We made our way to Athens today, our last city of the trip. We were up, packed, and eating breakfast by 7am to catch our taxi boat by 7:30am. I didn’t sleep well last night because I took a nap yesterday so that was unfortunate and made for a long morning.
Our taxi boat took us to the Flying Cat, the high speed ferry, and after an hour and a half we arrived in Pireas. I definitely napped on the ferry. Our bus met us in Pireas and it was so hot that even the short walk from the ferry to the bus had me dripping in sweat. I intentionally wore a maxi dress so that my legs wouldn’t sunburn but in that moment, I was regretting it.
It was a short drive to Athens, during which I applied a ridiculous amount of sunscreen. We picked up our tour guide at 10am and headed to the Acropolis for a guided tour. Guys, it was so hot. The dry heat was intense too so I made sure to stock up on water before we walked around. I also had an umbrella to shield myself from the sun which I know makes me look like a crazy Chinese tourist but it really did help. The entire place was covered with marble and granite stones that have been polished over time so they were incredibly slick (like the ones in Hydra), making it difficult to walk on with my sandals.
We braved the crowds of people and heat and learned a lot about the site. Acropolis means the highest point in the city so as you can imagine, we had a big hill to climb to see the temples. The hill was chosen specifically because of the steep hills, making it a natural fortress. However, most of the temples were destroyed during the Persian War and the monuments we saw today were the ones the Athenians erected after the war. They were really beautiful to see and very impressive; they definitely take your breath away. The Parthenon itself was built in just 9 years! Unfortunately, the front of it was under renovation but it was still amazing. Other fun facts about the Parthenon: the whole thing is an optical illusion as it looks perfect but no lines are perfectly vertical or horizontal. You can’t tell though because the floor inside was curved, making the lines look straight. That was intentional to look more natural which was interesting.
After the tour, we had some time to take pictures on our own before getting back on the bus for the city tour. The bus took us past the Temple of Zeus, the first Olympic and only marble stadium, the National Gardens, St. Paul’s Church, Constitution Square, the Academy of Athens, the National Library, and several marble statues and Roman baths. This city has as much history as Rome so it was a lot to keep up with!
We made it to our very last hotel, Hotel Arion, by 12:45pm and went nearby for lunch. Of course I had a Greek salad and a gyro. There was a stray kitten hanging out near us and it was actually very cute. We tried to convince Marlene to adopt it but she wasn’t having it. We don’t know if it was a boy or a girl so we named it Tzatziki and fed it leftover pita and souvlaki chicken.
After lunch, Victoria, Neelam, and I went to the Monastiraki Market, a main shopping district in the center of Athens. We walked around for a bit, bought some souvenirs, and had our very last European gelato. The shopping area was cool but I get really uncomfortable when shop owners stand at the front and call at you to come into their shop! That seems to be a common thing in Europe as it’s happened in just about every city. The area is also covered in graffiti so it looked a little rough. It was not my favorite.
It was only 3pm but I was feeling extra tired from the lack of sleep last night and the heat earlier today so I wanted to go back to the hotel. Victoria and I spent the rest of the afternoon in our room just relaxing, skyping, and updating blogs. I don’t know exactly what everyone else did during the free time but I know some napped and some considered going to a museum (not sure if they actually went). I would’ve liked to go do more things and see Athens more but my body and brain were just so done. I woke up with a “I want to go home” attitude so that kind of took over. Plus it had been a fun but rough couple of days, personally.
We had our final group dinner at 7:30pm at a nice Greek restaurant nearby. We enjoyed a variety of traditional Greek foods, music, and dancing. My table was awesome at clapping on beat, too. Shout out to us. Marlene gave a final goodbye speech and we all took turns taking pictures with her.
On our way back to the hotel, Martin described the trip in the most perfect way: it’s like your favorite TV show ending after 5 seasons on a good note… you’re sad it’s over but happy about how it turned out. That’s very much how I feel. I’ve had a great time but am ready to go home. Any longer and it would’ve been too much but any less and it wouldn’t have been enough. I feel satisfied.
We all came back to the hotel and after a quick breakdown in my room for non-trip-related reasons, I joined everyone on the roof. The views of the city at night were amazing. With the sun down, the weather was really nice and you could actually feel how alive the city is. So many people were out and about; Saturday night in Athens looks like it can get pretty crazy. Marlene bought baklava for everyone but I started feeling sick earlier so I skipped it. Victoria and I have an early cab tomorrow to the airport so we said our goodbyes and headed to our room to get ready to go home.
We have a long travel day back to the states tomorrow with a late arrival in good ‘ol Houston, Texas! I am incredibly anxious about going home, despite the excitement. Before coming here, I was worried about losing my luggage, missing a flight, airplane troubles, getting lost, and all sorts of other normal travel worries. This time, I have just about all of those with the addition of a whole host of new ones… what if Elliott isn’t happy to see me? What if he is sad to go back to my little apartment and lose the backyard at Dad and Suzette’s house? What if work doesn’t need me anymore? What if I can’t pick up where I left off there? I’ve received emails saying that they’re ready for me to be back but what if I get back and just hinder their new process? What if my nieces aren’t as familiar with me anymore and forgot about me? Will they be excited to see me? What if I can’t get back into my gym and yoga routine? What if I can’t get back into healthy eating? What if the number on the scale is not what I worked so hard for anymore? What if my friendships and relationship aren’t the same anymore? I mean, Europe already ruined my relationship (which made for a fun little hiccup here at the end of the trip) but what if others are impacted? And so on and so forth. Almost everyone here is a recent college grad so they’re going back into a new world for them, ready to start their adult life. The difference for me is that I already had a life and now I have to go squeeze back into it. I’m ready but I’m worried (and I know it’s irrational). Wish me luck trying to sleep with all of that on my mind!
I’ll definitely write about our travels home and have a summary/reflection post in the near future.