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!
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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!