August 7, 2017

My Mediterranean Adventure ~ Summer 2017

Cast

Osh (Tour Guide)

The teen girls
Emily (Freshman Athlete, Carrie’s)
Mia (Sophomore Cheerleader)
Cheyanne (graduated blonde)
Reagan (18-year-old)

The boys 
Ryan (Shy Freshman)
Michael (pre-med Soph, Juliana’s)
Matthew (music Soph)
Amir (Stoic Sr, Linda’s)

The “girls” (2)
Crystal (YLHS)
Amber (YLHS)
Coco (YLHS)

The “Adults”
Carrie (The sisters, #1)
Jennifer (The sisters, #2)
Vanessa (The ladies)
Susie (The ladies)
Sue (The nurse)
Julian (The Lebanese Matriarch)
Linda (The language Teacher)
Vasiliki (The organizer – head teacher)
Dana (The Teacher)
Linda (Dana’s 74 yo mom)


Timeline 
Mon. 19 June – Travel Day
Tue. 20 June – Arrival in Rome
Wed. 21 June – Rome in a Day
Thur. 22 June – The Road to Sorrento (Pompeii)
Fri. 23 June – Visiting the Rock (Capri)
Sat. 24 June – Off to Greece then
Sun. 25 June – Corfu for me!
Mon. 26 June – Corfu Part Duex
Tue. 27 June – Monasteries in the Sky
Wed. 28 June – Athens Bound

Thur. 29 June – The Acropolis

Fri. 30 June – Cruising the Aegean (Mykonos)
Sat. 01 July – Samos Samos
Sun. 02 July – A Warriors Pace to Get Home (Santorini)
Mon. 03 July – Homeward Bound 








Monday, 19 June – Travel Day 

Monday’s easy travel day from LAX became a mad sprint through Frankfurt Airport to catch our connection to Rome. Twenty of us, all new to each other. Sprinting. This is how the “vacation” started.


Tuesday, 20 June – Arrival in Rome 


Once is Rome, it became apparent that not all of us made it – in the form of luggage that is. Both my and Regan’s (a student) luggage remained in Germany. A business world-traveler on the reg, this concept was foreign to me. Yet, this set the tone for how this party was going to go.

Our travel guide, Oshry (Osh), informed us that no one could rest that day– which also set the tone for the rest of the party. Adiamo! We are seeing Rome. Mind you, we just spent over 24 hours traveling in economy, which is brutal. But this was to be the pace. No rest for the weary or wicked.


The group proceeded to follow the guide through the roads of Rome to see iconic fountains, that were always “only 5 minutes away” – which we would soon to realize was always a lie. But it was cool. We drank out of the Fountain of the Ugly Boat at the base of the Spanish steps, then made our way to the Trevi (not sure if that means anything) to make wishes with a million (literally) other people. Rome was packed.

I don’t even remember where we ate that night, only that I was “homeless” without my suitcase, and we were staying in a quaint little hotel close to downtown, with no AC. Where did we eat….?

(We had pizza! Roman Pizza across from the Coliseum and walking distance to the hotel.)


Wednesday, 21 June – Rome in a Day



A little jet lagged, Emily and I thought it a good idea to get up at 4am and wander the streets of Rome.

Strangely enough, everything was closed, even the parks. But we drank freely from the cold street fountains and quickly returned to our hotel for breakfast, after a battle for bathroom time between two sisters and a teenage girl.

Rome was hot and I had not properly prepared myself with adequate clothing in my carry-on – I had brought “ah” dress, as in one. That was all too much material for this weather. Rome was hot.


I paired this dress with white chucks and a newly acquired white “Italia” hat, to which my niece said I was “so brave” to wear out in public – to set the tone. I headed out to conquer Rome in one day wearing full tourist combat gear. Let’s do this.


It was a lot to take in in one day. We started with the Vatican City early to beat the lines. Like VIP, we (21 of us) fast passed it all to the front of the line. Tons of history and art flew by like a computer program download. Through the Vatican Museum, the gardens, and ending in the Sistine Chapel. THE M’F’ing SISTINE CHAPEL. Carrie and I sat together on one side taking it all in. So beautiful, so surreal, filled with a ton of obnoxious tourists – and I was one of them. The Pope, yes – THE Pope, was on premises, so we had to re-evaluate our day trip.

So, from the Sistine Chapel we moved across town via metro to the Forum, then fast passed it onto the Coliseum, arriving VIP on stage. Exhausted and filthy from heat and travel, we returned to the Vatican to St. Peter’s Bastilles to take in its holiness. Now saturated with Rome, we ended the day with pasta and wine then headed to the hotel once the kid’s heads hit the table. My luggage had arrived – sans my very expensive cosmetic bag – fucking Rome!



Thur. 22 June – The Road to Sorrento (Pompeii)


We moved from Rome on to the Sorrentine Peninsula. In the hot, hot sun, we strolled through the streets of Pompeii, marveling at the advancement of the ancient ruins. The Red-Light District of Pompeii was the highlight of the city for the pervs on the tour (all of us).

Then on to Sorrento where I enjoyed my first gelato – lemon of course (known in the region). This day included a lot of walking, but was so much easier than Rome in my appropriate clothing.



The hotel at Sorrento was much nicer, but we had the same issue with the AC – which led me to believe it was user error. However, I found the parlor and enjoyed a big pour of scotch while allowing my sister some private time. I could return to this one.


Fri. 23 June – Visiting the Rock (Capri)


I started this day early again, with a yoga practice out on the balcony that over looked the Sea. We then made our way out to the Island of Capri by ferry. Today was an easy day. Capri is a large mall on a rock with gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea. Much to our delight, we chartered two small boats to take us out to the Blue Grotto to swim and dive. We were waiting for this!!

From the sea, we took a wild bus ride back up to Sorrento, then a calmer bus ride to a farm, where we were privileged to a real Italian cooking class in the art of gnocchi. The gnocchi we made was fed to us with delicious homemade sauce and wine. Once back at the island hotel, the ladies had a nice night cap in the parlor before retiring. We were all becoming better friends.



Arriva dirchi Italy, goodbye goodbye ciao ciao. 


Off to Greece!


Sat. 24 June – Off to Greece Then


On the very long drive across the boot to the coast to catch our ferry to Greece, we stopped at the town of Alberobello, full of trulli – cone shaped homes made of stone. It was a cool place, but hot. The ladies, myself, and the girls decided to find AC before walking the streets of the town. A good choice.

We passed through the ferry security, where an open bottle of wine spilled in my bag, then made our way into our lodging for the night. A ferry full of students and truck drivers. The lodging was in quads so the sisters shared a room with the ladies, and Emily had some freedom for the night. On a ferry, full of truck drivers. The adults shared a bottle of fine Alberobello wine, then finished the exploded bottle on the top deck as the sun set, looking down at all the kids laughing around a table below. We all had become fine friends.

Sleeping deeply that night, we woke up at 4am for our 5am landing call. Of course, with my new travel luck, I had lost the last of my precious make-up in the bunk.


Sun. 25 June – Corfu for me!



We jumped from ferry to bus to ferry to bus to make it to the Greek island of Corfu. Once in Corfu, we dumped our luggage off at reception and bee-lined it to the pool for our first taste of vacation, maybe our second. Soon after we were dragged from our pool-cation, to the town for lunch and some wandering – through a ton of trash. There was a strike. After a delicious gyro and giant beer with the “adults,” we went onward to the Place of Achilles.

The palace was lovely, but I was over it. I’d prefer to be by the pool. Once back at the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised by a large room with 2 showers, 2 room areas, and working AC overlooking the pool! Vacation! We got pretty for dinner at the hotel before walking down to the beach to see a lovely old church. I lit a candle for a friend and played with some stray kittens, then met up with Vanessa for a night cap.


Mon. 26 June – Corfu Part Duex


Today we were promised a beach day! Osh lied. We first had to tour the city (wear I did score an awesome leather jacket), have a 15-course lunch, then see another church before finally getting our cabana by the sea. I enjoyed some free-diving and floating in the sea. We crossed the street to the other beach, where I swam out to see the kids. Today was great! Until we were dragged back to the hotel.

My sister and I made the executive decision to skip the group dinner so we could relax. We showered, watched TV, re-packed, opened the good wine and enjoyed a meal of our own choosing – the simple things!


Tue. 27 June – Monasteries in the Sky



The next day was another early travel day, away from my Corfu, on to monasteries in the sky. We explored two amazing monasteries perched high atop cliffs. The hotel was exquisite, set right below the monasteries. We walked around DT Meteora, with the same view, that were full of locals. Greece is the only place I did not feel comfortable grabbing a brew by myself, the men are aggressive, but not here. I took in a beer under the view and the teen girls joined me – we needed to chill. Unfortunately, we only stayed here the one night.

Off to the city!


Wed. 28 June – Athens Bound


The “plains” of Greece were beautiful – full of sunflowers that follow the sun. Along the narrow roads in Greece are tiny tall alters dedicated to accidents that had occurred there – either in memorandum or gratitude.


Our destination today was Delphi, a ruin of an ancient sanctuary known for its oracles. There was a heat wave moving through Greece, going in our direction, so it was another hell hot day. But Delphi was pretty amazing and worth the near heat stroke. Dating hundreds of years BC, the engineering was masterful. The purpose of the city was to be a spiritual center located in the center of the world, where people traveled to speak with the Oracle. The traveler purified themselves at a fountain at the sanctuary entrance then made their way through the city, deposited their offering at the appropriate treasury, then made their way to the wise one – that was literally high and needed an interpreter. A typical Saturday night.


The sanctuary had an amphitheater, and further up the hill there was an athletic stadium. I made it all the way up to the stadium in the grueling heat, turning purple as I do. I therefore made another executive decision to fast pass it through the museum and sit near the exit in the AC until my face became an acceptable shade of hot pink.

On to Athens then.

Athens is a shithole. Sorry, that’s my first impression. Or at least out hotel was a shit hole. The Ladies’ room smelled of urine and vomit, and there were bugs climbing out of the girls’ wall. I was grateful for my sleep sack. It did not leave a good impression, but it had a great view of the Acropolis from the rooftop.

We settled in for dinner, at the buffet. There were no frills here. The food was great in Greece. Big chunks of feta cheese adorned Greek salads made with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and tasty olive oil – even at the shitty hotel. And bring on the rooftop drinks – after all I’m paying for the view. But I managed to get in some much-needed yoga mat time, even after an overpriced purple drink.


Thur. 29 June – The Acropolis


We headed to the Acropolis the next morning – early again. There was a new guide assisting Osh for the Greece part, Adaline*. She was softs spoken and knowledgeable.

Gently in the early morning heat, she led us through the Acropolis, with its many temples and forums – and tourists. On the way to the museum, we stopped by the original Olympic Stadium. The one! Once inside the museum, we toured floors of ancient artifact in the delicious AC.


Then we were set free in the area of Blatec. So, a gaggle of us adults made our way to find authentic food and adult bevs. We found an amazing space with a hot Greek waiter who also treated us ladies to shots – et xaristo!


That night we had our Greek dancing lessons, which was a bit awkward without booze. Opa! After, we made our way to dinner back in Blatec. The ambiance was good, but the food at lunch was better. They had dancers, and pulled one of the ladies up to guzzle wine (grabbed from a different group) with them. It was a fun time.

Then we went back to the hotel of death – renamed. A few of us decided to make our way to the rooftop for an expensive scenic drink. On our way up, Carrie, Susie, Emily, Mia and myself got trapped in the elevator mid-floor. Mid sinister sister evil laugh, the elevator stopped, dropped, and locked in place. Carrie flipped out, Susie and I handled that shit. Well, Susie punched the call box and I informed them of our dilemma, that is after Susie told Carrie to stop breathing so hard and using all the oxygen. 

The two young girls were fine – and we took selfies for the social media, to send help of course. After 8 minutes of sheer terror, the hotel manager opened the doors wide enough for us to climb up out of the box (ever seen Resident Evil?) and into safety – then went off on us for being upset with situation. “Fucking American’s” I think were his exact words.

Luckily, that was our last night there. Shithole.



Next up – cruising the Aegean Sea.


Fri. 30 June – Cruising the Aegean (Mykonos)



Finally, some down time after a ridiculous wake up time to get on the ship. My first cruise! Three mimosas, a nap, and 2 rums later, I was ready for the excursion to Mykonos.

Sick of shopping, Vanessa and I grabbed a gyro (with fries inside – so good) and just wandered the streets like stray cats. Until finally resting on a sea side wall with our feet in the water. Barely talking, we sat there, watching the fish and our feet in the water.

As the sun set, we ran through Little Venice looking for the perfect spot to catch the sunset. Handsome Greek men grabbed our hands and tried to pull us into bars, but we wanted none of it. We decided on a rock on the oceans’ edge just beneath a little church. Beautiful.



Once back on the ship, my sister and I enjoyed a nice glass of wine as we watched out kids sneak into the disco – minus our angels Emily and Amir. Kids.


Sat. 01 July – Samos Samos



Saturday was another early morning call to the Island of Samos. Some adults were smart and skipped it. But it was one of my favorite Greek islands. Perfectly small and quaint, with a great diving sots, we were stranded there for four full hours while the ship made its way onto Turkey. By stranded I mean, we got a cabana near a cute family owned restaurant and only left the wonderful blue water long enough to refill out beer or enjoy the best seafood salad I have ever had – after an 8 am wine tasting that is – the struggle is real.

Once back on board, we all opted to get fancy and enjoy the benefits of the cruise ships. A delicious, meal, a show, and the disco with the kids – opa!



Sun. 02 July – A Warriors Pace to Get Home (Santorini) 


Sunday was a shitty travel day. Again, up early at 4 am to get to Crete where it was 110 degrees in the shade, at 8am. We were all over it. FTS. The Labyrinth – yay…. Another ruin in the heat. I opted to skip the tour of closed shops and enjoyed a Cretan Tea in some AC. When in Rome, right? Wait… Crete.

Back on board, we packed up and enjoyed the last of our drink package before setting off to the Island of Santorini. A fantastic island that we got to visit for all of an hour. However, my sister, Emily, and I found a lovely lone tree in front of a small chapel overlooking the Mediterranean for Papa’s latest view. Then I broke off from the group to enjoy some quiet and local fare.

We met at the meeting place, duh, and made our way to the Santorini Airport, when we realized one of the boys had left their phone in town. He paid a cabby a good deal of euros to go back and get it for him – lucky him. We were all a hot mess as we spent more time in the Santorini airport than we did in the town. 


Mon. 03 July – Homeward Bound

The plan was to catch a hopper to Athens, stay in a hotel across from the airport, then catch out early flight home. By the time we got to the hotel, we had all of 3 hours to clean up and rest. And it was probably the nicest hotel we had stayed in the entire trip. And I was separated from the trifecta! But what evs, it was only three hours. Plus, all the kids bunked together in a single room, obviously dreading the separation that was to come the next morning… Obvi.

Frantically making it to the airport – we realized Emily had left her retainer in the room. All this way, so close! But we made it through customs with Osh, then through Germany on our own – being ditched by some of the group that had had enough. Then finally home sweet home, or rather LA and close to home. And we got stories! …Fucking Athens.