Technically, it would be the third night we’ve been here, but do we really count the first night since we were so exhausted when we got here?!
The jet lag had not let go of it’s grip on us, but I can at least say it loosened. None of us were up before 1:00 pm though! With Willow getting sick, we had more laundry than expected this early in the trip and needed to quickly figure out the washer, then venture up to the roof to get it on the drying line. In this weird head of mine, I actually dread doing laundry when I’m at home, but get a little pleasure from it when I leave the states and have to line dry my clothes. Though I had never done it in 45 degree, windy weather on top of a three story roof!
With the chores done, we finally left the house, sometime after 5:00 pm. We called an Uber and drove over to “The Mall”. Yes, that’s what the actual name of it is! I read that it was a four story mall that was the first of it’s kind to be constructed in Greece and one of the largest in Southeastern Europe. Not a bad place to go when sunlight is about to run out and you need to get the kids out of the house!
The mall is huge! We really only went around one floor, and possibly only half of that floor! I forgot how much I love the shopping in Europe! There are so many stores we don’t have in the US that are filled with cute clothes and very inexpensive compared to shopping in the US! The girls always get excited and love to shop in these places!
I’m not sure if it’s common in malls in Europe, since I’ve only visited a couple, but their dining area was nothing like what we have in the malls in Texas! The restaurants are actually nice! Not the crappy choices of nasty Chinese food, baked potatoes or chick-fil-a. Yes, I know how much people like chick-fil-a, but I prefer real food over any kind of fast food.
We sat at a nice gourmet burger place that had a big Lego play area for kids, where Willow was quick to run off to. I’m not sure what I expected, but the burger was actually good and came with a side of truffle mayo and fries. I’ve had burgers in other countries and sometimes they don’t exactly taste like burgers, but these were good!
We left as the mall was closing, heading to the taxi area where we called another Uber. According to the first Uber driver, only taxi drivers can drive for Uber here now. It wasn’t that way at first, but taxi drivers started to feel the pinch from the popularity of Uber and the union of about 60,000 taxi drivers got together and protested. This amazing thing happened and the government listened to the people! They changed the rules for Uber that only taxis can take the calls now. I’m stumped as to why the word union is a bad word in America.
We were waiting in freezing cold for about 10 minutes and the Uber wasn’t there, so I cancelled it, thinking we would just take a regular taxi. The only reason I cared to take the Uber was because I could put in the destination and they would know where we were going, without me messing up the name of the street or confusing the driver more. That’s just one of those security blanket type things I like to use as a crutch when I’m traveling. Unfortunately, when I opened the door of the taxi, he told me no! We had 5 and he would only take 4. Sooo, we called for another Uber and waited even longer! Thankfully the Uber taxi doesn’t seem to mind that we have 5!
After a short day we were back at home, trying to get to bed at a decent hour to get up the next morning and do something in the day. I can’t say we have been really successful at that yet!
Why start with the first two days rather than just the first day? Because that’s how long it took us to get to Athens!
I’m still trying to determine when the best time is to start a long travel journey. Some think it’s at night, others in the morning. For me, it’s more about when the best price for the flight comes in. Our journey started with leaving the house at 3:00 am to catch at 5:30 am flight. This sounded good to me, since it was a flight from Austin to Denver, where we would meet up with my oldest daughter, Amber, then take another flight from Denver to London. The only thing I didn’t think about was the 7 hour layover! I have a very hard time sleeping the night before we travel anywhere, so I had about a two hours of sleep before leaving.
We were flying Frontier airlines for the first time ever. The airline it’s self wasn’t so bad. They had just moved to a new section of the Austin airport though, which was very small and didn’t offer much choice in the way of food in that area yet. But, getting through the little security area was quick and easy.
Reaching Denver International airport was quick, only a two hour flight, and the pilot flew so fast we arrived 30 minutes early! Wandering around the huge airport, we avoided the quickly growing security line and found a coffee and a breakfast snack, despite there only being a couple of places open. With a 7 hour layover in front of us, we found a spot close to the airline check-ins to wait for Amber and the airline to open. The girls were exhausted by then and, upon finding an empty seat next to an outlet, they all fell fast asleep. How in the world they were able to sleep on an airport floor, I have no idea! I was tired too, but no way could I have slept!
We were able to do a self service check-in, but one of the machines didn’t print out Amber’s luggage tag. So we had to wait in the line that started to form for regular check-in. For some reason the airline thought they only needed one employee to check people in, and only to check in the priority club customers. After standing in line for about an hour, I moved to stand in the bag drop line, which seemed to upset some rude priority club customer who decided to cut in front of us and get rude with me. After brushing him off, we finally got the tag for her bag and dropped all of them then headed for security. I had heard that security lines were running about four hours due to the government shut down and a lot of TSA agents calling in sick. We must have gotten there at a good time since we got through very quickly and easily.
We finally boarded our Norwegian flight to London, which was going to be an 8 hour flight. I was really impressed with the Norwegian plane. In upgrading their plane, they added “mood lighting” and started pumping in more fresh air to help alleviate jet lag. The one thing I can say I don’t like about airlines these days is that nothing is included with the airfare anymore. We had to pay extra fee’s for luggage, a meal and seat selection. You would think seat selection would be free if you have a small child, but it isn’t even for that. I have heard horror stories from traveling parents that their three year old was not given the seat next to them and other passengers refusing to switch seats with them! So to avoid the possibility of this even happening, I pay the extra for seat selection. Not that long ago, in 2012, I remember not paying anything extra for these things on long distance flights!
Once we arrived in London, we had another 8 hour layover before we would take an Easyjet flight to Athens. I was unable to sleep on the plane, which is pretty typical for me, so by now I was completely exhausted. There was no way I would have been able to stay up for the long layover and I wasn’t finding any comfy looking areas at Gatwick airport to curl up at and take a nap. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have felt safe falling asleep in public with Willow and all of our luggage. So I opted to get us a couple of rooms at one of the short stay hotels they have in the airport. I’m not sure if they have something like this in the US, but I have only seen them in Europe so far. They are VERY small rooms with only a bed and a bathroom. In the bathroom is a small sink, toilet and shower head. Which is also something I’ve only ever seen in the UK. We rented a house once just outside of London that had a small bathroom with a shower head inside. So you could practically sit on the potty while taking a shower! At the time I thought this was just something the homeowner did, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s more common! The room it’s self was just a bed. You had about 4 feet from the door to the bed and that was it. Not a lot of space if you have a lot of luggage with you! None the less, it was perfect for getting some long overdue sleep! We got a few hours of sleep and a short shower in, then headed off to check in with the airline. Easyjet is no different than other airlines in that everything is a separate charge. So to keep costs low, you can opt out of choices like seat selection, priority boarding and food. Despite my dislike for all airlines choosing to do this, I actually like Easyjet when flying in Europe. Unlike Ryanair, which will literally nickel and dime and dollar you to death. I avoid them as much as I can.
Finally arriving in Athens
The last flight was just under four hours and not so bad since we had a little rest beforehand. All of the girls did pass out as soon as the plane took off. Willow was reading the flight instructions to me, and I was showing her how to place her hands behind her head, when I accidentally elbowed her in the head. Wouldn’t you know I would make her cry on a full plane before we even took off! Lucky for me she didn’t cry long, fell asleep and slept through the whole flight! We landed a little early, which was nice, and quickly made our way through customs and to get our luggage. I was very happy I decided to arrange a private shuttle ahead of time to take us to the apartment we rented. He was standing outside with a sign, then Kindly took our bags to the van and we all piled in for the 30 minute ride. Since we arrived at night, there wasn’t much to see as we drove. Once we reached the apartment, the owners were outside waiting for us. We got all our bags out of the van and were anxious to get upstairs to finally have a good rest.
The owners of the apartment are a very kind older couple, Kostas and Sofia, who only speak Greek. Sofia was instantly fond of Willow. She cooed over her, petting her and stroking her cheeks, calling her “bonita” and telling her she loved her. This is a reaction I have found to be very common in older women outside of the US. Willow also got this reaction a lot in Spain and Mexico. They really seem to love children!
With the aid of google translate, and a whole lot of looking confused and trying to understand, they explained everything about the apartment. It’s wise to listen since, my experience so far is that, homes in Europe run differently than homes in the US. For example, you can turn an outlet on and off with a switch in some places. I found that out during a stay in Dublin when it took me at least an hour to figure out how to get the stovetop to turn on! I finally realized it was on a switch that was turned off! Here, they want you to use the breaker box to shut off appliances you aren’t using and turn off the whole apartment when you leave. It’s not common to have a dryer, so you learn very quickly how to line dry clothes. We have gotten places with washers, but they are different than in the US and I usually have to find a manual to figure out how to use them. There are also metal shutters over the doors and windows that you can close at night, some have kind of a learning curve when you first encounter them. Even the way doors lock are different!
Finally getting through it all, we were starving and had spotted a pizza place up the street as we drove here. Jenna and I walked to the pizza place and ordered some dinner, which we all ate quickly then went to bed.
I thought for sure I was going to sleep like a log when I finally hit the bed! Wouldn’t you know, that wasn’t the case. To start with, it was night here, but my body was used to it being afternoon. Add to that, I’m used to the white noise of a fan and the whole apartment was completely quiet, except for the cars passing by on the street. Oh yes, and the radiators ticking every time they started heating up. The bed that felt like we were sleeping on a piece of wood. I slept for a few hours, then woke up about 3:30 am and wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. Amber, Willow and I ended up getting up and milling around the apartment while Jenna and Ashley slept. We decided to pull out the futon couch in the living room area, which was way softer than sleeping in the bed, and fell back to sleep for a bit more. It was afternoon before any of us got up.
We all felt horrible and our internal clocks are completely off. Willow was totally zoning out and started vomiting after a bit. It seemed like she couldn’t even keep water down. At about 6:00 pm Amber, Ashley and I walked to the pharmacy to get some electrolytes for Willow and some dinner. We got some snacks from the shops nearby and some sandwiches from the pizza place, that is really a pizza, pasta, burger, salad place.
Willow finally started to feel better and was able to eat and hold down her food. We all finally went to bed at about 1:00 am and I thought I would sleep the night away. No such luck! 3:30 am and I was wide awake again! I don’t recall having this much issue with acclimating to the time change in the past. I’m not sure why we are having such a problem with it this time. All I know is, I hope it gets better quickly! On day three, we are going out no matter what!
Despite all the ups and downs, I really do love travel. Even the getting there is a journey and has lessons you can learn along the way. Patience is a really good one that not everyone has learned. Understanding that everything isn’t always going to go 100% perfect and that’s ok! It’s learning how to get through it all with a good attitude that matters. So now I’m just looking forward to getting out into the city and experiencing some new and amazing things!