Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in Athens

So, Mike was suffering from a severe case of wanderlust and booked us a trip to Athens, Greece, for the holidays. I had been to Athens before, as a teenager (hence the profile picture), but since I was a cantankerous teenager, it was completely wasted on me. This trip had a whole new promise to it.

We left Atlanta around lunchtime Christmas Eve and after a brief pit stop at JFK, arrived in Athens Christmas morning, around 9:00am. We tried to sleep on the plane, as much as that is possible, but we were still exhausted when we got to the hotel. We decided to crash for a few hours before hitting the town. Let me just say that the Delta flight attendants were the nicest I've ever seen. They're Greece based.....naturally.

Once we awoke, we headed to the Syntagma Square for the Christmas festivities. It's so neat seeing how other cultures celebrate holidays. There were hundreds of balloons in all shapes and sizes, consisting of favorite American cartoon characters. There were also lots of Santa Clauses, all with at least one pony and a photographer--to take photos of tiny tots on the pony they will probably never receive as a gift under the tree. A carousel played music as crowds surrounded it. Across the street shone two golden arches......yes, Mickey D's. We took in the festivities and travelled around via foot until it was dark and then headed back to the hotel. Below are some photos.

December 26th is Boxing Day, another well-known and celebrated holiday. Everything was closed and we had booked an all-day cruise to visit three Greek islands. We waited in the hotel lobby but nobody showed up to get us, as they were supposed to. We had the receptionsist call the number of the agency but there was no answer. We eventually hired a Taxi to take us down to the dock to see if we could still make a cruise. All of the scheduled tours had already left so we just ended up buying a ticket aboard a ferry to the island, Aegina. We spent most of the day there and took a quick carriage ride.

We had an early night, since everything was pretty much closed. The next day was a scheduled tour of the Acropolis. The Parthenon was amazing! I remembered it, but my memory mostly consisted of sitting on a step waiting for my parents. I had a completely different experience this time, especially after studying Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. To think that I stood where they did and looked at the same things they's amazing.

We walked our asses off yesterday. After leaving the Acropolis, we walked through the city and visited the famous flea market....picking up uneeded trinkets and cheap souvenirs. We had been wanting to eat at a local restaurant, to get a taste of local cuisine (well everyone else did...I was just along for the ride) but it had been closed until last night. Around 6:30pm, we made it to the Attikos Restaurant and knocked on the door (I know). A lady answered and said that they do not open until around 7:15pm or 7:30pm and to come back then. Can you imagine? That's how most of the restaurants were....they didn't open until 7ish for dinner. We walked back to the hotel and waited, and returned for a traditional Greek meal. Mike got some sort of chicken and Shane and Liz both got a lamb dish. I ate spaghetti with red sauce--no meat. Have I ever told you that I'm pretty much a vegetarian outside of the United States? I just don't trust it.

Today, we hopped on a plane to Turkey. Right now, as I sit and write this, I am in Istanbul (not Constantinople).

We flew Turkish Airways and it was great. I'm telling you, our American airline companies could really learn a lot from these foreign airlines--especially when it comes to customer service. We even got a meal--for only an hour flight. Go figure.

We checked in to our hotel and headed out to walk around the town. This is by no means a little town. There are some 15 million people in Istanbul. We asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation (again something traditional) and he sent us to Haci Baba. We are staying very close to Taksim Square, which is the European part of Istanbul, and there are numerous restaurants around. We finally found it. Again, Mike got a chicken dish, Liz and Shane both got lamb and I got a beef-filled eggplant, but removed the beef. It was all very good.

My favorite part of the night was finding something I had been without all week. Starbucks! After we ate, we headed over and sipped on some Starbucks. We came back to the hotel, checked email, MySpace and Facebook and worked out at the gym. Now, I'm writing this blog. I do have to say that I was unable to log into MySpace nor Facebook the entire time in Greece and I was having little withdraws, in addition to my jonesing for Starbucks. I was not a very happy camper. I am now somewhat civilized and easier to deal with. I think. At least I'm easier to deal with now than when I was 13 years old. So there.

More later.

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