So, as I get up and get started, enjoying a cup of coffee on my terrace, staring at the Acropolis, I find myself husbandless. Some of you may think, “Whoo-hoo! Party!” But, I’m not really the “Whoo-hoo! Party!” kind of person. Plus, this is my 20th Anniversary trip. And I’m husbandless.
The plan now is that he will join me around noon at the hotel, assuming the travel gods in Moscow release him. But what to do this morning? We had been scheduled to have a private walking tour of the Acropolis and various main sites with PK Travel. But they were incredibly gracious and accommodating when I emailed yesterday afternoon, as soon as I found out about Scott’s travel snafu, and were able to reschedule our tour for tomorrow.
So, here I am, after being a total planning geek, without plans this morning.
I pulled out my handy-dandy travel notebook, and perused my list of not-firmly-scheduled-but-want-to-do items. What on this list would Scott not care if I did it without him? Pppfffffttt… stupid question, wander with my camera, and shop. That’s what. These are “my” things when we travel. And if I could make it to the Poet Sandal Maker’s shop this morning, that would be one item I really wanted to do off my list.
So I got myself together, had a last map consult and tucked it in my well-used (thanks Mom!) travel bag, grabbed the camera, and headed out.
It didn’t take long, wandering through the Plaka, to realize this was going to be a photo-rich environment. Old dilapidated and well-maintained and architecturally rich buildings and doors (there will be a separate Doors of Athens post, I’m sure), graffiti or “street art” (not exactly sure the dividing line on those two things), winding, narrow streets, preserved ancient sites, and the Acropolis always presiding over it all.
When I first set out, it was quiet. Stores were either still completely shut down with metal gate doors firmly locked over their fronts, or were locked while someone inside busily unpacked, arranged and prepared for the day. Here and there a little stand with postcards and water was already operational, but even those had no patrons yet. Occasionally, I was greeted with a kalimera (good morning) or yassou (hello) as I passed, and did my best to return the greeting. I had a short list of phrases in my travel notebook for easy reminding, but actually wound up not using them much. Apparently I just look like I speak English.
A surprise was the discovery that I would get a lot of photos of cats while in Athens, too. In Kauai you find chickens and roosters everywhere. They accost you in restaurant parking lots, hoping you’ll share your food. In Athens, you find cats and some dogs, too, doing the same.
I walked through the Plaka, making note of Nova Gea Fresh Juices to stop by when it was open to give it a try. I purposely wandered without consulting the map, letting my camera guide the trip for a while.
At one point, unsure of where I had actually wound up, I stopped in to a tiny shop to buy a bottle of water, striking up a little conversation with the (I assume) Mom, Dad & older teen daughter in the shop. The daughter was eating a morning pastry and a little sheepishly apologized for translating and telling me prices while she ate. Her father told me he had been running the same little store for 43 years. They asked how my time was so far, and I shared that it was my first morning in Athens, and I had been wandering so that I wasn’t actually sure exactly where I was, but that was ok with me. He responded, “You look up, you see Acropolis. You know where you are.” I’m not sure if that was the most practical, or most philosophical advice I received while in Athens.
I wandered a little further and found myself in a square that bordered Ermou Street, which became a pedestrian shopping area toward Syntagma Square. But instead of heading that way, I pulled out my map, knowing Melissinos, the Poet Sandal Maker, was nearby somewhere.
The shop was easily found, having a fairly big poster on the side of the building where I needed to turn off onto the cross street. I ducked into the shop as they were opening, still putting sandal displays up outside the shop, and I wasn’t the first in. Another trio was already inside trying on. It took a few minutes of taking it all in before I could examine the wall display and choose a couple of styles to try on. The sandals that turned out to be the most comfortable weren’t the ones I thought I would like, but I went with what made my feet happy, and Melissinos finished off the sandal to my fit on the spot, I paid him, and was on with my wander tour. More about Melissinos can be found HERE.
I made my way down Ermou street, examining the fronts of the stores, now that places were fully open for business, for anything that may call me inside. When I am wandering shopping areas, I want to be called in by the items in the shop, not by a shop owner/clerk pestering me inside. One shop was lined with purses and scarves, with the shop employee sitting quietly inside working on something behind her desk, which is promising for me. I love scarves. I was fairly certain I was going to have to enter a 12-step-program for scarves last time I was in Italy. So, I entered and began looking at all the choices.
The woman inside turned out to be very funny – or very scary, depending on how serious she was. She occasionally told me a price if I paused on any one item longer than usual, but besides that let me shop. But when I went to pay is when it got interesting. I set my camera on the counter to get my cash out of my bag, and she immediately put her hand on my camera and warned me it wasn’t a good neighborhood to let go of anything valuable like that. Even inside the store on a counter. Okey dokey, good to know! As I paid she asked where I was headed, and my answer being vague (I really had very little idea where I would head once walking out the door) she began giving me advice. What stores were further up the street, which were her favorites, her face showing her distaste for the larger chain stores that were also on Ermou. She continued, “And then you will come to Syntagma, and across the street, Parliament. Wave to the people in Parliament. Or throw a bomb. The people in Athens will thank you, maybe make you a hero!”
Well, ok then! I had a laugh with her about it, because what else do you do when someone suggests a bomb-throwing protest? Thanked her and moved on down the street.
By this time I knew I had to head back in the direction of the hotel, hopefully the husband would be arriving in the next hour or so. So I had to pull the map back out and choose a street leading southward that looked like it would be a good route back.
This time I walked with more purpose, double checking the map occasionally to get me back to our hotel, and arrived only 15-20 minutes later. The Plaka is not a large area. I had time to get back to the room, start the AC up again, and sit on the Terrace with my feet up for a bit before I started receiving texts from Scott letting me know he was in country and headed my way! Soon, this really will be an anniversary trip.