Tag Archives: greece

Santorini, Greece (2011 Trip) Pics

August 31, 2011 – Santorini!

Our first port o’ call!  It was exciting to explore a place that neither of us had ever been to before – especially as that place was Greece.  It had always been one of my favored destinations and one that I hadn’t yet been to, so to not only finally make it there but while on this ridiculously luxurious ship – pure bliss.  In the morning, we awoke to the ship still moving yet outside there were scattered little Greek islands.  They weren’t islands that make you think beautiful and unspoiled – more like the volcanic remnants of what used to be there, which is in fact the case.  Santorini as it is today is basically the remnants of what used to be a huge island that blew up in a giant volcano.  Now it’s an archipelago – many think that this was actually the basis of the legend of Atlantis.

Anyway, Santorini is what many people would think of in terms of a Greek Isle….at least in terms of the countryside and bleached-white architecture situated on dramatic cliffs with stunning Med views.  As the Equinox approached the city of Fira on the coast of Santorini, it became clear that what looked like white-topped cliffs was not due to geology but the city itself.  It clings on the side of these massive cliffs and as you’ll see in the later pics of this post, it ends up affording the town an unbelievable view of the water.  Simply breathtaking.  There is actually no harbor big enough for a ship our size, not to mention the fact that Santorini is a very popular cruise ship destination.  Hence, Equinox docked out in the water and we were taken ashore by multiple skiffs.  This was our first excursion experience and it was almost nerve-wracking to get assigned your tour group number and anxiously await your number to be called.  It finally happened though and after a quick jaunt to the shore, we met our guide (a very beautiful Greek woman – you can see her in the photos if you pay attention) and were ushered on to our bus.

Arrival into Santorini

The bus immediately went up the scariest fucking switchback road I think I’ve ever been on.  As I mentioned, there are ridiculous cliffs around the entire island so to actually see the interior of the island, you have to ascend the cliffs.  UGH.  It was nauseating how high we ended up going and seeing how high above even those massive cruise ships we were.  That torture blessedly ended and we ended up driving across the island and through many volcanic-soil-based orchards and vineyards.  The landscape, at least up there, reminded me a lot of Southern California, besides the volcanic part.  Our first stop was to the highest point of the island which afforded us views of the entire Santorini.  It was a beautiful and HOT day, so the views were spectacular.

Bus Ride Up to the Highest Point

The second and longest stop was in one of the more ancient cities of Santorini, Pyrgos.  This is basically the city you imagine when you think of Greek Isles.  The stunning white architecture with pops of blue here and there led to all of us in the group being slack-jawed at the beauty.  Our guide took us on a walking tour through it and while it was extremely beautiful (you can see the pics – I didn’t choose that top photo above for no reason) it was muthafuckin’ hot.  Holy god it was hot.  So glad I had a hat and we brought water as otherwise your ass was going to pass out.  Don’t mind me though – it was totally worth it.  We were taken to where the old fortress had once been and saw its ruins along with all these gorgeous little step-filled corridors.  Sigh….it was so beautiful.  Could totally imagine going back there just to vacation and chill the fuck out.

City of Pyrgos

This excursion wasn’t JUST a visit of Santorini – we also got some authentic Greek food for lunch!  We went to this great little restaurant with a beautiful view and met some new people for the first time the entire trip.  There were some great couples that we ended up seeing frequently over the cruise, but this excursion was very fortuitous as we ended up meeting Amy at lunch.  Larry & I were kind of the chatty ones at the table and over some topics, it was clear we got along fabulously with Amy.  Trying not to be too awkward about it, we ended up asking Amy if she wanted to hang out again during the trip.  We definitely ended up doing so many times – I think even that night we did as we went to our first cruise ship show and met up with her afterwards to play craps.  That’s when we found out she’s in the advertising industry too!  Small world.  Back to the story though, it was a great lunch and I ate most of the food, surprisingly.

Lunchtime

It was then time to head to our last stop, the city of Fira.  This was the city you could see from the cruise ship and is basically the other city you’d think of when you think of the Greek Isles:  the one that has the ridiculously gorgeous view of the Mediterranean.  Le sigh.  It was mesmerizing to just stare out from any of the myriad walls, balconies, or alcoves and just gaze out.  By this time, the sun was down a bit and the afternoon was growing long, so it wasn’t as terribly hot.   Our tour was also over at this point and our guide gave us our “return tickets” which earned us passage on the Suspended Tramway back down to the docks.  Let me just say….I loved Santorini, but this last part nearly ruined the excursion.  Basically, that tramway is one of two ways you can actually get back down to the water where the skiffs await to return you to the ship.  We were told that you could also walk the stairs down the cliffs.  I won’t claim that I am super athletic or the opposite, but I envisioned either falling or suffering from muscle pain due to thousands of stairs down. Plus, we had been warned that the path reeks since donkeys are also going up and down those in case you want a ride.  So after grabbing an ice cream up top to cool off, we went for the Tram.  As did all the other thousands of people there.  Like I said way before, Santorini is a huge cruise ship destination and there are many more tour groups than just from your ship.  We ended up having to wait about an hour to finally get on the Tram, all while roasting in the sun since there wasn’t any cover.  Long afternoon.  Yet finally, we got on the tram, I momentarily freaked out as I HATE those kinds of trams especially when you’re that high up, and got back to the skiff and then the ship.

City of Fira

Once back on the ship, the captain mentioned that the Greek sunset at Santorini was not to be missed.  So after changing and showering, Larry & I rushed up to the deck, used our fantastic drink passes and welcomed the gorgeous Greek sunset with some fine cocktails.  It is nice to be on vacation!

A Greek Sunset

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

Athens, Greece (2011 Trip) Pics

September 1, 2011 – The Ancient City of Athens

The Birthplace of Western Civilization!  The Parthenon!  The Acropolis! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to see Athens.  Along with the Hagia Sophia, The Parthenon was another building I’ve imagined visiting my entire life and this trip was going to help me fulfill that check box. SWEET.

The morning of our arrival in Athens, we woke up already there.  It was interesting to find ourselves already in a brand new place and really not have a clue where we were.  At the time, I didn’t think you could see Ancient Athens from where we were – I discovered I was wrong, after getting back from our excursion.  The port for Athens is known as Piraeus and it would be like driving from Long Beach to Downtown LA in terms of comparable distances.  The first order of business was a bus ride along the Piraeus coastline along with commentary from our tour guide, who knew the ins and outs of Athens, that’s for sure.  I couldn’t tell you much at all about what I saw writing about it nearly a year later.  Luckily I’ve captioned most photos as applicable.

The approach to Athens clearly indicates that it’s basically just another big city, much like you’d see in the U.S. or in most parts of Europe.  It’s not particularly picturesque and kinda pedestrian, if you permit my blase attitude.  Only when you get close to the ancient areas do you start to see the “money shots” if you will.  Once in the downtown area about 45-60 minutes later, you can start looking out the window and having your mind blown.  The ancient quarter is awesome.  The Acropolis is truly a sight to see, and can be seen from miles away, as it is a big hill crowned with ancient historical buildings.  Throughout the rest of the city are scattered other majestic sights, like ancient Olympic stadiums, ruins of temples, amphitheaters, other historical hills….you could probably spend another day enjoying the sights.  At a leisurely pace.  Beyond that, Athens is a typical bigger-than-medium dirty city.  Nothing wrong with that, but it kind of clashes with the other island-ic parts of Greece where it’s quaint and staggeringly gorgeous (see Santorini and Mykonos).

Leaving Piraeus for Athens

After getting driven around the ancient part of the city, our walking tour of the Acropolis began.  As it also did for THOUSANDS of people.  It’s not surprising this is a hugely popular place to go.  Yet when it’s balls hot outside, the last thing you want to do is be crammed with every other foreigner and move at a snails pace.  Alas, that is the price to pay to experience the divine.  🙂   You basically queue up in a long crowded line up the steps of the Acropolis, funneling through a central ancient gate that then opens up on the expanse of the Acropolis proper.  It’s a fantastic view though, as you go ever higher and get an ever better view of Athens.

Climbing the Acropolis

But yeah, once you get through that gate, that’s when it was all worth it….as there’s the mother-bleepin’ PARTHENON.  It really is staggering and impressive and not-at-all disappointing.  It is sad to see the condition it’s in, but if you read up on the history of the building (which is entertainingly told in “The Secret Lives of Buildings”), it’s amazing there’s anything left of it all, what with all the explosions that have taken place in it.  Larry & I walked around the site, taking it all in.  At least up here there is room to breathe even if it’s still crowded.  Yet it was really really hot that day (go figure, it’s hot in early September in the Med!).  We only had so much time and then it was time to rejoin the group bus, as we then were headed to the “tourist” quarter called the Plaka.

The One and Only Parthenon!!!

The Olympics Stadium

At the Plaka district, we were given a few hours on our own to just explore the area and buy souvenirs/crap.  It was also up to us to get some food, so Larry & I wandered into the heart of the Plaka ville and found a Greek restaurant to indulge in some touristy samplings of Greek food.  At that point, we were ravenous and the food and Greek beer were AMAZING.  After getting a bit of energy restored, I had wanted to visit the New Acropolis Museum.  The museum is brilliantly designed as it is built on top of ancient ruins where the old Plaka city used to be…but what’s cool is that the museum is literally propped above the ruins, and the floors are glass so you can look down and see where there are excavations occurring.  The museum is also situated at the foot of the Acropolis and aligned the same way as the Parthenon.  Why is that neat?  Because the museum has all the original remaining sidings of the Parthenon in order to better preserve them.  Basically, you’re seeing fake friezes on the Parthenon structure as there’s little way to protect them out in the open effectively without shutting the Parthenon down.  So you get to see the structure and a fairly idealized form of the remains, but the real stuff is in the museum.  It’s a great way to see all sorts of Greek antiquities, but don’t take a picture inside there!  NOT ALLOWED, as I found out.  Oops.  Lots of great stuff to see there, and it’s air-conditioned.  Hallelujah.  Also very interesting are the many scale models of the Acropolis throughout the last few thousand years, through it’s initial construction, it’s transition into different purposes and religions, and how it came to look the way it does now.

Plaka and the New Acropolis Museum

I was very happy to have finally visited the Acropolis for myself.  It’s a very worthwhile thing to see and experience – I would like to have visited other spots throughout Athens, but honestly, I don’t feel like I missed out on too much.  Maybe one day we’ll be able to swing back through there.  After our free time was up, we jumped back on the bus and drove the much quicker highway route back to our gigantic ship.  It fairly quickly took off at that point, and from our room we could watch the whole process unfold as the ship un-docked.  There were some hot dock workers to look at too…that wasn’t bad at all.

Back at Equinox

One thing about our cruise experience itself that was a bit frustrating at first was the dining experience.  No one ever showed up to our 8-person table!  Ever.  So we were the lepers, apparently.  It wasn’t this night, but I think maybe the next when they finally sat us at a 4-person square table that 2 people could sit at and not look stupid.  We didn’t eat every night at the main dining room, but let me tell you, the food there was fantastic.  The waiters, servers, and sommelier were amazing.  A very great experience, that is for sure, once we finally got our own table.  I think it’s just that people now have different options, including other restaurants throughout the ship, along with a Flex Eating thing that sells out immediately long before the ship sails, in which it’s like a restaurant and you can eat just with your party.  I think a lot of people don’t like the idea of having to eat with the same people every night, especially if you end up hating them.  Ah well….their loss, as Larry & I are AWESOME dinner conversationalists.

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index

11-11-11, Sciatica & Mykonos (2011 Trip) Pics!

It’s a weird-looking date hence there’s all sorts of things that wanted to have this as a momentous date, incidentally for some and totally intentional for others.

Incidentally? It’s Veteran’s Day (yay soldiers and airmen and seamen and marines!) and it’s all-the-way-up-to-volume-11 Spinal Tap day too.  Intentionally?  Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The HP7 Pt2 Blu-Ray, and Immortals came out.  I’m excited for the first two…the last one, maybe if we could watch it on mute.  I’ve read that there are plenty of Greek soldiers who don’t know how to wear a shirt in it.  That’s always a good thing.

I’ve been playing GTA4 and Tropico 4 a lot lately, then dabbled just a bit in Skyrim this morning but I can not let myself get absorbed.  Must try to get through these in due time.

Oh yeah, if you know or care about my sciatic nerve problems, my MRI revealed that indeed I do have a tear in one of my spinal vertebrae discs, about 5mm in length.  The resulting glob of goo from the disc is now pushing up against the bunch of nerves coming out from the spine and, you guessed it, one batch is that set of nerves that runs down my right leg.  OH THE FUN.  My options per the doctor are surgery, steroid injections, or let it heal some more/physical therapy.  He advised against the first two as the rationale was that in two years, all options will result in the same relief.  And surgery and steroid injections all have additional risks and such associated….so I did opt to continue with trying to get better with time.  I can admit that the pain has reduced, although my days go from pretty good to pretty bad.  And lately, trying to get out of bed has been horrendous – I’m not sure what is causing it but it’s insane.  I have a feeling that because I doubled up on the Gabapentin at night, I move around more than I should and when the Gaba wears off, the pain comes roaring in.

I bought a seat cushion that has a cutout right where your ass-crack is;  apparently that is to allow your spine to not get that upwards pressure from the seat as just your asscheeks are sitting while the spine can sorta sit through it?  I don’t know, I am using it now and I am feeling way better when sitting than I did previously, so perhaps I’ll need to swing by the medical supply store and pick two more up, one for the car and one for the office….  Anyway, once my pain is such that is nearly minimal, I can start some physical therapy to strengthen my core.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get a six-pack….like this guy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, it’s Veteran’s Day, and this guy has dogtags on, so I bet he must be a Veteran too…. heh heh…

Alright, enough hotness from random strangers for you.  Here are some well-deserved pics from Larry & my trip around the Eastern Mediterranean – this time from the lovely and fantastic spot of Mykonos, Greece.  It really is amazing how wonderful the weather was the entire trip.  Sure, it was effing hot, but there wasn’t any rain nor any gloomy days, except for the day at sea which was coming up the day after Mykonos.  But who cares, right?  That’s what the inside of a massive cruise ship is there for.

June 22, 2012 Update:  I think that the captions of the photos for this particular excursion are sufficient to describe the adventure on this day.  It was a great day and full of beautiful Greek island scenery.  One of the fun highlights was while eating lunch on the Mykonos coast before heading back to the ship.  Lots of people-watching (aka checking out hot guys).  The ship left in the afternoon so when we got back, there was time to go hang out by the pool which was a fantastic way to drink and soak up the rays.  Some times, you just need to put your feet up, listen to the music, and enjoy the sun.

Islands of Delos and Mykonos (Greece), Sept 6, 2011

Off to the Isle of Delos

Climbing Mt Cynthus on Delos

 

Back to Mykonos

 

2011 Mediterranean Trip Pics Index