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September 4th, 2004

Arriving in Athens

At about 1:30 in the morning EST, the sun started coming up over the front of the left wing - a small line of fire one minute, a full explosion the next.

Breakfast was a bagel with butter and strawberry jam, a banana, a Honey 'n Oats granola bar, and some orange juice, followed by coffee.

We landed at about just before 3:00AM EST, and it was announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Athens, where the local time is 9:51AM. We've traveled through seven times zones."

We got off the plane fairly quickly, for the size of the plane, and headed to immigration. It was slow moving at first, but then they opened several more lines and it went pretty quickly. The first line we got in was not moving at all, with the person currently being "served" taking a very long time. I felt for her remembering my recent "detainment" at immigration in Montreal. We moved over to another line, which, typically, also hit a snag. We got through rather quickly, though.

Our bags came fairly quickly, though Steve's was the last one out, and we waited a bit for it. Then we waited for him to convert some euro traveler's checks he had into euro cash. Euro trash waiting for euro cash. Sorry couldn't resist.

There really weren't any customs to go through, and now that I think about it, we didn't fill out any customs forms. I guess we'll have all that fun when we return to the States.

Outside the baggage claim area, we found a woman holding up an "IBM/Eagle" sign, and we all checked in with her. She told us that we'd have to wait for Hector and Mark, which we expected to have to do, know their flight was 30 minutes behind ours. We walked over to a section with some chairs, and took a seat.

I withdrew E200 from the Citibank ATM machine in this area of the terminal, surprised and pleased that it took my Credit Union PLUS ATM card.

Hector's and Mark's flight arrived a little bit late, but not too bad. Turns out they were slightly delayed leaving JFK as it was discovered that "some liquid was leaking" from the plane, which they eventually deemed to be water.

We took a bus, a big, regular-sized bus, carrying the nine of us, plus the rep. A tad bit overkill, I thought. Driving through Athens on our way to the hotel, we saw the Olympic Stadium right smack in the middle of the city. It looked cool. We're supposed to see it up close tomorrow on our day tour.

Check-in at the Divani Acropolis Palace went smoothly, with all of us on the fourth floor in the same wing, our room being 427. We brushed our teeth, and went out for a bite to eat before taking a nap. We checked out the gift shop downstairs, intrigued by a partial view of ruins that seem to be under the hotel, which you could see from the stairs leading down to the gift shop. I made a note of the price of the postcards to compare "out on the streets" later on.

We checked out the grocery store, but didn't find anything already made in there that we could eat, so walked around a few streets scoping out places.

We decided on a "corner deli"—which is a stretch, really—where the woman spoke virtually no English. We did a lot of pointing, and speaking broken English, with a dash of Spanish from Robert, but in the end got our food without understanding a word that each other had said in spite of all the attempts by each of us to make it "easier to understand" our respective languages. I'm sure she was talking in Greek baby-talk to us, too.

I ended up with a smoked turkey sandwich with Edam cheese heated with one of those presses. It was delicious. Robert ended up with a hotdog in this long thing that looked like a roll, but tasted like a donut. We swapped back and forth and ate some of each of them.

We got back to the room at about 3:00, and I used the phone to program a wake-up call for 5:30. Our next commitment was at 7:30, dinner, in our hotel. The phone rang, presumably at 5:30. I picked up the receiver and hung up. We lied in bed a while longer; I didn't think I fell back asleep, but the next thing we became aware of was Robert seeing the time on the television saying 7:18.

We frantically got ready for dinner, just brushed our teeth, combed our hair, and put on a different shirt, really, and headed down to the lobby. This was the first time seeing Adam. I said hello, and introduced him to Robert. Everyone was there except Andrew, and we waited for about 10 minutes for him.

Once he arrived, we went downstairs to a separate room they had for us with the table nicely set. Two guys, Steve and Mike—that's the third Mike in the party now—from PrideWorld joined us. Actually, I believe Steve is the PrideWorld guy and Mike is his partner.

There were lulls in the conversation, but not too many. Steve—the PrideWorld guy—is actually Greek, and knew a lot about the city, which he shared with us. He told us where the two gay bars were, and that they basically don't get started until 1:00AM. He also told us that no tipping is necessary here; everything's included in the prices, including dinners, taxis, and most importantly, drinks at the bars. :-)

Dinner consisted of white wine all around; cooked shrimp—tails and heads still on—with a dollop of white rice with them, and a very small amount of a light sauce on them; followed by a fluted champagne glass of sorbet to clean our pallets; followed by a huge salad that was very well presented - with the cucumbers curled up in a spiral, and the tomatoes cut and swirled into a rose petal - unfortunately the dressing was already on it, and it was blue cheese, which I hate.

The entrée was served at the same time, brought out after the salads were served, and it consisted of three medallions of pork, veal, or beef, (it wasn't a choice; I'm just not sure which it was) with a delicious Hollandaise sauce on each, this killer potato cake, and some carrots and asparagus. Red wine was served all around. Dessert was three scoops of ice cream, actually more like that Italian gelato, with this most delicious fruit in its juices served with it. Coffee was served all around.

Steve Falzarano asked us each to say where we were born, and we went around the table, which made for good conversation for a while. Adam entertained us all with his vast knowledge of TV shows, especially Dallas—he seems to have every episode cataloged in his mind.. Robert told about his favorite line from one of those nighttime soap operas, where this poor girl who suddenly came into a lot of money was in a elegant hotel, and called room service, "Send up a bottle of champagne - and a grilled cheese - please," which got a big laugh.

After dinner, we all went up to our rooms to, what no straight man would say, "freshen up," and then met down in the lobby to walk with Steve and Mike down to the Plaka. It was a pleasant walk, and they showed us were the gay bars were for later. It was wild whenever you turned a corner, and all of a sudden, there was the Acropolis high above you, like a huge monument in the sky. Very dramatic. We walked pretty much to one end of the area, and then the group split up, and walked back at our leisure.

Steve F. was with us for a while, but when we stopped to get postcards at a place that had them for E,20 each, he went on. I bought 20 post cards. Robert bought five, and then ended up buying a pair of silver earrings at a nearby jewelry shop.

We stopped in several shops on the way back, and I saw a couple of coloring and sticker books, which I wasn't sure qualified as "children's books." I ended up not buying them. I'll wait to see what else I see, and if I don't find any other ones, will come back and get one of those on Friday when we return to Athens from Mykonos. We stopped at one last shop and bought refrigerator magnets that were only E2 each.

Close to home, Robert realized that the packet they had placed the earrings in had a hole in it, and the earrings had come out. He could only find one in his pocket. This so sucked. He ended up running back to the shop, but it was closed by the time he got there. Bad luck for one of the sweetest, most thoughtful men I've ever known - he'd bought them for this girl he knows, who's really but an acquaintance, who is down on her luck right now, had called recently to ask him to give a recommendation for her for an apartment, I think it was, which Robert declined, and she'd said when he told her he was going to Greece, "Bring me back a pair of earrings." When he bought them he said, "I'm buying good karma."

Once he got back, we showered, then met Adam and Andrew in the lobby, and we walked to Lambda, one of the two main gay bars in Athens. It was just after 1:00AM when we arrived, but it still wasn't that busy at all. It definitely filled up after the next few hours, and by the time we left, just before four o'clock, it was jamming in there.

We got a "free" drink as part of the E8 cover charge, and I had a bourbon and coke. Robert got a Heineken. After that, we both drank beer all night, some times the "local" beer, Mythos, and other times Heineken. They were the same price, E4,50.

The music was great in this bar. There were two floors, and a little loft, but it was closed off. There were two "dark rooms" in the downstairs section. Fortunately for everyone involved, what happens in Athens stays in Athens.

We stopped at a little kiosk on the way back, and we bought an apple pie type snack, and a bag that said "Cheetos" on it, but inside they were actually in the shape of French fries.

Back at the room, at close to 5:00AM, I used the phone to program a 7:00AM wake up call.

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