Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greece Trip (Day 9 & 10) - Athens, then home

Church in the Square

Our last day in Athens was spent wandering around more of the shops. It was a sunday there and many of the stores were closed for the observed family day and church services. So we sat outside this church, listening to the singing of the service, and had some coffee and spinach pies.

Spinach Pies (Phyllo, Spinach, Feta, Dill, Olive Oil)

We then found a bakery we came back to later that had really amazing cookies and cakes. There was also this open market store that sold tons of nuts and fruit and treats. When we got in it was packed with locals all yelling and pushing through the small isles.

We wondered around for a bit more. Looked through an antique map and picture store. Went to the Cine Paris, which is a roof top movie theater, and bought an old 007 movie poster labled in Greek.

Stopping into a market we got our Greek nessecities; Olive Oil, Ouzo, Honey, and Mastic. By luck we found an old street called Hill that I remembered was supposed to have a nice home style Greek restaurant. We wound up and around the kind of sketchy looking corner to find a huge building packed with locals and tourists. They served family style, bringing out a huge platter for you to pick 6 different items from. We choose the Greens, Meatballs, Fried Zucchini, Pork in Red Sauce, Dolomades stuffed with beef, and one other dish I can't remember.


It was a great way to spend our last night. We got up early the next morning, flew to Paris, were carted around CDG airport forever (it really is as bad as everyone says), were delayed a couple hours on the plane because of a medical emergency, finally making it back into the US.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed! ευχαριστώ!

Greece Trip (Day 8) - Parthenon

The ferry over from Santorini to Athens was much better than the one over from Crete. There was much less rocking and no one got sick thankfully. On our way down to the port we over heard someone talking about the strike that went on the day before. We didn't even know there was a strike!
Later we heard that the people waiting for the ferry the day before waited a full 3 hours before even finding out that there was a strike and the ship was not going to be coming. What they say is true, if you are on an island you won't even know there was a strike or a riot going on.

Which was a good thing in the end, because our hotel, the Grand Bretagne, is directly across from the Parlament.

But it also had an amazing view of the Parthenon and the Acropolis from the roof top dining room.
We toured the Acropolis, Historical Museum, Parthenon, Palace of Zeus, Ancient Agora, and the National Gardens.

We found a great Gyro place and had a mixed pork and beef dish, with really great dolomades (stuffed grape leaves)

Now I just need to figure out how to convince my mom to start growing grape leaves for me to make these....

Greece Trip (Day 7) - Red Beach and Fira

On our final full day in Santorini we took the public bus from Oia to Fira to the Red Beach near Akrotiri. It was a really pretty beach, but the walk down was a bit treacherous. No gaurdrails, no stairs, barely a trail. Just over the hill, along the cliff and down to the beach.

On Santorini, because of the volcano, there are many different types of sand and rock. There is a red, black, and white beach.

We only made it to the one beach, but it was still fun. Not too many people that early in the morning and lots of pretty smooth stones along the beach.

We took the bus back to Fira where we walked around and shopped a bit more. The cruise ship people were out in full force, so we took refuge from the throngs of people in a restaurant.

We ordered a really fantastic meal and enjoyed the view down to the port.

Stuffed Eggplant with Feta

Baked Lamb with Potatoes and Gyuere cheese


Greece Trip (Day 6) - Volcano

Map of Santorini

Our first full day in Santorini we decided to take the trip we were most excited for. The volcano! We've been to the volcano on the big island of Hawaii and were interested to see how different this one was.

We took a bus down to the small sea harbor just below Oia and waited for the motorized pirate (yes i said pirate) ship.
We sailed past the harbor, past Fira (Phira) and onto the volcano.

Hiking up the volcano was really fun. It was surprising to see how many silly girls wore sandles and thongs instead of tennis shoes. Silly people :)

The view from the top of the volcano ridge was amazing. You could see the whole island of Santorini and the little islands around it. The island was once a whole stretch, but an earthquake/erruption split the island over time and now it is in little sections.
We really enjoyed the volcano and then afterwards they tooks us to a sulfur spring which flowed into the ocean and you could swim in. Then we went to the island of Therasia. We got a seafood mix which was nice and freash.

They grilled everything right there on the porch next to the ocean.
Very yummy!
We hiked up the steap 160 steps to the top of the island. Where there was a beautiful view of the bay. The stairs were pretty difficult to navigate up and the donkeys that were walking up and down did not make it any easier :)
Taking the pirate ship back to Oia we walked up the 260 stairs there and were finally back. Time for a nap.
And then some more picture taking.
And the prettiest sunset we had all week.

Greece Trip (Day 5) - Oia

The next day we woke up in Crete and got on a catamaran to go to Santorini. I won't say much about that trip. It was really really windy on the ocean and the boat rocked so so much. A lot of people got sick and we were very close. We met a couple who were also traveling to the town of Oia (pronounced EE-ah) so we asked to split a cab with them. Which was a very good thing because the port was crazy and we would have been there for a long time trying to figure out a ride.

We drove from the port, through the town of Fira and then on to Oia. Took about 30 min max. It was very cliffy, and mostly rock with a few feilds down below. We drove into Oia on the back side (since there is only one or two roads for cars) I was honestly getting a little nervous because we couldn't really see any of the white houses that you see on post cards or the volcano caldera. I was begining to think I'd made a big mistake.

Then we got to our hotel, tramped up the stairs and were led to the most beautiful view I could have asked for. This was our room right under the windmill at Golden Sunset Hotels. The sunests were so amazing. The bright yellows fading into pinks and ending in bright purples. We didn't even think about getting a different seat with the surrounding crowd that comes in to see the sunsets.

Everynight we went and bought a bottle of wine (Nico was our fav) and watched the sun go down from our hotel balcony. Then we'd get dressed go out to dinner and finish up at the bar down the street with Yani our bartender. He had some great stories and gave us tons of lemon juice marinaded carrot slices with our ouzo and Alfa beer.

The only down side to taking the ferry was that it was so windy that the waves washed up on our boat and soaked our suitcases. Mike's got the worst of it. He barely had anything dry for that first day. We laid everything out in our cavernous room and crossed our fingers that it would dry.

We had some decent meals and some really good dishes in Oia. This is a very big tourist destination so a lot of things were over priced, but we found some nice non-sunset view places later on that were pretty darn delicious.

Stuffed tomatoes
Mousaka, amazingly light and fluffy! We went back here on our last day and both ordered it as our meal because it was so good!

Yellow Fava bean spread

One thing I've been forgetting to mention about Greece is that there are dogs and cats every where! Not stray, but with collars and very friendly. The funniest part is that the owners just let them run around, so there is constently a poochie snoozing on a shops doorstep or flat out dead asleep in the middle of the pedestrian street. They must be so used to people because not much would wake them up. The only time I saw a dog wake up was when a scooter would shoot by or this one time that a guy actually tripped over a dog that was in the middle of the street sleeping.

Greece Trip (Day 4) - Rethymnon

Castelvecchio Cafe in Rethymnon

After a late night out at the Taverns, we selpt in and finally woke up to catch the public bus to Rethymnon to the West of us. The bus systems there are pretty easy to use, as long as you are on time. They have a lot of stops, but whenever the bus shows up and the last person gets on or off they go, no waiting for anyone else. So, needless to say we were never late for any of our bus trips.
We arrived in Rethymnon (pronounced Reth-em-no) and walked along the ocean sidewalk to the Fortress. It was a very pretty veiw and the sea was such a blue color. All over Greece we saw graffiti, from the little towns to the big city, much of it related to the symbol Theta 7. We later asked our waiter in Santorini if it was because of people saying something about politics or the banks. Nope, just the soccer fans. Soccer is really big in Greece too. A lot of the government owned banks did have graffiti we saw later on in our trip.

The Fortress is built right up against the cliff walls. There's not too much for building structures left, but the view to the city is very nice.

Outside of the Fortress

View of the city from the Fortress

After seeing the Fortress we walked down into city and to look around and do some shopping. On our way down the hill we saw a menu on a side street restaurant that looked really nice so we decided to stay in town longer and take the late bus back since it didn't open until 6pm.

In the town there is a really well known ice cream shop right by some fountains that people come to see. They had flavors like pistachio, ameretto, hazelnut, and nutella. We walked around for a bit, got some local Diktamos (Dittany) tea which is a mountain flower that grows on Crete. It looks like a fuzzy little purplish bud and I'm interested to see what it tastes like. We wandered around the town a bit more. I got some sandles and a purse. They have the most amazing leather products on Crete. So nice, but you have to watch out for fakes and buy what you like.
We settled down for a Mythos beer at a family run Tavern down the hill from the restaurant we had picked out. We watched tourist go by and the children of the family who owns the two taverns on that street tease each other till the mothers came out and scolded them.

Finally at the stroke of 6pm we headed up the street with high hopes and a beatiful view. We sat down, being the only people there at the time and found some of the most amazing food we had on our trip. It was a family owned place, the father came out in his apron after grilling our food, the son was our waiter, and the mom was the baker. The son's little girl was reading a Dora book to herself and her mom was setting up the tables. It was so quaint and had a wonderful 'home' feeling to it.

We ordered the Aubergine dip which was so simple and so so so delish. It's a smooth dip with roasted aubergine (type of eggplant), mayo, gruyere cheese, olive oil, walnuts, and parsley. We will be trying to make this soon :) We ordered a really good bottle of wine there also, a Chateu Nico Lazaridi. The wine comes from the Drama region and is a really nice light blend.

Other pictures of the meal are below. My personal fav story is how the son brought out the cake with the check (we were so full we didn't even think about desert at this time) and said "here here, you must have some of this cake, my mamma made it this morning." And what could we say? We had to eat it, even though we were stuffed. It was that good and we felt like that much more a part of the family. The Greeks really do have hospitality down.

(From Top) Sun Dried Tomato, Olive Oil, Feta with Fennel, Aubergine Dip

Grilled Swordfish with eggplant and baked potatoes

Foil wrapped Pork with Feta, Tomatoes, and Potato Fries

Mama's Walnut Honey Cake