Sunday, November 27, 2011

the thirteenth week


The school building, decorated for the holidays.
Sunday, November 20th through Saturday, November 26th

Everyone's been in the holiday mood lately. We made snowflakes to decorate the school building (and I'm proud to say that I was deemed the snowflake expert of the group!). I've also been researching fun holiday things to do in London, like Christmas markets and light displays.

In celebration of the school year ending, went to our Greek teacher Ourania's house for dessert and tea. The desserts were all very good, but I didn't try any tea. She lives just a few minutes away from our school building, by the bus stop, and her husband is an artist. So there were paintings all over the walls, covering everything, and the decor was very Bohemian. It was small but had lots of little rooms coming off the main ones. Very interesting house. Everyone went, including Panos and the other program directors.

And Thursday, of course, was THANKSGIVING! Everyone took part and we had a big pot-luck dinner. Since our apartment has the only oven, there were lots of people coming in and out all morning to cook. Everyone brought something to the dinner, whether they made it on their own or paired up. We ended up with:

- Chocolate-Dipped Banana Slices (my contribution)
- Lentils
- Bread
- Fruit (Pears, Kiwi, Clementines)
- Corn Casserole
- Carrots with Ginger
- Twice-Baked Potatoes
- Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chunks
- Broccoli Salad
- Baked Apples
- Cheese Plate (Feta, Gouda, and another Greek Cheese)
- Brie/Crescent Roll Dip with Apples
- Spiced Wine

And the adults (the program directors, teachers, and their families) brought:
- Turkey (We couldn't believe it! You never see turkey in Greece!)
- Ham with Pineapples
- Stuffing
- Apple Pie
- Pumpkin Pie
- Soda and Water
- Chocolate Bars
- Cranberry Sauce

It was quite a feast! And really not so different in food from the Thanksgiving I'm used to at home. We all had seconds and then lazed around to let our stomachs rest. After that we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas with the group and had a small dinner of leftovers before heading back to the apartment for wine and charades :)

Christmas Tree in the building made of Tim's recycled tea, soda, and water bottles.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the twelfth week

They have the most delicious (and cheap) clementines here. Yum!

Sunday, November 13th

I started making a Shutterfly album for my pictures from Italy and Paris. It's going to be a big project. I have so many pictures I want to include, but I can't figure out how exactly to organize them.

Since it's getting colder, they put rugs in all our rooms and have turned on the heaters.

Monday, November 14th

I wrote my last article for the Mirror! It's been a worthwhile experience, but writing for newspaper is definitely harder than I thought. Also enjoyed a chilly moonlit walk with Brandon down by the harbor.

Aigina, view from the Colonna.

Tuesday, November 15th

Class, reading, and a little gift shopping around town. I can't believe we're leaving so soon!

The Colonna.

Wednesday, November 16th

Our Greek Class went on a field trip today to the Colonna, a place with historical ruins here on the island and just a five minute walk from school. There was a little museum beforehand and then the actual site. It was fun to get out of the classroom for Greek and I loved how you could see the waterfront buildings of Aigina Harbor from the Colonna.


Brandon and I at the Colonna.

Thursday, November 17th

In Greek Class, we had our final today. It was much harder than any of us expected, but we're mostly just happy to have it done. I will never have to study Greek again!

In "Culture & Place," I gave an oral presentation on rebetiko, Greece's national music. It's a mix of Greek and Turkish influences and was born in the mid-1800s in poor urban areas, taverns, hashish dens, and even prisons. In Greece, you hear it everywhere.

A flower shop in Aigina.

Friday, November 18th

Today I watched "America's Next Top Model" for most of the day while I worked. I almost always watch the show as it airs, but this season I haven't been due to our lack of cable and all the other shows I'd rather watch. But then, I found out that their "mystery destination" (they travel to a different country in each season) was Greece! So of course I had to watch. It was cool seeing them arrive in Greece and try to speak the language in a challenge :)

Our apartment.

Saturday, November 19th

Brandon's 22nd Birthday!

I worked on my photo book. I'm realizing it's going to cost a lot more than I thought, but it'll be worth it to have a nice, quality book of my pictures. I'll also do one for Aigina, one for Greece & Cyprus (Southern, Northern, Santorini, Cyprus), and one for London, I think.

Alison made a Greek friend a few weeks ago. He's a young guy that works at the supermarket. We (eleven of the group) went out to eat with him tonight. It was pretty late though (9 o'clock) for dinner, so I just split a chocolate souffle with Devon. It was delicious!

Afterward, we went to a couple bars to celebrate Brandon's birthday :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

article #4



Falling in Love with Italy & France
Sometimes you just know. It’s love at first sight. Even after that initial spark of childish infatuation has faded, you feel it. Love. L’amour. Magic. I’ve been in love with Paris for the past three years, since I first visited in 2008 at the end of my senior year of high school. I was younger then, a bit more starry-eyed, and traveling with my mom and sister. We spent a week in Paris, only leaving to take a day-trip to Versailles, and I loved every minute of it. This year, I was lucky enough to return to my beloved with my beloved. We had lunch (a baguette and cheese, of course) beneath the Eiffel Tower, climbed up beside the gargoyles in Notre Dame, walked along the Champs Élysées, and said hello to Mona Lisa in the Louvre. And the food, of course, was delectable: crêpes with nutella, quiche lorraine, croque monsieur, chewy baguettes, and little raspberry tartelettes.
I love Paris. If I could speak more than un peu de Français, it would be the city I dream of calling home. As it is, I only hope to live there at some point in my life. For more than just a week or a month, preferably a whole year, I want to live in Paris and make my time there more than just a dreamy visit.
            While I’m making plans for my future self, I might as well add that sometime in my life I will go back to Italy, the other country I visited during Fall Break. After a whirlwind day in Rome, we spent two days each in both Florence and Venice. Our time in Rome was short, but we made the most of it by walking everywhere and seeing everything we could; the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain amongst the sites we enjoyed. Next was Florence, with its charming bridges, churches, and piazzas. The view from Piazzale Michelangelo was magical and I loved walking across the bridge Ponte Vecchio to get to my hostel each night, the lights glittering beneath us in the river. Venice was next, so unique and beautiful with its canals and bridges and gondolas. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the narrow streets, but when you emerge back onto a canal, the sight is almost always so magnificent you’re compelled to take yet another picture. Italy charmed me with its beautiful buildings, rich history, and most importantly, I think, all the scrumptious pizza and pasta. Paris may have my heart, but Italy has my stomach.
             Of course the trip had its flaws as well— extremely expensive water at restaurants, having to use my tee-shirt as a towel at the hostels, realizing how elusive free public restrooms can be— but it’s impossible to let your thoughts linger on the little things when such big things (see: the Eiffel Tower) are standing right in front of you. I’ve been abroad for about two months now and while I do find myself missing home sometimes (especially when I think of Andy’s pumpkin pie concretes, colorful fall leaves, and my dog), it’s also rather heartbreaking to realize that my Greek journey will soon be coming to a close. For now, I’ve chosen to pretend there isn’t any end date in sight and just enjoy my time here as much as I can. Shouldn’t be too hard, I think, especially with the Halloween/toga party we have planned for this weekend!

This article appeared in an October 2011 issue of Drury University's Mirror newspaper.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

northern greece

Thessaloniki.

Sunday, November 6th

After flying from Santorini to Athens with my mom, we said goodbye and I settled down to wait in the airport for my next flight. I waited about 3 hours. Read. Bought over-priced chips. Spied on two girls waiting with their fat cat :)

This was my first time flying on an airplane alone, but it was surprisingly easy! I flew from Athens to Thessaloniki, a very short flight, and everything went smoothly. The nerve-racking part of my journey came next. I had to take the bus from the airport to our hotel. Even though I had a map and some notes, I was getting nervous because the sun had gone down and I felt very disoriented. But it all went okay! I found the right bus stop and walked about 15 minutes to the hotel.

After a confusing call to Panos and a lot of waiting (it's hard to know what to do when you can't call your friends because no one has a cell phone!), Lauren and Brianna came back to the hotel looking for me. We walked a few blocks to a restaurant where most of the group was waiting.

I'm so happy they found me because dinner was wonderful! Maybe the best dinner I've had in Greece so far. We received free wine, free bread, and free dessert (a small chocolate cake and small cheesecake to share) and my meal was delicious. It was called pasticada and was basically beef cooked in a red, herb-filled sauce with noodles. Really yummy! And apparently Croatian, according to my Wikipedia search just now.

A pastry from Ble.

Monday, November 7th

Today was a busy day of walking. First we hiked up to the Trigonian Tower. It was a very strenuous walk, but a good workout. It's at the north wall of Thessaloniki. There were lots of students around, mostly younger (high school age) but some our own age. It was strange seeing so many kids near our own age around.

After stops at the Byzantine Museum and Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, we had a lunch break. Some of us went to Ble, a bakery mostly known for its amazing pastries. They had so many delicious-looking treats but I settled on a berry tarte. It was amazing!

Then we kept on walking. We walked a lot more around Thessaloniki. A few places were closed, so Panos just showed us them and talked about them from the outside. Had dinner in this nice area near our hotel. Split mushroom pasta with Lauren and it was delicious. After, we went shopping for a bit. It was wonderful being in H&M again :)


Tuesday, November 8th

Visited a number of churches. I don't remember all their names but one was Church of St. Demetrios and another was ___ Sofia. Then we went to the Contemporary Art Museum. There were a lot of cool pieces, including the one above by Andy Warhol. There was also a whole area that was really dark and kind of spooky with talking exhibits (movies or audio). It reminded me of that scene in "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" where they're on the fast boat and the walls turn into weird movies and Wonka starts signing this creepy song and yelling. Scary!

We also went to a mosque that had another modern art exhibit. There were two really strange "art" movies showing. One had a bunch of grown-ups wearing lots of make-up and costumes and playing out a bizarre, loud, non-sensical classroom scene. Another simply had a woman saying "Dieter" over and over again in different tones. We watched it for one minute, waiting for the next thing to happen, but nothing did. So we just kept laughing and talking and waiting but nope. That was it. She just kept saying "Dieter." :) Crazy, crazy art but really funny.

For dinner, Brandon and I got sandwiches from Everest (a big European sandwich chain), wine, and tartes from a bakery. We ate them in the park, where a bunch of dogs were gathered with their owners for play time :)

Meteora.

Wednesday, November 9th

Visited the tombs in Vergina first and then on to . . .

Meteora! One of the most amazing places in Greece I've seen. Meteora means "suspended rocks" and there are all these huge, beautiful rock pillars there. On the tops of the rocks, monasteries were built hundreds of years ago. We visited Varlaam monastery. Gorgeous!

When we arrived in Volos, it was already dark, but Panos took us around a bit. After our little tour, we all went to the Noodle Bar for dinner and had some amazing Asian food. That's one thing we are lacking in Aigina-- variety in our food. We've missed Asian and Mexican food so much!

After dinner, we played cards in our hotel. It was a very strange hotel too because it was in the middle of renovations. So the lobby was very modern and chic, but the hallways were big and old and strange. Plus, the elevator had no walls! As you went up, the wall moved past you and one girl got her backpack stuck in it! The whole building reminded us of the board game "Clue."

Makrinitsa.
Thursday, November 10th

We started the day by driving up Mt. Pelion and stopped in the mountain village Makrinitsa. It was beautiful! Very unlike the rest of Greece, but beautiful. It almost felt like we were in Germany. We stayed there awhile to listen to presentations, take pictures, and explore.

That concluded the Northern Greece field trip! After Makrinitsa, we had a 5 hour bus ride back to Athens and then the ferry back to Aigina, our home sweet home.


Friday, November 11th

Like all the days after traveling, I spent my time sorting/editing pictures from the trip and e-mailing friends and family.


Saturday, November 12th

Homework, writing, and movies.


Friday, November 18, 2011

santorini

I've been traveling around Greece for more than two months now and I think I can safely say that Santorini is one of the most beautiful places in the country. It's an island reachable by both ferry and plane (just an hour flight from Athens!) and I would guess it's the most photographed place in Greece as far as calendars and books are concerned. It's also where they shot those gorgeous scenes in "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." If you ever have the chance to go to Greece, I would definitely put it at the top of your list!

The balcony outside our hotel room in Fira.

Friday, November 4th

After an early ferry and bus ride to the Athens airport, my mom and I flew to Santorini. Although the flight is technically an hour, you're only in the air maybe forty minutes. Definitely the shortest amount of time I've ever spent on a plane! We sat down, looked through the in-flight magazine, got our complimentary beverages, downed them, and then landed in Santorini. Amazingly quick!

Funnily enough too, when you land, you walk down steps to get from the plane to the landing and then they make you take a bus to the airport. The bus ride length? Twenty seconds. And it probably would have taken forty seconds to walk there :)


Oia at Sunset
When we first got there, we went straight to our hotel. It was a bit difficult getting my mom's suitcase down all the narrow stairs, but we finally made it. Because November is off-season for Greece, there were very few people staying at the hotel. We got our room for a great price and it had an amazing view of Fira as well as a nice little balcony outside the room with chairs and a table for relaxing. The room itself was built into the land, like so many houses in Santorini, with a rounded, cave-like roof, whitewashed walls, and a little window built into the door. So cute!


Oia Again, at Sunset.
When we were all checked in, we walked around Fira a bit. There seemed to be a good amount of shops open and we stopped in a few before finding a place to eat lunch. The restaurant was beautiful, very green with lots of outdoor seating and trellises and grapes growing. After eating some delicious sandwiches, we walked around Fira more. Strangely, some shops had already closed. So after a little while, we took the bus to Oia, the most picturesque town in Santorini. It's just a short bus ride away from Fira. We took a million pictures there before and after the sun set. The town is beautiful and there were tons of cute, silly dogs running around while we took pictures :)


One of the Pups in Oia.
As we were wandering around Oia, going in shops and looking for restaurants for dinner, we passed by a cute little bookshop that looked a lot like the Greek version of Paris's Shakespeare & Co., a quirky little store with books everywhere, writing on the walls, and a distinctive personality. Their storefront was unique too, with steps going down to the main store and steps going up to a little balcony. As we peered in the shop from the street, an American girl called to us from the balcony saying they were having a famous Greek chef/author cook food upstairs and everyone was welcome.

As we were debating it, one of the store owners popped up and told us the chef was the Greek Martha Stewart and she was there for the literary festival they were having all weekend. Naturally, we couldn't pass up the opportunity. We went upstairs, where maybe 30 people were crowded into the cozy space, watching Vefa Alexandiou cook recipes from her cookbooks. They gave us complimentary wine and we got to try some yummy food as well. We only stayed about 30-45 minutes, but we had a great time and ended up buying one of the cookbooks (and had it signed by the author!).

My mom in Oia.
Saturday, November 5th

We started our second day with a bus ride to Perissa, another town on the island. It's known for it's black sand beach, which was beautiful and soft, much better than a regular sandy beach. There were lots of dogs there too, running around the beach and napping in the sand. So cute!

Only two restaurants were open, but luckily one of them was perfect. We got to sit on a little deck above the beach, eat yummy crepes (mine had bananas, nutella, walnuts, and almonds!), drink strawberry juice, and they even had internet access! Unfortunately, there wasn't much else to do in town. We wandered around and took some pictures and thankfully, just when we'd finished, the bus arrived and we took it back to Fira.


The bookstore, Atlantis Books.
There was a cruise boat anchored near the island on Saturday, which might have been annoying during Santorini's busy season, but in November, we really welcomed it. Because there was a cruise boat, almost all the shops were open in both Fira and Oia. We meant to walk around Fira just a bit after getting back from Perissa (because we were thinking of how it had been the day before, fairly calm and mostly closed), but we ended up stumbling on a lot of really great shops. I bought a bunch of gifts, which I'd been meaning to do for awhile. We were so busy shopping, we decided to take the later bus to Oia.

Black Sand at Perissa.
We took the bus back to Oia again, because the sunset is just too pretty to pass up. The cruise boat had left by this point, so we had lots of room and opportunity to take the photos we wanted. I've heard from other people who visited Santorini back in September that when they visited Oia near sunset, the streets were packed. They could barely even move around and all the great locations were full of tourists, the streets completely lined.

So while I was sad we couldn't swim at the beach while we were there (it was definitely too cold for that), I still think Santorini is a great spot to visit in the off-season. It's not too chilly and definitely not over-run by tourists. However, it is best if there's at least one cruise boat around to keep the stores and restaurants up and running.

Crepes & Strawberry Juice at the Restaurant in Perissa.
After pictures, we found one of the few restaurants open in Oia. We split some delicious "Oia Spaghetti," which was basically just spaghetti with a yummy tomato garlic sauce and lots of vegetables. We finished quickly though because the literary festival was still happening at Atlantis Books and we didn't want to miss the author readings they'd scheduled for that night.

Outside our hotel in Fira.
We were a bit late to the book readings, so we only made it in time to hear the end of Joe Dunthorne's reading (author of Submarine, which was recently made into a movie). We did get to hear Ross Sutherland, Dimitris Sotakis, Alexis Stamatis, and Thanassis Heimonas. So there were two Englishmen and three Greeks. And luckily for us, all but one of the authors read in English, and the one who didn't was still able to make us laugh with the little songs he incorporated into his work. I really enjoyed all of their work. And I'm really thankful the event was happening too because if not for that, we might have been getting bored at night. There isn't much to see or do once it gets dark and the shops close.


Oia.

So that was the end to our second day in Santorini. We only took a taxi to Fira, walked around a couple shops, and went back to the hotel after that, to pack and get some sleep. We woke early the next morning, got some breakfast at a bakery, and flew back to Athens, where my mom stayed until Monday morning and where I flew out of again later that afternoon, to meet my classmates in Thessaloniki for our trip to Northern Greece!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the tenth week

(most of the tenth week anyway)





Sunday, October 30th

Boring day until dinnertime. I had a nice dinner with Brandon to celebrate our anniversary early (because my mom will be here on the actual day). :)



Monday, October 31st

HALLOWEEN! We didn't do much because we'd already celebrated, but I definitely ate more candy.

I also watched Midnight in Paris on my laptop and loved it! It seemed meant for me, really. An aspiring novelist dreams of living in Paris in the 1920s and actually goes back in time, meeting Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and a number of others. He also meets a girl who dreams of going back to the Belle Epoque, another of my favorite eras. Paris + History + Literature (especially Fitzgerald and Hemingway) = Perfection. Parfait!

Beside my apartment door.
Tuesday, November 1st

My mom arrived! I missed Culture & Place (which was rescheduled from Monday) to meet her at the port. Her hotel was beautiful with an amazing view. If you ever go to Aigina, especially in the off-season, definitely consider staying at Hostel Rastoni. Great view and very friendly, helpful staff. After she had time to put her stuff down and look around, we walked around town. I showed her my apartment, the school building, the mini mart, the grocery store, the harbor, etc. We had some lunch and then waffles for dinner :) And of course, took lots of pictures and did a little souvenir/gift shopping.

The Monastery.

Wednesday, November 2nd

My actual anniversary with Brandon :)

After my Greek class, my mom and I took the bus to Agia Marina, another city on Aigina. We immediately ate lunch at a cute little place with blue-checked tablecloths by the waterfront. It was beautiful and the food was delicious. Unfortunately, it was the only place really open in town. We took more pictures and went in the shop or two that were open before catching the bus again and getting off at the monastery in the middle of the island. It's a very nice building and again, there weren't many around, so we could take all the pictures we wanted.

When we'd finished, we wanted to call a taxi because we knew the bus wasn't coming back that night. My mom couldn't find the taxi number she'd written down, but luckily a Greek man selling pistachios found us. He barely spoke English, but he laughed a lot and tried to help us. He loved when I was able to tell him in Greek that my mom was μητέρα μου (which means "my mom").

With him directing me, I went to the cafe across the street and asked the few Greek men eating there for a taxi number. And luckily, they were able to help. We took the taxi back to Aigina Town. There, we had dinner after searching through a number of restaurants. I had the spaghetti with meat sauce, which probably only included about a tablespoon of sauce, but was still very tasty.


An early morning in Aigina.

Thursday, November 3rd

My mom and I took the bus to Perdika, yet another place to see on the island. I'd gone there back in September for swimming, but it's obviously much too cold for that now. It was fairly empty, but all the cafes were still open so we had lunch. The cats were swarming us at the table, unfortunately (I hate cats!), but the food was good and the waiter very friendly. Afterward, we took a few pictures and walked along the waterfront before taking the bus back to Aigina Town.

After a quick class of wine while watching the sunset on my mom's hotel balcony, we went back to the apartment to get Brandon for dinner. The three of us ate at a very nice restaurant along the port. Probably the best restaurant I've been to in Aigina so far and we got a discount too (because I'm a Drury student). After, we went back to the apartment so I could pack for Santorini and Northern Greece. I said goodbye to Brandon and then went back to the hotel with my mom. We had to wake up early the next morning, so we thought it'd be best if I stayed with her (and her hotel had two extra beds anyway, plus an extra nice bathroom!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

the ninth week


On the Ferry at Sunset (and not actually taken during this week)

Aigina (also not taken this week)
Brandon Sketching by the Temple of Aphaia


Alison Sketching at the Temple of Aphaia

Sunday, October 23rd to Saturday, October 29th- Days ??? (I've given up!)


Things I Did This Week:


- Worked on scheduling my classes for next semester (I can't believe it's my last!).
- Edited and sorted pictures from Fall Break.
- Greek class and Culture & Place, as usual
- We visited the Temple of Aphaia, a historic site in Aigina, with our Greek class.
- Wrote another article for the Mirror.
- Researched my Culture & Place paper on Antioch.
- Had a toga party in celebration of Halloween :) Also bought and ate lots and lots of candy! I missed butterfingers, sour patch kids, candy corn, and all my other favorites but at least they have snickers, twix, and peanut m&ms here. It wasn't a traditional Halloween but we all had a really great time :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

cyprus

Looking Out on the Turkish Side of Nikosia

Cyprus passed in a blur, probably because we had only just gotten back from Fall Break. Between our personal travels and our trip to Cyprus, we had one afternoon to do laundry, upload pictures, eat, and sleep, but it was hardly enough. I was tired and wanting to be back home in Aigina again, but of course I still loved seeing a new place and enjoying what it had to offer (especially the beautiful beach!). In our five days there, we visited churches, a mosque, beaches, historical homes, ancient ruins, a university, a ghost-town (which we only viewed from afar), and even the birthplace of Aphrodite. I'll just leave you with a some pictures:

Pafos

Birthplace of Aphrodite

Umm Haram Mosque

The Beach!

Haloumi, a Cyprus Cheese (and incredibly delicious!)
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