Monday, July 22, 2013

The Problem with Lonely Planet (April 2007)

Tonight I took the funicular to the top of Lykavittos Hill and took in Athens at sunset from a wind-blown peak, complete with church bells ringing.  It was the most sublime experience.  I could see all the way to the coast, and the mountains all around, as they disappeared one by one into the fading light.
I'm really glad Mrs. Julia (one of the embassy wives who works for Al Hekma), suggested I go.  She lent me her tour book, Athens Top 10, but I'm a loyal Lonely Planet Girl, so I set out from my hotel (the Evripides Hotel, in a kinda sketchy looking neighborhood that actually appears to be Chinatown, so I'm pretty much at home there) with my camera and wallet in my fake Coach bag and my Lonely Planet in my hand.  That's because the Lonely Planet guide to Greece is too big to fit in my fake Coach bag.  The two previous fake Coach bags I bought fit bigger books in them than that, but after both of them broke, I bought a more expensive, nicer, but smaller fake Coach bag based on my Dark Lord's continually invaluable advice, and it has worked quite well.

I left the Evangelismos subway station and headed up the hill, following LP's flawless map, and after a hike up the hill, arrived at the funicular station.  No snags.  But as I was standing beside the bell tower having my picture taken by a Korean (I didn't single him out to take my picture because he was Korean, but it DID give me a thrill to say, 'Shillye hamnida,' to him), I realized I was missing something.  A chunky $30 something.  I raced down the stairs and around the church and found my book lying where I'd left it when I took a picture a few minutes earlier.  I knew it was mine because I'd written the address of my new hotel there a few nights before.

Well, I had dinner and watched darkness fall over the surrounding countryside, then decided it was time to head out.  Took the car down, and talked to some delightful little old ladies, realizing that my breath had some horrible funk from the garlic in the tzatziki I've been eating at every meal (oops).  So I stopped in the gift shop and bought a pack of gum, then set out down the hill again (and, by the way, by 'hill' I mean I was walking up about a 60 degree slope...I was also slightly freezing, because it's much chillier in Greece than it is in Bahrain, and I didn't pack exactly appropriately, and I forewent my sweatshirt in the interests of photography).  When I got halfway down the hill (approximately twelve flights of steps, and, oh yeah, I was wearing platform sandals because I like the way they look with the skirt I was wearing), I wanted to double check how to get to the PCbang where I am writing this, and it was at that point that I realized I was, once again, without a Lonely Planet.  I set it down when I bought the gum.  For at least a moment, I debated walking away from it...the book may have cost $30, but don't underestimate how lazy I can be, and how I was dressed...but in the end, I knew I needed that book for the remainder of my stay.  I have Kit's guide, as well as Julia's, but, you see, neither of them is a Lonely Planet.


  1. I actually still carry a Lonely Planet book everywhere with me - Im a backpacker so generally Im never without my backpack and no matter how big the book, it always fits in there fine. Having tried other guides, LP is my favourite. The Berlitz guides though are fab and they fit in your travels. Jonny

    1. I agree, Jonny - the content of Lonely Planet is the best! In the last year I have been experimenting with buying single chapters and gluing them into my travel journal. It's worked pretty well so far, at least for short trips.