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Athens, Greece

Bring out the stuffed grape leaves, the tzatziki, greek salads with huge chunks of feta cheese then throw in a lot of old buildings and monuments and there you have it – my first trip to Athens, Greece. It is now a proven fact that I can indeed eat those things every single day. Because that’s pretty much all I had during my week in Greece. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. And it was the best food I’ve had in months – I must have been a Greek Goddess in my earlier years because I can’t get enough of everything Greek.

We arrived late in the evening, there was only one flight out of Barcelona to Athens leaving at 6:30 p.m. so we arrived at the airport around 10:30 (3 hour direct flight plus one time difference). The hotel, Grecotel Pallas Athena, had reserved a driver for us at the airport and he whisked us to our boutique hotel, smack dab in the middle of Athens. The location is superb, the eclectic design is super fashionable and I never turn down a free breakfast, which was delicious as well. But as I said, we arrived late, thankfully there were still plenty of options for dinner for us to choose from. We wandered through the streets to the restaurant the front desk dude told us about and enjoyed our first views of Athens. Here are a few sights from that first night:

We found where we needed to get some food in our bellies and guess what we had? Tzatziki!! And a few other things. And there were two singers to help us get into the Greek feeling and welcome us to Athens. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and crashed. A full day was upon us in the morning!

First things first. Breakfast! Yes, tzatziki was involved. ๐Ÿ™‚ Along with fresh fruit, a pastry with spinach, a very hot tea and lots of water. Only then were we ready to venture out to the glorious Acropolis in the sky. And I do mean in the sky! It’s high up on a hill. AND we walked! Very proud of ourselves. It wasn’t too difficult but the day was super hot and I only brought a small bottle of water. From the hotel it was about a 30 minute walk to the entrance. You need to buy tickets (I think they were 20 euro each) and there is a place before you enter to buy drinks – lemonade slushes, coffee, beer but NO water! And I can’t even tell you how many times I heard people ask for water and every single one was incredulous that water wasn’t sold. Even one lady said to the man, “You don’t have water!?”. “No, no water,” he answered. “No water?!”, she asked again. He replied, “Maybe if you ask me twenty times more there will miraculously be water.” Needless to say she left without ordering anything. I smirked and ordered a lemonade and strawberry slushy. But then the joke was on me – nobody can enter the Acropolis grounds with any food or drinks. Ha! But water is allowed …….

So Jess and I tried to down my slurpie as quickly as possible, resulting in about 28 brain freezes.

And we were in! There were TONS of people there. But it’s quite an expansive place so you can move around pretty easily, minus those first steps to get up to the top of the hill but once you’re there people spread out. But don’t think about getting any pictures with only you – well, it’s probably doable but difficult.

I was already impressed. First stop was the Theatre of Dionysus – which funny story. We looked out over the Theatre and Jess said that she thought it looked different. I shrugged my shoulders and said wouldn’t it be cool to see an opera here. I think they must do things there still because there were lights set up and speakers, etc.

We continued on … but it was still bothering Jess. She said again, I remember it differently. How, I asked. Well, it seems very open to fight lions and animals. OMG, I laughed so loud that I think I scared people around us. I said, I think you’re thinking of the Colosseum in Rome. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ahhhh, good times. Let it be said Jess is a very smart woman! She’s a lawyer in Los Angeles but we all have our blonde moment from time to time.

It was amazing how old this place was, pottery sherds of the Neolithic period (4000/3500-3000 BC) and of the Early and Middle Bronze Age, show that the hill was inhabited from a very early period. Seriously, walking around where people lived in 4000 BC really blows my mind.

The Acropolis was dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena. It was Pericles in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important present remains including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. There is a restoration project that has been going on for years so we saw scaffolding, cranes, etc. But with things that old they all need a little help from time to time (don’t we all?).

We spent about two hours touring the grounds and taking lots of pictures, just like everyone else. Here are my favorites.

Alright, enough with the old stuff. We needed a cold brewski to take a break in the day. From the Acropolis we could see a very well preserved temple that looked interesting to check out. So after our beer, stuffed grape leaves and ….tzatziki!!! Sorry, I’ll stop. Maybe. We searched around for the temple. Turns out it’s located in Agora with lots of other ruins, a church and a museum. So, when in Athens, go see the temples.

It was the Temple of Hephaestus that we were seeing. The Doric order temple was dedicated to Hephaestus (naturally), who was the son of Zeus and Hera, and a god of blacksmiths, metallurgy, and craftsmen. This temple has been incredibly well preserved so one can easily see the Doric trademarks. The columns are fluted, or grooved. Above the columns is a thick, horizontal element called the frieze. Doric friezes are decorated with alternating patterns of triglyphs and metopes.

The metopes are blank panels in between the triglyphs. Very often, Doric metopes were carved with reliefs of scenes from Greek mythology, and the Temple of Hephaestus is no exception. The friezes of this temple depict scenes of the twelve labors of Hercules, the battle and fall of Troy, and an unidentified battle scene. It’s possible that the metopes that were not carved were, at one point in time, painted. We do know that some art has been lost from this site; records indicate that bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena Ergani once stood inside as well.

As I mentioned, this temple is located in the Agora which was a place for the citizens of ancient Athens to meet, bond and deliberate on the issues of the day. The Ancient Agora was a dynamic place, where the great thinkers Sophocles, Socrates, Protagoras, among others, would meet and where ordinary citizens could come and interact with their peers, voice their concerns, agree on solutions and courses of action.

Nowadays, it a peaceful place with shady trees, paths and cats among the ruins. We checked out the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles and the Stoa of Attalos. The stoa was another place to meet but also an ancient version of a mall, it had 42 shop spaces on the two levels. It was destroyed in 267 AD by invading Herulians. Its restoration took place between 1953 โ€“ 1956 by the American School of Classical Studies with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

I really enjoyed the Agro and check out the restaurant Heliaia close by the ticket entrance to the Agros. Yummy food! (see I didn’t say it) and a great view of the Acropolis while you enjoy your food and drink.

Some of my favorite pics from the Agros area.

After the Acropolis and Agros we were a bit pooped. We walked back to the hotel to shower and relax before dinner. I did a little research for dinner – I like to eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels so I always do a bit of delving into the internet for the best places. And this time it also still had to be within walking distance. On our way to the restaurant we turned down this street and there was one cute restaurant or bar after another. And then there was the place I had chosen – Bandiera at Taki 19, Athens. They don’t have a website but the food and house wine was one of the best places we ate in Greece. We had the hot pepper and cheese dip, tzatziki ๐Ÿ™‚ and a greek salad. YUM YUM YUM.

Now I’m googling good greek restaurants in Mallorca. Must have more greek food! After the fabulous dinner we stopped by A is for Athens and had a glass of wine at their rooftop bar. Nice place!

And there you have it folks – Athens, Greece. We had an early wake up call to catch our ferry to MYKONOS! Check the blog soon for my time in Mykonos and Santorini.

And our word for the week in Greek was thank you – Efcharistรณ!!!! xo -k

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Nit de lโ€™Art

Sometimes I forget to post about the coolness of Mallorca. There are always so many fun events, amazing restaurants and of course the beaches ….. I could go on and on about Mallorca and I will try to add more MALLORCA to my blog. Cuz it’s one helluva island.

So let’s talk about something going on this weekend – Nit de lโ€™Art in Palma. It’s the island’s most important art event (even though I’m a bit partial to Art Night in Campos) and this year it takes place on the 19th, 20th and 21st of September.

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of this special event in Palma where museums, art galleries and art studios open their doors until midnight for people (thousands attend every year) to wander in and out and see the newest art – paintings, sculptures, installations and more. This year includes a special guest, director Christian Tran will present his film Terres Barcelรณ and after there will be Q & A. So very exciting!

Oh, and did I mention drinks? Bars are open, drinks are flowing and peeps are gathering.

I’m a bit of an artist myself and like to dabble in a bit of creativeness here and there. The art shown on this page is mine and for sale. I will be posting more soon with a link at the top of my home page so keep an eye out. You can send me an email at kim@nuehlen.com if you want to make an offer on a painting. And go to Nit de lโ€™Art !

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Love, Mexico

Long live the land of tequila, tacos and sombreros!

Mexico will always have a special place in my heart because of my grandparents. They had two trailer homes. One in Wisconsin and one in Texas and they would spend the summers in Wisconsin and the winters in Texas. Not a bad idea I always thought. Their home in Texas was in Brownsville, which is smack dab on the Mexico – US border. Many times we visited them we would go to Mexico. We would park and walk over a bridge to Matamoros, Mexico, the bridge was of course over the Rio Grande which separates the countries. There were always adorable, laughing and VERY tan children below on the bank yelling at us to throw money. I believe sometimes my grandpa would give me some coins to throw down to them. My grandpa knew where to go and we’d usually stop for lunch at one of his favorite haunts, where huevos rancheros, enchiladas and tacos were always part of our orders. And this was TRUE mexican food. No Taco Bell here, no siree. Much better than Chi-Chi’s, Taco Bueno, “insert mexican restaurant here”. I do miss my BoBo’s Cantina though – do you hear me Stillwater folks?! And then we’d wander around the marketplace. I bought too many maracas to count but my parents scored a fancy marble chessboard with marble chess pieces that has been well loved.

So I was really looking forward to the beautiful and sweet Amy marrying the talented chef Kary in ….. MEXICO! Flying into Cancun from Miami was a breeze (no pun intended). I ordered a Dos Equis from the steward and settled in my window seat glued to the scene below.

I booked Cancun Cheap Transfers to pick me up from the airport to take me to the hotel. They had already sent me a message they would be waiting for me by the Margaritaville stand just exiting the airport. And they were! I booked a private van so there were no other stops to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. It was $55 for a one-way private trip. And they were great! I used them on the way back too and the driver even carried my bags into the airport and helped me check in. I can highly recommend!

Hotel Occidental Xcaret Riviera Maya was where we all stayed. Upon arrival I was offered an ice cold beer while waiting to check in. It’s a very big resort and after check in someone walked me to my room where I had chocolate covered strawberries and a stocked mini bar waiting for me. The luggage guy arrived quickly so I could get settled in. I gulped down all of those strawberries in a matter of minutes and popped open a cold beer while unpacking and sending “where are you” messages to all my friends that were already there. One thing, you must pay for Wi-Fi. The price was about $45 for four days if I remember correctly, it is not included with the room.

Soon I met the fabulous Bess in the lobby and we grabbed a margarita before finding the others. The resort is all-inclusive so grabbing a drink or two or three is easy and you don’t need to worry about keeping track of how much you’ve spent! Or even how much you drink! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We met most of the gang at the seafood restaurant – there are eleven restaurants to choose from and I enjoyed the Paco’s Tacos the best (pizza AND tacos), because you really can’t go wrong with either of those. But there is also a huge buffet restaurant with so many options of salads, fruit, breads, pasta, main courses, desserts …. more more more. And there you can wear what you want because some restaurants have a dress code. And breakfast every morning for me was the buffet by the lagoon. My morning view was this. Gorgeous, right?!

There are so many different and fun things to do at the resort and around the resort. At the resort itself are many swimming pools, a beach lagoon, a private adults only area with ocean access, many ruins around the grounds that you can even go into and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to mention this but ANIMALS!!!! Iguanas are EVERYWHERE but there are monkeys (!!!!) which most people saw every morning on their balconies but my area didn’t have monkeys – because I was told there are snakes (!) there and monkeys don’t like snakes (well, me neither). I also saw this weird small pig animal, a deer(!), a huge ass scorpion, birds and of course fish fish fish. I apologize for all the exclamation marks but animals y’all!

And part of the resort is their Eco-archeological Xcaret Park. I didn’t do this because it was a bit expensive but everyone who had kids did go and enjoyed it. There is a lazy river (which I heard is not that lazy), swim with the dolphins, cultural attractions and more. Besides the park, people went to Cozumel, went snorkeling with whale sharks (they are huge!) and a day trip to visit Tulum. Of course, you can always just be really lazy and relax with a rum runner on the beach.

Then it was wedding day!!! Yippee!!! It was pretty chill to start with and we hung out around the lagoon. Some of us got up early to save the big beach lounge beds and some lounge chairs down by the water. We soaked up the sun and worked on the song list and had a Rum Runner or two and then it was time for the nuptials. It was perfect, between the ocean and one of the bigger ruins on the grounds. The ceremony was simple and beautiful – that must make it simply beautiful. Then off for an hour reception to have a snack, a cocktail, take some photos, sign the wedding book and watch the bride seriously think about shoving a handful of cake in her husband’s mouth. A very lovely evening with many people I have known for most of my life and getting to see and meet their children. A time never to be forgotten with many lovely and funny memories made. Let the tears commence!

There was even a full moon that night.

Congratulations you love birds! So happy for you. xxoo -k

WUV. Twue wuv.

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5 Fun Things to Do in Phoenix AZ

My parents moved to Phoenix, AZ a few years ago in their perfect retirement community. And every time I’m there I find so many fun and cool things to do, which I’d love to share with you!

Sharing is caring, y’all.

  • Take A Hike! Get your butt outdoors and breathe in the fresh air. Plus some exercise always does a body good. There are many great hiking trails but Camelback Mountain is the closest to my parent’s house so that’s the one I hike. Two main trails lead to the summit of Camelback, a camel-shaped mountain just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Both are rated extremely difficult. The Echo Canyon hike is the more rugged of the two and requires steep climbs and scrambling over large rocks. The Cholla Trail, while a little bit less strenuous, is also a little bit longer. The beginning of the hike is easy, with switchbacks and even terrain. The last third of the trail requires scrambling up steep grades with drop-offs on each side. Both hikes are a little under 2.5 miles long. Plan on taking two to three hours, depending on your condition, to make either of the round-trip hikes. Please don’t forget to bring lots of water to stay hydrated!
  • Go See A Show! It doesn’t matter if it’s theatre or ballet or opera or a concert. Whichever is your jam go do it. There are just so many opportunities in Phoenix to find something that you would love. I recently saw Wicked at the ASU Gammage theatre. Great show! Great theatre. In August, The Book Of Mormon (SO GOOD) will be performing there.
  • Visit A Museum! I love the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. It’s one of the best places to experience the myriad cultures and art of American Indians of the Southwest. Since its founding in 1929, the Heard Museum has grown in size and stature to become recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programming and its unmatched festivals. Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard successfully presents the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, as well as exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.
  • Eat At A New Restaurant! Before seeing Wicked at the ASU Gammage we went to have an early dinner at Durant’s Steakhouse. We got there five minutes before actual opening hours, walked through the back entrance (through the kitchen – do it, be a regular), ordered martinis (extra dirty for me) and a brandy old fashioned for mom before we were seated. And speaking of seating, we slid into our red leather booth surrounded by red velvety wallpaper before having an excellent meal. Don’t get me wrong, Durant’s is not somewhere to get a quick, cheap eat. But if you want a culinary and cool experience go check it out. Quick fun fact – John Wayne, Clark Gable and Joe DiMaggio all frequented Durant’s.
  • Check out something just outside of Phoenix! Last time my mom and I went to see Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s winter home and school. Ever since I was young I loved architecture and touring mansions – the Marland mansion in Ponca City, OK and don’t think I went completely insane in Newport, RI – The Breakers!!! Marble House. WOW, just wow. So definitely check out Taliesin West. But THIS TIME we went on a boat ride on Saguro Lake with my aunt and uncle who were visiting. Saguro Lake is about 45 minutes Northeast of Phoenix. The 1,200-acre lake is 10 miles long and reaches depths of more than 110 feet at its deepest point. Its 22 miles of shoreline include rocky crags, canyon walls, marshland, and desert shrubland. The area also offers a variety of recreational activities (kayaking, hiking, fishing, sailing) including a scenic and educational riverboat cruise. We took a ride on the Desert Belle riverboat, a 90-minute narrated cruise on the lake. Let me clarify, the Captain didn’t speak the entire boat ride, there were lots of groovy tunes and time to breath in the nature. Besides hundreds, if not thousands of Saguro cacti we saw a bald eagle and a bighorn sheep!!! I was super stoked about the sheep. I highly suggest to bring your binoculars.

Have a ton of fun on all your adventures. And I’d love to hear what you love to do in and around Phoenix. ๐Ÿ™‚