Monday, February 27, 2012

Europe 2011 day 9: Athens, Greece

Halfway through our European vacay our next stop on day 9 (Sept. 21) was Athens!  Warning: long post ahead, it was a busy day!

Good morning Athens!

Athens was Nick's favorite stop of the trip and because of all the protests going on there we were a little worried things would get out of hand and we would have to skip that stop - thank goodness things were fine there!

We took the subway into town from the cruise port and walked on the nice pedestrian walkway to the Acropolis. Apparently they really cleaned up the city and made it more pedestrian friendly before the 2004 Summer Olympics.  We were walking up the pedestrian walkway and all the sudden there was the Acropolis - it was pretty cool to all the sudden just see it right there.

our first view of the Acropolis from the pedestrian plaza - we made it!

Our first stop of the day was to the Acropolis.  We wanted to get there as soon as possible to avoid the big crowds and that was the highlight of the trip

sightseeing at the Acropolis

The Porch of the Caryatides

standing above the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Athens is normally a pretty smoggy city but due to rain the day before we had  smog-less skies

The temple of Athena Nike

The Erechtheum

checking out the view - our ship is way, way in the background

Philopappos Monument

Looking down at the Temple Of Olympian Zeus

And of course lots of pictures of the famous Parthenon

And I of course had to take my fan picture for Rick Steves (I took one too in Paris) - like I said, I'm a big fan

our Rick Steves book - for my fan letter of course

After the acropolis we went up to stand on Mars Hill, a place were St. Paul stood and preached to the Athenians

hanging out on Mars Hill

View of the Acropolis from Mars Hill

A plaque with Apostle Paul's sermon at the base of Mars Hill

Then we walked through the ancient Agora, which was basically the hangout place in Ancient Athens and the area where people like Socrates and Plato wandered

walking around the Ancient Agora

the stomping grounds of Plato and Socrates

The Temple Of Hephaestus

The Temple Of Hephaestus

After a very busy morning of walking and sightseeing we decided it was ready for some good.  An area that was recommended to us for takeaway gyros is called "Souvlaki row."  Nick and I love gyros - we eat them a lot at home so we were both so excited to have a gyro in Athens.  They were so so yummy!

A gyro stand

delicious gyro
After refueling with some much needed food we went to the Acropolis Museum which was really nice to get inside and out of the sun and into an air-conditioned place.  It has a lot of good history and we both learned a lot about the Acropolis.  (No pictures were allowed inside).

After the museum we walked to temple of Olympian Zeus (what remains of it, just a few truly huge columns) and Hadrian's Arch.

The Temple Of Olympian Zeus

Then down the main street of the Plaka, past all the shops, to Syntagma square. This is where all the protests that we had seen on TV were taking place, but it was all quiet when we went there.  On the cab ride back to the cruise ship our cab driver told us a protest had recently been broken up about an hour before.

walking around the Plaka
Greek guards

Whew - what a busy day!  We really enjoyed Athens and it was fun seeing all the ancient sites of the city that we learned about in school.

Next stop: Mykonos (my second favorite place of the trip!)  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Europe 2011 day 8: Crete, Greece

Good morning Crete
After Corfu, we spent the next day at sea on the boat and had a nice, relaxing day. After being "on the go" so much it was really nice having a day with nothing to do but lay out in the sun with a good book.

Then it was onto the next stop - day 8 (Sept. 20) on the beautiful island of Crete!  We didn't know much about the island since it wasn't as big of a tourist destination as some other islands like Santorini and Mykonos (more on those islands later!) and we found Crete to be a lovely island!  And it was pretty nice to have a break from all the tourists.

hanging out in the harbor

We went into the small town of Chania and walked around the harbor and then walked out to a lighthouse.  We saw some locals sitting out and doing their morning fishing and met a local man who we chatted with for a while.  He actually lived in Canada for a while so he was known around the area as "Mike the Canadian."  He wanted to hear all about America and politics.  Actually, everyone we met who found out we were from America wanted to know what we thought was going to happen in the November 2012 elections.

the city lighthouse
When we walked back from the lighthouse to the harbor we saw there were a lot of boats offering tours around the island that included a spot for snorkeling.  Sounded like a good plan to us so we signed up for a trip and were on our way!  The snorkeling was fun and the water is actually the clearest in the Mediterranean due to the strict waste dumping laws set by the island of Crete.  It was lovely, but I have to say, nothing compares to the snorkeling and water we saw in Bora Bora.  Still, a fun outing!

Nick on the swim
lovely Crete water
After our swim we worked up quite an appetite and stopped in for lunch at a spot "Mike the Canadian" recommended called Antigone. We ordered a Greek platter for two which came with a ton of food including boureki, moussaka, dolma (stuffed grape leaves), stuffed tomato, stuffed green pepper, and rich, thick tzatziki.  It was our best meal of the trip actually!  After our meal the owner Joseph came out to talk to us (when we sat down we told him Mike sent us) and they brought out free dessert, fruit and raki (the local liquor made from grapes). I typically don't do shots at lunch, but when in Rome - bottoms up!

our giant plate of food - we ate it all
shots on the house
outside of the restaurant

After lunch we went into town and walked around the lovely streets...

shrines like these were all over Greece, this one was for Mary
After our walk through town we went over to a beach...

A lovely day in Crete!  Next stop: Athens!


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