Home, James…And It Was Worth It

September 23, 2007

We are back home.

Our last day (before the travel day home) was superb. We woke up to the first cloudy skies since we had arrived. Before breakfast, we stepped out the door of the hotel and up into the little back lanes above the town where the fishermen live. I had glimpsed it the night before, making a quick trek while Gino nursed his sore feet with a beer down by the waterfront.

Gino was glad to be dragged up one more set of stairs and up and down a few more narrow alleys for one last breath of village Greece. It was another fairy tale village. Then breakfast and on the road. (The hotel brought us a carafe of what we thought was coffee, but turned out to be only hot water for INSTANT coffee! ERGH! We sought out a proper cappuccino before we hit the road.)

The drive was very pleasant — no wrong turns, great roads, a variety of scenery. We went through Sparta and Tripoli, then hit the autostrada.

Close to Korinthos we did see many more burned areas — entire hillsides scorched. We saw where the fire had come right down to the highway at one point and had picked up on the other side. Obviously, the main road had to have been closed while that was burning.

We shared the road with slow-moving tractors here and there. We noticed that in Greece, few people use their horns (with the exception of some absolutely insane city bus drivers), while in Italia horns are often used.

We passed roadside stands selling bags of potatoes and hanging strings of garlic. Men hawked bags of potatoes on the side of the autostrada, and as you approached the toll booths others were selling bunches of bananas! You could pay your toll and pick up a snack at the same time!

Successfully back in Athens, our little Aggie turned back into EuropeCar and our bags stowed at the airport, we took the X95 bus (instead of the Metro) back into the city for one last whirl. That was a wild ride! The driver drove through the city streets at breakneck speed, expertly missing (sometimes by an inch) a car door, a person, or another large vehicle. We had plans to meet Jan and Liisa for one last celebratory dinner, but had the afternoon to tear through the Plaka once more. We indulged in our last gyro and bowl of yogurt and poked around the flea market that spilled its junk and treasures into the streets. We laughed at seeing The Gap store right next to a little shop selling hookahs of all shapes and sizes.

Then we met up with Jan and Liisa and found a wonderful, mellow neighborhood taverna to share our evening meal. Jan ordered a wonderful selection of Greek specialties and we ate and ate, still leaving food since our stomachs could hold no more. Even including two carafes of their homemade wine, all of this delightful food for the four of us came to only 46 Euro!

After midnight, our friends walked us to the X95 bus stop and, after a flurry of goodbyes, jumped on for our final ride to the airport. Along the way, we saw billboards that read, “GREECE — Five Senses to Explore, One Country to Adore,” and “GREECE — There is Always More to Explore.” I’m sure they were put there for us.

Things we will NOT miss:
The coffee (Greece)
The cigarette smoke (ubiquitous)
Missing our dogs

Things we WILL miss:
The coffee (Italia)
The people (both countries)
Exploring the most incredible sights every single day

For those interested in reading more of our adventures in greater detail and (hopefully) improved eloquence over these off-the-cuff ramblings (often written in rooms so dark I could barely see the keyboard, or places so hot I felt like I was in a sauna), I will let you know when my blog is done. There will be pictures to accompany the stories.

Ciao until the next MelindaTrip.
Melinda and Gino

P.S. By the way, did I mention that every single thing and place we did and saw was WORTH IT?


Greece — Is it Worth It?

September 14, 2007

We spent our last evening in Athina (Athens) having dinner at a little out of the way taverna that a man told us about — primarily only Greeks go there. We met him walking by his shop on a steep little street as we wandered about (as we tend to do, which you know well). We stopped to chat and he asked where we were from. Now that we are in Greece, people think we’re Italians. Except today a man in a little pottery shop (which he makes on a wheel and kiln all himself) pegged us right off as Northern Californians. I think he must be psychic.

Anyway, today did not start out well and didn’t get good again until this afternoon. We jumped on the Metro back to the airport to pick up our rental car. We knew that the trip FROM the airport into the city had cost us 8 Euro each. This morning, the ticket office was closed so we had to buy tickets from a machine (bad news for me — machines don’t like me and vice versa).

We had, however, used a machine to get tickets in and around the city during the couple days we were there. We didn’t look closely enough and simply bought a one-way ticket as we had before. We found out the very hard way that we were supposed to have pressed the box for AIRPORT, not just a one-way fare. We were almost at the airport stop and some ticket-checkers got on the check tickets. I showed ours and the woman (who did not make the slightest effort to be pleasant – she was downright mean!) told me they were not the right ones. We had to pay a fine, which put us into rather bad moods. We watched her as she made her way down the cars, extracting (EXTORTING) fines from several other innocent travelers.

map-greece.jpg

Grumpily, we made our way to our rental car. She’s a little turquoise something (by Chevy, but nothing that we have in the US). We named her Aggie after the Aegean Sea and Aghia thisĀ and that. We found our way out of Athina quite easily, but as we approached Corinth (the Canal), we tried to find the road to Ancient Corinth. It escaped us.

We took a wrong turn and had to stop at a feed store to ask two sweet Greek gentlemen who tried to pantomine the way to go. They spoke no English and of course Greek is all Greek to me. But at least we found our way back to the canal, took some pictures, and decided to skip Ancient Corinth.

Instead, we took the scenic road to Epidaurus, the ancient theater. We passed miles of olive trees, drove over staggering heights of mountains, enjoying sweeping vistas of the blue sea far below. The drive was very pleasant — little traffic and fabulous views. Gino is learning to read Greek signposts.

We arrived at Epidaurus and had fun experimenting with its astounding acoustics. You can sit on one of the marble seats HIGH at the top and can still hear a teensy little noise down at the bottom in the middle of the “stage.” The theater isĀ ancient yet was a mathematical wonder in the way it arranged the seats with a perfect sight line and those incredible acoustics.

On we went to our home base, Naplion. We found it with Gino’s expert map-reading and miraculously parked two short streets away from our hotel. We checked in and moved the car where we are now parked directly in front. It’s a gorgeous place and on the very edge of the old town, which is where you want to be.

We’ve already walked all around the little streets meandering up and down the hill and down along the waterfront, had a late lunch at a taverna along the quay and are now at this internet cafe filled with young teenagers playing video games. It’s open 24 hours and has about 40 computers.

After the most stressful day we’ve had so far (trying to read Greek and still find our way) and suffering the wrath of the Metro fine, we have decided…YES, it’s still worth it!!!

We’re off now to wander the streets lit for the night. Off we go into the fresh sea air, gently warm without being humid, to tune our ear to any strains of the bouzouki.

Kalimaspera and Yassas!
M&G