April in Greece, part 8: Departure

This is my eighth and last post from Greece. After Hydra we spent three days back in Athens prior to returning to England on May 1.

We visited the Museum of Illusions for a bit of fun, returned to the central market to buy dried herbs, and had excellent meals at two historic restaurants.

The museum was crowded with families, and too noisy and stuffy. Staff worked hard disinfecting surfaces. But the visit did provide a fun photo of a magical Julia.

You will find many more interesting museums in Athens.

Indeed, I would be reluctant to call this place a museum.

More an amusement gallery.

The older restaurants are more like museums, and in many ways more compelling.

Diporto Agoras opened in 1911 and is almost an institution in Athens. It is at the back of the central food market.

It has no signs on the street outside. Access is via two sets of steep steps into a cellar-like room lined with a dozen 600-litre wine barrels. You will find a photo of the entrance at the end of this article.

The sole waiter acknowledged our arrival with a nod. He placed a bottle of water and a basket of bread on the table. He did not offer a menu or speak.

A half litre of dry white wine soon arrived, without being requested. Perhaps the waiter was a mind reader?

Food arrived at intervals, with no explanations or even having been ordered. More mind reading? Who cares because the food was delicious.

The first course was a huge bowl of fava bean dip with mild chillies and finely chopped onions. It was like a golden paste atop the bread. Next came a bowl of butter beans in a mild chilli sauce.

The main course was grilled sardines smothered in olive oil with huge wedges of lemon intended to be lavished on the fish. We ate everything with gusto and I was feeling full.

The cook, a man aged in his 60s with a huge moustache, arrived with another plate of grilled (and unrequested) sardines. Again no words were exchanged. He just put the food on the table, smiled and walked away. Maybe he just appreciated people with a good appetite?

When we finished the wine the waiter took the jug away and returned unbidden with another half litre. Again, no conversation or any request for a refill.

I find people who photograph their food pathetic. But here is a concession to our appreciation of this restaurant. The single piece of fish left is from the extra plate.

A trio of old men started singing at a nearby table. All patrons are nearby because the restaurant only has eight tables. They sang of friendship and love. It was a little sad and wistful but delightfully melodic.

I sent them a half litre of wine as a thank you. They raised their glasses in thanks. No words were spoken. Just lots of smiles. They continued to sing.

When I asked for the bill the waiter placed a large plate of halva on the table and walked away. No bill arrived. No-one spoke.

The trio of singers at Diporto Agoras.

After we had finished the wine the cook and his moustache wrote the number 45 on the paper tablecloth. I offered my credit card. He smiled and shook his head. I discovered from reading their web site that his name is Mitsos. No words were spoken.

From under his white cook’s coat he produced a wad of Euros the size of a toilet-roll to suggest this is a cash-only establishment. The meal cost 45 Euro for four delicious courses, 1.5 litres of wine, water and bread. I still salivate at the memory.

The entrance to Diporto Agoras has no signs. Look for the steep cellar steps.

The other meal was at a wonderful restaurant near the meat section of the city’s central market. It’s called Oinomageireio Epirus and it opened in 1898. It does not appear to have a web site but the address is Filopimenos 4, Athina 105 51. The link is to an article about it.

It is disconcerting to watch a man in a bloodied white coat dismember a sheep or goat carcass as you eat. But the food is great and the waiters friendly. They recognised me, they said, because of my hair. Each of the four times I’ve visited they hailed me like a long-lost relative, and each time offered free wine or dessert.

Food is displayed in huge pots at the restaurant entrance. The waiter talks about each item and you select your food before finding a table. At our most recent meal I had goat soup, Julia meatballs.

A half litre of house wine is 7 Euro and main courses cost about the same price. A fava bean dip or a fried slice of feta covered in honey are a nice way to start.

Another half litre of wine often appears unbidden as you finish your first jug. Greek restaurant staff know about hospitality!

Farewell: Public transport workers went on strike on May 1 so getting to the airport involved organising a taxi. Originally I booked an airport transfer with a company called AtoB Transfer but the driver never turned up.

It took three phone calls to the dispatcher to confirm that the car would never arrive (during the first two calls he assured me the car was on its way). An example of dreadful service and even worse communication.

We hailed a taxi in the street and a delightful woman took us to the airport. Roads were clogged but she worked her magic.

The sad thing about a wonderful holiday is leaving. Even worse is when you have a great time that is partly ruined by an uncomfortable or frustrating return flight.

This was the case with easyJet. I received a message on their app saying the flight was delayed but to go to the airport as if the flight were on time. At check-in the surly staff assured me the flight was on time. We left an hour late.

One of the many frustrations I have with easyJet is their baggage policy. They allow people to take large bags aboard for free and never check the weight. Yet they charge for hold luggage. My bag was 2kg overweight and they demanded 30 Euro. Too many people carry their bags aboard to save money and it makes the journey horrible for everyone.

I had seat 2D. All of the overhead lockers for the first five rows were jammed with take-on bags. No space for even a small bag so mine sat between my legs for the journey. Memo to self: Avoid easyJet in the future, until they change their stupid baggage policy.

Here endeth the eight and final part of April in Greece.

Categories: Greece, Not home

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