE, and it's not been wet at all since we've been here (although it's supposed to rain all weekend - nice), and even SOBER this stuff is SLICK!  I have almost taken a couple headers on it, and I know I will before it's all over.  Crazy.

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SLICK!

Monday, March 5, 2007
And, now I'm certain of date and day!
 
Hard to believe, but I've got a lot to say today!  To break it all up, I've finally took some pictures, so I'll post them for those people who just skip over all this nonsense and look at the photos. 
 
For those who care, I seem to have survived my cold (so it wasn't the bird flu I carried out of Asia after all), but alas, no more trips in the near future to my hunky pharmacist.  Although Mike seems to be developing symptoms, so maybe. . . .heehee.
 
Ah, wonderful Athens.  It is very BRIGHT here.  The light is a lot like Rome, only much whiter.  And, although the temperature is supposedly 10 degrees cooler than when we left Hong Kong, it feels sooooo much warmer (I do believe that is due to the HOT HOT Mediterranean sun).  It makes me a little scared of what is to come weather wise.  This place is going to get WARM!
 
Been fun to see our friend Roger here in Athens.  He used to work with us at Splice Co., but now works for the parent contractor, and we haven't SEEN him in SIX YEARS!  Been playing catch up with him a bit.  He leaves tomorrow, though.
 
Recap on the apartment search.  Finally took a two bedroom, two bath, two floor apartment in a suburb called Ampelokipi (still can't pronounce it correctly), so ALL our guest should be comfortable.  It's quite a large apartment, and the rooftop verandas are AMAZING.  There is literally as much room outside as there is inside!  It's lovely, and owned by a local Greek man and his Bulgarian (professional acrobat) wife, who are really cool and live close by.  Our real estate agent was most helpful and I can't wait to move in on Friday (they have to do a few things before we can move, like put in some beds that will accommodate Mike and I's large frames).  It's only about a 10 minute walk to the Embassy for Mike, and less than that to the closest subway station, so you can be downtown quickly, but away from the noise and congestion that is downtown Athens.  There's also a Carrefour (Americans read:  Super Walmart) on the corner, so should be handy.  I wish it was a little closer to town, but oh well.  Should work just fine. 
 
And, if the mirror wasn't proof enough I gained a few pounds in Hong Kong, yesterday I ripped out my favorite pair of jeans while trying to hoist them up over my increasing large BUTT!  Dang it.  Now I must shop. . . . heeheee.  Maybe I should wait, as I don't think I'll be losing any weight here, so far the food has been fantastic!
 
Okay, so what we have been doing?  Well, due to my sickliness and busyness searching for an apartment, Thursday and Friday went by in kind of a blur, but I did manage to walk downtown and "see" (without my camera or paying to go in) a few sights.  On Friday, after pretty much deciding to go with the apartment we are renting, I jumped on the subway to go downtown, just to see how long it would take, missed my stop and got out in the wrong place and wandered through some interesting shopping/eating areas that reminded me of Campo di Fiori in Rome.  Then out to the suburbs to meet a different realtor to look at a different apartment that was closer to town.  Cute, but a one bedroom, and really not what we were looking for. 
 
Friday night no one wanted to go out and play, so Mike and I took the subway down to Plaka and had a nice romantic dinner in a cute little restaurant, dining al fresco under the heat lamp.  Ate a TON of olives, and greek salad, and I had swordfish while Mike had souvlaki.  All was yummy.  Home in bed early (cold still kicking my butt).
 
Saturday Mike wanted to go and have a look at the apartment, so we met our realtor and the owners there, firmed up the agreement, spent a nice hour there with them, having a coffee, etc.  Afterwards, we both decided we needed a haircut, so found a salon and both got skinned.  I really think the cut I got is a good one, maybe just a little shorter than I was looking for.  Plus, she spent about a half hour blowing it dry to look exactly like Dorothy Hamil, but all in all was cheap enough and worked fine (of course, Mike just pretty much got a buzzcut).
 
Lounged around most the rest of the afternoon, called Herb (our good friend we haven't seen since Albania), and walked over to check out his digs.  He lives in Kolonaki, which is a pretty ritzy area of central Athens (about a 20 minute walk from our hotel), and while having a couple drinks on his patio we were treated to watching a BIG, ORANGE, FULL MOON rise over the mountains of Athens.  Was awesome, and me without my camera.  Herb has promised to get me the photos, and I will post them when I do.  It was SOOOOO COOOL!  Plus, if you lean way out and look around the building, you can see the Acropolis, so watched as it got dark and they turned the lights on.
 
Went and had some eats at a local Taverna.  Our waiter, Sderis, really made the experience something special, and we of course, ate WAY TOO MUCH food, but it was delicious.  Also finding I'm a bit into the Ouzo scene.  Have a couple beers, then get me a mini bottle of Ouzo and lots of ice and just sip to my hearts content.  Seems to relieve some of the cold symptoms, or at least make me forget about them. . .
 
Sunday morning we decided we better do some exploring.  Our plan was to get to the shore and see what the beaches of Athens looked like.  Herb wanted to go as well, so we met up with him and walked to Syntagma Square to grab the tram to the coast.  On the way to the Square we encountered a small military parade.  These dudes dress funny.

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Cute guards with skirts and pompoms. . . what's up with that?

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The mightly Parliament building at Syntagma Square

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Sponge Bob Square Pants alive and well in Athens

The tram took quite a while, about 45 minutes to make it's way to the coast.  The map was quite deceiving, only showed a couple stops, but I swear it stopped about every 500 yards.  But the price was right, only cost 60 cents to ride for 90 minutes.  When we got there, we really didn't know where to go, so rode the tram up and down the seaside.  Got out at one beach, saw people in their bathing suits basking in the sun and swimming, and had a coffee at a very busy restaurant at the seaside.

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The Saronic Gulf on the Aegean Sea

Wandered around a little, the beaches are not really sand, more like big pebbles, but didn't seem to stop anyone from laying on them.  Jumped back on the tram and headed for Glyfalda.  This is the ritziest suburb of Athens, and also where the old airport used to be.  Got off, looked around a bit, found things to be quite expensive (6.50 Euro for a bottle of beer at most of the cafes), but being the resourceful woman I am, I found us a cute little place to sit outside that was "self-catering" (READ:  You get your own beer out of the cooler, pay for it at the counter, and sit and drink it), where the beers were only 1.70 Euro.  Had a couple (as we do), then went back and caught the tram about 4 PM. 

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"Little America", and honest to GOD, I was standing in front of a Dunkin' Donuts when I took this

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Some strange couple sucking beers at the seaside

While on the tram, we called Vicki, a friend of Herb's who is working here with the guys, to see if she wanted to meet us in the Plaka for an early dinner (NOTE:  The Athenians tend to eat dinner around 10 PM!!!  NO WAY).  Went to this rooftop restaurant Mike and I saw on Friday night which had a cool few of the Acropolis and surrounding area, although it is the back of the Acropolis.  It was great timing, as we got there around 5:30 while the sun was setting, and the light was fantastic!  As we finished eating, the lights came on at the Acropolis and provided some great photos.  Albeit, of the back, but whatever.   Had my requisite bottle of Ouzo (I shared!  Well, a little. . . ), and decided to call it a early night and go home and watch one of our bootleg DVD's from China.  Will Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness".  I can't give a review, as I fell asleep half way through.

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Looking down one of the streets of the Plaka area

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Late afternoon light on the building tops

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Back side of the Acropolis from Plaka rooftop restaurant

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And, one more time. . .

Some other side notes: 
 
Having a coffee and a roll on Saturday after visiting apartment and before haircuts at a local cafe.  This dude walks in, starts speaking Greek, looks Greek, eats some kind of sandwich/pastry thing and has a coffee.  On his way out, he turns to us and in perfect English says, "Where are you guys from?".  So we tell him, and he's Greek/Canadian born in Vancouver but living here in Greece now.  His name is Tito and he also has a vacation beach house here that we may be able to rent sometimes.  Cool.  He also lives above the Taverna we ate at Wednesday and Thursday night behind our hotel. 
 
Although our taxi driver from the airport was very honest and drove us directly to our hotel for the right charge, we got RIPPED OFF by a BANDIT taxi driver in the Plaka last night.  And, my husband, being the easy going guy he is, just paid him the EIGHT STINKING EURO he wanted to take us on a 1.5 Euro trip.  Whatever.  He spoke English right up to the point when I was getting out of the taxi and told him "It's taxi driver's like you that give Athens cabs a bad name".  I HATE that!  Okay, I'm over it.  Funny thing about taxi's here, you can hail one, tell him where you're going, he decides if he wants to take you there. . . then, if he says okay, he can pick up other passengers travelling in the same direction, charge them the difference in the fare, and you your full fare when you disembark.  Haven't ever encountered such a thing. 
 
Lots of guests already booked for coming.  Uncle Roger and Aunt Frederique arrive 5/3-7, My brother Chris and his wife Jen will be here 4/22-30 (!!! Dang, that's soon!!!), my brother Denny is planning on a 10-12 day stay sometime in early May and my parents are coming for two weeks sometime in late May.  Looks like I'll be running a hotel again!  Of the four months we're scheduled to be here it looks like we'll have guest almost 3 of them!  Whew.  I'm a saint.  I don't think we are accepting anymore booking.  Hanging out the No Vacancy sign. 
 
Okay, all for now, must go meet Mike at the Embassy to collect  1000 Euro, then meet with realtor. 

Thursday (?), March 1, 2007
I don't even know what day it is!!

Arrived safe and sound after leaving Hong Kong at 1 AM for London-Heathrow, about an hour layover, then off to Athens, about 3 1/2 hour flight.  Arrived local time around 3 PM.  Par for the course, the airline lost one of Mike's bags, so stood around in the airport for a while filing lost luggage papers.  Grabbed a cab (taxi for all non-Americans), and got to the hotel about 3:30. 
 
Somehow, I aquired a KILLER COLD between Hong Kong and here, and am suffering miserably.  Between the jetlag and the runny nose, I'm feeling like warmed-up you know what.  But, you know me, I have to keep plugging along.
 
Met up with Roger last night (haven't seen him in 6 YEARS!), and went to a local Taverna for dinner and a few drinks, right around the corner from our hotel.  Was really good, and we were the only "tourists" in there.  Cheap, too.  Always a bonus.  Home and sleeping by around 9 PM, but I was awake again at 4 AM, slept on a off til Mike went to work. 
 
Was strange last night, as while at dinner I popped outside to go grab some cigarettes, and the first thing I thought when I walked out the door was, "Hey, here the heck am I?"  Oh yeah, Athens.  Was a weird experience.  Never did that before!
 
Had a nice and interesting breakfast downstairs at the hotel, and ventured out to get Vodafone SIM cards for our phones, and cold medicine. 
 
Met the most lovely man at the pharmacy (and I do mean GORGEOUS!), who spoke English, sold me some cold tablets for 1,30 Euro (very cheap), then chatted me up a bit and gave me some free sample cold creams, face washes, etc.  I could have stayed and looked/talked to him forever, but things to do, places to go, etc. . . . He was cute, though.  Got the SIM cards, saw the Embassy and walked downtown.  From our hotel, moving indirectly as I did, it took about 30 minutes.  Not bad.  I think it could be done in less, if you look at a map before you go. . . heehee.
 
Saw the Temple of Zeus, National Museum and Garden's (from the road), Hadian's Arch and looked up at the Acropolis (it is an amazing thing to see.  Of course it's under renovations, so there's cranes all around it.  Took about a 2 hour walk around, losing myself once and doing a complete circle (oops, here I am AGAIN). 
 
Have an appointment in about an hour to go look at a couple apartments.  I believe they are very near here, which I would prefer to be closer to town, but we'll take a peek.  It seems like a difficult thing to find a two bedroom in the center.  One I am going to look at is a three bedroom!  Then everyone can come at once! :-)
 
Beer that we've drank so far:  Mythos.  There's another Greek beer, too, but we haven't had it yet (only had a couple last night).
 
Money:  Euro.  Current exchange:  HORRIBLE.  About 1,30 Euro to the dollar.
 
Olives, Cheese and Bread:  Gotta love 'em.  All three together, if you can get it. . . . YUMMY!  Don't think I'll lose any weight here!
 
First Impressions:  This ain't no Rome.  Not nearly as ambient, not like typical European architecture, more Mediterranean (go figure).  Lots of traffic on the main roads (go figure), and she sprawls.  Not a lot of high rise buildings (none), but lots of 10 storyish ones around. 
 
More later.  Have to go give Mike his phone card and meet the gal to look at apartments.  Did find the famous Mike's Irish Pub on the map, very close to here and the Embassy, popular with ex-pats, so will probably go there for a drink tonight if I don't die first.