Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vacation Day 3: Athens by Night

Well, that was certainly something...

We went to this cramped little resturant in the middle of the Placca with a group of about twenty-five people. There was this disgusting national drink, call ouzo, I'm not sure of the spelling on that. It tasted like licorice and I could only drink about four sips before I had to pour it out. Unfortunately after I did that my water tasted like it anyways so all I had was wine. We started dinner with giant beans (seriously, that's their name), which tasted like beans, bread with something on it that tasted like cabbage smotherered in the sauce from gyros, a bean paste stuff, and something else that I can't quite remember.

The second course was Greek sausages, calimari, sausage wrapped in olive leaves, this cheesy meaty stuff, and a crispy bread triangle. They were all very odd but not inedible, unless you ask Savannah, who skipped that course completely because she didn't like any of it. Meanwhile, there was music, singing -- which was lovely --, and dancing -- which was just as good, especially since one of the dancers was one of those stunning Greek men I told you about. Heeelllllo! Most of the dances involved starting really slow-like, doing lots of kicks and running in circles, and then near the end speeding up to as fast as possible and repeating everything that was done slowly. It was kind of predictable but very fun to watch. Anyways, Savannah thoroughly enjoyed herself and joined in almost every chance she got. I, on the other hand, sat happily in my seat, praying to not be called upon, and gave a hearty "Opah" whenever it was required.

The third course was amazing. It was beef stew that came in a hot bowl with feta cheese crumbled over it. Oh! it was some of the best stuff I have ever eaten. Sadly, when I was about two-thirds done, I stopped to watch the charming dancer and the waiter snuck up and took the rest of it away. :( That mishap was followed by another...the dancer was calling girls up on stage to dance and I somehow ended up there. It was a nightmare. I think my wrist broke a couple of times, I was jammed against a bunch of people that I didn't know, there was bouncing, and I was hot. When I got to my seat I felt truly glad to see it again and sat gratefully for the fourth course, which was fruit.

This course was rather boring, just honeydew melon and watermelon, but it was a nice way to refresh your mouth after all the other unfamiliar flavors. After that I somehow ended up on stage again...being led by the hand in a long curving line around the room, knocked around from front to back when people would either run into me or stop in front of me. I was hot and very uncomfortable and, again, extremely happy when it was over.

Dessert was teeny tiny donuts covered in powdered sugar and honey. They were delicious, I think I had five. After that they danced the dance "where the men, they break the plates." It was fun, but it seems like a terrible idea to me because they dance around on the shards of glass concerned me a bit.

As we walked back to the bus there was a girl selling flowers, dad bought two roses for mom, which was really sweet. We piled out in front of our hotel, bidding Vassiliki goodbye until tomorrow and hustled up to the rooms to shower and go to bed.

That's all for now!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vacation: Days 1 & 2

I'll start at the beginning.

When we were leaving on Tuesday morning, saying our goodbyes and everything, Sam got a little teary eyed.  This just about killed Sabry and me, but we managed to leave anyway.  

Getting into the airport at Nashiville was fairly typical -- I had a terrible turkey sandwich for lunch -- our plane was delayed a bit and tensions rose due to the short layover in Atlanta.  Once we landed in Atlanta, we raced to our next plane and made it with a little time to spare.  
The ride was cramped and long, I'm not looking forward to flying back.  I knitted and got one of my gloves finished and the other mostly done -- I haven't touched it since landing because it's way too hot -- but mostly I watched movies.  Near the end of the flight I watched a really cute movie called "A Monster in Paris".  It was about a giant singing flea...but totally worth watching, I'm going to have to see if I can get ahold of a copy sometime.  

We almost missed our flight in Paris because the terminals were labeled all crazy-like.  We were told to go to we did, except that there are actually two different D72s and we went to the wrong one.  Dad found this out as the last of the passengers on our real flight were boarding and he happened to be strolling around.  They really should think about announcing what is going on like every other airport, but they seem to think that would be too convenient.  They are French, after all.

I didn't sleep on any of the flights except for the last one, and that was only for ten minutes or so.  I just can't seem to get comfortable on airplanes.  I probably wouldn't have slept at all if I hadn't been falling periodically into a deep coma every few minutes from lack of sleep and knocking my face on the plane window.  I finally decided that I was just too tired to avoid looking like an idiot every couple of minutes and let myself doze off.  Unfortunately, mom lost her glasses and had to wake me up to tell me (dad ended up finding them).  I couldn't sleep after that.

When we landed everything went really smoothly.  We got all of our baggage, found our guide, Vassaliki -- she's amazing and very funny, -- and left for our hotel.  Athens is amazing.  The streets are narrow, the houses are stacked like pancakes, and there are orange trees growing down every street.  When you look across the city it sparkles in the sunlight because of all the metal chimneys.  The streets have little European cars parked along every square inch and the sidewalks, if they aren't covered in motorcycles, are only a foot or so wide.  There's a law in Athens that requires the houses, buildings, and apartments only be built to a certain height so that wherever you are in the city you can look up and see the acropolis.  ...This sounds really amazing and romantic, but it doesn't work at all.  All the houses are about the same height, but you totally can't see the acropolis from anywhere in the city.  Just from most places that are fairly close to the base of the hill, or if you're in just the right spot on just the right street.  But I'm not complaining.  
During the ride I also noticed that the majority of young Grecian men are absolutely stunning...or shaped like slightly overweight American women...but most of them are gorgeous.  Seriously, I've never seen a race where the men can all look so different and they're still just so handsome.  I noticed this trend right before my forehead knocked into the window of the bus as I fell asleep again.  I tried to stay awake to see if it was a figment of my imagination or what, but this only resulted in my face hitting the window three or four more times before I gave up and tried to sleep for the rest of the bus-ride.

Our hotel is lovely, though our rooms don't face the Parthanon, so we have to wander quite a ways down the street to get a view of it.  The AC in the girls' room doesn't work very well, which is a little troublesome to me and the sheets are a really crazy texture that kinda freaks me out.  But everything feels really clean and neat and in the basement there are a bunch of old ruins from ancient Athens.  
We all pretty much passed out when we got here, we had a meeting at 6 that dad woke us up for.  Vassiliki when she saw all of us looking like we had just been woken from the dead laughed and apologized profusely for the inconvenience.  During the meeting she informed us that we should try to stay up late that night to get our biological clocks reset...I think we made it until ten-ish.  I tried to read to keep myself awake, but my eyes kept crossing so that I was reading two different pages at the same time.  I gave up after about thirty minutes and a couple of instances of my face hitting the book, and went to sleep.

I woke up around 2, which was a real disappointment to me since I was so thoroughly exhausted.  However, I was able to force myself back to sleep...until about 2:30 when Savannah sat up and announced to us that she hadn't been asleep for an hour and it was really upsetting her.  She spent basically the rest of the night rummaging through the room for things to do, crying out of frustration, and being a general nuisance to Sabry and me.  Can you tell I'm a little irked by this?  I managed to doze off and on for the rest of the night, only really falling into a deep sleep again around 5, which was about when Savannah laid back down, I think. 

Our wake up call was at 8, which shocked me awake from a dream that I can't quite remember.  I vaguely remember the receptionist telling me to press a button on the phone, which I did and promptly hung up.  I then lay there for a minute to two and wondered if I had done it correctly or if she would call back and make me do it again.  Finally, I sat up wearily, still feeling like I could still sleep for hours, and woke the other two.  We dressed and headed to breakfast, which was delicious.  I had eggs, yogurt, weird little sausages, bacon, and a weird cake-like bread.  Sabry and I also got some warm tea, which was a great comfort because I needed something with caffeine and, as a rule, don't drink hot coffee.  

Our tour of the acropolis started after that.  It was hot today, 32 C, and there is very little shade to be had up there.  The Parthanon is about what I expected, only a bit bigger and much less white.  The other buildings around the acropolis were beautiful, as well, but my favorite thing we saw was the ancient, blessed olive tree.  This tree has been there for...a really long time.  It was said to be a gift from Athena when she won the fight against Poseidon for the rights to the city.  So I guess it's been there since the pantheon of gods were introduced, or shortly after.  o.O  It's really freaking old.  Also, it was completely burned down in 480 BC and after two or three years started growing again; it has been destroyed several times but it always grows back or someone saves a piece of it and replants it.
My other favorite thing that we only kind of got to see was the old amphitheater, or its ruins, rather.  We looked down on it from the acropolis and even from that far away it was stunning.   There is another amphitheater not far from it that has been cleaned and restored, but I didn't like it as much even though it's bigger and much more impressive looking.

When we finally got back to the hotel today I felt sticky, hot, and incredibly tired.  But, instead of resting, I freshened up and then dad, Sabry, and I left to explore a bit.  We exchanged some money, which was expensive, and then went to have lunch.  Last night we tried to have gyros...but it didn't quite work out.  We didn't communicate well and dad managed to order a "gyro pie", which is possibly the most inconvenient thing to try and eat and also not at all a pie.  Sabry, Savannah, and I accidentally ordered Fanta to drink and the gyros didn't come with lamb.  However, we're discovering that it is almost impossible to find a place that serves gyros with lamb because lamb is too expensive.  They mostly come with pork, which is really delicious.  
At lunch we had fabulous gyros.  They were just perfect, even though they were pork, and if I don't manage to get another while we're here I will be truly saddened. 

The three of us then went walking around the Placca, which is a tourist shopping area.  Some of the things were really interesting, especially a jewelry shop that I'm going to have to get something from, and some really stunning dresses that I've seen all over the place.  There was also a shop with leather sandals that were pretty, but they didn't seem very well made.

Now, we're back in the hotel, waiting to meet our guide for dinner.  Tonight we're going on something called Athens by Night.  We're going to dine at a place where we can sample all of the traditional Greek cuisine, listen to traditional Grecian music, watch dancing, and just have "a great, casual, Greek evening."  I'm a little nervous about this because it was implied that the musicians and dancers might ask us to join them and dance...which I'm not entirely comfortable with in my sleep-deprived state, but we'll see.  We're not scheduled to get back to the room until 11...which is also a little worrisome to me because I'll need to shower after that and I'm not sure I'll be able to stay awake.

Anyways, I'm having a great time and I've been taking lots of pictures.  We leave tomorrow at 12 on the cruise and head straight for Istanbul :).

More tomorrow! :)


Monday, July 16, 2012

We're Back, Sorry About That

Sorry about the disappearance, we got lost in preparation for our vacation, which was amazing.  We've been home a little over a week now and are still getting back into the groove of things.  

Life is good.  Vacation was exactly what we needed.  My sisters and I got to spend a lot of time together -- lots of bonding time, you know -- and mom and dad got a chance to relax and have fun.  It was really something.

I did keep a "journal" of our adventures and I'll be sure to post the first entry either later this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  

Today I'm starting on a project for my booth display...if it turns out well I'll post pictures. :)