Refreshment at last! Our friends from Santa Barbara, Steve and Maja Greig and their kids Peter (9) and Stacia (7), came all the way to Greece and Italy for their spring break. We all stayed together in Athens for the first three nights. It was great to catch up on the happenings back home and our kids relished in the opportunity to play with their friends. We are at the midway point in our journey and we miss home.
We did the “tour Athens in a day” jog through the ancient sites. We even had whistles blown at us by the site guardians for taking an inappropriate picture of Steve modeling the discus thrower at the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The only thing I found inappropriate about the picture was that Steve was not dressed in the traditional Olympian uniform. Traditional Olympic participants competed in the nude. Check out the picture and tell me if it’s inappropriate.
We then hopped in rental cars and drove out to Nafplio, the old capital of Greece. Once again we were confronted with the overused descriptor “quaint.” It is beautiful. Quiet, tiny marble streets that look like you’d never fit a car down them, and yet we did. They kids stayed in one night watching a video with Leah while Meg and I went out with Steve and Maja. It’s a romantic place. Great honeymoon/anniversary local if any of you are looking for something different.
We spent our one full day there hiking up the hill of Palamidi Fortress. It is an old Venetian fortress that has been used by every conquering force ever since. It has incredible 360° views. Locals say it is 1000 minus 1 steps to the top. That of course put us to counting; we came up with 900 something and figured they must be counting every increase in elevation from the port to the top. At any rate, it’s a long way up. We played a quiet game of Sardines at the top with the Greigs. Maja hid and we didn’t find her for an hour. She appreciated the solitude, and we got lots of exercise. The day ended with amazing gelato. Since then we have sampled gelato in about a dozen places in Italy, and the winner is still the gelateria in Nafplio. I just wish I could remember the name of the place… There’s a big ice cream cone out in front, and they make their own product. The orange/chocolate is amazing!
We then flew to Milan. The Greigs went to Florence for a few days while we stayed with our new friends Juan and Talissa Gil. The Gils bring new meaning to the word hospitality. They are amazing! Thank you and bless you!
From there we met up again with the Greigs in Rome. Because the Greigs were here for such a short time we were back to the whirlwind pace. Our first day found us walking the Foro Romano, wowing at the Coliseum and looking for dinner at the Spanish Steps. It was in the Subway station there at Spagna that I was once again pick-pocketed. I now realize what a sitting duck I am when I’m holding Emma. But this time things turned out differently. My wallet was locked safely away in the backpack. This time the thief unzipped my camera case that was tied to my belt and slipped my camera out as the door to the overcrowded subway opened. I immediately felt the change in weight, noticed that my camera bag was empty and grabbed the man by the jacket as he was making his get-away. I shouted at him, “You stole my camera!” He held up his right hand as if to defend himself, and there was my camera. I grabbed it out of his hand and pushed him up against the wall of the metro tunnel. I called him a thief several times. Meanwhile an older (60ish) man grabbed the pickpocket and twisted his arm behind him. We were attracting quite a crowd by now. I still had him by the jacket with my left hand and held my camera and Emma in the right. Sam and Peter were each holding onto this guy’s jacket as well. Dilemma time, now that I had him, what was I to do? Steve had freed himself up and was next to me asking the same question. We finally decided to let him go and he ran. Seconds later the police showed up and gave chase to no avail. Emma and the girls were crying. I was all pumped up. It was pretty exhilarating. And I still had my camera. I’m still not sure how I held onto the thief, grabbed the camera from him and held Emma the whole time. Unfortunately that was not the last of our encounters with pickpockets in Rome. The very next evening, at the same Metro station, Steve got picked and lost some cash and credit cards. It was the same set-up; Steve was helping his kids on the Metro and was picked from behind. Here are some things I have learned about pick pocketing: 1 Never leave anything in your pockets you wouldn’t mind donating. That means any pocket, front, back, shirt or jacket. They can get it all. 2 Lock anything important in your backpack and lock that to yourself. It’s a hassle when you need to get things out, but that also means it’s a hassle to get things out for others. 3 Kids are like Power Bait to pickpockets. They know that you will pay greater attention to your kids than to your valuables. 4 Be vigilant, maybe even paranoid. Assume that you will be picked. Or in my case now, be vigilante. I pity the thief who comes at me next time. I have had plenty of time for loads of evil retributive responses to cultivate.
Even so we still enjoyed a bus tour and a day in lines to see Saint Peter’s cathedral and the Vatican Museum. No matter how many times you’ve seen the pictures you are still awed at Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel. We all left with cricks in our necks from gawking at the ceiling.
Steve, Maja, Peter, and Stacia, thank you for visiting us here. We will miss your company.