Sunday, July 24, 2011

Athens and Cyprus

SUNDAY JULY 17, 2011

Sunday monring I caught the 7am flight for Athens, Greece.  I was meeting Calan there for our final adventure (for awhile J).  I arrived at 12:30 and walking off the plane was like walking off the plane in Hawaii…that hot blast of heat hits you as you exit the plane doors…the heat and smell of vacation.  I found my luggage and took the airport bus to town and began my adventure.  Apparently the metro stop the bus was taking us to was on strike, so we had to stop a couple stops away and take a different metro to my final destination.  People in Greece have been striking regularly for about six months.  Sunday and Monday was one of the lines of the metro.  Luckily it really didn’t affect me so no worries.
                Calan and I were staying at a hostel called Backpackers Athens.  It was ok for hostel standards.  It had a common area and the rooms were very spacious.  We stayed in a 6 female ensuite so there was a lot of room to maneuver and our own bathroom, which was great.   Calan wasn’t arriving until around 5 pm so I had some time to do some exploring on my own…first stop…ice cream…yummy…nothing like gelato on a hot summer day.  The temperature was around 92 and the ice cream was a welcome distraction.  You know the ice cream is good when there is a line waiting for the sweet taste.  If people are willing to wait in the heat for an ice cream, I am not going to pass it up and trust me, it was worth the wait.
                I have to be honest…Athens was not one of my desired destinations.  I have never been to Greece and my goal this year was to visit new countries.  Plus, Athens was just going to be a layover stop for our real destination of Cyprus.  First impressions of Athens are that it is dirty, dusty, and HOT.  It was definitely affected by the economy decline.  There are stray dogs and cats EVERYWHERE sleeping in the door ways of closed down shops and in whatever shade they can find.  It is VERY touristy and probably how the locals make most of their money.  Every shop sells the same things for about the same prices.
                When Calan arrived we explored the touristy souvenier section and every store you walked into the staff immediately glued themselves to your side and followed you around the store.  I could hear my mom’s voice yelling at me since I use to do that to her when I was little.  I would follow her around the store while she was trying to browse at the items and that is exactly what they would do to us.  They ask if you need help, you say, ‘no thanks’, and they proceed to tell you the history of EVERY item you walk up to.  It was really suffocating and as soon as they started to do that, Calan and I made a V line outta there.   It was funny…sometimes we would get one foot into the store and you could see the employee get up and start straight for you, at which point, we did an abrupt face, and left.  The restaurant employees were even worse.  There are hundreds of outdoor cafes and as you walk through the streets they encourage you to come eat at their restaurant.  We replied kindly, ‘that we had already ate,’ or ‘no thanks, we weren’t hungry’ and they would literally walk side by side holding the menu trying to entice you with something on it.  Or they would follow you and try to tell you how they have the best food.  Geez Louise…if we say ‘no,’ your pestering is definitely not going to get us to change our minds, in fact, it does just the opposite…there would be no way we would stop there and eat.
Strofi Restaurant
                We were recommended a Greek restaurant to eat at called, Strofi by the receptionist at the hostel and it is definitely worth visiting.  It was ranked number one on and it lived up to its reputation.  Our dinner was wonderful, as we ate it on the roof top terrace with a beautiful view of the Acropolis.  I tried the Greek Gyro and it was delicious…filled with sauce, vegetables, and chicken.  I was quite content after dinner and soaked in the atmosphere.

MONDAY:  JULY 20, 2011
Larnaca Beach
                Early early early Monday morning we boarded our flight for Cyprus.  Our flight ended up being 45 minutes late because the crew was stuck in traffic.  The taxi drivers decided to block the road so that you only had one lane to drive in and you had to weave in that lane through the hundreds of taxi cabs stopped on the freeway.  We spoke to one lady at the airport who said it had taken them over two hours to get to the airport (normally 1 hour) on the airport bus.  The bus was stuck in the blockade and everyone on the bus had to get out and walk a kilometer with all their baggage until they could be loaded onto a city bus and then taken to the airport.  She said there was one lady all dolled up in her high heels not too happy to be carrying her luggage on the side of the road.  I am sure her Louis Vuitton bags looked great as she wheeled them on the pavement.  I mean first of all….who wear high heels when travelling…that is just a rolled or broken ankle waiting to happen for me on a regular basis, much less while carrying luggage.  Luckily, Calan and I had taken the metro all the way from our hostel to the airport so we didn’t have to deal with that, but we could see all the taxi cabs blocking the road.  Pretty surreal sight.
                We were staying in Larnaca, Cyprus at a great budget hotel called Eleonor Apartments.  We had a mini kitchen, bathroom, balcony, and couch.  We had everything we needed for the week at the beach including air conditioning.
                Cyprus used to be a British colony, but now is its own country.   They speak Greek, Turkish, and English.  Cyprus lies in the eastern Mediterranean and is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia.  It is also known as the island of love and fittingly Aphrodite is the symbol for the island.  It is like being in a desert beach resort.  It has a feel of the desert of Arizona and the beaches of Mexico.  The water is crystal clear and bath water warm.  The beaches unfortunately are mostly dirt, but once you get into the water it is sandy.  Single car streets intertwine with tourists and every shop promises to sell you something “as a good deal”.
          In Larnaca there is one main beach that the tourists flock to called, Phinikoudes.  Since we were staying at a hotel we had free access to the umbrellas and beach chairs.  The beach is packed with tourists, but I have to say, not many of them were from America.  There were many families and couples, people with British accents and Greek accents, but I didn’t hear any American accents.  I wouldn’t say it is a “spring break” destination, which was just fine for me because then I didn’t have to deal with annoying drunk frat boys.
          We walked around, got a feel for the area, sat in the sun, enjoyed the local cuisine and took naps in the shade…perfect vacation.  The only down part, was that I thought 15 sunscreen would be enough…wrong.  My back and bottom didn’t agree…on the shopping list for Tuesday:  50 sunscreen.

          We slowly got up and made our way to the beach.  We soaked up the sun, (well I soaked up the sun, Calan enjoyed the shade of the umbrella) for about four hours and then had a nice lunch on the board walk.  It is amazing how much the sun can take out of you.  We took a two hour nap back at the hotel and then did some local shopping.  I know my mom is going to cringe at reading this part because every time she comments on something I am wearing this year, I say, “oh I got it in _____” and she laughs and says I am going to have to stop doing that.  So now I have a new bathing suit and dress that when I wear them, I can say, “oh this, I got this old thing in Cyprus” J At the end of the evening we ended up having a cold soda on the roof top deck of a boat/restaurant.  The wait staff was super friendly and it was just perfect to watch the sun set over the palm trees.

          We had booked a boat cruise on Monday for Wednesday.  We met at the boat at 8:30 and found our seats.  At first we were going to sit in the front of the boat in the sun, but then our brains kicked in and we figured we probably didn’t want to be sitting in the hot sun for five hours, so we moved a couple seats back to the shade part.   Led by Captain Daniel, we set off for our five our tour of the coast of Cyprus.  First we headed up the coast to Amagusta and then to the Blue Lagoon and the sea caves.  The water was absolutely the purest blue I have ever seen and we were able to swim at the Blue Lagoon.  The water was absolutely refreshing and the caves in the background were so cool.  It is just soo cool for me to say that I got to swim in the Mediterranean Sea. 
At Blue Lagoon
          After Blue Lagoon, we continued up the coast to “Ghost City”.  This part of Cyprus once was a city lived in by the Greeks.  Turkey invaded in the 1970’s and the Greeks moved south down the coast.  Now the area is in the disputed area between Cyprus and Turkey.  There are only UN military personnel allowed in the area now and people are hoping that the conflict will be resolved soon.  After Ghost City, the captain took us to see the fish farm where the Tempura and other fish are bred, fed, and caught for the local cuisine.  It looked like big crab pots that they were being brought up to the surface, but instead they are always situated there.
          We got to visit Aphrodite’s Bridge.  At this sea cave it is said that Aphrodite met her lovers under the rock bridge.  Tradition says you are supposed to kiss your lover under the brige and you will have a lot of love in your life.  You could also throw coins into the cave and your wish would come true.  Since I wasn’t there with a “lover” I did the coin tossing.  Next to Adrophites bridge was a natural stone formation of a woman holding her child.  It was not man made, nature did all the designing.  It really looked like a woman and a child. 
Ready, Set, AHHHHH
Sea Caves of Ayia Napa
Captain Emily
Aphrodite's Bridge
          The last part of our boat tour was visiting the Zenobia Dive site.  The Zenobia was a big cruise liner, like the Titanic, and was carrying over 104 vehicles and lorries.  It approached the port of Larnaca and realized that it was taking on water.  Larnaca would not let the boat into the harbor because they said that it could not house a boat of that size.  Eventually the Zenobia tilted on its side and then sank to the bottom.  It is considered one of the top three dive sites in the world.  Being a certified scuba diver, I was very excited to go here, but unfortunately when we got there, the weather was too bad.  The wind was blowing and the waves were very choppy, so we were not allowed to go snorkeling.  We just got to see the location.
          We got back around 3, showered, freshened up and relaxed for a couple hours before heading out to dinner.  On the boardwalk, we found a great Mexican Restaurant and since Calan and I hadn’t had Mexican in over a year…that was our pick and it was delicious.  It was great just to sit outside, on the boardwalk, and people watch.


          Thursday was our last day in Cyprus and the last day to soak up the sun.  I know I was heading back to Washington State in couple weeks and I didn’t know when the next time I would see the sun, so I wanted to take as much advantage as possible.   I got up around 9am and read at the beach until 1, we grabbed lunch, and then I was back at the beach. I don’t think I left the beach until around 6pm when the workers were picking up the umbrellas and chairs for the night.  I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation to Cyprus.  It would not be a place that I will visit again, but I am glad that I went.
FRIDAY JULY 21, 2011

          Friday was our last day in Athens.  We didn’t plan our trip wisely because we should have just headed back home.  There really isn’t much to do in Athens and after we went and visited the Acropolis, we were bored.  The Acropolis was cool, but after seeing the Roman ruins in Athens, you see one ruins, you’ve seen them all.  The ground was covered with marble rock which was very slippery when walked on.  I almost slipped a couple times and clearly had not worn the correct traction of shoes.  Bad timing on our part, we got there the same time as the cruise ship tour groups, so we had to weave our way through the standing crowds.  The Acropolis is under construction so it took away from the authencity of the ruins which was a little downer…not to mention that it was 100 degrees at the top of the hill.  We figured we helped the Greek economy with our 12 Euro entrance fee that took us about 20 minutes to explore.  It did have an amazing view of Athens from the top and you just do not realize how crowded Athens is when you are down among the streets.  There are miles and miles of buildings crowded into the countryside.
          We found a café and had something to drink and after 45 minutes, we moved to a new café and got something small to eat.  We tried to stretch out our time there until we moved to another café for something else to drink.  At 2 pm we could finally check into our hostel and we took a nap for a couple hours.
          After the much needed nap, we set off for our farewell dinner.  We had met a girl from Canada, who was going to school in London, so she joined us for dinner.  Near our hostel was a local restaurant and since I wasn’t that hungry, I just had to try the Baclava with ice cream.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fabulous, but I have to give a shout to my good friend Spero’s restaurant in Lake Stevens.  He and his family are Greek and their baclava is definitely superior.
          Calan left at 3am and it was definitely hard to say good-bye, in fact we didn’t say “good-bye” but “see you later”.  I met Calan in May 2010 at our first Fulbright convention in San Fransisco and we have been friends ever since.  She taught in the Czech Republic as well and was definitely my partner in crime.  When we weren’t teaching, we were skyping and planning our next adventure.  We averaged a new country to explore every month since September and I am going to miss our European adventures.  Luckily for me, she lives in Colorado (which is not far from Washington) so I am looking forward to planning our next trip very soon.  


  1. Looks like you girls are having lots of fun. Enjoy !!

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  3. lolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

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