We had always planned to leave Kefalonia for Christmas to spend the festive period in Athens. I had wanted to visit this historic city for as long as I can remember and we thought that as we were staying in Greece it made sense to fit it in, plus Kris had some time off of work due so we booked 10 days, leaving just before Christmas and coming back just before New Year.
Leaving any of the smaller Greek islands in the "down season" requires a bit of planning as usual flights, ferries etc, although still running, are a lot less frequent than during the summer and so most days there is only one chance to head off to your destination.
We could have flown, but decided that a road trip might be fun and booked a ferry from the island to the mainland port of Patras with the idea of getting the coach from there to Athens.
On the morning in question we set off from the villa before the sun was up, driving the 50 minutes across the mountains to the port town of Sami where our ferry was waiting. We parked our hire car up at the port and boarded the ferry as foot passengers.
The trip over was nice and calm, taking just under 3 hours. Kris managed to do a little work and the boys enjoyed the reclining chairs. I can get a little motion sick but it was a smooth day and I made sure to spend plenty of time on the open top deck, breathing in some fresh air and watching the sun rise over the horizon.
Arriving in Patras we then made our way to the bus depot, just a 5 minute walk from the dock.
Patras, like many port towns has it's fair share of issues with poverty and homelessness and we noticed a couple of women trailing us as we got our bearings. They were not threatening and only directly approached us once, moving away again when we said "not today" but they stayed around and we did feel a little nervous.
Covid restrictions have led to some staffing issues on Greek public transport and we had an unexpected hours delay before our coach would be leaving. Not knowing the city we were not sure what was around the area so we stayed at the bus depot finding some reasonable coffee for Kris and I and some fresh fruit juice for the boys.
We were pleased to get on the coach and get moving again.
The ride into Athens passes some incredible sites, the Gulfs of Patras and Corinth on one side and the mountains of mainland Greece on the other. You even pass over the top of the Corinth Canal itself.
There was some heavy traffic as we approached Athens and we ended up being on the coach for 3.5 hours instead of the planned 2.5. I was very pleased when we arrived at the huge bus station and also very impressed with both boys who coped admirably being stuck in their seats for so long (thank goodness for snacks, mobile phones, hand held computers and good old I spy!).
We headed for the taxi rank to find that none of the drivers recognised the address given by our AirBnB hosts, but I knew we were staying near Syntagma Square and so asked to be dropped off there and figured we'd wing it after that.
20 minutes later we got out of the taxi right in-between the lights and busyness of Syntagma Square on our left and the impressive stateliness of the Royal Palace on our right.
We had made it, we were right in the centre of Athens, 2 adults, 2 kids, a backpack each and a wheelie suitcase with no idea where to go next!
I dutifully plugged the address of our apartment into Google maps which promptly gave me an anxiety attack when it told me we needed to do a 50 minute walk across the city! "This can't be right" I declared but two more attempts gave me the same answer and so we decided to just get moving. Before we started I sent our host a message explaining we were a little lost and asking for help.
With tired eyes, weary minds and, by that time, a very grumpy teenager, we set off. Ten minutes into our march my phone pinged with a message back from our host saying "no, that's not right, you are heading the wrong way", the message included a ping from his location at the apartment.
Thank goodness, we realised that we had only been a 12 minute walk away when we had left the taxi, so although we'd rushed 10 minutes in the wrong direction we did now know where we were going.
Luckily the apartment was well worth the wait, a great size, fully equipped and in the perfect part of town (if you don't get lost), close enough to all the famous sites to be in walking distance but just far out that the noise and hustle and bustle doesn't bother you.
We set down our bags before heading straight back out to find food, there was a vegan restaurant called Avocado, just the other side of the square that was open and looked great so we made a beeline straight for it.
Walking across Syntagma Square that first time was fabulous, their Christmas lights are out of this world and made us all so excited to be there.
The meal at the end of our walk was probably the best we've ever had, partly due to how great the chef is and partly due to the journey to get to it!
I've got lots to tell you about our adventures in this city but wanted to share our journey there with you first. I will definitely say that flying would have been quicker and easier but we wouldn't have seen all the same sites and we would have wondered what it would have been like.
I might share our journey back too at some point as that was a very different experience, but next up..... Athens!