Train Saturday

Liam is on spring break this week. We put together a whole list of activities: the zoo, IKEA, climbing Mt. Lycabettous, going to the children’s museum, having play dates with friends. But number one on the list was, of course, ride the Metro. Liam has been begging me to ride his favorite subway line, green, all the way down to Piraeus, then all the way up to Kifissia. I told him I wasn’t going to go all that way and not see anything, so we consulted his trusty subway map for an excursion in Piraeus. The Hellenic Maritime Museum fit the bill. So off to Piraeus we went!

It was a long haul. But my metro-savvy kids loved every minute of it. Liam carefully observed the map above the door, checking the names of the stations as we passed and informing me how many we had left to go. He used to ask me for this info…only took him a few months to learn to do it for himself. Violet, ever the charmer, smiled at every person she saw, and she elicited many happy smiles in return.

The station terminus in Piraeus was grand, reminding me a bit of the an early 20th century railway station. The guard told me no photos when I tried to snap one. So you’ll just have to use your imagination. We had ourselves a brief little picnic, then I used google maps to figure out how to get to the museum. It was either a 22 minute bus or a 27 minute walk. And judging from the bus “schedule” in Athens, I decided walking was the better choice.

Mistake #1.

20160423_103805504_iOSI neglected to figure in small, tired little legs. There were hills. Steep hills. About halfway there we almost gave up. But the promise of boats kept him going. Finally, after what was surely more than 27 minutes, we arrived…about 20 minutes before they were going to close! But I already knew that. Liam does not linger in museums, and this one was particularly small, so I knew 20 minutes would be plenty of time. We saw all sorts of model boats. I explained to Liam how the slave galley worked. He told me he’d rather be the slave driver. Well, of course! He also stopped to point at this war ship:



“Hey, isn’t this the Averof?” That was the ship we climbed around on a couple of months ago. I read the sign…and he was right! This kid just astounds me sometimes.

20160423_105734355_iOSFifteen minutes and done…yep, that’s m’boy. Outside there were anchors and submarines, but he only had eyes for the restaurant by the water. Good idea, son. Outdoor seating at Flo’s Café was packed, so we elected to eat inside. The restaurant was quite spacious, and hardly anyone was inside. We sat upstairs in our own private little enclave. Violet got to cruise on all the furniture — the restaurant was more of a coffee lounge, so lots of couches, chairs and low tables. A perfect respite for the rest of our long journey.


After our late lunch, we took a stroll down the harbor. We saw some amazing vessels, private yachts, old wooden replicas, and this amazingly huge sail boat. My photo here doesn’t do it justice. I could see where the sail would unfurl, and it was MASSIVE. Further along we saw smaller and smaller boats, and in the distance we could see huge cruise ships and container vessels. On our way back up to the train station, we could see more huge boats in another harbor– high-speed ferries that take tourists to islands. We plan on taking one of these ferries to Venice in the fall.

Violet snoozed all the way back to the train.


She woke up refreshed and ready to flirt. On the train to Kifissia we sat facing a long row of seats. And I swear, every single person sitting there was utterly enchanted by her. She started clicking her tongue, and two ladies in front of us smiled and clicked back. They went back and forth like this, just grinning and clicking. So cute. One woman spoke pretty good English. Liam explained to her about his love of trains and how we were riding all the way from Piraeus to Kifissia. She asked him what his favorite station was, and without missing a beat, he replied, “Omonia.” Probably because that’s where you can change to the red. He loves the interchanges. She asked if we’d been to Victoria station, and we had, when we’d gone to the Motor Museum.

“Isn’t it like a bathroom?” she said with a grin. We laughed and I agreed. Liam didn’t really get it. “Why is it like a bathroom, mom? I think it’s nice.” It is most definitely not. Broken elevator, scum dripping down the walls, it reminded me of a lot of the stations in NYC. Liam is fascinated by the New York subway (we found an old map that he has added to his subway map collection), so we talked about that for awhile. People came and went, stations passed, the doors opened and closed. Liam sat at the window completely entranced. He announced every station that had a connection, which he’d memorized from his map.

Finally…finally, we made it to Kifissia. A lovely little suburb near the northern mountains. Though we couldn’t see any mountains from the subway platform. The station was nice…not like a bathroom at all.

It was now 17 o’clock, let’s get home! Sheesh! The plan was to take a shortcut — hop on the commuter train for a few stops to connect to the blue line, then just another stop or two back to our car. But when we got on the commuter train, there was no handy-dandy map above the door. The stop we wanted, Plakentias, sounded almost just like the stop we mistakenly got off on, Pentelis. Realizing mistake #2 too late to hop back on, I asked a woman waiting on a bench when the next train would be. She said twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! Screw that noise, let’s get a cab!

And so, we rode in cars, subways, trains…saw boats, walked over two miles…and got home completely exhausted. But I had one very satisfied seven-year-old. After dinner, the kids slept hard. And so did I.

And now…without fail, my children are sick again. Liam had a fever all day Sunday, and today he’s still sleeping at noon. I brought a whole package of anti-bacterial wipes and used them liberally on Saturday’s subway outing…but to no avail. He could have caught it at Friday evening’s class at the “Germ-boree” or maybe even at Thursday’s excursion to the embassy. At any rate, it’s a matter of time before Violet and I catch it, and all our spring break plans will likely get cancelled.

Probably, by the time everyone will have recovered, it will be Easter. Back in the States, Easter is a one-day, Sunday affair. Here it’s a five-day weekend. Not much will be open from Friday to Tuesday. But you know me, ever the tenacious tourist. I will find some way to salvage this spring break! Stay tuned!


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