With my short stopover in Paris behind me, Greece was next on the agenda. After a slight mishap at the airport (apparently I had mistakenly booked my ticket on the exact date, but on the following month….argh!), I was contentedly lounging on the almost-empty flight from Paris to Athens. I will never forget my first glimpse of Greece. My flight was scheduled to land at 1 a.m. and it was a full moon outside. The welcoming view that greeted me when I looked out of the plane window was that of a multitude of small islands, standing out as dark globs amidst the silvery sea waves. I remember saying a silent prayer of gratitude and just taking in the beautiful sight, until the first brightly lighted glimpse of Athens appeared in the distance.
- Travel Tip: When booking or purchasing tickets yourself, it is wise to check and recheck your travel dates, times and flight itinerary a few times, to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the airport(s)!
Since it was a domestic flight within the EU, I didn’t have to bother with immigration and headed straight for baggage claim. In the meantime, I asked around to confirm what I had previously researched online – getting from the airport to Athens city center was just going to cost me 5 Euros if I took the public bus which came every 30 minutes after midnight, and there was a bus stop right in front of my hotel!
- Travel Fact: It is a well known (but often forgotten fact!) that your first transportation from the airport will be expensive and you may even be a victim of a scam artist. Researching this well in advance or arranging airport pickup in advance will do wonders and save on funds and hassle. My trip by public bus was 5 Euros but a corresponding taxi ride would have been 65-70 Euros.
As expected, I got off at my scheduled stop without any problems after a forty five minute bus ride, and headed inside the hotel, hoping for a good night’s sleep. And that’s when I ran into my second mishap in less than 24 hours. The hotel was filled to capacity, without any available rooms. You see, my initial plan was to spend the night at the airport and head to the hotel in the morning. Since this hotel was just supposed to be the meeting base point for the group, before I embarked on a 7 day greek sailing cruise the following day, I saw no point in booking a room for just 6-7 hours. A few things that I hadn’t stopped to consider – following my active days at Paris, rushes through the airport and flights, upon arriving at my destination finally at 3 a.m., I was simply ready to drop dead!
I had abandoned the idea of sleeping at the airport and headed to the hotel based on the assumption that a room would be available, but I had failed to factor in the summer tourist crowds! However, I received my first taste of the marvelous Greek hospitality when the extremely nice receptionist, Dimitri, helped by connecting me to their wifi and calling up whichever hotel I found online within my budget range. I downloaded the “Booking.com” phone app and browsed the hotels within my budget range, whilst he helpfully pointed on which ones were nearby.
We finally managed to locate one with an available room (miracle indeed!) and Dimitri bundled me up into a taxi and sent me off with a smile. “Hotel Mirada” was comfortably within my budget range, had the necessary amenities (hot water, double bed, breakfast!) and was a short distance away from the pick-up point of my cruise, which was leaving the next day.
- Travel Fact: The “Hotel Mirada” at Glyfada, Athens, is an adults-only pop art themed hotel, with interesting furniture and room concepts. Wonderful if you’re looking to explore something different, not so great if you’re after a good night’s sleep.
What I didn’t know was this – the only hotel which I had managed to find at such short notice with an available room, would provide a “very” interesting and memorable first night experience for me in Greece. Despite its fancy decorations and upbeat colors, something felt out of place – mainly because I was being subject to some very ‘interesting’ noise effects from both the rooms on each side of my room and also the room which was directly opposite my room.
Curious, a little online digging revealed that this was a “love” hotel. Needless to say, paranoia and (ahem) the noise, kept me up till 6 a.m. The full length wall mirror opposite my bed didn’t help either! Needless to say, things would definitely have been more interesting, if I was travelling with my partner (wink, wink!).
- Travel Tip: Always book your hotel in advance, at least for the first night. The last thing you need is paying an overpriced rate for a last minute hotel especially during tourist high season, and not be able to get a decent night’s sleep.
I finally managed to doze off around 6 in the morning, after the (ahem) noises had subsided! Yet, I’ve got to admit – that was one hell of a comfortable bed!