Alpha, Beta and clue-less in Athens

Miss Niece was not having the best of days, to say the least.  It was her very last day in Athens and instead of scampering about with her gaggle of girlfriends, taking in the sights and snapping digital memories, she was hopelessly lost, a lone foreigner ambling about a suburban Greek neighborhood.  To make matters even worse, she couldn’t quite discern which street she was meandering along, struggling to decipher what appeared to be a mishmash of incomprehensible letters and symbols, spelling out directions to everyone but her. 

Linguist she was not, as it was “all Greek” to her, these ancient hieroglyphics, whether Egyptian, Mayan or the skillfully crafted design of Chinese calligraphers, penned scribbling of the secretive cryptic kind.  Not clear as mud, all that the Kid knew was that she had somehow strayed from the well-trodden path, gullibly traipsing along winding lanes and avenues, blindly following Auntie Nora’s crudely drawn map.  Yep – You got it – You can fathom a guess as to how rapidly it all went downhill from the get-go!

You mean batty ol’ Auntie Nora’s intricately crayoned colour coded map, with the pretty lime green arrows pointing to every handbag shop within a mile radius?  The laminated florescent hued 9 x 11 inch artistic masterpiece that would rival even the best of Google Maps, quite the creative showpiece of the mad genius kind?  You mean the map that Miss Kid was too embarrassed to be seen carting around, discretely sequestering it in the back of her hotel closet, along with the stacks of innumerable magazine clippings of her delusional relative’s “Prospective Greek souvenirs and satchel wish-list acquisitions” binder?  Okay.  Okay.  I confess.  So I’ve gone a tad overboard with the descriptive and perhaps have exaggerated a teensy weensy bit over here, but hey, you get the picture, right?

In my own defense, and since I’m the one who is writing this memoir, Miss Smarty Pants Niece ditched a perfectly good map and set out on her own to scavenge for trinkets, clue-less, map-less and direction-less, relying on mere instinct to guide her.  All that she remembered from a quick glance at The Map, was that the exclusive handbag boutique she was searching for, sat just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Metro station – just around the corner, past the café, sitting smack-dab squarely in back of the weirdly grotesque statues that lined the rue.

It’s a crying shame though, that most of the signage was in Greek, the lettering literally tripping her up, as Le Niece’s knowledge of the language was limited to just a couple of words, none of which included “where am I”, “what street is this” and “I am hopelessly lost”.  Non.  Instead, her crazy ol’ Auntie had insisted she learn more commonly useful phrases such as “how much does that cost” and “do you ship to Canada”?  Like, seriously?

The alpha, beta, gamma and deltas were in a class of their own, tongue twisters of the foreign language kind, rendering Miss Kid illiterate, on a desperate search for a dictionary, compass and map.  Those Epsilons and Zetas had won round one, but not for long.

Next week – Stay tuned for more of Le Niece’s hilarious Athens Miss - adventures!!  Does the Kid manage to eventually find her bearings and clip clop back home?  More will be revealed, reported and recounted, so, stay tuned!!

Come follow along as Miss Kid traipses about the birthplace of democracy, polishes up on her ABCs and gathers a wealth of memories on her fabulous Greek adventure away from home (far enough away from the clutches of her cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora).

Photos - courtesy of Maradzidra

Pink Sneaker Tidbits of Fascinating Info and Interesting Facts:

Did you know that the Greek alphabet is over 2,500 years old and was adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and consists of 24 letters?

Did you know that it is one of the first alphabets to include those ever so useful vowels?  The Phoenician alphabet included letters for consonants only.

Did you know that each letter harbours it’s own unique meaning and symbolism?

Did you know that since each letter has an attached wealth of meaning, that only a few symbols strung together are enough to convey your message?

Did you know that Greek letters are utilized for depicting mathematical symbols?

Did you know that the first two letters of the Greek alphabet are Alpha and Beta – hence forming the word “Alphabet”?

Did you know that the last letter of the Greek alphabet is Omega, meaning “the end”?  How cleverly appropriate.

A game of hide and seek in the ruins of the Acropolis of the Miss Kid kind

Glancing over her shoulder for what felt like the umpteenth time, Miss Kid had the uncanny sensation that someone or something was stealthily scurrying behind her, sneakily snaking their way along the same trodden path as she.  Trudging along with her besties, Miss Niece strove to remain calm, cool and collected and not resort to freaking out like her lunatic ol’ Auntie surely would have.  And, pray tell, speaking of her cuckoo relative, it had been an unusually long reprieve between the delusional old gal’s annoyingly frequent text messages, imploring her niece to send pictures along with detailed descriptions of prospective items of acquisition.  Like, seriously?  How shopaholic could one Auntie be?  Satchel and trinket hoarding taken to an entirely new level – now that’s one for the record books!

Every hesitantly placed footstep brought a new escalation of unease, not one of fearful trepidation, but of the niggling sense that Auntie Nora was meandering right along with her, oohing and awing at the magnificence of the age-old stones of the crumbling Acropolis.  Wrestling to banish her irrational thoughts and chiding herself for even entertaining the remote possibility that her controlling Auntie was anywhere in the vicinity of Athens, let alone merrily ambling along on her high-school adventure, Miss Niece forged bravely on, almost secure in the knowledge that her aunt was thousands of miles away. Or, so she hoped. 

Le Kid fervently struggled to reflect back upon her Auntie’s last text messages, sent late last night, instructing her niece to “be careful, be aware and to be on the lookout for unexpected surprises”.  Yikes!!  Could her cuckoo ol’ Auntie really have hopped on the plane from London and jetted across the continent to hang out with her 17 year old charge?  What was the likelihood?  Just for the seductive allure of foreign made treasures?

Better to be safe than caught in the clutches of her delusional relative, the ever so clever enterprising Miss Niece hatched the most impromptu of plans, which required the skill and co-operation of her gaggle of girlfriends, all tickled pink to be part of the caper of the century - hiding from the Kid’s nuttier than a fruitcake Auntie.  Luckily for Miss Kid, the imposing 10.4 meter high marble columns enveloping the perimeters of the Parthenon were ideal for attempting to conceal oneself against; prostate statues that offered a cloak of camouflage, at least, for a wee bit of time – one could even possibly make a game out of it – scampering from one Greco-Roman inspired column to another, in a life-size chess game of hide and seek, outrunning and out-smarting a pink-sneaker clad batty old bag.

The Kid’s trio of co-conspirators were more than willing to do what it took to guise the exact whereabouts of their friend, from borrowing wide brimmed chapeaus, oversize Jacquie O sunglasses and swaddling shawls, their hilarious shenanigans inadvertently leading to a flurry of inquisitive glances from curious passers-by, questioning what the hoop-la was all about.  For, you see, in Miss Niece’s haste to blend in with the architecture, her questionable antics actually made her the object of intense scrutiny, in the most outlandish of ways, garnering a flurry of attention of the not so indiscriminate kind.

The Kid really should really have known better, for her dear ol’ Auntie was holed up in her London hotel, indulging in a pint or two, immersed in You Tube videos of Shopaholics Anonymous, interspersed with the occasional glance at her Blackberry, determined not to phone nor text, or disturb le Kiddo on her first grown-up excursion away from home. 

After all, an Auntie should give a Kid a bit of space, even if it did mean losing out on the probability of acquiring that one of a kind mass-produced gem of a find – nothing that she wouldn’t be able to acquire someday on e-Bay  – it’s quite the shame though, that Miss Niece spent the entire day dodging shadows in her quest to out-run you know who!

Pink Sneaker Tidbits of Fascinating Facts and Interesting Info:

Did you know that the Acropolis means “city on the edge” and is 490 feet above sea level?

Did you know it encompasses a space of more than 30,000 square meters?

Did you know that the Acropolis has been utilized as a palace, fortress, temple, church and mosque and even, briefly, as a harem?

Did you know that according to myth, the founder of Athens was Cecrops, who was both half man and half snake? 

Did you know that the Greeks are the world’s highest consumers of feta cheese?  And so they should be, as feta is the national cheese of Greece.

And, just because you asked, did you know that Greece is the world’s largest producer of sea sponges?  Who knew?

Come race along the columns of the Acropolis in a cat and mouse game of hide and seek, out-running crazy ol’ Auntie Nora (who wasn’t even there!!).  Like, seriously?  Yikes!!  The Kid’s got quite the imagination – looks like the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree, if you know what I mean!!

Next week – Stay tuned for more Miss - adventures of the Miss Kid inspired kind!!

Greece Photos - Courtesy of Maradzidra

Miss Kid's market mis-adventures of the Greek Island hopping kind

Strolling along the denizens of tiny, crammed stalls that were literally overflowing with a cornucopia of knickknacks, trinkets of all shapes and sizes jostling for one’s hard-earned Euro, Miss Niece couldn’t help but excitedly exclaim how her shopaholic ol’ Auntie would have been mesmerized by the sight of these shiny silver baubles.  Furiously digging in her crammed backpack, the Kid pulled out a mile long list of items that her Auntie had kindly requested (more like desperately begged) her to transport home, “but only if something beckoned, was a reasonable price and not overly awkward or burdensome to have to schlep around the isles”.   Yeah, right.  Good luck with that one.

Okay then, that most definitely didn’t rule anything out, as small leather goods were easily transportable, intricately woven bracelets could be stacked high on the arm and miniature marble imitation replica key-chains of the Acropolis could easily line the bottom of her sac, virtually weightless and buried deep amongst the layers of assorted curios.  Life-size statues of bronzed Greek Gods, on the other hand, could not only be a tad bit cumbersome (you think?) to lug on the beach, a sure-fire guarantee to pique both the intrigue and fascination of curious passers-by.  Their inquisitive stares and glares would surely elicit a plethora of questions of the not so pleasant kind, ones that Miss Kid would rather not have to willingly answer.  And, pray tell, just what type of pathetically embellished excuse would the customs agents be willing to accept?  Statue, what statue?  Just to appease her cuckoo Auntie’s eccentric hoarding and satchel acquisition issues?

Scavenging for foreign crafted treasures would therefore have to take a back seat to more pressing tasks, such as - scampering on the beachfront and meandering along winding pathways picturesquely nestled between the quaintest of white-washed houses enveloped by an explosion of cascading violet and fuchsia hued blooms, all set against an aquamarine sky.  After all, there were monuments to be photographed, memories and experiences to be forged and footprints to be re-traced.  So what if she had conveniently forgotten (and the key word her is purposefully neglected) to scour the shops and markets in quest of low-budget souvenirs?  Her batty-old Auntie’s Greek-inspired wish list would have to be temporarily put on hold, as foraging for trinkets was most definitely not on Miss Niece’s immediate radar.

And so it was with just a slight tinge of desperation that Miss Kid found herself, on the eve of her last night in Crete, torn between just chillin’ with her friends on the beach or heading to market, as if she were her delusional ol’ Auntie’s personal shopper!  Deliciously soaking up the last vestiges of the late afternoon’s golden rays – until the pinkish hue of twilight magically transformed the heavens into a twinkling blanket of brilliance, Le Niece imagined herself on the cover of a glossy fashion mag, languishing the afternoon away, as only super models could.

Throwing caution to the wind, her windswept locks sashaying every which way, Miss Niece raced along the rocky shoreline to catch up with her pals and party with the best of them, when an unexpected tumble sent her ever so ungracefully plummeting to earth.  Spitting out a mélange of sand and itsy bitsy stones, the Kid was none too pleased – hot pink-manicured tootsies stubbed and bleeding, her meticulously poised and perfected Goddess image irrevocably shattered. 

Tears streaming down her face, cursing those “stupid rocks” for tripping her up, the Kid lamented her luckless fate….those stupid, stupid, inconveniently placed useless rocks….and then it hit her, as if Zeus himself had magically struck her with a bolt of lightening – a flash of brilliance – Eureka!! – Shopping dilemma averted!! – A handful of Grecian pebbles and stones would make quite the unique and meticulously selected souvenir for her wacky ol' Auntie Nora’s coffee table!!

As for those bronze marble life-size statues, well, there's always Athens!!

One of a kind treasures from the Greek Isles

My fabulous charm bracelet from Le fabulous Miss Niece

Pink Sneakers Tidbits of Fascinating Facts and Interesting Info:

Did you know that the most popular drink in Greece is coffee?  Who knew?

Did you know that tossing an apple to a girl was an ancient marriage proposal tradition?  Careful who you hand that apple to!!

Did you know that the number of Greek islands varies anywhere between 1,600 and 6,000, with roughly 250 of them populated.  Yikes!!  That’s at least an entire year’s worth of ferry / island hopping!

Did you know that Greece has the highest number of International airports?  Pink Sneakers on the Go suspects that it’s got something to do with the number of undetermined islands.

Did you know why the majority of the doors and windowsills are painted a vivid aquamarine turquoise blue shade?  In order to keep the evil spirits away, of course.

Did you know that the number of tourists that visit Greece each year is significantly higher than the country’s entire population?  That’s about 16 million visitors traipsing around on any given day.  Let’s hope you’re not claustrophobic!!

Did you know that not only do tourists flock to Greece but so do the birds!  Almost 100,000 birds from Asia and Europe migrate to this neck of the woods, choosing to spend their winters in this sunny and hospitable climate.

Come tag along with the Kid on her fabulous adventures in Greece and Italy, finally free from the constricting clutches of her eccentric shopaholic vino-indulging designer satchel obsessed ol' Auntie…or so she thinks….

Next week - where to next?  On route to Athens!!  Stay tuned for more of Miss Kid’s Miss-adventures!!

It's all about Le Kid - Paris, wanderlust and globe-trotting

Pleased as punch at having the glorious opportunity of setting her pink manicured tootsies on foreign land, the only criteria being that it be anywhere on the planet far away from her neck of the woods, the Kid had definitely inherited her travel-a-holic ol’ Auntie’s insatiable thirst for knowledge, possessing a bucket-load of inquisitiveness about the four corners of the earth.  Not content to merely traipse along the well-trodden path of her somewhat wacky relative, Miss Niece was itching to carve out her own around the globe journeys and forge tales that both awed and inspired.  It was therefore with immense glee that le Kid jetted off from la belle province to the Greek isles and the Mediterranean coast on a late summer’s eve, tickled pink that she would be stomping on terra firma – but better yet – territory that her wayfaring Auntie had not yet set foot upon.

Almost there!!

Come sail away to the Greek isles (Photos courtesy Maradzidra)

And so, dear reader, how is this of monumental significance?  Well, read on and stay tuned...

Le Kid’s wanderlust must have stemmed from way back, five years to be exact, when, on a whim (most likely after having had a few oh so soothing liquid libations of the vino tinto kind), I thought it a swell idea to have one of my nieces accompany me on my annual European vacation.  Assuming that my sister would permit me to take along her eldest daughter, she instead surprised and informed me that her youngest, the 12 year-old, would be my travel companion.  Like, seriously?  Do I look like a mom or even a somewhat responsible type of Auntie?  My interests were of the vino indulging kind, languishing the day away in bistros and cafés and sprinting around the cobblestoned rues and avenues in quest of handbag acquisitions.  C’est tout.  Oh, and snagging that National Geographic worthy digital memory of the income generating kind, setting me up for life with an over-flowing bank account of colourful Euros and Canadian dollars and an unlimited supply of kaleidoscopic bank notes.

With the Kid hooting and hollering on the other end of the phone line, delirious with joy that she would finally be embarking on an adventure across the pond, no matter if it was with her somewhat delusional old relative, her lifelong dream (seriously, you’re 12, Kid!) of hanging out with her heroine, Marie-Antoinette, would finally come to fruition.  Visions of gawking at the splendor of the opulence of the Palace of Versailles dancing in her head, sleepless nights spent counting down the hours until finally (!!) face to face with the Mona Lisa and scampering from le Petit Trianon to le Grand Palace, seemed but an eternity away.

The interior of the Palace of Versailles - When can I move in??

Yikes!! What had I foolishly committed to? 

Auntie Nora’s Parisian checklist –

Don’t forget to print out the map of the 24-hour supermarkets selling discounted vino.

Don’t forget to print out the map of the emporiums hawking cheapo bargain basement priced clearance sale liquidation satchels.  No matter that they’re oh, so last season!

Don’t forget to print out the map of bistros offering les plats du jour, which include endless supplies of vino tinto –all for the affordable price of 15 Euros or less.

Don’t forget to print out the map of the cleverly hidden boutiques that are privy only to an exclusive enclave of a few select “insider’s in the know”.

Les boutiques, les boutiques, les boutiques = Le shopping!!

Vino, anyone?  Hello??

The Kid’s Parisian checklist –

Don’t forget to print out the map of the grounds of the Palace of Versailles – especially all of the favourite salons where the long-dead Queen spent the majority of her days.

Don’t forget to print out the map of ALL of the museums and historical places of interest from le 1er arrondissement to le 18ieme arrondissement and thereabouts.

Don’t forget to print out the map of all of the metro stations in Paris - a handy dandy quick reference guide – so that I can quickly make that mad dash away from my annoyingly controlling Auntie, who, luckily for me, won’t step an inch inside le extremely claustrophobic metro.

Don’t forget to print out the map of all of the internet cafés in Paris, as Auntie Nora won’t have an inkling of a clue as to how to connect her laptop to le French internet. 

Don’t let Auntie Nora con me into visiting Disney Land Paris. Who does she think I am, a Kid?  Like, seriously?  I’m so insulted.

Needless to say, Miss 12 year old proved to be an exceptional travel companion, teaching an old dog (you know who!) new tricks – like, how to spend part of the day hanging with the likes of Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci, leaping back in time to the 18th century and being mesmerized by the posher than posh gilded Palace of Versailles.  Miss Kid didn’t even mind tagging along with me (not like she had a choice, mind you) on my numerous small leather good acquisition missions, not a peep out of her, quiet as a mouse, chomping down on bonbon after bonbon after bonbon…. Bribery sure does work wonders!

And the moral of the story is?

Come traipse along with the Kid and I on our adventures around the globe, all true tales with not a wee bit of exaggeration added.  Really?  Seriously?  Really.

Next week – on to Greece – impressions of the Kid inspired kind.