Sunday, July 30, 2006
This is also the first time since Oldest Son joined scouts that I haven't gone with the Troop as an adult leader. My vacation schedule this year prevented me from joining them and so I sent my two off in the capable hands of the other adult leaders.
Oldest Son is Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) this year so he has many responsibilites and will be very busy. I am very proud of him of course and I wish that I were going this year just to watch him in action. SPL leads the troop morning and evening at colors and I know he'll do great. Youngest son is a reluctant patrol leader. He has been talking about quitting scouts and we told him that he committed through summer camp so this may be his last event. Oldest son is working on Eagle and may not be going to Summer camp next if he can get it all done in the 12 months. I hope that youngest sticks with it.
At first my participation in summer camp was hesitant. I did a half a week during one of the toughest summer camps ever. The troop was in turmoil after the resignation of key leaders and had almost doubled in size. We had 40 boys under age 12, five of which at any given moment wanted their mommies and Xbox and did not want to do camp. Rough year.
But I had a good time hanging out, playing pinochle and I came back the following year for a full year.
Boy Scout summer camp is a magical place really. They lock out the outside world and create a world of corny skits, campfires and songs at dinner time. It is a land that time has forgotten - for now.
Our boy scount council last held its own summer camp in 1984 and that means that every year we have to find a new camp to go to. Goospond Scout Reservation is one of our favorites and that is where the troop is headed this year. Goospond is one of those oldtime scout camps that has been there forever and remarkable for its program.
Our troop loves going there so I hope the boys have a good time.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Great, just another thing wrong with my car.
I can't complain, the '3' mobile is nearly ten years old even though I've only owned it for 8. I am pretty hard on cars so in "dog" years that is more like 56. Most cars I've owned headed for the junk yard at the end of my term of ownership. This includes the first car my wife bought new, a 1985 SR5 that I ran out of oil in '95. It wasn't my fault. I still think the kids next door stole the oil.
I call my current vehicle the '3' mobile since that is one of the two speeds that work on the AC/Heat fan out of four. One and Two died sometime over the winter and the funny part was that it took me nearly a month to figure out that the fan wasn't blowing. I remember thinking how cold it was by my feet when usually it was toasty warm.
The muffler went sometime in spring. At first it was a quiet low rumble that you could hardly hear. Now, well now I'm afraid to take it to parking garages for the looks I might get.
Now between the muffler and the whistling from the not-quite-closed drivers window, I am going deaf.
It needs tires. It has dings in the doors from the tight free parking at the PATCO station. It's beat.
I need to get on Pimp My Ride. I can scream and jump up and down like a idiot when rap superstar and car enthusiast Xzibit reveals my new wheels. Ohhh! I can't believe it! Is that my car?
It could have ridiculous features that I will use once like wireless internet or a place where back packs are shot out of like a canon when I go back packing. Or how about Xbox. I don't even like Xbox but if they want to put in, have at it. How about a big screen TV in my civic.
I also think that an even better show would be to revisit previous winners of "Pimp my ride" and see what they have done with the custom vehicles they were given. My bet is that they either sold them or they look more like the trashed version. I mean where do you keep a car with 15 televisions in it? On the street? come on.
Old habits die hard. If you mistreated the first car, having new wheels on it doesn't mean you are suddenly going to become the guy that parks at the out reaches of the parking lot taking up five spots so no one parks near you. If you never vacuumed the first one you are never going to vacuum the custom one. (I recently vacuumed my car only because I left it opened and it rained in it).
I've also noticed that as that show gets older the contestants get less and less enthusiastic. At first you would have though they won the lottery but now it seems they are still excited but not quite at the same peak as before.
On second thought maybe I'm just more comfortable with vice grips holding up my driver's side window.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Two weeks ago we were still in the throws of the missing passport and just about everywhere we read said to "report it to the local police". On Sunday that is what we decided to do instead of taking a three and a half hour bus ride to see, (surprise!), ruins and columns at Delphi.
We sent Oldest son with Mr C, who's pain threshold for viewing ruins and columns far exceeded everyone else's and the three of us went to the local police station.
We asked the hotel staff where the local police station was and we were off on the metro to Glyfada.
Getting on the metro was easy, as we used it the day before from Athens to the hotel with the group. Getting off was another issue. We didn't realize that unless someone is waiting at a stop, the metro keeps going unless you push the big red button telling the driver that you want to get off.
So we watched as our stop went by and got off when the train reached the final stop two stops later.
We decided rather risk going 500 stops in the wrong direction towards Athens, we would use our trusty map and walk. We walked several blocks past all the closed shops.In Greece everything shuts down on Sundays. Finally, we made it to the police station.
We asked the policeman out front if he spoke English and we wanted to report a missing passport. All he said was "two".
I said "what?"
He said "zzzecond floor".
So off we went to the second floor which was actually harder than it sounds. We went up two flights of stairs and told the police woman "we want to report a missing passport" and she said "two". It was then we realized the police station had floors 1a and 1b and 2a and 2b etc.
We continued our search for "two" and arrived at a policeman in plain clothes who told us to wait in the hallway. There were two other non-police type guys standing in the hallway, one of which was wearing a T-shirt I will never forget.
It was a parody of a Nike logo "swoosh" but the swoosh was a exhaust trail off a jet headed for the twin towers. The caption read "just do it". I was really pissed at the shirt but didn't say anything.
Finally the plain clothes policeman brought us into a dirty, windowed office with just a desk and a phone. Into the office came a uniformed woman policeman who spoke some English to take our sad story down for a report.
She wanted to know my name so I gave her the full name on my passport thinking that the whole story about how I use my middle name instead of my first name because my mother didn't like my first name but I use the first initial was a bit too much detail for both her English and the situation.
The Greek plain clothes policeman said "two names?" (again with the two? Is this only English word these people know?).
Yes I have two names. A first name and a middle name. Again this is too much detail so I skip it.
"Yes two" and for some reason I feel myself almost speaking in a cheesy Greek accent like "yezzzz, two". I can not explain this phenomena.
She wants to know Youngest Son's name and I stick with the "name on the passport" strategy.
"Two names?" He asks, this time really questioningly.
"yezzz, two". I did it again. I can't help it now.
Mrs F is right there but they don't want to ask her a thing. It's like she's invisible.
They ask me my parents names and I give them their full names. Apparently, the Greeks are big on genealogy.
"Again, two names?????" he asks. This time his tone is as if it's inconceivable that four people have two names. Do people in Greece only have one name? Have you never had a lost passport before? If this were Spain you would have like 15.
I'm thinking "yes, in America we are all really, really rich and we can afford two names for everyone but we only have one floor labeled 2" but I keep it to myself. But we are still puzzled by the whole two name thing.
Finally they produce a report in Greek that states that Youngest Son lost his passport at the hotel and that he is my son and I am the son of my parents - no mention of my wife who is sitting in the room with us.
It reads "blah blah blah blah MY FULL NAME blah
All in Greek except that names.
We take the official looking document and put it away and the last thing the police tell us to
After sitting through that and the pain of the last 24 hours we decide that the boy needs a break so we head off to McDonald's down the street.
He had a McRoyal with cheese, Mrs F had a McGreek and I had the best Big Mac I have ever had in my life.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The milk was warm. Mrs C did not like the milk.
By 7 we were on the bus headed back to Rome and the bus dropped us off at the base of a set of stairs at the top of which we could see the walls of Vatican City.
Someone in the group said "these must be the Spanish Steps" but I highly doubted this since they looked like a flight of steps one might see at a public school or a mall. Very plain. Clearly these were not the "Spanish Steps"
When we got to the top we saw the line forming.
This would be another theme. If you go to Italy and Greece in July, expect crowds. We made our way to the back of the line and Jason attempted to contact "Eros" our tour guide for the Vatican tour. We were late and Eros was nowhere to be seen.
I also made a strategy error right about here. I brought my tripod for my camera thinking about low level light conditions inside but not thinking about the 1972 episode where a man took a hammer to the Pieta statue in the basilica of St Peter. I had no intention of smashing any statue with my tripod.
We were waiting for Eros and our tickets just a minute too long. I it made through security and was wandering around the waiting area waiting for my group when a Vatican security guard approached me and gestured for me to check my tripod at the coat check.
I would never see it again.
Another lesson. When you are with a group, the group moves on no matter what. It would turn out that there was no way to retrieve my tripod from coat check since we would be on the other side of the "country" of Vatican City by lunch and the group had to move on.
Jason and I attempted to take a taxi to retrieve the tripod but found out that there was a taxi strike that day. (as an aside when we were waiting for a taxi that would never come, we watched a sixty something woman stamp her feet like a six year old over the frustration of the taxi strike. Traveling can be very frustrating)
I wrote earlier of the absurd Sistine Chapel - but it was beautiful.
At lunch we were pretty much forced by time to eat at a cafeteria in Vatican City. It was so-so food for a lot of money. I think I spent 80 Euros (about $100) for lunch - I don't like Italy so much.
In the afternoon we headed over to the coliseum and the forum.
I was hit with an unexplainable and sudden painful need to find a bathroom. Like doubled over in pain painful. I explained to "Eros" that I needed a bathroom a couple of times but he was only interested in explaining the mundane detail of some ancient artifact or picking up trash. He picked up trash the whole time he was talking to us. He would be telling us something about some statue on the "whispers" headset and picking up empty water bottles and placing them on overfull trash cans at the same time. (A whispers headset allows the tour guide to talk wirelessly to all the tour participants who are wearing listening set).
Finally, I told Jason that I needed to go NOW and he explained there was a public bathroom on the far side of the coliseum. I could hear "Eros" in my headset the whole time so I really didn't miss a thing.
The "WC" was purple. It had a purple skylight and the toilet area was purple. Purple. Why? I have no idea. But there I was listening to Eros, bathed in Purple light thanking God for the bathroom. In another stroke of Italian ingenuity, the roll of toilet tissue was at the furthest possible place from the toilet, making for an interesting reach at the end. When I finished and opened the door my eyes were used to the purple and now seeing regular white light made everything orange.
After hiking around the coliseum and paying 5 Euros for some guy with really bad teeth to pose with the kids in a Roman Soldier costume, we hiked up the hill to the forum where we saw our first set of ruins and columns.
Little did we know, but ruins and columns would fill our days for the next few weeks.
At about 5:30 we had our first "Free Time" of the day. We spent it walking over to a square where we had a gelato and watched mimes perform.
We were exhausted.
As it grew dark it was time for dinner and we had ours in an "air conditioned" restaurant. We had our simple dinner of roast beef and pasta. For dessert they brought out what could only be described as gelato samplers. They were tiny. Microscopic.
That night Italy played Germany in the World Cup semifinals. Rome was deserted.
By time they won the match we were safely back at the EuroHotel in Fiono Romano.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Today is going to be one long delirious blur. We woke up at 2 AM
Athens time to make a 6 AM flight to Frankfurt, Germany. We have
arrived in Germany and have a 6 hour lay over before boarding the 10
hour flight back. Tough day.
With time changes Saturday will be 31 hours long reaping the time
investment we made way back on the first of July.
The hotel arion turned out to be a plesant surprise because I was
expecting the worst The international day was financial overhead for
EF Tours and therefore I expected a bad hotel. The hotel turned out to
be the best stay we had - by far. The hotel was new, the AC worked
great, we had a private balcony and in the evening we watched the
acropolis with an unobstructed view.
It was plesant but like everything on this trip - too short.
Friday, July 14, 2006
The girls wanted to spend the morning shopping so off we went to the plaka area of Athens and spent more money than we have the entire trip.
Mr C had to take off this morning for JFK so it is me and my wife, two sons and the 4 remaining members of the C family in our little band of travelers.
Italy seems like years ago now even though it was only last night.
To recount a bit of our story:
We arrived in Rome at about 2:20 in the afternoon of the 2nd of July after equipment troubles in Frankfort. We waited over 3 hours for all of our luggage and then met the EF representative at the Airport to take only the four of us to our bus to meet our tour director, Jason. She was used to leading groups of 50 or so through the Rome airport and so she was leading the 4 of us with her hand in the air and a sign so we could all see her. I whispered to her that she could put her hand down as we could see her just fine since there were only 4 of us in the group. She lead us and our luggage up and down curbs and across the bus terminal to our "Air Conditioned" coach.
Two things here:
1 Air conditioning in Europe sucks. It just does, get used to it.
2. This was only the beginning of dragging luggage but we didn't know it. We would later drag them across parking lots, curbs, beaches and broken escalators. Our luggage logged more miles that the buses.
We did a short bust tour of Rome and went to a cheesy, touristy pizza palor in Rome for a Pizza dinner with water.
This was to be another theme: lots of water and no soda. Get used to it. After that we drove out to our hotel 25 miles outside Rome. 25 miles. It was 40 minutes by bus but it was "Air Conditioned"
And that was day one: a lot of flying and very little touring. We would more than make up for it later.
Late on Sunday night we had given up on ever seeing the passport again
and were planning our adventure to the US Embassy in athens and how to
then catch up to the Sea Diamond. We were first told that the ferries
"ran every hour" but then Mrs F asked a new person, the night Front
Desk Manager athe hotel, and showed us that the ferries stopped
running at 8:30 in the morning and started again at 4PM arriving at
Mykonos at 8PM. Jason, our tour director told us that the ship left at
9PM. Cutting it just a little close, to say the least.
We were rearranging suitcases and Mrs F asked me to give oldest son a
pair of pants down in the boys room.
As I walked around the corner to the room Oldest Son told me that they
had found the passport.
Yougest son was very casual about the whole thing but Iwas elated.
The passport was in his carry on bag wrapped around a water bottle in
a pocket. Three of us had checked it and did not see it there.
When he found it all he said was "here it is"
Thursday, July 13, 2006
I hated "The sisterhood of the traveling pants" but was fascinated
with the Greek Island scenes when one of the caharacters went to
This island has white cubed houses with blue trim that over look the
sea from volcanic cliffs hundreds of feet from the sea.
As usual we were so rushed getting through the first town, Ia, that we
hardly had time to play "Dad can I have a Boss Bar".
We are traveling by bus across winding switchback roads that are
barely wide enough for an Ox Cart.
As usual, I could spend days here but we measure our time in hours.
Our time is also spent with a tide of tourists that flood each little
town, spend Euros and then receed.
The kids are tired of posing in pictures and in each photo become more
and more unhappy.
I am not sure that we could survive another week of this.
Now we are at the next town by bus so I need to go.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
After a six hour sea voyage we are ing up to the pier at our first
stop, the island of Mykonos. Mykonos is a picture perfect Greek
village by the sea with white washed buildings on the hills that lead
into the sea.
We are an hour ahead of schedule and that means extra time there. The
weather is perfect with a stiff breeze and some swells in the sea.
There should be plenty of beautiful pictures from here.
Everyone is exhausted from staying up late and getting up early and
took advantage of the down time travelling by sea and slept.
More fun to come.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It was looking really grim there.
We have found the passport!
Because youngest son is under 14 it will take both his mother and father to sign documents saying that he is our son and lost his passport. We have plenty of copies of documents including his passport and birth certificate. The issue is going to be time.
We also reported the situation to the local police here in Athens.
The logistics tomorrow are going to be difficult to navigate. We have to leave here by Taxi at 7 AM to be at the embassy by 8. They open at 8:30 and we need to be first in line because we need to be in and out of there by 10 at the latest in order to make the cruise liner leaving at 11.
I am not to hopeful of that so we may need to catch the liner at Mykonos later in the day. We would catch the liner by taking the high speed hydrofoil to Mykonos. It's not cheap - 40 Euros each.
The plan right now is to have Me, Mrs F and Youngest Son (YS) go to the embassy and have Oldest Son continue on the cruise with the C family. Absolutely worse case is he gets a cruise and we do not.
That is not very encouraging.
In other matters we bailed on the Delphi excursion because we are exhausted and distracted with the passport problem.
Yes - we have looked for the passport everywhere. We turned the room upside down looking for it.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
We started off on a bad foot today because Youngest Son misplaced or had his passport stolen. This will mean a new adeventure on Monday when the US Embassy reopens. We have copies so it should be a simple process to get him papers to travel. The issue is that we need to catch out cruiseliner monday morning.
He and I will head to the Embassy and take care of business and race back to the Cruise Liner.
If we miss it we'll hop a ferry Mykonos and catch up. It's easier than it sounds.
Bye for now. Gotta meet the group.
Friday, July 07, 2006
"Rubble and Columns 06" continues through Mycenae a very ancient
hilltop fortified City called an Acropolis. Acropolis is of course
greek word from acros meaning "very old" and polis "rocks".
The tour guide had a difficult time keeping everyone except myself and
Mr. C's attention. Most of the kids were out late and were exhausted.
They may be tired of seeing rocks as well.
Mycenae had no columns. I believe that is worth repeating - NO
COLUMNS. No doric columns, no ionic columns and no corinthian columns.
We are checking into our hotel room in athens - our second longest
stay at three nights.
The greek lunches have been the best ever. Sit down with waitress
service for about 40 euros for a family of four.
We may get to relax a bit in athens as well as the pace is taking it's
toll. We are getting very little sleep. Last nights hotel had sheets
that we stiff and the tallest pillow I have ever seen.
We just got our first view of the Acropolis with the Parthenon atop!
Like Rock bands name their tours, I have named this tour "columns and
rubble 06". We are literally rushing from town to town looking for
more ancient rubble and columns.
After a while they all blur together into one long street of old rocks
and half standing columns.
Today is Epidarus with a 15,000 person theater. Theater of course is a
greek word that means "be quiet I am trying to hear"
The hotels are becoming more hilarious as we move along. This mornings
shower wins my "European contraption of the week". The first thing I
noticed was that the bathroom was all tile with a drain. I found out
why when I turned the shower on and water sprayed in every direction.
This also explained why there wasn't an electrical outlet in bathroom.
The shower curtain was about 2 inches too short and the water that
didn't spray out past the shower curtain run down the curtain and out
on to the floor.
There were two kinds of towels: 40 grit (hard) and 100 (medium) and
rubbing them on yourself made you dry but red rubbing.
There was one outlet and it was on the wall outside the bathroom about
5 feet off the floor.
I spent the entire shower giggling to myself.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
We are off the ferry and on the bus to Olympia.
This is definitely not a first class trip but we are enjoying it. This
mornings included breakfast was a hard boiled egg, a piece of bread,
coffee, tea or juice and fruit. The best part was the food service
help at breakfast this morning. They were stnding behind the counter
filling a glass case with a plate with 3 small jelly containers for
the bread. Except for the guy boiling eggs this was the only guy
cooking. It does not require a chef's hat to put jelly on a plate.
Meanwhile our cabin had red curtains that when closed and the sun was
shining made the room look like Kramers apartment in the "Kenny Rodger
Roasters" episode of Seinfeld.
The ferry was a sample of what cruise life will be like. Hopefully the
cruise ship will be better than the ferry.
The air in our cabin was somehow cold and hot at the same time. I was
sweating and freezing at the same minute. Mrs F woke up shivering.
The ferry was late but as jason our tour guide says "No Worries".
Sent last night but did not get in the blog!
We have boarded the overnight "ferry" to Greece. It is actually more
like a small older cruise liner with state rooms and restaruants and
such. The 4 boys have a room, the C family has a room and Mrs F and I
The ship is due to sail any minute so I may lose my data connection any minute.
Pompeii was hot and dusty but interesting. More ruins around every
corner. The boys enjoyed seeing the ampitheater where pink floyd
performed live in 1969 and finally got free time on their own.
So we say goodbye to Italy for now. Oldest son will definitely be back
now that he has had a taste of Italy as he enjoyed conversing with our
bus driver Luciano.
That is all for now and I'll pick up again when I get a signal.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Live from Rome.
We did the Rome/Vatican leg of tour today and things are never what you
expect. One of the highlights of the Vatican tour was supposed to be the
Sistine Chapel but I just couldn't get past how absurd it is.
Thousands of people from all over the world show up in large groups all
carrying cameras and when they get there the rules are:
So the scene is a large empty room, filled with international travelers,
all with cameras in their hands, all on vacation and used to chatting it up
and and handful of Vatican security guards trying valiently enforce said
It is crazy.
Every five minutes the security guard trys to silence the crowd with
Silenceo! and hand clapping.
From what I could tell this was a full time job. Every five minutes a
SHhhhhh and the crowd quiets for a while.
Oldest son said it was the ultimate librian job. A librarian with a gun.
The other, largely igored absurdity is a room full of the most beautiful
and recognizable art in the world and everyone has a camera and the no
Everyone ignores this rules as well.
Well so much more to tell but my thumbs hurt.
And my feet are killing me.
Monday, July 03, 2006
In my limited experience there is nothing anywhere on Earth slower than the
baggage system in the Rome airport.
Old man in a walker crossing the street? Like lightning compared to waiting
for a bag at FCO.
Trurtle? I laugh at your turtle.
We waited 3 hours for all of our bags.
One came out in about 40 minutes.
Two more came out in 2 hours.
And then the real fun started as we waited for youngest sons bag. The tour
people had given up hope and told me to file a lost baggage claim.
This is mostly a "feel good" process meant to make Americans feel like
there is a process to search and rescue their luggage. There is a nice
young man that speaks broken English that fills out a computer form with
all of your information. He smiles and is polite but ultimately - He can
not help you.
I know this because directly to the left of his little computer station was
all of the luggage from saturday. All of it
No one at the effecient Rome airport lost luggage area seemed all that
concerned about delivering bags to hotels.
I filled out the form, praying the entire time. I was thinking of coming
back to the Rome airport instead of the Vatacan and horrors like that.
Here are some tips if you are caught in this situation.
1. If you have a digital camera, take photos of your luggage.
2. Have a cell phone that works in europe.
3. Have a copy of your entire intinery. This is no time to be thumbing
through a catalog to I'd your hotel like the lady in front of me did for 15
4. Don't give up. The bags get there, eventually.
So when I completed the imaginary process and walked back to where my
exhusted family waited out popped the last piece of luggage.
Total time: 3 hours.
Well, we were on our way to Rome.......
Taxing out to the runway the Captain shutdown the engines and after a
lengthy explaination in German where I understood the word "technician" the
captain explained that we had a hydralic failure.
Better on the ground!
Now we have complications and complications are bad traveling. We have a
new plane and a new crew since the delay caused this crew to exceed their
hour limit for the day.
Mrs C was anxious enough since she hates flying. Now, with word of a
mechanical breakdown she is stressed.
The new aircraft is here and they are moving bags now and soon we'll be
seeing parts of an airport that one usually sees only through the little
astic port hole windows.
Luckily, Rome was our final destination and we did not need a connection to
I smell jet exhust as we wait.
At least we didn't have to use the slide.
Things got a bit testy as we became separated after the flight to
Frankfurt. Mrs F and I switched seats with the C boys and were ten rows
back when the flight ended. She ran up to be close to them and got whisked
away by the tour people.
Meanwhile, I was back with the C family with no passport or boading pass
and no sign of the family.
The boys are not quite understanding the passport idea. They keep getting
separated from us and their passports.
I also lost a brand new neck pillow when youngest Son left it on the plane
Frankfurt airport looks more like the NY Port Authority Bus terminal.
Everyone smokes and my eyes sting from the lack of sleep and the smoke.
The flight to Rome is overbooked but will begin boarding soon.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
This morning I pulled a "cray ivan" but a good one. We planned to drive and
park at the long term parking lot but this morning I woke up and thought
ahha "Rapid Rover".
They picked us on time and dropped us off right at the curb, perfect for a
hot and humid Philly day.
The problem was that I did not tell the C family until 10 am so they got a
We are at our first "wait" of the day - two hours until we can board for
Frankfort, Germany. We arrive in Rome tomorrow at 12 local time.
I have my "money belt" on. This is a device that lets the world know how
fat I've become everytime I use money. It will also protect my money from
the Gypsies that await in hords the minute we get off the plane in Italy.
I am blogging from my mobile so after two weeks I am going to have thumbs
the size of Weiner schnitzel.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
I will not say "When in Rome, do like the Romans".
I will not say "When in Rome, do like the Romans".
I will not say "When in Rome, do like the Romans".
I will not say "When in Rome, do like the Romans".
I will not say "That's Greek to me".
I will not say "That's Greek to me".
I will not say "That's Greek to me".
I will not say "That's Greek to me".
I will not say "That's Greek to me".