VIDEO | Going Home – Part 8
Athens to NYC

Well this is it. Last video of our travels to Greece last summer. It takes you from our last days in Athens to the streets of NYC (my first visit ever). Amazing and surreal to go from seeing the remains of temples and buildings first constructed 5th Century B.C. to seeing the modern-day Manhattan.

The video starts out with us cruising through nearby neighborhoods and familiar sites that we walked through during our weekly routine. The Parliament building at Syntagma square. The food and markets at Monastiraki. Our metro station. The U.S. Embassy. Of course, before leaving Athens, we had to hike up the hill in the center of it all to see the Acropolis close up.

We were ready to go home.

Each time I’ve flown internationally, I’ve returned via NYC. But this would be the first time I actually left the airport and visited the city. It’s always a thrill to see the skyscrapers from the airports from the plane as you’re about to land. I almost don’t even mind the long wait to get through customs (almost). I enjoy the feeling of being back in the US, and seeing that giant American flag watching over the endless zig-zagging queue of travelers shuffling through line and waiting get their passport stamped.

Anyway, here’s last video from our wandering last summer:

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Allison’s sister, Annie, was there to pick us up when we got stateside. We arranged to get a hotel and spend a little time exploring some of that NYC has to offer.

I’ll include a few of my favorite images from NYC, in [roughly] the order that I saw experienced them.

 

TAKING THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY

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CENTRAL PARK

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MIDTOWN, THE SUBWAY, & LOWER MANHATTAN

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9/11 MEMORIAL MUSEUM

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BROOKLYN BRIDGE & NY AT NIGHT

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It was stunning and a bit unbelievable to see the city up close for the first time. I’ve been to some big cities, but nothing like New York. I was amazed by the cleanliness of Central Park. I was surprised by the filth and complexity of the NY subway system, as compared to that found in London and Athens. I was gratified with the reverence and tone of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the busy-ness of Times Square.

Also, I was unimpressed by New York pizza that I’ve heard so much about. Meh. I’ll have to try Chicago next.

I really enjoyed walking the Brooklyn Bridge. While taking in the sites and sounds, I remembered watching the news footage the day of the 9/11 attacks, and watching all the masses leave Manhattan on foot using this same bridge (and others).

Overall, I was in awe of the scope of it all . . . just how big, and just how small New York is. I mean, they built it on a tiny little island, and filled up every possible space with buildings and people. To get to one of the biggest cities in the world, you have to take a boat or a bridge. Unreal.

By the time nightfall came – after all the flights and sleeping in airports and walking around Manhattan Island on foot – we were spent. Sitting on the ferry, the low hum and rumble of the engines was a soothing lullaby, and Allie prettymuch passed out immediately. Aside from getting back to Utah, our journey was at it’s end.

 

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VIDEO | Getting There – Part 7
Saying Goodbye to Mystras

My original plan with Allison was just a two-day, one-night motorbike ride to Sparta and back. But the exhilaration and beauty of being back on a motorcycle . . . in mountain country . . . in Sparta . . . we fell in love with the place and couldn’t leave right away. In fact, the tiny little town of Mystras (just 5 minutes outside of Sparta) was the place that really stole our hearts. So after ditching our plans and getting lost in the Taygetus Mountains west of Sparta, we made our way back to the town of Mystras and found a place to spend the night.

 

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Mystras is a formerly-fortified town that sits on the steep slopes at the base of the Taygetus Mountains. They still proudly fly their own, bright-yellow flag side-by-side (sometimes) with the Greek flag. There’s some great Byzantine history there, and they still pride themselves on the role they played in the Greece’s long, war-filled history. In fact, the night we were there, we were surprised to be witness to the grand finish to a half-marathon which they hold annually to celebrate their heritage, and more specifically to commemorate the death of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine Palaiologos, who ruled in Mystras until he went to war; he fought and died in defense of Constantinople from the Turks. His statue is prominently displayed in the city center.

I had a hard time sleeping that night, and after hours of trying to go back to sleep, I decided to go out for a walk at sunrise. The town was silent and bathed in golden light from the east.

 

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My favorite part of that walk was the snap dragons (pictured above), growing right through the mortar of a rock wall. A fitting tribute to a tough, beautiful town stuck on the side of a mountain.

It was hard to leave Mystras. It’s become one of our favorite places; we’ve even remarked, since leaving, that if we ever go back go Greece it would be to stay in Mystras longer, and wander those mountains some more. But it was now Day 3 of our motorbike adventure, and we had some miles to cover if we were going to make Athens by sunset.

 

 


 

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VIDEO | Getting There – Part 6 Sparta on a Motorbike

VIDEO | Getting There – Part 6
Sparta on a Motorbike

Exactly one year and one day ago (as I write this), Allison and I rented a BMW F650GS and left our Athens apartment for someplace better. For those of you who appreciate more details, there’s a more contextual post about it here.

We couldn’t get out of Athens fast enough. We sped along the coast to Corinth, then south through the mountainous Peloponnese Peninsula. It was on this ride that Allison and I rediscovered just how much we belong in the mountains. Skiathos had shown us what a Greek island paradise is all about, and we loved it there. We needed it. But – for me at least – the beaches and sand didn’t hold a candle to what happened to my soul in the Taygetus mountains overlooking Sparta. This was originally going to be an over-nighter, leaving on Friday, staying the night in Sparta, and returning to Athens on Saturday. But waking up that next morning in Sparta, the mountains were calling to us. We answered.

We originally thought we’d take a quick ride up the canyon for a bit that morning, then get back on the road and head home. But once we found ourselves in those winding canyons and cloud-covered peaks, we abandoned all our planning and routes and schedules. We spent all day getting deliberately lost. It’s a lesson I learned in Morocco, and had to re-learn here:

It’s amazing what you can find when you shed your fear of not knowing where you are and replace it with the wonder of discovering where you are.

This latest video starts where we left off in Part No. 5 and takes you through Day 1 and 2 of our Sparta ride.

 

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VIDEO | Getting There – Part No. 3

And here’s Part No. 3 – and it’s the first motorcycle one, so you can imagine I’m a little extra excited about this one. This is the BMW F800GS (named “Sophia,” if you remember) that we rented while in Florence (for those photos and stories, click here).

So this video takes us through the Tuscan countryside from Florence, through Siena, Asciano, Monte Oliveto, to Buonconvento, where we turned around, headed back over that amazing pass back to Asciano, then headed east, looping back to Florence as the sun set.

I wish I could describe what it felt like. This will have to do:

Watch the other videos on our home page by scrolling down to that section. Or click here.

 

Trivia: “Hate the Taste” is dedicated to the Radicchio Risotto that Allison ordered in Siena. It really was the worst. Heh. “But I’d do it all again . . . .” (and, of course, the chorus speaks for itself).

Here’s the route we took:

 


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I’m the King of the Mountain.

Since we got to Athens on April 1st, Allison and I have been working feverishly on multiple projects for clients, as well our own projects for our web media studio, Vagabond Original. Of course we’ve taken the metro and buses around town to see some sights. We’ve taken the tram to some of the nearby beaches to enjoy the cold, calm Aegean Sea. We’ve wandered through some fun, kitschy flea markets. We go for walks around the neighborhood – usually to go get amazing pork gyros and to say hi to all of Allison’s local cat friends.

A few weeks ago, after working all morning, 1pm showed up out of nowhere. Suddenly, my worker bee mind was corrupted with a thought:

“I can’t spend another moment inside.”

I went for an urban-nature hike.

I started north from our apartment in the Ambelokipi neighborhood of Athens, made up of busy streets lined with tall, white apartments. The hill got steeper and steeper until I came to a “T” intersection, where the seemingly endless alleys and apartments abruptly ended on one side of the street. On the other side, I found an inviting hillside made up of trees and trails. I accepted their invite.

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After a few minutes of hiking around, I found a place to sit and whipped out my pen and sketchpad. I sketched and scribbled logo ideas and other stuff that was hiding in my brain. I thought I was ready to head back.

But when I got back to where I was about to leave the hillside and return into the streets below, I saw a path leading farther up the hill. I couldn’t help myself.

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It was fairly steep, and the sun was beating down. Each time I got to a crest, I took a rest and enjoyed the view, thinking I’d head back down after that – and each time, I was thwarted by another thought:

“Maybe just a little farther.”

Soon I could see above the trees. I was starting to see the Athens below. Each time, I’d snap a picture on my phone, but I wasn’t satisfied. I had to go a little higher. I kept hiking, each time thinking I’d turn back after this next little bit.

Soon I was at the very top of the hill, I as rewarded with quite a view.

 

I took a little more time for myself. I recharged. I breathed. Soon, I was ready to head back down and get back to work. On the way back down the hill, there was one last thought that stood out to me:

“Thanks.”

 


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Grime

I’m a little too proud of the grimy fingers I earn while doing man things. Cleaning guns. Making fire. You know.

Well yesterday, after working on the motorbike and having some significant wins, I came in from the garage to check in with Allison and let her know of the progress I had made (read: seeking validation).

Whilst making known the extent of my victories and overall motorbike-wrench-monkey prowess, I noticed that she was at her art desk working on her calligraphy. Genuine pen and ink. I love this about her. So I stopped talking about myself and noticed her work.

Then I noticed her fingers. They were black from the ink.

The more macho among you may cringe a bit, but my face brightened as I processed how appropriately blackened our fingers had become, and the reasons they had become so for each of us. Greazy motorbike grime, on the one hand, and classy stains of Sumi ink on the (literal) other. We make a good team.

I thought it might be a good photo. Life imitating something. You get the idea.

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