The hardest part of going away for the summer is always the first few days, you say the difficult goodbyes and set off knowing it will be weeks/months before you are back in your own home. As a parent travelling alone with my children there is also the added issue that for the duration of the trip you will not just be looking out for yourself, but more importantly for two young children. It is that constant mental awareness of not just what now and what next, but also what if. Add to that the great increase in heat and humidity, time difference, long days and short nights, mosquitoes and every other hazard of travelling and it’s easy to understand why those first few days away are the most difficult and tiring.
That is why I write this now from Athens, late, and through tired eyes and an aching body. But of course we had to get here…
I knew something was going to go wrong the second the train arrived on time from Huddersfield train station, trains don’t arrive on time in England, certainly not trains I am about to catch. Something fishy was going on… We had to change in Manchester and then get the train to London, we then had two hours to stroll through London to get our coach to Stansted airport where we had a hotel booked for the night.
I haven’t travelled on Virgin trains for many years and I instantly remembered why not, talk about a tight fit! Naturally someone got hit by a train en route and so we were badly delayed into London meaning the stroll was now a race.
We made the bus which should have taken an hour – However, because the Olympics are coming up Transport for London decided to shut many of the roads to allow access for the Olympic parties and so for everyone else it was just gridlock. 3 hours later we arrived at our hotel and it was an early night.
The flight to Araxos, Greece was largely uneventful until it came to landing. It was obvious there was wind shear and I wondered how on earth the pilots expected to land, but they tried. Hearing the roar of the engines a hundred feet from the ground and seeing us suddenly begin to climb was actually not a surprise. We had a missed approach. The pilot came on and reckoned that they had requested a Northerly approach but had been given a Southerly approach and just as we were about to land Air traffic control had told them to abort and go around, an error of miscommunication apparently.
Needless to say when we did land the plane erupted into claps and laughter. I was desperate for a piss and so looking to get off on get on our way.
Now, I have relied on maninseat61.com for all our trips and have to say it comes highly recommended. However, it really let us down this time. Before the Greek economy went South they had an international railway system. But with struggling finances and claims that it would be cheaper to put every passenger in a taxi than continue to run the railway system Greece cut itself off from the rest of the world. Additionally, the train which supposedly ran direct from Araxos on the Aegean Isle for a few Euros was scrapped (man in seat 61 had not updated this) and so it became very quickly apparent that we had two options to get to Athens. The bus run by the bus company for €40 or the bus run by the train company connecting with a train nearer to Athens for €27. It was a no brainer and before long the bus crawled along the Aegean coastline of turquoise waters abandoned villages before eventually arriving in Kiato where a train was waiting to take us to Athens. The whole journey took about four hours and along the journey we celebrated Charlie’s 9th birthday. Again.
Greece has failed and that is a fact. The economy is in ruin and the country chugs along at a quarter of the pace it used to. Businesses are closing, strikes are daily and after just 30 minutes in the country I figured out why. It is because the Greeks are masters of chilling. They are king of doing nothing and second only to Mexicans in the table of doing nothing 2012. As the bus cut through villages they were all abandoned, shops closed, not a person in sight. Yet as the bus skirted the coastline the beaches and seas were full of Greeks. Fat Greeks, thin Greeks you name it. Greeks are hardcore chill mesiters and the art of doing nothing is perfected here. With all the time spent doing nothing, there is simply no time to work. With Greeks not working, taxes aren’t being paid, which in turn means the politicians can’t cover the money they have been creaming. So when you consider Politicians lining their pockets so they can live lavish lifestyles and go on holiday to do nothing, with the Greeks who do nothing anyway – It’s obvious why the economy is failing.
With that in mind I decided prior to visiting Greece that booking a hotel was a bad idea. I recalled some years earlier a website called couch surfer. People with a spare room, or couch would advertise this and people would come and stay for free. It’s actually a great concept and any traveller will tell you that the best place to be is amongst the locals and/or other travellers. Its how you get to feel the country, how you get beneath its skin. It’s also how you get to learn all the inside info and so for all involved its a fabulous concept.
Obviously looking for three spaces was going to be awkward, and so was looking for somewhere that appeared safe enough to take my children. Fortunately I came across a woman with a son who lives centrally in Athens. She offered us a place at her house and so we made our way there.
As we made our way from the metro following crude directions I had written on a piece of paper, I wondered, firstly why is every where we seem to have to walk uphill and secondly was I doing the right thing. At what price do you try and save money? I rang the buzzer of the apartment we thought we needed to be at and within seconds my mind was put at rest as we were welcomed by Lena with a huge smile. Within a hour we were sat in a local park with Charlie getting chatted up by some Greek girl and Abi showing off her skills on a swing. We had finally made it to Athens, it was hot, humid, and we were exhausted, but the trip had begun.