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Archives for September 2012

Santorini, Greece: Sunshine and Scenery

Beautiful weather served as the accompaniment of the day as we made our way to the top of the island to get a 360-degree view of the postcard picturesque Santorini!

santorini_greece_celebrity_equinox_day_with_kayejumping_santorini_greece_fira_day_with_kayeIt really is just like the postcards with the white buildings and blue domes. It’s almost surreal. Mister made a joke that at their local home improvement store they probably only sell white and blue paint (red in some places too). Hah.

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I probably would have gotten lost had we not been on a tour. The sidewalks and walkways are made to be a maze as a defense mechanism to confuse those unfamiliar with the area (like the pirates!). We found this much more evident in Mykonos when we didn’t take a tour and had to make our way around, but that’s for a different blog entry.

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santorini_greece_maze_walkway_day_with_kayeI’m sure this would have been more helpful had there been more arrows along the way. It was probably the “checkpoint area” in the town. directions_santorini_greece_day_with_kaye

The second part of the tour: having an appetizer plate at Pyrgos Tavern Restaurant. I really wish I could remember all the names of everything on here. Sadly the only food I do is the tomato meatball (without any meat and it looks more like a patty.) That’s on the farthest right on the plate. It was also served with white wine. All the food was pretty tasty. Then again, I’m not a picky eater.

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Finally, the last stop of the tour was getting dropped off in the town that is featured in the postcards: Fira (pronounced Thira).

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We roamed around here for quite a while passing by shops and restaurants, and those beloved fish spas.

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I guess it’s a normal thing for storeowners to stand in the street to entice people to check out their store. So, yes, we got pulled into a wine tasting, and balsamic vinegar tasting and olives tasting.

We were told to try Vinsanto, also known as holy wine, because it is what was used for Holy Communion in church. It was really sweet, too sweet.

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We moved on to the oils and balsamic vinegars. They had some pretty delicious ones too. Too bad they didn’t have any small containers that we could put into our carry on and bring back home.

Finally were the olives. Mister isn’t exactly a fan of olives. But, the guy kept persisting and resulted in mister’s face being all scrunched up as he ate them. As for myself, I thought the garlic stuffed ones were delicious!

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The last part of the adventure in Santorini was taking transportation to the tender that would bring us back to the ship. There were 3 ways of getting down from the cliff: walking, using the cable car, or riding a mule. I really wanted to take the mule down, but our tour already had tickets for the cable car.

It was a mini coaster ride down and became slightly unnerving with the other passengers sharing the car with us since one gentleman had a fear of heights. My attempts at tuning out were taking my last pictures of Fira.

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Lovely views and new places explored. Keep traveling friends!

Rhodes, Greece: Why Do We Build Castles In The Sky

Next stop on our cruise: Rhodes! As for an explanation of the title, I tip my floppy hat to Ian Van Dahl’s song “Castle in the Sky”. Granted, it’s a castle in the middle of the sea, but it’s what I thought of when I saw this island. Walking out on our balcony and seeing the castle walls almost made me want to belt out, “Greetings fellow subjects!”

As we leisurely made our way out and started walking, the weather was pretty calming and wonderful… just one of the reasons why I dig the Mediterranean.

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One immediate difference from this place from the others (aside from the clearly distinct architecture) is the pebble floor as opposed to the marble that I saw in Athens and Ephesus. It was a little awkward and slippery to walk on. That was only on the outside of the medieval walls. It returned to a flat state in most areas on the inside.

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The main site we took in was the Street of the Knights. Up and down the street you can see the remains of the Middle Ages from the coats of arms to the doorways.

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Every once in a while, a door would be open to walk in and there were these small gardens. Beautiful.

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Once within the castle walls, side from that street of the knights, most of what we were walking through was shops. They sold pretty much everything you could think of, from the standard souvenir “I was in Rhodes, Greece” shirts to leather jackets. And FYI, they had the best prices of the other islands when we were browsing. I did end up purchasing some items that I could fit into my luggage to bring home.

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Another thing noticed was the amount of fish spas here and the other islands of Greece. I’ve heard about these, more popular in Asia though, where they put their feet into aquariums and the fish would pick at the dead skin on their feet. And no thanks; I did not take part in that.

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It was a small town and by the early afternoon, we had made our way back on the ship to stay inside before the major heat kicked in and took it easy until dinner.

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So the remaining lingering question of the day is why do you think we build castles in the sky? =)

Until next week, happy travels friends!

Ephesus, Turkey: More Turkish Delights

Our tour continued to a small town where we had free time to walk around and check out some of the shops. There were lots of fruit wines (there were wine tastings available), anything olive oil (lotion, soaps, etc.), and belly dancing outfits. After the down time, we met up to have some lunch at the Artemis Restaurant.

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Food was served buffet style and we got to taste the local and traditional foods of Turkey. With the food being outside in the heat for who knows how long, I didn’t eat too much. But, what I did eat was enough to keep me going.  The flavors were similar to Greek food with the eggplant and cucumber sauces.

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We were sitting outside, but underneath a trellis. And our view was gorgeous. It was during this time mister and I made new acquaintances with some of the people on the tour, so if you’re reading this right now… HI!

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The last stop on the tour was visiting a Turkish rug factory. Our guide there gave us some really great insight on how these handmade rugs are made (technique, style, size). I can appreciate the time and effort that goes into these rugs most especially because it’s all done by hand from start to finish.

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These pictures show how they get the material using that contraption, where each strand (after unwinding) of the cocoon can be a mile long. Then they dye it according to the color needed for the rug.

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As we made our way around the factory, we got to see some ladies working on some rugs. They take about 6-8 months depending on the size of the rug. Intricate and very time consuming, yet beautiful.

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Then they brought us into a room where 2 guys started laying out different rugs (area rugs, runners, circular, small). In a span of 5 minutes, rugs just covered the floor and we were invited to take our shoes off and walk on them.

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The salesman was explaining to us what determines a value of a rug. It depends on the amount of stitches per inch, the type of material used, and the dye colors used.

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During that same time, there were other guys who asked if we wanted a beverage (water, tea or raki). Raki, also known as lion’s milk, is a hard alcoholic licorice flavored drink, similar to ouzo in Greece. They call it lion’s milk because they say when you drink it, you’ll have the courage of a lion. Hah!

raki_lion's_milk_alcohol_ouzo_day_with_kaye We thought it was funny that they served us drinks at the same time they were pitching us to buy a rug. They were pretty pricy, and I found satisfaction in just taking pictures of all the rugs. These small rugs in the above picture were $300… and I got to walk on some $5,000 rugs.

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Happy travels friends!

Ephesus, Turkey: Turkish Delight… of sorts

“Today’s temperature will be 38ºC and with the heat index, that is about 115ºF.” – Besim, our guide in Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey. We were in for a long day of touring especially when we got to the site and he said there really wasn’t any shade. I thought I was smart for having my floppy hat. Besim did one up by having his umbrella that reflected the sun.

We passed by various monuments, and relief sculptures. We got to see where the Ephesians did their business (quite literally actually – the bathrooms).

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The same marble walkway apostle Paul walked through; here are other views of Ephesus all in its original state and glory.

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Across the way from the library was a brothel. How odd, right? Actually, there was a tunnel that connected the brothel to the library. For those that required the ‘service’ would make their way to the library and take the tunnel over. When they were done, they would take the tunnel back and out of the library with a book in their hands and a smile on their faces (Besim’s words).

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We ended this portion of the tour with this grand view of the amphitheater, which was used for concerts, plays, political discussions and gladiator fights.

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The heat did hit me during the tour… While standing in the shade of a small column, this expression just about sums up how I really felt about the weather. Thank goodness for air-conditioned buses.

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Don’t be sad for me though. I was rejuvenated when we went to a small town to have lunch with the traditional Turkish food. That’s something to look forward to in next weeks post. So stay cool (especially with all this weird spikes of weather) and happy travels friends!