Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Spring Break

On Friday, something very special is happening to me.

No. Sex and the City 2 is not coming out, that's not until May.

No. John Krasinski has not decided to leave Emily Blunt after meeting me on the streets of London.

No, Manolo Blahnik is not having a 90% off sale exclusively on size 9 strappy sandals.

No. It is much bigger.

I am returning to my homeland.

Yes. On Friday, March 26 at 10 pm, I, Aliki Elene Tripolitis will land in Athens. I have been preparing for this moment since birth.

I have read Edith Hamilton's Mythology not once, but twice.

I got an 105% in Mythology 1010 at university.

I have the soundtrack to Disney's Hercules memorized.

I understand natural and synthetic sponges better than any 20 year old girl should.

And I've probably eaten about 1000 Greek desserts in my lifetime.

Yes. I am ready.

You see, being Greek has always been a source of pride for me. Sure, no one can pronounce my last name and currently Greece is in economic turmoil and will possibly get kicked out of the EU (which, by the way, you're welcome American dollar) but my life really is better because I'm Greek.

For example, I always tan faster than anyone else because of my olive skin, which also keeps me from burning.

Because the sponge business has been passed down through Greek families through the generations, we often went to conventions in Orlando, which meant trips to Disney World.

I can claim John Stamos, Jennifer Aniston, and Alan from The Hangover as my people.

In the words of Gus from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "When my people we're writing philosophy,. your people were still swinging from trees."

So, to say I am excited is an understatement. I have been faithfully practicing my Greek, and can now speak with the proficiency of, oh let's say, a toddler. Which, I think will cause absolutely no problems.

Besides Athens and Mykonos, we are also traveling to Italy, where we will see Rome and Florence. Between the food and the history of all the places I am going to, I plan on being an extremely happy camper for the next nine days. I would say its going to be a combination of a Mary Kate and Ashley movie, Roman Holiday, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and The Hangover.

Oh, and if I do get sunburnt? Don't worry, I'll just put some Windex on it!



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Madrid, Claro que si!

Sitting on the plane headed for Madrid, I tried to remember everything I could about Spanish History.

~Despite its fame as a Catholic nation, originally Muslims settled the city.
~Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon's marriage brought together their two kingdoms, which was beginning of the unification of Spain.
~The same couple funded Columbus and sent him off to the new world
~Their daughter, Catherine, was Henry VIII's first wife who, when she wouldn't grant him a divorce to marry Anne Boleyn, became one of the main contributors to the creation of the Anglican Church.
~They had a dictator named Franco.
~There was that Inquisition. (See Mel Brooks "History of the World Part 1" for more on that:

Obviously I had some learning to do. And what better way to learn than sight seeing!

We first met up with three friends from Pamplona in Madrid, Kaylee, Jackie, and Briehn. After dealing with some problems with our hotel situation, we set off to the Reina Sofia. Our guide book said that you enter the museum by high tech elevators. These elevators are apparently so high tech that they are near impossible to discover, and soon we decided to go eat dinner and abandon el museo.

After dinner and Emily's first flan experience (she didn't like it) we went searching for a tapas bar that Kaylee had found in her guide book. This once again proved too difficult for us, and while we did eventually find the bar, it was closed. So far, we were failing miserably.

The next day, however, treated us much better. The sun was out, and Emily and I couldn't help but frolic a bit after five dark rainy weeks in London. After a delicious breakfast of churros and freshly squeezed orange juice, we toured the Palacio Real, where I was excited to see a real Stradivarius violin, having read about them in a Boxcar Children Mystery. By the time we finished touring we were hungry again. We began walking to the Plaza Mayor, only to be sidetracked by the greatest word in the human language.


Yes. We were in Spain and practically got hit by cars racing across the street to a restaurant that was promising, "100% Comida Mexicana." London is a lot of things, but not a Mecca of Mexican food. Add in two Texans and a Californian and you have five hungry girls, two mango daiquiris, a margarita, a pinacolada, and enough nachos to feed a small country.

After gorging ourselves, we decided it was time to leave Mexico and head back to Spain.

Our next stop was by far my favorite place in Madrid, The Plaza Mayor. Originally the sight of the Spanish Inquisition, the plaza now hosts a plethora of cafe's, shops, and street performers galore, including a real life mariachi band. The pure energy buzzing around the square made it impossible not to feel happy.

The rest of the day consisted of a trip to the Plaza de Espana, which featured statues of Don Quixote, Sancho, and Cervantes, a trip to an Egyptian Temple, and of course, shopping. After our busy day, we were more than ready to take part in my favorito part of Spanish culture, the siesta.

Of course, we couldn't go to Madrid without experiencing the nightlife, so at midnight we headed to El Kapital, a seven story nightclub with a line stretched around the building. From the karaoke floor to the bar that had sofa beds (see Sex and the City Season 6 Part 1 Episode 7), I have never seen anything of its magnitude.

The next day, exhausted from our clubbing the night before, we headed out to see Spain's museums for two reasons: 1. They have extraordinary pieces of art, and 2. The rain in Spain decided to leave the plane for the day.

We visited both the Thyssen Bornemisza and The Prado, both of which featured exemplary collections including works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, and my fellow Kappa Delta, Georgia O'Keefe. In between our cultural experiences, I had my first tapa, which I enjoyed immensely. Our day concluded with a trip to the Real Madrid Stadium to soak up the pregame scene, and then back to the hotel to partake in a traditional Spanish meal: pizza. Guess my excitement for Italy next week had an effect on my food choices. Until then,

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

J'adore Paris!

Growing up Beauty and the Beast was my favorite movie. I would walk around the house in a blue dress, chiming, "Bonjour!" "Bonjour!" like Belle does in the opening song of the movie. Needless to say, I have always wanted to visit France.

My desire to go to France, and Paris especially was engraved in my heart after watching Carrie finally achieve her dream of going to Paris in the two part finale of Sex and the City. And just as Carrie's Paris trip did not go exactly as planned, neither did mine.

Ok, so I wasn't abandoned by my Russian lover or slapped by him or find my true love on a bridge at night in a couture dress, but I did break my camera in the Lourve 33 pictures into my trip and lose my leather gloves I got for Christmas. Coincidence? I think not.

But besides those two tragedies, Paris was the stuff of dreams. As we drove by the Eiffel Tower on the way to our hotel, I found tears coming to my eyes. I couldn't believe I was actually in Paris, the place Rick and Inga would always have, and Marie Antoinette let them eat cake. My excitement only intensified when we got out of the cab in front of our hotel and turned around to the sight of the tower a mere five minutes away, standing tall and proud in the distance.

I honestly can't put my finger on my favorite activity in Paris.

Was it singing Disney songs in inappropriate places? "God Help the Outcasts" while touring through Notre Dame, "Beauty and the Beast" when walking down a similar staircase like the one in the dance scene at the Lourve, and of course, "Les Poissons," from "The Little Mermaid," which I sang randomly in the streets.

Was it walking down the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triumphe, people watching and looking at boutiques where I couldn't afford at button?

Was it finally seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo and tearing up at the sight of both of them 1) because I was in the presence of such magnificent art and 2) because my camera had broken before I got a picture of them?

Was it walking down a random street of Paris and running into my dear friend Cat Williams? That was definitely a highlight of my trip. (AOT)

Was it going up in the Eiffel Tower? No. I hated every minute of that. I've had a fear of national monuments since 9/11.

Was it taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower? I have always seen people's pictures in front of the monument and thought to myself "Oh cool, you have a picture in front of one of the most famous landmarks in the world." Now I have one. And it is cool.

No. My favorite part of the entire trip was...eating.

Eating everything. The shortlist includes croissants, pain au chocolats, croque monsieurs, baguettes, champagne, chocolat pepits, lamb chops, canelloni, and the best french fries I have ever tasted in my life. Which was odd, since I heard those were created in Belgium. But above all were the macaroons from Laduree. There were actual French people waiting in line for those macaroons, which tells you something about how good they are.

The entire trip was unforgettable and incredible, and I barely even saw half of what the city has to offer. I hope to go back and see the Paris Opera House, sight of one of my favorite musicals, "The Phantom of the Opera," the catacombs, Versailles, the Latin Quarter, Bastille, Sacre Coeur, and so much more.

Though I have to say, I still have yet to find a place to rival London in my heart. Madrid is up next in two weeks with Kaylee!!

Until then,


Shopping and Mexican Food

Last Friday, after class, my flatmates and I decided that since it was actually sunny out in London that we would take advantage of the weather and explore an area of London we hadn't previously visited: Covent Garden.

After stepping out of the tube station, we were immediately struck by the beautiful old architecture. The fact that the buildings housed modern shops such as French Connection (FCUK...that tricks your mind, doesn't it?), H&M, Urban Outfitters, and various other British Boutiques didn't hurt either. The other major shopping districts in London that we had visited include: Oxford Street, where we practically drowned in the sea of people pushing into stores, High Street Kensington, good but small, and Harrods/Knightsbridge area, which is fun to look at and pretend you can afford a dress for 700 pounds. However Covent Garden was exactly what we were looking for. It was crowd free during the afternoon, and had a wide range of boutiques from big chains to small unique boutiques.

One such boutique that caught our hearts and pocketbooks was Appletree Boutique, which was filled with vintage inspired, one of a kind clothes. Everything was so beautiful, and I finally found a new coat, something I have been looking for since I arrived. It is the most adorable little sailor coat, and I lurve it.

After we had shopped our hearts out, we found a Mexican restaurant that we had heard was actually edible. We successfully found margaritas, but were dreaming of El Rancho and El Maguey when they said they didn't have queso and charged us 2 pounds per 3 inch bowl of chips. However, it hit the spot, and our American hearts were satisfied.

When we left the restaurant, the atmosphere of Covent Garden had totally changed. Gone was the serene, calm shopping area, and in its place was a bustling nightlife scene. Everyone was dressed in their best British going out clothes and lines were forming outside the pubs and clubs. Since we were departing for Paris the next morning around 5 am, we went home but are excited to return again to the area.

When we first decided to go to Covent Garden, we weren't sure what to expect, and it has become one of our favorite areas. This is an example of why London is such a fantastic city. Every tube stop offers a different and exciting area, and I look forward to discovering even more treasures in the next 2 and 1/2 months.



P.S. Tales of my adventures in Paris will follow shortly!