JULY 7TH – DAY 19: Up at 4:00 am to get ready to depart to Greece. It is still freezing cold and has rained non-stop. Not looking forward to flying in this weather. Trenna met me downstairs at 5:30 am and we walked over to the airport to check in. No problems checking in, grabbed a quick breakfast, and hugged good-bye. My flight departed on time and only had severe turbulence on take-off and landing. It is freezing and raining in Munich, too. I had a 5 hour layover that I spent answering emails the entire time. Going to grab some lunch now and hopefully depart to Athens where it is 95 degrees and sunny! J Flight to Athens was on Lufthansa and was a really nice plane. I cant believe that I’m actually getting accustomed to turbulence on take off and landing. I guess if you fly enough, it does become a little less nerve-wracking and goodness knows I’m flying “enough”.My Big Greek Family was there to welcome me to Athens. The promoter and his mother and his brother and four of the girls from the festival. It was a little unnerving the first time that happened but now I love this country. They are truly amazing. I’ve stayed in the hotel before and it’s located centrally in Athens. Just have to get my bearings again. I know Danni Leigh and I found a nice area to jog each morning. It’s an older hotel and the elevator has “doors” that you have to open when it stops. I sort of unpacked some things since I’ll be here for 9 nights. Found a self-service laundry nearby so I’ll be doing laundry all day Monday before my next trip. I answered emails for several hours after checking in. Then went down to the hotel restaurant and had some great spaghetti. Goita and John (promoter’s brother) picked me up and took me to the promoters bar/restaurant. Nikos (promoter) had already left for his radio show. He has the coolest show. It’s called “Love Radio 97.5”. Check it out on the web. He talks in this incredibly sexy voice and plays mostly love ballads except for Friday nights when he rocks it up. He called the restaurant while I was there and told me to listen to his show. He talked about me for a long time in Greek and then he said the same thing in English. Said so many sweet things, it made me cry. Then he dedicated two beautiful songs to me. See why I love my job?It’s after 1 am here now and I need to get some sleep. Goita is going to show me where there is a gym nearby tomorrow and some places to shop. Then we are all going to meet Nikos and go to a “restaurant by the sea”. Jude
July 8th – Day 20 – 1/3 of the way! Forgot to mention that they gave me a cell phone when I landed. I may never figure out how to use it but that is so cool that they thought to do that. Sure saves me some money when I don’t have to use mine to call local numbers in Greece! The traffic is horrific here in downtown Athens but they do drive a little better than Italians and Brazilians. I don’t know how anyone on a scooter survives the way they zip in and out of traffic. I learned very quickly when I went for my morning jog that a green walk signal does NOT mean walk. Pedestrians NEVER have the right of way for any reason. You take your life in your hands when crossing a street. Look both ways and run like hell is a good rule to follow. I did get in a nice jog in a park that I remembered. Danni Leigh and I jogged there on my first visit here. I have absolutely no sense of direction unless I jog in a city. Then I always remember that route. I also remember that a turtle was making its way towards a busy street when I jogged with Danni and she rescued it by picking it up and putting it back on the path in the park. Strange the little things I remember about previous visits. The men in Greece are still the most handsome I’ve ever seen in any country. Or maybe I’m just partial to that tall, dark, and handsome look. J Goita met me at around 11 am and we went for a walk. She was planning to show me the gym near the hotel where I can work out every day. Only it has closed! So, tomorrow it is the Pilates DVD in the room. I’m sure I’ll find a gym somewhere close by tomorrow. We stopped in a little “mall” area and had coffee. The European way of life is so much more laid back here. I had another “Frappe” which is an iced coffee drink that is to die for. When we were ready to pay the bill, the waiter did not charge for my drink. We called him back over and I asked him if he gave me mine free because I am such a beautiful American woman. He assured me that was the reason. Then Goita spoke to him in Greek and he said it was free because it took him so long to serve us. He didn’t even want to accept the tip! We left there and walked down to the busy shopping area where I bought some things that I was already running low on after having been over here for 3 weeks. Three weeks! Can’t believe it’s been that long and can’t believe I still have 5 weeks to go. Walked up to Nikos’ restaurant to meet him and then he took me to Rafina – on the coast. We drove down in his cute jeep and I didn’t have anything to tie my hair back so I am sure I looked lovely when we arrived. The drive down was fabulous. The weather is perfect – a little hot for the locals – but I like it. We had a delicious Italian lunch at a restaurant overlooking the sea. Why is it that the watermelon and tomatoes here taste like the ones I used to eat out of my Mom’s garden and in America I can never find any that taste like that anymore? Do we use so many chemicals that we have destroyed that taste? I had watermelon and fresh natural yogurt for breakfast this morning and it was to die for. We left the restaurant and drove to another area where we had coffees and talked. Nikos is an amazing man. He has dedicated his life to promoting country music in a country where there was no country music. When he first began, the Greeks all thought that country music was about “cowboys and Indians” and the really “old style country and western sound”. He has educated his people and has the #1 Radio Show in Greece. The festival that he produces all by himself with just the help of a few friends and family members is the only country music festival in all of Greece. And, as I said before, it is one of the best ones that I work with. John Berry’s posters are all over the city and the event will be sold out. Every artist who performs here always wants to come back. Nikos has some exciting plans for the future and I know he will succeed. We talked a lot about how we sacrifice our personal life for our work. But, it’s what makes us happy so that can’t be a bad thing. He drove me by and showed me where his parents live and where he is going to build a house next year. It’s a beautiful area just a short distance from the sea. He is taking me and all of John Berry’s group there for a meal on Sunday. And, I promise you, a Greek meal is not to be missed. It is absolutely the best food I’ve ever had in my life. Only thing is, there is too much food and I would definitely be fat if I lived here. Rafina is only a 20 minute drive from the city of Athens thanks to the 2004 Olympics. They spent 4 years building a highway that goes through the mountain via tunnels rather than driving over the mountain which took an hour. I told Nikos as we were driving down that “this” is what I thought Greece was supposed to be like.
Came back to the hotel and have been answering emails all evening. Decided not to go out tonight since today was such a wonderful experience. Tomorrow night, I am going to see “Sex and the City” and I sure hope it’s in English! I didn’t get a chance to see it before I left the U.S. and really want to see it before it is out of the theatres. It’s nice to have some time “off”, especially since it’s in Athens…somewhere I’ve always wanted to spend time and never dreamed it would be possible. If I just didn’t have 300 emails a day to take care of, it would be very relaxing. J Jude
JULY 9TH – DAY 21, I THINK!!! Got up and did 45 minutes of Pilates with my DVD this morning. Interesting! Would much rather work out at the gym, but felt like I at least worked some different muscles. I met Goita at noon and we took a taxi to the highest point in Athens. Then took a tram up to the very top. The view was breathtaking up there. I took tons of photos. Athens has over 4 million people. We could see the Acropolis and the sea from the top. She said there are 7,700 islands – not all inhabited. I’m going to try and visit at least 4 of them before I leave. We tried to call a taxi to take us down the mountain but never could get one. So, there were these 500 or so steps! Goita wears mountain but never could get one. So, there were these 500 or so steps! Goita wears 4 inch heels all the time and I don’t know how she ever made it to the bottom. But we did! Then we got a taxi to a fabulous restaurant. I had grilled eggplant topped with fresh mozzarella and tomato salsa that was to die for. Ellen – one of the new members of the Country Music Club of Greece Staff – met us. She is very young (and beautiful like all the Greek girls) and is working as a nurse. This is her first year with the event. I was going to pay for our lunch but the waiter came by and said everything was already taken care of….Nikos, I’m sure!!! We left the restaurant and I went back to my room to answer emails for about an hour. Then, John picked me up and took me to Nikos’ restaurant where I met Goita to go see “Sex in the City”. Nikos’ mom was there and gave me a beautiful gift. I am so disappointed that I couldn’t bring gifts with me this year because I am over here for so long and because of the weight restrictions. I’ll have to mail something to them when I return. I LOVED “Sex and the City”. What a great movie. I’d see it over and over again. Made me think about my best girlfriends AND some of my disastrous love affairs! If you haven’t seen it, you should. Went back to Nikos’ restaurant after the movie and he was still there. Had a real treat because his Dad was there, too. He’s 80 years old and such a sweetheart. Ahhh..these Greek men! J Had planned to stay and have drinks with them but got an email about a festival that takes place on August 1st that is canceling. Had to get back to my computer and do damage control. Been working on that all evening. Going to get up and jog tomorrow and then do some shopping. Also going to book a massage and my island cruise. I could get used to living in Greece. Tomorrow is my last “free” day in Greece as John Berry and his group arrive on Friday. Then my “work” begins. The time has really flown by. Jude
JULY 10TH – DAY 22: What a fun day I’ve had! Got up and jogged and thankfully it was a little bit cooler today. Yesterday I think it hit 100 degrees! Didn’t get a massage booked as all they had available was a “relaxing massage”. I need a deep tissue “sports” massage. I did book a 3 island cruise leaving at 7:30 am and returning at 8:30 pm on Tuesday. You’ll probably never hear from me again as I’m sure to get LOST out by myself!!! Goita met me at noon and we took the Metro to the shopping street. Metro is clean and very easy to navigate. I’ll be comfortable using it by myself now that I’ve “tried it out”. When we got off, there was this huge walled off “excavation site”. That happens everywhere in Greece. They will start digging to build something and find ancient ruins. And I do mean ancient. This one was from 18 B.C. Can you imagine? In the U.S., we think something is “ancient” if it is 200 years old. But almost everything historic here is “B.C.”. I was looking for nursery decorations for my daughter but found a couple of really cute t-shirts, too. But the shop owner was even cuter. There were some people in there from Pennsylvania and the owner asked me if I was from Texas. Then he wanted to know if I was Greek! Told him my bloodline is American Indian. I was going to hold out for an oil or shipping billionaire but a t-shirt shop owner isn’t such a bad deal especially considering how cute he is. J Walked to a friend’s (another Nikos) jewelry store and chatted with him. He also sings and will be performing at the festival on Saturday night. I walked back to the hotel and Goita took a taxi to Nikos club. They are picking up a guest from WSM Radio and his artist – another Nikos – today when they fly in. Went back to the hotel and answered some emails and at 4 pm realized I hadn’t eaten anything. Happens a lot over here. I walked to the little coffee shop area where Goita and I had coffee the other day.
That’s when I hit pay dirt…there is a Creperie there…my favorite food in Europe. I had a crepe and frappe and was in heaven. This place stays open until 1 am every night so I will definitely be back. I walked back down to the shopping street and fell in love with at least 100 pairs of shoes. They are the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen in Europe. I have 96 pairs of shoes at home and I would throw all of them away if I could by 96 pairs here. But, I need to learn to wear shoes with the “thong” between the toes (I hate those) and some with 4 inch heels. I shopped for a couple of hours and will be going back there tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day!!!! Can you tell I love Greece? Rushed back to the hotel to change for dinner and met Nikos with John (from WSM) and his son Frank and a friend Gabriel. Nikos brother John was with them, too. We went back down to the shopping street which just happens to be located at the base of the Acropolis. Walked around and took lots of photos and I went back by my t-shirt boyfriend’s shop to say hello. Went to a restaurant and had the meal of a lifetime. Nikos does this to me every time I come to Greece. I would weigh 800 pounds if I ate like this every day. We had every kind of appetizer imaginable and then main courses of fish and Greek delicacies. John and his friends were blown away. Got to have a good conversation with him. Small world that you connect with someone from WSM Nashville while in Greece. I would have liked to have stayed down on the shopping street after dinner because it was packed with interesting people. But, “email and work” was calling, so I came back to my room. Want to get up early tomorrow so I can get in some shopping before going to the airport. Have a feeling John Berry is going to be coming in much later than anticipated. His flight is late leaving Atlanta and he is going to miss his connection in Amsterdam! Does this sound familiar? Jude
Friday, July 11th – day 23: Not sure I can even remember everything that happened today. BUSY day. First thing I did was check the internet to see what time John Berry’s flight was going to land in Amsterdam. It looked like it was going to be a close connection – 45 minutes – but I thought they might make it. Did the Pilates DVD again since I haven’t found a gym close by. Worked a different set of muscles this time, though. Had a quick breakfast then started trying to reach John via his cell phone. He called a few minutes later to tell me that they missed the connection by “minutes”. They were re-booked on a flight arriving at 4:20 pm. Then he called back a few minutes later and said that his drummer had made the original flight. Evidently when they went through Passport Control, the agent didn’t ask the drummer anything but quizzed everyone else in the group long enough that they missed the flight! Giota went to the airport to meet the drummer but she called me about an hour after he was supposed to land and said she couldn’t find him. She had stood right in front of the doors where all arriving passengers exit holding a huge sign for him. Then she had him paged. Nothing! First rule of the road – EVERYONE STAYS TOGETHER! Since I had some free time that I was not expecting, I went shopping. Bought some shorts and tank top to wear on my “cruise” on Tuesday but still need to buy a hat and some “crocks”. Went up the street by the hotel and had another “crepe” for lunch. Then John picked me up to go to the airport to meet John Berry’s group. He got a phone call as we were driving and said that “John” had just called and he was already at the airport. I assured him that it simply was not possible since I had checked the flight right before he picked me up. I told him it had to be “John” the drummer. Nikos and his staff were in a panic because they are so well-organized and were horrified that John and his group might be waiting for them at the airport. We rushed to the airport and Goita said that she had not found the drummer. She said he told the person at Nikos’ restaurant when he called them that he was wearing a lime green shirt. I spotted him immediately. You can always pick out the Nashville musician – especially a drummer. While we were waiting for the others to arrive, John told me that his bag was not on the flight. He had not filed a claim, so we had to take him to the information desk and get him a pass to get back into the baggage claim area. We had called John Berry when he landed and told him to look for John the drummer’s bag but I knew if it didn’t arrive, he would need to fill out a claim and you can only do that from inside the baggage area. Everyone came out a few minutes later – with all the bags and equipment. Got everyone checked into their rooms and they showered and took a very short 1 hour nap. I had dinner with the musicians and then we all went to Nikos’ restaurant to say hello to his staff and the other artists. I met “Nikos” the artist from Nashville who is performing. Really nice guy. Of course, everyone had “gifts” for John and his wife Robin. We all went to LOVE RADIO for Nikos nightly show. John was fantastic on the show. Nikos is a terrific interviewer and asks really interesting questions. John sang several songs and Nikos even interviewed his musicians and the drummer sang one of his songs as well. It was a really “fun” evening for them even as tired as they were. As we were leaving, Nikos said that we needed to do a short tv interview with him, John, Robin and myself – individually. Now, I’ve ridden over in a convertible, so my hair is literally tied in knots AND I have on shorts. Not dressed or “made up” for TV. Didn’t matter. They insisted. At least no one I know will ever see it. Left the radio station and got back to the hotel at around midnight. John, Robin and the entire group are really sweet people – fun and easy to work with. I walked Robin and John over to my favorite Creperie that stays open until 1 am because they missed dinner tonight. Then I came back to answer my 300 emails from the day. L One thing about this hotel room, it has been “renovated” and the shower is nice….but it is a “hand held shower head” and it is mounted at waist height! The only way to get your head wet is to hold it over yourself. Very inconvenient. I did notice that every room is different today, so it could be worse. I haven’t mentioned that Europeans have no sense of “space”. They will step in front of you in a line and crowd you when there is not even anyone else around. Greece is not as bad as the other countries I’ve visited. They also do NOT line up. The autograph sessions are a nightmare because you have hundreds of people all trying to push and shove their way to the artist at one time. Hopefully, Greece won’t be like that! We’ll find out tomorrow night. Just had an email from Penny who is in Latvia with Asleep at the Wheel. Said they performed for 90 minutes and did three encores. Audience loved them. Good ending to a very stressful day for me because of problems with three of my upcoming events. Jude
SATURDAY, JULY 12TH – HOME IN ONE MONTH!!!
Exactly one month from yesterday, I will be flying home. J So here’s some more interesting tidbits for your future visit to Greece…. There are huge dogs everywhere and none of them are on leashes or behind fences. In the States, I would be petrified to jog past them. Here they don’t even look at you. Very strange. The air conditioning in this hotel is only in the rooms. The hallways, stairways, elevators, etc. are not air conditioned. Keep in mind that it has been in the high 90’s every day!!! Sometimes I think I’ll pass out in the elevator before I get to the ground floor. I’m on the 6th floor. I’ve started taking the stairs up and down. Much cooler. Then, in the rooms, you have to put your key in a slot by the door to turn on the electricity. Of course when you leave, it turns off the power – including the air conditioning. Unless you stuff business cards in the slot, cover them with red duct tape and then draw a sign which indicated bodily injury will be inflicted upon anyone daring to touch the slot. J Don’t they understand that the air conditioners in the rooms have to work twice as hard to cool the room if it’s allowed to heat up past 100 degrees while you are out. Same with the hallways! Plus, I keep my computer on all the time and it turns it off and runs my battery down if the power goes off. So, we were driving to Nikos’ restaurant before going to sound check today. There was a car parked in the middle of the street with it’s flashers on. A couple of cars were in front of us and pretty soon, miles of cars were backed up behind us. Everyone started blowing their horns, but no one came to move the car. Then there was the “whoop whoop” of a police car and about a half block away a man comes shuffling out of a coffee shop, gets in his car and drives away. There was no where for him to park, so he parked in the middle of the street and went in to have a coffee. Only in Greece. Nikos has a beautiful, sweet dog named Nadia that he rescued. Both back legs are “steel” and she had a lot of internal injuries when he found her. The vet said that the previous owners did it to her. Evidently the previous owners were “short people” because she hates short people. Nikos said “No short people come to my club”. Guess that explains why all his “girls” were 4 inch heels! Sound check went great. The production company was already there and ready for us and John sounded great. The wind was blowing really hard and it reminded me of the dust storms in Iraq. The venue is in a “rock quarry” and is surrounded on three sides by huge cliffs of rock. It’s beautiful. At night you can see the Acropolis lit up in the distance. We left sound check and went up to the Acropolis so everyone could take photos of the Parthenon – which, of course, is still under renovation. This is my 3rd visit in 4 years and there’s been scaffolding there ever since my first visit. One disappointment was the fact that the nice museum was no longer there. It was moved to a huge new “modern” building (which doesn’t fit the landscape at all!) and won’t reopen until later this year. We walked down from Acropolis to the shopping streets below. Went by Nikos (the jeweler and singer) jewelry shop and then went to eat Gyros. When I asked for the check, we were told that Nikos had already paid for us! Amazing Greek “family”. Just as we were leaving, someone started drilling a hole through the floor of the restaurant. The noise was deafening. You should have seen the look on everyone’s face. It was priceless. I showed everyone else how to get back to the hotel as they looked ready to “drop”. By this time, it was 5 pm. I did my “cruise” shopping – a pair of crocs, a big “bag”, a tank top, and a floppy hat. I’m all set now. Have to leave for the show at 9 pm and won’t be back at the hotel until around 1 or 2 am. I haven’t been “in the sun” for any length of time without tons of sunblock on in years since I had the skin cancer scare. Didn’t realize that we would be in the sun for so long today and got lots on my face, shoulders and neck. But not as much as some of the guys. They are BURNED! Went downstairs and had dinner with everyone. Our “leave” time got changed to 9:30 pm instead of 9:00 pm. We got there in time to see Niko (from Nashville) perform and then Nikos took the stage and started talking. He presented me with an award for “Best International Country Music Personality – Athens 2008” from the Greece CMA. How cool is that? Only part that wasn’t great was having to go up on stage and say something to the audience. You all KNOW how much I loved that. J Nikos (the jeweler) had a great show. He is really very talented. He and the band he played with (Lonestar Band) did “Sweet Home Alabama” but a female singer sang part of the verses in French. It was “unique”. I videoed it and am going to email it to Bo Bice. John had an incredible show. You forget how many hits he has had until you sit through one of his shows. Nikos also presented him and Robin a cake to commemorate their 20th Wedding Anniversary this week. It was a very special night. John signed autographs until 2 am and we just arrived back at the hotel. I thought there might be less people who attended this year but I wasn’t here last year and Nikos said that more attended this year. Have to leave at 11 am tomorrow for a “home-cooked meal” with Nikos’ parents at their home by the Sea. Jude
SUNDAY, JULY 13TH : Got up and worked out to the Pilates DVD and then had a very quick breakfast with the boys from WSM. We were supposed to leave for the seaside at 11 am but I knew it our drivers would be late. It’s the Greek way. I also knew that we would stop by Nikos Café for hours before we went anywhere. It’s also the Greek Way – every trip requires a stop by the café for coffee and visiting for at least an hour. J We actually spent a couple of hours at the Café before driving to the Sea. Stopped by Nikos’ parent’s house where the smells from whatever his mom was cooking was wonderful. Bobby in John’s band was not feeling well and we think it’s because he drank two of the “Frappes” and he is not accustomed to drinking much caffeine. Those have triple shots of espresso in each one we think. Everyone drove over to the beach which was very, very crowded. When I was packing for two months, I didn’t think to bring a swimsuit. No one thought to bring a towel but we did find some grass mats. Everyone went into the sea except me. I took a very long walk along the beach by myself and used the time to think about the last time I walked along a beach. It was in May in Seaside, Florida on the Gulf Coast where the beaches look like white sugar. Very different from this beach where the sand is brown. When I got back to where the group was “camped”, Bobby was really looking “green”. I had someone take him back to Nikos’ parent’s house and we spent about another hour on the beach – using LOTS of sunscreen. When we got back to the house, John (Nikos’ brother) was grilling lamb and I kept him company because it was much cooler in the back of the house. When we sat down to eat, you’ve never seen so much food – baked pasta, rice, a variety of vegetables cooked in everyway imaginable, the lamb plus two or three other meat dishes, salads, macaroni and cheese, breads. Just another typical Greek dinner. The meal was a lively affair and afterwards, Nikos (the jeweler) set up a Karaoke machine and entertained us. He is absolutely hilarious and is a great singer. He can sound like almost anyone – especially Elvis. John Berry got up with him and did a couple of Elvis songs with him complete with all the hilarious hip-shaking moves. Sure wish I had videoed it. We spent about two hours eating and singing. As a very special treat, Nikos sang a song that he wrote especially for/about me the other day. It is such a sweet – very true – song that he had me crying after the first couple of lines. Then he sang “My Way” for me and the flood gates opened. It was quite an emotional day for me. On the drive back to the city, one of the musicians said, “When have we ever had more fun?”. Quite a compliment to Nikos our host,. If you get a chance, go to my website www.judysealeinternational.com and check out the photos from my trips. You’ll be booking a flight to Greece for your next vacation. Or just come over and attend our next Country Music Festival on September 12th, 2009. I want to share the lyrics to the song that Nikos wrote for me with you. If you’re receiving this daily journal, then you’ll know how true they are. He sang this acapella since he only wrote it a couple of days ago when I visited him at the jewelry shop. It was incredibly moving.
Just think of me flying over the clouds
Under the blue skies away from home
Don’t be surprised if you see me now in Athens
Endless flights and business madness but it’s fun
So here I am with the jetlag flirting my brain
Everyone I love got my email that I’m well
And the promise I’ll be back as soon as I can
Lindsey called she said, “Mom, I know you’re getting tired all the time
Everywhere you fly we pray for you at night
Now I feel two little souls beating inside”
God, I feel like crying
Just think of me flying over clouds
Under the blue skies away from home
Don’t be surprised but all the terminals are so familiar to me
Yet some thoughts are so brilliant with love.
John’s musicians depart for the U.S. at 3:20 am tonight. So they are picking us up at the hotel at midnight to go to Nikos’ café ( J ) before taking them to the airport for their flight. Everyone is so friendly and nice in Greece. Of course, Nikos says the same thing about people in the “South” when he visits America. Almost midnight and am going over the Nikos café with the boys. Will be LATE when I get back, so won’t write anymore tonight. Jude
MONDAY, JULY 14TH: Up early to work out to my Pilates DVD. Still hate not having a gym to work out in but that’s the way it usually is in Europe. If the hotel doesn’t have a gym, then the independent gyms rarely open early enough for me to work out in the mornings. They usually don’t open until around 9 am – the “laid back European lifestyle”. Went down to see John and Robin off. They are going to one of the Greek Islands for a couple of days then will come back here on Wednesday and fly back to the U.S. at 3:00 am on Thursday. Answered lots of “problem” emails and then Goita and Maria picked me up to take me to the laundry. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, it was really nice and the lady who worked there does all the laundry for you! I dropped off everything and paid her 40 Euros to wash, dry and fold it. There were twice as many clothes as I had laundered in Sweden and it cost me $500 there! While the laundry was being done, we went to a fabulous Italian restaurant. The food was excellent and for once, I didn’t get the same thing I always eat. By the time we finished eating, it was time to pick up the laundry. She did a great job with it, too. Back to the hotel to answer hundreds of emails. Just went over to Nikos’ café to see him before his radio show. Then back to the hotel to answer hundreds of more emails and hopefully get more than 3 hours sleep before I have to be in the lobby for the 3 island cruise tomorrow. If you never hear from me again, you’ll know that I am “lost” in the Greek Isles! Jude
TUESDAY, JULY 15TH: Only 3 hours sleep. Had to get up early for my Greek Island cruise. Was in the hotel lobby at 7:15 and someone from the cruise line showed up exactly on time. We boarded a huge really nice bus and then made stops at several hotels to pick up additional passengers. Arrived at a really large cruise ship at around 8:15 am. The ship is like a regular cruise ship with lounges and open air decks. There are also lots of activities and “bars” on board. Not sure if I am going to take the dance lessons for the famous Greek dance “Sirtaki” or not. :). But it will be fun to watch. First stop on the cruise is the island of Poros. I have found a great secluded little “nook” on the ship where I can answer emails without being ridiculed by my fellow passengers. Can’t believe the blackberry works “out at sea”. Now as long as I don’t drop it overboard, all is well. Poros was the typical tourist cruise ship island. One main street along the water with wall-to-wall outdoor cafes and souvenir shops. At the very top of the island was a beautiful church. Since I couldn’t find a straight street that led to it and was afraid I would get lost on the winding streets, I opted to wander through the shops. Can’t buy any great souvenirs because of my weight restrictions on flights. My best “find” was a bookshop with publications in English. Not the Top Ten but a nice variety and since I am almost finished with the latest John Grisham, I was happy to see anything in English. Bought a yogurt and honey gelato and headed back to the ship since we only had one hour here. Lunch is included with the price of the cruise. They seat you by your “language spoken”. Since I am alone, I was seated with a family of 4 who seemed to not speak one word of English…go figure! The meal started with raw salmon and a cabbage salad and was typical of food on a cruise. I took a couple of bites and pushed it around on my plate to be polite while my seatmates oohed and aahed over it. None of their food was left on the plate. Anyone who left a bite quickly had their plate seized by another family member. The waiter came close to getting his hand slapped when he tried to remove a plate with food still on it. At one point I thought of offering them my leftovers but reconsidered. The family also took no less than 20 photos of themselves eating. They also had the waiter take a photo which had me right in the middle of the shot! I think they are Italian. Main course was two thin slices of something that may have been turkey with gravy, rice and those mixed vegetables I haven’t seen since the elementary school cafeteria — corn, green beans and green peas. The family once again vocally expressed their delight with the cuisine while I was unable to even make a pretense of eating. Dessert of some sort of stale white cake with a side of what might have been whipped cream. Thankfully I was not hungry and headed for the sun deck. Fabulously handsome greek oil and shipping tycoons do not frequent these ships. L Can you believe I am typing this with my thumbs!!! Know I will have blisters. Next stop is a quick visit to the isle of Hydra. We only had one hour on the first isle and may have less at this one. But the last stop will be Aegina and I signed up for the panoramic bus tour on that one! ;). It has actually been a fun, relaxing day because my blackberry is no longer getting a GPS signal so no email coming in. We have an hour and a half in Hydra. Same scenario — lots of shops, cafes, churches but also an old fort with cannons overlooking the port. I opted NOT to take the donkey ride through the streets. If I can almost kill myself on a hotel bike, better stay away from live modes of transportation. I stopped at a cafe and had a frappe but no one makes them as good as the ones at Nikos’ cafe. Blackberry is working again and I answered emails. Sailing to the last island now. It is already 2 pm. Got on board to realize I had left my bottle of water somewhere. No big loss except I had this great strap around it that I got in Korea. Now I have another month left and no water carrier. Darn!! Maybe my office can send me another with one of the artists coming over. As is the case on all cruises, they snap your photo as you get on board. Only they kept insisting the guy behind me was “with” me. I bought the photo just to get it off public display. I have used tons of sunblock and am still frying. It is 96 in Athens today and no idea how hot it is where we are. The sail to Aegina was long — 2 hours. First stop was a church. It is a beautiful island. We took the bus completely around the island. Made a stop at pistachio groves because the island is famous for pistachio nuts. Also saw the house of Zorba the Greek. There are lots of cats. On these islands–haven’t seen any dogs. Last stop was to have Ouzo which I hate and didn’t try again! Back on the ship for a 2 hour cruise back to Athens. It was a great trip and I’m so glad I did it. But, it would have been a lot more fun if I had a friend along with me. Leaving for Switzerland tomorrow! Meeting up with Asleep at the Wheel there. Jude
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16TH – MY LAST DAY IN GREECE L Can’t believe how quickly the time has flown. I have just gotten accustomed to the streets and can sort of get around to the places I want to visit. At least next year I’ll have my bearings.
Worked abs with Pilates this morning then a quick breakfast and shower and “ran” downtown. All the sales started yesterday – 50%-70% off everything! I bought the red sandals that I have been drooling over all week. Got them for 30 Euros instead of 70 Euros. And they are SOOOO comfortable. I could easily have purchased a dozen more pair if I had not been in a time crunch. Nikos called last night and I told him my flight leaves at 2 pm today. He said he would pick me up at 11 am. I was in the lobby waiting when he called to say that traffic was bad and he would be late. No problem. Still had plenty of time. When he walked in, he seemed surprised to see my luggage. He thought I was leaving at 2 AM tonight. He had booked reservations for us to have lunch! I was so sad that he misunderstood. So, we drove to the airport in his jeep and my hair was tied in knots by the time we arrived. J Flight was on time and other than lots of turbulence at take-off and landing it was okay. Swiss Air is a good airline. Both my bags made it to Switzerland with me and I immediately went to the hotel near the airport, got checked in, and my office set up. Have been working non-stop since 3 pm and it is almost 1 am now. Hotel is nice (I stayed here a few weeks ago) but definitely caters to families and business travelers. There is a gym (Yippee!) and a coffee maker in the room. Room is very strange though. When you walk in, you are in the bathroom. There is a sink on the left and a door to the toilet on the right. But the shower stall is right in the middle of the floor. It’s this curved glass thing but there is no door between it and the bedroom. Good thing I’m not sharing the room with someone I don’t know very well! Have been fighting with the internet for 2 hours now. It knocks me off about every two minutes. VERY frustrating. As an end to my Greece adventure – John Berry, his wife, and his band were awesome. The man has an amazing voice and you forget how many hits he’s had until you sit through his show. All the band members were real sweethearts and will be friends for life. John – the drummer – is an amazing singer/songwriter in his own right. Bobby is also a great songwriter. Not sure if Lee and Mikey write or not but they are amazingly talented musicians. Robin and John are sweethearts. Sure hope they made it back from the island okay today. Nikos and his staff could not be any nicer to work with. Everything is very well-organized and the artists feel like family after they have only been here for a couple of hours….quite a compliment to Nikos and his family and staff. Looking forward to coming back again in 2009 for the 7th Annual Event. Tomorrow I meet Asleep at the Wheel at the airport and we drive to Klewenalp for my festival at the top of the Alp. J Jude