We left Oxford early on a cold Tuesday morning. As always, I insisted that we plan to arrive at the airport three hours before departure. Often, I admit, this has meant long, boring waits in the terminal, but this time it really paid off. As soon as we caught the bus to Heathrow, our driver informed us that the M25 (the main motorway around London) had been closed due to a truck fire. This forced us to take a long, crowded detour, which turned what is normally an hour long bus ride into a two-and-a-half hour bus ride. Many of the other passengers were obviously a bit edgy, but for the most part, we were able to relax. Also, since we were travelling with British Airways out of the extremely efficient Terminal 5, I knew we’d be able to reach our gate in a matter a minutes. As so often happens, it didn’t matter anyway. The plane was delayed by an hour.
The flight itself was an uneventful 3.5 hours, and we touched down just as day was turning to evening. At passport control, Steph and I parted. She joined the long-line for EU citizens, while I, apparently the only non-European to have flown on the plane, walked straight up to the counter in the ‘All other Passports’ line. Soon enough, we were stamped into the country, had collected our bags, and were free to explore Greece! Actually, the first thing we did was buy tickets for the subway, and wait a quiet hour in the nearly deserted train station for the train into town. Eventually, the train (or mobile graffiti gallery, depending on your point of view) arrived. It was just past eight o’clock at this point, and night had fallen, obscuring any views we might have gotten from the overland portion of the journey. Instead, we watched the train slowly fill up with Greeks. Growing up in America (and living in the part of England that I do) I am used to seeing a huge amount of cultural diversity, so it is always interesting to travel to a place where the people have strong, national look.
By the time we reached our stop, the nearest to the Acropolis, the subway was packed, and we were glad to be off it. As we made our way out, we passed by a display of ancient ceramics, built into the station wall. I remember thinking - they’ve found so much ancient pottery in Greece that they can keep it in their subway!
Emerging onto the darkened streets, we didn’t have much of a chance to form a first impression of Athens. We were tired, and just wanted to find our hotel. Thanks to Steph’s fantastic sense of direction, this didn’t prove problematic.
I suppose we went back out to have dinner that night, although I must admit, if we did, I don’t remember it. I remember being grateful for a chance to put my bags down and to sleep in a semi-comfortable bed.