FUN-travel:Greece & Turkey

May 4, 2009 by  

Day 1 – May 10, 2007 – Depart 0’dark:30 for 7:40 am flight to Athens via JFK and Zurich.  All current and future travel plans are based on using up all points for free airfare and hotels.

  • Expectation – Fly Business Class, 90,000 points versus 120,000 for 1st.
  • Experience – Brand new plane with sleeper seats. Feels like 1st!
Greek Ruins in Athens

Temple of Zeus in Athens

Day 2 – Arrive Athens 1:30 pm.

  • Expectation – 4 night stay at Hilton, city- mountain view, 140,000 points.
  • Experience – Same as above, but on concierge level with free breakfast and happy hour daily. (Ahh, makes those weekly trips to Pasadena almost worth it.) After 3 hour nap venture out for walking tour of the Plaka, Oldest part of city at the base of the Acropolis. Window shop, have dinner, stroll home.
  • Expectation – Greece is a big city like Cairo.
  • Experience – Only 6 million people vs 15 million and very clean. Buildings are mostly 3 to 6 stories tall. Hilton towers over all buildings around us at 14 stories. Our room is on the 10th floor. We enjoy breakfast & happy hour with full views of the acropolis and out to the sea.
Delphi Ruins

Delphi Ruins

Day 3 – Explore Athens by foot.

  • Expectation – Back to Plaka for serious shopping via some ruins.
  • Experience – See original Olympic Stadium from 1894 & Temple of Zeus. Have traditional Greek lunch. Stroll home via Kolonaki  neighborhood. Very cute with trendy shops. It’s Saturday afternoon. Cafes filled to the brim and overflowing into the quaint promenade. Have café freddo, (iced espresso w/frothy milk) Back to hotel for nap and happy hour.
  • Expectation – Have dinner on rooftop restaurant.
  • Experience – Commanding views of the city and Acropolis lit up at night. Charge us 5.50 Euros per person for a cover charge. ($15)

FFTK&T (Fun Facts to Know & Tell)
Grecians are very fashion forward & love their shoes! Have never seen so many shoe stores with so many cute shoes! Only buy one pair.

Theatre at Delphi

Theatre at Delphi

Day 4 – Trip to Delphi.

  • Expectation – Take 3 hour ride from Athens to see ruins.
  • Experience – Takes 1 hour to see the stadium, theatre and ruins, all in tiers on side of mountain.  Have traditional Greek lunch of fresh lamb cooked on spit w/ bread, fries, Greek salad, tzitsiki sauce, and wine. 45 euro ($70) Clearly have stupid tourist stamped on our foreheads.
The Acropolis

The Acropolis

Day 5 – Athens

  • Expectation – Thought Athens would have charm of Rome.
  • Experience – It doesn’t and we’re bored. Remember what we were told about Cairo – 2 full days max. Same applies here. Make the best of the situation. Perfect Morning – Sooz goes to the pool (the largest in all of Athens) and Chris checks e-mail.  Afternoon trip to the seaside via the metro and tram.

FFTK&T – Acropolis was up for one of the Seven New Wonders of the World but did not make it.

Day 6 – Athens – Istanbul

  • Expectation – Morning walk to Plaka. Relaxing day before early evening flight to Istanbul.
  • Experience – Union Strike causes plane to be cancelled. Arrive Istanbul 10:30 pm. Total chaos in airport.
  • Expectation – 3 night stay at Marriott Renaissance Hotel, city- Marmara Sea view, 78,000 points, being more spoiled on concierge level like in Cairo.
  • Experience – Not! Airport hotel, 30 minutes from the City, concierge level is full. Bummed!
Athens Sunset

Athens Sunset

Day 7 – Istanbul – Old City Adventure

  • Expectation – Not sure, always conjured thoughts of being exotic.
  • Experience – Only country in world on two continents, Europe & Asia. Free shuttle!
  • Charming city with sections of original stone walls intact, like Italy. Cute winding streets, lots of Mosques. Go to Mosaic Tile Museum.
Colorful lighting in Istanbul

Colorful lighting in Istanbul

  • Have lunch on rooftop restaurant. Attempt to read map and go to Grand Bazaar. Was first enclosed mall with over 4000 shops . Goes on and on and on! Overwhelming amount of stuff from jewelry, Turkish carpets, copper and brassware, leather apparel, clothing, trinkets, etc. Book says, “Look but don’t buy here.” Way overpriced!
  • Go to Yerebatan Cistern, the most mammoth underground reservoir still in use. Very different. 336 columns, eerily reflected in the shallow water, mood lighting and soft music complete the experience.

Day 8 – More Istanbul Old City Adventure

  • Experience – Go back to Old City to explore some more. Take long walk through Topkapi Palace Park. The Palace complex is spread out over the seven hills of Istanbul. Go to Spice Bazaar and where locals shop. Wander through the winding streets.

Day 9 – Transfer to Conrad Hilton in the New City for start of 9 day tour.

  • Expectation – Get on concierge level and get spoiled again.
  • Experience – Even better! Get one of only 30 rooms w/balcony and view of Old City & the Sea. Adventure out to explore and have lunch. Rain moves in.
The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

Day 10 – Full day tour of Old City.

  • Expectation – Tour Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, Hagie Sophia, and Grand Bazaar. Transfer to Cruise Ship.
  • Experience – Tour is good. Topkapi Palace features many buildings. Go to Treasury which houses an inestimable wealth of diamonds, emeralds, gold & jade. See the “spoon” diamond, 86 carats surrounded by 49 pure cut diamonds. Also includes ceramics, pottery & huge metal pots used for cooking. Blue Mosque features stunning blue Iznik tiles, 26 granite columns support 30 domes, 260 windows.
  • Expectation – Forgo Grand Bazaar to go back to Spice Bazaar (approx 1 mile away) to buy stuff we should have bought when we were there the first time.
  • Experience – The streets are packed with Turks shopping! Must navigate way through a sea of people and get back before the bus leaves.
  • Expectation – Board ship for our luxury cruise to the exotic Greek Islands.
  • Experience – Ship is a dump! Room is 6’ X 9’. Built in 1967 and never remodeled! Beg
    for upgrade! Doesn’t happen. BUYER BEWARE: DO NOT BOOK A LOUIS CRUISE!

FFTK&T – Hagia Sophia was up for one of the Seven New Wonders of the World but did not make it.

Windmill in Mykononos

Windmill in Mykononos

Day 11 – Cruise-Istanbul

  • Expectation – Half day Bosphorous Cruise sunning on deck.
  • Experience – Rainy and cold. See shoreline of old mansions, Mosques, and the Dolmabahce Palace. Clears up. Back to ship and lay out on deck.

Day 12- Cruise-Mykonos

  • Expectation – See the famous windmills and venture through the main town.
  • Experience – Sun drenched bare hills rise from the deep blue sea, dotted w/dazzling white chapels, the famous windmills, and cubic shaped white washed houses line the narrow cobblestone streets.
  • Walk shoreline and discover area known as “Little Venice” because of its high arcaded Venetian houses built right up to the waters edge. Very Cute!

Day 13 – Cruise-Patmos & Kusadasi

  • Expectation – Haven’t a clue about Patmos. Told to take excursion to Ephesus.
  • Experience – Ephesus is incredible! Go to where St John wrote the book of Revelations.

Day 14 – Cruise-Rhodes

  • Expectation – Another romantic Greek Island.
  • Experience – Sweet town with great castle wall completely surrounding the Old City.
Ephesus Ruins

Ephesus Ruins

Day 15 – Cruise- Crete & Santorini

  • Expectation – Another romantic Greek Island.
  • Experience – Heraklion is dumpy city w/no appeal. Go to Knossos.  Total waste of our time.  Should have added the time to Santorini visit.

FFTK&T – NOT! The pungent smell of disinfectant permeates the air on the elevator and in the bathrooms, so much so that at times I feel like I’m on the verge of nausea. BUYER BEWARE: DO NOT BOOK A LOUIS CRUISE!

View from Santorini

View from Santorini

Day 16 – Arrive Athens

  • Expectation – Take City Tour of everything we’ve already seen and the Acropolis and Parthenon.
  • Experience – That nasty rain has come back. Wow! Acropolis is pretty impressive perched on one of the highest hills in Athens. Sorry I didn’t come up when I was here and it was sunny and could enjoy the incredible view.
Travel Buddies

Travel Buddies

Day 17 – Depart Athens

  • Expectation – Dreamed of going to the Greek Islands all of my life.
  • Experience – The worst cruise possible! BUYER BEWARE: DO NOT BOOK A LOUIS CRUISE!

Trip Experience – Met some great people who were just as disappointed as we were, but made the cruise somewhat FUN.