December 12, 1961 – Greece

Grande Bretagne Hotel, Athens, Greece – Clear

     I felt quite lazy when I woke up this morning.  Now that the “official” tour was over Edith and I decided we could make our own schedule for the most part.  Other than pre-designated hotels and flights we were on our own and could go where we wanted when we wanted to see what we wanted.  I was excited to have a little freedom and I thought it was going to be fun.

     Edith and I dressed, packed and went down to the dining room to have breakfast and found several of our tour group there eating as well.  We met up with Flo, Opal, Wanda, Eva and Curt who were all heading home to the United States.  We also had a chance to say goodbye to Edith and Rod again when they joined the rest of us to eat.  It was a rather melancholy meal because it was hard to say goodbye to so many people I had become very close to.  We had shared bad times, scary times, hard times and some really great moments together.  In many ways we had become a little family while traveling in the foreign countries we’d been in.

     After shedding many tears with each other, Edith and I returned to our room to finish up some last minutes things before we checked out and headed to the airport.  When we arrived we found Edith and her son were still waiting to catch their flight to Vienna but they left soon after we arrived.  Even though I was really excited about this portion of my trip in some ways I was more nervous than I had been when Edith and I first started out last September on the tour because we were going to have to rely on ourselves.  Also we would have to be a little more cautious about where we went and with whom.

     We had a two hour flight in an Olympic Airways plane to get to Rome and it turned out to be a pleasant trip.  We had a simple but satisfying lunch and delightful scenery to look oat out of the window.  The flight wasn’t very full so Edith and I were able to spread out and we each had a window.  During our time in Athens I had wondered why it was always so cold and windy but after we flew away from the city I understood why when we crossed so many snow covered mountains.

     At the airport I missed having Curt and our guides there to help us navigate getting our luggage and deal with the language differences.  However, it all worked out just fine.  Edith and I just followed the other passengers and signage to find our luggage and then moved with the crowds through customs.  We’d gotten used to having a lot of waiting and time spent answering questions.  After exiting customs we were supposed to take the airport bus to the city air terminal where we would catch transportation to our hotel and that’s exactly what we did. 

     When we got off the airport bus Antonio, a nice young man, stood at the entrance of the terminal and he held a sign with our names on it.  I had to admit to Edith I was glad we were in some small way still being cared for by the travel agency even though it was just going to be a driver to take us places we wanted to see each day.  Antonio hefted our bags and loaded us into a nice town car to take us to our hotel in the city.  I admired Antonio’s driving and was glad that I didn’t have to fight the traffic he did.  It was amazing how he navigated the roundabouts that seemed to be everywhere.

View of Rome

     When we pulled up at the Quirinale Hotel I was awestruck.  It was a huge hotel and was clearly very old.  Antonio graciously helped us to check in, get our rooms and he took up our bags too.  Our room was very elegant and would keep us very comfortable while we were there.  We asked Antonio if he would mind coming back later to take Edith and I to a bank to cash some traveler checks.  I’d received a couple of letters from Ramona and I was grateful that one did indeed have the $500 I’d requested.  I wanted to get some cash right away. 

     Antonio turned out to be a life saver for Edith and I at this juncture of our trip.  He took us to a bank and then dropped us off in a nice area so we could shop.  He told us he would come back for us in two hours to make sure we got back to our hotel alright.  I knew I would have to give him a big tip when he left us at the end of the day. 

     It felt great having a little money again.  I gave $300 to Edith and kept the rest for myself.  Edith searched the stores for shoes and I wanted to find a bag or two.  I had given up on finding a gold bracelet and started to look for other things I had on my want list.  Once Edith and I figured out how much money each item was that we looked at we were disappointed because everything seemed so expensive.  The shoes Edith looked at were $30 American and up.  So eventually Edith and I gave up seriously trying to find something and just walked around till it was time to be picked up by Antonio.  We parted from him at the hotel with a little sadness and gave him the tip he deserved.   

     The hotel turned out to have a restaurant which served truly gourmet meals.  Our meal had mouthwatering sauces, meats and side dishes.  I was sure I was going to gain a lot of weight while we were in Italy.  Edith and I did it up right for our meal tonight and had pairings of wine with each course.  By the time we were done eating (and drinking) we had to help each other into the elevator and to our room so we could get there successfully.  Once we were finally there I got my clothes off and went to bed. 

     After all the wine I’d had I didn’t have any trouble going to sleep.  However, a couple hours later I woke up with a heart attack like spasm that scared me.  I woke Edith up but it took her a couple of minutes to understand what I was trying to tell her.  Once she woke up enough to help me she became quite alarmed.  Neither of us were sure if we should call for a house doctor or not.  We decided that I would just take an aspirin to help me deal with the pain and see if it went away.  We thought that if I didn’t feel better in a little while then we would call for a doctor. 

     I was glad though when the pain started to ease so I could go back to sleep.  I didn’t know what had caused the problem but I was hoping it didn’t reoccur again.

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