Journal 3 -- May 11, 2006:
Leaving Athens, heading to Santorini

By Bob Corbett

Yesterday we stopped in the place where we had purchased our ship tickets for Santorini, and changed the ticket from tomorrow to today. So, at 10 PM tonight we leave the port here in Athens and will arrive in Santorini at 8 AM tomorrow morning. This will be greatly in our advantage since we will get to Santorini early on a Friday morning and have a jump on getting a decent place to stay at a decent price before the week-end crowds will arrive tomorrow.

I have to apologize for saying things about Athens that weren't so nice. In my previous visits to Athens I didn't like it much at all. But, it's been about 10 years since I was here and it has changed DRAMATICALLY. I think a huge portion of that change came with the Olympics of last year, but some of the changes appear to be older. It is really a much more pleasant and lovely place now than when I was here before, and we've had a simply lovely stay.

I walk a great deal as most of you know, but even my in-shape and well- exercised legs have been cramping up and letting me know I'm pushing them to some serious extent. I think that may mainly have been the steepness of the climb to the top of the Acropolis, a very demanding trip. But in addition we have walked miles and miles up and down the magnificent and fun-filled streets of the Plaka.

The Plaka is a neighborhood of Athens, the center of all tourism. One side of the Plaka is the wall surrounding the Acropolis, another one of the busiest streets in Athens, a street running through the heart of downtown which is four lanes in EACH direction. Huge street.

Athens of today is brilliantly colorful, the weather has been the best one could ever travel in -- sunny, breezy, not so cold, not so hot, though we are both in long-sleeve shirts today. Just marvelous.

Our hotel was awesome. It was a place I knew from other trips, but had never stayed here before, the price was always too high. but we are early season and the man at the desk bargained down and we got a lovely room for 60 Euros and it had a great balcony overlooking a busy small alley-way like street. It the mornings we were awakened by the noise of kids streaming up the street to school. It reminded me of kids in a French movie.

There was a nice table and two comfortable chairs on the balcony. On both evenings we had our main meal before 5 PM, came home with some nice wine, a bit of chocolate, some fresh fruit and sat on the balcony for hours reading, talking, visiting with neighbors on other balconies across the street (alley-way). Wonderful evenings, and last night sort of late, even after dark, Sally was kind enough to go out and get us a second bottle of wine, the evening was just so much fun.

Acropolis House

Web page with photos and comments on Acropolis House

There is a major shopping area in the Plaka, and if one walks to the very end of it, the neighborhood changes and it becomes working class, perhaps a cut below the working class. The zillion tourist restaurants are gone and there are neighborhood tavernas where the menus are in Greek and the tourist don't come. I already remembered this neighborhood from before, and it is those sorts of places, not the snazzy touristy places I so adore. Sally was game so we went to a taverna there about 3 PM. We had a lovely small table in the alley, nice Greek music on the radio from inside. Across the alley, which was only about 6 ft wide was a wood working shop, an auto tire repair place -- a working class area.

The waiter came and happily spoke a bit of English, very young fellow. the owner, a much older man spoke none. the waiter suggested the mixed grill platter, a Greek salad and fresh bread, it sounded fine to us. First came two gigantic heavy (weight, not taste) mugs of Greek beer, really tasty and heavy in taste as well. Then came this astonishing feast. Mounds and mounds of gilled pork and chicken, a free side platter of shish kabob, this huge salad and a basket of unbelievably delicious bread. Our huge platter of meat -- over which we lingered for an hour and half, and the salad and bread, left us so stuffed we didn't know if we could move. The platter of meat was 11 Euros, a phenomenal bargain.

We signaled we wanted to pay and we were trying to figure how we could possibly walk home, when the young man came out with dessert on the house. A large bowl of yogurt with fresh peaches and covered in honey. Oh my, it was phenomenal. We made out way back home, thinking to bring some wine with us and not go out again. I actually fell asleep almost immediately for a while, and when I got up joined Sally on the balcony where we read until dark. Then we opened our wine, got out our chocolate and fruit. It was an hour or two latter than Sally made the run for the second bottle of wine.

This morning we again sat outside (may well not eat INSIDE on this whole trip if possible) at a fairly touristy place in the Plaka, but about noon. Others were having lunch, including a table of four delightful French folks next to us, drinking carafes of red wine and drinking ouzo with their spaghetti looking dishes. When one of their friends at the table behind us spilled her ouzo in a crashing of glasses the man yelled out in French, Oh my God, not the ouzo." I laughed out loud a long belly laugh and the woman turned and asked me in French had I understood. French and Haitian Creole are very similar in many ways and I hadn't noticed the language, just roared at the remark, but I replied to her in my Creole, which was clearly understandable to her, that certainly I understood. I got a rousing approval from the French folks!

We both had the eggs and bacon platter and me coffee, Sally tea, a huge breakfast for only 6 Euros each. So far we're finding this trip to be a good deal less expensive than we'd anticipated.

In a bit we will go the 5 blocks back to our hotel, pick up our bags and head back through the Plaka for the train to take us to the port of Piraeus where our ferry will be. Our plan is to get there long before dark, eat another super feast meal, pick up a bottle of wine at a grocery, and get settled on the ship. The room we took was astonishingly cheap, and we only took it when we got our original tickets because the rooms with a toilet INSIDE were taken. We got a room with bunk beds, but the toilet is just across the hall. I know from a previous trip that this will be a closet sized room with bunk beds and just barely enough room for the luggage, but we'll squeeze in. We don't have to SIT there since the ship has lovely comfortable lounges with luxurious chairs.

When we went back to exchange the tickets the woman said a room with the toilet was available, but it was nearly twice what our tickets were, so we said, heck with that, and kept what we had. Crossing the hall way won't hurt us!!!

And here I am on the second floor of a large building at the only internet service place I've yet seen which is where I was yesterday, and which surprises me a great deal. In my autumn trip to Costa Rica there were internet places on nearly every corner of the main part of town. Not so here. I have no idea what to expect on Santorini. Last time I was there, in either 1996 or 1998, I can't recall which, I wasn't doing e-mail when traveling so I have no idea what to expect.

Hopefully I'll be in touch soon, but... never too sure.

This has begun with a long and very boring and tiring plane ride, then two simply marvelous days, about as ideal as it gets. May it continue.

Best wishes,

Bob Corbett



Bob Corbett