My train to Gatwick airport departed at 00:04 and I had ensured that I was packed and organised from early on the day previous. I had to be at the train station for 11:50, which meant leaving 5 minutes prior to ensure that I was on time. I had spent my day with my sister as she double checked my packing and gave me some of her clothing to take with me, I essentially ended up over packing but nothing that would cause me any problems on the way back. We caught up on the episode of ‘Ex on the Beach’ we had missed from the previous day (nothing to be proud of I know) and I double checked I had all my travel documents. I attempted to take a short nap, but excitement prevailed. Eventually mum knocked o my door and told me it was time to go to the station. A little teary, I cuddled the kitten half to death when saying my goodbyes and wished my sister a good holiday, as her and mum left a few days later for Sicily. Standing at the front door with my backpack strapped to my back, I was ready to get into the car, until mum asked whether my suitcase was already in the car and I had realised it was still upstairs and I had almost forgotten it! I rectified my error and both myself and luggage proceeded to make our way into the car. First disaster adverted.
The train station is small and unmanned, with my train being the last of the day, leaving both the station and train empty. Mum refused to leave until I was on the train, which meant waiting in the rain with me for 15 minutes. I was glad to see the back of the rain, as temperatures in Athens were 36 degrees, although travelling in rain is supposedly good luck, so it could stay for the meanwhile. I boarded my train and said my goodbye to mum. The train conductor made his way through the train 10 minutes later and as I prepared my ticket and railcard (bless up santander for their student account railcard), the conductor questioned why I appeared to be “so happy”, I explained that I was travelling to Athens solo for the first time and we spent some time talking about travels, responsibility, and a degree in law, as he too had studied law but not found his way afterwards. 25 minutes passed and I was feeling philosophical after him relating his insight into life, he too realised how much time had passed and wished me the best as he continued his way through the carriage.
Before I knew it I had arrived at Gatwick and after taking the inter-terminal metro, I had safely made it to the North terminal where my flight was planned to depart in just over 4 hours time! The terminal was empty and I was the only person, other than 2 workers, at security. I was sat in the departure lounge after 10 minutes of my arrival at the airport. To my disappointment everything would be closed until 4am, so my dreams of breakfast narrowed. I sat and made my way through half of my book, thank goodness I had brought 2 I thought, however, it wouldn’t be long before I had finished them both. Soon enough everyone I was talking to on social media had gone to bed, even my sister, notorious for being up until 5 am. Only a little longer until things opened, I thought. Eventually, eateries began to open at 3:30 am, I headed to Garfunkel’s for a full English breakfast, as me, mum and Alex usually do. My first time eating alone at a restaurant, and I had no apprehensions, it was almost relaxing to just be at one with myself, not having to make any conversation with anyone. I continued to read my book and shortly after making my order I received my breakfast.
I paid the bill and made my way to Boots, as travelling with hand luggage imposes a restriction of fluids that can be carried, which meant I was lacking in shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. I had decided to buy after sun there. Luckily I had mini sun cream bottles that allowed my to take them, saving a load of money. The cost of my cosmetics at Boots almost matched the cost of my flight – typical. The airport was lively by this point, where as there were about 10 other people when I had arrived. the queue for Boots extended all around the shop, and it was a nightmare to even move in there. I eventually made my way out, having purchased all that I required and decided to look through world duty free and Accessorise. These were even more difficult to navigate around, and I resulted to taking a seat and reading further whilst I waited for my gate to be announced.
At around 4:45 the boarding gate was announced for my flight, and along with a few others I made my way there, easily being one of the first few at the gate. Soon enough we would be boarding. The gate got busy incredibly fast and by the time we were boarding there was almost no space to move. A full flight it seemed. While waiting in the line, it became apparent that a group of 3 males were causing a hold up, as they were so intoxicated that the youngest of the group struggled to control his eyes, as he complained of not being able to see, as I noted that his eyes were crossed as he swayed from side to side, lacking any ability to retain balance. Eventually we made it onto the flight at 5:25, as we were expected to leave LGW at 5:45. It became increasingly apparent that we would not be leaving on time and by 6:15 we were still sat stationary. I fell asleep, and woke up briefly to note that we had taken off, dozing back off immediately after, having not slept since the previous night. I awoke with 40 minutes left until we landed, and upon landing the air hostess apologised again for the delay, clarifying that 3 passengers had been asked to leave, refused, and the police were summoned. I looked over to where I noted the 3 drunken passengers sitting to find 3 vacant seats. I was not surprised.
I had made it to Athens. Making my way off of the plane, it was now to go through passport control, which was not a quick task, as Athens airport lacked the new e-border control machines, which meant waiting in line to be seen by 1 of 2 security guards. This process took 15 minutes and I was thankful I had no luggage in hold, so I headed straight to the exit in search for the X95 bus to Syntagma Square. Upon finding the exit, I found a bus ticket stand, where the bus cost me €3 due to my student card, rather than €6. The bus was relatively full, and I got straight on, remembering to validate my ticket in the machines, as not many tourists do, receiving fines of 60 times the price of the original ticket.
The bus took just under an hour to the square, and the views from the bus were spectacular on the most part; mountains scattered throughout the landscape. It was about 1:45 pm by the time I arrived and I headed to a little cafe to buy a bottle of water. Water in the supermarkets is €0.14 cent per 500ml bottle and €0.19 cent for 1.5L. I couldn’t believe it, however the mark up from cafes means that a 500 ml bottle of water cost me €0.50, still cheaper in England and almost every other European country I have been to, so I was not complaining. I took the red line from the Square to Acropolis and was delighted to find that from the exit/entrance to the metro station, my hostel (Athens Backpacker’s) was a 45 second walk past a few bistros and cafe’s, in addition to the AB supermarket I’d be living in for the next week, partly because everything is so cheap in there and also due to the ice cold air con.
I checked in at around 2, which was a surprise as check-in was stated to be at 2:30, but I was given my key and told to go o the 4th floor. This meant taking narrow spiral stairs up 80 steps to the floor. The dorm was clean, cold and very spacious, with the en suite being a nice size. I was the only girl amongst 5 guys for the fist few days, but this made no difference to me. I immediately took off my travel clothes and put on something a little more weather appropriate. My plan was to immediately check out the museum and acropolis.
I locked away my suitcase in the massive lockers provided and packed my backpack with the essentials: a cap, sunglasses case, portable charger, my student ID, some euros and my phone. I headed back out and stopped off at the AB store to grab some water, before walking for 2 minutes to the museum. The entrance was free due to my ID card, which was the case for every monument and museum. Since the museum entry was free, I decided a €15 tour would be acceptable, as there was no information about any of the exhibits in the museum. I brought my tour ticket and was designated a guide. We began and there was very little relevance to her words that met the exhibit she was talking about. I immediately regretting purchasing a tour ticket. 10 minutes passed and still no information was given to my interest. Then the guide stopped in her track and proclaimed “No.” Surprised we all look at her, she then proceeded to state that the tour was, in fact, a private tour, to which we looked at our tickets in a lanyard around our neck and confused one individual stated we had all paid for the tour. The guide was having none of it, and refused to give the remaining hour of the tour. Relieved, I headed back to the information desk and claimed back my €15, as a result of the psycho tour guide. Lesson learnt; never buy a ticket for a tour guide.
I headed out of the museum, as without any information on the artefacts I had very little to learn. My next step was to climb to the top of the acropolis. The entrance to the acropolis is 2 minutes from the museum. I made my way in at around 3 pm, the hottest hour of the day. Not realising this, I unknowingly started my ascent after receiving my free entrance ticket. The ascent was not bad, since Athens is windy and so the heat wasn’t a bother. The marble, however, was slippy and although I was careful, several people in front of me had fallen. The Parthenon was spectacular and the views from the Acropolis even more so. I spent an hour there and then headed back down, as I was aware I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast at 4 am and needed to get something to eat. I stopped at a frozen Greek yogurt bar and indulged in a natural yogurt with kinder bueno sauce. It was to die for. I sat and ate my yogurt and decided to head back to the hostel, which was just around the corner, to rest a little.
Upon climbing back up the 80 stairs to the room, one of the guys was back and introduced himself as we sat and got talking about each other’s lives and travels. He was from Indonesia and worked in oil, working and travelling alternative months. We sat and talked for a while, headed to the roof top bar above our room, and then decided to take a walk around Plaka, stopping at a juice bar. By the time we arrived back it was late, and having not slept properly I decided to shower and sleep, as he went on a search for dinner. For tomorrow I was going to go to the lake, and although he had invited himself, this was one of the destinations I was most excited about visiting, and so had to decline his invitation. He was welcome to visit alone, although my day was to be spent as I had imagined it: alone. He went out, and I went to sleep, not expecting to have visited the acropolis so soon after landing, and excited for an early morning start tomorrow.