Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Let the journey begin!

ATTENTION! I had to do FOUR posts to include our entire adventure!!! SORRY ABOUT THAT!!! We took almost 500 pictures and it was SO hard to narrow it down to just a few!!

Our journey began with these words (spoken by Joey)..."I have a feeling that somethings going to go seriously wrong on this trip." How prophetic he was!! We all said "Stop it! Think positive!" We started so excited and ready to have the greatest trip EVER! Very quickly, we ran into problem after problem! Thanks, hon, for jinxing us!!! Joey and Justin had matching "Medium Pimpin" outfits on. He explained what that means but I still don't fully get it. It's a High School thing I guess. The problems began during our first layover in New York City. We were sitting at the gate and Joey said..." Man. my back itches." Then pretty soon, within minutes, his entire body was covered in this bright red rash with big welts. All over his body. His voice started to change and I could hear that his throat was closing up. Luckily, I had some anti-histimine in my bag which I gave to him. This rash lasted for THREE days! This had NEVER happened to him before! It was strange indeed!
There was somekind of crazy person running down the runway in JFK so our layover of a few hours turned into EIGHT hours of sitting at the gate.....waiting and waiting (and in Joeys case, itching!) Luckily, as long as I have a good book to read I can sit for hours perfectly content!
We finally made it to our SECOND layover in London. They have book vending machines there! How great is that??
When we finally arrived in Athens (30 hours after we left home) we soon found out that NONE of our luggage made the trip. All 46 people in our group were without luggage!! Man, all we wanted to do was shower and brush our teeth...but we couldn't. It stunk. Seriously. The next day, some of the luggage came (mine and Joey's included) but most of the people were still missing bags. It trickled in the next couple days but about 20 people had NO LUGGAGE until the very last day of the trip. And when it did arrive, the clothes inside were soaking wet and mildewy!! It was a rough trip for those with out their stuff. No doubt about it! Other things that went wrong included several illnesses (stomach problems, earaches, fevers, motion sickness, and one girl ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisioning!) While on the cruise liner, one of our students started a fire on his bed! Thank goodness he didn't burn the boat down! Geez! It was a rough trip...fraught with problems but in spite of it all we somehow managed to have so much FUN!!


Athens was not exactly what I expected. For one, it was REALLY dirty! Everything was kind of rundown and shabby looking. It didn't help that the garbage workers were on strike so the garbage was everywhere! All over the streets and piled up so high in the dumpsters! Yuck!

One of the things we were able to do is see the changing of the guards at the Parliment building. We all got a kick out of that! We wondered who came up with the idea to put grown men in a skirt with pom poms on their shoes and tassels on their calfs and have them march in such a ridiculous way?! I'm sure at the time it seemed like a good idea! Greek food....um. What to say. A polite way to put it would be that its "different". The truth is it's disgusting! Well- the boys liked it. They even ate the mystery meat logs that were a popular dish there. Tia and I stuck with the pita bread and french fries. It's the only thing that seemed safe for human consumption. Nobody got sick so it must be okay to eat. I take that back...one lady did get sick and she was pretty sure it was the food. It's just strange looking and smelling.
Standing underneath the Arch of Hadrian..... Yes..I do have to go to the bathroom in this picture! Very badly, in fact.
A visit to the Romain Agora. We got a whistle blown at us...apparently you're not supposed to stand on ancient ruins to have your picture taken! Who knew? Some of them are roped off and some are not. We made a wrong assumption that the ones that were not roped off were okay to step on. Not so.
The one thing in Athens that is absolutely amazing and totally worth the trip is the Acropolis. It's hard to imagine how old these structures are! I mean THOUSANDS of years old. They were here before Christ was even born! It was incredible. Below is a picture on the Acropolis ( which means the highest point of the city) of an ancient ampitheatre. Too cool!
This picture got mixed up somehow. It's supposed to be in the next post with the other pictures of the Acropolis. Oh well. Sorry. Trying to read a confusing map to find our way back to the hotel. Thats the Temple of Zeus behind me....

Athens and Delphi


Our visit to the Acropolis was definately the highlight of Athens! We had to climb up a ways to get to the top and it was quite slippery. I just kept remembering what happened to my mom last year on our trip to Spain, France and England. She hurt her knee and had a rough trip to say the least! I was so afraid I was gonna fall and hurt myself! I did slip a few times but managed to recover.

The Parthenon was being worked on so there was scaffolding all over it but is was still breathtaking!

The Temple of Posiedion....

This guy was a crack up! After we took our picture with him he wanted us to take a picture of JUST him. By himself. He was so funny!


Delphi has really well preserved ancient ruins. It's on the side of a mountain and you have to wonder how they built it so long ago (thousands of years ago) with out backhoes and electric stone cutters! It really was amazing! This ancient cone shaped rock is believed by some to be the center of the Earth. Joeys in none of the following pix because he had to stay behind to take people with no luggage shopping to get some clean clothes. It was a bummer, for sure! I know he was disappointed.
The view was killer, too!

This didn't show up in the picture too well but a lot of the stones have ancient writings on them. Of course, it's in Greek which is really cool looking!

This is in the museum in Delphi. We got busted for taking this picture! Turns out you can take pictures of the artifacts but you can't be IN the picture. NO POSING! Man! It's so hard to obey dumb rules!!
Time to board the cruise liner! We were SO excited to get out of Athens and start seeing some of the Greek Islands!

Keep going...there's more!


Our first port of call was on the beautiful island of Mykonos. We only had a few hours here, which was a bummer because it was such a cute little place and we only got to explore a bit of it. We saw the islands mascot which is a HUGE pelican. The picture of it didn't turn out...so sad. It was enormous!


The next morning we gratefully arrived in Turkey. This was after a very stormy night at sea! We watched the huge waves out our cabin window before going to bed and it made me a little nervous ,I have to say!

So we got to Kusadasi and there was not really any ruins or sites that we could go see. Really the only thing we could do there was shop! Which was an experience! Joey and Justin went back to the boat after a little while so Tia and I were on our own. We wandered up and down the little alleys that are full of little shops and there were clusters of Turkish men just standing around staring at us. We kept wondering "Where's all the women?" It was only men in the shops. They were very friendly but downright pushy. If you even glanced at any of their merchandise they would pounce! "Oh! You like magnet? I have more magnet! Come in shop! Come in! I show you!" And then you feel like you have to look at all the magnets in the shop and then you feel bad if you walk out with out buying one. Eventually, we figured out that you just can't make eye contact. You just have to be a little rude because they are so PUSHY! After a little while, I started to feel uneasy. I wondered if we were safe. Here we are in Turkey, in the back alleys of Turkey, surrounded by groups of men that are not hiding the fact that they are staring us up and down. There were very few other tourist around. Finally, I told my sister that we needed to get back to the boat. I just felt weird. Our tour guide assured us that it is very safe but I've learned that when the Spirit tells me that something is not right, I should listen.

Turkey had some neat stuff for sale, but not much else to do. On to the next island!!


Joey and I were really looking forward to seeing Patmos. This is where John the Revelator spent two years in exile. We were able to go to the Holy Cave where he had his vision and the Book of Revelations was written. Below is the picture of the ledge that it was written on (it's kind of hard to see) and the crack in the wall that appeared when he heard Gods voice. After this picture was taken we found out "NO PICTURES ALLOWED!" It's not fun to get yelled at by a monk!

The view from the monestary! I have to say, if you have to be exiled...this is the place to do it! Beautiful!
Back to the boat after sightseeing!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Almost done!!!


The excursions that the cruise ship sells for the different islands are super expensive...like 50-58 euro each person (about $80-$90). Basically, you pay this just for a bus ride to the different sites and a tour guide to tell you a little about what you are seeing. In Rhodes, we decided to explore the island on our own and save a little money. When we disembarked, we met this cute little taxi driver named Nicholas. He offered to take us all over Rodos and also drive us out to Lindos(about an hour drive) to see the monestary there. He would do this for only 80 euros for all four of us!! We scored big time with him!! He showed us all around and even would stop and let us take pictures. We saw the bus with all the poor suckers that payed a fortune to do the SAME thing we were doing. Actually, we were able to do more because we could take the smaller streets that the bus couldn't. Behind us you can see where the Collossus USED to stand before it fell down. What a cool thing that would have been to see!! We saw pictures of it..it was HUGE!!On the top of this mountain you can see the monestary that we climbed up to. It made me nervous...NO handrails! But the view was incredible!! You can see the cute town of Lindos below the monestary.
Pictures don't really do justice to the color of the water in the Aegean Sea. It's the brightest blue color you can imagine. And so clear! You can see right to the bottom. I would LOVE to snorkel here!

At the monestary in Lindos...After we got back from Lindos, we explored old town Rodos. What a COOL place! By far my favorite island I think! It was just so quaint and full of history. We walked up to the palace but couldn't get in.

Behind us is the Street of Knights... pictures just don't capture how amazing this place is!!

Joey and Justin did some shopping in Rhodes. They got some matching GREEK outfits...including shoes. They wore them to dinner that night...and got some strange looks! Oh well- they looked comfortable! I wish I would have bought some!!
Kings of the World!!! They look just a little too happy for my comfort!CRETE AND SANTORINI:

We arrived in CRETE and decided to try to do the same thing we did in Rhodes. Instead of buying the excursion we caught a taxi and saved about $70 each. We were in the capital of Crete which is Heraklion. If I could describe Heraklion City in one word it would be SMELLY!! Oh geez! The smell! They were having a garbage worker strike, same as Athens. The garbage was piled up everywhere and rotting...man oh man! It was dirty and run down looking. We did see this cool Greek Orthodox church though. Inside was gorgeous!

Our taxi driver took us out to the Palace of Knossos where we met up with our group that paid for the excursion. Below is a pix of Lucia, our tour guide. I think they were surprised to see us there and were even more surprised to hear how much we paid to get there!

There were peacocks EVERYWHERE! Who knew that peacocks could fly!??! Joey and Justin aren't in any of the pix because they decided to stay on board the cruise ship and play basketball. I'm glad we saw Crete but honestly, not my favorite! I'm sure there are other parts of the island that are wonderful but what we saw reminded me of the slums of a big city.
After Crete we sailed on over to the island of Santorini. This is a volcanic island and absolutely GORGEOUS!! It doesn't show up in the pix but the cliffs have all these different colors of layers of rock from different eruptions.

The city is on the very top of the mountain. You can get there three ways- you can walk up, you can take a cable car up, or you can ride a donkey up. Well, hello! How fun would it be to ride a donkey up??? Of course thats what we would do! Um....bad decision!! I have never had a more terrifying experience in my LIFE!!! Below is a pix of my donkey...bless his heart! I think I almost killed the poor thing! He kept having to stop and rest. He was breathing SO hard! He kept stumbling and almost falling down! I felt so bad! I mean, lets face it, I'm no anorexic! I've got some meat on my bones-no doubt! Poor donkey!The path up the mountain was SO steep and winding and there was just a little wall between you and a STEEP drop off the cliff. This wall had giant donkey size peices missing from it and my donkey insisted on walking RIGHT next to the edge!!!! Every time he stumbled, my heart literally STOPPED and I thought I was going to be thrown off the side of the cliff! To make matters worse, some of the girls in our group would SCREAM because they were scared and the donkeys would FREAK OUT! A little Greek man was yelling "CALMA! CALMA!" trying to get the girls to stop screaming! It took forever to get to the top of the mountain. I thought it would never end! Especially since my poor mule had to take so many rests! I have never been so happy to be alive as I was when I finally made it to the top of that mountain!

Joey was the smart one among us and decided to WALK up the cliff. I thought he was going to have a heart attack when he finally made it. He was panting and grabbing his heart like he was going to die!! It scared me! He is in really good shape from all his working out the last few months but he was dying! I don't have a really good picture that shows just how high and STEEP this path was!!

After Joey recovered we were able to enjoy the incredible view from the top!! Afterwards, we enjoyed a nice SAFE ride down the mountain in the cable cars. Tia and Justin walked down. It was quite humerous to see how their legs were SHAKING when they finally got down.


Our cruise was over and it was time to go back to Athens. On our last day in Greece it was cold and rainy. We traveled by bus about an hour to go and visit Cape Sounio. There are some awesome ancient ruins of the Temple of Posiedon that we were able to visit. It's at the top of a mountain with another incredible view!

This was our last day in Greece. We had seen so much and done so many things this trip. I was missing my kiddos by this point and just totally ready to go home. About half the group was sick coughing and with fevers and earaches. Thank goodness Joey and I and Tia and Justin were all still healthy. I think everyone was done and ready to go. But it was an adventure for sure!!! You can see more pictures of our trip on Tia and Justins blog.... All I can say is that it is SO good to be back home where I can get a 44oz Diet Coke WITH ICE and where most people use deoderant as part of their daily hygenic routine and smoking in public places is NOT ALLOWED and I can use towels that have been washed with FABRIC SOFTENER!!! As much fun as it is to travel...I LOVE MY HOME!!!