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Published: March 1st 2010
28th May ‘09:
A drop of champagne in the Da Vinci Restaurant is the way to start a day. Over an extravagant breakfast on the terrace, desperately trying to determine the age of a woman in a bikini, I consult my Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe - it is one of the items I regard as essential when going to work. The guidebook is a little out of date, though, listing prices in Greek drachma instead of euros.
‘Yeah, she might be a bit old, actually,’ pipes Jon, still squinting at the trim figure entering the pool. Oh, it will be a pity to leave the Nikopolis hotel. Not only does it have arresting, if elderly, local fauna, but the towel rails are heated, and the dressing gowns are sumptuous. I need hardly mention the towels; they are so fluffy that I can hardly shut my suitcase.
Thessaloniki, known also as Salonica, is Greece's second city, and it has ferries to Crete. We want to go on the run like Bonnie and Clyde, until the money runs out. Well, it's already run out - Jon's ninth espresso at yesterday's border saw to that. Instead, Transam Trucking Ltd has booked
us both a flight to Athens, an internal hop with Olympic Airlines. Jolly decently, the flight is scheduled after lunch, certainly allowing time for a smidgeon more champers with our breakfast banquet.
Ordering instant coffee at the airport cafe, Jon seems to be in a prickly mood. ‘Instant?’ he queries. ‘Well, where is it, then?’ Outside, the clouds are rolling in gently, so it seems like an opportune time to be flying south. Oh hang on, we’re working here, you know. But flying is such a treat: the 530km is covered in forty minutes, as opposed to six or seven hours by truck.
Bronzed hedonists from Manchester mill about near the Thompson desk, while Jon inspects his passport, noticing an unfamiliar stamp. ‘What's that stamp?’ he asks. ‘Where have I been?’ He has a short memory, you see, forgetting that we were dealt with at the Serbian-Bulgarian border only yesterday. I proudly produce twice the markings that Jon has; some of us visited Bulgaria twice.
Arriving in Athens, notices warning of swine flu adorn the walls. Tips to combat the virus include washing hands after using the toilet, and covering the mouth when coughing. Faced with such
fearful odds, is this really world-beating advice? I mean, we'd just never have thought of such innovative measures on our own.
When I suggest that ninety per cent of the population - certainly in the West - are inveterate morons, am I being conservative? Though this is a statistic propounded by my father - excluding his own hereditary line, of course - this may not be an improbable figure, actually. Signs such as ‘This water is hot’ above hot taps, or inside shower cubicles, can only be targeted at the feckless idiot, can’t they? I rest my case..
The metro in Athens is closed, which momentarily throws us off-kilter. But we soon grapple with the transport options. Jon heads west across the Corinth Canal to Patras, and I to my truck at the modern Olympic Stadium. Every train, however, has the same destination listed. We part in the moonlight - Ok, mid-afternoon sun - vowing to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the ferry port in Patras.
Hugs from AC/DC truckers are thrust upon me when I arrive in Catering at the Stadium; it seems I’ve been missed. Namibian beams, and Little Dick jerks his head towards the
tea urn. Vainglorious, I feel obliged to mention the swimming pool that featured in my life while they’ve been sweltering in a concrete car park. Speaking of which, it would have been nice if Namibian had opened my truck sunroof, or cracked the windows an inch or two. He’s becoming thoughtless again - it’s like a blooming oven in here, and I fancy a little nap..
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