I’ve been to Europe just twice in my lifetime — and I keep forgetting how difficult, tiring and downright frustrating it can be flying there from Hawaii.
It must be like childbirth. The vacation is so good, you completely forget about the pain.
But here I was, about to embark on yet another obscenely long series of flights that would take me to Los Angeles and Munich, Germany before reaching Athens — in 24 hours.
Why do it?
Well, for starters, you have no choice. It’s the only way to see the world. If you want to see the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis, you have to jump on a plane to get there. And yes, it will take an entire day of traveling.
And secondly, it’s worth it.
It’s SO worth it.
It’s hard to explain my addiction to traveling. I need to see everything, try everything, taste everything. And I will go to fairly great lengths to do this — and yes, that includes enduring grueling travel schedules, sleeping in fetal position on cramped airplanes, and spending lots of money to get there.
Greece wasn’t in the Top 10 of my travel to-do list, but it was there — and pretty high up. My girlfriend, though, picked that country as her destination choice for her 40th birthday, and I was — as usual — ready and willing to go. My bags were already packed.
It didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling well.
I’ve never — knock on wood — been sick on an international flight. And here I was, on an 11-hour flight from LA to Munich, feeling like I had been punched in the gut. My head throbbed, my insides were enraged, I needed to lie down.
Except you can’t lie down, especially on a Lufthansa plane that was already cramped to begin with.
So I toughed it out, took some meds and made the poor guy next to me — very nice software engineer from Santa Barbara visiting family in Vienna — talk to me to keep me from thinking about the pain. Yes, it was that bad.
But I made it — and I made the connecting flight (another two hours) to Athens.
Greece wasn’t what I had anticipated, though I didn’t have much in the way of expectations.
I figured with 11 million people it would be crowded and bustling, we’d be tripping over Greeks and tourists. On the contrary. We arrived at the airport — skipped customs — and caught a cab to our apartments near the historic (read: touristy) sites. And from the cab ride, Athens didn’t seem that frenetic, not like New York City or even Chicago. People seemed to walk slower, take their time more. At least that what it appeared.
Lan, the planner of the group who not only organized this trip but provided reading material for us on the plane about Greece and the islands we would be visiting, booked our accommodations here. This place, the Athens Green Apartments, a quaint 1940s low-rise on Agras Street near the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium (called Kallimarmaro) of the Modern Olympics of 1896. It’s also within walking distance of all the major tourist attractions including the Acropolis, Greek Parliament and Constitution Square.
And here’s the adjacent room, with two twin beds. This room opens into a lanai that overlooks what the apartment considers a garden. It’s really just a bunch of trees and a few scattered chairs. But it’s still nice.
Here’s the kitchen. It’s always nice, especially when you travel with a group, to have the option of a kitchen. That way we can cook or reheat leftovers, eat breakfast at home, and save a little cash.
Here’s the bathroom, with a great shower that features one of those rainforest shower heads. Here’s the thing about the bathroom, though: we can’t flush any toilet paper. None. We have to throw it away like in China. I was pretty surprised about that.
The woman who worked here — I think her name is Fontina — was incredibly helpful (and spoke perfect English) in getting us oriented with not just the apartment but where to go while we were here. She spent a lot of time poring over this map of Athens to help us find things like bakeries, grocery stores and ATMs.
It had been a longlonglong day of traveling, with swollen feet and sore backs. It was nice to finally take off our shoes and lie down for a bit, which is exactly what we did.
But to be honest, even though I didn’t get much sleep on the plane, I felt surprisingly rested and ready to go.
I suppose that’s what being in a new country, a new city does to people like me: the adrenaline rush is so powerful, it can even overcome that nagging thing called sleep deprivation.
Follow my #CatTravels adventures in Greece and Crete on Instagram @catherinetoth and on Twitter @thedailydish.