Friday, December 28, 2007

21st October, 2007

That step counter is mesmerizing. No sooner do we count steps than it is time for bed. Watched TV until 10.30 (The Hunt for Red October) then read. Now 8.00 am. Sky seems blue so we hope today to do.... MORE STEPS!

Tatting shuttles, black rayon, spools of silk, knitting needles, thimble. That's my list for today. Flea market. Anything else that strikes me! Yes indeed the step counter (the pedometer, as opposed to the also-frequently deployed pedantometer..) is not only mesmerizing, it is tyrannical. Getting 10,000 steps per day is mandatory. 15,000 is a matter of honour. Over 20,000 is cause for celebration. It does, however, lead to feeling very creaky in the evenings after sitting for a while. Last night I took some Neurofen before bed so I wouldn't ache so much. It worked.

The bells of Sunday morning are just pealing.

I keep meaning to write about how strange it is to walk into a shop and see all the shop assistants standing around smoking - even clothes shops and food shops. How weird it feels not to have a smoker next to you in a restaurant smoking throughout their meal. I see no warnings on advertisements, nor on cigarette packages. Young women, in particular, seem to be the big market.

For Christmas baubles (which we enjoy buying overseas) failing anything else, a large blue eye on a string will do. It is distinctively a reminder of Athens, and it will hang on a tree. A big one for Martin and one not so big for us. (Later - hmmm I think we gave both of them to Martin.) There is a Christmas store, but as far as we can tell everything in it is a) generic, not Greek-looking, and 2) made in China.

General note: when travelling we seem to eat two meals a day. First is a big breakfast at the hotel, which here at Hotel Adrian is included in the price. For me a bowl of excellent yogurt with a honey topping and some grapes and/or kiwifruit. Followed by a fried egg and a little bacon. Maybe some toast without Vegemite as I keep leaving my travel tube of it in the room. Michael has two eggs and bacon and bread, and whatever fruit I make him eat by thrusting at him. Coffee, and a big glass of fresh orange juice. We might have a coffee and a cake or something latter in the day, when convenient. We might have a late-ish lunch at a restaurant. In Milos we had bread and cold cuts etc. If we have lunch, we don't have dinner. If we don't have lunch we have an early dinner. Snacks might be figs (beautiful big purple figs) or the occasional banana. Chocolate bars and Coke.

No sooner did she write the above than I ate a bowl of fruit, little knowing what SHE had written about my breakfast. Harumph!

Sunday is Flea Market Day, so we spent 5,800 steps shuffling around it looking at junk. Some of it was Good Junk, but an awful lot of it Just Junk. In an antique shop full of copper and brass I found proper Christmas balls, so bought three. One large painted one for Julie and Martin, a smaller version for us, and a brass one. I went into a jewellery shop and found a pin, which I have been wanting for my black and white linen jacket and various shawls, particularly the Cardiff Rees Shawl. Maybe I'll keep an eye open for something in gold for Jules. Mine is silver with three pearls, for forty euros. Plus some worry beads for Mum. Michael was extremely patient as I picked around all the stalls. I'm reminded that all the fun in embroidery/crochet/tatting etc is the doing, not the having. I saw mounds of crochet and embroidery being virtually given away. I saw plastic bags with patterns and canvas with half one designs, sometimes almost complete. Tempting to buy just for the canvas. I remember giving just such bags to Vinnie's. I have half done and fully done stuff in my own linen cupboard. Almost bought an ecru red embroidered table runnier, but remembered the equivalents I have made myself, lying in baskets in the cupboard. Sigh!

Michael bought some big blue eyes as Christmas decorations, also a sponge, and two calendars (Mum and us.) An owl clip from the pistachio man (not really - he pointed to the shop behind him.) Two cloth badges for the collection I'll do something with some day. Not bad takings for the day thus far, but again I am overwhelmed by STUFF. We are having a Coke and some chocolate on our balcony as we prepare ourselves for the next onslaught. Some hand towels, perhaps, as souvenirs and for Gwen. Some felt beads and whatever else I can find that was on my earlier list.

I'm amused sometimes when we are out in restaurants that we hardly say anything but we write up the diary in turns. It is as though we are having written conversations. My plan is to get all the photos developed and to blog in sequence, a day at a time, all the entries here. I think that was my plan on some other trip, but it never happened! Maybe this time it will.

Very ambitious plans give one someplace to go, I am told. Oh oh, grey clouds are rolling over the Acropolis about 12 noon. Rain is forecast, but for later. When we sally forth this time, must remember to take brolly, and to get something for eats upon return so that we don't need to g o out for dinner if it is raining later.

We went out, in search of the bead shops which turned out to be on Perikleos. Closed. But now in Monday's plans, along with the needlework shops on Kalamida. As I said, the fun is in the doing. Checked out a haberdashery shop at Ermou 8 but it wasn't the sort of thing I was looking for. Then we aimed for the Museum of Traditional Plottery. The rather vague young man had to open things up for us and seemed surprised anyone at all was there to see the stuff. He opened the loo twice, and each of the rooms containing information on the potteries of Greece, with details of clay and glazes and wheel versus non-wheel and kilns for firing (open and closed.) He did not open the shop, nor the cafeteria. It being Sunday market day, the area around Monastiraki was seething with vendors and consumers. Among the vendors are tribes of Africans selling knock-off Vuitton and such. Every so often we would see them all gather their wares into the big white cloths and disperse. Immediately after that we would see three Athens policemen striding along, and behind them the Agricans could be seen setting up on the footpath once more. We bought "donats" (that's what the sign said) from the vendor in front of the station. Huge and very sugary. Then to Everest on the corner to buy baguettes. We waited an AGE for the six girls behind the till to get their act together to take our money. Back to Hotel Adrian - we have 13,200 steps. I read all afternoon, a book by Kate Gibbons (?) which was set just after WW! and the Spanish Influenza. Ripped right through it. We both checked email. Nothing of any importance but sent brief notes to Mum and Lisa the Housesitter. We are working up to tripod and night shots of the Acropolis and Athens.

I must also extol the blessings of travelling with a few bulldog clips. They are so useful. Keeping the coffee pack closed, clipping up one's sarong, either on self or as a dark curtain when needed. Never travel without them.

Our final outing for the day - we finally went out at night with camera and tripod for night shots. First the Temple of Zeus, then the Parthenon, then street scenes of happy diners. Step count: 18,347, or 13.76 kms or 688 ccalories. Will that make up for the huge sugary fatty donat? Bought some peanuts from the cart near the Acropolis Museum, and some doritos from the shop near the Temple of Zeus, and some peach juice. We had a whole baguette left (salad and chicken) so had that for dinner with the nuts and juice and chips. Maybe some chocolate later. A good day.

I spoke encouraging words while Katester snapped, as well as spotting locations to snap. I also carried the camera and tripod a part of the time. Now boots off!

Later: the slides turned out quite well, but I have not scanned any of them yet. May not scan them for some time to come, as I bought myself a multifunction scanner printer copier unit and ditched my old scanner (which did slides, when it was in one of its rare good moods.) It was Freecycled, along with the ancient fax machine. Also a terracotta chimney pot. Amazing what people will take, and wonderful that Freecycle can match stuff with people who can use it.

20th October, 2007

A new day and we are again planning our day's steps. We are heading towards Banaki's Islamic Museum, although I am in pattern/design overload after yesterday. I couldn't sleep for thinking of all those beautiful t6hings I'd seen yesterday. I should not buy embroidery books - it just sets me off thinking about things I could make. Nevertheless, Islamic Art here we come. Nearby, close to Keremeikos, there is also the delightfully dubbed Museum of Traditional Plottery. One of our maps is not noted for its accuracy of spelling or location.

AKA the Museum of Traditional Pottery. However, nearbyer there is the Museum of Traditional Greek ceramics too. It is even closer, hence neraby-er. Overall the objectives for today include 1) M. Ceramics, 2) Plottery 3) Islamic Art, 4) Hellenic Cosmos, and 5) Ancient Eats. Along the way we need some AA batteries.

Step Count as at 6.00 pm - 15, 719, or 11.78 kms, 589 cals. The morning was ALL GO! We headed for the Benaki Islamic Museum with a few side visits into bead shops. I'm thinking of buying some brightly coloured felted 'beads' but I'll have to return to that shop I saw yesterday. We skirted the Keremeikos and found the Museum of Traditional Plottery, but were told by the man in the ticket office (!) beyond the open door (!) that it was closed on Saturday (!!!) Around the corner was the Benaki Islamic Museum, in a very run-down area. We went in and headed down to the WC (bottom floor) when we saw roons among the foundations. Part of Themistocles' wall. Being so close to the Keremeikos is it any wonder? There are roons under every building, no doubt at all. It must make any kind of development extremely difficult, as the Archeological Police descend when you dig your veggie patch!

The Museum was deserted but for us, and eventually two American women. We started at Floor 5 (cafe) and worked down, back in time. Wow! What a spectacular museum. The quality of the exhibits, the beauty, it was all just glorious. We were intrigued to see quite a lot of depictions of human figures (given the proscriptions of Islamic culture and the barbaric destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan). huge One huge bronze candlestick, however, had had its human representations effaced. The tiles were lovely, ceramics, glassware from sixth centry, mosaics, textiles, gold jewellery. This could be my favourite museum. When we reached the bottom we went back up for a coffee on the rooftop, level 5. Excellent coffee and some exceptional chocolate cake. Light and moist and warm. A good view over Keremeikos:

and some interesting graffiti on the building next door:

Thus fortified we set off down Piraeus Street in search of Helenic Cosmos. Past the Gasworks. Down a very busy road, we walked and walked. We walked some more, looking, looking for #254, We walked even more, and found ourselves at #134. A few drops of rain dampened our resolve. We got weak and gave up. We headed back in search of Ancient Eats, a restaurant. Walking, walking, We walked through back streets, and got an impression of what it must have been like in the 1920s. some lovey old houses, but now very dirty and run down. The streets are lined with orange trees in full fruit. You could smell the oranges on the ground. Much bougainevillea and geraniums.

We found the restaurant - closed - but we were not expecting to eat there, being still full of cake. We were close to the Metro (Metaxourghis?) and opted for it. On the train Michael was surrounded and squashed by some blokes who refused to budge despite his an my shoving. Wallets and purses were closely watched. No harm done, but it was odd. We changed at Omonia and got off at Monsastiraki. From there we went to the small museum of Traditional Folk Art Ceramics Pottery... whatever. There are so many museums! It is in a 1759 mosque with a dome. An odd collection of stuff, but there were lots of Greek women in there enthusiastically admiring the displays. There was stuff from a couple of artistsd - not particularly good, I thought, but the, we'd just seen some pretty spectacular stuff at the Benaki.

Then we divided. I went to the end of Adrianou in search of a drachma note for the Hortons, which I found for one euro. So cheap I bought two so the vendor did not have to make change. I then headed back to get an IHT. Once I had that I back tracked to the T-shirt place that had the EYE. Found it and got one. Then back to the hotel, getting some soda next door. This took time because of a throng of German-speaking children milling about the doorway. By the time I got back to the Adrian, Kate was already there, worried that I had been abducted. I'll let her explain that, and how it was she got back sooner than I did. I presented my acquisitions for her approval. Then I went downstairs to gdo email, as it started to rain. Usual stuff from work, but it took time. Couldn't find anything in English on the web for the Hellenic Cosmos, but there was a leaflet in the hotel. If we try again we'll take the metro. We ate figs and lollies while it rained on and on. It rained from about 3 pm until 6.30. When it seemed to stop we were hungry, so we geared up and went next door for eats. Good plan! I had pork Kassato (a wine sauce, the waiter said) and Kate had salmon.

The salmon was good, if salty. I also enjoyed the brussels sprouts, oyster mushrooms, carrots and lettuce leaf garnish and bread roll. Definitely hungry! After we had split up at Monastiraki I went in search of the bead shops, but was unsuccessful. I looked at a few scarves but nothing of the quality of the Benaki one I bought Julie, and I have so many scarves myself. I couldn't find the owl clip we had seen on the pistachio man's cart either (it was holding down a sheet of plastic in the rain..) Dispirited, I returned to the Hotel Adrian expecting to find Michael. Not there. Immediate thought was that those blokes on the train had tracked him down and abducted/murdered him, and I was going to have to find the Australian Embassy to help find his body etc etc. I need some Very Large Worry Beads to help deflect some of this! I heard his whistle outside the door and was VERY PLEASED to see him. I'm not a worry-wart, and I never exaggerate. We sat around all afternoon listening to the rain, tatting, puzzling, emailing etc. I have plans to go to the bead shops again, and to the haberdashery shops at Ermou 8 to look for tatting shuttles and thimbles.

On Saturday our missions include 1) Traditional Plottery 2) Bead Row 3) Sunday Flea Market, and...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

19th October, 2007

(Note - I have to get Greece done before I can get back to blogging about daily stuff, but Christmas was lovely.)

It was a late night for us. Lights out at about 10.30. We flipped the TV for a bit and read. Got up about 8.00 am in the dark. The room gets no sunlight. Got re-acquainted with the footwork of the half-tub for shower. Noticed many more bites from Milos. The mozzies will miss us for dinner. At breakfast we will work out today's mission(s).

Our room, 105, does get natural light but a lot is blocked by the big wall. And it does not get light until quite late - we can't rely on the sun to get us up early.

I thought it useful to compare hotel amenities:

The Adrian HAS: face washers, shower hat, electric kettle and tea/coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice (squeezed by a person and brought to the table.) It HAS NO tissues.

The Portiani HAS: tissues, mozzie zapper, pizza for breakfast, the charming and ebullient Danae, a pull bell for emergencies (!) in the shower. It HAS NO face washers, shower hat, electric kettle or coffee.

The Jason Prime HAS: a proper shower, tissues, but HAS NO spare blanket, mini fridge, or electric kettle.

Plan for today: The Numismatic Museum. The Cycladic Museum (again, but there is an exhibition of El Greco's paintings). Perhaps the Benaki, especially the costume and textiles part of the exhibition. Much planning of our day is now in progress.

And the day DID progress. 16,448 steps, or 12.33 kms, or 616 calories, we are sitting back in Room 105. Creakers! We walked up Ermou to Syntagma (very close) and looked at shops. We went to the Numismatic Museum. Glorious location. The mosaic floors and the frescoed ceilings and the painted walls would be enough to go visit, but the coin collection was fascinating. Hoards of coins tumbling from their original containers. Big and little, portraits and owls and wheels and buildings and gods, and geese and turtles and tortoises and bulls. You name it. What a trove.

There was an interesting WC setup - a common hand washing area with alternate mens and womens cubicles. We have not, I think, mentioned here the proscription about putting ANY paper down the toilet. There are large and definite signs in most places, including the hotels. We read about this in the guidebooks. Apparently the pipes are very small and any piece of paper larger than a postage stamp clogs the system. Yes, this includes toilet paper. There are small bins provided. We adjusted.

After the Numismatic Museum we walked to the Benaki Museum. Talk about treasure troves!!! The usual stuff (how quickly one becomes blasé) like neolithic pottery, some cycladic figures, etc etc, but for me the highlight was the extensive collection of costumes and embroidery. I thoroughly enjoyed goggling and gawking. I must look up the Dodecanese raised stitch. The costumes were glorious. There were husband chairs there which I have not seen elsewhere. Where are the wife chairs when they are needed?? We had lunch on the rooftop outside, with colourful bougainevillea kept in check. Could see the Acropolis, and overlooked the National Gardens. We bought up stuff at the excellent shop. Gift cards, a shawl for Julie's birthday, a book on embroidery for me, a tie for Michael. A better than average museum shop. Oh yes, the meal we had was very good. Small vine leaves - cone shaped - with a meat and rice filling. Yoghurt on the side. Most excellent. A good cup of coffee to finish, Greek for M, cappuccino for me.

After the Benaki (no... before..) we went to Notos, a department store. Michael bought a non-Greek (German) tie. We are surprised at the lack of Greek motif ties, or Parthenon umbrellas etc.

The Benaki about finished us so we walked home. Came down Mitropoleos instead of Ermou. Bead shop heaven! One, two, three, four, more, all in a row. I spent the grand sum of three euros on some conical caps for my black and white knitted necklace. My bead stash is ample enough as it is and I truly do not need more. (Alas.)

Michael went back to the hotel but not before I'd bought some coconut ice logs from a street vendor. These are wonderful carts with lotus-like coconuts and little fountains. I wish I'd taken some photos!

Then I went down to Monastiraki to buy fresh figs and chocolate while he bought Cokes asnd returned to the hotel. I browsed a bit, gawking at all the jewellery. Too much! It makes me seize up! So here we are sitting at last, with our steps done and kms covered, museumed out once again.

We spent so much time in the Benaki Museum and shop we did not go on to the El Greco. Maybe tomorrow. The Benaki Museum is better than most of the others we have seen for signage, eats - a real restaurant with a view, and ... a shop. It is very easy to see why it gets such good reviews in the tourist books I did my homework on.

I got two Greek ties today and an owl paperweight. The tie from Notos is purple - a fashion, the salesman said. The one from Benaki has a boat from Skypos which I will think of as an honorary trireme. The owl is marked Athena in Greek.

Must do email tomorrow to keep the backlog manageable.

About 22 C today. Not too hot, but sunny and fine.

A feature of Greek TV is talking heads - public affairs, I guess, with 4 - 6 heads on a split screen. Usually half of them talk at once, two of four, or three of six. Or one person talks all the time while the other three or five stare at the camera. The moderator-journalist is in the middle, talks without end, and the others cut across. The screen occasionally cuts to pairs who may or may not be talking. It is utterly exhausting to watch and listen to. The more people talking at once, the more they shout, the more frantic. There is also face-making and arm-waving. We say the first of a six episode version of PD James' "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman". Must get it on DVD and follow it through.

By the way the talking head teams can be on three or more channels at once, each featuring a different team. Both morning (we saw on ferry-TV) and the afternoon and evening.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

18th October, 2007

Travel day back to Piraeus and Athens, but that is not until 5.30 pm. Now 8.30 am. Now I really know what Island Living means - Pizza for breakfast! Wake up, Oahu, and get with the trend! Meanwhile the New Tour Guide plots today's spin. She seems to have settled for a place described as lunar, which means featureless, colorless, and lifeless!

Well, we might as well see stuff around the island - we have a car. Tempting though it is to return straight to Paleohori and swim. Breakfast pizza is not my style. Yoghurt, honey and grapes, and half a small pear. Then a little flaky pastry, a boiled egg, and some kind of flaky bread stick circle. Well, the egg might be for later. Our destination is Sarakiniko where there is a tiny beach but most of it is white rocks from which you jump into deep water!! Sounds like me....

Sun screen today - I am a bit burned from yesterday. Not too badly, but I don't need any more. Island living also means ten hours of sleep every night. No later than ten o'clock to sleep, and up at eight. I could get used to it. This is our last day of island living, and it is memorable, delightful.

5.30 and we are on the ferry waiting to sail for Piraeus via Sifnos and Serifos. M has just terrified me by noting that we have many more museums to do and many more museum steps!!

Today we set out for Mandrakia then Sarakiniko. Apparently Michael the Navigator and Greek Scholar thinks that the greek δ is NOT a d (as in Manδrakia) so we didn't take that road. We found ourselves at Sarakiniko which was fine by me. It was spectacular. Very light with the sunshine reflecting off the white rocks. Brilliant blue water and skies. Caves carved into the hillsides, linking up inside as far as we could see (which wasn't far as we had no light with us.) We took slides, rather than digitals, so I've linked to a few representative images instead.

I got into my togs. Nobody else around at all. There was a LOT of litter on the little beach, which is really a small cove, which we collected and binned. Our bit for the environment. I waded out and swam. Alas I had trodden in some oily gunk and it got all over my hands and feet. I felt like one of those poor birds caught in an oil slick. Perhaps it came from the wrecked ship just around the corner. It looked like it had been there rusting away for thirty years. I swam - it was superb to have the whole place to ourselves. While swimming, the ocean was mine, looking out at rocky outcrops and islands in the distance while surrounded by those brilliant white sculpted rocks. I put my shoes on (Tevas) and went walkabout. Found a natural rock arch. The sea had done its fair share of rock carving too, and as the waves rushed under me into the rock caverns it made deep whoomping sounds. How glorious! Another swim, this time in my shoes. I hadn't done that before and found them quite buoyant and surprisingly pleasant to swim in. Back to the car - some people came (two couples) and so it was too crowded for us!! We retraced our steps and found Mandrakia. It is a tiny village perched on the cliff. Boatsheds with brightly painted doors were carved into the rock below. Boats bobbing. A tiny church. A dozen cats. A couple of people. We returned to our little car and drove, trusting to my stinks (instincts..) and before too long found ourselves back on the Big Road (private joke..) again, leading down to Adamas. I returned to the Hotel while Michael returned the car and bought great hunks of pizza for lunch. I had a shower and tried to scrub off the oil. Sand and a stick strigil had some effect but soap and hot water were better. Foot tapping then began and we sat around waiting for our departure.

Highspeed 3 is just now getting ready to shove off.

Nautical things are happening and the engine is hammering. The hawser is hawsering. Etc.

While K natated I sat in the shade and read a book. When two other couples came around noon it was time to escape the crowd. We are in motion. The day has been warm - say 24 C without a breath of wind.

10.15 and we landed. Tony was waiting for us (how wonderful) and drove us back to the Hotel Adrian. Room 105. Our bags were still here. Athens is certainly bigger than Adamas! Milos has under 5,000 people on it. I heard that a German couple were on Milos looking for real estate, a retirement option. Not for me! Give me Newtown any day. Milos is lovely, but remote. And nothing but Greek food. Everything has gone so smoothly, a testament to the Great Organiser.

8530 steps. Back on known ground, the Hotel Adrian. Reunited with our luggage.

17th October, 2007

Lights out at about 9.30. Woke at 8.00. Is that enough sleep? I think so. Struggled not to get water all over the bathroom floor, but the shower isn't designed that way. Now at breakfast deciding between chocolate pudding and chocolate cake. M opted for cake. I am about to eat a crispy creamy turnover and a cinnamon scroll. I have a boiled egg for later on. Had some plain yoghurt and honey with kiwifruit and plum. Orange juice, self-squeezed. We are on the hunt for hot springs atain today, aiming at Paleohori. If we don't find them, well, I'll go home and have a hot bath! Will have seen a lot of Milos - all that can be seen by car, that is. The world looks very different by water, I think.

About 3 pm now. A very satisfactory trip to Paleohori Beach. It was pretty much deserted apart from a couple of blokes sitting at the cafe - Volcanic Foods. Michael and I walked up the length of the beach and I decided it was definitely the place for a swim. I got into my togs in a sheltered cover, and swam. The water is lovely - clear and blue. Had my goggles so saw a few little fish. I swam to some rocks, around some buoys, then came out again. Asked a local (at the cafe) where the hot sprints might be found. "Out there" he gestured, from right to left. "How far out?" "About ten metres" he said. I'd been out a good fifty metres, and no sign of any heat. I am good at finding heat, usually! There was a strong smell of sulphur, though, and areas where if I imagined hard enough it might have been a tad warmer. I went back in and swam some more, and some more. The step count will be low, but the stroke count will be high! The rock cliffs were multicoloured with volcanic activity, the sea and the sky a deep deep blue, the water perfect. Michael had a bench to sit on - blue, with the name SIROCCO in white. He was happy. I was in heaven. I lay on the warm dark sand in the sun. A few others came down but I largely had the ocean to myself - they just dipped briefly.

We returned to the hotel. M went hunting and returned with smoked beef and prosciutto, bread, tomato, baba ganoush, coca cola, plums and chocolate for lunch. We are now on our balcony. He has the IHT, shoes off. The water is sparkling. Life is awfully good.

She natated forth and back, while I kept watch, mostly on a book. We left about 1.30 pm and by then maybe a dozen swimmers, subathers had assembled, including some Greeks, one who brought two dogs who yapped at the water. Katester seemed to have a good time. It is 4.30 and I have retreated indoors from the balcony - too hot.

But he didn't retreat for long because he's still out there and it is 5.45. A light breeze keeps it from being too hot. I have finished my book (A Long Way Home, but Mary K. Pershall) and done the word jumble. Soon I am to be despatched to one of the three or four bakeries for spinach pie or cheese pie or whatever for dinner. The step count is barely over three thousand (3488) so the expedition will give me a few extras. It is very peaceful. What a relaxing day.

I drew the view from our balcony, making it a little more abstract than usual. Experimenting.

This is a photo of same view:

And this is a little drawing of the corner of our hotel room. It was a charming room in a lovely hotel.