The Aegean Journey

May 14, 2018

Delays and Athens

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 1:04 am

Whew! Sitting in a cruise ship, drinking an ouzo-based cocktail, while Cuban-flavored pop song covers are played by a live trio in the background, it’s hard to imagine that we were miserably enduring what ended up being a 10.5-hour layover in Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 2. But that’s where we were. Tuesday, our first day of travel, was already going to be long; we knew that. Southwest flight from Columbus to Chicago Midway, then a trip out into the city for lunch and a transfer to O’Hare, Chicago to London overnight, then London to Athens after what was supposed to be a 4.5-hour layover. That journey alone would have been pretty tiring, but we were looking forward to arriving in Athens around 6pm and having a nice Greek dinner somewhere and getting a full night’s sleep before our adventures began.

It did not work out that way.

First off, 4.5 hours is just quite not enough time to realistically to get from Heathrow into the city, actually do something worthwhile, and make it back safely in time for boarding your next flight. Let that be known. So, under our original plan, we understood that that would simply not be an option. So we ate a nice British brunch at a fairly swanky airport restaurant and killed some time on the WiFi and at the duty free shops, and before we knew it, our boarding time was nigh. (Should also bear mentioning that Heathrow is one of those airports that doesn’t announce your flight’s gate until, like, 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be boarding.)

It was about ten minutes before we were supposed to board, however, when the airline announced that there were “mechanical issues” and our flight would now be departing at 5:40p.m. A delay of roughly five hours. We were instructed to go to a certain desk to get our new boarding passes and vouchers for food, and by the time that was finished, one of those five hours had passed. Four hours left til our flight, so still not just enough time to visit the city.

We sat around again, drank coffee, etc. Then we found the flight has been delayed even further, departing around 6:30. But by this time, we’d already killed another hour, so were yet again cut down to about that dreaded 4-hour mark. Had we known even from the point that they initially delayed our flight that it had been delayed that long, we might have had a shot at a visit to London! But… we didn’t. So so so frustrating.

And, of course, it was frustrating getting into Athens that much later than we’d hoped. Our one full day in Athens was already scheduled to be long and very full of exciting tourist opportunities, so tackling it after an overnight transatlantic flight with not enough sleep and then a night of very little sleep after a significantly delayed flight… Well, it was challenging.

But we did it.

Athens is not one those breathtakingly beautiful, idyllic European cities. It’s a modern city, full of cars and ugly buildings and graffiti and tacky shops. Just like any other city. Actually, it was, at one point, the most polluted city in Europe. But, despite all that, it houses some of the most fascinating relics of a time long past. In fact, I think the very fact that those relics are couched in such an otherwise (mostly) unremarkable city gives Athens an extra interesting flavor. It’s like, no matter what, the city can’t escape its millennia-old history. And, I would argue, it probably shouldn’t.

Brandon and I were both most impressed with the ruins of the agora and, of course, the acropolis. Years and years of history and culture absorbed into the marble floors and steps and pillars. It’s really quite impressive. Even with the hoards of tourists, we were able to have a little elbow room and really walk around and enjoy the places.

We also had a great museum visit, where we got to see some really icons of ancient Greek culture. I mean, like, stuff I learned about in art history and Western Civ. Really important pieces. That was cool.

Nestled between museum and ruins, we did a nice walking tour of the heart of the city and got to see some beautiful Greek churches and some really interesting neighborhoods. There’s an area near the acropolis that is a bunch of white houses built into the hillside by a community of people from one of the islands, who were trying to recreate their island architecture in the heart of the city. We’ve since seen some of those styles of building on some Greek islands, but finding that little honeycomb of stone houses in the center of Athens was a really cool break from the bustle of the city.

Our day in Athens ended with a nice dinner in one of the older, quainter (read: “touristy”) neighborhoods. Kind of a haute cuisine take on traditional Greek foods. Brandon enjoyed a squid ink tagliatelle with smoked trout, and I opted for a more pedestrian beef with orzo. We shared a started of sesame-crusted warm feta with fig jam and then a dessert of “deconstructed” traditional orange syrup pie. They had quite an excellent house red wine that was, of course, super cheap and super tasty. We finished the evening at a kitschy bar called Noel. It wasn’t really Christmasy, except for the abundance of Christmas lights inside; in fact, the drinks were all tarot card themed! Anyway, it was a great evening.

Next leg of the trip has been the cruise. That will be in our next post or two!

Comment on this post »

  1. Amy and Brandon. Thanks for the blog. I enjoy reading about you adventures. Look forward to the next one.

    Comment by Mark — May 14, 2018 @ 3:07 pm

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