March 18, 2006

Greece

We caught an early flight to Athens; the flight was about 4 hours and with the two hour time difference, we got there in the afternoon. We jumped on the metro and headed into the city, hopped off at Ominia where our hotel was and checked in. Then we decided to take a stroll, went down to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Everything had already closed (everything closes at 3 in the winter time) so we walked past the Acropolis and saw a wonderful sunset. This is the Temple of Hephaistos in the Ancient Agora:

The next day we took a daytrip to Delphi. All the tours were around 70-90 euros which we thought seemed a bit unreasonably expensive. So we took a coach ourselves and it ended up being around 25 euros roundtrip! It was a three hour bus ride but so worth it! We got to the archaeological site at 2pm, the site closed at 3. We hurriedly climbed up the hill, passing by the Sanctuary of Apollo...kinda reminded me of stacked rolos...

Halfway up was the theatre and at the top was the ancient stadium which we almost didn't get to see because there was a guard who turned people away at 2:30! Disgruntled, we stepped to the side and watched as a large obnoxious crowd of tourists pushed past the guard. After giving the guard the hairy eyeball he finally relented and let us pass.

Afterwards, we descended and made our way to the Temple of Athena:

We walked through the ancient gymnasium..,had a wonderful dinner and caught the coach back to Athens.

The next day we decided to hit the Acropolis first, the entrance was free and we were puzzled as to why but didn't question it. Turns out everything's free on the first Sunday of each month...I think so anyway. Here's me in front of Parthenon.

We visited the Parthenon museum which I thought was interesting. Then we went down to the Ancient Agora, which was the centre of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, and walked around. We took the metro over to the National Archaeological Museum which was amazing though you can probably see most of marbles at the British Museum in London.

We picked up our bags from the hotel and made our way to Piraeuse the ferry port, purchased ferry tickets to Paros and ate some delicious gyros while we waited. The ferry ride was 4 hours long, we slept most of the way. By the time we got to Paros, it was late and dark. We had read that we would be accosted by people offering us rooms so we hadn't booked anything in advance. After standing around for a while, a man came up to us and offered us a room for 30 euros. Chris told him that we had rented rooms in Athens for 25 euros (he didn't know what he was talking about but he managed to successfully haggle!), so we managed to get a room for 25 euros a night! The place was nice enough though it would not be more than 3 stars.

The next morning, we walked around then decided to rent a car. It was 20 euros all inclusive and we drove all over the island, it was great fun! We saw so much...explored lots of little villages. The next morning, we caught a ferry to Naxos. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, but the wind was oh so strong! We decided to just explore the main city starting with the Temple of Apollo. We had really nice food at a local Greek restaurant. We were eager to head onto Santorini so only spent one night in Naxos.

The weather was really bad the next day; it was raining and extremely windy. Even our huge ferryboat was rocking about...thank goodness it was only a 2 hour journey. After we got there, we were picked up by our guesthouse which was really nice. The boat was late and with the crappy weather there was not too much to do, so we went to bed early after a hearty dinner. The next morning, after grabbing a ham and cheese (I had about 10 on the whole trip lol...so good!) we rented a car and drove around the small island. It was beautiful...we climbed a mountain in the afternoon and nearly killed ourselves on the way down by trying to take a shortcut! We managed to get up to Ia for the sunset, which it's famous for. Here is the sun right before it dipped into the water:

Typical greek island pic...my favourite out of all the 'dome' pictures I took:

The next day we took a boat out to the volcano! It was really cool...we stopped by the hot springs as well unfortunately it was too cold. The next day we flew back to Athens, walked around the Plaka, and had our last fantastic Greek meal. We flew back to London on Sunday...wishing we were still in Greece!

March 15, 2006

The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance

5 stars I say. It was a brilliant book! I didn't know too much about the Medicis, but it was interesting to see how they started out as bankers and went on later to become popes, grand dukes, even queens and kings. St. Peters in the Vatican was in the middle of being built when the Medicis were popes; I had never seen such extravagance in a church before...the wealth which is displayed...you wonder why they don't distribute some of it amongst the poor and hungry in the world. The book also talks about how indulgences were sold to raise money for the pope and how the church just like all the other nations and states wanted territorial gains which they went to war for...just goes to show...

I felt like I learnt a lot about the history of Florence...can't wait to see everything! I liked how Paul Strathern also elaborated on artists' lives such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael. Oh, one of the chateaux we went to visit in the Loire Valley was designed and lived in by one of the Medici Queens (Chenonceau)!

Running Around in Circles

So I went into work on Monday...no desk for me...no computer for me. I was put at one of the 'hot desks' which only had a phone because they're used by people not normally based in London and who usually travel with laptops. I made a few phonecalls, a few names were thrown around and I was back to square one.

Same thing on Tuesday.

It's ridiculous...I'm supposed to be 'looking for a job' but how can I do that without a PC?! I can't even check my email, which is a whole other story. We have this file we're supposed to take with us which lets us access our work emails. However I sent mine to my work email...which I can't access because I don't have that file! Really silly I know...that will need to be sorted out after I get the PC and desk sorted. Yesterday the facilities guy, which says providing PCs is not under his jurisdiction, managed to remember that someone had left recently and didn't need his PC/desk anymore. So there is some promise there. I will go in later to check.

Trying to get my mobile replaced has been equally frustrating. I went into my network provider and they said I could take out an emergency insurance which would allow me to get a new phone. Great, I thought. Then they realised that because I didn't get my phone from them, they weren't able to provide me with a new one. I went back to the Carphone Warehouse where I purchased my phone; they looked on their PC and said I didn't have an insurance attached to my account. I insisted that I remember signing up for one. The arsehole said that there was nothing he could do because he was going by what was on the computer.

So I went home, found a copy of the insurance form I signed and brought it into a different branch because I didn't want to deal with the same incompetent people again. The lady at this branch was very helpful and very nice. Apparently my insurance had been entered into the system but for some reason had been deleted! She said I had to go back to the branch where I originally got the phone, speak to the manager and they would sort it out. So back I went. After waiting a very long time, the guy who sold me the phone agreed with the insurance company that if I pay the insurance which they should've charged me for the past 5 months, I could make a claim within 24 hours. So I'm going back there later and hopefully I'll have a phone in my hand tonight!

March 13, 2006

Back Home

Pottering around the house this morning...took a sponge bath (hot water not working)...did the rest of my laundry...made some dumplings and ate them... Don't really want to go into work but will have to at some point today. I'm 'on the bench' right now, which means I am between assignments. This is the first time it has ever happened to me and I intend to take full advantage of it hehe. This means more time for training (though it will probably be computer based) and job hunting...and shorter days hopefully. I don't even know if I have a desk/equipment...will see when I go in. Don't even know if my work pass will work!

It's kinda depressing to be back...I have loads of errands to run...including getting a new mobile because mine was stolen!! The worst part is I don't even know how it happened and it's the most expensive mobile on the market right now (300 pounds). Hopefully my travel insurance will cover it.

The vacation was oh so good though. :) Will write more about it later.