Monthly Archives: June 2013

Pride

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Pride. Today I was proud. Proud to live in the progressive city of Seattle. Proud to live in a the beautiful blue State of Washington. Proud to be an American in a time of such progressive and forward thinking positive change. Proud to have so many gay and lesbian friends and colleagues that I can’t count them on my fingers, toes, and the fingers and toes of my wife and daughter combined.

We were in Paris last week when we heard about the US Supreme Court decisions that dismantled DOMA (the so called “Defense of Marriage Act”) and California’s Proposition 8, which would open the way for gay marriage to return to California.

We actually curtailed our trip to Europe for my sabbatical several months ago so we could return for the wedding of our dear friends Debra and Michelle. For years they’ve been saying that if gay marriage was ever legalized in Washington State they’d get married and they’d want my daughter Clara to be part of the wedding party. This past November that promised was scheduled when the voters of the State of Washington legalized same sex marriage. But to hear the Supreme Court ruling about DOMA means our friends Debra and Michelle will now also be able to receive the same Federal recognition and benefits the rest of us enjoy.

So today we decided to celebrate this historic occasion by attending the Seattle Gay Pride Parade, now in its 39th year!

The start of the parade was emotional. You could feel it. I cried I was so overwhelmed with joy and emotion for our friends and for all the people who now feel equal partners in this country. As soon as I saw the first Harley lesbians who started the parade, one with a wedding gown on, I choked up and couldn’t hold my emotions. It was a powerful and positive day for myself and my family and friends who attended with us.

The parade was better than ever with so many people on the streets. It seemed 10 to 15 deep at times on the side of the parade route. But we had gotten their early so we had front row seats. There were more corporate participants than ever (Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, PWC, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Holland America, Verizon, and other local businesses), more political candidates than ever (there’s a mayoral race in Seattle this year and the gay vote is critical to anybody who wants to win that seat), more City and County participants than ever (Seattle Parks and Rec, King County Sheriff, Seattle Police, Seattle Fire, State Patrol, Seattle and King County Libraries, etc.) and of course your gay and lesbian businesses, clubs, organizations, clubs, groups). But what really surprised me was the number of religious organizations. There was representation from the Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutheran, even Baptist and Mormons who are ready to perform weddings and openly accept gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people into their congregations. Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster made an appearance.

It was a day of positive energy and love, and just the right amount of kink, leather, drag, nudity, and unicorns to make the parade entertaining and memorable. 😉

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Changing of the Evzone Guards

Sunday June 23rd was our last day in Athens. We started our day by visiting Syntagma Square, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Greek Parliament. We wanted to see the famous changing of the Evzone Guards that stand outside the Tomb and the Parliament.

The uniforms of the elite Evzone Guards may look a little silly to us, but they are steeped in history, tradition, and symbolism. For example, the “pom-pons” date all the way back to the ancient Mycenaeans. And the skirts of the guards have 400 pleats – one for each year of the Ottoman Empire’s occupation.

We arrived in time to see the crossing of the guards at 10:30am and then took our place on the side of the square to witness the more elaborate pomp and circumstance of the 11am changing of the guards (complete with a marching band). Then we got a photo opportunity with the guards who, like their British counterparts, aren’t allowed to move or show emotion while standing guard and must remain completely serious.

The ceremonies start precisely 5 minutes before the bottom of the hour (cross of the guards) or top of the hour (changing of the guards) and based around a high stepping slow motion march that keeps very precise time. Each ceremony miraculously completed exactly at the bottom and top of the hour. It was good that the ceremony was only 5 minutes long because it was a smoldering day (97 degrees in Athens). After the changing of the guard we headed to the Acropolis Museum to spend our afternoon with air conditioned relics indoors.

Evzone Guard

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Acropolis and The Plaka

Before and after our trip to the Sporades we spent our time in Athens on and around the Acropolis and The Plaka. Athens is remarkably easy and walkable if you can handle the heat (it was 97 degrees there the day we left).

From the rooftop deck of the Hotel Attalos in the Monastiraki area of Athens we had a stellar view of the Acropolis and easy walking access to The Plaka (a collection of small, mostly touristy) shops, boutiques, and restaurants. To beat the crowds we rose early and walked up to the top of the Acropolis to beat the throng of humanity from the tour groups and cruise ships that arrive shortly thereafter.

We saw the Parthenon, the Temple of Athenia Nike, Erechtheion, and the amphitheaters Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theater of Dionysus before a stumbling into the beautiful neighborhood of Anafiotika before returning to the Plaka for some ice cold Mythos and more great Greek food in the tavernas tucked into the hills around the Acropolis.

Acropolis & Parthenon from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon at night from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Acropolis & Parthenon at night from Garden Bar on roof of Hotel Attalos

Be warned...you may be getting this as your Xmas card this year

Be warned…you may be getting this as your Xmas card this year

The caryatids of the Erechtheion supporting function as columns supporting the roof structure

The caryatids of the Erechtheion function as columns supporting the roof structure

View of Athens from Acropolis

View of Athens from Acropolis

Parthenon

Parthenon

Clara & Erechtheion

Clara & Erechtheion

Theater of Dionysus from Acropolis

Theater of Dionysus from Acropolis

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Neighborhood of Anafiotika

Sign to Acropolis for wayward tourists walking the neighborhood of Anafiotika

Sign to Acropolis for wayward tourists walking the neighborhood of Anafiotika

Categories: Greece | Tags: | 3 Comments

Ferry, Bus, Subway to Athens

Saturday was a long day of travel to Athens by ferry, bus, and subway to our hotel in Athens. It took about 12 hours and it still cost me nearly as much as the 40 minute plane ride to Athens. But we did get to see a bit of the Greek countryside. Greece is beautiful and my conclusion from the 12 hour trip is that I’m no longer concerned about the world supply of olives and olive oil. I think we’ll be just fine.
We left Skiathos on the ferry to Volos about 11:15. The ferry takes about 3 hours to reach the mainland port of Volos.
About 1/2 hour into the ferry ride there was an announcement for any doctors on board. I egged on my father and Tom to respond, which they did. “Its either a heart attack or a woman going into labor”, said Tom. “Let’s hope its not the latter”. Well…it was. A woman’s water had broken and she was going into labor. She was on her way to Volos from Skiathos because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck and she needed to travel there for a c-section, but her water broke too soon. However, as this was her first baby the labor wasn’t active and her contractions where still 10 minutes apart by the time she boarded the ambulance on the other side.
We arrived in Volos and walked to the bus station (although we sent our bags along in a taxi). We missed the 3pm express bus so had to take the 4:30 local (4.5 hours long) for 27 Euro each. We were dropped at a subway station about 6 stops away from our hotel. It all worked out and we were happy to be back in Athens and at the Attalos Hotel for a few days in Athens before heading to Paris.

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The bus ride was long but on a very modern and nice bus. But it was enough for Clara to get a little punchy with her paprika Pringles.
Once in Athens we went out on a Saturday night on a full moon and had dinner. Athens and the Plaka was hopping! Very intense number of people out. Great people watching and meal.

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Much to our Sunday morning regret we finished our meal with our first (and last) glass of grappa in Greece. It tasted good going down but combined with our sea legs it made our Sunday morning get off to a slow start.

Categories: Greece | Tags: | 1 Comment

Return to Skiathos Town

On Friday we spent our last day on the boat swimming and sunning ourselves on the beach of Troulos Bay before heading back to Skiathos Town to return our boat. It was a short trip but gave us time to think about all the great experiences we’ve had over the past two weeks sailing in the Sporades.

We had one last nice meal at a great little seafood restaurant in Skiathos Town and walked the streets on the solstice until late into the night.

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To the people of the Sporades thank you for taking care of us on our trip. And to all the stray cats – even the surly ones – we hope you all find loving homes, and if not, may you find a little piece of fish or squid passed to you under the table by sympathetic tourists.

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Koukounaries Beach and Trolous Bay

We anchored at famous Koukounaries Bay. Its said to be the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is like gold flecked talcum powder – very fine sand but with flecks that sparkle gold in the sun. Its a shallow gradual beach so the water is warm. It fronts a lagoon with a wildlife sanctuary behind it.
We went ashore and although we were early in the season the beach was still pretty busy. Tawny, Clara and I bought an umbrella and 3 chairs to rent in front of Kahlua Taverna and sat in the sun, swam, read, drank beers, ate lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed the people watching. Unlike the rest of the Sporades reachable by boat filled with French and Germans, this beach reached by plane and ferry seemed to have been populated by Russian tour packages.

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In the afternoon tour boats from Skiathos Town started coming in and the beach filled in by the hundreds. Although we were enjoying the people watching others wanted to head to a little bay around the corner for the night. So we went back to the boat and navigated the dangerous shoal Vrak Marines to Troulos Beach and found ourselves the only boats (except for 1 Greek fishing boat) in the bay. We could still see the mega-yacht Al Mirqab. It was our warmest swimming area yet. Clara went ashore and tried a paddle board (but it was really an unstable surf board so the very nice beach rental people refused to take payment for it.)

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We went ashore that night for dinner at Troulos Taverna. Food was good and we had breem (a delicate white fish) for the first time. The taverna had a cute little kitten that Clara was very smitten with. As the evening wore on and the wine and ouzo was poured it deteriorated into dancing with the wait staff. A fine evening.

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Mega-Yacht Al Mirqab

Thursday, about 5 am, the wind starting blowing hard and shifted direction blowing us into the rocks. The anchors were holding but our stern ties became useless. We worried that our anchors may get tangled since we were rafted together and had 3 anchors out. By 6am we were looking for an exit strategy. We got the boats and shore lines untangled and by 7am or so we were headed to Skiathos and famous Koukounaries Bay. Its been said this is the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is said to be like gold flecked talcum powder.
As we approached I thought I saw a ship in the area we were heading. I bet it was a luxury private yacht and was right. It was the ship Al Mirqab the 10th largest private ship in the world owned by the Prime Minister of Qatar. It has its own Wikipedia entry. Its a beautiful looking yacht if you can get past the enormous wealth it represents. It cost some 700 Million British Pounds (that’s just over $1 Billion!)
Unbelievable amount of toys they put out for their guests (ski boat, parasail, water polo floating court, 6 skidoos (in the water and more inside the yacht, kyaks, etc.) The back of the yacht included 2 escalators to bring you back up to the lido deck from the waterline. It dominated the space but provided an interesting discussion for us.

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Return to Panormous

Wednesday we had a lazy morning of reading, swimming and generally lounging around in Stafolos. We were in no hurry to leave or arrive at a new destination. Relaxation is the order of things for the next few days. We eventually left for Panormous where we had previously anchored on Skopelos. We rafted all 3 boats together in an area of the bay where we could optimize 270 degrees that evening. Tawny, Clara and I went ashore to BLO taverna and had lunch of souvlaki, spaghetti carbonara, cool sherbet and spent our day swimming on beach, reading books, and relaxing. Its an interesting gravel beach with a very gradual but deep slope into the bay making for an excellent swimming area. We had happy hour on boats and then Judy, Tawny, and I went back to BLO to get their excellent bacon wrapped souvlaki and bring it back to the boat for dinner aboard. The sunset was spectacular.

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Stafylos Bay

It took us a little over 7 hours to reach very pretty Stafylos Bay from Skyros. Stafylos Bay features crystal clear waters of a protected bay surrounded by rugged and red cliffs with a sandy swimming beach and beach taverna in the center. Its fronted by a large headland (Stafylos Cape I believe) upon which a King (Minoan I believe) had established his castle and a city here at one time. There’s a huge cave under the headland in the entrance to the bay. There was also a later tomb found on the headland complete with treasures such as a gold hilted sword from the 15th century which now sits in the national antiquities museum in Athens. Here we had our best snorkeling and a nice meal at the cliff taverna with perhaps the sweetest feral cat we’d ever met.

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Skiros & Linaria & George

Sunday (Father’s Day) we headed for the Skyros about 20-30nm away. We got an early start. Again there was no wind so we had to motor to Skyros instead of sail. It was still several hours before the island began to take shape before us. We decided to use the Valaxa Strait which would remove 6nm from our trip. Valaxa Strait is a very shallow and narrow passageway between Valaxa Island and Skyros that opens into Kalamitsa Gulf and Linaria Bay (the fishing town we’d spend the next few days). Much of the depths in the Valaxa Strait are only around 3 meters (we draw a little of 2 meters with our keel). But there is a sweet spot in the middle of about 5m deep. We posted watches on the bow and the water being so clear it was easier than anticipated to maneuver the boat through.

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Linaria is a pretty little town with white washed cubist homes on the hill and a white and blue church on the point of the bay that welcomed us. The port is very small but very nice as they recently upgraded to lazy lines (pre-set anchor lines) so we had no need to drop an anchor for stern tie Mediterranean moorage style. There is also a port manager (George) who took care to help moor our boat and took care of all our needs; “You need shower? I have shower for you. Free internet, free water, free electric hookup, my boys will find bike and ride bike and swim with your daughter. You want to see Skyrian horse? I have friend. I call taxi for you. I rent you motorcycle. Eat here, best place in town. Your daughter like dog? We have English Sheep Dog. Anything you need, you find me, I’m always here”.

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George told us about a place to get a drink up on the hill that looks back on Linaria. “Favorite place in all of Aegean”. And he was right. Great place to watch the sun set and get a drink. So we did. George was great. He delivered on all his promises and our petty demands. He and his wife were very sweet and really tried hard to make Clara feel at home. Then later that night we invited George and his wife Angela to have a glass of wine with us and thanked them for their help. We loved Linaria and Skyros. We’ll certainly be back again.

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George, Angela, Linaria! Cheers! Stin Iyia Sas!

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