Wednesday Write-Up: Memories Part 2

On Monday I started a week-long series sharing my favorite pictures from our travels in preparation for the new year. Mondays post encompassed our time traveling in the States, Curacao, Portugal, Disneyland Paris, and Budapest, Hungary. Today my post will … Continue reading

My Own Greek Island Paradise

I have found my Greek Island. Admittedly, there are many other people here, locals and tourists alike, but I have decided that I want Paros to be my Greek island.

There are 227 inhabited islands belonging to Greece, and over 1400 islands in all. So when Chad and I were trying to decide what island we wanted to visit, it made for a difficult decision. We made it by looking at how long it took to get there from Athens by ferry, cost of accommodations, types of beaches, entertainment options, and of course recommendations from other travelers and friends.

Two islands had been visited and loved by different friends of ours, Santorini and Paros. After we researched both of these islands with our parameters, we decided on Paros. Paros is only a 4 hour ferry ride from Athens, it has many different beautiful beaches on the island, most of them easily reached by foot or bus, we found an inexpensive and beautiful apartment hostel on Airbnb, called Betty Apartments, and the entertainment options were beaches and tavernas. It was exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want clubs and shopping, we just wanted to relax and let Zoë play at the beach.

Upon arriving at Parikia, Paros by ferry we took a taxi to our apartment in Drios (also spelled Dryos), on the other side of the island. Drios is a small village which houses less than 10 tavernas/restaurants, a couple of markets (including one organic market) and two wonderful beaches within walking distance, Drios Beach and Golden Beach. It also has a playground at their small school (now closed for summer) which Zoë has enjoyed on several occasions. Drios does not have any ATM machines, but almost everyone takes credit cards, so you don’t have to worry too much about needing cash very often.

Drios is an hour bus ride away from Parikia (the capital of Paros) and about a 45 minute bus ride from Nassou (the only other larger town on the island). We have visited both of those towns and I feel we have been so blessed that we chose to stay in Drios as it fits what we wanted perfectly.

Our days consists of getting up, having brunch around 10 or 11 am at Taverna Agkyra (or Anchor Tavern in English) right by our apartment, heading to one of the close beaches after Z’s nap and then usually having eating dinner at the Taverna Agkyra again.

Taverna Agkrya Our home away from home

Taverna Agkrya
Our home away from home

We have fallen in love with the taverna and the people that run it as if it was their own home kitchen. Especially Margarita and her husband, Kotsiopoulos (or Bobbies), who have shown us wonderful hospitality and fed us excellent Greek food. I am not usually a creature of habit when it comes to restaurants, I like to try new places and dishes, but this taverna keeps me coming back every day and most often twice a day. We have tried other restaurants in Drios, they are all good and the people are helpful and kind, but no one compares to their flavorful food and the feeling that you are friends at Taverna Agkyra. My favorite dish so far has to be the Moussaka, a casserole of potatoes, ground meat, eggplant and a thick layer of cheese all served in a ceramic pot hot from the oven. It’s rich and wonderfully filling, and I am sure very low-calorie (it’s all how you think of it right!?). I have to say that Chad and Zoë and myself have spent probably as much time in our favorite taverna as we have the beach. Hooray for wonderful food and company!

Chad and Zoë at Drios Beach

Chad and Zoë at Drios Beach

Anyways, this wonderful relaxing and dreamy part of our trip is coming to an end on Monday as we head on to our next destination. On Tuesday evening we will be in Taipei, Taiwan. I know that this will be the toughest place to say good-bye to, even more than Lisbon. But I really do feel that I have made some new friends here and I look forward to coming back to my Greek island of Paros again. I don’t think I could stay away from this paradise for long. Hopefully I can rope my family into meeting us here for a wonderful vacation.

If you are looking for a Greek island stay that is all about beaches, sun, food, and relaxing, come to Drios, Paros. Stay at Betty Apartments and eat at Taverna Agkyra. You will be happy that you did!

Wednesday Write-Up: A Visitor! Opa!

After we left Athens, we took a four hour ferry ride to the island of Paros in the Cyclades. We are now settled in a wonderful little apartment just a 5 minute walk from the beach! We found our apartment on airbnb.com and have fallen in love with it. It is called Betty Apartments, and Betty has been an amazing hostess. For one thing, she does our laundry! She also cleans our room everyday! It has been a real vacation so far for us. We have had very busy days consisting of brunch, nap-time (for Zoë, although there have been times I wished it was mine), time at the beach, dinner and then some relaxation after Zoë’s asleep. Chad works in the mornings and while Zoë naps and I do my writing or cleaning then too. This life is amazing! This trip is amazing, and I feel so very blessed to be here. God is good!

Zoë hanging out on our back porch

Zoë hanging out on our back porch

Chad and Zoë walking back to our apartment

Chad and Zoë walking back to our apartment

We have been on the island now for 10 days. And as of two days ago, we now have a friend from Sonoma County staying with us! (We have tried harassing everyone to come and see us, but with the price of plane tickets these days…whew). Our friend, Nathan, has been traveling himself for the past half year or so. He was planning on being in Greece the same time as us, so, here he is! It has been so nice to see a familiar face thats not pixelated on skype or facetime. Both Chad and I have enjoyed having someone new to converse with, and hearing about his travels and what God is doing in his life. Hopefully, he is just as happy to be here as we are to have him here!

As it is whenever one has visitors, whether you are in your home or traveling, there are hiccoughs along the way, but the stories you will tell later about your time together will be even better because of them. For example, Zoë being over-tired at dinner last night and pushing her glass of water over so that Nathan had to make a quick dodge before getting deluged… well, that will be funny in the future right? And Chad getting the flu today and being bed-bound and unable to keep anything down except cola… we will laugh about that someday too.

God has impeccable timing for teaching us things that we didn’t realize that we needed to learn, and what I have learned in the past two days, is that I need to stop sweating the small things (I cringe at being so cliché…I’m sorry).

I need to see God blessing me with patience when Zoë screams as if I am water boarding her every time I have to wash her hair (we use tearless shampoo, the water’s a good temperature, I have tried every trick, she just hates washing her hair). I need to see that God is blessing me with a merciful attitude, when she accidentally punches me in the face while having a public melt-down. I need to see that everything around me, God has blessed to me. He has given me this opportunity to see the WORLD! I need to stop worrying about the small, insignificant things that will be forgotten or laughed at later and try laughing at them or forgetting them now.

How hard that is. When I have it down perfectly, I will let you all know. Until then, I will just keep trying and keep praying. God is good.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Athens in a Day

There are three places that Chad and I knew we wanted to go when we were planning this trip. Taiwan, Thailand, and Greece. Every other place we have gone has been because the circumstances were right, the flights were cheap, accommodations were plentiful, etc. I feel that God has opened certain doors for us and has shown us where he wants us to go in this way. When we were in Lisbon, figuring what to do next, Greece did not seem to be working out, we couldn’t find flights, places to stay, or even decide what we would want to see in Greece. We both really wanted to see Greece, but thought that maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for this time in Europe.

It wasn’t until two days before we were to leave Lisbon, and 13 days before we had no other place to go or stay, that Chad found a perfect flight to Athens, Greece online,. We booked our tickets and then worked to both agree on what we wanted to do in Greece. Then we found inexpensive and awesome places to stay. It worked out even though we had doubts, and now here we are in Greece! God is good!

We started our time in Greece in Athens. We had been told by many friends that an extended stay in Athens is not necessary, you can see everything you want to in one or two days. Our friends were right. We had a day and half in Greece and saw all the major sights and felt we were ready to move on to our next destination.

We stayed free at a Novotel Hotel in Athens using our miles from one of airline cards. We like to stay in places we find on airbnb.com, locally run guest houses, or hostels usually, but every so often, when you are on an extended trip, it is nice to stay in a place with a pool, room-service and a maid. It’s a fun change for a couple of days.

After researching for a bit, I found a perfect way to see the sights and entertain Zoë at the same time (I know, I almost couldn’t believe it myself… I actually found something on the internet without Chads help… I have to say I was pretty proud of myself). I found the Happy Train, a little red train that takes you to past the famous sights and to some shopping areas and such. It had mixed reviews, but was inexpensive at only 6 Euros each for adults. Zoë loves “choo choo’s” so I knew this would be a great way to see the touristy part of the city.

So, on our one full day in Athens we decided to take the Happy Train and get off at the Acropolis and see that up close.

We got up and had our free breakfast buffet at our hotel (seriously… accommodations that include free breakfasts are the best!) and then headed down to the metro. The metro was a bit confusing to use, as I didn’t see any maps in the stations. But with google maps we were able to figure out what line and direction we were supposed to go.

The Happy Train is about a 2 minute walk from the Monistaraki Square metro stop and is in the midst of the Monistaraki Flea Market. The flea market is filled with leather bag and shoe stores, souvenir shops, outdoor eateries, and other stores. We walked through it for a bit before hopping on the Happy Train. We also got some waters and snacks for the trip on the train as we had read that the sun (and pollution) in Athens can dehydrate you quickly.

Zoë loved the "Choo Choo" also known as the Happy Train

Zoë loved the “Choo Choo” also known as the Happy Train

The Happy Train takes one hour to go through all the sights, including the Acropolis, Plaka, Temple of Zeus, Thisseon, Ancient and Roman Market, Zappeion, Panathinaiko Stadium, Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Hadrian Arch, Monastiraki Square, and New Acropolis Museum. We were going to get off at the Acropolis right away, but decided to take the whole hour long trip and then have lunch and get back on the train up to the Acropolis then.

Most of the ruins are right near the Monastiraki square and you can walk around them and take pictures in them until 3 pm every day. It was interesting to see the marble columns in different states of decay amongst the trendy looking outdoor eateries and shops. The train moved slowly enough to get a few pictures in of each sight. Zoë had a blast on the train and I was glad that we decided to see the old structures that way. The only complaint I would have with the train was that the sound system was very hard to hear, and although the “tour guide” did speak in both Greek and English, we couldn’t hear anything she said. Also, I should have researched or bought a guide book telling about the places we were going to see on the ride, I regret not having more information about what we were seeing. The train was great, but it was up to the customer to know and learn about what they were seeing.

We ended up having a very long lunch at a restaurant in Monastiraki square, it was a bit touristy of a place (I am sorry that I didn’t even get the name, but most of the places to eat there offered the same things), but the food was tasty and they really loved having Zoë there.

The Greek people we have met so far, have loved playing and trying to entertain our little girl. She has been a conversation starter and ender, too. She lets us know when she wants us to be done talking, in the sweetest way possible of course. She is learning many lessons of politeness and kindness on this trip.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand, we hopped back on what we thought was the Happy Train, but later learned that there are many other companies that use the same kind of trains, on the same route, with the same stops. I think we were on the wrong train, but the driver didn’t even ask for our tickets. Like I said, it was the same route as the Happy Train, with apparently the same sound system as we still could not hear any of the announcements. We happily enjoyed our ride up to the base of the Acropolis though. We exited at that stop and made our way up the hill, excited to see the beautiful stone structures built as early as the 8th century BC.

Zoë and me on our way up the the top of the Acropolis

Zoë and me on our way up the the top of the Acropolis

We came upon a little touristy area near the entrance to the ancient gates leading to the Parthenon and noticed that we needed to buy tickets to enter. It was 12 euros per adult, but Zoë was free and they even had a free stroller storage area which was very nice. Strollers are not allowed and once we made it through the entrance, I realized quickly why. There were many stairs and slippery areas on the way up to the top of the acropolis. The marble steps were worn down by millions of feet traipsing over them for the past 2000 plus years.

The Acropolis is… well I cannot express how I felt walking up to the Parthenon and the Old Temple of Athena. I was awe-struck. I still cannot fathom how they were able to build such massive and impressive structures so long ago, and the fact that they are still standing for the most part…well I was (and am) just flabbergasted by it.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon

We walked around the outside of the buildings (you are not allowed to walk through them as they are being repaired, actually the parthenon was full of cranes and half of it is covered in scaffolding), took a bunch of pictures and read the plaques that gave a picture at what the buildings used to be. This is another area where I wished I had a guide book. I learned about Greek history in school, but seemed to have forgotten all of it. I had to research all the history after the fact. You can learn more about the history of the Acropolis here.

All Three of Us in Front of the Parthenon

All Three of Us in Front of the Parthenon

Old Temple of Athena-Built Originally in the 8th Century!

Old Temple of Athena-Built Originally in the 8th Century!

Zoë was Tuckered Out..Also the Huge Greek Flag in the Background

Zoë was Tuckered Out..Also the Huge Greek Flag in the Background

We left the Acropolis, took the train back and went back to our hotel. All-in-all it felt like a really busy day, but we saw everything we wanted to see in Athens with the Happy Train ride. I think it was a good choice.

Have you ever been to Athens? What did you think? What was the best way to see the sights?