There’s No Place Like Home

The moment that we landed in Boston last night was one of the big highlights of the trip. Our three and half week adventure was an amazing one, but Dorothy got it right when she said “there’s no place like home”. After our journey through England, Israel then Greece, the sights of Boston make me so happy. A part of me thinks it’s because flying was a total disaster and all I wanted to do was to get off the plane. The other part of me really missed Boston and everything I have here. photo 2

After a long, long day, I have already been up for 12 hours because of jet lag, I am slowly adjusting to real life again. I jumped right back into my routine and went to the gym, saw my trainer, played tennis for an hour and started organizing my closet. Maybe it’s because I’m running out of room in my closet, maybe it’s because I realized you can live on very little clothes thanks to our carry-on only or maybe it’s because my wardrobe is going to have to change drastically thanks to student teaching, but I need to organize it now. Otherwise, I don’t think it will ever happen.

We are going to see both my older sisters and their kids later today. It’s hard to express how much I missed all my nieces and nephews while we were gone. We would FaceTime with them and my 11 month-old niece looked exceptionally confused as to how we got into the box that talks to her. It will be really nice to see them in person and get to give them hugs and pick them up. I guess that old saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is really true.

Looking back on our adventure, I am so happy and feel so fortunate I was able to get away with just my parents for that long. We realized at one point throughout our adventure this was the first time it was just the three of us on a trip somewhere. Whenever we would to a different country or state, one of my sisters or both of them usually joined us. I love those getaways because getting that time with my family is priceless, but there is something really nice about having my parents to myself. It hasn’t really been that way since high school when both my sisters were living in Boston with kids and we were still in New York.

While I sit on my bed looking around my room, I am reminded of how happy I am to be home. I love traveling, but like we all said this morning over breakfast, the best part about vacation is coming home. It is going to be a whirlwind few days since I need to start figuring out what I want to bring with me to the Cape for the summer, but once I get there I am finally going to fall into my routine and I can’t wait for that.photo 1

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It’s All Greek To Me

Leaving Santorini and coming to Athens was a bit of a culture shock. Santorini was a pretty, quiet island and a lot of the stores’ names and signage were in english. Basically, it is tailored for the tourists who come to visit. However, after arriving in Athens yesterday, it felt a little like when we first arrived in Tokyo last year.

All the signs are in Greek letters, it is a large city, most of the business owners speak little to no english and menus are predominately in Greek. On the positive side, being so immersed in the Greek system, thanks to close friends and an old boyfriend, I know some of the letters and what sounds they make so I can sound out most words. I don’t think I would be able to manage a whole book or a menu but knowing some street signs is useful.

We are staying at a hotel in the middle of everything. The Greek Parliament building is in front and to the right is a clear view of the Acropolis. The location could not be better. We walked almost everywhere, with the exception of dinner last night after a long day of traveling. Yesterday, we did the obligatory tourist visits, at least the two I really wanted to see in our very short time here. The Parthenon was pretty incredible. From the wide views of the city from above to the sheer size of the columns that are there I was in awe. We ended up walking past the ancient Agora excavation site and mom and I decided we had seen it. My Dad opted for a longer and more in depth tour. Guess who is most excited by the archeology and history of Athens?

We walked through the Plaka, which is a combination of the touristy blocks in London, the Shuk in Israel and a souvenir shop. We didn’t buy anything and I had multiple english speaking tourists come up to me asking for directions. I guess I looked like I knew where I was going, or looked less lost than the rest of the tourists. The Plaka was for the experience and with those two things checked off, I was content to avoid the other tourist traps and relax. The cab driver who took us to the hotel from the airport in Athens told us about a local neighborhood that was a short walk for us.

While my dad set off on his tour of the Agora this morning, my mom and I went out in search of this neighborhood to explore. We reached Kolonaki Square, the center of the little town in ten minutes and then people watched while we cooled down in the shade. We then began exploring the surrounding streets and passed so many shoe stores, clothing stores and cafes, I don’t understand how they are all successful. Since we decided to throw out some clothes we don’t want anymore, I felt obliged to get some new clothes. We passed by the cutest dress shop and I ended up leaving with two great dresses. They are both long enough for teaching and have a high neckline. This will be the definition of my wardrobe starting next Spring, so may as well start now.

We managed to happen upon the restaurant that the driver had suggested to us. The food was good and once we managed to get away from the strong smoke scent we had an enjoyable lunch. It seems like all people do in Athens is drink coffee, smoke and sit in cafes. I don’t quite understand when they work because when we got to the square at 10 AM people were already camped out in the cafes. So far, I have been happy with how our time has been spent in Athens.

There is a certain charm to the city that was missing in Santorini. Being in an area with so many english speakers was nice, and definitely less challenging, but the culture in Athens and the vibe is much more exciting. The photographer in me loves all the interesting shots I am getting. There is so much graffiti and a lot of it looks amazing. The buildings are different from what I see on a typical day and there is something about the light that I just can’t explain in words. This is definitely a place I would come back to for longer later in life. Santorini, probably not but I might try a different island. It’s been a great taste of the country but it will be nice to go back home to Boston tomorrow.

Should We Walk or Take A Cab?

“I think we should take a cab back to the hotel.”

“Why? It will take at least five minutes longer than just walking. Also,I get so nauseous in the cabs. It’s like the cabbies here don’t know how to drive. They start, stop, then repeat. It’s horrible. We are walking.”

“If we walk we are going to get lost. We have no clue where we are, and all the street signs are in Greek. Do you know Greek? I sure don’t.”

“We won’t get lost. We have a map, our phones and I actually have a good sense of direction. We’ll be fine. Let’s just walk back to the hotel. It only took us 10 minutes coming here.”

“Yeah? you seem really sure about that. I think we should just take a cab. It will be less confusing and it’s really warm out already.”

“You forget that these cab drivers don’t know english. I don’t know how you expect to tell them where to go.”

“Show them the map, everyone understands maps.”

“You’re kidding, right? If they can understand a map with english writing from the hotel, then we can understand Greek symbols and names that match up with the map. It won’t be that hard and I won’t get nauseous.”

“Fine, you win. Tell us where to go then. Right or left?”

“Right, we came from the left when we were coming here so we make a right. Deductive reasoning, see? This won’t be so hard.”

“Whatever you say. Let’s go and see where it takes us.”

“Hmm, I don’t remember this store, or that one.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to take a cab?”

“We’re walking. Let’s try going left.”

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Santorini By Sea

Since we dubbed ourselves a boating family last summer, we all became excited by the prospect of taking a boat around the island of Santorini while we were visiting. When I say a boating family, take note: I mean my mom doesn’t get nauseous on our boat in Cape Cod and I tolerate and at times love it. However, like my mom said last night about a half hour into the ride, there are boats and then there are boats.

All I can say is thank god for the ginger tea, sugar and water concoction we made because without it I might have thrown up. While the concept was nice and the waves calmed down in time to enjoy watching the sunset on the water, the beginning was quite rocky. The views by boat were quite amazing though.

Let me explain very briefly how current Santorini came to be. Many, many years ago, the volcano, which was in the middle of a huge landmass, then called Thira, erupted and sent most of the land into the ocean. Thanks to the Volcano, 2,000 feet of water took the place of land and the Caldera was born. The Caldera is basically a giant circle of water around the volcano. Now Santorini is one island and there are multiple islands with different names on various sides of the volcano. Because the split happened from the eruption, the rocks are mostly hardened volcanic ash. Brief history lesson: complete.

The colors on the cliffs of Santorini are beautiful. There are multiple colors in one part of the cliff alone. With the sunset, the colors were  heightened even more. It was a very unique perspective on the island. Once the waves calmed down and we could actually enjoy the boat, it was pretty cool. We opted for a boat that we haven’t really experienced before, a non motor boat, and it looked a little like a miniature pirate ship. It also only went about eight knots, for those of you who are not so familiar with the measure of knots, it is VERY slow. There were sails which he doesn’t use unless the in-board motor dies.  That was a scary thought since I had no interest in going on a sailboat. Thank god we got there and back with no need for sails.

Right before we docked, we caught the last seconds of a proposal happening on a nearby boat. Once the woman said yes all the boat horns starting honking and the people on the boat popped champagne and started snapping a lot of pictures. It was a really awesome moment to witness. The really crazy thing we found out by the end of the trip was the man who took us out is basically the tourist rental boat guru of Santorini. He owns all the boats that take tourists out, including other companies, and his brothers are captains! Talk about a family business!

We got off the boat to watch the last few minutes of the sunset. This was done both in effort to avoid the people leaving Oia and the boats coming back to the dock after sunset. It was really beautiful watching it from the rocks.  We got out of there so fast. We did hit a few bumps when we got lost once or twice, or maybe three times coming home. Take note: there is more than one road in Santorini, no street lights and no signs. Rental car: not advised. It was an enjoyable experience and the sunset was pretty spectacular from the sea. Getting lost and nauseous, I could have done without though.

 

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The Stairs of Pygros

Once we all caught up on the missed sleep from our travel day, we decided to go out and explore the area around our hotel. We are located in the village of Pygros, which is a picturesque town. However, it is quite large and steep with many steps. We had been told about castle ruins on the top. We decided to go off in search of them and started our trek up the hill. The hill was more like a mountain.

The way Pygros is organized is by a lot of narrow walkways, which turned out to be their streets, with villas of different colors lining them. The only way to get through these streets is on a mule. We found two of them grazing throughout our travels. It was a little more complicated than I think we had anticipated when starting out. There are no street signs, probably because these aren’t actual streets, they don’t show up on our phone GPS, and there aren’t signs for these castle ruins. Who wouldn’t put signs for that? They really should because we passed multiple groups of people who looked as hopelessly lost as we did.

These so called streets, or as I would prefer, alleys, have no sense of direction or order. We passed splits at least five times and ended up back at the same split 25 minutes later. Each time we went a different way the view and buildings were different. Don’t get me wrong, the walk was really beautiful and getting hopelessly lost wasn’t so scary for someone with no sense of direction since we usually ended up back where we came from. Hooray for concentric circles!

At one point in our search for these cool castle ruins, I came upon a set of stairs which seemed to lead up to a dilapidated set of buildings, which almost resembled ruins. Just for the record: I am so thankful I am in as good shape as I am and beyond proud of my parents, especially my mom. We climbed so many stairs today. It was exhausting but a great workout. She did sit out my cool discovery, which involved climbing up a set of nonexistent stone stairs and climbing over a lot of bramble. I think I might have hit the top of the castle. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever know but whatever I discovered was beautiful.

Finding our way back down to the main square was not so easy either. The whole disorganized walkway issue made it difficult to figure out how to get there. We finally found it after passing multiple tourist shops with cute souvenirs and beautiful buildings with bright colors. When we were looking up at the mountain from below, we saw multiple churches with blue domes and crosses. For all we know we could have been passing different ones the entire time. Pygros, you might want to talk to Boston and figure out a way to organize your streets. It will make people’s lives easier.

 

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Shalom Israel, Γεια σου Ελλάδα (Hello Greece)!

After leaving Israel very early this morning for a flight to Athens then to Santorini, we started the last leg of our three and a half week journey. It is a little insane to think that as of this time next week, we will be back in Boston and getting ready to head to the Cape. The trip went by so fast and I honestly don’t know where the time went. I want to say I wish it went slower but I am so happy to finally be in Greece.

I have been dying to come to Greece for a while. I don’t know if it was the scenes in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants or pictures I saw on the internet that got me hooked on it but I have been asking to visit here for years. Now, the time has finally come and we are here in Santorini! As usual, the accommodations were not quite what we were expecting. Take note: suggestions from a family friend can be a tricky move, even if they are pickier than your family.photo 1-4

It’s been a bad pattern so far this trip and I don’t know if we are even going to entertain looking elsewhere since we are only here for four days. My feeling about the room: make it work and enjoy relaxing. This was supposed to be our low-key part of the vacation and I’ll keep that way. It suddenly seems like so little time. When we arrived in London it seemed like we would be in Santorini forever. There is so much to see on the island, at least according to TripAdvisor, so we will probably spend a lot of time exploring but also relaxing. The mood in Santorini is much more chill and laid back than it has been in London or Israel.

The views are totally unreal here. It blows my mind how far we can see from our room. That is one major plus for the hotel. The sky is so blue and the water is equally as bright and it goes on for miles. You don’t see these views every day. That is for sure. I am excited to get out and explore after we catch up on some much needed rest from our very long day of travelling today.

photo 2-4

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A New View on History

Last night, my parents and I went to the see the sound and light show at the Tower of David Museum. This was one of the remaining things on my list of things I really wanted to do while in Jerusalem. It was as amazing as I had anticipated and it opened my eyes to the vast history of the city.

Tower David at Night  We walked through the courtyard to get to where the show would be happening and throughout different areas they had smaller light demonstrations happening. Seeing what someone can do with light was a little surreal to see. Most were moving and showed moments in history. The images on the rocks were really beautiful and captivating to watch.

Once the show actually started it became even more amazing. The way they linked the music and the lights was so well done. The scenes they showed blew my mind a little as they went through the entire history of Jerusalem. When they showed the destruction with images of fire burning and soldiers marching through the city it was projected all over the inner walls of the tower. I can only describe it as a chilling sensation.

While watching this display, I couldn’t help but connect to the history and destruction of the city that is so alive today. Getting the chance to see the Tower Of David and the Old City by night was an experience I have never had before. Seeing the lights stretch out before me for miles showed me how expansive the old city has become and how much Jerusalem has developed these past few years. It really says a lot about our strength as Jewish people and our ability to come back better than before. The show made the history much more real for me and in a way clarified a lot of what I learned in eighth grade. Getting this new outlook on a whole era of Judaism and Israel’s history was a great experience. It also reminded me that a new outlook on things helps us appreciate it more. Footsteps through Time