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Friday, October 28, 2011

Rhodes


Our final stop on our Greek adventure is 4 days on the Island of Rhodes.  We came to see the Colossus of Rhodes which is one of the ancient wonders of the world.  We knew before getting here that this is one of the ancient wonders where there is nothing left to see.  It is believed that the Colossus was a bronze sculpture that spanned the harbor opening; the Statue of Liberty was modeled after this piece of artwork.  Benton and I have made it a goal that we will see the wonders of the world together and since this one is still on all the lists we decided that visiting the site would be appropriate.  To commemorate the site, two bronze deer are mounted on pillars on either side of the harbor.

Rhodes is beautiful.  Many Europeans spend their vacation on this island.  It's a great place to relax and enjoy the beaches and is a perfect way to wrap up our adventure.

We took a one hour bus ride to the small village of Lindos on the east side of the island for our last day adventure.  The public bus route takes you right along the coastline.  Lindos is carved into a hillside with a postcard beach/bay below and an ancient Acropolis above.  We climbed to the Acropolis and then walked down to the beach for some swimming.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back in Athens


Our plan for Friday was to drive back to Athens, drop off the rental car and catch a 2 hour high speed ferry to Hydra for two days on the island.  An e-mail from the port authority let me know that our tickets were being refunded due to strike.  So no Hydra.  We dropped the rental car at the airport and sat down to figure out what to do.  Athens had endured about 4 days of intense protest and I wasn't sure I wanted to venture back into the city.  The tourist information desk at the airport assured me that all was quiet and normal in the city (except the ferries) - metro is running, museums are open, no protests this weekend.  So, we headed back into Athens to stay at the same hotel as when we arrived two weeks ago. 

We checked our the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  We had missed this before due to strikes.  The Arch of Hadrian sits right out on the road as all the cars, buses and scooters fly right by.



Willliam's thoughts on Greece:  I think Greece is a great place for tourism as long as you are willing to climb stairs.  Greece has great food.  I have eaten gyros, beef burgers (little meatloafs) and lots of potatos (french fries).  Greece has crowded, fast moving streets.  Things are very cheap in Greece.  Water is .50 euros for 1.5 liter bottle.  Gyros (meat wrapped in pita) have pork, french fries and onion in them for 2 euros as long as they are "to go". 





Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kardamyli and onto Nafplio


Kardamyli is about an hour drive south of Kalamata.  It is at the northern tip of the Mani Penninsula.  The road south from Kalamata is the most twisted and narrow road we have driven since leaving Athens.  It winds through some cute litte villages where cars are parked on the side of an already narrow throughfare.  But, it is so worth the drive.  Kardamyli is wonderful.  It's just the place to spend time relaxing and observing local life.

It was sunny and clear when we arrived but the weather forcast was for rain.  So first on the list was a swim in the Mediterraian just before the thunder and lightening set in.  We watched the storm come over the hills.




Sunday's in Greece are very quiet.  All businesses are closed and only a few restaurants in this very small town were open.  We headed to the cafe in the middle of town for breakfast and found ourselves emersed in Sunday in Kardamyli.  A group of elderly men were playing cards (I never did figure out the game or the rules) and they sounded like it was a constant argument about whose turn it was and how many points should be written down.  Several other gentlemen were surveying the card game around the edges giving their opinion freely, which seemed to cause even more of an argument.  A Formula 1 race was on the TV (it was blaring).  Formula 1 is as popular in Europe as the NFL is in America.  William and Mark were instantly glued to this and we ended up hanging around until the race was over - team Reneau won.  Thus half a day was spent at the cafe.

Next we headed to Nafplio.  Our plan is to spend 4 nights in this city.  There is a big vote in parlament this coming Thursday (October 20) and the news is forcasting stikes at the airport, ferry terminals, metro and bus as well as all museums leading up to the vote.  So, hanging around in Nafplio until Friday is a great idea.

Our first adventure in Nafplio was to climb the 999 steps to the Fortress of Palamidi.  All of the ancient sites in Greece require a climb because everything was built on a hill for obvious reasons.  The Fortress of Palamidi is a huge site made up of eight Bastions. 



Day two in Nafplio found us day tripping to Epidavros and Mycenae.


The next two days we will be catching up on school work and taking some walks through Nafplio.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Delphi, Olympia and Kardamyli


It's almost scary how easy it was to pick up the rental car and make it out of Athens after watching lots of crazy driving in Athens.  Once you get out of the city, traffic just melts away and driving is fairly easy.  I can say this from the passenger seat.  Mark has actually been doing the driving!



Notes:
-  Driving a car any bigger than our rental would be a liability.
-  Road signs and painted lines on the pavement seem to be just for decoration. 
-  You will be passed regularly going twice the posted speed.
-  Before passing you everyone will drive right up to your bumper.
-  No passing zones don't mean anything.
-  A single lane road can easily handle 3 lanes of traffic.
-  If it's paved you can drive on it.
-  When an old Greek woman gives you the evil eye, you are scared! Again, not me, Mark, but I was there to witness it and I was scared.

Delphi was amazing.  The ruins are set in the hillside and require a 470' elevation gain to see.  After being in the car 2.5 hours, William decided to run all the way up to the top and we were happy to let him.  There were several tour groups there, but I'm sure it's nothing like during the middle of the summer.  Most of the visitors stay near the bottom of the site and avoid the climb. 

We stayed in a great hotel in Delphi for the night before heading to Ancient Olympia.  Pitho Rooms has 8 rooms for rent.  George and Vicki were wonderful.  Their 3 boys were doing homework when we arrived.  George was born and raised in this little town and his family runs most of the establishments so he knows everyone.




The road between Delphi and Nafpaktos on the way to Ancient Olympia is just stunning.  It zig zags along the coast and the views of the Corinthian Sea are amazing.  As we drove along we came around a blind corner to see goats crossing the road.  William and I yelled "goat" as Mark slammed on the brakes.  We were being helpful in case he wasn't sure what those four legged animals were.  Just past the actual goat crossing was the sign warning us to watch for goats - a little too late.

We actually stopped in Nafpaktos and found street parking (it's always a free for all) and decided to walk around and find a snack before driving onto Ancient Olympia.  We found a local bakery that had a great time loading up on all kinds of cookies and breads and one very strange cream pastry.  William pointed to it in the case and the lady smiled and said "very good, fresh", so we tried it.  It may have been fresh but not so good.

Ancient Olympia is a fun site to visit because you can just imagine the first 100 Olympic Games being celebrated there.  The site has a lot of energy.  The boys loved running in the first Olympic Stadium (it's about 200 meters long).  I didn't see any reason to run with them since I would not have been allowed entry to the stadium or the games because of the "no women" rules.  So I volunteered to take photos instead.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Greece - Athens


Our flights to Athens went wonderfully smoothly.  Both boys were pleasantly surprised to find free unlimited movies on the flight from Seattle to Amsterdam and, while I encouraged them to get some sleep, seat back entertainment was a great way to keep all of us occupied for the 9 hour flight.

The boys are really enjoying Athens.  I was really worried about culture shock but both boys are really into the city and investigating the differences they see as we tour around.  Athens is a huge sprawling city with over 5 million people.  It's intense and exciting.



On the day we arrived the metro and bus system workers were on strike.  The only choice from the airport was taxi.  The sign very clearly said (in English) that the fare into Athens was fixed at $35 Euro.  When we got to the hotel the driver insisted on $50 Euro to compensate for the bad traffic and whatever else he said in Greek that I didn't understand.  As I'm trying to be firm on the posted price the backup of cars we were blocking is beginning to honk and people were yelling out their windows and I ended up just paying the $50.  The Metro would have been $24 Euro if the workers had not been on strike.

Today the museums were closed as these workers decided to strike.  It's a good thing we visited the Acropolis yesterday!  Tonight the news is reporting that the metro and bus drivers will be on strike again beginning tomorrow for 48 hours this time.  We watched a protest rally parading down the street toward the governmental square this afternoon.  It seemed to be quite peaceful but the riot police were out and ready for any problems.  We didn't hang around too long!

Our hotel is located in the Plaka which is very near the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus.  We spent an entire day exploring the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.  Benton is in heaven!  The Ancient Agora is just below the Acropolis and was just as fascinating.  William found a story in sculpture on the Temple that depicted the struggle between Thesius and Creet for the freedom of Athens.  He had been reading Greek short stories in school before we left and this is one of the Greek Myths he studied.  He loved the fact that his Literature assignment was tied to something he could actually look at.




The boys love these stands that sell all kinds of donuts and breads.  Everything is one euro and fresh each morning so how could we not stop and get something? 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homeschool Update and Prepare for Greece

At this point we have been homeschooling for about a month.  Last week I decided it was time to check in with the boys on how things are going.  Honestly, I thought everything was going great but was worried that they might think otherwise. 

William had the usual complaints that he didn't want to do so much work and that "math takes all day".  This is nothing new.  William thinks that school should be 2 days a week and weekends should be 5 days.

Benton reported that he was working much harder during the school day but was still not sure what to do with all the free time in the evenings and on weekends.  His workload is big and his days intense with online lessons and more assignments than he is used to.  He was a little surprised when his Biology Teacher reminded his honors class of 11 students that she expected every assignment to reflect honors level work, thoughtfulness and execution and no late assignments/labs will be accepted.  Even with the high level of expectation, he is doing wonderfully and has lots of free time.

We take off for our Greek adventure tomorrow.  This past month has been spent figuring out our tour plans and making sure that our technology will travel and work with us on the road.  We will leave home tomorrow with lesson plans for 3 weeks, 2 laptops with power cords, a wireless hotspot with international data plan and charging cord, a Kindle with all school textbooks loaded onto it along with several literature books and charging cord, one cell phone with international plan and charger, one "Go Green" device charger and charging cord, one iTouch filled with music, one car charger for phone and iTouch, one camera with charger, 3 power converters and a comprehensive map of Greece and Rhodes.  Cord management is horrifying and has kept me up for several nights!

After figuring all this out, driving in Greece will seem like nothing.  I sure hope so!  I've been told and read that driving won't be an issue once out of Athens.  Benton will be the navigator and I'm sure we will get intimate with several round abouts as we go along.  I'm also prepared to be honked at, but will try not to take it personally.  Greek law states that you must be older than 12 years to ride in the front seat, so there will be no arguing since William is still 11.  Three weeks of no one yelling "shot gun" on the way to the car will seem like a vacation bonus!





 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Boston and Home - Day 13 and 14

Day 13

Our last day in Boston and we realized this morning that we haven't had Boston Baked Beans or Boston Cream Pie yet!  We resolved to find a restaurant for dinner that has both.

Today's plan was to take the T to Harvard for the Walking Tour and then take a quick look at MIT.  We enjoyed learning about the history and architecture of Harvard.  The boys and I wandered around Cambridge after the tour and had lunch at Pinocchio's Pizza - we were told that you haven't been to Harvard until you have had pizza there.

We decided on Durgin Park for dinner.  We asked and got a table near the windows and could look down on Faneuil Market while we ate.  We did try the Baked Beans (the boys decided that Grandma's Best in the West Beans are better) and shared a slice of Boston Cream Pie (it was good too).  Then we walked around the market and shared cookies and other pastries that we just needed to try.

Day 14

Our flight left early, but it was direct to Seattle.  We made it home by mid afternoon, happy to see that everything was OK.  Benton and I split up the task of getting the lawn mowed down...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Liberty and Boston - Day 10, 11 and 12


Day 10

Still no Amtrak service between Philadelphia and Boston.  So much for naps, cards and books; we are renting a car and driving.  However, the nice thing about driving is the flexibility.  So, when we saw the exit for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty we made a quick decision to take a detour. 

William has been keeping track of all the states we have been in - Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Day 11

After getting into Boston much later than anticipated, we started later than usual today.  The Freedom Trail was on the agenda.  We started at Bunker Hill and made our way towards the other end at Boston Commons.  There are 16 historical sites along the 2.4 mile trail (a red line on the pavement).  It took us about 6 hours to take in everything.  We are a family of plaque readers (and we read all of them), tour/talk takers and museum crawlers.

Tonight we had a melt down.  It was bound to happen.  Someone, usually more than one of us, reach a point where we have had enough.  We needed to find a restaurant for dinner and everyone was tired and worn out.  We stood on the corner near Paul Revers's statue in Boston's north neighborhood and fell apart.  Surrounded by several dozen great restaurants and we couldn't make a decision.  In the end, we marched back to the hotel and ordered a not so great pizza and salad.




Day 12

The boys really enjoyed the New England Aquarium today.  They have a shark and ray touch tank that we spend 30 minutes visiting.  After looking at the fish, we headed across the street to Legal Seafood for lunch.  William tried his first Crab Roll and fell in love with a local favorite. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Philadelphia - Day 7, 8 and 9


Day 7

I was outvoted today.  I wanted to take a leisurely drive through Lancaster County and Valley Forge on our way to Philadelphia.  All 3 boys voted for Hershey instead.  Mark commented that it was the busiest place we have been so far.  It was remarkably quite in Gettysburg the day before.  Yes, we ate chocolate, drank chocolate and bought even more supplies for the road.  On the way out of town we enjoyed the town with its Hershey Kiss light poles. 

Having never experienced a hurricane on the west coast, I was nervous enough to call the hotel in Philadelphia and inquire if it was wise to continue to drive east.  The hotel front desk person pleasantly let me know that the mass transit was shutting down and most businesses were closed but they were still open and expecting us. I did suggest that maybe we may want to make other plans.  Again, I was outvoted and we actually drove towards Hurricane Irene into Philadelphia.  It was a crazy night on 10th floor as the storm passed through.

Day 8

In the aftermath of rain and wind, Philadelphia continued to be a ghost town.  We spent the day on foot seeing the city.  By late afternoon the sun returned and a few of the family owned businesses began to open and we were able to enjoy a Cheese Steak for dinner.





Day 9

The original plan was to Amtrak to Boston today, but Amtrak is not running.  Learning to be flexible is a good travel skill to acquire early in our adventure.  We changed things around and decided to hang out and see Philadelphia on a regular sunny Monday.    Today all the building were open.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

DC and Gettysburg - Day 4, 5 and 6

Day 4

We were able to reschedule our Capital tour for this morning.  Unfortunately we had not read the fine print letting us know that no backpacks or bottles of any kind would be allowed in the building.  We had 4 full nalgene's with us stowed in 2 backpacks.  Wonderful and considerate (somewhat bored) Benton volunteered to keep watch over our bags and bottles outside the visitors center while the rest of us took the tour.  Benton was in DC twice in 2010 and had taken the tour both times.  The security officer at the door was very kind to offer to make sure he didn't wander away while we were inside and I was able to text him a couple of times during the tour to make sure all was OK.

The boys spent the remainder of the day in the Air and Space Museum while I was able to tour the Library of Congress all by myself!  As the day was ending in DC, Benton was able to help the office at the Air and Space Museum take down and fold the American Flag.




Day 5

Its hard to admit it but time is flying by as Benton begins high school in September.  Thus, we decided that we should try to visit a few colleges as we tour around.  This morning we visited The George Washington University.  It was great for Benton to attend the orientation session and tour the campus at Foggy Bottom.  While we attended this Mark and William toured Arlington Cemetery.

On our way out of DC we decided to make a trip to Mount Vernon to see George Washington's house.  The grounds surrounding the property are beautiful but we didn't get to see the house - Mark thought the admission price was too high and declared we weren't going in.  We stopped by the gift shop and I picked up a postcard for both boys scrapbook.  We spend the rest of the drive to Gettysburg listing to the boys lament that their dad is cheap.





Day 6

Gettysburg Day!  Through our friend Don Sommer we were able to get connected with Doug Boden for a private tour of Gettysburg.  Doug has been an official tour guide for more than 15 years and we are so lucky to have spent 3.5 hours with him.  He drove us through the battle grounds and described the 3 day battle in great detail.  He really made the property come to life.

Also, Potato Chip Factory Outlet Day!  For 90 years the UTZ Potato Chip factory has been producing chips near Gettysburg, PA.  We just couldn't pass through this area without checking it out. 




And, Laundry Day!  We spent our Friday night at the local Gettysburg laundromat - that's where all the cool people go.  The boys declared that laundry required a Blizzard, so a stop by Dairy Queen was first.  Fueled with the Nutter Butter Blizzard of the month they were ready to watch me work magic with a double loader and a stack of quarters. 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

William's Thoughts (aka What Sucks About This) August 25

1.  My thirsty brother decided to drink ALL my water when I was not looking.


2.  The hotel rooms smell like someone used a lot of cheap perfume in them.


3.  All the pillows are firm.


4. Tours are short.

Tired and surly, William

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DC - Days 1, 2 and 3

Day 1
Getting here was thankfully uneventful.

Day 2
Today we hit the ground running for a tour of the Washington Monument at 9:00 a.m.  It was cool to ride the elevator to the top (can't take the stairs anymore) and look around.  I wasn't really comfortable getting right up against the window - as many know I'm not thrilled with heights, but I decided to take a deep breath and look straight down.  Great view!  We followed this up with a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Benton wanted to purchase a sheet of notes as a souvenir but they were currently sold out of all denominations below $20 and he wasn't willing to spend his entire souvenir budget on a page of 8, 16 or 32 $20 bills.  You can do the math on price of those sheets. 

Spent the major part of the day in the Museum of Natural History.  After only seeing about half of the museum we raised a white flag and surrendered.  We finished the day with a 3 hour bike tour of the major monuments.  Riding a bike is a great way to get around - William said he could never have walked the entire way without complaining.



Day 3
Toured the National Archives this morning.  I wish we had time for me to enter the research wing.  I wold love to spend more time working on the Walters and Peterson family trees.  But, that will have to be done from home. 

After taking in the Spy Museum - a must for anyone with boys like mine (I thought it was just OK), we headed to the Capitol for our afternoon tour.  Just as we were entering the visitors center the 5.8 earthquake rolled through.  William and I were on the stairs at the time and it felt like we were on an escalator.  It didn't take long to realize we were not going on a tour today.  After being evacuated from the area I also realized that all the other buildings were being closed and that meant that the restrooms were also unavailable.  Yes, I needed to use one.  We found a row of portable toilets in front of the outdoor Sculpture Museum and got in line (many, many others were in the same predicament).  We soon found out that only one unit was open, the rest were padlocked shut.  The line was over and hour long - one of the first times I've watched a lot of men have to wait (women are quite used to this).  We cabbed it back to the hotel and Benton grabbed for the remote and William hit the pool.  Not the day we had planned but definitely an adventure!



Sculpture Garden Fountain

Monday, August 15, 2011

Introduction

This past spring we decided to make some changes.  We have been progressing along the assembly line of life, following the manual so to speak.  We have a nice home (and like everyone else we live in our car), our boys do well in school and have the necessary amount of extra curricular activities to make us crazy busy and we manage to take a nice vacation once a year at the prescribed time.  We really have nothing to complain about, but this is not the plan we made a long time ago before kids, house, dog and a huge lawn that needs to be mowed weekly.  We always said we were going to make time for more adventure and expand our horizons, live outside the box so to speak.  Instead we have worried about the huge expense of boarding a dog and the overwhelming need to keep the grass from becoming a monster that will rise up and take over the house.

But, a new plan began to hatch last spring.  After spending an amazing amount of money on private school tuition for 11 years, we decided to spend the tuition for 2011/12 on some real life studies and some family time.  Beginning this September we will be a homeschooling family with plans to travel.  The adventure begins next Sunday when we head to Washington DC, Philadelphia and Boston for two weeks of on site American History.  This past week we purchased tickets to Athens, Greece for the month of October and are beginning to investigate Peru for December.  Next April our plan is to rent an RV and spend the month on the road across the U.S. via I-90 (national parks and fossil digging) and Route 66 back to Santa Monica Pier.  It's time to stop at all those photo/lookout opportunities we have been speeding right past on the way to our destination.

This blog will be the journal of our adventure, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Stay tuned...