Potter on Naxos
Home now but continuing the tales of the trip that didn't go quite as planned.
I love to travel alone despite the misgivings of those who think the rest of the world is one big bad scary place. I like the independence it gives me to see what I want for as little or as long as I want and to go back again and again if I so choose. I like the freedom to sit and observe the wonderful parade of people, both locals and tourists, going right by me oblivious to my camera. I like watching the people selling bread, hot corn, tea, or roasted chestnuts. I like watching the shills trying to get folks on their buses and their ability to speak so many languages, all with one goal, to get the butts on the bus and into the seats. I like to go into a small restaurant, off the tourist street, and struggle linguistically with the waiter (who may speak only a few words of English) to find something delicious for lunch. In Turkey all the food is delicious so if the waiter nods and leaves you wondering what you ordered just relax. It will be
On this trip I revisited the Blue Mosque several times both inside and out. It is not the biggest mosque in the world but it seems to always be crowded with tourists and worshippers. Built in 1616 it is dazzling because of the sheer numbers of blue tiles. Rules are strict: you must take off your shoes. A plastic bag is provided so you don't have to leave them. A good suggestion is to wear a pair of socks for walking on the carpet as thousands walk on it each day. Eeewwww! Visitors are not allowed in the prayer area. This is an active mosque and visitors are only allowed in at certain times during the day. Shorts are not allowed. Skirts must cover the knee. You will be given a sarong to wear to cover up offending body parts. Sleeveless, tank, strapless or crop tops are not allowed. Women must wear a head scarf.
But mostly what I like about traveling solo is the opportunity to meet people. On one Hop on- Hop off bus I met a young woman who was on R & R from her job as a pilot in Sudan.
Singing a sad lament
On another bus I met some Brits who were totally unaware of local currency, customs, and especially dress codes. She was in a tank top with the Union Jack all red, white and blue spangles. She wondered why she was getting strange looks. Ladies, when in doubt leave the glittery tops at home. He was in short shorts and sandals. No,no, and no. Never appropriate in a big cosmopolitan city.
Ah, but then I like to take tours because they offer perks hard to come by on one's own. Some folks had told me I could do a Greek Island tour on my own. "Just get the ferry and go from island to island. It's a breeze and so much cheaper." I was glad I didn't listen. This trip hit a huge storm said to be the biggest in 75 years. The ferries stopped running. Few islands have hotels or accommodations for 'day trippers'. It was Easter time and people were getting ready for those festivities. I would have been stranded for days. Instead I was stranded with my 36 fellow passengers but warm and safe and well fed.
I have traveled exclusively with Grand Circle and their
sister company Overseas Adventure Travel. I have taken 10 trips with then over the last 15 years. They are especially interested in helping women to travel as well as those traveling solo. I would be happy to talk to anyone about them. If you decide to use them you can give them my number #445769N and you'll get $100'bucks off your trip.
One of the things Grand Circle does in offer a 'home hosted dinner'. I have had interesting ones in every place I've traveled to with them. The food is great but the experience of visiting in someone's home is what makes it so special. On this trip we had two such dinners. One was on Naxos (while we were tied up there for four days waiting out the storm). It was Holy Thursday night - not the night originally scheduled. About 9 of us were bused to someone's house in the highlands of the island. We then walked in fierce winds up and up and up stone walkways to a whitewashed house. The dining table was set for 14 with places at the ends reserved for the hostesses of the house. Once we sat the food started
Really, a fi replacing my room
coming: olives, bread, soup, home made olive oil, cucumber sauce, fried eggplant, green beans, hummus, yoghurt, all sorts of small plates that I can't name but all were delicious. Just when I thought I'd burst the main courses came: spaghetti, rich thick sweet tomato sauce and goat meat so deliciously cooked that some mistook it for pot roast. Still more came- baklava, twisted fried pastry strips driping with honey, and a dense sweet pie like a pillow covered with sweetened crushed pistachios. Oh my!
The hotels on this trip (and on most) are listed are 3*** but most are well above that. In Istanbul, the Titanic City in Taksim was incredibly beautiful and comfortable. Simply put I would never be able to afford to stay at such places on my own. The Anemolia Hotel in Arachova had the fanciest suite I'd ever stayed in. It was bigger than my apt. at home. The living room included a wood burning fireplace! The hotel in Meteora in Kastraki was also beautiful with a corner room looking out at the sandstone cliffs and sky high monasteries. The final hotel, the Hera in Athens, was the best as it was a five minute
And a couch, refrig, large chair and 2 TV's
walk from the fabulous Acropolis Museum and I could sit on my little balcony and gaze up at the Acropolis anytime day or and night.
Some final tour experiences to share: another home hosted dinner in Meteora where 5 ladies greeted our group of 8, passed around cordials and toasted us. We shared lovely conversation and then had another home cooked meal with 14 courses. The women were all widows or single and they helped the owner of the house, Kiki, to cook and serve the food. It was here that I saw a plate of the blood red dyed Easter eggs that everyone gets on Easter. The color is supposed to simulate Christ's blood as he died on the cross. Grand Circle pays the families and sometimes they can do 2 or 3 hostings in a week which helps them monetarily.
On our last day on Naxos the Capt. finally let us off the ship and we got to see several things- a winery, a pottery shop, Dionysos's sanctuary, some beaches, and an olive press. Some of my favorite things were: walking through some little side streets and finding a butcher slaughtering a lamb for Easter; seeing
View from my room in Meteora
the mother of the potter admiring his work; and the older lady who had given us a tour of the olive press turning to our group and spontaneously singing a song- a lament really about mother who had lost her son,
So travel solo or with a tour but get out there and go see the world!
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