Suitcase and World: Back to Athens.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back to Athens.

Sure....our Santorini *Lamborghini*  was teeny weeny in size but it got us everywhere we needed to chic style :-)

Going back to Athens from Santorini was not in the original game plan but the Greek ferry gods were not in our favor so island hopping our way to Turkey will have to be a dream for another day.

After spending the day visiting Perissa and Megalochori, we headed back to our guesthouse and spent a few minutes packing up our bags.  Bro had to clear out the fridge as well as there was no way we would be lugging any food with us to Turkey.

We decided on an early dinner.  It was back to Kamari Beach.  Unfortunately, the home style restaurant that I had wanted to go to was closed so we had no choice but be pulled in by a trolling waiter.  He was a nice guy and the restaurant looked decent as well.

I settled on one last meal of pastitsio and Bro had the beef stifado, a classic Greek beef stew dish that our friend, Maria, recommended that we have.  I have to say, the food was delicious and the portions very generous.


Bro's beef stifado.

After dinner, we took a short stroll back down to the seaside promenade as it was much too early to head for the port.  This has been a very pleasant stay for us. 

You can count on Bro to find a fig tree to forage from though this fruit was not good eating.

Before we knew it, it was back to Acropole Sunrise to get our luggage.  We took a few minutes to say goodbye and thank you to our wonderful hosts - they really made our stay an enjoyable one!

Then, it was off to Athinios port.  Our drive took us from the top of the island, down a winding road with tight hairpin turns, to the water.  There were few cars on the road.  We were arriving early.

Following the instructions that we had gotten from the woman at the car rental agency, we parked the car in an area that was safe from ticketing/towing and left the keys under the driver's side floor mat.  It was sad leaving this little car behind.  It had served us well and as Bro noticed, despite all the driving, we had barely used up a quarter tank of gas!

There was no sign indicating that we had actually arrived at Athinios port so we walked until we saw the names of the cruise ship companies printed on the signs.  There was no terminal per se, just an open air, covered seating area.  There were already a few people, with their suitcases placed near them, waiting.

Our ferry departure time was 8:30pm and we had about an hour to wait. The travel agent in Fira had booked us on the ferry but it wasn't until after we got back to our apartment in Oia that it dawned on us to ask if there were any rooms with beds.  Would have definitely been nice to have been able to lay down.  Bro decided to check if we could upgrade our tickets so he headed to the ferry ticketing office to find out.  Looking at the relatively small group who were waiting alongside us, I couldn't imagine that the ferry was going to be full.  Fingers crossed.  It seemed like an eternity before Bro returned with bad news.  Oh well.  We're no worse off than what we started with few minutes ago!

As time passed by, I reflected on our few days here and all the fun we've had.   I will miss this picturesque little island.

We watched the sun set. 

Before night fell, we saw a medium sized boat pull in to dock.  We had no idea if that was our ferry or not but somehow, I had a feeling it was far too small for the 9 hour journey that we were about to embark on.  I noticed a bunch of people getting up and heading off to a nearby location.  I was guessing they were getting in line to board the ferry.

Again, no signs or announcements to tell us where the smaller boat was bound for so I started to towards the folks lining up.  I was looking for Bro and didn't see him at first.  Then, he appeared with word that that boat was headed to another destination; the ferry to Athens had yet to arrive.  So, it was back to waiting.  It was getting chilly as the sun set.  Even Bro gave up on his shorts and put on his long pants.

We watched large food trucks lining up to board and cars getting in line as well.  I presume the trucks were making a run to the mainland to bring back needed supplies.

It was well after nightfall before we saw anything that resembled a ship pull into dock.

We watched a behemoth sized boat arrive.  It was all lit up.  It looked like a floating building.  The ticker screen up top indicated Piraeus.  This was our ship - the F/B Prevelis! 

The guard was not yet alllowing passengers to board - vehicles went first.  Truck after truck and a few cars made their way across the boarding ramp.  It was so cool to watch all the activity going on....I almost forgot to keep watch on the guard to see when he would let passengers go.

As always, I was up front and I made sure Bro was right along with me :-)

We were in basic economy which was a few floors up.  It was very large room, filled with rows and rows of seats.  There were already some people on board so we were a stop and as far as I knew, the last stop on the ferry's route.

The seats were like airline seats, reclined a bit but not all the way.  Only negative was that the arm rests didn't go up so you could sleep across the row.

He came prepared with snacks.

We got settled in and the ferry pulled out of dock on time.  I had read about ferry delays and in fact, when we mentioned, to our Acropole Sunrise host, that we were taking the overnight ferry back to Athens, he pointed to two other guests how had to face a nine hour delay coming in the other direction.  I was dreading having to be delayed that long - sitting at Athinios Port into the wee hours of the morning was not something that I relished.  Then after having actually sat in the chilly, open air terminal for an hour, I couldn't imagine enduring that for several more.  I was so glad when I heard the engine revving up and us pulling out of port on time!  Of course, I was then hoping for a smooth ride as I had already read that at this time of year, the Aegean Sea can be very choppy.

As we got underway, an announcement came over the PA.  There were rooms available and anyone interested should go to the administration desk.  Bro waited a few minutes and then went off in search of the administration desk.   Few minutes later, came back.  He found the desk but no one behind it.  Our hopes for a sleeper compartment were just not meant to be.

After spending a few minutes trying to get comfortable in the seat, Bro decided he would spend the night on the floor.  Looking around, he wasn't the only one with that idea in mind. 

Bro's bed.  Fleece jacket covering his backpack for his pillow.  My travel towel for
his bedsheet. You really do have to be willing to rough it traveling with me :-)

Down for the count.

I was okay comfortable.  Seat was fine but they kept the lights on in the room and I don't do well with sleeping with the lights on.  And, there were a few chatty passengers sitting nearby.   I basically catnapped the entire trip.  Luckily, I have been sleeping so well since being on Santorini that I will survive tonight without much issue - I'll make up for it when I get to Turkey.  Looking down at Bro, I think he was fast asleep for most, if not all, of the journey.

Our ferry ride was a smooth one and we didn't stop at any other port.  It's amazing how fast time flies, even if you're not having fun.  We arrived into Piraeus, Athens's port, just a few minutes after 5am.  It was pitch black dark outside when we set foot back on Athens soil.  We had no idea which way to go to get to the Metro station but first we followed the crowd to exit the port.  Once on the street, we continued to follow people walking in front of us.  Then, we saw a woman standing outside a coffeeshop so we asked her which way to go.  She pointed us in the direction that the people were walking in. They too, were headed for the train station.

It was barely 5:30am when we stepped inside the Piraeus train station.  No only was it open but trains were running!

Bro got in line and purchase our tickets.  As in some cities, public transportation in Athens is very affordable.  It's 1.20 Euro for a single ride, no matter the distance. 

The train was already on the platform.  We boarded and settled in for the short ride to Monastiraki Square - both stations are on the same line so there was no need for us to transfer.  Riding the Athens rail was now a very familiar experience to us.

At Monastiraki, the first thing we did was look for the luggage storage lockers.  We found one set of twelve but every door was locked.  My heart sank a bit.  We then spotted another set of twelve lockers but all those doors were locked tight as well.  She told him they had long stopped using the lockers for security reasons.  I can understand why.  They would be the perfect place to plant a bomb.   With that bit of bad news, my heart now really sank as we had to scratch our plan to store our luggage here until we had to go to the airport.  Lucky we still have Plans B and C to test out.  Bro went up to the ticket counter to ask the woman about the lockers.

In all the nights we had been in Athens, we had never come out to see the Parthenon at night.  This morning, I got to do that.  It was all lit up, a magical sight.

The Parthenon, high up on the hill, the columns of the Library of Hadrian in the foreground.

So, now what?  Well, we noticed a small coffeeshop open for business so we went inside.  Might as well take a seat and figure out what to do.  There was a young man working the counter.

We ordered two cups of tea and I Googled to see where the travel agency, that we had found out would store luggage for a fee, was located and what time it would open.  Good news was that it was located in Syntagma Square but the bad news was that it would not open until 9am.  It was barely 6:45am and so we would have to wait quite some time.

Bro decided to test out the theory that we could just ask a small shop owner if they would be willing to store our luggage for a few hours.  He told the young man our story of woe and the young man replied back that he could not say yes or no because he just worked here; it was not his coffeeshop.  He said his boss/owner would be in shortly and she could decide.  So, we decided to wait.  In the meantime, we chatted the young boy and found out that this little coffeeshop, located in the heart of one the Athens busiest squares is open 24x7!  Apparently, it's popular place for club goers to stop in before they head to party and then before they head home.  By 7:30am or so, worker bees were stopping in to pick up breakfast.

The owner did arrive and immediately went behind the counter and started serving patrons.  When the line emptied out, Bro retold our story of woe and to our joyous surprise, she was more than happy to store our suitcases for us.  She was an incredibly bubbly and friendly young woman!

She asked one of her workers to show Bro where to stash our suitcases in one of the rooms downstairs.  So, it is true!  You can just ask a small shop owner to hold your luggage for you and if it's not a burden on them, they will!!  To me, this is just mind blowing!  I would never, in a million years, think of doing this back in the US let alone in a foreign country. What's more incredulous is that I don't think anyone in the US would agree to store a stranger's luggage!  After all, you don't know what's inside - could be a bomb!

Of course, we bought some pastries from her as a way of thanking her for her kind gesture.  Seemed like the least we could do and offering actual money would have been rude.  Actually, the pastries looked really tasty and neither one of us had had breakfast so it was a no brainer to get them.  The young owner told us that everything was freshly baked on site and that everyday, whatever she baked, she sold out.  I was not surprised given the foot traffic that we saw in just the short time that we were there.

With the luggage issue out of the way, we could now turn our attention to how we were going to spend the next few hours.  The only major thing that I had left on the Athens itinerary, that we did not get to, was the National Archeological Museum so that's where we went next!  It's nice to be back in Athens and to be on familiar streets!