Tuesday, July 26, 2016

See Dick. See Jane. See Ellensburg ~

See Dick’s art.       See Jane’s art.

See Dick and Jane’s Spot in Central Washington State and you’ll find not only their art, but the artwork of nearly 40 other Pacific Northwest artists on display as well.

Entry to Dick and Jane's Spot
We’re spending our summer at our Pacific Northwest home and soothing the travel itch with some in-state travel. Ellensburg, considered the most centrally located city in Washington State, was the focus of a recent travel article I was writing for the Seattle Times newspaper and made for a one-day getaway. (That article can be found at the other end of this link, so just click here.)

Back Yard at Dick and Jane's Spot
In pre-trip research I turned to Trip Advisor and found one of the most highly rated things to do in this university town, is Dick and Jane’s Spot. (Turned out to be a great recommendation.)

Dick and Jane’s Spot has been the real-life home of artists Dick Elliott and Jane Orleman for nearly 40 years. The small house on a corner lot across from the town’s police and fire Station has – in my words – redefined ‘yard art’. 

In the heart of Washington State
There is no admission fee, in fact, a small sign requests that you enjoy their outdoor gallery from the public sidewalk that borders two sides of the corner lot (unless you’ve called in advance and made other arrangements) or from the public walkway they’ve created on the north side of the house or from the alley behind it. And don’t forget to sign the guestbook.

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The newest installation stretches along the alley
Their whimsical creations are made of bottle caps and reflectors – more than 10,000 of them. Over the years the works of other artists have been added to the garden gallery. As works decay (or rust), they are replaced with new items, such as the recently finished dragon that snakes the length of the back fence off the alleyway.

A Blowin' in the Wind and it gets windy in Ellensburg
Dick and Jane were 1971 (art majors) graduates of Ellensburg’s Central Washington State College, today a University. They married the same year and began turning their small home on Pearl Street into a gallery. Dick, aka Richard, Elliott passed away in November 2008 at age 63 from pancreatic cancer. Jane continues to live in their home and curates the outdoor gallery.  Once, they had a dog named ‘Spot’.

Geometric design to the side of the house
While the yard gallery is a fantasy-land setting – their reflector art is nationally-known and has been commissioned for entities that include: the  New York Transit System,  Minneapolis' light-rail system,  the University of Washington's Henry Art Gallery and the Ellensburg Public Library. 

“The Old Inspires the New” reflector installation is found at the entry to concourse A at Seatac International Airport. The State of Washington owns 26 pieces of Dick’s artwork.

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It takes awhile to see it all at Dick and Jane's Spot
If you go:

Map picture

Ellensburg is 107 miles from Seattle via Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass. 

Dick and Jane’s Spot is just south of Ellensburg's historic downtown. Curbside parking is free in their neighborhood – just don’t park in front of the house, 101 North Pearl Street, so you don’t block fire trucks exiting the station across the street.

For those who are out of the area or who are armchair travelers, follow Jane on FB: https://www.facebook.com/DickandJanesSpot/?fref=ts and her web site is reflectorart.com

If you are simply passing through SeaTac and want to check out the installation there (as well as the other art on display) use this Art Map for the airport:  http://www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac/Maps-and-Directions/Documents/ArtMap.pdf

That’s it for this week and again we thank you for the time you’ve spent with us. We wish you happy and safe travels.  We are spending our summer planning season figuring out future travels. I'll tell you about that next week!
Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

London ~ We Are Where we Are!

“We are where we are. Why DO you need the map?”

London's Theatre District
That is The Scout’s response when we set off on a DIY (do it yourself) exploration and invariably somewhere along our route, I start searching for the map that has disappeared in my purse. (No, we don’t do apps or downloaded pre-recorded tours.)

When you think about it, it is an excellent question and one to which I really have no answer.  Maybe I just like to get my bearings. Maybe I don’t want to miss something that might be nearby.

But in reality, we are where we are. . .what does it matter?

A garden on Park Lane - London
As I told you in earlier posts, circumstances prompted an earlier than planned return to Seattle from Greece, so we gave ourselves a few days layover in London with little thought to what we would do when we got there. We were blessed by the travel gods with blue sky and sunshine which encouraged our decision to explore the city on foot with no particular destination in mind.  So this week, take a look at some of the places we ended up with this devil-may-care approach. . .

The Old and New

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Old and ornate giving way to sleek and modern
No matter what direction we walked there was evidence of the old, ornate architecture giving way to new buildings. Or they’d given way to new train connections which will certainly ease traffic woes in the city, but on the other hand, it seemed in some places have lost a bit of charm. Sleek, modern high rise buildings made it look like any other city.

Gardens and Squares

Manchester Square - Marylebone - London
There were squares scattered about the city – some were open and inviting and others, like the one above, Manchester Square, had no public access. All were different but picturesque.  This 18th-century Georgian garden square, not far from Oxford Street in the Marylebone area is in front of a mansion that is now the home of the Wallace Collection, a major collection of fine and decorative arts. It is open to the public free of charge.

Home of the Wallace Collection - Marylebone - London
St. James’s Park, near Buckingham Palace, is always a people-magnet and in spring its blooms were irresistible.  It is also open to the public free of charge.

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St. James Park in springtime blooms - London
Buckingham Palace

You can’t visit London and not be drawn to Buckingham Palace. . .even if you are wandering as aimlessly as we were.  And sometimes you find you’ve arrived at just the right time, because the Queen just might be passing by. . . (She’s in the car on the right but I wasn’t expecting to see the Queen come by so didn’t have time to zoom in.)

The Queen really is in this photo - London
Even knowing the Queen isn't inside, one really must take a moment to admire the palace. How many times have we watched our television screens to watch the Royal Family step onto that balcony?

Buckingham Palace - London
Travel Tip:  Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

Diana Memorial Walk plaque - London
If you want to do a DIY tour but aren’t ready to set out as aimlessly as we did, you might give the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk a try. It is a 7-mile loop marked with 90 sidewalk plaques like the one in the photo above. It leads to four parks, past three palaces and two mansions.  A downloadable PDF map can be found at: https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park/things-to-see-and-do/self-guided-walks/the-diana-princess-of-wales-memorial-walk

Guards Museum

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Palace Guards at Work - London
Another bit of free entertainment we happened upon was at the Guards Museum, located near Buckingham Palace and just across Birdcage Walk from St. James’s Park. Troops were out practicing formations – and we had a front row spot at the fence because most tourists were back at the Palace waiting for the changing of the guard there.

Big Ben - London
I’ll sign off this week with a photo of Big Ben. I don't want you thinking we missed all the tourist ‘sites’ that London has to offer - our wanderings took us to many of them.   We walked 33.5 miles in the four days we had in this jolly ol’ town. There is so much to see and do that we could have doubled that distance, had we had the time and energy.  London isn’t an inexpensive city but there are ways to ‘do it’ inexpensively, as we’ve shown you in recent posts.

How about you?  Any money-saving travel tips for those heading to London?

We thank you for the time you’ve spent with us and so appreciate your comments. Hopefully you’ll be back again next week and bring a friend or two with you. . .we’ve got some travel plans to tell you about that might make some of you want to join us and may simply bring on a wave of discomfort for others of you. Until next week, safe and healthy travels to you and yours ~  

Take a minute or two and visit these linkup parties:

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thirsting for History ~ A DIY London Pub Crawl

You can work up a thirst when you DIY (do it yourself) tour a city.  Especially when the temperatures are in the 80’s (26C) and the city is London, England.

We found there’s no better place than an old traditional English pub to provide a means of quenching your thirst while providing a taste of history. 

Ale taps at Audley Pub - Mayfair District
One of our favorite public houses – that is from where the word ‘pub’ comes --  is the Audley Pub, a block from Grosvenor Square in the Mayflower district, on the corner of Mount and South Audley streets.  It was an easy few blocks walk from our hotel. We’d been so charmed by it on a London stopover a few years ago that we headed back to it within hours of our arrival this spring. 

Interior Audley Pub - Mayfair District - London 
This traditional old watering hole was established back in 1730 as The Bricklayers Arms. It was rebuilt in 1888 at the instruction of the Duke of Westminster and the landlord at the time was allowed to keep his lease but had to change the name to the ‘more respectable’ Audley Hotel.

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Stand up and sip outside the Audley Pub - Mayfair District
No longer a hotel, there is a cozy restaurant area on the pub’s second floor that served up some of the best pub grub we found in London during our visit a few years ago. It was closed for a private party the evening we were there this spring, so it still seems to be popular.

The Audley, like most pubs in London, is crowded in the early evenings with a mix of professionals who’ve come from their ‘dress-for-success’ offices and are still ‘talking shop’ and other more casually dressed drinkers, like us, who simply want a beverage and atmosphere.

George, a private club, occupies part of building across the street from Audley Pub

Audley Pub provided hearty servings of both beverage and atmosphere. We aren’t ale fans, but found a good selection of wine from which to choose. And once selected, we headed to the sidewalk (where smokers partake of tobacco because of recent anti-smoking laws) and others of us were there to enjoy the good weather and neighborhood surroundings.

A change we noticed from our last London visit, was that each pub had a security officer to make sure the patrons don’t block sidewalks or worse, step out into traffic.

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Audley House - Mayfair District - London
Our sidewalk sipping was kitty-corner from the ornate entry to Audley House, built in 1881. It has been the home of James Purdey & Sons Gun and Rifle Shop since 1883, and back then it was considered ‘the most prestigious gun shop in the country’. The shop continues to flourish in this stately building that bears a plaque where shrapnel from a World War II air raid damaged pillars. (Windows on its east side were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1972.)  

We’d pondered its history while sipping our wine and having  researched it since returning home, we plan to go in next time to see its Long Room which was used during WWII by General Dwight Eisenhower’s staff to plan battles. 

British Pubs – Here today – gone tomorrow?

While British pubs are as iconic a part of London as its red phone booths and double-decker buses, there aren’t as many of them around as there used to be.  In 2014 the British Beer and Pub Association reported there were 51,900 pubs in the United Kingdom, a sharp decrease from 1982 when 67,800 pubs operated there.

The Salisbury - theatre district - London
Any number of reasons have contributed to the closing of more than 7,000 U.K. pubs; among them are the anti-smoking laws I mentioned above, beer prices at supermarkets, and the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. According to the Association the British are drinking 23 percent less ale than a decade ago; their trend is toward drinking wine in ‘trendier’ bars.  In London, the hot housing market had pub owners selling businesses which were converted to houses or apartments. Many of the pubs are now owned and operated by breweries.

The Salisbury - London pub
One pub that is still going strong is The Salisbury at 90 St. Martin Lane, in the heart of the Theatre District. It opened in 1892 as a gin palace and in recent years has been featured in a number of films. This pub offers an app you can download for do-it-yourself ‘themed pub tours, such as a ghost tour, or a shopping tour. To download the app:  www.taylor-walker.co.uk/ale-trail/trails

The Iron Duke - Mayfair District - London
We had another taste of history, along with a glass of wine, at The Iron Duke, 11 Avery Row, back in the Mayfair District, as the pub’s name is for that of the “Iron Duke”, the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, a decorated army commander who ruled as Prime Minister in the late 1820’s.
(You’ll note here we were surrounded by the dress-for-success-after-work crowd.)

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Prince Regent Pub - Marylebone High StreetAdd caption
And some pubs just call out because they are in an interesting neighborhood or they are housed in picturesque buildings, like the case of the Prince Regent pub we sipped at on the Marylebone High Street.

Marylebone is an affluent area, walking distance from our hotel near Hyde Park in Mayfair - for those who are able to walk several blocks. Its High Street is alive with small shops and cafes. According to Wikipedia, “Marylebone gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary, represented now by St. Marylebone Parish Church(1817); the original church was built on the bank of a small stream or “bourne”.

Angel in the Fields - Maryleborne - London
As I told you in last week’s post, we spent a few days exploring London on our own without any particular plan. Several of the pubs we visited during our stay, we’d discovered on previous stops in London and we were pleased to see they were still in existence. Even with the decrease in their overall numbers, luckily, old traditional pubs are still easy to find in London.

If you aren’t up to setting out on your own, simply “Google” London pub tours and a variety of options will appear.  I did a quick search and found a 3-hour afternoon walk from $33.81US; a 4-hour west end tour from $64.91US and a Literary Pub Crawl and Tavern Tour from $24.34US.

Ale taps - Prince Regent Pub - Maryleborne
That’s it for this week.  We thank you for your time and hope you’ll be back to see what’s ‘on tap’ next week!  Until then, safe and healthy travels to you and yours ~

Linking up this week:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
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Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

London ~ DIY Low-Cost Sightseeing

Four days. No plans. Blue sky and sunshine. Temperatures in the 80's (26C).

London called out for aimless exploration. DIY – Do It Yourself sightseeing.

Street Scene Mayfair District
Our stopover in London en route to Seattle from Greece was -- even for us who love to go ‘where-the-wind-blows-us -- a rather spontaneous adventure.  We hadn’t had time to do our usual guide book and internet research.  (If you missed why, and care to find out, you can read that here.)

We’d booked a hotel. But nothing more than that and our flight to the States five days later had been given much thought. 

A Home? A Club? in London's Mayfair District

While that is far too unstructured for some of you and probably has you wiggling in your chair with discomfort, we found that having no expectations meant we had no disappointments. We hadn't arrived with a list of 'must-see' or 'must do'.

Because we weren’t rushing to get to the Tower Bridge, or Big Ben, or Buckingham Palace, or some other of London’s ‘tourist sites’ we had time to enjoy the street scenes that played out right before us – scenes we’d have likely ignored had we been racing to get somewhere to see ‘something’.

Exploring the Mayfair district
Selfridge and Co. on Oxford Street
Our hotel in London’s West End Mayfair district was footsteps from Oxford Street, a wide boulevard that is home to some 300+ shops. It is said to be  Europe's busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors. Perhaps one of the most well-known stores (thanks to the British television series) is Selfridge & Co. which opened on Oxford Street in 1909 in a building designed by Daniel Burnham for Harry Gordon Selfridge. It continues to be the company’s headquarters and with a reported  540,000 square feet of selling space, the store is the second largest retail store in the United Kingdom. It was a short walk from our hotel and provided free ‘window shopping’ entertainment as we explored its many floors.

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Just across Park Lane from our hotel, the 350-acre Hyde Park, offered a green, quiet alternative to the bustling Oxford Street. It is one of the city’s eight Royal Parks and its more well-known features include the Marble Arch, Serpentine Lake and the Speaker’s Corner. The weather had drawn multitudes of bikers, joggers, and sun worshippers – and strollers, like us – to it.

A delightful place, its history only adds to its ambiance: in 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey. Back then it was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637. The current park layout was planned by architect Decimus Burton in 1825.

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Animals in War Monument - Hyde Park
The park, which has no entry fees, is filled with beautiful statues but my favorite – a must-see any time we get to London – is the monument to animals who served in the war. The two-sided art work in which statues of animals with war equipment marching on bricks to the drab concrete wall which reads, “Animals in War – they had no choice” and on the other side the ‘free’ animals emerge to a green lawn and flower beds.

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American Embassy at Grosvenor Square
We were just a few blocks away from one of London’s many squares, Grosvenor Square, pronounced grove-ner. Once part of the Grosvenor family’s estate, the square was opened to the public and since the 1930’s has had a strong association with the United States. The American Embassy, pictured in the above mosaic, is located at 1 Grosvenor Square.

Seeing London – On foot

No getting lost in London - thanks to these signs
London is a pedestrian-friendly city with sidewalks generally free of barriers and obstructions and crossing signals at busy intersections. Londoners do drive in the opposite lanes of what we do in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so visitors need to be mindful of that when crossing any street. 
Should you become confused about where you’ve taken yourself, you’ll find clarification from one of the many signs installed at intervals throughout the town, which tell you not only where you are, but what you are near as well.

For those who can’t or don’t want to walk, the city has any number of sightseeing options including:

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Tours of London from the Thames are popular
Tourist boats of every size, shape and description travel the Thames River.

Regular city buses are a good way to see the city 
There are 'Hop On, Hop Off' tourist buses, or plenty of regular double-decker red buses that traverse the city, or for those who can’t decide between a bus and a boat:

Is it a bus or a boat or both?
They even have those tour bus/boat combinations.

We set out on foot with tourist map (from the hotel concierge) in hand and next week I’ll tell you about some of the places we visited on this spur-of-the-moment DIY tour of ours. Thanks so much for the time you spent with us today.  Our wishes for safe and healthy travels ~ 

Linking up:

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A London Stopover– On Airline Miles and Hotel Points

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.
                                -- Samuel Johnson

While song writers seem beguiled about springtime in Paris, we found London to be equally as enchanting. It didn’t take long for this jolly ol’ capital city with a population of more than 8.5 million to wrap us in its charms during our brief visit in May.

Those London phone booths are icons of the city
Because we were returning to the States from Greece earlier than originally planned to deal The Scout’s, medical matter, he was tasked with finding us a reasonable and affordable routing for this rather spur-of-the-moment trip. 

Speaking of icons, there are those double-decker buses as well. . .
The best option he found was flying via London, using some of our accumulated airline miles. (There are no direct flights between Athens and Seattle, so you need to stop somewhere. Sometimes depending on flight connections the layover could be a matter of hours and other times, overnight at least).

We purchased tickets on Aegean Airlines for our trip from Athens to London. We then used Alaska Airlines miles,a regional U.S. carrier, to fly on one of its partners, British Airlines.

Traveler’s Tip: We booked two one-way tickets London – Seattle, in Premium Economy, that rather comfortable section that isn’t quite Business Class but certainly isn’t Economy Class. The price 42,500 air miles PLUS $432US a seat in taxes and fees: (85,000 miles + $864US) AND THEN an additional $169US to select the seats we wanted to sit in – two seat side by the windows (and assure ourselves we weren’t stuck in the middle of a center row).

While all those extra $$$ were equivalent to what we would have paid for a regular economy class seat it does make one wonder about using airline miles for ‘free’ travel.

That London Stopover

London, London, London
It occurred to us that we could make lemonade out of the lemon he’d been handed by using some of our horded hotel points to pay for a stay at the Marriott’s Park Lane Hotel. It’s located across the street from Hyde Park,in the rather posh and privileged Mayfair District.

Traveler’s Tip:  Even using discount sites, the price of a room here hovers at $500 a night, plus another $100 per night in taxes and fees.  We paid nothing more for our room than 180,000 points,(which we’ve earned on previous Marriott stays and credit card spending).

Because we have stayed in Marriott hotels enough nights to qualify for their ‘elite’ level benefits, we had access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge were we ate breakfast daily, and drank happy hour wine and an afternoon espresso drink each day – all complimentary which further saved us a great deal of money. A British pound was at the time equivalent to $1.46US.

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Marriott Park Lane - London
After arriving at Heathrow Airport and caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, 32 kilometers, or about 20 miles away. Paddington has been the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. The high speed airport ‘shuttle’ trains leave the depart every 15 minutes. More than 16,000 passengers use the train daily.

Catching the train was a snap as they’ve simplified that process since the last time we’d visited London. A young woman was standing just outside baggage claim selling train tickets and we had only to follow signs posted in the airport to find the train platform.  Two round-trip train tickets: $105US

Heathrow Express at Paddington Station
From Paddington it was a short taxi ride to the hotel. Once settled in to our room, we set off to explore.  We walked 33.5 miles in the 4.5 days we were there and next week, we’ll show you some of our routes through London’s neighborhoods.

A London Park
Before signing off this week, we want to thank all of you who wrote emails or comments on last week’s post about The Scout’s trip through the medical worlds of Greece and the U.S.  Your kind wishes and ‘sighs of relief’ were most welcome.

Those ‘medical moments’ whether experienced at home or while traveling do make travel experiences just a bit more precious.  Booking a one-way trip instead of round-trip because you don’t know when you will be able to return was a good reminder to us to keep traveling as far and wide as we can – while we can! In other words:


Hope to see you all back here next week! Until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Greece ~ Those best laid plans. . .

Life is something that happens to you
while you are making other plans.
         -- Margaret Millar

20160614_143248-1_resizedOur plan had been to spend a couple months this spring at The Stone House on The Hill, our home in the Greek Peloponnese. We’d return to the Pacific Northwest in June.

We’d planned several road trips and had completed one.

We’d scheduled some projects at the house. During our spring stay we anticipated visits with friends and neighbors who make up our new world.

Those were the plans. . .but we all know – and as the saying above reminds us, that sometimes life and plans are two different things.

Our plans changed . . .or, you might say, were changed for us. We took a journey of sorts through a part of Greece that we certainly hadn’t anticipated seeing. Now, two months after its start, we can say it was interesting and we learned many things, but we are happy it is over.

Setting Forth

The Journey began
Even before buying the house, we’d heard about our village doctor, Doctor Sofia.  An obviously respected and loved physician who no one called by her tongue-twisting full Greek name. She is simply, Doctor Sofia. Fellow ex pats described her as one sharp physician, a very kind woman and not one to leave anything to chance.

“Someday we should stop in and meet her,” we told ourselves. That is how things are done in the village. Can you imagine ‘stopping in’ to meet a doctor in a large city medical center in the States?

The opportunity to meet presented itself after The Scout had spent a couple weeks suffering from a head cold and swollen gland in his neck. The cold went away, the swollen gland didn’t. It was time to meet the doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics.

Dr. Sofia's Office

Lesson One:  You don’t make ‘doctor’s appointments’. You can, but you sort of aim for that time and check to see how long the wait might be. We dropped in to make an appointment.

Lesson Two: Those stories about nothing in medical clinics being private here are true. The receptionist desk is in a corner of the waiting room, – therefore a conversation with her is heard by all. (All waiting rooms we were to visit on this journey were configured this way). On this day, the lady who was waiting to see the doctor, overheard the conversation and told The Scout to go before her. She, an ex pat from Northern Europe, and I struck up a conversation (something else never done in US medical clinics) while waiting and had exchanged names and phone numbers by the time The Scout re-emerged.

The real journey begins - unknown territory ahead

Hand-drawn maps have always led us to interesting places
Instead of a prescription, he carried a sheaf of papers; two were rather long notes of introduction to other doctors hand-written by Dr. Sofia and the third was a hand-drawn-by-the-doctor map of an area in Kalamata, the large city with a population of about 100,000 about an hour north of us.

In our years of travel, hand-drawn maps have taken us to some of the world’s most fascinating places. In this case, they would take us to a radiologist’s office and a nearby Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT) because Dr. Sofia hadn’t liked the location of that ‘swollen gland’ and wanted to have it checked further.

Pedestrian-friendly Kalamata
Off to Kalamata we went the next day. This time with a set appointment at the radiologist, and a ‘sort-of time’ for the specialist, both of whom had offices near the pedestrian-friendly downtown. 
We appreciated its pedestrian-friendly layout as we bounced back and forth between the two offices for the better part of the day: first an exam by the ENT doctor, then an ultrasound at the radiologist’s, then with ultrasound photos in hand we returned to the ENT who reviewed them and sent us back to the radiologist who aspirated the cyst. Cell samples were sent for testing at the medical laboratory in Athens. Both specialists believed there was nothing to be concerned about – it appeared benign.

If you want to make God laugh,
tell him about your plans.
         -- Woody Allen

Lesson Three:  I stayed in the waiting room at each visit as is ‘normal’ in the U.S. After all, even if it is a close relative, it is their health and, well, it is personal . . . you know, private.  On our second visit to the ENT the receptionist told me that family members – no matter the number – go in with the patient.

Lesson Four: Coming from the U.S. where the recent Affordable Care Act has sent our insurance premiums and co-pays into the ozone, we had braced ourselves for what these visits and tests – all done by private physicians would cost. We were paying out-of-pocket.

Brace yourself, before your read this next line:

Five doctor exams, two per specialist and Dr. Sofia, one ultrasound, one aspiration, one lab test and courier costs to get the sample to Athens: $345 US.  Read that out loud: only $345US!!

Street-scene Kalamata
Lesson Five: Be prepared for the unexpected.

The lab results were returned two business day's later in early May, which this year was Easter Week in Greece, a time when most business slows and vacations are taken.  Luckily all of the doctors were still working as the report surprisingly concluded: ‘probable cancer cells’.

We paid another visit to the radiologist, to the ENT and to Dr. Sofia – I’d adopted ‘the Greek way’ and was 'going in' with the patient.  All three doctors still seemed surprised at the finding  – the ‘lump’ as we called it had disappeared with the aspiration and not returned. (No charge for any of those follow-up consultations).

I always say don’t make plans, make options.
                             -- Jennifer Aniston

We came upon two roads - which one to take. . .

All three doctors at that point  – to eliminate any possibility – talking biopsy and upper body scans.  All procedures were best done in an Athens hospital, they said. Or, we thought, back in the U.S. Either option required travel, hotels and logistics.

The Scout at this point was consulting via email with his U.S. doctor who wanted the ultrasound results and lab reports. 

The actual ultrasound copies fit in a legal-sized manila envelope, but at the neighboring village post office they were deemed were too large for the Greek postal system to send via express mail (go figure that one). If they made that day's flight it would take 10 days via mail. "It is Easter Week, you know," the postal agent told us.

A special courier would charge 55-euros and delivery would take five days.

We had them scanned and emailed them.  A brilliant idea, we thought. Until. . .

Sigh. . . Seattle’s big city medical center, has such internet security systems in place that they were unable to open the medical records sent via ‘the cloud’. 

Dr. Sofia had taken the Greek lab report home one evening because her clinic schedule is so full and translated it to English so that it could be sent to the U.S. doctor (can you imagine your doctor doing that??).

Time to ponder what to do (this is the visiting Princess Cat on our deck)

Lesson Six: Think it through. Ponder the options and outcomes of this journey.

The U.S. doctor said tests could be done in Greece and if treatment was required he recommended returning to the States for it. However, we decided, we’d likely have to have all the tests re-done in the States if that were the case. 

If tests were done there and treatment started in Greece we had only that 90-day Schengen Treaty tourist visa window in which to get it completed. (Click the link for a post I wrote about it in April)

In the U.S. we have insurance but whether it would cover a Greek operation and hospital stay was questionable.

And sadly, as much as we love Greece, we had to consider the impact of that country’s propensity towards labor stoppages and strikes.  One patient of Dr. Sofia’s had joined in a conversation we were having with the doctor in the waiting room about The Scout’s situation (no privacy, for sure) and said she’d had surgery in Athens a few years back but it had been postponed a day or two by a strike.

Hmmmm. . .sometimes those group medical conversations can be enlightening.

On the road to Athens
We opted to return to the States, cutting our stay at The Stone House on the Hill to less than half of what we’d planned. Neighbors and friends in Greece stepped in to keep an eye on those projects we had scheduled and offered help with anything else we needed. 

We used air miles to buy our one-way tickets home – we had to be realistic. We didn't know when we might return to this daydream life of ours. We burned some accumulated Marriott hotel points and treated ourselves to five nights in London en route back to the U.S. Again, not knowing when we might again travel, we following the advice of Horace, who said:

Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans.
It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.

Journey’s End:

0911800-R1-007-2 [630928]
Seattle - known for its cancer-care facilities

At 6:45 a.m. the morning after we arrived in Seattle, The Scout underwent a series of scans at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital.  All showed no signs of cancer. 

However, 'the lump' returned three weeks ago. It was surgically removed last week and he had an overnight stay in the hospital.

The ‘lump’, a cyst in the parotid (pear rotted) gland, a salivary gland, was benign.  We’ve booked our return trip to Greece. We are pondering future cruises. Travel planning is underway again.

Lesson Seven:  In case you are wondering, our experience with the Greek medical system exceeded our expectations, with the exception of the questionable lab finding. The doctors with whom we dealt spoke English and were clearly professionals in their fields. The interactions we had with them were like ‘the old days’ when you were a name and not a number. The costs were incredibly affordable. And every procedure and recommendation that the Greek doctors offered were similar to that which was recommended and eventually done by the U.S. doctors.

Don't put off to tomorrow. . .
Lesson Eight: This one is for all of you boomer-aged male readers of ours  – the U.S. doctor told us that too often men of 'your ages' find such lumps, or other questionable bumps in their necks and don’t have them checked figuring they ‘will go away’. For too many, they've waited too long.

Those little bumps/lumps can be harbingers of something very serious. Get them checked early.

Hey, next week we'll lighten up and take you on a whirlwind tour of London! We walked over 40 miles in five days and have a lot to show you! As always thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today. Safe – and healthy! -- travels to you and yours ~

Linking up this week with ~

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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