Smoking Rooms

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August 8th 2017
Published: August 9th 2017
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The alarm goes off at 3.45am. There doesn't seem to be a lot going on in Assos at 3.45am. We head off on the long and windy road to the airport. The mountain goats seem to like standing in the middle of the road more at this time of the morning, and the black ones in particular are very hard to see. We pass the lookout where we got stunning views down over Myrtos Beach a few days ago. There's a man standing next to his car in the pitch darkness looking at the view. I'm not sure what he can see. Maybe he's got some of those night vision goggles that they use in the movies. I thought they were only good for detecting people; I'm not sure how they'd go at detecting beaches in the far distance.

The signposting on the road isn't very good, and we suddenly find ourselves on a dirt track about to drive into the harbour. It seems that we missed a turn. We are running very late, but instead of getting closer to the airport we find ourselves in a narrow laneway in the middle of a small village. The airport covers a big area and we wonder why we are having so much trouble finding it. Issy says that we should use the GPS on the phone. I've heard stories about what happens if you turn the GPS on your phone on when you're far from home, and most of them involve bills for thousands of dollars. We turn it on anyway, as just at the moment a bill for thousands of dollars feels like a better option than missing our flight.

We find the airport. The rental car office that we need to return our car to is down a dark alley in the village next to the airport. I park the car at the end of the dark alley, but there's no one in the office, and nowhere to leave the keys. We go to the airport and ask someone there what we should do. They suggest leaving the keys under the mat in the front seat of the car. I think that this is a really bad idea. I'm sure if we do this the car will get stolen and we will then have to pay to get it replaced. We might also get arrested for stealing it and end up in jail. We try to ring the hire car company. A lady who doesn't speak any English answers the phone. It seems that I have dialled the wrong number. It is 5am and I think that the lady thinks that I'm ringing her to tell her that someone has died. I hang up and ring the right number, but no one answers. We wait a few minutes and try again. This time someone does answer. The rental car office is now open. Disaster averted.

We arrive in Athens. We have noticed that smoking seems to be very popular in Greece. The airport has smoking rooms, which are small rooms completely surrounded by glass. They are jam packed with people, and all of them are smoking. The rooms look like display cases at a museum, although in this case it's quite hard to see the exhibits through the fumes.

We arrive in Rome and catch a bus to the train station. Our bus driver seems to be in a big hurry. He drives a few metres behind the cars in front with his hand on the horn, waves his arms a lot and utters expletives in Italian; at least they sound like expletives. We arrive at Rome station and get on a train to Naples.

The train station in Naples is chaotic. We try to find a train to Sorrento by following signs to a non-existent information booth. We ask people for help, but none of the people we ask speak English. We find a route map on a wall, and follow signs to a local train platform. We get on a packed train which we hope might take us to Sorrento. It is very hot and the train isn't air conditioned. There is nowhere to store our luggage so I stand guard over it near a door while Issy sits down.

We arrive in Sorrento and take the short walk from the station to where we think the hotel should be. It looked very obvious on the map, but now we can't find it. I leave Issy guarding the luggage while I do some more searching. I walk around for a long time without success before eventually asking a bus driver for directions. I find the hotel, but now I can't remember where I left Issy.

Our room is on the top floor and we have great views over the Bay of Naples and towards Mount Vesuvius, which is the first of the three volcanoes we intend to climb during this trip. We have a large balcony; I like large balconies with good views.

We decide that we are too tired to go out for dinner so we head for the hotel restaurant. The hotel is very old style and opulent, and it looks like it has been here for a long time. The waiters are all decked out in tuxedos and bow ties. We ask for a table for two, and then quickly sense that all is not well. The waiter we speak to disappears and comes back with the maitre d', who tells me that because I'm wearing shorts I can't sit in the restaurant. He guides us to a table outside, behind the restaurant. We are the only people sitting here, and it seems that we have become second class citizens. Issy says that this is all my fault. She says that she is appropriately dressed, so why should she be relegated to the second class seats just because I can't be bothered dressing up. I think I'm in serious trouble, but I'm too hot, tired and hungry to care. We are eventually joined by some other couples, and the men are all invariably wearing shorts. We now feel part of a community of second class citizens and I feel part of a club of husbands who are in trouble with their wives. The waiter asks me which of the fine wines on the menu I will be drinking tonight. I tell him that I would like a large beer followed very quickly by another one. I'm sensing that if there was a section for third class citizens we'd be about to be moved into it.


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