The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Greece, and I'm Dropping Off the Radar

Starting Monday 7/13, I'm moving in temporarily with my grandparents in Galena. They live on Table Rock Lake about 45 minutes south of Springfield, and it is the land of no cell phones or internet. I'll be coming back into Springfield on the weekends, but Monday-Friday I'll be unreachable, unless you have their land line number (or can convince one of my best friends to give it to you). Otherwise, if you email/facebook/text me, expect to not receive a reply until the weekend (note: this should NOT serve as an excuse *not* to email/facebook/text me... you know who you are).

I'm moving down there because my grandparents need more supervision than they currently have. My dad has employed one of their neighbors, who used to be a nurse, to check on them everyday and do some light housework, but it has become apparent that they need someone there 24 hours. Since I haven't been doing anything this summer besides domestic labor for my parents and other grandma (the one who lives in Springfield), I was the obvious choice. I'll be cooking, cleaning, and generally waiting on them hand and foot, at which I've had lots of practice and am quite skilled. I made jokes to my mom that she was relinquishing her slave girl to her elders as tribute. It's all very old testament. Actually, though, my dad will be compensating me for my services, so it's a win-win situation all the way around. The only person not winning is you, dear reader, who will be deprived of my scintillating updates. In light of this, I decided to post the next episode on my European Odyssey: Greece!

So. Where was I? Ah yes...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mom was flying into London on the 22nd of May, so I arrived a few days early to wallow in London and hang with the folks at Astor Museum Inn. I went to a sci-fi/comics superstore and bought the latest compiled volume of the Buffy Season 8 comics, and devoured it in a single sitting. I went for a few lovely walks with Mfundo, which is now in my top 5 favorite things to do in London. We saw Buckingham Palace, which was kinda boring, and Green Park, which was pretty. I saw Jalal and we had a sandwich. In Astor's basement kitchen, one night, a makeshift ping-pong table was assembled and an impromptu tournament coalesced. We didn't have paddles, so we started out using our hands and progressed to kitchen utensils. It was fun.

Friday

I met Mom at the airport in the morning. We were both wearing the same color of green! Dorks. We checked in to our super-swank hotel room, just on the other side of the block from Astor's, then went out for lunch, British Museum, and Regent's Park. We mostly walked around.

Saturday

We almost missed our plane to Athens because the tube line we were supposed to take was closed, so we had to get off at a different stop and hoof it all the way across Hyde Park. Mom wasn't moving very quickly with her ROLLER BAG (which I told her not to bring) so we missed the bus and had to take the next one. By some miracle, we got there just under the wire and were on our way to Athens.

That night, after checking in to our hotel (a few blocks north of Omonia Square... don't recommend it) we went down to the bar hoping to score some food. It was late and they had stopped serving, but we talked to the bartender and he was nice enough to bring us some bread, feta cheese, and olives to go with our bottle of wine. It was absolutely delicious, though I hadn't yet mastered the art of eating a block of feta with only a hunk of bread to use as a utensil, so I we left little crumblies all over the floor. We didn't want to leave a mess when he'd been so nice, so we waited until his back was turned and then reached down to scrape up what we could with our napkins. Dorks.

Sunday, May 24

We went down to the port, on the edge of the city, fairly early. I wasn't sure when the ferries were running that day and I didn't want us to miss it. In retrospect, I really should have checked the timetables and probably bought tickets in advance, but I was so confused about the whole ferry thing that I just wanted to get down there and look at everything for myself. In the end, we got there around lunchtime and our boat wasn't leaving for about 6 hours. It was really hot and there wasn't much to do around the port... hardly any restaurants, either, which I thought was weird. Probably because it was Sunday. There was a huge open-air market selling tons and tons of *crap,* so we wandered through that for a while and I got a hat.

We had a lovely dinner on the ferry, right next to the giant picture windows looking out onto the water. The boat ride was really long, and we arrived on Santorini around midnight. Our host from the hotel, Stelio, picked us up right from the port and drove us to our accommodations on the other side of the island. We fell into bed in our clean and simple room and tried to rest up for the big day ahead.

Monday

We had booked a tour that our hosts recommended, and we were really glad we did. It lasted all day and we saw a ton of stuff. I was excited to do a lot of hiking and swimming; I really love exploring things more physically and getting away from cities and towns. Santorini is actually the largest in a group of islands, in a formation called a caldera. Basically, they are volcanic islands with the crater at the center of a partial ring; Santorini is the largest island and forms a part of the ring, that's why it's crescent-shaped. On the tour, we took a boat (pirate-y!) complete with group and guide, to the different islands of the caldera. First we went to the center of the caldera, which has the active crater. That is to say, we hiked up a volcano. And saw smoke coming out of it. And it was awesome. And really hot.

After hiking up a volcano, we went to the edge of another island, where there is a hot spring. Since it was early in the season and the ocean was still pretty cold, it was more of a lukewarm spring. Also, the boat couldn't get really close, so to reach the "spring" area near the shore, you had to jump off the boat into the freezing cold Aegean Sea. I threw myself overboard without hesitation; Mom dipped a toe in and decided to decline. Apparently, the "thing to do" in the hot (lukewarm) spring was rub mud all over yourself. *Supposedly* the mud contains minerals that are good for the skin, but I suspected that's just something the locals say to get tourists to make fools of themselves. What did I do? Why, rub mud all over myself, of course.

After the hot springs it was time for lunch. We went to the next island, Thirassia, and ate at a tiny Mom and Pop place with about 4 things on the menu. Then we walked around and got ice cream, and looked out over the sea.

The last stop was the north-west tip of Santorini island, the village of Ia (or Oia, as it's sometimes spelled). The boat dropped us at the dock, and our guide gave us instructions on where to find the bus which would take us home a few hours later. However, Ia isn't located at the dock. It's located 300 steps above the dock, on top of the island. The choices: walk up, or ride a donkey. Mom and I opted for walking. I was not in the mood to have a smelly animal between my legs. The downside to this (besides the obvious) was that the donkeys used the same steps... and would pass us by... twice. I thought I was clever by finding a sort of shoulder off the path and waiting there while they passed us, but I failed to anticipate the return journey. Upon descending, those donkeys ran down the mountain like hell itself was behind them, and I suppose it was... in the form of their shouting Greek masters.

We barely escaped with our lives, and survived to see the famous Ian (ha!) sunset. We rewarded ourselves by having sangria and cheesecake for dinner. While waiting for the sun to get close to the horizon, we wandered around the town taking photos of everything. I couldn't help it, everything looked like a photo. It really was just as beautiful in real life as it looks in pictures and movies. Most of the architecture is clean white and blue, but every now and then we'd come across a splash of pink flowers or a yellow house. The view from Ia was incredible and we could see across the whole caldera. The ocean spread out beneath us like a silk carpet, and a single boat sent a V-shaped shimmer across the fabric.

Tuesday

After sleeping off our 10-hour tour, we decided to take it slow. We were staying on the opposite side of the island from Ia, in a town called Perissa Beach. We spent the day lounging by the pool, swimming a bit, eating in the waterfront restaurants and sauntering down the beach. Okay, we stumbled down the beach. The beach was made up of volcanic pebbles, which were both burning hot and unsteady to walk on. We got our feet wet and had our fill, but it was definitely beautiful. We didn't do much else; Mom did some shopping, I did some reading. It was a nice compliment to our action-packed expedition the day before.

Wednesday - Thursday

We had a lot of traveling to do. Wednesday we left Santorini for Athens, Thursday we left Athens for Milan. We didn't do much besides run to catch the next plane, train, bus or boat. Oh, but Mom will be upset if I fail to mention her great contribution to our successful passage.... when we were looking for the bus to the airport, she mimed a plane taking off and an old Greek lady pointed across the street. It will go down in history as the most brilliant non-verbal exchange ever, I'm sure.

By Thursday evening we were in Milan... and here, dear reader, I leave you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails in anticipation, for the wonders that lie within.... ITALY.

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