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Escaping the Christmas Weather

I find Christmas a very difficult time of the year, and I really don’t want to spend Christmas Day moping about the house on my own. So I was determined to go away again this year. I was feeling a bit less anti-social than I have for the past two years, so decided to join a small group tour rather than doing a completely solo trip. So I started looking for a tour somewhere interesting in Europe that I hadn’t visited before. I ended up choosing a trip to Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, run by my favourite archaeological holiday company, Andante.

We flew out last Monday, on what must have been the leading edge of the storms that started to batter Britain over Christmas. My plane was delayed due to the weather, and when we finally got out onto the taxiway we could see that the runway at Heathrow looked like a river. I swear that the aircraft aquaplaned down the runway – it was certainly the roughest takeoff I’ve ever experienced! I had a very tight connection at Athens, made worse by the delays at Heathrow. In the end I practically ran the length of Athens airport and just got to the departure gate as they made the final call, joining the back of the queue of people already boarding the aircraft. Phew! Tighter and more stressful than I would have liked! Fortunately, my suitcase also made the tight connection, as I wouldn’t have fancied a week in Greece without it!

Thessaloniki and the area around it is a part of Greece I didn’t know at all. It came to prominence with Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, who were then superseded by the Hellenes, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. So lots of layers of history and culture all on top of each other. Unfortunately, it was deeply and disappointingly non-photogenic. I’m sure that Christopher would have managed to get lots of interesting photos of small details, but I’m more interested in capturing big panoramic views, of which there were precisely zero. I’ll aim to post some pictures in a couple of days time, when I’ve had time to post-process and crop them, but I don’t think there are any that are particularly spectacular. The weather wasn’t particularly good either – much better than back home of course, but mostly low grey cloud, fog and rain.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself. The group was mostly very congenial (there are always a couple of obnoxious people one tries to avoid, but the group was big enough that I could do so), the guide lecturer knew his stuff, and there were some interesting sites and museums to visit. The food was particularly good – lunch breaks lasted nearly two hours, and consisted of plate after plate of meze (frequently unidentifiable savoury dishes, but always delicious) accompanied by fresh bread and plentiful wine. Since dinner was never less than three courses, and on occasion was up to ten courses, also with unlimited wine, I have been totally overindulging!