Our prop plane had us in Athens before we knew it. We were reuniting with Pat and Colleen, and all staying with Mike's Aunt Terry. She had sent us her address and a short message in Greek that we'd printed out, stating "please take us here".
Our taxi driver spoke plenty of English for our purposes, and after some fussing punched the address into his GPS, albeit while hurtling down the freeway. One hand on the paper, one on the GPS, hey, who's driving this thing?
Being veterans of riding with and trusting total strangers in the form of taxi drivers, (despite any perceived shortcomings in such things as adherance to road safety, common sense, or a basic understanding of physics such as two solid objects cannot be in the same place in the same time) on the assumption that they are as interested at arriving at your destination in one piece as as you are, we didn't stress out about the lack of piloting going on and, sure enough, it all worked out.
Terry's home had signs on the door welcoming us, wine and pastries in the kitchen, fat orange trees in the courtyard, and bliss of bliss, a washing machine. Which the kids watched like television.
As their Mommy I was happy to see it; laundry is our traveling Achilles heel. For instance, in Selçuk the sole laundromat fellow had taken about 2 loads of clothing from us to wash, dry and press, saying he would call us to say how much it would be. The call came and Ersan nearly blew a fuse on our behalf: $100.00 American dollars.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The fellow knew he had us, and while he did a good job, there was much grumbling amongst ourselves about perhaps buying replacements for our dirty clothes instead of washing then, to save money. Our favorite part of that transaction was when he gave out several of his business cards for us to pass out on his behalf.
Ersan made sure we were up to speed on the highway and flipped the cards out the window. I don't usually litter, but.... he said.
So a warm welcome and a working washer were really, really nice.
Athens, on first glance, was not what I expected. The guide books had warned us; "you'll wonder what all the griping is about" said one. The riots of two weeks before had calmed down, but Greece was still very much in a financially unhappy place. Terry said flat out that she didn't enjoy living there. She showed us around her neighborhood haunts, the school where she taught, introduced us to the local hairdresser and the owner of the tiny grocery store.
Despite it being an apparently nice neighborhood, there seemed to be a lot of graffiti and
trash on the streets. Well, this was the outskirts, I thought.
Ten minutes walk took us to the Metro train, and then the sea, admittedly after a false start or two. Terry was screamed at and called a particularly nasty name by an employee at one of the stations when she tried to confirm the train we should take. This was surprising to us as he was sitting behind the information desk.
Lesson learned: asking the information man a question and then confirming that you correctly understood his answer results in your getting called something that if I was called that would probably result in some bee-atch slapping. But Terry was apparently more calmly accepting of such things.
This having been said, for some odd reason, she was eager to get out of Athens for the day. As there were planty of with Greek islands beckoning nearby, we found the correct boat to take us out to the island of Hydra. Not, however, before more yelling, hair grabbing (his own, not mine), and pounding of and outraged fist on the desk in one of the kiosks that sold boat tickets when we dared ask which one we should go to.
Once on the hydrofoil it was comparably smooth sailing, to picturesque Hydra.
There was a light rain falling on Hydra when we disembarked. A pedestrian-only island, which sounded so darned appealing, we realised there was little for us to do other than eat a meal (once we found a place willing to serve us...the first place, well, the waiter was apparently not interested in silly things like customers), wander the small waterfront, glance into some of the utterly chrming shops, snap some photos and take the boat back.
Nothing wrong with that. The horses waiting to take tourists around were somewhat bad-tempered, and I managed to step directly into a puddle of water deep enough to wet the bottom three inches of my pants. Well, some of it was water. The rest of it, I am sorry to report came from the horses.
Lesson two: when you are in a foreign country, watch where you step.
Outing complete, we bought tickets from the (nice this time!) boat man to go back. I wondered; was it living in a big city, dealing with tourists (surely boat man #2 did the latter all day long?) or being a Greek man who has to work (which was Terry's take on things) that made such a large percentage of the folks we were dealing with act like surly citizens?
I'll leave you with a nice photo of a travel kid moment. (Lesson #3: You bring your kids on a trip, during which they have few choices for themselves, you put them though all sorts of wierd travel conditions, new foods, places and time zones, don't expect them to be perfect all the time. You want perfect, bring a doll.)
And I'll leave you with gratuitous archway shot. Because if you can't get a good photo while travelling, you must not be trying, right?