To Greece on the trip of a life­time

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - HE­LEN LOTH­IAN

My 83-year-old mother was very ap­pre­hen­sive about her re­turn to Greece, a coun­try she had left as a young, sin­gle woman.

She re­acted with mixed emo­tions when we gave her a Christ­mas present last year of a re­turn ticket to Greece with my hus­band and my­self.

At times she did not be­lieve she would sur­vive the trip and nei­ther did many of her el­derly friends in Aus­tralia. When the time came to farewell them be­fore the trip, they kissed and cried as if it would be the last time they would see each other.

We were only go­ing for three weeks, but I am sure that my mother thought we were tak­ing her on a pos­si­ble oneway jour­ney.

There were four flights be­fore we reached our first des­ti­na­tion: Sydney-Sin­ga­pore, Sin­ga­pore-Is­tan­bul, Is­tan­bul-Athens, Athens-Crete. My hus­band and I were ex­hausted; my mother was eu­phoric. We had not ar­rived at her vil­lage, but at a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion that she had never been to be­fore and she had fallen in love with the con­cept of travel.

Hav­ing strug­gled all her life fi­nan­cially, she had never trav­elled for leisure, and we wanted this trip to be a fan­tas­tic hol­i­day.

We stayed at a five-star re­sort right on the beach in Crete where my mother could eat as much of the Mediter­ranean food as she wanted, and so she did. Home­made yo­ghurt, baby goat and her great­est weak­ness, figs. She con­sumed food ev­ery day as if it were to be her last sup­per.

It was not un­til half­way through the hol­i­day that she re­alised she most prob­a­bly would re­turn alive to Aus­tralia, the coun­try she now calls home, and not have the heart at­tack or any other ma­jor ill­ness that she had con­jured up in her mind.

We took her back to her vil­lage of Meteora, the UNESCO World Her­itage-listed place on the main­land where huge monas­ter­ies are sus­pended high on the cliffs. She trav­elled to Edessa, a town of wa­ter­falls and ther­mal pools, vis­ited rel­a­tives in Kavala and wit­nessed a euro ref­er­en­dum rally in Syn­tagama Square, Athens.

Fi­nally we took her to Is­tan­bul to see Ha­gia Sophia mu­seum, with its won­der­ful dome, and to end the hol­i­day with a visit to a ham­mam.

She was hum­bled by what she saw and ex­pe­ri­enced. We were hum­bled by the kind­ness of all who could not do enough for my mother. We plan to take her again in 2017. Stay tuned. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a copy of Flavours of Queens­land (Smudge Pub­lish­ing, $80), an il­lus­trated vol­ume of restau­rants, bars, cafes and farm­ers’ mar­kets from across the state, com­plete with recipes. More: smudgeeats.com.au.

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