messing family picture

Our Trip To Greece

We had originally planned on beginning our trip in Crete, but due to the current financial crisis, the Greek air traffic controllers scheduled a short strike for around the time we would be arriving. We would have missed our connection, and been uncertain of getting there at all on the first day, so we cancelled that portion of the trip.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We departed Boston on a British Airways flight, arriving in London at around 5AM. The atc strike turned out not to be so bad, we were only delayed an extra two hours, though we were quite tired by the time the plane landed in Athens.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Upon our arrival, we were met by an old man carrying a sign that said "Mr. Mesling". I asked him if he mean "Messing" and if he was going to the O&B Hotel. He nodded yes, grabbed one of our bags and took us to a hot van for the ride into the city. I followed along on the map on my iPad (which turned out to take 79MB!) Downtown, he stopped on a busy street, told us to get out and pointed toward a hotel some blocks away. After much confusion, we finally realized that he really was picking up a "Mr. Messling". He was not very nice and no help as well (to the point where someone walking by said to me "Don't worry, most Greeks are not like him". In any case, we transferred to a regular cab which took us to our hotel. Or rather took us to the end of the street our hotel was on; the street was being redone.

We were pleasantly surprised. The tour company had realized the "Mesling" mistake and was there apologizing profusely and trying to pay for the cab ride. The hotel itself was very, very nice.Recently built, staff was friendly, food decent, rooms (and air conditioning) comfortable. Its location was great, near the Agora, below the acropolis, and by some interesting shops.

We rested for awhile, then walked a few blocks to a Greek restaurant where we had a nice meal. Greek salad, yogurt, lamb sausage.

Friday, July 16, 2010

We were awoken by the hotel staff at noon, telling us they could not hold breakfast any longer. Our waitress, who would end up serving us every day, was a nice young girl with broken english who was quite concerned for us.

After breakfast, we walked down Emou street taking in the sites and heading to Kolonaki square. A stop at a mineral store proved disappointing, as no one spoke english and nothing was very well marked.

In Kolonaki, Lauren and Colleen shopped while Sam and I sat at a cafe and had a drink. It was good to get the shopping down this early in the trip (though we will do some more in Santorini, I am sure.)

Late that evening we walked to another restaurant, and had planned to take in some folk dancing but it was too late and we were quite tired.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

We took a walk near the hotel. Sam and I split off from Colleen and Lauren, and went and explored the ruins at the Agora, with the Acropolis hanging over us as a backdrop. It was fascinating to imagine the area as it mush have been in the fifth century BC, fulll of people and shops. However, it was hot! I arrived back at the hotel quite sweaty and realized there would be many 2 or 3 shower days on this trip.

In the afternoon, we were met by our guide Vicki (an approximation of her Greek name). We were surprised to see the bus; I had been expecting a small van, but it was a huge white, fancy brand new tour bus just for the four of us. Quite embarrassing and wasteful but we did not have a choice. I have to say it was quite comfortable, with an impressive front facing picture window over the driver.

We slowly travelled south out of the city, seeing the beaches full of Greeks enjoying the sun, and suburban apartment buildings one after the other.

Our destination was the Temple of Poseidon. All that is left are these huge stone columns, on a point of land jutting out into the sea. It must have been quite impressive in its hey day. Vickie was very knowledgeable, telling us about its history and how it was constructed. The breeze made it comfortable. In the distance we could see and smell a fire. A huge helicopter trailing a water bucket passed us by heading to the fire. The ride back to the hotel seemed to go much faster. During the ride, I had an interesting discussion with Vicki about the financial crisis. She was dismayed at having paid 40% of her income into taxes for the last 18 years with little prospect of getting a pension in the future. The strike had been taken to protest the passing of a law changing the retirement age from 60 to 65. She blamed the crisis on a corrupt government, and not enough taxes for the rich...and also the effects of joining the European Union. After a rest at the hotel, we took a cab ride to a restaurant, To Omorfo, that Lauren had found on the internet. Authentic local Greek. We arrived at 8:30 and it was deserted, the Greeks eat much later. The waiter/owner escorted us to the back of the restaurant to meet the chef and look at all the food so we could order. It was kind of like Greek tapas. All good....Greek salad, meatballs, chicken, peas, potatoes, yogurt, bread, pastries for desert. The tomatoes have been remarkable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We had a nice breakfast with Yannis and Beth, then the rest of the family took a short walk but I stayed at the hotel. In the early afternoon we were again met by Vicki and the bus, and drove northwest out of the city to Corinth. A short stop at the Corinth canal was interesting. An engineering marvel; a narrow channel, the shear walls having been blasted out to a depth of 200 feet. Only slightly narrower at the bottom then the top.

Leaving there we went to ancient Corinth. Quite a large area, with ruins of lots of shops. Vicki explained how it had been a center of commerce. She also talked about the decadence there that had caused Paul to write his Letters to the Corinthians. In the small attached museum, Vicki explained all the different styles of pottery and how you could distinguish Corinthian pottery from Athenian pottery.

Leaving the museum, we went to a local pottery shop...a family run business making accurate copies of museum pieces. The owner explained the process, and the origin of each piece. We bought a large piece for our living room, and some small pieces for gifts. (I liked that Lauren bought Marc a small statue of Aphrodite).

In the evening, Lauren and Sam and I were tired so we had room service. Colleen decided to join the rest of the larger group for dinner.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today we visited the Acropolis, followed by the National Museum where we saw the Zeus/Poseidon statue, the ancient astronomical computer, and teh Akrotiri wall paintings. For dinner, we walked through the narrow streets near the hotel to a restaurant where we sat in the back yard. Not very good, unfortunately.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the morning on the way to the airport we visited the incredible new Acropolis museum. It is amazing, glass floors over extensive digs revealing ancient Greek buildings. All of the statues and pottery were displayed with huge amounts of natural light...the architecture of the building was stunning.

After that we flew to Santorini, checked into the Canaves Suites hotel. A beautifule 2 bedroom suite for us and the kids. The view is stunning, both our to the caldera and around to the white building on the rim. Evening was a restaurant outside of Fira near the airport to watch the sunset.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today was the highlight of the trip. We visited Dr. Christoph Doumas at the Akrotri dig and got a tour of his labs. While the actual dig was closed because of construction (replacing the huge awnings over the dig with 3 immense cranes haphazardly, it seemed, lifting slices of roof), Dr. Doumas' informal lecture was amazing. Seeing the painstaking work used to restore pottery and especially the wall paintings was, in its own way, quite moving.

For dinner, Sam and I went with the rest of the group to the restaurant Ambrosia, then walked around Oia.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The sunset cruise! Sam hiked to the top of one of the islands and went swimming. Watching the sunset! Then the group went to dinner at the Sunset Taverna.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spent the day louging around. The kids rented an ATV and tooled around and had lunch and shopping in Fira. Late in the afternoon we all walked up to Oia where we bought Lauren a pretty necklace that is a gold rope with an amethyst pendant attached to the end. Bought Colleen a wispy, ropy gold chain. We wanted a piece of pumice for the collection, tried to pay for it but the shop owner who was using it as decoration just laughed and gave it to us.

Our final dinner was at the Sphinx restaurant in Fira...sitting outside with an incredible view of the caldera and sunset.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home on Aegean Airways to Athens and British Airways through Athens and London.