Monday, November 3, 2008
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Every time I awake in the middle of the night to take a flight, I realize why such flights are so cheaply priced! Llew and I set our alarms for 2. 00 am to catch a night bus at 2. 30 am to Victoria Coach Station from where we caught the 3. 30 am bus to Gatwick Airport. We arrived there at 4. 30 am in time for our 6. 30 am departure to Athens through Easyjet. I have no recollection at all of this tedious journey in the middle of the night as I was dazed from the sleeping pill I had taken to get myself some zzzzs at the unearthly hour of 8 pm when we had taken to our bed.
The flight was uneventful as most flights are on budget airlines. A good book kept me occupied (The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards) and at 12 noon, we touched down in Athens rather refreshed from the snoozes we'd managed on the flight. An hour long bus ride took us from the airport to Syntagma Square in the heart of Athens which was only a short stroll away to the Acropolis House Hotel where I had made accommodation arrangements. The place is old-fashioned and suitably gracious and we had excellent service from the personnel--Jasmine and Andreas--who went out of their way to be kind and helpful and informative.
After a short nap, we set out to see the Highlights of the National Archaeological Museum. But we were waylaid en route by a travel agent who sought to sell us an expensive package tour and, in the process, informed us that our intended itinerary would not work as the ferry schedule is altered completely after November 1 when the official tourist season ends in Greece.
Grateful for the information, we set about altering our travel plans in keeping with ferry routes and schedules, then booked our ferry tickets, called the hotels to modify our dates of arrival and departure and then finally boarded a trolley to get to the museum. The ride was novel and exciting and by the time we arrived there, we were all reved up and ready to go. The sheer size of the museum and its collection is overwhelming and we were grateful for Lonely Planet that pointed out the most important items. We saw the Mask of Agamemnon, the Bronze of Zeus (that some say is Poseidon), the gigantic Kouri--so similar to the one at the Metropolitan Museum in New York that I show on my own Highlights tour--the Cycladic figures that so influenced Picasso and the Modernists, the frescoes excavated from Akroriti on Santorini and several other significant classical works.
Riding on the trolley back to our hotel, we were charmed by the energy and vitality of contemporary Athens. We sought out a taverna called Paradisio where local Greek patrons were tucking into plates of roasted sardines. We chose to eat a Greek Salad (so good we ordered a Greek salad with every meal from then on) and a moussaka that was superb. The best part of this rather unpretentious place was that it was only steps away from our hotel and it was a joy to be able to get back into our comfortable bed in just a hop, a skip and a jump.
First impressions of Athens? Admirable indeed.