Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Off on a Magic Carpet Ride ~ Setting Sail for Singapore

The sun had yet to rise when the ship’s engines began to rumble just before 5 a.m. and we pulled away from Bangkok, Thailand’s Klong Toey Wharf on the Chao Phraya River. We’d spent the first of our 34 cruise nights here.

Klong Toey Terminal - Bangkok, Thailand
Our Oceania Nautica was docked at one of two cruise ship terminals that serves this area. Klong Toey, closer to downtown Bangkok  - thus a cheaper taxi ride - than the other port, turned out to be a rather stark industrial area. (But then we’ve found most of our ports of call are usually in such commercial shipping areas.)

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Views of Klong Toey terminal area - Bangkok, Thailand
It took a couple hours for the Nautica to wind its way down the narrow river, passing under majestic bridge spans and near the shore and then enter the Bay of Bangkok. Sitting on our deck in that early morning hour, the air already felt thick with humidity. It was quiet.  So quiet that we heard voices of dock workers, the rat-a-tat-tat of small long-tail boats engines as they passed, the call of tropical birds and buzzing cicadas on the shore.

Chao Phraya - Bangkok, Thailand from Oceania Nautica
Our ship was small enough that it could navigate up rivers such as the Chao Phraya here and later the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, so we had a taste of what river cruising might be like as we got up close enough to see people and shrines on shore.

Honoring Thailand's royalty - along the Chao Phraya in Bangkok
It was to be a full ‘sea day’; a travel day, in other words.  We would have 14 such sea days during this Magic Carpet ride of a cruise through the Far- and Middle-East.

Our ship was a novelty as we made our way down the Chao Phraya - Bangkok, Thailand
With temperatures in the 90’s and humidity at the same level, we spent that first sea day lazing around – but not at the pool because it was too hot (notice the empty chairs). Our hard-working crew didn’t have such options and braved the heat and gave the ship a bath:

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Heat and humidity didn't slow down maintenance work on the Nautica

We would be in Singapore at 8 a.m. the next day as it really is quite a distance from the Chao Phraya River and then crossing the Gulf of Bangkok (formerly the Gulf of Siam) and a slice of the South China Sea. Although we couldn’t see land after entering the bay, it was amazing to think we were sailing past Phnom Pehn and the coast of Viet Nam.

Our route was shown on the ship's television channel
Singapore, its official name the Republic of Singapore, is an island country, a sovereign city state that is 85 miles or 137 kilometers north of the equator – that translates into: HOT, very, very hot.
In our next post we’ll take you on a “Hop On, Hop Off” bus tour of Singapore, with a look at the city’s old and new, exotic and sterile.Thanks for stopping by and spending some time with us today.  We appreciate it!

Linking this week with:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Room with a View. . .Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River

Bangkok – that sprawling capital city of Thailand – is bisected by the Chao Phraya river – a major waterway teeming with river boat buses, cross river ferries, tour boats, dinner cruise boats, long tail boats and river barges. While the city itself didn’t wrap us under its spell as it did a few decades ago, the river didn’t disappoint.

Bangkok's Chao Phraya River bisects the city

After our stay in the timeshare (Marriott’s Empire Place. . .Buyer Be Aware) we treated ourselves to three nights of over-the-top luxury at The Peninsula Hotel on the river. Once again, The Scout, had found us a great rate using even though our stay was during the city’s popular April celebration, Songkran, the Water Festival; a time the city swells with tourists.

The Peninsula on the right from the terrace of the Mandarin Oriental
The Peninsula is located on the river’s Luxury Triangle as I’ve labeled it. The triangle’s other two points are anchored across the river by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and The Shangri-La Hotel.

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Lobby of the modern Mandarin Oriental, left and historic Oriental lobby - now tea room - on right

“The room isn’t quite ready, sir,” we were told at the reception desk when we showed up in the late morning, “Please come have a seat.” We were lead to a couch and served complimentary coffee while we waited the 30 minutes it took to finish preparing the room.

The Room

It has been a long while since we’ve stayed anywhere nearly this luxurious, the kind of place you could gush over, so, let the gushing begin. . .

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Our room - Peninsula Hotel Bangkok

A small entry hall led past a closet/dressing area, directly across from a bathroom, a place large enough for a tub, walk-in shower, private toilet room, and two sinks with marble countertops. And then you entered ‘the room’ which seemed far more like a ‘suite’ to our way of thinking.

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Our room with a view

All rooms in the hotel face the river, so our favorite spot – despite the inviting bed and couch -- were the two chairs we lined up at our window; our viewing platform, from where we watched the morning sunrise and the nighttime parade of lighted boats.

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Peninsula pampering - Bangkok, Thailand

And then there were the small touches:  an orchid in the ice bucket each time it was refreshed and the all-time first: we’d left the books we were reading on the bed and when we returned the bed had been made, the books returned to exactly where we’d left them but a Peninsula bookmark had been placed to the side of each! (Sorry Kindle users, you probably can’t relate.)

The Setting

Imagine a lush tropical garden – swaying trees, a profusion of blooms, winding pathways to pools and patios. Then imagine heat and humidity so intense it seems to suck your breath away, melting makeup and exploding hairdos. . .combine those and you’ve pretty much got the setting for the hotel.

Melted makeup and exploding hair - in a stunning setting

The three-tiered pool was stunning, but again, it was difficult to spend much time lazing around it because of the April heat.

Three-level pool overlooks the Chao Phraya - Bangkok Peninsula
On the River

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Free shuttles boats

One of the real treats was being on the Chao Phraya and that was easily accomplished by hopping on one of the hotel’s four shuttle boats – restored rice barges – that make daily round trips between three nearby piers. The other hotels ran similar free shuttles so you could bounce back and forth or from the nearby taxi pier catch a long tail passenger taxi and travel the river in either direction.

The Chao Phraya flows for 231 miles (372 kilometers) from Thailand’s central plains through Bangkok and into the Gulf of Thailand. As it turned out we had one more night, literally on the river, even after we left the hotel. Our ship was docked at a port on the Chao Phraya. After boarding we spent our first night on the river in the Nautica, we began our Magic Carpet ride through the Middle East.

And so the 34-day cruise began

We set sail at 5 a.m. the next day, long before sunrise, en route to our first port of call, Singapore. And that’s when and where our next post begins. Thanks for being with us today and hope you’ll come back soon and bring some travel enthusiast friends with you!  Hello to our July subscribers!  See you soon and until then, Happy Travels!

We are linking up this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bangkok’s Marriott Empire Place ~ Buyer Be Aware. . .

Note, we said, ‘be aware’ not ‘beware’ of Marriott’s property, The Empire Place, in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. It is one of the company’s 58 vacation club (timeshare) properties. But it is certainly not like any timeshare we’ve experienced before. . .

Based in Bangkok

With a span of decades between our last trip to Bangkok and boarding our cruise ship there this spring (Oceania Nautica: Our Middle East Magic Carpet Ride) we gave ourselves extra time to explore this capital city of Thailand.  We traded a week that we own at Marriott’s KoOlina in Hawaii for a stay at their Empire Place.

These trades are a benefit of timeshare ownership. By trading within the brand, you know what you are getting. Well, not quite in this case, as we were to learn. . .

Morning traffic Bangkok Thailand
Bangkok is an enormous metropolitan city with a registered population of nearly 7 million people; nearly 15 – 20 million if you include the unregistered immigrants. Even with the size considerations, our first clue that this’ wasn’t your run-of-the-mill timeshare resort’ came when our determined – but somewhat frustrated – taxi driver couldn’t find it.

After a long drive from the airport in early morning commute-hour traffic he pulled into an office complex. There he conferred with a security guard to sent us packing through the neighborhood, a mix of low-rise homes and towering skyscrapers.

Our neighborhood - a mix of old and new
Finally we all breathed a sigh of relief when some two hours (yet, only $25 taxi fare) after leaving the airport he pulled up to a towering edifice called, The Empire Place. However. . .there was nothing in the signage indicating it was a Marriott Vacation Club:

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Marriott's Empire Place - Bangkok, Thailand
Now, we had researched and knew in advance of our arrival that this particular ‘resort’ is part of a full ownership condominium building. Still, I am not sure we’d fully grasped what that meant. 
We entered a vast – very clean and empty – lobby. There was no reception desk, with its usual line of guests; instead we were directed to a small office to the side of the lobby where the three staff members conferred, flipped through a notebook, and confirmed we were scheduled to stay there.

One of them showed us to our ‘home away from home’. We were to use a security key to access the elevators and our room key to make the elevator work.  In our condo, there were face cloths and a large pitcher of Bale fruit juice (looks and tastes like sweetened ice tea) chilling in the refrigerator – both adding to a refreshing welcome.

For those of you who’ve shied away from timeshares because they are too ‘cookie cutter and all look alike’ – this place is for you. Because it was a real-life condominium, the kind people live in 24/7 and quite a nice one at that – it wasn’t the traditional ‘timeshare’ layout.  We had two-bedrooms, two-baths, large living and dining room, kitchen and a laundry room. Daily maid service was provided at no extra cost (unlike our experiences at other Marriott Vacation Club properties).

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Timeshare condo - The Empire Place - Bangkok, Thailand
Our deck off the living room provided city views and from the window in the dining room we overlooked the facility’s swimming pool and tennis courts, (which sat somewhat to the back and over the pool). At 90+ degrees and 90+ humidity – very little use was being made of either the pool or courts in the daytime. There were no snack bars or pool music and only a limited number of lounge chairs. None of the normal resort-angst about saving pool lounges - we counted only 12 the day we strolled through the pool area.

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Views from our condo
Settling in to City Life

“The nearest grocery store?” we asked after unpacking the bags. Well, there really wasn’t one anywhere nearby, the staff told us. A small 7-11 convenience store a block away sold beverages and snacks but nothing like staples.

Food cart near The Empire Place- Bangkok, Thailand
Food vendors and their carts lined our street – which made walking more of a ‘turn-sideways and push-your-way-through’ experience in the morning hours when workers were lined up buying food en route to work. We were definitely in a working neighborhood and timed our travel for the non-pedestrian-rush-hour.

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View from the Sky Train's screened windows - 'The Scout' on the train
We quickly learned how to use the city’s impressive elevated Sky Train which was an inexpensive, practical way of getting around and made for some great sightseeing. We also searched out grocery stores and ate several meals ‘at home’ which always helps the travel budget. Our favorite was a place called, Gourmet Market, in the basement of the sprawling Siam Paragon shopping center, as it had groceries, take out and, of course, a wine bar where you could sip and nibble.

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Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon Shopping Center
This Marriott provides guests an opportunity to experience a real neighborhood; a feel of what it would be like to live there.  But for those who are seeking a ‘resort’ experience, be aware:

* There is no Marriott Marketplace on site.
*There are no bars, restaurants on site. Four blocks away, the Anantara, condo-hotel’s rooftop bar is open to the public. A great place to watch sunset and both drinks and food are served there, so children were welcome.
* The nearest Sky Train/Metro station, Chong Nonsri, is two long blocks from The Empire Place. You’ll need to climb a flight of stairs to access the station. Starbucks and numerous other coffee shops are found on the station’s street level.  Taxis can be summoned by building staff and they are inexpensive.
* The office provided us a printed map, but not the ‘usual’ tip sheets or resource guides for finding local grocery stores and other amenities. We scouted them out on our own.

* Take note Marriott timeshares owners:  this property does not participate in the Marriott rewards program;  you will not earn points nor night credits towards your Elite Membership. (That isn’t explained on any of the Marriott web pages about this place. It is found on the Marriott Rewards page where, rules,  item 11, lists all the Marriott properties that don’t participate in the rewards program.)

Off to the Chao Phraya
The accommodation was clean and comfortable - its major drawback, in our opinion, was its location some distance from that amazing Chao Phraya River that bisects the city. I’ll show you what I mean about amazing next time, when we move on to The Peninsula Hotel, on the riverside.

Thanks for joining us again today. If you are new to the blog, “Welcome! Hope you’ll be a regular here.” We are grateful to you all for the time you spend with us. 

Want more travel articles? Check out the bloggers participating in these linkups:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oceania’s Nautica: Our Middle East Magic Carpet Ride

This wasn’t a strange place;
it was a new one.
         --- Paolo Coelho
Coelho’s saying so perfectly describes so many of the places we experienced as we traveled from the Far East through the Middle East aboard Oceania’s Nautica this spring. Our 34-day cruise took us across bodies of water to lands we’d been introduced to through books and movies; many places we never thought we’d see for ourselves in this life time.

Oceania's Nautica anchored in the Andaman Sea
It was such a rapid-fire array of sensory overloads that we are still wrapping our heads around it all. We sailed through pirated waters, drove through roadless desert sands, skirted war zones, and explored developing countries and areas that occasionally required escorts/armed guards. History, religion, tales of conflicts (old and new), customs, and cuisines mixed and mingled into an intoxicating potpourri of experiences.
“Dear Guests,. . .We are excited to share these interesting and unique ports with you but we would like to make sure that we set your expectations correctly at the outset in order to avoid any disappointment. 
Many of these ports that we will be visiting are ports that are not on the usual traveler’s route. The are for the most part developing nations that are making great strides forward with with varying degrees of success.”
                   --excerpt from welcome letter from the tour desk staff
Our cruise itinerary wasn’t for everybody as evidenced by the number of passengers.  There were less than 500 on this ship that accommodates nearly 700 passengers. But those who were on board were there for the same reason we were: to experience places we’d always wanted to visit.

Our Magic Carpet Ride
We were all eager to participate in the land tours – even those that came with security warnings and procedures. Like many, we alternated our shore experiences between ship’s tours and those we’d arranged on our own.  Several small group tours (for far less cost than the ship tours) had been arranged by cruisers who’d met and conversed months before the departure using, which provides a forum base.

Tour buses await ship passengers in Safaga, Egypt
In many ports individuals set off on their own – sometimes for an overnight (or longer) stay. The couple below shared a tuk-tuk, those little open-air taxis, from the ship into Phuket, Thailand with us and in Cochin, India we each rented our own driver/tuk-tuk for the day. Some passengers left the ship in Cochin, India and met back up with us in Mumbai a few days later after they had visited the Taj Mahal.  Oceania was great in accommodating flexible travel plans.

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Tuk-tuk on-your-own touring was our favorite
So this week we are introducing you to that floating Magic Carpet of ours. In subsequent posts we will show you the lands we visited and the people we met. I know a number of you are still wanting updates from our after-cruise stay at The Stone House on the Hill in Greece, so I am going to increase the number of posts for a few weeks from one- to at least two- so that I can answer all your requests for photos and updates. (Subscribers, please bear with me – I promise I won’t overfill you inboxes).

To start the journey, come – hop on our ‘Magic Carpet’. We were calling it ‘home’ after a couple of weeks:
Nautica, built 2000; underwent multi-million dollar renovation 2014
Lobby stairway
Guest decks: 9; Total decks: 11
Public spaces were small but elegant
Length: 593.7 feet; Beam 83.5 feet. Cruising speed 18 knots
One small pool no games or gimmicks - our kind of cruise ship
Guest capacity 684 persons (double occupancy); Staff 400
On occasion special events were held around the pool
Eating venues: The Grand Dining Room, two specialty restaurants (Polo Grill and Toscana), informal Terrace Café; Waves Grill, Afternoon Tea, Baristas, Room Service
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Food was some of the best we've had on a cruise line
Oceania provided soft drinks and water for free (many cruise lines don’t); specialty coffee drinks were also free of charge as was dining in the specialty restaurants (many cruise lines charge extra for the coffees and charge extra for the specialty restaurants). Our cruise package included free unlimited internet for one person (a $22 – $28 per day value) which emphasizes the importance of the cruise package – not just the ticket price.

'The Scout' Scouting from our deck
We prefer cabins with balconies. In addition to the extra space it seems a shame not to experience the sunny climates when cruising through them. Although I must admit we often couldn’t use our deck because it was simply too hot.We’ve never experienced heat like that of Singapore, India and the Middle East where both temperature and humidity were often in the double-digit high 90’s!

We’ll set sail from Bangkok in our next cruise post. Hope you’ll be aboard with us. Welcome to our new subscribers who joined us in June! And thanks to all of you for your time. Happy travels~

Linking up this week with~

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Greece: “Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”

“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
-- Zorba asked his boss in the closing scene of the 1964 movie, “Zorba, The Greek”
“Dance? Did you say, ‘dance’?”
We asked our friends who suggested we join them at a local taverna two weekends ago to watch a Greek dance troupe who’d be performing there.  It wasn’t one of those ‘tourist’ performances promoted far and wide. Here, the owner told patrons. Patrons told friends. They told us. That’s the way it works in Greek villages.
One of the benefits of staying in another country for a period of time – whether owning or renting – is that you can begin to immerse yourself in the culture ~ food ~ music ~ the rhythms of life.While we’ve certainly enjoyed the food and drink in Greece, we’d not had the opportunity to enjoy the songs and dances.
But on this particular evening all that was going to change. The sun was just setting, wine was flowing freely from pitcher to glasses, food had been ordered when the music began. . .
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Tah-dah-dah-dah-da. . .The music brought forth the dancers. Step, raise the arms, snap the fingers. . .
Oh, Zorba would have liked this. The audience began clapping in time to the music. 

“OPA!” The dancers called out. “OPA!” the audience shouted back. Napkins twirled.

“Throw your napkins!,” our friends told us (they do that instead of flinging plates, these days).

OPA!! How I loved that word each time I called it out.  It is an expression, a joyous Greek exclamation. It downright makes you happy to yell, “OPA!” (Go ahead, try it a few times.)

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What I didn’t realize at the time, but do now that I’ve researched the word, is that OPA!  is also an invitation to come join the dancing, circle dancing, in fact. An invitation to come join in. . .uh-oh.

The dancers twirled toward our table. . .as if they were coming for us. No, not to us. Not in a crowded restaurant.  Four of the eight at our table were tapped. It was time to throw caution to the wind – to make Zorba proud.

We did our best. We circled. Stepping right. Stepping in. Stepping back.

Move right. Arms up and intertwined. Then clasp hands. Same steps. Arms raised as we moved to the center of the circle. “OPA!” we called out. Dance back. Repeat. Repeat and repeat again.

Our friend takes center 'stage'
We untrained dancers began sweating. Hands were slippery, wet with sweat. Clothes clinging. Still we danced. Our food arrived at our table just as the song was ending. We started to return to our seats. “Another dance, Zorba! You must dance,” said the real dancers.


The sun had set and food was being consumed by our spouses back at the table – but we continued to dance. We twirled. We spinned. We sweat some more. And we laughed, oh, how we laughed. (I think I even heard Zorba laughing.)

And I know you are hoping to see evidence of this Greek dancing debut, but it wasn’t captured by any cameras at our table. (The Scout was barely able to watch the dancing – he certainly didn’t want to record it for posterity.)

So the best I can do is to add the photo of the Dance Troupe plus Two (me and my friend, Sue):


That’s it for this week.  Thanks to the dance group, me.bou.da (Melina’s bouzouki dance) for a most memorable evening and introduction to Greek dance at Kastros Taverna in Kardamyli. You can find them on Facebook at me.bou.da Katakolon or dancing their way through The Mani in the Greek Peloponnese.

Again, a big thanks for the time you’ve spent with us. And a welcome to our new subscribers! Hope you’ll come back soon – we are headed to the hills in Greece and will show you some of the off-the-beaten-path treasures along the way.

Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Greece: Chasing the Dream ~ Catching a Nightmare?

“What a dream, living in Greece! (But I have to wonder, with all the ‘news in the news’ about the economy are you concerned about the future of your investment/life there?)
This comment was made by a reader of our blog in response to our post about this spring’s stay at The Stone House on the Hill. I suspect that question, or similar ones, have crossed the minds of many of you who’ve been following this adventure of ours in Greece. 
Perhaps it is time I quit writing about chasing daydreams and talk a bit about catching reality. 
For those newcomers to TravelnWrite, we bought a house in Greece last December; less than a month before the country’s election resulted in new leadership and new approach to its debt agreements. It wasn’t long after the election that Greece and its European lenders entered into a boxing match of words – the type of which can send world markets on a roller coaster ride as result of a single remark by either side. The verbal sparring continues nearly six months later.
The Stone House on the Hill
But as one American media recently reminded the world: The ‘day of reckoning’ for Greece is fast approaching. June 30th is the day of reckoning. . .so it seems by the headlines.
Will the two sides work out a solution to the debt repayment that leaves both claiming a win? Or will the talks have a final breakdown? Will Greece leave the European Union? Will it return to the drachma? Will banks Greek banks close for a time? Will currency controls be put into place? (Meaning limits on how much of your money you can withdraw from your bank account, like what happened in Cyprus a few years ago). Do Greece and its lenders have a ‘Plan B’ for carrying on after June 30th – no matter the direction it goes?
So many questions; so few answers. Our guess is as good as yours.
Yet the scope of speculation seems to grow each day. Recently we’ve learned a new acronym: PIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). It is used when contemplating the possible domino effect if Greece were to leave the euro-based world. After Greece, those other three could be the next to go. . .and that could produce some rockin’ and rollin’ in the world markets. . .
As much as we love Greece, we are ‘outsiders’ – we see a small slice of its whole as we go about our rather carefree life here in The Mani. We are aware of the vast number of scenarios that could play out because we do follow a number of media reports.
In the meantime, here we are, “The Americans” who own a home in a country that could be on the verge of economic collapse.
We’ve not spent our days fretting about what could happen as we’ve been too busy working on the house and garden. When not working, we are usually spending time with friends – other ex pat types – and then we are too busy sharing tales of our experiences in our adopted country to wring our hands and break out in a sweat over the future.
What we know is that we’ve already booked our return for this fall. We are talking about olive harvest. We know of two sets of friends planning to visit then.
That is not to say we haven’t given thought to ‘the situation’. So while I don’t have any answers for you, I do have some thoughts to share, so come, let’s take a stroll through our olive grove and chat:
* The truth is that had the sale not finalized in December, we would not have purchased our ‘daydream home’ here until later. We’d have taken a wait-and-see approach (and from what we see, we’d likely still be waiting).
* The reason is the uncertainty:  You need to pay in full the price of the home at the time of purchase. In our case, our money was converted to euros and wired from the United States and sat in our Greek bank account for several days before the scheduled closing. With the present uncertainty we wouldn’t have risked our funds having been converted to euros, arriving at the bank, and while sitting there facing the possibility of currency controls being implemented (as described above) or or risked devaluation on the off chance Greece did switch to the drachma during that short window of time.
*You’ve probably read of ex pats and Greek depositors who are withdrawing money from banks in large amounts – thus adding to the economic problems.  I can assure you that we have been among them, leaving only an amount in our account which will cover automatic utility withdrawals while we are not here. But unlike those who’ve moved their funds out of the country, we’ve spent ours here on purchases and improvements to the house.
* We didn’t ‘bet the farm’ on this purchase. If forced to walk away from this investment, you wouldn’t find us singing for donations on a street corner at Seattle’s Pike Place Market (or counting on this blog for income).
* In reality, if we weren’t following the economic reports in the world media about Greece, we’d never know that anything was amiss based on the amount of tourists who are filling the villages around us.That street in our Agios Nikolaos village (Wine and Watching) I showed you two weeks ago has been made a one-way street during the day and closes completely each evening – after that big bus I photographed lumbers through on its last trip of the day– so that cafes can fill the street with tables to accommodate the many tourists.
* On the flip side, Greek media is reporting that privately-owned tourist rentals are down 50 percent this summer because of the economic uncertainty.
* Construction cranes dot The Mani landscape with new home and hotel construction. Whether those building feel their property is safer than other investments or if they are optimistic about economy recovery is difficult to speculate.
* Greeks sipping coffee fill the tables at the hip, modern sidewalk cafes lining the pedestrian plazas in Kalamata. There is no appearance of hardship among them. However, there are a number of old and young who approach with hands outstretched asking for money (this isn’t new, they were doing so last winter).
*We’ve watched a soccer field here get a new surface and a basketball court be added. Yet,we are told that children have passed out at schools in the area because of hunger and that some families are leaving their children at churches in Athens as they are no longer able to feed them.
All are slice-of-the-pie observations or hearsay – as an old newspaper reporter, I know neither is a reliable source from which to make conclusions about Greece’s economic situation.

I chose our olive grove for this reality post for several reasons. It is a happy place for us; one of our favorite places on the property. It represents the daydream; both chased and caught. And it represents permanence – some of the trees are nearly a century old. They were here long before the house and us, The Americans. The olive tree endures through the centuries – much like we suspect Greece has and will.


You just can’t predict the future. And that’s one reason we chased the daydream.  That plane that shuttles us between Seattle and Greece could go down. . .One of us could have a health crisis that would cut this adventure short. . .Greece could leave the European Union. . .Oh so many things out there in the uncertain future. . . It is simply another good reason to enjoy today!

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill.  Thanks for being with us and the interest you’ve shown in our adventure here. I know a number of ex pat and Greek friends read TravelnWrite so I am hoping they will share their thoughts and observations in the comment section below (on the blog’s homepage for you who subscribe and receive just the post).
Our time here is again too soon drawing to a close.  We’ll be heading back to the United States and I promise then I will start writing of our Far and Middle East travels and show you the changes we made to our place in Greece.
A big hello to our new followers and subscribers!  And happy travels to you all. Thanks so much for recommending us to your friends and for sharing our posts with others. Can’t tell you how nice it has been to read your comments and emails while we’ve been gone!
Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route


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