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The Last Days

The Last Two Days in Paris
We were up early and on a mission. We had only three nights in Paris, (two days) to visit the sites so we didn’t waste any time. We were up early and had the FREE hotel breakfast, hopped our shuttle bus to the airport where we could pick up the metro to Paris. The train fare was over $60 return. Ouch. We also purchased some tickets so we could hop on and off the subway throughout the day. Another $15 bucks. The shuttle bus and metro ride took us a little over an hour and a half to get into downtown Paris. Note to self. Next time we stay in Paris, find a hotel downtown.

63F4A750-126E-4748-8B5F-3B323D677D0FWe went first to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s big and beautiful and was built over a period of 300 years. Construction started in the 1100’s. The stain glass in this place is a marvel. The line up to get in was fairly long, so after a few pics we started our way down the Seine River.

AC9EFBE0-CC1F-49B1-BC5E-E3C898499E2C Although Kim and I aren’t much into tours, we decided to take one of the famous boat tours that go up and down the river. I kept waiting for Grace Jones to parachute into our boat off of the Eiffel Tower, but it never happened. We only paid €12 for a one hour tour and it was most enjoyable. We had done a lot of walking and it was nice to sit and hear about the City of Lights. Paris has this name because it was the first European city to install gas lamps on the streets at night. We foolishly decided we could walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower and set off. It took over an hour and a half, but we got to see a lot of the city and took a ton of pictures. We passed the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Palais des Invalides, Place Concorde, Napoleons’ Legion of Honour the largest plaza in Paris with a 3000 year old Greek obilisk, the Palais of Chaillot, the L’Orangerie Museum, the Orsay Museum, which was originally a train station, the New Bridge, which was the oldest bridge in Paris, Place Vendome, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, the National Assembly, the Justice Building, the Tuileries Gardens. Plus so much more.

When we got to within a few block of the Eiffel Tower, we both realized we were starving and we entered a small cafe/restaurant to get a snack. It was about 4:30 and we hadn’t eaten a thing since our 8:00am breakfast. We shared a dim sum which came with 5 dumplings and a little rice and we washed it down with a litre of cold water. It wasn’t a lot to eat, but it refreshed us enough to hold us off until dinner. The bill was $45. Paris is a pretty expensive place to live.

E11E5DDE-B0A3-4FEA-ADBF-2E8263D38278The Eiffel Tower was built over three years in the 1890’s to celebrate a World’s Fair in the year 1900. Parisians hated it at first. It was ugly, it was out of place and it was probably going to fall over. The original plan was to build it and then take it down twenty years later. The tower was so popular at the fair, it was decided to keep it. Every ten years a team undertakes the task of painting and other maintenance. This task takes three years to complete. The tower was a little smaller than I remembered it. Maybe I’m taller? We were both disappointed that the entire grounds surrounding the tower were fenced off as they redid all of the landscaping. It was a zoo with hundreds of tourists, and street people hawking their key chains, selfie sticks, miniature ET’s and even wine and beer.

We noticed throughout the day, Kim and I were getting lots of stares from everyone. We are both quite tanned from our last two months of living on beaches, but as well we chose to wear T shirts and shorts. It was 16 degrees and quite sunny. Neither of us were cold during the day as we were constantly walking. When the wind came up on the boat cruise we thought it might get cold, but the sun came out and rescued us. Everyone, Parisienne and tourists alike, wore their winter coats and long pants. If people asked, we just explained that we were Canadians and they seemed to understand.

 

PREPARE FOR MANDATORY JUMPING PICTURES.

E913CF35-A929-4030-936C-A8278297208FC2F7ABF9-A4E1-4DB0-980E-8066E3BAA8D5B22EA588-67A0-4970-BF9F-15DE9BA6B7E2 Of course I did the mandatory jump pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, one even in front of a Ferrari.

DB967E66-605D-443F-8AEE-274A37950D69 Our legs were giving out so we then decided to catch a taxi to the Champs Élysées so we could check out the Arc de Triomphe, night clubs like the Lido, Moulin Rouge and the stores we can’t afford to even go inside. It was a 5 minute ride and we walked up and down for about an hour.

BRUCE AND HIS LAMBORGHINI.

427D8434-7B92-4421-A6FC-F286CA67F300I was astounded how many people were driving around in Maserati’s, Lamborghinis and Ferrari’s. We even came across a street corner with three hot cars parked in a row parked. We discovered that there is a business where you can rent you dream car. Not certain, but I believe it was about $135 plus insurance for an hour. No, we didn’t rent one. Our original plan was to stay and eat dinner in Paris, but neither of us were hungry, dinner service was still a few hours away, and we were not looking forward to the long train and shuttle bus ride home late at night.

We decided to head home and eat at our hotel, so we consulted our subway map and entered the George V subway station for home. It was very crowded and there were two incidences which held up our train for quite a while, so our trip back to our hotel was over three hours. We stood the whole way home. Kim and I we jammed into the subway car like sardines when I felt a little tickle down my leg. I reached down and found a 4 year old was trying to wriggle her hand into the pocket of my cargo pants. I pulled her hand away and shook my head no. Two minutes later, I felt it again. This time I went down to my pocket and she had undone both buttons and had her hand inside my pocket. I trapped her hand and said in a loud voice. Keep your hand out of my pocket. Mom looked over and scolded her. I am not certain if this was an innocent child or if she had been trained and this was planned theft. I kept my hand on my wallet and camera the rest of the way home. The only nice part of our return trip was meeting a nice German girl, who was a world traveller. Tamara was also on her way to the airport. She worked for a financial institution called Boston Consulting Group. I write her name here as she has promised to come and visit us in Vancouver soon. We arrived at our hotel about 8:30 starving and exhausted. We had the buffet and a half bottle of Cotes du Rhone and we were asleep by 11:00.

Saturday was our last day in France before we flew home. Kim and I had talked about going to the Louvre for the day. For those of you who have never visited the Louvre and seen it from the outside know that this is a daunting task. The Louvre is the second largest museum in the world. Russia has the biggest. It boasts over 31,000 pieces of art work and takes well over three months to view the entire museum. It has over 16 km of hall ways. We started figuring out the practicalities of our visit. We had decided we wanted to return to our hotel before rush hour, we wanted to sleep in a bit, we knew we would wait at least 30 minutes in line, even if we paid extra for the jump the line tickets. In short, it didn’t give us a lot of time. As well, Kim had a blister on her foot and my knee was a little swollen from jumping in front of the Eiffel Tower and standing for hours on a swaying train. The decision was made to have a relaxing day around our hotel area. We had a later breakfast and blogged, face booked and chilled in our room until noon. We then took the shuttle bus to a nearby mall to purchase some snacks, some wine and have a Starbucks and a snack. I even got my hair cut. Prices in the mall were 20-30% more expensive than Vancouver, but we were trying to dump some Euros before we returned so didn’t mind so much. We came back to our hotel and enjoyed a glass of actors du Rhone, Chemin du Pape, a delicious red wine and watched the end of Allied with Brad Pitt. I had no idea he spoke French so well. For dinner we went across the street to an I rich pub for dinner and made it home early to bed in preparation for our long flight on Sunday. Our flight leaves Paris 5:00 am Vancouver time, we have a stopover in Toronto, where we have to go thru customs and Airport security, then on to Vancouver where we hopefully will arrive about 10:00 pm.

At the beginning of our European blog I made some suppositions based upon my last visit almost 40 years ago. Here are my findings.

The waiters in Paris were rude.
It seems the system of the tip being included automatically has disappeared. As a result the waiters have to earn their tip. This has resulted in two things. One the servers are much more polite. And many guests tip little or nothing. Leaving 2-3 Euros on a 50€ meal seems to be the norm.

Everyone smoked all of the time.
Although somewhat improved, Paris is filled with a city of people who smoke. I appreciate that smoking is now prohibited indoors and at most restaurants. The issue is in outdoor restaurants throughout Europe, people were allowed to smoke if you were outside. Easily 95% of our meals were eaten in outdoor venues. We often put up with second hand smoke during our dinners..

The drivers all drive fast and were crazy.
Throughout Europe we found drivers to be mostly courteous and safe for the most part, but very fast. In town, the speed limits are safe and reasonable. Our experience is that most people drove well. The speed limits here on the highways-are 130 km/hr then add the 15% faster because you won’t get a ticket and that puts everyone driving at 150 km/hr. However, it’s important to note that there is a very important system that prevents accidents and helps traffic flow. If you are going to pass someone, you move into the fast lane, pass, then move back into the right lane to travel. You do not, (You will be ticketed) have any old guys doing 20 km below the speed limit in the fast lane. This system seems to work really well. Please note, we didn’t drive in Spain and on the island of Paros everything was crazy. Some people drove super fast, some super slow, there appeared to be no norm. I even had a server suggest to me I should drink a lot of wine before driving the island of Paros. It would help me fit in and drive better. The Greek drivers are crazy, but I love them all. I have easily adapted to driving at 150km/hr, and will make a conscious effort to slow it down once I return to BC.

No body jogs.
We saw a number of joggers here. Not sure if they are tourists or if the Europeans are trending to become more fit. In short some movement in this direction but nothing like Canada. When I return to Canada I was thinking of Jogging every morning. I won’t, but I will continue to think about it.

The wine was as cheap as bottled water.
As long as you are buying at a regular store and not a touristy wine shop, water runs about €1 per bottle and wine starts about €2 and up.

The coffee and baguettes were delicious.
They are! Starbucks has come a long way to giving us good coffee, but espressos here are just that much better. The best espresso for me was in Florence. Kim’s favourite coffee was a White chocolate mocha with cocoanut milk at a Starbucks in Paris.

And so ends our journey. Our thanks to all of our blog readers who commented and encouraged our ramblings! We are so fortunate to have had such a rich opportunity that we will never forget.

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A Quick Stop in Athens

Our last morning in Paros we ordered our amazing Greek breakfast that was delivered by one of the girls that work there. This place is so wonderful. Over the past 12 days we have become very good friends with both Ioanna and her mom Isabella. They gave USA wonderful breakfast, and thanked us for being such wonderful guests. We still owed them €36 Euros for the food and €100 Euros for our last night. She told us we were such lovely people, she would only charge us €50 for the room. We all hugged and double kissed cheeks, as is the way in Europe, and set out in the taxi for the ferry.

 

Good bye Paros, we will miss you!74221D47-2F8C-4768-A327-0103B61D1534 The skies in Paros looked clear, but towards Athens we could see the storm clouds a gathering!  You can see the storm clouds in our photo.

A436BD59-9896-4B15-B08E-1DB70F0357A0Sure enough about 2 and a half hours into our trip the waters got rough, it rained and there was a brief lightning/thunder storm. It was a little rough for a while and both Kim and I were feeling a little green, but we held steadfast and as we got closer to Port, the seas calmed somewhat and we arrived in Athens none worse the wear. We negotiated @ fair price for our t@xi ride and we were off.

Kim has done an amazing job of booking great accommodations while still getting a good price. She booked us into a place called “Apartment by the Airport.” The pictures looked good on line and according to their write up it was “a short walk to the beach.” So we are driving towards this place and our cab driver was an older fellow, but quite animated , passed the exit to the airport and explained we were another 10-15 minutes down the road. So much for the name of this place. We turned into a small village and immediately both Kim and I started to get a little nervous. This was clearly not a nice part of town. In fact it looked a little like a war zone. There was no wall without graffiti and there was a large gypsy encampment that our driver told us we should avoid at all costs. We drove a little further and saw some newer apartments but the street in front of them there was a demonstration with 30-40 people blocking the streets. According to our driver, these people were furious that these new apartments had been built because they had been kicked out of their homes. Yes, those were the apartments we were staying in. We arrived and all around us there was road construction, empty houses half torn down and wild dogs wandering the street. There was no restaurants or facilities anywhere near us. Our land lady gave us the key and clearly explained to us how everything worked in Greek, so we had no idea what she was talking about. She did not speak a work of English. She pointed out a grocery store that was about 5 blocks away, so we were set. I checked Google maps before we left thinking we might just check out the beach on our way. According to Google maps the beach was only minutes away if you were in a very fast taxi. It was about a two hour walk. We both thought it was a prudent idea to get something for dinner and get home before it got dark, so even though we were tired from our long journey, we set out in the general direction of the store. It was a twisted turning route that took us through all of the road construction in the village. We made it out and home safely and bought ourselves a roasted chicken, bread, some cashews , tomatoes and a Coke. We were both dying for some caffeine. The apartment itself was pretty nice, and roomy and it was only for one night, so we went to bed not too worried because we had preordered our taxi pickup at 10:30 the next morning, to take us to the airport. We were fed and safely locked into our apartment. I am guessing there might have been some concern about security as our apartment door looked like something from a bank vault with three very heavy bolts that shot into the wall when you turned your key. We went to bed at 10:30pm, with the intent to have a nice sleep. Here was how destiny planned our evening.

  1. 11:30. A garbage truck backed down our street (beeping the whole way) picked up our huge metal dumpster and banged it into the truck three times.
    12:45 am. A pack of dogs decided to bark, howl, bay at the moon, growl and fight with each other until 1:30.
    2:00 am. Someone has done something terrible to a cat. Not sure what, but I have never heard such an unearthly scream from an animal before. It only lasted a minute, but it spooked us both.
    4:00 am. It appears as if this area is somewhat of a farming community so the roosters started crowing about this time. Not one, but many roosters.
    4:30am. Some dipstick on a motor cycle decides to race up and down the streets next to our home. Part of the protest maybe? Oh dear. It seems his muffler doesn’t have any baffles in it and it’s slightly louder than a Death Metal concert. We enjoyed listening to him for ten minutes.
    6:30 am. People are going to work and one fellow takes out his garbage lifting the heavy metal lid on the dumpster, chucking in his refuse, and then lets the lid slam shut. I nearly jumped out of bed on that one. I thought a cannon had gone off.
    7:30 The road crew arrived right in front of our house and started to dig up the road. This continued until our cab arrived.    This is the view from our apartment.  Note the two garbage dumpsters in front.  The empty buildings in front, ( home to a pack of wild dogs, the road construction in front, the farm with roosters.  I wasn’t making this up!4C204A06-1D3A-4C6E-A6CF-66CDD43DB3EBNow our cab driver, another animated older guy, negotiated a fair price with me to the airport and we set off. He was very honest in explaining he didn’t come out to this village very often and was trying to find a road that was not under construction, that would get us to the airport. He couldn’t find the highway to get us there, so he went down a series of dirt roads, thru farmers fields and across people’s private property until we came out somewhere near the freeway and finally, we were off!

We arrived at the airport exhausted but ready to leave Greece for Paris, the city of lights. Aegean Air is a lovely airlines. We had a good flight and a nice meal, with friendly hostesses and a funny pilot. We even got to see the Alps over Switzerland.

 

B52A8C9A-2FEB-41FC-B426-032B83D87F83Our approach into Paris was very foggy and we couldn’t see the ground until seconds before we touched down. Upon leaving the plane I leaned into the cockpit and told the pilot it was a very smooth landing especially with all the fog. He just laughed and said “It was easy, I had his eyes closed the whole time.” How cool. A pilot that tells dad jokes. We arrived at CDG airport in Paris, picked up our bags, again no customs, and took the shuttle train to terminal three where we caught a bus to our hotel. We had a nice dinner in our hotel and went to bed about ten o’clock.

 

 

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The Last Day’s on the Beach

Not a lot to say here, but we sure enjoyed the beach!

 

60EC7A32-CCC8-429D-97DE-A2037A989EDAChillaxin in front of the three towers.

E9230DD7-FC09-40DB-9558-B28B52A79052Lots of fun building these towers.

82F2C317-CC58-418D-BB63-1CCDF9ED6B87598CBEA3-F4E1-45CA-A809-E59E0111DF9E305C8273-C8D4-4F95-9916-AEA20529F30DWe also loved playing in the water.

 

BBAD6570-FE80-4426-95B7-ADB2F26F3415BE50AAEE-DC93-4786-B22B-2C2BA90554ED908880D7-EC76-4998-9C72-3473BA543248853F5254-CB31-4C9E-B594-2A7116B23F74

Back to Paris on Thursday.

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The Last Days in Greece

October 23rd, 2017
Sorry but it’s been a week since I’ve blogged. Life has been so lazy here, I have got into a daily routine that didn’t include writing. We wake up between 9-10:00 am and either order the house breakfast which is inexpensive, delicious and huge or just make ourselves some toast and tea.

60EC7A32-CCC8-429D-97DE-A2037A989EDASometimes we walk down to the bakery for a pastry and a coffee. I have an espresso and Kim has an orange juice or a latte. I must say I am becoming addicted to a good espresso.

06E821F9-B54C-4FE8-A579-3A8437CE66A2We are down at the beach by noon. So far we have had beautiful, warm sunny days everyday we have been here in Paros. The water is warm, and our skin is now dark brown.  Kim’s toes sometimes match the teal colour of the water.  Thanks Andi Wong!

B5D02762-4376-4222-8F77-CE77D553883FWe have rented a car twice now. Both times we have found our way to this beautiful beach in Aliki. This is a small village on the south of the island. One time we went over to the island of Antiparos. There wasn’t much to see there and most of the tourist trade and restaurants were closed down, but it was very inexpensive (€10 included both of us and our car) so it was a cheap way to get out on the water. Car rentals here are also inexpensive. €20 gets us an old Fiat Panda that runs well, but isn’t a well made car. It’s neither fast or classy, but it starts every time and gets us where we want to go.

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We hang around the beach and swim, tan and read our Kindles.  Here’s me getting creative and building a rock tower.   There are few people on the beach. There is a yoga conference in town that has attracted a lot of young ladies to our village to get their yoga certification. They also join us at the beach. People here are pretty friendly, and we have met a number of folks from Canada, the US and an Auzzie or two as well. We leave the beach around 5:00 to get showered and ready for dinner.

 

Here is the terrace at our villa.05C20460-C3E2-4CD3-A753-310832C7A567

Here is the view from our terrace.08C68E5B-AA06-42E8-833B-D22309952425

Dinner is always after the sun has set so we love sitting on our terrace and watching the sun set.  For those of you who stop by our place to look at pictures of our trip we have close to a bazillion Greek sunset shots.  Everyone more beautiful than the one before it.

A29479A4-E8CE-4F5B-8422-8C31D785D1D7Our walk into town is about 10-15 minutes depending where we go for dinner. Our walk there includes having to walk about 5-6 stories down an old uneven cement stairway. Dinner is usually served 7:30-8:00. We are often the first ones in a restaurant as the rest of the village eats much later. We don’t mind though as we always get good service and the best seats in the house. There are only 12 restaurants in our village that are open and they all serve delicious food. I think we have been to all the ones that serve full dinners. I have been freaking out on the delicious lamb they serve here. Over the past week, I had an amazing lamb stew, a baked lamb wrapped in grape leaves and a roast lamb that you could cut with your fork. These people all know how to cook. Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory. The average is 2-3 Euros for an expensive dinner. This is less than 10%. We had one waiter who was very nice and he refused our tip. He said no he enjoyed serving us. I insisted and he refused again. I told him I wanted to at least buy him a beer or a glass of wine for after his shift. He laughed and said thank you, but no. We always start our meal with a fresh Greek salad, bread, olives, tatziki, and whatever looks good on the menu. We had some fabulous dolmades, which are rice, spices and stuff wrapped in grape leaves.

9BDB476F-4B35-45C8-B112-AD80CDBEBA9FAfter dinner we walk home and check out our Facebook and emails. If people are online FB we try to give them a FaceTime call. This doesn’t work out all of the time, but it’s nice to chat with those of you who are there. We are home about 10:00pm and with a ten hour time difference that makes it noon in BC. Look for us on FB at the that time.
We can’t always respond some evenings our internet is almost non-existent.

Tonight, Monday, Oct 23, we had read the weather report and were expecting a rain storm, but we needed to eat so we wandered into town and stopped at this little place where the sell gyros and salads. We had our usual Greek salad and a couple of chicken gyros. While the meal was delicious, we were eating outdoors. The rain started to fall and the lightning and thunder started. We were almost finished eating so we paid our bill, took a last mouthful and quickly made our way home.

The harbour on a nice night.

D96C82B5-F2BE-45D0-8AE1-7117A9259BEFThe lightning thunder was happening big time and the wind was howling so loud through the rigging of the fishing boats in the harbour, that it almost sounded like a number of police sirens of all different pitches. To top it off the transformer on top of one of the power poles was shorting out in the rain and electrical sparks or arching was cause a little light show above our heads. It was right out of a classical horror movie. We made it home safely without getting hit by lightning or attacked by Freddy Kruger and sat in our under covered alcove in front of our villa. We were both excited as we love to watch thunder storms. It’s something we used to do when we lived in our 20th floor apartment when we were first married and then again when we lived in China. After 3-4 more lightning strikes, the storm quietly retreated into the night and the rain stopped and the show was over. They are calling for more stormy weather in the next two days which is a little unnerving as we have to make a four and a half hour ferry ride from Paros to Athens on Wednesday. If they cancel the crossing, we miss our flight to Paris the next day. Here’s hoping for a calm crossing.

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Arrival in Greece

3:30 comes pretty darn early in the morning, especially if you were out late eating pasta and drinking wine. But when the alarm went off, Kim and I were up like rockets. Today we are going to Greece! Our taxi arrived on time and we were off to the airport. Check in went pretty well until we had to check our bags.

Now let me explain we were flying Alitalia from Florence to Athens with a stopover in Roma. Kim, who is the world’s best travel agent, was particularly proud of the fact she got such a good deal on the flight. It was $239, a good $150 bucks cheaper than any other airline. We arrive and the ticket agent informs us, our ticket is only for the flight we have to pay for the bags. How bad can it be? Surprise! $175 for two bags. Reminder to self. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

We arrived in Rome, and while Kim went to the washroom, I had the chance to play their grand piano in the departure lounge. This is the second time on our trip I have run into a piano in an airport. I also got to play Bohemian Rhapsody in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. (I had a number of people singing along as well!) After a final uneventful flight, we arrived in Athens and took a €50 taxi to the port to catch our ferry.

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Killing time on the streetsWe had some time to kill so we ordered some lunch. What do you eat when you have your first lunch in Athens? Why, Greek salad of course. I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

imageOur ferry arrived and we loaded for our 4 hour+ journey to Paros.

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We were so lucky to see a beautiful sunset from the back of the ship.  We arrived when it was very dark and after 17 hours of travel, we collapsed on our bed and slept thru the night.

The next morning we woke up and had a delicious breakfast that the hotel brought to our terrace. We ate fresh bananas, pears, figs, melon in a delicious Greek yogurt, a grilled chicken and cheese sandwich, a chocolate croissant, fresh coffee, a tall glass of orange juice and some fresh buns. All very yummy. This was our view.

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imageOur room is very quaint, but functional, and our hosts are so professional and friendly. When I phoned the front desk to order breakfast, they answered the phone “Good morning Bruce!” Although this is an apartment, there is a front desk with help available all day. Our kitchen won’t be great for cooking as it lacks a stove, so we will prepare breakfast and perhaps the occasional lunch ourselves! But will eat most of our meals out. The food here so far has been very reasonable compared to France, Portugal and Spain, but also delicious!

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Here is our villa from our beach.  I highly recommend this place. See Kim for the details. After breakfast, we went for a walk to explore the village.

imageEvery house here is the traditional white Mediterranean style home, built on top of each other. It looks so beautiful. It feels as if this is a place where people do life slowly but very well.

imageThe  whole place is filled with history.  There is a beautiful old church and this fort like structure we saw on the sea.  We also saw some sort of pillbox that I think was a leftover from WW2.

image There are tons of quaint restaurants and friendly shop keepers who are happy to talk with you just about anything. Lots of cats running around, hmmmm. We bought some fresh fruit, bread and pastries and of course a bottle of red wine. It is clear that white wine is the drink in Paros. Kim and I are thinking of trying some white wine to fit in here. We are starting to try some of the Greek we learned, but it is much more difficult than either Spanish or Italian. There is no connectivity to French at all. I am uncertain of the roots of the Greek language but it looks and sounds more like a Slavic language.

imageAfter two hours of exploring the village it was beach time. It was pretty windy out so we only stayed two and a half hours sunning and swimming. Kim thought it was too cold to swim when in fact the water was quite warm, but the wind Made it feel much colder. I didn’t swim long either way, but it felt good to be able to say I went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. We returned to our terrace, sunned for another few hours and watched a gorgeous sunset while we read our kindles. About 7:30 I had a quick shower and we left for dinner.
What a dinner we had tonight! We went out to fairly fancy place to celebrate our arrival and ate way too much. We started with a Greek salad and deep fried zucchini chips with tzatziki sauce, bread with porto sauce and fresh olives. Then our main course was a delicious mushroom risotto, spaghetti with mussels, and washed it down with two glasses of white wine. We were both stuffed but the waiter showed up and brought us some free dessert. Not sure what it was,but I think they usually only serve it in heaven. We are looking for our bill, completely full and the waiter shows up again carrying two glasses of a Greek liquor. We walked home which is a quick fifteen minutes away and climbed the 61 stairs from our road to the apartment. Bedtime about midnight while we nurse our food babies.

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Cinque Terre (The Five Lands)

Wednesday, October 11th & 12th 2017
I don’t know if Kim and I are wonderful tourists or awful. Read, then you decide and let us know. We had got information on taking the train to Cinqa Terre and Pisa so we were up early and walked the half hour to the train station. Our plan was to stop in Pisa, visit the leaning tower and then try to see as many of the 5 cities on the Italian Riviera as we could. An hour and a half after leaving Firenze, we arrived in Pisa. Our connecting to train to La Spezia was another 25 minutes. We talked for two minutes and realized we were both really pumped about Cinqa Terre, but Luke warm on walking to see the Leaning Tower. So we were about 25 minutes (5 minutes away by cab) but didn’t go to see it. We debated just hopping in a taxi, driving there, jumping out and taking the mandatory picture of me trying to push the tower straight, then hustling back into the cab and onto Italian Riviera. Long story,longer, we didn’t go and didn’t really regret it. Does that make us bad tourists? Who knows.

We arrived in La Spezia, almost getting into trouble when we got off the train a stop early. No one else got off with us. It was a very small station. So we immediately ran back to the train and quickly figured out we got off early. There are 5 villages to stop at on the Cinqa Terre train route; Vernazza, Monterosso and Manarola, which we visited and Riomajjiore and Cormiglia which we did not.

 

Monterosso

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imageWe had yet another delicious lunch of Caprese salad, Italian bread and pasta. I had a spicy meat ravioli and Kim had a gnocchi filled with cheese and potatoes and of course a glass of red wine. This area is very mountainous and all five villages are built off the side of a mountain. The map shows the train route goes right along the coast, so we thought this would afford us a lovely view of the ocean as we used our rail pass to go from village to village. However the area is so mountainous the train route is 95% tunnels so there wasn’t lots to see.

Manarola

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Vernazza

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We walked around the three villages for hours, taking pictures, looking at souvenirs and stopping for a gelato. We were up at 6:45 so by 5:00pm, we were done. We had open tickets back to Firenze (Florence) and had a quiet trip back.

Kim’s Homeade Ravioli.  Eat your heart out Chef Boyardee!

image After another pasta dinner with mushrooms, onions, garlic and squash, olives, we were in bed asleep about midnight.
We slept late Thursday. We were very tired. We toyed with the idea of taking the bullet train to Rome for the day. It takes 32 minutes and it’s not too expensive. However, we decided against this, as Friday is our last day in Florence, and we have a very early flight and a long day on Friday. Friday we are up at 3:30 to get to the airport, fly to Athens, then make our way with luggage by taxi down to the docks where we catch a ferry. After 4 and a half hours on the ferry, we arrive at the island of Paros. The owner of the apartment we will be renting is sending a car to pick us up!
So Thursday morning we woke up about 9:00 to find it had been raining last night. We have been so lucky with the weather so far. We had a little rain while we drove in France. Sunny days all thru Portugal and Spain, and an overcast sky for part of the day in Florence. So we spent some time in our apartment, relaxing, blogging and finishing off any food we had leftover. We packed our suitcases in order to confirm all the booty would both fit into our suitcases and we would still meet the weight requirement for our flight. Around three o’clock it was decided that the famous Italian Gelatos were calling our names and so we set out thru the city to find another gelato place. Palova came by and so we went out for another pasta dinner at our favourite restaurant. We paid the remain €400 owing on the apartment and came home to pack and get some sleep before our cab arrives early Friday. Tomorrow Greece!

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Firenze (Florence) Italia

A Day of the Arts and Piazza Michelangelo
Today we decided to check out the train station. This week we want to take leave of Florence and take the train to Pisa (leaning tower) and Cinque Terre. (The Five Lands). I love the freedom to make a last minute detour on your trip. We have heard from a number of other tourists and Palova as well, that this is a very worthwhile trip. It’s a shame we didn’t have more time, but we will do what we can in a day. We walked the 35 minutes to the train station where we got the information on the 3 trains required to get to Cinque Terre. We stopped for an espresso and a Rhum Baba, our new favourite dessert, and decided to make our way to the other side of town to the Michealangelo Piazza to watch the sunset. It was quite a walk, so being old and tired we got on one of the many buses that run around the city and arrived at our destination about forty minutes later. The piazza is quite high up and affords a beautiful view of the city.image

The view is spectacular. Our new camera is amazing and affords us the opportunity to give you some perspective on the things we are seeing. For example:

Here is the Basilica.image

Here are the people on top of the dome. Quite amazing, eh?image

While waiting for sunset, we met a Chinese fellow there who is a spiritual leader travelling the world. We had a great conversation about anything and everything. He has one son who is a graduate student at university, another son who is a doctor, and a daughter who is a famous movie star in China. Shu Feng Chien (his name) was talking to me about Tai Chi. I think I may start taking lessons when I return to Canada. After a number of pictures, we made our way down the long staircase, over the bridge and back towards our apartment.

 We stopped for a delicious pasta dinner on the way. Kim ordered the Galleria Spaghetti and I ordered the spicy meat sauce pasta. We also shared a Mediterranean salad, with goat’s cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, olives and some other unknown veggies in it. This was all served with a plate of delicious Italian bread. Again the food was scrumptious. Dead tired from all of our sight seeing, we made our way home and went to bed early.
Kim and I made a decision to get up early again the next morning, and get in line to see the Uffizi (Official) Gallery. This building, which used to be an office building owned by the Medici Family, by itself is an artwork. It is huge, ornate and incredibly beautiful. Many of the ceilings are complete works of art.

imageIt’s difficult to put a picture of this as the building is so huge, it is impossible to capture the scope of this size in just one photo. We arrived about 15 minutes before the gallery opened and already there was a lineup to get in. We waited a short half hour, then we were in the door looking at thousands of sculptures and paintings. I don’t believe it is ever possible to become immune to looking at great art work. We did the galleries for about two and a half hours then went to a sidewalk cafe for our usual morning espresso. This gave an opportunity to rest our tired feet and catch our breath. We talked about what to do for the rest of the day and decided to try out this artisan gelato place that our taxi driver recommended. We had marked the place on our map, but now that we have been walking around this city so much, we are not using the map. So after a quick check, we set out for a gelato. We didn’t get farther than a hundred yards when we noticed that there wasn’t much of a line up to visit the Vecchio Palace, tower and battlements.

imageWe were in line and inside within 10 short minutes. We decided to climb the steps to the battlements and lookout tower first. We had just had a coffee and were feeling pretty energetic. 387 steps later we reached the high point of the tower and had a terrific view of the entire city around us.

imageWe then completed the museum tour at a comfortable pace and we stopped to look at our watches and six hours had passed since we set out this morning. Time stands still when you are looking at great art.
After our mighty climb and our second major museum visit for the day, Kim and I were pooped and in need of some food. So we found our Artisan Gelato and bought our self a small 3 flavour cup. White chocolate, peach and grapefruit. I have never tasted better in my life. We set out for our apartment which was about 25 minutes away, stopping only to pick up some groceries on the way home. After a light lunch of chicken, potatoes, olives, and of course some delicious Chianti, we hung around and read our Kindles and surfed the net. Tomorrow we’re off to Pisa and Cinque Terre.

imageKim bought me an early Christmas present. What do you think?