3rd December 2009
I was deciding where to go to celebrate my 30th birthday and didn’t want to stay in the UK so my friend and I decided on going to Athens. It’s somewhere I've wanted to go and thought December would be a great time to go seen as though it’s out of tourist season. I was looking at EZY but the flight was first thing in the morning and it would be a hassle getting from the North East of England to LGW so, with thanks to Sketty222, I booked NCL-LHR-ATH-LHR-NCL on BA. So were booked our flights and searched for a cheap and cheerful hotel. We booked the Hotel Aristoteles in the Omonia area of Athens city.
My friend lives in Leeds and I was at work the night before our little holiday so she drove up and timed it just nicely to pop to the local Chinese for dinner and met me at my flat just as I got in from work. We opened a bottle of bubbly to celebrate both our 30th birthdays this year and to the start of our little adventure. So we made sure everything was packed and went to bed. After going into a good sleep for a total of one hour I woke up and just slightly dozed until my alarm went off at 5.30am. I popped in the shower whilst my friend was still snoozing. We packed the last couple of bits and headed to NCL. Even though the A1 was very busy for 7am, we made it to the airport in 25 minutes and headed to the long stay car park which cost a bloody fortune for just a few days (£44) Good job my friend booked it as I would have just hopped on the metro.
After my friend messed on looking for a space as close to the entrance, we parked up and walked up to the terminal. We used the check-in kiosk and headed to the check in desk to drop off our bags. There was only one person in front of us, then we dropped off our bags and headed upstairs for the dreaded security check area. Surprisingly, the queue wasn’t too bad but they still are as miserable as sin (I’m being polite) When we were eventually called for, as usual I got stopped and asked to take off my boots and belt, then got searched and as usual they didn’t find anything. After getting dressed again, I headed off to duty free to try the perfumes as I wanted a new one but didn’t know what I wanted. After trying on a few, I decided to leave it and look another time, besides I was starting to smell like a prostitutes parlour, with all the different scents on me, lol. We headed to Costa Coffee for a cuppa. The service was diabolical but the tea was a welcome start. Anyway, after our cuppa, it was time to head to our departure gate.
When we got there, most of the pax were there already. Boarding started quite quickly and we headed to our seat where I bagged the window seat. We fastened our seat belts and we were soon at the end of the runway ready for take off. We were off, flying over the west of NCL and down to LHR. Take off was a little bumpy but that’s the way I like it, makes the flight more interesting. Service was quick to start through the packed cabin, and I was looking forward to another cup of tea. Breakfast was served in the form of a hot cheese, ham and mushroom panini, which was delicious. I looked through the in flight mags and was debating whether to buy the L’Occitane travel set but decided against it for the moment and thought I would look in T5 to see what they had. We started our descent into LHR and had to wait in the holding pattern for a good 20 minutes. Eventually we were on finals into LHR and flew over TGM. It seemed to take forever to get to our gate but once we left the aircraft and turned a corner, we were at the T5 connection desk. Once through we mooched around the shops for a short while, got a drink and bought a magazine for the flight. Then is was time to go to the boarding gate.
3rd December 2009
My friend is one of those who likes to board last, but I like to get on board and get settled. So while she tried to buy a coat online on her phone which didn’t work, I was getting agitated as there wasn’t many people left to board and the flight was showing final call. We boarded and made ourselves comfortable for the next couple of hours. The doors were shut and we headed out to take off. Once airborne, it was lovely to see a glimmer of sun.
Not long after take off, the drinks service started. I don’t normally drink on flight’s as I usually drive when I arrive at my destination or I’m flying due to work. I had a vodka and lemonade, which quenched my thirst quite well. After chatting with my friend and being a total tourist with our guide books and how to make the most of our 2 full days in ATH, the meal service began. The meal consisted of greek salad, a very unappetising looking mince and pasta which tasted absolutely delicious, I can’t remember what dessert was, then the usual bread and butter, and a cup of tea. I was very impressed with the meal. After the trays were taken, I settled down and popped on my ipod and had a little snooze as I was getting tired from being up so early. After a good hour or so snooze with only reclining my seat slightly, I woke up a little refreshed. I read my magazine and enjoyed the beautiful sunset as we approached Athens.
Coming into land was a lovely scene. Landing was very good and ATH seemed to be quiet. We disembarked and headed to passport control who quickly looked at our passports and we went to collect our suitcases. Our cases soon came and so did the realisation of my friend leaving her duty free bad on the aircraft with her perfume and make-up in, so we went to the Swissport desk. After working in travel for a number of years, tracing items left on the aircraft normally ends with the reply of ‘nothing was left on the plane’ the lady ran to an exit and out onto the ramp, returning two minutes later with the bag. We were going to take the bus into the city centre but I didn’t have enough energy so we hopped into a taxi to our hotel. After a very busy motorway and city centre tour, we arrived at our hotel. We were greeted with a group of Scouse’s and an Everton flag in the window of the hotel. I didn’t realise they were playing Athens the previous night. We checked in and made our way to our room. The lift’s were a joke, you could barely get one person in each lift. Our room was on the small side but adequate. I couldn’t grumble for the price we paid (€109 for three nights for the two of us) the beds were extremely comfortable and so were the pillows. The bathroom was small but functional. We rested for half an hour, showered and changed, then out for dinner. We got some info from reception about hoe to get to Plaka. We walked to the bus stop, where half of Athens were waiting. In the end, after waiting a good 40 minutes, we decided to flag down a taxi. After a reasonable fare of €5 we went in search of dinner. After walking round for a little while we found a little taverna and had some wonderful kleftico, which I love.
We were quite tired and didn’t want to sleep to much into the next day we headed off back to the hotel and thought we would have a nice peaceful sleep. How wrong we were. The lovely Everton supporters were in the next room and only have two volumes: loud and louder, especially when drunk. One guy was shouting the odds, and his mate told him to shut up, only for him to reply saying he wasn’t shouting, lol. This went on for at least 2 hours. Eventually he must have passed out around 3-4am.
9am comes round and he started again. We eventually decide to get up and going sight seeing. We got the bus to near the Acropolis and get some breakfast to set us us for the day. We head from the taverna to the Acropolis and look in awe at the Parthenon. It looks stunning from a distance and couldn’t wait to get up there.
After wandering past the new museum which I wanted to visit, we made our way up the Acropolis and to the entrance. I didn’t think about buying a drink but needed one there was had to pay €3 for a bottle of Nestea! I made sure it lasted and didn’t waste any for that price. We stopped at numerous viewpoints with amazing views over the city and towards the port.
As we got nearer to the Parthenon, the temperature got warmer, and I’m sure it was around 20C for the start of December, which was a welcome after coming from horrid cold UK weather. We were nearly there and so were most of the tourists. I didn’t expect there to be so many there in December. We got there and saw the beauty that is the Parthenon, although I was slightly disappointed to be honest. As you enter the area, all you can see is scaffolding along one side as they are restoring it at the moment. I took loads of pics around the area and made the most of my time there.
Eventually it was time for us to start heading back down the hill. I thought I was doing good until we started to make our way down, when my feet started to really hurt. I wore my boots thinking they would be ideal for lots of walking but they disagreed with me, lol. We headed for a coffee before going to see the changing of the guards. There were quite a few people waiting for the changing too. Some people were being silly, trying to give them them a kiss whilst having their pic taken. Needless to say they were quickly chased. We waited and saw the guards changing. Now my friend has a fetish for pom-poms, lol.
We headed through the park and over to the Olympic Stadium even though it was closed and took some pics then headed to the bus stop.
Every kiosk we went to didn’t have any bus tickets left so we walked back to the Parliament buildings and eventually got our hands on some bus tickets. I felt like I was trying to buy a winning Euromillions ticket, but eventually we got some. We somehow squeezed onto the bus and headed back to the hotel where we had a snooze and then showered, make-up on and out for dinner. We headed out again to Plaka, by taxi straight away tonight, and found another little taverna where Mousaka was our dinner for the evening. After a lengthy day and the wine started to take it’s toll, we headed back for a good night s sleep, which we did thankfully. It looked like the Everton supporters had gone home.
Saturday morning, we both opened our eyes and shut them again and snoozed a bit more, we were shattered but knew we would have to get up soon. I had an excuse to have a little lie-in as it was my birthday. I couldn’t lie in any longer as my friend turn on the big light and started to sing Happy Birthday. I opened my cards my family had given my and my presents. We looked outside as it was forecast for rain, and it was, but we were determined to make the most of it. We headed to the Temple of Olympian Zeus then to the Acropolis museum, which was extremely busy.
We paid our entrance fee of €1 and went to look around. I thought it was very clever how they have built the museum around ancient ruins in the ground. The pics don’t do it justice. It was lovely to walk round and see the old remains. We sat and watched a short video of the history of the area which was quite interesting.
Then we headed off but it started to rain again. We headed to Mitropoleos Streets for a wander.
We wandered around the shopping district for a while, mainly to look for a comfy pair of shoes for me as I couldn’t wear anything other than my boots and they wouldn’t go with my dress for the evening, lol. I ended up with a pair of pumps from H&M. Tired, we jumped into a taxi just as a protest was about to start and headed back to the hotel, where the taxi driver informed us that it was the worst area to be staying in, but we didn’t encounter any trouble. My friend popped out to the local shop and brought back a bottle of vodka. As we went about our evening routine, we had a couple of vodka’s which went straight to my head. We headed out to a restaurant that reception had recommended. I was really looking forward to a meze, but the restaurant didn’t do them. I was disappointed but still enjoyed my meal. We were due to be up early the next morning so we decided to head back and get our head down for the night.
6th December 2009
Our alarm went off and with fuzzy head’s, got ready, checked out and grabbed a taxi to the airport as the sun came up over Athens. The airport was really quiet, but it was Sunday morning. We headed over to check in and there were about 5 desks all waiting for customers to check-in. After a rapid check-in we headed airside. I found it a little strange that security isn’t until the gate. I headed to duty-free to stock up on cigarettes for the parents, which were very cheap. We grabbed a coffee to try to pick us up but I don’t think it really worked. Shortly later, it was time to head to our departure gate. We waited a short while, then we started boarding. My friend, as usual wanted to be the last on, but I just headed on and got settled in my window seat. She headed on just about last. The load on the flight was quite light and we were soon ready for departure. I got a glimpse of two Imperial Airways B747’s sitting with steps attached. I don’t know if they were being prepared for a flight later that day or not. There wasn’t much else to see, apart from the glorious OA A340’s parked up. It was a shame to see them not in use.
We soon took off and headed back to LHR. The cabin crew seemed to be whizzing round the cabin before starting duties. Breakfast was amazing on the flight. Greek yogurt and honey, fresh fruit platter, a hug breakfast which included 4 bacon rashers, 2 sausages, mushrooms, lots of scrambled egg, tomato and a hash brown, as well as bread roll and butter, all washed down with a good cup of tea. After the trays were collected, I read for a while and decided to buy the L’Occitane set I saw on the way out. The cabin crew started their service on the other side of the aircraft before coming to my side, as they were about to start the service, the seat belt sign came on as we hit a bit of turbulence. Eventually they came round and I got my set and had a little chat with Colin, a nice Scottish guy who had the same thought about Athens as me. We both agreed it seemed to be covered in graffiti and f the building wasn’t boarded up, it was falling down. I know it’s an ancient city but it looked like it was being left to be ruined. We eventually came over London and into land into LHR. Landing was excellent considering it was a very windy day.
Once at our stand we headed to connections, which was an absolute joke. We got our passports checked straight away then we headed to a massive queue to head upstairs to security. We must have waited nearly 30 minutes to be allowed up the escalator to security again, and stood for another 20 minutes. After going though without setting any detectors off, we headed downstairs for a wander around. It was nearly time for boarding so I wanted to head down to the departure gate whilst my friend, yet again, wanted to be last. As I looked at the board I noticed the flight was boarding so I just left her to her own devices, sick of her wanting to be last on. Once there I realised we were being bussed to the aircraft. As I got on the bus, an A380 took off over my head. I was gutted I didn’t have my camera ready otherwise I would have had a fantastic picture. I think it was SQ. As we waited for more pax, my friend appears on the bus. The doors close and we head out to our waiting aircraft. Once on board what seemed like a 100% full flight, my friend is already sitting in her seat. So I settled into my seat and the captain makes an announcement. Due to the string wind, we are going to be delayed around 45 minutes, then the power cuts out. Great I thought. I had visions of us being bussed up to NCL. Luckily, the power supply had been knocked out. The captain offered pax upto the cockpit whilst we waited for a slot to take off. Without any hesitation, I was up there. I did take a pic of the captain but didn’t want me to put it on here, so I won’t, but he was a very pleasant captain. Anyway, we went back to our seats and the power supply cut off again. But we got clearance and went to line up with what felt like millions of other aircraft waiting to take off.
Eventually it was our turn. After sitting on a 767 for over 3 hours our A320 seemed small and squashed up. Luckily it was a short flight. Once the seat belt sign was off, A VS cabin crew went into the overhead bin to get something out of her bag and left the door open. As she was crew, I chuckled to myself slightly at the irony of it. Anyway, she eventually realised and quickly closed it. Only drinks were served on this flight. The flight was uneventful and I was getting tired and just wanted a hot shower and bed. We descended into NCL. After a quick retrieval, and noticing a couple that was on our ATH-LHR flight, they were on the LHR-NCL with us too. We got our suitcases and headed to the car park. I waited with the cases and got the ticket validated whilst y friend went for the car. Then it was off to my parents for a nice cuppa and a Sunday dinner waiting for us. All in all, it was a lovely break as I had been through one of the worst years of my life. I really wanted to love Athens, but didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I can’t wait to go back to Greece, but will definitely be going to other parts of the country.
[Edited 2010-01-27 17:44:22 by sunshine79]