Sunday Stills: Tourism

On Instagram, I came across a quote that I loved so much, I actually bought an audiobook about Mark Twain called “Around the World with Mark Twain”. The quote is:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I’m glad I bought the book because it’s very interesting, but I discovered that Mark Twain never said this.

I just read an article about an Instagrammer with over 100K followers who was caught using stock photos, sometimes adding himself to the photo or making other slight changes. The Instagrammer says he has receipts for all of the stock photos he used, but it’s disappointing to know he was posting fake experiences.

Before we went to Turkey last summer, everyone tried to warn us not to go. ISIS was going to kidnap us. When we arrived in Istanbul, the customs area was deserted.


We enjoyed Istanbul so much and felt so safe that we go be back one day. I saw Turkish Insta-friends (women) who dressed Wow! Very sexy! (Look up: Nazila and Hatice.) I saw women dressed in all ways all over Istanbul. I had conversations and subtle interactions with women in burkas who made me feel very welcome in their city. (You can read about my experiences here.)

When we booked tours in Mexico City and Michoacán a few years ago, we were alone with the tour guide. Tourists were so afraid to visit Mexico that we had our own private tour! Two weeks after we left Michoacán, an navy admiral was ambushed and killed on the highway. (You can read our Michoacán post here!)

Before our 2016 Guatemala trip, Dan told me that located our hotel in a zone where La Marasalvatrucha, the infamous drug gang, operate.

Also, we were planning a trip to Tikal to see the Mayan pyramids. But Tikal is in a tropical zone, and the Zika virus scare had just begun. Some airlines had announced that they were willing to cancel bookings to the most dangerous destinations.

We saw this billboard in Guatemala City: “They freeload while you pay the bill”

We went to Guatemala and had such a good time in this interesting country that we promised ourselves that we would return. (You can read about our adventures in Guatemala here!)

Like many news stories, these turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Yes, there are dangers, but you know what?

😮 In New York at that time, gang members were cutting some pedestrians’ faces!

😮 That March, New York City announced that they had registered 18 cases of Zika virus.

😮  And if you still think you might be safer wrapping yourself under the covers and staying in bed, two years ago a construction crane fell and crashed into a building below, killing a woman who was in bed sleeping.

So, before planning your trip, perhaps you’d like to update yourself of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world or check out where were the world’s most devastating earthquakes in the past decade, but I don’t recommend it. Instead, look at the TripAdvisor forums and communicate with other travelers who have visited your destination. Sign into Instagram and follow people from all over the world to see how normal their lives are. Then get on a plane and go! Go with your eyes wide open and see the world as it really is. Stay alert to the dangers and don’t take unnecessary risks. “Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Monastiraki Metro Station in Athens

At Monastiraki Square, you’ll find streets lined with tiny shops, small museums, the ruins of Hadrian’s Library and even a Turkish mosque from 1759.

Mosque Tzisdarakis (1759) You can see the Parthenon on the hill in the distance.
Church of the Virgen, the only remains of the original monastery. This little church is now referred to as the little monastery, or monastiraki.

The Most Fascinating Site at Monastiraki

Below, in the metro station, is a little-known archeological site. Although we saw hundreds of tourists in the square above, we only saw two others in the half hour we spent below.

The woman at the ticket booth let us into the metro for free and told us how to get to the archeological treasures. There weren’t any signs pointing to it.

My husband Dan and I listened together to the Rick Steves podcast on Dan’s iPhone, as the famous travel show host explained the ruins to us, and how they were discovered during the station’s excavation in the 19th century.

The Monastiraki metro station
Commuters rush past it every day, and several smiled at our awe-struck faces.

In the 2nd century A.D., the Roman emperor Hadrian had engineers design a roof in order to create a sewer system.

The fiberglass bridge is a clever way to preserve and show off the ancient ruins while keeping the Monastiraki metro Stratton fully funcional.
The signage does an excellent job marking exactly what you are looking at, as well as showing how it all look in its time.

Down here, you will find remains of settlements dating as far back as the 8th century, B.C..

The ruins are so well maintained and integrated into the everyday hustle and bustle of this great city.

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

How To Best Experience The Awe-Inspiring Meteora

Athens is always the first stop in Greece before heading to the gorgeous Greek islands. We headed inland by train instead, to Meteora, one of the most awe-inspiring spots you will ever see.

Our hotel was about 10 minutes outside of Kalambaka, the small town at the base of the mountains.

Each room has a view of the stunning rocks, but none as spectacular as the one from the restaurant and pool area, where lunch for two cost just 32 Euros.

Sunset Tour

The hotel reception suggested a taxi tour as an alternative to the 42 Euro per person sunset tour advertised in the pamphlet on the counter. This would come out to less, and our driver would know the best places to catch the stunning sunset.

We met, Costas, our driver at 6:30 pm. Costas didn’t speak any English but the hotel had explained what we wanted. From there, we communicated through the Google Translate app.

As Costas drove us up into the mountains, we had our first awe-inspiring views. The road curves around the side of the mountains.

At the first stop, a couple taking their wedding photos explained that they had gotten married Saturday morning, partied until Sunday night and were here today, Tuesday, for the photos. This is how it’s done in Greece, they explained.

We continued up the mountain and passed parked tour buses and cliffs filled with crowds of tourists, but Costas didn’t stop. He wanted a more solitary spot where we would be able to take spectacular photos.

Meteora was full of newlywed couples taking their unforgettable wedding photos.

We also realized that aside from being our driver, Costas was a great photographer who climbed boulders and backed up near precipices to get the best angle he could. Dan and I were nervous and told him the photos didn’t have to be this good.

We arrived back at the hotel at 8:45 pm after over two hours of touring. The parking meter showed just 35 Euros and we paid Costas 50. He was very uncomfortable taking the large tip.

Monasteries Tour

The next morning we drove back up the mountain, this time with Dimitrius, a guide, and a group of about 15.

With Dimitrius, we learned the stories behind the monasteries. The monks arrived in the 13th century and were able to climb these steep rocks with a series of ropes and pegs. Once on top, they retracted their “ladders” and relied on the help of the local people to bring them food.

It wasn’t until centuries later that the monks were able to build the amazing monasteries we see today. Today they have bridges and tramways to connect to the mountains.

You’ll need to be in pretty good shape to finish the tour. Several people on our tour weren’t able to climb up to the last monastery.

Several people on our tour weren’t able to reach one of the monasteries.

We finished the tour in town. We told Dimitrius we would find our own way back to the hotel and said goodbye.

The tour was tiring, so we stopped for a dish of yogurt and fruit. Later, we found Costas and asked him to bring us back to our hotel. We also arranged for Costas to bring us to the train station early the next morning.

Costas’ Surprise For Us

When we brought our suitcases to the lobby the next morning, Costas was there waiting for us.

We spent the ride taking our last look at Meteora, knowing we would miss it. We arrived at the train station and Costas handed me a box of chalvas farsalon, a delicious local pastry he bought the night before at a bakery. He also didn’t want any money for the morning ride, but we insisted.

Whenever you leave a place, you bring a piece of it with you, in your mind, in your bones, in your soul. The places you visit and the people you meet along the way stay with you forever.

[ If you’d like to check out the hotel we stay at, you can click here: The hotel name is Meteora Hotel. ]