Sunday, 4th September, 2016
It’s nice to start a new week with a Lottery win ………. even if it is only £25.00/€30.00. It will buy us a reasonable bottle of wine in Athens.
Quite a breezy night here although a warmish 18C/65F. I have to do the hovering this morning. I’ve done it once last week. How clean does the house have to be? The tomatoes and peppers are destined for chutney when we get back from our travels. The basil might just yield one more pack of pesto and the tarragon may go though the winter. It will be interesting to see.
We have booked a month Half Board in a Luxury 5* Hotel in Tenerife for November. Even as we did this, we were keeping our fingers crossed that it would be the sort of hotel we like. It was reassuring today as I read the Sunday Times – Travel Section to find that the weekly prize this week is 5 days B&B in exactly the same hotel. I
The hotel has a number of restaurants, a number of pools – including a salt water one – and a Fitness Centre. It has Wi-Fi throughout and easy access to neighbouring areas. We are looking forward to sun and warmth with plenty of activity and four weeks spent surrounded by Sunday Times readers.
Monday, 5th September, 2016
Left our house at 1.00 am and set off for Gatwick Long Stay Carpark. Everyone should travel at this time in the morning. The roads are a delight. By 2.30 am, we were in the airport just as heavy rain began to fall.
Travelling by air is so easy nowadays even by Easyjet. Buy on-line; choose seats on-line; check-in on-line. Even the bag drop in the airport is now done on-line and a luggage label generated by machine printers. Travellers have to attach their own labels and put them on to the conveyor belt.
We flew on time at 5.30 am and arrived 30 mins early after a lovely flight interrupted by a brief bout of turbulence which I largely slept through. Arriving in Athens just after 10.30 am, our cases were off almost instantly. The airport was very, very quiet. We walked across the road to the train station and paid €8.00 each to Syndagma. Why would you go by taxi? An hour later, we were walking across Syndagma Square and the short walk to our hotel, calling at a corner shop for a bottle of wine and some peanuts.
Our hotel is the 5* Electra Palace Hotel where we have stayed for years. They are nice people who provide a good service in a comfortable hotel although it is rather dated. The Electra Group have bought the building next door which, ironically, used to house the Teachers’ Centre. They have built a beautiful and luxurious new hotel called the Electra Metropolis. It doesn’t open for a couple of weeks but we managed to have a look and speak to the Night Manager en route to our restaurant this evening. We were walking to our favourite street side taverna which we’ve been visiting since it first opened 20 years ago.
If you walked past Evgenia Taverna as a first time visitor to Athens, you wouldn’t look twice. On the corner of a normally busy road and opposite a normally busy Carpark, this restaurant is a quintissential Athens taverna. Family run, this hotel is basic, tasty and moderately priced with friendly people running it.
We had a Greek Salad and Skordalia followed by Sea Bass for Pauline and Kalamarakia Tiganita for me. We were offered fruit to fish our meal but just couldn’t manage it. Walked back to our hotel to watch Greek News and have a much needed early night.
Tuesday, 6th September, 2016
Didn’t wake until 7.15 am. Must have been catching up on lost sleep. The Internet wi-if here is good and we quickly download our newspapers before going down to breakfast. The hotel seems quieter than usual. The airport yesterday was very quiet and so was the train to Athens. The Syndagma area was quiet and the taverna we ate at had tables aplenty. What is going on? Official figures report record arrivals at the airport. Our eyes suggest some scepticism.
We went down to Piraeus to meet friends from Sifnos. It was a shocking trip. The vandalism of the Metro and the areas it runs through is much more extreme than previously. Piraeus itself is shockingly ‘shut down’ as all those ticket offices and cafes we frequented have disappeared. There is just one remaining cafenion and that was quiet. The port itself had few takers for ferries although, admittedly, it was past the early morning rush. However, we have seen it much busier than this.
We returned to Athens and Pauline went on the customary search for shoes and leather belts. We have some suppliers that she returns to consistently but she only purchased a couple of belts today. And back to the comfort of our hotel.
We had to be rescued by a technician this morning after the room safe failed to open. We had stored 2 x iPad, a Kindle, our sets of Bank cards, €2000.00, 2 x smart phones. It turns out that the batteries needed replacing in the back-up lock.
We went for a swim and jacuzzi and then relaxed with a lovely bottle of red wine and some peanuts.
We went for a walk and then out to eat – Salad, Green Beans, Chicken and Garlic Sauce. Soon we were absolutely stuffed. As we were eating, the skies opened and rain bucketed down. Just as suddenly, it stopped and the sun came out. We walked back to our hotel for coffee.
Wednesday, 7th September, 2016
Woke up and thought I was dead. Couldn’t feel any of my extremities. It was so warm last night that Pauline set the air con to freezing. It worked. The man next to her and who sleeps on top of the sheets was frozen with rigor mortis. There was light rain in the air and all those who normally breakfast in the garden were moved into the Breakfast Room putting pressure on tables and serving staff.
We have been led to believe that monsoon conditions could be in force today so we have planned to visit the Acropolis Museum in Dionysiou Aeropagitou Street. We have never been before. In fact, it was 30 years of visiting Greece before we actually went round the Acropolis itself. I’m sorry to report that I was completely underwhelmed and I don’t have great hopes of today but I will go with an open mind.
Well, the rain didn’t really materialise. Apparently, it badly savaged the southern Peloponnese but left Athens alone and soon blue skies and strong sun returned. However, we pressed on with our trip to the museum in dull light and threats of rain. Most tourists had heard the weather forecast and decided to brave the museum trip themselves. We found ourselves in a huge building and paying the princely sum of €5.00 each to walk round a pile of old stones with a large and smelly mass of humanity. I told you I would keep an open mind.
Really, after you’ve looked and marvelled at 20 old pots, statues, stone horses and dogs, the mind begins to drift. I find myself people-watching. I’m much more interested in the living than the dead. I met this gorgeous girl on my way. She’s not set in stone! She might be one day if she pre-deceases me which is unlikely.
We did the whole museum although we rather ran round the second floor as our interest waned. It took us 30 years in Greece to visit the Acropolis itself never mind the museum. Actually, if you talk to most Athenians, you find they have not been their either.
Went out to eat at 8.00 pm. We had whitebait, fried baby squid, garlic sauce, Fava (bean dip) and a Ltr of white wine and the bill came to just €37.00/£31.00. We were stuffed and we walked back to the hotel to watch ERT News about the flooding in Kalamata and drink coffee in comfort.
Thursday, 8th September, 2016
Lovely, sunny and warm morning. We went down to breakfast although neither of us can eat much more. After a while reading our newspapers, we walked down to the Dimotiki Agora to buy large packets of herbs – particularly oregano and bay leaves. Half a kilo of dried, Greek oregano for €5.00/£4.20 will get us through until our next visit.
On the walk back, Pauline managed to buy three more leather belts of different colours. How many belts does one woman need? I bought three post cards to send to our friends in the North. I bought them from a periptero but, of course, they don’t supply stamps. You have to go to the Post Office for those.
In central Athens, the Post Office is always packed. We just wanted three stamps. Many people wanted to send money or receive money, send parcels, have business envelopes franked. There must have been 4o people queuing up as we arrived and got our number ticket. It was NUMBER 255. We got it at 12.53 pm. By 1.30 pm, we were still queuing. A man who had been there for an hour gave up the will to live and left. As he walked out, he gave us his number. It was NUMBER 249. The sign still showed for customer NUMBER 225. Later, someone else handed us ticket NUMBER 242. The sign was calling NUMBER 230. Workers were having chats, going off to get coffees and the customers just waited patiently. It was like a scene out of 1960s Britain.
Eventually, after we had had a long chat with other customers who all apologised for the state of modern Greece and I even had a discussion about Lord Byron with one poor, disabled woman who was lucky to find a seat, we got served. Most of us were standing for about an hour in hot and sweaty conditions and some of us for three stamps for postcards to England. It is hard to defend this position in the age of Internet, mobile phones glued to every Greeks heads, satellite televisions, etc, etc. Why does it take humans to dispense stamps? It can only be to protect jobs. And the poor, Greek people continue to be battered down by these anomalies.
Actually, I’ve since been contacted by a Greek reader of the Blog. He wrote: You can order your stamps online and receive them at home during the endless English winter so next time you’re in Athens you won’t have to queue. Thanks for that, Nikos!
Friday, 9th September, 2016
After Breakfast – please make it the last! – we went up to the roof garden and sat around the pool reading our newspapers until around 11.30 am. It was hot and we were glad to return to our room and complete our packing before going down to the Lobby to check-out. We walked up to the Metro at Syndagma after using the hotel’s Wi-Fi for a while. The metro was very busy. We had to stand for quite a few stops before a seat became available. There were still plenty of beggars hopping on and off the train – accordion players, tissue sellers, cup holders, biro sellers, etc.. Eventually, we reached the airport stop and crossed into the departures concourse. Our flight bag drop was going to be available in a couple of hours. We went upstairs to the restaurant to have lunch. It’s called LA PASTERIA but we had sea bass fillets and salad.
We used two, business lounges. The first on Landside – Aristotelis Onasis Lounge – and on airside – Melina Mercouri Lounge. They are delightful with a free buffet of wine and food plus internet services and charging points for our iPads plus quiet relaxation. Our time passed too quickly and we were soon down to gate. The walk there is about 20 minutes.
The wait at gate was, once again, short and we were soon flying. EasyJet flights have come a long way. Also, in the early days, flights could be up to 4 hrs 20 mins to Athens. This time, our flight was 3 hrs 10 mins and quite delightful. We watched a wonderful and prolonged lightening display en route and landed at London Gatwick at just after 10.00 pm. A shuttle bus to the Long Stay Car Park and we drove home for 11.40 pm.
Saturday, 10th September, 2016
It is shocking to recall that today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Pauline’s brother, Jack, who is pictured here with their mother.
In bed by 1.00 am this morning, we were up at 7.30 am and on a tour of four supermarkets for our weekly shop – Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Tesco. Food to feed us for a month. The weather here is forecast to be in the 30sC/upper 80sF this week. We are both tired after travelling and don’t feel like doing much today. Our next door neighbours are off to Australia so we have been left in charge. We have the responsibility of watering plants and organising rubbish collections.
I must be getting old. Found myself watching and enjoying the Last Night of the Proms. I even caught myself joining in with the singing of Jerusalem. I really must be more careful!