Sunday, November 20, 2011

Athens, Santorini, Prague and heading home.

So as I am sitting in the lounge in Prague waiting for my flight to Istanbul, a super long layover, and then my flight to Doha I figured that I would catch up on my totally delinquent updates on my travels.

So the last update was the afternoon after the race, which I would like to reiterate was COLD AND WINDY!!!!!

After getting nice and squeaky clean, Benjamin and I went out to find some snacks for the hungry masses. One of the things that I loved about he stay in Athens was that we were in a real neighborhood as with 6+ people is was smarter to get an apartment. We came back with some souvlaki and baklava to share and mainly chilled. Marieke also joined us at that point as she was going to travel with Julia and I for the rest of the trip. She headed out to see some sights and then met us at the Royal Olympian Hotel for dinner.

The Royal Olympian has an AMAZING view of the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis, and it is stunning at night. The view alone was worth the cost of dinner, it was a total bonus that the food was amazing. The only downside was the poor service, it was not horrible, just not great. From there the group walked back to the Apartment and stopped for some pictures in front of the Stadium where we finished the race and then home to chill.

As people that know me can attest to, I do not sleep in late, so I was up the next morning at about 8AM (really late for me) and figured that I might as well shower while everyone else was asleep and clean up some. As the rest of the group was still not stirring at ~9:45 I decided to go for a walk about the neighborhood to stretch the legs and shop a bit. I am glad that I did as I found a cute pair of black flats and a top that I had coveted when I had walked about on a previous day, but he store was shut. After about an hour I made it back to the apartment where Julia and Marieke were up and we got ready and head out for a quick lunch and then we split with Julia and I going shopping and Marieke off to see the Acropolis. Our plan had been to meet after at the Agora and tour that as well but it was shut when we arrived. Note to self, make sure to check more then guide books on opening times for museums and historical sites. With that closed we walked to the National Archeological Museum and looked around for a bit then back to the apartment to meet the others for dinner.

So dinner, well that was quite the event. Earlier in the week we had gone to O Kosta as recommended by Carole the owner of the apartment as the place to go and boy was she correct. The food was/is amazing. The owner comes out and verbally tells you what is on the menu for the night and prepares everything when ordered in his little kitchen (seriously small, this place is in an old house and it is a normal house kitchen). This is truly a one man show. He also makes his own Raki, which is a wine spirit and dangerous beverage. The great thing about this group is that everyone is willing to eat family style so we ordered starters, Raki and Red wine and just had a great start to the evening. Once again the food was superb and the mains were great as well. Everyone in the group is really smart and the discussions were lively. I think that things started to get interesting as we continued to drink even after the food was done. To say the least we shut the house down. Then we tried to find a night spot closer in town but with no luck. We headed Bach to the area we stayed and I finally got to the point that I was like I have to go as it was say 2:30AM and we (Julia, Marieke and I) had a 7AM flight (yes that is right, 7AM!!!!!!). To say that the least the 5AM alarm was PAINFUL!!!!

(Break in time and typing, I am now in the THY Lounge at the Istanbul Airport for ~6 hours waiting for the next flight)

Through some magic superpowers of which I was unaware that I possessed, I managed to get us up, out the door, into a cab and to the airport on time. The flight to Santorini is about 45 minutes which were a sleepy blur. We arrived at ~7:45AM and the hotel (Aroma Rooms and Suites) picked up up and gave us rooms where we could sleep until our room was ready. Basically from 8:39-10:45 I dozed and then got up to get something to drink and walk about. As I went out of the room Chris the gentleman from the hotel let me know the room was ready so we moved our stuff. Marieke still slept, but Julia and I went to grab lunch, then Julia took off to nap some more and I wandered a bit. It was during these wanderings that I found a GREAT jewelry shop called Athena (owned by Athena too!). While I should have bought stuff for others for Christmas I bought three necklaces all for me! :) I walk about a bit more then back to the room to sit and talk with the others.

We spent three days in Santorini, which is a beautiful island that is more of a summer place, but still beautiful and interesting in the cold and quite. The main island, Thira and the smaller islands have been formed through a series of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Even without the mass of tourists and the cold conditions, were still able to take a boat cruise and walk/hike on the volcanic island. By the way to get to the boat we had to desend 600 (yes 600) stairs and then climb them at the end to get to and from the port. On the cruise we also saw the natural warm springs on a smaller second island. We also rented a car one day to drive around the island and visit some vineyards, beaches (red, black and white) and finally finish the day in Oia (pronounced eeee-ah) for sunset viewing. That was a great day and we really drove the entire island it is tiny. The other fun thing is tat every time that we would go for meals people would provide dessert and different liquors at the end of the meal. I am not sure if this is standard or just because it was three American girls visiting in offseason. Either way that was fun.
Life on Santorini must be very interesting. For about seven months of the year the place is swimming with tourists that either stay on the island or visit via cruise ships, or it is really quite and more hen half the island closes. So basically the people of Santorini need to make probably 90% of their yearly income in a seven month time frame. That is not a life style that I would deal with very well, but to each his own.
On Friday it was off to Prague for about 36 hours (Julia and Marieke had one more day). We were on flights from or in a terminal from about noon to 8PM. Really it was a bit relaxing. We arrived at our hotel, Pod Vezi, and freshened up and changed clothes to head out, grab dinner and some beverages. (On an aside it was amazing to be in a hotel/country where you could flush toilette paper in the toilette and not have to toss it in the trash can). We eat at a yummy place recommended by the hotel and then at a cocktail bar that is similar to Anvil in Houston, but with a bit more of a 20's vibe. The next (and my last day) we did the touristy things, Prague Castle, the square, Astronomical Clock and shopping. I found some great pottery and just had a great day in general. Later that night we went to a jazz performance.
That ladies and gentlemen brings us to where we are now, sitting in the Istanbul Airport enjoying a player piano and wine as I wait for my 9PM flight to Doha. I plan to do a trip recap, probably this weekend as I have some great recommendations and I am sure other thoughts. But for now, I go with this comment:

In the last 16-17 days I have been in:

2 continents
5 countries
7 airports (of which only one did not get you to the plane on a bus)
5 hotels/accommodations

I had an amazing trip, but I am ready to be home. I just wish that home was Houston and not Doha. Oh well.

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