Friday, August 31, 2012

Tuesday (8/14) - Hello Athens!

DAY #2

As any 6'3" person can understand, my legs were overjoyed when we landed in Athens at about 9:30am, Greece time. From the plane, we began our 2-week journey of deciphering the Greek alphabet and finding our way around Greece. Surprisingly, we realized that I had somehow retained my sixth grade knowledge of Greek mythology, including the alphabet! So instead of just praying for an English translation under the Greek symbols, we were able to navigate relatively quickly through the airport.

As expected, Julie had perfectly researched all of the travel elements, and after a stop at the ATM for some euro, she guided us to the Metro ticket office to get us on our way to our hotel stop, Monastiraki. The metro ride was about 45 minutes long, and as Julie spent that time checking out the town from the window, I spent it staring down every sign I could find, practicing my Greek symbols and pronunciation. The metro is a great place to do it, because you look at the names of the stops, and then when you get there, the intercom voice pronounces them, so I could check my work. Yes, I know I'm a dork.

After passing it once, we backtracked to find our first hotel stop in Athens - Hotel Cecil. A renovated old-timey building, Hotel Cecil boasted a lobby with an old-school elevator lift, a winding marble staircase, and a bedroom that featured three (yes, three) beds! But the most noteworthy part about the hotel was their three-man shift of front desk clerks. When we checked in, a very gruff, no frills, less than amenable man checked us in by only saying two words and a number - "Hello", "yes", and "106" (our room number), and never even hinted at breaking a smile. Later in the day we met the clerk with the afternoon shift, who was much nicer, not great with English, but was extremely helpful and had some nice suggestions of where to go in Athens. And later that evening, we met the final member of the hotel three-headed monster, who was incredibly nice, very well-spoken, wearing an O'Neill surf shirt, and made sure to carry our bags for us, give us information we didn't even ask for, and never stopped smiling. We definitely ran the gamut of hotel clerk attitudes over the course of 12 hours.

View from our room in Hotel Cecil

 Three beds!

Since it was 11:00am, we decided to not waste a day, so we set out to see the town, and then just plan to crash that night (after being awake for a LONG time). So once we had time to drop our bags and inspect our three little pigs hotel room, we immediately hit the streets to go get our first taste of the local Greek cuisine. We stopped by a small restaurant well before the lunch rush (we would realize very soon that lunch is eaten at 3pm, and dinner at we needed a couple days to adjust), and immediately gobbled up the bread and olive oil, followed by a healthy portion of moussaka for Julie, and a cheese pie for me. I don't want to ruin some later posts, so just know that this would not be the last cheese pie I ate on the trip...

First meal in Athens.

Once we had some food in our bellies to hold us over until the dinner hour, we decided to walk the local flea market in Monastiraki Square, just blocks away from our hotel. The market was set in some dark, shaded alleys, with all the store-fronts having metal roll-down cages and doors that opened directly onto the street. My very first observation was that for every local Greek shop, there were at least five American shops, like Adidas and Reebok and H&M. The flea market was crowded with tourists and locals alike, and we quickly realized this would not be the place we'd be buying our Greek souvenirs for the trip. We passed a few strips of restaurants, all of which had employees hovering like vultures, trying to convince the lost tourists to stop and have some food. This would be a common thing across all our honeymoon stops, as the tourism industry is the what keeps the shaky Greek economy afloat these days, and all those waiters know it.

Storefronts in flea market

As we left the flea market and into the main open square, we looked up and got our first glimpse of the Acropolis towering above the entire city of Greece, with the Parthenon front and center. It was an incredible sight, being by far the highest point in the town, and had an extremely commanding and magnetic presence, causing many second and third looks. Julie and I just stood and took some photos, and realized that this was something that the locals looked at daily, and held in the highest regard. History was oozing from that peak. We could not wait for our next day's trek to explore all the Acropolis ruins and see it all up close.

Julie in Monastiraki Square (Acropolis on the hill)

After much more meandering around the streets, we went back to the hotel for a quick shower and rest, and then it was time for dinner. We found a local taverna (the local term for casual restaurant or dine-in eatery) that looked to have good, home-cooked dishes on its menu, so we plopped down and ordered a bottle of wine and began our feast. After (again) blitzing through the bread and olive oil, we ordered some baked feta cheese to start, and then it was my turn to order moussaka, while Julie ordered some amazing roasted peppers stuffed with rice and herbs. It is no secret that Julie and I are avid food lovers, and this meal officially set the tone for what would become one of the most epic eating trips in history of the planet. But I'm jumping ahead...

After gorging ourselves to a point that guaranteed uninterrupted sleep (not that the travel day hadn't already ensured that), we peeled ourselves off our chairs and trudged our way back to the hotel, where Clerk #3 (aka Mr. Nice Guy) politely held the elevator lift for us, as we had zero energy left after a travel, fun and food-filled 30 hours of being awake. We opened the door, threw down our cameras, and did the only thing that comes naturally to two smitten honeymooners on their first night....

We passed out.

***Tune in for the next post, where we explore the Acropolis, meet many cats, and realize that being in Athens on a national holiday may not have been the best planning...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday (8/13) - RISE AND SHINE!

What follows is the day-by-day breakdown of our two week trip to Greece, starting with...

DAY #1
We started our honeymoon with an early 4:00am wake-up call Monday morning to get to the airport for our 6:30am flight. Our flight path took us from San Diego to New York to Athens, for a total of about 15-16 hours (including layover). With the time change (Greece is 10 hours ahead of the west coast), we ended up arriving late morning the next day (Tuesday). I will talk about the Monday travel day in this post, and get to Tuesday in the next one.

While in the outrageously long security line (at 5:00am), I noticed an interesting glitch in the line system. When it got close to the time of someone's flight (say, 5:35am), the airport staff would walk the line and ask anyone boarding the 6:00am flight to get out of line and go to the front of security. Now, being the responsible travelers, Julie and I got to the airport at 5:00am (1.5hrs early) to make sure we got through the line, and we weren't even checking bags. You can imagine how many people we watched get pulled out of line in front of us and behind us during the time we spent in line. But...

Now I understand that if it's close to your flight and you haven't made it through security, you are in danger of missing your flight and it is very considerate of the airport staff to make these adjustments. That being said, when they make their announcement, there are people just getting to the back of the line who benefit from this. So while Julie and I get there in plenty of time to stand through this long line, someone who comes last second before their flight immediately gets rewarded and pulled to the front. I am not sure I have a better system, I just find it odd that the unprepared traveler gets bailed out and the prepared traveler has to sit through all the lines. But I digress.

Before I get too far into the details of the travel, it should be noted here that Julie deserves 100% of the credit for planning all the details of our entire trip. Having not traveled much internationally, I happily defaulted to Julie and her immense travel experience to set up our trip. Everything from flights to hotels to ferries to food suggestions, she took the bull by the horns and planned an incredible trip for us. She killed it.

On our flight to New York, it didn't take long for us to notice what was sure to be the first of many funny little things that happened along the way. After Julie and I sat down, someone sat down in the row ahead of us and Julie's tray table immediately fell open. The latch on her table had come completely off, and each time it fell, we had to jerry-rig this thing to just barely stay put and hold the table. And this thing fell open every time someone in the row ahead of us moved. And, as you can imagine on a cross-country flight, with people getting up and down to use the restroom, stretch their legs, adjust their seat, or get something from the overhead compartment, Julie spent half the flight putting the table back in its "locked and upright position."

After a very odd breakfast of a chickpea and egg filled danish and fruit, the remainder of the flight went without incident and got to New York on time. We transferred over to our 9-hour flight to Athens, and there I was elated to find that I had my own personal TV for the flight (I know, I'm a travel rookie), so I watched three movies (Goodfellas, The Avengers, and something else awesome that I can't remember). For someone who has horrible problems sleeping on planes, the option of movies to keep me occupied was a very exciting and welcome one.

Obviously this will most likely be the most boring of the blog posts, since it's just a post about airplane travel. But stay tuned for the next post, where we land in Athens, meet a bizarre trio of hotel employees, explore the local shops, gawk at the Acropolis from afar, and begin our minor obsession with saying "cheese pie."

Livin the Dream is Back!

Well, after 6 flights, 3 ferries, 4 Greek destinations, and 18,000 pounds of cheese, Mr. and Mrs. Livin the Dream are back from their two-week honeymoon to Greece! Thought I'd let you all know that I took notes every day of the trip, and plan to do a day-by-day breakdown of the trip. If you're not interested in hearing about amazing food, beautifully clear water, Julie driving an ATV, three Greek islands, and much more, I suggest not tuning in for a couple weeks.

My plan is to do a post for each of the days of the honeymoon. Some days I might post three days worth (individual posts), and some days I might not post at all. But there will be a full recap!

Friday, August 3, 2012

How Awesome Was....RECESS?!

I was just sitting at my computer thinking about things to post about, so I started thinking of things I used to love as a kid. Beyond the obvious answers like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Capri-Sun, and burning ants with a magnifying glass, one idea came to mind that I hadn't thought of in quite some time.

How amazing was school recess?!

This has to be the best concept ever created by the school systems. Of course every young kid needs the physical release after sitting at a desk for an extended amount of time (or in my case, about 13.6 seconds into the first class of the day), and schools want to encourage physical exercise. But recess was so much more than that. 

For me, recess was a time to...

-Play flag football and have everyone on the field waste the first five minutes of recess arguing because we all thought we were the best Quarterback out there.

-Play schoolyard handball (with the big red bouncey-ball) and bust out all those sweet old-school moves like rainbows, sliders and sliceys.

-Make sure I made one super sweet catch, shot, pass or play in whatever game I was playing, and make sure all the cute little girls saw it. Oh man, those third grade honeys always loved a showman.

-Challenge my buddies to half-court basketball shooting contests, where ten of us would get in a line at half-court and shoot, and then when the recess bell would sound, we'd all realize nobody had made anything, so we'd table the contest until lunch time, where we vowed to make the shot at least five times.

-Play "Knock-Out" or "Lightning", and inevitably get mad at that one punk kid who could care less about making a shot because he just wants to stand under the hoop, wait for you to miss, then knock your ball off the court and into the sandbox. I hated that kid. My favorite thing to do was to swish a shot right in front of his dumb little acne-face, keeping him from knocking my ball away...and then he'd do it anyway and just walk off the court and not go get the ball. Kids are jerks.

-Have some group of giggly girls come up to you, tell you their friend likes you, and then ask if you like them back. Of course, you tell them no, you get overly-dramatic and angry and call them stupid girls, then turn around to see all your buddies watching and laughing at you, so you, while looking all red and flustered, find the nearest soccer ball and kick it as far as you can...because that shows you're still cool...?

-Occasionally go to the tetherball courts and wreck shop on some short kid, cuz you've worked out the angle of hitting it low on your side and have it go over his head and right back to you to tap again. 

-Run into the kid that does know how to play tetherball, and neither of you advance the ball very far, until one of you gets on a roll and then you have an epic battle as one of you is trying to swing the ball one more time tightly around the pole, only to have the opponent stick their hand between the pole and ball and just keep punching it back. Oh man, what a game.

Man, recess was incredible. Ya know what? I'm going to walk into my boss' office right now and talk to him about instituting a recess-period every day, telling him it would increase my productivity in the office...

(walking down hallway...brb...)

Damn. Shot down. Boss says he doesn't want me distracted by all the third grade honeys.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let the Countdown Begin...

Well, I am now single-digit days away from getting hitched! Definitely some crazy times right now in the life of LivinTheDream!

Lots has gone on since my last post (admittedly WAY too long ago). Thanks to the prompting of my sister, I decided to get a few more posts in as an unmarried man, before all of my blogging turns into puppies and bunnies and butterflies once I go soft in married life.

Regarding above - yeah, won't happen.

Anyway, over the next few days, check back in to see what I've come up with. I promise to not just recap what I've been doing lately. I will probably come up with some old embarrassing stories about myself, maybe some more food obsessing, and whatever else comes to mind.

For the time being, enjoy "Sky's the Limit" by the Notorious B.I.G. and 112. Love this music video concept, and it's what I'm listening to this morning.

  "Sky's the Limit"