I’ve been in Greece the past couple of weeks and it’s been pretty amazing. If I had any expectations regarding the country, they have now been surpassed. I’m currently in the Greek Islands and they have blown my mind – the beauty of the places we’ve visited so far has been astonishing. The word ‘amazing’ is often over-used but that and the word ‘wow’ have been constants since I left Melbourne two weeks ago in a less than optimal state of health, still on antibiotics and an inhaler.
We had a horror overnight flight from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi flying with Etihad – not because of anything the airline did but more that I picked up a stomach bug and had to break into our first aid kit by the time we got to Athens and that there was constant turbulence all the way over a period of 13 hours with one child who has a fear of flying and thought we were going to die, and another who suffers from motion sickness and promptly threw up when we landed in the United Arab Emirates. Suffice to say we were in a pretty shattered state by the time we arrived and paid for access to the Al Reem Lounge (for which some American Express Platinum Card holders can get passes) just to re-group for a couple of hours before getting onto another plane bound for Athens. It was nothing special food-wise but a calming and soothing place to be after the ordeal of the flight. If you do have young children, I definitely recommend a stopover overnight to break up a long haul flight and unfortunately, this wasn’t something that Mr Rosanna and I had factored into our trip, which we only organised at the start of this year without using a travel agent.
Abu Dhabi seems like a fascinating place to visit for someone like me who has a Middle Eastern fetish and the Etihad staff were warm and friendly both in the skies and on ground. All too quickly we had to board the plane again and it was a complete contrast flying to Athens in the calm, blue skies. It took a lot of convincing for me to get our kids back onto the plane but sometimes you have to confront your fears again straight away.
We were happy beyond relief to land at Athens international airport where I was amused to find the first building I saw was an Ikea (luckily more of an anomaly in a country that is more culturally intact than ours) and we exited into a big queue in a fairly uninspiring, run down part of the airport with no air conditioning, lacklustre customer service and muzak blaring out of the speakers to have our passports checked and stamped.
Unlike most tourists who stay in picturesque Plaka, we had booked an apartment via Boutique Athens in gritty Psyri – the equivalent of Fitzroy – the hipster part of Athens where the locals live, which is covered in street art and graffiti. Our driver Mihalis picked us up and took us to our laneway apartment where we met Nick – the Melbourne-born half Greek half Australian son of one of the owners who promptly opened up the graffiti covered front entrance to our apartment building right next door to the Museum of Gastronomy (and a former monastery) and took us up in the small lift to the sixth floor – the penthouse we’d spied on Home Away (formerly Stayz) with a wrap around balcony and amazing views of the Acropolis. It was indeed a sight to behold to witness dawn breaking over the capital and the Acropolis bathed in light on our first day there.