Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

The Palace of the Grand Masters

The Palace of the Grand Masters

The Palace of the Grand Masters - inside the courtyard

The Palace of the Grand Masters - inside the courtyard

One of the cool shields around the Palace of the Grand Masters

Vaulted arches around the courtyard of The Palace of the Grand Masters

Vaulted ceilings inside The Palace of the Grand Masters

Amazing walkway at the Olympic Stadium in Athens

Olympic Stadium reflected in the water. Looked really cool

Close-up of the stadium

Check out all the black burn marks on the running track.

Wide angle view of the stadium

Flares already going, even before the game has kicked off

The teams just before kick-off

This man was dressed ALL in yellow, including yellow gloves AND a...

February 3, 2011

Today we attempted to have a bit of a lie-in but the building works at the hotel stopped that. One of the downsides of staying off-season is that many hotels are doing minor renovations to get ready for summer. On our floor of the hotel, the door at the end of the corridor was missing and this meant two things. Firstly, there was a constant draft blowing along the corridor. Secondly, there was a 5 storey drop if you weren’t careful. The hotel had rested a different size and shape door against the gap and this had been in place since we had been here. In fact, on our first night the temporary “door” had been toppled twice by the wind causing an almighty thud. However, and highly predictably, the work men were not fixing the door! We still had a late start and for breakfast we had some more of the bread and dips we’d bought. We also ordered a few travel books online for us to collect when we get to Texas in June.

When we finally headed out we went into the old town and visited the Palace of the Grand Masters. Inside was quite cool but the displays weren’t telling us very much and the state of disrepair of some of the items was quite appalling. The floor of the Palace was covered in amazing mosaics from Kos and the detail was unbelievable in some of them. The trouble was many of them were worn from being walked all over and some were even covered in bird droppings. How the hell, or should I say WHY the hell, are birds even inside this amazing, historic building? Other than the building itself being really interesting to look at and the mosaics being cool there was nothing much else, not even any history about the building, the mosaics or how they ended up here. Even the guards here were annoying as they didn’t seem to be doing anything other than having loud conversations from opposite sides of the room, a typical Greek trait it would appear.

The weather had turned a bit rubbish so after stopping at a couple of shops to grab some yummy dried fruit and a magnet, we decided to get a drink at one of the cafés near the old town. We timed it just right as the rain bucketed down just as we ordered and continued incessantly for quite a while after that. There was only so long I could make my drink last but thankfully the waitress didn’t care that we were just hanging out and waiting for the rain to pass! When it finally slowed we rushed out and back to the hotel, grabbing another bottle of wine on the way back for tonight.

Back at the hotel we settled in to watch a film. We decided to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m not exactly sure why we watched this but Elizabeth seems to think it has something to do with the fact we’d expected to see turtles in the water around the island and, as we hadn’t seen any, this was the next best thing! Needless to say, she fell asleep after about half an hour and I had to endure the whole thing! In the evening we headed out for pizza for dinner as the rain had started again and the nearby pizzeria was pretty good before and turned out good this time. We did have a bit of a wait for Elizabeth’s pizza though as she ordered a vegetarian pizza but the man making it decided to ad-lib the ingredients and included something which wasn’t on the menu and which Elizabeth didn’t want – mushrooms! She’d deliberately picked that pizza as it had no mushrooms but it turned up smothered in them and so she sent it back and asked for it to be re-made. The guy was fine and apologised but it meant Elizabeth had to watch me eat and then I watched her!

February 4, 2011

We woke up to lots of rain this morning and it was coming down heavily. In fact, it was so heavy that we didn’t bother doing very much at all for the entire day. We sat down in the bar area of the hotel and booked our hotels for the rest of our stay in Greece bar the last week and just lazed around, eating the remainder of our bread and dips and drinking the wine we had bought the other day. We also bought and tried tsipouro which is like ouzo but without the anise flavour. It just tasted like pure alcohol and wasn’t very nice but at least we both tried it and knew now to avoid it!

In the afternoon I received an annoying email from the ferry company telling us that our ferry for Sunday had been cancelled due to bad weather and that we could re-book for next Wednesday or get a refund. We were already running out of things to do so we didn’t want to spend another 4 or 5 days here and a refund didn’t exactly get us to where we wanted to be. The only solution we were able to find involved a flight to Athens tomorrow and an onwards ferry to Santorini the day afterwards. The ferry costs were similar but the cost of flights was going to be about $200 for the both of us so this was a real annoyance. The rain had slowed so we headed out to a travel agent to sort out our ferry tickets and there we were told there was actually a problem with the ferry and that is why it was cancelled! On reflection, the $200 was a worthy investment for safe travel! We told the hotel we were leaving a day early due to the ferry problems and they were very understanding and agreed that we didn’t need to pay for the last night of our stay. This was a much needed and welcome gesture from them and probably helps when we review them online!

February 5, 2011

This morning we got up and had the remainder of our food stocks for breakfast and left to go to the airport. We’d booked a later flight as we didn’t need to be in Athens in any great rush and neither did we want to get up too early. The flight was at around 1pm so at around 10am we left the hotel to catch the bus to the airport. We’d expected a bit of a wait for the bus but one pulled up immediately and we were at the airport much too early to check in. This proved to be a stroke of luck as the rain once again returned just as we arrived at the airport and was soon coming down heavier than any of the previous two days. We were grateful to be inside, in the dry and there were plenty of places where we could seat and wait until we could check in. Once we could check in we got rid of our bags and headed to the café upstairs for a quick bite to eat before we boarded.

The flight to Athens was with Olympic Airlines and after the problems I’d had with them last year (flight booked, flight cancelled, nine months to get refund) we were very impressed by the service we got on board. The flight was barely an hour but we got drinks and a sandwich in that time and before we knew it we were landing in the capital. We just managed to catch the airport bus to Piraeus after we had retrieved our luggage and this bus journey was infinitely worse than the flight we’d just had. The driver was an idiot and seemed intent on accelerating and braking as often as humanly possible. It appeared that the red lights on the vehicle in front were not a sign for him to slow down and stop but for him to speed up and screech to a halt. Not only did we have to contend with that, the bus ride took longer than the flight had done so we were very pleased when I spotted a sign for our hotel and we were able to get off the bus.

The hotel was better than we’d expected given that we booked the cheapest thing we could find. It was a last minute thing, of course, and it was only for one night so we deliberately went for the cheapy! The area of Piraeus is just outside the centre of Athens and is where all the ferries leave from and as a result the area is not very nice and full of lots of seedy looking people! After a quick stop at the supermarket to get some snacks for the journey tomorrow we were on the metro and heading out of Piraeus and to the Athens Olympic Stadium!

The night in Athens coincided with one of the local teams playing at home so we decided we would go if time allowed. As the flight had arrived on time and we had nothing better to do, we thought it was worth the trip, particularly as it gave us a chance to see the stadium where the 2004 Olympics were held. The ride on the metro was quite long and involved a couple of changes due to some engineering works but we were soon at the stadium and the views of it were really awesome. The stadium itself has a pool outside and the effect of the floodlights reflecting in the water was really cool. Like many things in Greece the graffiti was prevalent and it was a shame to see such an amazing and new stadium ruined in such a way. In didn’t get any better inside, either. We were able to get tickets easily enough and once we got close to the ground we noticed plenty of riot police and we were ushered in pretty quickly. The turnstiles led straight to the seating area with no food, drinks or even toilets accessible inside the section we were in (the cheapest, of course). In the process of coming in we were searched as we expected and the woman “groping” Elizabeth even wanted to undo her jacket to see what she had inside. The stupidity and needlessness of this act soon became quite apparent as the fans of the home team, AEK Athens, were soon throwing flares and fireworks around. The running track which hosted the track events in 2004 was now covered in burn marks from flares and the water-pit for the steeplechase was used by the stewards to douse the fires. If searches are so thorough, or so they appear, how do they allow people to “smuggle” these things in? If that weren’t bad enough (and trust me; that was bad enough!) there were many fans who had laser pens who kept using them to try and distract the opposition players and the referee. When we go to a game we often side with the home team as it makes it more interesting but having seen what these “fans” have done to an iconic stadium certainly didn’t make me care too much about the result. The seats were also filthy and covered in a layer of what can only be described as “black crap” but looked very much like cigarette and ash residue. Given that everyone was smoking that was highly likely. I also use the term “smoking” loosely, too, as it seems another Greek trait is to light a cigarette and then just hold it and wave it around without the need to actually puff on it. Give myself cancer? Why no, you can have it.

Anyway, the match was pretty decent but the home team didn’t play very well and eventually lost 2-1 to Aris Salonika. Despite the respective league positions (AEK were 4th, Aris were 8th) the away team looked much more confident and threatened more when they came forward although neither team really deserved to win. There didn’t appear to be any Aris fans in the stadium at all as no-one cheered when they scored and this made the need for police in full riot gear a bit overkill to me! The metro ride back was interesting, too, as there was a mix of people of the trains – football fans, people on their way home from work and people on their way out to party. The journey seemed to take forever though although it was only about an hour and we were back in bed just after 11pm ready to get some sleep before our 7am ferry ride!

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