A Travellerspoint blog

Eight Days a Week

rain

Day 2
We came. We saw. We got wet.

The weather report for today was rain in the morning but clear skies by afternoon. We had the perfect plan to navigate the weather – museum in the am and Acropolis in the pm.

We headed out to the National Archeological Museum, and on the way found breakfast. I had a feta cheese pie or something like that, basically a little bit of ricotta-like cheese inside filo dough with a bottle of water, and both were amazing.

The museum turned out to be free since it was Sunday, which was a very nice surprise, and we spent a while looking around in there. I was excited because photos were allowed, as long as there were no flashes anyway. We spent a while in the first gallery which was filled with items that had been found in graves, and then after that we saw lots and lots of statues. They were all made out of either marble or bronze, and the rooms just kept going! It was huge! There were both full-length statues and merely heads on pedestals. It was funny because they were all labeled in some combination of young/youth/mature/old and man/woman. On the heads all the noses were missing. Maybe it was the ancient version of Photoshop.

Once we realized there was no way we were going to see everything, we hunted for a specific statue mentioned in Frommer’s Greece, our not-so-useful, as we found out, guidebook. Anyway, the statue is either Zeus or Poseidon, but the lighting bolt or trident is missing, so it’s unknown which god it really is. I say Zeus, because who throws a trident? We all know what happened when King Trident gave his up to Ursula – not a good story. Margaret says Poseidon though because she doesn’t think the hand is open wide enough to hold a lightning bolt. But I guess we’ll never know for sure …

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After the museum we went back to our hostel for a siesta, but when I realized that the Acropolis was only open until 7 and it was already after 3, we decided to get going because we knew we’d want to spend a lot of time there. It IS the biggest attraction in Athens after all! We were expecting it to be free since that’s what Frommer promised on Sundays, but we learned he was wrong and had to pay 12 euros to get in. The ticket also comes with entrance into the other ancient sights in Athens, so if you go to all of them it’s a great deal. But - since we were leaving the next morning we only had time for the big one – the Acropolis – and it was a little steep. After coming all the way to Greece, however, we couldn’t very well be cheap and not go in, so we sucked it up and paid the money.

Now, the Acropolis is on top of a hill, so you have to climb a bit to reach the cool part. On the way up I felt the first rain drop. I was not pleased. It wasn’t anything to get worried about, but I didn’t want to put my camera away at the Acropolis of all places! We made it up to the Parthenon before having to pull out Margaret’s umbrella, but it was all downhill from there. Literally and figuratively. At first I thought it was hysterical how hard it was raining – I literally couldn’t stop laughing. I hadn’t brought an umbrella because I was hoping that by not having one I could convince the weather to not rain while I was in Greece. Fortunately, Margaret wasn’t that stupid. I put my camera away to protect it from the evil wetness, and while we were standing there I told Margaret that maybe since it was raining, everyone else would leave and I’d be able to get some pictures without tourists in it. Yeah. Shouldn’t have said that. The rain started coming down in reservoirs, not just buckets. We were completely drenched within the first few minutes of huddling under the small umbrella meant for one person, not two people and some rather large purses. The cameras of course had to stay in the middle for the greatest protection, which means I got somewhat shoved out. It didn’t really matter though since I was already wet through. I think it was just so funny to me because I couldn’t believe how much water there was – pouring down on top of us and streaming towards the tourists huddled under a temple by the entrance.

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We followed them to the temple in hopes of finding some shelter, but not only was it so packed that there just wasn’t any room for us, there wasn’t a roof there anyway! People were getting just as wet in there as they would have been out in the open, perhaps even more so (as I was) because of standing underneath the edges of other umbrellas that were pouring water onto them. Some people crossed over the path’s railings and tried to find shelter closer to the temple walls. That was when I noticed the signs that said “please do not touch the marble.” Since I didn’t have anything better to do, and I was by that time greatly annoyed at being thwarted in my attempts to take massive amounts of photos, I darted my hand out in rebellion and quickly tapped the marble. I know!! Shocking, right? Then Margaret decided she had to touch it too. I guess we’re just another example of girls gone wild. Tourists eventually left in little groups when the rain didn’t stop. Our philosophy was that since it was raining so hard it must be a flash flood and would be over soon. That’s the way it works in Seattle!

Yeah. Well forty-five minutes later we were finally right. By that time pretty much everyone else had gone, so I did indeed get my pictures with no tourists in them. That was exciting at least. Margaret jumped in puddles, but then got yelled at by a random guard when she squealed. I laughed.

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I think the trick was to pray for the rain to stop. We prayed to pretty much everyone in our reservoir of religious knowledge, beginning with Mary – Hail Mary, full of grace, help us find a drier space. That particular one didn’t work so we tried variations including but not limited to H.M., f.o.g., make it stop ‘cause we don’t have a camera case. We realized we were probably praying to the wrong person so then we tried Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and gods or spirits of rain/photography/cameras, and finally, with no ideas left – Mister cop, make it stop! Funnily enough, that one worked!

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Posted by ecfong 15:09 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Eight Days a Week

The Beginning

overcast

Margaret: Hi! I am Emily’s oldest, prettiest, favoritest cousin. I graduated from the University of Portland last May and when Emily told me she wanted to go to Greece for her fall break I couldn’t resist. I was able to get enough time off work and my parents gave me plane tickets for a graduation gift so off I went on my second trip to Greece (but I was only two the last time I was there so it doesn’t count).

Pre-departure
We eat well here in Camelot – we eat ham, jam, and spam a lot!

Margaret spent one day with me in jolly old England before we embarked upon our great adventure. We did two great things – found fish and chips and went to a West End show! As requested by Margaret, we saw Spamalot, the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it was pretty much awesome. After the show we high-tailed it down to our B&B by the Gatwick airport because we had a very early (6:20am) flight the next morning and didn’t want to deal with public transportation at that hour.

Day 1
It’s all Greece to me!

We made it to our flight without a problem, and we even managed to get seats next to each other! (We were lucky because Easyjet just has first-come first-serve boarding.) Customs was interesting because Margaret went first and the guard wouldn’t speak English, so of course we couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. Margaret thought he was trying to figure out which language to use, but finally she realized he wanted to know where she had just come from. When I went through he just started with English: “Same place? London?” and stamped (yay!) my passport and sent me on through. It was good.

We figured out the metro, Athens’ underground transportation system, just fine and went on a nice long ride into the city. Since each station is announced as you’re approaching, I became pretty good at pronouncing Syntagma and Omonia, the two stops we used the most. There was also an adorable little boy on the train, but he spoke French so the only thing I could understand was “choo choo!”

Margaret: My high school French was not much help either. I was able to understand J’ai fatigué before he fell asleep but that was about it. He was still adorable though.

Our hostel was on a somewhat sketchy street, but we had the room to ourselves which was a nice surprise. And there was free internet so we were in contact with the outside world for a bit as well. On the way there I learned something surprising: motorcycles drive on the sidewalks here! It’s intense.

For the rest of our first day in Athens, we went to the national gardens. It was basically a bunch of paths and some trees – not too exciting but I took plenty of pictures anyway, as I know Margaret can attest. I do think it must be a lot prettier in spring, or whenever the plants bloom; we just weren’t there at the right time. The weather was warm, a little muggy, but a nice change from London. At one point we found the street and looked across to see a guard all dressed up in front of the president’s palace. Margaret was the one who required a picture that time.

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Margaret: One of the few pictures I remember of Greece is of the guard dressed in his cute little outfit so I really just wanted a picture of him so that I could compare it to the outfit from 20 years before. Yep… still the same.

We got someone to take a picture of us in front of a fountain – well, he offered when he saw Margaret failing in her attempt to prop up her camera with a pebble underneath. Unfortunately, the photo came out blurry, but it was a nice try anyway. We also found some ruins – real ones! Because we were in Greece! And we found Hadrian’s not-so-Triumphal-looking (in my opinion) Arch.

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We then hunted for and successfully found the tourist area filled with shops and restaurants. We bought soap with a magnet of Athena’s head on it, after MUCH deliberation, for Suzy. Our mission was to photograph Athena in all of the cool places we went. (It was supposed to be Gumby, actually, but he didn’t quite make it into Margaret’s suitcase, so Athena was the next best model.)

One thing that I’ve noticed is there are dogs everywhere! They don’t seem to have owners, so they must be strays, but it’s apparently the most natural thing in the world for them to just wander all over.

We finally agreed upon a restaurant for dinner, and we chose a set-priced meal that came with a drink, salad, main entrée, and dessert. It was fun because we got to sit outside and people watch while enjoying our first Greek meal. I had calamari for my main course, and it was probably the best squid I’ve ever had! Yes, it really was that good. I wasn’t surprised, but also wasn’t happy, when I saw that about half of the pieces were tentacles. I really just prefer eating the parts where I can’t tell what animal it used to be, and tentacles definitely don’t fit into that category. However, I was in Greece, and the rule in my family is that you always have to try something before you can say you don’t like it. So try the tentacles I did. And whaddaya know!? My mom was right! They are actually quite tasty, and I finished off the entire plate!

Margaret: Being a vegetarian, I decided to go the safe route and order stuffed vegetables. Then I came to the realization that I had no idea what they were stuffed with; I’d forgotten to ask. I was a little worried but figured I could always just steal some calamari off Emily’s plate if my vegetables ended up stuffed with meat. I was relieved to find that I had ordered one bell pepper and one tomato stuffed with rice! They were delicious!

For dessert I had planned to order baklava, but we were just brought this random dessert which I thought was okay but Margaret couldn’t finish (past the first obligatory bite). It was sort of a cornmeal texture, and cold, sliced like cake. Margaret said it looked like fish eggs, but I say it was the wrong color (golden brown, not bright orange).

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Being outside, we were right next to the host guy who seated us at the beginning of our meal. He started talking to us, and it was funny because he told us that Greek men like beautiful women, but that all women are beautiful. He also said something about men only being beautiful when they are kind, and women only being beautiful if they are unkind (I think). I was a little confused, but definitely entertained. We also learned that he knew ten languages and was decently fluent in seven, and he’s learning Indian because more Indians are visiting Greece because of the economy there where the poor are getting rich and the rich are getting poor. Keep in mind of course that all this was said to us in a somewhat thick accent, and he was rambling and trying to get more customers, so it was a little difficult to follow, but – as I said – entertaining nevertheless.

Posted by ecfong 13:57 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Act Naturally

(October 15, 2008)

For the second half of our program we have an internship rather than a full set of classes. The day of my interview was slightly stressful, but ultimately successful.

In the morning I had to get my clothes all ironed, which sort of worked, and then I had to catch the tube and after that a train. The tube stopped randomly in the middle of its route for unexplained delays, so I arrived at the train station later than I intended. I thought I’d missed my train, then finally realized I hadn’t (by deciphering the departures board), and literally just as I went through the ticket barrier the train pulled away without me. The guard said the next train to that destination wasn’t until 10:30, even though when I checked online before I left it said there was a train at 10:15. Now, since my interview was supposed to be at 10:30, I wasn’t very happy. I went back out to the screens to verify what he’d said, and sure enough the next train was at 10:30. So I pulled out my phone and my information sheet and entered the company’s number into my phone. After saving it in case of future emergencies or similar transportation situations, I tried to get up the nerve to call because I knew I had to let them know I’d be late. Then I happened to glance back up at the boards and I noticed that another train, although going to a different final destination, was also going to my stop! THAT was the 10:15 I’d seen online! So I got on that train instead and made it to my interview right on time, though with none to spare.

The interview itself went fine. It wasn’t really an interview actually. The woman I work for (it’s a very small company, just the owner and one part time employee) pretty much just told me about the company, how it got started and what I’ll be doing there. It sounds like I’ll be doing design work which is exciting but scary, and helping out at trade shows and at the Christmas store. I’m really excited about working here and I’ll keep you posted on what happens once I actually start work!

(By the way, if you’re interested in seeing the collections, her website is http://www.clearcreations.co.uk/.) Enjoy!

Posted by ecfong 03:07 Archived in England Comments (0)

Roll Over Beethoven

(October 14, 2008)

If you want an experience, go to a concert.

Lauren and I went to Dirty Pretty Things – a group I’d never heard of before, but after youtubing (making up verbs is fun!) some of their songs, I figured I’d probably enjoy their concert.

While waiting for the doors to open, we received “drinking age verified” bracelets, meaning of course that we were able to get drinks at the bar without having to pull out ID each time. We considered getting some just because we could, but since my departure for Greece was immanent, I figured I shouldn’t spend any more money than necessary.

When we were finally allowed inside, we realized that we were surrounded by teenagers (on the younger end of the scale, so around 14 or so)! There was a disproportionate number of adults, and Lauren and I felt old. It was an odd sensation. By the time Dirty Pretty Things came on though, the area was completely filled up and pretty much everyone else who had arrived were in fact adults.

I got quite a a shock when the music started. Not from the volume (I had earplugs thanks to a lesson from my physics professor Freshman year in which – in short – I learned loud noises kill the little hairs in your ears that allow you to make sense of sound waves and once they die they’re gone forever, therefore wear earplugs at rock concerts), but from the crazy ramming of people from all sides. Yes. I had been crushed by my first mosh pit. (I also expect it to be my last, by the way.) Basically, I don’t plan on repeating that experience again. Ever. I was shoved around, back and forth, almost violently, AND people were throwing their beer into the crowd! Now, these were not just some empty cups with a few drops left in them. Oh no. At first I just felt a few drops and assumed some had splashed out because of all the movement, but when I saw cups, plural, in the air and got someone else’s beer all over (and down) my shirt, I was not pleased. They were practically full while flying through the air! After the third time it happened, I decided it wasn’t a fluke anymore and had to change locations. After that the concert was more enjoyable – less shoving and fewer flying beverages.

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(Photos compliments of Lauren C.)

Overall, I’m glad I went, but I think next time I’ll pay a bit more for the seats up above where I can just watch the madness rather than participate in it.

Posted by ecfong 13:59 Archived in England Comments (0)

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