My Big Fat Greek Holiday 2021

It’s often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. I don’t plan on writing a thousand words, but I want to share some stories behind the photos I posted from my recent visit to Greece. (P.S. I lied, before I wrote this additional line, it ended up being 1,761 words!) πŸ™‚

I always say that “it’s nice to get away, but it’s also nice to come home”. Well, I didn’t say that when I visited Morocco in the fall of 2018 or when I was ready to leave Greece last Sunday.

I wish I could have stayed longer and island hop along the Mediterranean. Hopefully, I’ll do that with my sister, Tammy — sooner rather than later!

From the time I left for the airport in Bloomington, Illinois, for my three flights to the time I arrived at the hotel in Athens, Greece, it took about 25 hours (not counting the time change).

The return home took three hours longer — an early wake-up call, the drive to to the airport, three flights, two delays, sit time before the first flight and between flights, and an hour drive home.

But, it was all worth it!

Back to my arrival at the hotel in Greece. The room was great and the rooftop view of the city was incredible!

I could see the Acropolis and I was mesmerized by the houses and buildings as far as the eye could see. About half of Greece’s 11 million people live in Athens.

After getting settled into the hotel, I took a walk to see what was nearby and I got lost! As it neared the time to meet my tour group for the introduction, I freaked out a little, but I found my way back.

The Greece trip was the fifth excursion I’ve taken with Gate 1 Travel — Danube River cruise (2013), Scandinavia (2017) , Morocco (2018), and Bangkok, Thailand (2019). My trip to China was through another company and my 50th birthday excursion to Paris, France, and Tel Aviv, Israel was a trip I planned on my own.

The nice thing about these tours is that you normally gravitate toward a few people that you spend more time with touring the sites, eating meals, and sharing laughs and life stories. And, you usually keep in touch with them years after the trip is over!

For me, my Peeps on this trip were (from left to right), Matt, Marcellus, and Cortney.

We talked a lot about relationships and travel.

Well, there was one other topic that became a running joke (or was it a joke?) — certain museum statues and some souvenir options kept that topic alive. πŸ™‚

As the trip progressed, I bonded with Jessica and her mother, Cheryl, from Iowa.

It should come as no surprise that there’s so much history in Greece — from the start of the Olympics (in Olympia), attacks from foreign empires, and the discovery of many of the ruins after earthquakes and mud from floods buried many of the sites for more than a thousand years!

Some of them were only discovered in the late-1800s and entire towns were moved for the excavation. Hello Delphi!

While visiting the Acropolis, it was so relaxing to look out across Athens and seeing the Aegean Sea was so peaceful. This is one of my favorite photos I took on holiday.

After visiting the Acropolis and its museum, our fantastic tour guide, Elena, treated us to baklava and Greek coffee. I love desserts and the one piece of baklava I had was divine.

Okay, here’s a funny story. I actually had two pieces!

Two people from our tour group were off on their own shopping or spending more time at the museum and there was an open seat next to me at our table. That piece of baklava was just staring at me saying, “eat me”.

As we were ready to leave, I gave up on them coming back and their friend said “eat it”. It was my birthday, so I didn’t need to be told again. Midway through that second piece, they walked in!

Oh well! πŸ™‚

By the way, I didn’t care for the Greek coffee. When I get to the bottom of my coffee, I don’t want muck in my cup! Muck = Yuck!

That visit was earlier in the day. For dinner that night, I tried Ouzo for the first time.

OPA!

For scientific reasons, I added ice cubes to the Ouzo because the chemical reaction makes it “cloudy”.

And, in full disclosure, there was Ouzo left on the table, so I had a second one at the end of the meal!

OPA!

While I had some amazing food (eggplant in tomato sauce topped with feta, Greek salad, and a pork gyro to name a few), my absolute favorite meals were the breakfasts.

There’s just something about Mediterranean breakfast that I love (I still salivate thinking of my Israeli breakfasts in Tel Aviv).

However, both mornings in Athens, I finished my two plates of breakfast with a large bowl of Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, dried fruit, and even a candied fig! And, a few pastries!

Yes, I love plating food for photos and I don’t waste. I take bites of many things and only what I’ll eat!

Oh, by the way, a true Greek salad doesn’t include lettuce — just tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, peppers, olives, olive oil, feta cheese, and seasoning.

The fresh veggies, the olives, and feta in Greece are amazing!

One thing I didn’t eat on the entire trip was a fish dish. I was told by my dear Greek friend, John, in the Quad Cities, that fish is more popular on the Greek islands!

The most scenic part of the trip was the drive from Olympia to Delphi, up in the mountains, along the breathtaking Corinthian Bay.

My favorite hotel views were in Olympia (second floor balcony with a grove of pomegranate, orange, and olive trees below)…

and this Delphi hotel balcony view (also from the second floor).

These three photos were some of my favorites I took on the trip.

Those two are from Nafpaktos, where we stopped for herbal tea and honey, which was refreshingly tasty.

This next one was from a surprise lunch complete with a cooking demonstration, in which some in our group made our three appetizers, and a Greek dancing lesson with participation!

Thank you Lillian for the photo! It was nice hanging out with you, too!

And, see the whole religious correlation — wine, water, and bread! πŸ™‚

As my trip to Greece was coming to an end, we were back in Athens for a farewell evening organized by our knowledgeable, personable, and amazing guide (and historian) Elena.

On the rooftop of our hotel, The Stanley, many of us pulled together tables with the expansive view of Athens and the Acropolis all aglow surrounding us as we enjoyed appetizers and several bottles of Greek wine!

Along with the great company and laughs, I loved the dessert — a chocolate mousse atop chocolate crumbles, and a very tasty violet! I love how the floral flavor just popped as you chewed it.

Of the many countries I’ve visited, I’d go back to Morocco and Copenhagen, Denmark, in a heartbeat.

Greece is another one.

There’s still so much in Athens I didn’t see and I want to have my “Mamma Mia” experience in the Greek Islands (Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros, for starters) — the beauty, the food, and maybe even the “dot dot dot”! πŸ™‚

A cruise on the Aegean Sea would also be amazing!

Three of my big international trips were to celebrate my birthday. There was Paris, France, complete with a dinner cruise on the Seine River, a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and sitting at the stage of the historic Moulin Rouge sipping champagne as I turned 50!

And, my 54th in Marrakesh, Morocco. Turning 57 in Athens was also memorable.

As you read this you may have wondered about the closeness of my new friends in some of the pictures. A co-worker asked what it was like with COVID-19 over there.

Well, most of the museums required proof of vaccination, we needed a negative COVID test coming into the country, and upon arrival at the airport, you could have been randomly chosen to take a test.

We were required to wear masks at all times on the bus, at the hotels, museums, and restaurants (when not eating and drinking), and on the flights.

Here’s one last funny story to share.

Those of us leaving Greece Sunday had to meet before breakfast in Olympia Friday for our COVID test to return to the United States.

While we were all negative coming into Greece and we expected the tests to come back negative, it was still a little stressful.

We took the tests and had breakfast. Then we were off to see the home of the first Olympics and settle in for a three-hour ride to Delphi.

As we neared the town, I laughed because my phone was down to 15% and thought my sister would be proud of me. I never let my phone drain that low. It then hit me!

I recalled unplugging my charger and cord (black) that morning after the test, but I didn’t remember taking my power adapter/converter (ivory) out of the wall! Guess what, I didn’t and I still had two more nights in Greece without an adapter!

Well, my new buddy, Marcellus saved the day and loaned me his converter that night and the next night in Athens before the farewell party.

My phone was now at 80% and that would be enough to get me onto the plane for the flight back to the U.S. where I could fully charge it.

That’s when I saw our flight out the next morning was delayed an hour and then I started thinking too much and couldn’t fall asleep.

So, I watched “Coyote Ugly” dubbed in Greek!

So that’s a recap of my birthday/holiday trip to Greece!

Now that I’m back, I keep telling myself, “Must not book new trip, must not book new trip, must not book new trip…”

OH WAIT!

One last funny story — when we arrive in Delphi on the next to last night, they met us with a tray of refreshing drinks. It was a beautiful, colorful “wine”.

I took a sip and it was so tasty. I took a second sip and it was gone!!! I thought, I can’t believe I gulped that down in just two sips. I seriously thought I might have to visit Betty Ford!

It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning when I realized it was CHERRY JUICE! Whew! πŸ™‚

Anthony

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nancy Nash on October 23, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Wow – what a very full trip with delightful new friends and amazing experiences!

    Reply

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