neither here nor there: days 9 and 10

Alright, enough already. Let's finish this thing.

On our third of four travel days we opted to sleep in rather than attempt to see anything else in the short time we had left in Athens on Monday before flying back to London. We took a shuttle to Syntagma Square, and picked up the metro from there, using the 24 hour ticket we'd purchased the day before, which, according to my guidebook (that should send up a red flag for any regular readers of this blog) was also good for a single trip to the airport. See, the Athens metro works on a sort of honor system. You buy your ticket, validate it at the entrance to the subway station, and get on the train of your choice. Theoretically, I suppose, a ticket agent might hop on the train from time to time to check tickets. And that's just what happened about three or four stops away from the airport. I felt confident in displaying my 24 hour ticket, still valid for five or six hours, but apparently, they've changed the rules a bit since my guidebook was printed and the 3 euro, 24 hour ticket is no longer valid to the airport. You have to buy a special one-way ticket at 6 euros, or a combination ticket for ten. I whipped out my guidebook and explained my confusion, making it clear I wasn't trying to cheat the system, but was simply a clueless tourist, but of course you can't actually pay these people. All they can do is issue you a fine for about ten times the required ticket price.

I'm embarrassed to admit that all this is written in fine print right on the ticket (although there are some discrepancies in the description of the airport route). All together now, the guidebook is not your travel bible. I've learned from this trip (hopefully) not to assume anything. Check multiple sources and ask lots of questions. In Greek, of course.

We arrived at the airport without further incident, checked in, and headed straight for the gate, not realizing our only option for breakfast and coffee at the gate would be an illy cart. I think we shared a candy bar for breakfast...During our short layover in Zurich, we didn't even have enough euros leftover to buy ice cream for lunch. I think we shared another candy bar for lunch before boarding the second leg of our flight.

We landed in London a bit early, but used up most of that extra time on the replacement bus service between Camden Town and Tufnell Park. After we checked back into our B&B we made a run to a local grocery store for an indoor picnic of bread, cheese, strawberries and quite possibly the least expensive Nutella I've ever purchased.

On day 10, our final morning in London and our final travel day, we enjoyed a full cooked English breakfast one last time before making the most of the few hours we had before we had to head to Heathrow again. We walked from the B&B to Hampstead Heath (getting a little lost on the way, of course), allegedly the inspiration for The Chronicles of Narnia. At the top of Parliament Hill we took a few photos, before heading back down to the subway via a walk by John Keats' house, which was closed at the time.

We took the tube to Notting Hill Gate and walked to a relatively quiet Portobello Road from there. Monday morning's probably not the ideal time to visit but we did enjoy some fancy cupcakes before heading back to the tube to go back to the B&B to pick our bags and head back out to the airport.

After we checked in, we enjoyed the leftovers from our indoor picnic the evening before while filling out last-minute postcards I'd picked up at the British Museum. While we waited for our gate assignment, I bought a few souvenirs in the duty-free shops with the ten pound note I'd found on the street the night before.

The flight back was uneventful. I watched two movies - Catch and Release and Stomp the Yard - read a bit, enjoyed lasagna for dinner and a snack pack at about 1 a.m. London time, and slept the last hour or so of the flight. We landed about a half-hour early and spent most of that time waiting on the runway for a gate to become available, then another 30 to 40 minutes inside for our bags, with absolutely no explanation. The security personnel basically grunted at us as we made our way through customs and such. Welcome home!

And that's about it...until Nashville next month. Stay tuned...

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