Then before we realised it, it was the last day of the road trip portion of our journey. In a desperate attempt to fit everything in we visited three major sites on the way back to Athens.
Epidaurus has a very famous and well preserved theatre which still hosts an international theatre festival today. Its acoustics are so good that when you drop a coin on the centre stone it can be heard in the back row.
Our next stop was the ancient city of Corinth home to the oldest surviving temple in Greece, the Doric temple of Apollo.
We also had a delicious lunch in the…unusual taberna called Gemelos Tavern which has a terrace overlooking the famous temple.
Of course to get to this terrace you have to pass through the gun-filled main restaurant…
…the kitchen and out into the backyard…
A family of cats shared our view with us.
To get to Corinth we had had to cross the famous Corinthian Canal.
Tom took us out onto this bridge on foot to see the terrifying drop and the narrow bridge, to really appreciate how breath-taking it was…..right before putting us back on the bus and driving us over it….
The Ancient Greeks and Roman were too scared to finish it because they believe the God Poseidon opposed the joining of two different oceans. We were a little concerned about driving over it; angry Gods, terrifying drop, what is good here?
Then it was back in the bus and on to our final stop. Eleusis, the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary, site of the mystery cult of Demeter and her daughter Persephone and my personal favourite site.
But by the time we got there we did not have much time before the site closed, so be warned visit this site in the morning as it closes by a quarter to three.
For me this site was one of the ones I had been looking forward to the most and given the rush I tried to soak as much in as possible. The myrtle trees dotted throughout the site have been growing there for thousands of years, maybe not those exact trees but these trees would have grown from the seeds of the tree before.
I tucked some leaves into my notebook, dashing to keep up with the group as we passed the sacred cave.
There was a story of how one of the sacred statues of the sanctuary remained in place into the 17th century but had been sort of adopted into Christian folk-worship. A British scholar came to the area and decided to bring the statue home to England to a museum in Cambridge. The locals were furious and said he would be cursed. The ship sank before reaching England. Just saying. Man I wish I had time to do better research into the Christianisation of pagan Goddesses.
When we got back to Athens that evening we were all pretty tired, not just from our hectic last minute seeing everything day but from the whole trip and the sense that it was coming to an end.
We had a day in Athens to revisit our favourite bits. I wandered around Monastraki to do some gift shopping and ate my beloved baked feta. We were back in Hotel Oscar with the pool on the roof and that night I went and sat up there on my own to watch the sun start to go down before my friends came up for one last swim. The west was all streaks of orange and yellow and blue. The east was unbelievable shades of mauve and lavender around a very nearly full moon. South from my seat was the Acropolis, one of the most iconic ancient structure in the world in one of the oldest cities. And here I was watching the sunset and waiting for friends. I had an olive wood chess set on the table in front of me and the sense that these were the moments we live for. Sitting in moments of total peace and wonder make all the crap seem inconsequential. I was going to take a photograph but it never would have captured it. In Barcelona, Emma, Sean and I talked about earning our sunset but I didn’t earn this one. It was a gift.
We were all separated out on the flight home, everyone had a window seat and it felt unnatural to be apart after be in each others company consistently for two weeks. To make matters worse there thunderstorms all over Europe so the plane had to take a longer route than usual to avoid them and that meant landing in Birmingham to refuel. The turbulence was unreal and I thanked my stars I wasn’t a nervous flyer.
I can’t say the same for the two sobbing Australian girls sitting beside me though. They were on their way to visit family in Cork before moving to London and it was nice to have someone to chat to before the shaking plane quelled conversation.
We landed over two hours late, landing at 3am and with me meant to be in work at 10am so the goodbyes were a little anti-climatic. But hell I was home.