Athens

We woke to find no cruise ships in the harbour for the second day in a row. The water was much choppier than it had been and there was quite a strong wind blowing in off the sea. We packed our cases and rolled them out onto the patio, then sat for a while and took in the amazing view for the final time.

I’d arranged for a driver to take us to the airport, and a guy to help get our luggage from the studio where we’re staying to the taxi van. This was no mean feat. Sergei helps out around the property and his girlfriend Maria is our cleaner. He picked up one of our cases in each hand and walked down the 39 narrow steps with them, making it look as easy as if he was carrying a plate from the kitchen to the dining table. They weighed 47.5 kg combined, and he did it in thongs. Not a bad effort. Once at the bottom of our steps he had to wheel/lift them along a narrow, heavily cobbled pathway that twisted and turned, and went uphill and down, all the way to the carpark – probably about 150 difficult metres away. I was very pleased to have the heavy suitcases in the van, and he was rather pleased with his tip, so it was a win-win situation. The van driver laughed as he dropped us at the airport, commenting on how the wind would blow the plane about on takeoff. Hmm. Not funny.

The airport was impossibly crowded. It’s undergoing reconstruction, so that made things worse. We queued outside for a while, and when we got inside, dropped our bags off and made it through scanning, we found ourselves jammed into a tight crush in the very small departure lounge area and basically couldn’t move for some time. We dropped our bags off at about 10.20am for a 12.20pm take off. Under normal circumstances that might seem quite early, but on a day like today when so many tourist flights were leaving Santorini it was entirely appropriate.

One or two flights left and there was a little room to move in the departure lounge, so we took a seat, happy to wait until boarding time. Just after 11am, an airline staff member approached us and asked if we had any connecting flights beyond Athens. When we said No, she then asked if we would be prepared to volunteer to take a later flight, as the flight we were due to go out on was overbooked. When we received a similar offer in London, we said No because we didn’t want to be diverted to Rome and arrive in Santorini a day late, and also because we had a driver and host waiting for us. But today, we said Yes we would be happy to take the next flight, three hours later. Why? Because they paid us 250 Euros each in cash (about AU $810), a free flight with Olympic to be taken in the next year, and meal vouchers. And because we would still be in Athens by mid-afternoon.

So the staff printed us new boarding passes and held back our luggage. We were given the cash and the food and free flight vouchers. We moved upstairs to the cafe and found a couple of chairs, and that’s where we stayed for the next three hours. Eventually we went downstairs to the departure lounge again to find a similar crush of people waiting to fly out to other destinations. Eventually our Athens flight got away about 40 minutes later than it was supposed to, but we were glad to be in the air. The flight was a little rocky at times, due to the high winds that had swept across Santorini and other parts of Greece all day. Landing in Athens, we again felt the impact of the strong winds on our twin turbo-prop plane, and it was a little bumpy as we came in to land after the 40-minute flight.

I had arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel. It was quite an uneventful drive, so there was nothing to take photos of. Our hotel room is on the third floor. I stepped out onto the balcony, hoping for something to take a photo of, but as you can see there was nothing in either direction. With all of the stuffing around with flights, and the six hour wait at Santorini airport, we were feeling quite tired, so we ate at the hotel and decided against going out for a walk. Tomorrow is our last full day on tour, after three months of it. We’re meeting a friend of a friend who will show us around the Acropolis Museum. It should be good.

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