Sometimes you get to a town and you know you just aren’t going to hit it off. It won’t be a place you remember fondly, though you may recall it in flashbacks or troubled dreams.
Such is the town of Pyrgos for us. For starters, we really didn’t want to be here. Our focus is Olympia, but every hotel there has been sold out for months. Our friend George yesterday told us that there is some big motorcar or motorbike race there now. (One of those conversations that was hard to follow.)
So we are in relatively nearby Pyrgos, which all the guidebooks say to avoid, perhaps due to its general air of grime. We had no choice.
The big hotel here is also sold out, so we are in a place that bills itself as a luxury boutique. Guess that’s why the certificate of mattress disinfection is framed and so proudly displayed in our room. You don’t get that kind of guarantee in ordinary boutiques, it seems.
We evidently arrived too early for our hosts – Don will elucidate – and headed out to find lunch and to visit the local acclaimed Archaeological Museum. Having carefully checked the guidebooks and website several times, Don knew it would be open till 3 PM.
Ha!!! Not so. They must have slipped into a summer schedule at midnight, and thus were closed on Mondays. We had been – as we now say – ‘Pyrgosed.’
Finding no restaurants on our way to the museum, we dined graciously as noted below. Having waited a respectful interval, we went back to the hotel we can now identify as Fawlty Towers, with the hope that our host Basil would have finally determined what room we would occupy. When we returned, there were lots of smiles but no action, so I surrendered to certain demands and asked to use the WC, which is on the next floor up from the lobby.
I happened to notice an open door to a room which contained our luggage. I said a prayer that we would get a room just as nice, and went back downstairs – and we’re talking a looonnnggg stairway – and asked if, since our luggage had a room, we might have one too.
Five minutes of kerfluffling later, it was determined that we could be reunited. A further five minutes later, we were given our keys.
I know this might sound a bit whiny, but it seemed important to reveal that travel is not all glamorous, and sometimes downright infuriating. But, at least we know that our mattress has been disinfected.
Don’s Food Corner – and more
If it weren’t so hot and if we hadn’t already endured a three-hour trip to this town from Patras, our experience at this so-called luxury boutique hotel might have been humorous. It started with a taxi driver who was somewhat startled that we were not staying at the number one hotel in town. After squinting in disbelief at the name of our hotel for several moments, he agree to take us. The ride here was through some of the worst slums we have seen in Greece. I’m sure there are other slums like this, but we just haven’t seen them.
We were deposited on the steps of the “luxury boutique hotel” but couldn’t find the entrance. The taxi driver pointed us to an unmarked door. Next to the door was a tiny doorbell with the name discreetly labelled. Suddenly the door was flung open by a short and more frantically animated version of Basil (John Cleese) of Fawlty Towers fame. First, he tried to pick up our major piece of luggage and wanted to know if we had rocks in it. That’s a good question that I have tried to pose to Jo since I know I have trimmed down what I have packed to near bare threads of two extra shirts and one extra pair of pants. Since we were still then on good terms with our Basil of the so-called boutique hotel, I joked that we picked up a few relics we found on the Acropolis. I think he believed me.
Then, he launched into tirade about how early we were. We knew we were early and had planned it so that we could get to that damned museum before it closed at three o’clock. (That was before we knew it wasn’t open at all, thanks to a lack of accurate information on the web site, which must have the same Web Master who designed the bus schedule web site for Delphi-to-Patra service.)
He wouldn’t allow me to tell him that we were prepared to leave our luggage and return later. Instead, he pointed to an upholstered sofa and chair and demanded: “Just sit over there.” Well, OK. There was much huffing and puffing, computer keyboard clacking and loud instructions being snapped at the cleaning staff, who kept running up and down the stairs in frightened subservience. Our Basil’s assistant at the desk (his wife?) huddled terrified at his side as he was trying to make some sense of what rooms were or were not available for instant occupation. Finally, he snapped at us: “OK, follow me.” I stood up and made a few steps and then he twirled around and yelled: “No! Stop! Stay right there!”
Many other minutes passed with more computer clicking and staff directives. Finally, he allowed one piece of luggage — the one with the rocks — to be placed in a tiny elevator and motioned that we should follow him upstairs. Jo, using a new knee as an excuse, asked to use the elevator. This was reluctantly allowed. And we all moved up one flight of stairs to a room.
The room was ready for occupation, but when he showed us the bathroom, which only included a large bathtub and no shower, we said we wanted a shower, and a bathtub wouldn’t work for us. This threw Basil into a conniption. He explained that the hotel was fully booked for the night and all the rooms would have to be reassigned and that could take a long time. We said fine and that we would come back later because we wanted to go to the museum before it closed at 3 pm. Then, he pointed to a window shelf in the hall and told us to put our luggage up there out of the way. The uniformed cleaning ladies were scurrying about, all in a panic, with Basil setting the tone.
Then, after we returned to the reception area downstairs we made the mistake of asking for a map and directions to the museum. This was a convoluted affair and Basil, using far too many words and tortured explanations, ended up directing us through slum-like side streets when, we found out later, the main drag and pedestrian walking area that could have gotten us there were one block away in another direction. If I hadn’t left the Valium in one of the bags left on the window sill on the second floor, I would have popped one right then.
After finding out that the museum was closed on Monday, we were next defeated by the area immediately in front of the museum as a place to find something to eat. We happened into a souvlaki joint and we each had an indifferent pork souvlaki and a couple of Diet Cokes. $10.
Walking back to Fawlty Towers, we ventured two blocks in a different direction and found a lovely square — which was directly behind the museum — with lots of nice-looking cafes. Basil failed to mention this section of town and its proximity to the museum and to the hotel itself. Maybe he doesn’t see the difference between the dicey-looking slum streets and the more civilized-seeming cafe-lined pedestrian walkways. I’m not going to ask him.
When we returned, we started round two of the battle with Basil until finally we were permitted to enter the room where our luggage had already taken up residence and to turn on the air conditioning. We’re resting to prepare for our trip to Olympia tomorrow with some trepidation about encountering a motorcycle rally there.