6th September, 2015
The Blog will catch up with itself in a few days when we are in a position to update. Currently, we are travelling.
7th September, 2015
Early start. Up at 3.00 am and in the car by 4.00 am. At Heathrow – Terminal 5 Long Stay Car Park by 4.30 am and dropped our bags at British Airways desk by 5.00 am. We went through Passport Control and into Departures immediately. We have membership of all the private Lounges through our Bank. We went down to the Aspire Lounge & Spa and had breakfast – bacon and scrambled egg with coffee. The wi-fi there is excellent.
Our flight took off on time at 6.45 am and we arrived in Athens 10 mins early at 12.10 pm. Pauline had bought new, lime green cases which were easy to spot on the carousel when they came from the aircraft and we were soon walking across the concourse to the train for Syndagma. The temperature was 35C/95F. Five minutes later we were in our Hotel – The Electra Palace – and our suite. It was 2.30 pm by the time we took our suitcases up in the lift and put the kettle on for a cup of tea.
When we were settled, we went for a swim in the pool and a jacuzzi relax. We spent the best part of a hour there before returning for a shower and another relax. We went shopping for peanuts, bottles of wine and water. At 7.00 pm, we went to our favourite, street corner taverna. Pauline had grilled sea bass and I had grilled, large squid.
We shared a Greek Salad, garlic dip and bottle of white wine. It was delicious.
8th September, 2015
Up late today – 8.00 am (which is 6.00 am in UK). Went down for breakfast at 9.00 am. It was a struggle to eat. Returned to our room to read the paper but, by 11.00 am, we walked down to Monastiraki train station and took the train to Piraeus. Athens and the train were very quiet. Few tourist around anywhere. We got off at Piraeus Port station and walked the full arc of ferry docks. We ended up at the Zante Ferries boat for Sifnos – the Andreas Kalvos. That’s where we met up with our Sifnos friends.
Piraeus was different to any other time we have seen it in the past thirty five years. It was dead – the roads, pavements, docks were dead. The cafes which once thrived were all closed. The ticket offices largely gone. The trains were mainly empty. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, crowds of migrants appeared near the train station. They were affluent, controlled and business like. They were led by group leaders who handed out ‘stamped’ travel/identity documents. Everyone carried smartphones which were glued to their ears. Everyone was being directed to ‘Express to Germany’ coaches. Prices were being negotiated – calmly and quietly. These were not desperate people without money but confident, Middle Class people who had money to buy their freedom.
9th September, 2015
Wonderful day. Warm and sunny reaching 32C/90F. After a late breakfast, we set off on a walk to Kolonaki.
It was hot and sweaty by the time we arrived. Shops, restaurants and coffee shops followed by Embassies and more shops and then back to Syndagma. Coffee and newspapers in our hotel suite and then out to Monastiraki and the fruit sellers outside the station entrance. A bag full of big, fat, sweet figs and a kilo of green, seedless grapes cost under 3 Euros. We walked back to our hotel and feasted on fruit.
At 3.00 pm, we went down to the Spa Centre and spent an hour or more in the jacuzzi, pool and sauna. At 7.00 pm we went out to our favourite street corner taverna for Greek Salad, Skordalia (garlic sauce) and grilled salmon. The whole thing with a litre (kilo) of white wine cost 38 euros. This, in a capital city, is amazing.
10th September, 2015
Before breakfast, Pauline made a cup of tea and I tested my INR. It was a near perfect 2.7 which I immediately emailed to Woking Anticoagulation Department. It was 8.15 am in Greece so only 6.15 am in Woking but I got dosage advice by return email. Breakfast at 8.30 am today and then back to our room for coffee and newspapers. At 10.30 am, Pauline went to the Hairdressing Salon across the road –
She has been using it for the past 15 years and has her hair cut by the owner. Every time she books, an assistant rather gingerly whispers the price – this year it was €57.00/£41.00 – which is actually nearly half what she would pay at Sasson’s in London.
By mid day, we were walking down the shopping street which is Ermou and then through the Plaka, via the meat and fish market, where everything was so cheap but few were buying, to Omonia Square where the pavements and doorways were crowded with immigrants.
More than ever, Athens looked down-at-heel, impoverished and ill at ease with itself. So many shops and restaurants that we have frequented over the years have just disappeared and many remaining are quiet and desperate to draw tourists in. We walked back up Stadiou Street to Syndagma and back to our hotel for a cup of tea.
Mid afternoon, we had a good swim, jacuzzi and sauna. We fly back to London tomorrow afternoon. I’m a B.A. Club member and I use an app on my phone & iPad to manage our bookings. Using the app, I selected our seats – emergency exit/extra legroom, window and centre. Now, 24hrs before, we are ‘checking-in’ on-line and collecting our boarding passes on our mobile phones.
Just as we were about to go out Dinner, we received a phone call to say that our buyers had signed the contract for our apartment and will be paying the 10% deposit tomorrow. We were elated. Tonight we ate Greek Salad, Garlic Sauce and griddled Sea Bass all washed down with dry and ice-cold white wine. It was delicious. Our sweet was sweet, green grapes and a glass of ouzo. Heaven. When we got back to our hotel room, as usual, a chocolate in a small box was placed by either side of our bed.
11th September, 2015
A lovely morning – especially for retired teachers. Greek schools restart this morning. Across the block from our hotel, a local school has its windows flung open and the small school yard which is marked out as a basketball court, has been set up with a sound system. Trailing electrical leads snake down from an upstairs window to the microphone which will relay the speeches of a local dignitary, the Headteacher and the ubiquitous member of the Orthodox Church.
The television morning news programmes – and I favour the Skai channel’s Proti Grammi (First Programme), are playing heavily on shortages of teachers in Greece and the inability of some schools to reopen because of it.
Of course, we are playing heavily on the fact that we no longer need to teach. After breakfast, we finished packing, paid our bill and walked up to the Metro station at Syndagma. We took a clean and empty train to the airport for the extravagant (not) sum of Euros 14 for the two of us instead of a cramped and hairy journey by taxi for a minimum of Euros 40. At the airport, we immediately dropped our bags at the BA desk and went to the airside lounge – the Melina Mecouri Lounge – where we had comfortable seats, lovely free coffee and good wi-fi courtesy of our card membership.
We often complain about our monthly bank account charges but these Lounge facilities are worth it on their own. The charge would be £35.00 each – £70.00 – for every time we used them on this trip alone, we used three Lounges – potentially £210.00 – which is almost total, annual charge. The peace and quiet and free flowing red wine would make me want to pay it anyway.
We boarded our flight on time and without fuss. It always takes longer leaving Greece than arriving – something to do with prevailing winds. We set off at 2.45 pm (G.T.) and will land at 4.45 pm (B.T.).
We landed five minutes early, soon collected our bags. The Long Stay car park bus arrived and we were soon in our car. That is when we had our first hiccup. Our sat.nav. Proposed routing us on the M4 whereas we would have expected M5. Immediately, our screen flashed up 6 mile queues ahead. We returned to Terminal 5 and started again but this time forcing it to follow the M5. It was Friday night and rush hour so traffic was heavy and slow but we were home in half an hour.
12th September, 2015
Tired this morning but shopping called. We were in Sainsbury’s by 9.30 am. We have a trip to France next week but, now the legal process on the sale of our property has been accelerated, the timing is all wrong so we have to change our travel dates. I use Booking.com for the hotel bookings (naturally!). They make life so easy. We’ve managed to defer our hotel and channel tunnel crossing by three or four weeks which means we will have moved out by then. The proposed ‘Completion’ date on our property is Pauline’s birthday – October 5th. We will probably negotiate a couple of extra days and then bank the money and go away.
We are looking at taking an extended ‘sun’ holiday in November – three or four weeks – where we can be warm, swim outside, use a Health Club and walk along the beach. We are currently considering West coast Teneriffe in a hotel that bans children and has good quality internet provision. They don’t come cheap but at least that tends to ensure peace and quiet. Our neighbour near to us has an apartment out their and has been advising us on areas. We did go to Fuerteventura many years ago so a different Canary Island might be interesting while we are homeless.