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Greek Life

a travel blog by blondie

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3 Hours in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We left San Diego in a bit of a hurry this morning. Grammy flew in last night to take care of the kiddos while we are gone for the next 10 days. This trip will be a nice break from the daily whirlwind of the little ones, but I think I underestimated how much I would already miss them in the first few hours! Tears were Welling up in the San Diego airport lounge, knowing I wouldn’t see our little buggers for another week and a half. Somehow we managed to be on the last call for boarding list, not just in San Diego, but also out of our LAX flight. Maybe my travel skills are a little rusty☺

I didn’t have much time to really plan this trip, so on our plane to Amsterdam, I cracked open the Rough Guide to Greece book. About a half hour in, I was completely overwhelmed. Sure looks like it would take months to see all the amazing places in Greece. Truth be told, we were planning on flying into Greece and then driving to Croatia, but unbeknownst to us at the time, there are simply no one way car rentals allowed coming out of Greece. Who knew? So with our flights already booked, now it’s on to plan B….uh rent the car in Greece and drop the car off in Greece. Good thing there is a lot to do in Greece☺

We landed in Amsterdam and prepared for our last leg to Athens...are we there yet??

permalink written by  blondie on February 3, 2015 from Amsterdam, Netherlands
from the travel blog: Greek Life
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Greecing the Skids

Athens, Greece

As soon as we emerged through the customs doors into the unsecure side of the bustling Athens airport, the heavy scent of smoke hit me as hard as Serena Williams whacks a tennis ball. Ugh, reminiscent of the Prague airport, I thought. I liked the vibe though. People were loud and outgoing. Local time was 4:30pm, and we had been traveling for 24 hours with little sleep. We swung by Sixt and picked up our tiny Up! Volkswagen rental car. The nice Sixt lady upgraded us to a bigger car. I would have hated to see the car we were supposed to have, being that I booked the cheapest rental available :O. We deliriously made our way to our hotel (Hilton, totally western, I know) and crashed, without stopping to eat dinner.

The internet connection here stinks and I can't upload photos right now, so hopefully over the next few days, I'll find a better connection.

permalink written by  blondie on February 5, 2015 from Athens, Greece
from the travel blog: Greek Life
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Athens, Greece

We woke up at the crack of dawn (actually I woke up at 2am and couldn’t go back to bed), and made a beeline down to the offensively expensive breakfast (at least compared to outside of the hotel) downstairs. We were so famished, we didn’t have the wherewithal to track down a breakfast place that took more than 2 minutes to find. After breakfast, we found a few minutes to hit the gym and then found ourselves packed in an elevator with 4 guys who had just smoked and wore way too much cologne. I think that may have negated the health effects we just reaped at the gym:/.

We then took off for the Acropolis. Sailing high above the city atop a limestone hilltop, the Parthenon is visible from almost every spot in the city. We wound our way up the stairs to the Entrance. What struck me, is not only how little actually remains of the structures at the Acropolis, but the thousands of years of history that mark this particular spot of land. We could see the whole city surrounding us, which was beautiful. As we wove through the ruins, a familiar smell kept introducing itself. I'm pretty sure it was the scent of wild onions - those tiny little ones.

It was a gorgeous day, fit for a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans, however, we were surrounded by people in heavy coats and down parkas...I spent a good deal of time wandering why people were dressed so warmly...and I live in San Diego, not Moscow!

We headed back down the Acropolis and grabbed a bite to eat in Thissio, which was relaxing and had a good view of the Acropolis.

After a rest at the hotel, we took the metro to Emou street for some window shopping and stopped at an outdoor cafe for dinner in Plaka, at the base of the Acropolis. The food there wasn't much to write home about, and the wine unfortunately tasted like motor oil. Should have consulted a book or concierge for a better place to eat I guess!

permalink written by  blondie on February 5, 2015 from Athens, Greece
from the travel blog: Greek Life
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Backtrack for the Backpack

Litochoron, Greece

After a quick breakfast at a local cafe and scoring some Greek Tylenol near an orange tree lined street, we jetted out of Athens in our Up! Volkswagen. I prayed our little dune buggy wouldn't fall to pieces on us as we whizzed by block after block of graffiti covered buildings, making our way out of this haphazard city.

Originally, we had planned to visit Delphi on the way up to Thessaloniki. But after seeing many different ruins within Athens and after hitting a traffic jam on the way out of Athens, we decided to skip it, and check out Mt. Olympus which was more along our path to Thessaloniki anyways.

As we sped north up the coastal highway, well out of the city limits, we began noticing a few things: 1) the road conditions were impeccable - new, smooth pavement, not a single pothole, 2) holy mother of toll booths every 5 minutes - we must have spent AT LEAST 40 Euros on tolls to get up to Thessaloniki 3) hardly any cars on the road the whole way - which helps to explain #1 and is most likely a result of #2, 4) every other house/structure was either unfinished or abandoned.

Ok let's talk more about #4. Literally at least 25-30% of the houses and structures we passed were either unfinished or abandoned. Many times a 3 story frame was built, but no windows and no interior put in, or the first two floors were finished and the third was just a frame. Other times, there were structures that looked like they may have been used but then abandoned and never leveled or re-purposed. As unsightly as it all was against the striking natural beauty of the coastline, it honestly became somewhat funny. I Googled this phenomenon when we got to our hotel in Thessaloniki, and there were some plausible explanations, the best of which was: Greek's don't have to pay property tax on unfinished structures. Seems like the Greek government may want to look into changing their tax laws? Hey, only a suggestion:)

We eventually made it to the town of Litochoro, which is a small town at the base of Mt. Olympus. The mountain was quite impressive along the drive up, with the clouds billowing over it like poly-fill and the snow dusting the top peaks, like too much powdered sugar on a Bundt cake. We wound up the switch-backs to an overlook about 10 km up the mountain to admire the ocean and the town below, and Mt. Olympus above. We took a few photos, and as the sun was setting, we hopped back into the car and made our way to the hotel, which was past Thessaloniki by the airport.

As we got out of the car, we realized we were missing something...our Camelbak packpack, which contained Kris' scarf, hat, camera pouch...and a few hours later we realized, Kris' passport. Oooopsies!! We left it at the overlook on the mountain, which was over an hour's drive away. We looked at each other in disbelief...and hunger. It was already dark, and hopefully no one would be coming up the mountain in the dark so we relaxed for a few minutes in our hotel room, which smelled faintly of smoke (even though the sign said it was a non-smoking room), and got something to eat. Around 10pm, we headed BACK to the mountain in hopes that the bag was still in the same spot. When we arrived back to the overlook in the pitch black, we found it still there - reflecting off of our VW's headlights as we approached. Whew, crisis averted!!

By the time we got back to the hotel (and almost ran out of gas on the way back - literally put putted up to the gas station) it was 2am.

I was ready for a good night's rest!

permalink written by  blondie on February 6, 2015 from Litochoron, Greece
from the travel blog: Greek Life
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Smoke Signals

Thessaloniki, Greece

So I'm starting to notice a trend here. The Greeks like to smoke...and they also like cologne. I'm not sure if liking cologne is independent of trying to cover up the smell of smoke or not, but the two smells create quite a nauseating effect on my sensitive nose!! One thing I look forward to in coming home to California is the strict no smoking laws in public places!

Today was a rest day. After going to bed at 2am, we slept in and ate a 'brunch'. We researched our plan of action over the next couple of days, hit the gym and face timed with our kids:) We drove in to Thessaloniki for dinner at a place called Paparouna, which got great reviews by a few bloggers. The food was awesome and the place was eclectic. The only unfortunate part was that that half the restaurant was designated as smoking. Ugh! We had a great meal there regardless, but I feel like I'm turning into an ashtray! Our rental car has only 9,000km on it, but it already reeks of smoke as well. I can't escape anywhere!!

permalink written by  blondie on February 7, 2015 from Thessaloniki, Greece
from the travel blog: Greek Life
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