We missed the sail in as Athens (well, Piraeus really) as it was early. Needless to say, several keen souls will always make the effort to view (and record) everything. The ship has to enter this harbour early as the ferry traffic is very heavy and the entrance is narrow – very narrow. We may be a novice cruisers, but neither of us have ever seen a busier harbour for medium to large ships. In addition to several cruise liners, there are dozens of ferries serving the many Greek Islands.
Paula was a lot better so a light breakfast then we had to assemble in the theatre ready for our Princess tour to be called. The tour was scheduled for 8:30 and we were on the coach and moving at 8:35. Penny was our guide, speaking excellent English and she possessed a good sense of humour, especially when describing the parking habits of the locals. Double parking, parking on pavements, parking at right angles, all seemed to be the norm around here. Piraeus itself looked to be a pleasant enough place, with three harbours, beaches and shops galore, but we were on our way to Athens, not too far away.
We had a brief photo stop at a sports stadium, looking up at the Acropolis and our visit to Athens coincided with the last day or so of the "Special Olympics", so not only were the cruisers in evidence wherever we were, but so were the Special Olympians and their supporters.
Penny organised us to have small receivers with ear pieces as we headed up the hill. It is a fair climb but not a difficult one. Tickets were issued and we passed through a narrow gate before heading up the footpath. There was the opportunity to pay a visit much to the relief of several. When you are fairly near the summit, the track up is to the right and the track down to the left as you face the Acropolis. Penny went to great pains to tell us to keep moving and we would have time to take pics later, overlooking the fact that the one way system precluded it! She stopped just before we hit the stone steps for an obligatory history lesson, but at least we could shelter under a large tree. Onwards and upwards an the last stage was choc-a-bloc with slow moving visitors. We reached the summit where Penny sat down and held court for another 15 minute lecture, by which time the sun was out at full strength and we were out in the open.
At last, she finished and we wandered around for about an hour taking loads of pics. You may notice from them that they are strengthening and partially restoring this icon, as the 'new' marble is white and the original is yellow. The view from the summit is spectacular and the Acropolis is visible from much of the area.
We headed down and grabbed an overpriced drink of lemon slush for €4.50 – but it hit the spot!
All returned to the coach OK and we headed into the city, just a couple of minutes away. We were all a wee bit concerned about the anti government protests in Greece at the moment, but apparently, every night at 6pm is when they gather to demonstrate. Several times, Penny wanted to know if we wanted any politicians...
We were dropped off at McDonalds(!) then a five minute walk down to Cathedral Square for about 2 and a bit hours on our own to explore and shop. We did rather more of the latter. The street leading down from the square is the Plako, loosely described as the market area, including the furthest section, the Flea Market. Just before the Flea Market is another open square that houses the underground railway station, though you'd be hard pushed to recognise it as such. Paula picked up one or two bits and pieces and then we opted to sit at a small outside corner cafe for a bite and a drink. Excellent and substantial with mine consisting of three large pork kebabs, sliced onion and tomato, chips, flat pita bread and a dip that I didn't identify, but could have been yoghurt based. Paula had a chicken pita bread that was way too large and along with a can of lemonade, the whole lot cost a modest €12.90.
On the walk back to the square, I managed a bit of shopping, so brother Dave, I have something specially for you, that will keep you occupied for a while.
Just before the square we dived into an ice cream/gelato shop for the best ever cherry gelato or ice cream I have ever had. Tasty and quite a bit of cherry in it too. Cost of €2.00 each. Unfortunately, Paula's "limone" brought back the cough!
We got back to the meeting point at Macca's for 2:25pm but the traffic police don't like coaches hanging about, so in spite of several warnings from Penny that we should be there 5 mins early, the coach left two light just after 2:35pm... No sympathy whatever, whoever they were.
An easy run back and we dropped off just opposite the ship. The port shuttle bus was there and we all piled on, but the driver didn't amble out for quite a while, by which time, half the passengers had hopped off and were walking. We overtook them...
Quick wash and a drink and to trivia at 4:30 again with Barbara. We didn't see anyone else we knew so joined another couple and we still only managed 12/20! Equal last with Norm and Marion who appeared later, but Barbara was awarding prizes for the lowest scores, so we walked out with Princess key ring torches – though Paula's doesn't work!
We needed a swim but the water was a bit cooler than it has been.
Sailaway was 6pm and it was Paula's turn to snap it. Quite spectacular, as when the ship turned, there was very little spare space and as mentioned before, the entry is narrow.
For future cruisers, check out the hop on hop off bus again.
We had our traditional relaxation on deck 14 rather than the formal dining then we went to the Vista lounge show. Yorkshireman Andy Wilkins. A good comedy act and quite animated, with a fair bit of time off stage. Very enjoyable. For once, this was the early show, a first for us, so we went out on deck to watch the animated movie, "Gnomeo & Juliet". Good movie but Paula was getting a bit cool and we were both nodding so we called it a day.
A great day and most enjoyable. Like the people, like the place. Shame about the graffiti. If only we could convince all tour guides that they don't need to justify their existence by talking non-stop for hours, we'd be fine.
A day at sea tomorrow – but everyone will be on the internet, so the chances of getting on are slim, so no idea when this will actually be posted.