Greek Islands
Athens, Greece
August 13th – 22nd, 2004


 


Last year we had made arrangements with friends of ours to meet them here for a week of sailing. This was something that Tom really wanted to do and although it was during the Olympics and I was worried about the crowds, it really was not a concern. They would have been there anyway and most were at the games.

I thought it would be nice for a change to have Tom do the recap of this trip…so here it is and we hope you enjoy it…please see my recap of Brighton for all of the England side of things that I did, plus website links….

I flew from Edmonton to Toronto and then on to London. My first Trans Atlantic flight and I got to go business class. What a treat. Seats that actually recline and room to stretch out. I arrived in London on the 11th.
Donna had given me detailed instructions on where to go when I got off the plane. First to the Air Canada’s arrivals lounge where I found that they did not have any Internet access other than one machine using a dial up connection. It turns out this would be the first of many internet disappointments on our trip. I found my way to the London Underground. This had to be one of the longest treks I’ve ever made from an airport. Once on the train, I sat back and enjoyed people watching, listening to the new sounds and sights. I successfully switched trains as instructed to head north to Hilda’s flat. I got off the train, found the pub corner to turn at and within 5 minutes was enjoying meeting Hilda for the first time. We’ve chatted by email for almost 6 years since she started guiding Donna’s tours and I felt I knew her already but it was nice to actually meet her in person. It was also great to hear all about Donna’s adventure in Brighton.
After a “cuppa” we stopped in at our B&B, met our hostess, Maggie and then headed downtown.

Tom's notes: Donna had arranged for us to test out three different hotels that offered afternoon tea as she wanted to include this feature in her upcoming tours and thought it would be a good idea to get a feel for the differences between the various hotels. The first tea was at the Lanesborough Hotel. For someone like me who has never experienced a true English “Tea” it was quite something. First, it’s not just tea. It’s a several course mini dinner. You do get to choose your type of tea from a large selection of teas I’d never heard of before. Then the waiter arrives with a three tier tray with a selection of small sandwiches, breads and sweets. As you snack along, the waiter returns to refill the tray with items you’ve consumed. Once you’ve indicated you’ve had your fill of sandwiches and breads, he offers scones, fresh clotted cream and fruit compotes. By the time we were done, I was more than satisfied. The ambiance of the room is also something that adds to the experience. It’s like being transported back to the 19th century in a conservancy of some great house. The Lanesborough’s tea room is adorned in a Chinese motif with several great porcelain figurines. When we finished the tea, we were given a short tour of the guest rooms. Until 1990, The Lanesborough had been a historic hospital and you can see some of this looking at the staircases and the entry. The guest rooms are all very well appointed and one of the hallmarks of the hotel is that all the rooms come with their own butler to help make your stay more enjoyable. For those ladies that would be uncomfortable with a male butler unpacking for them, the hotel offers a few female butlers as well. All in all, a class establishment and one that would be a great place to call home when in London. If we did not have any more teas, this one would have been worth bringing my suit jacket for even though the main purpose of the trip was a week on a small sailboat. After the tea we took Hildas advice and went to a performance at the Royal Albert Concert Hall. What an amazing old building.
Donna took a couple of videos to give you some idea of what it was like.

The next day we had two teas scheduled, one at the Dorchester and the other at the Ritz. The Dorchester was a disappointment only because they really don’t cater to groups so it was a bit of a waste, other than the food. It was excellent and the service was up to the expectations of that class of hotel. The young fellow that waited on us was from South Africa and was very attentive. The last tea was at The Ritz. For any of you that saw “Notting Hill” with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, you may remember the crazy friend stopping traffic while they ran into the hotel – well that was a the Ritz. What a grand hotel. From the small and exclusive lobby guarded by a very pleasant fellow to the huge tea room it was “grand”. Donna arranged to have Hilda join us at the Ritz for tea and we had a great time. The food was excellent. In the tea room were two interesting individuals. We speculated all through tea who they might be. He was a very tall, dark, long haired, done in a pony tail, with almost a Caribbean pirate beard and clothing, she was an elderly lady with a interesting outfit and tiara. We finished dinner and were privileged to have a tour of the hotel with the assistant manager Jonathan. We asked about the couple in the tea room and he explained they were regulars that came each week to enjoy the tea and the entertainment. He was a maker of fine jewelry. So much for our great speculations about him being some famous actor and his mother.

Our day included a scheduled visit to Buckingham Palace. No, we did not have an audience with Her Majesty, just a tour of the palace. What a place.
“Opulence” is the only word that comes to mind. All right, maybe “stately”
as well. We wandered around Bond Street, Fleet Street, Oxford, and St. James Streets.

Our wanderings took us along the Thames, past #10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, the Queens Horse Guards, where we saw the changing of the guard. Donna took another video of this so you could a feel for the ceremony. One of the highlights for me was our visit to the Templar Church.
I’d asked Donna to find it on one of her earlier visits and this time she took me right to it. You might find it interesting to read up on the history of this temple. As you can see by the pictures the oldest part of the church is round and if you’ve visited many churches, particularly old churches, you will know they never built them round. Only the Knights Templar. Some of the details Donna captured in these pictures are great. You will see the age of the building in the sagging lead windows and the lead downspouts. The column with the two Knights Templar on top is amazing.

The main purpose of our trip was a week sailing in Athens. Why, you would ask, would we choose to go sailing in Greece while the Olympics were being held in Athens? That’s the reason. Our friends, Mike & Ronnie Haner, wanted to see the games and found it difficult to find a room so they came up with the idea they should rent a sail boat, get a bunch of people to share the cost, sail for a week and then see the games the second week and use the boat as a hotel room. We signed up for the first week of sailing.

Neither Donna nor I have ever spent a week on a sail boat. We’ve sailed for a day, and we’ve enjoyed cruising so we figured why not. Well actually I figured why not, and persuaded Donna to go along. Reluctant as she was she knew I was looking forward to it so she agreed to go. As they say, hindsight is perfect. We thought of all the things we thought we might find troublesome, like the heat, rough water, cramped quarters and the like, and I think we did a good job of covering all those bases.

We flew from London to Milan to Athens. Not something I would recommend! We thought it would be cool to go through Milan. Not! We arrived in Milan, were shuffled onto a bus, taken to the terminal, unloaded, herded through a massive line through security, hustled back on the bus (as we only had one hour between flights), taken back out to a waiting aircraft to find it was the one we left almost an hour before. Not the most efficient or enjoyable time in Milan. We arrived in Athens at two a.m. We had made arrangements to meet one of our sailing people at the airport and we had no trouble hooking up with Sam. We took a local bus toward the marina and asked a passenger if they could help direct us as to which stop to take for the marina. About an hour later,. we got off the bus and started our hunt for the marina and our boat. We found the marina but there were hundreds of boats docked and it was pitch black. As there was no one around we decided to bunk down on a park bench and wait till morning. Sounds idyllic, Athens, at a dock on a park bench. I forgot to tell you that there was bar open just up the way and it played very loud music well after four a.m. We eventually found someone in the morning to direct us to our boat, “Peggy Darling”. The trip wasn’t starting out on the best note. We dropped our bags off and headed to the showers. Straight cold water is very brisk and not all that easy to shower in as I found myself running in, getting wet, soaping down, running back under and then attacking the water again. Oh well, just another adventure.

We spent Saturday getting the boat ready, meeting the rest of our crew and finding an Internet café. The closest café was experiencing some technical problems so we asked directions to the next closest one. Turns out it was a short train ride away, something like 3-4 kilometers. The train was Athens new tram system. Well, it was slightly more than 3-4 Km, more likely 15 or so stops on the train, one change of trains and 2 stops that the train conductor decided he didn’t need to go to, so we walked. As we were going to be in Athens one day, we decided we had to see the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Up close and personal, the Parthenon is unbelievable. The size just takes your breath away. Or maybe that was the climb to it – or the heat – or the height. What ever it was, I found it awesome. One of the column tops was laying on the ground and it really gave you a sense of the size of each of those columns. How did they ever get those pieces of stone up that hill, and then piled up to make the columns. Under the eaves, the Greeks had set a series of marble pictorial slabs. Donna saw these slabs in London at the British museum. Apparently there is quite a controversy over these marbles. When we came down from the Acropolis, we came across the Olympic bicycle road race.
http://www.uk.digiserve.com/mentor/marbles/

http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/The_Parthenon.html

 


 

 


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