I was Helen-less again today which was really disappointing for both of us. It’s not much fun being ill and I personally don’t find holidaying on my own much fun either. However, there seemed little point not making the most of the day so I set off early for Athens on my own.
The last time I came to Athens I was about 20 so quite a lot could have changed in the intervening period. One thing that definitely hadn’t changed were the taxi drivers who still drive like Nigel Mansell looking for a gap that is rapidly disappearing. This is made somewhat worse by the fact that there seems to be less traffic than 20 years ago, which is a neat trick, and consequently there is more road to race on. The upside to all this is that I made it from the ship to the Acropolis in double quick time allowing me to make it to the Parthenon before the tours.
My taxi driver had obviously been on a sales course as he tried to upsell me by offering his services for the day at a cut price rate. I was adamant that I wanted to do the city on my own and so he had to settle for fleecing me on the single trip price.
It’s amazing just how far your can go on foot. Places that I could see from the top of the Acropolis looked far off but I managed to reach easily on my trip. So in the end I saw plenty of Greek architecture – some of it still standing. The ravages of time not being kind to the marble buildings. Given the amount of scaffolding and the number of cranes at the Parthenon you would think that they were still building it and looking at the fresh marble maybe they are. Perhaps it’s lucky that so much of the precious artefacts are out of harms way in the British Museum. A point noted on many an informational sign stating that “the original can be found in the British Museum”, a coded message for “give us back our belongings you bastards!”
I saw many a statue in Athens but not one of Angela Merkel, the most recent savour of Greece. That universal font of all knowledge the taxi driver assured me that things were not great and as if to prove the point a couple of major roads in the city were closed due to strikes. I remember reading that there had been anger when the metro prices were raised in Athens but ticket prices were still much cheaper in London. I also felt blessed that I spoke English as all the signs on the metro were in Greek and English making it easy to find my way around.
I seem to have become a social pariah. With Helen still not able to eat I am once again dining alone which is really tricky to do on a cruise ship. I wasn’t up for the bonhomie in the formal dining rooms where you are seated with others on tables of six. Instead I opted for the buffet where you select a table for yourself. Of course the number of people on the ship vastly outnumbers the tables available but people go to one of the other restaurants and stagger their dining times but there are still just not enough tables for everyone. Unless, it seems, that you are a lone male.
It seems that the demographic, for this cruise at least, is a couple in their mid – late sixties from the North of England and no matter how hard I try I don’t fit this. As I sat at my table it was plain to see couples with nowhere to sit be refusing to consider sitting with me. I’m sure that had some of these older ladies been alone they would have been flocking to my table! (shudders).