My family recently came back from a wonderful trip to Athens, Greece.  We saw the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athena, the new Acropolis Museum, winding streets in Plaka, Syntagma Square  and Monastraki among many other beautiful sites. In addition we took side trips to Ancient Corinth, Pycenae, Epidaurus, The Poseidon Temple in Sounion and the island Hydra.
 

After a long day ferrying to and from Hydra, a beautiful island off the coast of Greece, my family was too tired to look for the subway stop and fight the traffic back to Athens from the port city of Piraeus. Instead we found a taxi to drive us back to town. This taxi was driven by Leonardis Benakis who quickly became a good friend. In between sharing pieces of Greek history, mythology and sites, he told us about his family and living in Greece.

On the way back to the hotel, he decided that we should meet his friend Steve who has a wonderful jewelry shop in the Plaka area of Athens. This is an old part of town at the base of the Acropolis that is filled with wonderful outside tavernas, narrow cobblestone roads, Byzantine churches and a wide variety of shops to satisfy every shopper.  Five minutes after meeting Steve Dimos, owner of Dimos Jewellery, we were served espresso and felt as though we had known him for years. He takes pride in his work as he has done considerable research on ancient jewelry so he could incorporate the themes into his designs. Piece after piece, each was more spectacular in design and craftsmanship than the previous one. After some time, my husband and children got their first taste of ouzo, the traditional Greek liquor. His beautiful shop is located on Benizelou Street in Mitropoleos Square.

 

Friends in Athens.

Friends in Athens.

The morning we left Athens to return home, Leonardis drove us to the airport. Since we were all friends, he shared some of the treats that were made by his wife. They were delicious – I loved the favor that the mint gave to the cheese.

My entire family can’t wait to go back next year!  σας ευχαριστώ!

 

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Last week I posted some photos of Kochi that my daughter took last year during her trip to south India.  As you can see from the pictures, Kerala is a beautiful state with scenery that is full of drama and mystery. 

 

The most dramatic feature to me of Kochi is the backwaters.  When I first heard the name I thought it would be a smelly swamp.  I couldn’t believe how my husband raved about the area.  The term does not match the beauty or the vitality of the area.  It is formed by five lakes that are linked by canals and fed by 38 rivers.  500 miles long, it is half the length of the state of Kerala. Freshwater from the rivers meets the saltwater from the Arabian Sea giving it brackish or slightly salty water.


Apartments and businesses line backwaters commanding a very high price because of the view.  Ferries transport people to the various islands in Kochi and tankers and freighters move oil and products to the large international port.  Fishermen use Chinese nets to catch fish for local consumption and export.  There is always activity on the water.

 

The most impressive sight is the house boats, or kettuvallams, that slowly travel up and down the waterway.  They were originally built as grain barges that would transport rice to market.  With the introduction of modern transportation, the Malayalis converted them into vacation residences.  Many are very luxurious with air conditioning and personal onboard staff.  They are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.  This is on my list to check out when I go to Kochi next summer.

Dock along the Kerala Backwaters.

Dock along the Kerala Backwaters.

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My husband, son and I just returned from a spring break trip to Rome.  It seemed like we walked 10 miles every day to make sure we saw all the historic sites.  We visited the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Victor Emmanuel I  Monument, the Fontana de Trevi, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Piazza Navona, Pantheon, San Giovanni in Laterano, many stunning cathedrals, the Spanish Steps and much, much more. 
 

Beyond the beauty and history of the city, we were charmed by the people.  They were delightfully friendly and helpful.  Each morning we had cappuccino in a café across the street from our hotel.  The server recognized us after a few days and automatically prepared our coffee for us on the subsequent days of the trip.  The people in our hotel delighted us by providing a basket full of fresh fruit each day so we could eat healthful breakfasts and snacks.

 

We dined at a different restaurant each day.  At each meal we thought we had found the best restaurant in the city.  The food and wine were exquisite and the portions were appropriately sized.  Too many to itemize, some of the dishes we tried were:

 

Scampi e Calamari Fritti – fried shrimp and squid

Spaghetti alla Matriciana – a spicy red sauce with prosciutto and garlic

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe – spaghetti with pecorino and pepper

Spaghetti with Cozze e Vongole – spaghetti with clams and muscles

Carciofi Fritti – fried artichokes


My husband took us to La Cisterna, his favorite restaurant, in Trastevere, on the west bank of the Tiber.  In the basement of the restaurant is an ancient well and part of a Roman street from four hundred years ago.


As we wandered back to our hotel every evening, we stopped at Trevi Fountain.  It is a popular gathering spot for tourists. There we treated ourselves to a different flavor of gelato (Italian ice cream) every day.  At home, we rarely eat desserts but in Rome, we could not resist.  What a sight – people eating gelato while bundled up in coats and scarves!


I can’t wait to go back.  Maybe one day….
 
 

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