23 September 2013

We didn't drive into the sea!

I never thought the transportation aspect of our trip to Greece would play such a major role in the experience.  But it did.

I'm sure me in a rental car isn't one you thought I'd include in describing out trip
to Greece, but it surprisingly was a major part of our trip.  This is the hotel
parking lot that was on a cliff.
Being the one in the family who drives a manual transmission, the driving duties landed on my shoulders.  I was good with that...at least it sounded fine at home.  But when my knuckles turned white after the quarter mile drive from the port to the rental car agency we began to realize driving on Tinos would be part of the adventure.

Renting a car on Tinos seemed like a reasonable idea back in the US where I drive on very flat, and wide roads that are clearly marked.  Signs exist, are in English, and are illuminated in the dark.  Drivers stay in their lanes, buses don't take advantage of their large size and I really don't think too much about the technicalities of driving.

Not so on Tinos...

The beautiful village of Panormos and it's two laned road.
After I asked questions about signs and rules, our rental car representative looked at me with a patient look and said, "Just don't drive into the sea."  That she felt the need to spell it out worried me a bit.  I also remembered the one book I read that took place on Tinos centered around a couple who had been killed when their car drove off one of the curvy roads.  This reality of driving into the sea created a seed of panic that never went away until I turned in the keys to that car.

Our hotel was a 15 minute drive outside of the main port city. It took about five days before I could drive that route without feeling lost.

The car added to our adventures and sparked a daily stress/relax cycle.  Really, I would have been relaxed and stress-free after one day at the beach, but the driving thing allowed me to decompress multiple times on a single vacation. I cycled through building up stress by driving to a beach, relaxing on the sand, and then creating more stress by driving back to the hotel and then enjoying being able to relax again on the outside porch.  Sleep and repeat.

Some of our driving adventures may or may not have included:

Blocking traffic when turning into a bakery parking lot causing a bus to swerve wildly.

Keeping a very close eye on the clock to make sure we left the main port hours before sunset so we wouldn't have to drive back to the hotel in the dark.

Driving on the part of the main drag that closes down at night to become a pedestrian boulevard after it has already closed.

Finding ourselves millimeters away from being scraped in our little car by a giant bus coming down around a curve.

Figuring out a longer alternate route back to the hotel so I could stay on the inside lane closer to the mountain rather than the edge.

But I will tell you that I did feel like I was driving up into Heaven on this alternate route. All I could see was a road going up and blue all around.  At that moment I didn't really want to die, but comforted myself with the thought that at least we would die doing something exciting.

This pictures doesn't do the experience justice, but this is the drive
"up to Heaven."
Eventually that road climbing into the sky wound back down and we found the "grocery store road" again which led us to the BP where we turned left with a quick right which led us past the sweet bakery, the little digger, and the yummy bakery where we bought chocolate croissants.  Just when I thought we were lost, the restaurant we always talked about eating at showed up on the left followed by the restaurant that we did eat at when they had the baby baptism.  Just one more curve to the right and then we needed to turn a sharp left and a sharp right.  One more time up the hill - don't kill the engine this time- and turn right into the parking lot that resembled a parking cliff.

While parking just remember not to drive into the sea!

I told Walter I would feel successful when I was tailing behind someone
rather than having a long line of cars behind me.  On the last day, here I
am behind this truck.  It lasted for about a minute.

21 September 2013

We went to Greece

We went to Greece...and we came back.

We traveled Amazing Race style with everything
we needed for 10 days on our backs.
Early on a Tuesday morning, life transformed into a big, scary, thrilling, exciting adventure and then on a Friday ten days later, it came back to the familiar, routine, comfortable life that I love.

For years I've dreamed of Greece.  The white washed buildings with accents of Agean blue, the cobblestone streets, and the Agean Sea itself sparkling and clear beyond belief.  I found it to be exactly this way.  The movies and travel pictures don't lie and it's not a make believe magical place.

There is a place across the ocean where gobs of tourists climb up a hill to visit the ancient Parthenon.  Museums house proof of a deeply ingrained belief system that explained every occurrence with the temper and story of gods and goddesses.  In this city of Athens, modern life brushes right next to ancient ruins.  A simple walk to get an ice cream would lead you past ruins of libraries and temples built to honor gods we read about in mythology classes.
The Parthenon.
Traveling even further on the adventure, there are ferries that line up to escort the smiling tourists, the businessmen needing to visit clients on the islands, those simply traveling home with their caged birds after a weekend in the city.  Possibilities of the places those ferries would land are the same that I dreamed about for so long.  The Blue Star Ferry we boarded was giant and I couldn't stop smiling as we left port and headed out to sea.
Our boat to Tinos!
For hours we watched tiny islands come and go with more sea and yet another island off in the distance.  As we approached Tinos, we waited in the dark garage with the other passengers ready to disembark.  Finally sweet music played and the ramp lowered, revealing my dream destination in slow motion. Seriously there was music and even in the rush of the disembarking crowds, I felt the magic.

I added a ferry in the Mediterranean to the list
of places I have knitted.
The island of Syros.  Wish we had one like this of Tinos,
but we were in the garage on that approach.
To Be Continued...