Thursday, February 23, 2017

'Road trip to Residency': The Next Great Greek Adventure

We’ve been two-stepping to the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ long enough. It’s time to put a year’s worth of research and planning into action. It’s time for our next Great Greek Adventure:

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Inner Mani, Peloponnese, Greece
We are setting off on the ‘road to residency’ ~ our destination:  Greek residency permits.

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Our Stone House on the Hill - The Mani, Greece
Those of you who’ve been with us since we bought our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese two years ago are probably shaking your heads, thinking, “Wasn’t that enough of a 'great adventure'?!?!”

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Road sign in the Peloponnese - It's all Greek to me
Admittedly the house purchase was an adventure – and in the beginning, a misadventure as well. After its closing we needed a lengthy ‘breather from bureaucracy’. But during our last two years we’ve pondered the pros and cons of continuing to do the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ or seeking residency status which would give us more flexibility in travel as well as the option to spend more time there. It would give us the option to live there fulltime if we chose to do so. And it would provide some lifestyle options, like owning a car, instead of renting as we currently must do as tourists.

We didn’t need to be ‘residents’ to buy a home in Greece; we could do so as tourists. We had some requirements, like getting a tax identification number and opening a bank account. But we could stay up to 90 days every six months because of. . .

The Schengen Treaty


Schengen Area Member States Map
The Schengen Treaty (aka Schengen Border Agreement) established criteria for travel for those living within the ‘Schengen Zone’  and for those of us those entering from other countries.

The agreement, while making borders hassle- and visa- free for residents of the 26 European Treaty countries, puts a time limit on visa-free travel for Americans, like us. Basically, 90-days-in and 90-days-out.  To stay longer, you need a visa.

So strict is the rule, that it can impact you even if you are transiting through an airport within the Schengen area. If you've hit your 90-day limit in one country and are heading home via an airport in another Schengen country, the authorities can deny you entry into that country for the few hours you planned to spend at the airport waiting for your next flight if your schedule has you exceeding the limit.

Penalties for over-staying the 90 days in Greece range from 500 – 1200 euros ($530 -$1,272) and violators are denied entry back into the Schengen Zone for at least three months, sometimes longer.  Don’t let people tell you ‘not to worry’  - they do check passport entry and exit stamps, closely! We know from first-hand experience.    
    
Schengen Countries (shown on the map):
    • All European Union countries, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement.
    • In addition, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are also members of the Schengen Borders Agreement (but they are not European Union members).

Hitting the 'Road to Residency'

Obtaining an ‘entry visa’ is the first of a two-step process required to apply for a Greek residency permit, which if granted, will be good for two years. This first step takes place before leaving the United States. We must meet with the Greek consulate serving our region (in our case, that is San Francisco). If he determines we meet the thresholds set by the Greek government, he will grant us the ‘entry visa’.

That visa, good for a year, allows us to start (and hopefully complete) while in Greece the process for obtaining a residency permit. There, we will need to have our documents first translated into Greek. Then we will be interviewed by Greek immigration officials and our documents reviewed. They will determine whether or not to grant the residency permits.

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The Peloponnese Greece
 
Conversations began with our Greek attorney (yes, you need one) a year ago. We’ve had two telephone conversations with the Greek consulate in the US (basically, the ‘gatekeeper’ who determines whether or not you can begin the application process in Greece). They were in agreement, that we should set off on the road to an ‘Economically Independent Individual Visa’. ( There are any number of visas from which to choose including for those who want to work in the country or for students, just as there are for people coming to the U.S.)

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Peloponnese, Greece
During the year we’ve been actively preparing for this ‘road trip to residency’ the requirements for the permit have changed, new requirements have been added and thresholds raised. We respect the fact that Greece, like many countries is grappling with immigration issues, but it has made the document gathering a bit of a task.

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Preparing our application packets - Sunday morning sorting
We are applying as individuals, so each of us must present an application packet. Our packets include information which is required at this point in time. . .they are always subject to change:
  
1. Completed Application form plus two color passport size photos

2. A copy of our property contract showing we own a home there (those who are renting must provide a rental agreement with address)

3. Itinerary for the flight to Greece 

4. A clearance letter from the FBI based on a fingerprint background check (this review in the U.S. takes 12 –15 weeks, so we sent finger prints for review back in August 2016 and received letters from the FBI in October 2016.)

5. Health form completed by our U.S. doctor after an exam which says we are in good mental  health, with no contagious diseases, specifically tuberculosis and syphilis. The form must be signed and stamped by the physician.

6. Proof of medical insurance coverage in Greece. The threshold on insurance is strict and includes coverage for illness and accident, hospitalization and guarantees a level of our co-pay. (Our U.S. insurance company has written a letter detailing the coverage we have. We’ve also included a list of physicians and hospitals in Kalamata and Athens who fall within the coverage ‘network’)

7. Proof of medical evacuation/repatriation insurance back to the United States. I’ve underlined a part of this requirement, because many companies we found will only evacuate to the nearest facility that can treat you. Greek authorities require that it be back to the country of residence. (This is a new requirement. We have purchased membership with Air Ambulance Card, a company based in the United States that offers both medical evacuation and repatriation of ‘mortal remains’’ for both travelers and ex pats.This company serves US and Canadian citizens. Their representatives have been a breath of fresh air in a bureaucratic world – hope we never need their services, but if their care is anything like their customer service we’ll be in good hands.)

8. Copies of W2 or 1040 income tax filings for the last two years.

9. Proof of income which presently is 2,300 – 2,400 euros ($2,438 – $2,544) a month, for each of us. (The income threshold has increased from 2,000 per person, per month to the amounts I listed. We are presenting information on our Social Security payments, pension payments, letters verifying accounts we hold at financial institutions as well as monthly bank statements).

10. Passport, plus a photo copy of the first page – the one with info and photo.

11. Any additional documents that prove you have the means to stay in Greece. (We’ve included our Greek tax identification numbers, receipts showing we’ve paid our taxes there, and information about our Greek bank account.) 

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The road trip to residency - Peloponnese, Greece
Next week we make our first stop on ‘the road trip to residency’: San Francisco, California. We are set to meet with the Greek Consulate and he’ll review our application packets and determine whether we continue on the ‘road to residency’ or not.

While I’ve tried to provide a ‘just the facts’ review  of our timetable, the we’ve steps taken and the current requirements, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you the process of gathering ‘proof’ has been at times stressful and mentally taxing. “Just” getting a notarized letter or a verification of insurance coverage has introduced us to new levels of bureaucracy within U.S. corporations.

It has also been a humbling experience. We’d liken it to our young adult years when we suffered nervous ‘am-I-good-enough’ jitters and doubts when applying to colleges or for those first jobs. Now comfortably settled into our 60-something-lives it has seemed strange to be gathering proof of our very being – health, wealth, and law-abidingness.

But it is an adventure, no doubt about it. It has certainly shaken up the rhythms of our normal preparation for a return to The Stone House on the Hill.

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Road to Residency - where will it lead?
We will be off next week to California's rain-drenched  'City by the Bay'.  After that whirlwind trip and meeting with the Greek Consulate I’ll let you know where this ‘road trip’ takes us next. Hope to see you back for part two of our Great Greek Adventure. Kudos to you for hanging in to the end on this post.  It’s  rather long but I know some of you reading it are contemplating residency visas and we wanted to provide as much information as possible.

For those new to TravelnWrite, and who want to see what lead us to this post, click here: The Stone House on the Hill.


Safe travels to you and yours~

Linking this week:
Through My Lens
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Wordless Wednesday
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Waikiki ~ A Royal Pink Palace Celebration

Once upon a time in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there was an island kingdom; a land of islands ruled by kings and queens. . . a Land we now call ‘Hawaii’. . .

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Island of Lanai - Hawaii
Visitors who spend anytime in Hawaii will soon be caught up in its history and the stories of those who ruled that not-so-long-ago Kingdom. Reminders and tributes are everywhere from the Kamehameha Highway to Queen’s Hospital.

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Island of Oahu, Hawaii
Among the Royalty were – just to name a few -- King Kamehameha, also known as Kamehameha the Great, who conquered most of the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of HawaiÊ»i in 1810. . . and Queen Emma, consort of King Kamehameha IV. . . and King Kalakaua, and finally Queen Lili’uokalani the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. She reigned until the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893.

The history of the Kingdom, the arrival of Christian missionaries, the introduction of sugar cane and pineapple production, its tourism industry and the road to statehood in 1959, is multifaceted. Today I am focusing on one small but important part of its fascinating story . . .

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel ~ The Pink Palace of the Pacific

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Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Waikiki Beach - Honolulu
If you look closely at my photo above you’ll see the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, ‘the Pink Palace of the Pacific’ tucked away in the shadow of modern high-rise hotel towers. What a contrast to when she reigned over Waikiki Beach as shown in the photo below. The Grand Old Queen of the Beach celebrates her 90th anniversary this month.

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Royal Hawaii Hotel - Photo, Historic Hawaii Foundation Collection
The first Royal Hawaiian Hotel was originally built in downtown Honolulu to house visiting dignitaries. Opening in 1871 it was called the Hawaiian Hotel, then soon after King Kalakaua came into power in 1874, it was called the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. In the early 1900’s, with the hotel in decline, the YMCA took over the building and Matson Navigation Company bought the name.

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The Regal Entry to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Opening at its present-day Waikiki location on February 1, 1927, the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel drew 1,200 attendees to its opening night gala.  The hotel’s Spanish-Moorish style was popular in the 1920’s, partially due to the popularity of Rudolph Valentino, an Italian actor who often portrayed Arab sheiks in movies, according to Bob Sigall, who writes “Rearview Mirror” for the Honolulu Star Advertiser Sunday Magazine.

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Promotional posters from yesteryear on display at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
With the hotel’s opening, the era of luxury travel to Hawaii had begun. Matson Navigation Co. operated two cruise ships, the Lurline and the Matsonia that traveled between California and Honolulu. Passengers sailed on the luxury liners and then stayed in luxurious surroundings at the Royal Hawaiian. (Matson ultimately owned four hotels in Hawaii and in 1959 sold them to Sheraton for $18 million.)

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If the walls could talk - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
Those early day cruisers after being welcomed with leis and serenaded by the Royal Hawaiian Band at the pier were treated to a lawn party at the hotel. While guests partied, servants unpacked their bags, according to Sigall.

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Wall map in entry way of Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
During World War II tourism tanked. The luxury cruise ships were painted war-time gray and became troop transport ships while the Navy took over the Royal Hawaiian, paying $17,500 a month rent. The hotel was then used for a Rest and Relaxation (R and R) facility for troops. It didn’t take long after the war for tourism to return and the hotel reopened to resume hosting the luxury traveler.

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Ceilings in the Royal Hawaiian - Pink Palace of the Pacific - Hotel 
Hawaiians like to ‘talk story’ and among the hotel’s stories is one explaining its pink color:  it was inspired by the colors of homes in Portugal, many of which, back in the 1920’s, were painted pink with blue shutters.

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William "Chick" Daniels - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
A look at the history of the ‘Pink Palace’ wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Waikiki ‘beach boys’ –  those talented and athletic young Hawaiians who taught visitors how to surf and to use outrigger canoes.  There’s a photo display at the hotel that pays tribute to one of their favorite ‘beach boys’:  William ‘Chick’ Daniels (1899-1982).  Chick, as he was called, began his 50-year career at the Royal Hawaiian in 1927. He became their Head Beach Attendant.

This talented waterman was also a musician and entertained guests by day then performed with his band, the ‘Royal Hawaiians’ at night. They performed at the hotel’s opening gala. Years later, he wrote the Hawaiian song, “Lei Aloha” which he performed in New York on the Arthur Godfrey radio show.

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Waikiki Beach - Honolulu, Hawaii
It was a different time, those glory days of luxury in the ‘Pink Palace’. The price of a ticket to that that opening gala cost $10 per person, or about $150 by today’s standards.

But it’s not too late to have a taste of the elegance: The hotel’s 90th Anniversary Gala is slated for March 3rd, tickets are $350 per person with all proceeds going to the ALS Association. The event, housed in the hotel’s elegant Monarch Room, will include a cocktail reception, three-course meal, entertainment and silent auction. Tickets are still available. For information: royalhawaiian90thgala@luxurycollection.com or (808) 931-7912.

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Window display hotel shop - Royal Hawaiian Hotel
If you want a bit more ‘talk story’ about the ‘Pink Palace’ the hotel’s historian, Kehaulani Kam, leads one hour tours twice a week. They currently begin at 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact the hotel for details, (808) 923-7311.

Aloha for this week. If you have a story about the Royal Hawaiian we invite you to tell us about it in the comments below or send us an email and we’ll add your story. The hotel wants to hear your memories, so hashtag it, #Royal90.  May your travels be happy and healthy! Hope you’ll be back next week and bring a friend or two with you.

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Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
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Weekend Travel Inspiration .

Thursday, February 9, 2017

In Hawaii: E Komo Mai ~ All Are Welcome

E Komo Mai (eh koh-moh my-ee) – Hawaiian for ‘welcome’ or ‘come in’.

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A KoOlina Tradition
The small gathering – an ever-changing mix of visitors and locals, representing a variety of races and religions --  has become a part of Sunday morning traditions at KoOlina on O’ahu’s west coast.  The group gathers on a grassy area between two lagoons; a peaceful area overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. This weekly worship service has been held for years in this location.

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Hawaiian greeting
A small yard sign near the public pathway reads, “E Komo Mai, All Welcome”. Even those of us who are simply passing by pause to listen to a bit of the sermon or one of the hymns being sung. In keeping with this island's Aloha Spirit and E Komo Mai attitude, there’s no pressure to stay or leave; all are made to feel welcome.

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E Komo Mai - welcome
Those messages of aloha and welcome were being expressed just down the road some 20 miles away on this same Sunday morning two weekends ago but in a much different setting. Another group made up of various races and religions had gathered at the Honolulu International Airport. The signs they waved were of welcome to this tropical paradise – where close to one-fifth of the state's residents are foreign-born. Theirs was a protest of the then-hours-old Executive Order barring entry to the United States for travelers from seven countries.

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KoOlina - O'ahu
Now this post isn’t going to rehash that Executive Order but that juxtapositioning of welcomes did get me thinking about how often we take visas and entry into foriegn countries for granted. This post is about E Komo Mai, as the Hawaiians say, being made to feel welcome.


Welcome – (as a verb) – greet someone arriving in a glad, polite or friendly way.
                                                -- Dictionary Definition


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Wadi Rum - Jordan
As a travelers  who’ve  been to any number of countries that require tourist visas we have a healthy respect for the variety of requirements each country has for entry into it, if even for a short visit. Some require nothing more than paying a fee upon arrival, a computer scan of your passport followed by a stamp in it. Some require that you fill out an application on-line, pay for it, and print out a copy for the authorities upon arrival. Others, like India, have a such a complex application process, high fee ($400 per person) and relinquishing our passports to their US representatives for a week or more,  that had our cruise a year ago not required us to have had the visa to board the ship, we’d have simply never gotten off the ship in India.

A smile is the universal welcome.
Max Eastman

However, once we had the visa, we have never been made to feel unwelcome in any country we’ve visited.
 
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Our guide in Petra and The Scout
Like most who travel, we find that the every-day people we've encountered are simply normal people living in a different culture and religion than we know. Sometimes we don’t fully understand it, but that is why we’ve gone there in the first place – we want to learn more about them. And in the course of our travels, we’ve given those everyday folks a chance to meet everyday Americans as well. More than once we’ve been told we don’t ‘act like Americans’ – at least how they have believed or thought Americans would act.

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A new friend, a business traveler we met in Cairo, Egypt
One reader of a post I wrote about our time in Cairo told us to be careful because ‘they don’t like Americans there'. Well, I suppose that if I were to survey everyone of the more than 20 million people in the city, I’d find some that didn’t like Americans for whatever reason. But I can assure you those that we have met not only welcomed us but thanked us for visiting their country. (When’s the last time you thanked a foreign visitor for coming to your country?)

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Greek olive grove
We’ve actually had people ask us “How do you find the Greeks?” when they learn we have a home there. “Find them?” we respond.  “You know. . . do they like Americans?”  Now I have to admit we find those questions absolutely absurd based on our experiences.  We have been made to feel more than welcome from the locals we have met in our villages.

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Our village children lead a parade through Kardamyli
We are feeling so welcome, that  as we’ve said in earlier posts, we are seeking resident visas which would allow us more time in that country. I can assure you, this visa process makes those tourist visa applications look like a piece of cake. It is neither easy nor inexpensive but it is definitely humbling.
And probably not unlike what the United States requires of those wanting similar status here.

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Welcome Mat at The Stone House on the Hill
If we are not granted a resident visa we will continue going to our Greek life and staying for as long as our tourist visa allows.  However,  I won’t take either the tourist or resident visa for granted anymore.  I’ve seen how quickly, with a single signature, a government can impact the lives of travelers who believe they hold valid visas.

So aloha from Hawaii where our timeshare life is drawing to a close for another year.  Again, the 'e koma mai' spirit makes it difficult to leave but new travel adventures await.  May your travels be safe and may you always find a welcome mat waiting for you.

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration .

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Roosters, Religion and Rebellions ~ Let’s Celebrate!

Gong Hei Fat Choy (gung hey fah choy) Wishes for great happiness and prosperity
-- New Year’s wish in Cantonese

This last weekend in Hawaii we ushered in Chinese New Year. Sometimes called the Spring Festival on mainland China or Lunar New Year in other Asian locales, its arrival is as significant to many as is the New Year that arrives each January 1st.

We are fortunate to be in this U.S. island-state in the middle of the Pacific to experience all the hoopla that marked this new year’s arrival. Experiencing the festivals and holidays significant in the religions and cultures of others is one of the big benefits of travel, to our way of thinking. Take the   the three R's of celebrations. . .

First, the Rooster

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This is one of the many roosters who live on the island of Kaua'i
Sometimes, as with the Chinese New Year, such experiences can be had right here in the United States.  We’ve experienced Chinese New Year in Hawaii and Las Vegas where hotels, restaurants and shopping centers are decked out in oft-times dazzling decorations and offer special new year deals and delights to customers.

Had we not been in Hawaii though we’d have likely not had as much 'to do' about this new Year of the Rooster as had we been at our Pacific Northwest home. Chinese New Year isn’t a big event in the Seattle suburb where we live.

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This is one of the resident roosters at the Courtyard Marriott on Kaua'i
As part of the celebration we've learned the rooster is the 10th animal of 12 on the Chinese Zodiac. And it is this bird’s year to shine!  In addition to 2017, other Rooster years include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, and 2005. Special events have been taking place in Honolulu’s Chinatown and at locations in dozens of towns and resorts throughout the Hawaiian islands. Performances, fireworks and special events are held to celebrate the New Year. Restaurants prepare special menus.

At this resort decorations ranged from paper streamers and red Chinese lanterns to works of art. One of the most exquisite we’ve seen is this floral rooster centerpiece of the lobby at the Four Seasons O’ahu here at Ko Olina, on the island’s west coast.

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Lobby Four Seasons O'ahu at KoOlina
The island’s Red Ginger plant and anthurium are among the many blooms used in this creation.

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Year of the Rooster

Then, the Rebellions

A few years ago we found ourselves near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the 5th of May and we were surprised at how low-keyed the Cinco de Mayo celebrations were as compared to the way it is hyped and celebrated some thousand miles away in Washington State – by Americans.

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Salud! A margarita toast to Cinco de Mayo
Maybe we have Corona Beer and the marketing teams for tequila and tortilla chip manufacturers to thank for the hype up north.  Or maybe it is the influence of the Mexican farm laborers who are key to the state’s agriculture industry. . .in any event, the day is celebrated con mucho gusto!

(The 5th of May is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, a battle which resulted in the unlikely victory of Mexico over France in 1862. Although I doubt if many who celebrate it in the U.S. know much about the date’s significance.)

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Oxi Day Celebration in Kardamyli, Greece 2015
The Oxi Day (Oh-hee) Day celebration in Greece on October 28th  commemorates the rejection by Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Mextaxas of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on 28 October 1940, Mussolini wanted the Greek Prime Minister to allow the Italian army free passage to enter and occupy strategic sites in Greece unopposed.

Oxi is the word for “No” in Greek.

Businesses close and school children march in parades, don traditional clothing, perform dances and make speeches in our villages. In the larger cities the military often play a large role in the celebrations.

And Religion

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Water Ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand

Sometimes the luck of being in the right place at the right time  has given us the chance to participate in very sacred, subdued celebrations as happened in Thailand last year.  We are still not sure of the significance of the water ritual with which the Buddhist Monks welcomed us to in Bangkok, but it was an unforgettable part of our travel experience in Southeast Asia.

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Easter Saturday 2015 village of Agios Nikolaos, Greece
And long time readers know our love of celebrating Easter in the Greek Orthodox style.  This has to top our list of favorite celebrations. Each village and town in Greece puts their own particular twist on the candle-lighting ceremony the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday.  Some burn an effigy of Judas, others send ‘him’ out to sea in a boat and others, like our village, set off fireworks as part of the late-night celebration. We are already looking forward to this year's celebration.

IMG_20140326_040214_004I used celebrations in this post in hopes of illustrating how enriching travel can be. The freedom to travel – whether close to home or far-distant places is something we cherish  Experiencing new cultures, customs, traditions and the celebrations associated with them is something vitally important to us. We  hope these passports continue to be invitations and not barriers to the world’s celebrations.


Now it's your turn: what celebrations have you experienced as a result of your travels?  Have a celebration that takes place in your part of the world that you want to recommend to others? Tell us about them in the comments below or shoot us an email and we’ll add your suggestions to the comments.   Until the next time ~ safe travels to you and yours!

Linking up this week with these other bloggers:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration .

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hawaii ~ Building Sandcastles


Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
― Walt Whitman

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Lagoon at KoOlina Resort - O'ahu
As they passed me on the sidewalk yesterday I overheard the little girl clad in a swim suit and sun hat, carrying her plastic bucket and shovel, say to her mother, “Today. . .I am building a sandcastle!”

Her ‘to do’ list was done for her day. She was heading to one of the four lagoons at KoOlina the resort on the west coast of O’ahu where we are living our month-long winter timeshare life. Her list was a bit longer than mine. I had nothing in mind ‘to do’ at all. And yet, we were both looking forward to our day’s activities.

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End of the road - Yokohama Beach - O'ahu
Our visits to Hawaii weren’t always like this. Back in our work-a-day world we were lucky to squeeze in a 10-day visit to this Pacific paradise. Once here we’d zip back and forth across the island trying to sample as many restaurants, walk as many beaches and see many tourist attractions as was possible. We’d go home needing a rest from the vacation.

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Slope along O'ahu's Wai'anae Mountain range
We’ve reached a point in life where we don’t need to cram as much in as we can to our days – no matter where we are. We've allowed ourselves more time in the places we travel to (an advantage of retirement and its savings) which gives a new feeling to our nomadic lifestyle. Taking a nap, reading a book, watching ocean waves. . .things we’d probably describe as ‘doing nothing’ if someone were to ask, are becoming our norm.

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Monk Seal - Kauai
Maybe as we’ve settled into these ‘boomer years’ we’ve recognized that we aren’t going to check off every destination on our travel bucket list nor will we cross off every ‘must do and see’ that we have listed for the destinations that we do visit.  We’ve slowed our pace and decided to strive for the quality instead of the quantity of our travel moments.

We’ve also gotten over the need to fill each day with planned activities. I know many of our friends prefer and are more comfortable traveling with structure – groups with leaders, itineraries and meal plans that are set months in advance.  We just don’t travel that way. Never have. And we are getting more set in our laid-back ‘where the winds blow us’ mode of travel with each passing year. And it means missing some of those 'must see' places but we can live with that. It also means we are open to everyday 'discoveries'. . .

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”
― Maya Angelou


. . .such as the one we had in neighboring island Kauai two weeks ago.  The waitress pouring us a cup of afternoon coffee asked if we’d heard there was a seal on our beach. Minutes later, camera in hand, we were watching the 'little' two-year-old girl nap on the beach in front of our hotel. The Monk Seal drew quite an audience of watchers – all who delighted in doing nothing more than watch an afternoon nap in progress.

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Sleeping Beauty on the beach in Kauai
“Forever is composed of nows.”
― Emily Dickinson

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KoOlina - O'ahu

Now I have to admit that when we arrived I did slip back into that old mode by saying, “This time we really should go to Pearl Harbor.” And then I added that we ‘needed’ to drive to the North Shore and see its big waves, and then there is that Thai restaurant only a few minutes away in Kapolei town that we ‘needed’ to go back to and maybe this time we should go out on a sunset sail.. . .

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Frozen MaiTai
That ‘to do’ list like so many others has been filed away. We’ve opted to sip frozen MaiTai’s on the spur of the moment and watched the sun set as often as we can. That’s enough for our travel 'to do' list these days.

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KoOlina Sunset
“There's a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they're absolutely free.
Don't miss so many of them.”
-- Jo Walton

That’s it from us this week. We’ll be in Hawaii a bit longer so we may have another tale or two from here. In the meantime, tell us about your travels – are you more comfortable with an organized itinerary or a blank page with no ‘to do’ lists?  Do you need a vacation from the vacation after you get home? Where ever you go and how ever you do it, may your travels be safe and happy.

Linking this week with:

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



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hanapepe ~ Beyond the Beach and Back in Time

We aren't the lay-in-the-sun, bake-yourself-on-the-beach-people we were a few decades ago. So it isn't just the inviting beachscape, toasty sun and rolling waves alone that bring us to Hawaii each year. It is all the amazing places this island state has tucked away beyond its beaches that bring us back as well.

Just last week during a trip to Kauai's west side, we found ourselves doing a bit of time travel. . .

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Hanapepe Swing Bridge - Kauai

. . .during a visit to Hanapepe (ha-na-pay-pay), a little spot that proudly calls itself Kauai's 'biggest little town'. It may be small, but it is one of our favorite destinations on this island.

Walking across the town's swing bridge that connects the old Main Street to the fertile valley on the other side of the Hanapepe River, we couldn't help but think of a time - long before Captain Cook visited in 1778 - when ancient Hawaiians populated the area. The main staple grown in the area was 'kalo' or taro as it is commonly called today. The area's earliest commerce was the trading of salt from the Hanapepe ponds. The 1880's brought sugar cane cultivation and that drew Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese immigrants to work in the fledgling industry.

These days the old foot bridge - once a transportation link between the fields and the town - is a source of entertainment for tourists who want to test their courage in walking across the creaking, swaying structure. Visitors who make it across the bridge are asked to turn around and not disturb the residents who make their home on the other side of the river. (The original bridge was destroyed during Hurricane Iniki's rampage over the island back in 1992 and was rebuilt and strengthened as part of the storm recovery efforts.)

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Hanapepe - Kauai's biggest little town or so they say!
Hanapepe, 18 miles (29 kilometers) from Lihue (where the island's major airport is located), was a bustling economic center from the early 1900's through World War II. Bars and shops lined its streets. Two movie theatres and three skating rinks were in operation. You can't see the ocean from its historic Main Street, but it isn't far away.

By recent accounts, there are more than 40 buildings and structures along the old Main Street that qualify for state and national historic status, but no one in this laid-back part of the island has gotten around to doing any of the required paperwork to get them recognized.

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One of the old theatres in Hanapepe

That doesn't mean the town doesn't take pride in its history!  A stroll from one end of the street to the other provides a fascinating glimpse into the 'way it was'  thanks to the photographs from yesteryear, each displayed with a paragraph or two telling the story of how it used to be. Hawaiian 'talk story' at its finest.

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History proudly displayed in Hanapepe

Today many of the old wooden structures house tourist shops and art galleries. An old service station is now a convenience store. A former  bar is  home to a bakery. Each shop and the building it is housed in has an interesting story behind it. All are worth a visit, but the one that brought us back to this quaint little spot we'd discovered two years ago, was Talk Story Bookstore; 'the westernmost independent bookstore in the United States'. We simply had to see the store's cat again and to purchase some books.

Owners Ed and Cynthia Justus opened the store 12 years ago with no business plan in mind, he told us.  They were simply moving their ebay business to a storefront. Today they have 100,000 books from which to choose, new, used, collectibles and rare and receive 3,000 new books a month. (To give you an idea of the variety of books in this small, unassuming-looking store, I purchased a book called "Savushun" a novel about modern Iran. It was the first novel ever published in that country by an Iranian woman).

And yes, the cat came to greet us just as it had during our first visit here two years ago.


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Talk Story Bookstore

We also returned to the fragrant shop - just down the street in another old wood frame structure - of the Aloha Spice Company. We couldn't resist buying couple of packages of Anahola Granola. The company was started by Becky, a single mom, who lived in Kauai's Anahola.  She was born and raised in Orcas Island and Seattle, Washington. The early '80's found her living in Kauai and a few years later she began selling her homemade granola in at a farmers market. Today several varieties are commercially packages and sold including the "Tropical" mix which combines macadamia nuts, sun-ripened papaya, pineapple, sweet coconut, whole grain oats, nutritious seeds and Hawaiian honey. Who could resist that wholesome combination, right?

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A mouth-watering and fragrant stop in Hanapepe, Kauai

Across the street, as we'd peered through the screen door of the Midnight Bear Bakery, the driver of a delivery truck parked nearby called out to us, "That is the best bakery on the island. I make it a point to stop here every time I come to this side of the island." With that kind of recommendation who wouldn't go inside?  It was soon decision time: Meyers Lemon Danish or Macademia Nut Cinammon Rolls? The just-out-of-the-oven cinnamon rolls won out, but next time, we'll throw calorie-counting to the wind and try the Danish as well!

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Scene from Old Main Street Hanapepe

Another thing we'll make it a point to do next time is to return for their Friday Night Art Walk which takes place every week from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It is the biggest event in the island's biggest little town!

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Bridge over the Hanapepe River - Kauai

That's it for this week. Time to go enjoy a bit of that tropical sunshine. We'll be back next week and until then our wishes for safe and happy travels!
Aloha~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration

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