And more flying…

Bordeaux

So I figure I’d better get this post done ASAP because I’m flying again.

Like in the air right now.  Free wifi on airplanes is a beautiful thing.

After AGMA gets to Newark, I hop on a plane headed to Berlin.  After not visiting Berlin for 46 years, this will be my second visit in 2022.

I think I’m in love…

But before I land in Deutschland, AGMA needs to get a France post posted!

In October, Hubs & I spent 11 days in France.  Again.  In case you haven’t caught on yet, we love France.

This was a partial redo of a trip I had planned for July 2020.  And we all know how 2020 worked out for everybody…

We started out with 3 days in the city of Bordeaux.  We have been to the Bordeaux region before (St. Emilion & Paulliac), but never the city. 

Once a rather grim town full of dock workers (according to what I’ve read), Bordeaux has experienced a rebirth of sorts in the last decade. Even Rick Steves likes it now.

We rarely buy those city passes in European cities we visit because, most of the time, we don’t feel we would get the value out them.  We did, however, buy 48 hour Bordeaux City Pass. It’s a great deal mostly because it includes the fabulous Cite de Vin, a homage to all things wine related, and all forms of public transit (which is easy peasy to navigate and very accessible for people using mobility devices.)

Bordeaux is synonymous with wine.  Wine built the city, and wine continues to be Queen (of King depending…)  We did the vineyard visits on our other 2 trips to the area, so a visit to Cite de Vin was a must.

The old town of Bordeaux is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  That basically means old, pretty buildings with fascinating histories!  And Bordeaux was full of them.

After our stay in Bordeaux, picked up a rental car at the Bordeaux train station, and headed east.  Destination – the Dordogne River valley (also called the Perigord.)

We visited this area briefly in 2019. Then, in late 2019 after we got home, Hubs & I started listening to a series of audiobooks about a chief of police, Bruno Courrèges, in a fictional town in the Perigord. Author Martin Walker, an expat Brit who splits his time between the US & the Perigord, absolutely makes his readers want to visit the Dordogne area with his vivid descriptions of the food, the wine, the scenery & the history of the area.

So we did!

Based in Sarlat-la-Canéda for 6 nights, we thought we’d have plenty of time to see everything.

Nah baby nah…

There is SO much to see – we could have stayed for another month!  AGMA is saying a lot (because there are just so many beautiful, interesting parts of France) when I say this just my be my favorite part of France.

Yeah – that’s right – I said it…

I could start with the plethora of caves with prehistoric art.  Ranging from 12,000 to 36,000 years (that’s right – 36,000!) old, it’s thrilling to see the art left behind by our ancient ancestors.

Lascaux, the most famous cave, has been off limits to visitors since 1961 because of the fragile nature of the paintings, due to “over touristing” in the 1950s.  So, of course, they built a complete replica of cave for people to visit, Lascaux IV.  You have to look up Lascaux II & III…

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Let’s fly

Paris!

Yes… AGMA lives!

I think this is the longest I have have gone without posting.  Sorry ‘bout that!

It’s been all travel all the time at Casa AGMA!  Going on trips, booking trips, planning trips…. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Oh – and I chopped my hair off and got a new tattoo, but that’s another post.  (FYI, I LOVE my new ink!)

Hubs and I went to France last month.  We flew there, of course.

Thank you Orville & Wilbur!

For some reason, on the flight to Paris, I starting thinking about AGMA’s flying history. 

My first plane ride was around 1962 or 1963.  My mother, sister and I went to Miami on vacation.  We took a train from Pittsburgh to Miami.  I don’t remember much about it other than I got sick during the trip.

I’m not sure if it was me getting sick or whether my mother had planned it all along, but we flew home.  I was ecstatic!  I was really one of the first of my friends to have actually flown on an airplane.

And that was really the start of AGMA’s love of travel!

My father used to fly quite a bit in the 50’s & 60’s for his job.  My brother (12 years my senior) fell in love with airplanes as a child in the 40’s, and it is a love that has lasted his entire life.  He wanted to be a commercial pilot, but his poor eyesight was a deal breaker for that dream.  However, did go on to get his private pilot’s license.

He never owned an airplane, but belonged to a flying club.  Through the club, he was able to rent a plane to fly he and his family for long weekend trips.  Once in the late 80s, they flew to visit us in Cincinnati. We went out to the community airport to look at the plane.  OMG it was SOOOOO incredibly tiny!  Literally just room for the 4 of them. 

 If they all inhaled.

Seriously, you could not give me enough money to fly in such a itty bitty plane!  Regional jets even give AGMA the willies…

As a teenager, my friends and I used to go out to the old Pittsburgh airport to watch planes take off and land. 

Things were slow back then before social media….

We used to bon voyage people at their gate and greet people coming into the airport after landing.  This was in the “olden days” when there was no TSA, no security screening, no rules about who could be at a gate.  Back when there was a TWA, Eastern Airlines, Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Braniff Airlines PanAM, Allegheny Airlines.  There were so many more airline options back in the day!

My sister (6 years older) did her senior year of college in England.  After she graduated here in the US in 1969, she went back to Europe for a year.  She worked and traveled during the heyday of “Europe on $5 a Day” times!  Her experiences only inflamed AGMA’s passion for travel. 

Oh myyyyyyy!

Because I went to college out west in the early 70’s, AGMA used to fly home for the holidays.  And boy, did I think I was grown up and sophisticated flying by myself. Of course I was – NOT.  This was also the era of student discounts and flying student stand-by as so it was pretty dang cheap to fly.  These things, of course, have gone the way of the John McCain type Republican in Florida.

AGMA’s first trip across the pond was in 1973.  I took a class on Ancient Greek Civilization, and part of the class was a trip to Greece.  Sweet!  My mother had died in 1965 at 48, and left a small college trust fund for my sister and I.  I was able to pay for the trip from that trust fund because it was associated with a class I was taking. 

Thank you Mum! But honestly, I would have rather had you in my life for 40 years more years than I did.

AGMA has been truly blessed in her travel life, and since 1973 there have been many, many trips on flying machines.  

Having moved so much, and with friends and family flung all over the US, AGMA has and continues to fly a whole lot domestically.  But since the late 2000’s, there have been lots of international trips as well.

But lately, methinks AGMA may have gone a bit too far.  

After a 14 month hiatus from international travel from March 2020 to July 2021 (f*ck you COVID), I think I’m over compensating…. France in July 2021; Iceland, France & Ireland in Sept/Oct 2021; England, Germany & Portugal in March 2022; Greece in May 2022; France last month.

But that really doesn’t compare with the trips coming up.

I’ll report on my adventures as I come back, so no details right now, but AGMA is going on not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 international trips in the next 9 months.

I’m really not sure what has come over me.

Could be, I see the hand writing on the wall.  Hubs PLS is getting worse by the month.  In a year or two or three, he will be in a wheelchair full time.  And that will make traveling the way we have done in the past do far more complicated.  And expensive.  

But life is definitely a journey and I’m up for the trip.  

Next year will be 50 years since I first laid eyes on that handsome jamoke with the cute booty.  And last month in France, we celebrated 45 years of ‘flying’ together in matrimony.  We’ve flown through a lifetime of challenges together and done pretty well.  I’m guessing that this next phase of the flight will work out okay too.

So stay tuned, and come fly with AGMA as we head full throttle into the future!

Next up: a report on our trip to Bordeaux and the Dordogne!  Maybe… Yikes!

Get rid of it!

The ‘it’

My blogging friend, Ilona over at Rainy Day Writing, has an AGMA-esque sense of humor.  Or maybe AGMA has an Ilona-esque sense of humor? Whatever…

She posted a really funny piece a few weeks ago called Mantras for Old Age.  You can read it here.

One of my favorites is her Better Pee First mantra.  Tell the truth, shame the devil – those of you of a certain age know what she’s talking about…

AGMA needed to recite that mantra this past weekend.

Specifically, Saturday evening.  But didn’t.

That was the day AGMA had my High Noon showdown. 

We live in the city limits of Chicago, but have our share of wildlife.  There are signs in the alleys about not leaving trash around for the rats to eat.  So there are rats. Thankfully, AGMA’s never seen one.  And my neighbor had a small snake in her yard.  There was even a coyote wandering down the railroad tracks behind our house this spring.

Because there’s a buffer of trees between the alley behind our house and railroad track (it’s a spur line that is only used several times a week by an 6 car train), we have a plethora of perky, pesky squirrels literally hanging around.

Last summer, a squirrel, let’s call it Pitas (pain in the ass squirrel), would come up on our deck in the wee hours of the morning and dig in my tomato plant planter.  When AGMA opened the blinds in the morning, dirt was scattered all around the planter. 

As the summer wore on, Pitas got bolder.  It started picking MY cherry tomatoes and eating them.  Oh, the humanity!

When Pitas got bored with a diet of partially consumed cherry tomatoes, he/she ordered carry-out.  I found a half eaten piece of pizza, a partial bagel, and bits of bread on our deck at different points in the summer.

AGMA’s grateful Pitas got to them before the rats.

Bouyed by his/her foraging success last year, Pitas returned this summer.  At least I think it’s Pitas…

No longer operating under the cover of darkness, it staked its claim on our deck by boldly walking around in light of day.  

Our cat, Max, is quite interested in looking out the large sliding glass door at Pitas.   Max walks up to the window every morning in anticipation of seeing his rodent buddy.

And I think Pitas is interested in Max.  So interested that it started literally hanging on our screen door to look inside the house.  At Max.  And sometimes Gus.

“Wanna come out and play?”

Sometimes when AGMA goes out on the deck, Pitas flops down on the deck railing or steps, and just watches me.  It’s like he/she’s plotting something.

Pitas in front of ‘the chair’ staring at me

Kiinda creepy.

All this is to say, this is one ballsy squirrel who, like honey badger, doesn’t give a sh*t. And apparently isn’t afraid of too much.

But AGMA’s discovered a chink in Pitas’ armor. It’s not at all fond of getting squirted with the hose. 

Fast forward to Saturday evening when my DIL, grandchildren V & T, and AGMA were sitting on the upper deck.

Pitas startled us by crawling up onto our deck from our nice neighbors deck.  My DIL tried to chase him/her away but it held its ground.  She tried again.  Again, Pitas stayed anchored to its spot.

I explained that “our” squirrel was very bold and not easily chased away.

After a third time, Pitas scurried behind my chair.  Thinking he/she may have scampered down to the ground or hopped back onto our nice neighbors deck, I peeked behind the chair

Before I continue, AGMA needs to let you know that my DIL does not like animals at all.  She is kind of terrified of them.  Especially in the ‘wild’.

This is key to understanding what happened next…

“He’s still here…I see his tail,” I said.

Just about then Pitas popped its head up over the back of the chair and stared at us.

My DIL then proceeded to scream bloody murder, and we all ran down the stairs to the main deck.

I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe.  

It was at that point that AGMA regretted not doing the Better Pee First mantra.  I won’t make that mistake again…. Ugh.

Five minutes later, after a quick change, I was in the kitchen filling up a pitcher. 

AGMA’s battle plan was to spritz him with water until he ran away.

My DIL, 5 year old granddaughter, 3 year old grandson and I slowly went back up the stairs to the upper deck with AGMA in the lead carrying the water pitcher.  Pitas was now on top of the back of my chair. 

Squirrel scene in Christmas Vacation minus the Christmas tree and dog, right?

It jumped down on the chair cushion which sent my DIL flying down the steps and back into the house, leaving her 2 young children and myself out on the deck at the mercy of arch villian, Pitas. 

Evidently it was every man for himself.

But V soon followed her mother into the house, and she called to little T, to follow her (which he did.) 

It was just AGMA (the squirrel hunter), Pitas, and the water pitcher.

In my mind, I heard Tex Ritter singing, “Do not forsake me, oh my darling.”

So this was how it was going to end…

I managed to spritz him/her and get it off the deck.  But Pitas decided to hang around on nice neighbor’s deck ledge. He/she was trying to wait me out.  

Nah baby nah – AGMA dumped the whole pitcher on the little a-hole.

Unbeknownst (is this a word?) to me, my DIL was videoing our shoot out at the AGMA-OK Corral from the kitchen window.

When she sent me the video, I lost it again and started laughing uncontrollably.

It starts out with the 3 year old screaming through the window, “Nana, get rid of it!”

Priceless!

Yesterday, I got the brilliant idea of checking our Ring camera video to see if it captured any of our Keystone Cops antics.

Sure enough, I got us all running down the stairs after Pitas popped his/her head up behind the chair, and AGMA running into the house howling with laughter.

The second video captured my DIL flying down the stairs and directly into the house (when Pitas was advancing on me.)  And leaving her children to fend for themselves. 

It’s hysterical.

Since I started writing this, I’ve broken down into fits of laughter multiple times.

Fortunately, AGMA did my Better Pee First mantra before I started typing.

TMI right?

Things I hate

Ewwww… I hate starting starting a post about hate that has hate in the title.

Hate is such an incredibly strong and powerful word.

And AGMA has tried to use it sparingly in my life because it conveys such bigly negative feelings and emotions.

But I’ll have to confess that I have used it to describe my feelings more in the last six years than at any other period of my life.

I think hating people is very iffy….   To AGMA, it implies that that the object of this strong emotion has absolutely zero redeeming qualities and is basically an evil person intent on inflicting as much damage in the world as possible. Up until six years ago, I can’t say that I ever used ‘hate’ to describe my feelings toward another human.  

But now it seems as if there are a number of people (an alarmingly large number) in the news cycle who definitely live up to (or down to) my definition.

Lock ’em up!

So leaving people out of the mix, here are some of the things that AGMA hates…

1.  Single-ply toilet paper

Seriously, do I need to explain this?

2.   Speed bumps (humps) 

More specifically, Chicago speed bumps.

I’ve lived 18 months or longer in 6 different cities during my lifetime before moving to Chicago.  Most have used speed bumps to slow down speeders.  But nothing, absolutely NOTHING, has prepared me for Chicago’s mountainous speed bumps. 

They are BRUTAL.

Incredibly high and often camaflogued in mottled sunlight during the summer, they can do a number on your car. 

The City paints white stripes on them to alert people of the perils ahead, but after a few Chicago winters, most fade to almost nothing.

So…surprise! Your car has now suddenly become airborne.

We’ve started naming the worst of them.

FrameBender is close to my son’s house, and bears the scars of those who have taken it on and lost.  We slowly pass over it with a reverent respect having had some close calls with it in the past.

AxelBreaker is no too far from our house close to a Starbucks with a small parking lot AND a drive-thru (which is rare and coveted in the city.)   This was the one that I hit at 25 mph and felt like my entire spine got shoved up into my brain. Thankfully, neither Peaches (my car) or I was critically injured.

3.  Reading about people my age or younger dying of “natural causes”.

 WTF???  That’s just plain wrong.

4.  Living next to a MAGA cult member.

He not only drinks the cult Kool-aid, but he drinks copious amounts of adult beverages as well.  This is not a good combination.  

He’s constantly trying to own his liberal snowflake neighbors (us) by playing domestic terrorist cult talk shows on high volume on his radio on his deck.  The fact that we live in townhomes, and our decks are only 6 inches apart makes this an interesting situation.  My question is, who owns a portable radio these days?? 

But AGMA gets that he wants to turn the clock back to the 1960’s so I guess that makes sense.

He waters his wife’s plants hanging on the edge of his deck and can never seem to not end up covering our deck with water.  I’m guessing he doesn’t realize that the deck gets rained on on a fairly regular basis, and the water will eventually evaporate.  Plus, he is actually watering some of my plants as well.

Score!

After several months of no signage bliss because he got into big trouble with our HOA for posting MAGA cult signs using foul language on the community’s fence, he’s back to posting signs again.  This time in the front of his yard, as close to our property as possible.  I appears as if he has a yuge man crush on Merritt Garland. His sign indicated he wants to have sexual relations (f*ck) with him.  The HOA took it down.

Hubs and I wonder where he was on January 6, 2021….

5.  Primary Lateral Scoliosis (PLS)

This is the diagnosis for Hubs as he continues to lose the use of his right leg, and is starting to lose functionality in the left as well.  He has walkers on each floor of our house (2) and we recently got one for Son#1’s house as well.  Hubs now has a severe S curve in his back causing him almost constant back pain.  He’s going to be evaluated soon to see if it is safe for him to continue drive (which he does rarely – AGMA drives most of the time.)  If was a betting woman (I am…), I’d say we’ll probably be putting hand controls in our cars in the near future.  And a stairlift up to our bedroom level.

It is what it is, and we deal with it.  We’re very thankful that it isn’t ALS and that he has no pain in his legs.  But if I stop to really think about how PLS has impacted both of our lives, and will impact our lives in the coming years, it brings tears to my eyes.

So I try not to think of it.

6.  COVID fragmentation

Pre-COVID, AGMA had my life semi-together.  Which was probably as good as it was going to get.

I loved my part-time job as a massage therapist, was part of a running group, had my fun little eBay business, was part of an Indivisible group helping to turn Georgia blue (yay Warnock and Ossoff!), blogged regularly, and had a pretty active social life.  

Since COVID became a thing, it’s kind of all gone to hell in a handbasket. 

Let me pause in my whining to say that none of my family or friends died or got horribly sick with COVID. In that I have been very, very fortunate.  And my intimate tango with COVID back in February was very mild thanks to the vaccine and boosters.  

But COVID has caused a serious disturbance in The AGMA Force. A speed bump of another sort…

Clearly, moving to Chicago during COVID had a major impact on our lives, and I lost all of my Atlanta connections.   But it’s been over 2 years now, and things for AGMA still continue to feel stagnant, disoriented, and ‘stuck’.   

It’s kind of obvious to ya’ll that I can’t get my blogging life geared up again. 

Duh.

I’ve been writing the very occasional post, but pre-COVID, I blogged every week.  And I would enjoy other people’s posts. And comment on them.  It’s been eons since I’ve done that.  I truly miss it (and ya’ll), but can’t seem to bring any focus or energy to it.

Or much of anything else.  

Except travel.  AGMA is still all about traveling.  But it kind of seems like it’s become more of an escape than anything else.  When I travel, I can put all that fragmented life stuff on the back burner, and don’t have think about it.  Or feel like I am living ‘less than’.

And yes, I do what some cheese with my whine please.

Actually, AGMA still loves her cycling (which, again, is a great escape.) And I adore living close to the grands and being a part of their lives – more than I can say.

So I guess it’s not all doom and gloom, but I sure would like to get my sh*t together after 2 1/2 years of internal and external chaos…

….said most everybody else in the world.

Travel goals

(AGMAniacs: This was written back in June with AGMA’s full intention of publishing it that day.  All I had to do was attach the pictures…  Clearly, that didn’t happen.  Typical.  But I wanted to give you the moment AGMA in June when I wrote it so I’m not going to edit it.  And it’s loooonnnggg. Opa!)

So yesterday it was 102 degrees.  Yeah – I know that it’s been hot all over the Southwest and South.  But I live in Chicago.

Holy sidewalk fried egg!

Today, it’s “cooled down” to 95.  Last week I was wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a light hoodie over it.  I’m just so confused…

My good friend, K, and I had similar weather in Greece last month. 

AGMA, as loyal readers know, is the amateur master trip planner. And, if I do say so myself, the trip went off without a sneeze.  Except maybe a hiccup on the way home, but that’s just the way it is with flying these days.

It sucks.

(But not bad enough for me to stay home!)

We started out in Athens.  AGMA has been to Athens three times before this trip, but I realized that I never spent more than 2 nights in that amazing city.  On this trip, we hung out there for 4 nights and it was marvelous (COVID not withstanding.) The breakfast room in our hotel, The Astor (a couple of blocks off Syntagma Square) is on the top floor, and has an incredible view of the Acropolis. 

A really great way to start our day!

And K and I decided that we would end every day on a different rooftop bar. That, of course, had a view of the Acropolis. I mean, you have to have travel goals…

Yeah we did!

This trip to Athens was almost exactly 50 years after my first visit as a student. The top image below is a view of Mars Hill from the Acropolis that I took last month. The bottom one is an orange shirted AGMA on Mars Hill in 1972.

I know – I can’t tell a difference in how I look either… 😉

After 3 full days of exploring Athens (and rooftop bars!), it was time to island hop!

Going Greek island hopping has been on my bucket list for a long time. And hop we did – we visited Naxos, Santorini, and Milos. But Greek island hopping is staying on my bucket list because there are LOTS more Greek islands that need a good dose of AGMA!

After Athens, we flew to Naxos, which was like a 30 minute flight. Easy peasy. We did an AirB&B in Naxos City that was right on the harbor with a great view over the water and of the Temple of Apollo. Or at least what was left of the Temple of Apollo. Which isn’t much. But it’s the symbol of Naxos, and is in prominent place right on the water as you enter Naxos town from the Aegean.

The view of the Naxos City Harbor from our AirB&B
What remains of the Temple of Apollo on Naxos.

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Island group, and is surprisingly mountainous. It’s also an island that, unlike so many others, does not rely on solely on tourism for its livelyhood. It’s the most self-sufficient island in the Cyclades because of cattle breeding, cheese, fruit and veggie (esp potatoes) crops, Kitron (a citrus spirit that is incredible!), and cheese. Did I mention the yummy cheese?

The back of a cheese shop in Naxos City where we did a cheese tasting.

We did a day tour around the island that was well worth the cost. Lunch at a seaside taverna in the village of Apollonas was honestly like out of a movie!

K enjoying her pre-lunch adult beverage.

After 3 wonderful nights, it was time to hop again! This time we took a speedy ferry (that was absolutely PACKED with tourists) to Santorini.

Santorini is one of “the” islands that is a must do in Greece, and LOTS and LOTS of people got the memo. It’s a major stop on the Greek cruise circuit. AGMA has been to Santorini twice, but only for day trips on a shore excursions.

I was pumped to be staying 3 nights there.

The BIG BIG BIG (did I mention that it was BIG) thing to do on Santorini is to watch the sunset. While you can watch the sunset from many locations on the island, the town of Oia (pronounce Eea) seems to get the bulk of the crowds. Sunset picture to come…

The other big thing to do is to stay in a cave house. Because Santorini is volcanic in origin, the cliffs are made of soft volcanic rock. Back in the day, the economically disadvantage would build their homes by digging back into the soft volcanic rock with an exterior addition in the front. Cheap digs that stayed relatively cool in the summer. Over the years, these peasant ‘houses’ have become THE places to stay on Santorini sometimes commanding up to $1000 a night (depending on amenities and location.)

So, of course, AGMA wanted to stay in Oia in a cave house where we could watch the sunset. No problem… Gulp. But the key to getting semi-reasonable accommodations is to book as far in advance as you can. As soon as we had made our airline reservations last October, I pretty much booked our lodging, Fotinos House in Oia, right away. While not cheap, it was still a bargain (for the location, the amenities, and the ‘experience’) for $160 per night. And it was awesome…

Our cave house

We booked our ferry pickup and drop transfer from our host.  The transport cost included the portage of our bags from the drop off/pick up point in Oia to/and from our cave house. It was worth more than we paid! The path went up and down, and up and down, and up and down hundreds (no exaggeration) of stairs.  All of the buildings in the Castle area (the area were were staying at) are literally built into a cliff.  

Steps, steps, and more steps! See the mustard colored building center right? Our cave house is at 11 o’clock and our private sunset viewing platform is at 10 o’clock right next to it.

The Castle area of Oia is where 90% of the people go to watch the sunset every night.  And we had our own, private viewing platform.  Seriously. We finished each day with a glass Assyrtiko wine from Domaine Sigalas vineyards while watching two of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Our private sunset viewing platform!!
A stunning view, great wine, and a good friend – life is good!

Yeah – the 3rd night was a bust with lots o’ clouds.  I felt bad for the cruise folks who only had one evening there. First world problem.

It can still be beautiful even on a cloudy evening.

For some reason, AGMA thought it would be fun to walk the 10K from Oia to Fira (the largest town on Santorini) on the walking trail that goes along the rim of the collapsed volcanic caldera.  K agreed.  After all, we hiked the Cinque Terra together 5 years ago.   It would be a snap.

Nah baby nah.

5 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Oia, we arrived in Fira.  It was not a snap.  We had to walk over mountains (at least they seemed like mountains to us.) It was hot. We were sweaty. And hungry. And tired. But we did it!

We started in Oia, at the tip of that white village on the left. We were maybe 2k from Fira when I took this picture. It was a loooonnnng hike!

What the hell were we thinking??   But it makes for a great travel story….

After 3 nights, we reluctantly said goodbye to Santorini and jumped a slow ferry to Milos.  AGMA pretended I was on a Aegean cruise because we stopped at 4 islands before we got to Milos.  More ideas for future island hopping adventures?

We rented a car on Milos.  Our lodging was in the charming village of Pollonia that is about 6 miles from Adamas, the main town on the island.  There is public transportation, but everything I read about visiting Milos suggested renting a car.  We ended up with a little white car from a local Milos rental company that we nicknamed The Paper Cup. 

She was quite yar!

The other thing that travel bloggers suggest was a ‘must do’ on Milos was to take an all day boat trip around the island.  Check.

Our boat, the Eleni, and Dora the Explorer, our guide for the day, in the yellow top.

I waited until a couple of days before our visit to book our boat excursion because of the nature of the weather around the islands.  Wind can be a problem and the excursions boats won’t go when it’s really windy. It was very windy and even a bit chilly when we were on Naxos.  So much so that I had to buy a velour hoodie to wear in the evenings.

AGMA stylin’ in her new deep Aegean blue velour on Naxos.

Velour is trendy again… Who knew?? 

The weather was pretty perfect when we were on Milos, so off we went for our 10 hour trip around the island.  What a fantastic time!  We had a wonderful guide in Dora, and lots of great food, and pretty much as much wine as you wanted.  Plus, it had gotten warm enough to go swimming from the boat.

I case you were wondering, I did not do any sort of editing of my photos. The sky was THAT vivid blue and the water was THAT turquoise.

However, K and I didn’t bring our bathing suits to Greece because we both feel like we couldn’t fit the volume of fabric it would take to cover our COVID-angst fed bodies into our carry ons.  So we improvised wearing sports bras & running shorts!

Oh la la!

And yes – we met two hot French men…  And their wives.  Who gave their approval for the photo. Damn. But nobody else has to know that we weren’t being cougars – it will just be between us WordPressers.

The last night on Milos was the night of the blood moon.  Cafe Opsidianoa in Pollonia was the perfect place to watch it and spend some time thinking about how much we didn’t want to leave Greece yet…

Terrible picture of the blood moon rising over Milos. In person, it appeared much, much larger.

We flew back to Athens the next day and spent our last night near the Athens airport.  The hiccup the morning we were going home was that our direct flight from Athens to Newark that was supposed to leave at noon, was rescheduled to leave at 8 PM, and now included a stop in Iceland.  Which would have caused us to miss our connecting flight to Cincinnati in Newark, and me to miss my early morning flight the next day from Cincinnati to Chicago.

Through AGMA’s dogged determination, we managed to get rebooked onto a direct flight from Athens to DC then onto Cincinnati. Yay! But because of stupid issues (multiple) with the plane from DC and a really bad thunderstorm in Cincinnati, we ended up arriving there 5 hours late anyway.  Boo.

So let’s review… There are 227 Greek islands.  I have visited 7 of them (Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes & Patmos plus the three on this trip)

Only 220 to go!

#travelgoals

AGMA after yet another sweaty hike up a mountain (on Milos this time) pondering what islands I’ll visit on my next trip to Greece!

  

Meeting Dookes

Dookes neighborhood!

So where has AGMA been of late?

Not sitting at her favorite coffee shop typing blog posts on her laptop, that’s for sure. 

Where have days (weeks, months, years…) gone?

So while AGMA was goofing off, not posting blog posts, Hubs and I decided to beat the European travel rush that is supposed to happen this summer, and we headed over the Pond in March.

Because Hubs has a mobility disability, we travel with a mobility scooter, most tour companies don’t want to deal with us.  And the ones that cater to folks with mobility issues are out of our price range.

So I have become Hubs’ private travel agent/tour organizer.

Lucky guy.

In March, AGMA Travel and Leisure, LLC. planned a trip to Europe with 4 very distinct parts.

Ever since AGMA saw Poldark on Masterpiece Theater in the 1970’s, I’ve wanted to see this incredibly beautiful part of England.  My desire to visit Cornwall was heightened the past few years by the new Poldark on PBS, and my blogging friend, Hogrider Dookes, who lives in Cornwall.

Lucky guy.

St Michaels Mount. Does it remind you of anyplace in France??
The Minack Theater in Cornwall
The old tin mines ala Poldark

As a matter of fact, Dookes took a YUGE leap of faith and decided to actually meet up with me when we were in his neck of the woods.  Risky business on his part.  But he knows AGMA is a bit….AGMA.

Still, I was hoping that I wouldn’t freak the bejesus out of him…  

Turns out that he and his wife were as charming, welcoming and gracious as I am weird, strange and cray, cray.  We all got along famously.

Harls & Hettie, Dookes’ beloved rides!

Thanks Dookes for a fantabulous time!

Oh…and did I mention that on the way to Cornwall, we stopped for tea at HIghclere Castle (otherwise known as Downton freaking Abbey????)  Being a huge fan of the Downton Abbey series and movies, AGMA was pretty psyched that we were able to take a tour of Highclere.  Unfortunately, the weather that day was pretty much the worst weather we had on our entire trip – this is the best picture I was able to take.

Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey

By the time the tour and tea was done, It was pouring cats, dogs, and hedgehogs outside.  And no pictures are allowed inside. Damn. 

First world problem.

Part 2 was in jolly old London Town.

Light crowd for the changing of the guard

I hadn’t been to London in over 20 years so a visit there was long overdue.  It was a bit of a whirlwind visit – only 3 nights – but we hit the ground running (and scooting.)   Dinner with a friend who lives there, a visit to the British Museum, an evening walking tour of gaslight London, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London kept us busy. 

St James Park was popping with Spring!
The Parthanon Marbles that Great Britain won’t give back to Greece. Naughty…
The venerable Westminster Abbey
The Tower of London & Tower Bridge.

I was wracking up the steps on my smart watch.

AGMA finally got to ride the London Eye, something I wanted to do when I was there 20 years ago.  And it was pretty dang impressive…. It helped that the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful with blue skies and lots of sunshine.

Holy crap on a cracker… The view from the London Eye is CRAZY!!

We also went to a revival of Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theater.  It was a stunning show with incredibly innovative staging and choreography, and a stellar cast.  It was also expensive… On top of the price of the tickets, everybody had to show a negative COVID test to get into the theater which set us back an additional $95.  Ouch.  

But totally worth it!

Part 3 was Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate that was on No Man’s Land during the Cold War.

I was in Berlin in 1976 as part of a college-aged student two month tour (translation = drunken boondoggle) of Europe.  If you were in college in the 1970’s, AGMA bets you saw the flyers for this ISE (International Student Exchange) tour.   

Berlin in 2022 is vastly different from the Berlin of 1976.  

For starters, no wall, no Checkpoint Charlie, no East Berlin.  90 percent of our time was spent in the old East Berlin which I didn’t have access to in 1976.  Stalin truly did take the “best bits” of Berlin when they carved it up after WWII.  Our small, lovely, boutique hotel, the Montbijou Hotel, in the Hackescher Market area, is in former East Berlin area as is Museum Island, the old Jewish Quarter, and the TV Tower.

The Hackescher Market area.
What’s left of The Wall
Oh myyyyy…

Hubs & I got together with a lovely young German woman  (she was the au pair for my niece for 18 months in DC until last year) and her sister for a wonderful breakfast at the restaurant on top of the Reichstag. AGMA highly recommends it! 

The Reichstag was da bomb!

As it turns out, our 5 days in Berlin wasn’t nearly long enough to explore this fascinating, complex city.  We’re ready to go back!

Part 4 was Lisbon.

The famed pastel de nata of Portugal

We flew across the Atlantic on TAP Airlines, which is a low cost, Portuguese airline.  No matter where your final destination is, you will connect through Lisbon.  TAP offers free stop-overs in either Lisbon or Porto, so AGMA said, why not?  

This was our second visit to Lisbon.  The first was part of a tour and was a whirlwind 48 hour visit that included Sintra.  This time, we stayed in Lisbon for the full 3 days and had a chance to explore this absolutely beautiful city.  Our hotel, The 7 Hotel, was modern and delightful, and in a fantastic location in the Baxia neighborhood..  Aside from the incredible food, the beautiful weather, and our evening at a Fado restaurant, the highlight of our trip was the TukTuk tour we took (get it – TukTuk took??)  It wasn’t inexpensive, but the one on one interaction with our driver who knew the city and its history inside and out was worth every penny. 

Our tiktuk chariot awaits!
Beautiful Lisbon!
São Jorge Castle under Lisbon’s blue skies!
One of the 4 Fado singers for the evening.
Gotta love those Lisbon trolley cars!

So 6 plane rides, 4 COVID tests, 2 passenger locator forms, innumerable times showing our CDC vaccination card, and 17 masks later, we got home at the end of March.  Let’s just say, to travel internationally during COVID, you REALLY need to want to travel internationally during COVID.

And you’d think AGMA would have learned her lesson.

But nah baby nah.

50 years ago, when I was a mere girl of 18, I took my first international trip.  I went to Greece for a week over spring break when I was a freshman in college on a student/alumni trip.  

A very young AGMA in 1972 in her hot pants! (No snide comments Dookes ;-)! )

To celebrate that momentous trip that sparked a lifetime love of travel, AGMA is returning to the scene of the crime.  Tomorrow.

Opa!!

Russian _______ (fill in the blank), go f*ck yourself

The t-shirt Hubs bought for me!

So clearly the Russian cyber-attacks in response to the global sanctions on Russia for Putin’s illegal, immoral, and Hitler-ish invasion of Ukraine, have started.

AGMA’s sitting in my 3rd favorite coffee shop (for blogging) and my MAC is as slow as molasses. (Do people even say that anymore…??). 

It’s taking like 3 minutes for a page to load.  Oh the humanity!

Back in the dark ages when we had to dial into the world wide web via a modem, this wait would not seem excessive.  In some cases, this was considered ‘fast’.

But times have moved on, and now we’re used to split second responsiveness.  And AGMA tends to get very impatient when I experience a technology hiccup.  Talk about your champagne problems…!

But I noticed a slow down a couple of days ago and again today.  This just might be the tip of the iceberg.

People I consider rational and reasonable are seriously getting ready for the Russian ‘cyber invasion’. They are preparing for an all out cyber attack, taking 1000’s out of the bank, freezing milk and other perishables, and loading up on non-perishable food items.  AGMA hates to tell them that the power grids will probably be an early target (Texas, are you listening?) which will take out electricity, hence freezing anything will provide only a short term supply.  Unless you have a generator and then, of course, there will be the shortage of gas to power it.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? 

I find that those of us living at Casa AGMA are woefully unprepared for Armageddon, cyber or otherwise.

And that’s okay with us.  

It’s always been my position that I want to be taken out by the initial strike.  AGMA’s seen too many movies/TV shows about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.

No, brain eating does not sound like a survival technique I would like, thank you.

I’ll just be like Scarlett O’Hara – I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

AGMA is 50% Ukrainian.  My grandparents emigrated from Ukraine in the very early 1900’s and settled in Western Pennsylvania.  My mother and her siblings were all 1st generation Americans.

My other 50% is mostly German with a tiny sprinkling of the Biritish Isles mixed in.  Very tiny.  

To be honest, I’ve never been overly excited about my heritage.

Until now.

It’s stunning to see the resolve of Ukrainians in defense of their homeland against the unprovoked, terrorist aggression of super-power lead by an unhinged, wannabe Nazi.  AGMA is gobsmacked by the courage and bravery of ordinary citizens being reported in the media.  

And just when you think that there are no courageous, inspirational leaders left in the world who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is doing a most excellent job channeling Churchill.

I’m hoping he’s a distant cousin…

We always wonder (at least AGMA does) what we would do put in a situation like the Ukrainian people.  I like to think that I would be the lady offering the Russian soldier sunflower seeds.  Or the grandma who is learning to shoot an automatic weapon.  Or the woman who learned how to make molotov cocktails by Googling it.  Or the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island who told the Russian warship to, “…go f*ck yourself!”

Make no mistake, AGMA (being the liberal, progressive snowflake that I am) is totally against war, and the horrors it brings to the innocents involved on both sides.  I mourn not only for the Ukrainian lives lost, but for the young Russian soldiers who do not want to be doing what they are doing in Ukraine. I mourn for a country that can never return to what it was a week ago; forever changed by the untenable reality of either kill or be killed.  I grieve for the children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers who are and will be grieving for their murdered loved ones.  And for those who have fled their country and left everything behind.

My heart is broken for my (50%) homeland.

That being said, I am also filled with pride that I have the same DNA as these incredibly brave, courageous people with their dogged determination to defend their homeland against incredible odds.  

And AGMA believes that they will ultimately prevail over their would-be oppressors, though there will be much more death and devastation before that happens.

Damn Putin.

In the meantime, I pray the world will support the people of Ukraine in every way possible.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a more important item on the pro-democracy checklist than stopping this war-crime laden aggression with all of our collective global efforts.   Despite the temporary inconveniences that may happen as a result.  Higher prices at the gas pump or grocery store are nothing in comparison to having thermobaric vacuum bombs used to kill your children.

We kind of need to suck it up folks…. Again.  But AMGA knows ya’ll can do it!

Also, and this is really important, let’s work as hard as we can on keeping pro-Putin fascists (otherwise known as Republicans or the GQP) out of power here in the US.  

If you think what is happening in Ukraine can’t happen in the US, you haven’t been paying attention.

Old fashioned

AGMA really enjoys those Progressive TV commercials where the self help therapist, Dr. Rick, is trying to help young homeowners who are “turning into their parents”.

He’s challenged by young homeowners wearing fanny packs (that are coming BACK into fashion by the way!) who have paper tickets at the airport, pack snacks from home for their plane ride, are worried about exiting a football game before it starts, and compliment the grocery store deli worker for great lunchmeat slicing…

You get the picture.

I enjoy them until it dawns on me that I AM the parent he is trying to help the young homeowners not be like.  What??  For some bizarre, AGMA-twisted reasoning, I think I am one of those young homeowners, not the older parent.

Considering we bought our first home in 1978, I’ve obviously been consuming too many gummies.

We are most definitely NOT young homeowners.  And we’re guilty of pretty much everything that the the commercial is poking fun at.  Although I don’t think I’ve ever complimented the deli person on their slicing skills.  Out loud.

Time marches on…. And AGMA has been feeling that quite acutely.

Now I know how my father felt in the 80’s & 90’s with the advent of personal computers, the internet, and cell phones.

Today it’s crypto currencies, VR, NFT’s, and the Metaverse.  I think they’re all connected. Maybe. I’m really not sure. 

Yup – AGMA is turning into my father. This is terrifying.

My brother turned 80 (OMG!!) a few months ago.  He’s a recently retired investment advisor.  When I saw him this past fall, he told me he invested in a cryptocurrency, but he has no clue exactly how the crypto thing works.

Join the club.

I heard this morning that the US government is looking into issuing cryptocurrency, and that we are actually behind the 8-ball compared to other countries.  Damn – just when I was getting ready to fill up my nickel collectors card… 

Clearly, crypto is hot and a ‘thing’. But, right now, when Matt Damon tells me from the TV that “fortune favors the brave” in advertising crypto investing, it all feels a bit like a Ponzi scheme.

AGMA is kind of a crusty skeptic.

Then there’s VR or virtual reality.  I have enough of a hard time with with reality reality.  Not sure I want to add another layer to my reality anxiety issues.

NFT’s are really interesting.  I think.  And bizarre.  Another thing that feels a bit like a pyramid scheme.  But since I don’t understand what they are, who knows?

NFT’s are Non-Fungible Tokens.  

What the heck does fungible mean???  Is that even a word??  It sounds like something I would use to describe the love child of the Orange Cheetolini, the Pillow Guy, and Kid Rock.

“Oh my goodness, what a fungible baby.”

AGMA can’t tell you how many time I’ve Googled NFT’s to try to figure out why people are spending millions of dollars on them.

MILLIONS.  

And all I get is that it has something to do with proprietary digital “stuff” stored in a blockchain (whatever the hell that is) somewhere in some cloud that you need a special code to access.  So I guess you’re really paying for that code, but, again, who knows?

Artists are cashing big time on the NFT craze, and it may expand to real estate and other “stuff”.

Now there’s an oxymoron for you – digital real estate.  I wonder if that’s like naming a star after your significant other?  I mean, it’s not REALLY named after them, but you have a piece of paper that says it is. It’s a gimmick. 

Can you raise crops on a digital farm?  Or cows?  How about building a house?  Or a sky scraper?

AGMA just has so many questions….

Which brings us to the Metaverse.  AGMA has a sneaking suspicion that cryptocurrency, VR and NFT’s are all part of the Metaverse, but I couldn’t swear to it.  Again, this is something that I’ve Googled multiple times, but am having a difficult time wrapping my very limited brain around.

If somebody out there can explain any of this to me, please have at it!

Honestly, the older I get, the more it seems like The Matrix is becoming the new reality and less just a plot for a movie.

Give me the red pill please!

Oh, to go back to the good old days of flip cell phones, email, and typing www before a website’s name.

The days before 9/11, MAGA hats, FOX “news”, the Big Lie, COVID-19. 

The days when women’s reproductive rights weren’t being stripped away, voter suppression of POC wasn’t wildly popular because there was Federal Government oversight, corporations weren’t considered ‘people’, tens of thousands of people didn’t needlessly die because of anti-vax propaganda, and traitors who attempt a violent overthrow of democracy would actually get imprisoned rather than elected to the US Congress. Or the Presidency.  

Silly AGMA….

Longing for days past where school children didn’t have to endure active shooter drills, school boards didn’t ban books/curriculum that teach actual history, libraries didn’t have to close because of threats of violence against their employees because they ask the public to wear masks to protect others, and fences didn’t have to be erected around the US Capitol to keep out the ‘tourists’ (who erect a gallows to hang the Veep.)

AGMA guesses both Hubs and I are just old fashioned folks who believe real estate should be real, doing our own ‘research’ is no substitute for listening to learned professionals, science is not subjective, history is reporting what actually happened even if it makes people uncomfortable, reading challenging books develops critical thinking skills, every citizen should be able to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice and have it counted, black and brown lives matter, people who try to overthrow the government need to be in jail, and women should be the sole decision makers concerning their bodies.

So maybe it’s not a bad thing that my young, home-owning sons turn into their parents?

Gotta go now ‘cause AGMA has to pack up my NFT that I bought with crypto in the Metaverse and take a trip though VR.

See you, Alice (and the White Rabbit), and Neo on the Nebuchadnezzar.

Let it go

Some of you are old enough to remember a TV show in the mid-60’s called That Was the Week that Was.  It was the forerunner of much of the political/news satire of today.

Being a clueless, dewey eyed, innocent of 10 when it premiered in the US, I didn’t understand that much of it.  But one thing I do remember is part of the theme song…

 “That was the week that was; it’s over, let it go.”

Holy sh*t, that WAS the December (and 2021) that was; thank God it’s over.  And AGMA is all about letting it go!

December saw the hopes of a return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy totally screwed.

Damn omicron.

I went from personally knowing about 10 people who’ve had COVID since March 2020 to knowing 40+ people who got COVID just in the LAST 10 days of December.  Son#1 and his family included.

And omicron’s timing couldn’t have been more precise. Wouldn’t you know it?  Grand#1’s 7th birthday was messed up, Christmas was messed up and New Year Eve was messed up.

Delightful.

Thankfully, due to being fully vaxed (other than Grand#3 who is too young), all recovered quickly and are back to their normal abnormalness.  Grand#3, after a few concerning days of really high fever, is back to his enchanting and delightful self.

But hearing how full pediatric hospitals were (and are now), AGMA has to admit it was scary. 

And, of course, there were the losses. 

Personally, it started with 12/10 passing of Mike Nesmith of the 1960’s group, The Monkees. The group was “created” by Hollywood television types for a TV show to capitalize on the success of The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.

AGMA was the exact demographic The Monkees TV show was aiming to capture – the little sisters of Beatles fans.  And I totally fell for it!!  I read about The Monkees in teen magazines.  I constantly passed notes – the 60’s version of Tweeting – with another Monkee obsessed friend at school.

And, of course, I watched the television show religiously.  It was like a sacred 30 minutes every week for my soul!  Such a Monkee devotee was I that, at dinner one night, when I absolutely refused to eat the live and onions my step-mother fixed, I was punished by not being able to watch the show that week.

Oh the humanity! 

But it goes to show you exactly how much AGMA hated (and still hates) liver and onions….

The Monkees was the first concert I ever attended.  My neighbor and I screamed the entire time.  It was glorious!  

It was difficult in 2012 when Davy Jones passed away at 66.  But imagine my shock when I found out, reading some tributes to Mike Nesmith, that Peter Took, the favorite of a starry eyed 13 year old AGMA, had passed in February 2019.  How did I miss that??

Double damn.

Then there was the unexpected passing of John Madden.  I can’t say I was a huge football fan in my younger years, but being married to football crazy Hubs, I watched more than my share over the last 40+ years and have become a fan.  And John Madden was THE voice of football for many, many of those years.  

In 1991, the John Madden Football game came to Super Nintendo.  Also, in 1991, AGMA had 8 and 9 year old boys with a Super Nintendo.  Madden Football became a staple in Casa AGMA.  It was John Madden, all the time.

Finally, and this is one I am not sure AGMA will be able to get over, there was Betty.  Sweet, sassy, talented, inspirational, naughty Betty.

She was the personification of NOT aging gracefully, and will ALWAYS be my AGMA-spiration.

Since her passing, I’ve seen many memes created to honor her memory and amazing spirit, but this is my favorite…

As Forrest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

The losses weren’t only in the national news.  2021 brought the passing of a number of close friends, and family of close friends.  It sucked.

So now we are 4 days into 2022.

The new year is starting out kinda wild and crazy. Dire warnings about omicron crippling the country, continued US political turmoil (the Big Lie of Cheetolini continues to be propagated by the QOP), inflation, crazy weather caused by climate change, wildfires, global supply chain issues, Russian aggression, Chinese censorship, and ___________________ (you fill in your favorite Debbie Downer prediction.) 

But AGMA is very hopeful that 2022 will be like the month of March.  You know, it will come in like a lion, but go out like a lamb.

I’m claiming that.

HAPPY NEW YEAR my friends, please stay hopeful, and be safe out there!!

The night after Christmas

T'was the night after Christmas,
And all through our home,
Not a creature was stirring,
We felt so alone.
From a house full of family,
To two cats sleeping tight,
And Hubs watching football;
It's so quiet tonight.
Our Christmas was ruined,
By that Omicron creep;
It infected the grands,
Who just wanted to sleep.
Despite all being vaxed,
Except the baby who's two,
They still got the virus;
It's called a break-through.
Son#1 is still healthy,
But our DIL's sick;
Nobody wanted to visit them,
Not even St. Nick.
So her family stayed here,
And Son#2 as well;
Casa AGMA was packed,
With folks worried as hell.
Having guests was okay,
And we ate lots of yummies;
But six folks in a small townhouse,
Thank God we had gummies!
Positive Christmas Day tests,
Made all of us sad;
All of our guests fled Chicago,
That damn Omicron is bad.
So we wait until Tuesday,
To see if we have "it";
Pray the vax and booster,
Will scare off that sh*t.
So be careful out there,
Omicron is definitely here;
Stay masked, wash your hands,
Don't let others come near.
Three full Christmas stockings,
Are still hung up with care,
And lots of gifts under the tree
‘Til healthy kids can be there.
Let’s pray 2022,
Is free from COVID fear;
AGMA sends you my love,
Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!