Caroline's Trip

Greece * Spain


      My day stared a little after 0430 when I got up and took shower. It's the last one I'm going to get for a day of two, so I tried to enjoy it. Goodness, I'm tired! Zeus kept waking me up last night, so I only got maybe 4 hours of sleep. I think he knew I was leaving. I got on the shuttle, and other than the fog, it was a nice trip. I even was a Great Blue Heron right outside of Commerce City. I had some trouble finding the right check-in place. Even though my tickets are for Lufthansa, I'm really flying United. Go figure. I was about 3½ hours early for my flight, so I hung out in the concourse. I read some of one of my books, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. It's fantastic, and a fairly easy read, so I'm sure I'll be reading it again before my trip is over. Boarding time!!

      Dramamine is my new best friend. I don't feel sick at all. Dulles was no biggie, except I had to walk to the exact opposite side of the airport to get to my connecting flight. Oh well, it was good exercise. The most shocking thing for me about Frankfurt is that almost everyone here smokes. It's also quite smoggy here. It's a little depressing, but I did get to see a beautiful sunrise from inside the clouds. It more than made up for the smoke and smog. I have to pee now, so I'll write more when I get to Athens.

      I made it (though I didn't find out about the gate change until 15 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave), and so did my luggate for like the first time ever. Sometimes it does pay to be a witch (I cast a spell, and lo and behold, it worked!). Finding the hotel proved harder than I thought it would be. A Kiwi helped me find the stop for Constitution Park. After that I got mixed up with directions and ended up walking around the city for a few hours. I didn't really mind, but dragging my luggage got really annoying. Soooooo, I went back to the Plaka and asked for directions. A Greek guy named Makus also needed help finding Makri street, so we went together. Makus was delivering flowers, but he is not from Athens and doesn't know his way around yet. He spoke okay English, and with my bad Greek we must have made quite a pair. Anywho, after talking a bit and walking a bit we found our stops. He told me to come by the flower shop tonight after he got off, but I politely declined waying I was tired from my journey. He said okay and I said goodbye and went into the hotel. I've showered, so I'm clean again. I think I'll read for a bit to wait for the others to arrive, which should be in about four hours or so.

      This morning started out with a nice breakfast in the Hotel resteraunt. Nikki and I came back to out room to take showers and then hung out downstairs on the patio. That got boring, so we went for a walk with some of the other girls. Anastasia made friends with just about everyone--note to self: make sure she doesn't have a man in every city! Then we went to the Acropolis. It was beautiful/magickal/wonderful all at once. I can see why it is such a sacred place. I left the stone I brought from my garden for Athena etween the Erectheon and the Parthenon at the site of her earlier temple. It was sad to see so much scaffolding everywhere, but the buildings will be so much healthier after the restorations. It was also sad not to see the temple to Athena Nike (It has been taken down to be restored). We went down the back road and saw the Forum Romanum, which was only about half excavated. During the walk it started to rain. A lot. We ducked into a cafe for a late lunch. It kinda stopped raining after that, but not really, so we postponed the trip to the Greek Agora until we came back at the end of the trip. We went back to the hotel to relax. I read a bit. We met for dinner, and we all got stuffed. Then we drunkenly stumbled up the Areopagus (which in Greek is pronounced AH-ri-ush PAH-gush). The trip up was interesting, because the snails came up after the rain to sit on the rocks, and we kept stepping on them. At first we tried to avoid them, but gave up after a while because we were laughing so hard and could hardly walk straight, let alone watch out for snails. The rocks at the top were quite slippery, so some of us took off our shoes. Phil said something about 'sitting me bum in a bit of that bloody ice-cold water there', and we all started laughing again. He kept flicking water on people from said bloody puddle We sat up there for quite a while soaking in the view and taking pictures before we ambled back down and went to a bar, the same one, I think, that we went to last night. Donna, on the way down, mentioned something about her underwear, and how it was glow-in-the-dark. The story took off from there, and got more and more elaborate. After a few more drinks, however, that story was forgotten. We came back to the hotel (Phil skipped the whole time) and I wrote a bit before going to bed.

      Today we visited Corinth, Elidaurus, and Naufplion. Corinth was fantastic!! I amtotally in love with Corinth. Most of what has been excavated is Roman, but it still is a fantastic site. Maybe it's because we got to walk around...or maybe it has something to so with Young Hercules...probably both. I only wish we would have gotten to see the Acrocorinth. Alas, it was not meant to be. I wasn't feeling too well at Epidaurus or at Naufplion. I think I had some bad fish for lunch. Epidaurus was fantastic too. I particularly liked the Asklepion. Seeing some of the restorations and touching the site made me see what a haven it must have been for those who lived and visited there. It was just so peaceful and had spectacular views. The theatre was very cool to see. I climbed to the very top to get a good view of everything. The acoustics really are fantastic at every part in the theatre. Wow. Just...Wow. Naufplion is a nice little city. I think it is what Athens might have looked like if they hadn't moved the capital there. Everything here looks very Venetian. We stayed in a really nice hotel just outside Naufplion and ate dinner there as well. I didn't eat much due to being sick, but what I did was quite good. Nikki and I hung out with Logan and Travis for several hours after that (after I took some Pepto, of course). Then it was time for bed, as we have another early day tomorrow.

      This morning started out with a stop in Nemea. I like Nemea-you could walk around there. It's being excavated by UC Berkley. Just outside the Temple of Zeus Anastasia found a snake. I think it was more surprised that she was, and slithered between two rocks before the rest of us could get a good look at it. I liked the Stadium at Nemea too. It felt ancient, yet warm. About the only thing I didn't like about Nemea was the flying ants everywhere. After that we headed to Mycenae. Mycenae was lovely! Its Citadel is on the top of one of the high hills in the area, and so the view from the top was spectacular. I got a nice picture from the guest quarters. I could almost imagine that I was back with Agamemnon. The Tholos grave we went to (the 'Treasury of Atreus') was quite impressive, but it just felt strange inside; peaceful and overwhelming at the same time. It smelled Earthy, yet dead. All closed up, it would be quite terrifying inside. It looks really high, but its diameter is 14m and its only 13m high. Hmmm...good architecture. After lunch we drove through Arcadia on our way to Olympia. I listened to my Hercules / Xena / Young Hercules mix, but the mood wasn't right. Nickel Creek fit a little better with the beautiful yet rainy bus ride. Arcadia is magickal; I just wish I could remember more myths about it. The scenery reminds me of my painting "Dream of Arcadia" by Thomas Cole. I really must put it up when I get home. The hotel we're staying at here in Olympia is my most favorite of the trip so far. It's just wonderful. We have a window and a glass door that leads to a little private patio. The room isn't perfectly symetrical, and there is shape to the room. The walls are plain white with pictures, and there is wood and natural-looking fibers/ceramics on everything. It's simple, and I just love it! I could just keep this room for the rest of my life. Dinner was good tonight, especially after that nice swim. I'm a little sleepy, but it feels good. We don't have to be up as early tomorrow, as we're already at the place we're going to tour, so I can catch up on some sleep. Yes!!

      We're in Delfi. We visited Olympia early this morning. It's quite beauticul there. I got to see the humongoid temple of Zeus Olympios where the gold and ivory statue once stood. It was humbling to be in the same sopt as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Before the site was destroyed by the Christians and earthquakes it must have been truly magnificent. I wish I could have seen it then. Besides the bus we also got to take our first ferry. It was only about a 15-minute ride. I enjoyed it anyway. We also got to explore the city of Delfi today. I like the scenery and the people te most-they are both beautiful. Prices are so cheap here; only €.30 for a postcard. I bought enough to sent to everyone on my list, I hope. If not, I'll just buy more!

      Delfi is positively breathtaking! THe view is just spectacular, even if it was sprinkling just a little. I could really feel the difference between the sacred and secular areas here. Delfi also had many treasuries and memorials for city-states all over Greece. The whole place is just magnificent. I felt very inspired by Mt Parnassos to write, but I didn't have any paper on me. That, and the whole writing while on the bus thing just wouldn't work for me (I get carsick). I'll just have to remember what I wanted to write. The bus ride today was quite long, since we had to go all the way back to Piraeus to catch the ferry. We passed by Thebes, but didn't visit the city. Note to self: Thebes was built on two hills that overlook a grassy plain. There are mountains and other hills in the area, and the general look just screams Rohan and the Riddermark. The ferry ride was long; 4 hours or so. We played cards to pass the time. We also tried to ignore two very loud and hyper boys. They were cute, but too crazy for the ferry. I was glad to be off the ferry--being on the sea but not being able to sail the boat or touch the waves was frustrating. We have some free days on the islands, so maybe I'll have some time for sailing. We'll see. The bungalows we're staying in are quite nice, and the sea is only a few hundred meters away. We went for a walk down to see it. The sheer power it holds scared and impressed me. It's a living thing that I feel really humbled by. I'll respect that power when I go exploring tomorrow, and be careful when/if I go in tomorrow afternoon; I wouldn't want to anger any deities, now would I? It could only end badly for me.

      Today was a positively amazing day. Anastasia and I are rooming together now. We didn't get up until 1000, and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. We walked into town with Katie and Rachel, and just shopped. We had the most delicious Gyros for lunch before taking the bus back to the hotel. We did some laundry, since we'll be here tomorrow night as well, and our clothes should have some time to dry. Then we went to the beach just down the street. I've never felt anything quite so wonderful as the sea surrounding my body. It left like I was coming home. The ocean/sea takes so little effort to float in that I didn't get worried or tired when I couldn't touch the floor. I didn't go very far out, but just enjoyed floating and swimming for several hours. I hope I can go back in tomorrow. I got a little burned today, but not very badly. I'll still proably peel though. I always do. Anastasia and I ate dinner with Phil and Donna, and got to watch the sunset. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but my camera wouldn't have done it justice. Tomorrow we are going to visit a church and tour the island, so we have to dress up a little. Good thing I still have some underwear that isn't wet!

      We visited the most beautiful church today in Parikia. It was founded by St. Helen, mother to Constantine, on her way to find the true cross. All of the symbolism and history moved me deeply. It almost made me want to convert, but then I remembered what has been done in the name of the one god. After that we went to see the ancient marble quarries. It was really cool to see where some of the ancient world's finest marble came from. The Parians must certainly have been quite rich indeed. We also visited Lefkes and Naoussa, and got to wander around both of them for a few hours. We returned to Parikia and the hotel kind of early, and founda huge wasp in our room. I thought it was a humming bird at first because it was so big. We opened the window and let it out, but it really must have wanted be in our room because it kept buzzing around our window for most of the rest of the afternoon. Eek!! We al got together and had a lovely dinner at the Argonautica in Parikia. I came back and Anastasia and I had a nice discussion before going to bed.

      This morning started off with a trip to the small yet interesting museum of Paros. The marble mined in the quarries has been used for millenia on the island (even the streets are paved with it!), and the inhabitants have been trading it with others since Neolithic times. We had one last look around Parikia before heading here to Naxos by ferry. We had the group presentations at 1600, so everyone had a few hours to prepare. Not having to do a presentation I decided instead to take a nap. The presentations went well, I thought. After them we went into town (our hotel is only about a 5-minute walk away), and was the unfinished temple of Apollo. The temple is odd not only because it wasn't ever finished, but because it faces West instead of East. Delos is West, so I guess it's not that surprising. We also got to wander the town a bit before having dinner, and we got to order our own food for a change. After dinner we went shopping. I didn't actually buy anything, but there are some things I will be going back for, including some hair sticks sold at a place that had a mural of Bilbo and Gandalf at Bag End on the back wall. I certainly approve of the owner's tastes. Once back at the hotel we got together (just the girls) to gossip and relax before heading to bed.

      Today we did a tour of the island. Naxos is positively beautiful There are churches everywhere, and we got to tour a few of them. Stell told us that people sometimes build churches to thank a saint who has helped them. Most are not used year-round, but only a few times each year. We stopped in a small village called Apirathos for ouzo. It wasn't quite as vile as the ouzo we had at Phil's house during our pre-trip party. I must be getting used to the stuff, so something. I bought a little sachet at a women's co-op. It's great--it smells like lavender. Maybe it will make my suitcase smell better. We ate lunch at a cafe in another town, and the some of us went swimming. I headed back to the hotel to catch up on some things (mostly postcards). I went into town with Katie and Rachel, and we walked around for a while. I got some food and drinks for tomorrow at a grocery store, and then went to bed.

      Today we went to Delos. It was awesome, but very windy. At least it wasn't too hot. We got to see the houses of the common people, which I guess is fairly rare. The island is uninhabited now, and has no water, so I guess that helped with the archeological explorations and excavations. The sun was really odd for our entire trip there: it had a rainbow ring around it. The gods must be trying to tell me something, but I'm not sure what. If only I had my book of omens with me...I got some really great pictures, and I hope some of them turn out. It was really awesome to see where Apollo and Artemis were born. Very moving as well. Oh! Also, on the mountain leading to the "mountain" temples to Zeus and Athena is a cave shrine to Herakles. I didn't get to go all the way up, but Mike did, and he said he got some great shots. After Deloswe took a ferry to Mykonos for lunch and a quick look around. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but the ferry waits for no one. The ride back to Naxos was very rough, as the winds and waves have gotten quite strong. Most of the group had dinner in Chora, and the bought Kitron at a store on the way back to the hotel. It's been a long day, so we again went to bed early. Tomorrow we leave for Thira.

      Today we started out by visiting a Catholic church on Naxos and then visiting the Venetian tower at the top of the hill. The view was spectacular!! I could totally see myself living there in a past life. We walked really far through the winding streets to get there, but we weren't that far from the port in reality. I could have easily gotten lost without Stella and the group. After walking back out we are lunch at the pier and got on the ferry for Thira. The ride was only about 2 hours. Getting off at the port was really bad, as the dock patrol kept blowing their whistles. I felt like some sort of livestock being herded around like that. We eventually made it to our bus, and drove up the switchbacks that led up the mountain/cliff to our hotel. We relaxed by the pool for a bit and then had dinner in the hotel. I think its the best foo we've had on the whole trip; Asparagus Soup, Spanakopita, Duck, and an open Salad Bar, not to mention desert...Yum! We hung out afterwards just talking, drinking, smoking, and listening to Dire Straits. I finally got to bed when some of the others went to go check out a new bar in town.

      This mornig started with a trip to the archaeological museum in Fira. It was really interesting, and they had artefacts from all different periods from all over the island. We had a bit of a walk to get there, as they were repaving the roads leading to he museum. After that we headed off to Akrotiri. It wasn't as interesting as I had thought it would be. There was scaffolding everywhere because they were redoing the cover/roof that protects the site. The tour of the city was quite short, and we couldn't see everything that there was to see. Other than that (i.e. what we did see), it was fantastic. We went on a tour of the local island cooperative winery. It was quite interesting to see how wine is made in Greece. I bought two bottles of wine there (one for Cristina's family and one for mine), and a ton of olive oil soap. I may be a drunk when I get home, but I'll be a clean drunk. We all had some down time at the hotel after lunch, so I cought up on a few things (mostly laundry) and just relaxed. We then went to a black sand beach and hung out some more. I went into the water a little to collect rocks with Susan. Then we went to Oia for dinner and shopping. I wasn't feeling too hot, but after a nice dinner and buying a gorgeous €75 moonstone necklace I felt uch better. We all had an early night tonight.

      I can't believe I'm on Crete!! This morning we had the last group presentations. They were on modern Greece. We went to see the frescoes from Akrotiri when they were over. The building that they are in is almost at the very top of the hill in Fira, and due to the road resurfacing we had to walk uphill for almost 2km to get to them. It really sucked, as it was about 37°C, and Stella marched us pretty fast. There also was no shade. When we finally made it up we found out that the actual frescoes are in Athens; the ones in Fira are only photographic reproductions. They were interesting, but a let down after the money and sweat we paid to see them. Lunch, however, was quite good. We spent some time in Fira shopping and then took another crazy taxi ride back to the hotel to catch our bus for the docks. The ferry ride to Crete was long--about 4 hours. My hair/clothes/shoes/skin are so covered in walt water spray it iesn't even funny. I enjoyed the feeling of the sea, and the fantabulous view of the sunset (which was one of the best I've ever seen). We got here late, as the ferry was late getting to Thira, so as soon as we got off we were hurried to the hotel by bus and shuffled to eat before the dining room closed. Stella didn't even allow us to take our luggage off of the bus ourselves. Dinner was quite good, bu after the ride I was just ready to go to bed. I love Crete so far; I feel like I've come home at last for some strange reason. Maybe I lived here in a past life...

      This morning Katie and I got up a tad late, so we missed breakfast. Oh well. We toured Knossos this morning. It was completely awesome, except there was a *ton* of people. Phil found a used tampon on the ground near the bathrooms and made some godaweful remark about wondering which "period" it was from. *GROAN* Today was also quite hot, the hottest day so far, I'd say. I really liked how quite a bit of the "palace" had ben rebuilt. Shitty archaeology, for the most part, but it was great to see things restored. I was particularly impressed with the frescoes. The colours were fantastic, and it was cool to see them on the walls looking like new. After Knossos we went and had lunch in Iralkion (I had a Gyro, teehee!). Then we visited the archaeological museum. Anastasia got accosted by a gypsy woman on the way, and she bought a table cloth to escape. We think it was stolen, as many stores were selling them as well, and the lady made Anastasia put it into her backpack right away. The mseum was really interesting; it had tons of artefacts from all over Crete, including the frescoes from Knossos (the originals), the snake goddess figure, the Phaestos Disk, and the gold Bee Pendant. It also had a large assortment of stamps/seals and several gold signet rings, including the ones whose inages are featured in Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. Way cool to see! About the only thing I didn't like about the museum was the huge number of people. The entire place was really, really crowded. We came back to the hotel, had dinner, did some shopping, had drinks (including a Greek beer called 'Mythos'), and went to bed.

    03610.9--Aegean Sea:
      This morning Katie and I got breakfast! We went to Gortyn, which is in the southern part of Crete. There are some Roman and Greek ruins there, including a cool old Cathedral, and the oldest known written law code in Greece. Pretty Cool!! We then went to Phaestos. It's not as reconstructed as Knossos, but I liked it better that way. Going to Knossos first gave me a taste of what a Minoan "palace" looked like, so it helped me appreciate Phaestos all the more. It was stinking hot today as well, and Phaestos had almost no shade to speak of. We had lunch and did some shopping at Matala, a place that used to be a hippie gathering place during the 60s. The hippies lived in the caves that had been used for Christian burials. Kinda sick and creepy, if you ask me. We came back to Iraklion, and hung out in town for a few hours before boarding the ferry. It's an overnight ferry, and we'll be arriving at Piraeus at 0500. Ugh! So far the trip has been fun, but ask me again tomorrow after getting very little sleep and having to get up early and my answer might be a little bit different. We'll see how perky I am. Ugh!

      We got to Piraeus at around 0500, but we didn't have to meet Stella and the others until 0615. This morning still sucked though. We took the but to the hotel, left our stuff in the lobby (it was too early to check in), and got breakfast in the hotel. I didn't manage to eat more than a few bites of yogurt, as it seemed my stomach was not in the mood for food. We then walked through the Athenian Agora and saw the fantastic Temple of Hephaestus. The temple is very well preserved, and the haven't had to do much in the way of reconstruction on it at all. Mighty Impressive!! We then walked over the Benike Museum because the NAtional Archaeological Museum is closed for remodeling and to putin air conditioning in honour of the Olympics next year. Maybe I'll get to see it when I come back next time. The Benike Museum has lots of great artefacts and art from Neolithic times until today. I was particularly impressed with the clothig they had there from all over Greece and from as early as the 1700s. They also had the court clothing from several members of the Greek royal families. We saw lots of other great things on the way back to the hotel, including the original Olympic Stadium( it's actually a reconstruction of Athens' original classical-era stadium), the President's House, and the Metro stations, which double as mini-archaeological museums. We even got lost in a riot, and Stella got us out before too long. When we got back to the hotel, my plane ticket for Spain was waiting for me!! Thank you Hermes!! A sacrifice is in order when I get home. Katie and I got some ice cream and chips (Greek Salad flavour, nonetheless) for lunch, and slept until dinner. We ate out with Thalia and Dimitri, the organizers of our trip. We shopped a little after dinner, and then went to bed.

      Last day in Greece. I'm kinda sad to be leaving, but excited to be gong to Spain. Phil took a few of us to see the ancient Athenian Cemetary this morning, but the site was closed. Like most everything else, it is undergoing restoration for the Olympics next year. Something else to see when I come back, I guess. To make up for it we went shopping this afternoon. I spent *way* too much money; around €130. Oops!! I guess I won't be spending very much in Spain after all. Just a few travels around Madrid, and a little bit of travelling here and there. I've already spent abour $700, and around $500 was on food alone. I shouldn't have to spend that much in Spain. I hope I don't; I just can't afford it since I won't have a job when I get back home. I still feel a little sick. I think I spent too much time out in the heat. The others went back out, but I'm just not feeling well enough to go out again. Gues I'll just eat some fantastic ice cream and watch Greek TV. Tomorrow is going to be another early day, so I should probably go to bed early again. I hope I feel better tomorrow. Basically, I'm homesick and really pissed at myself for spending too much money today. Waaaay to much money. God, how could I be so stupid?! Damn, but I feel shitty with myself. I'm going to chalk it up to boing homesick.


      I made it to Spain. Yippee!! I'm a little tired, but not too bad. It's really not here, hotter than in Greece, but not as humid. Thank the gods!! I have to call Mom yet, but I'll wait until after lunch and a nap. It's pretty early in Colorado, so I need to wait so I don't wake Mom up. cristina is wonderful, as always, and I had forgotten how much I really do love it here. I'm still homesick, but not as bad as I was last night. I'm still upset with myself for spending so much money, but it's not like I'm going to be in Greece again any time soon. Besides, I can always get a job when I get back home and make more money. I hope...

      Lunch was great--we had rice with sausages and a fried egg. We also had gazpacho, one of my favorite things about Spain. The wine I brought from Santorini was tried, and we all seemed to enjoy it. I thinkg it will be a little hard for me to adjust to speaking Spanish, at least for the first few days. Thanks goodness Christina speaks English! I'd be totally lost if she didn't! Mom wasn't home when I called. Uncle Dennis was though, and he said that she was in California with Barb, and to try back on Wednesday. Goddess it's hot here! Cristina has DSL now, so I can finally check my email. Thank the Gods for the little things!!

      It's still hot, but not so sweltering. I got to have a womderful dinner with Cristina and Oscar, her boyfriend. He is really nice, and I can see that they love eachother a lot. He speaks English about as well as Cristina does; at this rate I won't have to use much Spanish. I've forgotten quite a bit of what I used to know. Now I know what else to work on this summer. Tomorrow Gaby and Cristina's daya are going to take me sight-seeing. I can hardly wait!!

      Today I got to sleep in. It was really nice. Then, after I had showered, we took a trip to see El Escorial. El Escorial is a castle/monestary that was built by Felipe II, and is where he lived. The buildin is huge, and has not only living quarters for the royals and the monks, but also has a cathedral, a library, and a cemetary for the royal family. The place is dedicated to San Lorenzom and is spatula-shaped, because San Lorenzo was killed on a giant one over a bonfire. Representations of spatulas are everywhere. The building is decorated inside with paintings from many artists, including Hieronomous Bosch (El Bosco), El Greco, and Velasquez, and many of the ceilings hace frescoes on them. Pretty darn cool. I hope I can go back someday. Today wasn't as hot, and waseven a bit on the wet side. We had lunch in Bustarviejo, and went to see Cristina's cousins at their house in the country. I had a lot of fun playing with them, especially the little ones. The older cousins were working in the garden, and I got to lear some new words. I probably won't remember them tomorrow, but at least I'm trying. It started raining as we were leaving. I was kind of expecting it to. Before going back home we stopped at the supermercade to get some food for dinner. I got to learn even more food words, and I goined experience with crowds in Spain. We ate when we got back and went promptly to bed to get ready for more sightseeing tomorrow.

      Cristina's dad took Gaby and I to the town center to look around. I got to see a flea market-type thing, kind of like New West Fest back home. I didn't buy anything, as I have no money, but it was fun to people watch. We also saw La Puerta de Toledo, the President's House, and many other Spanish landmarks. I forgot my camera, so I didn't get any pictures. I also got a lesson on riding the Metro. I don't think I used it last time I was in Spain. If I start feeling adventurous I may use it later this week to get around. Cristina's dad is speaking mostly in Spanish to me, so I don't understand everything, but I'm learning. Gaby and I had some time to play video games at home, and I could ask him simple things in Spanish. I am doing better now, and I'm starting to remember more Spanish. Gaby and I worked on his homework for astronomy. He thinks "Milky Way" sounds funny in Enlish, and he is still laughing about it several hours later. At least he'll remember what it is. Dinner was late again, but I kind of like it that way, as it's just too hot early in the evening when we Americans usully eat. Oh, and I've figured out the secret of the window (don't ask!).

      Today was a very relaxing day--no sightseeing. I hung around the house and read a book on the Minoans that I bought in Greece. I just finished it, actually. It's a little on the dry side, but it's interesting nonetheless. I got to meet Margaretha, who is the housekeeper from Poland. She is really nice, but hard to talk to since I don't speak Polish or even good Spanish, and she doesn't speak English. I am better today, as I spent the afternoon watching Futurama in English with Spanish subtitles. This way I can listen *and* read: multi-tasking!! What else...oh, I got on the internet again. Apparently Ron is going to be the new keeper for the Gryffindor Quiddich team. Cool. He finally gets to play. I;m now super excited for the book to come out, and I have to wait until I get back to read it. Ugh! Maybe I can find an English copy here... I really hope so! I think I'm going to take the Metro into town tomorrow, perhaps with Pepe. Satu isn't coming until tomorrow night, so I can't go with her. I hope she gets to come with us to Segovia on Wednesday. It will be nice to finally get to see that city.

      I got up this morning late again--gods its great to be able to sleep in!! Cristina gave me directions, and I took the Metro into town alone. It is really easy to use the Metro, so I think I'll be using it quite often while I am here. Anyway, I got money out of the ATM and went to see Campo del Moro, which is a huge garden located behind the Palacio Real. The garden is really neat because in addition to plants and awesome fountains it also has peacocks, ducks, pheasants, and other cool birds. I was also going to try to see the Palacio Real, but I ran out of time and had to take the Metro back home. I watched more Futurama after lunch, and then read for a while. When Gaby got home we went to the pool. It was so warn that I was happy to be there. Gaby got cold, however, so we came home before too long. After dinner Cristina's dad introduced me to some Spanish music. I really like it, so I I think I'll buy some CDs before I go home. El Corte Inglés should be able to help me out there.

      Today Cristina's Mom took Pepe, Satu, and me to Segóvia. It was very beautiful there, and I really enjoyed the visit. We first saw the Roman aqueduct that is still in use today. It was built without mortar or cement, and it's still standing. Wow!! What the Romans lacked in artistry and philosophy they made up for in utilitarian practicality and building techniques. We walked to the Cathedral, where there was a special exhibit about the life (and death) of Jesus. I found it very interesting, and it was great to see art from all over the Catholic World in one place to compare and contrast. We also went to the castle in Segóvia. It had been remodeled several times and now kind of resembles the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. We got to walk around in practically every room, and see things as the royals would have seen them. Cool!! Going up to the top of the tower was also cool, although the steps were narrow, winding, and numerous. I wasn't sure I was going to make it at several occasions, but I did, and the view was well worth the trip. We then went to a resteraunt with an awesome view of the town. I had quail for the first time, and I liked it. Spanish food is really great, though I still think Greek food is better (sorry Christina!). At home Satu and I went swimming for a bit, and then we all had a quick diner. I had a nice, but short, talk with Cristina's dad about what I got to see, and then headed to bed.

      Today was awesome but tiring. My day started at 0630 with a shower and getting dropped off at the Metro station to meet Satu. I didn't actually meet up with her until I was at the Prado. Oops! We found eachother and what's what counts. Anyway, the Prado was fantastic. At first I spent a bit of time lookinf at each painting, but it was taking too long, so I went a little faster. I particularly liked all of the Greek and Roman sculptures, statues, and busts. It helped to finalise and put into perspective my trip to Greece, though you'd think I would have been sick of everything Classical by this point...I was really happy also to see some El Bosco paintings that I had studied in High School. The Goya and Velazquez exhibits were fantastic as well, and I really enjoyed weeing finally and in person some of the paintings that I have loved for years. Satu and I then visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It has art collected by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family. There too were a lot of great paintings. I was particularly surprised to see a Thomas Cole paining that I hadn't even heard of. Of course I fell in love with it, and of course they don't have a postcard / poster of it. *sigh* I'll just have to see it again before I go; 3 isn't all that expensive to get into a museum. We had lunch with Susana (a friend of Cristina and Satu's) after that, and then we all visited Puerto del Sol, the 0km marker, and then the Reina Sofia Museum, which hosts mostly Modern Art. Like the Prado and T-B, I'll have to go back, as I didn't get to see everything. THe Reina Sofia has a ton of pieces by Picasso (including Guernica), Goya, and Dali. We kind of hurried through this museum because we were tired. We did have time to sit while we watched an art film with men dancing / girating in their briefs. Actually, all you could see of the men were their undies, which caused the three of us to giggle. A lot. After this we all took the un-air conditioned Metro to the Mall where we had desserts with Cristina and Oscar. Yum!! Why can't American chocolate taste so good?? After that we walked around the Mall for a while and then walked home. We all talked for a bit, but I'm very tired and headed to bed early. Wel, if you call 2330 early!

      Today I didn't do very much. I hung around the flat and studied. I got to check my email, but the only interesting thing was from Anne. I wrote her back right away, as I had nothing better to do. Harry Potter V comes out tomorrow. I want to find a copy in English, but I don't think I'll be able to. I suppose I'll have to wait until I get home to read it. In the afternoon I went with Gaby and his mother to Gaby's appointment. His mother and I walked around the city for a bit while Gaby was at his appointment. I think maybe tomorrow I'll go to the Mall or to find LotR cards. I also may make dinner, so I made my shopping list and translated it ito Spanish. I couldn't find Swiss Chese in the dictionary, so maybe I'll go shopping to help look for it. I don't even know if they sell it here in Spain...

      Happy Litha!! I didn't actually go shopping of sight seeing today, as I went with Gaby to Bustarviejo to hang out with his family like I did last Saturday. Again, I mostly babysat, but I also got to do a bit of gardening as well. The little cousins sure are cute, and they usually listen to me when I tell them things in Spanish. It's probably because I'm a novelty, not because of my excellent command of kids. Go me. After we got home I went for a walk with Cristina's parents and their friends. They are really nice, and I think I met them when I was here in 1996 / 1997. We had crab for dinner and eggplant. Yum!! Gaby also taught me how to play Mario Kart, but I'm really bad. Oh well. I think tomorrow I may go to El Prado again, but I'm not sure. Cristina's day may have something else already planned. I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

      It wasn't a very busy day today, but I learned a lot. After I got up, Gaby and I played Mario Kart for a bit until his great-aunt Mercedes came over. She had fallen yesterday, and, even though the fall wasn't bad, she didn't want to be alone. She's really nice, and I think I met her as well the last time I was in Spain. As I recall, we went to her flat after seeing a movie (Emma, perhaps). We went shopping today because she was over, and I had to buy the bread and the paper--in Spanish. I kind of sucked, but we got what we needed. I also got to go with when we took her home. Cristina's mom insisted that we look for the new Harry Potter book while we were out, but no one has it yet. A store called FNAC will get it tomorrow, so I can go back there then and buy it. I hope it won't be too much. Anyway, I didn't get to go to the Prado, but that's okay. I think I'll just go on Tuesday, as it will be closed tomorrow.

      Well, I got to make lunch today after shopping a bit for food in the morning. I made Venezuelan meatloaf, as it's the only thing I can remember how to make without a recipe. Rodrigo helped me, as I don't know where everything is in the kitchen. All in all I think it turned out rather well. I've made better, but it wasn't bad. After lunch Rodrigo and I headed down to FNAC . They had the book. Cristina's mom had given money to Rodrigo to buy it for me. She didn't have to do that! Cristina's entire family is so wonderful and nice that if I didn't miss my own family I'd never want to leave here. After looking around FNAC for a while we headed to find a store that sold LotR cards. We found one but they only had cards in English. I bought some anyway, as I can always find Spanish ones later, or not; it's not so important to me now. Rodrigo then took me to see his college and to have a beer. Both were very nice. It's so blasted hot here (46C) that we were drenched in sweat by the time we got back home that we had to change clothes. I'm so icky! Dinner was made up of cold leftovers so as not to make more heat in the house. That was fine by me. Afterwards we watched a symphony concert on TV that had a female conductor. Then I read some of the new Harry Potter book, and now I'm headed off to sleep.

      Well, today I got to go back to the Prado. I started off with the Titiano special exhibit, which took about an hour to see. I then walked around to see the parts of the museum that I didn't get to see last week. Thie third floor wasn't busy at all, and since I hadn't been up there yet I stayed for quite some time. I cisited the Velazquez and Goya and Rubens (and the gift shop) areas again before I left to have lunch back at the apartment. My afternoon was really quiet, which was nice after the crowd downtown and on the Metro. I got to read about 1/3 of THe Order of the Phoenix, and also got to work a bit on my Greece homework. I dinally got to see Cristina. She's been really busy studying at her Grandma's house, so she hasn't been around here much. The test is on Thursday, and afterwards I plan on taking her our for lunch and dessert. She deserves a break and some fun. Cristina's dad introduced me to some more Spanish music, which I really enjoyed. Other than watching Stargate the Movie in Spanish I think that's about all that happened today. I think I'll do some exploring tomorrow, but I'm not sure exactly what will be going on.

      This morning was spent studying and reading Harry Potter. It makesw me sad to read books, because I know that I can never read it again for the first time. Oh well. After lunch Gaby asked me to play Mario Kart with him. I did for a little while, but soon decided to go to the Mall. I walked down there (it's not very far), and tried to explore the entire place. I think I did fairly well, considering there are multiple copies of several stores, and finding good landmarks was a tad hard to do. Anyway, before I left I went to Al Campo and bought some chocolates for my family and a Pepsi for me. I was very plesantly surprised to find Bertie Botts' Every-Flavour Beans in the same isle as the chocolate. They only have the "good" flavours here in Spain, but that's okay with me. I don't really like the sardine ones that much anyway. At least I can keep up the tradition of eating them while I read Harry Potter. I'd almost given up that I would be able to. On the way back to the flat I rode the Metro for about 1 1/2 hours. I bought a shawl in one of the station shops. It's off-white and has silver metal circles dangling from the outer edge. I like it, and I think it will go great with my Renaissance Festival costume (note--it's perfect!!). I got home before Cristina's parents, so we ids made pizzas for dinner. When the adults got home I had a nice discussion with Cristina's dad about music, aft, and history before I read Harry Potter V for a chapter or so and went to bed.

      I got up really late this morning, and the only reason that I got up was because Gaby wanted me to help wim move the computer and set it back up in Rodrigo's room. Cristina had taken it down to study. I took a shower, read Harry Potter, for a bit, played Mario Kart with Gaby, and then walked down to the Mall to meet Cristina for lunch. She had finished her final exam, and was still a little stressed and very tired. She felt better after we shopped and ate. She was still tired, so we went home and she took a short nap. When her mom got home we went shopping again, and Cristina bought some really great slothes. Her mom got bored with us quickly, and left us at the Mall with some money to buy things. We walked over to Cristina's school to see what her grades were. She passed Pediatrics!!!! We walked back to the Mall to meet Oscar for ice cream to celebrate. WHen we got back to the flat Cristina went to bed, and I ate dinner. I read for a chapter or two and then went to bed myself. Tomorrow we leave for Granada!!

      Cristina and I both slept in this morning, though I got up before she did. She really needs to sleep! We hung around the house most of the day reading, relaxing, and packing for the trip. At 1600 we met Oscar and Laura in the Metro. We're lucky: the Metro line that runs by Cristina's flat also goes to the bus station, and so we didn't have to switch tracks. At the station we met up with Espiranza and her boyfriend, and we all got on the bus togethe. I listened to music the whole way there, but I could have watched two movies: The Wild, Wild, West and A Pavillion of Women, both of which were in Spanish. We got off the long bus and took a shorter bus ride to our 4-star hotel: Vincci Hotels Granada. I think it's better than the hotels in Greece, though it doesn't have a swimming pool. After getting settled we went out for ice cream, and it too is really good here. After walking around for a bit we took the scenic route back to the hotel and decided to go to bed.

      Today was a bit cool in the morning, which was nice, as we visited the Alhambra. I really liked it, especially all of the gardens. There were many plants that I could recognise, and many more that I couldn't. Everything was decorated with carvings / paint / coloured tiles, which made the building seem alive and magical. I couldn't remember much from my art classes about the designs and embelishments, but oh well. I had fun visiting anyway. It got hot in the afternoon, just in time for us to climb the towers and ramparts used for defending the complex. I was not too pleased with the heat, but I still enjoyed the spectacular views. We walked to a cafe to eat lunch, and I got to try a lot of new Spanish foods. After that we walked down through the winding streets much like those on the Greek islands, and did some browsing in an outdoor marketplace. I didn't buy anything, but I had fun looking at everything. There are a few things I'd like o go back for tomorrow, if I have time. It was so hot that we went back to the hotel and took naps. I read Harry Potter, and I think I can finish it before I get home. We met Mai, Cristina's cousin, at the hotel, and we all went out for drinks. In Granada they give you tapas with your drinks, so you really don't need to eat dinner. I had a lemon-flavoured beer that was really good, and very popular in Southern Spain. We also had a drink that is wine with soda water in it that was really good as well. The tapas we got were bagel sanwiches with ham & cheese and some with tuna & tomato (I think). Both were quite tasty. Ice cream came after that, and then tea at a nice Bohemian Cafe that Mai likes. We were really tired after that, so we decided to go to bed to prepare for tomorrow's adventures.

      We slept in this morning, not getting out of bed until the maid knocked up up at 1100. We quickly showered and checked out, leaving our stuff with the hotel (our bus didn't leave until 1800). We walked around and got to go into the cathedral for a quick look-see. There was a Mass happening, so we couldn't go all the way in or stay very long. We met Mai for lunch, and I had some really fab gazpacho and some okay paella. We had to hurry to shop after that as it was almost 1630 when we finished eating. I bought some Spanish tea in the marketplace. We ran back to the hotel to collect our luggage and took a taxi to the bus station. We barely made it to the bus on time, and I slept a lot of the way back. We watched two movies of the way back: The Replacements an Spiderman. I slpet through The Replacements, but I watched most of Spiderman. It was in Spanish, but I enjoyed it anyway. Who needs language when you already know what's going on. When we got to the bus station in Madrid we said goodbye to Espiranza and Nachu and took the Metro back home. Oscar got off near our stop, and we said goodbye to Laura at her flat, since she lives in Cristina's neighborhood, and came home to go straight to bed.

      Since we didn't get back until waaaay late last night Cristina and I didn't get up until almost 1100. After my shower I started reading Harry Potter again. Gaby and I played Mario Kart for a bit, but he had to pack. He's leaving for camp tomorrow and had to find all of the stuff that he will need. While he packed after lunch I read Harry Potter, and I finall finished it!! It is soooo good, and not I can't wait until book six. I don't hink it could get much better than book five. It's going to be hard to top, that's for sure! Gaby and I took the bus to the video store to rent a movie, but we couldn't due to the fact that the card hadn't been used in so long that it wansn't vaild, and the account needed to be reopened by an adult. It was just good for us to be out of the flat for a while. After dinner Gaby, Cristina, and I watched Big Daddy in Spanish and went to bed.

      Gaby left this morning. Cristina and I got up too late to say goodbye. Too bad, 'cuz I'm going to miss that kid. The morning passed withough incident except for the fact that both Cristina and I packed. She's going to France for a month and leaves tomorrow. I just needed to gather all of my stuff. I'm fairly sure that I can fit it all in my luggage and backpack. If not I can use my Greek bag too. It's a little big to be a purse, but it'll have to do. After lunch we headed to the airport to pick up two girls who were going to be exchange students at Cristina's school for a month. I think it's the same program that Cristina is going to France with. We then took them to their dorms. One of the girls wanted to go into town afterwards, so we got her bus / Metro situation all figured out and dropped her off at the main bus station and told her how to use hte public transortation in Madrid. She seems pretty savy, so I'm sure whe'll be okay. Cristina went out with Oscar, so I went shopping at the Mall with Pepe and Cristina's parents. The sales start today, so I think I'll go back tomorrow and spend the last of my Euros. It shouldn't be that hard; I just hope I can fit everything into my luggage!

      I walked down to the Mall this morning after Cristina left. It was really great seeing her again, and I hope she can maybe come to the states next year. I bought Celine Dion's new album, mostly because Cristina was listening to it almost the whole time she was at the flat, and some of the songs are stuck in my head. It's a good album, even if it is really commercial. I also bought some more food, and now I have enough to keep me occupied on the plane. My bags are super heavy, but not illegally so, I hope. I still have about 14, but I'm going to save it to use at the airport in case I want / need to buy anything there. Rodrigo is going to take me to the airport tomorrow. I leave really early (about 0700), so I'm going to take a short nap before dinner. I want to be at least a little rested before my flight.

      Okay, so I didn't get much sleep last night, and I'm pretty tired. I went to El Parque de Juan Carlos I with Cristina's mom. It was nice, but since the boat and the train were both not working we didn't get to see much of it. THe park is cool, because each quadrant is filled with plants from a different season of the year. It's a pretty swell idea, and maybe I can do something like it at my house next year. We mostly sat on various benches and watched the people flying kites. It was nice outside, and great weather for enjoying the out of doors. We got to talk, which was great. My Spanish is improving, and so is her English, and we can have a decent conversation now. I went to bed around 2200, but I didn't fall asleep until 0000 or so. David Beckham, the soccer player just transferred to Real Madrid, and there were parties all over the city. We could hear them even though we're several kilometers from the city center. That, and I'm pretty excited to go home. I got up around 0330 to take a shower and pack up the rest of my stuff. I think I got all of it. My luggage is 25.5 kg, which is about 56 lbs. My backpack isn't nearly so heavy, though it has quite a bit of alcohol in it. Rodrigo left when I went through security. He's so sweet to wait. I don't care what Cristina says about him. Right now I'm waiting at the gate to go to Frankfurt. I'm a bit early, so I still have about an hour to wait until I can get on the plane. Too bad none of the stores are open!

    03703.6--Washington DC:
      What can I say about the two flights I've already taken today? The flight from Madrid to Frankfurt was uneventful and on time. The airport in Frankfurt was full of people. O got groped by the German security people just like last time. Everyone did. I changed seats so a lovely woman from Sri Lanka could site with her elderly mother and her baby son. We got to watch Bringing Down the House as our movie, which was actually pretty good. Other than that I slept. Oh yeah: The food was better this time around. I still don't like the German rye bread-like substance, but oh well. Getting through Customs and Immigration here in the states was a pain. It took almost two full hours, and I had to recheck all of my luggage through security *and* the airlines. I'm reminded again why people hate Americans: we're rude, loud, and generally impatient. In essence, we suck. I'm sitting here at the gate fir my flight for Denver, and I have about two hours before we board, so I think I'll go grab something to eat. It'll be strange to use US money again after using Euros for almost six weeks.

    03703.9--Fort Collins:
      I just got home a few minutes ago. Mom picked me up at the airport and we had dinner at Subway. We talked about my trip the entire way back, so I didn't sleep in the car like I usually do. All in all I had a great time, though I'm very happy to be home. I hope I get to go back again someday, though I think I'll not spend so long away next time. I'm very tired, so I think I'm going to go to bed now. Here's to my next European adventure!