As Visions of Greece Danced in My Head

This week many of my travel friends are in Athens, Greece for the TBEX conference, sadly, I was unable to attend due to work commitments. I’m a bit (very) jealous not to be sharing the adventures with them this week so I thought I’d share some of my favorite Greece photos (note these are all unedited photos, the country really is that gorgeous – no filter needed!).

Santorini Church Bells

Church Bells of Santorini

My first visit to Greece was over twenty years ago as part of a group tour with visits to multiple cities and a day cruise to various islands to explore.  At the time, I was just out of college and excited to explore the storied history and see all the ancient ruins I had studied in my European History class. It was interesting to see how the world had grown around the ruins (just like in Rome, Paris and other European cities), life in the form of cars, traffic and people passed by history on a daily basis as it was just part of the landscape.

Temple of Apollo Corinth Greece

Temple of Apollo in Corinth

Windmills of Mykonos

The windmills of Mykonos

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Why I’m Wine & Spirits Woeful in Pennsylvania

On wine tours in the past few years around the world, I’m often asked if I’d like to buy wine to bring home with me.  For most people, this is an easy question.  For me, I just give the winemaker a sad puppy dog look and reply “Pennsylvania” and immediately they know and instantly feel sorry for me. Living in Pennsylvania means that the state government buys and controls the wine – they won’t let me ship any wine to my house either (can’t sign up for a wine club, can’t ship that delicious wine I tasted on vacation, etc)  You’re thinking this is insane, right?  You’d be right but woe is the poor wine lover in Pennsylvania.  But the state doesn’t just control the wine but the liquor and beer too!

 

Wine at the British Airways lounge

Leave it to a foreign airline to source local – they offer Chadds Ford Winery in the British Airways Lounge at Philadelphia International Airport

The Commonwealth (because we are technically not a state although we say “State of PA” often) of Pennsylvania controls all alcohol, yes, all of it via the Liquor Control Board (LCB).  The LCB regulates happy hour rules/prices, charges a fortune for liquor licenses (which is why Philly has over 200 BYOBs) and is the largest purchaser of wine (which keeps prices pretty low based on bulk buying) .   If you ever see me (or other people) gawking at the ease of buying liquor in the corner store, supermarket or Costco you can guess we are from Pennsylvania.  There is no Two Buck Chuck at Trader’s Joes, no wine at Costco (let me repeat, I go to Costco and there is no wine!) and forget the supermarket (that would be too easy to have it all in one place.).  To make it even more complicated:

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When Life Takes A Big Unexpected Bite of the Travel Budget

The form asked “Do you like your Smile?” and I was stumped as I never really thought about my smile.  Now, if it had asked “Do you like your thighs?” I would have immediately wrote “NO” in capital letters, double underlined, but that’s a given –  what women loves her thighs?  Here I was in the orthodontics office filling out the consultation form almost thirty years too late (although apparently it’s never too late).  To understand how I got here, you need a bit of background or maybe just a few choice words – sixteen, fat girl, all girls catholic school, three months before prom.  Ok, maybe you can’t get the mental picture of how important prom was back then to a sixteen year old junior in an all girls Catholic high school.  It was a big freaking deal to go to the prom – my class was made up of 356 girls at the time and everyone wanted to show off their date and dress at the prom – no one wanted to sit home alone (oh, foreshadowing if I only knew).

Street Art London Heart Arrow sign

Street Art in London plays with the signs – broken heart? pierced by Cupid’s arrow? what do you think?

Three months before prom, the dentist sent me to the orthodontist to see if I needed braces – the full metal kind with little rubber bands.  Here I was dateless with only the monthly dance at the boys school to meet someone to ask to prom and the dentist was explaining how the next two years of my life (junior, senior years of high school with the possibility of a bit of college) would be spent in braces.  At some point, I tuned him out because here I was already at a disadvantage trying to get by on my wonderful, sparkling (sarcastic) personality and saw braces as a no-go if I wanted a social life.  Somehow my mother let me make the call so of course, I said “NO” and life went on.  In hindsight, I should have taken the hit of braces for two years as they wouldn’t have made a difference in my dating life (or lack thereof).

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The Flowers of St. James’s Park in London

It’s funny what you don’t see when it’s right in front of you – for years, I stayed in Park Lane across from Buckingham Palace and never entered the park preferring to stay on Piccadilly and use the Underground.  This summer, I finally took that walk in the park – St. James’s Park in London (it helped that I was staying at the Sofitel St. James, across the street from an entrance to the park).  Entering mid-way near the hotel, I walked through the park toward the Thames and London Eye on my walk up to Tower Bridge.  On my way back to the hotel, I walked up to Buckingham Palace admiring the flowers of St. James’s Park along the way.

Pink flowers St. James's Park

Happy flowers in the park

For my walk in the park, I may have taken a few hundreds photos of all the trees, flowers, water, animals and people.   I can’t remember the last time I just enjoyed a park without a care.  It was very fun to experience the park and then see it through the camera lens.   It was a sunny June day and the colors of the blooming flowers just made me happy.

 

Purple Flowers London

 

St. James's Park London

St. James’s Park London – flowers in the park

Daisies in St. James's Park London

Daisies in St. James’s Park

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Baking the Bread – The Philly Soft Pretzel

When I lived with my parents, I didn’t need an alarm clock on Saturdays, I would smell the freshly baked Philly soft pretzels that my dad would bring home, steaming hot from the pretzel bakery.  Years before I knew of calories counters, ingredient labels and generally all the stuff you didn’t really need to know, I was eating soft pretzels for breakfast and carb loading with gleeful abandon (you really can’t eat just one, I dare you!).  You could find the Philly soft pretzel on street corners being sold 5 for $1.00 in brown paper bags.  We knew where to find the good pretzels (often the median strip of an intersection or the Cottman Avenue exit of I95 South) and went out of our way when we had a pretzel yen.  We used to joke that the street fumes from the roads and highways added to the flavor.  You can’t buy pretzels on the street anymore (I guess the health department and other killjoys put an end to that), now you need to go to the stores or pretzel factory direct.

Soft Pretzel Baking class

As children, my sister and I would walk from my grandmother’s house to the pretzel factory in Kensington and get the bakers dozen for $1.00! We tried to get all the way home without eating anything but never made it – we had no willpower then for the freshly baked salted bread treats and still don’t.  When I got my first job in the city, I stopped for a bag of 50 pretzels for $7.00 for our Pretzel Club.  I would board the Septa train with freshly baked pretzels filling the train car with a wonderful pretzel aroma and making many new seatmates.  All asking if I could spare a pretzel?  It was always funny to see how people would act around fresh pretzels.  At work, employees would suddenly need to walk an invoice down to me and say “oh, pretzels, I didn’t know, can I have one?”  I’d have to say no, club members only, unless I needed to build up my favors in their departments.  The soft pretzel was my currency and to this day, I still smile at all the fun we had with the soft pretzel club and my train rides.

Soft Pretzel Roll

My soft pretzel roll – a variation of the original

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