Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cruising the Greek Islands - Amazing Race

Spectacular! We decided that the best way to visit the Greek islands in a week period without carrying with all of our stuff all over the place was simply to take a cruise! And I'm so glad we did.

We left from Rome and the first stop was Santorini. The actual town is located at the top, so once we got to the port, there were 3 options to get up there.

First - by cable car. Pros - you would get to the top after about 5 min ride with excellent views. Cons - the line to get up there was extra long and it gets hot.

Second - you can walk up going through the steps. Pros - doesn't cost you anything. Cons - it would take you about 45 min or more and you will be tired.

Third .... by donkey - which was the winning option for us!  Locals offer this service to get you up for €5 per person. They had around 200 donkeys, so the wait was super short, as the donkeys are lined up. Someone jumps on one and then the next donkey comes to get the next person.
It was super fun! We used the same walkway up as the people walking, which makes option 2 above pretty bad as you could easily get hit by a donkey.

At times, it was a little scary as the donkeys go at their own pace, which sometimes was kind of fast, not to mention you can easily encounter donkey traffic on the way in this 5 meter wide walkway!

Overall it was great and I super recommend it. It took about 15 min to get up. (Now we can say - "Ride a donkey to the top of Santorini Island"... Check!!) The views were breathtaking! 

At the top, the view and the town was even better!! Most constructions are white with blue. Villas with private pools and jacuzzis can be seen all over and there are plenty of nice bars and restaurants. Just an amazing vibe!

We wanted to refresh after walking around the town, but most of the places with pools seemed to be hotels or private villas. 

So we simply asked a local hotel if we could pay to use their facilities for the afternoon and they were ok with it. Provided towels, nice little bungalows and a great pool.
            "Ask and you shall receive!" 

A must do for us in Santorini was to watch the sunset. There are tons of cool restaurants with amazing terraces.

We found out that people reserve tables months in advance (yes- months!) to get to sit there one evening. We sat in a pretty decent view spot but ended up making friends with the waiters and they gave us one of the reserved tables because a couple didn't show up! Lucky lucky us!!

Coming down, we took the easy ride by cable car with great night views.

Next stop - Mykonos - another island with a great beach town, nice restaurants and windmills.

            Much needed beach time

Then to Athens! It was simply amazing! 

We went to the Acropolis, which is right at the top of a high spot you can see the buildings that once held the Greek empire. 

This includes the Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, Erechtheion

We also visited Argos which is next to the Acropolis if you are interested in the museum.

And the area of Plaka which has tons of restaurants and shops
                        Local beer

Not to far of a walk is the Temple of Zeus

We decided to take the metro back to the cruise port. The metro was an easy ride, of course the stations names are in Greek but thankfully they also had the names in western alphabet so we could at least pronounce them.

The ride was ok, but it stopped everywhere so we ended up being in a rush as it was already 5:30 pm and the last call to get on board was at 5:30 pm, to leave the port at 6 pm.

To make the story short we basically think we could be really good candidates for the show "amazing race" as we had to completely figured out the metro system in Athens, ran from station to the port and make it to the cruise ship in less than 15 min. 

To give you an idea the port had around 15 different docks, so once we got there, we couldn't  even see our cruise, we ran through the disembarkation areas of different ships, (I'm talking about cars coming down ships, containers etc!) At that time is was already 5:45 pm. I spotted our cruise ship in the distance and that's when we realized...  it's time to take a taxi! We literally jump to the first taxi we found on he street and say "Royal Caribbean"! - the taxi driver was like .... "Ummm I don't know but don't worry! I will take you" Haha. He strarted driving by the port until we could see our cruise.

Once at the right dock (5 min away by taxi) We had to go through security! Of course the area was empty as we were literally the only ones left. We were running and I was screaming like a crazy lady "Royal Caribbean!" as I was showing my boarding card. The guards were smiling as I bet they see this everyday.

Once at the entrance of the cruise, one of the crew members was holding some passports. They were OUR passports!!!
They were getting ready to leave us and leave the passports at the port office so we could possibly fly back or somewhere. We got on, they closed the door right behind us and the ship started moving few minutes later! Weeehuuu!  We Made it!! :D

Once on the boat, a well deserve rest at the pool and jacuzzi and a couple of drinks. Good Bye Athens!! 

Last stop - Olympia. As the name states, this is the place where the first Olympic games were created. This time we took a taxi and had the driver wait for us to be back to the cruise on time. (To much excitement for the week). Here are the highlights:

   "Place where the Olympic torch is first     light up every Olympic games"

The best was the First track field of the original Olympic Games, which of course we ran too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rome - When in Rome do as the Romans

We arrived to Rome where we stayed a little longer, because this city has so much to offer!

Here are the highlights. Like all other busy places to visit, such as museums or must see sights, I would recommend to get your tickets online directly from the official website of each place, that way you skip the line and pay the real price.

Of course we visited Vatican City, which as you might know, is its own country and it has its own regulations.

A must visit inside Vatican City is the Vatican museum. It has sculptures, paintings and historical artifacts from B.C from all over the world.

At the end of our visit to the museum, we got to see the Sistine Chapel which includes paintings by Leonardo Da'Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and other ... artists.
          Frescos around the museum

                     Sistine chapel

Then we visited Plaza San Pietro (Saint Peter's Square), which has amazing fountains!

Also my name, Angelica, is all over the place! The east entrance of St. Peter's Square has my name, the arches as well and I even have water bottles with my name on them. I thought I might just stay here as it seems that I'm very popular! :)

This door was built around 1500 and it is called Di Porta Angelica after the Pope's name of the time.

Also in St. Peter's Square, you can get into St. Peter's Basilica which is beautifull, as it should be since is the church of churches! 

I asked a couple nuns visiting the basilica about this door, and they said it's the Holy Door that gets taken down by the Pope every 25 years for every jubilee (last one was in 2000); however Pope Francis has decided to take it down this coming December 2015 as an extraordinary jubilee to represent changes and evolution. The door will stay open for a year and then it gets rebuilt again. 

Apparently it used to be opened every 100 years since the year 1400, however it was moved to 50 and then to 25 years. Now it is said that the Pope is the only one that decides when it gets opened up.

The idea is that only the ones that have followed the commandments of God would be able to cross, out of devotion every one who gains the indulgence passes through that door. The door itself is way smaller than the other doors of the basilica, so she said only few will be able to enter. Also, there is a small box in the center that contains sacred relics. 


                     Simply spiritual 

There is a confesion area that has cabins for most languages, which is pretty cool as there are Catholics from all over the world visiting.

Priest praying and the sun's reflection happened to perfectly hit that side of the picture.

We also visited the Coliseum and the underground floors. A tour is the only way to get to the underground floors and also the upper floors. It was great! It was said that around 500 slaves helped out in every show that was held there, with around 50 beasts and only few torches. Plus sand coming down the platform. I cant imagine the madness of this place! 

Also, the Romans used to have battleships in the mornings at the coleseum where they filled it up with water up to 2 meters. Then they would drain the water with a special system to have the gladiator fights in the evenings. 

The fights were free, as each family had an entrance assigned to them that way people from a specific social level didn't get mixed up with other social levels. Basically poor up top and rich at the bottom.

Nothing better than to wonder around in the small streets of Rome that are full of plazas with bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and street artists all over, and of course tons of vendors selling anything you can imagine.

While walking is easy to find the Fontana Di Trevi, which is under restauration. I got to throw a coin into it last time I visited Rome (5 years ago) so I would come back, and here I was again. Even though there was no water in there and it was protected by a glass fence, people still threw coins in it, so we did too! ;) At least the workers could probably get free daily lunch with all the change they get. Oh well, maybe next time we will come back with the family.

Pantheon another amazing building, I believe this one is the most well keep of all, here is a picture of David (6.4 ft) by the door to give you and idea of how massive this thing is.