Tuesday, October 30, 2007

9th October, 2007

Day Two in Greekland. Why isn't it called that? It was lights out at about 8.30 pm with much anticipation of a 6 am start. Hah! I got up at 8.00 am. Todayu= is the day for the Acropolis, or high (Acro) City (Polis). That hill top and if we persevere all that was Ancient Athens around it. First the relics today and then the museum in the following days. My turn for the shower. Katester has emerged.

Yes, emerged refreshed. Thank you Jackson for deciding to bring the Brisk Brew and coffee. We used it. Sunscreen and pedometer(on) equipped we are ready for breakfast on the roof. It is open air with canvas awning, and a spectacular view of the Acropolis. It is warming up quite quickly.

Breakfast was good - fresh fruit and excellent yoghurt, plus a greek salad offering of cucumber, tomato and feta, ham. Plus poached eggs and bacon. Boiled eggs were also available in the shell. Two of those will form snacks for late on. Fresh orange juice. It is a really lovely dining area and I can hardly believe we are here. The sky is bright blue, there is greenery all around. We are at tree height. We see pink and yellow buildings with half moon tiles, greet shutters. Sum total of 486 steps. There will be more.

Back in our room getting ready to sally forth and I found that I had packed a bogong moth! I think it is doomed here. Poor thing.

Later - at 2.45

Indeed the step count rose. We are now at 16,741, or 12.5 kms. Much of it was uphill, and just as much downhill! We set our sights on the Acropolis and off we went, through the Ancient Agora.... no, that was later - or was it? The Acropolis was in construction mode, and crawling with people. Nonetheless it was a thrill to be there, and every bit as magnificent as I had anticipated. MWJ says we did the Acropolis first - get the steep steps done first. Marble all around. It must be terribly slippery when wet and no handrails! The museums old and new were not open, in the throes of moving from one to the other, alas. After the Acropolis we did the AGora, including a rather lovely museum. The Stoa of Attalos. Then walked through up to the "Big Road" (private joke of ours when lost while travelling) Apostolou Paulo) and on up and up to the Pnyx (pronounced -p-nicka). What a contrast - quiet, peaceful, and only a couple of other people, and a few stray dogs. Wonderful views of the Acropolis from there. Onwards in search of the Prison of Socrates. Up and down, roundabout, getting hotter and crosser, much fruitless map consultation. Useless signs with what purported to be information. We retraced our steps and just as we gave up hope and were setting out to go home, there is was! Phew! Back around the Acropolis, skirting the Agora, back to the hotel and air conditioning.

A big day for relics. First the Acropolis - the High City - a lot of steps and a lot of people. A great many photographers trying to pose pictures amid the throng. I am sure I am in a good number of those pictures. Many seemed fascinated by the vista - houses and more houses. I concentrated on the scale and size of the buildings. It was good that I had seen the replica in Nashville to simulate something of what it must have been like - a kind of Disneyland of its day. By that I mean a sense of overall order amonth th buildings, some designed to relate to others, each more elaborate, painted, gilded and carved and textured. The Parthenon dedicated to the city's patron - Athena - the most spectacular of all. The whole thing built on a nearly inaccessible hilltop. "We choose to do this because it is hard, not because it is easy" JFK said of the Apollo Program to land on the moon. So Pericles might have said of the Acropolis. In both cases the result was a demonstration to enemy and friend alike of what we can do, if we choose to do so. Even more impressive in the Athenian case to know the hill top was scorched by the Persians before Salamis. Pericles devoted most of his 18 year political career to the Acropolis, and much of the building was done in 8 years, spending the taxes of the restive allies in the Delian league (a NATO alliance against the eastern tyranny of Persia.)

Then down from the Acropolis and a restorative ice coffee and cheesecake, before the Agora, starting with the Stoa of Attalos. The Agora was the market of its time. Here Socrates mixed and mingled, iand irritated one and all. I saw a Spartan sheild from Pylos in the Agora Museum. Neither here nor in the Oberlander Museum in the Keremeikos have I seen much sign of the characters from the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The Acropolis shop was a closet. The Agora had no shop.

Then it was time for another hill - the Pnyx. Off we went, up we went. Had it all pretty much to ourselves. Found the bema where Pericles, Diodotas and others argued their cases with the sacred Acropolis overlooking the proceedings from the right of the speaker and the left of the auditors. There followed the search for the prison cell of Socrates. The Borch Map which has our hotel in the wrong place and on the wrong side of the street led us on a pursuit of an untamed ornithod, as Mr. Data once said. We couldn't find it and decided to cut our losses and head back to base, and then a sign said "Socrates' Prison" and there it was.

Nota bene that our misadventure using the Borch map however took us by the tomb of Kimon and Thucidydes. The attribution of this tomb, like Socrates' prison, is inference from location.

Back to the slammer! Three rooms, one that was double behind locked iron gates. There must have been a stoa (porch roof) to give shade.

Then on back to the hotel. Kate took the key and went to the air conditioned room. I went to get the International Herald Tribune (IHT) and while doing so spottened Athena with an ol for later. Got the IHS and three drinks and trekked back to the hotel to the .....AIR CON! Whew! I think that's it for relics and steps! Although.....

We did venture forth once more. We saw the Athena statue with owl. I saw a fabulous blue cameo necklace. We went up and down a bit, then settled at the Ydria restaurant. Bread and olives and cheesy stuff to begin, then moussaka for us both. It was very pleasant sitting outside under the trees. No mosquitoes I saw or felt. Glimpses of the lighted Acropolis but no temptation to retrace any of our steps. Speaking of steps we reached 18,178, or 13.63 kms. More or less than yesterday? We'll never know.

Made contact with the repository people and will see them later this week. Definite day to be confirmed tomorrow morning. The alarm phone has been set for 7.30 so time for a shower, etc, the work call at 8.15, breakfast, then we'll hit the museums.

Monday, October 29, 2007

8th October 2007

Landing was fine. As we walked through the cavernous airport we could see the great orange orb of the sun just coming over the horizon. Beautiful. The customs line ws not too long and very quick. My passport was stamped but I cannot find the stamp. Invisible ink? Stamps in one's passport are important mementoes! A traveller's badge. There was no paperwork completed at any stage. Luggage appeared without delay, and as we exited we saw our driver (organised online at georgetaxitours@yahoo.com) waiting with a name card. He introduced himself as Tony, and ushered us to our taxi. It smells dusty! (not the cab, the air.) We passed mountains and olive trees, some suburbs. Tony explained that most Athenians live in the city, in apartments.

I can't find the stamp in my passport either. Saving on ink, as in Mexico. We hit the hotel at 8.30 am so no room available. The Plan went into effect. We boldly went in search of the site of Plato's academy. Not a major tourist site. We walked to Platoneous Street. A couple of the street maps referenced the Academy and sure enough we found the signs.

We took pictures of it which Kate shall add later. Then Kate patted a dog, and the man who had seen us snapping the Plato sign said there was more in a park ten minutes away so off we went and found another sign.
1. The driver, Tony, was indeed at the exit. Fine. He declined to be paid, preferring to do it all in one hit. OK! 2. The ferry tickets are at the desk and we must remember to check them. 3. Not sure yet about extending our stay. I asked, but not yet done. Kate gmailed the housesitter from the room, using her mobile phone.

We are now in Room 207 at the Hotel Adrian. We both needed to wash the dust off. Today was pedometer-less but I reckon we did 20,000 steps minimum. It was a very long walk indeed, a good three hours of solid walking. It is very dense with shops below and apartments above with canvas awnings and potted trees on most balconies.

Much more to be said about our walk. On the way we saw a small kiosk with film. Yes, one roll of slide film. I feel a little more secure now so took lots of pics, both cameras. I finished one roll while in Plato's Gymnasium.

I was delighted to have found that place. Tony the Taxi Driver was right, there aren't many green spaces in Athens, but this was one of them. It was calm, quiet, green and lovely. There were some ruins which matched a picture Michael had (from a website) and lovely walks. It pays to stop and pat little dogs! We would otherwise never have known.

We got a little lost on our return to the hotel but it wasn't hard to find our way with a bit of map-consulting. Must return to Kalimada Street, off Athina - crochet cotton and crafty things. I am taken with the number of hardware stores. Also small workshops, like the one I snapped of chairs and spools of seat-weaving string.

I am truly amazed that my mobile phone does gmail! It asked, as usual, whether it could access the network, and ages later it suddenly connected! I sent a message to Lisa the Housesitter so she knows all is well.

Michael is plotting our next outing. I am planning to break out my sketchbook and do part of the view outside our room. The room itself looks onto a wall of pale yellow with red curved tiles, but as you go out onto the balcony you can see more of the building next door, and trees. We are very close to the Acropolis and will venture there at some stage - a morning.

Later: not much time spent on the balcony sketching, but SOME! The Tour Guide (Michael) suggested we go to the Keremeikos - about a quarter of the distance we covered earlier in the morning. I had the pedometer on but alas forgot to turn it ON, so all I have a record of is the return journey, a measly 3,000. More like 30,000 today! To help get us more steps we stopped in at the sandalmaker Melissionis the Poet Sandalmaker. Michael bought the Plato sandal, I bought regular thongs called the Minoan. The young man in the shop suggested that I oikl them with olive oil to darkent them and make them supple. I'm wearing them now.... nope, just took 'em off.

Tour Guide: I have slaved away to ensure that Princess Katester gets plenty of steps and what does she do? No pedometer first and then when she does clip it on it is not turned on. So much for her declaRation that all Greek Steps would be counted! I got an International Herald Tribune and Kate got a Parthenon Snow Dome to match the Nashville Parthenon Snow Dome.

We brewed up coffee with the Brisk Brew and I did the crossword and read the paper with my feet up.
We saw the wall Themistocles build and the hill Pericles may have spoken from, and more, the Funeral Oration.

I drew the view. Fun with coloured pencils! My first Greek Art.

Then I declared myself to be hungry. We'd eaten breakfast on the plane, then had a chocolate attack in the afternoon, but now was real hunger. We went to the closest restaurant across the street - the Karyatids. Bread and cheesy stuff to spread, and olives were very quickly devoured. A Greek Salad with feta, lots of tomato and cucumber and green capsicum, a very little lettuce. Then lamb souvlaki for me with potatoes and carrots and zucchini. Michael had tomatoes stuffed with rice, in honour of Inspector Haritos, hero of Late News by Petros Markaris. Ate a goodly amount, but not all. It is now nearly 7.30 local time and I am getting droopy. The TV remoter does not want to work and I am tossing up about whether to go down for more batteries.

Did so. Now watching, starting to wind down.

7th October 2007, continued even more

The adventure of travel begins. 1. Will the airport transfer I gooked be at the baggage claim? 2. Will the Adrian Hotel have a room - well maybe not at 8.30 am or so when we arrive, but tonight? 3. Will the Adrian Hotel accommodate our extension to the 24th for checkout? 4. Will the Milos hotel have our reservation? My parting email to confirm this reservation elicited an enthusiastic, incomprehensible email reply I read in the SIA Lounge.

There is a plan. Words that make Kate go tense. Yes - as soon as the hotel is sorted we walk - after about 24 hours of sitting - to the alleged site of Plato's Academy. Although we ate the sizeable hot breakfast on the aircraft (definitely not Qantas cuisine) I expect starvation will afflict us in a few minutes of walking.

Kate saw the bright lights of Beirut as we flew by. We had seats 15 A and C on a like-new Boeing 777-200. To fix Kate's seat the crew man got her to move out, and hit the re-set button under a flap labelled "Crew Use Only" in the arm rest. It took a few stabs but he got it going.

It is a little more than 24 hours since left home, and we are descending to Athens.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

7th October 2007, continued

At Singapore Airport

Bitter disappointment on two fronts. Slide film? What is that? No, not here, try there. No, not there, try over there. No, not here at the airport anywhere. What is slide film? All the assistants were in their twenties, but the complete incomprehension showed the way of the future. I think the film era is just about over. But I LOVE slides. And one of the things I love about them is that you don't need any software at all to make them work. You can even see them with the naked eye.

Disappointment Number 2 is the Airport Lounge. Once before when I was lucky enough to fly business class, which gets you into the Lounge, there was a darkened section, which had sleeping benches and blankets, and big massage chairs. Mmmmmm. I was sooo looking forward to those. All gone. No dark area at all. No sleeping benches. No massage chairs. No oriental splendour. Just crowds of people, almost down to the United lounge at Los Angeles level... Sigh! Where are the glory days of yore? At least the seats on the plane will allow a bit of sleep, I think.

Much later. We eschewed the next meal at 3 am our time. It took a long time to push back as there were electrical problems. By half past we were ready. My seat refused to recline and I approached hysteria, but the crew member fixed it for me. Ah, the wonders of being able to lie flat (almost) and sleep in one's cocoon. (Sorry, people, but I have done the hard yards of economy for years and years and years. I'm over that!) The arrangement isn't quite long enough for Michael, but he appeared to sleep. Time passed. I dreamed of Alex's (my neighbour at home) milkweed trees and clouds of small monarch butterflies and bicycle riders riding into them in the morning sunshine. So I knew I had slept. We are anow an hour or so out of Athens. We had our breakfast. Fruit, including a Cape Gooseberry. Eggs with hollndaise, spinach, tomato, potato, chicken sausage. Good coffee. It is just over eleven hours from Singapore to Athens. Local Sydney time is 1.30 pm so we have been on the go for 24 hours. It is beginning to get light outside - dawn is dawning. We feel rested. Ready for a new day.

And what a struggle it was to talk Katester into going Business Class, but I prevailed. Yes, almost flat, but about two inches too short so pressure on my feet. Yes, I did attain unconsciousness but no sweet dreams of the Tour de Herbert Street with bicycles among the monarch butterflies and neighbor Alex's crops.

The only hitch was the delayed takeoff from Singapore while the power was turned off so a light bulb could be changed. Maybe 45 minutes of sitting. Yet the landing announcement says we will be early by 5 minutes.

I must remember to tell Julie that Waterpipes (the computer game) was on KrisWorld - it was where we first encountered it years and years ago - 1988?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

7th October, 2007

Got organised around the house. Changed the sheets, washed, final packing and list checking. Mum came around to bid us farewell. Showered, breakfasted. Read the papers. Tapped feet. Michael snoozed in a sunbeam. Walked The Pug again. Lisa (housesitter) arrived at just after 1 pm, and I booked a taxi online. The cab arrived very promptly - a good service. Majic seemed happy to see Lisa! We bade our farewells to Lisa and Majic. We sure do hope she manages with him OK, he is a bit of a Crazy Pug and quite a handful. Loads of energy, and a bit loopy.

Smooth and effortless checking of the luggage and we sailed through customs. We ignored all the duty free. It is wonderful to be free of all those vices. Cigaretttes, alcohol, perfume and cosmetics hold no allure. I tried to buy some slide film to supplement the three rolls I have with me. That experience made me feel like a dinosaur. None was to be had in the three places (in Sydney Airport) that I tried. Singapore Airport is my next chance. Perhaps this is our last batch of slides and a digital camera is next.

We enjoyed the bounty of the Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge - sandwiches, cheese, fruit, little cakes. Worked on the NY Times Sunday Puzzle, by Nancy Salomon and Harvey Estes. Old friends.

We are, this minute, sitting in seats 22 H & K, bulkhead seats. We have just over seven hours to go. It is comfortable, we have much leg room and are perfectly happy. Michael is dispensing "Planes and Trains and Cars" instead of Blinky Bills (lollies) in honour of our travelling status.

Yep! We got push back from the gate and took off right on time. Now four hours later and we are still flying over Australia. I had beef cheek for lunch. Too strong a flavor for me - almost gamey. The dish came from the chef at Aria, so it was an easy way to sample Aria's cuisine. Finished reading The Laughing Policeman, Martin Beck who never smiles. Total flight time of 7 hours and 25 minutes.

I had green curry duck - a bit too fatty but pretty good. I've been enjoying my tatting with dreams of entering the Royal Easter Show. I'm doing a second placemat. If I finish that I will have two placemats. I may continue on and do more, and even have dreams of joining them together to make a tablecloth, but if I stop then at least I have something useful. The pattern is the one in the centre of my blog header, above. I watched John Travolta in Hairspray which was very jolly and perfect airline watching. No deep moments at all, lots of singing.

We are now almost over Indonesia and are about to be fed again. Noodles. Will report later.

It is dark outside and according to Michael's TV we have 2 hrs 15 mins to go. Looking forward to the massage chairs in the airport lounge. Wondering how our little dog is getting on with Lisa. Our business class "amenity kit" was just socks. Earphones are excellent, noise reducing. The bathroom contained toothbrush kits and shaving kits. I am never flying economy again!

We are now close to landing in Singapore, local time 9.00 pm. Elevent pm home time, and the body clock is telling me it is getting to be snooze time.

I just realised that I had left my mobile phone on for the entire journey so hope we will be landing in the right place!!! I wonder they don't have sensors for this kind of thing. Must not forget to find some slide film.

6th October 2007

Yes, we have entered a time warp. We have been away in Greece for a few weeks, having a wonderful time. Many trips ago we started keeping a travel diary - on PAPER! This time I have decided to transcribe the diary into my blog. It is just too hard to try and blog while away - Internet is available, but it is so much easier to just write stuff down with a pen in the paper diary. Sometimes I think that people watching us might think we are deaf-mutes! I write my thoughts, he grabs the diary and reads, then responds. I grab it back (no, really we are quite polite about it..) and write again. We might not talk much, but we do write quite a bit.

My convention will be to enter things pretty much as we wrote them, but I will add or edit where I see fit, and of course will add photographs. To begin with the photos will be from the little digital camera, and Michael has taken most of those. I specialise in slides which are being developed now. I will scan them and add them to the blog retrospectively if I get around to it.

My diary entries will be in standard script. Michael's are in Arial Blue.

Here we go.

6th October, 2007

It is a Saturday evening. Mum is here for dinner, on our last night before we leave for Greece. We are packed and ready. Packing lists are so helpful! We have our guidebooks, plus Michael's Red Folder. We are ready for Lisa, our house and Majic-sitter. Instructions have been compiled and printed. Majic has been told, but we are not sure he has taken it in yet.

Tonight's menu includes oysters, and Greek New Cuisine-inspired snapper. Stuffed banana chili with rosemary along with asparagus and fried snapper. It was delicious. Lightly floured and deep fried, then into the oven. The oysters were divine. We watched Iron Chef, then took Mum home and romped The Boy.

My behind?

Oh, you mean I am going to be LEFT BEHIND! REALLY!!!