Goodbye Amsterdam, Hello Athens
Up and at ’em relatively early this morning, for the transfer to Schiphol airport. It was a chance to take one last look at the beautiful city of Amsterdam.
Schiphol is very well organised, the security check area is very smart with the way the trays for putting your stuff in are arranged around a few circles – so more people can go through security compared to the usual single queue. The way it automatically gives out the trays and takes them back at the end is all very clever.
The part I can’t figure is that I think I’ve bought two souvenirs but my bag which was half full in Sydney is now completely chockers. Think I’ll have to pull everything out and re-pack it once we get to Athens.
First flight was great, in a small plane with only two seats each side. Business class wasn’t really comparable to the Garuda flight on the way over. For Swiss, the short-haul business class means an economy seat but with nobody sitting beside you. But, you do get a much bigger luggage allowance, which is why we chose it.
What we didn’t choose was a delay – somewhere around half an hour I think. But knowing we had a nearly two hour wait at Zurich, it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Being Swiss air, it was very nice that the first thing we were all given was, of course, a little piece of Swiss chocolate. (Good chocolate, too). Flying over the countryside was beautiful – rolling green hills, rivers, fields, as far the eye can see. As we approached Zurich, tidy Swiss villages came in to view, and forests, even some ruins of a castle (I think) atop a hill. It all made me think that next time we come this way, a visit to Switzerland is worth putting on the to-do list.
At Zurich we didn’t see much – just the walk from one gate to another. But at least the second flight left right on time. This plane was a bit bigger, a bit more modern, and a bit more legroom. But no chocolate… still not quite sure if the trade-off was worth it 🙂
Descending from the clouds, we saw a very different landscape – the lush greenery of Switzerland replaced by a much drier, browner view. Welcome to Greece! And welcome also to our next intrepid traveller who was waiting for us, we are now a band of 7!
It was a balmy (ok, sticky) 28 degrees, but luckily the aircon in the car that picked us up was OK, and we arrived at the hotel in one piece. I don’t know if this was all because of the financial crises that have hit Greece recently, but the trip between the airport and the hotel was full of half-finished and abandoned buildings, boarded-up buildings, and it mostly a little bit grim. At least there was the occasional goat to lighten up the mood 🙂
The hotel has a very grand entrance and foyer, looks very fancy indeed. The rooms themselves though have more of a ‘faded beauty’ about them – though it was nice in a way to see this old-school touches like the hotel stationery with envelopes for sending letters (remember letters? Those are the things that used to arrive in the letterbox before it was all just bills and junk mail). The air-con is more con than air, but I think it’s still under 30 degrees in the room so that’ll do.
We all popped up to the seventh floor terrace for beers – and a great view of the Parthenon. I’ll have to get back there with the zoom lens. I think we’ll be taking a half-day tour tomorrow which is bound to be going past these sites as well.
Dinner tonight was at “Smile” – a very aptly-named restaurant just a few minutes walk away. Run by the wonderful Connie and her family, she was a laugh a minute as soon as we walked in, and kept us entertained (and extremely well fed) the whole night. What a wonderful find – if ever you have friends visiting Athens, tell them they must visit ‘Smile’. The food was incredible, even, dare I say it, eclipsing Stalactites in Melbourne. But I guess its only fair that we’d have the best Greek food we’d ever had, in Greece.
First impressions of Athens – we’ve really only walked a few of its streets, and maybe our view of it is affected by everything we’ve heard for ages about all the economic issues, but it does at first glance seem a little down-at-heel. But places like Smile are a very effective reminder that it still has great heart and plenty of energy.