Saturday, March 24, 2012

Athens, Day 1

Well, yesterday afternoon my husband and I returned from our four-day trip to Athens. I had planned to blog from over there, and lugged my extremely heavy and cumbersome laptop from home to NYC to Athens, and then all the way back again...and I didn't end up using it at all. There is no Internet service available on international flights, which we hadn't realized; and then we were told by some other crew members that the Internet service at the layover hotel in which we were staying was somewhat slow and unreliable (as well as not free). So we paid for Internet for my husband's iPad, because when we're on the road we use all of its apps for a whole bunch of important business (to set an alarm, for one thing, and also to get on the airline website to find out how many seats are available on flights and then get listed on them); but I decided it wasn't worth the hassle and cost to get my computer hooked up, just so that I could blog! In the grand scheme of things, my little "String of Pearls" isn't all that important. Besides, there was so much to see and do, I don't know if I would have wanted to take time out to sit down and write about it all.

I'm a bit overwhelmed, actually, and don't know where to start. This trip was such an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I know it was wonderful for my husband as well--because although he's been to Athens a number of times in the course of his career, he's never been there with me. It was like the greatest date EVER! We had almost two whole days to sight see. And let me tell you, there are a lot of sights worth seeing over there. We were fortunate, too, because the weather couldn't have been more glorious. It was sunny and in the 60's or 70's the whole time we were in Athens.

We flew out of NYC at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday and landed in Athens at about 8:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. East Coast time) on Wednesday. After we took a bus from the airport over to our hotel and got settled in, the the first thing we did was nap for about three hours, because by then it was about 10:30 a.m. Athens time, but still only about 4:30 a.m. to our bodies. Our batteries recharged (relatively, anyway), we got up, showered, found me a coffee (I think I like cappuccino now!) and got on our way. We walked all around the city and strolled through the plaka (which is sort of like a marketplace, with tons of shops and cafes). I think everything about me must scream, "Naive tourist! Sucker! Easy target!"--because if I even let my eyes rest momentarily on some pretty thingamajig in one of the shops, the shopkeepers were yelling out to me, offering discounts, and all but grabbing me by the arm.

In fact, at one point we passed two elderly, heavyset Greek women, sitting in chairs on the sidewalk near a little bridge we were about to cross. It was warm and sunny, and they looked drowsy and content, almost half-asleep. Resting on their laps were piles of beautiful pieces of ornately embroidered fabric with silky tassels. I looked over as we passed by them, intrigued, wondering what they were holding (scarves? shawls? tablecloths?), and all of a sudden, those two old ladies--who moments earlier didn't look like they could run if their lives depended on it-- were chasing me down the street, holding up the embroidered cloths and yelling at me frantically in Greek. I don't know what they were saying (it was Greek to me), but I think it was something along the lines of, "Where do you think you're going, Missy?! Get back here right now and buy this!" My husband, who has been to just about every major city in Europe by now, after flying internationally for sixteen years, asked if I actually wanted one of the cloths, and he said if I thought it was worth five euro or so we could go back and get it. "No, I just thought it was pretty," I said. Then he told me that if I didn't want to be chased all over the streets by pushy salespeople, I should try to keep eyes focused straight ahead--unless, of course, I actually intended to buy something. I guess Greek shopkeepers don't know the concept of "window shopping," which is my favorite kind of shopping.Is it really that obvious that I'm an American tourist? (That's the Acropolis up there behind me. And by my feet, one of the thousands of mellow Greek dogs we saw napping on the streets. There are dogs and cats everywhere--even in the restaurants!)
After exploring the plaka and marveling at all of the ancient architecture that abounds throughout the city, some of it amazingly intact and some of it in ruins, we walked over to a large hill called Lycabettus, which in Greek means "from where the twilight comes. " We climbed partway up, but then my legs turned to lead (I hadn't slept more than twenty minutes total on the ten-plus hour flight over, and it was beginning to catch up with me), so we decided to take a tram the rest of the way. The 18th century Church of St. George crowns Lycabettus hill, which offers a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Athens, and there is a restaurant located up there as well. We ordered two Greek beers and sat at a little outdoor table and watched the sunset. It was in every way perfect.
After we rode the tram back down Lycabettus, we walked back through the city, en route to a restaurant called Psara's, where my husband had eaten before. On our way, we saw some of the crew who'd flown over with us sitting at a cafe--three flight attendants, along with one non-revving family member, like me--and we joined them and had a drink (more cappuccino for me!) and some appetizers. Then the six of us went to Psara's and had dinner at an outdoor table in the shadow of the Acropolis, which was all lit up and looked incredible. We ate a delectable traditional Greek meal of tender meats slow-cooked in clay pots, with gravy and potatoes; then we went downstairs and sat at a table inside, where there was live music and the affable waiter treated us to after-dinner drinks and dessert, on the house.

Dinner with the gang was so much fun...but I think my favorite moment of the day was drinking beer at sunset on Lycabettus with my hubby, gazing out over the city as the sky turned pink. [Sigh.] It was so romantic!

And as we turned in for the night on Wednesday, the fun wasn't even over yet, because we still had all of Thursday to look forward to. Our plan was to tour the Acropolis and all the other ancient sites. But this post is long enough already; so I'll end here and pick up where I left off tomorrow.

1 comment: