9th November, 2014
Because of the midweek date of Bonfire Night, we have experienced Firework Parties for what seems like a week of nights. Hopefully, last night was the last. The gardener will spend all his time sweeping up autumn leaves liberally sprinkled with spent rockets this week.
Pauline is packing for Greece. We set off on Tuesday with an early start. I’m watching the football like all dutiful husbands do. Newcastle look to continue their recent revival with a 0-2 win over West Brom..
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10th November, 2014
We’re going back to Greece. It pains me to say so but Greece is in danger of spiralling back down in to Europe’s basket case. Greek industrial output fell 5.1 percent year-on-year in September. September’s drop was the seventh consecutive contraction in industrial output since February this year. Greek consumer prices fell 1.7 percent in October, with the annual pace of deflation accelerating from a 0.8 percent drop in September. Greece has been in deflation mode for the last 20 months as cuts in wages and pensions and a deep recession exert downward pressures. Like rats deserting a sinking ship, Greeks have been leaving their Homeland. Kalymnos has seen its population reduced by 30% to emigration – preferring Europe, the US and Australia.
The Samaras/Venizelos coalition government have been trying to persuade the electorate and, maybe, themselves that they can exit Troika control early and still get the support they need. It was never going to happen. Tsipras has spent the past twelve months telling a gullible and desperate electorate that he will cut taxes, raise pensions, raise salaries and all without EU help. It was never going to happen although some Greeks are so desperate that they’re prepared to believe anything.
We checked in for our flight this morning on our iPads. We haven’t flown for over four years and things have advanced so much. We have downloaded our Boarding Passes on our mobile phones to show at the gate.i
Early night and early start for the 20 minute drive to the airport tomorrow.
11th November, 2014
Left the house at 5.00 am and had a quick drive to the Long Stay car park at Heathrow Terminal 5. With on-line Check in, we swiped our mobile phones on the Check in readers and handed over our bags. We were in the air by 8.00 am and in Athens by 13.30. A wonderful B.A. flight. Before we could get down to Baggage Collect, our bags were there and waiting. We took the train to Syndagma. Soon we were in our favourite hotel – The Electra Palace. We have a three person room which has a sofa and plenty of room.
A welcome cup of tea and the newspapers, a shower and a snooze. Out into the busy streets of Athens to our favourite, street corner taverna for a meal of salad and fish. We drank too much wine and went back for coffee and a snooze. At 8.00 pm, we re-engage our struggle with the language of the evening news on Mega Channel.
12th November, 2014
Leisurely up this morning – not until 7.30 am. Standards are slipping! Cup of tea in our room and then a wonderful breakfast in the Breakfast Room. We are going out to do some business this morning. I’ve downloaded Google Maps App to our iPads and our mobiles so we can easily locate the offices we need. They are not far away. The weather is pleasant and mild. We will enjoy the walking. After that breakfast, we need the walking !
Spent all morning visiting various offices. Business fully completed. Feels good. The weather, however, feels distinctly humid. I find walking through city streets extremely tiring and, after four hours walking around in a busy Athens, I am depleted and perspiring in the moist air. We return to the hotel for a big cup of tea and the newspapers. Later, we will have a swim in the indoor pool.
Lovely, long swim in the spa pool followed by a jacuzzi session and a sauna. After our swim, our arms ached. We returned to our room and snacked on some salted peanuts we bought while out and washed them down with a lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (Greek). We won’t eat again today. Must have an early night.
13th November, 2014
A really enjoyable day – especially for Pauline. It is a warm and sunny morning here and we are up at 7.00 am for a cup of tea. By 8.30 am, we go down for Breakfast. Unfortunately, we can no longer do it justice but it is nice trying. This morning is shopping. Last time we were here in July, Pauline bought three pairs of shoes. Today, after touring every leather manufacturer in Athens, she bought three handbags.
I am delighted. Pauline is happy and the prices in Athens are so cheap that I am happy too.
We were out shopping for about four hours – nearly more than a real man can take. Back at the hotel, I was allowed to drink coffee and read my paper before heading off to the Spa downstairs for a long swim, jacuzzi and sauna. After that, I needed a beer in our room. Later, around 5.00 pm, we went out to eat at Taverna Paradosiako. We’ve been going there for years but only noticed Matt Barratt’s recommendation recently.
It is a delightful and reliable taverna on the corner of Voulis and Nikodimou where pedestrians jostle past tables spilling out on the the walkway. Immediately across the road is a car park and vehicles jostle for space with stray cats. Sophisticated? Not! In fact, no one in their right mind would give it a second glance – unless they were experienced in Greek tradition. This taverna is wonderful. It is family run with lovely serving girls and really excellent food. It is just on the corner from our hotel – The Electra Palace. Here we ate the sweet flesh of grilled Sea Bream, with skordallia (garlic sauce) and fava (bean dip). The whole experience of eating, people watching and cold, white wine is intoxicating and one I will never tire of.
14th November, 2014
A prolonged and violent thunder storm circled Athens in the early hours. Everything feels and smells fresher. I really can’t take much more BREAKFAST! However, I have tried for Pauline’s sake. After breakfast, we went out to the Post Office in Syndagma to buy some stamps and post some letters.
The Post Office in Greece encapsulates all that is wrong with the country. Sloppily run on old world principles of ‘the customer is usually wrong’ and should be kept waiting while I get my coffee. Who do they think they are. They’re only customers. We get a ticket with number 112 on it. A lady with 111 stands in front. Nobody comes to the window. We wait ten minutes. The Greek Lady – 111 – gets increasingly exasperated. Eventually, I get a second ticket from a second machine and wait another ten minutes to speak to another operative by which time the first window begins to serve Lady 111 with steam coming out of her ears. What is amazing is that nothing seems to change. Nobody in the organisation seems bothered or proactive. No wonder Greeks are hardened, cynical people.
Check Out at 12.00 Noon and off to the Airport by train. The Airport trip is quick, comfortable and easy and costs 7.00€ as opposed to a taxi journey of 50.00€. Why would you do it? At the airport, we had already checked in on-line and got our boarding passes on our mobiles. We have Business Class Lounge entry from our bank account. At Landside, we went to the Gold Air Lounge where we had free services of wi-fi, wine and food in comfort.
After going through Passport Control to Airside, we went to the Aristotle Onassis Lounge which was even more relaxing.
It did provide a pleasant atmosphere to while away a few hours with free drink and food in peace and comfort. As we sat in the Lounges, we watched the rain clouds move in and envelop the airport. We had read of torrential rain on the M25 in UK causing subsidence already.
Our flight was on time, comfortable and quick. London was dry when we landed and we were soon driving the 20 minutes to our home. It was as if we had never been away!
15th November, 2014
A lovely, sunny but, initially, sharp morning. We had both slept well and don’t seem to be suffering from the two hour Time Zone shift. We had to be up at 7.00 am because Pauline has a hospital appointment for a scan. St Peter’s Hospital is delightful, smart and bright. All the people we come in to contact with are pleasant and helpful. Pauline’s scan immediately confirmed what she already suspected that she is full of gallstones. The next question is how they will be dealt with.
On the way home, we stopped at Addlestone Tesco and bought lots of fish – fresh trout and mackerel. Whenever we return from Greece these days we seem to buy more fish. Talking about Greece, it is astonishing at the level of interest the media has put in John Major’s words to European Leaders about his belief that the chances of UK leaving the EEC were 50%/50%. I was surprised to find him so optimistic. Indeed, a leading financial house remarked today that there was a chance that Europe would cease to exist before UK got round to leaving it.