Anyone else missing travel these days?  I sure am, but the thought of getting on an airplane gives me an anxiety attack!  Have you seen those animated pictures of inside a plane when someone sneezes and the little green germ balls fly everywhere and then land on someones head?  UG and I'm not even a germ-a-phobe, at least I wasn't, pre-Covid.  I was reminiscing over my old travel pictures recently while trying to take a break from social media and CNN.  Travel pictures make me happy, they carry me off to far away places and evoke memories and feelings and remind me of how much I love and miss traveling.

I try not to think of what it will be like to get on an airplane post Covid.  A mask for 15 hours to Greece?  Social distancing at sidewalk cafes in Paris?  Airport bathrooms are giant Petri dishes in my mind.  GAH.

But I'm holding on to the hope that things will be, not gonna say normal, but some safer version of what normal travel used to be.  So in re-discovering my pictures I thought I'd share them again.  Some will be re-posts, some edits, but all from the safety of your isolation.  So come along with me, first stop Athen, Greece!

Welcome to Athens! 
Some Fun Facts About Greece
  • Greek, as you probably know is based on it's own Greek alphabet, so when you hear the expression "It's all Greek to me" that's because it is!  There is no just getting by with sounding out words because the letters are impossible to figure out.  Carry marked maps with you and have a list of common things you will need to say like "another baklava please".
  • Saying 'follow that cab' when it contains the other half of your family, is a sure way to get lost in Athens. 
  • Many of the streets are made of marble, they're slippery, wear shoes with rubber bottoms.
  • The pastry is so good that you must pace yourself.  I thought I would literally 'plotz' when I took my first bite of an authentic Greek Baklava. 
  • It's easy to overload on olives when you can buy them on the street, and they're cheap! 
  • Olive overload = Big Fat Greek stomach ache.
  • You can't flush toilet paper down the toilet!  That's right, you heard me all you spoiled Americans with good plumbing. 
  • There is no hummus in Greece.  I know it's Middle Eastern but every Greek Restaurant in America serves it.  Really, don't ask for hummus.
  • There's no lettuce in a Greek salad in Greece.  Who knew?
  • Like in all European countries, they know how to sit and savor.  You'll never get thrown out of a cafe for lingering over your espresso.  Take a lesson.
Our Greece trip was in November 2014 and started when my husbands brother got the idea to run the Greek Marathon.  The real Greek Marathon, a 26 mile course that was the site of the very first Marathon ever, and the route went from the city of Marathon to the city of Athens.  He challenged one of his sisters and my husband, all of whom have done marathons before in some very cool places.  With three grand kids in the mix my step mom-in-law joined the party.  And so we came together from Southern CA, Northern CA, Minnesota and Germany, all 10 of us.

We stayed in an Air B & B in the neighborhood of Fokionos Negri.  Try saying that with a mouth full of olives!  And for some reason any time any of us had to say that to a cab driver we'd jumble it so bad it caused the equivalent of an international incident. 

According to our first cab driver Fokinos Negri 'used' to be a great neighborhood. He sacred us a little, but at least he spoke English. Turned out we liked the neighborhood.  The flat was in an incredibly old beautiful art deco building from the 1930's, on a greenbelt, no traffic, just a walk path and little park lined with cafes and a wonderful chocolate shop. The flat itself was fascinating, owned by two sisters who grew up there and have felt the need to keep it just as it was. That would be old.  If you like antiques, and a lot of charm, and are traveling in a pack of 10 this works well.  When we first got there we decided we could look at it two ways, charming or decrepit, we decided to go with charming.  

The thing about Greece that we had not read anywhere, is that the plumbing is so old you have to throw your toilet paper in the trash.  Sounds gross but we actually all got used to it fairly quickly.   However, there was that one incident at 3:00 AM when I forgot...oops.  I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the toilet to explode but it was fine.  At first I thought it was only this apartment because it was so old, but as we traveled about every restroom we visited had a 'no paper' sign over the toilet.  The exception was the National Archeological Museum which was very modern, although the toilets didn't have seats, very odd.  And it wasn't a mistake, it's just, who needs a seat? Well, turns out I do. The other thing about this neighborhood was that at night it was very noisy.  I was told that Greek people stay up all night and sleep in the morning, it seemed true.  I didn't mind the noise, the talking and clinking of high heels, I kind of liked it, it added to the flavor of the neighborhood.

We were able to walk to the Museum, the open markets, the square and Old Town Plaka. We found the people to be very nice.

The market places are wonderful and then came the moment... I squealed and an old Greek man standing next to us pointed and said "yes... Starbucks!"  Probably the only English word he knew.  It was not a mirage and we have our souvenir Greek Starbucks mug's to prove it!  Other than that, everything else was at least 100 years old.

Our first day exploring took us to the Acropolis, it was drizzly, which some how seemed appropriate for a place built in 5th Century BC.  It was a huge climb up and the steps were all made of marble.  As usual I got made fun of for wearing heels, but it was raining and they were Easy Spirit Booties, rubber bottoms and so comfy!  Yes, I climbed the Acropolis in 4 inch heels, which makes me fabulous! (I can say that because this is my blog ;)

There are tons of restaurants in the market place and every other store is a bakery.  But on our second day as the Marathoners headed off to pre-registration the rest of us found ourselves in a residential neighborhood, hungry and without a restaurant in site.  After a few charade type transactions with locals we headed down a few streets and found an amazing restaurant called, TouavponpoBato located at Appiavou 31-33, IIaykpati.  That's not really correct because my computer doesn't type Greek so if you're going to Athens message me and I will send you a picture of their biz card, it's a must to try and I am determined to go back.  In fact this is where I had my first Greek salad of the trip which ruined me for the rest of the Greek salads to come.  Oh they were all good, don't get me wrong, and I had one every day, but this one was amazing! 
The Marathon was an awesome experience, even as a spectator.  Sitting in the stands of the Memorial Stadium which, is completely made of marble, watching all of the runners approach the finish line was incredible.  There were those alone, those in groups, some dressed in Greek God costumes and the combination of determination, joy and pain as they ran to the finish line was amazing.  Some people looked as if they would fall over, some did and others saw that last stretch and broke into sprints which brought me to tears.  And then there they were, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and my husband, they all made it the 26 miles! 
Old Town Plaka was my favorite, the living spaces have been beautifully renovated and mix seamlessly with this 100 year old town.  Destination, a 100 year old distillery called Brettos.  It was gorgeous with walls of colored bottles and 100 year old brandy barrels.  The owner brought me a glass of wine he promised I would like after I told him I was a light weight and didn't drink.  It was so good I drank it, all of it.  When we got up to leave I remembered why I don't drink.

He recommended a restaurant a few blocks away, and by blocks I mean narrow streets and hills.  But then, there it was this beautiful quaint place with amazing views and a fish that was big enough to feed us all.  It had more Michelin Star's then could fit on the door.  

Then we were off to Mt. Lycabettus at dusk to see the entire city light up from 745ft.  This time we didn't hike it, we took a funicular which is kind of a cross between a train and a tram.

Olives, spices, nuts and lavender tea from the market place.  I wish I had bought more.  I think I started dreaming of going back the minute I ran out of the lavender tea.  Oh and the afore mentioned olive overdoes. (I have no willpower). 

This Adonis at the National Archeological Museum, I thought we'd end on a bang :)  Join me next week and we'll sail over to stunning Santorini!