Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Leftovers: Goodbye Greece

Well, we all knew this day would come, didn't we? These are the last photos I'm going to share from our time in Greece. There aren't many of them, and you've seen some before. Indulge me anyway. As part of my final Greece post, I'm also going to write a few recommendations of people and things that we loved. You're welcome.

I'll lead with something you haven't seen. This is Roof Dog. Toward the end of our assignment, I found a new route for our morning walks that took us past Nice Dog, Good Dog, Loud Dog, and Roof Dog. An extension of the route also passed by Scary Dog, and Mean Dog. We only did that when we felt like a little excitement. Roof Dog didn't always make an appearance, but when he did, it was because he was summoned by Loud Dog.

Another fundamental characteristic of Roof Dog is that every time I tried to photograph him, he'd disappear. I was extremely lucky this day.

On the subject of dogs, I wanted to put in a plug for my pet shop, AnimaniA. I found it way too late, but I was glad to have found it at all. I was supposed to go back one more time to buy an extra bag of food. I ran out of time. HERE's my shop.

This is another place we always liked to walk. Devotees to this blog, and Olympic enthusiasts, will recognize this as the O.A.K.A. complex from the 2004 Olympics. It was close to our house, and one of Bella's favorite haunts. I'd usually let her off leash here, which is a rare treat for a maltipoo. This was one of the first places I took The Kid in his stroller. I was still sort of limping in pain, and had to sit on one of the planter boxes to feed him because his hungry infant screams were echoing through the grounds. This park is also where he learned to walk on uneven turf.

Goodbye, O.A.K.A.

Writing about O.A.K.A. reminded me of Oasis Nails & Spa. It's a nice salon, just a short walk from the Nea Ionia metro station. I used to walk to the metro station at O.A.K.A., and ride the train to the salon. My friend, Juli, opened Oasis last year. I usually went for nails, but Juli and her staff also offer hair removal, eyelash and eyebrow treatments, and a full range of massages. Juli is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. She chose the perfect name for her salon. Juli and her staff are determined to provide an inviting, relaxing atmosphere, and they do. You can find the salon HERE. Their website is HERE. Facebook page, with better photos than mine, is HERE

On the day before we left, we went to one of our favorite gyro places. The place is called Oregano, but it's in Greek, so it's ρίγανη. I'll put a of it map in the photo caption. The owner speaks limited English. The first time I went in there alone, I was completely lost. I eventually learned enough Greek to order food. My favorite thing was the 2€ chicken gyro with everything on it (gyro kotópoulo, óla).

From everything everyone has told me, you can't get gyros like this outside of Greece. Crap.
Find the restaurant HERE.

One thing I really pride myself on is my ability to put off buying things until the last possible minute, which causes me to feel a large amount of stress. So, the evening before our departure, I decided to pop downtown and buy as many Greek things as I could fit in my suitcase. I also impulse bought a 65€ hand-painted icon of St. Filothei. I'm inordinately proud of it. I'd actually been wanting to purchase one for a while. It was a good impulse buy. I'll show it to you when I figure out where to hang it.

I also impulse purchased a bunch of Greek food for our travels (mostly cookies). My favorite cookie place is Eat Crete. The owner is great. They're working to open an online shop, with international shipping options. Until then, their physical location is HERE. They also sell some products in local stores. They are delicious.

Oh! I found the coolest Greek souvenir shop, right in Monastiraki. A lot of the shops you find there have all the same crap you can get everywhere else. This shop has unique, original designs--of t shirts, mugs, bag, jewelry, and other things. I'm so sorry I didn't find it sooner. It's called T-Greek. They sell some of their products in other highly trafficked tourist areas. You can check their website to find out where. HERE is their store.

This is the last photo I took of Monastiraki. It was hot and crowded, but nothing close to Bangkok.

These next three photos were the last I took in Greece. Bummer.

Empty house.

Packed suitcase.
This is Bella's thing. I know this is her thing. I still didn't see her initially.

The last view of our church. 

I have one final Greece recommendation, and then I'll shut up about Greece forever, until we go back to visit. Before I tell you, I want you to know why you haven't seen many photos of The Kid. It's not just because he's mine, and I don't feel like sharing (though that is the primary reason). I'm concerned about his online presence. If I put his photo out there, I lose control over it. I've tried to be so careful in what I share publicly. Ironically, The Kid is photographed all the time in Thailand, with and without our permission. I'm not exaggerating out of a sense of motherly pride. Thais love babies, and he is photographed at least once every time we go out. I would be shocked if those photos haven't been shared publicly. 

So, here's the deal. I'm not going to open the floodgates of family photos, but I will share a few. These particular photos were taken by an incredible photographer in Greece. Her name is Stella Gioulou. She is deeply talented. Her composition is stunning, and she shoots with natural light. Her photos are so good, they look fake. She was great with us, and with The Kid. She worked quickly, and knew all the good photo spots. Our Greece family photos turned out exactly how we hoped they would. 

THIS is her website. I'll put it in the captions, too, because I really want you to see it.

I'm only sharing two photos. If I ever find out these photos of my kid have been used without my express permission, I will become actively licensed to practice law again so I can personally ruin you.

That's my spiel. Enjoy now.

Photo by Stella G. Photography.

This is pretty real.
Photo by Stella G. Photography.

I once had a Greek man correct me while I was describing the merits of Greek people, and Greek weather. "Not just the weather! Greece is the best!" I laughed at the time, but after two years of experiencing it for myself, I finally understand his patriotism, and I can't help sharing it.

Αντίο, Ελλάς.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Leftovers: Hydra

This leftover Greece post is an especially painful one, because I really loved our trip to Hydra.

Let's start by talking about how to pronounce the name of this island. I know your gut instinct is to call it "high-druh," and I can understand why. You're wrong. I don't care if you have a friend who went to Greece, and came back, and told you all about their trip to "High-druh," and now you've been calling it that ever since. They're wrong, and so are you. Hydra is pronounced "EE-thruh." If you can't manage a Greek accent (I can't), just call it, "EE-druh." You will sound ten thousand times smarter if you do this.

While we're here, let's talk about gyros. A gyro is pronounced "year-o," not "jigh-ro." If you ever, ever call a gyro a "jigh-ro" in front of me, I will smack it out of your hand.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, we can look at some pictures.

The port of Hydra.
Hydra is best known as the island without cars. The only vehicles allowed on the streets are garbage trucks. It's as peaceful as it sounds. The main thing the island has going for it is tourism. Lots of Athenians come here, along with the rest of the world. The amenities--hotels, restaurants, museums, are all clustered around or near Hydra port. There are a few monasteries in the hills. There were multiple fancy yachts at port. Wealthies like to visit.

View from the hills.
At a monastery.

Like Salamina, Hydra is not that happening, tourist-sight-wise. It is quiet, beautiful, and not far from the mainland. As one of the few, well-stocked places without cars, it's worth a visit for that experience alone. There are two places to catch a ferry to Hydra. The first is Piraeus port, and the other is a port in the Peloponnese. The ferry from Piraeus takes about an hour, and the one from Peloponnese takes twenty minutes. Now that I've told you this, I'm really hopeful that you won't actually go. It was so nice when we went. I'd hate to ruin it with a whole bunch of people.

On the streets near the port.

This is some good, pretty, pointless photography.

We popped over to Hydra on a day trip. It was delightful. We were there on an off-day, so it was quieter than usual. The views were just...stunning.

Intrepid readers will notice that it was not a sunny day on the island. We were heavily threatened by clouds the whole time we were in the hills. When we made it back to the port, it unloaded on us. We were happy to have our umbrellas, and found a cafe along the port that kept us out of the rain. Things improved while we were eating, and we had just paid our bill when the second round hit.

The thunder began loudly, and managed to get louder over the course of a few minutes. The rain came down in buckets, then barrels. Pedestrians who'd crowded under the cafe awning moved toward the building, until everyone who could was standing inside, and everyone who couldn't was flattened against the walls. The awning sunk under the rain. The one at the cafe next door collapsed, and narrowly missed a waiter. The waiters at our cafe were running back and forth, shirtless, with giant, prodding poles, pushing the water off as fast as they could. The sidewalk was a creek.

It was far and away the coolest storm we saw in Greece. 

The rain eventually moved on, and we were able to venture out again for a few minutes before our ferry arrived. My shoes were soaked, but I took that beautiful photo of the port, so it wasn't a total loss.

Here it is again, in case you didn't want to scroll.

I would gladly go back to Hydra, with or without a thunderstorm. It's just nice.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Leftovers: Salamina

It's been about five months since we took the ferry to Salamina. I'll do my best to remember things. The first thing I had to remember was the name of the island. Like a lot of places in Greece, this island is known by a few different names. If you haven't heard of Salamina, you might have heard of Salamis. If you've heard of Salamis, you've heard of Salamina, because they're the same place. 

An ancient harbor on Salamina, with some sort of unidentified blip near the upper right corner. Is that a fly?
Salamina is most famous for the Battle of Salamis. It was one of those epic Greek v. Persian fights, along with the battle at Marathon (where the marathon race originated, because a dude ran to Athens to announce the victory, then fell down dead), and the battle at Thermopylae (the one with the 300 Spartans). This battle was a big win for the Greeks. The Persians never attempted another land invasion. 

This statue commemorates the battle. That's Athens across the water. I'd just like to point out that I also look this cut when I stand naked astride a floating vessel in battle. It's uncanny.

Salamina is the closest island to the city of Athens. It's about 2km from Piraeus port, which equates to an approximately 10 minute ferry ride. I know--so taxing. Some locals live on Salamina, and commute to Athens for work. Other locals live in Athens, and keep vacation homes on Salamina. The point I'm trying to hammer home here is that it's close. Did I convey that?

We took the ferry to Salamina on one of our last weekends in Greece. It may actually have been our last weekend in Greece, but, as I say, it was five months ago, and I can't remember yesterday. I can remember my overall impression of the island, which was highly favorable. It's nearby, but still mostly uncrowded. It wasn't the most happening place, but I can see why people like to vacation there. The beaches are nice, and not very populated. There is little reason (other than proximity) for tourists to visit, which makes it a very low-key, villagey-feeling place. Yes, I liked it.

The back side of the island was mostly vacation homes, with very few tavernas scattered between. When I say "back side," I don't actually know which side of the island it was--I only know it was about forty-five minutes to an hour from where the ferry dropped us. There were a couple bigger cities (towns?) nearer to port. We stopped at one for a late lunch. Phil liked throwing his food over the side, and watching the fish eat it.

Here he is reaching for some of his food to throw.

Here he is watching the fish eat the food he threw.

We left our house around 9am, and were back at our house by 4pm. It was a quick, lovely trip, and I miss Greece.