Saturday, 28 February 2009

ShΩpolopolous Girl

The date gets his visa to travel around Europe.
“What about Gambia?” he suggests.
The cheap holiday offer is only valid on a specific set of days.
“Ooh yes!” I cry, “How exciting!”
I picture flamingos and red earth.
“I’m away those days so you’ll have to cover,” Mum says, ending the dream.
“How about Malta?” the date asks.
It doesn’t have the same ring as Africa but I’m up for it.
He keeps looking.
“I’ve been before but I’d definitely go again.”
I think I’m being quite easy-going but the date suddenly gets irritated.
“You don’t want to go anywhere!”
I’m baffled.
“Just choose a place yourself!” he says, pushing his laptop towards me.
“Uh. Athens?”
He grabs the laptop back.
I’m thinking feta cheese, olives, sunshine, the Acropolis, terracotta pots, vine leaves, togas and goats.
Well, it nearly doesn’t happen because our 4.30 train doesn’t show up.
That’s 4.30 AM; otherwise known as Stupid O’Clock.
The screen finally admits it’s been cancelled twenty minutes later.
We join the other panicking group of travellers on a bus heading for Blackfriars. One of the travellers knows of an alternative train.
Alternative in the sense it moves backwards.
My heart shrinks with every lethargic chug of that awful train.
I can’t believe we’re going to miss our plane. It’s our first international trip together.
Even though our gate is already closed, we still run to the check-in.
The airport is heaving.
The easyjet queues are swollen.
I slow down in front of them, breathing fast.
An air steward steps in front of us.
“Sofia?” he asks.
“No, Emily,” I say.
“Athens!” my date cries.
The steward nods and waves us ahead of the queues to the check-in desk.
“Close the gate as soon as you’ve done these two,” he says.
Thank Zeus!
Three hours later and we’re in unexpectedly messy Athens; there’s graffiti all over the place and lots of burnt and boarded up buildings with unfinished roofs.
I’m not put off though; I’m still amazed we’ve made it.
“Maybe our hotel is in the ghetto,” my date says, by way of explanation.
It’s not very sunny either.
In fact it’s spitting with rain when we visit the Acropolis and so windy I almost lose my hat.
The date takes amazing pictures. I cut his head off in mine.
There’s hardly a tourist in sight even though it turns out to be Carnival.
On Saturday the wigs and party hats come out.
We find a pair of oversized orange sunglasses which boosts our popularity in the bars.
A nonchalant barman in a dressing gown serves us up free ouzo shots with cream.
“Markos,” he says, when we ask him his name.
What a hero.
People think we’re locals. We can’t understand a word they’re saying and communicate with our orange sunglasses instead.
They say travelling with the date is the big test. But it wasn’t really.
The real test on this trip was finding coffee for less than 4 Euros.
Who told me Greece was cheap?
I suppose it was revealing in some ways. I now know the date gets excessively irritated by pigeons.

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