Europe 2017 – Summary, Part Three

August 24 – November 15

We spent time in just three countries this trip, Greece, Spain, and France.  Each was an extremely positive experience and we’ll recount these, and maybe some drawbacks in the following posts.

Greece

View from the Back of the Theater

View from the Back of the Theater at Delphi

My one and only visit to Greece was a month spent at the end of a three-month trip to Europe in 1979.  I’d been hitchhiking since May and would end up spending two weeks each on two different islands, Corfu and Paros during the month of August.  I would meet a group of folks, some of who are still friends to this day and we would wild camp on the beaches of Pelekas, Naousa and Kalimbitres.

This would be different experience.  It’s great to go back to places visited many years ago, some as far back as when one is a child and see them through the eyes of the person you have become.  Joanna had not been to Greece and so we’d both get to see it afresh; we wondered if the effects of the Greek economic crash (which occurred after ours in 2008 and was far more devastating) would impact our ease of travel and how difficult it would be to navigate in a language not easily mastered.  We found exactly the opposite to be true.

Since my visit in the 1970’s, the Greeks recognized that their language is difficult to learn and so made the decision collectively to move towards English as the universal second language.  Thus, it was spoken everywhere and most of the signage was in both languages.  Scratch that difficulty off the list.  As for Greeks attitudes towards tourists, it couldn’t have been any more welcoming or genuinely friendly.

J and J Delphi

J and J at Delphi

From our arrival in the heart of the Plaka in Athens, to hotel clerk interaction and almost every waiter we encountered, each point of contact seemed to be about us, not the money we brought to the experience.  My favorite story to recount finds us on the overnight ferry to Crete from Athens, after we’d spent an enjoyable and educational week on the guided bus tour of the Peloponnese.

With the advent of inexpensive air fares in Europe, the Greek ferry industry business has declined, particularly for a long trip like this one, and the boat we were on, while nicely maintained, seemed like a fading movie star.  We opted to have a nice dinner in the ship’s restaurant (Instead of the cafeteria) and were glad for it, the waiter friendly and engaging.

We worked our way through a bottle of wine (having started with ouzo aperitif’s in the room) and at the conclusion of the meal, our waiter brought out a bottle of Raki or some other local brandy and three glasses, one for each of us.  We would find this ritual repeated at every meal on Crete from that point on, sometimes with the waiter, sometimes with the owner.  Needless to say, after docking the next morning, the mile long walk to our hotel was not the most pleasant of experiences as I dealt with the effects of drinking with the Greeks.

The Pool

One of the Pools

Besides the hospitality, Greece is a very affordable place to travel through.  One’s two biggest expenditures, lodging and food worked out to an average of 64 euros and 61 euros per day ($75 and $72), respectively.  Here’s the full breakout:

Lodging
Food
Culture
Misc
Transport
Gas
Total E
Total $
Total
1,593
1,528
605
66
1,152
30
4,975
5,894
Avg./Day (E)
64
61
24
3
46
1
199
***
Avg./Day ($)
75
72
29
3
55
1.4
***
236

Generally, all of our lodging was clean, comfortable, relatively new, and featured a number of amenities, often a swimming pool and a small kitchen set-up in our room.  More than half included breakfast.  And for some, $72 dollar may seem a bit much for food but keep in mind this also includes one nice meal and bottle of wine each day.  Greece is still a country where the food you eat was likely grown nearby, so the quality of the produce is outstanding.  Seafood is abundant, but a variety of protein abounds and so one is rarely bored or unsatisfied after a meal.

Tour Guide George

Our Tour Guide George

One big change for us was our decision to book a five-day guided tour by bus of the Peloponnese though Fantasy Travel.  This turned out to beneficial in a number of ways.  For a total cost of 1,300 euros ($1,466), or an average of a shade under $300 a day for the two of us (about $65 a day more than our overall average cost per day), we stayed in first class hotels, ate very good food (most of it buffets), were driven from site to site in a comfortable bus and had an excellent guide to help us more fully understand the historical context of the amazing places we viewed.

The Bronze Charioteer

The Bronze Charioteer

We enjoyed it enough to commit to doing more of it in the future.  One drawback is that you often don’t get to spend as much time as you would like at any particular site, but this is more than offset by the total number of things these types of tours can cram into a day.  The other positive element is how it, combined with our overall time in Greece, immersed us in Greek history, which is essentially that of our modern-day civilization.

Temple of HephaistosWhen added to the Roman history we got there and later on in Spain and France, our appreciation for these two civilizations and their contributions to our way of life was deeply enhanced.  And so, we came away from this first part of the trip tanned, well-fed, and eager for more  Given how much we travel and how many more places we need to see before we stop, I’m not sure we’ll return to Greece, but I’m very glad we made it this time around and it is truly a visit I will long remember.

Santorini Sunset

Santorini Sunset

 

 

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