Well hello there 2018!

I read a thing on Facebook recently (which naturally, I cannot find again) that said something along the lines that 2017 was a year full of problems of all sorts, and dealing with them stifled the creativity of many people.  It went on to offer a wish of renewed creativity to all in 2018.  I really couldn’t agree more!  You may or may not know that in addition to following the career of Richard Armitage, I am also a long time fan of SpongeBob Squarepants – in fact, I find that there are few occasions in life that can’t be connected to a SpongeBob episode.

Case in point:  Looking for the 2018 return to creativity this morning, I ran into the little image above…fellow SpongeBob fans will know that the the rainbow over his head appears when SpongeBob arcs his hands and says,

“Imaginaaaaation!!!” 

Works for me.  I don’t usually set minimums for myself, because I find that they are far too easily broken as goals, but in terms of blogging, I think I’ll look at it as a challenge to ease myself back into regular posting.  So here’s my thought:  in the first quarter of 2018, I’ll post at least once per month.  In the second, at least twice, and so on.  I think setting some reasonable goals for myself might be just the ticket to unlocking my creativity vault..

In other news, the upper midwest has been a deep freeze over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday – can you say, “Cabin Fever?!”  Since we’ve been cooped up, we’ve been experimenting with our new favorite kitchen gadget, the SodaStream Fizzi that I got as a gift from my parents.  I’m hopeful that the omnipresence of fizzy water will help me break my soda swilling ways in 2018!  I’ve also been assembling ingredients to try out several TASTY recipes that I’ve been binge watching lately (I’ve also made a pledge to myself to stop eating so much junk in favor of cooking and carrying.)

Last but not least (I rushed Super Glam Daughter to get ready to leave, so I dare not dally…) is a very exciting announcement of travel in 2018.

As with the 2016 trip, if anyone in Armitageworld is interested in joining the group, you are most welcome.  (If you are from outside of the US and interested in joining the tour, email me and I’ll send you the price for Greece only.)  

Here’s to 2018 – a year of renewed creativity and expression!

Happy New Year Armitageworld!!

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!!

I’m so excited!!!!

…and surprisingly, it has very little to do with Richard Armitage,

happy-cartoon-smiling-frog-jumping-excited-vector-91000038

but I still can’t hide it (apologies for the obvious Pointer Sisters nod).  

Some of you may remember that way back, I’d wondered if anyone might be interested in coming along if I were to arrange a tour to Greece.  Well, TWO YEARS LATER!!  I’m elated to report that I am organizing an upcoming tour through my university that I’m also offering up to all of my friends.  Have a look at one of my new hobbies…brochure writing:

greece 2

greece 1

We’ll spend September 9 – 18th, 2016  (September 8 is a travel day for those coming from the US) beginning in Athens and then traveling to a variety of places around the large peninsula of the Peloponnese…The Island of Pelops.  History, archaeology, culture, cuisine and more.  September is a fabulous time to be in Greece…the temperature is milder than the summer, but the water is still warm, the summer crowds have tapered and the pace is leisurely.  This tour is being marketed toward our Alumni and non traditional adult student population, and I’ve designed it to have a more leisurely pace than the cultural marathon I take the traditional students on 🙂  For those who are interested, but not originating from the US, you can arrange your own airfare and meet me in Athens.  (I can provide the cost for the land portion of the tour only)

If anyone is interested in joining in, let me know via the contact form below, and I can share more of the details… (just overwrite my info with yours in the boxes…I’m not sure why it came up like that…)

The past year or so has been incredibly challenging (I’ve tried to spare you all the bulk of the gory details along the way) so this trip has become something of a lifeline…I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it, or how pleased I am at the prospect of perhaps meeting some of my Armitageworld friends at the same time…A good times double dip!

acropolis

Καλό ταξίδι Armitageworld!!

inter alia: The “Dangers” of Being the Best Friend and Preferred Travel Buddy of Obscura

Tweeted from the Greek Isles a few weeks ago.

Tweeted from the Greek Isles a few weeks ago.

I saw this Twitter pic of Graham McTavish enjoying a Fix Beer somewhere in the Greek Islands that led me into a pleasant day dream of he and Richard Armitage climbing the caldera on Santorini or something of the like.  I like the idea of Richard Armitage have a great time traveling with a friend.  I have very fond memories of tromping all over Greece with my bestie.  It’s probably a good thing that I never shared a lot of the details with my mother – she doesn’t want to know some of it, and it’s really best she doesn’t know about the “near misses” – I was a kind of intrepid traveler in my 20’s.

For example – I really don’t think she needs to know about the time we drove from the port of Chania on Crete, in our rented Fiat Panda “Topless”

fiat panda

It looked like this, but white…1.5L engine – what power!  (actual size)

We had just gotten off an overnight ferry from Athens (which we had boarded directly after getting off our delayed overnight flight from Chicago – I do not recommend this exact itinerary) and were in search of the beach at Falsarna which our map said was not too far away.  Since I was the only one in the group of three of us who could drive a standard transmission AND remembered to bring a driver’s license to Greece, I was the designated driver for the trip.  So, working on zero hours of sleep in a 36 hour period, I took off…struggling to control the powerful car…not really, I struggled to get the tiny overloaded car up to cruising speed!  It wasn’t long before we encountered our first problem…

mountain road

We could see the beach (this is not a photo of Falsarna, rather Sfakia, but you get the idea) from where we were, but we couldn’t find the road to get from Point A to Point B.   I continued driving along the road when a voice the back seat (travel is a funny thing…it can make or break relationships…this one broke on this trip) said excitedly, “There’s a road.”  Sure enough…there was something that initially resembled a road going down the mountain in the direction of the beach.  I turned onto it and drove about 100 feet before I stopped and said,  “I don’t think this is a road…”  It was unpaved and only about  half a meter wider than the Panda…and that’s not saying much.  On my left was a sharp drop off to the valley below, on my right the side of the mountain…not a lot of wiggle room.  The back seat said, “It’s fine…just keep going!”  By now, I just wanted to get to that beach, strip down to my bathing suit and wash 36 hours of travel grime off in the blue Mediterranean waters, so I adopted a new driving mantra:   “Just keep going.”

Turns out I was right…it wasn’t a road.  It was an access path through a mountainside olive grove.  I cleverly deduced this when we met the olive farmer coming up on his TRACTOR!  He didn’t blink an eye to see a carload of tourists.  He just pulled over…to the inside of course… and waved me to the outside so we could pass.  I had a terrifying view watching stones and dust skitter away down the cliff as the tires of the Panda barely clung to the side of the mountain path.

That was 1994, and it is not the last time my Bestie and I have turned touring ancient monuments and museums and going to the beach into a danger sport.  We’ve slowed down a bit lately though.  I find that having children has impacted my desire to “Just keep going.”  I’ve also found that successfully climbing up and down hundreds of steps in a mountain top monastery does not rule out Bestie tripping on the circular stairs in the hotel and going en pointe in Teva’s before tumbling down, dislocating a thumb and breaking a rib in the process.  (It’s a good thing there were cold beers in the mini bar – ice is hard to come by in many parts of Greece.)

The Sacred Way zig zags up a pretty decent incline here at Delphi...my students were bellyaching about going to the top...

The Sacred Way zig zags up a pretty decent incline here at Delphi…my students were bellyaching about going to the top…

Bestie is a trooper though…the next day she hoofed it all the way up to the stadium in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi broken rib and all.  (I’m pretty sure she did this just to prove to aforementioned bellyaching students that they were slackers!)  

Our most recent trip thankfully produced no serious injuries…(although, trying to teach her to drive a stick shift may have taken several years off my life!) but on a recent visit to her house, I realized that there was another level to the danger…the collection of travel based knick knacks she’s amassed:

EXHIBIT A

EXHIBIT A

AND

greek knick knacks 2

EXHIBIT B

I shudder to think what might happen if we take that trip to the SPAM Museum this fall!

I’ve been wondering…

In addition to my home life, my regular teaching gig, my volunteer work (I’m looking at you VBS!) and of course, intensive devotion to Richard Armitage studies, I have another little hobby.  Every so often I design and lead tour groups to Greece.   We visit remnants of a storied past….

Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens

Charming mountain towns…

dimitsana-open-air-water-power-museum-gr5473

Dimitsana, Arcadia

A plethora of seaside tavernas…for fun in the sun, or in the shade 🙂

greece beach taverna

Greece is one of my favorite places in the world, and I love bringing people there and showing them paths less traveled.  My last trip was in 2011, and I think I’ve been missing Greece since I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.  Then a thought occurred…what if I combined my two favorite hobbies – travel to Greece and Richard Armitage fandom? 

Actually, Guylty and I were giggling about this topic via email a while back and I started to think about it again this week.  So,  I’ve been wondering if anyone out there in Armitageworld would have an interest in a fun filled vacation with plenty of inspiRAtion for conversation.  (**I’m not in league with any travel agent or tour company and stand  to gain nothing  but the pleasure of your company 🙂  )    I’d think about late spring or early fall of 2014 or even 2015… Am I crazy?    Wait, don’t answer that   : )