Day 1 : Gatwick to Ouranopolis

Friday May 5th

Up at 3:30 AM !!! Yes, it was a good idea to spend the night at the local hotel. I gathered all my stuff together, trying desperately not to leave anything behind and dashed over to Departures by 4am to meet with the rest of the group at the EasyJet terminal. Everything was (semi) automated and the digital check-in and baggage drop process worked for everyone. Also managed to get through security without a hitch as did John McCormack with his be-ribboned stick! Subsequently had a sort of breakfast with John (looked for the porridge next time) then hurried over the massive bridge (which was not there the last time I arrived at Gatwick) to the gate and boarded at the rear of the EasyJet Airbus 320 (why don’t all Airlines do this?).  A smooth 3 hour flight to Thessaloniki was followed by a 2 hour coach journey to Ouranopolis chatting to Jim Olivier from Vermont who had visited Athos as a student in 1972 (or thereabouts) ! The hotel we arrived at was deserted and apparently was opened up just for our group. Wasn’t that nice! Jim & I shared a room with a veranda that had stunning views over the bay. After chatting with Dominic on next door’s veranda we decided to walk into town to procure a bite to eat.

This was easier said than done since for most of the way there was no footpath and we had to share the road with lunatic motorcyclists and car drivers. After a super lunch of Greek Salad and Mousaka (fortunately Peter who was with us spoke some understandable Greek) we wandered through the town pretending to be marginally interested in the nick-nacks for sale and then merely purchasing food items for the upcoming grueling work week. Realising the time we dashed back to  the hotel for the 6:30 meeting to determine teams & locations for the two weeks. The we got into taxis which took us back down the road to a restaurant on the hill & a slap up meal. In bed by 11.