Aquarium

Last weekend we took our daughters to the aquarium. It was neat to see how our oldest reacted to all the different fish. Some she got really excited about, others she was like “meh”.

But there was one thing I couldn’t help thinking. My daughter wanted to get in the tanks to see them up close. She even hit her head on the glass a few times. But I bet the fish inside all want out. In fact, they had a penguin walk showing off the penguins and one actually tried to escape. It was pretty funny.

This is much like our life. Everyone from the outside wants in, and everyone on the inside wants out. Everyone gets tired or bored of the things in life and are so quick to give up. Or we want what others have. We constantly compare our lives to others based on social media. But I can guarantee that everything isn’t always glamorous. Most of it is just a show. You only put the best out there for all to see.

We need to get back to being happy and content with the situations we’re in. And not being so envious of others. Other people’s lives could look better than yours, but the truth is, it could be like swimming in a tank of piranhas. Now that doesn’t sound too glamorous.

So be happy. And keep swimming.

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[English] Central Greece – Day 3 – Part 1 – 23/09/2017

Welcome to day 3! We travel from Athens to Olympia, 363 km, with a lot of stops on the road.

Anyway, let’s start from the beginning. As described in a previous post, I had an unpleasant surprise in day 2 with the pick-up hour at my hotel, but this time I was sure of it and there was nothing which could destroy my mood in the morning. I was super-excited to go on my trip and I was looking forward to visit other Greek old cities like Olympia and Delphi.
I woke up 6.30 and had breakfast. It was funny because this time I was there even before restaurant was open. I am totally another beast on holiday. When I am at home, I can’t manage to leave my bed, I skip breakfast just to sleep some more and it takes me forever to warm up and get active.
When I am on holiday, it is totally the opposite. I wake up unnecessarily early, I eat a big breakfast and I listen to music to pump myself up. Mostly, it is commercial and Nightcore music; it set my mood properly to be energetic and positive about the whole day. Normally, I identify a song to associate with the vacation. Sometimes, it is thematically related with the place I visit. Sometimes, it is just a good song. In the case of Greece, the song I felt connected with was “There’s nothing holdin’ me back” of Shawn Mendes. There was something about the word that I felt appropriate with my experience; something related to the fact that I wanted to be myself, but I also wanted to be more spontaneous and try new things.

Here some of the lyrics:

I love it when you go crazy
You take all my inhibitions
Baby, there’s nothing holding me back
You take me places that tear up my reputation
Manipulate my decisions
Baby, there’s nothing holding me back.

She says that she’s never afraid
Just picture everybody naked
She really doesn’t like to wait
Not really into hesitation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT2owtxkU8k

Anyway, like the previous day, there was a lot going on with the tour company and it took a little bit of time to get everyone on the right bus. Well, mine was not really a bus; it was a really nice van, black, comfortable and there was plenty of space since it was suited for around 15 people while we were only 10.
During the organization phase, I found myself alone with the guide for a couple of minutes. Anna revealed to be a very nice person and she was very cute with me. She came to introduce herself and started with a really loving speech, like how she knew Italian, to go to her for everything and to be careful and such. It was a speech like only a mother could do and I could tell she was really worried about me. Probably she saw I was traveling alone and I was the youngest of the group; I also seems even younger than I am (trust me, no one usually thinks I am 31 years old). It was somehow comic, because at the end it was me reassuring her that I had no problem with English and that it wasn’t my first time traveling alone. If I could survive six months in Mexico, I think there should be no problem for one week in Greece.

The time on the van was pleasant; the guide talked a lot about Greek fact, maybe too much. The view from the van was very good, there were huge windows and I could enjoy the change of environment throughout the days. One thing I didn’t like was that the guide didn’t make any effort to make each other know; there was no introduction at all and, especially for the first day, it seemed more like strangers on a public transportation than a travel group. Having done a Contiki tour on the United States, where one of the main job of the guide is to promote connection between travelers, I felt a little disappointed. I knew it would be like that, but maybe I was hoping there would be some other lonely traveler of my age. Instead, there were four couples on my tour; one from Brazil, one from Hong Kong, one from China and one from New York. There were also a crazy German man, around sixty years old, who had just sold his restaurant and moved to New Zealand.

First stop of the trip was the Corinth Canal, built in 1893 to allow navigation through Peloponnese and the Greek Mainland. The canal is very narrow, only 21.4 metres, and for this reason failed to attract naval traffic. It is today mainly used for tourist traffic. It is also a nice place stop on the road, with some shop and the possibility to take some beautiful photos of the sea.

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The Corinth Canal separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland. It is 6.4 kilometres long and only 21.4 metres wide.

Second stop was the amazing Epidaurus theatre, located in the sanctuary dedicated to the ancient Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. It is a huge old theatre, built in the second century BC with a capacity of more than twelve thousand people. It is incredibly well conserved as you can see in the picture below.
One of his peculiarity is the perfect acoustic; if you stand in the center, the sound is amplified because it bounces against the walls. Someone on the top of the stairs could hear you whisper in the center; having of course complete silence in the theatre, which is really difficult with all the tourists around.

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The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is one of the best preserved theatre in Greece. It has a very good acoustic and for this reason, it is still used today for musical events. It is considered a great honor to be asked to perform in this theatre.

There is also a small archeological area around the theater, with the rests of the Asclepius sanctuary. A really small museum is also included in the ticket. It might have been worth to stop more time there and have an explanation of the sanctuary as well, but we were on a clock considering the long road ahead of us. This is something I don’t like about guided tours; if you think something is interesting, you can’t stop for more time, but in the other hand you don’t risk to run out of time for other things that might be even better. Life is about compromises and a guided tour is not a bad choice most of the time.

Third stop was supposed to be one hour launch break in Nafplio and it was; for the others! When I am traveling, I don’t waste time in trivial things such as eating or… breathing! Let’s be real: how many times I will have the chance to visit Nafplio again? Probably no one, even though I realized it could be worth to come back to this beautiful place.
In fact, it is a very nice place to walk around, enjoy the view and have a nice meal. It is also a place full of history; important harbor in a strategical position, it was contested for long time between Venetians and Ottomans. Numerous battle took place here, and the three castles stand as a remainder of this period. The city is not very big today, with 20-30 thousand inhabitant, but it used to be so much important that it was chosen as first capital of the Hellenic Republic and of the Kingdom of Greece (from 1821 to 1834).

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The beautiful square and shore of the city of Nafplio. In the background you can see one of the three castle, Palamidi, built by the Venetians in the 1714 during the second occupation.

As I said, I decided not to have lunch in a restaurant but to walk around and eventually grab a quick sandwich. I was eager to get some photos of the three castles. So, I walked along the shore to take a picture of the first fort situated on an island in the middle of the harbor and enjoy a nice walk.
The weather was insanely beautiful that day. The sky was perfectly blue, sun was shining but it was not too hot; there were also a very nice cool breeze and it was amazing to stand outside and walk along the sea shore. The guide kept telling us how much lucky we were! The week before there were 37°C and it was a furnace, especially in the continental area of Greece.

I kept walking near the sea and then I climbed the hill a little bit to see the rest of another castle, that it is today hidden and mixed within the houses of Nafplio. It is really nice to walk among the streets and have the remains of the walls all around you. You can see how beautiful is the city from the pier in the picture below.

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Nafplio is a very old and particular city of Greece. A really nice place to visit, with its castles, shops and restaurants.

I kept walking through the city to get closer to the third castle, Palamidi, which dominates the city from the close hill. The guide told us you could climb up there even though the walk would take you 15 minutes. I was tempted to try go up there, but when I finally found the path I only had 30 minutes left before my ride was leaving. I knew I couldn’t do it; I lingered in the area for a while to see if I could run to the top somehow, but the path was narrow and there were a lot of other people. I then surrendered and decided to take a couple of photos and go looking for something to eat. I went to the far end of the city center and I bought a sandwich, just to have something in my stomach to keep me going. It was 13.30 and the day ahead of me was still long and intense.
I walked back to the van, passing through some beautiful square and a completely pedestrian quarter. I wished I had more time to stay there; I think it is a very nice place to stop for the night on your way to other places.

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The beautiful Nafplio pedestrian quarter.

On the way back to the van, I stopped on another pier to watch some vintage cars; there was a small exhibition and it was nice to take a look even though I am neither an enthusiast nor an expert.
At around 14.30, we started once again our trip, direction Mycenae and the Tomb of Agamemnon! But to learn about this, you would have to wait for the next post!

Hope you enjoy the post, make sure to like it and you can help me by sharing it with your friends! See you next time!

COUNTER
ACROPOLIS PHOTO: 0 TOTAL=97 (only being away from Athens could keep me from taking photos of the Acropolis)
NAME OF A VISITED PLACE COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN: 1 (Palamidi)
MISSPELLED NAME: 2 (Asclepius, Agamemnon)

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Starbucks or Bookshops?

With 73 outlets, Ireland is home to more Starbucks per capita than any of our European counterparts. 51 of these branches are in Dublin. Buenos Aires, with 794 bookshops, has more bookshops per inhabitant than any other city in the world.

Granted, the coffee in Buenos Aires left a lot to be desired. I mistakenly expected that South America was synonymous with good coffee but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. That said, the porteños made up for it with their array of bookshops so all was forgiven.

(Warning: basic economic knowledge such as supply and demand and economies of scale (and perhaps my own naivety) made me think that books would be cheap but that was not quite the case.

Avenida Córdoba (as well as Pizzeria Guerrin) has a myriad a second-hand bookshops. They’re chaotic, cramped and charming and offer a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle that surrounds the Obelisco.

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Ateno Grand Splendid can’t go unmentioned when talking about the bookshops of Buenos Aires. And Starbucks? Why do you need Starbucks when you can sit on the stage of a former theatre with a (mediocre) café con leche y dos media lunas, por favor? The boxes are reading rooms and the stalls have been replaced with rows and rows of bookshelves. The stage curtains are deep red and frescos on the domed ceiling remain perfectly intact. In addition to all this luxury, the bathrooms are clean (and free) and there’s wifi that kinda works. But anyway, who needs wifi? If you want wifi, go to Starbucks!

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Bookworms bury their way through Palermo and San Telmo, dusting off covers and inhaling that musty scent of the yellowed pages. Palermo, the trendier of the two, offers bookshops-cum-coffee shops, bookshops-cum-wineries, bookshops-cum-cultural centres, you name it. Most of these spots offer nooks and crannies where you can tuck yourself away, without feeling obliged to fork out a fiver on a coffee, and leaf through the libros.

Libros del Pasaje: an airy conservatory space with strong wifi and stronger coffee makes this the perfect place to sit, work, eat, drink, read, write, eavesdrop, contemplate the meaning of life.

Borges 1975: books? jazz? drama? art? Check.

Autre Monde: is there any combination more beautiful than that of malbec and García Márquez? Je crois pas.

Eterna Cadencia: I passed this place plenty of times prior to venturing inside because I never even noticed it was there. Nevertheless, the staff were helpful, the OJ was freshly squeezed, the sofa was comfy and it was open ‘til 10pm.

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Libros Ref: a dazzling array of books, fiction and non-fiction, new and second-hand, coupled with tasteful tunes makes for an almost hypnotic atmosphere.

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San Telmo is hip and trendy in an edgy kinda way with its cobbled streets and covered market and its bookshops are reflective of this chaos. Walrus Books is a cosy cave full of English books. Despite its compact size its selection is vast and in addition, the subtle jazz (Françoise Hardy – Le Temps de l’amour) in the background means you could get very comfortable.

With ‘Desde 1785’ above the door, La libería de Ávila, claims to be the oldest bookstore in the city. Its is packed to the gills with reading material, both new and old. The wooden mezzanine holds shelves upon shelves of literature and descend into the basement and you’ll lose yourself amongst the broken spines and get high on the smell of ancient books.

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El Rufián Melancólico is like something from another world, another epoch. It’s the sort of place where you don’t want to be seeking anything in particular because you’ll never find it. The owner may call it ‘organised chaos’ but the it gave me, a closet perfectionist, high blood pressure! The shelves are overflowing with volumes and vinyls  and a game of Jenga ensues when you clap your eyes on an edition of interest. That’s all part of the charm, though.

I spent my four years at university being haunted by the works of sociologists, philosophers, political thinkers, modernists, historians, anthropologists… These names were unknown to most and even I, a student of their works, struggled struggle to understand their ground-breaking theories. However, in Buenos Aires the names Gobineau and Goethe, Habermas and Herder, Bauman and Babel, Marx and Mann, Foucault and Frankenstein, fill the streets and occupy the bookshops. The world culto in Spanish is a well-used word meaning learned, well-read, educated. This word can be used to perfectly to describe the porteños: cultos. Perhaps, in Ireland, if people began to frequent bookshops rather than Starbucks we too could be a culta population?

Purchases include:

  • Las venas abiertas de América Latina – Eduardo Galeano
  • El amor en los tiempos del cólera – Gabriel García Márquez
  • Las nenas no lloran – Domingo Trujillo
  • Paisanos – Tim Fanning
  • Una lección de vida y otros cuentos – Roberto Fontanarrosa

Other purchases in these treasure troves included:

  • Café con leche
  • Media lunas
  • Jugo de naranja
  • Café irlandés
  • Gintónic
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