Italy and Greece - Part 3

Day 11 – This morning we headed out early to try and get to the Acropolis before it got very crowded.  We were lucky because we actually did get there before a lot of other tour groups, it was very crowded at the entrance when we were leaving.  We had a guide who took us up the hill through the main gates, where we got a great chance to see the Parthenon up close and personal.  We walked around the Parthenon, and also got to see the Propylaia, Erechtheion, and Temple of Nike.

After we were finished at the Acropolis, we had a bus tour of other major sites in Athens.  We drove past the National Gardens of Athens, and we got to stop at the modern Olympic Stadium.  When the driving tour was over we headed over to the New Acropolis museum with a few other couples from the tour.  The museum was really interesting, and had a ton of artifacts from the Acropolis, and also had drawings and models of what everything used to look like.  The museum was also built on top of ruins, and the floors were made of glass, so you could see what was still buried beneath you. 

After we were finished in the museum we grabbed a quick lunch on our way to Ancient Agora.  We walked around the ruins and stopped by the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the only ancient ruins with the roof still in good shape.  At 2:45pm the workers started blowing whistles at everyone, so we left.  Most of the ruins and sites close at 3pm, and we were lucky we got to see so much before then.  We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Athens, shopping and petting the many dogs that were wandering the street. 


That night after dinner everyone from our tour group headed out to the Gazi area, where a lot of the Greek nightlife is, and went to a club.  Even though we got there at 11pm, we were still early, so we took over the dance floor early.  Apparently Greeks don’t dance, so even when the club was full we were still pretty much the only people on the dance floor.  It was fun, and we had our latest night there.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until around 3am, and that’s still early for Greeks!  The clubs don’t close until 7am!

Day 12 – This morning we said goodbye to our first tour manager, Laura, and most of our group, and joined our second group, and new tour manager Tony.  There were about 15 people from the first tour going on the 3 day cruise with us, and when we got on the coach we learned there were 2 other groups joining us.  I had been a little hesitant to do the cruise part, because I get seasick, but I figured it would just be for a few days. 

When we got on the cruise we had to wait a little while before our rooms were ready, so we hung out with the rest of the group in the lounge.  After lunch we were able to get into our rooms, and Matt and I meant to get changed and then head onto the deck to sit by the pool, but we both ended up falling asleep (because we were exhausted from the night before) and sleeping most of the way to Mykonos. 

We got to Mykonos around 5pm, and took a small boat to the island.  Our guide, Tony, gave us a quick tour of the island, including the famous windmills, and then we broke off from the group and went to get dinner.  Matt wasn’t hungry, so we just ordered some fries and a Greek salad for me.  I ate Greek salads pretty much every day we were in Greece, and they were all amazing.  After that we walked around and got a chance to shop and get lost in the cute winding streets.  I thought it was so adorable, with the white buildings and blue shutters.  I would love to go back and spend more time there.  We had to be back on the boat at 10:15pm, and the boat disembarked at 10:30.

Day 13 – We had a very early morning when we arrived in Kusadasi.  We had to be with our group by 7am, so that we could leave and take the tour of Ephasus.  Luckily there were enough people from the Contiki group doing our tour that we were able to have our own tour guide and coach.  We were one of the first coaches to get to Ephasus, which was lucky because it got crowded quickly.  The ruins were really amazing, and we were also able to see the terrace houses.  It was really cool to see how people used to live back then.

After Ephasus we went to a local Turkish carpet maker, where we got to see how carpets are made.  It was very interesting. 

After our tour it was time to get back on the boat.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to do any shopping at the bazaar, so Matt and I agreed that we would just have to go back to Turkey some day.  That afternoon we arrived in Patmos.  We got off the boat there and walked around, but there wasn’t much to see there so we just hung out on the beach with some other members of our tour.  It was a little chilly to swim, and I’m glad I didn’t because someone stepped on a sea urchin and that ended our swim time fairly quickly. 

That night we had a toga party with our group!

Day 14 – This morning we slept in a little bit, and barely made it to breakfast before it closed.  We were docked at Heraklion in Crete, and since we weren’t doing a tour we could walk off the boat whenever we wanted.  It was also Sunday morning, and there really wasn’t much going on in town.  We did a little bit of souvenir shopping in town, and we were able to stop at a Starbucks for a drink and free wifi access.  Around noon we were back on the cruise and heading towards Santorini. 

The approach to Santorini was very scenic.  It’s true name is Thira, and Santorini is actually the Christian name (for Saint Irene).   It’s a series of small islands which forms the caldera around 2 active volcanoes.  We got on a coach and they took us up a very steep road with a bunch of switchbacks, to the ridge that runs the length of the main island.  We first went to the town of Oia, which is where all the photos of Santorini are taken.

We had a few hours to look around the town and walk the windy narrow paths that lead through the town.  We also had a chance to shop, and stop to get some gelato.  The views were amazing, and it was incredible to be in such a beautiful place. 

After we were finished in Oia, the coach took us to Fira, where we were able to get some amazing sunset photos before boarding the funiculare back to the docks. 

Once we were back on the boat, we met up with the rest of our tour for dinner at the Cruise’s a la carte restaurant.  It was nice to be able to have one more night with everyone before we all split up the next day. 

Day 15 – This morning we departed the boat pretty early.  I wasn’t sad leaving our tiny cabin, but it was sad leaving the people we’d met on the trip.  We disembarked the cruise for the last time at 7am, and we took the coach back to Athens and were dropped off at 8am.  We headed to our hotel, and were pleasantly surprised to find they had a room available for us right away.  We got settled, and then headed out for our final day in Athens. 

We took the metro to the Archeological museum, but were disappointed to find it wasn’t open until 1pm.  We started walking back towards the Acropolis and the hotel area, doing some shopping along the way.  There are areas all over Athens where they just have roped off areas of ruins, and it was interesting to see these ancient ruins around a modern city. 

The rest of the day we spent relaxing, walking around the city and shopping for last minute souvenirs.  For dinner we ended up at the same place we ate on the first night in the city, because I was obsessed with their smoky eggplant salad, and Matt was obsessed with their fried cheese balls.  I had a delicious Greek salad, and it was the perfect last meal in Greece.  We got to sleep early that night because we had to be up at 3am for our flight the next morning.  We did get to spend one last night on the roof deck with a view of the acropolis at night.
Day 16 – This morning we woke up bright and early at 3am to make sure we caught our flight on time.  We headed to the airport at 4am, and luckily everything went smoothly and we were taking off from Athens at 6:30am. 

We had a layover in Switzerland, and we planned it so that we would have enough time to leave the airport and walk around Zurich in between flights.  Although it was a little confusing at first.  Our flight landed in Zurich around 9am local time, and at first we had a really hard time finding the lockers where we would leave our luggage.  Since we didn’t check any baggage, we had everything with us, and didn’t want to drag it around the city.  We finally found someone who told us where the lockers were, and with just a little bit more trouble trying to find the correct change, we were able to lock up our carry on bags, and got on a train heading to the city center of Zurich.

Matt and I spent a little while walking around the city and getting our bearings.  It’s not a very big city, and we walked to the lake that borders the south end of the city.  I love Switzerland because everything is really clean, and Zurich is no different.  Switzerland is the only European city I’ve been in where you can see the bottom of the river through the water.  Every other city has murky water.  Even though it was a little chilly and wet (it was misting most of the time we were there) it was still a nice place to stop.  We also went to the Swiss Museum, which had some interesting history about Switzerland.  And of course we ate Swiss chocolate!

Our next flight was at 5:30pm, so we made sure to get to the airport early.  We had to go through security again since we had taken our bags through customs.  After another long flight, train ride, and car ride, we were back at home, with our dogs waiting for us. 

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