Our second stop in Greece was an overnight in its capital city - Athens. We were originally supposed to do an overnight in Istanbul but due to potentially unsafe conditions there, the cruise line cancelled the stop and replaced it with the overnight in Athens.
Having been to both places before, albeit 8 years ago, I didn't mind the change one way or another.
The best news about Athens, however, is that Jimmy came back!!! Yay!!! He's on board with me to Barcelona, a 9 day leg. I've known about his rejoining the ship for several weeks but had to keep quiet about it in order to ensure that Jack was surprised. Jack really liked Jim when they first met in Ft. Lauderdale and was sad to see him leave when we got to San Diego.
And of course, Jim's return has helped me tremendously with my homesickness. It's all good.
While Jim was busy flying in to Athens, I had set up a private tour for 8 with a well regarded (on Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic) tour company to spend a full day visiting The Corinth Canal, the ancient city of Corinth, a visit to the Acropolis and some drive by stops at a few of Athens' highlights.
Our driver and guide, Philippe, was on time and we all piled into his nice big limo van, complete with comfy leather seats and onboard wifi. Yippee ki-yay!!!
The Corinth Canal is a man made Canal that cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth. It's 4 miles long and only 70 feet wide. Because of this it's just mostly tourist type vessels that pass through it, although close to 11,000 ships go through every year. It's a very cool place to stop and take pictures of, which is what we did.
Next up was the really interesting town of ancient Corinth. This place is famous for Christians in that the apostle Paul traveled, lived and spoke here. But Corinth was founded hundreds of years earlier, around 400 BC. It was a large and well known city in its heyday with over 90,000 people living there.
Those pesky Romans came along around 140 BC and demolished it, then rebuilt it to their own liking and influences. They did this in Petra, too, those sneaky bastards. Of course, let's not forget what happened to the Roman Empire....
In ancient times, many cities were built as testaments to the Greek Gods and this resulted in lots of temples and other references to these Gods and Goddesses. In Corinth, there remains quite a bit of an impressive structure called the Temple of Apollo, dedicated to one of Zeus' sons.
Today, excavation work continues at this site. I found the site to be very interesting and in a beautiful setting. We spent over an hour there - I could have stayed another hour!
The drive back to Athens took about an hour and when we got into the city it was well after 2:00. Most of us were hungry for lunch, so our guide dropped us off at the Plaka area ( a pedestrian only area with shops and tavernas) and some of us enjoyed a leisurely Greek lunch. Gyros, salads, fresh bread and olive oil for dipping, and of course, a local beer.
To my utter surprise, no one in my group except me wanted to go to the Acropolis! Some were tired and didn't want to make the somewhat steep climb to get up there - acropolis means top of the city - and others had seen it before and weren't interested. Well, I'd last seen it in 2009 and I wanted to go again. So they dropped me off at the bottom of the hill and while I spent the next 50 minutes roaming around up there, they all drove off to some places where they could get some nice pictures of it from below.
I loved my time up at the Acropolis. The main attraction is the Parthenon, which is the temple built for the Goddess Athena, from which Athens gets its name. There is a lot of scaffolding around it, as it is being protected and restored, but the sheer size of it makes it a wondrous thing to behold.
The vistas of the city of Athens below are also quite incredible.
After we all connected again, there was just enough time to get over to the Parliament Building to view the hourly changing of the guard. The two guards protect the building and stand in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier. It's a beautiful ceremony and reminded me a lot of how we have the same thing at home in Arlington Cemetery. It is at once very sobering and there is an unspoken demand for respect. Everyone was quiet during the ceremony, which lasted almost 15 minutes.
We finished up by driving past a few more famous spots, including the 70,000+ seat Panathenaic Stadium. Built originally in 144 AD and renovated in time for the first modern Olympics in 1896, it is made entirely of marble and it is gorgeous! Athens holds a marathon every November and that race always ends here at the stadium.
At last our day and tour was over and we returned to the ship in the early evening, happy and tired. Another good day!
Jimmy had arrived, unpacked and I found him sitting with Jack down in the explorers lounge listening to Adagio. Smiles and hugs all around! I'm so glad he's here - have I mentioned that already??!!
P.S. there's a picture of a black lab sleeping under a desk. She's the guard at the port terminal. Sigh.