Saturday, August 30, 2014

Greece Vacation 2014- Evia

The majority of our vacation was spent at a conference center on the island of Evia, off of the Eastern coast of Greece. It was beautiful, green, and sunny. Hot enough to swim and enjoy the water but still a good 30 degrees cooler than what we were used to in the UAE.

To be honest, I don't have many memories from this time. Ian and I were there for a conference that had childcare so it was a definite vacation for us. We would wake up, go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, drop the girls off with some awesome childcare workers who had come all the way from the States to take care of the kids, then sit in meetings and seminars all day.

We got to eat lunch every day without the kids and catch up with old friends of our who were there for the conference as well. In the afternoon, we would finish at 3 pm, pick the girls up, change for the pool and swim until 6 or 7.

Yes, it was definitely Grace's favorite memory to date. She loved going to "class" all day and loved swimming all afternoon. She loved getting to choose her own food at the buffet and getting ice cream at the pool and after dinner. A preschooler's paradise.

Grace got much more comfortable swimming in the awesome pool there. She would lay on her belly in the shallows, submerge her face and swim for a couple of feet before coming up. And every time she would stand up and cheer. She was so proud of herself!

Sophia had a great time too but she is much more along for the ride at this age.

One night the childcare workers watched the kids for all of the parents and the conference arranged for a special dinner at a local Greek farm out in the mountains. We sat outside underneath the trees, ate delicious foods, and  watched a performance of the local dance. They invited us all to join in and though I wanted to, and knew that Ian would if I really asked him to, I knew he wouldn't really want to do that, so we didn't. Ha. I regret that now. I wish we had done joined in.

One evening we went into the nearest seaside village for dinner (Pork!) and ice cream with our dearest friends. It was such a good time for our hearts to be refreshed and spend time with people who understand our passion and calling.

The conference workers also put on a 4th of July party for all of us and we had such a good time. They blasted American patriotic music and had watermelon and ice cream and games for everyone to participate in. I most loved watching other hotel guests wander in to the outdoor amphitheater thinking it was a hotel event, trying to figure out what was going on. 

When the conference was over, we were supposed to be flying to Santorini for our "real" Greek experience. But, due to a miscommunication from the booking site, we didn't go but still had to pay. Good times. We decided to cut our losses and not try to go out there and book at another place last minute. Instead we stayed on at the conference center a few more days. We had some friends who were staying as well and it was good to get all caught up after the hubub of the conference was over.

We went into town with them one day and did a little souvenir shopping before eating on the beach. It was such a beautiful place. We went down to the beach twice as well, as the temperature dropped a little bit and made the pool a little too chilly for my desert babies' comfort.

It really was a great trip but rather uneventful. I am sad that we didn't get to explore more of Greece and see more of the sights. Ian and I have added it to our list of places that we want to go together, sans children. It would be such a romantic, interesting place!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Greece Vacation 2014- Athens

 In July, our family had the opportunity to go to a conference in Greece. We knew it would be alot of long hours sitting through meetings and that we would be mainly in a hotel conference center for that time. We decided to extend our trip before the conference to see Athens and after to see the island of Santorini. After an unfortunate series of events where our hotel confirmation was never sent, we cancelled the Santorini bit but then had to pay for the hotel (boo.) So the Athens part would be our only taste of Greece.

I'll be honest with you. Our expectations and vision for what this time would be is different than any other trip I've been on. Yes, there is magnificent historical and cultural places to see along with art and museums, but we weren't really expecting to see that on this trip. Really, our main goals were as follows:

1. Be outside
2. Eat copious amounts of pork
3. Hold hands/kiss in public

I know, I know. That's a bit of a letdown in what is seen as the cultural capitol of history. But we would only be there for a short time (just a little over 24 hours,) had two small children, and just needed a break from life in the Middle East.

We landed in the early afternoon, took a (long) taxi ride to our hotel, tried to rest, then headed out in the late afternoon to see the Plaka. It's an older neighborhood in Athens that has winding alleys with vendors, beautiful architecture, and tons of gorgeous cafes.

 Olives are the ONE food (normal food, I suppose,) that I absolutely can not make myself eat. I gag every time. Even the thought of the salty flavor sends me of the edge. Also, my girls are anti- pose-in-front-of-cool-doors. They just don't get my artistic vision.

 There were ancient churches and stair cases to more levels of the neighborhood with great views. And Grace was ecstatic just to be outside! and to run! and to explore! I love that they had this time.

 We got pork Gyros and gelato and returned early to the hotel. We could have gone to a museum but we were wiped out!

The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel and then walked outside to find a taxi. Our hotel happened to be at a stop for a hop on/hop off tour bus and since we had such an awesome experience with that in Paris, we decided to give it a go. We rode the double decker (covered,) bus to the Acropolis.
Then we walked and explored! Grace insisted we call her Princess or Rapunzel on this day, which I am sure turned some heads with tour groups.

I'm hanging my head in shame because we didn't really get to read or learn on this trip. We didn't take a stroller with us on this trip and chose not to bring our Boba to the Acropolis since Sophia can walk most of the time.

So if you are wanting to know the names or histories behind these pictures, you will have to do your own research, ha! Ian and I had a general understanding of what we were seeing and are both self learned history buffs so we weren't completely in the dark, but we weren't trying to teach the girls anything on this trip, so we didn't have mini on site lectures or anything. Though that would make me sound like a better mommy if we had. Oh well.

 After we walked around and saw the Parthenon we were HOT! I wasn't expecting that since it was only in the 90's, a good 20-30 degrees cooler than Abu Dhabi, but we were in full sun that time and ran out of water about an hour into our walking tour.

We came down off the mountain and got drinks and slushies and just sat on a bench in the shade. Silly, but that was one of my favorite moments.

After that, we went to see Mars Hill. I thought there would have been better signage explaining the Biblical significance, but no such luck. Grace loved scrambling over the rocks though and it blew my mind because of what happened here and who had stood here so many years ago.
 We walked through more of the grounds of the Acropolis and Grace chased around a stray kitten for awhile before the girls danced among ancient artifacts and just about gave me a heart attack. "Please don't knock that statue over!!!"

We ate lunch at a cute cafe and got back on the bus with the full intention of letting the girls nap while we listened to the provided audio tour but it was HOT and the bus was crowded. Drenched in sweat and just ready to relax, we decided to go back to the hotel and call it a day. We napped for a little bit and swam on the rooftop pool before ordering food and calling it quits for the day.

I'm glad we did though, because the next week at the conference was busy and we felt rested and ready for a packed schedule. Athens was fun and I'm sure there is alot more to see but I feel like we were able to hit the highlights pretty well.