Tag Archives: Greece

Vacation-part 3

Yes, my bloggy buddies, there is indeed a Part 3 to the never-to-be famous Pinklea Vacation Series. This part won’t be full of photos, however (You, at the back! Sit down and quit cheering!). This part details Four Things That I Did Not Like On My Vacation.

The main thing I did not like was being without luggage for our entire first day. It wasn’t so much the lack of clothes or toiletries, because those can always be purchased (and some, in fact, were). What really bothered me were my contact lenses. I wear daily contacts, meaning that I put a brand new pair in every morning. I can wear them for two days, or even three if I’m very careful (they are extremely thin), but there is absolutely no way I could wear them for three weeks. And of course I had my package of extra contacts tucked away in my suitcase. So if my luggage was permanently lost, I had two options: 1) be unable to see clearly more than a couple of metres away, or 2) find an English-speaking ophthalmologist somewhere in Athens, have my eyes examined and a prescription written and new contacts purchased. Fortunately, in the end, I didn’t have to deal with either scenario. Lesson learned: Do not pack ALL your contacts in your suitcase, keep SOME in your purse Just In Case.

Another thing I did not like was being on a tour. Granted, our tour was only four days, and also granted, we did get to places that would have been a lot more difficult to get to had we opted to do it all ourselves (Olympia, Delphi, Arachova). That was the only reason we took the tour in the first place. But it was awful to be shunted here and there, to be told bluntly “The bus will leave in 30 minutes, so please be back here on time”, to be practically forced to follow our tour guide through museums (we ended up listening to her introductions, then quietly slipping away to explore on our own as much as we could), to be taken to tourist-trap shops over and over and being overly encouraged to buy-buy-buy, to have no choice in restaurants for lunch or dinner – and often no choice in what we ate, either. I know that many people are very comfortable with this sort of travel and find it so much easier than finding their own hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc, but DD and I are not those people. Lesson learned: Avoid tours if at all possible, and if it is not possible, SUCK IT UP and make the best of it.

I also did not much like waking up with a very sore back in Crete. I didn’t even do anything to it, I just woke up in the morning and discovered that I couldn’t bend without pain. This is the same back pain that I experienced last March, which was only alleviated with several visits to a chiropractor. O – kay. But I was in Crete this time. My chiropractor was very, very far away. My three options: 1) Let it ruin the remaining week of my holiday, whining loudly about my enormous suffering. 2) Find an English-speaking chiropractor in Iraklion, stay put for a few days and have a couple of treatments to realign my back. 3) Roll out of bed slowly and gingerly, then carry on with the planned itinerary, being as careful as possible to minimize bending and carrying, take drugs if required, then seek treatment when we get home. I chose number 3, and managed reasonably well till our return and two (so far) visits to my own chiropractor. Lesson learned: Be very careful of your back, and always bring Tylenol and Advil whenever you travel Just In Case.

The final thing that I did not like was the male-dominated atmosphere in Istanbul. This is a little tricky to explain, because I did enjoy Istanbul and I am glad I went there. But would I go back? I don’t think so. You see, when you are a tourist, more specifically a female tourist in the touristy old part of the city, everywhere you go there are men at the front of stores and restaurants yelling at you to come in. They’re not necessarily rude, it’s just how they do business, but I got very tired of being constantly called out at as I walked down the street. “Hey gorgeous!” “American or Australian?” “Come in and look around!” “Excuse me, girls!” and my all-time favourite call of “Hey! How can I help you spend your money today?” We literally could not stop to admire anything in a window because there would instantly be one or two men right there in our faces. It was never, ever women working in the shops or restaurants either. And as DD pointed out, you never see groups of females walking around together either, unless they are young teenagers. If you see a woman, she is surrounded by her children and her husband or other male family members. The women are always covered up (headscarves, shoulders and arms covered, long skirts), while men and children appear to be free to wear whatever they please. I know that Turkey is a Muslim country and I know they do have a different attitude towards women than we are used to in North America or Western Europe and I do respect that – but it was still disconcerting. Their explanation is that men are the weaker sex, so in order for women to be safe around them, women must be discreetly behaved and cover up much of their bodies. Huh?! MEN are weak so WOMEN are required to behave and dress in a particular manner?! I’m sorry, I just can’t agree with that, and this way of thinking is just so obvious in Istanbul that I must confess that it bothered me. Lesson learned: Be grateful for the experience of visiting a Muslim country, but think twice about visiting another in the future.

So – there it is. I really did have a wonderful vacation (I think DD did, too) with many, many good points, and if there were only four little things that weren’t exactly pleasing to me, oh well. Nothing’s perfect. But this vacation came pretty close, overall!

Vacation-part 1

Oh Greece! How I love thee! Let me count the ways:

1. I love thee for thy wondrous food. images images-1
The vegetables that taste so exceptionally fresh, prepared so simply. Why doesn’t Greek salad taste like that at home? What DO they put in that coffee?!? Could calamari even get any better? Baklava is just the best dessert on the planet. (But I cannot stomach ouzo. It is just too licorice-y, and I do NOT like licorice at all.)

2. I love thee for thy exceptional weather. DSCF0220
Living on the Wet Coast of Canada, it is such a treat to wake up in the morning, look outside at the blue, blue sky and just know that it’s going to be another hot, breezy day and that I’d better put sunscreen on. It may rain, true, but it will likely last all of ten minutes, then it’ll be back to sunny, hot and breezy. Love, love, LOVE it!

3. I love thee for thy art and antiquities. DSCF0047
As DD said, if she lived in Greece, she would be constantly digging up her back yard, finding pieces of marble statues or columns and inviting the local archaeologists over to have a look. In so many areas of Greece, ancient ruins are just part of the everyday scenery. Living in such a new country as Canada, this is a mind-boggling concept. The museums are all chock-full of absolute treasures, just waiting for you to go and admire them in the flesh rather than in a textbook.

4. I love thee for thy ancient history. DSCF0101
Again, living in Canada (Western Canada, yet, which has even less history than the East – except for the Native culture, I suppose), I find the whole concept of a building being in use for 500 years almost unbelievable. And to be at, say, the site of the ancient royal palace at Mycenae, and to see all the stone foundations for all the buildings that were constructed there in something like 1280 BC – it just scrambles my brain to think about it!

5. I love thee for thy Acropolis and the Parthenon found thereon. DSCF0038
My first sight of it was walking down the street from our hotel the morning after our luggage-less arrival. There it was, a scant ten-minute walk away, towering majestically above the city! Seeing it all lit up at night is even more memorable. And to actually walk up the steps to the top and stand beside something that you have studied at school, seen a million photos of, have just absorbed into your body of knowledge over the years is simply amazing (despite the ever-present scaffolding around the Parthenon). DD was awestruck (and speechless for about a minute – no doubt a record for her!) and I had to pinch myself to accept that this experience was real.

6. I love thee for thy colours. DSCF0236
Although I have seen the Mediterranean Sea before, its azure blue colour never ceases to stun me. It’s just so blue! And it’s a very floaty body of water too: it’s much easier to float in than the Pacific Ocean. Is it the salt content maybe? And olive trees really are – um – olive-coloured. Now I see where the name comes from, or else the colour. (I guess the trees came first.) And the white or pale buildings of Santorini are so picturesque that I just couldn’t take it all in! All those houses perched on the cliffs, with their predominantly blue doors and shutters are so beautiful and so quintessentially Greek!

7. I love thee for thy mountainous landscape. DSCF0239
It is an incomparable experience to arrive at one of the docks in Santorini and look up. Way up. Because the road goes up to the top of that cliff in front of you, and all the towns are along that volcano ridge up there. The road is narrow, with few guardrails, and many, many switchbacks on its arduous journey skyward. In a big coach, gazing out the window, this can be scary, because all you can see is the blue-green sea and way, way, way down to the port, with nothing in between. Of course, being a BC resident, I am quite used to mountains, but this was something else!

Just a taste, people (don’t want to bore you – looking at someone’s holidays pics can be quite tedious, after all), but there is a bit more to come. Like Istanbul. Like what I didn’t like (that’s a pretty short post). But I need to go nap now …

I’m in Greece!

I just couldn’t resist, could I??? Three weeks I’m supposed to be away, and I just couldn’t keep away from the intarnets!!! I should hang my head in shame. Such an addict I am!

But I am having a marvelous vacation. Greece has been everything I had expected, and more! DD and I have had very few snarky moments, and then mostly with a good reason. Like our luggage not arriving in Athens when we did. Or like getting completely lost in Heraklion, Crete and taking two bloody hours to find our hotel in temperatures of over 35 degrees at 10 in the morning. Or like being on a mini-tour with people who had absolutely no idea and no appreciation of where they were (“So what’s at this Delph-eye place anyway?”).

However, we have survived it all so far, and are now halfway through our trip. DD has been an absolute font of knowledge about Greek art and architecture – I think I’ll rent her out for future tours to Greece. Any takers? She works cheap: airfare, accommodation, the occasional gelato or iced coffee. I literally have not needed to consult my guide book anywhere – she knows stuff!

So far, my favourite spots have been Delphi (gotta love that mountain-top Oracle!), the Parthenon up on the Acropolis in Athens (even though it was covered in scaffolding and has been under renovation since 1983), and the ancient Olympic site (you would not believe how intact the ancient stadium there is – or maybe you would. Maybe you’ve seen it already?). But we’ve seen so much more, and will see so much more as well. We have the rest of Crete, Santorini and Istanbul to come. I plan to post some photos when we get back.

Or … I may just pull a Shirley Valentine and stay.