Archive for General

Greece 2017: Day 5

The day we left Athens for Nafplio, we hired the same private driver that took us to Delphi to transfer us to Nafplio. However, he had an idea that would allow us to make some stops along the way, so we were able to make the transfer a great day of sightseeing as well.

1. Corinth

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Our first big stop was a little over an hour away from Athens. Corinth is referenced in Paul’s letters (the Corinthians) and today it has a huge canal where you can actually bungee jump, which we did not do while there. While the canal is kind of touristy, it is certainly a site to see!

 

 

 

 

We also visited the archaeological site there and saw the sites where Paul visited, along with a lot of headless statues.

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This was one of the coolest places we visited. Supposedly, the civilization that was once here dates back to before Christ. Supposedly, the story of Troy may have been based on this group of people, as some of the descriptions of the people and the location match up considerably. It was a hot day, but we hiked up the hill and viewed what was left, including the Lion Gate at the entrance.

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We also got to see the Tomb of Agamemnon. It is empty now, though they believe people have used it as shelter when passing through the area.

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3. Epidavros

Our third and final stop before Nafplio was to Epidavros. Epidavros is known for its incredibly intact theater that was buried under dirt. Archaeologists literally uncovered it fully intact and it is still used today. We sat in the audience and the kids went to the middle and sang a few songs for us.

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However, the real significance of Epidavros is the Sanctuary of Asklepios, an early hospital. It kind of looks a little like a pile of rocks in some places, but even walking through the grounds, it was possible to feel how peaceful and therapeutic it felt in that area. I don’t know what it was, but I could feel why that location was chosen. It seems that Greek civilizations actually understood the value of treating the whole person, as the theater was built to entertain the patients at the hospital. The sanctuary also had a gym where patients could exercise.

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At the end of the day, we finally arrived in Nafplio. We checked in and had a nice dinner and explored the town.

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See what else we did while in Greece!

Day 1 – Athens

Day 2 – Athens

Day 3 – Athens

Day 4 – Corinth, Mycaenae, Epidavros, Nafplio

 

July into August

Somehow school is about ready to start and here I am, writing about what we did in July…

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away - We are actually thinking about going to Jamaica!
  • Family vacation

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (19/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (35/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (27/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (21/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (14/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20) - I will be going to a national conference in November, which will get me 5 more CMTE’s.

Home and Organization:

  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – The deck is finished, and we have the paint we need for it. We plan to paint this fall once the pool is closed.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMOE
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3) - We have our second meal scheduled for the first part of August.
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I really need to start doing this again.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far…lately, I have been working out approximately 5 times a week, between running and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (5/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (3/10)
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I really wanted to do this in May but it just didn’t work out. I’m hoping for some time in September or October.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (4/20)

Things have certainly been busy. This month we did a lot of other things, like the drive-in movie theater, 4th of July celebrations, my brother’s wedding, a visit to a really cool park in Owensboro, and more swimming in our pool. Anya and I even got our nails done while Felix was at a camp.

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June into July

Somehow this never got posted….

Anyway, here it is…just a month late!

Travel:

  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacationWe had a great time in Greece. I will be posting more about our vacation.

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (16/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (30/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (23/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (18/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (11/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I am almost caught up from being gone.

 Music:

  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. (2/10)
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (12/20)

Home and Organization:

  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – The deck is pretty much finished and just needs to be painted.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.

Family:

  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I am slowly getting back into this.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (4/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (2/10) - We made a British breakfast but I would also like to do a traditional British meal once we get back from Greece.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I really wanted to do this in May but it just didn’t work out. I’m hoping to do it sometime in the fall.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (2/20)

Besides our trip, we also celebrated Anya’s 7th birthday. I also spent a lot of time getting caught up with work from being gone.

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What did you do in June?

 

Greek Food

I’m taking a break from recounting our days to talk about all the amazing food we had on our trip. This is the first time we’ve been to Europe and stayed in one country the entire time, so we had a chance to sample lots of different things. Here are a few of them…

1. Greek Yogurt

I have never been a huge yogurt fan, but I am a believer now. The Greek yogurt in Greece is amazingly creamy. When we were in Nafplio, we had it every morning for breakfast, sometimes with dates and other times with honey. I especially liked it with honey, because the honey there is phenomenal. We had some Greek yogurt at the airport that was so creamy, it could have been frozen yogurt.

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2. Gyros

This was probably my favorite thing in Greece. The gyros came with chicken or pork – your choice, and there was usually cucumber, tomatoes, and either potatoes or french fries stuffed in the top, all topped with just a little tatziki. We’ve made gyros here a few times, but it’s just not the same when the meat isn’t coming off a rotisserie. Sometimes, though, I think we actually got chicken souvlaki sandwiches when we ordered gyros, which were also good, but with grilled chicken instead of the meat from the rotisserie. You could also order a gyro plate that came with the meat, pita bread, and potatoes all separated out, but I preferred it as a sandwich.

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3. Chicken Souvlaki 

You could get chicken souvlaki in a sandwich (wrapped in pita, almost like a gyro), or you could get a chicken souvlaki plate that almost always came with potatoes or french fries. This worked out well because our kids are picky but they would eat grilled chicken.

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4. Moussaka and Pastitsio

These dishes are like the Greek versions of pasta. Pastitsio is ground beef, pasta, and bechamel sauce, while moussaka is very similar but includes eggplant and/or potato with bechamel sauce.

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5. Saganaki and other cheese dishes

Saganaki, pictured on the right, is basically a fried cheese, though this one also includes nuts and honey drizzled on the top. The picture on the left was a roasted feta dish with onions and peppers on it. It was one of the best things we had in Greece.

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6. Greek salad

One thing we noticed about the difference between Greek salads in the US and Greek salads in Greece is that the real thing doesn’t typically have lettuce. It is literally sliced cucumbers, hunks of tomatoes, and chunks of onion, preferably red onion. Of course, this combination is drizzled with olive oil and often topped with a big hunk of feta cheese and sprinkled with black olives. So delicious!

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7. Octopus

So we only had this once but I thought it was interesting enough to mention. This is grilled octopus and it was actually pretty good. Even Anya tried it and she approved!

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8. Pita

Pita is the Greek’s choice of bread, which is fine by me. It comes plain, with garlic, sprinkled with olive oil, sprinkled with cheese, etc. Also, if you order a sandwich, you will more than likely get it wrapped in pita.

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9. Honey 

I don’t know what makes Greek honey so good, but it is absolutely amazing. I put honey in my Greek yogurt whenever we had it, and a lot of times it was included in the desserts. Apparently, it is typical to get free dessert at Greek restaurants (I think we paid for dessert maybe once when we ate at a restaurant). Sometimes dessert would be something like sliced apples drizzled with honey. Who would have thought something so simple would have tasted so good!

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10. Stuffed vegetables

I don’t know if this is really a “thing” in Greece, but there were lots of stuffed peppers and stuffed tomatoes on the menus in Greece. I had this dish several times, mostly when I needed a break from gyros.

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11. Baklava

I actually loved the baklava, even though it’s so not something I thought I would really like. Again, honey is involved in this along with yummy phyllo dough. Anya even decided to have that as her cake on her birthday.

 

Oh, how I miss the food in Greece!

 

 

 

 

Greece 2017: Day 4

Sunday was Anya’s 7th birthday. When we first told her she would be spending her 7th birthday in Greece, she was actually upset that she wouldn’t be home to celebrate, but I think she was excited about it by the time we actually went.

I had really wanted to start the day by going to an Eastern Orthodox service just because I have never experienced one, but we were so exhausted that we decided to sleep in a bit. We had breakfast on the rooftop terrace, Anya opened her gifts, and then we headed for the Royal Gardens near Parliament. The Royal Gardens is home to a really nice area next to Parliament that has a few (domesticated) animal exhibits, some walking trails, and a really nice playground. We explored for a bit and the kids got to play for a few minutes.

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We left in time to make it to the changing of the guards. It happens frequently, but the one on Sunday mornings is more of a big deal and has a marching band and everything. This one also includes a lot more soldiers!

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Afterwards, we went back to the Royal Gardens for a few more minutes, and then left to find something to eat.

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This was one of two days where it actually rained, but we literally lucked out, because we started heading toward the Acropolis Museum as it started to feel more like rain and it started pouring right as we got to the building. While waiting in line, you could see what was currently being excavated.

 

 

 

Once again, having the kids and the strollers gained us entry into the museum much quicker. That IS one perk of bringing your kids overseas with you.

We had read about some family/children’s challenges at the museum, so we were sure to stop by the desk to pick up a backpack that contained a challenge for Anya. I was worried about going to the museum on Anya’s birthday, but when she heard about the challenge, she actually wanted to go! She had to locate specific statues of Athena and was able to find all of them, so she wasn’t very happy when Felix found them first!

The museum is really informative and houses many of the pieces that were formerly in the Acropolis. One of the levels of the museum is built to be the exact same size of the Acropolis itself and you walk around the outside of the floor and see what is left of the frieze that would have been around the outside of it. It gives you a little more perspective as to how huge this place actually is and what it must have been like to walk inside the structure.

After the museum, we headed back out and you couldn’t even tell that it had been raining. We got so lucky!

We got a crepe, at Anya’s request, and then went back to the apartment to rest for a bit. For dinner, Anya wanted pizza, so we went back out later to grab some slices of pizza, and then brought it back to eat on the rooftop terrace. Anya also wanted baklava for her cake, so we enjoyed that on the rooftop terrace as well.

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I think she had a pretty good birthday!

Check out what else we did!

Day 1 – Athens

Day 2 – Athens

Day 3 – Athens

Greece 2017: Day 3

Saturday was our day trip to Delphi. This is absolutely a must-do if you are in Athens. It is a bit of a drive, but worth every bit of it. What was worth every bit of it was also hiring a private driver, especially since we had the kids with us. We used John’s Athens Taxi for all of our private drives, and he was amazing. He is Greek, but he was a taxi driver in New York City for 15 years before coming back to Greece to start his driving/tour company.

There are several companies that offer private driving tours. The drivers are not official tour guides so they cannot follow you into a site and guide you through, but they give you really great information along the way, so you are ready to visit the site you are visiting. It was nice because we rode in a nice air-conditioned van, and the kids had car seats. We also got to stop for a quick bite to eat and to use the restrooms on the way. On the road to the sites, John gave us background information and we watched some short videos about the area.

Our first stop was a monastery up in the mountains. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but even just walking through was worth it.

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Our next (and main) stop was Delphi, which was considered the center of the universe at one point, so the Sanctuary of Apollo was constructed on the mountain and this is where the Oracle worked. People embarked on long journeys to get to Delphi and consult with the Oracle about a big decision. Anyone visiting the Oracle was expected to come with an offering, such as a goat, but there was no guarantee that the Oracle would even see you. Of course, there was some speculation about the work of the Oracle, as documents describe the Oracle doing things like speaking in tongues, so the Priest interpreted what she said.

The walk up the mountain begins where it would have begun for people coming to visit the Oracle.

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There are a few sites along the way to the Sanctuary of Apollo, and if you keep climbing, you are able to view the theater.

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The stadium, which was the site of the Pythian games, is at the very top of the mountain. It was quite a climb, but worth it for the amazing views of the countryside.

After this, we hiked back down and visited the museum on the site. Then, John drove us to the little town and we had lunch at a little restaurant with a similar view.

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On the way back, John let us stop and walk down to the Temple of Athena Propena. I’ve seen this site on a lot of pictures but never knew what it was. He offered to let the kids stay in the car so we could walk down quickly and get a picture or two.

 

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We also stopped in Arachova on the way back. Arachova is a little ski resort town with some little shops. He dropped us off on one of the shopping streets and we walked down the street, looking around until we met him at the end of it. We got to try some local honey and ended up buying a jar of it. The honey in Greece tastes so different, but it is so good!

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IMG_20170603_192351840_HDROur drive with John was supposed to get us back at 5 pm, but because we actually took our time and enjoyed the sites, we got back really late. IMG_20170603_192520190_HDRFortunately, John didn’t mind because he preferred that we enjoy our day. When we got back, we opted to stop by the Theater of Dionysus, which is near the Acropolis. It’s so cool to see these ancient theaters still intact.

 

On the way to get food, we stopped and watched street performers. We ended up grabbing chicken souvlaki sandwiches and eating them on the rooftop terrace. There is yet another theater near the Acropolis that is still used, and you could hear the music from the opera playing while sitting out on the porch.

The day trip to Delphi is a long one, but certainly doable and worth the time. It was probably one of my favorite things we did while we were in Greece.

Check out what else we did in Greece!

Day 1 – Athens

Day 2 – Athens

 

 

Greece 2017: Day 2

Our first full day in Greece started out with the Acropolis. You can’t go to Athens without seeing this amazing site! So we grabbed some pastries and coffee to go at a nearby bakery and then headed to the site. I had a Rick Steves audio tour that was very helpful. Things aren’t marked very well so you don’t always know what you’re looking at. They are also doing lots of construction on the site and it has been going on for literally decades. Apparently, when the Turks had control of the city, they loaded all of their ammo into the Parthenon while they hid in other parts of the Acropolis, thinking the Venetians valued art and architecture enough that they wouldn’t shoot at the Parthenon. Unfortunately for them, the Venetians cared more about winning, so when they shot a cannon at it, it exploded, and now they are still trying to restore it, though they are trying to decide to what point they want to restore it.

We got there a little later than we wanted to and ended up catching all the cruisers that had been dropped off, but once we got up the steps, it wasn’t too big of a deal.

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Before moving on, we climbed to the top of Marrs Hill, where St. Paul preached to the Athenians.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we walked down to the Ancient Agora. It may look like a “pile of rocks” now, but it was apparently the main shopping area where daily life took place for the ancient Greeks. Again, the audio tour was super helpful in trying to figure out what everything was. We got to see the old stora and also learned about some of the philosophers in ancient Greece.

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Felix was worn out by that point and literally laid down on a little bridge and fell asleep!

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We got some food afterwards (at the bakery again!) and went back to the apartment to rest for a bit. Even though we had planned to go to Kerakimos Cemetery, we decided against it because we couldn’t figure out what time it really closed and we didn’t want to get all the way there and not get to go. Instead, we decided to do the Rick Steves audio city tour, since we didn’t get as much of that information as I thought we would on the tour the night before.This took us to Syntagma (meaning “constitution) Square, a few Greek Orthodox churches, and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. This temple actually took 638 years to complete! I guess construction started and stopped several times and the Emperor Hadrian finally got the job done. We walked around it, and it is massive!IMG_20170602_192722241 IMG_20170602_193806151

 

 

 

 

 

 

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While at Syntagma Square, we also got to see the changing of the guard by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 

 

 

 

 

The tour winds through an area of Athens called Anafiotika. I had read that this area was worth walking through, but I’m so glad we actually did. It reminded me a lot of the Alfama area in Lisbon. Lots of tiny passageways and neighborhoods full of tiny, colorful homes. It was so quaint, it almost felt like we weren’t in Athens anymore. The kids were getting tired (and so were we), but we gave them cameras and told them to take pictures of all the cats they saw. Felix got a little too into it and would literally chase one down to get a good picture of one!

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The tour ended in Monistraki Square and we ended up having dinner at a gyro shop off a side street. We had promised the kids a Nutella waffle, so we found one of those for dessert.

I think we walked over 9 miles this day alone, but it was worth it!

Check out what else we did in Greece!

Day 1 – Athens

Friday Funnies

I used to write a Friday Funny post on some Fridays, but it has been awhile. Looking back through my pictures reminded me of something hilarious that Felix said while in Greece, so I decided I had to include it on my blog. According to Felix, this sign means “No sparkles in the toilet!!”

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Who knows the real meaning??

Anya’s 7th Birthday

While we were in Greece, Anya turned 7. We had a little celebration for her in Athens, which you will read about once I get around to blogging about all the amazing things we did. Of course, she still insisted on having a party when we got back home, so we had that this past weekend. She requested a Shopkins theme, so we did the best we could!

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I can’t believe she is 7 already!

 

 

 

 

 

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I saw Felix holding hands with his best friend and it was too cute NOT to take a picture of it!

 

Greece 2017 – Day 1

We arrived in Greece in the morning, though we were a little late. I slept a little on the plane, but not much at all, so I was pretty tired, but it’s amazing how adrenaline can keep you going long after you normally would have crashed. We had an apartment waiting for us and the host was kind enough to arrange a taxi to pick us up. Luckily, he spoke English and was able to tell us about the things we were passing and where to swim with kids near Athens. Sometimes long taxi rides can be pretty awkward, but this driver was very friendly and helpful.

When we arrived to the apartment, our host was waiting for us and he actually gave us free SIM cards, which was very nice of him. Once he left, we set out to find some food. We didn’t really know where exactly we were and it was getting later into the afternoon, so we ended up eating lunch at an overpriced restaurant near our apartment. The food wasn’t bad; we just thought it was expensive for what it was.

After lunch, we went back to the apartment to shower and lay down for a bit. We ended up doing a free Athens walking tour at 6 that evening. Yes, I know it’s crazy to do that the first day, but it really is best if we try to acclimate ourselves immediately. So somehow we got through a 3 hour tour that included several hills in Athens. We did get some pretty amazing views of the city, though! Our tour guide used to work for the metro system and had a lot of knowledge about the city. He was able to explain all sorts of things about Greek life, including history, sports, art, culture, and current politics regarding Greece’s relationship with the EU, etc. It was all very interesting.

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After the tour, we headed to find something to eat and ended up at a random diner. Of course, afterwards, we had to check out the gelato on a nearby street!

It was late by the time we got back but we had to make use of the rooftop terrace!

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