Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 3: The Acropolis

 
The Acropolis was only a block away from our hotel. Friday was the day that we set out on the trek to climb the famous structure … the ancient site where it all began.

I sound pretty sure of myself huh? Well trust me, when the time came for us to get up and get ready, all I wanted to do was stay in bed. Heck with the ancient ruins. My muscles still screamed at me from the day before.

But somehow I managed to drag my butt out of bed and limp downstairs to join the others in today’s adventure. Our guide was named Debbie. Easy name to remember … even though it wasn’t her real name. She told us her real name was too hard to pronounce so apparently she used a stage name.

The other Debbie was still getting ready. She’s typically the last one ready. Everyone expects it and therefore no one is really concerned that she is taking longer than everyone else. Ever notice how people who are always late are given a pass. The comments you might hear are …”Well, I guess she’s running late again. We’ll give her a few more minutes”. If you are the type that is always on time however …. Everyone is concerned and will give you endless amounts of grief for holding them up. I belong to the Debbie group unfortunately although not to the extreme that Debbie presents.
Okay … enough of the mindless backstory.

We drove our van to the base of the Acropolis and started our ascension to the top. As I walked, I could feel my calves, knees, hips and back scream out in pain. I noticed Tom was hobbling as well (his knees are shot too but he continued on) so I tried to remain stoic trailing the others. I think they only knew something was wrong when I said quietly, “What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you feel any pain? I want to die right here!” Debbie quietly replied, “Joel … now we are still in the parking lot. Can you make it to the path?” I was brave, “I will try.”

There were literally hundreds that filled the narrow cobblestone paths that led to the structures. The cruise ships flood the ruins and make it a challenge to navigate around.

But in all seriously … it was awesome!

The size of the structure (what remains) is truly magnificent and the story of how this was built stone by stone, mathematically measured for stress and scope and how it was maintained so many years ago was incredible.

Below are the pictures that tell the story of places we stopped …

The Erechtheion was built as a religious temple. It is built on multiple levels to match the contour of the mountain. The porch has a roof supported by Caryatids (six chicks with thick necks) The originals are in the Acropolis Museum. One is missing ...  because the original was taken (stolen ... according to the Greeks) to the British Museum along with many of the other artifacts during a time that no one was really minding the store.

There are a series of underground floors and hidden rooms that no one quite understands but truly an architectural marvel.

All that is left of The Temple of Zeus are only a few columns in the center of Athens. The rest was destroyed or probably in the British Museum.

There are a couple of Temples of Zeus located in other cities. Apparently, Zeus who was the king of all the gods and the father of Athena, had numerous affairs and perhaps that's why he's got a temple in every port.


The Parthenon is the largest of the buildings and the temple that was first built to honor Athena and housed a large statue of the goddess.

The columns are built with a slight slant inward ... we were told that it was so that if they were extended, they would converge 3.2 miles in the sky. Not sure if the significance was "Pi ... 3.14" or if they just screwed up ... or if there truly were aliens that built the whole thing.

   
The Acropolis Museum was next door. We finally were able to see what the whole complex originally looked like before it was rubble. I wish we would have stopped here first. The guide also said that most of the buildings were constructed by Jewish slaves.

I had trouble understanding that historical fact . (Not that Jews were slaves ... but how Jews figured out how to use tools.)

It is certainly not a genetic trait.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 2: SANTORINI


Bright and early on Day 2 we hopped into Mike's cab and drove to the Athens Airport. We decided to visit the island of Santorini. It wasn't a port on our cruise and we had a couple of days in Athens until the ship sailed on Saturday.

Aegean Air whisked us off to the little quaint island the girls read about. Whisked is probably not an accurate verb to describe the travel experience. It was more like a cattle call followed by a short shuttle bus trip to the plane. But it was a pleasant flight and very comfortable.

Santorini is the home of a few towns but by far the most visited are Oia  (pronounced EEYA) and Fira (FEERA).

We started at Oia. Known for beautiful sunsets and picturesque architecture, we took a cab to the town square and wandered the winding path through the shops. It actually took about 13 minutes for Debbie and Dennie to spot the most expensive jewelry store on the island. The owner had pictures of Angelina Jolie, Ryan Reynolds and Susan Sarandon posing with him, all buying shiny things.

Tom and I broke into cold sweats.

Constantine became our new best friend (after both girls bought jewelry). He toasted us with Ouzo and told us about the best places to visit on the island. Ammoudi Bay was at the foot of the "120 steps" to the water. It had "the best restaurants and was a beautiful spot to dine". Constantine offered to drive us down and pick us up. Dennie said "We will walk it."

On the walk down ... we all could have killed her on the spot.

The steps were made of cobblestones and wood ... only crazy people and donkeys took the path up.

It was a 20 minute walk which seemed more like 2 days.

We stepped over the bodies of exhausted tourists ... bloated in the sun. The bones of others were strewn across the steps ... donkey feces were everywhere.

Who said 120 steps? Hah! 1200 was more like it. Our knees and backs ached. This better be an incredible spot to see!

When we reached the bottom ... I saw the restaurant ahead.

I immediately headed to the nearest thing I could find to complain about the donkey feces. Turned out to be an octopus that had no intention of telling his manager so I just decided to join the others at our table.

By the way ... It was a beautiful spot but the food was just average (I might be biased based on the fact that I couldn't really taste anything for a few hours).

Constantine picked us up at the nearby parking lot to travel up the hill (mountain) to get the finished jewelry and then had a driver take us to nearby Fira.

Oh ,,, I almost forgot. One of the places that we peeked into was a shop named Smiling Fish. Get this ... you put your feet into water tanks and let tiny fish (billed as toothless ... hah!) suck on your feet and ankles to get rid of dead skin. Apparently, when your economy is as bad as it's been in Greece ... you will do anything to make money and, by the looks of it, you will always find someone dumb enough to buy it.

Anyway ... off to Fira.

There really wasn't anything much to see in Fira that we hadn't seen in Oia. Tom wound up buying his own version of jewelry that I really can't talk about or put pictures of. If you know Tom, you will understand why.

And Debbie won the award for most outrageous comments of the trip so far. She bought a postcard for Larry, her dad. And as she finished writing, she turned to us and said, "Do I put the stamp on the back or the front?'

"Really?" we all said in unison.

"Well ... I don't remember. And there's no room on the back."

"Wait a minute," her sister Dennie (of all people) said. "Debbie, you didn't put the address on it."

"I know ... there wasn't room for that either and don't these cards usually have lines for that?" 

Bet you can't wait to read Day 3!




  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 1: ATHENS

We arrived in Athens on Wednesday morning. (I think). This seven hour time difference thing had me confused.

Two drivers met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel. Mike drove Debbie and me. Nice guy who we will have driving us over the next few days with his partner (wait for it ... NICK. You knew there had to be a Nick. Dennie and Tom drove with Nick who handled two cell phones, a newspaper and a radio while making his way through the streets.

Mike was much more laid back. He told us he worked a few days during the season and then ... oh well ... kinda just laid back.

We arrived at the Hotel Herodian, checked in and found out that our rooms were not ready. So ... We sat in the bar area adjacent to a cool atrium bar with a tree in the middle of it. Great waitress who fixed us a couple of cappuccinos  to die for and then went for a walk.

I think we did. I was a little fuzzy ... Just wanted to take a nap.
But I do remember taking pictures of tee shirts with Greek insults printed on them and then I shot a still of a couple of priests. Strangely, I felt less guilty about being on a trip during Yom Kippur instead of atoning for my sins (I yelled, "forgive me fathers" and they waved). 
 
We circled back and landed in the hotel bar for drinks and dinner on the rooftop bar and restaurant.

I had a drink that was named after a famous Greek whiskey named Jack Daniels (found out in our travels and conversations with Greeks of all ages that everything apparently started in Greece).

My drink was made with Jack and Windex.

Bedtime. Day Two is our trip to Santorini. VERY interesting day ... stay tuned.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's All Greek To Me

Tomorrow we fly to Greece.

It's the first two week vacation that Deb and I have ever taken ... EVER. Before this, a week seemed like an eternity. And now ... we have graduated.  We entered a whole new world of travel and time away from work.

But first things first: Packing

Packing for 14 days apparently takes more time and effort than packing for the weekend.
Debbie tried on about 30 "outfits" for about three hours. Of that group, 20 will make the trip. An outfit includes clothing, shoes and a variety of accessories.

I have been doing this all wrong. My routine takes exactly 14 minutes. Whether I pack for a weekend or three years, I will take the same stuff: A pair of jeans, shorts, a few knit shirts and sneakers. If it's cold I'll take a sweatshirt and a coat.  

Tonight our conversation went like this:

Deb: "You are NOT taking those same shorts, are you?"

Me: "Yes I am."

"I bought you a dozen new shorts, Why aren't you taking them?"

"Because I don't like those and I need only one pair."

"We are going to be gone for two weeks."

"And your point is ..."

"You can't wear the same shorts for two weeks. And these jeans. You need last least three or four. You can't wear the same ones the whole time."

"Okay."

"Okay, you agree?"

"Okay, I want this conversation to end."

Man ... it is quiet in the house.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Homeless Bound!

Last night, we were driving to an event when a homeless man almost stepped into our lane of traffic.

"Man ... " I said. " It is so dangerous when these guys are so close to the street."

"Did you notice how many more of them there are lately?" Debbie said.

"I know ... over the years .."

"No," Deb interrupted, "I meant the last few months. They are back in Florida."

"Back? Where have they been?"

"I was reading that they head back to Florida when it gets colder up north."

"They travel home? You mean they have time shares in North Carolina? Or they lease out their Manhattan apartments?"

"Very funny. Well I'll have you know that I just read that the city is opening up seasonal homeless shelters."

"Honey ... its not like condos. I'm sure these are places that provide shelter and warmth during the cold season."

"You proved my point. That's just what I was saying: Built for the seasonal travelers.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Last week I started watching old episodes of Cheers on Netflix. I'm on the fourth of eleven seasons of the sitcom that started in 1982.  Cheers was the name of a popular Boston bar where patrons met, drank, socialized and ... as the song goes ... where "Everybody Knows Your Name".

What a timeless series. If you never saw it or weren't alive when it aired, get Netflix and tune in.

Sam Malone (Ted Danson) was the bar owner. He was a former relief pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, who loved women and all the women loved him. He drank himself out of baseball, cleaned up his act and ironically bought a bar. Sam reminds me of my buddy Joe Sambito ... also a former reliever with Boston and Houston. He even looks like Sam and the ladies loved him too. (note: Joe didn't drink himself out of baseball ... Tommy John surgery did). Joe and I went through divorces together and hung out at a few Cheers bars ourselves. He was the guy who attracted all the good looking women and I was his wing man. That meant I usually gave their roommates a ride home.

But I digress ...

Sam's love interest was Diane Chambers (Shelley Long). In the pilot she was left at the bar by her boyfriend, a stuffy professor who went back to his wife. Diane became a cocktail waitress and had an on and off again fiery love relationship with Sam, her exact opposite. She was apparently not enamored with the real Ted Danson and left the show after Season 5. She was hard to work with and a little stuck up ... a lot like the character she played.

Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) was the first bartender. He was Sam's former coach and was beaned a number of times when he was in baseball. Despite the fact that he didn't quite understand everything that people said, he seemed to solve their problems. He was written out of the series as dying of a heart attack in year four. He actually did die of a heart attack that year. Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) took over for Coach in Season five. He was the young naive kid from Indiana who was a younger version of Coach.

Norm Peterson (George Wendt) was the in and out of work accountant who spent all day at the bar drinking beer. When he came in, everyone yelled "NORM" followed by a comeback line to greetings like: "Hi Norm ... What's going down?" Norm: "The beer you're going to serve me." Norm was married to Vera, the butt of all his jokes who was never seen (except the episode where she accidentally got a pie thrown in her face by Diane, still not showing her face).

Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) was the mailman who always showed up in his too-tight uniform and white socks. He was forever the expert in every field, commenting on everything and of course making no sense at all. He liveed with his mother.

Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) played the psychiatrist that became the premise for his spinoff show. He was the other love interest for Diane who left him at the altar. He ultimately wound up with Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) fellow psychiatrist and strait laced cynic.

Rhea Perlman stole the show often as Carla Tortelli, wisecracking, cynical waitress who treated the customers badly and was often pregnant.

Kristie Alley (Rebecca Howe) started in season 5 when Diane left as the new manager of the bar that Sam had sold to a corporation. Sam was depressed that Diane left, so he bought a boat, he sold the bar and ultimately begged for a job at the bar when his boat sank. Sam tried to woo her but Rebecca became more neurotic in each season, dated rich guys and Sam lost interest eventually. When he bought the bar back, Rebecca was the one to beg for a job later.

Anyhow ... watch it when you get a chance. It's still one of the best comedies ever written. I gotta go. Carla just married hockey player Eddie LeBec when he found out she was pregnant with twins but he lost his job and ... oh I don't want to spoil it for you.