Category: Travel

my adventures in greece.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia,

Greece had been on my bucket list since the tenth grade. But let’s be honest here – there aren’t many places that I wouldn’t go. When I was planning last summer’s trip to Europe with my students, I dreamed big. Our 21 days ended with a little less than a week of eating a year’s worth of feta, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes {I ate it for all but one lunch and dinner, no joke} all over Greece, even in the middle of the Aegean on a cruise ship.

We traveled on a night ferry from Italy across the Adriatic, waking up in the middle-of-nowhere. It looked like a drier version of Lost. We rambled on switchback roads where there wasn’t another car in sight for sometimes hours, heading for Meteora, a town that was all but deserted until the tour buses arrived. Unless we’re talking about the line at the ATM, because I think that’s where every Greek citizen could be found wherever we stopped last summer.

This was Greece in the week following their ungraceful exit from the EU last summer…

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Delphi Fresh Scratch, Greece, Delphi

After spending an afternoon on the cliffs of Meteora and an evening in a charming, family-run hotel with probably the most squeaky bed I’ve ever slept on in my life, we spent the next day exploring Delphi.

I first fell beneath the enchantment of Delphi as a high school sophomore. My little private school in rural South Carolina somehow scored a teacher fresh out of Stanford who had majored in The Classics. Ms. Deal lit up my brain in the most delightful ways. That year, my social studies involved a solid year of Greek Mythology, and my world language was Latin. She talked about Ajax and Achilles like they were her brothers. I’ve been hooked on them ever since. She took us on a four-day trip to DC to see the traveling exhibit from Greece. She loved Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Police. She impacted my life big time. She is a huge reason why I became a teacher. When I’m teaching world mythologies, I feel like I am channeling her, animatedly gushing about gods and goddesses and ancient Greek customs with no notes necessary, as if they were my neighbors. She was the first teacher I ever had who held a real passion for a subject, and I loved her for it.

I couldn’t help but think of her on this lonely hillside where ancient Greeks would travel to consult the priestess of Apollo. There was nothing for miles around but the little town and these ruins and the hot wind. It was a day where I felt the ancientness of the human experience. Deep, yes, I know – I felt so small in the timeline of humanity. It was humbling in the same way visiting the ancient pueblos of the American Southwest is for me. Our struggles are much the same as theirs were. We haven’t changed all that much. I get at least one of these big moments every time I travel, and I was pleased it happened here. Sometimes the world stops long enough for me to feel my foothold in it, and I am always grateful for those moments.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Road Trip Food

This is a preview of coming attractions, of sorts. On this summer’s trip to Europe, I am going to take lots of pictures of all the funky road food we end up trying. It’s endlessly fascinating and sometimes gross – I mean, ketchup Pringles? It’s usually the students and Steve that buy all the packaged stuff – my road food is more the pastries. In Greece, it was “spinach pie,” which is spanikopita…which is very unlike the stuff my husband makes.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens

As soon as I could read, my dad started me on the kids’ version of National Geographic. But still, after years of studying Athens’ Acropolis, nothing could prepare me for the real thing. The very hill it stands upon wasn’t what I’d expected – its more like a mesa, just quite steep sides and a flat top in the middle of a city. And for as much as I’d read about its decay and decline, it was the best-preserved ruin I’d seen in Europe. As you can see in the pictures above, there are still elements of the artwork on the pediment – that triangular part at the top. You can still see pieces of statue. That’s so rare.

The city had had riots over the EU departure during the days we were in the countryside. Glad we missed them! It felt like all the tourists of Athens had flocked to the Parthenon. It was nearly impossible to get a photo without a tourist in it. And there was really no good organization for getting on or off the Acropolis – just a crazy mob instead of lines. That’s kind of how Greece was, in general.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Athens

Athens had all kinds of pockets of quiet like this. The city was truly unique in my travels. Lots of buildings that were only a few stories tall, many of which seemed built in the 60’s.

We stayed in a family-run hotel in a beach resort town about an hour outside of the city. They made the best stuffed peppers I’ve ever eaten, along with amazing stuffed tomatoes and a date cake that still haunts me. True story: when I have delicious food at small hotels, I always ask for the recipes. They always tell me no. This was no exception. Travel is just fleeting moments {so is life} – even the meals! – so I’ve got to enjoy each one. But I think every little hotel could make a ton of money on a cookbook. Just saying.

Our last night on the mainland, we went night swimming in the Aegean under a bowl of glowing stars that looked like they’d been punched out of black construction paper. The water slipped like velvet beneath my hands…

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

In Athens, we boarded an ancient cruise ship that was bound for one of her last journeys through the Greek Isles. I’d never been on a cruise before. I thought having no window in my cabin would make me sick, but the one night it got to rocking and rolling, I slapped my Scopolamine patch behind my ear and was good to go within thirty minutes. Mostly, I slept like the dead between stops. Weeks of travel had wiped me out in every way. I was so tired, I even slept through our stop in Crete, waking up and running out onto the deck just as we were pulling away! Sadness!

Mykonos was our first stop. It’s famous for its windmills. I think I shot the majority of my photos from the entire trip that evening, walking through its maze-like streets. There was color around every corner.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

Fresh Scratch, Greece, MykonosFresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

I waited about twelve minutes to get this little church without a person in the frame. It was a serious exercise in patience!

And the cats?! They are all over Greece, just chillin.’ I’m pretty sure that guy with the attitude near the blue stools is named Zorba.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

How gorgeous are these fishing boats? Finding them was like discovering treasure.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Mykonos

We sat on the harbor wall eating – of all the un-Greek things – crepes {!} and watching what was one of the best sunsets of my life.

Fresh Scratch, Turkey, Kusadasi Fresh Scratch, Turkey, Kusadasi

The morning I awoke in Turkey I leaped out of bed like one of my daughters on Christmas morning! If I’d had my way, we’d have spent a huge amount of our trip last summer in Turkey, but Steve reminded me that now is probably not the best time in the world for parents to feel comfortable sending their kids so close to Syria. So the fact that Kusadasi {pronounced “Koosh-a-dah-sea”} was on our list of ports at all was thrilling for me.

Kusadasi was colorful and had an impressive sea wall that lead out to a fortress. The real fun, though, was the bazaar. Nicely dressed gentlemen stood in front of the stalls, politely beckoning, “Hello, lady!” Or, to Steve in his floppy hat because the sun was so dang omnipresent, “Indiana Jones!”

There was color in every direction, especially that gorgeous blue. The evil eye was very present here, embedded into the sidewalk and just everywhere I looked, even more so than in the Greek isles.

Someday, when the world is a little different, I hope to visit Turkey and spend a good, long time there. For now, this one port city will have to do.

Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia, Fresh Scratch, Greece, Santorini, Oia,

The last stop in Greece was the picturesque island of Santorini. It was every bit as enchanting and striking as you’d expect. But getting there? That was a caper.

The crummy thing about being on any tour – and especially a cruise – is that you have limited time at each port of call, and they will leave you if you aren’t back on time. You’ve really got to have a plan before setting off on your own. On this particular evening, the water was very, very rough as we made the crossing from the ship to the shore. We got separated from the kids in a different boat, and then things just kind of went wonky. To get to the top of the island where everything is, you have to either walk up a huge amount of switchbacks, take a donkey up, or pay to ride the steep cable car. Steve and I chose the fastest option, and then the clock started ticking.

We quickly realized that the city in which we wanted to spend our time – Oia {pronounced Eh-uh} – was all the way on the other end of the island. Transportation was really not readily available or obvious at all, and that’s how we found ourselves buckled into motorcycle helmets and hopping on a four-wheeler. That’s how I saw the island of Santorini – cruising across a winding mountain road on a quad. It was unexpected and delightfully hilarious to pull up to this famous city on such a contraption.

By the time we arrived, we had about a half an hour to trek around the labyrinth of paths and get some good images on the camera. It was a hot, giddy, stunningly beautiful, end to an epic three weeks of exploration.

When I awoke the next morning, we disembarked in the wee hours and headed to the airport in Athens.

Next month I head out again, this time taking my other niece. We’ve got London, Paris, Lucerne, Munich, Berlin, and – a new city for me! – Prague on the docket. And so the countdown begins…

Europe, I’m coming for you.

this is how it all went, part II.

White Converse

The camellias are popping, the daffodils are in full bloom, and my birthday is around the corner: there’s no denying that winter is coming to a close. I’m going to miss holing up in my kitchen, cooking hearty meals. Not that I can’t do that when it’s warmer, but it’s just not the same when there’s that nagging feeling that I should be outside. And I’m going to miss my sweaters and my tights and my boots!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s still chilly. We’re not quite there yet. Here’s how our winter went down during those long months after we got back from Maui:

 

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Clementine continues to be a ham. And she is our resident tech guru. Want to learn how to use Spotify? She’s your girl. Want to listen to the Spice Girls {my fault!} 24/7? She’ll hook you up. Want to find your phone filled with 40 of roughly the same selfie in a row? She’s on it!

 

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Annabelle was late to our family’s stomach flu ball game. It took us all by surprise right in the middle of her stretch of rehearsals for Charlotte’s Web. I thought it was bad when the rest of us had it at Christmas, but my big girl somehow managed to have it even worse. Skelator comes to mind.

I stayed home with her and we each managed to find a bright side. Mine was getting to see the sun come up, as I’m usually in my classroom at that time, where there’s no window, just a skylight. Perfect for film studies, but bad for my mental health. Annabelle’s bright side was watching one of her favorite movies, School of Rock, in between puking.

 

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When Annabelle is in a show, those rehearsal times are great for meeting a friend downtown. On one school night, Andrea, some lychee martinis, and I met at The Mark to catch up. We gabbed about all sorts of things, like our words of the year {mine: curiosity. hers: open.}, travel, and the awesome renovation happening in the upstairs of her book shop, Browsers. I left with a big smile on my face.

 

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We added a furry member to our family this winter, and I just sort of stormed in there and named her myself without asking my family. They keep reminding me of this. But I kind of don’t care. You’ll meet miss Gussy in a sec…

 

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The Mister and I enjoyed a very nice dinner out at Dillinger’s, where they have the fanciest Prohibition-era drinks. Such a hoppin’ place every single night, too. Dinner was a little faster than we’d expected, though, and we found ourselves with an extra half hour until our babysitter was done. And, so, parents – my gift to you: World Market is open until 9 pm!

 

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Clementine and I enjoyed a very snowy road trip to my parents’ place on the other side of the state to get our puppy. The ride was filled with her talking for over three hours before she ran out of things to say. She had intel on things like, “Hey, Mom? Do you know what density is? I do…blah, blah, blah.” She is like Buddy the Elf, people. There was also lots of road trip food and Coldplay.

It was a marshmallow world on top of Snoqualmie Pass! It was snowing hard, but we managed to stop to throw snowballs at one another. Then it was back in the car until Ellensburg, my college town. I promised to take her to the best coffee shop ever, D&M. I never would’ve dreamed back when I would study there that one day I’d stop in with my kid. It felt good to appreciate the quaintness of that little town on a snowy afternoon.

 

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And here’s our new girl. Meet Augusta Georgia. Or, as we call her, Gussy.

She’s not named after the location of the famous golf tournament, though they are one in the same. I mean, have you seen me play golf?! Instead, she’s named after the town where I went on my first date in ninth grade, just across the river from where I lived in South Carolina. She’s named after cheerleading, learning to drive, listening to Extreme’s “More Than Words” 50 zillion times, falling in love with “90210,” staying up all night after football games at my friend Shannon’s house, and guzzling gallons of sweet tea. The girls are mad still that I railroaded the entire name situation, but that’s a perk sometimes of being the mom.

 

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I loved this sign. It just felt like a triple-dog-dare.

 

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Snoqualmie Pass is getting way more hip. There is actually more than just a pancake house up there now. I totally recommend pulling off the road for some good beer and really awesome food at Dru Bru and The Pass Life. I am actually considering a family ski trip up there now that this is open – only I refuse to ski again. I just want to go sledding.

That’s what we did with Michelle & her guys. Michelle was my BABYSITTER, you guys! Our step-dads were on the same submarine when we lived in Connecticut, and our moms are still friends. It’s so fun that we each ended up in the PNW, one hour away from one another. We had a blast on the tubing hill, followed by cocoa with Bailey’s.

 

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Awesome pom pom heart, Bon Lemon!

 

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She’s a stunner. And she can shake “hands.” And she likes to sleep draped over my lap on the floor. What can I say? We are in puppy love together.

 

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For years, I have had zero luck locating any Babysitter’s Club books for Annabelle. I loved them in elementary school, so I was so bummed. But, lo and behold, they’re back as graphic novels. I bought Annabelle the first four for Valentine’s Day, and she read them in one day {!!}.

Also, I can now make London Fogs at home. This is thanks in part to stealing Annabelle’s frother and vanilla syrup that Grandma gave her for Christmas. They’ve both busted me on it, but I keep doing it…because y’all know I’m a rebel.

 

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In part I of this post, I mentioned that this year I got the best Christmas present ever. I was not exaggerating. Matt got me a food writing class taught by Molly Wizenberg {Molly! Wizenberg!} up at The Pantry in Ballard. I was so worried I would totally fan-girl it, but I think I did okay. Even when she sat by me the first day. Even when Ashley Rodriguez of Date Night In walked in right before things got started and took a seat. Phew!

Molly gave us some different bits of her favorite food writing pieces to study up on ahead of time. Some were beautiful, others were funny, some just weren’t my bag, but I learned something from each of them. I met ordinary women with extraordinary writing talent. I got called on a few times as the resident English teacher of the group {!!}. I gave Molly an essay that Clementine wrote for her about her podcast. She was delighted and shared it aloud with everyone. I wrote two pieces that I loved and got to share them aloud – something that always terrified me in the past. Now? Not so much.

I left feeling more than ever just so fortunate that I have a tiny little flame that I get to feed within me.

Between classes, Emily and I ate at Essex {and drank!}. And we ate {and drank!} at Le Pichet late in the afternoon and it was magnifique. We walked and walked and got seduced by Anthropologie and that crazy evening winter light at Pike Place. I bought treats every morning at Honore. It was such a gem of a weekend.

 

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My walk to work most mornings this winter has been shrouded in this kind of fog. I’ve loved it. I’ve been listening to one of my favorite Podcasts, The Simple Show, with Tsh Oxenrider lately.  I always learn something new and cool, even when I think I won’t. I am spending a lot of my {rare} quiet moments pondering episodes 20 and 23.

 

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I had my first Moscow Mule! I loved it! It didn’t make Friday come any faster, but for a half an hour it felt like it could.

 

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I am so confused by this poster in my school. How do today’s teenagers know the words to Walk on the Ocean by my boys Toad the Wet Sprocket?! And what year is it? When I walk by this each day, I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.

 

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This guy was sort of Lloyd Dobler-ing it on Valentine’s morning. Very cool.

 

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These are scenes from a day I claimed as my own over our mid-winter break. After a morning at Whole Foods in Tacoma {I came prepared with my cooler!}, I went to the Grand Cinema to see Spotlight, then grabbed a treat next door at Corina Bakery for the drive home. It’s one of my favorite little outings.

Speaking of Spotlight {reviewed here}, it has stuck with me. I can’t help but remember how badly I wanted to be an investigative reporter when I first got to college. The desire to dig in and do the hard work and tell the world about the stuff they should hear is still very much there, it turns out. It’s just a little thread, but I feel like it’s going to take me somewhere.

 

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Loved this “snow moon.” And I loved that it was not raining so I could actually enjoy it.

 

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I call this my “polka dots on polka dots” outfit. I love it more than I should.

 

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I have the best new para-educator helping me for 1/3 of my work day. She is absolutely perfect at what she does. She has made my professional life much easier. And she made me these kick-ass flowers.

 

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Annabelle’s been devouring her Food Network Magazine each month. She subscribed with her own moolah, and she cooks so much from each issue! Loved these banana split parfaits! {We have had many, many versions of parfaits lately. Thank you, Food Network.}

 

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Mama Nature ain’t messing around, people. Spring. It’s real.

 

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Best idea for dinner after a busy day: antipasto platter. All the odds and ends save the day! So does a glass of wine! It’s not pictured because it was in my hand. Which reminds me: Vito Corleone: “I like to drink wine more than I used to.” Michael Corleone: “That’s okay, Pop. It’s good for you.”

That’s right, Mikey. That’s right.

Drinking wine.

Sometimes it gets me from winter to spring. Almost there. Now go smell some daffodils.

xo, Mrs. Fresh Scratch