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LETS ME ACCESS THEM. Boo.The long version...May 27
We rented a car for our first few days in Greece, and when we arrived the guy from the rental company was watching the Champions Festival game at the bar and just holding out the sign with our name on it toward where we were coming from. It was funny. I kinda felt bad for taking him away from the game! We were supposed to have a GPS in the car but they had forgotten it, so he led us to our hotel and told us how to get to the rental office so we could pick up the GPS the next day. When Isaac went to check us in there was a little confusion since his boss had booked the hotel with his reward points, and obviously Isaac has a different name than his boss. Thankfully it all worked out and we got to go to our gorgeous room in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It was beautiful! We wandered a bit out by the pool, though it was closed, because they had little cabanas by the water with lounge chairs. Then we went to sleep in the nicest bed we’d slept in for weeks. May 28
We started the day by going down to the hotel’s restaurant to ask if breakfast was included with our room. Nope. It was 25 Euro per person! Um, no thanks. We could stay in a nice hostel for that! Thankfully we had some fruit and complimentary espresso in the room, so we ate that out on our balcony overlooking the water. Gorgeous. We waited pretty much as long as we could to leave that gorgeous hotel, but finally it was time to check out. Our next task was finding our way to the rental car office – which was much easier said than done, because the guy the night before had told us it was on a certain road, when actually it was two blocks off that road. So we ended up going a few miles out of the way, which doesn’t sound bad until you learn that we were in stop-and-go traffic for that entire time. It took us about two hours to find it. ARGH. Isaac got so frustrated with the map, which was pretty useless, that he tried to throw it in the backseat but it ripped in the middle, so for the rest of the time in Greece I picked on him for tearing the map in half. Hehe. Finally we found the place, after we stopped at a gas station and someone told us where it really was. We parked illegally, ‘cause there was nowhere to park legally, and Isaac ran in to get the GPS. He got it, but then we couldn’t get it to work, so a guy came out to help us, and off we went. Unfortunately, we then lost the satellite about a mile from there (even though we were still well into the heart of Athens), and never once got it back. *headdesk* We had a map though, and a general idea of where to go from looking at the GPS before it lost the signal, so with Isaac navigating based on his limited knowledge of Greek and a bit of luck, we made it to where we needed to go. It was a really pretty drive. We stopped at a rest area for food. Isaac tried to ask them if they had free refills, and when they finally figured out what he was asking, they just laughed at him. LOL.
Finally we got to the little town of Tolo, and found our hotel high on a hill. It’s a very cute little hotel, with jasmine and bougainvillea blooming all over. Our room was very nice. It had a kitchenette and a balcony from which you could see the sea and some hills. The bed was funny because they had taken two twin beds and shoved ‘em together, which works great on a bed without a nice frame, but these had about a 4” gap between them. Ha. We then wandered down the hill to the town of Tolo, and found a grocery store right there, which was great. We went straight to the beach, which goes on for at least a mile, but is not very wide – as in, the water’s like right there. We walked along the beach for a long while, oohing and ahhing at all the cute little cafes that have tables right there on the sand. We walked back on the main road to see the rest of Tolo downtown. It was very cute. Then we bought some food at a market because we thought we were almost back to our road. Nope. It was still quite a ways! And we bought heavy stuff like milk and Coke and pasta sauce. Ha. But that night I made pasta in our kitchenette while Isaac washed pretty much ALL of our clothes. (We wore our swimsuits the rest of the night. So I was cooking pasta while wearing a bikini. LOL!) We slept pretty well in our together-but-separate beds, but the phone rang in the middle of the night several times, and no one was there. Not cool.May 29
We had a great breakfast of Special K Red Berries (which I am now hooked on) and cappuccino, which we enjoyed out on our balcony. Such a wonderful way to start the day.
That day we went to the theatre of Epidavros. On the way there were signs for another theatre of Epidavros, but for some reason I followed my gut and found the “real” one, although several other cars went the wrong way. Epidavros is the best-preserved theatre of ancient Greece. It’s one of those that you can stand in the middle of the stage and whisper and the acoustics are so good, people at the very top can hear you clear as day. Very cool. Also very cool is that my parents went there together when they were about our ages. After staying at the theatre for a while we started wandering, and we ended up in a place I think we were supposed to pay for, but we didn’t mean to go there, and no one was, like, taking tickets, so there we went. Hehe. Turns out we were at the grounds of the Asklepieion, a site of ancient healings and temples, as well as a race track that was mentioned in some of Plato’s works. I thought that was pretty darn awesome. They are rebuilding some of the temples, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it would be really cool to go there and see those buildings in their original glory. On the other hand, that seems kind of like cheapening the history. I feel like they should build scale replicas nearby, and leave the ruins as ruins. Anyway, here is where we got Isaac’s mom a unique souvenir, but that’s all I can say. ;o)
We left Epidavros and the Asklepieion and decided to try to find the other theatre to see what it was like. It was very small and under construction. Not thrilling. There were some people there who were like, “That’s it?” so we told them they were at the wrong one. Hehe. Then we went to the tourist town of Nafplio, which is an absolutely gorgeous place. We just wandered around a bit, but then it looked like rain was coming, so we went back to our little hotel and had more pasta for dinner. Then Isaac went swimming and I went down the hill to use the internet, and we called it a night.May 30
“Hey, let’s go to ancient Mycenae! I remember learning about that place, and the Bridge of Lions, and the Mask of Agamemnon, since I was a little kid, and then again in college. Let’s go! Oh, wait, it’s not on any maps that we have. Oh, wait, no one can tell us how to get there. Well, it’s in this general direction. There must be signs, right? I’m sure we can find it! It’s kind of an important place. Let’s go!” Two hours later we found it. That may not seem bad, except when we went back to Tolo from Mycenae, which had great road signs to lead us, it took less than half an hour. *headdesk* We drove along the water, we drove out in the country, we drove around hills, we drove through orange groves. We even drove the wrong way down a one-way street, although it was not marked as a one-way street, and no one bothered to tell us we were going the wrong way. We eventually figured it out because there was a car coming toward us and the road was so narrow it had to be one way. Heh. We finally got to the point where we said, “If we don’t find it by 11:00, we’re turning around.” We finally saw a sign for it at 10:50. Ha. But it was worth it. VERY cool. Probably the oldest place we’ve ever been to, and to think of what it used to be – wow. We actually managed to find a tour group with an English-speaking guide, so we hovered around them and learned a lot. Hehe. It was a really interesting place, though. I’d go back, assuming I knew how to get there again.
After Mycenae we went back to Nafplio, this time knowing it wasn’t going to rain. We drove up to the Palamidi Fortress, which is high above Nafplio harbor. This place is very cool, with views to die for. We went up to the highest point just to say we did. There was a cell phone tower there. Haha. We went back to the town of Nafplio after finishing with the fortress, because we thought there was more to see there than what we had seen the other day, but there really wasn’t. It’s just a tourist town with shops and restaurants. Oh well. It’s still pretty.
That night was the best! We ate at one of those little cafes on the beach, with our toes in the sand and the sound of the waves ten feet away. Heaven. I got a Greek salad and Kleftiko, which is lamb marinated in seasonings and cooked with tomatoes and cheeses. It was GOOD. I’ve since looked up some recipes for it but it’s rather difficult-sounding. Isaac had some really good swordfish. It was such a gorgeous, relaxing, delicious dinner. I would love to go back to Tolo and eat at one of those cafes every night.May 31
After one last breakfast on our balcony, we checked out of our cute little hotel and drove to ancient Corinth! I have a thing for ancient Greece and a thing for ruins anyway, but to be in a place that is mentioned in the Bible?! AMAZING! We walked where the apostle Paul walked! We saw the Bema Seat from Acts 18! (We read Acts 18 while we were there. We had planned to read 1 or 2 Corinthians, but Isaac decided they were both too long. Hehe.) Before we even saw the Bema Seat I glanced down at the stone pathway and realized the apostle Paul may have walked right here and immediately I got chills. It was very, very cool.
We then miraculously found our way back to Athens. We got off the highway a few exits early, which made our journey take longer, but at least we knew what road the rental car place was on now. Heh. Oh, and after getting off the highway early we thought we might be lost, so we were a little frustrated, but finally just after we figured out where we were, I was absentmindedly singing along to the radio and we got to the chorus: “Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me.” LOL! I sang it, and then we looked at each other and cracked up. Eventually we did get to the rental car place and got a late lunch and then figured out how where to go on the metro to get to downtown Athens. Thankfully we got on two stops before the beach, so we got seats, because there were like 10 stops at the beach and everyone was going home, so every car was PACKED. We were on the metro for probably at least an hour because it made so many stops. Eventually we got to our stop and had a several block walk, during which we thought, “Athens is dirty… but not nearly as dirty as everyone told us.” Eventually we made it to our hostel, which was the most hostel-feeling of all of them. It wasn’t dirty or anything, but it just felt very hostel-y. We went up to our room, which was actually two rooms, one with 3 bunk beds, and one with one bunk bed. Obviously, we chose the room to ourselves, even though that was the room with the front door attached, so it wasn’t really that private. The room had a balcony, which was nice, although there wasn’t much to see in that part of town. That night we just rested, and I think we watched Josie and the Pussycats on my phone. It had been a long day, we were tired, and we missed Tolo.June 1
Today we went to the Parthenon! SO COOL. I remember learning about that as a kid, and then again in high school and college. I’ve also always loved Greek mythology, and the Acropolis is a huge deal. It took us (and several other people) a while to find the right way up, but once we did, it was super cool. Unfortunately the Parthenon is under restoration and we weren’t allowed to actually go in it, but it’s still awesome to be there. We walked around the Acropolis, looking at everything, and then went down to the Aeropagus, which is little more than big rock, but is where Paul preached the sermon about the altar to the unknown God in Acts 17. So, two days in a row we walked where he walked – just in reverse order of how he did it. From there we walked around the base of the Acropolis in a pretty area of town on our way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which we had seen from the Acropolis. There wasn’t much to see there, but the ruins were HUGE. I would love to see that place in its original glory.
On the way back we walked through the National Gardens, which were pretty and really big, and had the worst zoo ever. Seriously – it had like a donkey, ducks, geese, and goats. That’s all. So sad. Then we made our way to Plaka, which is the oldest non-ruins area in Athens. It was pretty cool, and had lots of shops. My favorite was an art shop that had some of the most unique works of art I’ve ever seen. If I had had the money (and space in my backpack), I would’ve gotten a ton of it. I also got a pair of blue opal earrings that I love, and we got a Christmas ornament.
That night we had tuna, bread and Fanta for dinner, as well as a humongous donut that I bought from a street vendor. LOL. We didn’t go anywhere else because, again, we were tired, and our area was semi-scary at night. Once we saw a bunch of cops with guys with their hands on their heads and their pockets emptied out onto the ground in front of them. I don’t think it was really dangerous there, but there was a big police presence.June 2
We decided to go see the rest of what our Acropolis tickets included. First we went to the National Archaeological Museum, which was surprisingly big, and contained all the things from places we’d already been, like Mycenae and Corinth. A highlight for me was seeing the bronze Spear-Thrower, which for some reason I remember very well from my college Art History class. The Roman Agora was really cool. The Temple of Haphaestus was well-preserved, and they had actually built a scale replica of one of the buildings so you could see it in its original state. While we were there, Isaac reminded me yet again of the history of the Romans and the Greeks, because I always forget, and he did it in a stereotypical tour guide voice. Hehe.
Before dinner we went back to Plaka, because I had seen some earrings the previous night but not bought them, and I decided I wanted to get them. We also saw some shirts that said, “It’s all Greek to me” and then had various Greek phrases and their translations. I wanted to get one in Spanish. Hehe.
We had dinner at a hole-in-the-wall place recommended by some guy on the internet. I had another Greek salad and fish that still had the eyes in it. It was very good, but I didn’t eat all of it because I was full from the salad. Isaac made the fish talk to me, and we recorded a fish version of “Llamas in Hats”. LOL. While there our waitress left and then stormed back in, yelling something in Greek at someone in the back, threw her purse against a table, and then stormed back out. I still wonder what she was mad at!
After dinner we went back to the hostel and ended up walking through another communist rally on our way. I think the commies were following us on this trip. Maybe we just have that strong capitalist vibe and they wanted to keep an eye on us. Hehe. And thus ended our sightseeing in Greece.June 3
We woke up early – and I woke up far earlier than I even needed to. Grr. So we made our way the several blocks to Syntagma Square and we caught the bus to the airport. When we checked in, the airline employee told us we would have some extra security, and we figured they’d wand us or something. Nope. We got through regular x-ray security, and then went down near our gate and filled up our water bottle. Then we went to the actual gate, where they checked passports and boarding passes before they even let you go into the gate area. We were marked for extra security, so they took us and another guy back up to security, unpacked our bags, put everything in bins separately, and ran it all through again. This would’ve been fine, except Isaac had refilled the water bottle. They went nuts, saying in broken English, “No! No liquid!” We tried to explain to them that we had obviously already gone through security without it and had gotten it downstairs, but it took several minutes for them to understand. Isaac kept saying, “Pour it out!” and motioning but that took a while for them to understand too. Finally they did pour it out. LOL. We did get wanded too. The girl tried to repack my bag for me but it was so full that that stuff was only going in there one way, so I had to do it. Hehe. Finally we got back down but we didn’t have time to refill the water bottle, plus I think they were still a little freaked out about how we had magically gotten water past security, but eventually the girl who searched us took pity on us and refilled it for us. This plane was much nicer than the plane we took to London. These seats were bigger, we had our own row, and the movies actually worked. Still – it was a 12-hour flight and we hardly slept. I remember when we got out of the plane for our layover in Philadelphia it was so weird being back in the USA after 3 weeks in Europe. I also remember that it smelled like cheeseburgers everywhere. Haha. Finally we got on our last plane, Mom picked us up, and we got home, sweet home. We slept SO well in our beds. And I ended up being awake for more than 24 hours when all was said and done. Oy. But we made it!