Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Real Memorial Day

Dad is a Vietnam War veteran.   He's also the biggest patriot I know, who loves the our country.   Almost every year while I was growing up and even afterwards, he would speak at a local Memorial Day service in Wisconsin.   On Memorial Day my sister and I went to the Memorial Day service in Aurora, Colorado.   It was a beautiful reminder of why we need to remember those who died to allow us to be free.

"I thank God for my life
And for the stars and stripes
May freedom forever fly
Let it ring

Salute the ones who died
The ones that give their lives
So we don't have to sacrifice
All the things we love"

Zac Brown Band "Chicken Fried"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ancient Delphi

After a beautiful evening in the village of Delphi, we lucked out the next morning with nice weather as we explore ancient Delphi.   My only exposure to Delphi prior to visiting Greece was the clip in My Life in Ruins where they ask questions of the "Irvicle."  We went first thing in the morning and didn't have to compete with many other tour groups.  We started at the Temple of Athena and then moved across the street to the Oracle.    The original thought was that the Oracle was a young virgin, but apparently they aren't as trustworthy (or maybe they run off to get married), so the Oracle was then a "mature" woman who had passed her childbearing years.   And got high on a lot of natural gasses and maybe some form of wacky weed as well.  All the big cities would have their temples on the road up to the Oracle.   They would bring a gift from home, or buy one in the village and present it at the temple.   After making their request to the Oracle and hearing from the priests/priestesses the response, they would stop back in the village and purchase a gift to take back home to their family.   

We heard two interesting stories of prophesies, but I can't remember the wording exactly.   It goes a little something like this: 

#1  One man asked if he invaded a particular place if he would be victorious and was told "one kingdom will fall."  He took that as a go ahead.  Not realizing the kingdom that would fall would be his own.  

#2 The other prophesy was regarding the establishment of Byzantium (now Istanbul).   He asked "where should I move my family?"  He was told to sail the Bosphorus and settle opposite of the blind people.   He sailed in, saw a spot so beautiful that he settled.  The implication was that the people on the other side of the Bosphorus were "blind not to see it." 

All the guidebooks in the world do not replace a good guide who can tell the stories.   And the only way I remember them now is because I have my trusty journal.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I had no idea that Delphi was in the mountains and that the drive up, and the views from the village, would be so spectacular.  The views reminded me of living in Lake Tahoe.  There is something in me that loves the mountains - everywhere in the world.   Delphi was already decorated for Easter.   The picture on the bottom left shows the Easter light decorations that were up in the village.   We had heard that Easter was bigger than Christmas in the Greek Orthodox church.   Seeing holiday lights, like we would associate with Christmas here in the States, was magical.   I was so glad that our hotel, the Amalia Delphi, was in walking distance of the village so we could walk and explore and visit the shops.   All the restaurants and bars had big patios or dining rooms that overlooked the view of the water and mountains.   What a great place to end the day!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Beginning July 27 millions of people who never watch sports and who, on an average Tuesday in March, couldn't care less about throwing a discus or rowing crew, are fixated on the TV.     The evening news has to offer special spoiler alerts where they give you the option to press mute if you don't want to hear who won a medal or lost by a millisecond.     Where did the magic begin?   Here in Olympia, Greece.    

Only Greeks could participate.   Only men could participate (unless you were a rich woman who owned a horse that a man raced with a chariot).    The events were simple - running, wrestling, and charioteering.   If you were caught cheating you were publicly humiliated - and forced to build a statue to Zeus right outside the ramp where the athletes processed into the arena. 

When you are at Olympia you will see a small rectangular area of nothing that is fenced off.  Why?   It's a spot that's only famous when it comes time for the Olympic torch to be lit.   Then it becomes a spectacle of (recent) tradition, that involves a lot of ladies dressed as priestesses.   The torch ceremony was on May 10.  CNN has some pictures of the festivities.   It's one of those things that you are compelled to take a picture of - even though there's nothing to see.   Somehow I managed to resist.           

The torch is currently on a 70 tour of the UK - today specifically going from Cardiff to Swansea.   The London Olympics site indicates that on the tour the torch will travel to within an hour of 95% of the UK population.   You can follow the adventures of the torch and torchbearers here

I, too, love the Olympics.   I get caught up in the stories of triumph, sacrifice, and defeat.   I wait for the medals ceremony to hear the national anthem.  62 days and counting.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Travel Tip: Eat Your Breakfast

Turkey Benedict - Hollywood Cafe, San Francisco

There is nothing worse than being hungry while traveling.   This can manifest itself in many ways:
1)  You are driving across Kansas - you didn't stop at the last Kwik Stop and you are out of Sweet Chili Doritos....for the next 180 miles
2)  You are on a 5 hour bus ride in Thailand and they are playing sappy music videos (true story)
3)  You are going into a seminar.   You thought that breakfast was provided - it said so in your materials.  Really!  In reality there is stale coffee and two sad looking danishes left when you walk into the room.

Don't let hunger while traveling happen to you.  One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to eat breakfast.    Your Mom told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.  So did your health teacher.   And your personal trainer / yoga instructor / friend who loves to ride bikes (uphill both ways).   

How Can Eating Breakfast Save You Money?

Bring Your Own
In the scheme of things that are easy to pack, granola bars are flat, light and still taste good if they get smooshed in the corner of your bag.   Or hit a grocery store, a great way to explore a new place anyway, and pick up something to start you off in the morning.   The same Clif bar that might be $1 at your grocery store at home will easily be $3.25 at the hotel coffee shop / tourist snack bar. 

Cook Your Own
If you are staying at a condo or an extended stay hotel with a kitchen, breakfast is easily the cheapest meal to cook - a dozen eggs, a box of pancake mix, a bottle of syrup and OJ will run you less than $10. 

Long Live the Breakfast Buffet
Eating in a hotel is expensive.   Breakfast is definitely the best value, especially if you get the buffet.   You look at the menu and think to yourself, "Really?  $15 (or $18 or $20) for a buffet?"  A buffet is a great value.  Ordering a la carte off the menu is not.   Just ordering a cup of coffee, a bagel and side of fruit can easily bring you close to the cost of the buffet.   And without having any protein you'll be hungry again in an hour.   Order the buffet and you can have all the bacon you can eat.     

Brunch It Out
When you're on vacation you shouldn't be rolling out of bed at 6am like you might on a work day.   Sleep in, take a walk, maybe make a cup of coffee.   If you go out for brunch you'll pay for one meal instead of two.   Eat at 10 or later in the morning and you're good to go until dinner.   Or until you stop for ice cream or happy hour in the late afternoon.  

Have Ziploc, Will Travel
Whether you pay for breakfast in a restaurant or there is a free continental at your hotel, plan to take something for the road.   If you grab a banana from the fruit bowl on your way out the door, no one will bat an eye.   A muffin from the buffet or your general session?  Not a problem.   On the group tours I have taken overseas, breakfast is always included.  Lunch is often on your own.   Make a little sandwich of bread and cheese, discreetly slip it in a napkin or a bag, and tuck it into your purse or backpack.  Two hours later you'll be glad to have a snack, especially if you have to start early to see all the ancient ruins. When lunch time comes you can enjoy a lighter (read: less expensive) meal and save your money for something you love.   In my case I'd rather buy a fun bracelet from a street vendor or hit up a local bakery than pay for an over-priced lunch in a place that caters to tourists. 

Get a Cup to Go
Don't be afraid to ask your last cup of coffee to go as you leave the restaurant.   You know they have the cups ready and the coffee brewed.  

If you have a travel tip of your own, head on over to Budgets Are Sexy to enter his $1,000 giveaway, in partnership with HotelClub!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Considering Nafplion was only the last stop on day 2 of our Greek adventure, I still feel behind.   I got home almost a month ago.   After a day that was cold and rainy at Mycenae and then progressed to sun at Epidaurus, stopping in Nafplion for an hour of wandering through the town center, eating ice cream, and enjoying being along the water was sweet.    The city has fortifications up on the hillside as well as in the water.   It was taken by French crusaders and also belonged the Republic of Venice as well as the Ottoman Empire.  I had a chance to go into a local grocery store.   This is one of my favorite things to do anywhere I travel.   Partially because I look for candy to bring back for my office.   I'm also intrigued by spices, juices, and unique flavors of potato chips (such as the bag of Greek herb chips I purchased).   Naturally there was time for ice cream.   And pastry.   Ohh the pastry.   They put it in pretty little cardboard to go boxes.   If you wait too long to eat it the honey syrup starts to ooze out.   That's your penalty for delay of game.   

Truth in Pastry:  Plastic forks cannot stand up to baklava.   At least twice I had my fork break on me as I tried to enjoy baklavas as big as my head.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Epidaurus: Ye Olde Med Spa

Imagine your favorite spa or resort.  Your favorite hideaway out of town.  
The place you go to relax, rejuvenate and recover.  

Now go back in time a few thousand years.   Welcome to the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus.   People would come here for 40 days of treatment for their ailments.   And they wouldn't come alone.   They would bring their entourage to join them in seeking a cure.  Family, friends, servants.  And the entourage would need something to do while the ill received their treatment.   There were shops.  Restaurants.  Games.  Debates.  Theater.  Mineral Springs.   The most famous feature at Epidaurus is amphitheater which was covered by a landslide and is very well preserved.   Acoustically the theater is amazing and all 11 - 15,000 people that would have attended a performance it its heyday could have heard every word.   The theater is now the site of the annual Epidaurus Festival.   Fortunately they don't cram 15,000 people inside anymore. 

Interesting theater fact #1:  The rich were the ones who got the seats with the backs.   Theater performances lasted all day.  That's a long time sitting on a hard bench in the sun. 

Interesting theater fact #2:  Theater lasted all day because it was a trilogy (a play in three parts with three actors standing  reciting a well-known story) followed by a comedy.    Since everyone knew the story, the entertainment came from the musicians and dancers who were in front of the actors in what we now would call the orchestra. 

Why is there a picture of a dog in the photo collage?   I noticed throughout Greece that dogs and cats were everywhere, but appeared well cared for.   Bowls of water and food would be outside.   Snoozing in the Greek sun seems like a good life.    This dog thought so. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Acropolis: A City on the Edge

Here it is.  The sight to see.  The Acropolis of Athens.   As you can see by looking at the top right picture it was a dark and   Just know that marble is, in fact, slippery when wet.   Tennis shoes or sport sandals are the way to go.  We spent the morning of April 9 visiting this famous site and dodging the large tour groups wearing stickers and following someone holding a sign with a number on it.    The most famous site on this "city on the edge" (what an acropolis is by definition) is the Parthenon.   One of my favorite stories was one of the other temples that was decorated with pillars that were carved women of Sparta. Apparently, they were the "Real Housewives of Suburban Sparta" because the warrior women of Sparta weren't nearly as good looking.   

The Parthenon was used for a variety of purposes throughout history.   In the 1700s it was used to store gunpowder and the roof blew off.  Different governments, conquerors and people who love art stole many of the sculptures over the centuries.   Some of the art was even destroyed because it portrayed the "heathen" gods and goddesses of ancient times.   

The ticket you get for the Acropolis can also be used to get into the Museum of the Acropolis where you can see depictions of all the scenes that were on all sides of the Parthenon.    Some are the actual stone is there and some is recreated.    The Museum is on the Plaka, the pedestrian area of Athens where there are a lot of cafes and shops.    We dodged the rain in the afternoon with cups of cappuccino and a giant slice of baklava.

Happy Hour Travel Tip:  Buy a bottle of liquor at duty free on your way over.   Buy the mixers, fruit and snacks at a local market when you arrive.   Have happy hour in your hotel room before dinner.   Invite your friends.        

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Greece Starts with a Healthy Breakfast

Hi Friends!   This is a banner day for The Pursuit.   I started this blog in 2008 primarily to write about travel and in preparation for my trip to Thailand in the spring of 2009.   Today you are reading my 500th post!   I know I've enjoyed the adventure and I appreciate friends, family and complete strangers (but you love travel and food, so you're not a real stranger) following along.    It's a cold and dreary Saturday morning in Denver.   We don't get a log of dreary here, so I'm taking advantage by getting caught up on posts about Greece and Turkey.    It's like leaving on vacation again.  Kind of.  Except I have to go back to work on Monday and I'm not having full fat Greek yogurt and bacon for breakfast.    Grab yourself a cup of coffee and lets go!

This was my first breakfast in Greece.   Fresh orange juice.   Greek yogurt with honey.  Pastry.  Slabs of feta.  Bacon.    Start as you mean to go on.   Two weeks of no holes barred enjoyment.

We had a half day city tour on April 9, our first real day in Greece.   The main feature of the tour was the Acropolis, and that will get its own post and photo montage.   Greece is well known for being the home of the Olympics.   The Olympics of the modern era started in 1896 in Athens.    The stadium is the finish line for the modern marathon.    The legend of the marathon race was that a runner messenger was dispatched from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon.   He got to Athens, approximately a 25.4 mile run (going the hard way to avoid being caught), and then collapsed (and possibly died) from exhaustion.   I know that I would collapse from exhaustion theory on running is that I only run if someone is chasing me.  

That marathon runner has been immortalized in this great sculpture that shows the runner in motion.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No One Is Sorry

Next week I'll have to work a full five days.  Gasp! 
I had two full weeks of vacation for Greece and Turkey.  I took Monday off last week to recover.  I'm taking off now for a long weekend in San Francisco.  I consider this completely reasonable considering I didn't go anywhere out of state from July until April aside from two family related trips to Chicago.  Chicago is lovely.  But I grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois, so it is not exotic.  Just fun. 
Sometimes friends say they travel vicariously through me.
I'm OK with that.


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