By Heather O.
We were poor students, and trying to do Italy on the cheap, so we were camping or doing hostels most of the time. We found a pretty good camp ground in Florence, but it was far from the city, so we were spending a lot of time on the bus or walking. The first day, my camera got stolen. We discovered this as we were entering the Duomo. Unfortunately, that means I have no pictures of Florence at all.
All I remember about the second day we spent in Florence is that we waited a long time for our buses. I also have a memory of sitting in a gritty train station, waiting waiting waiting while it poured buckets outside. I suppose we decided to wait the rain out rather than risk getting all of our stuff wet (we were also carrying backpacks around, along with a trumpet–yes, my friend was a trumpet player, wouldn’t trust the trumpet to a locker, and insisted on practicing every. single. day. We carried that freakin’ trumpet everywhere we went. Musicians–sheesh.).
When we got back to our campsite, we discovered that it had rained so hard that our tent had completely collapsed, allowing rain to get inside and soak our sleeping bags. Having no other options for bedding, we dried them out as best we could, but ended up sleeping on very damp bedding. It was not a comfortable night, to say the least.
The result of all these happenings is that on our third day in Florence, my friend and I were footsore from walking, overtired from lack of sleep, and cranky from eating nothing but the cheapest bread we could find in odd stores along the way. I dragged us both to the world famous Uffizi Museum, where we walked through halls of paintings, looking for the Birth of Venus. We found it, and stared at it for a few moments. I was standing in front of this amazing, famous, fabulous painting, and the only thing I could think of was how hot and tired I was, and how desperately I wanted a Diet Coke. Sodas were too expensive to be in our budget, and up until that moment we had pretty much avoided them. But while staring at this masterpiece of art, I turned to my friend and said, “Wanna Coke?”
We ditched the museum, and spent a lovely half an hour on the museum’s cafe terrace, sipping wildly overpriced sodas through yellow straws. I tried to feel guilty that we were ignoring the art, but at that moment, I just didn’t care.
Fast forward a decade or two, to present day Athens.
Athens was our consolation prize for not being able to go to Egypt, with their revolution and all exploding right as we booked our tickets for Israel. So we picked another ancient city, and tacked on a few days to our trip, thinking it would be easy to stop by on our way home.
For the record, when children get on a long plane ride, after being in a foreign country for 5 weeks, and when you tell them that when they land, they will NOT be in the United States, but rather ANOTHER foreign country, it does not go over well. Also, my 9 year old was almost in tears when, after our layover in Rome, I told him we were going to Greece, and that Greek doesn’t use our same alphabet. He had been having fun trying to read the Italian signs in the airport, and he whimpered, “Why can’t we stay in Italy? Italian is so EASY!”
I’m pretty sure it’s a sign things have been rough when your 9 year old thinks learning Italian would be a cakewalk.
The kids were troopers, though, until we got to the hotel (at 2am, which was also super fun). Then Little Sister started throwing up. A lot. Kinda non-stop, actually. She spiked a fever, too. The girl is super sick.
She has now spent the last 2 days curled up in a ball in our hotel. Sometimes she’s curled up in the bed, sometimes she’s curled up in my lap, and at least twice we have even found her curled up on the toilet seat, fast asleep. When she’s not curled up, she’s throwing up. Which means that she’s not sleeping well at night. Which means that her parents aren’t sleeping well at night.
Which means that when it came time to go to the Acropolis, to go see some of the wonders of the ancient world, I was so freakin’ tired that all I really wanted was a Diet Coke.
That was yesterday. Today we had planned to go the beach. It’s cloudy, overcast, cold and windy with a more than 50% chance of thunderstorms. Of course.
Dh and J are at a museum. I’m in the hotel with Little Sister, who is asleep after throwing up her juice she had for breakfast. If I could, I’d say to heck with Greece and get on the first flight home. I know this place has some of the coolest ruins in the world, but I gotta say, with a sick little girl and a few nights without sleep and a dark sky threatening rain, I’m having a hard time caring.
So, just to recap. If you are ever in Italy, go to Florence first so you can see the Boticelli with fresh eyes and enjoy it. If you are ever in Athens, make sure you go there BEFORE you head to the Middle East for 5 weeks. And above all, whenever you travel, make sure you bring enough Diet Coke.
UPDATE: In the time it took me to write this post and hit “publish”, the skies opened up into a full blown thunderstorm, complete with downpour. At this point, I’m just sort of in awe at what an awesome fail this trip to Greece has been. Seriously. Awesome.
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