Follow by Email

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Delphi, Mycenae, and Napflio

Last week I was a little homesick. It could have been that Jim was traveling, and it was rainy so the kids and I had to stay inside, and it was rather a bear of a day with the kids “testing their boundaries,” or pushing my buttons, or however you want to say that they were misbehaving. We are at about the halfway point in our European stay, and my thoughts have turned to home more often. We have also visited many of the major places in Greece that we wanted to go, and I feel our time here drawing to a close.  Of course there is much, much more that we could see and do (the islands of Santorini and Crete top the list), but I feel like I’ve had a sampling of many of Greece’s main attractions. We have visited two islands (Mykonos and Hydra) and Athens several times. For our last major excursion in Greece, we rented a car to drive to Delphi, and then to Mycenae on the Peloponnese, seeing more of Greece’s landscapes, from mountains to olive groves, along the way. I asked an archaeologist who works in Greece what her "must-see" sites were, and Delphi and Mycenae topped her list. They were both truly impressive, and well worth the drive; I'm so glad we were able to visit them.

Temple of Apollo, Delphi

L2 overlooking the Delphi theater

J, L1, and L2 at the stadium, Delphi

Athenian treasury, Delphi 

Delphi: breath-taking classical Greek site on Mount Parnassus, among the pines. Known for the temple to Apollo and the oracle.
Stayed at the Pythos Rooms.
Feat of endurance: carrying both kids up the mountain to the stadium shortly before the site closed.
Kids’ favorite: eating cookies and playing with a Greek boy outside the museum.
J’s favorite: being in the mountains.

Sanctuary of Athena, Delphi

Ancient Mycenae: massive, stonewalled, fortified city dating to around 1350 BC.
Most impressive: the Lion Gate.
Kids’ favorite part: building pine needle houses while waiting for mom to tour the museum, and drinking fizzy lemonade while waiting for dad to tour the museum.
I will remember the scent of orange blossoms, the buzzing of bees among the wildflowers growing thickly among great blocks of stone, and the chatter of French school kids.
Stayed at the Petite Planete, which served an excellent dinner and breakfast on the patio.

The Lion Gate

Grave Circle A, where Heinrich Schliemann excavated the "Mask of Agamemnon"  

Photo by L2

L1 at Mycenae

Drove to Napflio on a whim because the guidebook described it as the prettiest town in Greece.
Built in the 1700s, it has three massive stone forts protecting the city. Today, it has an abundance of gelato shops.
Kids’ favorite part: fruity drinks by the sea.

Napflio fortress with bougainvillea

Prettiest setting for a playground, Napflio

Sleeping at last on the way home.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Busy week with friends

Island of Hydra

Friends of ours who are living in Prague for two years visited us in Greece with their two young children. We will return the favor in a couple of weeks, visiting them in Prague. We all had a wonderful, if busy, time. Two trips to Athens and a trip to an island called for early mornings and often turned into late nights, at least for the little ones. L1 was so excited to have a playmate his age, and continues to talk about E (the daughter of our visiting family). I think the highlight of the visit for the kids was exploring the front yard, picking flowers, playing with sticks, and running through the bushes. Never mind hiking up the Acropolis. We have now visited the Parthenon three times, and each time it has been necessary to encourage the kids' climb to the top with the promise of snacks once we get there.

The kids picking up rocks and flowers.

Island of Hydra

We took two days to visit the island of Hydra, which had been recommended to us by several locals. This is one of three islands (the others are Spetses and Poros) close to Athens that the Greeks, themselves, visit for vacation. Hydra has no motorized vehicles except for a few work and emergency trucks. The island is quiet and picturesque, perfect for strolling through narrow streets and enjoying a coffee break in a port-side café. Because there are no cars, donkeys act as luggage porters – and as entertainment for the kids. L1 calls Hydra, “Donkey Island” for this reason. L1 and E shared a donkey ride, while L2 and I rode another donkey on a loop through Hydra Town.  L1 spent a good portion of his mad money (thanks Chris and Christina!) on bronze figurines of a donkey and a dolphin.

Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day

The day we arrived happened to be Greek Independence Day (March 25) when the people of Greece commemorate their war of independence from the Ottoman Empire starting in 1821. Greece had become part of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. As we sat on a side street eating lunch, a parade of school children came by, bearing flags and dressed in traditional costume. It was a nice happenstance.

Lunch under blooming wisteria.

The streets of Hydra

We stayed at the excellent Mistral Hotel, and had a long lunch on the first day at a tavern just around the corner from our hotel. We sat outside under a pergola covered in wisteria, enjoying the fragrance of the flowers and the soft sea air. The kids ran around (sometimes under) tables and  chased cats (of which Hydra has many; all appear well-fed). The waiter encouraged us to come to the kitchen and pick our food, including fresh fish. I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was certainly delectable – almost like lobster, with creamy, white flesh, served with clarified butter. Yum. Hydra provided a lovely island experience. It is hard to choose a favorite event of our time in Greece, but visiting Hydra was certainly a highlight that we will remember fondly.

Anyone know the red fish? It was delicious.

Breakfast at the Mistral Hotel on Hydra