Visiting Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece is one of the oldest cities in the world.  It is the birthplace of democracy and home of Athena.  Prior to visiting, I didn’t think much about Athens.  I know of the economic turmoil that plagues Greece, and of the recent riots in the downtown area.  I know that Tony visited Athens in high school as part of his Greek studies.  I know that I like Greek food.   But Athens is way more than all of these things.  Nothing could have prepared me for how much I would fall in love with this incredible place.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with the most pleasant weather.  The entire trip, it was 65 degrees F (about 18 C) and sunny.  The temperature made it perfect for exploring by foot.  Our first night, we ventured around the down town area and ate a quick dinner at Feyrouz, an authentic Lebanese restaurant.  The owner’s son served us and our interaction with him set the tone for the trip – everyone in Athen’s is so incredibly nice.

I couldn’t tell you what we ate, but I can report that it was fast, cheap and delicious.

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First view of Athens

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Feyroux

The next morning we ventured off to the National Library to start our free walking tour.  Tony and I have taken a lot of free walking tours and we both agreed that this was by far the best.  Our guide was Alex and he is an actual anthropologist.  The tour was informative and interesting because Alex was passionate about his home town and the history of Athens.  For example, we learned:

  • Athens is named after Athena – she gave the Greeks the olive tree which provides food, oil and wood
  • Owls can be found in much of the architecture and artwork in Athens – it is the bird of Athena
  • Owls are native to Athens, and their usage is also symbolic – Athens spawned many intellectuals, and since owls can see in the night, it is representative of intellects being able to see and think clearly during difficult times
  • The anatomy of the marble statues was finally explained – the big heads and chest represent logic and ethics, while small genitalia represents addiction
  • Before they were round, ancient coins were shaped to be miniature animals (i.e. cow) as that is what used to be traded for goods
  • Given the history held in Athens, archeologists have to accompany most construction efforts, and many projects are delayed due to ancient discoveries

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Owls everywhere

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National Library

The following day, we visited the Parthenon and took a cooking class.  The Parthenon was one of the most magical places I have ever been, even rivaling my beloved Eiffel Tower.  It was so surreal to be walking on rocks that hosted footsteps from 2500 years prior.  It was difficult to truly comprehend the work that went into these buildings, the time taken, the tools used.  We spent a lot of time here, but the hours spent left me wanting to stay even longer.

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Matilda wasn’t as impressed as we were

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In our cooking class, I learned how to make one of my all time favorite food items – tsatsiki.  The class was held at the Greek Kitchen and even though I hate cooking, I really enjoyed eating what we made.  Especially that incredible tsatsiki, yum.  The only downside was all the onions used.  My friend and I had burning eyes almost the entire class.  🙁

The last thing I want to highlight about Athens is the juxtaposition of the old and the new.  Given that Parthenon sits on top of the city, it was almost always in the background of the graffiti art that covered the city.

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Meandering through thousands of years of history, great food and kind people made Athens one of my favorite cities.  It is worth the visit and the history lesson.

Until next time, αντιο σας!

Traveling with a Baby – Luzern & Bern

Once again, we were traveling with a baby.  As mentioned in previous blogs, while my parents were visiting, we took advantage of showing them around.  The first weekend together was spent in Milan and the second weekend was in a variety of Swiss cities.  We rented a car to get out of gloomy, foggy Zurich and into the sunshine.  We didn’t have to go very far and  started our trip off in Bern.

Of all of the Swiss cities I’ve visited thus far, Bern is my favorite.  I find it to be the most quaint, with a very old world, medieval appearance.  My parents agreed, and loved strolling up and down the cobblestone streets, studying the many ornate water fountains.

We then made our way over to Thun which is a 20 minute drive from Bern.  The Alps almost sit on top of this cute city, and no matter which way you turned, the snow-capped mountains were visible.

The next day we ventured out to Luzern.  By this point, my dad had become a TripAdvisor expert and knew exactly what he wanted to see when we arrived – the Kapellbrucke aka Chapel Bridge.  The bridge was built in 1333 and is known for the 17th century paintings that line the interior ceiling.  It is the oldest covered bridge in all of Europe.

We also saw the famous Lion Monument and St. Francis Xavier’s church.  The church is at one of the end’s of the Chapel Bridge.  It is a stunning Jesuit Church, with one of the brightest interiors I have ever seen.  Rather than the standard dark colors I am used to seeing in old churches, this one radiates light.  The interior is all white, accented with pastel colors.  It creates a very strong sense of warmth upon entering and takes your eyes a moment to adjust.

While there were a few moments of fussiness for my darling Matilda (as seen above), she once again was a champ.  We fed her whenever we ourselves stopped to eat and she was perfectly content with being carried or pushed in these beautiful Swiss cities.  Maybe it’s my daughter, but traveling with a baby has been pretty smooth thus far.  Our next adventure will be to Naples, Italy, so let’s hope this trend continues…

 

Traveling with a Baby – Milan, Italy

Traveling with a baby is not as scary as I thought it would be.  For my husband and I, traveling is a huge part of our life.  As such, it will inherently be a big part of Matilda’s life.  And guess what?  Matilda is already quite the traveler in her 6 short weeks on Earth.

One of my biggest fears before becoming a parent was that I would have a child who misbehaved on planes or at restaurants.  I want to expose Matilda to these things as early as possible so she gets used to them.  This will hopefully not only result in a better behaved child, but also an extremely open minded one.

It all began when my parents arrived in Switzerland a few weeks ago.  Not only was I thrilled to see them, but I also found it a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.  These two “birds” were introducing my parents to Italy while traveling with Matilda.  It was a trip of firsts – the first time my parents had been to Italy (Milan specifically) and Matilda’s first time in a car.

Matilda already loves her stroller and falls asleep very quickly when being pushed around.  It was therefore no surprise that she responded the same way to the car.  She slept the entire way to and from Milan – about 4 hours each way.  She also reacted very well to sleeping in a different environment (hotel room) and to interacting with different people.

Now what do I mean by interacting with different people?  Well, at dinner one evening we sat next to a table of older Italian women.  They actually grabbed her from my arms for their own snuggling purposes.  While initially jarring, it ended up being really sweet and making for a great story.

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The Nonnies

It was also surprisingly easy to pack for this trip.  As Matilda mostly drinks powdered formula, all I needed was a water kettle to both prepare her milk and clean her bottles.  Most hotels have these readily available and our hotel was no exception.  This also goes for cribs, although these should be requested at the time of booking.

Her clothes and diapers are also so small that they barely took up any room in my suitcase.  Finally, since we drove, it was extremely easy to cart along her stroller.

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Our trip to Milan was a great success and proved that traveling with a baby is very doable.  It was also a nice precursor to the Swiss day trips we did the following weekend, but I will save that for another blog.

Until next time…