It was a week for meeting new friends and saying goodbye to old ones…at least for a time. My biking and yoga partner in crime Joanna is off to the States for a few months, so we made a point of squeezing in one last bike ride on our favorite route through Sounio. This time we invited my new friend Rose along. Rose graciously loaned me her old road bike…and a bike shirt and some padded shorts. And she drove us down there with three bikes attached to her Jeep. She is seriously My Hero.
Last time we rode this route, I lagged behind because of my bike (Not that I was completely out of shape…ahem.) and we only went about 12 miles round trip before I cried uncle. But this time we went twice as far. I’d love to say I easily kept pace…but, no. Their superior bikes with clip pedals, and let’s face it, superior fitness levels left me struggling to keep up. So we decided it would be better if I set the pace in front.
And just like before, the views were breathtaking.
On the way back we stopped yet again at what has become our favorite taverna by the sea for greek salad and tzatziki. We wore our swim suits under our biking gear, so after a quick bite we went out for a little swim. The beach was very rocky, hard on my feet, but once we got in the water, it was gorgeous. I wish I’d brought my snorkel. Soon enough it was time to drip dry, put dry socks on wet feet (which was actually easier than putting on the bike shorts again!), and head back. We barely made it in time for the big kids to let out of school. Poor Rose got a lot of practice driving in congested Athens traffic that day!
I’m sad that Joanna will be leaving for the rest of the fall, but glad I found a new friend to bike with. I’ve even gotten inspired to try a new route by my house — apparently there’s a “secret” passageway under frenetic Kiffisias Avenue that opens up to a verdant, quiet, hilly neighborhood next to mine called Filothei. I spent Saturday morning hunting for a new bike helmet (which are a bit difficult to find for adults here…you rarely see anyone under the age of 12 wearing one), and I ordered some fancy padded biker shorts online. I may just have to ask Santa for a fancy new bike this year, as well.
The day after our bike ride I went to my regular Pilates class, which was a little more challenging with the sore muscles. I was delighted to meet another newcomer from the Embassy there, and I’m hoping to entice her to come out and bike with me as well as take Pilates at my favorite yoga place. I am determined to shed all of this weight I’ve put on since I quit nursing!
That evening I had a girl’s spa night unlike any other. Joanna made us a reservation for four at Al Hammam Baths, a traditional Turkish bath down near the Plaka. She told us to bring our swim suits and not eat anything two hours prior. Other than that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been to the Intercontinental’s Turkish Bath in Istanbul years and years ago, but all I remembered was sitting in a hot room with James in our swim suits for about half an hour. This experience was way better. The four of us sat in the hammam for about 30 minutes, drenching ourselves with water from the taps if we got too hot, and lying on a stone pillar to relax. They had to shush us a few times — we are a chatty bunch — but soon we were relaxed and content. Then, in groups of two, they led us into another room of the hammam with two stone benches for us to lie on. As we lay first on our backs, then on our tummies, two rather buff and attractive dudes scrubbed us with exfoliating gloves, massaged our backs and limbs with bubbly olive oil soap, and even washed our hair. It. was. stupendous.
We finished the evening in the tea room with some refreshing Hibiscus tea and a bowl of Turkish Delights. A wonderful send off to Joanna, who I won’t see again until January. I will definitely be returning to the hammam, maybe for a date night — I saw they offered a couple’s package. But next time I’ll need to bring a bikini that unhooks in the back. My modest tankini was a bit awkward for the massage.
Note to self: buy a bikini. Second note to self: lose 10 pounds. Although, judging from the body types I’ve seen in bikinis this summer in Greece, that last one is optional. But with all of this biking, Pilates and Aerial Yoga, it’s a goal I hope to attain soon.