Holiday Tales – Acropolis Part 3

Thought I would let the pictures do the talking..

Our first view of Athens from our hotel balcony. Tell me, couldn’t this be just about anywhere in India? I loved some of the balconies I saw there – full of greenery. Full of pots overflowing with plants! How I love those!

Then we set off to see the sights. First stop – Acropolis. Do refer to the link for more information. I love the history behind the ruins, but do no want to bore all of you by going into it 🙂

Our first view of the Acropolis

The first monument we saw was the Theatre of Herodes Atticus. It used to be an amphitheatre, with a roof. 

The view from the top. Doesn’t it look majestic? It has been renovated, is even used as an auditorium now. I think the only historical monument that is in use in Greece.

This is the Propylea. The link shows what it might have looked when intact. We had a guide who explained all this to us. It would have been ‘Greek and Latin’ to us otherwise 😉

The temple of Athena Nike – it has been reconstructed to give a fair idea of what it looked like.

The Erechtheum. This was a temple dedicated to the Greek hero Ericthonius. Check out the Porch of the Caryatids. The supports in the form of women. We got to see the originals at the New Acropolis Museum, and they were exquisite. The figures here are apparently replicas. We could not take the pics of the originals, because cameras are not allowed inside the museum. If you happen to go there, do not miss the museum – it is totally, totally worth it!

And Finally, the Parthenon. The Parthenon was a Temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, who was the patron goddess of Athens. The Parthenon has a amazing history. Originally, a temple, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and then was mosque during the Ottoman period.

The Theatre of Dionysus.

And among things so old, we found something so incredibly young 🙂

And another young one tryng to catch the view of Athens from the Acropolis..

I am exhausted with all the uploading, so I guess you must be bored with the pics, but I wanted to make a quick mention of the New Acropolis Museum. It is built on top of the ruins of an old Christian settlement. The ground floor of the museum has glass floors which allows us to see the ruins. It was fascinating, to say the last. A few pictures that we managed to click from outside.

The view of the Acropolis from the top of the New Acropolis Museum..

And that covers the main part of Ancient Athens. I was surprised to see how much Daughter enjoyed the whole day. She loved hearing about the legends, tried her best to understand what these ruins stood for. At the end of the day, she told me that she wanted to show her friends what she saw. She put away her map in her backpack, and yesterday, she took it to school and told her class all about the story of the Athena and how Athens came to be named after her 🙂 To think that I was worried if she would get bored during this part of the trip.

Holiday Tales – Part 2

The start of our trip was memorable to say the least.

We had an early start at 5 in the morning. Our flight was at 8.40 am and we were driving to the airport instead of taking a taxi as we usually do. We reached the airport parking with just about enough time but to our surprise, had a tough time locating a free parking spot. Even the airport parking in the country is almost full!

Just as we managed to get our luggage out of the car, we spotted the airport shuttle.
Missing it would mean having to wait for another 10 mins in the cold. Not a very attractive option. So we raced towards it, managed to get on it, just in time. Just as we reached the terminal, husband asks, ‘Do you remember me locking the car?’. We had left the car unlocked! I was sure that it would be safe – who in their right mind would go around that huge parking lot for an unlocked car? If thieves were so hard-working, they would not be thieving! Husband thought that he could run back after we check in, just before security check.

Check in went off smoothly, and we rushed to Security check to figure out it were crowded. Well, lets just say that ‘crowded’ would be an understatement. We could not see the end of the line. It extended right out of a hall, into the exit. It was the longest queue I had ever seen in an airport. And this is not even one of the huge airports. Guess lots of people had the same plans as us. The last term break before proper winter set in  was to be made the most of.

Then on, the flights were uneventful. We even managed to banish worries of the unlocked car.

Finally we reached Athens after a five and a half hour in flights and airports. Athens looked bright and sunny. The mere feeling of warm sunlight is so refreshing and comforting.

Now, normally, on all our trips, I would have planned what to do next. I would have done the research on the best mode of transportation to the hotel. This time, I was busy with other stuff, and somehow managed to forget to check out all these essential details. So I asked a lady at a shop at the airport, the best way to reach the city. ‘The Bus’, she said, ‘No Taxi, taxi big money, take bus’. She even told me which number to take.She seemed horrified at the idea of taking a taxi. Husband was a bit cynical, he wasn’t sure if we should do something like this, on our first day, with all luggage.. But finally, we decided to give it a try.

So off I went, trying to figure out where to board the bus, and get the tickets and stuff like that. In any foreign territory, I am the automatic info-gatherer. I talk with my hands and eyes, and get info. Husband gives up immediately if people don’t understand him 🙂

So I locate the ticket counter, who tells me, ‘Not here, there’. We searched for the counter, but every other counter was closed. Finally, we managed to get the tickets, and boarded the bus, when it dawned on me, that we had no idea how we would know where to get off. So I went around asking. There was no driver in the bus, at that point in time, so I asked others travelling with us. All of them had no clue. Most were tourists themselves. It made me worry if I had taken the wrong decision in taking a bus. Finally the driver came on, and told me, ‘Don’t worry, next metro, sit down’. That made me feel slightly better.

Of course, it was not to last too long. The bus started stopping, and we were still clueless about where we were. We were worried that the driver might forget about us. What if we landed up somewhere else? Finally we saw some people board the bus who looked like locals. So I mustered up courage and asked them. One man, turned and asked, ‘You Indian?’, I replied in the affirmative, and that had him smiling broadly,’ Don’t worry, sit down’!

Finally with no other advice coming our way, we decided to just enjoy the ride.

Now at this point, I have to tell you, that Athens felt a lot like Bangalore with a lot less traffic. The weather was gorgeous, and we were having fun soaking in the atmosphere.

Finally, we managed to reach the city centre. We wanted to take a taxi from here, but our new Greek friend refused to let us. Too expensive, he said, and insisted that that we take the bus. He was going the same way, and said would guide us. Have to say something about this man. He was so very friendly, went all out to help us. Would not take no for an answer, and was so very expressive. He managed to communicate beautifully with hand gestures, facial expressions, and even his tongue 🙂 to show displeasure when he was talking about the Greek economy.

While we were waiting for the next bus, our eyes and nose started itching. Apparently that was due to the left over tear gas, that was used a few days ago during the protests. There were several signs that this beautiful city had been through some turbulent times recently. Despite all that the people, seemed so cheerful and friendly.

To cut a long story short, we took another bus, and got off where he asked us to. The hotel was on the other side of the road. Untl this point, our bus ride had been comfortable and fun. Now started a real ordeal. Crossing over the street with our luggage was no mean feat. There were steps and lugging the suitcase up and down was a pure torture for poor husband. I could not help much, my hands being full with our hand luggage, and daughter to keep track of.

This was also the point that we realized that when a Greek says ‘Five minutes’, he means it just like we Indians do. It is more than likely to be 15 mins. The driving was quite similar to India as well, the pedestrians had to move out of way of the cars.

It was a huge relief to reach the hotel, after escaping speeding cars, huge, dangerous looking stray dogs, and endless asking of directions.

That trek to our hotel was probably the most scary bit of walking I have done. All we had energy for to hit the pillows and sleep…

to be continued…

Holiday Tales 1

This trip of ours was a complete mixed bag, so to speak. Not every thing went as per plan,  but that did not stop us from having a whale of a time!

– First the weather, yes, it got cold. How could it not? And this time, I was over optimistic. I carried a couple of shawls for myself, no coats. I just about survived. The weather was extremely erratic, to say the least. The first day in Athens, I felt that we would get roasted alive. It was scorching! The next day cold and windy. Santorini was gorgeous and warm, most of the time. The rest of the time it was cold and windy. That just meant that we had to be prepared – All THE TIME.

-Greek People. They must be one of the most friendly and helpful people in the world. I could write a full post on how lovely they were.

– The experience. We did everything we wanted to. Did all the touristy things. Saw the Acropolis in Athens, went on the Red Bus Tour( we had never done the city sightseeing tours, we normally explore places in our own way). This time daughter wanted to get the bus with no roof. So we indulged her. It is another story that we always got on the bus when she was tired after hours of walking and they ended up being a sleeping tour for her 🙂

– Ended up living in a ghost town. More on this coming up in a separate post.

– Stayed at an old windmill and a traditional cave house.

– Food. Ate, ate, and ate like there is no tomorrow. Especially a tomorrow when clothes refuse to fit. The Greeks serve cakes at breakfast, and I made the most of it. And their bread – delicious! Stuffed vine leaves – I drool at the thought of them. I should stop talking about food now.

Those of you who wanted Greek gods, let me tell you, there are museums full of them 🙂  Daughter on the other hand is obsessed with Athena. Not a bad thing, I guess, if she is fascinated by strong women, as a lady observing her said. Also, she shows great potential as a future tour guide 🙂

Belated Diwali wishes to you and your families. I can see that most if you have been super-active while we were away. So many new posts !

Off on a short break..

We have real bad luck when it comes to weather on holidays. Not that it really makes a huge difference – we still have a lot of fun, but always end up wondering what is that link between us and the holidays?

For the last couple of years, we ended up going to the US for holdiays. People started asking us if we have relatives there. Each year, by the time, autumn starts, we get antsy. We feel the need to flee from the cold cold weather here. Both times, bad weather dogged us. Once there was a hurricane that almost derailed our trip. And the weather was cold cold cold! Last time as well, the weather was colder than normal. It almost feels as if we take bad weather with us. This time, we decided to stay here during December(why take bad weather to other parts of the world, see, how kind we are ;)) , and travel in autumn instead. We wanted to go to someplace in Europe and that would be difficult in December, given the weather.

I was torn between Turkey and Greece, when a friend of ours uploaded pictures of his holiday here. That settled it. We decided to finalize Greece.

So off we go tomorrow to Athens, and after a couple of days there to Santorini! We are all super excited, packing is yet to be completed, school work still needs doing, haven’t managed to get all the things I had planned, sorted. But nothing matters because our holiday is about to start! All we need is good weather now 🙂 See you all at the other end of the break!

Whatever will be, will be..Post1

When the right time comes, you just know it.

You know you have been away from blogging for way too long, when the ‘add new post’ page looks so different that I had to double-check that I had clicked on the right link.

That and the fact that I had forgotten my WP password. Not good, not good at all.

So when Monika, and Swaram floated the idea of a NaBloPoMo, I could not help being tempted. It was such great fun the last time we did it, that I can’t help but join. And hope that this would mean a proper resumption of blogging, because I do miss the blogworld so very much.

So where had I been? Well, I just got busy, doing the same regular stuff, spending time with daughter. The weather has been unexpectedly good, so we have just been basking in all the sunlight that came our way. A lady I met on a bus one day, did warn me though, ‘We will pay for it. It is not natural, such warm weather in April’.  I only  hope she is wrong.

That’s daughter frolicking in the sun 🙂

We just got back from a wonderful holiday, spent time with wonderful friends, and laughed more than we had in the recent memory. As I said, the weather has been wonderful to us.

I am terribly, terribly backlogged with my reader. I am so tempted to mark everything as read and start afresh 🙂 So how has everybody been? What have you been doing?

Poohi’s Holiday updates

Poohi had a rather colourful time in India. Here’s a wee summary of all that she(and I) have been up to.

– Cows eat rubbish. One day, in Wayanad, we saw a cow grazing and chomping down grass, when Poohi exclaimed, ‘Oh look, this cow likes grass!’. She had seen quite a few cows eating rubbish on the roads, on our travel earlier, and accepted ‘rubbish’ as part of cows’ diet. It took me a while to convince her that cows are not really supposed to eat rubbish.

– She has adopted my parents as her parents. She was not too keen on having me as a parent. Just this morning, she asked me if she could go back – while I stay here.She wants to have a ‘parent-free’ holiday.

– She is totally cross with me because I am not as much fun as Achan(my dad, who she insists on calling Achan, instead of Ammachan).He used to spend hours at her beck and call. Pretend play with him was one of the highlights of our stay.

– She loved, loved making the Pookalams every day, and I was quite amazed at her sense of symmetry. She was quite good at it.

– Every day would be a marathon session of fun, and food. And she would wake up at five, if she were allowed to.

– Her collection of books have increased three-fold. My parents got me a copy of a Bhagwatham, which I grew up on, and I was so delighted to read it again. I had planned to read it to her, but I think I am having far more fun reading it 🙂 Infact, I have been rather sneaky. I have been reading it on the sly, so that I can read it in peace before I read it to her 🙂

When I look back on our holiday, I am just so grateful that we get to spend this kind of time at home. She gets to know her grandparents and bask in their love. It is such a precious time. I hope that she will remember and savour the feeling for years to come, just as I still remember and cherish the time I spent with my grandparents. It also makes me so glad that she gets so much time close to nature, that would have been impossible, had my parents settled down in a city. There is something about growing your own vegetables, and living in a house surrounded by greenery. I can only be thankful for it and count my blessings.. Precious memories forever..

If only I could capture smells..

.. because that is about all that I did not manage to get hold of, in our holiday to India.

When daughter was little, husband used to inhale her baby fragrance and wish that we could capture it for eternity. That is the one thing I wish too, now, back after my 8 week-long holiday.

The aroma of mom’s cooking,

the fragrance of flowers lingering on after collecting flowers for the pookalam,

the fragrance of properly fermented dosas,

of ripe, juicy jackfruits,

the smell of wood fired ovens – I can’t get enough of it..

I guess, I don’t need to say that I am terribly, terribly homesick. If there is anything bad about a holiday at home, it is the returning. How I wish I could just bypass it entirely. This holiday was a mixture of everything, a roller coaster of emotions, combined with the excitement of my and Poohi’s very first Onam in Kerala, being around to celebrate my great-aunt’s 90th birthday, meeting relatives, rejoicing in the way Poohi enjoyed with all her cousins and basking in the love one receives from everyone… Even if I did not manage to capture smells, I did manage to capture the sights, and we were so very lucky to get to meet Deeps and Namnam 🙂

I do owe apologies to everyone who I did not manage to call while in India. I will call you all over the next few days.

You know you are hard up for time when…

..  You have no time to think

– when you waste no time, and yet, have most of the things that was planned for the day undone at the end of the day,

– when you end up chatting with dear friends over the FB scrabble game or on the blog, instead of writing a nice long mail or calling them up,

– when the car knocks up over 10 miles in under 2 hours while finishing off errands,

– when the clothes go into the dryer, despite the wonderful weather outside,

– when you have no time to comment on blogs, or reply to comments on yours. I can’t tell you how bad I feel about this.

– have loads of unanswered emails,

– when you go to bed at 11:30pm  and still feel guilty,

– when two suitcases have been lying open, and empty for the last three days.

– and worst of all, when you have no time to read all the books sitting around. Can you believe it, I have ‘The Space Between Us, Shantaram, A house for Mr Biswas and the The Sari Shop waiting to be devoured, and I have no time to read. Thankfully, I found out today that the library has a concept called ‘Holiday Renewal’, that might be my only hope. That and if I manage to convince husband that it is absolutely essential that I carry these books with me on the trip..

I am in the midst of getting ready to go on our India trip, and nothing, absolutely nothing seems to get done. To add to it, it is Poohi’s last few days at her old school. Come September, she is moving to ‘big school’, a wonderful school near us. It is all wonderful, but she is so going to miss all her friends from her old school. So in the middle of all this, I still plan playdates with her friends as all of them are going to be very busy once school starts in Sept. I feel bad that she will miss all her friends and wonderful teachers.

I have been getting, ‘knock, knocks’ over my ‘disappearance’, so I felt I had better explain my absence, before you guys accuse me of ‘selective commenting/reading’ 🙂

The weekend that refused to get over..

You know what they say about good things not lasting and unpleasant things lasting forever.. Well, we had a taste of that, last weekend.

It was the last long weekend till August, and we did not want it to get wasted by lazing around at home. Prompted by the lovely weather that we had the weekend before this, husband got down to business and booked us a three-day holiday in Blackpool. Husband also persuaded another friend of ours to join us.

Now, all I knew about Blackpool was that it was something similar to Vegas. All the websites we checked talked about family fun and we fell for it – hook, line and sinker.

Things started going wrong from around mid-week. BBC weather, which has initially forecast, a nice and sunny weekend, slowly changed its mind and decided that we would have a ‘white cloud’. Now white clouds are comparatively benign. It is the rain that we worry about. And before we knew it, the forecast changed again. It was ‘light rain’ on Saturday, sunny intervals on Sunday(with a wind speed of 24 mph) and sunny(Yay!) on Monday. Now that isn’t too bad. Given the fact that whole weekends could be awash with rains – this seemed quite reasonable.

So we got all our beach stuff ready, got all our wind-cheaters and also threw in some warm coats – you never know, you see and set off on Saturday morning, afternoon. It took us that long to get everything done. Here, it was pouring. We could barely see the cars ahead, in the heavy rain. BBC weather still told us that our destination had ‘light rain’. Never had we looked forward to ‘light rain’ before.

Turns out that ‘light rain’ was not very pleasant either. It just rained and rained and rained. We check into our hotels and decided to find some place to grab a bite, hoping that the rain stops in that time. Well, no such luck, so we decided to brave it out,  kitted out in protective gear. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to be wearing rain coats and stuff when you had been hoping to lather on sun screen lotion instead.

This is not the first time that we had been in such a situation. We are, by now, quite used to contrary weather, so we aer in most situation, well prepared and we try to make most of the it.  We decided that a little rain was not going to spoin our holiday, and decided to walk around and soak in the atmosphere. It became very apparent that there was not much of an atmosphere to soak in.  Everything looked like it had not had a lick of paint since ages. There was a pier which did not look all that exciting. Just a few rides, which made us wonder why we bothered driving all the way here.

We girls would have loved to shop a bit and have some fun, but the guys were just not willing to step into a shopping centre, anything but shopping. So finally, we entered a sad-looking casino, which were the only other things there and for the lack of anything else to do, gambled away a few pounds. I ended up gambling here, when I was able to resist even in Vegas. But then, in Vegas, there was so much to see.. here there was nothing else to do. We took the kids on a few rides and then decided that we have to have dinner at a decent place, that was the only way to bring some cheer to a dismal day.

The next day, began no better. On most holidays, husband and I wake up, raring to go, but this time, we just could not summon any excitement. We had decided to go to an indoor place called ‘The Tower’. The only reason we considered it was because it was indoors. With a wind speed of 24 mph, there was no possibility of being outdoors. The Tower, looked like a cheaply made imitation of the Eiffel Tower, in desperate need of some spruce up.  It boasted of an aquarium, a ballroom and a circus. To cut a long story short, the circus made up for the lack of everything else. It was great! It had been ages since we had been to a circus and this was just wonderful. Finally something to make up for the bad weather and lousy location.

We had high expectations of the last day. It was supposed to be 22 deg – which is almost heaven for us. The forecast the night before showed no change at all, so we went to bed anticipating a good time. Poohi wanted to go to the beach and we had not been able to go anywhere near it so far.

The last day at Blackpool, dawned nice and sunny. Poohi could not contain her excitement. Not a hint of a breeze and a glorious sunny day. It looked like all our prayers were answered. We got ready, ran down from breakfast and got dressed in summer clothes. All those shorts and t-shirts were finally being put to use. We ran down, check out (this was our last day there) and opened the door to step outside, only to be hit by a cold, cold breeze. Not to be put out, we decided that it must be temporary and got all our things in the car, and drove down to the beach. Our friend, by then, had decided that they had enough and returned back home. We, being more optimistic, decided to head to the beach and hope that the chill goes away. On route, we saw several people wearing fleece jackets over shorts – that should have told us, but we were blind to all signs at that point.

By the time we reached the beach, we knew, that the only way to survive was to cover up, wear our jackets and then try going to the beach. So finally, instead of lathering sun screen, we donned our jackets, pulled on our jeans, and decided to brave the weather and make a few sandcastles to satisfy Poohi.

All we all wanted by the end of the day was to get back home as soon as possible. It was beyond doubt the only holiday, that I would happily classify as a disaster. But then, what’s life without these little disasters 🙂 At the very least, we made some sandcastles 🙂 Never before were we happier to get back home. And on the way back, our GPS decided that we needed a break, and took us via a scenic route. I have to say, we clicked more pics on our journey than we did during our actual vacation 🙂