The extremely strong morning sun is bearable at 8 am, but becomes burning at 11. The impeccable terrace of the hotel, with terracotta tiles and twisted iron chairs and tables is surrounded by massive pots with plants, and populated by a tribe of beggar pidgeons. A wonderful vantage point, looking to the Upper City. The morning is clear, smooth and the peace that floats over the Fortress of Wisdom does not predict any of the havoc in the street. The pidgeons are fighting over the bun we offered them, giving us the chance of examining their cruel clan hierarchy. The Alpha, the fattest, does not let anything through , and the shy and less fortunate little ones wait behind the pots.
After the black tea and the compulsory yogurt, we start towards Piraeus, to take one of the fast ships to Egina. After the Athenian tribulations with the GPS, we have decided that public transportation is a simpler and less risky option. It is autumn,.. the grand modern catamarans, nicely painted in the colors of sponsors – Vodafone, Cosmote, a ton of cash spent on commercials – disappeared. But the old fast boats seem more Greek, and the 40 minutes ride, compared with the 3 hours on the ferryboat, seems a piece of cake. We stop at one of the ticket sales office, and my mind plays memory from a previous cycle, with the clear sensation that one chapter is closing, and another one is starting. On the boat tickets, nicely printed, we all have the same name. So we take seriously the family roles, and little did we suspect…. . Before departure, we have time for an ice tea (delicious, thanks, Mr. Greek, for the fantastic job), a real coffee for Dad and something for our 30 years old little girl . A. is already having a lot of fun with the family play cast, but as the time goes by we get serious about the roles. Half an hour after departure, the catamaran lines up parallel to the embankment of the Egina port, next to the microscopic church dedicated to St. Nicholas. We are on the island of pistachio and almonds, and we just flow into the improbable summer, down to the center, by the apparently endless row of shops and fish restaurants. We find a cab trver that quotes a bearable amountm less than what the meter would indicate, those Greeks are promoting black money to the max. .
The curvy road goes up, among pines that exude an incredible perfume, until we reach the temple of Aphaia. It is early, off-season, the only ones at the tickes office are the three of us. The sales person aska how old is our girl. He wants to give her an underage free ticket, to her delight and our amusement. The pine trees hang above our heads, soft and scented. A. gets her free ticket, but the feeling of a much deeper connection than the social one is clear. The temples calls to meditation, the energy is light, luminous, so I sit down, open the space, as my astral family gets over the rope barrier, in the inner area of the temple, to physically establish the connection with the wonder that looks to the sea, silently building the sacred light geometry element. Flashes of other times and characters spark like the slides from an old projector, and we inexplicably feel the profound connection with these charactersWe suddenly remember what happened to the last priestess serving here. We see the light of the place beyond the traditional name and conventional stories. It is an Apollo point, Aphaia was just an intermediary. In the same sudden way, we start, at the same time, to look for our stone with the right vibration. Each of us in a different corner. We find them and come back to the cab driver who waits wondering what are we doing there – most of the tourist come back in 20 minutes and we have been here almost an hour. The cool car, cold water in the backpack and the overwhelming smell of southern pines refresh us. We are descending from the Sky, for our next stop, the Saint Nektarios monastery. A soul feeding stop, compulsory because I promised it to the friends back home who sent there their healing prayers. The end of season provides another wonder. We enter the space, it is just us here, light the candles for the ones here and the ones beyond, and then we enter the wing that hosts the relics of the saint. We stop, in wonder. The service started and it is chanted in Romanian! Then it becomes clear: two monks and a priest lead a small group of Romanian pilgrims, The prayer is authentic, comes from no book, it is a transcript of the priest’s soul, and the contact with the energy that is oozing from the relic, plus the sudden leap into into another state of consciousness bring tears to our eyes and there is this mellow feeling of Presence. We silently watch the small ceremony end , then spend a little time on our own, enchanted by the vibration.
We did not know at that point that we were going to meet Saint Nektarios again… It is like wanting to stay here a bit more, but we exceeded again the time indicated by the cab driver. Therefore, the bill equals the meter :).
Back to the port, we ask for more ice, more, more ice in one of those restaurants with e acele restaurante cu feţe de masă cu pătrăţele albastre şi albe, mese sky blue chairs and tablecloths in dark blue and white squares. The dishes are incredible, and we absolutely love Greeks’ habit of welcoming their guests with a big jug of water. Ice, please. Octopus, calamari, a fish soup that does not go well with I.’s taste and gets in front of me, for the required seasoning with salt and lemon. An old Greek sits next to us. He came to get his lunch and his deeply wrinkeld face, mirroring deep thought and contemplation, seems like coming from a time of no time.
Afer getting stuffed with the water melon we got for free as a dessert, we start roaming the designer stores, wondering why in the world we always stop and look at the most expensive things, we take the Light and the memories of our grown-up childhoods, the Romanian prayer in a Greek church and pack everything on board of yet another Yellow Dolphin that will sail back to Piraeus, to return to the sizzing downtown of Athens. From the metro station, on the way back to the hotel, we stop in a local food store to fish for a bottle of Metaxa. Bedroom manners on vacation. Then another stop in a smoothie place and we leave, triumphantly, with the strawberry concoct, cold and refreshing, to ret a bit. Not too much, the heart yearns for more. We drop the sweaty clothes and go back, following the wrong advice of our friend that left this morning, she said one can get to Acropolis in the evening, it is open. We float up the hill, towards the entrance. A red train cheats on us, taking us against a huge amount for a few hundred yards to the closed ticked office. We will have to come back tomorrow morning, before heading to Delphi… but now we take advantage of the spare time, going down to the Zeus temple. The park is closed. Suprisingly, many more spaces are now locked compared to last time. But we sit, silently watching the huge columns, then the Roman gate in front of the complex. .
Sliding among the stores and restaurants, we wind back to Monastiraki. We play with the light textures of summer clothes still sold at the stores, flirt with the soaps and olive oils…. mesmerizing, Plaka swallows us, rocks us, makes us dizzy with its perfume and light. We stop (what a genius inspiration( at a restaurant, looking for something more sophisticated, and we dig into one of the most amazing salads we have ever eaten.
For the ones going to Athens, do not miss Moma. And if you get there, visit the restrooms, too. Under the glass floor, the old columns unearthed by archaeologists, house foundations and old layers tell their silent stories. On each table, a pot with a tiny olive tree match the elegance of the waitress, balancing betweeen humor, familiar style and professionalism. Sharing a moelleux with homemade vanilla ice cream, we get into the gourmet heaven. Tough to leave this place, so we decide we will return, the restaurant is way over the level of anything I have seen here. I would kill for the recipes of the afrodisiac-divine dressings that accompany each combination of scholarly selected ingredients.
A few steps down the street, on the way to the hotel, my eyes are caught by a line of red candles, nicely set on an interior staircase. As drawn by an invisible thread, I enter the long yard, ending in a nice back yard, a few tables, candles, basil and jazz sung by a guttural feminine voice. It is clear we will have here a long stop. I. gets his supreme pleasure, and the well-ripe Greek sings, accompanied by a guy with a keyboard, living in his music, one by one, songs that open the veins of each of us, like taking turns. There is a deep reverb of memories from other times, things and people we loved and who hurt, wings that made us fly and crash. After A. is brought to her knees by two successive songs, I get hit in the heart with La Vie en Rose, and to make the magic complete, I. receives the last song, interpreted in a duet with a much younger damzel with a crystalline and penetrating voice: What a Wonderful Life. Athens took out of her secret pockets all goodies in the world, spoiling us and making us pass through a storm of feelings, states, sensations. The only thing before the late brandy and whispers is to feel how grateful we are for an amazing day. This is La vie en Rose.