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10/10 - Mykonos
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Mykonos is another beautiful Greek island, but unlike Santorini, it's pretty flat. It has similar winding streets that are described as "labyrinthine" and all walls are kept meticulously white. You can easily get lost in the city because of all the little paths that all look the same. The city has a night life as well and you can see that some stores and restaurants don't even open until the afternoon. Mykonos is particularly famous for two things: the windmills and Petros the pelican.

After another buffet breakfast, the whole group debarked and headed south from the port, then around the harbor to the west (map). My mom wanted to visit the island of Delos, but the ferries at the west end of the harbor only leave in the morning and we were too late.

While walking along the harbor my dad and I found that several stores sold cigars, including Cubans, which were proudly advertised. I'm not sure why Mykonos would sell Cubans and not other Greek isles, but we decided to buy some for fun. Prices varied widely, ranging from 12 to 20 Euros for a brand my dad says is famous (don't remember the name). We assumed that the stores along the harbor would be the most expensive, but the cheapest place we found also happened to be on the harbor at the west end. Several stores were sold out and since we are not cigar aficionados, we decided to buy a cheap Cuban to try. We never had a chance to sit down, relax and try it so I'll actually be trying it over Thanksgiving.

The group decided to separate so my sister and I picked a narrow street heading south west and quickly got lost (in a good way). We wandered around looking at shops and restaurants and exploring the maze like paths, taking time to snap some pictures of the narrow streets. We found some great restaurants on the western shore with tables just inches from the Aegean.

As we continued on our way we discovered the windmills at the southwestern side of the city. We hadn't been looking for them so it was quite a pleasant surprise to find them. My sister discovered that some of them are inhabited to this day! Looking back towards the city over the Aegean, we could see the restaurants we had just passed and saw them being batted by waves as the wind was picking up.

We headed back north east to explore more and found a few bakeries where we bought a few snacks including a spinach cheese pastry and some rice pudding. I asked for loukoumades but no one had them so I pretty much gave up. Then we headed back to the harbor to meet the rest of the group. At this point we were a little lost so we just headed in the direction of the sea was in and used that as our guide to get back.

Once the group was together again, we went to find the bus to Ornos beach. We asked a small shop where the bus station was and he said just up the hill to the left. We walked five minutes up the hill and to the left, then stopped to ask another person who said just up the hill. We repeated this about 3 more times before we finally found the bus stop (it was more like up the hill with 4 lefts and 4 rights).

We stopped for lunch along the way and picked up some gyros along with some fried fish and tomato keftedes (stuffed with rice). I was designated the coordinator and let me tell you that ordering lunch for 15 Asians in a Greek restaurant is a pain. The gyros only cost 2.5 Euros each but the meat was a bit salty and the pita a bit dry. Definitely not as good as the ones in Santorini. The fried fish was nice and fresh but had a ton of bones. It probably would have been more enjoyable if I was sitting down and could take my time with it, but we were standing in the street trying to share it quickly and that wasn't easy.

We finally found the bus stop. We bought tickets at a kiosk at the corner of the square and were lucky enough to be right on time for the hourly bus. At the beach we claimed some public beach chairs. One funny thing was the reed umbrellas which looked nice but were at the perfect height to hit with your head repeatedly. Watch your eyes, those reeds hurt!

We finally had a chance to sit and eat our tomato keftedes but I was a bit disappointed. After reading how great the tomatoes in Greece are supposed to be (though Santorini is supposed to be the best) these tomatoes seemed kind of bland. They weren't very tomato-ey (much like the ones you find in an American grocery store) and the filling wasn't very special. I think a little salt would have helped a lot.

After eating, we decided to play in the sand a bit with Tiffany and Daphne and we built several sand sculptures which got more and more detailed with every next project. After that we headed back to the "bus stop" which was just a flooded parking spot with a sign, purchased tickets at a kiosk across the street and waited for the next bus.

After arriving back we found some large octopus tentacles being hung to dry and a stone wall that I had seen being white washed a few hours earlier. I asked Daphne, who was wearing a bright pink sweater, to stand next to it so I could get a picture. Unfortunately it hadn't dawned on me that the newly white washed wall probably wasn't dry yet so she ended up with a little paint in her hair. Oops!

Next we found a gelato place called Pagato Mania which claims to make their own using fresh Greek milk. The large number of flavors was amazing and my scoop of dark cherry was excellent! After that we separated with the group again to wander the streets some more. We saw some awesome sea food on display including a giant tiger prawn, clams and urchin.

My sister also found a pelican! It turns out there are actually three pelicans in Mykonos (Petros, the original, died in 1986). It was quite large and was curled up because of the cold winds so at first we thought it might be fake. As we approached it, it's eyes opened and followed us but that's the only movement we detected in the five minutes that spent taking pictures.

Being the last day in Greece and with just an hour or two left, we decided to find a nice cafe and just relax and watch the sea. While looking at a couple cafes, I noticed a small sign at Gelarte cafe that said loukoumades. I hadn't noticed it before because it was only written in Greek. We went inside and discovered that this cafe makes them fresh while you wait so we quickly placed an order, informing the owner that we had been looking for loukoumades all over Greece.

We watched the woman drop batter into the deep fryer and cook the little donuts. One order had 12 but the lady accidentally made 13. Unfortunately, she threw the extra one away. :( After draining them, she placed them on a place and drenched them in honey, followed by ground walnuts and powdered sugar. They were absolutely delicious! Warm and crispy on the outside, hot and tender on the inside. There could have been more walnuts and less honey, but they were still excellent.

After relaxing for half an hour, we decided to head back to the ship. On the way we stopped at Mandarini bakery which had all sorts of delicious little pastries, but I was quite full so I saved them for the following day. Back at the ship we freshened up and watched the sunset.

I like these two pictures because they kind of look like fire, but they're actually sunlight coming through the edge of a cloud at sunset.


We decided to have a light dinner and elected to finally try the dinner buffet. Of course, light dinner and buffet are complete contradictions so that didn't work out so well. For the first time I discovered the pasta bar and invented my own pasta which took some effort since the pasta cook doesn't always know what you're trying to do.

My recipe was farfalle pasta with capers, garlic, tapenade and sundried tomatoes with pink sauce. The main problem is that the pasta chef uses too much sauce so I went back for a second bowl of the same pasta, but this time I instructed him to use the red sauce pan, but to add no additional sauce. The result was a nice pasta with lots of stuff but just a hint of red sauce. I mixed this with my pink sauce dish and the result was exactly what I wanted, a very light red sauce with just a touch of cream but lots of tasty bits.

After that I was full but went to the dessert bar anyway and ended up filling up a plate with coffee cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin pudding and peach cobbler which I took to my room and didn't eat until the following morning. None of them were spectacular, but the coffee cheesecake was pretty tasty.

10/10 pictures are here.
Posted 11/22/2008 05:06 PM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/09 - Santorini
Sorry it took so long to post these...

Jump to the pictures.

Background
Santorini was once a large island but after a volcanic explosion, the island collapsed, leaving a caldera with five islands. The main island on the eastern edge of the caldera is Thera, but many people simply call it Santorini. The second large island, on the western edge of the caldera is Therasia. In the center are two small islands created by magma flows: Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. To the southwest is the smallest island, Aspronisi. BTW, it was this volcanic explosion which generated a tsunami at least 100 meters tall and is attributed for the destruction of Knossos and the Minoan civilization.



Morning
Our day started with a volcanic hiking tour to Nea Kameni, but first we had to get there. The port of Fira in Santorini is quite small so the ship had to simply weigh anchor off shore and use tenders, small transport ships, to ferry passengers to shore. During the morning, people who want to go ashore have to get a ticket for a specific tender, but since we were on a tour, we automatically got our own tender.

Nea Kameni is made primarily of volcanic rock. The island is quite beautiful in it's own special rocky way and there were several beautiful views. The island is still active with fumeroles and steam vents and three lava flows in the 20th century (the last was in 1950). After the hike we returned to the boat and sailed by the hot springs at Palea Kameni.

We returned to the ship to freshen up before hopping on a tender to Fira where we decided to take the donkeys up the switchbacks. The donkeys turned out to be 5 euros when the cable cars were only 4, but oh well, it was an experience. The main problem with the donkeys was the smell. They looked a bit greasy but even worse, there was manure everywhere. The entire way up the switchbacks, it was as if the cobblestone was grouted with dung.

I think that donkeys are probably at the bottom of the intelligence scale for beasts of burden. Unlike camels and horses which generally follow each other and stay relatively ordered, donkeys just sort of go wherever they happen to be pointed. When the guides yell at them, they just speed up and push on whatever happens to be in the way, whether it be other donkeys or an unfortunately pedestrian that decided to walk up or down the switchbacks. The donkeys didn't seem to have any qualms smashing my feet against the walls (luckily the stirrups were metal) or squashing pedestrians.

Afternoon
For lunch we decided to find a nice bakery to buy some snacks and then find a cafe with a view to sit and relax. The walkways of Santorini are very hilly and curvy so we wandered around quite a bit before finding a nice bakery with tons of selection. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it was.

After that we headed back where we came from and chose one of the dozens of restaurants with "the best view." It was a nice cafe but like many of the "nice view" restaurants, it was absurdly priced. My sister ordered a Greek fava spread, but it was not like hummus like I expected. It tasted more like a bean spread with olive oil. Personally, I was not a big fan, though my sister liked it. My cappuccino fredo (iced) was tasty but way too small. My sister's frappe with ice cream was good too, but alas, with a bottle of water, the bill came to over 20 euros, which is about $30.

After wandering around more looking for churches and various shops it was about time to head back to the boat. We had passed a few wonderfully smelling gyro restaurants for reasonable prices so we decided to get a couple to go and bring them to the ship. After walking down the switchbacks and not getting smashed by any donkeys, we arrived back at the port where we found out that the ship is pretty strict about not bringing food on board. My sister found a bench and ate our gyros which we both agreed were the tastiest we had so far.

Evening
We returned to the boat, got cleaned up then had a simple quick dinner at Blue Lagoon (the only 24 hour restaurant with a focus on comfort foods) after which we met up with our parents to play Mah-jong. I won a whopping 5 games in a row while I was dealer, unfortunately I started fading fast as I had developed a fever. I think it was from over-exerting myself with all the hill climbing on Santorini.

10/09 pictures are here.
Posted 11/11/2008 00:03 AM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/08 - Iraklio
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While Egypt was great with it's food and excellent exchange rate, part of me was happy to return to Greece which is more modern and western, for instance random restrooms in Greece tend to be pretty nice and clean, more people speak English, etc.

The group decided to rent cars in Iraklio, Crete (also called Heraklion) but it took hours to get every one off the boat and agreeing on how to split up. The tough part was that the rental cars were quite small, fitting just four passengers instead of five.

My family got a Hyundai Atos Prime which I estimated to have 60-70HP only. I later looked it up and found it to have a mere 58HP. It was quite a small car and even with the seat all the way back, I was unable to straighten my legs, especially when driving. The pedals were so close that I could never rest my thighs on the seat.

The rental guy asked if I was comfortable driving in Greece and I told him that I had driven in Corfu to which he replied, "Corfu? They're civilized there!" That didn't worry me though and I will say that I rather enjoyed driving in Crete.

The main rule for driving in Crete is that you should drive as far right as you can unless passing. Often this means driving on the line or driving on the shoulder so that people can easily pass you on the left. There is no such thing as a person driving slowly in the left there and if you block others you will get flashed.

People pass others all the time on Crete and it's very easy b/c everyone else is driving on the right side. Even with only 58HP going up hill with four passengers, it was easy to pass. As a result, it's not uncommon for a two lane road to have four cars across: two cars going one way and two cars going the opposite way, passing each other.

Traffic was interesting as well. In general, no one yields right of way, you just have to force yourself into traffic and people will then slow down for you. Turning left onto a big busy street was a bit tough and I got honked at for waiting too long. Basically, as soon as there is the slightest gap between cars, you just force your way through and if you end up blocking traffic, oh well.

Our first stop was the Palace of Knossos. The Knossos civilization was considered one of the most advanced in the ancient world, but the civilization was mysteriously destroyed. Most historians believe that the volcanic eruption that created what is now Santorini was the cause. It is estimated that the explosion created a tsunami 30 meters tall, more than enough to wipe out Knossos on nearby Crete.

After Knossos we drove west to Rethymno where we had a very nice local meze lunch. After visiting the beach and driving by the Venetion fortress, we found ourselves low on time and had to head back. Unfortunately, our delays in the morning meant we didn't have time to check out Iraklio. My advice, if you ever plan to rent a car and drive around an Greek island, is to wake up early and make the most of your day!

Once we returned to the ship for an early departure, my sister and I sat on our balcony and watched as the ship left port before heading to Grand Pacific for dinner.

10/08 pictures are here.
Posted 10/28/2008 09:43 PM in Dessert, Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/07 - At Sea
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Returning to the Greek Isles from Egypt meant another full day at sea so I'll talk about some of the other strange things around the ship at the end.

After stuffing ourselves repeatedly for days on end, I found that my appetite was not as strong as previously. I would get a little hungry, but would never just want to devour everything. In fact, sometimes I had to force myself to go to dinner, especially since my parents preferred to eat earlier to get the early bird discounts. In the following days, I even had to force myself to try local foods b/c I just wasn't hungry!

So on this day, my sister and I slept in again. We decided to skip breakfast and instead planned to meet our mom for a fancy jazz brunch at Le Bistro. They were charging the full $15 cover price so I wanted to get the most out of it, but I ran out of steam pretty quickly.

Brunch was a combination of a buffet and an a la carte menu. Either one alone would be enough for a full meal, but putting them both together is just an act of cruelty because you end up with one of two outcomes. 1) You feel guilty not eating enough and passing up all this good food and spending money or 2) You feel horrible eating WAY too much. No wait, there's one more option which is what happened to me: I felt horrible for eating WAY too much but also felt guilty b/c I should have been able to eat more!

After lunch my sister and I vowed to do something semi-active instead of sleeping. Of course we were so full that we had to spend some time watching some movies to digest before we managed to get ourselves to the ship's gym. The gym had several treadmills and a few bikes and elliptical machines, all overlooking the sea through large glass windows. They also had several weight machines and, much to my surprise, a set of free weights (dumb-bells).

After working out, I took a shower... which is a nice segue into another note about ship life. When they converted the ship to the Norwegian Jade (it was previously the Pride of Hawaii) they decided to remove the self-service laundry room and put in more staterooms. Being on vacation for three weeks and trying to pack light means that at some point, you have to do laundry somehow.

You could do it yourself in your sink, but that's pretty slow and tedious. But using the ship laundry service is expensive since they charge per the item. A pair of socks or knickers are $1.50, Regular shirts are $1.75 and pressed shirts are $2.50. Slacks and skirts go up from there, so laundry can add up pretty quickly. When the ship announced a special, all the clothes you can fit in a laundry bag for $19.99, my sister and I crammed our bag as full as possible.

That was two days ago so this was the day that our laundry was supposed to come back. Alas, it did not arrive on this day and unfortunately, this was also the day that I ran out of shirts. And socks. And knickers.

Since I had expected my laundry, I didn't bother hand washing anything as a backup, so I was stuck. I decided to hand washed a set, but they had to dry overnight, so what was I to do until then? The answer, if it isn't obvious to you, is disposable underwear.

Disposable underwear? I didn't know such a thing existed but apparently my Dad picked up a set when he was in China and they are a perfect last resort on a long vacation. They are made of the thinnest cotton possible and compressed into 1.5" long x 1" diameter rolls. I couldn't tell which direction was the front but I don't think it could have been any less comfortable either way. They were kind of like semi-translucent white speedos. I imagine this is what girls underwear must be like, except these were not flattering in any way. I actually considered going commando for a moment...

Next was dinner. It was about time for us to check out the Asian food selections. The Jade Garden offered Teppan-yaki, Shabu-Shabu, Sushi and Chinese/Pan-Asian fare. I really wanted to check out the Shabu-Shabu but I got poo-pooed by everyone else. They all said that the quality wouldn't be good, but since when is that important? Shabu-Shabu is all about the QUANTITY and based on some of the other patrons' carts of food, the ship would not have disappointed (ooh, with winter coming, I guess I'll have to satisfy my craving with a trip to Lao Szechuan in Chinatown).

I was so enamored by the Shabu-Shabu that a couple noticed me leaning over to look at their table. The wife smiled at me so I asked if I could take a look at their food. Apparently, you can pick from a few different themes for your Shabu-Shabu and they had picked noodles. Their spread included udon noodles, ramen noodles, bean noodles, rice noodles, shu-mai and dumplings, on top of chicken and Chinese cabbage. I assume they probably had a meat lovers theme too so I'm pretty bummed that I didn't get a chance to have it.

Our choice for dinner that night was sushi. The edamame was odd b/c it wasn't the same as what you get in a regular restaurant (which btw, don't look like the soy beans used to make soy milk which are yellow and rounder). These edamame looked like thin kidney beans, or maybe long red/green (azuki) beans. They tasted and had the same texture as azuki beans too, just not sweet. The miso soup was salty, but I thought it was acceptable. My mom, on the other hand, considered it inedible.

For the sushi, we found the quality of the fish to be good overall. An interesting item on the menu was a funny long Japanese name that was translated as crab. I had a hunch that it was just a way to make Krab sound better, and that turned out to be the case.

They also offered bonito as a sushi option. Normally, bonito is smoked, dried and shaved thin for use as the primary aromatic, along with kampyo (kelp), for dashi, the most basic Japanese stock and the primary ingredient in miso soup. To have it as a fresh fish seemed a bit odd to me so I tried it. It came seared on the outside and had a similar color and texture as tuna, but it was not as firm and slightly fishy tasting.

They also had an item listed translated as tuna belly, but it was not chu-toro or o-toro. When it arrived, it looked, smelled, felt and tasted exactly the same as regular tuna. The white tuna and hamachi were both good and the unagi was average, about the same as Todai in Schaumburg. My mom did not like the unagi, or the terriyaki sauce on it.

We also had California rolls but apparently the cucumber had seeds in it and my mom considered that unacceptable as well. For dessert we had green tea and coconut ice cream which were good, but most likely out of a 3 gallon tub (Edy's maybe? Nothing wrong with that!)

When the manager asked us how we were doing, my mom let him know about all the things she didn't like. This resulted in a rather long conversation where she explained all the things that seemed wrong. She was pretty nice about it and when the bill came several minutes later we discovered he had given us 50% off the bill.

The last note I wanted to make about living on a cruise ship is the strange emphasis on sanitation. Being on a ship with thousands of people for an extended amount of time makes disease transmission very easy. To reduce this, they've implemented some interesting sanitary measures.

Any person boarding the ship must use hand sanitizer and there is always someone standing at the gangway with an alcohol spray. Any person entering a restaurant must also use hand sanitizer and every entrance has an automated sanitizing gel dispenser. At buffets, passengers may not serve themselves: only gloved crew members can hand out dinnerware, handle tongs, touch food and pour drinks. On top of that, one of the first things they announced on day one was that passengers should avoid shaking hands with anyone.

It all sounds pretty OCD, but it's not. The handling of food at buffets makes sense, but the use of hand sanitizer is improper. A quick spritz of alcohol or a squirt of gel rubbed between the hands is not enough to sanitize your hands. The rule of thumb is soap or sanitizer must be in contact with your hands for 30 seconds to be sanitary (60-90 seconds to be considered sterile). A single squirt is not enough to last 30 seconds and may actually increase the chance that only resistant bacteria survive.

In reality, the sanitation policies on ships like this may be creating the perfect environment for a super bug, just like the resistant bacteria that have resulted from excessive and improper use of antibiotics. As usual, it's a ploy to make people think they're safer, regardless of whether they actually are. The funny thing is, now that I'm back to the real world, I'm less inclined to wash my hands than before the cruise!

10/07 pictures are here.
Posted 10/24/2008 07:03 PM in Egypt, Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/04 - At Sea
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On our way to Egypt, we were at Sea for over 36 hours which means an entire day on the ship, so here's a chance for me to ramble on about some other topics. Honestly, I don't really remember what we did with our time primarily because we slept in until 10.

Getting out of our room by 10:30, there weren't many optiosn so breakfast was pretty typical: hit the buffet, make a bacon and egg sandwich, grab some pastries and off we go to... um... sit around on the ship.

Actually no, we didn't sit around the ship. After breakfast around 11:30 we went back to our room and napped for a few hours, finally catching up on the sleep we'd lost the last few nights from traveling and jet lag. In the afternoon my sister and I played Wii. The Medusa Lounge on the ship has "Whatever Rooms" that you can reserve and simply hang out in, but if you want, they also offer Karaoke and Wii. My sister hadn't played a Wii yet so we played some Wii Sports for an hour or so then watched a movie before heading to dinner.

So while I've got time, here is how meals work on Norwegian Free-Style cruises.
  • There is always at least one restaurant open 24/7 so yes, you can eat at any time of the day. On the Jade, this is the Blue Lagoon which serves simple food like paninis, fish and chips, etc.
  • There are only two buffet restaurants, all others are sit down. Garden Cafe and The Great Outdoors are actually the same restaurant, except one of them has tables and the food bars outside. Any dress code is allowed.
  • There are five restaurants that are completely included in the cost of the cruise: Grand Pacific, Alizar, Blue Lagoon, Garden Cafe and The Great Outdoors
  • Grand Pacific is the designated formal restaurant and does not allow jeans or shorts after 5.
  • All non-buffet restaurants do not allow shorts after 5.
  • Specialty Restaurants have cover charges that range from $10-$25 per person. Specialty restaurants include, Paniolo Tex Mex, Paniolo Tapas, Jade Garden Asian fusion, Shabu-Shabu, Teppanyaki, The Sushi Bar, Cagney's Chicago Steakhouse, Papa's Italian Ristorante and Le Bistro French.
  • All specialty restaurants (except Sushi and Cagney's) have 2-for-1 early bird specials from 5:30pm-6:30pm when all cover charges are discounted 50%
  • Soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and certain special items cost extra.
10/04 pictures are here.
Posted 10/12/2008 02:19 AM in Food, Greece, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/03 - Corfu
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In Corfu we started breakfast at the Grand Pacific restaurant, one of the free restaurants on the ship. See the pictures for details.

After breakfast we met up with the other families around 10:00 and went out to see Corfu. We decided to rent a car and drive around. There was a rental agency at the port with cars waiting, but they informed us they had only one car left for 60 euros, which was a discount off their normal 75 euro price. We tried bargaining down to 50 but they refused.

I then noticed another rental car agency, Sunrise Rent-A-Car, located outside of the port. It was only 100-200 feet away but on the other side of the fence. We decided to walk to Sunrise but the exit for the port was a good 1/8 mile away so we had to walk about 1/4 mile to get to Sunrise where we got a manual transmission car for 50 euros including insurance and taxes (auto transmission costs extra). We tried to bargain down since we only had a few hours of time and the woman said we could return the car without filling up the gas. We paid cash with no credit card authorization and were quickly on our way (credit card payments cost extra).

Our car was a red Hyundai Getz and turned out to be pretty comfortable for a compact. It wasn't a very fast car but for the most part did everything it needed to. I estimate it had 70-80 HP. The trickiest part was figuring out the roads which are written primarily in Greek and don't seem to follow a numbering system on these small islands. My sister worked hard as navigator though we still had to make several u-turns.

First we drove to Paleokastritsa to check out the Monastary of the Blessed Virgin, some mountain views and beaches. We had a beautiful drive there and stopped multiple times for pictures. Unfortunately, we misread a sign and didn't realize that we had made it to the Monastary at the top of a hill so we took several other pictures and descended only to discover our mistake. We decided not to back track and continued on our way.

Next we took the scenic route through Pelekas to Perama. We stopped several more times for views but since we were short on time we couldn't stop for lunch. When we arrived in Perama, we stopped at Achillion Palace and Mouse Island before driving back to Corfu Town.

In Corfu we attempted to drive to Old Town, only to get stuck in traffic. We followed it until the traffic ended, only to discover that the road also ended. It turns out that most of Old Town is pedestrian only roads so we had to make our way back out and formulate a new plan. We decided to take the coastal road to Old Town and park and walk the rest. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time.

After driving around the New Venetian Fortress and taking pictures, we parked in an attempt to find the Temple of the Virgin Mary but only got far enough to find the Temple of St. Anthony before heading back to the ship.

One fortunate thing about our rental agency is that even though the shop is outside the port, we could drop the car off in the port, leave the keys under the floormat, leave the door unlocked and an attendant would find the car later. Since they did not have our credit card, this was not a worry for us and was actually quite convenient.

In retrospect, our biggest mistake was leaving the ship too late in the morning. With a big group of people, we didn't actually make a decision until 10:30 and probably didn't get into our rental car until almost 11:00. This resulted in a trip where we were constantly watching the clock. If we had left the ship at 8 or 9, we would have had more time at our destinations and time for lunch.

Also, my mom and sister think we should have went to Mount Repo instead of Perama. We wanted to do both but due to our schedule we could only do one and we were alreay en route to Perama before we realized the time constraint along with the slight more circuitous route required for Mount Repo.

For dinner we went to Papa's Italian Ristorante, again for an early bird special. This was my personal favorite restaurant because the food was all excellent and it really hit the spot, yet it did not feel excessively heavy. Much of the group was concerned about eating too much and I was the only one to order a pasta course in addition to an entree and just about everyone else regretted it. Despite having an extra course, I was still hungry at the end, not because I didn't eat a lot, but because it was all so good and tasty that I just wanted more. See the pictures for more specific details.

10/03 pictures are here.
Posted 10/11/2008 10:59 PM in Food, Greece, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/02 - Katakolon
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Breakfast
First, a quick stop for breakfast at the Great outdoors breakfast buffet. The funny thing about cruises is that they're ultra picky about hygiene and require everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering a restaurant, although they don't provide enough to properly sanitize your hands (your hands should remain wet for 30 seconds to be sanitized, 60 seconds to be sterile). In addition, only gloved staff may serve food from the buffet which reduces efficiency since there are usually only one or two attendants for any given section of food. The drink station is consistently busy serving coffee, tea, juice and water.

The food itself is decent, but obviously mass produced: not bad, but not particularly good, though I will say the best items on the bar are probably the fresh fruits, particularly the honey dew and green cantaloupe (musk melon?) which were consistently sweet and juicy. Bacon is a close second simply because, well, it's bacon.

The pastries vary from day to day but some are fairly bland. The tasty ones were strawberry and blueberry pastries or chocolate croissants. The everyday standards were cinnamon rolls, apple, lemon or poppy seed danishes and plain croissants. The most disappointing was the bear claw which had no flavor inside or out.

There were about a dozen types of yogurt. We tried the Passion Fruit Peach yogurt which tasted like a pretty basic mixed peach yogurt. The Mango yogurt was quite tangy and I personally thought it tasted more like Passion Fruit than the other yogurt. The last one I tried was from Turkey (I'm assuming based on the Arabic name) and was a tart plain yogurt. I was full by that time but I imagine it would be good with some marmalade or jam and might make a decent tzatziki sauce. However, it wasn't as flavorful and robust as the Greek yoghurt I had at the Heathrow Starbucks.

Other items varied greatly in quality. The 2.5" pate patty rounds were quite livery and not very tasty. I'm not surprised, I can't imagine that pate in 2.5" diameter cylinders is particularly high quality. The stewed plums were pretty good, much tastier than a prune. The raisin french toast is pretty good, despite every piece being the exact same sized isosceles triangle. The pancakes were pretty plain and a tad rubbery, but they made a decent McGriddle style sandwich with eggs and bacon.

Katakolon
Our first port stop was Katakolon (pronounced cut-TACK-oh-lo). This is a small town known primarily as the port of entry for visiting Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics. It is also known for its jewelry stores but my sister and I were not particularly interested in either of those.

There were three streets set up for tourists (read tourist traps) so we decided to start the day wandering aimlessly around the area to see what was there. Although the ambiant temperature was in the mid 70's, the strong sun beat down on us and made us quite warm as we wandered through the largest of the three streets. We passed store after store pawning off cheap trinkets and souvenirs that we mostly ignored.

We stopped at a couple shops selling Greek products such as herb and spice mixes, ouzo (anise infused liquor), honey, olive oil and boxed loukomi (Turkish Delight) but nothing interested us enough to purchase anything.

Pretty soon we arrived at the end of the tourist area where the primarily residential road was blocked off for construction. There, on the side of the road in a rather unassuming position was a small bakery called Psomi. We ventured in and found a tiny little sweet shop with just a couple display cases. One was filled with small buns and cakes that didn't look particularly special. The other was full of baklava and another pastry called ktaifi (sp?) which is composed of custard and tiny strings of dough. I only got a chance to try the ktaifibut my sister's favorite was the apricot baklava.

Lunch
Next we wanted to check out the beach but it turned out to be pretty rocky and hard packed in this section of the town so we turned back and decided to look for some food. We passed a cafe on the main street serving gyros and other streets but due to it's proximity to the tourist traps it didn't look as cheap as we wanted. The prices were still decent at 5-6 euros per item but we decided to venture out a bit more.

At the end of the third tourist street we found a small cafe with a chalkboard sign listing Greek Coffee, Nescafe, Fresh Fish and Ouzo (sorry, forgot to get a picture and name) . It was not very full but there were some locals eating there so we decided to give it a whirl. We sat down at a table covered with a paper table cloth that was basically a gigantic sheet of Brawny or Dixie. Apparently the waiter did not speak English because he walked out of the restaurant and disappeared down the street.

A minute later the waiter reappeared followed by the owner who did speak some basic English. We asked for the fresh fish, ouzo and Greek coffee and she suggested a tomato salad as well. Within seconds, a small stray cat appeared, eagerly anticipating the arrival of some food. Equally random, a middle aged man sat down at the table next to us with a Heineken and a pack of cigarettes and began asking us where we were from and what our ethnicity was. He then started telling us all about his trips to Asia and how he was from Olympia and had carried the Olympic torch 4 or 5 times (his stories didn't seem to consistent).

Our food then arrived along with two additional stray cats. The fish turned out to be sardines that had been gutted and fried. They were sufficiently small that I could eat them whole without worrying about bones, although my sister decided not to attempt it and ate around the tiny spines.

The salty fish perfectly complimented the tangy tomato salad. It had red onions, olives, green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and a light vinaigrette. The tomatoes were just as bright red as the ones I saw in Athens Central Market and they were as good as I expected. Firm yet tender, vividly red inside and out, sweet and tasting like a sun ripened tomato should. I haven't had tomatoes that good in years! The onions were mild, the cucumber light and crisp and the peppers sweet.

For drinks, the Greek coffee, medium sweet, was tasty and had the traditional finely ground coffee at the bottom of the cup. I haven't figured out if you're supposed to drink that or not. The ouzo was interesting as it was served with a small dish of ice. When you drop the ice into the ouzo, it formed wisps of cloudiness that eventually turned all of the liquor a translucent white. The ouzo had a very strong anise/licorice flavor that my sister did not like. The stuff is pretty strong (38-48%) and is generally meant to be sipped while relaxing but as Americans we're always in a rush to the next planned event so trying to down the stuff quickly was a bit tough.

Meanwhile the three cats were doing their best garner attention and act cute by laying on their backs, mewing quietly but pitifully and staring at us with big sad eyes (like the Puss in Boots in Shrek). I was very tempted to give them our last sardine but they were so good that my sister stopped me and we ended up eating it ourselves. Sorry cats!

Also during this time, the Olympian sitting next to us offered to buy me another round of ouzo and provided us a postcard showing him at the Olympic torch ceremonies many years ago. He offered us the chance to hold an old Olympic torch and take pictures if we simply dropped by his Jewelery store. We smelled a tourist trap and politely declined. Happy with our lunch, we returned to the ship.

Dinner
For dinner we had early bird reservations at Le Bistro, the French restaurant on board. To celebrate my mom's birthday, we had the whole group of 17 people join us. The restaurant was beautifully set up and I noticed the extremely fancy dinner plates. My mom noticed them too and also checked to see who made them and they turned out to be part of the Versace collection. See the pictures for descriptions of the individual dishes. Overall, we were quite pleased with the food. I will note that the main reason I ordered the cassoulet was because it was on Top Chef this year and I wanted to try it for myself.

10/02 pictures are here.
Posted 10/10/2008 02:29 PM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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10/01 - Athens
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After losing time getting lost at the Acropolis, I decided to branch out and do some less touristy stuff in Athens while my sister went to explore the Acropolis on her own. My number one goal was to find Ktistakis a shop that specializes in Loukomades (Lokomathes?, a fried dough with walnuts and honey) and has a history dating back to 1912. All I knew was that it was near Omonia Square on Socratos street so I took the Metro there and started walking.

I walked a few blocks and didn't really see anything that would be a small bakery or shop so I walked around the block looking. Instead I happened upon a street vendor selling koulouri, a circular bread covered with sesame seeds. These are similar to pretzels but without the chewy shiny exterior. Mine was crusty on the outside but kind of dry on the inside. The taste of sesame was very pronounced and I think it would go very well with a drizzle of honey or even some mustard but the people I saw buying them didn't seem to require any such thing. I'm not a big sesame fan so next time I would probably pass on these but if you like sesame they would probably be pretty good.

As I munched on my koulouri, I returned to Socratos street and walked further down only to discover myself at the Athens Central Market, one of my key destinations. I happened upon a small corner shop and decided to moisten my parched mouth after the koulouri. I ordered a Frappe which is a whipped coffee drink. I didn't see exactly how they made it but I believe they mixed milk and espresso with a high speed shake machine to produce a nice airy, frothy head. Even after I finished drinking it there was a good inch of foam left in the cup. I would have liked to finish it but I had to continue exploring the market.

First I walked through the meat section where butchers displayed the finest cuts whether they be steaks or chickens or primal cuts or organs. Whole skinned animals dangled in clean glass and stainless steel display carts. All around me men were hacking away with long cleavers to chop up steaks according to their customers' orders. It seemed that just about everything was for sale whether it be heads or intestines or stomachs or brains or knuckles.

Peering between two carts I saw a small passage way leading to the sea food section so I darted through the narrow opening into a completely different world where stacks of styrofoam containers and piles of ice showcased the day's freshest sea fare. I saw fish, octopus, squid and even a basket of live snails that were crawling upon the very sign that pronounced the price of their lives.

I moved on to the rest of the market that was filled with small shops and vendors with various fruits, vegetables and other supplies. I saw a haloumi and sausage store and several egg shops that had stacks of eggs of various sizes and colors priced anywhere from 6 to 15 cents per egg. The produce also looked amazing, whether it be peaches or plums or apples or tomatoes. Several items were cut open so you could see their quality inside and out. The tomoatoes were so red, you knew they were vine ripened. I wanted to just buy one and eat it straight but I did not. I was lured by some delicious looking black (purple) figs which were so ripe they were bursting at a mere 2 euros per kilo.

One stand I saw had several piles of plants of herbs and by luck I happened to notice one bag labeled Tau-Sigma-Alpha-Iota, which spells TSAI. I thought it might be tea but wasn't sure until a tour guide later confirmed it, pronouncing it like chai.

The last stand I stopped by had a case full of small gelatin cubes marked 3.1 euros per kilo. It made me think of Turkish Delight but being in Greece I wasn't sure. The owner did not speak English so I pointed at a pink tray and a white tray and held up one euro after which he proceeded to pick up pieces and fill a small bag. The pink one turned out to have a very strong rose flavor, confirming that it was Turkish Delight. I liked it and so did my dad but my sister did not like the strong rose flavor. The white ones were coconut flavor but alas, I left the bag somewhere and never got to try it.

Having completed the market, I resumed my search for the loukomades. I returned to Socratos street and walked up and down again, even turning down some of the small alleys and shopping strips. With time running a little short, I stopped at a cafe and asked. I had to say the word a few times before the woman understood and told me to go up Socratos street. So I went and explored Socratos again, pushing farther north a couple blocks as well but still had no luck.

Next I stopped at a woman's fruit cart next to Omonia square. She was busy counting money from another customer and initially seemed a little annoyed that I didn't speak Greek. She didn't look up from her money and had a bit of a frown until she realized what I was asking for at which point she looked up with a smile and a glint in her eye. She pointed ambiguously down Socratos street north of the square so I returned to search again but to no avail.

Finally, I asked a security guard who said there was a bakery in the square that sold them. This didn't seem to match what anyone else had said but I followed his directions and ended up at a chain bakery. I asked a woman there if they had loukomades and she said yes so I ordered two. She gave me were two sugar coated doughnuts that had no walnuts or nuts of any kind. Perhaps these were some simplified version of loukomades or perhaps they were something completely different. Either way, they were not what I had hoped for and since it was time to return to my hotel, I reluctantly declared my quest a failure.

After checking out of the hotel my sister and I stopped at Starbucks. I ordered a Greek coffee and the barista told me that Starbucks' Greek coffee is no good because they use they wrong equipment and that I should go elsewhere. Since we really just wanted internet access I ordered a double iced espresso instead where I wrote the first three days of posts.

We returned to the hotel and with all of our baggage the hotel recommended that we take a taxi instead of the metro since it would only cost about 12 euros. We agreed and paid 15 after tip and arrived at our cruise ship with plenty of time to spare. In fact, it turns out there was a problem with the fuel ship which arrived three hours late so our departure was pushed from 6pm to 9pm.

For dinner we met up with our parents for the 2-for-1 early bird special at Tex Mex at Paniolo Salsa on the ship (more on how dinner works on the ship on a less eventful day). Take a look at the pictures for names, descriptions and thoughts on the dishes we ordered.

Afterwards we relaxed and got settled into our rooms, watched a movie and then slept early to prepare for our first day on the cruise.

10/01 pictures are here.
Posted 10/08/2008 02:27 PM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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Tuesday 9/30 - Athens
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Shortly after falling asleep, my sister finally arrived around 3:30am. We talked for a bit and then she got settled in while I spent at least an hour attempting to fall asleep again. At 7:30 my alarm went off and I got up for a free continental breakfast on the Executive Level of the Marriott (yay for Gold status). The breakfast included a large cereal/muesli bar, a selection of cold cuts, cheeses and fruit as well as your standard continental bakery items. Pretty darn good for free.

I then ventured out to meet up with my parents and their friends at their hotel while my sister slept in. It's funny how much faster it is to get to the train station when you're not lost and lugging around crappy luggage. On the Metro I made my way to the Omonia (pronounced like Ammonia) and walked a couple blocks to the Best Western Zinon. It's an older hotel and it shows. The elevators have swing open doors and only hold four people and that's only if they're feeling very friendly. The inner doors are hinged like closet doors and open inward forcing the fourth passenger to squeeze against the other passengers to allow them to open and close. Also, the elevators don't differentiate between up and down when stopping at floors, you just have to ride it until it stops at the floor you actually want. The rooms are also tiny and the showers barely have enough space to turn around. I'm glad I stayed at the Marriott.

At 9:00 our private tour guide and bus showed up and we headed to Corinth. The tour guide provided some historical background as we visited the Corinth canal which is 4km long and 250 meters almost straight down to water level. We then continued on to Corinth to see the temple of Apollo as well as the Corinth Agora. Agora was the name of the public market which was so busy and crowded that the word agora became synonymous with crowds, hence the term agoraphobia, the fear of people and crowds. The Agora was also where the apostle Paul would have sold the tents he made to support himself while in Corinth. Next to the Agora were the ruins of an ancient church, believed to be the one that Paul started in Corinth and addressed in his two letters to the Corinthians, as well as the spot in the market that Paul is believed to have publicly preached.

We also learned that Corinth was destroyed by barbarians that killed all the men and enslaved all the women and children, leaving no one behind to rebuild the city. Today, the region is as famous for it's oil production as it's sun-dried raisins, pistachios and olives. Also at the peak of a mountain stands a strategic fortress that overlooked both the Aegean Sea and the Sardonic Gulf.

After our tour, we went to the Plaka market area surrounding the Acropolis. We found a restaurant to have lunch for decent prices, about 10 euros per person after the 10% discount the restauranteurs offered us as we walked by. I ordered a pork gyro since lamb wasn't offered. My pork was a bit under seasoned though the thick and flavorful authentic tzatziki sauce was delicious. Overall the food was good, but not great but at least prices were reasonable, though not cheap. I wasn't particularly surprised by this since the menu was available in 6 different languages which is a tourist trap warning sign.

Apparently pork is a traditional gyro meat in Greece, though chicken is quite common as well. I have yet to see the same lamb meat loaf cylinders that are common in America. I suppose that lamb loaf may be the American version that is purported to have originated in Chicago but I'll see what other regions in the Mediterranean have before I make my conclusions. Note that the pork and chicken cylinders are made by stacking slices of meat together on a spit and roasting them, unlike the American lamb loaf that is finely ground and formed into a cylinder around the spit.

After lunch the group walked up to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and Athena's temple. It was a bit of a trek up the hill but there were some very nice views along the way. On our way down we split up and unfortunately our group took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of the Acropolis. It took about 40 minutes to find our way back to the entrance we started at and about 20 more minutes to find the rest of our group. By that time I was completely pooped from walking up and down hills searching. I also missed my opportunity to go to the Athens central market, which might be closed on Wednesday, and some of the specialty shops I had hoped to visit.

My parents and I separated from the group to meet up with my sister and then we wandered around the Plaka looking at shops. As we were all tired and it was starting to get late, we chose a quick restaurant to eat at which had essentially the same menu as the lunch restaurant. Once again I had the pork gyros. This time the pork was well seasoned which was a dramatic improvement on the previous restaurant, except that the pitas, which came off a big stack in a plastic bag, were dry and tough. I also ordered a Cappuccino Fredo (iced, but unfortunately not frozen).

After dinner my sister and I sent my parents to their hotel in a taxi while we did some last minute exploring. We got some gelato for dessert (Hazelnut or her, Pistachio for me) and checked out a few other stores. I was interesting in buying some Ouzo, an anise flavored liquor and I also discovered that Absinthe liquors are easily obtainable (they are still outlawed in America even though the warning on the bottles indicate that the dangerous side affects of Absinthe no longer exist). If I can find a liquor store that ships to America, I'll buy a bit of both.

After that my sister and I hopped on the Metro and went back to our hotel to clean up and get a good night's rest. One last thing observation was the large numbers of stray animals. I knew about this from my research on Athens but seeing the actual problem up close was another thing entirely. Some of the dogs have survived pretty well and managed to stay pretty clean, but others are a little rough around the edges or even injured. In the highly trafficed tour areas (e.g. Corinth and the Plaka) the large numbers of humans mean that the dogs are quite tame and socialized and are not aggressive. In fact, if you feed them or offer to pet them, they seem pretty happy to sit down and soak it all in while they can. In the evening, they seemed to appear all over the place in the plaka and they'd simply lie in the middle of heavily trafficed walkways. There are also many stray cats and I even fed some leftover lamb from one of the other parent's dish to a skinny little cat, though they tend to stay in doorways and on the side of the road instead of lying in the middle. It's really kind of sad and every other dog I see I wish I could take home. I decided to take pictures of several of the animals and will share those tomorrow.

9/30 pictures are here.
Posted 10/02/2008 06:48 AM in Drinks, Food, Greece, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel
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Monday 9/29 - Travelling to Athens
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After 90 minutes of sleep, I headed to Heathrow with my crippled bag to catch my 8:20 flight to Athens. Of all the things to forget, I failed to check which terminal my British Airways flight was in. I knew they were in Terminal 4 or 5 but I wasn't sure which it would be. I chose 4 because it was the closer stop on the Tube but I turned out to be wrong. Unfortunately, to get to Terminal 5, I would have to back track to another station and then transfer to another train. I finally arrived at Terminal 5 at 7:15, perfect timing to check in. But the kiosk gave me an error and told me to go to "Zone A." I went to Zone A and the Queue Host (line manager) told me to go to customer service in Zone B where a single representative was trying to help a dozen people. I stood anxiously in line and watched as the minutes counted down.

It wasn't my turn until 7:50 and of course the flight had already been closed. The rep told me I should have gone to Zone A and now I had been dropped off the flight. Unlike AA which allows you to just jump on standby for another flight, British is very strict about this sort of thing. They basically assume it was your fault and cancel your ticket. Since it wasn't my fault that I had been mis-directed, they had to enact some absurd exception process.

First the rep flagged down a manager who told her to call some guy who handles this stuff. The guy didn't answer the phone so the manager escorted me to Zone A and handed me off to another guy who proceeded to call the same guy who handles this stuff who once again didn't answer. Then he called one of his friends in another department and called in a favor to get my ticket reinstated. Then, he called the first guy again, who finally answered after the phone rang for a good two minutes and had me put onto the standby list for the next flight. Then he called the second guy again to have my standby status upgraded to cleared. Then he could finally confirm a seat and check me in. It took at least 30 minutes to complete this process. I thought British Airways was supposed to have good service!

Since I had three more hours to kill, I decided to sit down for breakfast at Carluccio's, as recommended by the London Review of Breakfast. I had the colleccione which was toast with sauteed mushrooms, scrambled eggs, pancetta and roasted tomato. It was decently priced for the airport at 7. They don't get any awards for presentation but the mushrooms and eggs were tasty. The toast was a bit tough, the pancetta was salty but not that flavorful (would have preferred American bacon) and the tomato was good but not roasted enough. But those were all minor gripes and I was pretty pleased with my breakfast.

I also ordered a coffee drink called Bicerin. It is a traditional Torino drink of espresso, Florentine drinking chocolate and cream that you mix together as you please. The drinking chocolate was pretty thick like a soft ganache and if I had let it cool more it would have been pretty solid. It was also a pretty cocoa intensive and not very sweet. That was mixed with the espresso and about half of the cream. I considered adding more sugar but thought I should probably enjoy it as it was served. I thought it was extremely tasty, though not very healthy.

I then proceeded through security where they have a nice automated tray return system so that trays are automatically moved back to the front of the line instead of having to wait for some non-observant TSA rep to realize there's a backup caused by a lack of trays. Then in my search for a power outlet for my laptop, I ended up at Starbucks and bought a yogurt so I could sit and mooch their electricity.

Starbucks has much nicer food products in Europe. Their yogurts and granola all looked excellent and had extra seeds mixed in for added fiber and nutrition. I chose a Greek yogurt with granola and honey and was wowed by how thick, rich and tangy the yogurt was. Mixed with the granola, sunflower seeds and honey, this was a delicious yogurt mix.

After losing track of time and almost missing my new flight to Athens, I finally settled in my flight. The British Air 757 I was on seemed nicer and roomier than any American 757s. I think I had one or maybe even two inches of extra seat width and I suspect that American planes have eight seats crammed in a row instead of the seven on this plane. I'll have to check SeatGuru to see.

To my surprise, breakfast was served on this flight and it wasn't a crummy continental breakfast (pun intended here too); it was a hot fish pie. I don't particularly like the sounds of fish pie on an airline because it makes me think of the movie Airplane. But this fish pie (cod and salmon) was very good. The sauce was tasty and there were big chunks of fish coated with panko crumbs (the one negative being that the panko wasn't crispy). The caesar salad, while simple, was good thanks to the tasty croutons and substantial parmaggiano shavings. The bread rolls, which were a wheat and white baked together, were pretty good. And the rice pudding was decent though it was basically standard strawberry sauce mixed into plain rice pudding. I guess that's the one place that British Air has good service.

I finally landed in Athens and found customs and immigration to be very easy. There was no form to fill out and it looked like any valid passport gained instant access to the country. There wasn't anyone in customs either, you just walked out from the baggage claim to the oustide world. I lugged my crippled bag to the Metro which was thankfully still open (it was supposed to be closed for construction but contractor issues have already postponed the start date which was originally April).

I arrived at my station and using my compass quickly determined which direction to head to find my hotel. I walked for 10 minutes but couldn't find it. The address, 115 didn't seem to exist. I walked back and forth for another 10 minutes until finally walking into a Peugeot dealer to ask for directions. Turns out that the numbers on one side of a street don't necessarily line up with the other side so even though I was at 110-120 on the north side, 115 on the south side was another 10 minutes farther down the road.

Then I had to find a pedestrian underpass to get to the other side and I found the sign but not the underpass. I spent another 5 minutes looking for that until I walked into a Citroen dealer and asked for help. Turns out the underpass was about 100 more meters past the sign. 10 minutes later I was across the street at the Marriott and I was soaked with sweat from dragging my stupid cheap-ass bag back and forth and up and down curbs because Greek drivers don't care if their parked cars block the cross walks (if there happens to be one at a particular street intersection) or fire hydrants for that matter. I finally got into my hotel room at 7:30 and decided to scrap my plans to go to the happening night spot for dinner and try to get some sleep.

9/29 pictures are here.
Posted 10/01/2008 06:41 AM in Food, Greece, Ramblings, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel, United Kingdom
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In Athens
I wrote up my last couple days and prepared a bunch of pictures but the Marriott is charging 20 euros for internet so I haven't connected. I'm at a free terminal at Best Western so I don't have my laptop and can't upload the stuff. Maybe tonight if I can find an internet cafe near my hotel. I did manage to upload a few random pictures when I was at Heathrow though.
Posted 09/30/2008 01:02 AM in Greece, Travel
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PSP is the answer
There weren't any big bombs at the surprisingly long Sony E3 Press conference but there are a couple things that are keeping me interested.

First, the new downloadable TV and movie content that will be available on the PlayStation Network tonight. While it's not a Netflix partnership, I like the fact that videos can be downloaded to the PSP thanks to new single sign-on support for PSN. Supposedly you don't need a PS3 to do this either. I'll find out tonight when the new PSN launches.

Second was additional details on Gran Turismo TV, which will go live in August. GT TV will include content from Top Gear, Best MOTORing and other Japanese programs (thankfully no mention of NASCAR). I hope that some WRC content gets added in as well. I do wonder how much the mentioned fees will be though.

Another item that they briefly mentioned was their partnership with Google, something that MS probably won't have much of. Hopefully this will result in more exclusive functionality in the future. Speaking of exclusives, I'm pleased to hear that Resistance: Retribution will be released on PSP.

But for now, perhaps the best course of action is to stick with the PSP and watch the console wars continue to unfold (and wait for more PS3 games to become Greatest Hits).

Also, the Nintendo press conference was a little boring. The Wii Music didn't seem that great, I'm just not impressed.
Posted 07/15/2008 05:07 PM in Geek Stuff, Greece
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