Friday, August 5, 2016

Greece, May 2015

PROLOGUE

Finally, after years of yearning, Lisa finally got to have her dream trip to Greece.  We looked at many options—cruises, tours, island hoppers—finally deciding on a 10-day Globus island hopper tour to Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini, 3 days at each.  There was a little wrinkle, though.  The Greek economy was struggling mightily, and it was possible that while we were over there we may have faced trouble using the ATMs.  So we all purchased some Euros before we started the trip, just in case.  It turned out that we had no trouble at all, but everything did collapse about a month after we returned home.  Banks and ATMs were not accessible.  God was really watching out for us to let this happen after our trip and not during it.

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2015 TO SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015 – FLIGHT TO ATHENS, GREECE

After a rather stressful beginning, we were on the way to Athens!  Josh drove us to DFW Airport for our departure.  When we got to the Delta terminal, there was so much construction where he dropped us off (not his fault; it was the correct gate), we couldn’t get to the check-in place.  We ended up taking an airport bus to the other end of the terminal.  Then our flight to JFK left half an hour late, making us very tense because we had a very narrow window to meet Lisa and Bob to catch our connecting flight to Athens.  But we made up some time in the air and got to our departing gate at JFK in plenty of time to make our 4:00 pm flight.  Time for a dinner of airplane food and then some sleep, hopefully.
Couples selfie!

SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015 – ATHENS, GREECE

Well, so much for the hope for sleep.  This first day was so hard because we were exhausted and out of it, having slept a total of about 1½ hours of the 9-hour flight.  But we had to force ourselves to stay awake because it was daytime in Athens.  We arrived at our hotel and met a very sweet 24-year-old young woman, Alyssa, who was traveling alone.  We 5 hit it off right away and hung out quite a bit on the trip.  She was from Cleveland and had zero qualms about solo adventuring.  We dropped our luggage in our rooms, then we all went for an exploratory walk.  Tired and hot, we succumbed to the need for sleep and took a little nap before dinner at a lovely outdoor tavern, Elia Taverna.  Tony and I each had a wonderful Greek salad.  Authentic Greek salads are different from those we have in the USA.  The most significant difference is the total absence of lettuce!  And the abundance (Lisa would say “overabundance”) of creamy feta! 

We loved these salads so much, I created a copycat recipe from memory once we returned home.  Here it is.  Enjoy!!

MONA’S GREEK SALAD

1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium to large ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices
½ large purple onion, sliced thinly
1 jar (about 12 ounces) pitted Kalamata olives, drained
About 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Italian seasoning (I use Tone’s from Sam’s Club)
Greek seasoning (I use Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning)

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and red wine vinegar (I don’t measure, but I estimate approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil and 1 to 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar—you’ll have to experiment to find your best flavor).  Sprinkle generously with Italian and Greek seasonings.  Toss well and chill.  At serving time, sprinkle feta cheese on top of salad.


At 6 pm all the participants in the tour met for an organizational meeting, led by a nice guy named George.  He was substituting for our tour director, Christina, who was finishing up with another group.  At this point we were already getting a little disappointed with Globus.  Our two previous Globus tours to Hawaii and the Alpine Countries were fabulous, but on this trip we saw many corners cut with no reduction in price.  Case in point: history suggested we should have a nice welcome and farewell meal with our group as we had on the other trips.  This time we were offered a glass of thick, sweet, orange-y juice drink and some potato chips—not even a glass of wine.  As a result, we all decided next time we will try a different tour company than Globus, and our end-of-tour evaluations said as much.  We paid a lot of money for this trip and were not expecting such a level of chintziness.

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2015 – ATHENS, GREECE

After a decent night’s sleep, our day began with a yummy breakfast buffet on the hotel’s 9th floor rooftop restaurant with amazing views of Athens.  My favorite item was the delicious fresh orange juice squeezed right into the glass from the automatic juicer! 
View from the hotel roof where we had breakfast
Pool on the rooftop of Crowne Plaza Hotel Athens

 From our hotel we had a great view of Mount Lycabettus and the Church of Agios Georgios.
We did not have a chance to go up to the church, but it's said that from its vantage point at sunset, the entire city of Athens turns amethyst.

We then met our tour director, Christina, and our tour guide for the day, “Lucy” (Loukia), and driver, Marius.  We toured a lot of the city, stopping at the old palace/now Parliament building for the changing of the guard, and, of course, the Acropolis.  


Greek Parliament Building (formerly the old palace)
Cute Greek soldiers during the changing of the guard, marching verrrrrry slowly
I took a great video but Blogger says it's too long to upload. :-(
National Library of Greece
We drove past this cool sculpture but I cannot find out its name. (Help, anyone?)
People were having their photos taken with these characters. #willworkfortips
Old Olympic Stadium in Athens
Also known as the Panathenaic Stadium
Looking up at the Acropolis from the Stadium
Ancient ruins at the base of the Acropolis
View of Athens from the Acropolis
More views (It's pretty rough terrain up there!)
Temple of Hephaestus as seen from the Acropolis
Explaning the restoration of the Parthenon
The Parthenon is undergoing extensive preservation procedures.
Now, tell me the truth: we don't look a bit like tourists, do we? #haveChatterwilltravel
The majestic Greek flag
Pretty poppies poking through the rocky terrain
View of the Parthenon in all its ancient glory
Erechtheum on the Acropolis
These women were supposed to exemplify the ultimate in female beauty, femininity, and strength.
The view and breathtaking history atop the Acropolis are worth the climb!
Below us is the Hill of Elders (which these elders DID NOT climb), also known as Mars Hill or Areopagus Hill


After a good bit of time up there with a gazillion other tourists, we were driven past Hadrian’s Gate back to the main shopping area, Plaka, where shops were open for business on Sunday.  
Hadrian's Gate
 Ornate silver and gold icon of Jesus and Mary in an expensive boutique near the Acropolis
 We saw a lot of this gorgeous plant, which I think might be in the bougainvillea family but we never were close enough to inspect it.
 When in Athens, be sure to dress the part.
Pretty entrance to a church near Hadrian's Gate

We got a good handle on souvenir shopping and had a lovely lunch (Greek salad #2 for me!).  It was already getting pretty hot, so we stopped by the Temple of Zeus ruins to rest for a few minutes, then caught a taxi back to the hotel.  
 Temple of Zeus
 Much archaeological preservation going on at the ruins all over Athens
 Zeus's gravestone??
This was a cool ruin, as if a big slicer came along and took down one of the columns.


Tony and Bob stayed there for a little nap while Lisa, Alyssa, and I strolled to Starbucks for a cool Frappuccino and girl chatter.  Later on we went out for a bit of light dinner, then to bed to prepare for the next day’s 4:00 am wake-up and 4-hour ferry ride to Mykonos.  Moment of levity: at dinner I decided to try the sea bass.  When it arrived, it was looking up at me – head, open eyes, and all!!  It was delicious but there was very little flesh, a good thing since I wasn’t very hungry after the presentation.  <><


MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015 – ATHENS TO MYKONOS

Our day began with more disappointment in this Globus tour.  It wasn’t the 4:00 am wakeup call, having to put our luggage outside our rooms by 4:40 am, or the 5:30 am departure time.  It was the promise of breakfast in the brochure when in reality we were handed a bag with the most disgusting food items.  The bag breakfast would have been nasty even if we had been starving, but first thing in the morning?  Yuck!!!  Another negative item to add to our list of grievances. 

*NOTE:  Please don’t think we analyze and criticize every single aspect of our travels.  But when one is paying several thousand dollars per person for a tour, not including the encouraged generous tips, one expects a certain level of quality.  And Globus fell far short this time.

We boarded a bus, picked up some more people at a different hotel, and drove to the port to catch the promised high-speed ferry to Mykonos.  At the port we waited……and waited……and waited, all the while thinking how we could have spent at least another hour in bed.  Finally we boarded for the very long ferry ride (which turned out to be the normal ferry and not the high-speed one we had paid for) and included snack which was about as tasty as our bag breakfast.  But once we entered the glorious Cyclades chain and eventually arrived in Mykonos, all our discontentment vanished.  It was absolutely gorgeous, just like the pictures, with its gleaming white buildings trimmed in various shades of blue, incredible mountainous terrain, and stunning clear water ranging in color from turquoise to navy.  Our hotel was very simple and primitive but it was beachfront with a lovely pool.  The view was worth any missing amenities.
 Approaching Mykonos by ferry
Pretty blue water, gleaming white buildings, and rocky terrain
 Not a bad hotel; I would stay here again.
Buildings in the Cyclades are painted yearly to resist mildew.
The white with blue trim is so pretty next to the water.
 View of the pool and Aegean from our room. Not bad!
We spent a bit of time here next to the pool because of a good internet connection.
Apparently the Manoulas Beach Hotel's claim to fame is its feature in an old movie, "Shirley Valentine". None of us had ever heard of it, but it might be worth a Netflix rental just to relive this portion of our trip.

We checked into our rooms then went to sit by the pool.  For lunch, we walked a few hundred feet down the road and had some delicious pizza at an open-air café.  Back at the hotel, we spent more time sitting by the pool, walked down to the beach to put our feet in the COLD water, then headed back to our rooms to get ready for dinner.  At 6:45 pm our group of 27 met to walk next door from our hotel to an open-air terrace restaurant for the first of our 2 included dinners—salad, very tough bruschetta, moussaka, pork souvlaki, fries, tzatziki, a glass of juice, and cake.  Afterward, we returned to our rooms to get a decent night’s sleep to try to make a dent in our mounting sleep deprivation.  The following day we were to be taken on a walking tour of Mykonos town.  We also discovered the catamaran trip we had hoped for wouldn’t be happening on Mykonos because we waited too long to book it.  L
 The beach just below the hotel
Looking up at the restaurant where we had dinner
From the restaurant, overlooking the sea, Lisa on the left in the shadows

TUESDAY, MAY 19, 2015 – MYKONOS

After a less than spectacular breakfast, we all went into Mykonos town for our included walking tour.  We walked along the waterfront and saw tons of really cool black sea urchins right there near the seawall.  We passed lots of outdoor cafes, tiny churches, and shops.  Christina told us that some of the churches were so small because they had been privately owned in the past.  Mykonos is a fishing town/island, and because there was no way to communicate with their loved ones at sea, families would erect their own little churches to have places to pray for their fishermen’s safe return.

 No idea what this says except "Mykonos" at the bottom
 View from the bus on the way into Mykonos town
 Cluster of sea urchins in several feet of crystal-clear water along the sea wall
 View of the town from the seawall
 Just one of many hundreds of tiny churches in the Cyclades
 And another, this one with a rare red roof instead of blue
Same church, further back
Inside one of the many Greek Orthodox churches

At one tavern we were given a traditional almond cookie to try, then we continued on to end up at the Church of Panagia Paraportiani, the most famous, most photographed church on the island.  In the background on a hill behind the church were the 5 famous windmills.  While we were at the church, we saw a fashion photo shoot of a lovely, tall, very statuesque young woman modeling pretty clothes and shoes -- EXPENSIVE shoes!!  She was quite annoyed at all the attention and gawking from tourists, but it was a public place so she had to put up with us and our cameras. 
 Church of Panagia Paraportiani
Beautiful but haughty model
 She probably didn't enjoy us tourists posting her pictures all over Facebook and Instagram.
It was also pretty warm and she was wearing black, so that could have added to her crankiness.
 One of several friendly pelicans that are Mykonos mascots.
This one enjoyed posing and receiving treats from tourists.
We would have been shocked if there hadn't been at least one Zorba's, dancing or otherwise.
The five famous Mykonos windmills on the hill
 The windmills make a great photo backdrop.

When our walking tour was over, we went shopping to pick up the rest of the souvenirs and gifts we wanted to bring home.  We stopped for a beer and a rest at a nice outdoor café, shopped some more, and had a gelato (good, but not as good as the ones we had in Italy) before heading back to the meeting place to be picked up by the bus to return to our hotel.  Once we were back and pretty hot from the day, we put on our suits (except Tony, who went for a run on crazy mountain roads) and sat by the pool.  We tried to get in for a dip but it was too cold.  Jenni, Zoey, and Ruby (already at Kanakuk for the summer) tried to Hang Out with us, but we couldn’t make a connection.  L  We all went back to our rooms to change for dinner at the same café across the street from the hotel, where we 4 had pasta accompanied by a pretty good heart-to-heart about our future travels.  We discovered we were all on the same page about it getting to be too stressful and too much of a hassle to take these organized transatlantic trips.  We just weren’t enjoying this one as much as we had expected.  Hopefully we will be up for one more trip to London, Paris, and Normandy in a few years, possibly another to the Italian Alps/lake country region, and that will probably be it for Europe.  We’ll see. 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2015 – MYKONOS

Our last day on Mykonos went from blissully uneventful to tragic. L  

After breakfast we caught a public bus to the village of Mykonos.  Lisa needed to do a little more shopping, so the guys went to have a beer.  When we had finished shopping, Lisa and I found them and we all hiked up the hill to the 5 windmills.  After the requisite photos, we went down to have lunch at a waterfront place in Little Venice.  
  Up on the hill, getting up close and personal with the windmills. Hi, Tony!!
Bob and Lisa with windmill backdrop
Mykonos's "Little Venice" area, where we had lunch (but not Italian!)

Finding the return bus took a bit of searching, but eventually we found it and headed back to the hotel for a little sun time around the pool.  We decided to have dinner at the open-air beachfront restaurant attached to our hotel, which had just opened that day for the season.  During dinner, Lisa (the only one of us who had an international texting package) received an urgent text from Erika, saying she needed to talk immediately to Tony and me about Millie.  Lisa graciously let me use her phone to call Erika halfway around the world.  Our poor daughter had been completely consumed for the previous 3 days dealing with Millie, who was boarded at our wonderful favorite boarding kennel.  In fact, Josh even had to take a day off from work to stay with Etta while Erika dealt with Millie.  The kennel had let Erika know that not only had Millie not eaten since we left her 6 days before, but that she had become progressively lame to the point where she could no longer get up at all.  We had suspected some hind leg knee problems a few weeks earlier, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong so we felt fairly secure leaving her in the very capable hands of our kennel folks who adored her.  But during the previous couple of weeks we had had a lot of heavy rain, and conditions at the kennel were very slippery.  Apparently when Millie was let out into the yard to do her business, she slipped and injured her knee.  So Erika picked up Millie from the kennel in our car (which has a hatch and fold-down seats) and drove her to our vet.  Dr. Legg had to examine her in the car because she couldn’t get out on her own and was too heavy to lift.  He diagnosed a badly blown out/torn knee and sent Erika the next day to the surgery center where our previous dog, Lucy the Rottweiler, had had her knee operations when she was four years old.  The doctor there found a second torn knee and explained the necessary surgeries and rehab/recovery prognosis for Millie.  Since Millie was nearly 8 years old, the lengthy and grueling process would have been terribly hard on her.  So Tony and I reluctantly made the most agonizing decision to have her put to sleep.  It nearly killed us to have to do this without being there with her to comfort her and say goodbye, but we still had a week left of our tour before coming home, and we just couldn’t let her suffer another day.  Even more than a year later, it is so painful to remember that terrible time for all of us.  The kids were absolutely amazing, handling everything on their own, very capably and lovingly.  Erika bonded with Millie as never before, and I’m so glad Millie trusted her so.  We were all devastated, of course, but neither Tony nor I had any hesitation about our decision.  We loved her too much to let her suffer even one more day.  She was one of the best dogs we ever had, and we know she is happily running and playing with all her friends in heaven, healthy and healed.
 Millie at about 6 weeks old
Our precious, sweet big girl (July 28, 2007-May 20, 2015)

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015 – MYKONOS TO SANTORINI

After a difficult night and not much appetite for breakfast, we checked out of the Manoulas Beach Hotel and hopped aboard our Globus bus to the old port of Mykonos.  We had about a 30-minute wait with our group before boarding the high-speed ferry to Santorini.  This time it really was high speed.  ;-)  On board it was airplane-style seating, quite comfortable, so we tried to take a little snooze to try to make up for the sleep deprivation of the night before.

We arrived on Santorini close to 1:00 pm and were taken on a harrowing bus ride from the port up a mountain full of switchbacks, then down to a different part of the island near the airport and close to the beach.  But it was really in the middle of nowhere.  The beach wasn’t great there, and there were no restaurant choices or activities at all.  
 Rocky cliffs of Santorini
On the bus traversing a crazy switchback
 Beachfront poolside at Mediterranean Beach Hotel
The pretty Mediterranean Beach Hotel pool and hotel

Plus, at the last minute Globus switched us from the lovely beachfront Mediterranean Beach Hotel to the Mediterranean Royal Hotel a few blocks away from the beach.  We had been told we were being moved from a 4-star to a 5-star hotel, but none of us believed it.  We were clearly downgraded to an inferior hotel and location, as this same hotel in the States would rate no more than 2 or 2½ stars.  The view was spectacular on the ocean side, but the hotel itself was shabby and spartan.  We got settled in and went down to the pool to have some lunch.  
 View of the pool, vineyard, and Mediterranean Beach Hotel (and ocean beyond) from our room
 Another view from our room, including these strange umbrella pines
 Our pool wasn't bad but it wasn't as gorgeous as the other hotel's.
 Tony and me about to order some lunch poolside.....
 .....with Bob and Lisa
 Our tour guide, Christina
 View of our room from poolside
 This was our 2-room "suite" -- pretty on the outside, but not even photo worthy on the inside.
 View from the other side of the hotel of the airport and rocky mountain beyond -- in the middle of nowhere
And the inevitable pretty church, surrounded by vineyards

NOTE:  Vineyards are plentiful on Santorini, but they look very different from vineyards in other places in the world.  Due to Santorini's hot, dry, windy climate, the grapes have adapted to grow more like low shrubs, close to the ground.  There are no arbors or irrigation.  Santorini wines are delicious, so the grapes must be doing something right! 

Afterward we walked to the only store for miles and picked up some water and wine.  The guys stayed in the rooms while Lisa and I went to the pool for a bit, then we all got ready for the second of two included dinners of the tour.  We had to walk down to the other hotel for the decent buffet dinner, rubbing salt in the wound of not being allowed to stay there, so there was a bit of grumbling on the walk back to our place.  It was clearly a lot nicer than our hotel.  We all turned in early, with the hope of sleeping a little better than we had the night before.  Our emotions were still very raw over losing Millie, of course.

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015 – SANTORINI

In the morning, we awakened to more doubts and misgivings about our Millie decision, but after much analysis we realized it was just Satan trying to cloud our minds and hearts.  When we considered all the reasons to keep her alive in terrible pain and starvation from refusing food until we got home to her against putting her to gentle sleep right away, the latter won every time.  We have never been people who selfishly keep a family member pet alive just for our own pleasure.  It was an excruciatingly painful decision, especially since we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, but it was the loving, responsible thing to do.

So we had breakfast and then got on the bus to spend the morning in Fira, also known as Thira, with our tour.  Christina took us on a walking tour of the town, including a stop for a drink at a lovely tavern overlooking the water and steep cliffs.  Looking down on one side we saw cable cars running down to the small port.  On the other side, people and donkeys carrying people went up and down the 600 steps to the same port.  
 Hey!  Greece is known for its philosophy, right?
 Christina leading our tour in Fira with a gorgeous church in the background
 Strolling through Fira
 I hate having my picture taken but I lost that battle overlooking the sea high up in Fira.
 Turnabout's fair play, Tony!
 Different view of that same church
 Cool clock tower amidst the many churches
 Peering inside one of the beautiful Greek Orthodox churches (cannot take pictures inside so this was taken from the doorway)
 The name of the church in Greek and English
 The gorgeous mosaic icon over the entrance
 Cool art gallery with awesome sculptures in weird places
 Looking down from the cafe in Fira where we enjoyed a drink (Ouzo, of course!)
 Fira is so pretty, there is no bad place to take a picture.
 One of the zillions of jewelry stores (aka, tourist traps) we passed while strolling through Fira.
 Ornate icon in the jewelry store window
 Another view from the cafe very high up in Fira
 Quite a drop off from the cafe to the sea below
 Yet another view of that gorgeous church (Yeah, I was enamored.)
 Cable car from way up in Fira to the sea below
 Another way to get from the top to the bottom
Sweet donkeys do this all day, every day. Animal lovers, we ourselves couldn't do it to them.

Afterward, we walked around and did a little shopping, then we stopped for lunch at a very cute place called Mama’s House.  Not only was the food delicious, but Mama was a total hoot!  She was loud and sweet and friendly and kind, and we all fell in love with her.  We hated to leave.  
 We would come back here in a heartbeat.
Christina, Mama, and Bob
Tony and Bob didn't want to leave Mama's, and neither did Lisa and I.

We walked a bit more, stopping to gawk at a fish spa – a place where you put your feet into a tank full of tiny minnow-sized fish that eat the dead skin from your feet, supposedly leaving them smooth and soft.  Lisa and I were totally going to try it but we didn’t have enough time before we were to be back at the bus to return to our hotel.  
 Shopping for "street crap"
We need more of these in the States.
I WANT ONE OF THESE!!!
These fishies are smart!  They know reflexology!!!

Once there, we took a little rest before meeting up with our group for our Globus excursion, an evening trip to the town of Oia at the northwest tip of the island.


 Arriving in Oia (pronounced "EEya")
 Imagine that!  Another church!!  (They are so prevalent it's hard not to get a church in each photo.)
 Another vineyard
 Many homes on Santorini have these cute tiny churches on pedestals next to the road. I asked Christina about them, but her explanation was a bit obtuse. I think they're mailboxes!! ;-)
 Terraced land along the road to Oia
 I thought this house was so pretty, and it had a crazy sidewalk that reminded me of San Francisco!
 A donkey terminal with no donkeys
 Pistachios growing in many Oia yards
Sorry about all the pictures of churches (couldn't help myself)

Oia is famous for its spectacular sunsets.  We all stopped for a light dinner of Greek salad and appetizers, then we strolled around the picturesque town and took lots of pictures.  At one of the many jewelry stores, Tony bought me a beautiful silver and blue opal ring with the Greek key design.  To this day I call it my “Millie ring” because it was in honor of her, and I love it.  
 Volkan (not Vulcan) beer -- pretty good!
 Lava rock filtering totally works.
 Another view of Oia
 Pretty church plaza where we saw a wedding couple later on (Keep scrolling and reading!)
 Above the doorway of the church in the plaza
And view inside from the door
Ruby's!!! (Have no idea what Ruby was selling, but since we have a granddaughter named Ruby, I had to take the picture.)

We then headed up to a high cliff overlooking the sea to wait for the sunset – we and many hundreds of other tourists.  Tony didn’t enjoy the crush of bodies, so he went for a walk and found some of our group having a cool drink at a terrace café.  Lisa, 2 gals from our tour, and I found a great vantage point just the right-sized space for 4, separated from the rest of the crowd by a stone wall.  We stayed for an hour and a half, waiting for the clouds to lift so we could see the amazing sunset, but it never cleared up so our photos aren’t great.  
 The famous Oia sunset
 Me, Lisa, and one of the gals from our group
 More setting......
 ......and more.......
......and more, about as good as it got

On the way back to the bus we passed a cute young Asian couple in their wedding finery, posing for photos outside a beautiful Greek Orthodox church.  
The couple was in that same plaza we saw a few frames back.

All in all, it was quite a fun outing.

SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2015 – SANTORINI

One of the things we really wanted to do this trip was take a catamaran sailing trip around the Cyclades.  Since our potential sail bombed out on Mykonos, we asked the hotel desk clerk if she knew of any sailing trips we could take.  Fortunately, she did!  She booked us with Santorini Exclusive Sailing, so this morning we started the best adventure of the entire trip.  

We were picked up in a small Mercedes sedan by a lovely woman named Anastasia, who drove us to the tiny port of Oia.  Her son and owner of the beautiful sailboat, Captain Vaios, and his first mate, Nikos, took us on a fantastic, breathtaking, all-day sail around the volcanic islands near Santorini.  We swam in chilly water that turned warm as we approached hot springs.  At lunchtime, Vaios and Nikos went below and in a little while brought up lunch.  We were expecting something simple like sandwiches, but they actually cooked one of the most delicious meals we’ve ever had – huge prawns that tasted like lobster, tomato balls (actually more like tomato cakes), sautéed white Santorini eggplant, really good bread, and fava bean dip accompanied by all the wine, beer, ouzo, water, and soft drinks we wanted.  
 Sailing through the gorgeous Cyclades
 View of one of the islands from the boat
 Tony had a great time, as did we all!!
 Another pretty view from the boat
 Our wonderful host, Captain Vaios
 Greek salad
 Fresh, crusty, delicious bread (brought by Anastasia)
 Tomato balls, sauteed prawns, and white Santorini eggplant
Fava bean dip (amazing with the bread)


It was a perfect day, and we were even able to temporarily forget what we would have to face once we returned home Monday night.  After the sail, Anastasia was there to take us back to our hotel.  We enjoyed our time with these dear people so much that I am Facebook friends with Vaios and Anastasia!!  Honestly, this day was so wonderful it blotted out much of the rest of the Globus tour that disappointed us.  If any of you reading this ever travels to Santorini, we highly recommend this sailing tour.  Vaios will treat you royally!!

SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2015 – SANTORINI TO ATHENS

After breakfast we checked out and boarded a bus for the 10-minute drive to the airport (which we could see from the hotel).  We checked in and – Praise God!! – our luggage was under the weight limit.  Souvenirs, you know.  ;-)  Our whole group sat and visited at a pretty rooftop café (yes, at the airport), waiting for the short flight to Athens.  
 Waiting with our group for the flight back to Athens
Our Aegean Airlines plane, ready to be boarded

We had one more overnight in Athens before we headed home Monday on a noon flight to JFK.  I have to give kudos to Aegean Airlines.  That quick 40-minute flight was absolutely the most comfortable, pleasant flight we’ve ever taken.  The plane was spacious and clean, almost a throwback to another time when air travel was a pleasure.  The crew was very accommodating, and there were so many more flight attendants than we are accustomed to.  The female attendants wore cute, 1950s-style uniforms with adorable pillbox hats.  They wore full makeup and tight buns as in years past, and each one was gorgeous.  During that very short time period, we were served hard candies, croissants, and towelettes.  So fun!!
Advertisement pic of Aegean crew

Once we had landed, we again boarded a bus to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where we had stayed our first 2 nights in Greece.  It was by far the most comfortable and modern hotel we had the entire tour.  It was almost like coming home, and it was so wonderful to be in such a ”plush” hotel with nice amenities after the relatively awful, bare bones hotels on the islands.  And don't get me started on requisite potty procedures in the islands.  It was not pretty.

On the way to the hotel, we had a nice scenic tour of Athens from the airport. 
       Cool Greek sculpture just outside the airport in Athens.  Freeform Olympic emblem?

 Headed in the right direction
 Ubiquitous Ikea
 Not exactly sure what this is, but it appears to be a guy on a scooter transporting a box of roosters.  Reasonable.
 We weren't sure if we should be worried about a bus driver with an icon next to the steering wheel.
 Beautiful lavender tree in full bloom all over Athens
 I'll bet the Athenians don't have an appreciation of this view of the Parthenon from many areas of the city. But we tourists surely did!
 Evidence of the economic crisis in Athens
 Graffiti was prevalent everywhere, indicating the frustration of the Athenians over the fiscal crisis.  But never were there any defacements of historic landmarks.
Famous "Running Man" glass sculpture not far from our hotel


By that time we were pretty hungry, as it was after 2:30.  One can only get so much energy from a croissant!  We quickly checked in for our Delta flights the following day and printed our boarding passes at the hotel, then we walked to our now-favorite Elia Taverna for one last great meal of pizza, ouzo, wine, and beer (all the major food groups!).  “Our” waiter, Chris (Christos) was working and recognized us right away, as we had been there twice before.  It was a very nice way to enjoy our last restaurant meal in Greece.  


After "linner" (lunch/dinner), we walked back to the hotel and left the guys to go upstairs to our rooms while Lisa and I checked with the front desk to find a fish spa.  Yes, we were determined to do this fun thing that we might never have the chance to do again since fish spas in the States are rare.  The sweet clerk found 2 fish spas in Plaka, so we got a cab out front and rode about 10 minutes to exactly where we needed to go. 
 This instilled confidence (NOT!!!).
Neither did this.

The fish spa was so much fun!!  We had to wash our feet then walk on special mats to our side-by-side tanks.  The lady had Lisa and me put our feet in at the exact same time, then she set a timer for 10 minutes.  Little Thai fish that looked like catfish minnows starting nibbling on our feet and legs.  Apparently they subsist on a diet of dead human skin.  Weird.  It tickled a bit but we quickly got used to it – very strange for me because I am deathly ticklish.  The fish were so cute and gentle.  
In the tank
It was almost impossible for one as ticklish as I to endure 10 minutes of this. But we loved it!
video

When our time was up, we donned our shoes once more and went for a stroll around Plaka with our new, baby-soft feet.  I found a beautiful, sought-after, olive wood cross, then Lisa bought us each a gelato.  I had rum raisin and lemon.  Coconut is still my all-time favorite, but this lemon was amazing – tart, smooth, and delicious.  Definitely a contender for favorite.  After licking our sticky fingers clean, we caught a cab back to the hotel, were grossly overcharged but were too tired to fight with the cabbie, and called it a night.

MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015 – ATHENS TO HOME

In the morning we packed, had a nice breakfast, filled out our Globus evaluation forms, tipped our tour guide, and set out for the airport.  After a 10-hour 45-minute transatlantic flight and another 3½ hours from JFK to Dallas, we were home.  It certainly was an adventure, one we will probably never repeat, but one full of amazing experiences and memories.  Greece was indeed enchanting, a land of incredible history, amazing physical topography, and unbelievable waters and landmarks.  We’re very glad to have had this wonderful experience with Lisa and Bob, and we look forward to many fun travels together in the future.  Here are some farewell photos of enchanting Greece from the plane as we headed home.





EPILOGUE

It would be unfair to Millie’s memory to leave out details of our homecoming.  Honestly, as much as we were dreading walking in the door and knowing we would never again see that sweet face, we were so blessed that Erika and Josh had preceded us and cleared away all of Millie’s things so we wouldn’t be immediately reminded of her absence.  The house seemed very empty, of course, and knowing we wouldn’t be picking her up from the kennel the next day was the elephant in the room.  Even now, 15 months after losing her, we think and talk about her all the time.  Every dog lover we know understands this.  But we are reassured that she is out of pain and healthy again, and we know there was definitely no other decision we could have made.  Play well in heaven, our precious girl.  We love you forever!!  
OPA!!!!!