Full Moon Monday

The kids have been staying up until 11 PM and getting up around 10 AM all week long — what I call jet lag, the Greeks call summer. And I can’t seem to get drowsy much before 3 AM. I figured we should take advantage of this momentary noctunalness and do something with the kids at night. Monday the Athenians celebrated the full moon with various concerts and activities with free admission to the famed museums after 8 PM. We met up with my friend Ismenia and her family for dinner and revelry. Or about as much as we could handle on a hot and humid August night in a crowded city. We rode the train from the Embassy to the Plaka for an incredible dinner at Thanasis. We took a table outside, wisely sitting the four older kids together on one end, the two youngest on the other, and we adults in the middle. Khloe and Violet had so much fun sharing snacks and little toys, making them talk to each other and doing a fare job of leaving the adults to visit in peace.

Full of awesome kabobs and greek salad, we trundled our large group toward the Acropolis, stopping for gelato along the way. As we neared the museum, it became apparent that every other tourist in Athens had the same idea we did. Admission to the Acropolis museum is pretty damn cheap, so the long line for a free ticket wasn’t really worth it, especially with two little ones in strollers. So we pushed on up to Mars Hill for some night time views of the Acropolis and just maybe this full moon everyone had come out to see. As we walked along the the every increasingly darkness, we scanned the cloudless sky for the aforementioned white orb. No dice.

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Unsurprisingly, Mars Hill was also jam-packed with tourists. I’d climbed up there about a year ago sans kids during the day, but I thought better of attempting the climb with two kids and a stroller while wearing flip flops. Plus, James had to work in the morning. Ismenia and her adventurous crew folded up the stroller and clamored up the steep staircase while we bide her farewell. As we walked back down to the Metro we spied the full moon rising low and heavy past a mountaintop…and suddenly I remembered there was a partial eclipse! How cool! I stopped to snap some ineffectual photos with my iphone.

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An hour later or so later back at home, Liam and I traipsed up to the rooftop to see the moon, but the eclipse was over by then. So we just laid in the hammock and looked at the sky.

“Look! A shooting star,” he shouted. Sure enough, as I looked over I saw a tell-tale streak in the sky. We talked about meteors, craters on the moon and on earth, the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, how far away the stars are, and how light years work. After the kids finally went to bed, I texted Ismenia. She was bummed that she didn’t get to see the moon rising over the Acropolis from her vantage point on Mars Hill. It made me glad we’d skipped the hassle and come home early. Our night out with friends was great, but our little rooftop lie-about in the hammock was my favorite part of the evening.

The Electric Train Museum

Monday I decided, perhaps against my better judgement, to take the kids on the Metro down to Piraeus to see the Electric Train Museum. I say that because they almost always get sick after riding the train. It’s just a cesspool of bacteria. With so much going on this week, an illness is the last thing I need. But I also can’t stand to sit at home all day entertaining my bored kiddos. So I packed tons of anti-bacterial wipes and hoped for the best. 

Now that Violet is two, she is much more interested in the whole train-riding experience. And when she tired of people watching, a couple of matchbox cars helped keep her occupied. Once we changed to the green line, the scenery outside kept her busy. 


Finally we arrived in Piraeus. It’s the oldest metro station in Athens, and the building is grand. But like so much in Athens, old is juxtaposed with new — classic skylights illuminate graffiti-covered train cars. 



Violet did her best to thwart my germ-fighting efforts, practically licking the floor. 


The museum was small and privately owned. No admission and no photography. But the kids enjoyed the exhibits. There was a replica train car they could sit in, and a video of a train’s-eye view of the ride along the Green line that Liam couldn’t keep his eyes off of. They had tons of old photos from construction of the metro dating back to the mid-1800s. And lots of artifacts — tickets, tokens, switchboards, lanterns, and tools of the trade. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Piraeus with your kiddos. 

Next to the museum was a little sandwich and pastry shop, so we found a cosy window overlooking a construction site and noshed on ham sandwiches. Our table was surrounded on all sides by old men sitting at tables, drinking their coffee and animatedly talking about…something. I have no idea what. But they were entertaining. And the kids were entertaining to them as well. Watching a two-year-old decimate a six-inch ham sandwich will definitely brighten your day. 

Another Day, Another Beach

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Violet and Aimelia enjoying the sand under the umbrella. (Violet tossing, Aimelia eating)

 

My husband says a beach is a beach is a beach. But I disagree. Many factors combine to make an enjoyable beach outing , and I’m always on the quest for something better. I love Trolley Café — they truly do have amazing frozen chocolates (called Freddos on the menu, apparently) — but I don’t love how far the chairs are from the shore. I’d heard good things about Schinias Beach in Marathon, so we met up with a few other families there last Wednesday.

First the pros. The beach and water are fantastic. The chairs are quite close to the water, and at least on the weekdays, we were able to sit in them without having to order anything. We sat by the Delphin Bar and Grill, so I was able to walk up and order some drinks. We picked a fantastic day — high in the upper 80s, not much wind. The water was relatively warm, and quite shallow. I found I had to keep on my knees just so Violet could get wet. And the waves were quite gentle. Violet loved getting in the shallow water and walking along the surf.

Now the cons. The drive took about an hour from my house, though if you take the mountain road over Pentilis, the view is stunning. The frozen chocolate wasn’t nearly as good as Trolley Cafe’s — though to be fair, their machine wasn’t ready, so the guy made one with ice. I did have a delectably sweet strawberry and lemon Icee that more than made up for it. And I was told that if the wind cuts strongly from the East, the beach becomes almost unbearable windy. We lucked out Wednesday, but will have to check the weather report closely next time we come. Also, I almost didn’t make it home in time to meet Liam’s bus!

Despite some of the cons, I had a great time, and will definitely be back. Next week Liam is off school, so I’m hoping to make it to some new beaches before we leave for the land-locked Midwest.

Adventure Park for Grown-Ups

20170610_143451486_iOSDouble date at Adventure Park, woo hoo! After taking Liam here twice, wishing I could harness up and try the more advanced courses, I decided to invite some friends and make a date of it. Joanna, my intrepid biking and aerial yoga buddy, and her hubby Richard were totally game.

We arrived at 5PM last Saturday, paid our 20 Euros for three hours, harnessed up, got a safety lecture, and then we were off! Technically I was about four inches too short for the adult course, but this is Greece, so of course it didn’t matter. “You can just jump for it,” is what I was told. Sounds good to me! Helmets were also optional. Because…Greece!

We started on the four “Wolf” courses, about 30 feet up in the trees. We’d hook in our safety lines, then negotiate various obstacles from platform to platform. There was definitely an advantage to going last, we discovered, though there was always a guide on the ground who would talk us through if we needed help. We each had a zip line apparatus attached to our harness, so after a rope bridges, hanging logs, or whatever else they could dream up, we’d hook into a zip line and ferried ourselves across.

I was surprised to discover that sometimes my height was an advantage. Richard was the tallest in our group, and some of the challenges that were easier for me were a bit awkward for him. Then I had to swing across three ropes Indiana Jones-style and that knocked me down a peg or two.

After finishing up the “Wolf” courses, and feeling pretty good about ourselves, we continued on to the three “Eagle” courses. Whoa. These were much higher and much harder. We were feeling fatigued, but determined, so we pushed through. At one point I could barely reach the guy wire above my head…oh, yeah, I guess I really am too short for this! But I managed to get across. By far the hardest for us was swinging across on a rope to a rope “spider web” — James made it look so easy! I managed to get across, but James had to help me down. Poor Joanna and Richard missed and had to get rescued.

By the end of the second “Eagles” course we were tired, thirsty, and ready to quit. Our hands ached (I found out later you can get gloves…note for next time!), and I had bruises all over. I wish I’d worn longer sleeves. But after a rest and some water, we pushed on, and discovered the last course was all zip lines. Yee-haw! What a way to end the night!

They closed up the park as we left; we were the last guests to leave. We got dinner at a little taverna up the road, resting our weary bodies as we stuffed ourselves with sausages, potatoes, Greek salad and cheese. This was certainly one of the best…and most painful…date nights ever!

Little Kook Cake Shop

With all of my travelling, I’ve had little time to write about some of the local things I’ve been doing with my time. Between my trips to Venice and Germany, I popped over to the Athens Flea Market to pick up some fun souvenirs for my friends in Gottingen, and I finally got a chance to try this funny little tea and cake shop I’ve been dying to try since before Christmas. We had arranged an embassy meetup back in December, but they were unexpectedly closed so they could decorate for Christmas. Fast forward four months and I was finally coming back!

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Little Kook lives up to its name: the décor is definitely kooky! The waitresses are dressed up in elaborate costumes, and there isn’t an inch of wall or ceiling space that isn’t covered with some interesting decoration. There was an entire room just devoted to Christmas.

Looking over the menu, I decided I was more in the mood for savory than sweet, but they had several cakes, crepes and ice creams that I would love to come back and try. I got a savory tuna crepe and a glass of their homemade lemonade. Food and drink were outstanding!

Liam and Violet would totally love this place, and I’m sure many of my friends and their kids would enjoy it, as well. Though with all of the stairs, it is not a good place for strollers and young wandering toddlers. But we will definitely be coming back here after school is out!

Shopping in the Springtime

I took Violet up to IKEA to get her a little table set and myself a new ceramic frying pan. No dice on the pan–I had to settle for Teflon–plus about five additional things I didn’t know I absolutely needed. IKEA is the Target of Greece.

One of my friends and her 2-year-old daughter joined us for our little shopping spree. As we both perused the tiny tables in the kids section, our little rascals wandered around amongst the toys. Violet is going through that wonderful stage where she thinks it’s hilarious to run off, giggling like mad. She nearly made it to the café with a push cart before I caught her! Thankfully, some Greek grannies came to the rescue. They fawned over the little ones while we continued our comparison shopping.

The kids were getting restless in the checkout, so I loaded them in the cart and took them to get ice cream. Which seemed like such a good idea at the time.

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We moms had to quickly sneak in licks to keep the mess under control. I’m astonished my latest acquisitions didn’t end up covered in soft serve.

In other news…Spring is here! The lovely weather enticed me to get out and about today, where I was met with these little buggers:

They’re fuzzy little caterpillars, and they are EVERYWHERE this time of year. They form creepy little lines across any available surface, and if they are careless enough to march across a busy sidewalk…CARNAGE! I shot this video in a hurry because two ladies with hobo carts laden with recent Laiki purchases were just about to run them over. We were informed by the embassy not to touch these guys because they often cause an allergic reaction. Liam has no desire to touch a bug, but I’ve got to keep a close eye on his curious counter-part.

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bakaliaros

Happy Independence Day, Greece! The holiday is actually on Saturday, but today I spotted several stands of huge Greek flags waving in the breeze. I read in the embassy newsletter that many small towns have parades, and it is customary to eat bakaliaros skordalia, a crispy, fried cod fish with garlic sauce. Now here’s a seafood dish that could satisfy our Midwestern palates! We’ll be visiting the Byzantine, walled city of Monemvasia on Saturday, so I’m sure we’ll see a parade or two while we’re there. And we’ll have to try the fish!

I passed through the Laiki where I had bought these awesome pants, and I thought I would try to find another pair. As I searched for the clothing vendor, I suddenly laid eyes on a set of ceramic frying pans. And they were purple! And only 16 Euros each! Perfect! But not a clothing vendor in sight. I guess that’s the ethereal nature of the Greek Laiki. Better luck next time.

Around the World in 80 minutes

On Saturday we got a sitter for Violet and took Liam to see Around the World in Eighty Days at the Megaron Music Hall. I was told it was an entertaining, visually-stunning extravaganza, and while all the dialogue and singing would be in Greek, we would still be able to follow along.

We gave it our best shot.

Honestly, if it hadn’t been so loooong, we probably could have made it through. We had good seats, Liam in the front and James and I on bleachers right behind him. We already knew the gist of the story, and with video screens to add atmosphere, it was mostly apparent where in the world the characters were traveling to. Liam got a kick out of the set — there were doors on either side of the stage with large pieces on wheels that the actors would ride on to enter and exit stage left and right. The songs were catchy, and you could tell the actors were having a lot of fun with it. But, there was an awful lot of dialogue and less singing than I expected, and while everyone else was laughing every five minutes or so, we couldn’t get any of the jokes. There were a few physical jokes we could enjoy, but the rest went right over our heads. At one point the video screens started showing scenes from the Serengeti, and I thought they’d made a long, out-of-the-way detour to Africa. But, no, they just stayed in India for a very. long. time.

Eighty or so minutes later we hit intermission, and our intrepid travelers were just starting to move on from India. Facing a long line for snacks and another hour and a half of the show, we decided it best to leave early. Liam probably could have made it through another act, but I’m sure his attention would have waned after another 30 minutes, and our backs were not too happy about us sitting on those bleachers for so long.

Luckily, tickets were relatively cheap, and we parked at the embassy next door for free. We spent the rest of our afternoon at Golden Hall, one of the more upscale shopping malls in Athens. Ah, commerce…so refreshingly American! And then, as if to negate all of the foreign-ness we had experienced that day, we had dinner at McDonalds. Liam loved eating at a restaurant without his little sister…I think we all did! Not a bad little Saturday outing after all.

Monday morning, I decided I’d let the grass (ahem…weeds) in the back garden grow long enough. First mow of the year!

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Last year I would have waited until naptime, but with one nap a day that happens during quiet hours, this was my best shot. Violet did a fantastic job of steering clear of the weed whacker. In fact, she mostly stayed inside as I made my way closer to the house. She may be a little more devil-may-care than her brother, but it’s nice to see she exercises a bit of caution.

Last August most of the grass died, and in October I tried spraying it with weed killer. It seems to have just killed the grass and fertilized the weeds. Whatever. We hardly use the back yard anyway — it’s muddy in the spring, mosquito-infested in the summer and fall, and too cold in the winter. My kids would much rather just go to the playground down the street anyway.