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If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Athens

Wednesday, May 30th – we can sleep in today!   Yay!   It’s the first time the whole trip, and Brighid is snoring away.  The sun shines in at 5:30 AM, and when I wake up, outside my window is a group of scruffy looking men doing something nautical.  We are right at ground level, and evidently, VERY close to the sidewalk.  I get up and close the blinds, then go back to sleep until about 8.

My initial impression of Athens?   Like any major city in the US, except way dirtier and way more crowded.  Brighid and I got up, got dressed, and decided to eat out on deck 10 this morning.  This is the first time the scenery isn’t very appealing, but there’s a nice breeze blowing and we enjoy the breakfast anyway.  Because we don’t leave until after noon, we wander the ship, check out a few spots we’ve missed, and then head back to our cabin to chill out until lunch time, when we’ll go grab something quickly before we have to meet our tour group.  Brighid isn’t really hungry yet by lunch time, but she grabs a slice of pizza and I grab some soup and cheese, and we’re full for the time being. 

The tour takes us first to the Acropolis, which can be seen from quite a distance away.  On our way, the tour guide explains the city’s congestion on the roads by saying every time they try to build subway stations to improve public transportation, they unearth a new archeological find and the building is stopped.  She points out what was going to be the newest subway station, but where they found the ruins of an ancient public restroom.  The thing that is so odd here in Athens is how careless they seem to be about these ancient treasures.  You drive by this ancient find, surrounded by little more than cyclone fencing, and there is so much trash around it and disrespect for it, you can’t really appreciate being there.  The guide talks about how beautiful it is that Athens is such an interesting combination of ancient civilization surrounded by contemporary growth and architecture.  It’s not beautiful – I found it very sad.

We do not actually get to climb up to the Parthenon or anything on this tour, but we do get some beautiful pictures.  There are a few gypsies wandering around, so we are all warned to hold on to our personal belongings and told not to engage any of them.  After about 15 minutes, we head back to the bus and wait while a local vendor comes around to sell postcards and picture books of the area. 

From the Acropolis, we drive through the city and visit sites like the stadium where some of the 2004 Olympic games were held.  The bus drops us off at an area called The Plaka.  There is a ton of great shopping here – lots of souvenir stores, leather goods, jewelry, etc.  Brighid and I are looking for one store in particular, recommended by Jennifer, the shopping expert onboard the Millenium.  They are supposed to have a lot of souvenirs, and they do, although it takes us longer to find it than we had hoped it would.  We pick up souvenirs for everyone, and then head out to get Brighid some ice cream.  It is her mission to taste test ice cream in every port.  We find a little shop with a cute young Greek boy standing out front, and we decide that’s where we will get our ice cream.  This cute little Greek boy can’t do enough to help Brighid – opening her soda and everything.  It’s the highlight of her afternoon.

The highlight and lowlight of my afternoon occur right about now.  The first time we have seen Starbucks since we left Florida is right here in Athens, and I am so excited to have free time in the Plaka to grab my venti non-fat 7 pump sugar free vanilla latte.  Much to my great sadness, when we head into Starbucks in Athens, they do not have sugar free syrup 🙁   Brighid decides to torment me by getting her own sugar laden Starbucks drink, which she drinks right in front of me, telling me how great it is, licking her lips, slurping her cup.  I want to remind her that we will be in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night tonight and they might miss the sound of her skinny little butt “falling” overboard.  But I suck it up and drink my water, which I tell her is just as good as the Starbucks.  I don’t think she buys it.

When our time is up at The Plaka, we head over to the bus for the rest of the tour.  We are taken to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – I really would have liked time for a few pictures here, but there wasn’t any.  We also see Hadrian’s Arch, parliament buildings, and other sites of local and national importance.  All of it is beautiful, but surrounded by all that is not beautiful, so it is a little disappointing.

We got back on the ship in barely enough time to change for dinner.  It was a very nice dinner, but I got a little nauseous by something, so left before dessert to try and wander around and walk off the full feeling.  I headed back to my cabin, where I found Jim had sent Brighid chocolate covered strawberries and soda.  I ran up to email him and thank him, and by the time I got back, I found two nice bathrobes and an assortment of nuts for me.  By the time I was about to turn the lights off and go to sleep, a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived.  AND, a card to arrange for a specialty breakfast in bed 🙂   I get misty eyed and a bit homesick, but we’ll enjoy the breakfast tomorrow, as it’s a sea day!