Monday, October 26, 2009
A toast to Paris
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Marche Poncelet - Saturday morning market
Bon Jour from Paris!
Credit card safety tips -
Prior to the trip we had notified the fraud department of each company of where we would be traveling so that they wouldn't put a hold on the card when activity showed up from places outside our normal circle. What we didn't do was to verfiy the phone number to use should the card get stolen. Turned out the numbers on the back of two of the cards weren't valid; one had been changed, one was an 800-number that only worked in the US. (They have collect call numbers to use outside the US). We used our laptop to access their web sites and get correct numbers, but could have saved much time had we had the numbers with us.
What has saved us real inconvenience is that I have a credit card account in my own name; Joel isn't on it. I had it and we are using it for the remainder of the trip. I also had a card for each of the accounts we cancelled which provided us the number of the account to cancel. Single travelers should keep credit cards in different bags and make sure you have copies of the card numbers somewhere other than on the card.
We will have new cards waiting for us by the time we get home.
Welcome to Athens: pick-pocketed
Subway trains, tourist attractions, crowded shopping areas are all ripe for the picking (pun intended) and we usually are on high alert when in those places. I have a lock-hold grip on camera and purse, with bag clamped under the arm. Joel has hand in pocket and similar grips on bags. But we weren't on high enough alert in Piraeus as we caught the metro into Athens.
Hindsight is 20-20. I thought the man that blocked my way out of the doorway and down the isle was simply being rude. He continued to be 'rude' to Joel not letting him move past with suitcase and bag. I was so focused on Mr. Rude that I didn't pay attention to his two sidekicks; one of which removed Joel's wallet from his pocket so swiftly that he didn't realize it was gone until they had hopped off the train at the first stop out of the port.
I can tell you I am no longer the nice traveler on metro trains or buses; look at me for more than 30 seconds or glance at my purse, and I am likely to start swinging my umbrella at you.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Off to Athens
We travel there by ferry leaving at 9:30 a.m. and five hours later arrive in Piraeus.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Angels among us
Sunday, October 18, 2009
No reservation? No sweat. . .
Actually our trip to Folegandros has proven that statement incorrect. . .we did sweat a lot, quite literally, on this segment of the trip. Folegandros, as I wrote before, is a Greek island we booked ourselves to pretty much on the basis of an article I had clipped from the Seattle Times and an outdated guidebook entry we read in Santorini. Folegandros is on the cusp of tourism with delightful small resorts, rooms to let and a selection of restaurants found in the maze of the Kastro, a maze of small alleyways past plazas, homes and businesses in what was once a Venetian village. We had been warned in Santorini that we might find limited accommodations here this late in the season.
We were among a dozen or so who got off the ferry at the port - most went to waiting cars. But five of us went in search of the bus - the one we all had read met each ferry. After 20 minutes the realization was clear that the bus that would take us up the 3.3. kilometer stretch to the town wasn't coming. Our band of five had made introductions while waiting and we consisted of a couple from Spain, a man from Australia and the Smiths.
At the news finally that the bus wouldn't arrive for nearly two hours and with rain clouds threatening, three of us decided to walk, make that hike, to the town. That is where the sweat comes in. Under cloudy skies, in muggy conditions we began the trek, looking much like donkeys as we pulled our suitcases like carts and laden with those ' lightweight' Bagallini bags, I've been bragging about throughout the trip. After 30 minutes I was trying to remember what the symptoms of heart attack or stroke areas my heart pounded and the sweat dripped. (sometimes being a traveler isn't pretty).
This photo is of Joel and our now new friend Rob from Australia. . .as we set off for town.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Folegandros bound. . .maybe
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Greek beach wear
Monday, October 12, 2009
Cretan road trip
From ruins to raki
The photo I included with this post was taken in Kissamos, a port town in the northwest of Crete, where we had stopped for afternoon coffee. These types of excavations have become 'typical' street scenes in our travels. Many have posted explanations and others leave it all to your imagination. The Kissamos archeological museum is filled with pottery, statues and incredible mosiacs that took us back centuries. There was no entry fee.
Similar excations are found throughout Hania, which got its start as a Minoan city of Kydonia in 1450BC! Its old harbor reflects the buildings of its Venetian occupation in the 13th Century and to the east of the harbor the old Turkish Quarter of Korum Kapi provided winding walkways and interesting sites.
On the south coast we visited Frangokastello, a remarkably well-preserved Venetian fortress, built in the 14th century to protect from pirate attacks. You visit there free of charge; no staff, no guards, no bag checks. It overlooks a beautiful white sand beach that draws busloads of tourists to it and the beach chairs nearby.
Raki, is a clear distilled liquor of this country. It is served in miniature pitchers and drunk from thimble-sized glasses after meals. Usually it is served with some Cretan specialty like honey cake - as a thank you from the restaurant to you for having eaten there.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Flavors of Greece
Kalespera from Elounda
What is amazing to us is that we have both a sea and mountain view no matter where we have been on this island. And the views just never stop.
We planned a an overnight stay in Elounda and have again fallen to a place's charms and have extended for at least three nights, perhaps more and will do day trips from here for a few days anyway.
Taking the recommendation of Lonely Planets guidebook we stopped at Corali Studios (http://www.coralistudios.com/) and lucked out with a no-show guest having left a beautiful waterfront studio for us to rent - again at a mere 40E per night. We have a view of Spinalonga Island - one of my 'novel' destinations, the bay and down the coastline.
A beautiful pool area is behind our complex and it is time to head there. . .more on Spinalonga later.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Honey and yogurt
Wind changed direction
The ferry, a small car ferry, makes three 20-minute runs a day between Hora Sfakia and Loutros. Loutros is a small harbor town -- smaller than Sfakia and accessible only by ferry or on foot (down a narrow path for an hour and a half) so we opted for the ferry. We'd decided that if we didn't like it, we would have lunch there and return on the 12:20 ferry. With the stormy weather Saturday morning, we rocked and rolled our way to Loutros, disembarked in one of the most charming harbor towns we've ever seen and soon were checked into a pensione at 35 euros a day that provided us a deck with front-on view of the harbor (not to mention ceiling fan, refridgerator, dishware and a hot water pot). Within an hour the town had worked its charms on us and we extended our stay until this morning. It was difficult to leave today, and we've vowed to return. For those reading this in the Pacific Northwest, Loutros is our new Stehekin - perhaps even better as it provides both the hills for hiking and a stunning seafront.
Picture a crescent shaped harbor, ringed with small restaurants and hotels and pedestrians, small boats dancing in the gentle wave action at the water's edge, the ferry docked for the night at the edge of the harbor and a full moon comes up illuminating the scene, like a postcard. . .that would be last night. This morning the sun rose over one of the distant peaks, looking ever so much like a volcano erupting a giant orange and yellow sphere. . .it really doesn't get any better we've concluded.
In addition to being one of the most picturesque harbors we've ever seen, there were incredible hikes to take up the hillsides around us that led to and through Venetian and Turkish ruins. Sunday morning we climbed to the remains of a Turkish fortress, hundreds of years old. The only sounds were the wind blowing through the olive trees, goat/sheep bells ringing, the birds chirping and the waves below. The morning sun heated the wild herbs so the scent of thyme, oregano, and sage wafted in the breeze.
We finally headed out this morning the direction we had planned to go on Saturday. We are now in a small studio apartment in a small beach front town called Kalamaki about six hours and 50 kilometers from Loutros. Distances aren't great here but the narrow, winding roads up over the mountains and through gorges makes for slower travel. Our apartment cost 27 euros and has a narrow view of the ocean. . .the ocean front units were all filled on this Monday night. We head out tomorrow as the explorations continue.