Another day, another country. This time, Greece baby.
Timeline: March 2011
Cities/Islands: Athens, Santorini, Rhodes
Travel buddy: Meg
Day 1: Unfortunately was the morning of drama, possibly due in part to being up late packing (Packing earlier than the day before is for rookies) and having to get up at 5am, therefore being excessively sleep deprived. I printed off my train tickets at the airport, only to discover it was the wrong day *face palm*. Trying to fix this was like the trials of Hercules (cheers British Rail) and the process to get a new ticket took so long that I missed my train- not impressed. Luckily (and unusually for me) I had actually left a decent amount of time for transport issues and so still made my flight.
I sat next to some lovely Greek girls on the plane who chatted to me about Athens and gave me a crash course in Greek for Dummies. I got on the shuttle bus into town, all fine, until it turns out that there was a demonstration & all of the roads to my destination had been blocked off. Sigh. This meant we all had to traipse off the bus & go down to the metro. This proved somewhat interesting as it chose that moment to start raining & there were only marble steps down, no escalators. Thus I managed to drag myself and my bag/s up and down several (wet) marble stair cases without breaking my neck. Impressive, no?
I got a bit lost, but eventually found my hotel, which turned out to be super cute, with a really friendly, helpful guy on the front desk. I was knackered and hot, so had a cat nap before exploring the area. It turns out that it is like the main shopping drag, so I got a chai latte and wandered for a bit. I ended going to this little place up the road from my hotel and had an absolutely AMAZING salad. OMG, it was incredible. Simple, but the quality and taste of the produce almost brought me to tears. Clearly I had been in England too long. Afterwards I went to go get cake (mhmm) which I took back to my hotel and scoffed whilst reading my book. Aaah, simple pleasures.
Day 2: Woke up early, despite any thoughts I may have had about a lie in. I had breakfast, which was surprisingly decent, complete with yummy yoghurt and omelette squares. Then I packed my bag, deposited it downstairs and went in search of ruins. I found some awesome strawberries and the flea market (which was absolutely packed), in addition to Hadrian’s library and the Agora (See Hot Tips). I must confess, it all looked quite similar, and a bit smeh, just because it’s not really clear what you’re looking at and very little is left.
I wasted some time before checking into the next hotel, which was a trek and a half, but amazing, with an incredible view. I waited around for Meg to arrive, met her at the metro, showed off the room & then went and got some food of course. This time it was amazing dolmades, tsatziki, bread, and more salad- not as amazing as the night before but still good. We then decided that the weather was too crap for the Acropolis, so went to the museum instead. We ended up at the amazing salad place for dinner. This time I had some incredible fish and grilled veggies- yum!- then had a selection of three different cakes, but I shared them, I swear!
Day 3: Had breakfast on the roof, with the incredible view of the Acropolis. Definitely in the Top 5 breakfasts of all time (Thai Krabi Resort is still the best). I had three different types of egg, and amazing fresh fruit salad, and tomato, and cucumber, and feta, oh my! The most amazing part was definitely the home made yoghurt, with honey from Crete, and muesli. So much yes!
We then packed and all that boring stuff before making our way to the Acropolis. Crawling with tourists and not helped by almost getting blown off the cliff by the gale force winds. It was nuts! We made our way back down through the Agora and did a spot of shopping. I got more fruit and best of all discovered that Greece is the hidden mecca for chemical free products. I highly recommend trawling the Greek pharmacies, it’s way more fun than it sounds. Got lipstick, sunscreen, eyeliner and even nail polish- it was awesome! Went back to the late lunch place and had a gorgeous vego moussaka. Mhhmm tasty.
After that we headed off to the airport, which was all very chilled until we discovered that Meg’s wallet had been stolen. I must say, she was much calmer than I would have been and just cancelled her credit cards (luckily she had an extra one on her and keeps her passport separately). She didn’t even get that upset, but we did get some turkish delight to console her, so that helped.
After all that, it was pretty much time to get on the plane. Ironically they are much more intense about the size of liquids than England are, and we were only flying domestic, so security took a while. We flew into Santorini and had the bizarre experience of the stewardess feeding us lollies, despite the flight being all of 30 minutes. This is in addition to every restaurant giving us free cake. I swear, the Greek people are determined to make me fat!
T’was grey and drab and windy in Santorini, but at least our transfer was sorted, so that all happened quite painlessly. The room turned out to be small, but well equipped, with the most incredible view I have ever seen from a balcony. We went to eat at a local place recommended by the hotel people- touristy, but ok. Had our standards, along with gigantes (giant beans) which turned out to be incredible and definitely something I will be attempting to recreate at home. I also tried fried tomato balls, which ended up being more like fritters. It was freezing when we went to bed (yes, in Greece), so the heating was cranked!
Day 4: Woke up at random early hours, it was very annoying. Strangely both Meg and I were up and coherent enough at 2.30am to have a conversation, but not coherent enough for me to remember what it was about lol. On the whole, the broken sleep wasn’t great, but I made myself get up at 8.30am in time for breakfast- which was crap. Sigh.
We went for a MASSIVE walk down the island to the supermarket and stocked up on some stuff, so we had a room picnic for lunch, which was actually pretty awesome. Other than that we basically chilled out- I finished my book and started one of Meg’s; we snacked; I did a bunch of internet stuff; we snacked; Meg napped; we snacked and eventually went out for dinner. Tried really hard to find this highly recommended restaurant, but to no avail. After walking around for 20min, we eventually just went to the next one we saw, which bizarrely enough was super authentic and awesome. I had this incredible seafood pasta to rival Venice (although not quite) and we basically chatted and stuffed our faces before heading back up the hill- stopping en route for more cake of course 😉
Day 5: We had made the command decision that it was too damn windy to consider going to the volcano, but we would do Oia- this little town on the coast with what is meant to be the best sunset in the world (Spoiler Alert: they lied). We slept in for a bit, then went exploring the blue rooves- it was crazy windy and actually quite cold, despite blue skies. Some lovely views though. We came back for more room picnic, then went out again to find a post office and decided to swing by the bus station to check on the timetable and discovered that the last bus left in 10 min- winning!
Went up to Oia, which was basically a ghost town, NOTHING was open and we walked the length and breadth of the town freezing our butts off in gale force winds before seeking refuge in the one ‘cafe’ that was open, which basically consisted this middle aged woman and her kettle. We paid 5 euro for two sachet hot chocolates, which took 15 minutes to make- but it was too funny to be mad about and it did at least get us out of the wind!
We braved the winds on the cliff for some pics- but all in all not really worth the trip- then hauled arse back to the bus to get back before the bus stopped running. We went out for dinner- to the mythical place we couldn’t find before. It was okay, but not as nice as the other one we found by accident bizarrely enough. The rest of the evening we spent watching hilarious BSL translated music. As you do.
Day 6: Got up early-ish to get to the airport (our second home) and spent most of the day on planes/in airports. Got to Rhodes, got a cab and got to our hotel. Not as nice as some others, but cheap and HEAPS of space. Also down the road from an awesome salad bar and across from a kick ass cake/coffee shop- priorities!
We went out for a wander and got lost due to having a crap map, thereby stumbling upon a Greek place that ended up serving possibly the best bread I’ve had in my life. Turns out it was in the LP guide- with good reason. Yummy food and just this crazy kitsch place complete with a stuffed giant parrot that freaked the crap out of us when it suddenly moved. Not stuffed, very much alive as it turns out and creepy as hell.
Day 7: Meg’s birthday! We awoke to a much more respectable breakfast. Then went and got a taste for the old town which was très cool, like something out of Kingdom of Heaven. We watched some of the parade for Independence Day (they had a parade just for Meg, how lovely), had some yummy fresh doughnuts (loukamades) and had delicious AMAZING salads by the waterfront. We went back to the old town, before going back to have no less than three different cakes at the place across from the hotel- and they were goooood too.
We tried to find this one place from the LP guide, but it was shut, so ended up at this tine hole in the wall one called Indigo that was officially the food of the trip. I had this eggplant moussaka thing that was actually more like Koshari with noodles and couscous and feta. Bizarre and yet delicious. Also had a salad with hazelnuts and this AMAZING dressing. Seriously, I could have eaten there every damn day! They also had a plethora of cats about the place, including some super cute kittens who were play fighting in the drapes. All in all t’was awesome. Got back and we both finished our books- although with more squeamishness in my case due to the cannabalism (ugh).
Day 8: Got up for breakfast and then went back to bed on my part coz I was wrecked. Got back up, packed and went for coffee/frappe. The latter is a tasty discovery- literally cold coffee with ice, yum! Had more awesome salad, this time in the moat of the castle, next to the poppy field/wild flowers. Came back to the same great coffee place on the water for cake and coffee, then made our way back to the airport.
We got back into Athens and made the trek out to the last hotel. Or so we thought. Sigh. First it was in a super dodgy area. We then walked the length of the street, only to discover the addy for the hotel was boarded up. Not a good sign. Unfortunately I didn’t have a number and had lost the booking info anyway.
We ended up finding this pharmacy, where luckily they were open and they were LOVELY, helping us to discover 1) Our hotel was at a different spot, outside of Athens, but with the same street name and 2) There was no way to get there, apart from an incredibly expensive cab. They made some more calls, but everywhere was full. Our only piece of luck was that the guy working there knew of a backpackers, so we called and thankfully found two beds in the same room. We had to walk through the dodgy area to get a cab, but didn’t get ripped off by some miracle. Did alas lose my metro ticket, so all in all a very expensive exercise. We ended up only have to share with a nice American couple, but it was funny because they were cycling around, pretty much unplanned, aka my idea of hell (definitely pants fliers). We went back to our standard Acropolis spot for dinner, where Meg was plied with alcohol and I devoured some more moussaka. I felt like I would metamorphose into a giant eggplant by the end of the trip, I ate that much of the stuff. But I would die happy!
Day 9: Homeward bound, leaving the awesome food and deliciousness of Greece behind. Sad panda.
I would be back though, don’t you worry about that!
Update: 3 years after all this happened Meg sent me an email to let me know that she had been contacted by the Australian embassy in Athens to say that someone had handed in her wallet, (which still had her licence etc. in it) and did she want them to mail it back. How’s that for random!