Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Athens & the Aegean Tour

I just got back from ... GREECE!! It was my first trip to Europe and I had an amazing time. A group of 33 of us flew from Atlanta to Paris and then to Greece! Needless to say, DAY 1 was spent in the airport.

As soon as we got to Greece we checked in our hotel, headed to see the Acropolis, and then walked through Plaka (a district surrounding the Acropolis with lots of shops and taverns). We saw the Acropolis illuminated at night and during the day. We spent DAY 2 and DAY 3 in Athens.

We tried some typical Greek food (gelato, taziki, lamb, moussaka, baklava, giros) and ouzo which does taste and smell just like black liquorice.

Then we left for our cruise to the Greek Islands on the Louis Cristal.
Considering the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic happened while we were on our cruise, I was perfectly okay with practicing with my floatation device. 

DAY 5 - First stop of the cruise = Mykonos
All the houses are white with little blue, red or green windows. We went for a walk around town and saw Little Venice and the wind mills.

As beautiful as Mykonos was, it was my second favorite stop. You will see why soon.

Meanwhile - back on the boat we were taking place in several cruise boat activities. We learned some new Greek words in our Greek language class and here are a few I remember:

Good Morning = Kalimera
Good Evening = Kalispera 
Hello / Goodbye = Giassou
Efcharisto = Thank you (maybe it's a southern thing, but I definitely used this one the most)
Please / You are welcome = Parakalo

We also took a Greek dance class; my favorite was the Zorba. Then we helped the bartenders shake a few drinks.

 Day 6 - Mehaba (Hello in Turk)
Kusadasi, Turkey 

We woke up in the port city of Kusadasi. Right away we went to an excursion to Ancient Ephesus, this amazing ancient city is close to the river Meander.  The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

After lunch on board we got to the island of Patmos and saw lots of monasteries including the Monastery of Saint John. We enjoyed local pastries and once back on board we began getting ready for the Greek night.

Day 7 - Rhodes
Rhodes is the biggest island of the Dodecanese archipelago located in the South East Aegean sea. It is a medieval city founded by the knights of Saint John on their way back from Jerusalem. Rhodes has been famous since antiquity as the site of on of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colossus of Rhodes.

That afternoon we left for the beach. The water was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! Instead of sands the beaches there have stones that are definitely not soft on your feet. If we could take the water in Greece and the sand from the beaches in the gulf, we could have one PERFECT BEACH!!


Then it was back to the boat for the Captain's Dinner


Day 8 - Crete and Santorini
We had two ports of call and we woke up in Heralkion, Crete. It is the third largest city in Greece. Most of us walked to the center to see the local market and we saw the fishermen fixing their nets on our way.

That afternoon we arrived in Santorini (my favorite stop of the entire trip and when you see the pictures you will know exactly why). The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions that occurred over 3,600 years ago and left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash. Santorini is the most amazing of all the islands because half of the island was destroyed due to the giant volcano that sits in the center of the caldera. Lacey and I took an excursion to visit Oia. Oia is the most picturesque village on the island of Santorini and it remains one of the foremost tourist attractions of the Aegean Sea. Maybe it was the blue roofs, but I think it was the white buildings and stone paths that made Oia seem so peaceful and relaxing.

Day 9 - Back to Athens

We left the Louis Cristal and from the port of Pireaus we drove to Cape Sounion. The drive was beautiful, close to the coast. We first stopped in a nice district named Glyfada where we got the opportunity to enter  a beautiful church dedicated to St Constantine and Saint Helen. We heard the Byzantin songs it was a great experience and everyone was getting ready for Greek Easter which would be in two days and one week after our Easter. After a break for coffee and some free time in Glyfada we continued to Cape Sounion to see the temple of Poseidon before heading back to Athens to check into the Golden City Hotel. 

Day 10 - We woke up and headed to the airport for 27 long hours of travel time!! Below is a photo of me and Lacey saying goodbye to Marianna. After experiencing Athens, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Pireus port, Delphi, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kusadasi, Patmos, Heraklion in Crete, Santorini, Corinth, Cape Sounion, any many more places, I owe a HUGE thank you to Mrs. Smith and Explorica (especially Marianna) for all the planning. 

 I love traveling and can't wait to see what's next!!