Athens, Greece- The birthplace of Western Civilization


Standing before the Parthenon fulfilled a lifetime dream and exceeded all expectations!
 After watching different guides with groups of 20 to 50 people straining to hear as they walked about The Acropolis, we opted for the intimacy and insights of a private guide. It was not much more expensive than a "herd" tour and infinitely more enjoyable. Maria I. Skiniti brought the Parthenon to life for us. Her knowledge of history and events and the way she related the impacts of those events and designs to us today was nothing short of masterful. I am enclosing her contact information as one whom I highly recommend to anyone traveling to Greece. (email: mskiniti@hol.gr; +30 (694) 4350 913)


The Propylaea, built in the time of Pericles by the architect Mnesikles, is the monumental entrance to The Sacred Rock -The Acropolis and the Trilogy of Temples: The Temple of the Virgins –The Parthenon, The Temple of Policies-The Erectheon, and The Temple of Victories-The Temple of Athena-Nike. Many buildings, sites and traditions in the US were influenced by the works at the Acropolis. The Philadelphia Museum and its massive staircase (remember the Rocky movie) are replicas of the Propylaea. The Greek Macedonian Star (which means “information”) can be found in the CIA Headquarters, Grand Central Station, Marriott Hotels and Caesar’s Palace, to name a few. What a fascinating place.



Handcrafted and fitted with care while you wait, Melissino's was incredible. I join Sophia Loren, Jackie O., John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and others in proclaiming this quaint little shop a true treasure. Above, Pantellis is personally making my sandals. http://www.melissinos-art.com/



Temple of Olympian Zeus

 

 

Changing of the guards at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 


A view of the Parthenon from my balcony at the Hilton Athens. This marvelous hotel is truly fit for a Queen. Queen Sofie of Spain, with Greek origins, stayed on the floor above me throughout my visit.


Reverse view- the Hilton Athens from the Parthenon.

Rhodes, Greece-Myrovolies, Palace of the Grand Masters; Medieval City, Acropolis of Lindos

The Acropolis of Lindos
Greece is a delightful assault on the senses. It is my ideal destination with ruins, ancient sites and dazzling architecture by morning, beaches and a dip in the Aegean in the afternoon, and fine dining surrounded by happy people and lively music by evening. What more could one ask for? I love this place! (Best traditional Greek food and atmosphere: Myrovolies: Lachitos 13 Medieval Town Rhodes Telephone: 22410 38693)

Below: The Palace of the Grand Masters, a medieval castle to match my childhood fantasies.





 Rhodes Hilton Hotel Link
View from the balcony of the Rhodes Hilton overlooking the Aegan, 
with Turkey visible in the distance.

San Rafael Petroglyphs, Utah


I love Utah! I am continually amazed at the magnificent masterpieces nature has created here. I can't get enough of it, and luckily for me, there is plenty to be had in this unique and geographically diverse state. What a blast-- hiking, dirt biking and four wheeling in the San Rafael region of southern Utah. "The San Rafael Swell has long been considered one of the "undiscovered" natural wonders of the American West." (www.utah.com/playgrounds/san_rafael.htmCached ) I fully agree with this assessment! There wasn't another soul around. It was peaceful, serene and utterly breathtaking.




There are gorgeous rock formations,  canyons, trails, and scenery abounding. The Native American petroglyphs and Indian writings, alone, make the trip to this secluded desert oasis well worthwhile!  
 




A Slot Canyon, a cool gnarly tree with the roots growing out of the rocks, lizards, and an old mining cabin with the contents still inside  are only a few of the the thrilling and unique things you'll see while hiking here.


Gorgeous Blooming Cactus!
Definitely on my recommended list of places to experience in Utah!

Aloha from Paradise: O'ahu, Hawaii


As a beach and sun-loving being, it should come as no surprise that I truly felt like I was in Paradise during the week I spent on the island of Oahu. However, I believe one would be hard-pressed to find anyone spending time there who didn't feel similarly. The views, the weather, the water, the beaches, the food...what's not to love? And though I thoroughly enjoyed each of those things, I was also delighted with the numerous inexpensive island activities we were able to experience, thanks in large part to a chance meeting with AlohaBruce (Twitter Handle), otherwise known as Bruce Fisher of Hawaii-Aloha.com. Bruce set us up on a private tour of the North Shore with an adventurous guide named Hilton Blackwell and also arranged for a private tour of the Pacific Aviation Museum, one of the Top 10 aviation sites of 2010. We had an absolute blast! Additionally, we were able to pay our respects and be at Pearl Harbor for the historic 69th anniversary, December 7th, of Pearl Harbor Day. (See upcoming Pearl Harbor and Pacific Aviation Post for details and photos.) 


FREE: Breathtaking view of Waimea Bay and the Jumping Rock (first large rock on the right that juts into the water) from Pu'u Mahuka Heiau State Park. FREE:  This park houses the 250 year old ruins of a Hawaiian Temple dedicated as a luakini heiau (sacrificial temple) which included ceremonies for success in war. 
The volcanic rock walls and floor are all that remains.


FREE: My friends taking the dare-devil 30 foot plunge off Jumping Rock, while Hilton swims towards shore after his jump.

Down the road a few miles from the Dole Plantation is a teriific roadside stand called  Kahuku Land Farms. We stopped there with Hilton  for a fresh mid-day snack after working up an appetite. (For under $5) When I say fresh, I mean fresh. We ate sugar cane freshly cut from the fields, pomegranate and coconuts freshly picked from the tree, and freshly cut pineapples which came from the nearby Dole Plantation. Now don't laugh, but there are some things I had never really taken time to consider and while I was here, I had to stare at a few of them. For instance, it never occurred to me that pomegranates grew on trees or that pineapples grew in plants from the ground. Sheltered existence? Perhaps, but I blame it on my cold climate upbringing. Nevertheless, it has now been remedied.


I had my first taste of sugar cane here, which I was informed you suck on like a sucker, don't bite off and chew. It's GOOD! (Which instantly had the old commercial ringing in my ears "C & H, Pure Cane Sugar, from Hawaii, growing in the sun" ... Vintage C and H Commercial on YouTube ) We also tried sweet corn and fried banana.


Sunset Beach




Turtle Beach


This big guy is only 40 years old, so you can imagine how big some of the older ones get. It was so cool to get in the water and be absolutely surrounded by sea turtles.


Know before you go: It is against the law to touch a sea turtle. More importantly, and what I wish they would post, is the reason behind this law. Sea turtles grow tumors wherever humans touch them, which eventually leads to their death. The signs should read Touching Kills the Turtles. People would be much less likely to do it if they knew the consequences.



Not only does the North Shore Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood Co. have outrageously delicious plate lunches of garlic shrimp and seafood, but the steak there is divine! 



For a much acclaimed and an sinfully scrumptious dessert, a stop at Matsumoto's is a must. It won hands down as  the best shaved ice we tasted on the island. I had the Hawaiian flavor shaved ice complete with ice cream, but I'm sure any flavor of this divine treat would suffice. 


East O'ahu 

Enjoying time with new friends, Bruce and Yaling Fisher of Hawaii-Aloha.com, who invited us to their home in Koko Marina to discuss must-see sights on the East Shore of O'ahu. Below I've highlighted those recommendations and second it with my own now, having been to them.

Hanauma Bay




Free: Halona Blowhole



Free: Eternity Beach
 Made famous in the movie From Here to Eternity
(44 Second Video Clip of Kissing scene on this beach in, "From Here to Eternity")



FREE: A view of Sandy Beach Park


 Free: Makapu'u Point and Lighthouse

Free: Lanikai Beach
 Located in the ritzy area of the island where President Obama is known to stay, this was one of the gems I was thrilled to learn of.

Know before you go: Unlike many places you'll visit, there are NO closed beaches in Hawaii. What this means is that even on the most posh and luxurious areas of the islands, the beaches are public. So we enjoyed this beach, which was sparsely populated while others waded through the sea of people on Waikiki.

Waikiki and Honolulu



FREE: We enjoyed many strolls along this picturesque beach.



 There are many guide books available for Hawaii, and I did purchase Frommer's Hawaii for Honolulu and Waikiki. I found it useful as I planned the trip. However, once we reached the island, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Oahu Revealed written by local author Andrew Doughty, which revealed many less known areas to explore.