Old and New Friends, Hello!
How exciting! We had the good fortune of being able to exchange houses with a family who just happened to have a villa on the Island of Paros and needed extra room here to house visitors from Sweden. YES!! My daughter and her live-in boyfriend agree to accompany us on what we think is going to be a trip of a lifetime. We worry a little bit about traveling together as couples on such a long trip. Silly us. Live-in took care of that. One week before the trip he announces, not only is he not going on the trip, he is ending the relationship. Choked up, gulping sobs greet me when I pick up the phone. There is no use in going, she cries. His airline ticket is nontransferable and non-refundable, and I can’t even ask a friend, she wails. I suggest it is her Eat Pray Love moment, my reference guide of choice. You are going to be miserable wherever you are so you might as well get on the plane, I say. Just get on the plane. Let me love you, protect you for a little while, and keep you physically moving forward even if its pretend moving forward, I think to myself.
As a small aside, three weeks prior, I had a heart ablation, unplanned and hastily scheduled to accommodate the trip. I had one of my “episodes” at work, SVT’s (SUPER Ventricular Tachycardia) and dangerously low blood pressure putting me into some sort of shock. Three nice EMTs treated me on the bathroom floor and carted me off to the hospital. I thanked them for being cute. Greenville’s finest. I would say break-ups are not good for a healing heart. Mine or hers.
We get on the plane. Not the EMTs of course. Me with my heart thinners and compression socks, Darling Daughter, DD, with her broken heart. I feel sorry for My Guy already.
Long, long flight to Athens airport and then a train ride into the city. DD walks toward the gate leaving her backpack with her iPad and expensive camera and lenses on the bench which I happened to catch. Although we no longer live together and haven’t for many years, time in that moment evaporated. In an instant I became the frantic, hyper-vigilant mother of her upbringing, scanning for forgotten items. PTSD from too many lost coats, misplaced glasses, assignments and whatever wasn’t attached to her in some way. And now the holder of her heartache.
My Guy reports I’ve just become someone he’s never met and doesn’t know yet. Now I really feel sorry for him.
A friendly man adopts us on the train, making sure we do not stray too far from our luggage letting us know when to disembark. He
seems to like his role, politely saying at each stop, no, no, not yet and then then getting a big smile on his face when we do arrive like he gave us a present just from him. We find our cute boutique hotel in Athens, however, our room is not ready. Leaving our luggage, and walking several blocks to the old Plakka district located right underneath the Acropolis, it’s at this moment, with the sun shining ever so brightly, I realize my long, THIN turquoise skirt and matching top, a gift, is completely see-through. I realize this after a number of gawking stares. And I thought they were stares of appreciation. Well, they might have been. What a grand entrance. With no room in which to change, I FLASHED my way through the streets. Now I know why the airport screener averted his gaze when I raised my arms above my head. Apparently I got dressed in a very dark bedroom.
When we get back to the hotel, we are shown to each of our rooms. Ours has two floors and bedrooms with a patio and view of the
Acropolis. I’m very pleasantly surprised having not remembered that I had chosen such a lovely room and wondering why we even bothered getting a second room for Darling Daughter. All settled in we get the lay of the land. If you recall from our first trip together in Paris, My Guy and I travel differently. His feet stay planted to the sidewalk until he has a firm idea where he is going. I wonder until I find it. This trip I find out DD believes she has a sense of direction akin to a Native American and trail blazes ahead. She doesn’t look back nor care if we are with her or not. No consultation, no discussion of right, left or straight. We blaze after her.
Later we enjoy the evening on our lovely patio, the Acropolis within view high on the hill lighting the night sky. Across the street there’s a young father who returns home from work (we assume) around 9 pm toting an infant daughter. His apartment is like a railroad flat with windows in every room. We watch as he gets on some comfy clothes, puts the groceries away, feeds and bathes his daughter and then rocks her to sleep. Voyeurs, we totally make up his life story. A banker or a lawyer for sure to be dressed in such a fine suit. And where is the mother, his wife? She must work nights as a server, we think. The lights go dim.
The next morning we go out, get some breakfast and return around 10. (By the way, Europeans don’t really drink decaf coffee, and you’re most likely to get instant Nescafe’ if you ask for it.) As we walk by the front desk, an older male attendant says, Hey You Sir, have you vacated your room? What, are you talking to us? You’re in Room 4A, right? Yes, we are. Well you need to pack up your suitcases and get out of that room. Didn’t anyone tell you? No, we say, tell us what? Your room was not ready yesterday, so we gave you the suite with the view for the night. My Guy huffed, and I needed to remind him it was our good fortune to spend the night in such a lovely room at no additional cost. Plus we got to be voyeurs, learning how real Greeks live. Now relocated to our REAL room, we are barely able to turn around. No apartment view either. Just a clothesline with someone’s laundry.
Just in case you are traveling in Europe, you should know the electricity goes off when you take your key card out of the slot turning off the air conditioner and lights. You don’t want to be in the shower at night if your roomie leaves with the key. Oh, and THIS is important. In Greece you DO NOT FLUSH your toilet paper due to the antiquated pipe system. You place it in the garbage can next to the commode. This is difficult to get used too. I become obsessed with folding my paper neatly as I placed it in the can. No more crumble and toss. You never know who is looking at your waste. Then you come home and have to STOP throwing your soiled paper in the garbage can. You certainly don’t want to be caught doing THAT.
We head out for the day. Darling Daughter is a photographer and begins to soothe her Soul through her art. She laughs at us as we put our ear plugs in and begin our tour of the Acropolis, dedicated to the Goddess Athena, and Parthenon. Her tour is sensory and visual without all the history. I love being in a city dedicated to a Goddess. It makes me feel important, and I walk a little taller. I also do not wear see-through clothing today. The masses move forward toward the Propylaea, the entrance, the same as in ancient times during religious festivals. The architecture and massiveness of the columns and temples is an astounding feat of human capabilities. I am in awe.
At lunch we have our first taste of real Greek Feta cheese, rich and creamy, not chunky and crumply. Greek yogurt has the same thick, delicious creaminess and does not taste like the Greek yogurt we get in stores. It looks like a Panna Cotta when presented. I read their yogurt is made with goat milk which creates the texture and taste. The honey also has a unique taste with a kind of sweet smokey hint to it. Top it with walnuts, and this is dessert, it’s so delectable. These three things alone would bring me back to Greece. I’m not a food critic and don’t know how quite to describe these foods except there really was a sensual, pure, goodness about them. As for my other food group, alcohol, the beer is good but forget about the wine. Just not their thing.
As we are enjoying our meal, an old woman selling her handmade embroidered tablecloth approaches us. She apparently sees kindness, or is it SUCKER, in my eyes as I politely decline. Oops, there she is again. She magically appears around every corner as we walk through the streets. DD admonishes me to stop making eye contact. My Guy uses his authoritative voice. Then it happened. She turned on him and gave him the EVIL EYE. I’m sure of it having had it described to me by my Italian former sister-in-law who totally believes in its power. Oh no, I think, now we’re really in for it.
Coming out of the side entrance of a park, we are corralled by taxi drivers wanting to take us somewhere, anywhere they say. There’s a high point in Athens at the top of which sits the city’s first Greek Orthodox church I want to see. How much? Twenty Euros. Each, My Guy asks? Twenty Euros. One way, he asks? No, no Twenty Euros. Twenty Euros for what, exactly? Yes, yes, Twenty Euros. We go on faith. Our taxi driver is an older gentleman proud of his city and has a notebook full of pictures he wants to show us. Madame, Madame, listen, listen. Lady, lady, look, look here. He shows us the Olympic Stadium and has us get out of the car to get a better look. He laments the good old days when the US had military bases in Greece and soldiers could get them cheap cigarettes and other commissary items. Then Perestroika came, he says, and ruined everything. He dropped us off and informed us we had to climb the rest of the way. No wonder they had Olympians. He assures us he will wait for us. Really, I think? Sure enough, he is there when we return. The Greeks are very, very accommodating. And Proud. They want you to love what they love.
Stray dogs roam the streets, and while unkempt, they seem loved and well cared for by all. They stroll the streets, lay down in door stoops, in the middle of walkways and just wherever they want. They are calm, friendly and other than a tangled coat of fur seem quite content. I think they reflect the personality of the Greeks as loving and kind people who move through life taking the time to slow down and value the simple things.
That night we eat at a restaurant in the Plakka where the specialty is whole, fresh fish. Before long we hear the smashing of plates and yelling of “Oompah!” Two English women behind us scowl and send their wine back hissing how unsatisfactory it is. I thought them a tad bit impolite since Greece is not known for its wine. Besides they have Ouzo, an anise flavored aperitif diluted with ice or water making it turn cloudy, a gift of the Goddess. Good, good stuff, if you like licorice flavor. By the way, the Greeks do not tolerate public drunkenness. Not cool. It could land you in jail. And no, we didn’t have to bail anybody out.
That’s it for Athens. Hope you enjoyed your visit. Next stop, Paros, one of thousands of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Goodnight from Greenville,
Dyanne is an inner wisdom coach, psychotherapist, writer, mind-body healer, Integrative Yoga Therapy teacher, certified “Journal-to-the SELF” instructor and creator of https://www.holywhollyholey.comhelping women heal and step into their power. She is the author of the ebook, “Holey Path to Holy Living: A Women’s Path to Healing and Freeing Sacred Feminine Power,” which can be found on Amazon and on her websitehttps://www.amazon.com/Holey-Path-Holy-Living-Feminine-ebook/dp/B01MUI0OOJ/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486652110&sr=1-13&keywords=holy+path