Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Story of Our Dog, Bella

Four years ago, in a class that I definitely should have paid more attention to, I was trolling through the classifieds looking for a dog. I knew I needed a portable, petite beast with a penchant for living indoors, since we were likely going to travel a lot. I'd settled on some sort of poo-mix, but wasn't too particular about whether the "poo" was preceded by a "cocka," "malti," "yorkie," or whatever other combo breeds exist. I'd been searching without much luck, when suddenly the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and a voice from above boomed out, "Click on that ad, stupid! Click on it now!" 

It was an ad for a 1 year old maltipoo. I saved the text for posterity. Here it is: 


There were several pictures of Bella included and, as I'm sure you can imagine, she looked like an animatronic, baby seal, teddy bear, puppy, angel. I'm not a big impulse buyer, but I wanted that dog. I immediately jumped out of my seat, and ran into an adjoining room to call the seller. 

Six hours later, we were on the road to this family's house. Phil had to drive because I was bouncing off the windows. He took a more reasoned, pragmatic approach. "We need to make sure she'll be a good fit. We shouldn't plan on coming home with a dog tonight. Let's just go look and see. We'll have a lot of opportunities to find a dog." "Oh, of course, Phil," I said, shoving a giant wad of cash into my pocket. "Of course we won't plan on coming home with her. We won't plan on bringing her home and letting her sleep right next to my bed tonight and every night for the rest of her life and loving her forever and ever. We'll just go look." 

The five year old answered the door, clearly excited to show her dog to new people. The two year old was there, too. She had no conception of what was going on, but was pleased to be included. Bella came bounding into the living room and froze. I reached out to pet her, and she shook in fear. We asked the seller a few questions, and in a very reasoned, pragmatic way, I pulled out $250 and offered it to her on the spot. 

Phil sort of rolled his eyes, but he let me have this one. The woman gave us a bit more information about Bella's routine, and the five year old told us that she likes to play with socks. I've since found out that she doesn't like to play with socks so much as she likes to play with achilles tendons that are covered by socks while they're walking down the hall in front of her, but I've decided not to sue for misrepresentation since she only seems to target my heels, and no one else's.

The woman took Bella downstairs to say goodbye to her husband, who wasn't present for any of the transaction. I got the sense that Bella was "their" dog, just as much as Bella was going to be "our" dog, meaning that this guy and Phil both lost a negotiation at some point.  We made it to the front door with Bella's stuff, and the woman started crying. "I didn't realize it was going to be this hard," she choked out, while hugging and kissing Bella repeatedly. Then the two year old figured out what was happening. "Bellllaaaaaaaa," she wailed, "Bellaaaaaaaaaaa." I started to panic. I wanted to comfort these people, but I also wanted to get the dog in my arms and out the door before they changed their minds. I can't remember if the husband came up at this point to facilitate the handoff, or if the woman had to redirect her attention to the two year old. At any rate, I clamped my arms around a terrified dog, and ran to the car ecstatically. 

The woman checked in with me once, a few days later, to see how things were going. Since then, I've thought about her and her family quite a bit. I've wondered if they ever wish they knew how she was doing. At one point, I briefly considered sending them a postcard but Phil rightly informed me that it would be extremely creepy. So on the four year anniversary of Bella becoming my dog, I thought I'd write this note to let her first family know how thankful I am that they let me adopt their dog. I realize it's incredibly naive to assume that they'll ever see this post, but I'm still putting it out there under the six degrees of separation theory, and maybe one of you will get the info to them.

Bella at Halloween, 2012.

Bella during a Virginia rainstorm, 2013.


Bella and her dog cousins, 2014.

Bella in her IKEA chair, a gift from a friend, 2015.
                                                                                                                                                                   

To Bella's First Family,

Four years ago, I took your dog from you. I'm just starting to believe she wouldn't immediately abandon me if you showed up at our front door. She had a hard time leaving you, and was very sad and quiet for a few weeks. Eventually, the quietness wore off. Now, she lets me know every time she sees, hears, smells, feels, or thinks she's experiencing anything suspicious, including: doors opening, doors closing, knocking sounds, disembodied voices, loud motorcycles, uppity birds, leaves, ceiling fans, other dogs, anyone she doesn't recognize right away, and wind.

Bella is still very disciplined. She likes having a routine and sticking to it. She stands by the door when she needs to go out, and only on the most exciting occasions will accidentally pee a little in the house. She puts herself in time out when it happens. Bella's still particular about what she likes to eat. I changed her food after we moved to Virginia and mixed the new stuff in with the old stuff to gradually acclimate her. On the first day, she picked out all the new food, and left the old food untouched in the bowl. She has little self-control when it comes to human food. She loves peanut butter, kiwis, watermelon, tomatoes, carrots, meat, and pieces of banana. She does not eat lettuce, onions, or oranges. She once managed to eat half a chocolate chip cookie, and didn't get sick enough to deter her from going after other chocolate crumbs, though I've thrown myself on the floor before to prevent it from happening.

Speaking of crumbs, Bella recognizes that as a command now. If I drop something in the kitchen, I can yell, "Crumbs!" and she'll come tearing into the room from across the house. She also knows how to sit, wait, roll over, shake, jump up, lie down, bark, go in her house, go quick (to pee), and go get her toy on command. She recognizes some names. She knows who "Phil" is, and she knows who "mommy" is. If you think "mommy" is me, you're wrong. My mommy is "mommy," and Bella loves her more than any other human. I don't think Bella has a name for me. I'm just her slave.

Bella's lived in four different apartments since we adopted her, in two different states, and two different countries. She's flown on an airplane at least 10 times. She's been to the West Coast, the East Coast, and the Mediterranean. She's been to the National Mall, the Shenandoah mountains, and to George Washington's front porch. She's peed on the Nebraskan plains, slept in the Paris airport, and walked by the Greek Parliament building. She's been to the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. She was not a fan of either. She loves to hike, and loved exploring the Wasatch mountains.

Bella's learned to share attention with her two dog cousins, and my human niece. Soon, she'll have to share with a baby boy. She's not overly fond of other dogs, but she loves babies and kids.

I'm glad Bella lived with you. You trained her so well. She's been the perfect dog for us. She has a big list of admirers among our friends. Several of them have told me they'll take her if I die, which I guess should be comforting. She has a huge following among strangers, too, and has been photographed in a variety of places by a variety of people without me being able to monetize it somehow.

Whenever people ask where we got Bella, I always describe you, your family, and the wonderful luck we had in running across your classified ad. There hasn't been a single day that I've regretted the decision to act on your ad. Even Phil is willing to begrudgingly admit that he likes our dog. Thank you for being Bella's first family. Thank you for letting us adopt her.

Wishing you the very best,
Jane, Phil, and Bella
                                                                                                                                                                   

Bella in Athens, 2016.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pre and Post Easter

...but nothing from the actual day of (non-Orthodox) Easter, because I was working on potluck party stuff, while gradually losing the ability to walk on one foot.

Here's what our fridge looked like the night before:

We had so much food at the party. We had ham, cheesy potatoes, croissants, deviled eggs, veggies, cupcakes, giant cookies, and peanut butter fudge. I want to host another potluck so I can trick everyone into cooking/baking for me again. 

This is how the Easter Bunny gets down at our house. It fastidiously leaves a trail of eggs from Phil's room to wherever the baskets are hidden, then dumps a whole bunch on the floor because bending over to fastidiously place each plastic egg is a lot of work.

I wonder where the baskets could be? They're just so well hidden. 
I thought about showing you what was in the baskets, or even just the baskets themselves, but, seriously, bending over to set down a bunch of plastic eggs is a lot of work. Phil got real maple syrup, a onesie for his child, and kinder eggs. I got Peeps (the Easter Bunny outsourced to my mother in America for those), Reese's eggs (also an American thing, from the exchange store at the Embassy), and three puffy pom pom chicken decorations.

Here's our party set up:


I purchased those metallic Easter decorations at a Shoppers grocery store in Virginia last year. It was a few days after Easter and they were crazy on sale. I forgot I had them until I was looking through my decorations this year. It was like finding $20 in an old coat pocket.

You can sort of see my dying gardenia in this photo. It was moved over by the red cups along with the rose before guests arrived. No one asked me about it, which I thought was strange since it consumes about 1 out of 3 thoughts I have every day.

The party was great. We had a lot of fun with our neighbors. One of the best parts was the leftover food. Here's what I had for first lunch today:

I made that croissant, man. I made it from scratch. Recipe forthcoming. Stay tuned.

At the end of the day, I think what really matters most is that more of you lost the Christmas Card Challenge. This is interesting, all the cards from the middle have been dropping. The ones on the edges are hanging on. Coincidence? I don't know. Maybe you should jockey for edge positions in next year's Challenge. We're not above bribery.

That red-bordered photo card is next, I'll bet. It's a shame, because Phil and I are both in that picture. It's kind of nice to walk past my face on the wall every day. Maybe I should hang more photos of myself. A Jane for every room!

I've been sidelined by a foot injury of unknown origin. I think it's most likely tendonitis, but because I'm nearing confinement, they have to rule out the horrible possibilities. Looking forward to it. In the meantime, I am stuck on the couch again, and it bums me out. I'll either be an active blogger this week, or I'll sink under the despair of my limp, and eat the rest of the croissants while I comment with wild, angry abandon on internet articles. If you can't find me here, look for me out there.

Move along, Monday. Move along.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More Dead Plants

This is a sick joke, right?



We had a dust storm in Athens this week. I guess a couple times a year, dust from the Sahara blows into southern Europe. It gets very gritty and windy. I was primping in the bathroom when I heard a weird noise. Upon investigating, I found my newly planted seedlings all over my ****ing balcony. I roared in agony, then desperately sifted through the dirt on my hands and knees, looking for seeds to save. I rescued some dill and coriander, but the lavender was a total loss.

At what point do you accept that you can't garden?

Here are some wild plants. I took this photo later in the day so that I can just print it off and stick it in a pot, instead of trying to make a real thing grow.

Speaking of sick things, look at what I found.


Can you see it? Look closely...


Is that not the most horrifying thing you've ever seen?! First I'm getting cursed by panhandlers, then I have dreams about Mount Vernon dollar bills, my plants keep dying, and I find a headless, horrifying doll in a construction site. This place is freaky, man. It's freaky. 

Mail Call

Belated, and not so belated, mail call of the nice things we've received recently.

Anniversary Cards

We recently celebrated our anniversary, and got two very nice cards from Phil's family (along with a bunch of nice text messages from other family--y'all are on top of anniversaries, and we do thank you for thinking of us!).

From Phil's aunt and uncle.

From Phil's dad and family.



Easter Goodies

My mom mailed us (me) some Peeps, candy, and a few notes of interest. I wanted to share one of them. This is a portrait my dad drew of my mom when she was 7 months pregnant.

I didn't ask the artist or the subject for permission to post this, so get a good look now in case they ask me to take it down, or pay royalties.

Fundraising Solicitations

I want to send a big thank you to Mount Vernon estate for sending me a crisp $1 bill, along with a bunch of highfalutin nonsense about how children need more George Washington in their lives. I will not be returning the dollar bill, along with a larger, personal contribution, but I appreciate your fundraising attempt. This is way better than the 6 cents someone sent me last week to feed the children, or whatever.

By the way, some of the best advice I've ever received was to purchase an annual pass to Mount Vernon. If you live in the DC area, you only have to go twice to recover the cost. It is an absolutely beautiful place to hang out. You can even take your dog there. Bella loved peeing on George Washington's lawn. Last year, they did away with their annual pass, but if you get a basic membership, you get the same entrance benefits, AND they'll send you a dollar in the mail to try to guilt you into donating.

So, the only potentially bad thing about this is that I've started having dreams about Mount Vernon dollar bills. You don't suppose...it can't be cursed, can it? I'm really not in a position to be invoking more philanthropically-related curses.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nice Things

Hello, all.

I wrote a really lovely, thoughtful piece about the recent terrorist attacks, but I don't know if I want to share it yet. It's all just exhausting and horrible, isn't it? I'm not trying to be trite, but I also don't know if I want to give you one more thinkpiece, even a short one. If I change my mind, I'll post it up without fanfare. 

And now, some positive things from yesterday and today. 

1. Bella's first trip downtown.

I really needed more strawberries, and I couldn't wait until Thursday, so I drove downtown to a place where I knew I could get cheap berries. We found killer parking, pushed through gobs of people, and bought 2kgs of strawberries for 5 euros. That's about $5.60 for 4.4 pounds. !!!!!!!

This is our--possibly--illegal parking spot directly in front of the Zappeion building in the National Gardens. The building was constructed in the late 1800s as part of the Olympic Games revival. It's a gorgeous exhibition/event hall. I took this shot of Bella as she was screaming out the window at a landscaper. This was after our walk, but before we drove off. When we drive, I belt her into that black carrying case that you can just barely see on the right. When I first got Bella, I stupidly didn't think about having to secure her in the car. After I body slammed her into the back of a seat with a short-stop once, I started bringing her case with us. We're all much safer that way, but especially the landscaper.

These are my cheap, delicious berries. The bowl doesn't look big in this picture, but I assure you it is massive.

2. Positive Planting Experiences

I told you my gardenia's not doing well. I repotted the thing yesterday into a bigger space with better soil. More on that in a minute. These are the seedlings I planted with the leftover soil. My sister anonymously mailed Phil some seeds during the winter (or maybe it wasn't anonymous, but the packaging was). They are, starting from left to right, flowering dill, cilantro, and lavender. There's a chance I will kill these, but I made sure to save at least half the seeds for a re-do.

Come on, seedlings! I like how my filthy shoes make a cameo in this photo.

Okay, back to my gardenia. On the advice of my mother, I finally broke down and asked the gardener for help today. It's been a point of pride for me to pretend like my plants aren't dying, and he's always been too nice to ask. Today, he saw the rose and gardenia on the dining room table, and asked very nicely if they were doing okay. "NOOOOOOOOOOO! I wailed," and he immediately sprang into action. He cleaned up the gardenia and showed me exactly what I needed to do to take care of it. He actually left the apartment, walked to wherever he keeps his supplies, and came back with special fertilizer for it, and for the rose. It already looks 5,000 times better. I gave him a bag of strawberries to say thanks. He told me it was no problem, and that he's willing to help with whatever I want to grow. I wonder if watching all my plants die has been driving him nuts.

3. Spring in Athens

The weather is really nice again, after being kind of cold and rainy last week. I was in shorts yesterday, and short sleeves today. 

Greek Easter is still a month away, but Phil and I have a longstanding (read: two years) tradition of hosting potluck Easter dinner for non-Orthodox Easter, so we've been planning that this week. We're looking forward to it, though we'll really miss the crew from the past two years. They're fun people who make good food. What more could you ask for in friends?

Here's Bella on our walk this morning, smelling the flowers. Darn it, I wish she could be sweet and cute all the time. Our neighbor just popped over to borrow some ketchup, and she reacted like he'd come to destroy all. 

4. Summer Swimming

I got word today that I've been approved to teach water aerobics and swim lessons this summer, with the teeny, tiny caveat that I'll have to help convince enough people to sign up. I'm thrilled. I'm trying to act with restraint and not buy a whole new teaching wardrobe, music library, suits, shoes, speakers, gear, and KIND bars. The last thing is not related the the others, I just had one of my friend's last week, and I've been wanting to buy a bunch ever since.

Maybe I will buy the KIND bars.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sounio, Panhandlers, Taverna

On the last day of our friend's visit (which was two days ago, but I don't have to be accountable to you for every single second of my life, do I?), we walked to laiki, drove to Sounio, got cursed by a panhandler, and were harassed by a bunch of souvenir hawkers. We also had really good food at a taverna.

I was peer pressured into buying this. I took it home, set it on the counter for a second, picked it up again, and immediately whacked off one of the buds. Don't ask me about my gardenia. Some days it does really well, and other days it looks dead. 

Sounio
This is lovely, lovely Sounio. Rick Steves didn't mention it at all in his Athens and Peloponnese guide book, which I think should be accounted unto him as a sin.

Phil and I took our Christmas card photos here. This is the Temple of Poseidon. Have I shown you this already? Maybe I have. Last time we were here, it was 80 degrees. This time it was much chillier. Somewhere around the base of these columns, Lord Byron (or one of his fans) carved a big "Byron" into the stone. We couldn't find it. 

Athens, Redux
If you look closely at the window, you can see a white cross made out of soapy bubbles. We were waiting at a stoplight in Athens, and a young woman came over to wash the windshield. I told her no, but she started washing it anyway. I rolled down the window and told her no, but she ignored me and kept washing. Then I got mad. It's probably half hormones, but I hate being pressured by panhandlers. She came around to my window and tapped on it, looking for payment. I gave her a very angry face and gestured to say, "What do you want me to do about it? I told you no." She saw the food in our car and asked for some. I  gave her the same look and told her no. Before the light turned green, she used her squeegee to tap out this soap cross on my window. I'm going to buy an evil eye keychain, so if this ever happens again, I can just shove it up against the window along with my middle finger. 

Soap chick was just a harbinger of things to come. The panhandlers and souvenir hawkers in touristy Athens (Plaka, Monistiraki) are super aggressive. These areas are also prime zones for pickpockets. Be aware of people in those areas, and be assertive. One lady grabbed my arm hard enough to hurt to try to get me to pay attention to her. If I could live Thursday over again, I would yelled a lot more. Now I know, and now you know. Don't be gentle.


This is the Tower of the Winds at the Roman Agora, between Plaka and Monistiraki. This is the same area where the lady grabbed my arm, so if you see this thing, steel yourself for aggressive sellers.

This is the Acropolis Museum, which was closed by the time we got to it. The internet is a great resource for a lot of things, but not so great for telling you the correct closing times of sites in the city. I would highly encourage you to call in advance, or just pop by the museum on your way up the hill, to make sure you know when it closes. 

Taverna
This is a very blurry look at our taverna food. I thought about not showing it to you, because how embarrassing is it that I can't take a focused photograph? But I kind of like how ethereal it looks. Greek food is not my top choice of cuisine, but we really liked this taverna. 

Our friend left early Friday morning, and it was a mega-bummer. She was a wonderful guest, and we had a lot of fun. I spent Friday and Saturday moping, and working on professional development crap. I'm trying to cram in as much as possible while we're still childless.

I wanted to give you notice about some upcoming posts I'm planning to write. I maintain this blog primarily for our family and friends (Hi, everyone!), but it's also listed as a resource for people who are looking into the foreign service lifestyle. Summertime is a big transition season for people in this line of work, and I want to share some of my experiences about pack out, traveling with a dog, how to navigate a new country, and other useful, related things for people who feel as naive as I did. My tentative plan is to include checklists, and crap like that. If you start seeing some of these only-useful-to-a-very-small-subset-of-the-population posts, take heart. This will just be a temporary deviation from my standard plant killer posts.

I'm also planning to throw up an Athens guide Phil made for our friend. He listed our favorite sites and restaurants in the area. We won't charge you for it this time.

Happy Sunday from your favorite, cursed, Athenian expats. Or expat Athenians. Whatever we are. 

Oh, p.s., Phil's been cursed on the street, too, though it was eleven years ago.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Return to Nafplio

Yesterday, my awesome, fun, visiting friend and I took the party to the Peloponnese. We started in Mycenae, which I feel like I covered really thoroughly in an earlier post. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get out. I failed to include some crucial information out of the earlier Nafplio post, so I tried really hard to fill in those blanks for you this time. Like yesterday's post, these photos will be presented with limited captions. I'm so tired, you guys. 


Palamidi Fortress
Nafplio has three old Venetian fortresses. The big, tall one on the hill is called Palamidi. Strategically, it was in a great place for defense, but the Venetians lost control of it to the Turks who lost control of it to the Greeks, so it can't have been that wonderful. In addition to being a military site, this place was also used as a prison.

In our personal history, this was the fortress I couldn't tour when we went to Nafplio before because we'd brought the dog with us. It was fun to go back and see it again for the first time. 

















This is the entrance to a prison cell in the fortress. When you go during the high season, you have to wait in line to crawl through the door and take a quick peek. When you go during the low season, you can spend five minutes hanging out in the cell, and then make a video of it for your internet friends.

















The Turks used Albanian mercenaries in one of their campaigns against the Greeks. Unable to pay the mercenaries, they lured them up to this little doorway, and shoved the whole lot of them off the cliff. Never be the henchmen.




...as seen in a bathroom stall at the fortress.
I feel like Eloise doesn't fully grasp the history of the site,
or maybe she just had a really great bathroom experience. I guess I can relate to that.

Gelato in Nafplio
I told you this place is known for having the best gelato in Greece. I forgot to take a picture of it for you last time. Here it is. Chocolate and hazelnut. This one set me back 3.50 euros, and it was worth every last euro cent.





This is the gelato place, recommended by Rick Steves, everyone, and me.
The owner, who is delightful, handed me a bunch of business cards and told me to tell my friends to come.
Behold, friends. Go thither.

Rick Steves' Nafplio Walking Tour
We followed along with Rick Steves' walking tour through Nafplio. On the whole, he doesn't sound super jazzed about the city. I rarely disagree with the man, but his opinion of certain sites in Greece don't coincide with my own. It's unsettling. His walking tour through Nafplio was fun. It probably makes more sense in high season, but we enjoyed it in low season.

Nafplio's Syntagma Square, with the second largest fortress on the hill. That's the fortress Bella climbed all over. 


Bustling tourist street, probably, in summer. 


This is my souvenir from the famous worry bead store. Worry beads are a cultural thing here. They're a string of beads that almost look like a rosary. Greeks use them as stress relief by playing with the beads in their hands. It's similar to when I wear any jewelry, and end up playing with it all day. Like, when I play with my wedding ring until it pops off my finger and rolls on the floor under a couch, and I have to crawl on my hands and knees to try to get it, and hope it hasn't fallen down the vent, and then I finally find it, and immediately start playing with it again. I can confirm that I have seen worry beads in real life in our neighborhood, but I assumed the guy was just walking around with his prayer beads (not that I know anything about prayer beads either). One style of the worry beads is the komboli. It's the thing pictured on the bag. What I bought is called a keychain, and you use it to put on your car key so it doesn't get lost in your purse. 

The doorway to Rick's recommended bakery that has apparently gone under since 2013. We were devastated, until we found another place. 

Loukoumades in Nafplio
I've told you about Greek donuts, or Loukoumades, before. If you don't remember, I say to you again, get out. After Rick Steves failed to walk us to a bakery, we found our own conveniently located right next door to the gelateria. They shared a wall. 


For four euros, we got all these donut holes. They were fried fresh in front of us, and doused with honey and cinnamon. They were puffy, crispy, and heavenly. 

Here's the name and address of the place. They also asked me to tell my friends how wonderful they are. Friends, go here. 

Shortly after we got the donuts, it started raining. It was already after 5pm, so we decided to call it a day, and head back to Athens on the toll roads. I'm wondering if I could convince a group of people to split the cost of making a regular 4 hour round trip drive to Nafplio solely for gelato and donuts. I think it's possible. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Acropolis, and Other Archaeological Sites in Athens

8.5 months after moving to Athens, I finally dragged myself to the Acropolis. That's a little inaccurate. Let me start over. 8.5 months after moving to Athens, I finally dragged myself to the Acropolis with our awesome, fun friend who is visiting because she's so awesome and fun, I felt compelled to be a helpful, adventurous host, instead of giving her directions from my couch, as I am wont to do. 

I took a bunch of photos during our excursion, but first you have to read some words. 

Acropolis Tickets
For 12 euros (during the off-season), you can visit the Acropolis, and most of the other nearby archaeological sites in Athens. From April-October 2016, the same ticket will cost 20 euros. Bummer if you're coming in the high season. It's still worth it, but I'm sad for the 8 extra euros you'll have to shell out, especially because for 9 euros, you can get two frozen strawberry lemonades from the snack bar at the base of the Acropolis. I had a heart attack when the guy told me the price. Yikes. I still don't regret it. 

Walking Tour Itinerary
8 month pregnant lady says if you're in decent shape and have good shoes, you'll easily be able to walk to all of these sites, possibly in one day, though that depends on whether you're dealing with early closing hours in the winter (3pm). It also depends on how early you start, and how many people decide to tour on the same day as you. Realistically, you'll probably need 2 days if you want to see everything there is to see in Athens, but that's only if you dig museums. We haven't been to those yet. We didn't get downtown until about 10:30am yesterday, but we were able to hit: Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian's Gate (or Arch of Hadrian), the south slope of the Acropolis, the top of the Acropolis, Mars Hill, a casual stroll-by of the underwhelming Roman Agora, a short stroll through the much more impressive Ancient Agora, a brief taste of Plaka, Monastiraki, and the changing of the guards across the street from Syntagma at the Parliament building. We walked through the National Garden on our way back to the car, and looked down at the ancient Roman baths, about halfway between Syntagma and Hadrian's Gate. We were back home by 5:30pm. 

Killer Acropolis Tickets Tip (You're Welcome)
One really helpful tip that you'll absolutely adore me for telling you is to buy your Acropolis combo ticket from one of the less crowded sites. We got ours at the Temple of Olympian Zeus. None of the sites were crowded, because the weather is still very foreboding, but I imagine it's a hellish line at the Acropolis during high season. 

At long last, here are the photos. You're not going to get my hilarious, extensive captions because: 1) I'm exhausted, and 2) you can easily find all the info on these sites online or in guide books. If you'd like me to tell you more in my characteristic half-historically accurate style, I'd be happy to fill you in. But it's not going to happen immediately. 

Temple of Olympian Zeus




Hadrian's Gate or Arch of Hadrian


South Slope of the Acropolis







The Acropolis




That's our friend, taking a way better photo than I ever will.
Oh, and this is the Parthenon. You've probably heard of this building.
The scaffolding is not original to the structure.






View from the top. That's the Zeus Temple in the middle. The Panathenic Stadium is just above-left of it.


More view from the top. Can you find Parliament? How about the National Garden? What about Lykavittos Hill?






Mars Hill

Teaching site of the Apostle Paul (see: Bible)

Ancient Agora






This is something like the best preserved temple in Greece, or the biggest preserved temple in Greece. I don't know, I can't remember. It doesn't matter, it's a really nice temple, and you'll want to see it.