December 18, 2005
Greece Is the Word...

It is mid-December in Oregon. Cold – windy- and very damp. But if you plan it right, you can avoid the holiday rush to the airport, fly right over all the snow and ice in mid-west, and about a dozen hours later, land in Athens and be sitting on your own private balcony overlooking the Acropolis.

And if you have a mountain of frequent flier miles like we do, you can go business-class and it will cost you less than a weekend in Wildwood.

Athens Sparkles

Regular readers know that each year, I take Susie away for her birthday. We plan a short trip to an exotic destination and for once, go to the airport with carry-on luggage instead of 300 pounds of show-gear.

I’d considered Athens several years ago. But each date that I plugged into the computer showed the hotels fully booked. Finally I picked up the phone and learned that the city was being renovated for the Olympics and that the hotels were all closed for the winter.

Well the Olympics are over and Athens just sparkles!! New airport – large highways – clean parks – convenient public transportation – fresh hotels – upbeat restaurants -- and a tourist climate that is bursting with enthusiasm and a warm welcome. The best part is that in December, the crowds are gone but the weather is perfect.

The Hilton took our points and stashed us on the 11th floor in a spacious room overlooking the Acropolis 1.5 kilometers away. (Just to Susie's right in the photo.) Next door in the Executive Lounge, breakfast was complimentary, a light dinner was served free in the evening, and the bar was self-service.

The first morning we walked to the subway, dropped roughly a dollar in the ticket machine, and rode two stops to the old city.

Hilton

The Acropolis was nearly deserted. We hired a guide who walked us around the Parthenon explaining the details of this architectural wonder. “Twenty-five-hundred years old.” he kept saying. “No Black & Decker back then and the columns are perfect!”.

Acropolis Acropolis

We thought it was perfect that there weren't more than a dozen people in the place!

Acropolis Acropolis

After two hours on the plateau, we walked down into the shopping area of Plaka. There were hundreds of shops, but really just four options. You could buy jewelry, soccer or Olympic, souvenirs, ceramics, books and postcards, or copper ware. Around the corner on the main pedestrian mall, I tried to keep Susie focused on the street performers and out of the high-fashion department stores. We grabbed a table at a streetside café, ate Greek salad and kabobs, and watched the people swirl around us.

Our second day in the city brought an interesting surprise. Protesters with signs and banners had blocked the hotel entrances and were chanting and singing in the street. Most of the guests were hanging back and watching with visible concern.

I asked at the front desk what was happening. “National Strike” was the terse answer.

Normally I avoid any kind of political crowds when I travel. But in this case, I went to the door and gently tapped on the glass. The people there moved back and I opened the door and smiled. “Good Morning!” I said. I wanted it to be clear I was a guest. They smiled and said “Good Morning!” back.

Hilton

“Tell me about your protest”, I asked. “It is a national strike” explained one of the women. “We want more!!”. “Well, I understand completely”, I replied. “I want more too!!” We laughed and had a brief conversation. Then Susie and I went upstairs for a second breakfast.

The protests were starting small around the city and building toward a mass march and demonstration at noon. Transportation was closed, taxis were scarce, and facilities like museums were closed. But at noon, clouds swept in, lightening flashed, thunder boomed, and a massive rainstorm unloaded on the city. It was a good day to enjoy the hotel. And besides, the bar upstairs was free.

Temple of Poseidon Temple of Poseidon

Day three, we scheduled a bus tour down the coast. It was a delightful ride though suburbs, small towns, and scenic vistas. At the far end of the ride, we reached the Temple of Poseidon. For an hour, we clambered over the rocks and ruins and peered over stark cliffs. The sun set over the Aegean and the scene became magical.

We enjoyed another fine Greek meal and tried to get to sleep early. Our flights home were at 6 a.m. which meant a 3:15 departure from the hotel.

Incidentally, the new Lufthansa Airbus is really cool. The seats recline nearly horizontal and the video system provides a dozen movies on demand plus assorted games. The direct flight from Germany to Oregon was a quick nine hours.

Greece was fast but fun.

Three days is just about enough time to get a taste of someplace new and interesting. We’ll go back one day and plan to see the museums and explore outside the city.

Aegean

Susie has suffered another birthday. But a holiday/adventure leaves her looking younger than when we left. The penalty for each day off, of course, is a day of catch-up. So here it is Sunday and we are packing like mad to get parcels ready for shipment tomorrow so all of you can have them for the holidays.

Jellyfish

Spinning Sale!!

The year is winding down quickly and the holiday season has our heads spinning. So why not a sale on spinning line art??

Check out our Rotating Line Laundry. Order anything you find there between bow and January 1, and we'll discount it 20% for you. Options include Jellyfish, Starburst Rings, and our cool Madonna Bols.

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