Domum dulce domum Armitageworld!

I can hardly believe that I’ve been back from my trip for two weeks already!  I had a fabulous time in Greece…both on the tour and on the side trip at the backend of it.  Apart from a few hiccups along the way – let’s just say that at least one person saw far more than she expected of the inside of a Greek village medical clinic – I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people.  There were twelve of us in all…ranging from mid thirties to mid sixties in age, from a variety of backgrounds.  The group ended up being about half students and alums from my university and half Armitageworld peeps.

Early on, I passed out badges, which had been generously donated by Guylty,  so that the Armitageworld peeps could identify each other without “outing” themselves to the group at large.  I’m actually not sure how this worked…I already knew who was an Armitageworld peep going in.  I’d love to hear from others if they covertly discovered each other, or proclaimed their Armitage Allegiance loud and proud!

Every time I do one of these trips, I gain a bit more insight on how to make the next one better.  One perennial issue is the amount of climbing required to access some of the sites.  There’s not a whole lot to be done about this in general as nearly everything one wants to see in Greece is uphill.   However, I think reversing the itinerary might break it up a bit…

Marching up from the Agora for lunch...at least we'd already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

Marching up from the Agora for lunch…at least we’d already been up to the Acropolis by this point.

It’s hard to avoid the march in Athens – so much to see, so little time, but I could handily lighten the workout in the next few days since in the immortal words of one group member (you know who you are  🙂  ), “You said food and culture…not Greek fat camp!” after two days climbing around sites in Athens and the Argolid.  I would note here, that the speaker was in fact one of the most intrepid cragswomen in the group.  She scaled every citadel, castle and rampart we visited…I cannot wait to see her pictures!

All in all though, people did great – they went up as far as they felt comfortable (Mystras and the Nafplion Palamidi are not for the faint of heart (or lung, knee or hip!)).  Fortunately, in the digital age, it is wonderfully easy to share photos so that even if one didn’t climb to the top *waves* one might still see the pictures of those who did.

Mystras...we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

Mystras…we cheated and entered 2/3 of the way up to the top of the fortress.

One thing that I wish had been better was the tour guide.  On past trips, we’ve had a professional guide who travelled with us and guided us around the sites.  I will admit to a certain amount of impatience with this since we are sort of hostages to the guide’s schedule.  This trip, my Greek tour agent George was travelling with us, and I thought, guiding us.  Apparently, I thought wrong.  When we rolled up to the Acropolis on our first full day in Athens, George informed me that he doesn’t go into the sites and that I would guide.  Say what now?   It’s not that I lack the background, but there were two small wrinkles in this plan:

  1.  I was not aware this was the plan.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have instant recall of 500 years of Greek history and archaeology.  With some advance notice, I’d have jotted down a few crib notes!  (and the words to one song – all I could think to sing at Epidauros was Roll out the Barrel!)
  2. Perhaps more importantly – technically I am prohibited from guiding on sites since I don’t have a license issued by the Greek Ministry of Culture.  (I’ve since discovered that evidently, there is some wiggle room for University professors, so back to 1.)

These little details aside, I can say without a doubt, that my guy George (aided by a fantastic driver with the famous name of Leonidas) put together an amazing tour that checked a lot of different boxes.

George and Leonidas

George and Leonidas

I would love to do another one of these in the future…in fact, at dinner in Kalamata, I got the distinct impression from the 45 minutes he spent grilling me, that George would like me to do them every year…a partnership of sorts.

“Listen….you don’t understand…” he says.

I do understand, and I would totally love to lead tours more often, but until Mini Me is not so put out by my absence, (I give that another 2-3 years) I think I have to table that partnership idea for the immediate future.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent...

Faces blurred to protect the innocent…

That said, thanks to the Experience Greece Tour 2016 for a fantastic trip!!

This is the last time…I promise!

As we enter the “Bleak Midwinter,” I can’t help but look forward eagerly to 8 months from now when I, and an intrepid group of travelers, about 1/3 of whom are Armitageworld connected, will be trekking around the Peloponnese of Greece.

I’m especially looking forward to seeing some places I’ve never been, but also to revisiting some old favorites like the fortified Byzantine town of Mystras.

Pondering if I'll go all the way to the top

Pondering if I’ll go all the way to the top

I did go all the way up once

Dig that hippie strap!

Dig that hippie strap!

There I am, circa 1995-ish perched gingerly on a wall at the top of the town, pretending not to notice the sheer cliff dropping away right behind my left hand.  Good times (BTW, that tan is 99% the product of excavating in Greece in July – and I did indeed use copious amounts of sunblock – only 1% beach…I detest sand.)

I told you about the details here and here, and I bring it up again to let anyone who might have been on the fence in December, or who is just now hearing about it, that my lovely tour agent in Crete has extended the price to March 1st, so you can still get in on the fun.

The more, the merrier Armitageworld!!

Making a list, checking it twice…

Kids holiday concerts ✔
End of Fall semester classes ✔

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Drop off loot for adopted family✔

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Lights on ridiculously large tree ✔

That is about the extent of the things that are checked off on my list of things to do in the next week. 

Someone we know referred to me as a “First Grade Procrastinator” …I said, “Thanks for noticing!”  Grading and shopping are among my least favorite things to do…I’ll get it all done – I always do, but until then, look what was hatched from my procrastinating:

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I think Rudolph need a white puff tail…gotta run

Happy Procrastination Week Armitageworld

There’s still time Hellenophiles…

As it happens, the travel agent I’m using to book the airfare for the 2016 tour to Greece recently negotiated better group fare terms with the various airlines which means that I’ve been able to hold a few extra seats past the original October booking deadline.

poster snip

If you were interested, but couldn’t make the October deadline for booking, there is still time to join. Lest you think you’ll be sailing the wine dark seas solo, fear not!  There is a solid handful of like minded Armitageworld peeps (and one very brave spouse!) who’ve already signed up for the adventure .  It’s bound to be a blast…drop me a note in comments or via the “About” page for more detailed information.

By the way…have I mentioned to food???

Kolokothakia

Kolokothakia (from 2011 trip…my travel buddy takes great food pix  🙂  )

 

 

Unexpected Treasures

Perhaps little known fact:  Obscura LOVES a deal!   Just for the record:  I am not cheap. (yes SIL…I’m talking to you)  I am frugal, and there is a difference.  I will pay for top quality goods, but I worked in retail for years, and Obscura does not pay retail except as a last resort.  (note to self:  reading Caesar results in referring to oneself in the 3rd person repeatedly – avoid in future.)  My adoration for the fantastically frugal find often leads me to thrift shops.  This weekend, MiniMe was in the in the market for a new Columbia fleece.  Unlike her brother, she notices labels, and in our area, Columbia is a desirable logo for 4th grade outerwear.

Retail price:  $36

Retail price: $36

 

Thus, I considered it a gonga deal when I found one, basically in new condition, at a local thrift shop for the bargain price of $3.50…and it was even the right color and fit perfectly:  SCORE!!  Little did I know that the real treasure was waiting to be found.

When MiniMe stuck her hands in the pockets to perform a smart pivot turn and show me the back, she found something. Returning to front, she held out a many folded piece of white paper.  I unfolded it to find the most extraordinary document.  After a cursory glance, MiniMe wandered off to find my mother and commence negotiations on a few things she had her eye one (we affectionately call her Monty Hall since she always wants to make a deal.)  

I stuck the letter in my pocket to read later.  What at first glance was a note written between besties turned out to be one of the most moving things I’ve read in a long time…full of the effortlessly sage-like wisdom of twelve year olds.  I give you, “Bunnies Laws”:

I don't know Brensley, Anna or Siera personally

I don’t know Brensley, Anna or Sierra personally…to my great regret!

Written at the shocking hour of 3:43 am early in what I presume to be the summer vacation between 7th and 8th grade, I about died laughing at the first line on what appears to be a friendship pact between a group of peri-adolescents – a girl code.  Apart from stipulating the guidelines of relationships with the much coveted Ryan, a couple of things really stood out to me:

4.  If Ryan breaks one of our adorable hearts another person (Anna or Brensley) may go out with him to get payback 😉  (well Sierra, I guess we now know who’ll be asking who about dating Ryan post breakup!)

5.  We all must stay friends, no matter what.

6.  Stay true to yourself

8.  Stick up for each other if the person gets picked on

9.  Consult each other if you hear something from another person

The bits about Ryan are adorable in the extreme, but the sentiment in the middle is powerful.  These are girls who in 2012 were embarking on a really huge transitional phase in their lives and attempting to weather the storm together.  As much as they all seem to desire Ryan, it’s clear that their mutual friendship means more to them than Ryan or any other external source that threatens to undermine it openly or otherwise.  It’s an affirmation of sisterhood…that they are more a like than they are different, and that they should cherish their common bond above all.

Today these girls are sophomores in high school…amid constantly shifting sands.  I wondered a lot of things after I found this document.  Showbiz Son is a sophomore in high school.  I wonder if he knows these girls?  I wonder if he knows the sought after Ryan?  (I know for sure that he is NOT Ryan 😉  )  Most of all I wonder if they were able to maintain the bonds articulated in their pact…especially to “Stay true to yourself” and “stay friends, no matter what.”

As the Armitageworld is once again embroiled in the Mini-Storm of the Moment, I wonder if things would ever go down differently if we could all employ the wisdom of the Bunnies Law a little more often.

inter alia: “For the beauty of the earth…”

Many of you may be aware  that Servetus and I grew up in practically the same place…only a few miles apart as the crow flies in fact.  As it turns out, we both participated in the same youth musical organization, our part-time high school jobs were only a few city blocks from each other – the probability that we crossed paths at the only Taco Bell in the area after work is pretty high – yet we never met, until Armitageworld that is.  Life is funny that way…things happen that you never expect.   One night this summer, when we had met for drinks at a local watering hole, Servetus remarked about the physical beauty of our home state.  Both the bartender and I “pshawed” the notion, to which Servetus replied, “You only say that because you see it everyday.”  Since that day, I’ve reflected several times on her words and realized that she was right, it is beautiful here…especially so right now as the season shifts from summer to autumn and the verdant green landscape transforms to a patchwork quilt of deep gold, burgundy, red and orange.  All of the following images were shot within six city blocks of my house (my neighbors are right now wondering what my issue is…)

The park at the bottom of my street, trees just beginning to change colors

The park at the bottom of my street, trees just beginning to change colors

Just a peek at the river through the trees..

Just a peek at the river through the trees..

A view upriver... (I'm choosing to ignore the guy next to me blabbing on his bluetooth and harshing my nature vibe...

A view upriver… (I’m choosing to ignore the guy next to me blabbing on his bluetooth and harshing my nature vibe…)

Autumn landscaping abounds with hardy mums , cornstalks and pumpkins (before any horticulturists chime in, I know that's a gourd, just play along will you?)

Autumn landscaping abounds with hardy mums , cornstalks and pumpkins (before any horticulturists chime in, I know that’s a gourd, just play along will you?)

If the trees changing colors and hay bale dioramas weren’t evidence enough, this next image reflects a sure sign of the season in these parts:

first casualty of homecoming week...

first casualty of homecoming week…

Homecoming is a fall tradition in all of the local school districts marked by a week of celebration in the schools, especially the senior high school, culminating in a parade and football game on Friday evening.  The idea is that alumni return to support their alma mater (see, I can work Latin in anywhere!)  A time honored tradition of homecoming is “decorating” the trees of chosen houses with streamers of toilet paper.  I suppose that this is technically considered vandalism, but I think the local police mostly look the other way (informal interview with confidential 16 year old informant reveals that as long as the perpetrators are not in possession of eggs, a blind eye is turned.)  Our house was hit a few years ago…the decorators underestimated the size of the one tree in our yard…a roughly 50′ spruce…and did not know that my husband is a night owl – he interrupted  them in the act, they fled and left us 6 months supply of toilet paper – score!

But I digress.  The point I was getting around to,  was that it is often the case that we miss beautiful things that are staring us right in the face.  We are distracted by a million things from stopping to “smell the roses” from time to time.  Beauty is all around us…whether it is a sweeping autumn landscape or the smile of a child, we just need to see it.  I hope that wherever in the world Richard Armitage is today, he is able to enjoy a moment of beauty, big or small.  I’m going to try harder to notice the beauty around me…I hope you will too Armitageworld.

apple tree

ὅ παῖς καλός? Certainly, but who dressed you Richard Armitage??

I was quietly watching the happenings in Armitageworld over the weekend as I began my (annual) frantic preparations for the beginning of the academic year.  I couldn’t help but notice the Ben Rayner images that have popped up all over the place.  My immediate reaction?   Good Lord – that sweater!

I'm not putting words in his head but... Photo by Ben Trayner courtesy of www.richardarmitagenet.com

I’m not putting words in his head but…
Photo by Ben Rayner courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

This LV abomination has replaced my previous least favorite Richard Armitage sweater look….

The bulky, cable knit SHORT sleeved sweater?? Photo by Paula Parrish for Fault Magazine courtesy of www.richardarmitagenet.com

The bulky, cable knit SHORT sleeved sweater??
Photo by Paula Parrish for Fault Magazine courtesy of http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Fashion, like art, is a subjective thing I think.  I’m certainly not a fashionista – I’d describe my personal style as something like academic chic or maybe contemporary librarian?  Seriously, I have no idea what I’d call it…today I’m wearing a fitted blue tee with gray capri pants and sandals – fine – Birkenstock sandals!  Probably my edgiest fashion statement is 4 piercings in one ear 🙂  (I mostly did that to annoy my mother when I was in college!)

Even though I don’t tend to buy “fashion forward” I know what I like when I see it.  Do I really need to describe what about this sweater I don’t like?  It would be easier to identify what I do like…the color is OK.  I ran this ensemble past my local contact for fashion forward menswear (he’s a 20 something musician  studying at a prestigious local university for the arts, and we’ve had several conversations about the dearth of such attire here in the land of Levis and baseball caps) and he’s not a fan of the look either.

I’m not sure what was going through the mind of whoever put this all together, since none of it is particularly flattering on Mr. Armitage – if the goal was to make him look less attractive than usual, well done I guess.

It’s not as if LV only makes ugly (there, I said it…it may be warm, but IMHO, it’s ugly.) sweaters.  Look at John Hamm in this LV cardi:

Richard Armitage would look awesome in that sweater!   Source:  Details Magazine - October 5, 2010

Richard Armitage would look awesome in that sweater!
Source: Details Magazine – October 5, 2010

I suppose I’ll be grateful that they didn’t break out some of the LV Winter 2012/13 runway looks I saw for the Rayner shoot.  Thankfully, I only need one image to remind me how good Richard Armitage can look in a sweater…

Won’t you be my neighbor…please?!
Photo by George Pimentel/Wirelmage for Roots Canada Photo Shoot
Image can be viewed at Getty Images by searching Richard Armitage

ὅ παῖς καλός!!