Tuesday, September 02, 2008

1000 places to see before you die - #12 & #13

We woke at 5 am tired but eager to get to the airport to begin our long day of travel from Seattle to London. Coffee in hand, Dave went to the front door to retrieve the morning paper and discovered instead that our beloved "purple monster" had been slain during the night. Across the front path the giant plant and the trellises which had supported it lay unmovable.

Since moving into Villa Sophia the purple monster had become our protector and nemesis. A 12ft tall potato plant perched atop 2 arbors, it grew faster than we could trim it and engulfed the entry ways to our house.

At 5:15, to early to call anyone and needing to head to the airport, we sent a couple distressed emails and left my parents with numbers to call to help in moving the beast.

One should always begin vacation with a story and so with the beast blocking all the doors we sneaked out the garage and started our trip.

After traveling for 14 hours we arrived in London and took the train and then the tube to our hotel. Fortunately Dave had dissuaded me from choosing some place "funky" and we found ourselves instead in a lovely room near the palace with absolutely the most comfortable beds we have ever had in Europe. Understanding the first rule of jet lag - don't sleep - we dropped off our bags and headed out for a day of sight seeing.

On our way to our first stop of Westminster Abbey, we made the obligatory pass through Buckingham Palace. The Queen was in but did not come out to welcome us.

First stop - Westminster Abbey.

In Italy I was surprised by the lack of the Father, Son or any sign of the Holy Ghost in the Cathedrals. Most seemed to feature various popes instead. So, I was prepared not to see a lot of religious icons in the Abey. Here everything was devoted to the king. Westminster is more a museum to the dead. After walking amongst tombs of kings and queens we came to an alter flanked by a memorial for Newton and one side and Darwin on the other. Most surprising of all was the grave of the plumber located in the west hall. Apparently it is not all about being king.

After the Abey we headed to "The Eye". Touristy? Yes, but cool none the less. The view of the eye before boarding our pod.

Here are the views of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster from the Eye.

For lunch we went to the firehouse at Waterloo. The waiter had a fantastic Scottish accent and although we couldn't understand the name of a single beer he listed, he did a fine job of recommending a local pint.
Full and having enjoyed a pint, we headed to the Tate Modern. Wow, Matese, Picaso, Pollack an amazing collection which could easily have taken us a week to enjoy. And it was free too.

With Parliament's members on holiday we had the unique opportunity to visit Parliament. We started in the grand hall which was part of Henry the VIII's palace. Incredible is just about the only word to describe the intricate Gothic Architecture. Angels, lions, kings and unicorns adorned the walls and beams that held the majestic ceiling. It was interesting to learn the history and understand the role of the Lords and Monarchy in today's government.

Next we went to the British Museum. As our ultimate vacation destination was Greece we had heard that to see the Greek ruins one must go to London. Sad but true. Wonderful headless stone reliefs from Greece. Mummys from Egypt and various treasures from Asia. As Dave said - this place has a lot of lute.
You may not be able to see it but this gold shawl fits me perfectly ; )

It started to rain as we left the museum so we tucked into a pub for a quick bite and then waled through Chinatown inadvertently and then to the market. For dinner we met up with friend's of Dave's from Caltech at a swanky rooftop deck over looking the city. Although I don't know if I would ever learn how to cross the street, London is a beautiful city and would be a fun place to live.

The following morning we headed back to Heathrow to catch our flight to Athens and then onto Rafina.
After checking into the hotel, we headed to port to catch some dinner. Sardines when not stuffed into a can and covered with oil are a beautiful gleaming silver. We saw trays and trays of fish and twice as many cats. This would be a theme that would repeat over and over during our time in Greece.
The next morning we took the ferry to the island of Tinos.

The island of Tinos attracts pilgrims from all over Greece to worship an icon of the Virgin Mary. As part of the pilgrimage women who are suffering from infertility or other ailments climb the hill to the church on their hands and knees. If you are successful in conceiving a child (and the baby is a girl) you are obligated to name the baby either Maria or Pelagia after the nun who discovered the icon.
Religion is central to life on Tinos. The small population of 10K is served by more than 600 chapels.

The thing about a trekking trip is that the paths are not always well marked. Therefore the guide must lead the way by following the notes from the last explorer and seeking out various mile points. In our case we were fortunate in that our guide had arrived a few days earlier to scout out our walks. After arriving on Tinos, our first walk was to be up Mt. Tsiknias. Unfortunately the instructions called for us to turn right at the three dogs barking. When our guide got to this point when found three unchained and unhappy dogs barking. So, we went on a different walk instead.

My fears of not being in shape were quickly put to rest as Dave and I found ourselves waiting at church after church for the rest of our group.

The first walk was a great start to our vacation and gave us our first taste of the villages we would pass through. The day ended with a wonderful group meal in Tinos. When in Greece - Eat Greek Salad.

The second day was our first all day walk - destination Kolymbithra.

Our route took us up to the summit of Exobourgo peak where excavations have revealed there was a settlement from the 8th to the 5th centry BC. The views were incredible on the way up to the cross that marked the top of the peak - so were the winds. Dave assured me that I would not blow over.

Our next stop was the village of Volax. Along the way we past "alternative transportation" and took a moment or two to review where we were.

After a fantastic lunch at a small taverna - we had the Volax salad - we headed on to the beach at Kolymbirthra - 4 hours away.

This is Dave's awesome shade shelter.

Day 4 was a free day, meaning no guided walks. Dave has been taking up rock carving so we decided to head to Pygros the center of the marble production on the island. Everything in Pygros was carved including the marble sidewalks.

Unfortunately the museum was closed so instead we decided to hike down to Panormos where we were treated to great views and a fun lunch of grilled Octopus.

The following day we walked from Tinos to Ktikados and then took the Ferry to the island of Andros.
The first walk on Andros took us to the village of Korthi near the southeastern corner of the island. Half way through the hike we headed up to the hilltop fortress of Palikastro. Legend has it that a goddess lives on top of the mountain and blows trespassers off the side. Needless to say - it was very windy on top.

After a long days hike an Etna Beer sure would have been nice...

Our final walk was all down hill! We started at the Panachrantos Monastery and ended back at our hotel in Andros.

The trip ended back for one more night in London. We headed to Brick Road and had amazing Indian food for dinner and than back to our hotel for a last night in the "most comfortable bed ever."

This has been truly a great vacation and definately two places everyone should add to their list of places to see.

Monday, August 11, 2008

so you think you can walk ...

You may recall (given that it was just a few blog posts ago) that back in November (yes I really do need to post more frequently) we gave up our two cars and scaled down to one. I had great hopes at the time that this change would result in my taking advantage of other forms of transportation such as walking and the magical thing called the bus. Alas, my habits haven't changed much.

This weekend I was again reminded of why walking can be so much better than driving.

In preparation for our upcoming vacation - it is a "walking vacation" - I decided that rather than drive downtown to run my errands I would make the trek on foot. Wow, Seattle is a really cool city when you don't have to worry about finding a parking spot.

I think the highlight was coming upon the international fountain just as it started it's musical performance. I had no idea that the fountain plays classical music and shoots off water like dancing raindrops. Go figure. Very Cool!

The low point was the man who almost killed me by running a red light while speeding down 3rd ave. Fortunately, I saw him coming and stopped mid-way. He saw me at the last minute and slammed on his breaks to amazing effect - screeeches and burned rubber. I guess what we learned in Kindergarden about always looking both ways continues to be the best advice I've ever received.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

time time time ......

I either have to post more often or give up.

Here is the picture of the house project completed - Villa Sophia is now a lovely shade of dark grey. I know, the idea of living in Seattle where grey is the prominant color 10 months out of the year, and painting your home grey seems a bit well ..... depressing. But truly, this is a beautiful and rich color of grey, not the cold damp, blah color we usually see in the sky.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

sophia's face lift ....

This spring our Villa Sophia begins her much needed face lift. To date, she has a new door, new windows, a new chimney (a surprise to both of us) and is getting a "peel" in preparation for new stucco...
Next up .... paint!

Monday, February 18, 2008

1000 places to see before you die - #11

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Having not seen the sun in quite some time, I was excited to visit the place where it reportedly winters. Wow! I don't know if it is beacause I haven't seen sunlight in months, or if there is truly something different about the way colors reflect in New Mexico - either way everything I saw was breathtaking. So ... rather than one photo to capture this place, here are a few.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

1000 places to see before you die - #10


This picture was taken in Boca del Toro, Panama. The t-shirt is from the Etna Brewery in California (which come to think of it should also be one of the 1000 places you see before you die.)

baconized ...

It is official. In the eyes of the US and foreign governments I have been officially baconized (as evidenced by my spanking new passport.)

My new passport is much more sleek and techy than the last one but I will miss the worldlyness and general well-traveled appearance of the old one. And, given that my international travel has slowed down considerably, I am guessing I may never fill this new one with the same level of exotic locals - oh Paraguay Visa, I will miss you the most.

Now that I am officially a new person with new stamps to acquire it is time to start planning a trip.

Any suggestions?