When I planned my year of travel this trip to Greece was not part of my plans at all. But then our project team was nominated for Nedbank’s Top Team award. And we won!
The Nedbank Top Achiever awards entails an all-expenses paid overseas trip for the winners and their partners. It is such an honour to win this prize, and spirits were extremely high when we had the destination reveal function and heard we would be visiting Athens and Rhodes.
Fortunately we were given four dates to choose from for the Greece trip and it did not really interfere with the seven trips I had already planned for My Year of Travel.
My son decided to come with me – it would be our first holiday together since e finished school.
Dates were selected, visa applications done, and all of a sudden it was the day of departure.
Richard and I arrived at the airport a little before the requested time. After checking in our luggage, we had lunch and then went through security and customs, and found a seat neat the gate to relax until boarding time.
I was pleasantly surprised to see we would be flying in the Airbus A380! It was unexpected, but very cool.
Our first stop over was Dubai. The airport is huge! Nedbank arranged access to one of the lounges where we could relax and have something to eat and drink.
Then it was finally time for our flight to Athens. Just as we were about to push back from the terminal the Captain announced a delay – we were no 16 in the queue to take off! The delay lasted almost an hour. Eventually we turned onto the runway for take off. While we waited I was able to get a view of Dubai from the window. It was rather dusty!
We finally took off for Athens. We flew over the Persian Gulf for a while, then Saudi Arabia. I could feel my excitement starting to build when I looked out and saw we were flying over the Mediterranean Sea! The A380 as fantastic onboard cameras and every now and then I would see islands below as we flew over them.
We landed in Athens. We had to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. As I got off the plane, I was hit by the heat – it was HOT!
Customs was a breeze and soon we were on our way to the hotel. The Athens streets were the typical European streets – narrow, mostly one way and crowded! All the apartments had balconies with plants and colourful awnings.
The food was delicious, and the company at our table was even better. But we had to finish dinner quickly as the Springboks vs Ireland World Cup Rugby match was starting soon.
One of the guys in our group had found an Irish pub where we could watch the rugby. When we got there it was extremely crowded, but the vibe was incredible.
The pub was filled with South African and Irish supporters. Unfortunately the Bokke lost, but everyone was in excellent spirits and we all congratulated the Irish supporters.
On the way to the pub all the side walk restaurants and shops were open. There were lights everywhere, and it was really pretty and vibey.
It was a short walk to the entry gate for our tour of this famous landmark.
The history of the Acropolis is fascinating. But the fact that impresses me most is that the people built is to many thousands of years ago without any mechanical equipment. The Acropolis precinct has lots of old ruins and buildings.
Late afternoon Richard and I walked to the Plaka. We browsed the shops and had ice cream. We saw this church and went inside. The interior was breathtaking – I had never seen anything like it. No-one was taking photos, so I did not want to take a photo if it was going to be inappropriate. But I will remember it for ever.
We found a narrow ally with steps and sidewalk restaurants. We walked to the top and found ourselves at the back of the Acropolis. We decided to walk around it. We found a little view point with a lovely view of the city towards the west.
When we walked past the theatre section we could hear that the concert for which they were setting up earlier had started. A female opera singer singing. They were performing Mozart’s Requiem. It was such a perfect moment – wandering around the Acropolis grounds at dusk, surrounded by other tourists, and this beautiful voice audible in the background.
We walked some more and eventually found ourselves at the stairway ally again. We decided to have dinner at a rooftop restaurant. It seems that no matter where you are, you had a view of a different angle of the Acropolis.
A couple from our group arrived at the table next tours and we had a nice chat about our experiences so far.
On the way back to the hotel we had to have more icecream.
We did a lot of walking, but I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experiences with Richard.
Some of the things I found fascinating about Athens –
- The parking – cars were parked bumper to bumper, literally. Or they were blocking each other in. Most cars had scratches on their bumpers as well. There was obviously a system to get in and out, but the parking situation really fascinated me.
- The cats – there were cats everywhere. I don’t know if all of them had homes or if they were strays, but you could find one everywhere you looked.
- The narrow streets – the streets were barely wide enough for 2 cars. But there was a cozy feel to the streets that I liked.
- The side walk restaurants – we also found these in Italy. I just love these outdoor restaurants where you can have dinner while watching the world go by.
The next morning we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Rhodes. Richard was not feeling well at all, and that would put a bit of a damper on the rest of the trip.
The flight took less than an hour and soon we were on the bus and on the way to our hotel.
The hotel in Rhodes was fantastic. We were all checked into rooms that had views of the stunning Mediterranean. We could even see the mountains of Turkey! The view of the hotel from the beach was not to terrible either!
The sun was setting. People were windsurfing or swimming. I took off my shoes and walked into the water – it was almost luke warm.
After a while I walked back to the hotel and my room, stopping to chat to colleagues that I have not seen in a while. Our group dinner was on a boat restaurant in the harbour. Once again both the food and the company was fantastic.
Our group activity for the Tuesday was a boat trip to Symi Island. Even though Richard was feeling better, he decided to sit this one out.
I looked for a jetty but there was one. Then the boat’s captain said that if we wanted to swim we would need to jump! We were given goggles and snorkels, and then we jumped. I put the goggles on and looked below the surface – I could see a few fish swimming around, and below them the white sand of the ocean floor. I floated on my back, enjoying the 50 shades of blue of the ocean and the sky. The white beach and the while cliffs surrounding it was gorgeous. Once again one of my favourite scenes – one with contrasting colours and textures.
The time we spent swimming is the stand out event of the entire trip. I just loved it.
After swimming and floating around the boat for almost an hour, we had to leave for the little town of Symi where we would have another stunning lunch.As we left I took one last look at this beautiful place.
The town was as pretty as a postcard with its multi-coloured houses.
We reached the hotel just before 18h00. Richard and I had dinner on our own at the restaurant just a few minutes from the hotel.
It was still early when we got back to the hotel after dinner. I ordered a cocktail from the hotel bar and sipped it while sitting on the balcony while listening to the sound of the sea down below. We only had one full day left, and I reflected on the first few days and how amazing it has been to be part of an experience like this.
I ran into colleagues and had a cold beer. And more ice cream!
After dinner we tried the dancing routine. And then it was time for the real fun – the breaking of plates! It is strange just how satisfying it was to throw a plate on the ground with force.
We checked out of the hotel early and left for the airport soon after breakfast.
Another short flight to Athens, and then a rather lengthy layover. We went to a shopping mall near the airport. While that was not the most fun we had on the trip, I had a really exceptional iced coffee while we waited to go back to the airport.
Our in transit time from leaving the hotel in Rhodes until we landed at OR Tambo was about 27 hours. Long.
But it was worth it, because the few nights we spent in Greece was absolutely fantastic.
The entire trip was extremely well organised and there was not a single event or activity that did not run smoothly.
It was really special to be part of such a trip, and I am really honoured and blessed to have had this experience. And to have Richard with me, even if he was unwell, was the cherry on top.