Week 455

Sunday, 10th September, 2017

An alternatingly grey and damp/warm and sunny day. As the day has developed, the former has disappointingly ousted the latter. I have been doing the usual Sunday things – political programmes, newspapers, household chores. I even vacuumed the house from top to bottom. I also think I’ve found a replacement hotel for November but, as we’re going away, I’ll ponder it for a while. If it’s gone by the time we get back, so be it.

The government continues to oscillate over its Brexit policy but there is one thing it seems fairly settled on – The British people voted against ‘free movement of people’. Europe says that the corollary to this is exit from the Free Market and the Customs Union. It also means that there will be an equal and opposite reaction from Europe. Travel and work for the British in Europe will be equally difficult. It may involve other reciprocal rights we currently expect like medical treatment. This is not going to be a comfortable settlement although the Little Englanders will be happy. Expats won’t!

Monday, 11th September, 2017

Up at midnight to drive to Gatwick for our flight to …. (whisper it) …. Europe. We have an early flight and arrive in Athens just after 11.00 am. Snatched a few hours sleep and will make the rest up on the plane. It is a blustery but dry and moonlit night. Should be a fun drive.

Really enjoyed the drive to Gatwick Airport Long Stay Carpark which took about an hour. We were picked by the circular bus immediately and whisked off to the North Terminal. We were flying with EasyJet which has the UK’s worst record for delays. The service today was wonderful, slick and impressively quick. We had booked our seats in advance on-line as we had checked in on-line. All we had to do was drop off our bags. We did that ourselves  at the automatic machine which weighed our case, printed out our luggage label and despatched our case for loading on the plane. The trip through safety checks was swift – although it was 4.00 am admittedly.

We went straight to No 1 Lounge on airside where we got fast broadband, coffee and bacon sandwiches in delightful comfort and peace. We were so relaxed that we almost forgot to go to Gate which was a 10 mins walk away. We walked straight on and sat down in seats with ‘extra leg room’. We took off right on time for a flight of 3 hrs 35 mins. Which landed 10 mins early in Athens. The only hiccup was the really bad turbulence as we crossed the Alps.

As we queued to get off the plane, I got into conversation with a couple who said they were staying in Athens for a couple of nights before setting off for the islands. Where are you going? I asked. You won’t have heard of it.  they said. It’s a small island called Sifnos.We’re staying in a little, 2* hotel in Kamares. We told them that not only did we know it but we knew the Poison Dwarf who runs it. Having done our job for the day, we collected our bag and got on the first Metro train that arrived to get to Syndagma. It was quite busy.

We walked through the Autumn sunshine – 29C/84F – to our hotel which was just being completed this time last year. The Electra Metropolis is one of three we now use in Athens along with the Electra and the Electra Palace. We checked in to our room and went for a swim. Delicious! After that, we had a snooze and then went out for a walk. At 9.00 pm, we went out to our favourite, street corner taverna. Eugenia’s Taverna on the corner of Voulis Street.

Greek Salad with griddled Sea Bass and Sea Bream was a wonderful way to finish the day and we waddled happily back to the hotel and had coffee. Tomorrow will be a big, walking day so we need an early-ish night.

Tuesday, 12th September, 2017

Up at 8.00 am (6.00 am BST) to listen to Today. Outside, the temperature was 23C and, by the time we went for Breakfast had reached 25C. I took this photo on the Breakfast Room balcony. By the time we had gone back to our room to prepare for the day, the temperature had reached 27C. We slapped on the sun cream and asked the hotel to get us a taxi to Lycabettus Hill funicular.

Arrived at the Furnicular/Teleferik which goes up the hill every 30 mins. It was leaving in 5 mins. We bought return tickets for both of us coming to 15 Euros. The journey is 90 secs. The view as you step off the train is spectacular. With Athens laid out before us and the Parliament building next to the National Gardens in the foreground, Saronic Gulf in the background, it is a delightful sight.

We spent half an hour or so walking round and taking photographs and then took the furnicular back down. We are not natural sightseers and rarely stay long. We decided to walk back to our hotel – down the glassy, marble steps to Kolonaki and past the Embassy area where something was happening and forcing the police to close streets to traffic, local television companies to send out news gathering teams with small groups being videoed for the news. It might be just the upcoming transport strike but it could be something more sinister.

The walk back took no time at all – maybe 20 mins although it was hot and sweaty work in strong sun and 33C/91F temperatures. We stopped off at the periptero to buy iced bottles of sparkling water to replace and rehydrate.

We went to sit round the pool at the top of our hotel where we relaxed and enjoyed the sun. Later we went back to our room for a shower and to read our iPads. It really is annoying that the iPad is virtually unusable in sunshine.

Wednesday, 13th September, 2017

Up and outside for Breakfast in 28C/82F this morning. The bad news is that there is a transport strike here tomorrow. We will have to go by taxi. Still that is cheaper and more reliable in today’s Athens than it was even 5 years ago. Today is a wandering, shopping, mooching day.

We started our meandering walk towards Omonia Square at about 10.00 am. The temperature had risen to 31C/88F and a little more humid than yesterday. We walked down  Mitropoleos Street and past the Cathedral/Duomo that has been under reconstruction for many, many years. Lo and behold! It was free of scaffolding and restored to the building that we first viewed in 1980.

We walked through the streets of hawkers pedalling tawdry goods to people who couldn’t really afford them. We revisited haunts that we used to visit when we were furnishing our Greek house. Little has changed although there did seem to be an increase in tourist eating places. There are noticeably less beggars on the streets although there are still some. There are lots of Chinese and Japanese tourists and many less Americans than usual.

The city is still that awkward mix of ancient and tawdry. Our hotel, The Electra Metropolis,  is a brand new 5 star hotel in the heart of the city. It is situated at the beginning of Mitropoleos Street next to Syntagma Square. We have known the building for many years as the Ministry of Education. We have seen hordes of teachers protesting outside about their pay or lack of it. The building was designed by the famous architect Patroklos Karantinos. The basement of the building houses its own remarkable cultural attraction viewed through the glass pavement – the remains of the Themistoclean Wall which surrounded ancient Athens.

Thursday, 14th September, 2017

Up at 6.00 am and Breakfast out on the terrace looking over the city at 7.30 am. We would normally walk up to the Syndagma Metro Station and catch a train to the airport. This morning, we know that a strike means the metro stops at Dukakis Plakendias and the whole world would be looking for taxis on to the airport so we asked the Doorman, as we checked out, to get us a taxi all the way. The price is €40.00 – almost twice the cost of the train – but it was an enjoyable and quick journey.

It was a warm morning and the driver had his sun roof open. Outside the airport, the temperature was already 30C/86F at 9.00 am. Everything having been done online like check-in and seat allocation, boarding passes printed out, all that was left was ‘bag drop’ which used to be done separately for each flight but is now done centrally and in an integrated way.

We got that through quickly and walked down to the Goldair Lounge. This is quite a long walk through those ‘fake duty-free’ shops selling Toblerone and perfume and tourist tat packaged as Greek specialities. It was busy and we had to force our way through the crowds. Life would be so much easier without people wouldn’t it? Our EasyJet flight was due to take off at 12.00 mid-day. We drank some fresh orange juice and used the Wi-Fi for our iPads. Pauline looked for the ‘Gate’ number an hour before departure and it said Already Boarding at gate 34. We didn’t really believe it but we walked straight there and they were, indeed, really boarding. We went straight on and sat down in our ‘extra legroom’ seats.

EasyJet have been reported to be the worst airline in Britain for punctuality and delays. They have clearly reacted positively. Our experience out and back to Athens has proved the most smooth, hitch free experience we have had for some time. Today, we took off exactly on time and landed 20 mins early. You can’t ask more than that. In addition, all the reports about increased security creating extra delays haven’t proved accurate in our experience. In Athens Airport, our identity, passports and Boarding passes were checked five times before we got on the plane. At Gatwick, we followed massed throngs of passengers from various flights as we came back through passport control. We went through the automated system and it proved so much more efficient than the manned system. We left Athens at 12.00 mid day and back home in West Sussex at 4.00 pm.

Friday, 15th September, 2017

Half way through September already. Real signs of Autumn and a distinct nip in the air this morning. Breakfast will definitely not be served on the terrace. It is very sunny with blue skies but only 8C/47F. Our figs are beginning to get the message that their fruit was just produced too late this year and is unlikely to be picked and eaten. The photograph on the left illustrates the scene in a Sussex park as it musters itself for Autumn.

I don’t know if I picked it up on the plane on the way out to Athens but, last night, I was hit by a violent sore throat, a headache and a cold. I hven’t even had my ‘flu jab yet. Actually, the Health Ministry is warning of a potential ‘flu epidemic causing chaos in the Health service this winter and issuing an ultimatum to hospitals to clear their wards of ‘bed blockers’ in preparation. I haven’t heard the term ‘euthanasia’ used yet but it will surely come from this government

Saturday, 16th September, 2017

It won’t be like this!

Wanted to start back at the gym this morning but my man-flu is still raging so decided to give it a miss. Sat outside in the glorious sunshine for a while. We have finally decided (I think) to go ahead with hard landscaping the back garden. It will mainly feature extending the patio in all directions but also installing a canopy over the cooking area along the garage wall. It’s been made clear to me that it won’t be like the first one pictured here. My darling wife has just called it ‘gross’! And that’s an end to it!

Maybe more like this.

Yesterday, Pauline was griddling mackerel outside when a short, sharp, rain shower thought it would be a good idea to put in an appearance. I had to hurriedly erect a giant, garden dining table umbrella but something more permanent would be preferable. We are going to do some local research and get quotes.

Quite by chance this morning, the subject of comics and their one-liners was featured in the paper. Tim Vine is always talked about as the king of this genre :

Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes

but the report had two other crackers both from yesteryear. Tommy Cooper:

Police arrested two kids yesterday. One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks.

They charged one and let the other one off.

and to my own surprise my personal favourite from Ken Dodd:

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.

When man-flu strikes, you have to lift your spirits somehow. There again, you could always listen to Boris Johnson flailing about and screaming, Pick me! Pick me!

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