It’s been a travelin’ kind of May!

I have been on the road, so to speak, for almost the entire month of May! Sorry for the lack of updates, as I haven’t really figured out how to post through the app. It is on my to-do list to learn at some point. I had so many pictures (too many pictures!), and I kept putting this off until I get them organized…but I have given up and since I am about to leave on ANOTHER adventure, I figured I better get this one caught up!

I’m going to break this down by destination, and just do some short snippets. The entire experience has been amazing, and I hope it gives you some ideas for traveling, as well! Links to the pictures are in each title. Feel free to poke around the album to see other pictures, too.

Plus, I get back, and everything is green!

May 20, 2015

May 20, 2015

ATHENS – aka “AthensFest 2015”

As mentioned before, my mom runs a cooking forum on DelphiForums, and within the group that posts there, they organize these ‘fests’, a gathering of three or more members in some locale. This time around, dear Evelyn organized one in her hometown of Athens, Greece. Mom asked me if I would like to go…haha, she didn’t have to ask the AntiCook twice!

With her usual flair, Mom booked us into a brothel. And you think I might be kidding? No, it has a reputation among the cab drivers! Even so, the rooms are cheap (and they do rent by something other than the hour), relatively clean, and breakfast is included in the low, low price. I think during the summer they cater more to tour groups rather than their ‘other’ clientele, but we still go to sit on the gold couch and watch the women hawk their wares.

TRAVEL TIP: We used a service called “WelcomePickUps” for Athens. They are only available in Athens and Istanbul, but I can’t recommend them enough. Spiro was my driver from the airport, and then we hired him for the day to take us to Delphi and Thermopalyae. It was great having a ‘private’ driver to wait on us as we climbed the ruins, to drive us to lunch and through the crazy Athens traffic. The pick up from the airport was sooooo nice, as well, and the company was fantastic in every respect. Very reasonable rates, too.

Pictures from AthensFest 2015

SANTORINI

Oh wow! This place is as beautiful as the pictures! I have always imagined visiting Santorini, with the white buildings and blue domed roofs, and when I did, it was just as I had imagined! Our rental through Kastro Suites, was perfectly situated. It was a bit large for just the three of us, but the location was perfect (at least for me). Our patio opened on to the public path, and while I wouldn’t want to LIVE there, having the tourists and the donkeys climbing past us was all part of the charm.

My husband and I went to the Akrotiri ruins, and from there, we attempted to break our necks climbing up and then down to the red beach. I think we were climbing on goat paths that even goats weren’t dumb enough to utilize, all so I could get some red volcanic sand for my collection. 🙂

Pictures from Santorini

ATHENS – redux

We’re back at the brothel…it feels just like home. This is the one time we got a ‘bad’ room: the ac wasn’t working, nor the fridge. Went downstairs to let them know, and by the time we got back from our tours that day, we had a new room with working items. It may not be the prettiest place in town, but the customer service is great (and I’m trying to say that without it being an innuendo…) 🙂

ABRUZZO REGION, Italy aka “Cooking school”

We arrived at the Rome airport, but because we were coming from within the EU, the directions from the cooking school weren’t accurate (they were for the US/Canada guests), and a fire in the Rome airport a few days previously had rerouted things. But it all worked out, and soon we were picked up on and on the bus to Abruzzo, an approximately 4 hour ride, in which we were consistently terrified by our driver, who texted while driving the bus, drifting into the oncoming lane and shoulder, and who didn’t understand English. But, that aside, we made it alive and were ready to go.

The place where we stayed and where the school was is beautiful.  It was rather cold up in the mountains, but the views were amazing. All of us in the class were there on the Groupon deal (essentially a BOGO deal). We met some amazing travelers, mostly older women and couples, who have been on adventures all over the world! Everyone seemed to get along quite well, and I even found two other women who didn’t drink wine there. We were the popular ones to sit next to.

In a nutshell, we went on some amazing tours, fixed some amazing food, and ate even better. I know I gained weight in Greece, and I know I added to it in Italy. Everything is fixed with fresh ingredients, full fat, and lots of olive oil, of course!

Pictures from Abruzzo

BALTIC CRUISE – STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

This was the first stop on the 3 day Baltic cruise aboard the St. Peter Line’s Princess Anastasia ship. The ship looks like a throwback to the 80’s, which it probably is, but overall, and for the price, the cruise isn’t a bad deal. I’ve done it once before, but it was in March, very cold and wet. This time around was late May, and it was just cold. Well, chilly. We hardly spent any time on the decks, but that was alright, as we spent our days out sightseeing.

In Stockholm, there are a couple of must-see places. Definitely the Vasa Museum. It was still interesting my second time there, and I think the girls enjoyed it, too. In a nutshell, the museum houses a ship that went down in the harbor on its maiden voyage, due to poor design.

BALTIC CRUISE – TALLINN, ESTONIA

Ah, Tallinn. My hubby met us here, having come in on the Eckerd Line ferry, just to see us. We went and ate at Old Hansa House, dropped Mom off at a wine shop, then walked around and toured the old city while he gave his history report. We had a “bowl of decent elk soup”, which is always very good, and the girls tried moose sausage and a wild game meat pie.

BALTIC CRUISE – ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

MeetMeTaxi was amazing for this. If you have a group together (4-6 people), skip the ferry bus and use these folks. Our driver, Vladimir, drove us around to see about a dozen landmarks, gave us a running commentary on the history, and sat with my mom while I and the girls went into Hermitage. We were able to stop for pictures, and he waited for us outside the Church on the Spilled Blood while we toured and took pictures there. It was not a bad price at all, the van was comfortable, and it was a lifesaver for those of us who can’t walk far distances any longer.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the cruise, as I had been on it before, and wanted to experience without being behind the camera lens. Most of the pictures I took were with my daughter’s phone, for her, so I don’t have them. We also took the ferry out to Suomenlinna, and the bus to  Korkeasaari Zoo. I’ll post about those trips when I get THOSE pictures organized!

Lazy weekend

Not much went on this weekend. There was the big time change, where we got to set the clocks back an hour (woohoo! An extra hour of sleep!). Watched the 1980 version of Flash Gordon last night — still one of my favorite fun movies. Also caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The writing is so much better this season than it was at the last part of the first season. I’m wondering if they’ve added to the scriptwriters or made some other changes. Whatever it is, I am liking it.

I was adding to my photos of the tree outside, and thought I would post the latest, along with the first one.

Sept222014

September 22, 2014

October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014

I made the Finnish pancakes (crepes) again this morning, and had to sacrifice the first one to the crepe gods, as usual. But they came out pretty good. Mixed up some ligonberry jam with mascarpone cheese, and spread that on mine. Yum! They are also good with ham and cheese rolled up and then melted in them. I’m sure there are a ton of different ways to fix them, and they really are so easy to do.

Finnish Crepes

Finnish Crepes

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

1 cup flour

1 tsp sugar

Combine the eggs and milk in bowl, make sure to blend well. Add flour, salt and sugar, and then blend until smooth. Cover bowl with cloth and let sit for about a half hour.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and add butter until sizzling. Scoop or pour about a 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and tilt the pan to coat the bottom with a thin, even layer. Cook until the top looks dry, maybe about 30 seconds or so. Then slip a spatula under the edge and flip it over carefully and cook on the other side just a few more seconds. Slide the finished crepe on to a plate, and start the next one, adding more butter, and repeating the process.

Fill with just about anything you want. Sprinkle with just sugar and roll up, or jam, add cheese or thin slices of meat (ham and Swiss were particularly good). If you double the recipe, you can store the leftovers in a ziploc in the fridge, and just microwave to warm up.

Tomorrow, I have drama club, plus I need to go gripe at Elisa for charging me for tech support. When I called, I had no idea that it was costing me money — the customer support person gave me the number, but didn’t tell me there was a per minute charge for the assistance! Cost me 25€ to get my phone working. It was a simple fix, too, that should have been done at the store, but alas, was not. We’ll see how far I get.

Oh! Big news for the summer of 2015. My mom and I are going on an epicurean tour of Italy! Seven days and six nights in beautiful Italy, doing tours and learning to cook the Italian way! I am so excited! And this is after a few days spent in Greece at AthensFest 2015! I’ll be taking lots of pictures of all of that!