Friday, November 10, 2023

A Palace, a Parthenon, and a Paradiso

Riviera docked in the Port of Heraklion for a few hours, and we used our time to ride one of those hop-on-hop-off types of bus tours.

We hopped off at the Knossos site and spent an hour wandering around one of the most notable Bronze Age sites of the ancient world. It was a major center of the Minoan civilization forever connected with the legends of Theseus and the Minotaur, the half-man half-bull who was the son of King Minos.

The king confined his son to the labyrinth and the story goes on. One of the first archaeologists who excavated the site put his own probably incorrect interpretations on almost everything, and the myths continue.

For us, it was exciting just to visit in person.

An accurate replica of the throne of King Minos? Who knows?

A couple of days later we disembarked near Athens at the Port of Piraeus. We invested wisely in a driver and guide, both excellent, and toured the Acropolis, admiring the Parthenon and the city spread out below.

Deana, our fascinating guide…

We walked over three miles, mainly up and down, as our knees and backs reminded us.

One of those “look where we are” shots…

A huge Greek flag waved over Athens and the surrounding suburbs of roughly six million residents.

As we walked back down around 11:00 AM, the crowds were growing, making us happy we’d entered at 10.

We walked through a quaint little neighborhood, stopped by the Roman Agora and then spent time with our guide in the Ancient Greek Agora, both gathering places with government offices not completely unlike the Roman Forum we’ve visited with grandchildren.

A steep climb back down, wasn’t it?

Our guide wove it all into understandable and fascinating one-morning history course.

A section of the Roman Agora.

Fortunately it was a mild day by Greek standards and the threatened rain didn’t materialize. Our bodies were tired but our minds were full of insights and memories as we drove the surprisingly long distance to the Athens Airport Holiday Inn, and shared a farewell dinner with Greg.

Yes, it included Moussaka.

And we had to have some Greek Salad.

Friday morning we were up at the ugly hour of 4:40 AM to catch the Holiday Inn’s shuttle to the airport, close to a 15-minute trip.

Once there, we said our farewells to Greg, who is currently in flight on a grueling itinerary, ATH-LHR-DEN-DRO, one that will see him back home in New Mexico late Friday night if all goes well.

The remaining four of us breezed through a smooth and easy Fast Track security checkpoint before consuming badly overdue Cappuccinos and - what else? - Greek Yogurt in a lounge before boarding our flight to Naples on Aegean Airlines.

For the last time this trip we agreed it was all Greek to us before boarding an Aegean A321 with spacious exit row seating, and a cute little sandwich and energy bar on a 90-minute flight. Yes, it puts US airlines to shame, but it’s a different market.

We’re reluctant checking our bags, now somewhat stuffed with Parmesan Cheese, but the wait at the carousel wasn’t too bad.

We had hired a driver to transport us from the airport to the Hilton Sorrento Palace, and Ugo proved to be friendly and a competent driver, navigating his black Mercedes van along some scenic roads. What a glorious part of the world this is, even on an overcast day! Paradise - other than the driving!

Our rooms weren’t ready, so we enjoyed an outstanding Cappuccino in the spacious Executive Lounge adjacent to the lobby.

The charming clerk at reception surprised us by delivering our keys. We were rewarded with rooms and balconies featuring a spectacular view.

That’s a cloud-covered Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

We’ll be exploring this gorgeous area over the next couple of days. In the meantime, the Executive Lounge Happy Hour started off weak (imagine if a Hampton Inn offered one) but a series of attractive nibblies delivered to our table added a touch of class to the end of a long but enjoyable day.

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