This may be my last blog before returning home because I didn't know how much access I will l have to the Internet on Monday. We won't be returning home until Tuesday, but - knock on wood - it's been a great and memorable time here in Athens, and to use a Greek word, it's been fantastic.
On Saturday night, I scooted out of the wrestling as quickly as I could after Cael Sanderson won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. The Bureau of Tourism here was holding a beach party, and since I had missed all the other parties for the media, I wanted to make one. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to my hotel, the buses departing for the party were gone for an hour. A bit bummed out, I wandered down Ermou Street and over to Plaka for a late dinner.
As has been the case a few times, I sat alone at the restaurant when three Greeks, two men and a woman, approached me and asked if they could sit at the table too since the restaurant was so crowed. I happily obliged.
Costas, I believe, asked me where I was from, and I told him the United States. When he asked where in the U.S., I told him Philadelphia, since it is easier to describe to people. He raised his eyebrows and said the woman was also from Philadelphia. When I looked at her, she said, well, not really Philadelphia. Allentown.
Penny Giannaris has been living in Greece for almost eight years. She graduated from Emmaus High School in 1993, and her family owns the Pennsburg Diner. I can't make this stuff up. The fact that I would run into her in a city of this size, with so many tourists, was, as the Greeks like to say, Fantastic.
By the end of dinner, about 10 more people had joined our tiny table, which blossomed into three small round tables pushed together. Penny gave me her mobile phone number (they don't say cell phone over here) and said that if she had time, she'd make sure I got to a beach today. So after a few phone calls this morning, we met at Syntagma Square, where we attempted to take the tram to Venue Beach. When we got on the tram, Penny realized she had forgotten to get her ticket stamped for validation, so she was at the machine while I rolled on in the tram, unaware of the name of our destination or where to get off. Thank God for her mobile phone. She grabbed a taxi and managed to guide me to the proper spot, Venue Beach.
There, her friend, Vicki, another expatriate from Connecticut, greeted us and we got a table underneath some shady Cyprus trees. A cool breeze blew in off the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean, which had water as blue as the sky, and a blockade of people on beach chairs between the sea and us. I went into it alone at first, and it was warm and very salty. Just two body lengths into the surf, the sea dropped to about 10-feet deep with gently waves more like a lake with mild boat traffic than waves from at the New Jersey shore.
I went back to the table, where their friend Sam joined the girls, a girl from New York who has also moved to Athens. Vicki joined me in the water later and I told her about my family, my wife Lois, my daughter Marissa and son Jared, and I think that was endearing for her to hear. I only stayed at the beach for about 90 minutes, because I had to get back up to the main complex to get things in order for the Closing Ceremony.
If I can get on the Internet tomorrow (Monday), I'll make one more entry. If not, I'd just like everyone to know that Athens has been incredible, not just from an Olympic standpoint. The people have been warm and friendly and helpful, even if they don't give good directions. Straight means turn right and left, Go left means right, and right, well, I think that means straight. Diogenes never came home not because he couldn't find an honest man, but because he kept taking directions from other Greeks.
And although I'm a man, I'm clicking my heels until Tuesday, saying, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home."