Τετάρτη, 13 Νοεμβρίου 2013

In New York with the Au Pair International !!! (September 24th-29th 2013)

PROLOGUE



Since the end of April, all the au pairs of Au Pair International were informed about the getaway that the agency was planning. After a short survey, the destination was chosen ----> New York, NY! The trip was scheduled to be on September 24th-27th, and if anyone wanted to, he /she could stay longer and be benefited by the chance of a weekend class at the Long Island University (LIU Post) and get 3 credits, on September 27th-29th. An au pair MUST attend classes or courses and get 6 credit hours (or 72 non-credit hours) in a year in order to complete successfully the Au Pair Program.


Anyway, I asked my host family if I could go by explaining them the opportunity of getting some credits and also visiting New York. They agreed and I started making a research for the upcoming trip. In a time of 4 months, I had booked the air-tickets, a hotel room for the first 3 nights and a New York Pass for all the sightseeing. At this point, I have to say that I was pretty lucky with my hotel reservation, because staying in New York is very expensive!! Therefore, if anyone wants to visit New York, he/she should look through websites with offers and discounts and sign up on these websites, so he/she can get better deals as far as hotel reservation, rental car, flights etc. Anyway, I got lucky, because I found a hotel at Midtown East Manhattan in a very good price! I could be in Times Square in 10 minutes on foot!!

But, let's get back to the story!!!

Tuesday, September 24th 2013

It was time for my trip to New York, but I had a difficulty.. I got sick the day before! However, after taking some medication and drinking a couple of cups of tea, I was feeling better and ready for my new adventure!

The flight lasted 5 hours and I arrived in NY at 3 pm (Eastern Time). I found my hotel easily, I checked-in and little bit later, I went to receive my New York Pass and start exploring the city.

My first stop was the Museum of Madame Tussaud. I don't know how much time I spent inside, but I took many pictures. Leaving from there and heading to the next sightseeing, I saw little bit of the Times Square and I passed through the Bryant Park, which is beautiful with all the pots of flowers, the ping pong tables on the side (ha!), the benches, the tables and chairs and the land of lawn. My next stop was the Rockefeller Center or else called the "Top of the Rock", where I went up on the 69th floor and admired the view of New York at night! I couldn't believe it! It was breathtaking and, especially, the Empire State Building ant the Chrysler Tower..

Wednesday, September 25th 2013

On that trip, I wouldn't be by myself, but also with Lisa Kempton (Director of Operations) and another au pair Ijima from Japan, who currently lives in Washington, DC.

On Wednesday, I would meet them for the first time at the Battery Park. I had to wake up early and be there at 8:30 am in order to catch up one of the first ferries toward the Statue of Liberty.[ Unfortunately, we couldn't visit the Ellis Island because of the hurricane Sandy. ] At this point, I should mention that another au pair joined us that day, Vivienne from Georgia.

Anyway, we got on the ferry and we started immediately taking pictures of New York's skyline and the Statue of Liberty; after arriving on Liberty Island, we went upstairs and we got the chance to see the statue little bit closer and the view underneath. (The tickets to the crown were already sold out! ). Getting back to the Battery Park, there was an old man playing an awkward musical instrument. Anyway, he heard us talking with different accents and asked where we are from. We answered him that we 're from Japan, Georgia and Greece and that's it (!!!!), he started playing the National Anthems of our home countries! It was very nice of him!!

 Then, we went to the Memorial 9/11, I got thrilled to walk around where the Twin Towers were collapsed by 2 airplanes on September 11th 2001. We were waiting for a long time in line, but it worth it! In the place, where the 2 towers used to be, now, there were 2 fountains with the peoples' names that got killed. Some people were letting roses in the memory of those people.

Next stops were the Highline Park, a park built on an elevated railway, the Empire State Building, where we went up on the 86th floor to see the view from the highest building in the city. We could see the whole city from all the 4 points of the horizon.

I know it seems that we didn't visit a lot of places, but we barely used the railway! We preferred to walk all the time. The truth is that the best way to explore a city is walking!!! So, after buying dinner to get some energy, we walked to Broadway Theater to watch the "Cinderella" story!

Thursday, September 26th 2013

Next day found us at Times Square wandering and getting into the stores to take a look. We got into the Hersey's Chocolate store, the Disney Store, the M&M's Store, the American Girl Store and the Lego store. It was a weird tour into the stores, but totally fun!! Plus, we got the chance to buy souvenirs for our host families.

After hanging out at Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the "famous" stores of the 5th Avenue, we arrived in Central Park. We went from the entrance on 5th Avenue or else the Upper East Side of Manhattan. From this side, it's the Zoo and little further down a sculpture of Alice in Wonderland! It was beautiful. So beautiful that a family decided to take family photos that day! :P Generally, Central Park is like another world; an "oasis" in the middle of the concrete "desert" called New York. There are many ponds, small cafes and restaurants.

Before going to Metropolitan Museum, which is in Central Park, too, we made a stop at the fountain and the stairs that were seen on the last scene of the "One Fine Day" movie (1996), staring with Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.




Next stop, as I mentioned above, was the Metropolitan Museum! It's huge! It's impossible to visit all the exhibitions in a day. Therefore, we decided to visit only the Modern Art Exhibition with masterpieces by Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali or Roy Lichtenstein. We stayed for couple of hours, but we weren't able to stay longer after so much walking. So, we went to sit and get some rest, and then  we headed to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner.

At the entrance of the Hard Rock Cafe, there was an enormous electric guitar on the ceiling, meanwhile downstairs, where the restaurant was, the walls were covered by frames of people who have visited the Hard Rock Cafe, such as the Beatles, Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and a picture of the founders.

And just like that, another day came to an end!


Friday, September 27th 2013

The last day of the tour in New York was spent between the Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge , the Little Italy and the stress of catching up the last train for Long Island.

We wandered on the streets of Chinatown between the open-air market, the souvenir shops, the restaurants (the lunch was delicious!), and then on the Brooklyn Bridge with the wonderful view of the city and the Manhattan Bridge. On the way back, we passed through the Little Italy with the authentic trattorias and the stores with leather accessories.

However, it was 3 pm and we had to get our things, go to the train station and catch up the last train in order to be on time at Long Island University. Our weekend-classes were about to begin !! :P







 





 
 

 

 


Δευτέρα, 4 Νοεμβρίου 2013

A weekend in Portland!! (August 24th-25th)

PROLOGUE

For almost a year, now, I am living in Seattle. However, I had never been in Portland, OR, which is 2 hours away by train. Viola, my Italian friend, also wanted to visit this city, so we started planning our trip there for the weekend of August 24th-25th 2013.  One day before we left, we booked the train tickets, the hotel room and that was it!!! We were ready for Portland!!! 






Saturday, August 24th 2013


We were about to leave early in the morning, at 7 am, in order to have as much time as possible to explore Portland. We met at the King Street Station and we got on the train. We arrived in Portland at 11 am and still with the back packs on we headed to Lan Su Chinese Garden, which was pretty close to the Union Station, and from there to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Both places were beautiful. At the Chinese Garden we admired the architecture and at the Crystal Garden, we liked the meadows.. It was like an image from a fairy tale.. ! 


Leaving from there, we headed to the hotel in order to check-in and get rid of the heavy" back packs and keep exploring the city! : P  After that, we wanted to visit 2 more gardens, the Japanese and the Garden of Roses. But due to time, we changed our plan and we went to see the Convention Center and, later, eat and have fun at the Pioneer Courthouse Square  where an Italian Festival was held; and... WE DID HAVE FUN!!! 

Sunday, August 25th 2013

The first thing that we did was a walk on the Waterfront and from there we headed to the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. Even though it was raining and we got soaked, we liked the Japanese Garden, especially the rock gardens, and the variety at the Rose Garden!! OMG!  So many roses in different colors! By the way, Oregon is called as the Land of Roses!!

    
                                                            

Later, we went downtown to eat something and take a walk around the neighborhoods. Of course we didn't forget to visit the Powell's Bookstore! Aaaahhh [sigh]!!!  I could camp inside there! I love reading and the smell of the books and paper..


But it was time to go to the station to catch up the train back to Seattle... :( 

WE DID HAVE SO MUCH FUN, EVEN THOUGH WE NEVER STOPPED WALKING!!!




* NOTE: I prefer to describe a little bit of 
                the places that I have been, 
               because it's a different experience
              for everyone! Therefore, I just make 
             sure that I have mentioned the places
            (names) if anyone would be interested
            in visiting them some day..!  
                                                      Thank you!! 
                                                         Demetra

Κυριακή, 3 Νοεμβρίου 2013

Summer in Greece July 13th-August 13th!!

PROLOGUE

Yeeaaahhhh!!! Summer in Greece after being in the U.S.A for 1 year and a half.. ! 

Going there in numbers ------>

4 different flights, 5 cities (Seattle, Portland, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Athens), 28 hours, 1,680 minutes, 100,800 seconds, 6,161 miles!!! 



Sunday, July 14th 2013 (09:30 pm Athens's time)

Just arrived in the " Eleftherios Venizelos - Athens International Airport" being welcomed by my family.
And somewhere here my vacations just began! The first 5 days were little bit "tough" as it was a period of adjustment (again), and "quiet" as well.
But, "Let's get the party started" from the 6th day and on! Turu-turu-turu.... http://youtu.be/sXdbrbrxsQ0

It's about a theme party called "Being tourist in my hometown and the places that I used to go when I was little". Acting like a tourist in my country, BUT I had a huge advantage, which was that I knew where I was going and how!! 
My first sightseeing was Cape Sounio where the temple of Poseidon (Neptune) is located.With my brother, we admired the view (the Aegean Sea) and, also, enjoyed the sea. Plus, the ride with the car was magic as well!
(Cape Sounio on 07/23/2013) 


The second sightseeing was the Parthenon and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus! That day was very hot, but I enjoyed it! I won't mention the significance of the monuments, it's known and it's better for someone to discover it by himself/herself. However, since I was a "tourist", there were a lot of pictures taken!!! ;)
(Acropolis and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus on 07/25/2013) 

Tuesday, July 30th 2013

Since I was in Greece, it sounds "crazy"  not visiting an island and, especially, the island that I used to go for 21 years every summer, Lipsi-Dodecanese. It was a great opportunity to enjoy the sun, the sea and to make a surprise to my grandparents as well. So, I booked my tickets, I packed and said nothing to my "pappou and yiayia" !!! Hahahahahaha... :P

Wednesday, July 31st 2013

It's a lovely, sunny and, of course, hot afternoon. I was about to walk in Plaka, a neighborhood built on the foothills of Acropolis's rock.  It's one of the most beautiful places for someone to visit. Why?? Because, at some point anyone thinks that he/she is on an island or an Old Town.

Saturday, August 3rd 2013

I was already on the boat at 11 pm. The sail was about to begin in an hour. My destination was the port of Patmos, an island 1 hour way from Lipsi. I arrived there at 8:30 am the next day, on Sunday, August 4th 2013. Patmos is one of my favorite places to visit and I had a whole day before getting the ferry for Lipsi. So, I didn't waste my time and I started walking around the Skala area, and then I headed to Chora, where the Apocalypse (Revelation)  of Saint John is located and the monastery of St. Gerasimos, which anyone can see from the port. After walking in Chora and exploring the small souvenir shops, I enjoyed my coffee by reading a book at a coffee shop and looking at the view below.. Aaaaahhhhhh ... [sighing...]



Later, I decided to get back in Skala on foot! It took me 1 hour and a lot of sunscreen to do it! During my walk, I thought that the sense of SMELL is important!! I can't describe a summer in Greece without mentioning the smell of ouzo with grilled octopus, french fries and Greek salad; without the smell of the sunscreen on everyone or the smell that emerges from the trees and bushes because of the heat and the sea's moisture or without the smell of the watermelon with feta cheese!! Of course the sense of vision is great, too, but anyone has memories because of the smell! My trip on Patmos came to an end by reading my book on a beach and laughing with the kids who were playing.

Around 9 pm, I arrived in Lipsi. It was time for the surprise to my grandparents! They weren't expecting me at all, and when they saw me, they got very happy! My "tourist-game" on the island began the next day, on Monday. I decided to go for swimming on Platis Yialos beach, which is popular for its spectacular turquoise water, white bottom and golden sand!!! Sometimes, someone can see ducks taking their bath and playing around by making noise, but they 're so cute! Hahhahahaha!! 

 

On the way back home on foot (once again!), I enjoyed the sunset, the small fishing boats at the port and the people wandering and having a great time! ---->PRICELESS FEELING!! 

On Tuesday (08/06/2013), I visited another beach, which is quite different from the previous one and known as the beach of pebbles inside 
and outside of the water.



On the one side of the beach, there are the seals' caves which are a perfect place for people who seek privacy.. Anyway, leaving from there, I made a stop at the monastery of the island the Virgin Maria of Death. It's called like that, because the icon shows the Virgin holding Jesus Christ crucified, and the crucifixion implies the death of Christ.  


Anyway, the following day, which was also the last one on the island, was same as the other ones. Being on the beach, reading book, having a coffee...

But, it was time to go back in Athens. I packed my things, I greeted my grandparents and I got on the boat. The next morning, I was back in Piraeus, the port of Athens. The following days got passed by spending time with my friends, my family and seeing people that I hadn't seen for a long time..

However, 1 month had already passed and I had to come back in Seattle,WA with my host family. 

P.S. : I know the end was abrupt, but, always, the end of something fun, it's not happy.. :( 


Πέμπτη, 8 Αυγούστου 2013

The 4th of July vacation!!

Wednesday, July 3th 2013

It's eve before one of the most important American celebrations, the 4th of July. With my host family, we were about to celebrate it in Meeker,CO (Colorado). Our flight was pretty early in the morning in order to be there before dinner time, since Meeker is 1 hour and half away from the border with Utah (5 hours away from Denver, the capital of Colorado).

Even though it took long time to get there from Denver, I enjoyed the scenery, and especially the North Canyon with the red rocks and cascades. Finally, we got in "Bed & Breakfast Rambulin", which is a very lovely place with cosy and friendly atmosphere.

Thursday, July 4th 2013

After waking up and having breakfast, it was time to go at the parade. Going there, I noticed all the people wearing  blue, red and white clothes or having painted their faces with the same colors in honor of their symbol, the USAmerican flag! Then, the parade started, and many kinds of chariots were participating like Harley Davidson, 4x4 Jeep etc., decorated with American flags or horses with people dressed as Native Americans (Indians) and Cowboys, cheerleaders, while children were throwing candies in the audience!

When the parade was over, it was time for lunch! The foods for the whole day are hamburgers and hot dogs! Nothing else!!!

At the end of the day, it was time for the famous fireworks. The whole "show" lasted for an hour!! It was amazing all these colors and patterns on the sky.

Friday, July 5th 2013

The "adventure" of the day was a day-trip to a cabin in the woods, close to the White River!! It looked like being on Alps! A small wooden cabin close to a small pond that is used for fishing! It was so peaceful till the kids started to learn how to shoot and being supervised by their parents.

Saturday, July 6th 2013

It's the fourth day in Colorado, and everyday I was visiting a new place, like the ranch of the family! A huge land on the foothills of a mountain, a perfect place to grow animals. On the flat part of the land, there was a cabin, which hosts every year hunters. The adventure of the day was hiking on the mountain and the view from the top was breathtaking!

On Sunday and Monday, we spent our time in Vail and Golden where my host mom's family lives.

Weekend of June 22nd & 23rd!!

Saturday, June 22nd 2013

We planned for this trip a week ago! Our destination was Mt Rainier, which is located southern of Seattle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rainier_National_Park, almost 3 hours from downtown by car.


As I have said before, every single trip without an adventure is not fun! So, there couldn't be an exception for this trip. After experiencing taking the exact opposite exit, finally, we got on Mt Rainier National Park.





We chose to do the scenic drive and end up at Paradise point. Our tour lasted almost 4 hours, passing by many falls, like Christen Falls, and admiring the Mt Rainier with the extremely "blinding" snow on it. It felt little bit of winter, again (!!!), around there. And what can prove it??? The fact of playing on the snow and throwing to each other snowballs!



There is nothing else to refer apart from the fact of having such a great time with my friends!!!



Sunday, June 23rd 2013

That day's trip was about wildlife-search, and, especially, whale-watching close to San Juan Islands and Victoria (of Canada).
The ferry was about to sail away at 7:45 am. First destination was the Friday Harbor for the passengers who were not about to stay for the wildlife search. After the disembarkation, everybody on the boat was "up" just in case of seeing a whale and letting know everyone else about it! 

HOWEVER, we were unlucky and we didn't see any whale! :( Everybody was upset, but we couldn't do anything about it! At least we enjoyed our time at Friday Harbor for lunch and walk around, after such a long trip! 

At the end of the day, we found ourselves in downtown eating some comfort food... 

San Francisco # Memorial Weekend # June 24th-26th 2013

My Fast & Furious Memorial Weekend

PROLOGUE

Thanks to my Italian friend, Viola, of telling me about her visit in San Francisco and New Orleans, I thought "why not me either?"  ... So, I asked my host family when I could get my weekend-off in order to go in San Francisco. They liked the idea and told me that I could get 3 days instead of 2! It was done! My trip to San Francisco was scheduled for the 24th till the 26th of May, the Memorial Weekend! 

During searching for the air-tickets and a place to stay,I asked few people who may know information about the city. One of them was an au pair, who to one of my questions about a "decent" place to stay, she came up with 2 options : a hotel's name and her place. She could host me for the weekend! I accepted the invitation and I couldn't wait for my trip. BUT, something unexpected happened! Another au pair who read my post about my trip in San Fran, she asked me if she could join in! We talked and we agreed that we were going to have such fun! A!!! I forgot to mention that both au pairs (Anna and Kiki) are from Greece and we are from the same agency (www.anixi.eu)! So, at least, we had 2 things in common! Hahahhahaha

FRIDAY, MAY 24TH 2013

It was the day for my trip to begin. I couldn't wait to meet the girls. With Anna, we had agreed to meet up at the airport, and from there we would go to Kiki's house. There is no trip without a little bit of adventure! And I can prove that by telling you that it took us a lot of time to find each other at the airport after some phone calls, texts and chats on Messenger! [Peek-a-boo/Where are you?].Plus, on our way to Kiki's place, we missed the right bus stop. Finally, we met each other, talked little bit and an hour later, Anna and I were heading to San Francisco at Fisherman's Wharf. We took the BART (train) and got off at the Union Square station where we realized how the weather is going to be the next couple of days : humid and windy! When we arrived in Fisherman's Wharf was already late, so we took a walk around, but we both agreed of coming back again. 

SATURDAY, MAY 25TH 2013

We woke up early in the morning, because we had to see a lot of things. After loosing time to find a rental car, we took the BART and got off at Civic Center. From there we took a bus toward Golden Gate Park. Going there, we passed through a "known" neighborhood the "Haight-Asburry", which reminded me a lot of from Seattle's Capitol Hill and Fremont. Anyway, the weather was getting warm and we decided to have picnic at the park. We had  a really good time and we made a new friend, even though it was difficult to identify his name. The only thing that we understood is that he really liked our company because of the food! (WOOF-WOOF!) Hahahhahahahahaha

In the park, we saw the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Science and the DeYoung Museum from OUTSIDE, of course, because we couldn't waste our time. We should have seen other places in short time! Therefore, after the park, we were on our way to Golden Gate Bridge! It took us 1 hour to get there-30 minutes of walking and 30 minutes in the bus-and we stayed for 5 MINUTES! (Just to take photos and hit the road!



NEXT STOP-----> Lombard Street! We got off the bus and started looking for our destination. At this point, I would like to say that we got some workout after so much walking, running to catch up a bus and doing inclining! Yes, INCLINING! To get to the Lombard Street, we had to climb up 2-3 very steep hills! But, it worth it, since the neighborhood around was pretty nice and the view was amazing. As we were standing on the top of the Street, on the left, we could see the ocean and the Alcatraz, in the front, the Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge of Oakland and on the right, a cable car full of people hanging on it!



Looking at people hanging on the cable car, I wanted to do it too! Anna agreed with me and we went to catch up the next one! The ride was fun and we ended up at Fisherman's Wharf (which would be our destination for the next day) from where we were ahead to the Chinatown!

The Chinatown is very popular in San Fran, and especially its gates!The streets are colourful with bright colors and smells of chinese cuisine, and full of the known red paper lamps on the wires! We admired all the facades, and we didn't omit to visit the souvenirs shops and "play" with the hand fans!! Hahahahahaha

                                                

SUNDAY, MAY 25TH 2013

According to the title, you can imagine that the time was precious and we didn't waste any minute of it! So,  early in the morning, we took the BART and got off close to Embarcadero Center and Ferry Plaza (Pier 1). We headed to Pier 39-41 at Fisherman's Wharf, where we admired the Alcatraz (from far away), the Pier 39 with the seals and the whole square with the famous fish restaurants and small stores.

But, anything comes to an end, and our trip came to an end as well! It was time to pack our things and go to the airport.