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Archives for August 2012

Athens, Greece: The Allure of Athens, Part II

Athens has a rule that all other structures that intend on being built are less than 10 stories high to ensure the Acropolis remains the highest point. Therefore, the cruise ship was taller than it by 5 stories.

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The tour continued by seeing the city and passing by these buildings: New Acropolis Museum, Greek Parliament, Athens Academy, and several stadiums used during the 2004 Olympics.

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The tour ended in Plaka, more of the touristy part of Athens with shops and restaurants. Here we were given time to eat, shop, and check out the other temples if we desired. The first objective on the list was getting some Greek food, particularly getting mister his long awaited gyro.

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We checked out a few restaurants in Plaka before settling on this one. The price and the atmosphere was just right. Mister ordered his gyro, I got a Greek salad and we shared Alpha beer, one of the local beers. The food was clearly delicious and we gobbled it right up.

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We found out gyros are either made with pork or chicken, not lamb. (It was a little mind-blowing moment for mister.) But, they did have it on the rotisserie spit, so that was pretty mouth watering. Another difference is they give you just enough fries to put into your gyro (we saw this also in Mykonos.) It’s a sure ways away of the portions of the large fries at your favorite fast food place. As for the salad, I couldn’t believe they put a huge chunk of feta cheese on top of the salad. Delish!

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Our stomachs were happy and our bodies reenergized to walk around Plaka to check out the stores and see if anything was worthy of bringing back home as a souvenir and gifts. We saw a lot of blue eyes, which Eva explained during the tour. They are given to little kids to ward off the evil eye ( bad luck, spirits, etc.). We saw them in a variety of ways: necklaces, bracelets, charms, keychains… basically everything. (Wikipedia had a better picture than I did.)

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After walking around, we decided to go for round 2 of Greek food. This time was for dessert, so we went for the Greek yogurt and Baklava. The yogurt (with the honey drizzled on top) doesn’t taste like anything they sell in the stores in the US, and the baklava was so good!

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The weather was really hot (not as scorching as Ephesus). Our tactic on our way to explore the Temple of Zeus was to walk into any store that had air conditioning pretending like we were interested. Then when we cooled off a bit we would continue walking.

The Temple of Zeus – as you can see, there wasn’t a whole lot of temple left. But, it was still very cool. We got to see the construction of those massive columns. They made small pieces, stacked them on top of each other and then a rod would go through all of it and it would stand perfectly.

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Happy travels friends!

Athens, Greece: Alluring Athens, Part 1

On this morning, I sat on the balcony and just took in the view of Athens. It was amazing.

We were given these headsets, which were given on all the tours we went on so the guide doesn’t have to yell out the information to the entire group. They could talk normally into their headset microphone and we would be able to hear the audio just fine. I did intentionally wear white and went for the “modern toga attire”.

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I thought our guide was adorable. Instead of calling us tour group 6, she called us her “family”. There needs to be more people in the world like Eva.

Here’s some views of Athens as we made our way to the Acropolis. The docks were pretty, but when we were driving through the city, it didn’t compare, which is summing up Eva’s way to describe her city. The architecture is from the 60’s, and to dress it up, they have plants and greenery.

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This was my first glance of the Acropolis from down below with the olive trees – Nike’s Temple!

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We made one stop before going to the entrance of the Acropolis and I took my first dive into the ancient Greek world.  This theater is still being used today.

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As we moved along the trail, we stopped at the base of the acropolis and turned around and we had the perfect view of Mars Hill, the rocky hill where all the people are walking on. For those of the Christian faith will recognize this as the hill that the apostle Paul said one of his sermons about the unknown God. In terms of mythology, they say the god of war, Ares or Mars (Roman name), was on trial here for the murder of Posidon’s son.

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So back to the entrance, you just marvel in its original state and the elegance that radiates from it.

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And here it is in all of its glory, the Parthenon. Not to be confused with the Pantheon, which is the pagan church, now converted into a Catholic church, found in Rome.

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We lucked out taking the morning tour. The heat was rising as the day went on, and we still had the shade to stand in as Eva was giving us the facts and the rundown about the ancient Greeks. She gave us time to roam around for about 20-30 minutes.
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Eva was saying that the Parthenon was actually intact when the Ottoman Empire controlled Athens. They had stored their ammo and gunpowder in the Parthenon. I suppose it made sense at the time because it was a hardy structure, but maybe not the smartest move on their part because when the Venetians attacked, one of their cannonballs smashed into it. How unfortunate. It wasn’t because the structure is so old. Now, they’re in restoration mode without the modern tools. To keep its authenticity, they’re using only the tools they had back then. acropolis_view_parthenon_athens_greece_day_with_kaye parthenon_view_acropolis_view_athens_greece_day_with_kaye

It’s kind of crazy to believe that these marble floors have lasted all these years. Perhaps you can now after reading the story about the Parthenon. They sure know something about durability.

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You may note that this is part 1. For you observant readers, you noticed that already. So let all the allure of the acropolis and all things ancient Greece just soak in. Part 2 is due for next week. Until then, happy travels friends.

Celebrity Equinox: Shenanigans at Sea

We watched a glass show demonstration where Everett and Gabe made this pretty cool pitcher in red, white and blue since July 4th was coming up. How patriotic – being one of the few American crew on board and all. Ryan, the other glass blower was explaining the procedures and all things about them and the Corning Museum of Glass. It turned out really cool when we saw the pitcher all cooled down and set the following day.

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We shared some snacks through the day and played scrabble in the game room! Mister and I had an ongoing tournament during the cruise, but I think we tied at the end 3-3.

Since it was an “at sea” day, we got all dolled up for formal night and had a fabulous dinner in the Silhouette Dining Room.

We had shrimp cocktail and beef carpaccio (complete with dijon aioli, arugula salad and shaved parmesan) for appetizers.

My main entrée followed that: Cedar Plank Grilled Cobia “Black Salmon” (BBQ glazed with yellow corn mashed potatoes and haricots verts). Mister had the Celebrity’s Signature “Beef Tournedo” (Medallion of beef tenderloin). Too bad I didn’t get a picture of that, but that’s possibly because he was eager to chomp it all up. Dessert was this peach/apricot concoction. It was scrumptious. Kudos to all the chefs in the kitchen! All the food was great.

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It was a lighter evening for us since we just walked around and lounged on the upper decks of the ship under the crescent moonlight (awe, how romantic) and then called it a night with our new towel buddy… who decided to wear my glasses

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Happy travels friends!

Messina, Italy: “Never go against a Sicilian…”

Oh The Princess Bride… this is one of my favorite movies. Is it one of your favorites too? The quote for the title of my post comes from this scene, which Vizzini says near the end of the video, but the banter in its entirety is great:

Though it has really no relation to what I’m sharing, the mere fact that Vizzini mentions he is Sicilian validates it for being part of my post today. Ah, I hope that alone makes your day. It sure made mine =)

Moving along, I think I was too excited since I woke up early enough to see the ship get docked at the port in Messina. Not too shabby being on the port side of the ship since we got this pretty view.

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Mister and I decided to go exploring on our own instead of taking a tour. Just as we made our way off the boat, there were some vendors trying to sell their hop on & off bus tours. But, we just took a map from them and navigated our own way around. While everything seemed easy to access from our 1st view of the city, we realized it was all on an incline. Let workout!

Just as we made our way off the boat, there were some vendors trying to sell their hop on & off bus tours. But, we just took a map from them and navigated our own way around. While everything seemed easy to access from our 1st view of the city, we realized it was all on an incline. Let workout!

A downfall of not taking an actual tour is that we didn’t always necessarily know the significance of places since the information in the pamphlet or the boards were in Italian. We went into the Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani and then we also passed by the Cathedral of Messina.

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Once you took in the site, we turned around and got a really great view of the port. Also located on the entrance to the port is the statue of the patron saint of Messina: Madonna della Lettera. I got some close ups of it when we were back on the ship.

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We slowly made our way back to the ship, there definitely wasn’t a lot of activity around. We did score big when we saw a pastry shop was open. Translation wasn’t that great, but the whole “point to pick” method worked out well for us. We chose 4 different sweets and they just weighed the sweets and we paid in the bracket of how much it weighed.

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By following the directions of one of the local people working at a bakery, we were just around the corner from trying cannolis! Perfect treat for ending our afternoon tour in Messina =)

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I definitely appreciate the service that Celebrity gives their passengers. Right before boarding back on the ship, there is a tent where they offer you cold towels and cold water or juice. Nothing says welcome back like that!

We checked out the Hot Glass Show (which is really cool) before going to dinner in the Silhouette Dining Room. Then we made our way up to the Sky Lounge for drinks.

There was also a performance by the singers and dancers, which basically opened up the dancing floor to swing dancing for the night. That was a ton of fun since (for those who don’t know) we dig swing dancing.

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Take it easy and happy traveling!