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Published: July 13th 2015
It is so hard to believe that we are headed back to Europe but this time we get to enjoy it with most of our family! Monday was busy with a trip to the eye doctor to try to pass the peripheral vision test (failed in February!), a much-needed pedicure, and a final visit to the bank to pick up the euros we had ordered before going home to weed my gardens, clean the house, and pack our bags!
We awoke early Tuesday morning to grey skies but knew that we were heading to a place where the weather promised nothing but sunshine and hot temperatures. We loaded the car and headed to my sister's, the central meeting place! We arrived around 8:30am, well shy of the time that was agreed upon (remember my need to be early?). Shawna was busily trying to re-pack her bag, debating if she should take anything out in case she was over the weight limit. Shortly before 9 my parents arrived and we all sat in anticipation of my brother and niece's arrival (on time is not Bill's forte 😊). As we sat and waited, the skies darkened and rain began to fall in
earnest. Finally we saw his black Golf come down the street. When they came in we went through all the paperwork for our flights. Finding out that he could not check all of us in the night before we opted to not stop for lunch before getting to the airport in order to be there in plenty of time to get seats together. We packed up and the ten of us headed out shortly before 10, quite a bit after our planned departure time. Amy, Garret, and I went in Steve's truck in order to drop it off at the autobody shop in Chatsworth, while everyone else divided themselves up between 2 cars. We waited at the shop. Mom, Dad, and Bill soon arrived but it seemed to take Curtis, Shawna, and Sadie forever! Finally they pulled in. Apparently they had to make a stop at Sadie's boyfriend's place so she could pick up a few last minute items. We all piled in and off we headed, bound for Guelph in order to pick up Kellan.
Driving through a torrential downpour reminded us of the terrible snowstorm we drove through when leaving for Europe back on March 4! Cars
were pulling over as visibility worsened. As we neared Fergus, the rain let up and roads were dry. I had texted Kellan from Durham, as we stopped for gas, to give him an idea of when we would arrive. He assured me he was all packed and ready to go. As we got to Guelph he texted that he had to make a quick trip downtown and would be right back! Seriously??? Glancing at the time I couldn't help but feel it was going to be a bit tight getting to the airport. We arrived at his townhouse where we waited for what seemed an eternity. With this unexpected delay we decided to just eat at the airport instead of stopping for a sit down lunch. He soon came roaring in and flew upstairs to get his bags. We got into the car, where I proceeded questioned his need to go downtown. Ahhh, the truth finally came out as he informed me that he had to say good-bye to a girl. Ever the mother I asked, "What girl?", whereupon the only answer forthcoming was, "it's complicated Mom." Not the answer a mother wants to hear. Letting that one go, we
drove on...to Subway!!!! Apparently the plan was changed as the need to quench the hunger of some prevailed. A few of them rushed in and got a bite for the road. Finally we headed down to the 401. Travelling along the busy freeway, zooming in and out of cars while battling the rain again, we finally saw our exit to the Self-Park lot. We drove up and down the aisles looking for 2 spots, finally finding a couple in the same row. The shuttle had arrived and was kindly waiting for us as the rain fell more rapidly now. We quickly boarded, thanking the driver for waiting. Arriving at Terminal 1 we went through the doors into the throngs of travellers. Our first plan was to do self check-in however we could not put in some of the reference numbers. We opted to join the long line of people at the check-in desk. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 4:40, it was nearly 3:00pm and my nerves were frazzled. The line crawled along until we finally reached the front. Mom and dad went up first, followed shortly after by Curtis and I. When everyone had received their boarding passes
we got ready to head to the gate only to realized my Dad, who had gone in search of a bathroom, had not yet returned. Kellan went off in search of him while my brother and niece stopped at the Money Exchange booth to get their euros. As the minutes ticked by my mom was becoming visibly frantic about my Dad. I tried to reassure her that he would be fine, however as I saw Kellan coming back without him I began to worry a bit too. As Curtis and Amy went off in search we suddenly got a glimpse of his turquoise shirt as he came up from the floor below via the escalator! Dad's new rule: take a buddy!
We made the journey down to our gate where we moved into security. Now out of ten people what are the odds that we would all get through? Not great 😊. Just before I went through the guard across from the line I was in told me I should take off my shoes as the metal buckle would set off the buzzer. Grateful, I put them in my mom's bin and made it through. Next came Curtis who
was "randomly" selected to do a full body scan after having set off the sensor. As I went to grab his backpack so it was not left on the belt, the guard informed me that they had to search it. Curtis came up and they determined that the keychain in one of the pockets had set it off. From there he headed to the body scan cubicle while Mom and I watched. By this time my dad had been pulled aside, his knee replacement being the culprit. We watched as they passed the wand over his body, felt his knee, and made him bend both knees behind him. Whew! He got through! Next came Shawna, Amy, and Garret. Shawna was "randomly" selected for the body scan too! Hmmm, so far the odds were not in our favour! At the same time they pulled Amy aside. They basically just left here there and the look of confusion on her face was evident. Eventually she was "randomly" chosen to have her hands swabbed. As Mom, Curtis, and I watched, Shawna got into the booth. By this time I was laughing so hard at the "randomness" of security. The guard at the booth
was great! I told Shawna that she should "work it" while in there. The guard began laughing and said, "that's not nice!". Next came Kellan. He made it through the sensor and once again was "randomly" selected for the scanner! As he entered the machine, led by the same guard, I cracked another comment. The guard said, "Seriously? Another one in your family? And one of the kids was swabbed too!!!!". We soon gathered our things and headed to our gate. By this time it was after 3:30 and boarding was to begin at 4. Our gate was packed, with very few seats. Mom and dad had to go to the desk as they had not yet been assigned seats. We left them at the desk, Sadie had mom's rolling carry-on as she and Bill went to get a quick bite to eat. Kellan and I each picked up a sandwich to the tune of $29,00!! We found everyone in the boarding area and just as we settled in and began to eat they called the first boarding zone! This included Curtis, Kellan, myself and my parents. As we went through the line and were just about to go through
View of the Acropolis
Hotel Rooftop Terrace
the gate I noticed that mom only had one carry-on. I asked her where the other one was and she said Sadie had it. I jumped out of line and called across the room to Sadie. She said she didn't have it and that she gave it to Kellan. His version is that he gave it back. OMG!!! I crawled under the rope and raced over to where Shawna and the kids were sitting, quickly explaining the situation. We were frantic! Sadie set off at a run and soon came back, carry-on in hand! Between she and Kellan they had both left it behind and thankfully it was still there!!! I grabbed it and Curtis and I went through the gate. As everyone found their seats and we waited to begin our taxi out for take-off, The skies had become an ominous colour, rain was pelting down in sheets, and the entire plane was being moved by the force of the wind. The pilot came on and explained that a red alert had been issued and all planes were on standby until it was lifted. An hour later, when the lightning stopped we took off.
The flight was very
long, a bit turbulent, but uneventful. With some fancy maneouvering, Curtis and I were able to sit together, across the aisle from mom and dad. No one did a lot of sleeping throughout the night however. As we began our descent into Athens it became quite bumpy. My good luck charms were getting a good workout as I rubbed them continuously. As we touched down we barely felt the landing. Asked to wait until connecting passengers could disembark first, we sat patiently. Being in nearly the last row anyway we weren't getting off any time soon. We met everyone else we collected our bags and headed to passport control. The young police officer spent an immeasurable length of time flipping through pages, examining dates on Curtis' passport. I commented that we had done a lot of travellling this year. He seemed to think that it was a continuous trip from our last one. I explained that we had returned to Canada in June. He then asked how long we were in Greece. We told him just over two weeks. "Oh that's ok then! You are fine." He stamped both passports and we were off. We found our way to the train but when we went to purchase tickets we found signs that said the train was free from the airport! This saved us a lot of money for sure. We boarded the next train and filled the baggage area with our luggage. The trip to Athens is 40 minutes long. I stood close to the bags. A handsome young man asked if there was room for his backpack as well. He passed it over and I added it to the pile. As we got closer to Athens the train increasingly crowded. A couple young men were standing beside the door and one was idly fiddling with the straps on Garret's bag. Ever aware, I carefully slid the bag towards me a bit. Bill also noticed what was going on and we both had the same vision of the doors opening and them grabbing the bag. Bill moved in beside me and looped the strap around his wrist. I'm sure they meant no harm, but nevertheless, we thought it would be prudent to exercise caution.
As we neared Syntagma Square I noted both Garret's and my mom's anxst about getting off in the crowd as well as getting the luggage. I told them to both get off and wait at the wall while the rest of us grabbed the bags. We made it out altogether and headed out of the station. Climbing the steps to the square we were met with a wall of heat!!! Luckily the walk to our hotel was only 5 minutes!
Before our trip we were closely following the economic crisis in Greece. We made sure we had our money in case bank machines were empty. We were mildly concerned and not at all sure what the climate would be like. Much to our surprise and pleasure, it is business as usual in Athens. You would never know that there was a problem as the shopkeepers and restaurant owners are some of the friendliest in the world. Weary, everyone rested for a while before we began to explore Athens.
Later everyone, except mom and dad, went out for a walk through the hot streets. We briefly stopped in shops in the Plaka, checked out some restaurants for later before heading back to our hotel. Shortly after I took my mom and dad out for a tour, stopping for a cold drink and another short walk through the busy pedestrian streets.
That evening we headed just down the street to a restaurant we went to 7 years ago. One of the servers was still there and we recalled that he had taken quite a shine to Kellan at the time. Giorgos was very taken with Garret, giving him cards with Greek words on it and having him practise saying them. We were treated like royalty and enjoyed a fantastic meal. Offering us "ouzo on the house" we told them we would return later for dessert and the ouzo. We went for a short walk to wear off dinner and then back to the hotel. Mom and dad headed to bed and a bit later we went back to the restaurant. The baklava was to die for and the ouzo flowed freely! What a wonderful first evening in Athens!
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