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 with the ever increasing 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 bid 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. 

A lovely weekend in Nafplio and Epidavros

With warm weather finally returning, we decided to spend a weekend at the seaside Peloponnese town of Nafplio. It’s about a two hour drive southwest of Athens, and we couldn’t have picked a lovelier weekend in February to make the journey. Sunny and 63 degrees (or, rather, 17 degrees…still getting used to Celsius). I booked us a family studio apartment at the Bonne Nuit Pension, a decent little place in an excellent location, right in the old town.

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We started the day at Palamidi Castle, an 18-century Venetian fortress set up on the highest point in Nafplio. I was told there were two ways to get to the castle. You can either kill yourself climbing 999 stairs…

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Or drive your lazy ass to the top. Let’s see…carrying a 20-pound toddler on my back while listening to an 8-year-old’s constant whining all the way to the top, or parking 30 feet from the entrance. Honestly, which would you choose?

Once inside, we traipsed all over the various bastions. The views of the city and the bay were amazing. In this photo, you can see the ridge above the old town, and the small island in the bay is the Bourtzi, a water castle used as a fortification in the 1400s.

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The kids absolutely loved climbing around, playing peek-a-boo through some of the architectural elements…

…and carefully looking down at the sea.

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Some openings had safety bars and some didn’t. Thankfully my boy is very cautious, and my girl can’t climb all that fast. Yet. For the most part the paths were clearly marked, though at one point we walked ourselves along a narrow path right to a staircase leading nowhere, and we had to turn back. After walking every inch of the castle (at one little 8-year-old’s insistence), we had a little picnic lunch in the courtyard near the entrance.

Then it was naptime. For the grown-ups, not the kids, as it turned out. They jumped on one bed while the tired adults slept in the other. Actually, James did all the sleeping. I’m a mother. A nap in the middle of the day…as if! Feeling relatively well-rested, we hiked down to Arvanitia Beach along a gorgeous path right along the sea. It wasn’t quite sunset, but the views were still spectacular.

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Not a railing in sight, which made for good photos, but I was scared to death my baby girl was going to try and walk right off the edge and plummet into the sea. Thankfully the trail meandered back away from the water so she could walk on her own. The beach itself wasn’t much to look at, but we did get to see the back entrance to the castle with all of those stairs we decided not to take.

Instead, we climbed a nearly equivalent amount of stairs as we wandered around the old town back to our hotel. Well, maybe not 999…but our feet were aching all the same. Thankfully, one of the restaurants a friend had recommended was a short distance from our hotel, so we had ourselves an early dinner (6:30, so early by Greek standards) at Alaloum. I finally got some of this Greek lamb everyone keeps telling me about. More skin, fat and bone than I typically enjoy, but the meaty parts were excellent. The restaurant was small, but not too crowded or smoky, and we were treated to some complimentary gelato for dessert.

As we walked home, we came across a festival in the main town square. The Greeks celebrate Carnival all month long, and with Clean Monday just a week away, the festivities were really ramping up. Kids in costumes and their parents danced in a circle as musicians played traditional Greek music. Weary from our day of driving and climbing, we made our way back to our hotel and all of us conked out before 9:30.

The next day we drove about an hour East to the theater and archeological site of Epidaurus…or maybe Epidavros…it’s spelled both ways, but the Greeks seem to prefer the latter pronunciation and spelling. They play it fast and loose with their U’s and V’s.

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The theater is the best preserved from this era, the 4th century BC, and it is renowned for its excellent acoustics. You could stand in the center of a little circle on the stage and hear your own voice bounce back to you like you were talking through a microphone. Clapping also sounded wicked cool. You can see the kids really enjoyed that.

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The theater was remarkably well-preserved, but the rest of the site was not. No bother, though, because the kids just wanted to climb on everything.

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Monkey see, monkey do!

On our way back home we made a brief stop at the Corinth Canal, built in 1893.

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Apparently it doesn’t serve much of a purpose anymore, but it sure looks cool! We stopped for lunch at the Goodies right next to the canal, and inside hung several photos showing how it was built. Liam got a real kick out of that. And Violet was happy to have her “fry fries!”

Now that James’ refugee travel has been put on hold, we’re planning more of these little weekend getaways for the spring and early summer. Next stop in March, Monemvasia!

Halloween in Transylvania

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A well-timed business trip to Romania turned into a perfect long-weekend getaway for our family. Just in time for Halloween, we booked a private tour of Bran Castle, famed residence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Peles Castle in Transylvania. We’d be staying in Bucharest for a few days, and I managed to find what turned out to be the perfect hotel for our family. The Orhideea Health & Spa offers spacious two-bedroom apartments for about 100 Euros a night. A large Carrefour down the street and numerous take-away restaurant options meant we could focus on fun family sight-seeing without worrying about what to do for dinner. Breakfast was included, which made me and the kids happy. They also serve dinner in a restaurant on the top floor, though we didn’t think the food was very good. We ended up not using the spa or the indoor pool, but it was nice to know those options were available.

Our flights were all kind of wonky this trip. James had to fly in from Timisoara in the afternoon while the kids and I flew Tarom Airlines (Romania’s premier, ahem, only airline) from Athens in the middle of the night. We didn’t make it to the hotel until 2 AM. Uncharacteristically, I’d not done a lot of vacation planning for this trip, so we hurriedly scoured Trip Advisor for some kid-friendly sight-seeing options.

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First stop, the train museum! Because…Liam. The Muzeul CFR is housed in the Gara de Nord train station, sort of the grand central station of Budapest. After admiring the big trains and watching a couple of them pull out of the station, we mosied over to the museum at the end of one of the platforms. Inside we found all sorts of artifacts, maps, and models of trains throughout history. But the most impressive of all was a huge model train that was an actual scale model of real areas throughout Romania. We met a wonderful docent who delighted Liam (and us!) with fun facts about the model and about trains in general. I asked if I could take photos, but he said we would have had to pay a fee when we bought our ticket. (We learned later this is common at all of the museums.) We had the place pretty much to ourselves, and because the museum was so small, I think Liam took his time really looking around.

Next, we decided to give the subway system a go. We find it so interesting how different cities and countries manage their transportation systems. While Athens works on an honor system, with simple ticket validation and a hefty fine if you’re caught without a proper ticket, Budapest uses a scanner and turnstile. The train cars were quite nice, with benches running along the walls, and the cars were wider than in Athens. The space between cars was completely open, so as the train made a turn you could see the bend in the cars all the way down the track. Quite a sight to see!

We spent the rest of the cold, dreary afternoon looking for a good museum. Liam spotted a huge Triceratops skull in front of the Muzeul National de Geologie, so we ended up going there. The skull was a bit misleading — there were a few dino models inside, but mostly it housed a vast collection of rocks. As you can imagine, that only took about 30 minutes for Liam to breeze right through. Just as well — we had a big day ahead of us in Transylvania the next day, so best to pace ourselves.

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By the end of our first day we were marveling at how affordable everything is in Romania. Museum tickets were all less than 5 Euros, we got a HUGE two-bedroom apartment for the cost of a single hotel room, and groceries cost half of what they would in Athens. Perhaps this is because Romania opted to keep its currency, the Lei, instead of switching to the Euro. Interestingly, Romanian leis are made of plastic instead of paper, and each bill has a small, transparent shape, like a little window (that’s what Liam called it).

Cristi, our private tour guide, met us bright and early Friday morning in our hotel lobby. The service we booked through Viator actually contacted us to suggest we switch to a private tour because we had a small child, and it was definitely worth the extra 50 Euros. They provided a car seat free of charge, and our guide was fantastic. As we drove out of the city, Cristi told us all sorts of facts about Budapest, some history about Romania, and we talked at length about his experiences as a child living under the Communist regime. He was only about nine when the wall fell, but he remembers his parents and grandparents having to stand in long lines for food. And he remembers how excited he was to try McDonald’s for the first time! He said he dreams to one day visit New York City, and he was thrilled to hear that we’d lived there once. I guess it’s very difficult for Romanians to get a US Visa these days. He hopes that will change soon. He also told us Romanians love almost anything American, especially the holidays, like Halloween. No trick-or-treating there, but lots of decorations up around town!

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As we approached our first stop, Peles Castle, we were told about its grand history and even grander rooms. It’s really more like a palace, with 170 ornately decorated rooms,  30 of which are bathrooms. James and I would have thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour if we could have ditched the kids. First off, it was still quite dreary and cold, even colder in the mountains, and Liam was NOT HAPPY about this situation. Then, Liam was under the mistaken impression that we’d be getting a private tour of the castle, so he threw a fit when we had to crowd in with a huge group of strangers for the English-language guided tour. He finally calmed down a bit when I exasperatedly handed him the camera and told him to start taking photos. But then Violet decided she wanted to nurse RIGHT NOW. Thankfully there was a female docent who overheard Violet’s pleas and motioned me to come around a curtain where there was a chair and a little bit of privacy. I say “little bit” because from the tour group’s vantage point, I probably looked like part of the exhibit. Sheesh. When we finally made it out and met Cristi in the courtyard, he asked if we’d like to tour the grounds. We opted for hot chocolate at the café instead.

Refreshed and in slightly better spirits, we stopped for lunch at Halewood Winery in Prahova Valley. Cristi recommended a few Romanian delicacies on the menu — the tripe soup (we opted for the less, um, intestiny option, beef soup), the “skinless sausages” called Mititei, and a Romanian dessert which was like a large, round donut covered in cream and blueberries. Romanian food is soooo good!

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Bellies full, we continued our trek through the Carpathian Mountains to Bran Castle. The clouds cleared out and the temperature rose. Beautiful fall foliage followed us up, down and around the curves, while craggy, white rocky outcrops rose impossibly high up ahead.

Now, clear your minds of all that spooky Dracula stuff. Bram Stoker set his infamous vampire tale at Bran Castle, but he’d never actually been here. And subsequent renovations by Queen Marie have transformed it into an almost quaint neo-classical cottage. But no bother — it’s still way up on a hill, and the tourists love it. No tour groups — we were free to roam around ourselves, and Cristi served as our private tour guide, pointing out various rooms and telling us of the history of the place. Liam loved walking through the narrow halls and peeking into the tidy rooms. dsc_0112 He especially loved the secret staircase through the walls discovered behind the fireplace. At the base of the castle stood a huge collection of souvenir booths. Cristi said that until the movies, Romanians hadn’t even heard of Dracula. This tourist industry sort of cropped up when people started showing up wanting to see the place. It was all a bit kitchy, but we couldn’t leave without getting a magnet, a statue of the castle for our mantel, and couple of T-shirts. Liam picked out a bell with Vlad the Impaler’s picture on it. We explained to him all about Vlad and the Dracula myth. He seemed to get the gist.

dsc_0153 On our final day we went to the Natural History Museum, which was VERY COOL! Better than I’d imagined it would be. Very modern, like a museum you’d see in the States. From there we took the subway to beautiful Herastrau Park. After riding the little choo-choo train (seems like we’ve always got to do that wherever we go!) we discovered the best Romanian street food ever: spiral potatoes. Actually, who knows if these are really Romanian, but who cares? They totally hit the spot. And of course we had to try the Kurtos Kalacs, fried bread molded around a thick rod, then coated in sugar. Sweet crunchy deliciousness!

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Lunch and done. Let’s look at some little houses! Next we took a lovely stroll through the Village Museum, an outdoor display of quaint little houses they moved from the countryside dating from 18th-early 20th century. You couldn’t go into most of them because they were too fragile. But with the falling leaves, lovely lake, and traditional music, we really felt transported in time. I spotted a sign for hot wine. Wine…for a cold fall day, you say? Sure, let’s give it a whirl. It smelled great, like cinnamon apple cider with a hint of tannins. But it tasted kind of revolting. I thought as it cooled it would taste better. It didn’t.

Our trip ended too soon. I wish we could have had just one more day. Cristi highly recommended seeing the Parliament Palace, reputedly the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon. But we were worried the kids wouldn’t do well on another lengthy guided tour. We also missed seeing the Old Town, a few blocks of medieval buildings in the heart of the city. Perhaps when we return to Budapest someday we’ll be able to see them. Maybe we can leave the kids at home, ha!

We’re actually thinking of making a return trip to Romania in the spring, this time staying in Timisoara and seeing some of the more medieval castles associated with Vlad the Impaler. Perhaps they’ll scratch that spooky Dracula itch that Bran Castle didn’t. Budapest, Hungary is a relatively short train ride from there, too. This trip went so much better than Malta, I have high hopes that our family will be able to survive more travel!

Halloween in Greece

Halloween is kind of a non-holiday in Greece. I was told it’s been gaining traction the last five years or so, mainly because children love it. But come Halloween night, you won’t see roving bands of costumed half-pints ringing bells and demanding candy door-to-door. You will, however, see a pretty sizeable Halloween section at the Jumbo. This came in handy for the Halloween party Liam decided he wanted this year. I called it Liam’s Halloween Spookfest. We’ve never thrown a Halloween party, so I figured I’d keep it simple, especially because James would be out of town. Throw a couple of snacks on the table, invite a few close friends, plan a couple of games, and be done with it.

Except…Halloween is so much fun! And once Liam and I put our heads together, the plans got bigger…and bigger…and bigger.

Next thing I know, I’m scouring the city for dry ice to create spooky fog in our “haunted attic.” I messaged one of the Greek moms I know to ask where I might find some, and she suggested gas stations or liquor stores.

Here’s me trying to explain dry ice to the gas station attendant:

“I’m looking for DRY ICE. No…not the ice in the machine. It’s very cold, colder than that. No, it doesn’t go in your car…it’s for…um…keeping things extra cold. It’s made from carbon dioxide, completely frozen. It turns to gas when you pour water on it.” (Pantomime pouring)

I got a lot of puzzled looks. One guy, who seemed to know English the best, replied, “I do not think you will find this thing you describe.”

Indeed. Turns out my friend misunderstood me, thought I was looking for regular ice. Back to the drawing board. I reached out to the science department at Liam’s school and to some folks at the embassy to see if they knew where I could find some. And finally, two days before the party, I called a guy who said he could deliver some right to my front door for 11 Euros. Alright! Friday evening he pulls up to the door, dumps 10 kilos of steaming dry ice into my cooler, only charges me 10 Euros, then shouts back over his shoulder as he runs back to the van, “Remember, don’t touch it!”

I’m really starting to love this country.

Liam and I spent more than a week planning and decorating. We tacked red tissue paper over the lights in the elevator and hung a spooky sign over the ground floor door. We strung spider webs, carved a few pumpkins, and hung a motion-activated ghost in the top floor vestibule (AKA haunted attic). I looked everywhere for a black lightbulb, but had to settle for red and blue, which was still pretty eerie. We ordered a super gross severed hand online, and found some tombstones and skeleton hands at Jumbo. I looked up fun Halloween games for his age group online. I asked each family to bring a spooky dish to share, and I made little ghost-shaped turkey sandwiches. I even decided to get a little mileage out of my new smoothie machine by making strawberry slushies for the kids (with a shot of Grand Marnier for the adults).

I pushed the party up to October 22 because October 28 is a major Greek holiday, and many families (including ours!) plan to go out of town then. We had five kids (six if you count Violet) and seven adults, and although Liam was bummed his three best buds from his class couldn’t make it, he still had a great time. After the kids ate, they ran around the house playing hide-and-go-seek. We had planned to reveal the haunted attic at the end of the night, but most of them ran up there ahead of schedule. I eventually had to call them all back to play some of these games we’d planned. Pin the Eyeball on the Zombie was a big hit, but Liam got upset during the Spooky Walk when one of the younger siblings wasn’t following the rules, and we completely forgot to do the Mummy Wrap Relay. By the time we got all the lights out and started telling spooky stories, no one wanted to sit still or take turns. Time for some dry ice fog!

Liam and I had rehearsed how this part was going to go. I would go upstairs with some hot water and a walkie-talkie, then call him when it was time to send all the kids up. Just as the doors opened I poured the water into the cooler and got a tremendous blast of cold, white fog. The kids were all super impressed. Laid out on a table with a creepy talking skull was a party favor bag for each of them full of candy, plastic bugs and little practical joke gags.

Aside from Liam’s little screaming match with a four-year-old and the general chaos, I’d say this was a hit. The adults had a great time, too. Liam is already planning the second annual Halloween Spookfest, and if it’s anything like my rooftop parties, we’ll have an entirely different set of kids at the next one!

The American School plans a big Halloween celebration, too, with a costume parade, classroom parties, and a fall carnival in the evening. However, we’re going to miss it because…

We’re going to Transylvania to see Dracula’s Castle! Squee!!

Liam’s been watching Hotel Transylvania and episodes of Count Duckula to get him up to speed on who this whole “Dracula” character is. We’re staying in Bucharest, Romania, then taking a bus tour up to the mountains to see two famed castles of Vlad the Impaler. And lest the kids not find this as fascinating as we do (which is entirely possible), we’ll be back in time for the big Halloween party at the embassy on Monday.

So, stay tuned for updates from Transylvania…transsexual or otherwise.

 

Attica Park and the Children’s Museum

Today Liam learned the definition of the word misnomer. As in, “The Hellenic Children’s Museum is kind of a misnomer.” I think we’ve been spoiled by the American definition of the word museum. I was expecting interactive displays, brightly colored stations, maybe even some buttons to push. Violet loves buttons. But this was more like a workshop for kids to understand concepts, and because we arrived about an hour before closing, there weren’t any actual workshops in progress. Instead, we squinted at some children’s drawings in three different rooms, read a few English translated signs, and half-heartedly drew a couple of pictures. Drawing isn’t Liam’s strong-suit, so he found the whole experience pretty boring. And Violet spent her time grabbing colored pencils and markers and walking around the room with them while I walked behind her to keep her from marking on the walls. So, yeah, I wouldn’t have called this place a museum.

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Look here, guards at the Parliament.

We did manage to salvage our day with a ride on the Athens Happy Train. I’m laughing as I read the website description. The “multi-lingual commentary in Greek and English” was basically, “Look here, the parliament building.” And you can only hop off at the Acropolis stop — the rest of the sights are just drive-bys. But what can you honestly expect for 10 Euros? (That’s 6 for adults and 4 for kids, in case you wondered.) But no matter…Liam loved it. Violet managed to hold it together for about 30 minutes, just long enough to get to the Acropolis. Then is was 30 minutes of that wonderful toddler bucking and wiggling I love so much. I’m thinking if we do this again with visitors, we can just hop off at the Acropolis and see the Parthenon.

Wednesday morning, before it got too hot, I decided to take the kids over to Attica Park, which I’d found recommended in my Athens4Kids book. (Incidentally, I must have gotten the last published copy. I only paid about five bucks for it, and now it’s selling for a whopping $115 used. Sheesh.) It promised paved trails and a playground, and I’ve been looking for a good place for Liam to practice his balance bike. Interestingly, it’s way up on this craggy hill that we always see when we’re driving to our house.

But, again, I found we were getting tripped up on the American standards for a public park. I have to remind myself that the economy here ain’t so great, so keeping up the play ground equipment is probably not high on the priority list. There’s a certain amount of neglect and dilapidation you have to get used to. But you know it’s bad when your kid calls you over to ask you if it’s actually safe to cross the wooden bridge. I tested it…yeah, it wasn’t safe. One whole plank was missing, and one side of the railing wobbled as you went across. But after pecking around a bit we found another area with not-broken-to-pieces playground equipment. Scrawled with graffiti on every surface, but serviceable.

From what I could see, this place used to be kept up well. There were these huge pillars for sun shades over a round, stair-steppy amphitheater area. But the sun shades were long gone, and the paint was peeling. The trails were pitted and gravely, and Liam found them mostly too hilly to feel comfortable practicing his balance. And there were the stray dogs to contend with. Not menacing, mind you, but Liam has grown incredibly fearful of dogs this year, so I had to deal with constant freak-outs about the dogs wandering around. Plus, it was pushing 90 when we left, so we had a slow, whiny walk up the hill to the car. Sadly, another bust. I’ve heard from some other moms about some nicer parks I’ll have to try later in the fall when it’s cooler.

An outing to the East

I was told Athenians clear out of the city in August. Many restaurants and businesses are closed right now, and the streets are refreshingly free of people and traffic. Despite the lack of congestion, the city is still oppressively hot, so we decided to take page out of the Greek book and head out of the city ourselves. First stop, due East to the Temple of Artemis.

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We did a little wandering to find the entrance. But once we found it, we had a splendid time as the only visitors walking along the catwalks mere feet from the ruins. Nothing was roped off, so I suppose we could have gotten an even closer look. But I decided it was best to keep the children on the beaten path.

We wisely packed a lunch in the cooler, originally intended for the beach, but certain children (and me!) couldn’t wait that long, so we had a little impromptu picnic in the car. Next stop, due South to the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion. On the way we had to stop for gas. Normally we buy gas for half price at the Embassy, and the only other time I’d gotten gas in Athens was for our rental, which took much cheaper diesel fuel. During that last experience, I discovered that an attendant pumps your gas for you, so I was all prepared for that. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the bill: almost 70 Euros for a full tank of unleaded! Yowza!

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Finally we arrived at the incredibly scenic cape, and up on the hill was a remarkably preserved temple. As the wind whipped around us, we scaled the rocky hills and took in the amazing views. Deep blue and aquamarine seas crested with white caps. Sandy beaches and dramatic, rocky islands. Liam predictably got tired of climbing around, so we promised him a slushy if he cut out the whining. Thankfully, the bribe worked, and after exploring and taking photos, we all enjoyed super sweet slushies as we drove another ten minutes to a more secluded beach.

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The beach we found was a little dirty, as to be expected this late in the summer, but we still had a nice time. The wind was a little much, blowing over our umbrella and making the beach tent impossible to use. But we certainly didn’t get too hot in the sun, and the water felt great. The sand was course — not as fine or as white as the sand I love in Florida — but the surf was gentle, and Liam got right in to play. James and his friend Travis could walk several meters out into the water, it was so shallow. The underwater terrain was rocky and uneven, though, so I didn’t carry Violet too far in. She started to get cold, so she spent most of the time playing in the sand…and eating it. Ewwww.

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After our fun in the sun, we headed back to Athens, just about an hour in the car. Not a bad drive, and I totally think I could handle the beach with two kids on my own now. Some of the beaches we passed had loungers and umbrellas, presumably for rent. Perhaps we’ll give one of those a try in the next couple of weeks before school starts. And James and I have decided later in the fall we’ll hire a sitter and head up to the temple for some dinner and sunset pictures at the Temple of Poseidon. Sounds like a spectacular date night to me!