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A long line, some donkeys, and a lot of steps.

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Ahhh… the villages of Santorini… built high on top of the island.  White washed buildings and blue domed churches. A romantic island jewel, you might say.

For those of you who’ve read previous posts, you know I’m not a fan of physical exertion, unless I’ve spent too much time at the MAC makeup counter conveniently located right in the terminal of the airport (thankyou Schipol airport) and am running for my gate before the agent decides to close the door. Then I run. But other than that, I’m pretty much taking the easy way of doing anything. According to the laws of physics and human biology, I should weigh 500 lbs and have the heart of a 2,000 year old mummy. (the heart comment could very well prove to be true, I’m not sure when the last time I felt it beat was, so who knows.)

Picture it… Santorini, in October. It’s an unbelievable day, sun is beating down on us in a cloudless sky. It’s a zillion degrees and my makeup is melting off my face faster than you can say Anbesol. We’ve finished our sightseeing tour, and opted to enjoy a couple happy beverages in one of the hilltop bars that overlook the incredible sights below. If it weren’t for the table’s umbrella providing some much-needed shade, I’m certain my thighs would still be stuck to the chair, after all, they were already stuck to each other.

Nice spot, me thinks.

White wine and beer, it doesn’t get better than this. (unless it’s more wine and beer)

We finished our drinks and decided to make our way down to the pier. Since my better half had never been on a cable car, he was somewhat eager to do it. It was an hour before we were due back on our ship so I knew we had plenty of time. That is, until we walked out onto the lane and discovered a lineup that extended down the hill from where we were standing and went all the way to what appeared to be the top of the hill.

Surely to god this wasn’t people waiting in line for the cable car. Was it?

It was.

Now I should point out that the village was seriously overcrowded because there were 3 cruise ships in when there was only supposed to be ours. One was diverted to Santorini because it couldn’t go to Israel as planned and the other was diverted from its scheduled arrival in Cairo. Go figure. Our tour guide told us there was an influx of over 6,000 people in a place usually reserved for 2,500.

We bypassed everyone in the line and went to the top of the hill just to see, if indeed, this was a line for something that perhaps, we didn’t want. We got to the top of the hill which opened up into a small square, dotted with shops and one heck of an angry group of people. The entire group of people would all start to shout when it looked like someone was butting in line. I scanned the group and saw a man who looked like he might be English speaking and by his outward appearances, he should have been jolly. I was wrong.

This guy was a near perfect cross between Shrek and Fat Bastard.

I asked him, “Excuse me, is this the lineup for the cable car or is everyone waiting for donkeys in order to go down the mountain?” He looked at me over his puffy cheeks and shouted, “The end of the line is down there.” I looked at him funny, “No, no, we don’t want to butt in, I just want to know if that’s what everyone here is waiting for.” He leaned in closer to me and shouted in my face, “THE END OF THE LINE IS THAT WAY.” Just then two other people looked to be butting in the line and suddenly the crowd became enraged. I looked at the fat man and said,”Do you know if the walkway down the hill is also this way?” He looked disapprovingly at me and said, “I don’t know, but even if it is, the end of the line is that way.” I wanted to punch him in the face. He sounded like a broken record and was shaped like a big fat donut. The crowd got even angrier at some other people and I looked at my better half and said, “Let’s get outta here before this gets really ugly.” I envisioned a mass riot breaking out at any minute and it was gonna start with me choking out the fat man with my shopping bag for being so rude. There was no need of that. None.

Two other english speaking couples were beside us as we started down the laneway. The man asked me if we knew if the “donkey trail” was this way. I told him that I’d hoped so because although our tour guide advised us against taking the donkeys down the hill, at this point I was willing to put a donkey on MY back if it was the only way down. Several restaurants and shops later we asked a local if this was the way to the trail and we were advised it was “just around the white building”. And that would have been helpful except they were all white. Lucky for us, you could soon follow your nose to the smell of barn animals which lead us directly to the rear end of several donkeys and the stairs down the side of the mountain on the other side of them.

Now, I should point out that while I love makeup, chocolate, gelato, and traveling, I also love high heeled shoes. Noooo, I wasn’t wearing them at this point, but I soon wished I was. Why, you ask? Because I was wearing flip flops and while they were certainly comfortable, I may as well have been wearing banana peels on my feet. The wide stairs that led down the mountain seemed to not only be constructed of extremely worn down and as a result, super shiny stones but were somewhat tilted on a downward grade. And what made this trek even more precarious was the fact that it was speckled every few metres with a fresh (or not so fresh) pile of donkey dung. All I needed was to slip on a rock and fall in donkey poop. That would have completed the trip for sure. I figured that with the tricky steps, a pair of high heels would have given me some traction at least.

Just a few steps…

Like my experience with the never-ending steps at the Eiffel Tower, these steps didn’t seem to end either. Mind you, with every step I was thankful that this was even an option to get to the bottom of the hill. Heaven forbid having to wait in that ridiculously long line up for the cable car amidst a sea of ornery people. No thanks. At least the people partaking in this mass exodus down the stairs were rather upbeat and found the experience humorous.

… and a few more…

By about the millionth step, I finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Actually, it wasn’t a light at all, but the sun reflecting off of one of the harnesses on a donkey, but hey, it felt spiritual at the time.) Alas, we’d reached the bottom. I gazed upward to the top of the hill, which made me dizzy, so I stopped. I wanted to kiss the ground, or kiss a donkey, or just kiss the side of the mountain for being so happy to have reached the pier before the ship had set sail, but I remembered all the poop I’d encountered and decided against that.

I was dripping with sweat, could feel my heart beating in my face and wondered if I was feeling the ill effects of sunstroke. Probably wasn’t sunstroke… it was what happens to people who don’t exercise and then overdo it every couple of years. Surely the temp outside was nearing 100 degrees, and I’d just completed enough exercise to last the rest of my life. My body must’ve been in shock from such a vigorous workout. (yessss, even though it was downhilllll… my body would still be in shock.) My legs felt rubbery as we made our way onto the tender to take us back to the ship.

I turned to my better half as our little tender left the dock headed for the ship. “I’m sooo glad we were able to walk down that mountain. I’d hate to be still in that lineup.” I said, enjoying the breeze off the water.

“Same here.” he replied. God he looked good… glistening from his trek down the hill… tiny beads of sweat on his neck… leg muscles all tight … wait, getting off topic here.

“I don’t want to see any more steps for a while.” I told him. And I was serious. No more steps. I was all for elevators, those moving sidewalks, escalators, or even being carried around – but no steps.

I spoke too soon…

….obviously someone in the cosmos is against me, because when we got back to the ship, the lineup for the elevators was seemingly just as long as the lineup for the darn cable cars back on the island.  Imagine my disgust at the very moment I realized we’d have to take the stairs to our cabin. That’s right, 8 whole decks of stairs.

Now that we’ve been home for two months and the weather is cold and I reflect back to that beautiful island, I’d gladly walk those steps every day just to be back there.  *sighhhhhh*  😀

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All things Eiffel Tower…

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Anyone who knows me, has been to my house, or has spoken to me for even five minutes knows that I love Paris (the city, not the flaky, talentless hotel heiress) and I love pretty much anything with the Eiffel Tower on it…. coasters, mugs, frames, plates, art, keychains, pens, magnets, etc. I have numerous mini-Eiffel Towers around the house and if I could find a big enough one, I’d put one in my backyard. I’m not kidding. 

The Eiffel on my mantle…

France was the first place my bud, Erin, and I landed on our multi-city European trip a couple of years ago. As a result, seeing the Eiffel Tower was my first real feel of Paris and I instantly fell in love.

After landing at the airport, it seemed like an airport in any city… planes, customs, luggage. Even outside, it was like any city. The trip on the train to the outskirts where the hotel was, again, seemed like any big city. We didn’t see too much of anything that indicated we were in France.  We ditched our luggage at the hotel and our guide took us onto the subway. Even at this point, it didn’t seem like Paris, it was just another city.

Countless stops later, we emerged from the darkened subway station to the downtown of Paris. I was awestruck. So much to see and the architecture was just incredible. Our guide stopped us in front of a building and said, “Do you want to see something very beautiful?” We beamed with excitement. She led us around the corner of the building, and there, in all the early morning’s glory stood the Eiffel Tower.

Me and the Eiffel

It was truly a magical moment. I was standing in Paris, France. I was looking at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Like, holy cow. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. Now, that being said, some of you might be saying, “She got excited over a silly metal tower in the middle of the city??” And you’d be right, except it’s the freakin’ Eiffel Tower, not McDonalds… the Eiffel Tower has been a symbol of Paris to all of us earthlings for decades. When I envisioned Paris all my life, I’d pictured the Eiffel Tower immediately… nothing else. In fact, it was all I really cared to see when I got there. I didn’t give any thought about the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Mont Martre.. pffft… I came to see the Eiffel Tower and here I was.

When talking to my sister one night before I went on the trip she said, “Oh wowww, you are going to be going to the Louvre when you are there.” I was like, “I sure am.” At this point I had no real idea what was in the Louvre, I mean I knew it was a museum and the Mona Lisa was there, but woop-dee-doo. Unless they sold makeup, I wasn’t too interested. “Oh the things you’ll get to see.” she said. My sister loves all things romantic, renaissance, victorian and historical. I like chocolate and makeup.

So anyway, back to standing looking at the Eiffel Tower I was speechless. Erin and I looked at each other and said, “NOW we know we are in Paris!!”

Suddenly it was like all the things I’d pictured about Paris had come to life. Everything was completely real and tangible. After numerous minutes of standing at Trocadero our guide told us we couldn’t come all this way and not go up the tower. We made our way to the base of the tower and were advised we could either take the elevator or the stairs. I was with my travel buddy, Erin, a.k.a “little-miss-fitness”.

“Come on, let’s take the stairs.” she said.

I looked up at this massive structure towering above us. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said.

This thing is high!

“No.” she replied, smiling. (Erin is an amazing travel bud because she never ever gets cranky. Ever. EVER. We’ve gone on three separate Europe trips together, spanning some 30 days worth of travel and she’s never once, even for a split second been in a bad mood. She considers every moment when travelling an “experience”… whether it’s delayed flights, bad meals, bad weather, you name it, she’ll smile through it. So like I said, she’s amazing to travel with. And if you’ve ever experienced travelling with someone not-so-great , then you know how incredible it is when you get someone good.)

“You want us to walk up the stairs to the top? Are you freakin’ kidding me? Do you realize how high this thing is?” I said. There was no way I was walking up the stairs. No way.

“Yes, I know how high it is. Anyone can take the elevator, but isn’t it better to say that you took the stairs on the Eiffel Tower? You can say you actually walked up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.”

She had a point. She won, and I hated it when she won. Before I knew it, we had started taking the stairs to the first level. I knew I wasn’t going to like this and I was right. Six or seven flights of stairs in and I was beat. My calve muscles were already strained, my back hurt, my hamstrings were burning with each step. At the top of each set of stairs you were greeted with yet another set of stairs. Erin hopped, jumped and danced up the stairs like this was a mere part in a broadway show. I really loathe her sometimes. (kidding)

As we ascended the tower, we met people on their way down. Jeez I wish I were them on the undoubtedly easier haul down the tower. They’d smile at Erin and give a thumbs up; they’d look sympathetically at me and ask if I needed first aid. I’d manage a breath and give them a forced smile, kinda like the smile you give someone when they ask you to try their cooking and you realize it’s absolutely disgusting as you take a mouthful but you can’t spit it out because they are staring at you in anticipation of rave reviews so you just smile and say “mmmm…it’s weeeally good and de-wi-cious” through the mass gunge in your mouth. Yah, well, that was my smile.

FINALLY, we reached the first level and boy was it worth it. The view was spectacular. Ahhh… I could get used to this place. Every angle was beautiful, from this side or that side. What a beautiful city!

View from tower… so pretty…

Erin circled the first floor snapping pictures from each side and finally came back around to where I was standing  gripping the side of the tower, too tired to move “Okay, time to hit the second floor now.” I looked at her like she was bonkers.

“You want to hit the 2nd floor today?” I asked. Now she looked at me like I was bonkers. “See, I was hoping we were going to camp out the night on this first level and then maybe hit the second one around mid-afternoon tomorrow.”

I was kidding of course, but thought I’d throw it out there. It didn’t work. I advised Erin that I’d just endured more exercise in the ascent to this floor than I’d had in the last 10 years and that I wasn’t even sure I was standing up because I couldn’t feel my legs except for the continuous Charlie Horse cramps that were going up and down my calves and thighs since the first flight of stairs. I don’t think Erin understands exercise related problems because well, she’s very active. She gets up at some rediculous time in the morning every day and goes jogging… even in the winter… in the dark. She doesn’t know the meaning of physical exhaustion. I had to think of a better excuse as to why I couldn’t do the ascent to the second floor. I know…. It’s against my religion to walk the stairs of foreign structures on Wednesdays in March. No that wouldn’t work. I know… I can’t walk up to the second floor of the tower because it reminds me of my beloved cat Fluffy who died while walking to the second floor of our house and it’s too painful to think about. Nah, not gonna work either. Erin may be an exercise-o-holic who doesn’t know pain, but she’s definitely sympathetic and knew I was serious about my super tired legs. She decided to go to the second floor by herself. What a trooper!

So even though the trek up the Eiffel Tower gave me sore muscles for the next three days, it was super worth it and is still my favorite thing in Paris, besides the food, the buildings, the hot chocolate and the people!

Me on the river boat cruise…. ahhhh….love this city.