Wednesday, September 12: After leaving Nafplio, we head finally to Epidauros. Its sanctuary of Ascelpius (the god of medicine) was a place where visitors flocked to seek cures for their ailments. Today most visitors come to see the well-preserved World Heritage-listed Theatre of Epidauros, which is still used today for the Hellenic Festival for Classical Greek theater, as well as more modern plays, opera and music (Lonely Planet Greece).
We stop in the museum first, where we find statues, stone inscriptions recording medical cures, surgical instruments, votive offerings and partial reconstructions of the sanctuary’s once-elaborate tholos. The tholos is believed to have been the most impressive building of the sanctuary besides the theater, and fragments of its intricately carved ceiling adorn the walls of the museum.
The 3rd-century limestone theater is well-known for its amazing acoustics and seats up to 14,000 people. We walk around the theater, climbing up to the top and back down again.
In my eyes, the bonus to today’s trip is meeting Marie-Claire. She truly inspires me. She is on a 7-week tour of Europe which she managed to do on 5,000 euros!! I have spent more than 2,500 euros in two weeks! Obviously, I am not a frugal traveler. I like to treat myself well when I’m on holiday, but if I were a little more frugal, I could travel more and for a longer period of time!
Next summer I hope to take a 5-week trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco for 5,000 euros!! I hope that will include the air fare as well. I need to pack lighter, use more public transportation (NOT over-priced taxis), and eat out less. I also need to shop less. I usually stay in moderate but charming hotels, so I don’t think I’m willing to skimp further on my accommodation. But if I don’t eat lunch out, and am smarter about my transport, I think I can do it.
Marie-Claire was particularly entranced by Portugal, and she told me I should visit Sintra, which is a major tourist center because of its 19th-century Romantic architecture and landscapes. In addition to the Sintra Mountains and Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, royal retreats, estates, castles and 8th-9th century buildings dot the parishes of the town. Also in Sintra are Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace.
She also loved Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon. During the times of Moorish domination, Alfama constituted the whole of the city. Alfama became inhabited by the fishermen and the poor, and its condition as the neighborhood of the poor continues to this day. Alfama has remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. Lately the neighborhood has been invigorated with old house renovations and new restaurants where Fado – Portuguese typical melancholy music – can be enjoyed.
Also in Portugal, Marie-Claire loved Óbidos, which hosts a Medieval Market every July where people dress in Medieval costumes.
In Spain, she recommended Montserrat. This is a spectacularly beautiful Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour northwest of Barcelona by train. Not only is Montserrat Monastery of significant religious importance, but the natural beauty surrounding the monastery is simply breathtaking.
Finally, she told me I should go to 3 islands in Venice: Murano, Torcello & Burano. She says Murano is okay for its glass, but she loved the pastel houses of Burano. Of course, Italy is not on my itinerary for next year, so this will have to wait… 😦
I love Marie-Claire’s enthusiasm and determination. She has been married for 40 years, but, when she couldn’t convince her husband to come with her, she saved up enough money and planned the trip herself. This is her first trip alone and she is loving every minute. I want to cheer her on, but she doesn’t seem to need any cheering. In fact, she inspires me to make my own dreams a reality!
In the evening when I return to Athens, I’m happy that I canceled the questionable plans with Bill. I can just relax and enjoy my own company on the terrace of my favorite Acropolis Restaurant and order, for the 2nd consecutive night, the delicious cabbage rolls. Of course, I enjoy the Greek wine again, on this, my last night in Athens.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” ~ Anais Nin