That’s More Like It

Instead of cheap tickets to poxy New York and -Jersey, I got this offer:

I will admit that I’ve never been to Greece — no special reason, it just never came up in any of my travel dreams.  I’m not really big on visiting ancient buildings and old ruins, because my experience in Western Europe has been largely negative:  hucksters trying to separate the stupid American from his dollars in various ways — e.g. Rome’s Colosseum, which pretty much put me off this kind of thing for life.

And sunbathing in the Greek Isles?  Forget that shit — not just in Greece, but anywhere.

However, this I could get into:

Athens, Greece – November 6, 2015: Scenes from Plaka, also called “Neighbourhood of the Gods”, the old district of Athens at the foot of the Acropolis with labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture.
March 31st, 2019, Greece Athens. Greek restaurant taverna at Plaka area, blackboard with daily menu, empty tables and chairs, sunny day

…and I just LOVE Greek food:

…and I even drink retsina, the Greek wine that tastes like Pine-Sol, but which complements Greek food really well.  (My Dad, a seasoned traveler, always recommended drinking what the locals drink, advice which has served me well just about everywhere.  But I draw the line at ouzo.)

I think the only problem I have going to Greece is that I can’t speak a word of it — literally — and of course, as they have that strange alphabet, I can’t read it either.  I’m not afraid of venturing into the complete unknown — at least they have a Western culture (I know I know, they started it all blah blah blah) — but I hate being a total foreigner, if you get my drift, which is not the case in Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and even Italy or Spain.

But I can’t help thinking that I’m missing something by never having been there.  (New Wife has done it, and speaks glowingly of both Athens and the islands, so there’s that.)

All thoughts, experiences and suggestions are of course welcome in Comments.


  1. If you stick to the tourist trail most people in service industry speak at least one other language , commonly English and one or two continental languages in addition to Greek. It’s Americans who can only speak one.

    There’s always a catch with cheap flights. Check the connection airports and layover times. Your cheap flight might mean 28 hour trip times. I hate long flights, so our rule is anything over 5 hours, we go business class.

    …….. and there are lots of Tour companies that do trips to Greece all the hassles taken care of. Those that survived the chi-pox are desperate for customers.

  2. Ooh, the Greek Islands. Rhodes, Crete and also Lefkada. Wonderful places Kim – food to die for, Greek yoghurt and their honey – ooof Matron – clear clear seas, lovely people, so much history, beautiful landscapes and tiny towns to wander through – and did I mention the food?

    Maybe we should meet you and the new wife on a Greek island one day. We could always try the food.

  3. Get you magnifying glass out and read ALL of the fine print.
    After an amazingly short flight, you really do not want to hear –
    ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to welcome you to Athens …………………………….
    Texas ( or Georgia ) !!
    Just sayin’.

  4. A Greek friend of of one of my sons tells me that Athens is 5% nice tourism places and 95% third world hell-hole. He passes through Athens once a year to visit family in a rural community in Northern Greece. He also says the smaller towns and rural Greece are still OK.

    I used to feel as you do about the hucksters but have changed my mind . The hucksters are easily ignored and are there because there are so many tourists there, and the tourists are there because, mostly, the place is well worth visiting.

    Besides, the take out cocktail bar set up in a single doorway at the Trevi Fountain opens at 7 AM. Many hucksters fleecing many tourists brings many useful services.

  5. Wife and I did Greece on a cruise about 5 years ago, and we did an extra couple days in Athens before embarking and we loved it. However, after reading your musings, I think I’d advise against it. THE draw in Greece is history, which means ruins. Wife and I did several guided tours and loved all of it. But it’s the history that is fascinating and that history, obviously, is all ruins. You’ve expressed that you are REALLY not into that, and, if your wife IS, well as you like to say, “any fule knows” that’s a recipe for disaster.

    The al fresco dining scene, however, is fantastic. One nice thing about Greek food is its simplicity–they don’t go much for rich sauces and complex cooking procedures, they are simple dishes that let the ingredients shine through. I can honestly say we never had a bad meal there. Almost everyone in Athens speaks English so no worries there. Both the less expensive sidewalk restaurants, and the higher end places on hotel rooftops and such are excellent. The fresh seafood is fabulous. And the people are gregarious, you’d love them.

    But, I’m not sure that is enough of a draw for such a long trip. And although there is SOME more modern architecture and such to see there, there is not much. Certainly not compared to the places you love in England, for example, and nothing like the old cities along the Rhine in Germany. And the countryside is fairly arid, so no bucolic rural areas like Provence, either.

    Nope, Greece is about the history and the ruins, pretty much, and if you love that sort of thing–and we do–coupled with the food scene, it’s a great trip. But if you’re not into that, at all, I’d say do not go. You’ll find yourself quickly out of things to do but wait for the next meal, and end up reading in your hotel room most of the time, most likely with a mad wife. And as much as we loved the history, museums, and ruins, three days was about enough for us, we were ready to go. No way we could have stayed a week or two there like we could easily do in western Europe.

    After years of reading your blogs and knowing what you like and don’t like about just about everything, I’d advise against this one, for you specifically, Kim. Nothing wrong with Greece, and nothing wrong with you, but I just don’t see the connection there for you that you so aptly describe in the other places you love. Take the airfare money, and search for some truly authentic Greek restaurants near you and do some dining out with it and call it good, I’d say. We are lucky to have a terrific Greek place ten minutes from us with a chef who has cooked in Greece and Crete for years. Stay away from the Gyros and cheese burger places, of course, but I’m sure there are proper Greek restaurants in Dallas to check out. That’s my two cents.

    Here’s our favorite.

  6. Truebrit, is also right, the islands are delightful, but some of the best-known are tourist hell holes that would send you right into a RCOB moments after you got there. Santorini, for example. Beautiful place, and the whole place looks exactly like the ubiquitous postcards. But there are typically a half dozen large cruise ships anchored there and there are thousands of tourists jammed into to such that you can hardly move.

    And Fred Z is also right about Athens, which is why 3 days was about our limit, and we were ready to leave. Even if you like that sort of stuff, there is only so much ruin-touring and museum gawking one can take, and then there just is not much else Athens has to offer.

    For professional relaxers, some of the Greek Isles are wonderful. I get the sense you’re not a professional relaxer, you need something to do and to occupy your mind. You’re always doing, learning about, or appreciating something. I think Greece would dissappoint you. But I surely could be wrong. Ask your wife what it was she loved about it, and I bet you’ll quickly figure out if the trip is advisable or not.

    1. Cruise ships: I’m going to be on one in October, the Norwegian Getaway, stopping at some Greek Island or another, I don’t know or care which one, but wifey has planned in detail some kind of major raid for shopping and touring about at high speed.

      She won’t spend much, she’ll have great fun and she is content for me to sit at a cafe or bar reading my book. My big decision will be determining when caffeine time has ended and alcohol time has begun.

      But you’re right, the cruise ships swamp places like that.

    2. Then don’t go on a cruise ship – floating Petri dishes that never show you the real country. You could dock anywhere, they all look the same. Drop anchor, rush round, raid overpriced shops of tat, go back aboard and learn nothing. Do as we do, go small, tour round like a local – early or late season – and follow where the Greeks go. Small harbour side neighbourhood restaurants, chat up a taxi driver to show you the off piste places, take time, do nothing, immerse yourself in the area. Get a decent hotel but don’t spend all your time in it, or a small native run place. Find out what’s where before you go and winkle out the back street hideaways – and talk to people. Hire a catamaran or small boat with its own crew – visit islands in the azure seas. You won’t regret it. Put a bit of effort in it and you’ll be richly rewarded.

      Agree about Santorini tho.

    3. And Lesbos is where the Greeks park the Islamic invaders until they can send them on to Germany or Sweden.

  7. Eff that. If I wanted to visit commie 3rd world countries I would go to New Jersey. If I wanted to see or learn about Greece 3000 yrs ago I’ll open a book or browse YT for 10 minutes. Save ya money. Drive around ‘Merica !!!!

  8. Lots of Greek letters look like Roman ones:
    α β ε ι κ ο τ υ
    Others aren’t hard: μ ν = m n
    Π which you know from math is p in Roman
    δ is a d
    ζ is a z
    The really tricky one is ρ which is r
    γ is a g
    θ – theta is th
    φ – phi is ph or f
    χ – chi is ch
    ψ – psi is ps
    ω – omega is a long o
    η – eta is a long e
    ξ – is ksi which sounds like an x, as in Xerxes

    If you can remember Thello retsina, you can drink retsina and then say efarista para polu (thank you very much – which the Germans won’t say) and you are well on you way to enjoying Greece

  9. I was in Italy in 1970 in the USAF, stationed at San Vito dei Normanii Air Station, near Brindisi, Italy. Brindisi then had car ferry service to the Greek island of Corfu, departing at 11 PM and arriving at 8 AM. Our work shift meant we could leave in the evening of our last day shift and return three days later to go back to work on our second shift. I loved Corfu, we usually went to Glyfada beach on the west side of the island. I could rent a scooter at the Corfu harbor for $10 for three days. I rode around the island sight seeing. Glyfada was absolutely beautiful! We basically camped on the beach, ate at the local restaurants, one on the beach served fresh seafood, great salads and wonderful Greek food.
    The place was starting to get built up then, condos, etc being built on the mountain side overlooking the beach so don’t know what it may be like now. I live in Florida now, near Tarpon Springs, which is a predominantly Greek community. Still get good Greek food.
    I survived the Greek alphabet, studied Russian at Syracuse while in Uncle Sam’s Air Force. Russian used the Cyrillic alphabet which shares a lot of letters with the Greek alphabet. If I remember correctly a lot of the signs were also in English. The Greek people are friendly, food is terrific and the scenery is great. If you don’t enjoy loafing on a beach and sightseeing though, it might not be for you.

    1. I live in Saint Petersburg and my family and I love visiting Tarpon Springs, especially for the restaurants.

  10. Ouzo is not so bad. The first sips require you to make an adjustment to your palate, but with just a splash of water it’s a fine substitute for other spirits. A change of pace. And when you go back to Scotch, you’ll appreciate it more.

    1. Ouzo’s nothing. For something truly “special” … get to the Chicago area and try some Malört. I guarantee you’ll never be quite the same. As the saying goes … Be a sport, drink Malört !!
      (/turns away, runs for cover )

      1. Malört…for when you want to unfriend someone in person.

        Malört…because tonight’s the night you fight your dad.

        Malört…turning taste buds into taste foes for generations.

  11. I see you too have the hate-aniseed gene.

    Greece is wonderful if you like history. I was there almost 40 years ago. Yes, the interesting bits are mostly ruins, but you can go to the original Olympic stadium, you can go to the real Thermopylae. You can stand beneath Mycenae’s Lion Gate. You can sit in an original classical Greek theatre and experience the perfect acoustics. And there’s so much that is in museums.

    As a teenager I was too young to really appreciate the food and the drink.

    But I regret to say that you’ve almost missed the best time to go. It’s starting to get really hot there.

    Given your lack of interest in ruins, perhaps you might view it instead as a stopover on the way to Istanbul?

  12. The night-time dinner table pix……On a clear day, what a lunch view it must be.

  13. Took an REI hiking trip in Greece with SWIMBO a few years ago, and we had a fabulous time — and fabulous food. We enjoyed walking/hiking in the smaller, lesser known islands the most, with the added bonus of winding up in some small town cafe for an incredible lunch (with wine of course). The food was simply outstanding, walking with the members of our small group was enjoyable and entertaining, and the scenery was outstanding. Did I mention the food was spectacular? While there was history involved, for sure, it wasn’t your typical race through a bunch of museums. And the food was incredible!

      1. It’s sorta like what you do in England with Mr. Freemarket, but without the guns and the drizzle.

  14. Hmm, I wonder if Tony’s Taverna made it through the Panic shutdown?
    I had a dream the local seafood taco place had reopened. Waking up after THAT was disappointing.

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