Thursday 22 December 2022

Wandering swan

We popped out to do a bit of shopping this morning and when we got back a cygnet was blocking the route to our parking space.

I got out of the car and did my best to wave it back towards the river, but it had no intention of going that way. Eventually it wandered over and stopped in front of the next door neighbours garage, so we managed to park safely. 

I am not surprised that it didn't fancy the river as its very fast and high at the moment, although it is now at least a foot lower than earlier in the week.

While we were away our neighbour added a new horse to her managerie, and now there is one donkey, two Shetland ponies and what looks to me like a giant Shetland pony. 

When I took my carrots over to them yesterday the new pony stayed well away and just watched the others chomping away. Today when I walked through the gate they all headed towards me, including the new one. It enthusiastically downed its carrot in a couple of mouthfuls then tried to eat my phone while I took its photo. 

I think that he's my new favourite. 

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Winter Solstice

I have never thought of Winter Solstice as being an event, but our lovely neighbours have and invited us along to theirs.

It involved a long walk in our wellies upwards through muddy fields and tracks to the highest point around - Kelston Round Hill.

We arrived a few minutes early and then at 4.03pm the sun set, although it was hidden by a rather menacing rain cloud.

The celebrations began and Simon cracked open a bottle of whiskey to be passed around. I don't actually like whiskey, but for some reason this one was very tasty, so I may have been converted. 

The whiskey was paired with strips of South African biltong and pieces of mandarin orange. I don't know if that's traditional or what they had in their fridge today. Embarrassingly we didn't know the etiquette for a Solstice outing, so took nothing with us.

There were other people on the top of the hill so Simon took his whiskey bottle to share it around while the rest of us had a cartwheel competition, and I managed to finish second out of three. 

On the way down the hill I refused to take part in the rolling down the hill event, and I think that was very wise. 

Afterwards we stopped for a couple of drinks in the pub and then strode home across the fields, avoiding the cow pats with the help of a couple of head torches. 

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Acropolis museum

Oh no, not another boring museum you might be thinking. We wondered that on the way there, but actually no, it's brilliant.

It's modern with lots of shiny steel and glass, and glass floors so that you can see both above and below the room that you are in.

It's built on legs on top of excavations that uncovered ancient buildings dating back 2,500 years. There are mosaics, pipes, baths and even toilets.

On the first floor are the original beautiful Caryatids that held up the roof of a temple on the Acropolis site.

But the wow factor is on the top floor. Huge windows give 360 degree views of Athens and the Parthenon.

In the middle of the room is a full size recreation of the top of the building and all of the artwork and sculptures.

It is beautifully done, but what they really want are the Elgin Marbles back from the British Museum to fill in the gaps. 

Sunday 11 December 2022

Glyfada seafront and Exoni Theatre

Yesterday I took us on a walk up through Glyfada to see a disused outdoor theatre.

It was built in a quarry and apparently had very interesting lighting effects at the back on the rocks, and famous performers appeared on the very strange stage. 

Unfortunately it only lasted for a couple of years in the 1990s as it is surrounded by lots of houses and the residents objected to all of the noise. It's a shame as it looks like an alien spaceship and I would have loved to see it in its glory days. 

Today we wandeted along the seafront to the next town for a coffee. It rained overnight so the usually calm seafront actually had some pretty big waves on it, so I wimped out and postponed my paddling plans. 

Friday 9 December 2022

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre

I have been looking forward to visiting this building ever since I saw Monty Don feature it on one of his TV programmes.

Stavros Niarchos was an incredibly rich shipping magnate who died in 1996, but his name lives on in his foundation which sponsors and funds numerous projects in Greece.

This one is a fantastic centre that houses the national library and opera house underneath an artificial hill that is covered in a beautiful garden on a slope that is full of Mediterranean plants.

We admired it in the daylight, but at this time of year it comes alive after dark.

Around the garden are lighting installations, and in this one the lights twinkle in time with strange music as you stand underneath and look up at it.

The main building also lights up amongst the plants and is open until midnight every day.

There is also a lake with dancing fountains, which is always a favourite of ours.

It wasn't the best that we have seen, but still very nice.

Thursday 8 December 2022

The Athens Riviera

We are set up in an Airbnb apartment just slightly set back from the Athens Riviera.

Today we mostly ran and occasionally walked 18kms along it, and it is mostly beautiful. There are a couple of dodgy bits that need some work, and a big dual carriageway that gets a bit close at times, but that's a minor issue.

There are also lots of cats, and they gather round the fishermen who seem keen to give them a fish supper.

We are only five minutes walk from the Turtle Rescue Centre although it is difficult to find. From the outside all of the buildings are old railway carriages,

but once inside we were met by enthusiastic volunteers who showed us around. They explained that injured turtles are sent to them from all over Greece and they do their best to nurse them back to health and release them back in to the sea.

Last photo for today is from the centre of town, and is us sitting inside a giant Christmas bauble.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

It's my birthday

 It's my birthday today, and we moved a few miles out of Athens to the coast. It was an easy journey on the underground and then straight on to a bus, and we were there in less than an hour.

We were a bit early for check in so stopped for a glass of wine that came with free sort of flakey pastry straws. They were lovely and difficult to describe, but the sort of thing that they do for the technical test in Bake Off pastry week.

We did ask for a menu, but the waitress said that it was not very accurate so we just pointed to the table next door and said that we wanted to copy what they were having.

This evening we walked to the highly recommended local Mexican restaurant and had today's special - four tacos each and a wonderful frozen margherita.

Monday 5 December 2022

Lycabettus Hill

 Slightly lazy day as all we did was walk up to the top of Lycabettus Hill.

To be honest it wasn't actually very far, but it is the highest point in Athens, with great views from the top.

Although I really enjoyed the walk through the hillside covered in prickly pear cactus and giant agaves.

There was also a cute little church at the top that I was going to say was quite modern for Greece, but then I looked it up and it was built on the site of a much older Byzantine church.

Of course it was.

Sunday 4 December 2022

Unstable pillars

The day started with another run, this time further than the last one, and expanded to include loops of the National Gardens.

Feeling quite tired we limited our sightseeing today, and were lucky because on the first Sunday of every month most of the ancient sites are free to enter.

We started with the Agora, which was the ancient marketplace.

It was the political heart of Athens from about 600 BC, and elegant residents shopped among the marble pillars. It all became ruined 2,000 years ago but was restored in the 1950's.

Most of the rest of the area is still ruined, apart from the Temple of Hephaestus which is the best preserved classical temple in Greece.

It looks very good from a distance, but the pillars are a bit out of line and could do with being pushed up straight.

After a quick stop for a gorgeous dark chocolate orange ice cream, we reached the Temple of Zeus. This was the largest temple on mainland Greece and 16 of its magnificent columns survive out of the original 104.

Unfortunately it was disappointingly mostly covered with scaffolding, and one of its columns was lying along the ground looking like a giant caterpillar.

We also popped into Hadrian's library, which required a lot of imagination, but we managed to line up a shot of the Acropolis in the background.

Saturday 3 December 2022

Panathenaic Stadium

After the fun of the National Gardens we went across the road to the Panathenaic Stadium.

The stadium was originally built in the fourth century BC, was used for hundreds of years for elite sporting events including fights with wild animals, but eventually fell into ruin.

It was rebuilt and restored ready for the first modern Olympics in 1896, and is also the finishing stadium for the annual Athens Marathon.

It is an enormous place that seats 68,000 people and obviously nearly everyone who visited today felt compelled to run around the track, and we were not exceptions to this rule.

We also sat in the best seats in the stadium that belonged to the king and queen of Greece in the 19th century. I pretended to give the thumbs down sign that they do in gladiator films, but that is probably in bad taste.

Machine hallucinations

Today we went to the National Gardens and Darren saw that they had a virtual reality exhibition taking place. Basically he had to download an app, and then follow the instructions to find the exhibits.

If you get it right you can then see the art on the phone's camera app, but not in real life. However, if I crouch, sit or stand in the right place then it looks as if it's real.

Does that make sense?

Lots of fun to be had and seen, this one is an exploding vase of flowers.

Best by far though was the floppy dancing Japanese man, and I tried my best to copy his moves without actually seeing him.

The gardens were okay too.

Friday 2 December 2022

25,000 steps today

After researching the route yesterday, this morning started with a run that included two laps around the Acropolis.

It was a lovely mostly pedestrianised route, with views of the Acropolis on one side and the Agora (ancient market place) on the other. 

It was hard work on an undulating course, but obviously not as hard as the run by Pheidippides in 490bc. He ran the 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce victory in a battle, and was so exhausted when he arrived that he dropped dead. He then accidentally became the first of many millions of marathon runners.

Afterwards we went down to the port of Piraeus for a look around.

It had a huge working port, but also a couple of lovely harbours. I particularly like this photo taken by Darren.  I think that if any artist actually drew reflections of masts in the water like this, then people would think that they had drank way too much ouzo.