Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Hello from Athens! 

We arrived at the Port of Rafina and jumped in a cab, a ride which got progressively more terrifying as we got further into the city. Our hotel for the night is right in Plaka, a central touristy neighborhood right near the Acropolis. Hotel Hermes was lovely and everything I think a European hotel should be- polite and clean and small enough to fit into the dense city center, with good air conditioning. I took a shower and then walked around the neighborhood a bit before meeting the O’Donnells for dinner at their new favorite restaurant, Avocado, a vegetarian and vegan place not far from the hotel. My omnivore heart was skeptical, but they had loved it so much that I was willing to try it- and it turned out to be quite good. It’s always hard for me to avoid nuts in these situations, and most of the pasta was either egg pasta or had nuts in it, but I had guacamole and chips and falafel with tahini and pita bread and it was perfect. Willa Marie and I split a creamy caramel biscuit something that arrived looking like just a pile of whipped cream drizzled with caramel, but underneath was a caramel cookie that I would have again in a heartbeat. So Avocado was a success.

I slept very well in my king-sized bed, so well that I overslept in the morning and was late to the continental breakfast, where I inadvertently poured hot milk on my cereal. It was not delicious. 

David and I met Christos, a guide they had taken a hike with on Tinos, just outside the Acropolis. He is a marble carver and is working on the restoration of the Acropolis. With him was his friend Spiros, who used to be a security guard at the Acropolis. He brought us inside and took us behind the rope line at the old hospital temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, and showed us some of the work they are doing, the cataloguing of stones and how they piece things together. It was very cool. There were also some tortoises that live there, which seemed strange, but we saw 3 of them. Asclepius believed that theater and dogs were good for the soul. I can’t say I disagree, although for me it’s more like movies and cats (nothing against theater (except bad college theater) or dogs). Christos also gave us each “plum cherries” from a tree growing in the hospital. They are supposed to have restorative qualities. I am going to plant mine. 

We continued up the hill of the Acropolis, with the hoards of people. We saw the ancient theater, the Odeon Of Herrodes, where Sting and Calexico (surely an odd combo?) will be playing in June. Pretty cool venue to see someone. My ankle, still sore from two days before when I fell on it in Pyrgos, was not thrilled about standing and chatting on the slanting, slippery marble below the entrance. Ouch. Thankfully it was really only at that angle that it hurt badly. It rallied later and allowed me to have a 30,000+ step day in Athens. 12.5 miles!

The Acropolis is really something. As with the Louvre, I spent the whole time wishing that I could be there without the masses of people holding up iPads to take photos. This has always been a pet peeve of mine but I haven’t noticed it in awhile. Ugh. iPads. Tacky. 

The temple of Athena Nike, behind the Acropolis and above the entrance, is where the statue of the Winged Victory was originally placed. I think it’s interesting that it’s in the Louvre now- I’m sure there is a dispute about it between the two countries. However, now that I’m looking all this up on Wikipedia, I suspect something got lost in translation between us and Christos. I’m not entirely sure this is where the Winged Victory resided. This is a good example of an issue I encountered a lot in Greece: lack of plaques or signs telling the average history, without a headset, anything at all about what’s in front of them. Granted the presence of such signs would make it feel a bit less oldy-timey, but the scads is tourists take care of that pretty well all by themselves. 

Temple of Athena Nike 

We spent a good deal of time just looking at the ruins and talking to Christos and Spiros. Spiros said that everything you can imagine happens at the Acropolis- people trying to take rocks home, people fainting, people slipping on the marble, terrorist threats- one girl even tried to take home one of the cats that lives there before the guards heard her backpack meowing. 

As we walked down the hill Dave got in touch with Jessica and Willa Marie and we agreed to meet at the Acropolis museum. We said our goodbyes to Christos and Spiros, who are great- very into heavy metal and snakes. If you ever go to Tinos and need a guide, Christos is your guy. Let me know and I can get you his info. 

 The Acropolis museum is lovely, and very well put together, although I again missed signs in English that explained more about each piece. I suppose I should expect signs in English in a museum in Greece, but I have come to expect it. I dislike audio tours and prefer to go at my own pace. The O’Donnells had to leave pretty quickly anyway, so we didn’t have time to linger. We saw the main things- the top floor is the size of the Parthenon exactly and they have tried to replicate where pieces would have been placed on the exterior. There were some very beautiful statues, one in particular of a long serpent that I liked a lot, and many ruins of formerly beautiful statues destroyed in the many wars that the Acropolis has seen. It’s a beautiful place.

From there we walked back to our hotel, where we picked up luggage and said goodbye =( it was really lovely traveling with the O’Donnell-Thebuses. Willa Marie has reached a perfect age for hanging out without needing to be entertained all the time, and David and Jessica have the kind of silly, loving, mature relationship that I can only hope to achieve someday in my life. They all genuinely like each other and I think they were genuinely glad I joined them for 5 days. I know I am. 

I took a cab from Hotel Hermes to my hostel, which was really just the top floor of an old hotel, Hotel Lozanni. It was in a bit of a sketchy neighborhood (definite hookers hanging around late at night), but my room was simple and cute and just what I needed: 

And the price was right. Very right. The only complaint I really have is that I let the proprietor call a cab for me this morning when I was leaving, and he called a friend, who charged me 15€ more than anyone had said a ride to the airport should cost. My mistake. Rookie move, Cameron. 

I hung out for a bit and changed, then left to walk to the Athens First Cemetery, to find the Sleeping Girl carves by Yannoulis Chalepas, whose home we had visited on Tinos. It was a few miles away. Along the way I walked through the National Gardens, which had a sort of aviary that also featured goats, and happened upon the Panathenaic Stadium, the oldest and largest marble stadium in the world and the site of the first Olympics! I had to go in. I climbed all the way to the top: 

It was pretty cool, I must say. And hardly anyone was there, which was a welcome change after the Acropolis and it’s museum. The small museum and store at the stadium were closed, but I’m glad I went. You can’t just walk past a huge carved marble stadium and not go in. Or at least I can’t.

After a couple of wrong turns I found the cemetery. The old Greek lady at the gate made sure I knew that it closed at 8:00- I only had 40 minutes. But as luck would have it, the Sleeping Girl is not far into the cemetery, and on the central road. She was not hard to find, and she was as beautiful as expected. 

I think my favorite tombstones are the ones that feature exact likenesses of the people buried underneath. There were quite a few in this cemetery, along with some interesting modern art headstones. I wonder what it costs to be buried there? It certainly seems full, but there’s were headstones for people who had died as recently as 2015. I imagine it’s extremely expensive. 

At this point I was getting tired of walking, so I caught a cab back to the Plaka neighborhood, where the Acropolis is, and where I knew there were restaurants that catered to tourists. I just didn’t feel like dealing with finding something else. I sat in the square of restaurants and had chicken souvlaki with French fries and steamed vegetables. It was perfect. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. 

It was a long day, but a great day. Athens is dirty and graffitied but also a vibrant and exciting place- and the history is stunning when you really start to think about it. I’m sure I’m forgetting things- I’m at the airport and sleep deprived and waiting for my flight home- so I may edit this. Planning to write the next day up while I’m on the plane. 


Saturday, May 26, 2018


Things I Didn’t Need To Pack

1. Long-sleeved shirts. Or at least not 3 of them. 
2. Jeans
3. More than one book (but how do you choose?!?) 
4. My 50mm lens. I love it the most but I haven’t used it due to lack of space in my camera bag. Zooms can suffice next time. 
5. 2 pairs of sandals. Chacos have been enough. 
6. My fleece. This is a toss-up because I *did* wear it, but only when it was insanely windy on Tinos. Otherwise it’s just been something to lug around and my jean jacket and thin sweatshirt combo would have sufficed. 
7. 3 skirts. I have worn none of them, which is unusual for me, but their lack of pockets is distressing. 
8. Wool leggings. What? Why did I bring these? I think because the weather in Paris kept being 50 degrees the week before I left... but still. Wool leggings? 
9. Gym clothes. Hahahahaha right, Cameron. You were really going to go to the gym. Ha.

Things I Could Have Used: 
1. A slightly bigger camera bag 
2. Black dressy-ish shoes with arch support for walking 
3. A less-dorky sunhat
4. BUG SPRAY. I don’t know why I didn’t think there would be bugs in Greece- maybe because it seems so dry? But holy cow, are there bugs in Greece! 

Things I’m Glad I Brought And Should Always Bring: 

1. My REI skort, which I have worn despite not having pockets
2. My Prana hiking pants. They are perfect for hot weather
3. A collapsible duffel bag to accommodate the buying of souvenirs! I felt like such a grown-up when I did this. I’m so smart! However, would this duffel bag have been necessary if I had not packed all the things I didn’t need to pack? Probably not. 
4. My celebration pants (silky palazzo pants that I bought randomly online a few years ago and have become one of my favorite possessions)- again, no pockets, but so good for hot weather! 

This has been Lists With Cameron 

Tinos Part 2

I think that wherever I go in the world, I will not have enough time there. I never want to leave a place that I am enjoying. There have been very few trips on which I was really ready to say goodbye to the experiences and the landscape and head home. This is not to say that I’m not happy to be going home; I love home. But the actual leaving of the new place, the closing of the door for the last time and the getting in the car or cab or whatever to leave- that’s not my favorite thing. Goodbyes are sad, even when it’s just a place. A place I could come back to, but don’t know if I will. I hope I will. Tinos is magical. 

Our day yesterday was a bit shorter, a bit more relaxed- not that the first two were very busy, but yesterday we only visited one little town, one beautiful restaurant, and our own beach at Agios Romanos. The town of Pyrgos is known for its marble carvers, in particular Yannoulis Chalepas. We visited a small museum that was dedicated to Tinos artists, and part of it was Chalepas’ home, where he lived with his parents before they sent him to an asylum for being an artist. When his father died his mother took him out of the asylum and he was able to sculpt a bit again; when she died, he became incredibly prolific for the last 10+ years of his life. He has some famous works in Athens at the cemetery, which I am hoping to go see. 

(Cement cast) 

He has such a sad story that I immediateky became a big fan of his. I think I will try to find his famous “sleeping girl” sculpture on a tombstone in Athens. 

Pyrgos is also famous for the giant tree in the middle of the town square. After we did some shopping on the little Main Street, we sat in the square and had coffee. The tree is great. 

We think it is a plane tree. 

We have been in Tinos at the very beginning of the high season, and the O’Donnell-Thebuses have witnessed it, in their 16 days here, go from a sleepy island with hardly anyone around and most tavernas and stores shut to a quietly awakening island, opening its doors to the tourists that I’m sure help to keep its economy going. Pyrgos is the largest town on the island, after Chora, the main Tinos Town, and it certainly felt like two weeks from now it would be crawling with tourists. As it was, the square had four or five tables filled, but nothing was rushed or crowded. It is the perfect time to go to this island, if you’re ever thinking about making the trip. I’m sure the same goes for many Greek islands. 

We bought some souvenirs for various people in Pyrgos, all of us suddenly realizing that we were lacking on the souvenir front. Then we visited a marble shop, where an artist was carving in front of us, and the pieces were so beautiful that we couldn’t help buying things. Mine is small but I love it so much: 

The artist was so nice. Worth a stop if you are ever in Tinos. He is on the edge of town near the fancy bus stop: 

Right outside this bus stop is where I tripped on some uneven pavement and fell, twisting my ankle and breaking the polarizing filter on my camera- but luckily not the camera itself. A little jar of jam in my tourist purchase bag also broke, and my ankle is not so happy with me today. But I’m ok and my camera is ok and that’s what matters. 

We drove next to one of their favorite restaurants, Thallasaki, on the island, in a little town at the bottom of a hill right on the water called Ormos Ysternion. The tables right near the water are labeled “SPLASH” because often the waves will crash over the deck and onto the diners- as though we were watching an orca show at Sea World. The water was so clear and serene and the view was so peaceful that I decided to buy a house there someday. Unrealistic, but how cool would it be to own this house? 

That’s my future house. It’s a fixer-upper.

The food was amazing- an actual fancy restaurant the apparently celebrities will go to in their private yachts, docking nearby and not having to drive down the windy road with the unwashed masses. I had gigantic shrimp with some sort of fish egg mousse, and we split some appetizers, including whipped fava beans that I will have to try to make at home. I think Willa Marie is glad that I am here to accompany her in not being a vegan. 

We drove home then, back to our serene villa in Agios Romanos, for our last night in Tinos. We went swimming and sat at the beach for awhile, and then I walked over to the closest dovecote to try to get a decent photo of it. I couldn’t get too close because it’s not on the property where we were staying, but it’s not bad: 

Around 8 went up to the roof and watched the sun set. It was lovely, as all the sunsets here have been. 

This morning we woke up early and packed, walked to the beach one last time so I could take pictures of it, and said goodbye. Creamsicle, the friendliest cat of all the cats who live in Agios Romanos, licked my yogurt container clean. We are all going to miss her, and her friend Gandalf the Grey, and this house. 

I am not at all ready to be gone, yet here we are on the ferry, motoring our way back to Athens. I got to walk up the Main Street in Chora again while David returned the rental car, which was nice. Ultimately I barely spent any time in the main town, but that’s ok. The character of the island is in the villages. 

Tinos, I hope to be back again someday. You have a piece of my heart. 


Friday, May 25, 2018

Tinos 💜

My first day in Tinos was just what I wanted from a Greek island. The O’Donnell-Thebus clan has been here for awhile now, about a week and a half, and feel like they know the island like it is their second home. They were eager to share it with me. 

Waking up to this view is not a bad thing at all:

I am sleeping in a pseudo-hallway with a bed/couch in it, and it is small and adorable and perfect. The mornings here are coffee and lazy breakfasts outside in the huge garden with the neighborhood cats. There is one little orange and white lady thag Jessica named Creamsicle and she is everything you want in a cat. If I could adopt her I’d be all over it. 

We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the island. As they have been here for awhile, they’ve scouted it out and are taking me to all their favorite spots. First up was Volax, or Volakas, a beautiful basket-weaving hill town in a landscape surrounded by boulders and rugged terrain that calls to mind Don Quixote, and where a serene man named Joseph sold us teas and oils. The first time they had met Joseph he told them a story about a grave illness he had and his visit to the underworld. We have deduced from this that he is a witch, or perhaps immortal. Either way, we like him. 

I could easily have just explored Volax all day. It is a geological marvel- no one quite can figure out why the landscape is the way it is. Greek legends have explained it with a story about gods having a boulder fight, the way us mere mortals might have a snowball fight. This is probably a better explanation than whatever the truth may be. 

But exploring an entire island in a few days requires not as much lingering as I may have done on my own. 
So we had a lemonade and headed off to Agapi, an old town on a hill top where Willa Marie befriended a pregnant cat. There were some crumbling old buildings for sale that got me thinking about buying a house on a Greek island. Who’s in?? 

We went from Agapi to Aetofolia, which means Eagle’s Nest, to have lunch at a taverna that they had visited before. I had a sort of pork fillet that came with French fries. Jessica and I had wine. In Greece nobody rushes you through a meal. They let you sit and savor the ambiance and the food, enjoy the people you are with and relax a bit. It’s nice. 

When we got back to the house, which is above a little beach called Agios Romanos, we went swimming. My first time in the Aegean Sea! It is so salty that floating is no problem at all. The water is clear and not warm, exactly, but warm enough that once you’re in it’s no big deal. If I lived here I’d swim in the sea every day. I have the same thought whenever I’m in Hawaii. 

That night we sort of skipped dinner in favor of little snacks, and played a great game of self-made Scategories, featuring such categories as “Patterson qualities” and “things you can’t eat with a fork.” It was a lot of fun and felt like having our own little mini family reunion. 

The wind is intense on Tinos at all times (according to legend, Tinos is where Odysseus was given a bag of wind to get home), but that night it was still and I got subsequently eaten alive by mosquitos. So if I have Zika now, know that I love you all. 

On Thursday we decided to go to a beach on the other side of the island, Livada Bay, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The road was long and windy with lots of goats, and at a certain point it is unpaved, but not impassable by any means. If you are ever on Tinos, you really should make the effort to go. The rock formations are beautiful- mostly reddish rocks and at a certain point they meet very black rocks, very abruptly. The red ones are pockmarked by the wind and look like the Sand People from Star Wars should live there. Instead, goats live there. I think all four of us could have stayed there all day long, swimming and climbing rocks. Tinos in general would be a great place to go bouldering, if anyone is into that. 

At Livada Bay in the Aegean is where I got my Jubilee name, Sea Otter Jones. All Jubilee names end in Jones and must be bestowed by an O’Donnell-Thebus. Mine was given to me because I looked like a seat otter floating in the waves. I’ll take it.

By the time we left Livada we were all hungry, so we drove up and over the island to Andrados, the oldest town on Tinos and the first town where the O’Donnells stayed for 7 nights before going to Agios Romanos. It’s old- medieval old- and feels like you are walking around a movie set, for Star Wars or Children of Heaven or something. We went to their favorite taverna there, which is called Meeeh- like the sound a sheep makes. Literally. It’s named for that sound. The food was yummy and the proprietor very sweet, remembering that they were from Chicago and happy that they had returned. Then we wandered Andrados for an hour or so, and again, I could have stayed all day. Check this place out: 

Andrados is home to the monastery where the nun lived who had a vision that some relic would be found buried on the beach, and when it was found to be there, she became a saint, or something. The details of the story are unclear, but it is one reason why Greek Orthodox pilgrims flock to Tinos in August. Jessica had already visited the monastery, so we just did a quick tour of the courtyard and poked our heads into the church (two nuns glared at me when I did) while Dave and Willa Marie waited in the car, then walked the other way to a small chapel with many skulls. Some skulls in boxes with names, some just sitting in shelves. No explanation in English. I loved it.

Driving down the hill next we entered Kora, or Tinos Town, the “big city” on the island. We needed coffee and ice cream and groceries, and I wanted to see the church where the pilgrims go. They crawl from the ferry dock 800 meters up a hill, on a carpeted path running alongside the Main Street. The church is so ornate. I forget how fancy the Greek Orthodox faith is- all silver tin and incense and jewels. I didn’t want to take photos in the main church but this is from a chapel underneath: 

Picture those hanging silver things times 1000 upstairs in the main church. 

Carpet leading up to the church. 

Jessica and I both wrote out prayers for Vivian in the chapel. Can’t hurt.

We had ice cream at a Haagen Daz place by the wharf, and then got some groceries for dinner and headed home. Dave made potatoes and lentils and salad for dinner and we played more Scategories. The wind was back that night and the mosquitos were fewer- I killed one before falling asleep and that was that.

More tomorrow- it’s late and I need to sleep before the ferry in the morning. Look for a link soon to my guest post on the official Jubilee blog, www.odonnellthebus.com !!


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Paris>bus>plane>Rome> plane > taxi > Rafina > ferry > Tinos

Hello from Tinos! Today is my second full day here, a Thursday. I’ve finally gotten over any remaining jet lag, I think. I’m sitting on the balcony at David and Jessica and Willa Marie’s beautiful rental property, drinking coffee that has long gone cold, and itching my many mosquito bites from last night. Things are good here in Agios Romanos. 

The trip to get here was a long long day. As mentioned previously, I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to walk to the Gare du Nord station and catch the night bus to the airport. This was a bad idea. I feel pretty confident walking in cities in general, even at night, but with all my stuff and not quite knowing the lay of the land, I was definitely nervous. It was not quite a mile. I don’t recommend it. I couldn’t find the bus stop at all and simply wandered about until it was time for the bus to come, at which point it went flying past me and I had to chase it for 4 blocks. I was in the completely wrong spot. Turns out Google Maps does not accurately know all bus stops. 

Things were mostly uneventful after that, although my flight from Paris to Rome was delayed enough that I just barely made the connection. I literally walked off on plane and into the boarding line for the next without stopping anywhere along the way. The Rome to Athens flight was filled with Texans who all knew each other, and they were so loud on the shuttle to the plane (weird) that I was worried they would be loud the whole flight- but they weren’t, and I was sort of able to doze. 

When I landed in Athens I found a taxi to go to the port of Rafina, I was 4 hours early for my ferry but just did not have the energy to wander around Athens, so I figured sitting in a quiet port town would be nice. It was. Rafina is pretty run down it seems, outside of the dock area, but it was nice to explore a bit. I had lunch (a HUGE plate of shrimp, fries and tomatoes), and then walked the streets until 3:30 when they would let me board the ferry. It was incredibly windy and my taxi driver said something like “sure is choppy! Have fun!” 

The ferry was huge and I didn’t really know what to do or where to sit, so I just found a spot on the deck, put my head on my suitcase and passed out for awhile. When I woke up quite a few passengers had boarded. 

The ferry ride was nice, but longer than I had anticipated- almost 4 hours. There is a lot of beautiful scenery, most of which you are a bit too far away from to really see properly. I spent a lot of time on the deck while it was still light out, taking photos and just letting myself be blown about by the ridiculous wind. The only thing even remotely like it that I’ve experienced was when Eric Tal and I took a ferry up the fjords from Bergen to Flåm in 2005. Every photo I took ofyself has my hair blowing around like a crazy person. 

Some scenes from the boat: 

Stopping in Andros

After dark I went downstairs to charge my phone for awhile, and fell asleep again, then woke up when the captain was saying “all passengers for Tinos please disembark!” After a 4 hour ferry ride I nearly missed my stop- because if you’re not paying attention you can’t tell when the ferry is or is not moving! It rocks from side to side no matter what. Imagine waking up and discovering I was heading back to Rafina. Yikes. 

But luckily I grabbed my stuff and made it off the boat in time, and there were David and Willa Marie waiting for me! Hurray! 

For those of you who don’t know me that well, David is my cousin on my mom’s side, the second oldest of my cousins. I think he is 12 years older than me. He and his wife Jessica and their 13 year old daughter Willa Marie (some of you may remember her as the red-headed baby that used to visit our apartment in college) live in Chicago, and are taking 8 months off of life to travel the world on a Jubilee. Their trip is broken up into for parts, and Greece is the third part. They put an open invitation out for family to join them at various places, and as I’ve always wanted to go to Greece, I took them up on it. It was the impetus for my entire trip, and I’m so grateful they were willing to have me stay. It’s been so lovely here.

So that’s the story of my epic travel day between countries. Not super interesting, perhaps, but it felt so monumental at the time somehow. Woke up at 2:30am in Paris and ended the day driving through a darkened island on tight streets at “goat speed” (so as not to hit goats), then collapsing into bed in a beautiful white-washed farmhouse looking out over the Aegean. I love it here. 

More soon!