Grilled souvlaki, dreamy chocolate and savory haggis, oh my

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A certain level of apprehension rises every time I prepare to go on holiday. It comes from the need to write items ahead to fill daily Etcetera columns while I’m away and the prospect of an email inbox bursting at the seams upon my return. The upside is the inbox is jammed with news to keep me busy sharing with our community.

This time, after three weeks overseas with my dad, Donn Charnley, and his dear companion, Corinne Waters, there were 350 or so missives awaiting my attention when I got back to my desk on June 18.

It took seven hours to open, read through, sort and copy, cut and paste all the great items that came in during my absence.

It takes time and space to get everything in, usually in the order in which they’re submitted — plus fresh items arrive daily — so I appreciate the patience exercised by contributors and sources.

My folks sailed around the Aegean Sea for seven days aboard the four-masted Sea Cloud before I flew to meet them in Athens, Greece, in late May.

Every day when we headed out to explore, the iconic Acropolis and its temples, built in the fifth century B.C., loomed nearby. We found a delightful family-owned cafe, which hosted us to superb grilled lamb/souvlaki and veggies, seafood dishes and yogurt with honey.

We had bed and breakfast arrangements at each of our hotels, including the Philippos in Athens, and usually had a banquet of offerings on which to fuel up before heading out.

To avoid being baked by the sun, we climbed the Acropolis trail early in the day and beat the crowds to see the Parthenon, currently being reconstructed. The panoramic view of a city of more than 4 million people is breathtaking. A brown haze filled the sky, but rather than smog, it was dust from sand storms in North Africa.

Nosing through the archaeological Acropolis Museum we looked at findings from the hilltop site across the road. In it are artifacts found on the rock and on its feet, Wikipedia notes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. Glass floor panels reveal working archaeological digs of Makrygianni and the ruins of part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens.

The Parthenon’s colonnades were mostly destroyed by Venetian bombardment in the 17th century. Wikipedia notes that “2,675 tons of architectural members were restored, with 686 stones reassembled from fragments of the originals, 905 patched with new marble, and 186 parts made entirely of new marble.”

We flew to Zurich, Switzerland, and caught the train to Basel, on the northern border with Germany, to visit Corinne’s 102-year-old governess. They last saw one another when Corinne was 7 and living with her family on their coffee plantation in Tanzania. Anna Maria Schwarz-Nobel was sharp that day and shared many lovely memories with us.

While in Basel, we boarded electric trollies that ran through the square bordered by our hotel, the train station and other hotels, in order to see the town and countryside. Famous Swiss chocolate was on the menu, along with soaked meusli and yoghurt.

Back in Zurich we connected with Corinne’s cousin Franz Liebermann and his lovely family and friends. They celebrated his birthday with a dinner and honored me, too, as Franz and I both are June 3 babies.

Landing in Manchester, England, we rented a car and drove the harrowingly narrow roads of the Lake District to the Bridge Hotel in Buttermere. Our delightful, gracious cousins Tom and Jenny Charnley of Preston, England, joined us there for a few days in the country and a side trip to Cockermouth. There we toured the childhood home of writer-poet William Wordsworth.

It was our good fortune to have beautiful, sunny weather, a phenomenon for which the Swiss, Scots and Brits were starved. Weeks of rain had swollen their rivers near to flooding in places and residents were uplifted by the blue skies and warmer days.

Everywhere we went, we found the hotel staff, including concierges, to be most kind, helpful and awesome with tired travelers such as us.

I drove us to Edinburgh, Scotland, (say Ed-in-brr-uh) — on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car — and must say that our Garmin Nuvi GPS was a godsend for navigating the city streets, wrong turns and construction that occasionally stymied our intended route.

From the Thistle Hotel in a made-over Georgian home, we ventured forth to walk the city and spent hours at Edinburgh Castle, saw the crown jewels and shopped in the stores that have all things Scottish, from kilts to Gaelic jewelry.

One day we caught a tour bus and in a 12-hour junket drove north to Loch Ness, boarded a boat and heard about the geology of the area and world-renowned “monster” Nessie. We climbed in elevation high enough for several ski resorts, which were snow-capped until a week before we arrived, in the drive north to Inverness.

En route I ate haggis, overcoming a squeamishness to eat sheep’s stomach stuffed with mutton and oatmeal. It was surprisingly savory, what with the onions, coriander, mace, nutmeg and modern addition of brie. And I don’t think the haggis roll version my companions shared had the innard as an ingredient.

Leaving the country of my paternal Scots great-grandfather Guy Lindsay, we traveled three hours by train south along England’s east coast to London. We base-camped at Bailey’s Millennium Hotel in Kensington, one of the city’s earliest privately built hotels, constructed between 1874-1876.

Everywhere we stayed, I took the stairs four or five flights down to increase my exercise. According to my pedometer, we covered three to four miles every day taking in the sights and museums, a great way to offset our gourmet dining experiences.

We toured museums to see Assyrian, Egyptian and Greek artifacts, took a hop-on-hop-off bus around the city and hiked through the Tower of London, an ancient castle on the north bank of the River Thames that houses the glittering crown jewels.

It is said a distant maternal relation of mine, William the Conqueror, began building the massive stone tower at the center of his London fortress in the early 1080s. For hundreds of years afterward, other monarchs added to the fortifications.

Leaving our Charnley ancestors’ birth nation, I flew home from Heathrow Airport via Minneapolis to Pasco and figured the reason I was a walking zombie was I’d been awake for at least 18 hours.

It was a trip of a lifetime. Everywhere we went was new to me. I got to spend time with my dad and Corinne — noteworthy, as we’re all so busy. We mingled with friends, family and new acquaintances from Athens to England and experienced the culture in these marvelous countries.

Coming from a 175-year-old community (old by West Coast standards) I reveled in the history and antiquities, some dating to Christ’s birth or well before.

Yet, stuffed email inbox or no, I’m happy to be home with family, for living out of suitcases and being away from loved ones is better done in smaller doses.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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