September 16 2019, Best of Greece continues

Since my last post we spent a night and two half days in scenic Nafplion. Spelled a few different ways. We walked to the stone beach and did not partake, we enjoyed a cool breeze from our balcony with view of the mountains and sea. Beautiful bright pink bougainvilleas throughout the old town. It was nice down time.

Chania town yesterday, we arrived early about 630 am after the overnight ferry from Piraeus. Four to a room, bunk beds, with dining on board. Some of the passengers of this overnight cruise have bed rolls set up in the hallways staking their claim for the night ride.

No time for shower or cleaning up, we went for an orientation walk. It’s one of my fave places, Xania, Chania, on Crete in Greece. We see the Main Street, have a great breakfast together …. then went out for the day strolling around. Some shops opened at ten, it’s Sunday here.

Xamam, clothing store opened at 11 ish, Greek time..lol. It has expanded some since my last visit. Sandali is a shoe / boot store across the walkway. I think I have been to Crete maybe 4-5 times previously. Always leave some money here when I am lucky to stop in Chania. In November 2019 on the cruise we will stop in Heraklion, however I am arranging a taxi to bring me along the coast to Chania for more shopping experience and to see the coastline of this island.

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We spent 4 hours in the Xamam shopping store, and had a wonderful time playing dress up. Just next door was an amazing one of a kind Greek designer jewellery shop. There are lots of tourist places and shops of every kind. The lighthouse is iconic, the stone walls and fortresses. I opted not to goin search of the beach this time. We all met for dinner as a group, authentic Cretan cuisine. Very satisfying. I am eating Greek salad every day,sometimes 2-3 meals. My belly feels good, no worry about celiac response or cross contamination of food that way.

Dining together last evening after our big shopping day in Chania. Up this morning depart the Arkadi hotel, picked up by a van big enough for us and luggage – 18 of us including driver. The front seat is broken, I am in row two. Popping ginger, with patch behind my ear and Travel gum at the ready we head to the other side of Crete. I have never been to this side before, nor have many others by the feel of the intensely windy and narrow roads, hairpin switchbacks. Rocking from side to side. We arrive safely. Bags unloaded and driver leaves us. We drag our bags down stairs and to catch ferry to take us to our next stop. Tiny village, maybe 200 population. We drove over the mountain range to get here, now we take a ferry to our destination today.

It’s cool here by the water, clear, clean and mostly tourist free. Few folks and cars coming off the ferry. Maybe locals? It’s an interesting and peaceful stop on itinerary. Many grab coffee while we wait a few minutes and then carry our bags and load up for hour ferry ride.

On the ferry, crystal clear water, sparkling in the hot Grecian September sun. Ferry makes a stop at Loutro where we will stay tomorrow night for two nights. Tiny village, seems to be all small boutique hotels. Beautiful clear blue-green sea and beaches. Kayaks dot the bay and along the journey, turquoise with purple hue, yellow / white sparkle on the water. Fabulous stony rock formations. A Greek Orthodox Church on the red stone rock. Picture perfect, not a cloud in the clear blue sky, a little breeze. It’s going to be relaxing and an opportunity for beach swims. Lucky us! Most of the tour group will do some hiking in the gorge today.

Today we stay, arrive atTerra Hotel at Agia Roumeli, Stakia, on this west side of Crete. Hot day, nice breeze. Cool sea swim after lunch. The town filled up, mostly young people it seems, couples, some restaurants and bars, hotels and apartments. Very basic stay, but adequate. The views and experience of the sea, from our balcony, iconic white painted hotel with blue shutters and doors. Actually some of us staying at Calypso, seems to be the same owners, just one side of the road or the other. Dinner tonight at 730.

Tomorrow back to ferry and two nights in Loutro.

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Pamela

Inspiration in Greece, 14 Sept 2019

Greek inspiration 14 September 2019

Penny inspires us at Delphi. I have had the exceptional fortune on my trip to meet and be guided by Penny. She is a lovely person, so passionate about her country and the history of Greece. From practical historical perspective connected with situational interpretation to the very personal stories with deep expression and passion.

I have suggested that Penny be the tour guide if at all possible when I come again to Delphi in November while on Oceania Marina cruise with my family and travelling women.

I also invite her to be one of the women on my personal list, Circle of Genius. A person that I can consult if I need to, but more importantly to hold in a position of admiration and caring, that I admire and adopt as a mentor by virtue of how she shows up in the world. I have many people on that list now …. it grows with time and experience. Thank you to the many people who hold that space for me in my life and give me inspiration and mentorship.

We are shown some musical notes and lyrics from antiquity, written in the stones in Delphi. Language and music requires melody, accent. Discovered the lyrics, the notes. Without melody it is just a guess how the song would sound. For me, this was a new way to interpret music and history, culture. Accent is melody.

UNESCO United Nations Education Science Culture sites in Greece has 18, highest per population of the world. Dense with cultural significance …. what comes first? The stories as they are passed through the ages and shared from our ancestors, validated or interpreted through archeological findings …. then new pieces of the puzzle are found … shifting our understanding as new connections are made. Much like how my brain works in thinking …. maps and pathways are formed, deepened, altered by the new information. Does it matter what came first? What does matter is the quality of my questions. This is my learning and take away from the Oracle of Delphi.

Today we depart the charming village of Delphi.
We drive through a little ski village, 1000 meters above sea level. Mountain for skiing total 1600 meters above sea level. Beautiful stone work for the buildings. 2.5 hour drive to Athens. Onward to Nafplion today.

Orchards of silver green olive trees, vineyards, Cyprus trees, stone caves of grey and deep dark rust, deep green leaves of dense foliage of the orange trees, low green shrubs, large lazy aloe plants, golds and whites of sand and elements coexisting and contributing to the great geographical puzzle of Greek landscape. Hilly and mountainous,green valleys connecting elements and displaying the artistic canvas of nature.

Italian and Greece … Una fatsa, Una ratsa. One face, one character. Singing, dancing, family, tradition, good neighbours.

Greece, Roman, Develop science, history, philosophy, literature, art, politicians, cosmopolitan, democracy not so warriorlike, barbaric, uncivilized, aggressive.

We stop at Mycenae ruins. A fairly recent archeological dig I believe, of a time almost unimaginable. I opt to sit this one out. Massive amounts of bus tourists speaking as many languages as there are. Hot sun, warm breeze, with wild wind gusts making me take off my hat for fear I won’t see it again. A bench, wooden, in need of repair, people watching in present day as they visit antiquity.

Do we know the stories from the stones or did we learn from ancestors and now discover the truth, or our understanding of the truth?

The town bells are ringing in song as I write this. I stop to hold the moment. As Pema Chodron guides me “stay…. stay”

Driving to Dusty Delphi

Drive to Delphi.
Thursday 12 Sept 2019

Ready to move on, sad to leave magical Meteora. The safety and stories of the stones ..

We get packed up and picked up in a luxury van holding 16 of us. An extra luggage container,the driver is prepared and efficient and loads us with out complaint. We drive for hours through Greek countryside of the mainland safely, with our driver Yargos (George).

I am reminded that how I spend my money is my politics. Where will I buy and what will I buy, will I tip and how much? How I make the choice to travel and the places I go. The driver seems optimistic about these new times, new days for Greece. We talk about both being at Montreal for Olympics in 1976. Small world … so many opportunities in life. With pride and gratitude we talk.

Many conversations and deep talks already on this trip. So special. How is it for women. Notice … support … listen …

Greece is 77 times smaller than Canada. Only 11.2 million population in Greece. Another 15-17 million Greeks living around the world. Third largest concentration of Greeks is in Melbourne Australia!

For quality of life, we all agree Canada is one of top three places in the world. I look off to see herons and cranes in the fields, hear small bells chimes in churches, see bee hives along the roads, little places of worship. Some 88-90 some percent of Greece is practicing Greek Orthodox religion.

We stopped at the museum of the battle of thermopolye. (300 Spartans). We hear stories, consult maps, watch a well done film. It’s a nice stop and many of the tour buddies love being on this site.

The olive trees, silver and green blowing gently and showing their leaves … strong large windy trunks and branches holding space for the fruit and delicate leaves, holding the stories of their time, as far as the eye can see. With tall stately Cyprus trees, dark green holding their own, on their own. So many groves of olive trees, a million olive trees,as far as we can see. Some times can be spotted red terra cotta tile roofs. We climb, the road winds end ever we press onward, gawking out the window and wondering about the olives in this area. Groves and groves, miles and miles, trees upon trees, it looks like carpet. Each tree it’s an ancient story. What is it saying? That one and that one… I try to capture the vastness on my iPad, another corner, another turn, more trees, climbing higher. We talked bout the harvesting of the olives, the season and uses of these delightful fruits.

Cyprus trees are symbolic of the soul. Olive trees of knowledge. Holding knowledge. More switchbacks, more views

We arrive , the acropole hotel guest house. Lunch standard local version of Greek salad. A Greek man, waiter seemed to think I was particularly beautiful and commented several times. .

More to follow another day …

Pamela

Introduction to Meteora, 10 Sept 2019

Sept 10 2019, Meteora Greece

We arrived by train … had a hot lunch and a walk about town. I had a quick swim in the pool. At 345 pm we were ready for pick up in the van and off to explore Meteora. This is the highlight of the tour for me. I was not disappointed. This is a place that should be on the traveller’s bucket list!

A few people I met on the train this morning were coming in for the day, 5 hours on train both ways with a few hours to see some sights. For us, two glorious days to explore. A choice of van tour or walking tour, tonight we all agreed to sunset tour, about 4 hours visiting one monastery, Byzantine church, and sunset rock to get a spectacular view of 5 of the 6 monasteries on this site. Wow.

Eva was our tour guide,Dimos was the bus driver to Meteora site. Both very knowledgeable, friendly, professional and great to spend the time with. Very strong Greek accent and good English understanding and speaking. Very fun, story telling, Eva was delightful

In about the 9th century hermit monks came to live in caves in this area. Monks later came to build and live in the monasteries. The huge rock formations are dotted with evidence of their existence, then and now. Only six monasteries remain, four for male monks, two occupied by female nuns exclusively. There once were 24 in total built around 16th century. We saw all six remaining.

The first Story we heard, on 23 April, every year there is a ceremony for St. George. We drove by and photographed the stone wall where it is said that a Muslim woman dedicated her head scarf to pray to save husband. He had been injured. A Christian man was moved by the gesture, took the head scarf to the cave dedicated to St George and the husband’s life was saved. Every year since the locals bring up colorful scarves and dedicate to St George. Story behind colorful scarves annually is touching and we see the evidence.

In order to keep these monasteries in working order, some of them produce their own wine, sell for income. In 1988 the monasteries of Meteora became unesco World Heritage sight.

In many of the remaining monasteries, many we will see tomorrow, there are very old art paintings on walls, frescoes and more. In 16th century artists from Crete were invited to come to paint in the monasteries. This art still exists.

In the monastery of St Nicholas, built in the 14th century, two monks only live here. They do all the work of this huge facility. In some monasteries there are staff paid to assist with the tourists and upkeep, and drive up daily as their employment. Only the monks or nuns actually live in the sacred sights. Over time the monasteries have been somewhat modernized for convenience with lifts (elevators) and some with cable cars.

We stop at the Nunnery of St. Steven. We walk through the garden, and see the views from the walls. It is beautifully maintained. 30 nuns live there. There are massive chains still in the stone, from the retractable wooden bridge that once was protection. Now is stone bridge to cross over the cavern below. In the second world war this site was almost destroyed.

One story is that it took 22 years to lift only building materials up from the ground, for one monastery and then only one month to construct the building. Water gathering was an issue at the time they were built, 12,000 litre of water barrel construction to hold the rain water for use.

When built there were some 500 monks residing in the 24 monasteries, in 16th century. Now there are 60 people total, 46 nuns and 14 monks. Since 1960 women nuns conquered empty monasteries x 2 and forever changed history. It is wild and moving to be part of this history.

“For your eyes only” was a James Bond movie starring Roger Moore and scenes were filmed in Meteora. In fun they call it monastery of St. James Bond. One monk only lives there. He is a scientist. Monastery of holy trinity, it is the Hardest to reach. 1936 carved steps in rock, they are Carved by hand. We see the steps from where we are in the van. Wow, what a sight! Imagine the labour involved!

Many wild goats living in the area, we see them in the grasses, and some wander out on the road so we drive around. Less goats these days so there are young forests in the area.

Highest of the monasteries is built 630 meters above sea level. Some frescoes remain and Water cisterns. Many of the construction materials to rebuild the last remaining six monasteries were taken from the sights of the previously abandoned sights.

12000 pop Kalambaka. 2.5 million tourists per year

Byzantine church we visit was built upon the original sight Temple of Apollo 4000 BC. On the Same spot 4000 AD was built this first Orthodox Church. 11 century rebuilt again using same marble and columns from the original temple. We touch the ancient stones and listen to stories.

Amazing place to be part of. Looking forward to more tomorrow. Wow.
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Leaving Athens 10 Sept 2019

10 September 2019
Day two, Best of Greece GAdventures tour

Breakfast on roof top of Jason Hotel early this morning. The best breakfast ever. Hard fried eggs, bacon, olives, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, decaf coffee with cream and I brought Splenda package from home. Delightful. Still dark,a view of
Acropolis lit up. Quiet early morning moment of peace in Athens.

We take taxis and head to the rail station. All packed and departure. From our Athens’s home.

On the train en route to Kolumaka, Greece. Maybe 22,000 population ? Anticipation. So looking forward.

Gateway to Meteora.

Intentions for today, stay as present as possible. Listen to Pema Chodron on train ( my assigned seat is separate from others). I forgot my earphones, will try to use ear buds. Three American folks from California sitting with me. Assigned seating for 4. I am Facing wrong way. My suitcase is stashed at back of train and GAdventurds daypack and white Panama style hat overhead above my seat. Ready for 4 -5 hour train ride, backwards in car 5 at back of train. If not easy access to my earbuds, will read.

Popping ginger already, haha. Beautiful green lush countryside, farmland, trees. I can see the dry soil between the trees, but lots of shrubs and some large farm estates. Typically in city it seems like all apartment buildings. Large flat-roof white, balconies with nothing on them (no chairs or tables). I can hear Canadian people from my tour talking politics. I am on search for my earbuds. Lol. Success. Pema’s teachings as background as I type this blog on my trusty iPad.

I can see out the back of the train. Acknowledging my discomfort, breathing in gratitude for this happy trip and great travel friends. May we all be safe and protected. May we all be peaceful and happy. May we all be healthy and strong. May we all love ourselves exactly as we are. May we live our lives joyfully and with ease.

Terrain is ever changing, vineyards, orchards, arid dry shrubs, lush farm land, mountainous, flat as far as the eye can see, windmills, stone rock outcrops, lit tunnels, farm machinery on straight roads between fields. It’s all beautiful. Five hours of train, we arrived. Kalambaka is the town we will stay a few nights in view of the awe inspiring Meteora.

We had a local hot hearty lunch meal, walkabout, iced decaf coffee, swim in the infinity pool (Cool and refreshing) at Eidelweiss hotel. Cute charming town. Going to love it here, two nights.

Signed up for sunset viewing tonight and van ride tomorrow. Through monasteries … hearing stories.

Woo hoo. This is amazing!

Love Pamela

Day one,Athens, 8 Sept 2019

Day one in Greece, Sunday 8 Sept 2019

Our first night was exquisite in the Sofitel Airport Hotel. We had a leisure morning, missed breakfast at the hotel, ate some snack foods to keep us going, took a taxi in to Jason Hotel in Athens.

I notice that it is good to travel with two power plug converters. For sharing and updating devices like IPad, iPhone, Iwatch.

When we arrived at the Jason Hotel we asked for recommendations for locally supported restaurants easy to find and in the area. A short walk and a few corners, we found lovely pedestrian street Adrianou …. market stalls and outdoor cafes, with indoor seating and air conditioning … all with sights of the Acropolis. Of the three suggestions, we selected Attalos for lunch. We had our first Greek salad (fresh, tasty ingredients, including capers …. with drizzle of olive oil, and shake of oregano on top of the generous slab of feta cheese …..and we shared 1 liter sparkling water. Lovely. Satisfying. Perfect sense of occasion and seat inside watching out the doorway at pedestrians going by. Greece is a great people-watching place. And listening to the foreign accents and expressions. A feast for sure!

I am fighting my sleepiness waves that come and go … it’s about 10 hours later here in Greece. So when you are all sleeping, I am walking the busy streets. We decided today we will take it easy, we are going to take hop on bus to orient to city and not get lost ..haha

We negotiated a fare for the two of us, about three pm when we started … no intention to hop off! The heat is high here, in the 30’s … kind of reminds me of Kamloops in Canada for the terrain and shrubs are similar, sparse and dry. Lots of sights to see, most covered in graffiti but pillars of old stone stand tall and proud. Many of the buildings, trains, fences, walls seem to be canvas for the graffiti artists.

I spied a Starbucks on street from bus but unable to take the time to grab a much needed and desired taste of home. Maybe tomorrow we can find it again and enjoy my fave decaf beverage in this old city.

In a few minutes we meet our tour group. We will orient to the city tomorrow and have free time to explore, maybe Acropolis is on our list! When in Rome … er … Greece!

I will try to keep in touch as we go. Thanks for reading

Pamela

“Your traveling agent”
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Gratitude in Greece, 8 Sep 2019

Great morning in Athens, luxury and abundant, sunshine and blue skies

I woke up at 8 am on Sunday 8 September…. it’s tomorrow here! 10 pm back home in Victoria Canada.

Let me tell you it’s exciting to see tomorrow and I can foresee …. it’s all going to be fine. Better than you think …. brilliant and beautiful, restful and exciting …. it’s all here waiting for you.

Great sleep, although maybe I could use a bit more … lol. It’s great to be a morning person. It’s great to be happy. It’s great to have positive energy. It’s worth it to do the self-development practices all year so they become habits of happiness. Yeah!

Today a leisurely wake up, repack and head to the new hotel downtown …drop our stuff and out to explore in Plaka in downtown Athens. Checking out the designer shops, perhaps.

I overpacked but let me tell you what I packed this time … silk items from previous Greece adventures “just” to lounge around in the hotel rooms. I seldom pack like this … I love luxury and yet, here I am on a Classic GAdventures land tour of the most ancient country … so bringing luxury with me seemed appropriate and makes me happy. Layers of flowy colorful silk garments wrapping me in love and care. I brought a silk travel pillow encased in silk pillowcase.

I brought “sharing” quantities of west coast peppermint tea leaves, decaf coffee packs from Starbucks, Univera Xtra and Aloe …. abundance and luxury abound for me in this wonderous place on the planet. Lucky me! Lucky us!

Conversations about how we get to define ourselves today … each day. It’s a choice to be fully who we are and to celebrate that and witness for each other. I am so grateful for my family for loving me and supporting me to be who I am and my mom and ancestors for giving me this gracious way to be in the world.

Have a wonderful day wherever you are.

Love and gratitude from Pamela at the Sofitel Airport hotel in Athens. It’s an awesome place to stay after a long flight.