Week 557

Sunday, 25th August, 2019

The train to Syndagma was not packed nor was it unbearably hot despite the temperature reaching 37C/99F outside. Things do change. The modern train’s air conditioning is such a contrast with those of the 1980s. The Greeks deserting Athens for cooler island beaches is absolutely nothing new.

At the Electra Palace, our suite was still being cleaned so we took ourselves up to the roof terrace and had a drink while drinking in the views.

Roof Terrace – Electra Palace

Settled in with glass of beer, nothing else was possible but to sit glued to Sky Sports and the cricket. We used to think that Botham walked on water. Now we know, Stokes lives on Cloud-9. If I live to see a better innings than that, I will die a happy man!

Out later to our favourite restaurant for a Greek Salad with garlic sauce, small, sweet squid for me and Moussaka for Pauline……with WINE. We even ate an ice cream on the way back to our hotel. Of course, I also watched Newcastle beat Spurs which was a joy. We’d only had 4-5 hrs sleep in the past 48 so bed was an early 10.00 pm (8.00 pm GMT).

Monday, 26th August, 2019

Up at 7.00 am (5.00 am GMT) and a cup of tea, download The Times on two iPads. Leaving our air-conditioned rooms and going up in the lift to the Breakfast Room, the 32C/90F heat at 8.00 am is a shock. Offered a table out on the terrace in full sun, we choose to eat inside in the air conditioned shade.

Pretty as a picture: 1981 – 2019

We first visited Athens in 1981 en route to Zakynthos. Pauline wore this cardigan & top on that occasion and here she is, 38 years later, flying off to Athens wearing the self same outfit. I love little, meaningful vignettes like this.

After breakfast, coffee and politics, we’ve hit the hot streets of Athens. Ermou Street (the Oxford Street of Athens) is much quieter than usual.

The temperature is 36C/97F by 10.00 am so Pauline’s demands to visit shops is easily acceded to because each one belts out air conditioning. She rarely buys anything because Greek quality is so poor but the activity gives her pleasure so I indulge it.

A Loukamades Shop

As we set out this afternoon, the temperature had reached 39C/102F and made walking quite warm. We were going to find a couple of Loukoumades shops because Pauline (thinks) she loves them.

Loukamades frying.

They are fried doughnut balls served in a bath of Greek honey and sprinkled with crushed pistachio nuts. We found the shops – Pauline had Loukamades and I had ice cream. We were both full afterwards and regretted it. We won’t do that again …… until next time.

Tuesday, 27th August, 2019

The temperature fell over night to 29C/84F but air conditioning is a wonderful thing. I woke up full after dinner last night on grilled sea bass and Greek salad but I forced myself to breakfast on fresh orange juice and the most wonderful scrambled eggs. You can always judge a chef on his scrambled eggs. This one is brilliant.

After coffee and BBC Radio4 Today in our suite, we set off for Piraeus. The temperature at 10.30 am as we bought our metro tickets was 34C/93F and, when we got on the train at Monastiraki, we opened the windows for a good blast of air.

Train approaches very hot & deserted Monastiraki

An aggressive beggar boarded the train and really gave passengers a hard time. Some even gave in and paid him. I don’t know if we have hard faces but he only tried once and soon gave up.

We were down in Piraeus in 30 mins and walking along a deserted dock area which would usually be teeming with travellers. Most cafes are now gone. Ticket offices, which once proliferated, have been rationalised back to2 or 3.

An empty Piraeus

As we were walking round and looking at the changes, we received a text from our next door neighbour to say our burglar alarm was going off. She has a key and the alarm code but it was locked in her husbands filing cabinet and he was on the golf course. Eventually, everything was sorted out and our pulses went back to normal but we could have done without it.

Back in Athena, I was captivated by this little lad waiting impatiently for his sugar-rush with a griddled corn on the cob as temperatures soared to 39C/102F, and we were sauntering back to our air-conditioned, 5* Hotel suite. We swam in the indoor pool because the outdoor one was just too exposed and then read and snoozed until Dinner at 7.00 pm. CET / 5.00 pm GMT. Dinner was Greek Salad and Moussaka …. and rest.

We received a text from our Sifnos friend, Elerania Miliotie, saying she couldn’t be in Athens until next Wednesday and asking us to visit for Lunch tomorrow. We have all our days planned but, if we don’t get together in the winter, we will visit them next summer.

Wednesday, 28th August, 2019

Another beautiful day of hot sunshine and clear, blue skies. After breakfast of fresh orange juice and scrambled eggs, we went back to our suite of rooms for a cup of coffee and the newspapers. Then we walked out into the screamingly hot, bright sunshine through the Plaka to Monastiraki Metro Station. Everything there is easy, automated and in English nowadays which makes life comfortable. Because it’s August and most Athenians are out of town, there were still spare seats which was also nice.

The Athens Metro – They Know!

We have travelled past Kallithea scores of times and never stopped to explore. Today we found it quite delightful with lots to see. The first site was:

Kallithea Lidl

Kallithea actually turns out to be full of dress shops. I went in more over a one hour walk than I’ve been in to over the past 10 years. Still it gave Pauline pleasure and she didn’t actually buy anything which gave me pleasure so all turned out well.

One of the things that has always amused us about Greeks is their tendency to slip from Greek to English and back again with apparent reason. Often we hear someone end a phone conversation with Endaxi, OK, OK, Yassus, Bye. In UK, you are unlikely to see a shop name employing the Greek Language but look at this from Kallithea:

English Language in Athens suburb.

If this was in Manchester and the shop name was written in Greek, it might create interest but nobody would be able to read it.

Really lovely day ended with a long swim in the pool followed by a vegetarian meal. We didn’t set out to do that and we don’t want to advertise it but we really enjoyed Greek Salad with Garlic Sauce followed by Peas & Artichoke Hearts in tomato sauce.

Thursday, 29th August, 2019

Got up at 6.30 this morning and followed the unfolding news about the nationwide anti-Brexit protests. Even our local town, Worthing, was brought to a standstill by protestors sitting in the road. Up to the rooftop restaurant for Breakfast and then out into the sunshine for a long walk.

Our Suite in the Electra Palace

We went around the Acropolis area. Pauline even found a blouse/shirt that she really liked and bought. Of course, I needed a glass of water when I heard the price – €15.00/£13.60 – but had to manage with beer. The lady who ran the shop was a quite delightful Corfiot who was desperate to converse in English and we indulged her for a while.

Let me take you by the hand & lead you through the streets of Athens…

One of the noticeable innovations in Athens this year is the proliferation of electric scooters. They can be picked up anywhere, paid for by credit card and dumped anywhere when you’ve finished with them.

Ancient & Modern in central Athens

After an interesting couple of hours walking down streets we haven’t visited for years, we went back to our hotel for coffee and newspapers. Then we set off for a walk around the Syndagma area which seemed appropriate given what is happening in London at the moment. The buildings are still showing the horrible degradation resulting from anti-austerity demonstrations with burning scars and paint splashes on beautiful stone/marble facades of buildings and pavements.

Back to the hotel and, having completed our ‘paces’ for the day, we went down to the indoor spa pool for a 30 mins vigorous swim.

Electra Palace Spa Pool

We have become accustomed to returning from our exercise programme to cook and eat our one, main meal of the day. Although we are eating breakfast here, we are sticking to that routine largely. Today, we are going out at 5.00 pm for our meal which will be Greek salad, Garlic Sauce and Roast Chicken. I’m hungry today after our exercise.

Taverna Paradosiako – Simply the Best

Wonderful meal which we ate too fast because we were ravenous. A salad as big as a mountain. A bowl of garlic sauce to feed an army. Half a roast chicken each and a litre of white wine and the bill came to 28.00€/£25.40 in the centre of Athens. We were stuffed and hardly troubled financially. We said our goodbyes for another year and returned to the hotel for coffee and Channel 4 News. This new VPN has proved invaluable and the large screen of my iPad-Pro is a good television substitute. Two hours ahead is a bit of a problem for UK schedules but we cope.

Friday, 30th August, 2019

Up at 6.00 am. Breakfast at 7.00 am. Taxi at 8.00 am. Airport at 9.00 am. Bag-drop  at 9.30 am. Swiss Port Executive Lounge for 40 mins and then down to Gate by 11.15 am. Take off at 12.00 pm. Arrival at Gatwick at 1.20 pm (GMT). Wonderful service from start to finish and particularly from Easyjet which is consistently excellent at the moment.

Leaving our Hotel Lobby.

The flight was delightful – quiet and quick. When we first started to fly to Greece, we would leave late on Friday night after school on some cheap airline and it would often be delayed and take 4.5 hours flying time. We would constantly be worrying whether we would connect with the Sifnos ferry leaving Piraeus at 8.00 am on Saturday. Modern jets now do the trip in 3.20 hrs and are so reliable.

Over the Italian lakes.
The beautiful fields of France.

The drive home was really relaxing and we arrived by 3.30 pm. I picked a kilo of figs and 2 kilos of cherry tomatoes from our back garden and then we went out to Sainsbury to buy essential supplies. Everything from Athens to Angmering has been delightful. Easyjet has been particularly delightful. Pre-booking our seats and buying Speedy Boarding certainly helps but the whole thing is a slick operation nowadays.

Saturday, 31st August, 2019

We were up at 6.00 am (GMT) / 8.00 am (EET) and, rather thankfully, returned to our simple breakfast of porridge and hot water for Pauline and fresh orange juice and tea followed by a huge cup of freshly ground coffee. Pauline gets on putting the clothes we took away in the washer. I’m deactivating the automatic lighting system we use from our Hive hub originally bought in for our central heating.

By 8.30 am, we were out in a temperature of 21C/69F with pleasant sunshine. Off to the Garden Centre for a huge, 10kg tub of Growmore which nearly dislocated my arm carrying it back to the car and then on to Asda and, finally Tesco. Tesco had a glut of half price salmon sides. We bought a few to take us September.

At the gym this afternoon, I got so engrossed in watching highlights of the 3rd Test that I had to do 30 mins extra on the Jogger just to see the conclusion with Ben Stokes amazing innings to win it. So today I did 70 mins on the Jogger + 30 mins on the bike. Even though I knew how the match ended, I still found myself nervous and elated in equal amounts. Nothing could be more inspirational. Certainly, I hardly realised that I was exercising until the most excruciating cramp hit me and left me in agony.

If you follow the Blog, you will know that I have been growing on the seeds that I collected from a flowering tree in Tenerife last November. They are now about 30 ins high and need potting up. I will bring a couple indoors for the Winter to ensure they survive. Now I have a pod collected from another shrub/tree which I collected in the Acropolis area of Athens and which I would like to have a go at growing.

After all, everyone said that we would never grow figs in our Sussex garden. Not only have we been growing them but we’ve been eating them for quite a few weeks now. So, it will be good to give this new shrub a try. I think I have identified it as Spathodea Campanulata or The African Tulip Tree. I will further bore you if germination is achieved.

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