Monday, 14 November 2011

The Time of my Life

You know what they say: that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have a story that I am gagging to get out. I am bursting with fondness and want to shout it out to the world. I want to tell everyone to stop! To take a break. To look around them and to see the best in everything that surrounds them. My problem is I don't feel I can tell a story well enough to do the actual events justice.

"Good so what will it take to get to Greece..."

"Just say the word. Short flight. et voila!"


The conversation between two people, each with a friend to go with them, who were complete strangers less than a week ago. The conversation between two people who had met in a bar and had a drunken night of fun. No! Not that kind of fun! The sort of fun you have with your friends, dancing your troubles away untill the early hours of the morning (OK, and maybe just a tiny bit of the other kind of fun ;) ).

"omg they dont stop... its almost 6 in the morning and the disco is still going on... The clubs in the usa have nothing on the clubs here"

Ofcource, 'here' was not Athens. 'Here' was Madrid, and the next day, the girls in the story were destined to fly to Paris. And yet so early in their acquaintance, a proposal was made. 'You should come to Paris with us'. The two boys will forever kick themselves in the behind for not getting on a plane the next day and going.

And yet, a few days later, it was the girls who were getting on a plane and heading to Greece. And as shocked as they were at themselves for going, the boys were at them for coming. Neither party knew what to expect but both buzzed with excitement and anticipation!

As it turned out, one of the boys fell ill, and it was up to the other: the quiet and mildly shy one, to show the ladies the best that his land had to offer. As it turned out, that boy was me, and the only way I can describe the next two days is the best experience I have had and every wish to have in my life! And I get asked by my friends (boys being boys), did you get it on with any of them? My answer I believe is as revealing as it is unrevealing: "If I had the choice of not doing everything we did but having a group orgy instead, or doing what we did, I'd go for what we did; every time; hands down!". That is how much a cherish the fun we had.

So there I am, waiting at arrivals gate B, a nervous wreck, thinking how my friend could have left me to deal with two sensationally gorgeous women on my own, when I see them walk through the sliding doors, and everything goes away. And I walk straight up to them, two girl, four cheeks, four kisses, "because this is how we say hello in Greece", and off to the car we go.

"Wow, a mountain. Back home we only have speed bumps." This was the first taste I got of what was to come. The joy that I was to take from showing and exciting people with the simplest of things.

We made our way to the hotel, chatting continuously allong the way, like we had known each other for ever. A quick check-in later and short wait in the lobby and we were off again to the coast. To Mikrolimano and a place called Amos, for a seafood dinner and a walk by the coast.

View from the Table

"In Athens and it is amazing so far... Octopus mussels and a whole fish were part of my dinner tonight, along with mastiha and fresh donuts and ouzo? Totally out of my element and I love it!"

There is not the tiniest of exaggeration in my words when I say that tears come to my eyes thinking that something that is so simple for me; something that I take for granted, can spark so much enthusiasm, so much joy in another.

After our walk we decided to head back to the hotel considering we had to get an early start the next day in order to see everything. But not before a quick drive by tour of the centre. "Look, ancient stuff", I cried as we went by the Temple of Olympian Zeus. They were impressed at a couple of columns, so I can't imagine what went though their mind when they got their first glimpse of the Acropolis, all lit up, as we whizzed by Monastiraki Square.

Next day I picked the girls round ten, which was quite an achievement considering we didn't get to sleep till around two. And because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and coffee makes the world go round, I stopped by a Grigoris to get cheese pies, spinach pies and Freddo Cappuccinos!

We made our way to an underground station where the girls witnessed first hand the nightmare of finding a place to park and gave major respect for my parallel parking technique!

I was so busy chatting and not paying attention that when we switched lines at Sytagma we got the train in the wrong direction and had to turn back at the Panepistimio stop. But that was fine: I just pointed at all the 'Ancient stuff' that was on show at the station. Stuff that was unburied while the station was being built.

Eventually we got to the entrance of the Acropolis and made our way up. Words cannot describe the ascent and descent. We visited the acropolis museum next, had yoghurt with various toppings as a snack as we made out way through Zapio to the Panathinaiko Stadium. We went by the temple of Olympian Zeus, but didn't make it in time to enter.

View From the Acropolis

View From the Acropolis

And again, The Parthenon 

Passage Under the Panathinaiko Stadium

Temple of Olympian Zeus 

'How often do you hear a girl cry out with joy', said one of the girls as we entered the top level of the Acropolis Museum. I looked at her with the corner of my eye and raised my eyebrow. "I walked right into that didn't I", she continued. We laughed.

Eventually we made our way to Syntagma square, stopping by the Hard Rock Cafe to take picture (that was a special request). We took more pictures of parliament and of the girls with the Tsoliades. Next up Karaköy Güllüoglu for the best Baklava I know of. I was amazed how the overwhelming sweet syrupy taste didn't slow down one of the girls who had four or five pieces just like that!

Assorted Balkaba from Karaköy Güllüoglu

No time to ponder the differences between Greek and Turkish Baklava, and we're off to the Tourist shops on Andrianou street. All the way down to Monastiraki we walked, and straight to Bairaktaris for a soublaki. Then it was through the flea market, then the pedestrian road past Keramikos and to Gazi, where we took the Metro back to the car and back to the Hotel to freshen up for dinner.

We had seafood on the first night, so my plan was to go for meat on the second. And what more fitting a place than Ladokola. A place where instead of plates you get greaseproof paper, and the meat is tipped over in front of you in a huge pile. We had a salad and some mixed greens and a mixed grill for three. We also got some Mousaka and was hoping for stuffed tomatoes and green peppers but they were out. And of course lots of wine.

Pile of meat, fries and pita at Ladokola

The girls were surprised at how the wine was flowing. They said back home, they'd have a glass and sip at it throughout the night. "Seriously", I told them, "Can you image the ancient Greeks, sitting round a feast slowly sipping at a glass of wine?". Then there was the thing of looking at each other in the eyes before drinking up. Nobody wants a year of bad sex! "You look at me before you swallow that!" snapped one of the girls at the other with a passion unseen before. Clearly she took her sex life very very seriously. We all burst out laughing at the myriad of interpretations her statement could take.

As the meal came to an end, the question of 'what next' came up. The idea of Bouzoukia came up, but in the sense that is portrayed in the movies: plate breaking. Unfortunately, not only was I not aware of where we could find this (apparently I've just read that it's been banned by law since the 1970s!) but the next day, the girls had a 9am flight so we could't really stay up that late. We settled for a few drinks at Baba au Rum and when made out way back.

The next day it was a miracle that we all managed to wake up and arrive at the airport on time. The girls checked in and we had just enough time to sit down and do the last thing on my to-do list. Have a Frappe. Eventually I took the girls the entrance of the gates area where I could go no further. We hugged, "because that's how we do it in the US", and said goodbye.

And that is the end of my story, and I know I haven't been able to portray a tenth of the fun we had, but I hope that I have given you a tiny insight into it. And you may ask, now that they are gone, half way around the world, how do I feel? I feel grateful. Grateful to have been given an opportunity to share what I am lucky to have with others. To give them joy and happiness. To share with them an experience that we will always remember. I feel grateful to have had this rare opportunity to make friends that I hope to keep for life.
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