Athens to Istanbul & A Week In Egypt

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Athens - Last Day for Shopping and Ship Boarding

We woke at our leisure on April 3rd, ate a light breakfast, did our check out stuff, and took off towards the Plaka around 11 a.m. We browsed along the various shops, thinking about where we might go for our last lunch in Athens. We discovered a place called Ionia with some fascinating leather goods with the appearance of tree branches and roots. The man who owns it is from Smyrti in Turkey but has worked as an artisan in Greece for 29 years and does beautiful work. He showed us just about everything in his shop, explaining the origin of designs, and the leather embossing and carving process he uses. He even pulled out some fine art books and shared some of his favorite photographs of places, people and artifacts. He was totally charming and typical of the friendly nature of people here in Greece.

His shop was not far from Maryhelene's pottery shop on Andarou. A week ago, we spent some time discussing her museum replicas and the mythology associated with many of the drawings from her collection. She is a well-educated young woman who can provide a lot of valid information about the classic styles. We were specifically looking for a small lekythos (pitcher) in the Corinthian style with the mythological siren. She had just the right thing.

Now our main goal was to return to the Kidathineon for lunch. The owner remembered us with a warm welcome and served up huge plates of perfectly tender squid. Preceded by a good salad, washed down with Kourtouris Retsina, and followed by rich homemade chocolate ice cream, we were very satisfied. To our delight, he treated us to another round of that delicious liqueur (he knew how much we enjoy good food). Since the day was sunny and pleasant, we had chosen a table near the walkway and did not hesitate to tell menu browsers that his food was excellent and by the time we had to leave, the place was full.

We returned to the Grand Bretagne in the afternoon to catch our transfer to the World Renaissance. They were very accommodating, and let us store our luggage downstairs and our valuables in a safe place until well after the normal checkout time. They've got a lot of class.

The transfer to the ship went smoothly, but the situation on board was chaotic. We did not unpack right away because the toilet in our room did not work and we knew we might have to make a change. We finally got our luggage (3 hours later and an hour after the ship sailed) and the toilet is working. This is a shakedown cruise (first of the season with not only a new crew but also a new ship recently repurchased by Epirotiki) so it could be very entertaining. They advised us to exchange our vouchers for tours before dinner. This created a madhouse in the small lobby and it got so bad that the head concierge disappeared to get away from the disgruntled mob. The real problem was that the guy running the desk did not have enough computer experience, but he kept trying.

Our first dinner on board was hysterical. First off, the early seating patrons had taken an hour longer than planned to finish their dinner. As polite as they are, the waiters (Greek) did not want to rush them and had to clean up after the last diners left. When we arrived at our table we met up with Virginia and Harvey who would be our dinner companions. Babis, our wine steward, was unable to bring us a carafe of wine because all the carafes had been used at the first seating and had not been washed yet. Angelo, our waiter, made four valiant attempts to bring me olive oil (for dipping bread). First he tried oil and vinegar salad dressing, then a fun variety of vessels with what finally turned out to be as light as canola. I will buy my own tomorrow. The dinner was well prepared and tasty and we had a good opportunity to get more acquainted with Virginia and Harvey.

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