Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Honeymooners

Not Ralph and Alice Kramden -- Matt Levine and Kim Shultz.  My son and his new bride honeymooned last month in Greece and England.  Since a Levine family tradition is filing humorous travelogues, Matt checks in with this one from their trip. 

Getting to Greece was a bit of an adventure. We flew through Heathrow where you need to go through a security checkpoint between your flights. Apparently nobody in Europe has ever seen a metal detector before. They tried walking through with every metal thing you could imagine: belts, steel toed boots, cell phones, etc. Kim and I breezed through thanks to our years of training from the TSA (George Clooney would be so proud). Never before in my life have I wanted to turn to a bunch of Europeans and scream "This is how we do it in America, bitch".

Apparently in Greece you're supposed to sway as you drive. Or maybe that was just our drunk cabbie.

People made fun of me for getting a second major in math. It all paid off when I could sound out all the signs in Greece. Although I had this bad habit of rearranging the signs to try to solve for alpha.

There are two US TV sitcoms constantly playing on Greek TV: Two and a Half Men and The Nanny. The city that's famous for inventing theater watches The Nanny. I could hear Dionysus petitioning Zeus to destroy Athens.

The new (2009) Acropolis Museum is fantastic. It has a ton of artifacts from the Acropolis and it's built on top of ruins you can see through the glass floor. Still, none of that compares to the fact that it's air conditioned. The Acropolis itself...well...don't go in the middle of the day. You and thousands of your closest friends can squeeze into the same tiny walkways while trying to snap the same photos. That said, go at the end of the day when you can relax in the shadow of the Parthenon as the sun sets and it's spectacular.

A lot of amazing technology is still lost from ancient greek times. Thanks to Dean Camen, you can now take a Seguway tour around the Acropolis and look like douchebags in the process. It's the best way to experience the Parthenon just like Socrates, Euclid and every other famous Greek person did 2500 years ago.

You can buy little porcelain busts of Greek gods. I was ecstatic to learn that they also had one of Υωκιλισ: The Greek god of Walks.

Kim insisted we take a day trip to Delphi, which would have been great if we didn't have the worst tour guide. Imagine the tour guide from Dave: "we're walking we're walking and we're stopping so I can take a call on my cell phone." The drive there takes about three hours, as you pass through a lot of cute Greek mountain towns and see constant ruins of little houses. Once you're up in Delphi it's spectacular. You're 4000 feet in the mountains with panoramic views. The ruins are in good shape, and you're actually allowed to walk through some of them. And at the very top is the ancient stadium where they used to have Olympic style competitions. We all deserved medals just for making the hike.

The Ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the center of the universe and placed a large stone nipple there to prove it. The story goes that Zeus released two birds, one at either end of the universe, and they
met in Delphi. An ancient Greek high schooler also proved this to be true on his 10th grade final exam: "If one bird departs the end of the universe at 5 kph and another bird departs the opposite end of the
universe at 7 kph, where will they meet?"

After a few crazy days in Athens it was time to head to the islands. We hit up Santorini first, which is absolutely gorgeous. All the houses are painted white and blue and built into the sides of the cliffs, giving it a completely unique and wheelchair accessible look. It's like the opposite of Irvine. Whoever is doing the next Bourne or Bond movie should look here, you can jump from rooftop to rooftop
without a stunt man.

Brangelina own a house on Santorini and were vacationing there. They didn't send us a bottle of champagne.
Our hotel was built on the side of a cliff and our room had a beautiful view of the active volcano that sits in the middle of the crescent-shaped Santorini. Don't worry, it only steams and causes earthquakes a few times a month.

We took a cruise around the island to the volcano. It was a perfect cruise, we snorkeled in clear blue water, hung out in the lukewarm springs and had dinner by the volcano. Oh yeah, and my wedding band
fell to the bottom of the Mediterranean.

The only criticism I have of Santorini is that we, combined with three other American couples from the cruise, couldn't find a bar showing the NFL on Sunday. In Kim's eyes this is an offense punishable by volcano eruption.

We managed to escape Santroini before the volcano went off for Crete. Crete is HUGE. Most of the Greek islands are cute and tiny. Crete is the only one that could actually function as it's own country.

Our hotel, the Elounda Aquila, was the cheapest five-star resort I've ever seen. (How cheap are they, Matt?) Well, I'm glad you asked.
- They include a coffee machine in your room, but charge you for the coffee
- They charge you for tap water with dinner
- Their "half-board" is really just a discount at their restaurant
- And, for the coup de gras, they have serial numbers on their little
shampoo bottles. Instead of replacing them, they just take your
half-used ones from the shower and put them back in the toiletries

But don't worry, they make up for it with awesome service. Like the fact that you have to dry and reuse your beach towel. Or that when we asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation we were told
"they're all the same." But they do have a nice pool and a lovely fake beach.

We rented a car in Crete, which was a bit of an adventure. I think Kim was in a constant state of fear. I loved it. You can pass slow people at will, even on a one lane road. I wish we could drive that way in
the Bay Area.

We chose Crete not only for the resort stuff, but also because they've got some decent history there. We saw three palaces: Konossos, Malia and Lato. Palace might be a strong word. We saw three piles of  rocks.

To be fair, the Palace of Knossos is actually quite impressive. It's believed to be home to the Minotaur and back in 1500 BC, it was three stories tall and had hot and cold running water. If they had WiFi we
might have asked to check in there instead of the Aquila. The Minotaur had to be a better host than the staff at the Aquila.

There was a Russian guy wearing a "Top Gun" hat. Has he seen the movie?

We did do some resort-y stuff as well, such as visiting a little island off right near Elounda. The island turned out to be a former Venetian leper colony! Do we know how to have a good time or what?

On the way home, we made a quick stop London just long enough to learn how much better the Underground is than any US subway system. The Brits aren't often the most exciting people in the world, but I never knew they would be so dull as to allow their game shows to end in a tie. What's next? Watching 90 minute sporting matches where nobody scores and they just call the game?

It was a fantastic honeymoon. We loved every minute except dealing with the morons at the Elounda Aquila. For the first time in a very long time it was disappointing to hear the US Customs agent say
"welcome home."


Paul Duca said...

Like father, like son...think about it, won't you?

RCP said...

A pleasure to read, and a nice mixture of humor and poetic description. Loved the line from the career concierge when recommending a restaurant: "They're all the same."

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

A budding writer? (Or rather, fully blossomed.)

B Smith said...

Actually, from that I could conclude that the Ugly American abroad is still alive and well.

Jeff Badge said...

To spell it "coup de gras" is to match how we've adopted this phrase from French to English since we mispronounce the phrase as "koo deh grah". However, in French, "coup de gras" would literally translate as a knock or blow of fat or other fleshy part. The phrase to mean a death blow, or finishing stroke is "coup de grâce" pronounced "koo deh grahss". Then again, the humorous intent of a hit of fat was, perhaps, intended.

Anonymous said...

Dare I ask what Fran Drescher's laugh sounds like in Greek translation?

Mac H said...

There's a wonderful Turkish version of 'The Nanny'. The scripts are almost unchanged - exceptthe man of the house is a TV executive instead of a Broadway producer. Oh - and Fran Dresher's character is Muslim instead of Jewish.

Apparently all the Yiddish stereotypes don't need to be translated at all - they are used unchanged and the audience seems to love them.

It's kinda sad how universal TV sitcoms families are....

Unknown said...

You lost your wedding band? O_o

Does that mean 40 years of happy marriage - with "don't lose it again" jokes? :-D

Oh and it's "Knossos". One o too many :-)

Loosehead said...

No NFL on Santorini? Thats ironic. I just spent a couple of weeks in Southern California, and it was as if the Rugby World Cup didn't have an American team in it.
Plenty of NFL poofball though.

Breadbaker said...

Rugby World Cup on Universal Sports here in Seattle.

Young Levine has a deft touch, dare I say in some cases defter than his pater?

We'll be in Athens and Crete next month, so I appreciate some of the advice (marking down: don't do the Segway).

DanTedson said...

I think if done right, a cast change can really invigorate a show. I love the Shelley Long Cheers years even more than the Kirstie Alley years, but I don't think Cheers would have gone 11 years if Shelley Long hadn't left. Sitcom episodes are basically - bring a new event into a known group of people and see how they react. What can be more so than introducing a whole new character? It adds another layer to things even when other plot lines are going on. The key, I think, is to keep the known and loved characters the same around the new character. ie, don't try to ingratiate the audience to a new character by having known characters act in a way they never would.