Sunday, October 28, 2012

Santorini ~ Pension George ~ Greece

Pension George in Karterados on the island of Santorini welcomes us.

The entrance is covered with bright pink bougainvillea plants
Pension George in Karterados, Santorini, Greece
Our stay in Santorini was to be over a week and we were looking for a nice hotel to be comfortable in.  Our friends suggested a place they’d stayed at during their visit fifteen years ago.  We found the webpage and Pension George was still in business so we began the booking process.  It was easy, so reasonably priced and their response to our email was immediate. 
This is a streetlevel walkway that  leads to the upper level of Pension George
Entrance to the top level of Pension George
Pension George is in Karterados, which is a good 15 minute walk from Fira, the main town in Santorini. There is bus service on the main road, a ten minute walk away, which we used if we were going a farther distance than Fira but we did get plenty of daily exercise.  There are lots of quads and scooters for rent which are a popular mode of transportation on the island. 
The pool and lounge chairs await the guests
Pension George pool in Karterados
There was a sparkling blue pool right outside our door that was cleaned every morning although we didn’t see a lot of swimmers in there. Our room was right in the corner behind the fragrant bushes and offered us privacy plus a view of the pool and flowers right outside our patio. 
Photo is taken through a portal beside the pool area at Pension George
View of the quiet pool
We did see some visitors laying on the lounge chairs doing some afternoon reading in the sun at times.  A great place to have some relaxation on this sunny island in Greece.
Clothes lines are filled with drying laundry every day
Laundry dries outdoors at Pension George
Speaking of clean, this is a rare sight anywhere these days, let alone at a hotel.  The crisp white towels and bedding are hung outside to dry.  
The decorated bed and the door leading to the patio looking at the pool
Room with a view at Pension George
George, the owner met us at the airport and delivered us and our bags to our room after a short drive.  They had a welcome basket for us and a comfortable room to stay in that even had some flowers and towel sculptures decorating our bed when we arrived.  
Private patio with a pool view
Poolside patio in Pension George
We had our own private patio with lots of privacy from the pool, where we would sit at the end of our day and talk about the great places we had visited. We even had a friendly local cat have a few visits with us curled up on my lap, which I enjoyed but it did make me miss our pets Tango and Maggie back home.
The entrance is lit at night with a welcoming setting.
Outdoor dining lounge at Pension George
We found a few small eating places right in Karterado where we enjoyed having our dinners at.  They were all within a few minutes walk from Pension George and served delicious food that was also very reasonably priced. This photo is the entrance patio at Pension George after dark which is also used for breakfast sittings and welcomed us when we arrived after dinner.

Sometimes a webpage can be deceiving when one is online shopping but that wasn’t the case for Pension George, (click here for their webpage).  This is an immaculate small hotel, called a pension in Greece that offers breakfast and with added peace and quiet at its best.  I would highly recommend a visit to see George and his wife Helen, they are wonderful hosts for your visit to Santorini, Greece.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Santorini ~ Fira ~ Greece

Greece has always been a place we wanted to see but that was as far as it went until summer of 2011.  We’d not had any other place in mind other than Athens until the planning stages had begun, we had friends visit and enjoy Santorini so decided we would add that to the visit.  In October we arrived in Santorini and loved every moment we were there.

We fly into Santorini from Athens and see the blue sky meets the blue water and islands dot the sea
Islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean  Sea
The island of Santorini, known officially as Thira is one of hundreds of islands that make up the country of Greece in the Aegean Sea and is also the southern most island of the Cyclades.  It is a major tourist destination and is easily accessible by most modes of travel.  We flew in on a lovely warm and sunny day and were greeted by the host of our hotel, making our arrival to this wonderful place so easy.
We can see the epicentre of the dormant volcano from Fira
View of the Caldera from Fira
Santorini, with a population of about 13,000, is home to what was said to be the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.  The west coast overlooks the caldera, the epicenter of that eruption and offers some great views to enjoy. 
An old rowboat sits atop the roof overlooking the water
Santorini Caldera with  view of Thirasia in distance
The island had once been more of a circle shape but with the damage done by the eruptions, there is now a bay of water with the center of the dormant volcano sitting in the middle, a tourist attraction that I will share later.
All sizes of ship sit in the harbour below Fira in Santorini
Cruise ships fill the Santorini Bay
The cruise ships often fill the caldera, bringing thousands of people to visit for the day, but we always found a seat in our favorite restaurant to eat our lunch and enjoy the view. This is a busy location for visiting cruise ships but we did not find it to be a problem; this little town is very prepared to welcome all their visitors with ease.
We can see most of the caldera from our restaurant location
View of the caldera from the restaurant
There was a tram used for the ride to and from the port, unless one preferred to walk or take a donkey ride up.  The cables are for the tram, a very steep ride that was not the least bit tempting for me to use but the donkey ride looks like an experience one should try while in Greece!
A view of Fira, a town on Santorini island
Fira on island of Santorini
Fira is the main town in Santorini and is where we spent much of our time for our daily walks and just enjoying the sights of this little town. It sits on the steep lava cliffs and has more steps and stairs than we could count.  Once we are in the heart of the town, there are no cars or vehicles, only foot and donkey traffic.
We look up at the buildings that are built on the steep incline
Cliffside dwellings in Fira, Santorini
The slope of the cliffs is almost straight up and down in places but that did not prevent construction and this photo shows how steep the grade is but offers great views for everyone.  Many buildings are built into the rock so are a narrow width but deep in length.
Shops line the steps of Fira
Shops in Fira, Santorini
The many souvenier shops have much to offer for the visitors but they’re not out there trying to call you inside to do some shopping.  The restaurants seem to do a bit of this but for the most part it is done nicely and meant to welcome us in, which it does and the service is great. Most locals spoke English so we had no problems with the language.
The steps that lead up through Fira are numbered, showing #574 plus.
The steps of Fira, Santorini
This photo will give you an idea that there were hundreds of steps just on this one ascent/descent, but there were stairs all over the town.  It would be enough daily exercise just to go out and do one’s shopping business for the day with all those stairs to climb. 
different kinds of doors in Fira, Santorini
Doors of Santorini
There are homes and businesses lining the walks that we used.  The doorways that lead to the homes are made to offer privacy and is used rather than a gate to enter a courtyard. The threshold with a door leading to a business is usually open but it just seems strange to go through a door into open air rather than be inside a building.
The band leads the crowd down the street
Bagpipes and drummers lead the crowd
We heard the music before we saw there were men with a bagpipe and drums that were passing nearby.  The crowds were following them and it made it impossible to get a great picture but at least I was able to get the bagpipe, tucked under his arm.  As it turns out the bagpipe was first invented by the Greeks, not the Scots who have the ones we are more familiar with.
The donkeys are waiting till their turn to carry tourists up the steps
Donkeys line the steps in Fira, Santorini
It seems that it is only right to take a donkey ride while in Greece.  This is a popular event, if the number of donkeys seen is any indication.  They were everywhere there may be some tourists but seemed to be well cared for and even though the donkeys used the same walks through town that we used, there was rarely any mess seen. 
Blue gate and pots at the entrance of the cafe
Cafe entrance overlooking the caldera in Santorini
This tranquil sight is just one of so many in this town on Santorini.  We felt we’d gone back in time to a simple life, an era that was different before all the hustle and bustle that we know today.  The comforts were here but time seemed to have stood still in Santorini.  We were taking the time to enjoy the views, what a wonderful life we have! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Athens ~ Theatre of Dionysos ~ Plaka ~ Roman Agora ~ Greece

Athens, the city of Athena that makes me feel as though we are walking through an old history book as we stand among the ruins of history.  The dates that we are reading on the information boards speak about thousands of years ago, so hard to comprehend that the ruins we are looking at have been here all this time.  Back home, at best, we see things that might be a couple of hundred years old…. but I digress.  We are in Athens!
we walk down through the rows of seats leading to the stage
Acropolis ~ Theatre of Dionysos
The Acropolis has several buildings atop the hill but there are ruins on the hillside that we wander through as we make our way back down.  The path we follow, parts of which were more like a goat path, leads us down to the Theater of Dionysos, the most important building on the southern slope.
One of the very elaborate seats that was used by the priest and prominent people of Athens
The chair for the priest of Dionysos in the theatre
There were rows of seating built for the crowds but special chairs lined up on the lower level that were elaborate with the middle one reserved for the priest of Dionysos, the god to whom the theater was dedicated.  It is weather-worn but still a sight to see.
young man plays an accordian with hat on sidewalk to collect coins
Young musician at the Acropolis
We stopped for lunch after leaving the ruins, with a view of the Acropolis right above us.  As we made our way to the shopping area, we saw several gypsy families with young children who were performing.  This young boy was pretty good considering his age and was earning himself and his family some money.
Several pics of the streets we walked along while visiting the Plaka
The narrow streets of the Plaka in Athens
We walked to the nearby Plaka, a tourist oriented part of Athens which is also known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” due to the closeness to the Acropolis.  The streets do not allow cars so it is mainly foot traffic, other than delivery vans and motor scooters and is lined with shops and eateries with lots of people.  The Plaka is a maze of narrow streets that we just followed without purpose until we found more ruins. 
Some of the ruins within the Roman Agora community
Roman Agora in Athens
The Roman Agora was a community of houses, workshops and churches and was still being used until the nineteenth century when a fire in 1884 destroyed most of it.  The fire offered the opportunity to excavate in the Roman Market and Hadrian’s Library and the excavation has been continuous ever since.
The remaining columns from the courtyard in the Roman Agora
The columns within the Roman Agora in Greece
The rectangular building was 111x98m (364x321 ft) in size opening to a courtyard surrounded by an ionic (style of architectural design) portico (porch) which had two propyla (gateways). One of the propylon known as the Gate of Athena Archegetis, was donated by Julius Caesar and Augusta and dedicated in 11/10 BC. Both propylon were made of marble from quarries near Athens, known for their beauty and quality, many marble columns are still standing today.
There are 3 photos of different ruins of the Roman Agora
Architectural examples within the ruins of the Roman Agora
Several different architectural pieces are still here and can be walked among and admired.  It is protected from intruders by high fences but open for the public’s enjoyment when you purchase a ticket at the gate.  It is amazing to still see their drainage system from that time and it doesn’t look too different from many we have these days.

The view of the Acropolis from the ruins of the Roman Agora
Looking up at the Acropolis in Athens
We are standing among the ruins of the Roman Agora, which covers about a square city block, looking up to the Acropolis which sits above the city with modern homes and buildings filling the space between us.  I wonder what locals think when they look out their kitchen window every day to see these ruins.
We are looking at the ruins that sit below the museum
Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece
The large entrance to the museum has several areas of glass flooring so one can see below where the conservation and restoration is being done to some of the ruins at the base of the Acropolis. This area shown in the photo is open and has been walled with glass that allows us a view of what will one day be available for us to walk among and learn more of how they once lived in this neighborhood.

Our time in Athens was brief but we had seen what we had come to see. For more of our time in Athens, click here and here.

We were now ready to move onto the island of Santorini to spend some time being part of the local scene there and relaxing. Stay tuned and I will soon share some Santorini sights, too. 


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