ACROPOLIS NOW

Acropolis Now….totally love that old television show! But this isn’t about that, this is about our little visit in Athens.

Well HELLO! As you know I am home sick (although officially this is one of my days off) and clearly my body is wearing thin of my long hours, lack of sleep, and whatever bug little miss 8 passed along to me. My old friend dishydrotic eczma has come to play with a few blisters now burst – I’m not sure what this means for my job but I am hoping that the antihistamines and vitamin e cream might do the trick but I will make a decision this afternoon. The last time I had this my hands ended up covered in blisters making nursing impossible, so fingers crossed and prayers to the heavens this will just go away. So where were we? That’s right, we were on our way to Athens!

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After just a short flight, and by short I mean less than an hour, we landed in Athens and taken to our hotel by our driver which was good because to be honest the centre was ages away from the hotel and the streets really confused us. We were happy to check in and found we were staying in a very lovely hotel with very comfy amenities. We went into the main shopping district and enjoyed having a look around the vast multitude of shops before heading to a restaurant for the most amazing dinner.

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After dinner on our stroll back to our hotel we stumbled across an art shop filled with exquisite pieces of artwork. Talking to the artist we found that the economy in Greece meant that art prices had fallen so low that famous artists work were going for peanuts (still more peanuts than we could pay for), but we found a piece that we loved and bought – even the girls bought a small piece.

Back in hotel we fell asleep very quickly and woke the next day ready to explore all the ancient sites that filled Athens with history and wonder, particularly for my teenager who being the drama buff she is, just loves greek mythology.
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We spent the day travelling by tourist open air bus to the major sites including Temple of Zeus, Theatre of Dionysus, the ruins surrounding the base of Acropolis, and although we were too buggered (after all this was the last stop on a very big trip) to walk up the Acropolis, we did take in its views from the Dionysus restaurant nearby.

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We took the bus also to the seaside which to be honest was not the highlight we thought it would be and paled in comparison to Santorini. The one thing we did notice is the vast amount if stray animals in Athens…however they all looked extremely healthy and well looked after, which was explained by on of the nearby vendors…that the city and the people in it took it upon themselves to care for these animals and in fact one of them had to be put n a diet as it was so fat and they seem to stay close to particular vendors.

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Our highlight for this day was going to a greek theatre show called “Hamlet, That Punk”, a modern take on Hamlet performed by a small greek theatre company. When trying to organise the tickets with my terribly limited greek language, the Director and lead of the performance private messaged me on facebook asking why we were so keen to come to a show we wouldn’t understand the language of. When I explained my daughters love for greek theatre she asked to meet us after the show, and the welcome we got was amazing! They were so excited someone from Australia came and enjoyed their show despite the language barrier, and it appeared the entire cast knew we were in the audience. It was a great show, although probably a little too adult themed for my 8 year old but only in one part of the show where we just covered her eyes lol. When it comes to theatre, language doesn’t have to be a barrier if you are paying attention, and we all understood the storyline. Apart from wanting to be a doctor and forensic psychiatrist, Lauren wants to act…and seriously if you lived with her you could see she has the dramatic makings of a superstar.

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So the next day we woke with hubby and I leaving the girls to chill out whilst we went out for a bit of a stroll and a shop. Then we were off to the airport to say goodbye to Europe and finally travel home to Australia for a 4 day relax in Sydney before returning to our home life…and when we got to the airport that’s when things got interesting!!! Read my post “The Business of Flying Home”. In our next instalment we have our stay in Sydney.

Where is your favourite part of Europe and why? Share your stories and links below…

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Ps…I wanted to add more photos but my computer is throwing a tantrum.

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SWEET SWEET SANTORINI

With the sneezing setting in on my sick day, lets continue on our European vacation before I bore or sleep myself into oblivion.

After a short flight to Athens and an even shorter flight over to the Greek Island Santorini, we were welcomed with a super helpful driver happy to tell us about the local sights and give us a quick lesson on how to say thank you and please in Greek, all thanks for it being organised by our amazing Travel Agent Dane. We arrived at our gorgeous hotel complete with glistening pool, beautiful white and blue décor, and a wonderfully friendly welcome by reception, who at this terribly late time at night made us hot chocolates and brought us water to help us settle in. After being in the country for less than an hour we knew it was going to be an amazing little stay of only two nights.

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Because we only had one full day in Santorini we got up super early and had a lovely breakfast in the hotel before heading out by cab to the local town of Fira. We really couldn’t believe our eyes as we took in the breathtaking scenery that was hidden from us in the darkness of night when we arrived (although I must say that as we rounded the bend toward out hotel on arrival, a cascade of fireworks lit up the sky in the background making us feel even more welcomed). The jagged cliffs in some parts, the high hills in other parts, and really looking down from the top to see the town splayed before us was beautiful. The cab prices were pretty reasonable and a good option considering we didn’t want to waste time waiting for a bus and figuring out where we were going, so we were taken straight down to Fira in very little time.

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As we strolled down the streets and looked at all the little shops that were now not so crowded since the summer rush had gone home, we really felt like we were on holiday. We all spent some time (and some money) wandering in and out of shops buying a few pieces of clothing, some local craft, and a delicate Greek Christmas bauble (now in pieces after being dropped when being placed on our Christmas tree – boo!). It was odd to see people swimming at the beach there (hot grey rocky sand) when we dipped our feet in and found it to be FREEZING!!!!!!! I’m sure it would be beautiful in summer though. We considered going to the town of Oia (family for the blue and white churches and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants), but we decided that maybe we would do an early morning trip there the following day before checkout and our flight out to Athens. Instead we decided to go on a high seas adventure!!!

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Hubby and I booked us and the kids onto an afternoon/evening sailboat trip to visit a volcano, swim in hot springs, dinner, then sunset over Oia from the perspective of the Aegean Sea. We had enough time to go and enjoy a beautiful lunch and a watermelon juice overlooking the ocean, and a yummy greek salad was exactly what I needed after weeks of pastries, chocolate, cheese and pasta. The flavours in all of our dishes were out of this world…we never knew fresh produce could taste so freaking amazing – seriously fresh, full of flavour, fabulous. Then we were ready to board for our big adventure after being driven to the boat by the tour company’s driver.

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We boarded the most beautiful sail boat with polished wood and beautiful fixtures, not to mention the good looking lads that caught my teenagers eye! I had never been on a boat quite that far from shore before so of course I felt a little bit nervous about getting vertigo – or the ship sinking…take your pick. But as we pulled away from the dock I felt a little excited for this new adventure we were taking. The first little while was amazing just chilling out at the front of the boat, wind in our hair, excited children running back and forth, and our first stop was an active volcano. The boat docked and we set off with the rest of the passengers to explore. Now keep in mind it was hot, we wore thongs, and we thought the brochure said 1.6 km return…it was 1.6km each way – up – in the heat – on a very hot active volcano – and an easily tired 8 year old that required some carrying! Yes it was worth it when we got to areas that sulphur was smoking out the rocks and the girls being able to learn about volcano eruptions and formations, but it was certainly was good to get back on the boat with our new type of sunburn – volcanic heat burn.

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Our next stop brought us to the hot springs and although I was super proud of Mackenzie for going over in a floaty ring with her Dad, I did have a little disappointment in myself for chickening out of the 50m swim to get there. I let my fears overtake me once again and it really made it clear that one goal for this year is overcoming my fear of deep ocean water. Lauren of course was one of the first to jump off the boat and swim over, she is such an adventurous soul willing to try any new adventure in life. They all had a great time though so I was really pleased with that and it wasn’t long before we headed of again to find a spot to anchor for dinner. Dinner was fresh, amazing, and we enjoyed a lovely wine followed by Greek dancing with the rest of the passengers on the ships deck. One thing about Europe is that they are more relaxed about teenagers drinking alcohol with their parents and Lauren had the opportunity to have two half strength strawberry daiquiris under our supervision. It really was a non-event, and with her turning 16 this year I know it wont be long til alcohol is in her peer group. Although I know she makes very smart decisions for someone so young I know she is still human and I am glad that her first experience of alcohol was one that was social only, measured, and of course in the presence of her mother – not her peers.

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After dinner we sailed off toward Oia and we were horrified to realise that the total sum of blue domed rooves were 4!!! Four!!! Yes that’s right! The only buildings with a blue domed roof are churches. But still, the sights were amazing, but not as amazing as the sunset over the Aegean Sea as we were anchored right near Oia. Wow is an understatement. Being on the east coast of Australia means that the sun rises from our beaches but sets over the mountains, so this experience was amazing for us all. The only thing I must say that put a bit of a dampener on the evening of dancing and company, was the Aussie girl who was loud, obnoxious, and had the filthiest mouth I have heard in a long while – seriously folks…can we not present ourselves as bogans – not just when we are overseas, but ever!?!?!?

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We arrived back late but feeling fulfilled, and when we woke the next morning we decided we were going to just explore our immediate surroundings. We walked up and checked out some local shops near our hotel, posted a parcel back home, and looked for somewhere to eat. Its amazing that it is not uncommon to see people drinking wine early in the day, and really the Europeans don’t get publicly wasted like us westerners…they just seem to know the benefit of moderation. So we found an amazing little bakery that had spinach and feta pastries, and great coffee, so we stopped and enjoyed. As we left Mackenzie went inside to say “afgaristo” which is thankyou, and the lass behind the counter was so overwhelmed by her speaking any amount of greek (I am told there are lots of westerners that don’t bother), that she rushed around the corner exclaiming words like “parakalo” and “princess”, holding Mackenzies face and kissing her cheeks – all we could do is giggle…Mackenzie has sensory processing disorder but took this very well probably due to shock lol. She promptly got a “well done for dealing with that situation so well honey”.

So off we trotted and although we didn’t want to leave we boarded our plane in the tiny little airport in Santorini and headed for Athens for a 2 day exploration of mainland Greece. Although grateful for the adventure we had experienced, our hearts sank that it was almost over.