Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Novel virus, novel times, novel getaways

This novel virus that seems to have upended the earth and all of us who inhabit it, has certainly made this a novel time in our lives.

Greece is on CPOVID-19 lockdown - streets are empty

In Greece, where we live as boomer-aged American expats, we are on government ordered lockdown. It began Monday this week at 6 a.m. We learned of it on Sunday evening thanks to Greek media, social media and the country's emergency alert system.

For the next two weeks, we must notify the government of our plans to leave our home and only six categories of destinations/reasons are permitted for leaving the house. Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies as well as being out for dog walking/exercise are among those permitted destinations/reasons. Fines of 150 euros ($163US) per person per violation will be levied if you are found being out of compliance with the directives. We ventured to the village grocery last night and passed only one other car - our area's sole police car was slowly cruising through the village checking for compliance.

Pantazi Beach  near our home is empty

Airlines have pretty much quit flying to Greece and all hotels save for three in Athens and three in Thessaloniki and one in each regional capital are closed.  All non-essential business is closed. Hopefully, the closures will only be until the end of April.

So we are staying home. . .not just because the government has ordered us to do so, but because the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb here and we'd prefer not to be among its statistics.

Our home lower left, Taygetos Mountains in the distance

Our Stone House on the Hill has never been so clean (nor the skin on my hands as dry as it is from the scrubbing I have done on it and myself). Our garden has never been as weed free. But we are vagabonds. . .travelers. . .who still have the travel bug. So what do we do to ease the itch of that travel bug?

Our regulars here, know the answer. We head to novel destinations.  We've hit quite a few in recent weeks and I thought I tell you about a few of them in hopes that you will share some of yours in the comments below or by emailing us.  It was great hearing from so many of you after last week's post, so hope you'll continue to stay in touch!

Afghanistan:


Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi - a Middle East treasure


I am currently immersed in an action packed spy thriller/romance by Ken Follett, 'Lie Down with Lions' set in Afghanistan. Now I am likely never to visit Afghanistan in this life time, but this 1980's era book brings the area to life and makes me think back to travels we've had in other parts of the Middle East. It has me entertained and thinking about where to expand our Middle Eastern travels when we can travel again.

Egypt:  

On the Nile near Aswan - great memories

I can thank Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz for setting me,'Adrift on the Nile' with his 1966 novel. It's main character, a drug-addicted and bored, civil servant and his circle of friends provide an interesting portrait of the country's middle class - at least as it was then. I became hooked on Mahfouz when I read his Cairo Trilogy set in colonial Egypt many decades ago.

Egypt has been on our minds because we just had friends visit last week (who got out of Greece just before everything shut down) and before coming here they had visited Egypt.Their tales and photos activated the travel bug and our desire to return to this magical country.

Austria:

Me at the Hapsburg Palace in Vienna

I time traveled back to the mid 1850's and took a sneak peek into the lives of Europe's powerful ruling family, the Hapsburgs, in 'The Accidental Empress' a historical novel by Allison Pataki.  This is a love story about Emperor Franz Joseph and the woman (15-year-old girl, actually) he married. His Empress Elisabeth, known as 'Sisi' was beloved by those they ruled.

We saw so many statues of Franz Joseph and tributes to 'Sisi' while in Vienna last fall, I wanted to know more about the two.  We ordered not only some history books about the Hapsburgs but this book as well after our return. It was a good entertaining introduction into the time and the ruling family.

Hungary: 

Budapest street after dark

During our time in Budapest last November we happened upon a bookstore that had a section of books written by local authors and had been translated to English.. The novel, 'Budapest Noir' by Vilmos Kondor was among the souvenirs we bought during that stop.  It is a murder mystery set in 1936. No one but a crime reporter for the newspaper (the book's main character) wanted to investigate the murder.   It was such a good read that we went in search on line of other of his novels, but we have found no others have been translated into English.

Germany:

My garden - African daisies are in bloom

A good friend, an avid gardener and  reader, recommended a vintage book, 'Elizabeth and her German Garden' by Elizabeth Von Arnim. First published anonymously in 1898, it was a fictionalized account of the author's life and the creation of her garden at the family's home in Nassenheide in Pomerania.  While, as a bumbling gardener myself, I could relate to her efforts, the book was far more than a garden journal. Set in the final years of the 19th century Germany Elizabeth offers some interesting insights to the every day life of minor Prussian aristocrats.


Goat bell door bell - Kotroni village

So where have you traveled to in your easy chair? What novel destinations have you visited lately? Any recommendations for us?

We do wish you well during this unsettled time.  Take care. Stay healthy. There will be plenty of time for real-time travel when this comes to an end.  

Hope you will be back next week as we do have a few travel tales yet to tell ~ as always thanks for the time you have spent with us today!

We are linking this week with:

















Monday, March 16, 2020

Greece - A Dozen Days Later

The village on a Sunday afternoon this time of year is one of my favorite places on earth. The sun warms the stone buildings as we stroll our main -- and only -- street that stretches from one end of town to the other. A few fishing boats bob and sway in the harbor.  It is a great time to sip a cappuccino at a harborside café and contemplate nothing more serious than what one might eat for dinner.

Sunday afternoon Agios Nikolaos - streets are empty

Well, that is the way it was.  In fact, only a few days ago. Back before corona virus made itself an unwanted visitor in Greece as it is doing in so many places around the earth right now.

In last week's post, I wrote that back when I started writing it - now a dozen days ago - we had 9 identified cases in this Mediterranean country whose population numbered 10.9 million in 2017. Before I got that piece published, the cases jumped to 45.

In those dozen days many things about life in Greece have changed. First and foremost is the COVID-19 numbers: 228 cases, (38 identified on this past Saturday alone) and sadly, 4 fatalities.

Going into Lock Down

Gregg's Plateia - usually the village hub of activity 

Back a dozen days ago, the cancelled Carnivale celebrations were just the start of actions being implemented to curb the spread of this killer. Like dominos toppling into each other the prevention steps and related closures picked up momentum last Friday.

Not the time to visit Agios Nikolaos


The Greek government's response team is taking the threat seriously. And while what I tell you about life here right now may sound somewhat draconian, let me assure you it is comforting to know that tough decisions are being made, being implemented expeditiously and the citizens are functioning within our new guidelines. Not questioning. Not whining. Life is continuing. . .just differently and more cautiously.

An editorial praising the government's swift actions in Ekathimerini, our  English-language Greek paper noted that 'political rivalries have been put aside' and 'the main opposition party is on the same page.' It concluded: 'Energy cannot be wasted in political fighting when lives are at stake.'

How is that for a refreshing approach to politics in a time of pandemic?

Life in a Time of Coronavirus

Restaurants are closed - the village feels and looks empty

Greek schools closed for three weeks shortly after the Carnivale celebrations. Then came the cancellation of events and closure of  archaeological sites and museums and other attractions. Last weekend all restaurants, bars, tavernas and cafes were closed for two weeks.  If an establishment has take out beverages or food options you can stop by long enough to pick up the goods - but no more than five people are allowed to be together inside the establishment and they must stand two meters apart.

The police were patrolling the village on Saturday to assure compliance.

Wildflowers are in bloom in The Mani despite the crisis


By Saturday evening the government announced that all seasonal hotels, Airbnb, and other rentals registered with the tax office as 'seasonal' if open now must close by March 23rd. They will remain closed until  April 30th.

Additionally:

 * the border - air, sea and road - between Greece and our neighbors to the north, Albania and North Macedonia is closed.
* flights from Spain are no longer allowed to land in Greece.
* ferries traveling between Greece and Italy are allowed only to transport goods - human passengers are no longer allowed.
* cruise ship and sail boats are not allowed to dock in Greek ports.
* all organized beach and ski resorts are closed.
* retail operations are curtailed and services like hairdressers, nail salons, closed.
Violators face fines of up to 5,000 euros.

There are no restrictions on movement within the country. But who wants to travel?

The few retail operations limit the number of people inside at one time. Grocery stores were ordered to limit the number of customers inside at one time. (Not a problem, I might add, in our village.) People are behaving sensibly here.  We even have lots of toilet paper available although hand sanitizer and wipes are not to be found.

Clerks today are wearing gloves now and some have face masks.  Some stores are displaying large bottles of hand sanitizer and require you to use it before entering. Some are going about business as usual.

Is It Social Distancing or simply a Wellness Retreat?

Stoupa Beach Friday evening

We are now three days into this new Greek world and seem to be surviving quite well. In fact, it took this new behavior to make us realize how our daily life at The Stone House on the Hill, has been a sort of undefined social distancing all along. We go into town for errands or entertainment, usually related to food or drink. We've still got the grocery store and takeout and a bit of social interaction when running errands. Right now we don't even have neighbors in five of the seven houses on the hill as they've not yet returned from winter travels.

Our Stone House on the Hill far left, the village below

You know there are some people who pay enormous amounts of money to experience a wellness retreat - those get-away-from-television-people-phones kind of experiences? Those getaways that now sound a lot like high priced social distancing to me.

I Googled a few of those getaways and found them described as focusing on variations of spirituality, cuisine and art, and health - some within a cultural context. Whoa! That is exactly what we seem to be doing here -- and it is free of charge, every day!

So for those of you out there who are wringing your hands at being told by some governing body that you have to stay a bit closer to home, (and I know you are out there because I read FB!) just think of it as a wellness getaway:

Our new activity: hiking in the Mani


Your mind will be at ease knowing you are staying out of harm's (germ's) way, you have time to read those books you haven't yet gotten to, there's no excuse not to pursue some long-dreamed of hobby or you could dig out the cookbooks and see what culinary talents have been lying dormant within you!

Where ever you are in the world we hope you and your loved one's are safe from COVID-19. Continue to take the recommended prevention steps being recommended by health professionals around the world.

I leave you with a thought from a FB friend: 'Viruses are contagious. But so is panic, fear, hysteria, calm, grace, empathy, love and kindness.  Choose wisely which one you will spread.'

Hope to see you back here next week. In the meantime, how about a comment or email to let us know how you are doing in your part of the world?

Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday



Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Greek Spring: Carnivale, Coronavirus, and Conflict


Bucolic scenes are almost common place this time of year in our slice of the Greek Peloponnese.  Wildflowers are carpeting the olive groves while oranges and lemons ripe for the picking hang like Christmas decorations from the trees. 

Springtime at The Stone House on the Hill

This may be - in our collective opinion - the best season of the year here because the countryside's  idyllic scenes are a backdrop to villages coming to life with celebrations and events leading up to  Lent, or Sarakosti, as it is called here.

Lemons and wildflowers mark spring here
Lent comprises the 40 days leading up to April 19th, Easter, Pascha, in the Greek Orthodox religion.

Yet, the beautiful scenes and festivities are being a bit overshadowed by events putting a different spin on the season this year.  And it all seemed to start during Carnivale. . .

Carnivale/Karnivale


Kalamata Karnivali banners decked the streets

Carnivale, Karnivale, is the jubilant period leading up to the start of Lent; a time of celebrations involving eating, drinking and dancing. A time when cities and villages are as decked out and as festive as the party-goers themselves.

The Karnivale decorations were up and posters announced upcoming events in Kalamata on the day we chose to run errands there. By happenstance our trip to the big city fell on Tsiknopempti, 'Smokey Thursday'.  Tsiknopempti always falls on a Thursday 11 days before Kathara Deftera ('Clean Monday' the official start of Lent.).

Streets decorated for Karnivale

Tsiknopempti ( tsika - the burning of food and pempti, Thursday in Greek) is the day when all of Greece it seems lights up the barbeques and cooks meat. It is a day for carnivores; a time those observing a meat-free Lent can stuff themselves without guilt.

Sidewalk bbqs in Kalamata for Tsiknopempti
Restaurants and tavernas on every block -- even a car wash -- had the barbecues going and meat grilling as we made our way through town.  Back in the villages streets were being cleaned and preparations made for scheduled celebrations.

Karnavale cookouts

Karnivale spans three weeks in Greece: Profoni, or prelude; the second week Kreatini or meat week (during which time Smokey Thursday happens) and the third week is Tirofagou, or cheese week.

Coronavirus arrives in Greece

The bus comes through the village twice daily

Shortly after Tsiknopempti, the celebrations it came to an abrupt halt.  It was because the Greek Health Minister - in a televised news conference -- confirmed two additional cases of coronavirus in Athens. He then announced the government was cancelling all remaining large-group Karnivale celebrations.

That announcement, last week, seemed a bit of an over-reaction at the time.  Two days ago when I started this post there were still only nine confirmed cases of the virus in all of Greece and 13 hospitals throughout the country designated as treatment centers. By this weekend though the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 45.

Wildflowers carpet the Mani in March

None of those individuals with the virus are from our area. A majority of the COVID-19 victims seem linked to a tour group that had traveled in Egypt and Israel. The three regions in Greece in which those travelers live have pretty much shut down all activities and events. Residents of those areas are not being allowed to travel internationally at this time.

Ironically, our former home in the city of Kirkland in Washington State, was labeled by the Washington Post newspaper as 'the epicenter' of the virus in the United States. The first U.S. death from the virus was in Kirkland. Several more COVID-19 deaths have occurred there. The state has been hardest hit in the U.S.- so far.  Media reports say shelves have been emptied in grocery stores as people stockpile for a possible quarantine, workers are working from home, rush hour traffic jams have disappeared and events are canceled. Friends living there describe the atmosphere as 'freaky'.

Our village Agios Nikolaos at night
In our area, The Mani in the southern Peloponnese, we are going about life in quite a routine manner. No one is - yet - rushing out to stock up on food, cleaning supplies or toilet paper as they are elsewhere in the world. We still kiss each other's cheeks in greeting and hug frequently. We do talk about the impacts of coronavirus on travel and are keeping watch on its spread.

I'll admit though after having read so many articles about supplies disappearing from shelves, I did decide to buy a box of disposable gloves at our local supermarket.  There were three boxes of them (a full stock) and all were dust covered.

The Scribe and The Scout after being held in Greece last year while awaiting our residency renewal, vowed we'd travel more this year. Our first outing is to France the end of April. If we cancel our week's reservations we lose the week - no refunds or changes are being allowed. At this point, we don't plan to cancel and The Scout has plotted four options for getting there and back.

Conflict at the border

We also have in Greece the matter of  an increasingly tense conflict with Turkey, our neighbor to the east. These two countries haven't been getting along well for sometime and headlines often call out air space violations and oil drilling concerns.

Islands mentioned below and our home near Kalamata are some distance apart

 But the current tense situation is caused by the overwhelming flow of immigrants and migrants into the two countries as they flee their warring homelands and seek asylum in Europe. The route to freedom takes them through both Turkey and Greece. My brief  recap below doesn't do justice to the situation - full reports can be found on most European and Middle Eastern media. I used several of those media to compile this synopsis:

Turkey is reportedly hosting 3.6  million registered Syrian refugees and immigrants from other countries like Afghanistan.  The Turkish president recently announced he was opening the border for them to the European Union - their route via Greece. He's quoted as saying he'll allow 'millions' of refugees and migrants into Greece.



Immigrants  have risked their lives on small boats trying to reach Greece

Greece, however, is at maximum capacity for housing refugees and has said, 'no more'. The few camps created since the exodus began five years ago are already far in excess of the numbers they were designed to hold.Thousands of men, women and children are being held on three Greek islands -- Lesvos, Samos and Chios -- per a European Union containment policy, while awaiting the processing of their asylum requests.

The migrants are saying 'enough'. Reports of growing vandalism and theft by some of those held in the camps has prompted the Greek island residents to also be crying, 'enough'.  Residents for years have rallied donations and care for those who've arrived on their shores over the years.

In January this islanders held protests, demanding help and support from the Greek government.   Media report that local vigilante groups are being formed. That was before the Turkish president announced he will allow even more migrants to enter Greece.

This week the American Embassy in Athens and the US Consulate in Thessaloniki issued travel warnings to Americans who are or who are planning to travel to those islands and the mainland's northeastern region of Evros, near the Turkish border.  It was reported that the US Embassy had received reports of violence against Americans trying to travel in Lesvos.

Springtime in Greece

As I said in the opening, it is a slightly different spring. We hope that wherever you find yourselves this week that you are healthy and untouched by conflict and Corona virus.  Wishes for safe travel if you are traveling and wherever you are: remember to wash your hands!

Thanks so much for the time you spent with us today ~ let us know in the comments below or an email how life is going in your part of the world ~




Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday














Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Taste of Class - First Class, that is!


I sipped my first glass of champagne at about 6 a.m. London time.  It wasn't my last that January morning either. I don't often sip bubbles so it was a real treat - even more so because I was indulging in one of the complimentary pleasures of the British Airways First Class Lounge at Heathrow Airport.

Bubbles at the entry of First Class Lounge Heathrow

Several months ago when planning our winter sojourn to the United States, we had thrown common sense to the wind and decided to burn a pile of our accumulated frequent flier airline miles. We used our stash of Alaska Airlines miles for round-trip First Class travel between  Athens, Greece and Seattle, Washington.

Regular readers know that The Scout is usually in pursuit of the best deal for the least amount of money or airline miles, but we had a change of heart on this one.

With all due credit to our inhouse deal finder, his research paid off on this trip as well.  He found that for 20,000 airline miles more per person we could fly First Class (140,000 miles)* instead of Business Class (120,000)*.

We had the miles, so why not use them? we asked ourselves.  Why not experience the posh side of travel this time?

A 747 flies the transatlantic routes

Because the aircraft flown between Athens and London was smaller than the wide-bodied ones used on transatlantic flights, we flew Business Class on those segments. We had large comfortable seats in the front section of the plane and were served complimentary beverages and a hot meal on our afternoon flight. (British Air now requires payment for food and beverage service in coach on this route.)


Checkin and security entrance

It was the next morning that we finally entered the world of first class travel. It began at check in when we were directed to a glitzy private area where check in and security screenings were handled as a part of the route to the First Class lounge, dining room and terrace.

I was like a kid in a candy shop or Alice as she tumbled into Wonderland! I left The Scout sitting in a leather wing chair sipping a pre-breakfast cappuccino while I unabashedly scurried about taking photos of this opulent area.   Who knew such a comfy, cushy world existed at airports? (I've been in Business Class lounges before but this was beyond that, so very beyond that!)

While this was likely a one-time shot for us, obviously there is a world in which first class is quite routine. As we were eating breakfast, a well-dressed man passed our table and as he did called out a greeting to the hostess, using her first name. Then added, "I will have my usual. I will be over in my chair." as he headed to the seating area. Incredible!

First class seat British Air



Seat becomes a bed with the turn of a button
Once inside the plane, the small cabin to the front of the plane was as posh as I had imagined it being.  The seats were small private seating/sleeping areas that opened from the aisle. A viewing screen, an individual closet, desk/table area and a seat that with the twist of a button became 180-degree flat bed.  A sleeping pad and coverlet were provided as were slippers and 'sleeping attire'.

A Mimosa while waiting for take-off

We perused the menu and sipped - yes, another bubbly while awaiting take off. When the flight attendant took our orders The Scout asked when the meal would be served. Her reply, "Any time you would like it Mr. Smith."  Yes, just like Alice must have felt in Wonderland!

Men and women received gender-appropriate gift bags containing lotions, lip moisturizer, socks, ear plugs, toothbrushes and paste and a number of other pamper yourself items.

Never has the near 10-hour flight between London and Seattle gone as quickly as this one did.

I followed our journey on my television scree


First Class Part Two


Now our return journey wasn't quite as posh and we can thank the US-based carrier Alaska Airlines, a code-share partner with British Air for tainting an otherwise delightful introduction to First Class travel.


Alaska Air Premium Economy - snack bar and water 

When traveling on award-travel you are not always able to get the flight you want as seats are often scarce. We were unable to get first class seats on the direct BA flight from Seattle to London so flew Alaska Airlines to Boston and then British from Boston to London.  Alaska also has Business Class seats, for which we were waitlisted. . .but never cleared the wait list so a six-hour segment of our return trip was spent in Alaska's economy seats. We paid an additional $99 per person to be seated in Premium Economy a few rows at the front of the coach class section.

Because we were waitlisted we were not allowed to use the Alaska Lounge at SeaTac even though our first class tickets were code-share tickets with the airline.  It was admittedly a 'first world problem' but irritating to think of turning over all those miles and ending up in economy, however. . .


British Air first-class lounge Boston
It was a smooth flight and we arrived in Boston nearly an hour early, which gave us a near four hour layover there.  Plenty of time to enjoy its luxurious British Air first-class lounge - another bit of bubbles and a pleasant experience.


Claim tickets need numbers on them


Alaska Air had been unable to ticket us all the way back so it was while checking in at British Air that we discovered the Alaska ticket agent had issued us baggage claim tickets for our two checked bags without any claim numbers printed on them.  The sharp BA agent caught the error and hand-wrote the numbers on our claim stubs.

That proved to be a good thing because our bags were left in Boston.  A fact we learned in Athens. And there, the first thing the lost bag clerk asked for were the baggage claim numbers

The First Class Story Ends at the Village Service Station


The bags did arrive in Athens on a later flight.  However, we live four hour's drive from the Athens airport in the rural Peloponnese.  We got a call the next day saying the bags would be sent by courier to the Athens bus station and put on a bus bound for Kalamata. There they would be put on a passenger bus bound for the villages to the south of the city. At 2 p.m. the bus would leave our bags at the village service station.


2 p.m. the village service station and there were our bags!

We have three service stations and they didn't know which one it would be. "Ask around the village and someone will know," we were told.  We did just that and at 2:15 the bus pulled into Taki's service station, the bags were unloaded and our adventure into the world of first class travel officially came to an end.

Our first-class travel comes to an end 

If You Want to Book First Class

Appetizers and bubbles

Now before you go rushing off to book yourself in First Class using award tickets let me caution that these were not 'free tickets'.  In addition to the 140,000 reward miles per person we also had to pay $637 per person of which $499 was the 'carrier imposed surcharge' and $138 were taxes and user fees (split between Greece, United Kingdom and the United States). And a booking fee of $25.

That said, it compared favorably with the fare had we simply purchased the tickets as they are about $4,500 per person.

Note the small print when booking award seats whether Business or First Class as sometimes it is a mixed cabin ticket meaning one segment might be in the elite class but other segments will be in the economy section - despite the number of miles you have turned in.

That is it for this week! Thanks for being with us again and we look forward to being back next week with some more tales from The Stone House on the Hill. Until then, safe travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:


Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday



Thursday, February 13, 2020

Just call us the village people

We are back in the village.
The American village, that is.
The place we hang our hats and settle in when back in the States these days.

Downtown Manson

We've become what you might call 'the village people', preferring this small-town lifestyle to that of the city.

Manson, Washington

Manson, our U.S. village, sits on the shore of the glacier-fed 55-mile long Lake Chelan in the north-central part of Washington State. Manson got its roots as an agricultural town and was once surrounded by apple orchards. In the last decade, though, many of those orchards have given way to vineyards and the Lake Chelan AVA (American Viticulture Area) in which Manson is a part now boasts some 40 wineries or tasting rooms!

Vineyards have replaced orchards here

Little is written about Manson history, I've discovered in writing this post.  A Google search will turn up far more on the notorious Charles Manson (one of America's more famous murderers) than on our little village.  I've learned the population here in 2016 was 1,284. This little unincorporated town got its name back in 1912 when it was named for Manson F. Backus, president of the Chelan Land Company.  It is seven miles from the larger, more well-known town of Chelan. . .where The Scout was born and raised several decades ago.

Wapato Point in Manson

Manson became our part-time home base in the U.S nearly two years ago.  We'd had 30 years of big city suburb life and had been spoiled by the wide open spaces we have in our expat life in Greece. We went in search of  similar wide open spaces in this part of the state when we decided we needed roots back here as well. While there are any number of charming Eastern Washington towns that offer alternatives to the fast-pace of the city, we've landed here.

Strolling in Manson on a winter's day

As we settle in and become more familiar with the village and its surrounding area, we notice how similar our Greek village is to this one. For instance, they each have a single main road through town, which is bordered by small home-owned businesses. The road here is wider but the vibe when walking on it is much the same as Greece: people still greet each other and make eye contact - whether they know each other or not. Seldom do you see anyone pass with their head bent over immersed in their handheld device.  It is just plain-old small town friendliness.

Countryside near Manson

Both of our villages are distinctly - and refreshingly - rural. Each is situated on large bodies of water and surrounded by agriculture. Tourists have discovered both villages and bring a dynamic to them during the warm weather months.  Both are building new tourist accommodations.

For fear of making them out to be Mayberry, USA ( 1960's television show starring Andy Griffith), there is a bit of Mayberry charm about them both.  Take the church bells - you can hear them ring out in both villages. And people still attend worship services. It is a normal part of life.

Businesses display American flags year-round  along Main Street

Patriotism and flag displays are also common traits of the two villages. While the blue and white stripes wave in the wind in Greece, the red, white and blue flags are on display in Manson.

Tasting rooms and a brewery are among Main Street businesses

In winter, both villages slow their pace.  Businesses that cater to tourists take a much needed break, often reducing their hours or closing for weeks on end. (In Greece it is usually to allow the family members to harvest their olives, here it is for a bit of vacation time.)  The places that do stay open become gathering places for the locals.  And even as part-time as we may think we are, we have become 'locals' in this small community.

Sign at a local eatery captures the mood of Manson

'You are back!' the waitress called out a couple nights ago, throwing her arms around me at one of our favorite eateries here.  It was a hug much like those received in our Greek village before we left in January.  It is something we didn't experience when dining out in the Seattle suburb.

Full moon spotlights downtown Manson

In Greece we are often called, 'the Amerikani' and here our moniker is 'the ones from Greece'.

Speaking of Greece our time in the States is coming to an end this weekend.  It is time to return to our other village.  The next time you hear from these two 'village people' will be after we are settled back into our Stone House on the Hill. Until then, safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking sometime in the next few weeks with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday






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