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..............Cindys Gallery - Photos of my Life
Surprise Holiday to Greece
Well it's been an interesting trip. There was always the risk that the Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok could put a spanner in the works but thankfully all was OK on that front. We had to overnight in Bangkok and Cindy chose a hotel near the airport as we had an early morning flight. The "Miracle Homeotel" turned out to be in an industrial estate. We arrived at night, there were no street lights and it was not the kind of place you would expect to find a hotel. On route I thought "hello we're being kidnapped", but around the next corner were bright lights, we had arrived. It turned out to be fairly new, but not much sign of activity, such a strange place to build a hotel. Our problems started the next morning, we were unable to board our Qatar Airways flight to Athens as there was a general stike in Athens and the airport was closed. We sort of wandered away from the check-in counter like two children who had been told off, found a cafe and had some breakfast. Whilst eating we got our fighting spirit back and decided to go back and insist we fly the first leg of our journey to Doha and overnight there. That theory also failed, they weren't allowing us to fly anywhere, so we found an internet cafe and Cindy booked us into another hotel for the night. We watched the TV that night and saw all the street fights in Athens and the 3 deaths from a petrol bomb, it looked like world war 3 had broken out, did we really want to go to Athens?.

We talked it over and decided that the trouble was probably only a small part of the city and was being beaten up by the media, let's not let this spoil our holiday. Next morning bright and early we once again checked in to our Qatar Airways flight to Athens via Doha. The flight was great, a new plane and really good service. On arriving in Doha we got a good view of the country with its rolling sand dunes that just seemed to sink under the sea. Little collections of dusty dwellings joined by desert tracks, no vegetation just sand as far as you could see. To most people this would be the last place they would want to visit, but we find this type of country fascinating. The coast was dotted with hotels looking out over the most beautifully coloured sea that went from aqua blue to dark green. This is one place we will have to come and spend some time.



We only had an hour in Doha before our flight to Athens and before we knew it we had landed in Greece. We picked up our luggage and were through immigration in less than 15 minutes. Our airport pick-up was no where to be seen, so Cindy rang the mobile number she had and they were waiting at exit B and we were at exit A. "Lizzie" our pick-up girl turned out to be delightful, she worked for the hotel we were staying at and had come personally to meet us. She insisted we first go for a coffee at the Sofitel hotel, so our taxi drove us and we spent half an hour chatting. Lizzie is 33yo, never stops smiling, is from Georgia, has a 14 year old son and has been living and working in Greece for 6 years. She speaks 7 languages and talks and talks as if every day is her last. Our trip into Athens is the obligatory 120 kms per hour taxi ride designed to frighten you to death and dread the return trip when you leave.

Art Hotel Athens

Greek Flag

Cindy choose the "Art Hotel" as it had great reviews on Trip Adviser. On arriving we were given a welcome drink and after sitting in the lobby for about 25 mniutes we began to get the feeling that there was a problem with the room. Sure enough they told us there was a problem with the airconditioning which we all know is code for "we are over booked". They had arranged for us to go to another hotel nearby which was also 4 star and although more expensive, they would cover the extra. The "Novus Hotel" had only been open about a month and was modern minimalist, very nice but felt a little cold and empty. We had been on the road now for 21 hours and decided to turn in early. Just as we were about to get into bed the phone rang, it was Lizzi, she had heard we didn't get into the hotel and was full of apologies. She would be at our hotel by 11pm to take us out to dinner!. After a few minutes trying to convince Lizzie it was rather late for dinner & we were exhausted, she relented only if she could take us out the next day at 5pm, we agreed.

Bread stand Syntagma Square

View of Athens from Agios Georgios

Cindy at Acropolis

Temple Acropolis

The breakfast at the hotel was great, (no chicken or pork congee in sight like Asian hotels) just great Greek food, including the best yogurt we have ever tasted. The metro was only 150 meters from the hotel so we bought a day ticket for 3 euros and headed for the Acropolis. I have been to Athens many times but never actually visited their most famous site. It didn't disappoint, one of the most iconic buildings in the world it is just as you imagine. The view over the city is stunning, all the buidings are pale beige colour with sun glittering off the windows and the odd roof top swimming pool. A visit to the Acropolis Museum takes a couple of hours, there is so much to see. They must have discovered ruins when constructing the building and rather than destroy them they built on piles leaving the ruins intact. Much of the floor is glass so you can see down to the ruins below.

Cindy & Lizzi

Acropolis Museum

Acopolis Museum

Ruins under museum

Illegal immigrant pavement sellers

Next stop was Syntagma Square, site of the riots only 2 days ago and it was as if nothing had happened. I will digress at this point and talk about illegal imigrants, of which Greece has over 1 millon, mainly from North Africa. They can be seen everywhere trying to sell fake bags, watches and all manner of goods to tourists. Others are in the drug trade making them unpopular with Greeks and a constant problem for police. They have their goods displayed on a sheet on the ground and when warned that police are around, they snatch them up and vanish. Many of these guys frequent Syntagma and whilst taking pictures we turned in their direction. They were not impressed and got angry. During a verbal exchange we were told to "F--- off you don't belong in this country", that from an illegal immigrant, welcome to Greece!.

Greek Parliment scene of recent trouble

Syntagma Square

Now, the main reason for our visit to Greece was to surprise some old friends. Heather & Denis have asked us several times to go on holiday with them but what with work and other things it never happened. They planned to go to the Lakes District in England, Scotland then Greece (Mykonos) for 2 weeks, departing late April. Sometime in early April we decided to surprise them by being in Mykonos when they arrived, staying at the same hotel. We feared Our suprise plan was destined to backfire... first there was the ash cloud, it looked for days like Heather & Denis would not even be able to leave Australia. Denis (who is prone to panicking) even told us they had a backup plan to go to Fiji, or not go at all!. We kept sending emails to them saying "things are getting better you should be OK", anything to keep the holiday on track. They did depart as planned but then came the Athens riots. Denis didn't want to go to Greece incase the riots got worse. We were saying "everything is calm you'll be OK". What we couldn't say was "we are in Athens and its fine"!!

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus with Acropolis in background

Back to Athens.... Five o'clock came and Lizzi & Demitri (the taxi driver) arrived to take us out for a meal. By now we had worked out that Lizzi and Dimitri were an item, she the vivacious 33 old Georgian and he a 50 old Greek with an infectious smile. First we drove up to Agios Georgios, a high lookout point with a great view over the city and the Acropolis, where we had a drink and Lizzi told us her life story. Then we head back into the city for a meal at the Agora Resturant. The food was great and much as we tried, Lizzi would not let us pay, we owe her a meal and it will be the perfect excuse to come back to Athens. Our last day in Athens was spent visiting a museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Athens Greek Orthodox Cathedral. We just had time to buy a large Greek pastry and a drink which we ate in Syntagma Square, before rushing back to get our luggage and board the train to the airport.

Hotel near Cathederal

Entrance to Cathederal

Small church near Syntagma

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