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Greece Trip Summary

Written by Rick Archer
May 29, 2009

In one month, it will be a year since we took our Cruise Trip to Italy, Greece, and Turkey.  My daughter Sam was looking forward to her Senior Year in high school when we took this trip last summer.  As I write this summary, Sam will be graduating from high school tonight.  My how time flies!

This was a difficult trip for me.  The long plane trip over took its toll on me.  The summer sun took an enormous toll on me.  I am so vulnerable to the sun!

Our ongoing headaches with the euro weighed heavily on my spirits.  If you remember from the Rome Two story, my family finished the day with one lousy euro between us and no obvious way to get more cash.  Not surprisingly, this problem seriously affected us for the remainder of the trip.  If we couldn't charge it, we were out of luck.  As the trip progessed, there were at least a half dozen different occasions when we were forced to do without.

I was out of sorts throughout the entire trip because I was so completely lost.  The language problems, the confusing maps, and the difficulty of negotiating giant cities like Rome and Athens for the first time threw me for quite a loop.  My whole trip felt like a bumper sticker: "How Many Roads Must A Man Travel Down Before He Admits He is Lost?"

I was angry at my tour guides.  The woman at the Borghese Gallery in Rome was the exception.  She made that museum come totally alive for me.  She opened my eyes to art in a way no one else has ever done.  However, after the brilliant young lady who guided us through the Borghese Museum, we struck out with the rest.  The guide at the Roman Colisseum spent the afternoon lining up women, the guide in Sicily couldn't wait for us to leave, the guide in Ephesus led us into rug and jewelry traps, and the guide at Knossos, well, let's just say he was a Cretan.  None of these people went out of their way to do more than the minimum necessary to get paid. In the process, I learned the hard way the meaning of a well-known quote on Travel:  "When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. (Clifton Fadiman)

Finally, I had a problem with our steady dose of ruins.  Ruins in Rome, Ruins in Athens, Ruins in Ephesus, and Ruins in Crete.  Just one little rain forest in the middle of the trip would have done wonders for my spirits.

Looking back, I began to appreciate these ruins a lot more when I began to investigate the stories behind them in preparation for writing the cruise review.  I only wish we could have found tour guides gifted enough to delve into the mysteries and not settle for giving us the names of each structure between yawns and glances at their watches.  Once I learned more about the stories behind the places we visited, all sorts of fascination was created. 

In truth, this was really the first "Intellectual" trip I have taken.  Our previous trips have been to places rich in physical beauty.  It doesn't take a lot of training to appreciate a beautiful beach, a lush rain forest, or a majestic mountain.  Unfortunately, the Greece Trip was not about visiting physically attractive places.  I realized too late that a trip like this probably requires reading preparation ahead of time.  Marla knew what to look for because she had read so much in advance, but I was caught flat-footed everywhere we went.  That difference alone explains why practically every day her attitude was superior to mine.

On the other hand, this was the first trip I have ever taken where I appreciated it more after it was over.  Once I took the time to bring my own personal knowledge of each location up to speed, I found myself actually wishing we could go back so I could take another look!

On the bright side, I was gratified by the constant support I received from the members of our group.  Of course, you know exactly who I intend to start with.  Thank goodness Iqbal came to my rescue.  He made sure I learned more about Athens and Ephesus than would have ever been possible given the guides we had.  His exquisite knowledge of this part of the world was a true godsend.  I just wish he had been at Knossos to show me where the labyrinth was hiding.

I would like to thank Wendy Weston for loaning us enough euros to finish the trip.  When she learned of the fix we were in, she gave us enough money to take care of basic things like being able to buy post cards in Sicily, lunch in Athens and tee-shirts in Crete, etc.  It was really nice of her to come to our rescue.

I would like to thank Greg Hatchett for his constant shepherding.  Greg made sure no one was ever left behind and loaned his big shoulders to anyone who needed them.   Greg took care of everyone.

I would like to thank a lot of people who went to the trouble of lining up hotels and transportation for other people on the trip who were less experienced.  There was a true "community" on this trip - people with experience who guided the others with less experience and watched out for them.

I would like to thank Gary and Tracy Schweinle for sharing their honeymoon with us.  You have no idea how much fun they had on this trip.  Every night their table bubbled over with joy and laughter.  They had grins that stretched as wide as the Mediterranean. It made the rest of us smile right along with them and bask in their warmth.  Of course it made the tragedy of Gary's accident during Hurricane Ike that much harder to accept, but as Tracy said, she would never give up the special moments they had on this trip.

Most of all, I would like to thank Marla.  As you can probably guess, she carried me the entire trip.  I know I was a burden on her with my absent-mindedness, physical exhaustion from the sun, and basic ignorance of the realities of travel.  Since Marla is such an expert on Travel, I tend to go along for the ride more than I should.  In retrospect, I know I relied on her more than was fair. 

In a nutshell, I was truly a stranger in strange lands.  I learned the hard way why foreign travel can be very stressful and very complicated.  

One definition of the word "foreign" is "unfamiliar".  Truly I was taken far out of my comfort zone on this trip.  I learned there is an entire world out there I don't have a clue about.  For someone who likes to know what he is doing, I was very unhappy feeling 'clueless' most of the time.  I felt broke, lost, and ignorant!  Not a pleasant feeling.

However, today I know I am stronger for the experience.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about the next Mediterranean trip because this time I have a much better idea how to prepare and what to look forward to. 

Let me conclude by saying I probably wasn't the only person who was overwhelmed.  There were other people who were not experienced at foreign travel either.  To a person, they quietly confided in me how grateful they were for the support they received.  As a reminder, here is an excerpt from my Athens write-up:

"She told me that she signed up for this trip by herself.  She said that she had wanted to visit this area of the world for a long time, but didn't have anyone in presently her life at this time who could accompany her. She said this trip was literally the answer to her prayer. And although she didn't know a single soul in our group, the people in our group had been so kind to her!  Now she wanted to say how grateful she was that a single lady from the other side of the planet could feel so completely safe in such a confusing environment.  Thanks to us, she was fulfilling a dream." 

What this lady did not know was I felt like I was in the same boat.  I didn't admit it to her, but in many ways I felt just as helpless as she did.  I was just as grateful to the leaders in this group for making the trip possible.

Her compliments reminded me of Rule Seven from The Noah's Ark Rules of Travel "For safety's sake, always travel in pairs".

We all owe so much to Marla.  Thanks to her, she makes our travel dreams possible.  We enjoy the safety of the group.  We always have friends to keep us company.  Thanks to leaders like Marla and Iqbal, we feel safe, secure and protected even as we tackle parts of the world we know so very little about.  We feel brave enough to stick out our necks and explore a little because we know we have friends watching on our backs.

As for me, I am ready to step up in rank.  Now that I have walked the streets of Rome, I am ready to retrace the same steps when we visit Rome again this fall on the Barcelona 2009 trip.  We all stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us.  Marla and Iqbal carried me; now its my turn to return the favor to others.

That's how our SSQQ Travel Group works.  Once we are ready, we contribute any way we can.



Pat and Jess Carnes


Greg Biasetti, Ann McKenzie, Ken Landgren


Rhonwyn Baker and  Dana LeDoux


Judith Richardson and Norma Simmons



Margaret Waters and Jackie Hershey


Rick Elizondo  and Lin Mills



Wanda Basinger and Greg Biasetti


Mary Jane Covington and Julie Covington



Victoria Hilford and Iqbal Nagji


Cher Longoria and Robert Goins



Lee Ann Parkinson and Ken Landgren


Sharon Rance and Marsha Baxmann


Gary and Tracy Schweinle


 Leon Gokhman and Michele Herrera



Sharon Michaels, Anci Waugh, Olivier Cortot


Joan Mastrangeli and Pam Brownshadel


Stacy Margules, Millie Cagle, Lin Mills, Ann McKenzie


Steve Gabino and Vivian Gustafson



Beverly Corte, Leroy Ginzel and Billie Corbin


Doug Gephart and Loni Lewellyn



Cher Longoria and Robert Goins


Jackie Hersey and Keith Rein



 Michele Herrera and Leon Gokhman


Mary Jane Covington and Julie Covington




Pat and Jess Carnes


Gary and Tracy Schweinle



Doug Gephart and Loni Lewellyn


Ken Landgren, Ann McKenzie



  Marla Archer and Leroy Ginzel


 Rhonwyn Baker, Beverly Corte and Billie Corbin



 Leroy Ginzel, Rhonwyn Baker, Greg Hatchett


Lin Mills and Rick Elizondo



Gary and Tracy Schweinle


Greg Biasetti and Wanda Basinger



Lee Ann Parkinson, Rick Elizondo, Stacy Margules, Millie Cagle


Steve Gabino and Vivian Gustafson



Olivier Cortot and Leon Gokhman

Rick, Marla and Sam Archer


In front: Victoria Hilford, Pam Brownshadel, Joan Mastrangeli, Cher Longoria, Millie Cagle, Lin Mills,
In back:
Margaret Waters and Marla Archer (those single girls muscled her out of the picture!),

And, in the middle of the beautiful women, our Rock Star, Iqbal Nagji!!

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