Monday, June 30, 2008

Greece Trip Report, part IV.

My sister and her family (including my niece Guinn) leave in a week for their trip to Greece. I'm hurriedly trying to post the rest of my trip report before their departure!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

We had to have our bags outside our door by 6:00 a.m., so there was no sleeping in today, even though I would have found it helpful to my overall feeling of well-being. We ate a quick breakfast and then boarded buses for various tours of Athens. We chose a tour that returned us to the Acropolis and then allowed some shopping time in the Plaka.


We were so glad to have seen the Acropolis earlier in the week. When we were there on Wednesday, we didn't see another soul until we were atop the mountain, and then there were maybe a dozen others touring the site. Today I believe half of Greece decided to visit the Acropolis. It was so packed, it reminded me of Daytona Beach during Spring Break. The sense of awe and amazement that had filled us on our first visit was gone as we battled for elbow room.


Leaving the Acropolis we lost 30 minutes of shopping time waiting for one couple who was late returning to the bus, but we did have time to visit a shop selling Olympic souvenirs in the Plaka and were able to buy some things for the children.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the port of Pireaus,


then we boarded our ship!

Welcome aboard!

As we had sailed on this boat (the SS Deutschland of the Peter Deilmann cruise line) two years ago when it stopped in Barcelona, Nice and Portofino, we were familiar with its grandeur. We were pleased to find it as wonderful as we'd remembered.

We settled into our room, and then I set out to get my nails done and my hair fixed in the ship's salon while Robert checked out the boat's fitness center (you get an idea of our priorities here).

Life boat drill - all hands on deck!

We set sail about 4:00 p.m. and dined in the ship restaurant that night.


Next stop, Santorini!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Adventures with Guinn, part I.

My 11-year-old niece Guinn is visiting this week from Georgia.

Her flight was due in around 8 yesterday, but bad weather caused her plane to be diverted to Oklahoma City. What are the odds that would happen the first time someone flies alone?! Her mom and dad were following her flight on the internet, and I was getting what information I could at the airport, but we all still worried about how she was handling the situation on her own. In an extraordinary gesture, the Delta pilot came back to Guinn's seat after they landed in OKC and handed her his personal cell phone and instructed her to call her parents. The pilot also talked to Guinn's dad himself and reassured him that they would be back in the air and landing in Dallas in short order.

We were very excited to see Guinn when she finally arrived!


We were all hungry so we stopped at one of Guinn's mom's favorite places on our way home and enjoyed some cheddar fries. Yum.


Today after church I took the girls to the symphony to hear Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead.


We walked into the beautiful concert hall at the Meyerson, and Guinn commented, "Look! They have a band!"


The concert was quite fun and entertaining, with Lemony Snicket himself (Daniel Handler) narrating the story. The girls and I enjoyed it a lot.


Tonight we're going swimming and trying to decide which of my sister's favorite restaurants to patronize next.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My reader.

As long as I can remember I have loved to read. I always have one book going and a "to be read" stack next to my bed that rivals Mt. Everest.

One of my greatest pleasures as a mother has been reading to my children. I have exposed them to a wide variety of quality children's literature, we have a great selection of books in our collection at home, and Robert and I have modeled good reading habits, all things that as a reading teacher I was sure would result in children who loved to read.


To my dismay my son has never read anything that was not assigned to him. He did enjoy the Harry Potter series on audio, but that is the extent of his reading for pleasure.

Vivian only likes two books: Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree and Goodnight, Gorilla .

But perhaps the third time is the charm.

Today I came home and found Dots curled up in her robe and slippers in our recliner with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler which she plucked off our bookshelf and read in one sitting. This scene was my dream when I built this reading area on our landing upstairs!


Amazon Links:
Wireless Router

The Wide Window

The Penderwicks

The Willoughbys

Midnight's Children

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Field Trip.

My friends Priscilla and Mary and I took a "field trip" today to visit our friends Kelly and Michelle in Fort Worth.

We took a tour of Kelly's very cute house, and I wish I'd taken pictures of it! She has remodeled a fabulous 1940's house, and it exudes Kelly's charm and personality in every nook and corner. She also has a wonderful backyard with great views of Fort Worth.

Kelly took us to Dishes from the Past, a neat store with lots of old china and crystal. We had fun locating our bridal patterns and recalling those of other friends as well as showing each other patterns we had liked but had not chosen (most commonly because we had foolishly sought input from our prospective spouses!). We also went to a cute little boutique called Chiffonier's.

We ate lunch at a funky little taco shop near the TCU campus by the name of Fuzzy's. We shared some delicious queso and shrimp tacos.



Thanks for a fun day, girls!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Greece Trip Report, Part III.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Today George had a prior commitment so his son Dennis (Dionysus) picked us up for our trek to Delphi.


The drive to Delphi was beautiful. The ruins are about 2.5 hours northwest of Athens in a lovely mountainous area.

We stopped for a break at this little coffee shop.


On the way there we passed through a beautiful alpine town called Arachova.


It was St. George's Day, and there were great celebrations going on in the town. We passed several gatherings where groups of men were roasting 20 or so lambs on spits. There was loud music playing, and the Greek men and women were dancing in the street. It was quite a fun sight to behold.


Ancient Delphi was the site of a large temple to Apollo, who spoke to visitors through an oracle there. It was a popular place for Greeks to visit in its day, and the ruins are impressive.





Delphi has a large amphitheater, though it is not as well preserved as the one in Epidaurus.


There are ruins of an ancient stadium at the very top of the settlement, and it is huge - I would guess 200 yards long with several rows of seats running along one side.

Delphi has a beautiful museum, but all but one room was closed for construction in preparation for Olympic visitors. We enjoyed our visit here very much, with Robert providing apt commentary from a guidebook he'd brought along.

After eating lunch in town, we headed back toward Athens, stopped at the monastery of Holy Luke. This was a lovely site and completely intact, but dating only to the 12 c. A.D., it seemed disappointingly "new!"

The view from our table at lunch. I seem to recall that across the body of water far below is the Peloponnese and Corinth.





We had mentioned to George that we would like to visit the town of Marathon since Robert is a marathon runner. George alluded that the road there was under construction, but that his son would take us. Well, not only was the road under construction; the whole dadgum town was! It took us quite a while to find a paved way into Marathon and even longer to locate its monument.

Marathon is situated along the sea, and the Greeks were invaded there by the Persians once. There were some 25,000 Persians to 10,000 Greeks, but somehow the Greeks held them off, losing only 152 men to Persia's 9,000 casualties. A young soldier dressed in full armor was sent to Athens to convey news of the Greek victory. He ran the whole 26.2 miles, delivered his message and then promptly died on the spot. Why this incites people to emulate his journey is a mystery to me, but it is a good story.


There is a mound in Marathon where they buried the ashes of the Greek soldiers, and it is marked with a copy of the marathoner's spear. Once we found this monument, we discovered that it and the adjacent area were completely under construction, but having searched for it for quite some time, we were determined to get a picture of Robert in front of it. So we climbed over huge piles of dirt, scooted under barbed wire fences and risked probable deportation, but we got that picture!



We returned to Athens "the long way" because the main road was, you guessed it, under construction, but we did get to see Lake Marathon, which was quite pretty.



Upon returning to our hotel, we met up with other people from Robert's company, who were just arriving in Athens. Most were bleary-eyed with jet lag, and we were glad to have a few days under our belt already.
We ate a nice buffet dinner at the hotel, then retired to the Galaxy bar on top of the hotel with some friends. The view from the bar was spectacular, and it got us quite excited about embarking on our cruise the next day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twenty-one years.


On Friday Robert and I celebrated our 21st anniversary. Wow, where does the time go?

I look at that picture now and think how shockingly blessed and wise that young and naive girl was to have married such a wonderful man. At that time she knew only that he was the nicest person she'd ever met and that she loved to spend time with him. She had NO idea that twenty-one years later he would still be the kindest, truest person she'd ever known, that he'd be a wonderful provider and the best father ever to their three children. It never occurred to her that the two of them might one day face challenges and that he would be her rock in the task of raising a child with special needs. She never paused to ponder that she had better be marrying someone heroically patient and disciplined because she could be quite moody and prone to indulging her own whims.

The girl didn't think consider any of this because her world had hitherto been pretty controlled and happy, and she had never thought very far past her sheltered little self. But fortunately, the girl's mother and God knew all of these things and more, and they made sure that she chose wisely.

And this girl is very grateful.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Greece Trip Report, Part II.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

George picked us up at 8:00, and we set out for an abbreviated tour of the Peloponnese.

The Peloponnese is a very large peninsula near Athens that is home to the ancient cities of Corinth and Sparta among many others. We were able to hit only a few highlights and would love to return someday to see more.

To set the tone for this adventure, let me say that George speaks very good English, having lived in NYC for 15 years, but he has a very heavy accent (Greek mixed with Yankee perhaps?). He could never get my name down right. He started off asking me about ten times to repeat it, and after several failed attempts at the pronunciation, he settled on calling me "Illinoise." I've answered to Weasel, Weasie and Weezer most of my life; now I also have a Greek nickname.

Back to the Peloponnese... on the way there we passed a sign pointing to Ancient Eleusis. I insisted to George that we turn around and visit it, even though he assured me it was a very minor Greek site. I didn't even attempt to explain to George about American sororities, but suffice it to say that no good Chi Omega would pass up the chance to visit Eleusis.


We actually found Eleusis an interesting place. There are quite a few ruins of an ancient temple, and there is a large cave where Pluto was said to have carried Persephone off to the Underworld.



Robert was a quite a good sport to listen to what I remembered of the tale of Persephone and Demeter and to indulge me while I talked of the Eleusinian Mysteries (he was to get me back later by dragging me on a wild goose chase in search of the town of Marathon).



Having completed my pilgrimage, we continued on to the Peloponnese.


The cape around the Peloponnese was treacherous for boats in ancient times, so they often dragged ships across the Corinthian isthmus to journey from the Aegean Sea to the Ionian. At some point a very deep (150 ft?) canal was dug, mostly by slaves, to connect the two seas and allow easier passage. We stopped there and watched a boat travel through - quite fascinating.


Next we stopped at the Temple of Apollo gift shop where, in my heightened fraternal spirit, I bought several owl souvenirs in addition to a pretty vase that is a reproduction of some Greek relic in a museum somewhere. The girl who painted the vase is the third generation of her family to be in this business, and it was fascinating to watch her work. Robert is sure that George made a big commission off of my purchases, but none the less, I was pleased that we stopped there.


Leaving the shop, we went to Ancient Corinth.

This was an impressive site. There are about seven Ionic columns remaining from a Temple of Apollo which stood there around 500 B.C., and the ruins of the ancient town are quite interesting. We even saw the rock where St. Paul preached to the Corinthians on his visit there.



We traveled on to Mycenae, stopping for lunch at a pretty little Greek restaurant (where they proudly display a picture of Dan Quayle eating there - I bet that impresses a lot of tourists!).


Yogurt and honey for dessert - yum!

I loved Mycenae. Its ruins were discovered by a German man who was intent on proving that Homer's tale of the Trojan War was grounded in fact. Mycenae was the home of King Agamemnon who led the Greek army when it set off to retrieve his brother's wife Helen from Troy.

Leading into the town is a beautiful gateway with large lions above it. It was so neat to walk under it and think of Agamemmnon and his queen Clytemnestra passing the same way thousands of years before.



The tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra have also been discovered there, and they are these very cool, very large underground "beehives." There were a lot of treasures found there as well, but these now reside in a museum in Athens.


We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the ruins of Mycenae before departing for Epidaurus.



On the way to Epidaurus we passed through the seaside town of Nafplio, which was quite lovely. It would be a nice place to stay if we ever return to explore more of this area.



Epidaurus is a wonderfully intact amphitheater where the Greeks performed their drama.


The acoustics are nearly perfect. We climbed all the way to the top row and could easily understand other tourists standing in the center of the stage and speaking in quiet voices.



The countryside around Epidaurus is quite lovely, and the view from the amphitheater is a nice one.


We returned, exhausted, to our hotel about 7:00. I tried to sleep in the car, but if George caught me, he'd scold, "Illinoise, you're not listening to what I'm telling you about my wonderful country!"

We ate an unmemorable meal in a smoky Italian restaurant with decor reminiscent of The Olive Garden, but it was close to our hotel and I was too tired to venture out much further.