summer flashback :: dinner above olympia


As you know, I grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee, and where we live now, in Coastal Virginia, it's...  F L A T. Seriously, our highest point is an area called Hilltop which is like 9 feet above sea level. So, it felt really, really lovely to travel the hills of Greece.

The bus ride was wind-y and at times terrifying, but it was really lovely. After our trip to Olympia, our group headed high into the hills above the historic site for another lovely dinner.

I could do a whole post on our dinners in Greece, actually. They were the best part. I know I've talked before about how the organizers of the conferences go out of their way to find local spots with gorgeous, abundant, authentic food. Emphasis on abundant. Above Olympia the mezze was plentiful: platters of eggplant, lamb, insalata. The food kept coming. And, again, this was all before the entree! The wine was copious and the food more so. And then there was the view. We were perched high on the hillside, looking down into the valley where the original Olympians competed, and as the food came to us in waves, the sun slowly went down and the lights grew brighter and twinkled along the the mountainside.

The dinners can be hard too. A lot of science talk. Over our heads a bit for me and Cal. But people start to relax (the wine helps) and the talk flows as freely as the food. Regularly we sit at the table with men and women from all parts of the world. Italian, Swiss, German, French, Iranian, South American, Asian... Really. I could go on and on. So we share things. Like how early (or late) the sun sets. Or how much gas costs. Or who eats lamb and who eats beef. Whose kids start school in September and whose kids go year round. Science fades away for all but a stalwart few as cultural differences, and more importantly, similarities are shared.

Cal was taught some snippets of Swedish and Italian, and I taught one woman who spoke no English at all how to use her phone camera and edit a photo. It was great.

Because of scheduling issues, this same meeting will be held in the fall next year. If Neel can go (it always boils down to funding), we're torn. It's fall, and right at the start of school for Cal and Neel too) It's hard to miss school, for sure, and still. When I think about what he could gain by traveling to Greece even during the school year, I think about those dinners.

another view {life}

How many pictures can I take of the same of the same view? More than this, I promise. I took you to our beach last week, and it's past time I get us back around the world and share some shots from our trip to Greece and Italy back in June.

The resort where we stayed was near Olympia, right on the Ionian Sea. I have some pictures of the resort, and some funny stories about it too, that I'll share with you soon, but first I want to show you this glorious water.

We had some waves the first day, but they were little, even by the standards of what we refer to our Atlantic Ocean: Lake Virginia Beach. After that, placid skies and placid seas. Bracing water. I'm not sure if it was the time of year or the weather pattern that met us there, but the skies were soft, almost hazy, every day, even with low humidity. We could just make out mountains rising from the water, far in the distance, and occasionally a cruise ship would hulk slowly off shore.

The water changed color daily and was always crystal clear. Shallow and buoyant beyond belief, we marveled at how easily we floated and how far down we saw our wiggling toes.

Cal forcefully took on the water every chance he could. He kayaked every day. He swam, he dove. I met him in the water, moving more slowly, but so grateful for each buoyant float. I'm a floater more than a diver, I suppose.

Every day I walked the curve of land that hugged our hotel. Turn left, you hit the resort. Rows of white umbrellas waiting for families to take cover. Turn right and almost immediately you're in rural, coastal Greece. Fishing families with ragged homes perched along the shore. Tarp covered patios, barking dogs. These are no coastal hideaways. Fancy and designed for vacationers. These are the homes of working men and women. Scrappy and held together with twine and wire.

I always turned right when I went to walk.

The day after we learned that Violet died, I took this walk, my feet sinking into cool sand, the calm sea a gentle slap against the shore. It was glassy, smooth and serene, balm to my breaking heart. I walked all the way to that tiny cove, where boats bobbed and one lone swimmer broke the surface with a steady stroke. If I ever needed a message that the sea and the sand starts to heal me, this walk was it. I was still heartbroken, my emotions were still raw, but with this water alongside me, I was walking on.