Monday, May 30, 2011

Grecian Formula

In Istanbul we sat at the airport gate waiting for our flight to Athens to board I mentioned to Sharon you would see a huge difference in the attitude of the Greek people than what we experienced in the last couple weeks.

Jill with freshly cut hair!
Ten minutes before the flight was scheduled to board, an unofficial looking person made a casual announcement informing us the gate for our flight had changed. Neither of us heard any formal announcement so we rushed to the opposite side of the airport and on the way to the new gate an attractive American woman stopped us and asked if indeed the gate for the flight to Athens had changed. We confirmed the change and she walked with us to the gate and on the way discovered she was our seatmate on our flight. Jill introduced herself and promptly apologized for her haircut she just had in the airport beauty shop was killing time. Our meeting Jill was fortuitous because we shared the cost of a cab into the Plaka section of Athens when we arrived. As normal, we didn’t have a hotel reservation because we usually wonder in and around an area until some place appeals to our tastes and wallet. This time I did try to get an advanced reservation before leaving Istanbul because we would be arriving in the early evening but our reservation was canceled because an elderly sick couple that had to extend their stay occupied our room and there wasn’t another room to be had. Oh well, no problem….oh but that was a problem because it was a Saturday night and all the hotels we checked were full and the only room was at the hotel Jill was at so even though the 120 Euro room was about twice the amount in our budget we didn’t have much of a choice but to take it.  The room was nice but the view out the window looked into another building 20’ away.
The flirtatious inn keeper with Sharon
The Acropolis seems be the same 39 years later

View of Acropolis from our room at the Metropolis Hotel
After getting settled into our room, we met Jill at the street café for some Ouzo before getting a bite to eat. On the way to dinner we checked a number of hotels for a room the next night with no luck. After dinner I noticed a small hotel with an incredibly oversized bougainvillea growing up the five story slender building with an illuminated sign, Metropolis Hotel. At the front desk a gruff elderly gentleman said he had one room for tomorrow but only tomorrow evening and the 71 Euros must be paid tonight. After the transaction he said to ask the morning desk clerk the possibility of staying longer.

After a lovely nights sleep, we checked out of the room and walked a block to our new cheaper room. The jovial day clerk gave us two keys, room 41 and 42, and told us to see the rooms and pick the one we liked. The rooms were similar, 41 was larger, 42 had a wrap around balcony, both had the usual Euro-wet room WC (with the upgrade of a shower curtain!), but to our delight, the view from the windows fell directly upon the Acropolis perched upon the hill. Wow, what a find we both agreed. We chose 41, walked down the five flights of stairs (first floor is floor 0) to the lobby that overflowed if more than two people occupied the space, and checked in. I asked if there was a possibility to extend our stay to four days and the clerk said he already had arranged it and welcomed us with his charming smile and a flirtatious comment directed towards Sharon. We got settled, met Jill and told her of our discovery, and we all journeyed off to visit the Acropolis.  I was tasked with finding our way to the ruins because I had been stuck penniless in Athens 39 years prior but my memory of the streets had long faded, with a few wrong turns we found the entrance to explore the building of this ancient highly advanced civilization with only its bones remaining.

This beginning of our Grecian journey is just how fortuitous our trip to Greece continued throughout our stay.

What can I say...Irini is just too cool!
The next day we had lunch at our favorite little café next to our hotel, said goodbye to Jill who left for one of the Cyclades islands, then made a dinner date at the Archeology Museum Cafe with an Athenian woman, Irini, who became our newest best friend. Our dear friend in Paris, Lisa Wines, an expiate from Carefree, AZ, who happens to be one of the funniest persons I know on this planet, suggested we look up Irini and get some local scoop into what to see, where to eat, and get a primer on contemporary life in Greece. I’ve never been very good at blind dates but once we met at the prearranged time at the café entrance, it was like I knew this charming woman for years. Her knowledge delivered with entertaining animation made our evening thoroughly delightful. We had a great dinner complemented with a fine bottle of wine and shared endless Lisa stories and gained some insight into Greece’s political and economic woes. We ended the evening with taking silly photos with the illuminated Acropolis as a backdrop and a walk together to our hotel room. After showing her our hotel room and the classic view of the Acropolis from our bed, she told us another silly story involving a building across the park about innocent young lovers and dashed off up the narrow boulevard but before leaving, we made one more date to have another dinner together before leaving for the island of Ios.  We dropped into our bed, quickly falling into dreamland looking forward to the splash of morning light on the marble columns perched on the hill just outside our window.

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