My trip involved a group tour of Greece, Italy and France. It started at 13 Coins, a restaurant across from the Seattle airport. They serve my favorite dinner –chicken parmesan. As it was about 3 in the morning and I had to get used to a 10-hour time difference, we called it dinner.
At the airport, I joined my group. After the 10-hour flight we landed in Athens and left the plane. Nearing the end of the jet way we felt a sudden whoosh of heat. The bus read a toasty 31 degrees Celsius, and the humidity was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before.
We drove through the more industrial part of Athens until we got to our hotel, one step above a youth hostel quality-wise. We only had a moment and left to get ready for dinner. The things that stuck out to me were the first Greek olive I ever tasted and the dessert. The olive started out alright but quickly turned ridiculously sour at the end. The dessert, however, was amazing — real Greek yogurt (which is nothing like it is in America) and fresh all-natural honey. I’m not a fan of honey but I promised myself before the trip that I would eat anything and everything that was put on my plate. Boy, am I glad that I did! The next few days we toured Athens, saw the Acropolis, took a ferry over to a small island, Aegina, for a beach and shopping day, and saw the ancient fields of Olympia.
We then took an overnight ferry, the “Superfast 2”, to Bari, Italy. The next morning we went to Pompeii and could almost feel the ghosts leaking out of the walls of the ancient city. Pompeii was remarkably advanced with sewer and water systems that we wouldn’t think possible for at least 200 years after. We scaled the beast responsible for the city’s untimely burial and enjoyed the view. The climb down was easier than the way up but challenging thanks to the slippery gravel. Later we visited Rome’s Boys Town, an orphanage full of guys 10 to 20 who were refugees who fled from their countries when things got politically intense. The rest of Rome was just as interesting. We toured the Vatican and took a city tour on our own starting at the Spanish steps and ending in Piazza Novona. Although we got lost a few times, we saw the city in a way we never would have gotten to otherwise. We sat and enjoyed the piazza with a game of “I Spy”. The last stop in Rome was the Colosseum. You don’t realize the full size of the place until you get there and imagine everything that they did in the name of entertainment. The rest of Italy involved whirlwind visits to Pisa, Florence, and Venice. We took the overnight train from Venice to Paris.
My favorite part was France, especially the home stay in Orleans. Our host family greeted us warmly, fed us well, took us to see Chambord, and let us visit the city on our own. The people were friendly, the history amazing (Joan of Arc was from Orleans), and the shopping really English-speaking friendly. Group tours are wonderful — they give you the chance to see and experience a lot in little time (Versailles, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower) — but a home visit with a family lets you see the people and not just the places.
When I returned, it was 9 pm, so we returned to 13 Coins for dinner. I was miraculously jet-lag free!
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