My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Athens)

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And we’re back!  Well, we were back two days ago, but serious jet lag and disorganization has prevented me from making this announcement in a timely fashion.  There is a nine-hour time difference between Alberta and Athens.  We flew into the future and then back into the past.  That can really mess with your equilibrium.

My holiday started on the 10th of May with a packed four-hour fight to Toronto (on which there were many screaming babies). (I remember those days of travelling with small children and don’t miss them much).   It was 1 degree C. in Edmonton when I left, and 19 in Toronto when I arrived there.  I kept a travel journal and actually wrote this shit down.  With a lot of other extraneous information about my luggage and boarding pass and some big scary dude sitting in my assigned seat in error, and taking a shuttle bus to the hotel and waiting for family to arrive.  Also there was a lady in the elevator with me at one point who would have shared her life story with me if the ride had been longer.  She was off to somewhere to pick up more beer.  I never saw her again.

Yes, it’s going to be that kind of travel log, so feel free to bail at any time if you were expecting intelligent discourse and historical information about points of interest.   I also take photos through bus windows while wearing polarized sunglasses.  With surprising results.  Remember that not all surprises are good ones.

Our party of six (including me, my sister Ann, her two daughters A and K, my sister-in-law J and her son Andy) were at the airport on Sunday at noon, baggage checked and all of us through security for our 3:40 departure.  I have no idea why it’s necessary to be there so early.  But there are lots of wonderful internet café type lounges at the Toronto airport so we consumed many beers and much wine before boarding our transatlantic flight and soaring off into Monday morning.  One o’clock in the morning our time suddenly turned into eight a.m. in Athens, and one night of sleep vanished into thin air.

While we waited for our rooms to be ready our Transat guide Thanasis booked all of us for a city tour by bus and a hike up a steep hill to see the Acropolis/Parthenon.  This seemed like a great idea at the time, and turned out to be very educational.  It taught me that I’m too old for all-nighters when the next day involves hill climbing via great long flights of winding stone steps in the hot sunshine.  My neice A referred to these sites as the Apocalypse and the Pentagon.  I wish she had kept a journal.  I think it would have been way more interesting than mine.

At this historic ruin Andy and Ann both bought table cloths that neither of them really needed from a lady highly skilled in the art of selling things to tourists who are suffering from sleep deprivation.  People like her were everywhere with booklets and postcards and souvenirs.  Sometimes it was very hard to say no.

Back at the hotel we had a late (early) supper, depending on your time zone, and I enjoyed my first of many Greek Salads.  If you don’t like tomatoes and cucumbers, you should not visit Greece.  They are in just about everything.  My salad also had black olives and capers and a slice of feta cheese the size of my face.  It was delicious. So was the wine.

And then we slept.

On the 13th we walked to a subway station and figured out how to get to Plaka and the Athens Flea Market.  What an amazing place.  It was so amazing that I didn’t take any pictures of it except for this fruit stand.  And I didn’t remember until halfway through the day (after glancing at my watch) that it was my birthday.  There were walking streets filled with shops and stalls selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, books, bags, leather, hats, scarves, shoes…an endless list.Greece 2014 026
We had my birthday lunch at a place called the Bush Bar where our waiter helped us decipher the menu.  We sat outside on a quiet little side street across from two men smoking and playing an intense game of backgammon in front of their store which sold wooden chairs.  It was a slow chair day I guess.

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Here’s a travel tip.  Take a chef like Andy along with you to a new country.  He was super enthusiastic about trying every dish specific to Greece and was often able to identify mysterious ingredients in whatever we ordered.  I don’t remember having one bad dining experience even when the menus had very little English on them and we pronounced everything wrong.

Later we went up to the roof top bar of the hotel to take some photos, and then walked a few blocks to the Big Bad Wolf Souvlaki Bar to eat AGAIN because, you know, some time had passed….  We did not go hungry.  The night life in Athens is busy and noisy, although we were assured it is one of the safest cities to wander around in after dark.  There were people and smart cars and motorcycles everywhere, families with little kids, buses, taxis, everything open for business, nobody in a hurry to go home to sleep.

Although maybe we should have been, with a bus to our first ferry to catch at 5:00 a.m.