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December 12th, 2009

11:55 pm - One Liners

  • 23:45 Santa is at Jackalope! #

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September 29th, 2009

11:55 pm - One Liners
  • 22:41 @KLBJ937 THANK YOU Local Licks for unleashing IGNITOR on the airwaves! #
  • 23:18 @KLBJ937 OMG T.A.N.G.!!! Hot damn! #
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August 21st, 2009

11:55 pm - One Liners

  • 23:32 3.ly/XyM Early stress resulting from separation causes changes in infant brains that makes future adults more susceptible to stress. #

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August 20th, 2009

11:55 pm - One Liners

  • 21:49 Tell Obama that the public option is not optional. bit.ly/neJh Please sign and RT. (via @credomobile) #

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July 17th, 2009

08:05 pm - Final days in Athens
8:10p 7/17 Athens, Greece

We arrived safely in Athens from our 4 day bus trip through Greece. We exchanged contact information with our Aussie friends, Barbara super wants us to come stay with her on her family's farm in west Australia. Meanwhile, Steve & Annette said we should rent a caravan (an RV) and drive across Australia and visit them on the east coast. We just might have to look into flights and such for a couple years down the road once we get the debt from this vacation paid off.

Last night and today we've been in a lovely hotel in the Monastiraki district of Athens, right on the metro lines. I have to say that though this hotel also has an excellent view of the Acropolis from its roof top garden, I miss the Plaka district that our other hotel was in. It had many more authentic restaurants and lots of businesses geared for the tourists (laundry, food markets, souvenirs, etc). Monastiraki is louder, with busier streets and tons more bargain hunters at the large flea markets on either side of the tram entrance.

Today was our last day in Greece and we had a fabulous time. We went to Hadrian's Library, Roman ruins next to Ancient Agora, followed by the National Archeological Museum. Emperor Hadrian was a pretty cool fellow, even though he was the ruler of an occupying force (the Romans). Hadrian was keen to revive the Classical style from antiquity in art and sculpture as well as restore and even finish temples and ruins that were built hundreds of years before his time. In fact, had it not been for much of Hadrian's work, many of these temples would be in terrible shape nowadays or canabalised by later occupying forces. (On the other hand, he also took a bunch of the most beautiful statues in order to decorate Rome and took several of the best Greek sculptors to work for him in Rome.)

Anyway, Hadrian built a humongous library on the slopes of the Acropolis, which archeologists are still excavating and finding new pieces everyday. We watched them haul off the last bit of dirt that had been covering a mosaic floor of a church built on top of the library ruins. Neat! That's the weird thing about this town (well one of them anyway), all of central Athens is built on ruins that were built on top of other ruins and so on. Christians in the 4th century AD used toppled bits of columns to shore up their shoddy masonry when building the church walls; they looked like cavemen dwellings compared to the incredible library walls nearby built 400 years earlier.

As I recalled in a previous post, we tried visiting the Nat'l Museum on Sunday but managed to get lost. We got lost again today from horrible directions (oh sure, you'll see it when you walk straight out of the metro...) and also because there are no signs at all pointing the direction to the museum. Fortunately since today was a Friday, all of the shops were open so we bugged people about every block to point us in the direction of the museum and finally made it.

The museum was as awesome as everyone made it out to be, truly a world treasure. The museum is enormous and was arranged chronologically with markers for every period, explaining not only the artistic changes happening but the cultural, political, and geographical changes as well. There were some great maps showing the time periods different civilisations existed in which areas and it was very apparent that particular parts of Greece have always been favored by man and, indeed, the new culture built on top of the old several times; few sites were ever completely abandoned. Walking through the museum helped tie every site we visited on our tour together. I sort of wish we could have seen it the Sunday before we left but it was still awesome to say, "we've been there!" We spent a solid 5 hours in the museum and it felt like we breezed through it.

After we left, we took the metro back to Monastiraki and went to a restaurant outside of Ancient Agora. We'd actually been there before but didn't eat much and decided to go back because the dolmadas were incredible! The moussaka and the baklava were also the best we'd eaten during our whole stay in Greece. I'm glad we got to go back there for our last meal here. I should get a nap as our taxi picks us up at 2am to catch our 5am flight to Amsterdam then on to Dallas.

See you all soon!
Current Location: athens, greece
Current Mood: happyhappy

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July 16th, 2009

07:49 pm - On the road back to Athens
3:45p local time on 7/16 (Thursday)

I'm sad for this mini-trip to be over. We've had a lovely time with our new friends from Australia. They about have us convinced to visit them soon. Perhaps a graduation present? We would have to go over my winter break because summer time for us in the states is the dead of winter for them - very cold and rainy while Christmas time is quite warm for them. Our new friends are all in their 50s and have children just a couple years younger than me and they've been very sweet to me and Stuart. Our tour guide as well - she's made sure everyone knows we are newlyweds on our honeymoon. She even told the nuns in the monastery who coo'd and blushed at me.

We traveled last night to Kalambaka which is the city at the mouth of Meteora. Kalambaka was a very hip town, big, vibrant, and youthful with lots of nightclubs and open air restaurants. We had a good time roaming around with our Aussie friends poking in all the shops and eating local chocolates. Though they are more than twice my age, they had way more pep than me. In the morning, we drove up to Meteora, which isn't really a town so much as a district of the monasteries in the mountains. The rocks are sheer and look suspended in midair and the monasteries were built at the very top of some of these rocks. A system of cable cars or pulleys gets things and people to them. The two we visited are accessible by stair and they were quite a climb.

The nunnery was dedicated to Saint Barbara and was built in 1575. According to custom, in order to visit the monasteries, men must all wear long pants and the women must wear long skirts and have their shoulders covered. There is a visiting area before entering the church with a tiny shop that sells the idols and christian items they make. The church inside was incredible, all the walls were entirely painted with saints, the apostles, Jesus, Mary, and depictions of stories from the Bible all with gold crushed into them according to the Byzantine style. It was awe-inspiring and I felt honored to be allowed into such a sacred space.

The church itself was built in strict according with Orthodox methods, enter west, priest eat, cross shaped, upper part only for God and Jesus, next for apostles, then bible stories, then saints all painted and covering every inch of the walls.

Other things I want to talk about or remember:
-From there, we went to a monastary for men
-Saint George and the scarves
-Lunch with Mama (Come ti Mamie)

Right now we are traveling the 6 hours back to Athens on a highway that follows the coast of the Aegean sea. I'm sitting on the left so every time I look up from typing there is the Mediterranean right there, I wish that I could live by an ocean, it makes me feel so peaceful and happy. Especially these indigo waters out here. I will miss it.
Current Location: Greece
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable

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July 14th, 2009

10:43 am - Typed from the road...
3:20p Greek time. Classical Tour 1st & 2nd Day

We've been driving through Peloponnese, the southern half of Greece that's like a giant island still connected by a thread of land above ground at Corinthian. We're on a big cushy bus with 43 other tourists from several countries. Everyone speaks English except for 2 lone French travelers. The bulk of us are Australian and American, but there are also a couple Canadians and 1 or 2 Greeks. We have a greek guide who travels with us and talks about different points of interest while we travel and guides us through the historical sites we visit. Maria is very thorough and gives us a lot of extra information about modern and historical greek culture. She's not shy about answering any questions we have so I've been able to ask her about all kinds of things, like all the graffiti that's on buildings and along highways.

Traveling with a group is fun; all of the other travelers are super nice and have been interested in the newlyweds (we are very obvious) and it's been great for me to get to talk to them about their homelands and what their lives are like. Austin, though super fun and laid-back, it isn't the most cosmopolitan city; there's basically 2 main groups (whites and hispanics), some African-Americans and precious few of any other group. Actually, this tour and Athens both have been an awesome and welcome culture shock. There are many languages around us all the time.

Taking these all-inclusive tours and cruises are a really great way to see a lot in a short period of time and to get loads of information and context from our guide. However, there are some downsides (naturally). We are often taken to specific places to eat and shop, which means that we are pitched at and I swear that these places (restaurants especially) raise their prices for us. As a result, we are bleeding money, not to mention the extremely poor exchange rate for dollars to euros. We'll make it though, 'cause I left some room on the card for an emergency.

We've seen an awful lot so far and we've found that rural Greece is as different from Athens as Austin is from the hill country. There are incredible mountains in the south with small stretches of valleys. Everyone out here has a modest house with an ocre-tiled roof and an orchard of various trees: olives, pistachios, apricots, apples, and peaches. Out towards the eastern coast, everyone has dozens of greenhouses and some even have corn fields. It seems pretty efficient though, they sell what they grow to the cities and manage to feed everyone with just family farms. Also, everyone in Greece has solar water heaters, low-flow toliets, and some have solar panels installed as well.

The theater in a village that starts with an E and Olympia have been my favorites so far. I loved the theater for it's location at an ancient medical center and for its incredible acoustics. I loved the village of Olympia very much because it's cooler, cheaper, less crowded, and more quaint than Athens. Everyone was very friendly and we managed to buy some burn cream for the straight up horrific sunburn Stuart got on his calves. We had to wash some underwear in the sink though because there was no laundry service in Olympia. The ruins of the place where the Olympic games began were truly incredible as well. It was an ENORMOUS complex of structures for training, baths, treasury, worship, statue-making, and for the games themselves. I hope the pictures we took will do it justice.

I have found out on this trip that I freaking love moussaka! It's like a greek shepard's pie. On the bottom is ground meat, crumbled and cooked in a light tomato sauce, then soft eggplant slices, and finely mashed potatoes on top then baked. Every restaurant sells their version of it. I've had three kinds so far and I super like it!

Another observation is that everything's marble here: stairs, floors, bathrooms, countertops, statues, everything! There are many quarries in southern Greece so it's as plentiful as granite in Texas.


We arrived in Delphi around 5pm today and Oh My God... the view! The drive up was incredible! I have no idea how far up we are, maybe 3,000 ft or so? I can't wait to show you all pictures!!!
Current Location: Delphi, Greece
Current Mood: enthralledenthralled

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July 12th, 2009

02:09 pm - More Athens
Today was really good and really difficult. We slept in and made it to Syntagma square just in time to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That was pretty neat.

We strolled around the National Gardens after that which was filled with interesting things... ruins that looked as if they'd just been plopped there, lush greenery, pretty flowers, lots of bees and attack sprinklers, many stray cats, and a large cage with chickens, roosters, bunnies, peacocks, geese, and two donkeys. When I realized I needed a potty, I had to contend with the keeper of the toilet paper - an older man who was sitting near the bathrooms talking to his company - and let him know that there was no paper and that I needed some. He spoke no english and only let me have just enough of the roll in the store room nearby. Weird dude.

After the gardens, we walked to the Roman Bath which is the remains of an actual bathhouse from the 1st century AD that was just recently unearthed as the gov't was constructing the Metro. From there we walked a long but fascinating way to Ancient Agora, stopping to eat the most incredible dolmas I have ever had.

The strip in front of the entrance to Agora was creepy. Stuart said it was just like Disneyland - shop after shop selling the same crap as the one next to it and the shops across the city under the Acropolis. In this part of town though, there were street vendors all one after another selling the same knockoff purses and luggage as the next. As we were eating, we were approached by so many people, either someone selling sunglasses or pirated dvds or children begging for coins. That sucked. The super cool thing in Agora was the Temple of Hephistos (I think) who was the god of metal workers. Stuart loved that one. :)

We tried to take the Metro up to the Archeological Museum in northern Athens (which is supposed to be the best in the world) but when we got lost and ended up in a place I felt unsafe, the fact that I was already tired and dehydrated made us head back for the hotel. We'll try again on Friday but take a taxi right to the entrance.

The 2 maps we have SUCK. The street names on the map are often spelled differently on the signs and some of the signs are entirely in Greek while the maps are phonetic. The distances are poorly represented as are the connections between them. No street in Athens is straight-forward. They all zig zag and change names for seemingly no real reason. This made today the most frustrating we've had so far as we attempted to sight-see on our own. It also made for the icing on the cake for what was a bad and poorly planned evening.

I wanted to have a big dinner date with my husband. Before we left for Greece, I bought a fabulous dress and a matching shirt for him. I even fixed up shoes to match, too. He got all cleaned up and I got completely done up and we made reservations for the oldest restaurant in the Plaka (127 yrs). First, we couldn't get a cab because we are on a pedestrian street so I had to walk in 3" heels. Second, I was dressed up so much that all the tourists stared as I walked passed and I felt extremely self-conscious. Third, we got lost walking to the restaurant and when we found it and were seated outside, it started to rain. Fourth, no one was dressed anywhere even close to how we were and I felt out of place and conspicuous. God, I hated every minute of it. Fifth, the food was mediocre at best and not worth what we paid.

At least I can say I truly have the best husband in the world because instead of getting huffy with me for being in a bad mood, he tried hard to cheer me up. He told me that he didn't care if we were more dressy than everyone (and I mean everyone) else, he said that we got dressed up for each other and he thought I was the most beautiful girl in Athens. He took pictures of me and said so many more sweet things to me that I wanted to cry from how lucky I am, but instead I said that whatever he was doing to try to cheer me up was working and that I appreciated his caring. He said that whenever he's been in a bad mood, I've always done whatever it took to cheer him up and that because he's my husband and best friend, that that's what he should do too. *sniff* What kind of person could not change their mood then?

So we left the restaurant and went to the hotel room, got a couple glasses of wine and went to the rooftop garden to get in the jacuzzi. Unbeknownst to us, it had started raining again while we were getting out of our dress clothes. *sigh* So we hung out under the canopy for a bit then I ran back to the room to get an umbrella. We used to umbrella to shield our drinks and music so we could get in the jacuzzi but it was completely tepid and smelled like sulfur! *sigh* So we came back to the room and watch stupid internet videos including the one we were singing the whole time we were on the cruise... I'm on a Boat by Lonely Island. Heh.

Tomorrow is the beginning of our big tour so internets may be spotty. Till then...
Current Location: athens, greece
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Tags: ,

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01:56 am - Athens, cont. from FB
The cruise yesterday was intense. It was only 1 day & we went to Hydra, Poros, & Aegina. We got about an hour on each island. I've never seen the Mediterranean, it was so blue! Like sparkling indigo. So pretty!

Hydra is a town of 2,000 and was once was a fishing village but now it is devoted entirely to tourism. We saw many of the famous Hydra cats, some donkeys, and I thought it would be a good idea to swim. Forgot how salty oceans can be! Spent the rest of our time looking for a shower, found one a hotel let me use for 5 euro.

Once back on the ship, we were served lunch in a great big dining hall in the lower deck. As we ate, we sailed on to Poros which was a town of 5,000. The port was lovely as were the shops but some were not interested in haggling so we didn't buy anything.

Finally was the island of Aegina. We splurged on an extra bus tour to take us up to the Temple of Aphea, the most well preserved temple from the 5th century BC which forms the sacred triangle between The Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon. We ate pistachio ice cream from the shop up there, which was a demonstration of the versatility of the uses of Aegina's main export, the pistachio nut. (Aegina is the largest exporter in the world.)

We boarded the ship once again and sailed back for Athens. Though I have slept, I still feel the rocking of the ship and it's a little disconcerting. I am hoping that walking around on our own today will help me alleviate the vertigo/nausea.

Today is our last day at Central Hotel and it's been really nice here. Tomorrow we hope on a bus and take a 4 day ride around all of Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Kalampakos, Meteora, and Thermopylae. We'll be spending the night in hotels in 3 of those towns. We are excited!
Current Location: Greece
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Tags: ,

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June 25th, 2009

11:55 pm - One Liners

  • 17:53 @thejoysoftwins The sad thing is, MJ was preparing for that comeback. I think the rehearsals for dizzying tour sched must've done him in. #

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