Alex was the caretaker of the cottage we were staying at in Loutraki, Greece. We asked him if he could arrange a ride from there to Athens, about a 2 hour drive. He assured us he would have a car arrive for us. Right on time the next day, Alex showed up with another guy, Theodore, in a black SUV. I immediately recognized Theodore had a great spirit about him and he spoke very good English. He helped load the bags and off we went. He said he needed to stop off for some special Espresso unique to Greece. It was an iced coffee that was very good, but I’m probably the last person that needs caffeine! We then stopped to grab a snapshot of the canal in Corinth, Greece. Pretty awesome accomplishment for its constructors back in 1881. Off to Athens!
We shared lots of conversation on the drive and learned that Theodore was an active duty Greek Navy, Chief Warrant Officer 2. He was an Awesome guy with lots of knowledge in history and interesting questions about American Politics and his own unreserved opinions toward the subject. It was refreshing to have our differences without it being a heated discussion (as many become). We had lots of agreeable topics as well, and I learned a lot about the Greeks Military feelings toward Turkey. Then, we ended up in deep traffic, with several million other Athenians, as we sought our hotel.
The Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens was lovely and it was a nice few days in Athens. We visited lots of historical sites and enjoyed the Metro Vibe. We visited the Plaka village. It had cobblestone streets and lots of small shops. We stopped by the Hard Rock Cafe, only to grab a collectable guitar pin for Granddaughter Charlie. (I’ve been trying to add to her collection when I travel.) The Mr Cool Guy working at the cafe insisted we see their Atrium. After thanking him and kindly saying I really wasn’t interested, maybe next time, we sat down in the Atrium for a drink, I’m easily influenced, and I noticed something very odd. NO MUSIC AT THE HARD ROCK CAFE!!
When I asked where’s the music, he explained due to the pandemic, there is a BAN on music indoors by the government. They’re concerned it will cause too many people to gather. I immediately cited Don McLean’s “American Pie” The day the music died, which then stirred up memories from that song in years passed. We didn’t stay long. You could hear a pin drop inside. It was just weird.
We toured Acropolis, and watched the “Changing of The Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” I often rely on the advice of the resident concierge when I travel as they seem to have the necessary knowledge and experience to easily make any arrangements. Pano was the Concierge and he offered his insights on which islands, besides the main 3 for most tourists, and purchased our tickets for the ferry to Paros. He later rang the room and asked us to stop at his desk with important information. He said we may have problems boarding the ferry because Greece as a whole was not opened for tourists. We already knew this as we’d been kinda sliding through the regulations since JFK airport. After weighing out options we left for the ferry a day later around 6:00AM. We waited with all the locals traveling to Paros for work and business and we were the only ones with rolling suitcases and a backpack on top. The lady officer stopped us asking for documentation and our reason for travel. She was almost angry it seemed with frustration and disbelief when I said just to see the island. She began to nearly scold with serious looks holding the documents as she explained there needs to be a valued reason to travel during COVID. She asked if we had family or business in Athens, with the obvious answer on my face. As everyone else was boarding rapidly up the ramp on to the escalators, she stammered and sighed, looked around as she handed the documents back. Then said, don’t talk to anyone and get aboard! She quickly walked away. I felt like a school kid in trouble, like I’d just been given a pass. I didn’t even speak English to any of the attendants, not realizing once aboard we were fine. Only after boarding did we book an Airbnb on Paros. It was a 3 hour ferry ride to the island, very exciting. And, like many Europeans, I ordered a tall glass of beer at 7:30 AM. All Aboard for a 3 hour tour!!