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Day 12 – Athens landing, ‘City Tour’ Excursion

Filed under: Greece 2008 — 19day @ 19:06:51

We had to put our luggage outside the door the night before, so all we had to do was take our carry-on bags with us to breakfast. We then met in the lounge for disembarkation information, and when we got called, we left the ship for the last time. We waited around for a long time for the bus though. Our luggage was set out in the bus terminal and we had to go find it to make sure it wasn’t to be left behind. Ours was sitting in it’s own row, looking lonely. In addition, it had tags to indicate that it was coming with us on our City Tour excursion and not directly to the hotel. It had been advised to us to take the City Tour since our rooms would certainly not be ready until the afternoon, so this was a sort of time-killing tour.

We met our tour guide for the day, and she turned out to be a very short woman. And evidently not one with much forethought, since she didn’t bring anything to act as a beacon for us to follow in the crowds. The tour was listed as a City Tour, visiting various sites. We drove past a few which she pointed out. My favorite was “Behind the truck there is a history archway, but you can’t see it”. And true to her word, we couldn’t. How very interesting. We would later spot Hadrian’s Arch later on anyway.

Our first stop was at the Olympic Stadium, where we were told to take photographs and return to the bus, and nothing else. Some people asked if there was time to use the bathroom, but they were told no, not at all, don’t do it. Laura didn’t hear that, which probably provided her the time to use the bathroom herself. We took our photos and went back, not being quite sure where the bus was, but we managed to find it.


Stadium, represents one half of the city

Our next stop was the Acropolis, which was slow to go up because the tour guide had to buy our tickets first. Someone had a small canadian flag which she used to guide us up to the gates, but then had to put away because, apparently, you can’t display foreign flags on the acropolis, which effectively caused our tour guide to be invisible again, since her shortness and the throngs of people around conspired to hide her from view. The only thing of note she wore was a plaid jacket, which she removed later to keep us on our toes.

We finally made it to the top, dodging people and avoiding doing anything to cause the various guards around from blowing their whistles like pissed off lifeguards. The views were less than inspirational due to the construction and restoration going on. This is where we lost Alicia for a while, as the stream that was our tour suddenly cut across a right angle to do a history catchup for around 10 minutes, and Alicia didn’t see it and went along on her own tour during that time. I didn’t actually hear anything the guide said about the history as I was busy peering into the multitudes trying to spot Alicia, a futile task. Laura eventually saw her and brought her to the group just as we broke to look around, and we lost the tour guide almost immediately. And we just went around on our own for what we felt was a long enough time.

It was interesting to see the remaining pillars, but I wish they made it clearer which were the actual ruins, and which were the reconstruction, since I’d rather see what was real than what has been guessed. We had to be fairly cautious walking around, as the marble on the ground has been polished to very slippery conditions by the milliards of tourists who frequented the site over the years. That and the sheer number of people around made navigation difficult at times, and taking a photgraph without random faces in it nearly impossible.


Took a while to get this shot

After what we felt was a sufficient period of time, we started to descend to the gate to search for our tour guide. We did find people every now and then from our tour, but they turned out to be just as lost as we were, so we just kept going. We looked around at a few other nearby sights and finally found the tour guide and a small collection of our group. She eventually wondered off looking for others and eventually we went further down to another staging area nearer to the bus area, but then waited for something like an hour while the tour guide came and went looking for our bus which was nowhere to be found, which was unfortunate since it had all our luggage on it.

Tired and annoyed, we finally returned to our bus to discover that this was it, the end of the tour. I suppose being stuck in traffic for a while and stopping twice was a sufficient tour of the city to avoid legal action, but this was considered by us to be the worst excursion yet, and would prove to remain the worst. It was even worse for some other people we spoke to as we checked out of the hotel some days later: They were actually left behind at the Acropolis, the bus left without them.

We were heading to the first hotel for a sub-group of the passengers, which we were told was 20 minutes away. However, the traffic got insanely worse, due to the closure of some of the critical roads by police apparently due to a student protest. At one point, we were about to go through a light, and a police car drove right in front of us and closed the road.


20 minute seems like 2 hours when this happens

The 20 minute drive to the hotel (and in fact, I think it might have been only a slightly longer walk) ended up taking 2 hours. And we were delayed at that hotel while they sorted something out with an extra bag that they couldn’t account for. Our hotel, the Kaningos 21, was just down the road and around a corner, and took some more time to reach via the traffic choked roads. When we finally arrived, we checked in and headed to the elevators.

The elevators were our first suprise. First, you have to open the outer door yourself. We’re not sure what happens if you open them when the elevator car isn’t there, but we didn’t want to try. The door was sort of heavy and latch-less, so I was thinking it might use a magnetic seal. All thoughts in that direction were interrupted when we saw the inside of the elevator. It says it can fit up to 5 people, but unless you stack them, I don’t see how. Laura, Alicia and I barely fit in together, and worse, the inner door was a folding door that folded into the space of the elevator, so you had to be well away from it while it closed. The inside of the elevator emanated a deep blue which was interesting, but coming from the bright white natural light of the lobby wasn’t that shocking.

Blue Elevator

From white to just blue is somewhat startling…

What was shocking however, was when we reached our floor. The inner door opens and you wait for a second before you realize that the outer door is still one you need to open yourself, which you do, and go from blue, to the horrible dim orange shining from every light fixture in the hallway, and makes your brain want to rupture a blood vessel.

Orange floor

…going from blue to orange is somewhat vomitous.

We went into our hotel room to see what a 4-star hotel is in Athens, and it was pretty disappointing compared to the 4-star on Crete. In this place, there was no pool, no drinking glasses, no 3rd real bed, and a bizarre bathroom. The 3rd bed was a narrow, uncomfortable cot, which I volunteered to take since the girls were pretty good at spooning at this point. In the call adjacent to my cot there was a window with blinds, and I hadn’t explored the apartment yet so I couldn’t guess what could be behind that window. The blinds were mostly closed but there was enough lines visible to assemble an image in one’s head after a couple of seconds, and it was an image of the bathroom.


If you look carefully, you can see Alicia washing her hands

We were pretty surprised at that arrangement. The window was basically right into the shower tub, and you could see the sink and the toilet. The toilet area had a frosted glass wall around it with a frosted glass door. However, even this failed since you could still see quite a bit if you were one to look. *cough*. The bottom of the window lined up perfectly with the base of the crotch, so the window gave you absolutely no privacy, and the blinds were built into the middle of double-pane window, with controls that didn’t quite allow them to close all the way. We adopted the honour system of facing towards the television (away from the window) whenever anyone took a shower.

At this point it was still the afternoon, so we went out to see what we could see before the evening. We eventually hit an internet cafe and found that it cost 2.50 euros an hour, and the three of us could share the computer. So ultimately the cost was far better than on the cruise ship, so we were glad we weren’t able to use it the day before. After the hour we ventured out to see what we could see. As it turned out, we could see quite a lot since everything we wanted to see was within walking distance. We basically redid the entire bus tour on foot, except for the acropolis since we weren’t about to spend more money. When we got those tickets, there was a long strip of other apparent tickets but we were given no information on what exactly they were for. We planned to try to hit some more of those places the next day, and just visited Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus.


A Photoshop-free Lens Flare is still artistic, dammit

We stopped by an information kiosk where Laura asked something, and the guy at the desk didn’t understand english (which I think was only the second or third time we had encountered that during our trip) but he his co-worker to do it instead. He then asked where we were from, and we said we were Canadians, and the guy who didn’t understand english at least understood that and cheered. Hurrah, people like us.

We had tried looking for a place to eat, but the area seemed completely void of proper restaurants. There were little fast-food places, but we didn’t see many restaurants, until we went down a side-street and found a place called TO MEGARO (It was in stylized Greek letters, so it’s hard to know if that’s right, but the letters appeared to be all capital Tau-Omicron, Mu-Epsilon-Gamma-Alpha-Rho-Omicron). It had a guy playing a synth and singing, and it was quite loud, but there were a few other tables of people and occasionally they would get up and dance in the small dining area. We liked the atmosphere and had dinner. Over the course the meal I drank a liter of Mythos and got pretty buzzed for a while, and by the end of the meal Laura and Alicia joined in the dance.

There was a couple next to us that had been dancing frequently, and when Alicia and Laura joined in the dance, they asked where we were from, and we asked where they were from, but we had already pegged them as being native Greeks, and were shocked to hear that were originally Russian and had lived in Canada for a while and were visiting and repeat customers of this restaurant. They had asked how we had even found it since it was kind of tucked away, but it had been the loud music and the fact we couldn’t even find another one.

We wondered back to the hotel, still reasonably buzzed, and got ready for bed. We had decided against signing up for an excursion the next day, but had decided to sign up for one the day after, to Cape Sounion, which I wasn’t particularly interested in but we realized with everything being so close we would eventually exhaust the sights we wanted to see. So tomorrow was to be shopping day.

To Be Continued

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