|The Porch of the Maidens~Acropolis|
After a certain amount of traveling, experiences dictate a set of ‘rules of the road’ that your family will strive to follow. Usually each new rule is preceded by a less than perfect experience. If you’ve ever eaten at a roadside taco stand in Mexico, and then spend three days with food poisoning, you know what I mean. As a family, we have amassed a list of things that we want to try to avoid when we travel.
Arriving in Athens, we immediately violated one of our sacred rules and created a new rule. After arriving late at the airport, we were in a rush to get to our rental car before they closed for the night. We rushed to rent and load the car, packing in the kids and the luggage. Just as the seat belts were buckled and the keys were in the ignition, Evan announced that he needed to go to the bathroom.
We all started to reverse the loading process just to hear him announce, “Nevermind, too late.” Yep, you heard that right. Rule #46: Never, ever get in the car until everyone has gone to the bathroom.
But, getting back to that sacred rule. On our very first trip as a married couple, Gary and I learned the benefit of arriving in a new area before sundown. Not only does darkness make it more difficult to navigate in a brand new area, but also has a way of accentuating the er…less attractive parts of the destination.
Partly due to our own planning, and partly due to airport delays, we had arrived in Athens way after dark. Getting out of the airport and onto the highway was simple enough and our GPS seemed to be accurate in finding our hotel. We hoped that our late arrival would not be too problematic. Wrong.
We eyed our hotel easy enough, but we could not find any way to get to our hotel. Driving along the highway, we saw the shining lights of our hotel on the opposite side of the road. The driving directions involved looping under the overpass and doubling back, where we should have easily been able to pull into our hotel. But, as we looped under the overpass, we would pass the hotel on the other side and head off in the opposite direction while watching our hotel disappear in the rear-view mirror.
More than once we tried to make the loop, proving ourselves to be the fools who think they can do the same thing and get different results. At this point it was well after midnight, and we were completely lost. Once more we made the loop in an effort to avoid the overpass and find a backroad. We stopped at a familiar stop sign with tensions mounting in the car.
I was fumbling with a map, trying desperately to make sense of the Greek written on the page. On a normal day, I am not an excellent map reader. On this day it was dark, we were tired, and the map was in Greek. And in my defense, Greek is not only a foreign language, but a foreign alphabet, as well. Plainly, the map and I were no help.
Gary and I were discussing (read: yelling) about which way we should go next as we pulled up to a familiar corner. “Why don’t you stop and ask those people,” says a little voice from the back. Standing on the corner were two “professional women.” Apparently our endless looping around had attracted their attention in hopes that we were looking for a date for the evening. In order to make their availability quite clear, they were beckoning to us to come closer in such a way that made their occupation unquestionable.
“Do you think they are cold?” asked a practical little voice from the back. “If you go to sleep, I'll pay you $5,” I begged, hoping that the questioning would stop. I slumped down in my seat, and implored Gary to please drive faster. He was inappropriately amused at my discomfort with our situation. Having been a traveler all his life, he had been exposed to all varieties of corruption, so he was unabashed. Apparently, I still maintain a modicum of naiveté, although I could feel that last shred of innocence slipping away with every beckoning call. And let me just say here, that this profession is in no way restricted by law in Greece, so there is absolutely no need for discretion.
“Stop laughing and find the hotel,” I insisted still slumped down in my seat. It seems impossible, but it took us three more loops around the hotel before we finally found the secret entrance via a side road immediately off the loop. And yes, with each loop we passed the ladies on the corner, although by the third time around we had revealed ourselves as stupid lost tourists and not interested customers and they began to ignore us. Honestly, if I had thought they spoke any English, we would have taken the little boy advice and asked them for directions.
I am realizing now, that my mother is going to read this story and when she does, she will likely hyperventilate. So, I will just say that we found the hotel, which was gorgeous and enjoyed every bit of Athens without so much as even a whisper of anything untoward. But during that hour of lonely looping and lascivious ladies* I did feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it,” it seems. From now on, I will try to take my own advice and not arrive after dark, or at least not after 1 am.
*I taught a lesson on alliteration today, so please accept my apologies for the literary overuse.
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