The best thing about a cruise is that you unpack once. I am a pretty organized traveler, and don’t usually take too many clothes, but no matter how little I do take it is nice to just settle in. That being said, I always plan a few days in the embarkation port to get over jet lag, and to get familiarized with the city, in this instance, Athens. So I do have to unpack and re-pack, but my system of putting most of my clothes on hangers in plastic cleaner’s bags works very well. Nothing is creased because when you fold the bag over, it provides an airy cushion. When I unpack I just hang everything up. I also don’t have to get exasperated that there are not enough hangers provided in the room.
The chosen hotel in Athens is called The Grande Bretagne,a gorgeous old place that is now part of The Marriott luxury line. The bar and restaurant of the hotel overlook the magnificent Acropolis, a magical view, day, or night when it is illuminated. Our room was very comfortable and we both crashed. I adore this nap after a long flight. It took at least 9 hours from Toronto. The sleep is so deep and the bed so all embracing that I always set an alarm so we can get up and not sleep through, in order to pretend to get on the time in Athens.
It was hot when we arrived, but not humid like Toronto’s summer heat. When we awoke we decided to explore the hotel and settled in for afternoon tea in the Wintergarden. After wandering around and checking out the fitness centre and spa, we moved outside to the roof garden and THE VIEW and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink. We decided on a very casual outdoor restaurant, a nice walk from the hotel, called Tzitzakis,and ate cuttlefish and octopus risotto with spinach. We sat over our wines and watched the passersby and enjoyed the strains of Greek music in the air.
The next morning I followed my usual routine and went for an early swim in the indoor pool. Not sure why they don’t open the outdoor pool until 10:00, but at least I had an option. Charles spent a great deal of time fiddling with his watch that runs on the atomic clock, and trying to get it to change to European time, not an easy task. I can’t remember if he ever accomplished this, but it seemed every time I looked at him he was busy with his wrist. There could be worse things.
I found a tour guide on Trip Advisor and our driver arrived on time at 8:00 am. This early hour was supposed to help us miss the massive tourist traffic visiting the Acropolis. I think we would have had to start at 6:00 am to avoid tourists. Nevertheless, we had a terrific buffet breakfast with THE VIEW and met Kostas our driver/guide. I say driver/guide, because in Athens the driver can talk while he is driving and give you info, but if you want him to accompany you to a site and describe it, he can’t. You have to hire another guide to come along. We opted out of that extra expense. We lined up with everyone else to get tickets, then waited as they let in limited numbers. Actually I enjoy looking at people so I am almost always patient in line. There were three young girls behind us, and they were very friendly. Amazingly we bumped into them later at a different site, and had a big laugh.
Kostas and Charles, military jeep keeping the line and a view
at the Acropolis
The Acropolis means ‘high city’ in Greek and therefore is at the top of a very high hill. It was built for the goddess Athena, where the Parthenon, the Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena Nike stand. This is a good time to go to the link for Acropolis. There was lots of walking in the heat and fortunately we had water with us. It is always exciting seeing ancient ruins especially at the beginning, which is to say after a few days of looking at ruins they all sort of meld together. It was the same in Asia when we started viewing temples. Eventually you get temple’d out. Same with ruins, but the magnitude of the Acropolis and the views were exhilarating.
the girls and a guard
After a few hours there, we headed to Agora,which I thought was a marketplace. Well as it turns out it was not a market, but a museum with more ruins and artifacts. Certainly it was well worth a look and visit. Then we did go to a market area along a canal and searched for a place to have lunch. It was very hot, so shade was a priority. The grilled octopus was good, but the area was a bit tired and rundown. Back to the car and the hotel ,and a rest and then a very good dinner at the hotel in The Roof Garden outside again with THE VIEW lit up.
The View from the Roof Garden Restaurant
Before dinner we went to an advertised in the lobby wine tasting. This was in a wonderful wine area and the Head Sommelier, Evangelos Psofidis, did his magic. He also looked a lot like Mr. Big on the old Sex and the City show, which made it kind of nice for me. The wines were yummy. When I think of Greek wine I think of Retsina from my dating days when I was taken to a Greek restaurant with belly dancers, and lots of garlicky foods. Now there are wonderful Greek wines. I sampled white, Charles, red, and another guest tried everything. We paid a small amount for the tasting and it was very generous, and enlightening. Well worth our time. At dinner that evening Evangelos chose our wines and really took care of us.
Mr. Big look-alike and his wines
Off to the cruise in the morning after a very nice if short visit to Athens. The ship was docked in Piraeus,30 km southwest of central Athens, one of the biggest ports in the Mediterranean. We have sailed on The Odyssey by Seabourn before so there were no surprises. It is such an easy boarding process when you travel on a small ship. We settled in, unpacked, organized our Internet, and started to get into the flow of the journey and life on board. We always stay midship just in case there is any roll. We also never use the elevator. The steps help keep all our eating under control. I usually swim early morning in the pool, and Charles works out in the fitness room.
The beautiful Odyssey
That first evening, we had dinner on deck. It was a balmy night. Lovely under the stars and some interesting choices on the menu, although the Peking duck was not as promised, but afterwards we headed to the Observation deck and discovered the pianist, Pierre, who sounded like Nat King Cole and was simply terrific. Charles ordered a glass of his fave scotch, Macallum, and as everything is all-inclusive onboard, he indulged many late evenings. Cognac is my after dinner choice.
Pierre at the piano and a dress-up night
The mattress was wonderful, and I slept like a baby or actually better than a baby because I didn’t wake up during the night. Early morning off to tour a small village called Monemvasia. This was the only excursion we chose from the list of excursions. We prefer checking out trip advisor for private tours; no buses, no other passengers to wait for and generally a lot less costly, and we are in charge. This tour was a walking and climbing tour in the heat, but we left in the morning so it was doable. The scenery was extraordinary and the little town was charming, with an entrance through a citadel, an old minuscule museum. We wandered the little main street after the formal part of the tour, and Charles bought me a Greek dress that I hope to wear in Florida. Sometimes when you buy these things you never wear them because they don’t look good out of the atmosphere of the country, but at $35 it was a steal, and I love olive green. We walked back to the ship, went for a swim, and had lunch outside. My grilled fish was yummy as was the chocolate doughnut. Then we sat on our porch and gazed at the scenery of mountains, water and blue sky with breeze blowing. Sigh.
sites in Monemvasia and our guide
That night the show was entitled ‘An evening with Tim Rice’. It was a song and dance collection of Rice’s tunes/lyrics for show tunes. The impression of course was that we would actually see him in the flesh and hear his anecdotes. He was taped and it was rather ho hum. A good gig for him though. Speaking of entertainment the cruise director, Chelsey, turned out to be an absolutely charming and talented young woman; her assistant, Anna, equally so. They both sang the operatic duet from Lakmé, known from the British Airways commercial, and it was very well done. What a surprise! Apparently the cruise directors need to be talented as well. Our dinner before the show was superb, all good things like caviar, rack of lamb, fois gras, and Charles chose lobster.
Anna and Chelsea
On this cruise there is a port everyday. I personally like a day or two at sea, but this was a short 7-day cruise and it was worthwhile checking out the ports. The next day we arrived in Katakolon and decided to just find a taxi, bargain the price with the lady dispatcher. and explore. We visited a charming olive oil farm called Magna Grecia and had a very informative tour through the groves, and then enjoyed a typical Greek lunch with dips and olives and wonderful breads. Charles bought me beautiful and unusual earrings that are silver covered olive leaves with tiny gold olives in the centre. We also bought some gifts, and then headed off to Olympia where the first Olympics were held. Our taxi driver smartly avoided tour buses, and took us in a back way where we could take a picture or two and see where the 100 metre races were run. In those days the participants ran in the buff and you could wear a penis restraint if you wished. I am not going to go into that now, but check out the link, or just take my work for it.
Olympia but no nudes running
at the olive farm
We then went to Mercouri a small winery and sampled some product. I played with very new kittens. We bought some wine that incidentally tasted awful when we got back to Toronto, and we visited a Museum of Ancient Greek Technology that fascinated Charles, and I checked my emails, as they had wifi. Well some of the things interested me, but Charles could have spent a long time there. Maybe he could figure out how to get his watch working, as there was an ancient clock there. Actually his watch was only an hour out. Then we headed back for a swim and relax, and the usual delicious food for dinner.
distracted at the winery
Our next port in Syvota, we walked around the town, found a tavern for lunch, more seafood of course, and then on the ship a pool party with caviar on surf boards in the water and the staff their uniforms, silly fun. We dined in the small Thomas Keller restaurant that was the only venue on the ship that needed reservations, probably because the space is small. We opted to share our table with another couple who proved to be charming and interesting, from the Boston area. The Dover sole was exceptional, as was everything, except the music. Apparently, Mr. Keller, who is a famous chef from California, (the world now abounds with famous chefs who lend their names and menus to restaurants at all sorts of venues) had designed the music. It was loud, offensive rock and totally wrong for the atmosphere. Go figure. They turned it off. Hope they weren’t dismissed for that brave act.
in the tender and at a typical lunch in Syvota and after the pool party and caviar
We were headed to Italy the next day, and this seems a perfect place to stop because I have much to relate about the last half of our voyage.
Please join me again, and remember your comments are always welcome.