When planning a trip, I suggest avoid saying things like: "Greece is the most dangerous place in Europe to drive a rental. We certainly won't do that."
or "We'll take a slow ferry from Crete so we can see all the beautiful little islands between there and Athens."
Because inevitably you'll get stranded on Crete (where btw –– the oldest Bronze Age city? The one you have been wanting to see since you were eleven or twelve years old? It will be closed for repairs. For like 18 months.)
And then you'll find yourself standing in line at the car rental counter at the Athens airport behind a pair of French dudes celebrating Bastille Day by joining the rest of their countrymen on vacation in Greece.
The fellows will say –– clear enough for even your rusty college French to follow –– that the rental company has run out of automobiles. (Les voitures sont completement fini.)
Nothing ventured, you'll figure, even if these guys snub you for your really execrable accent, you give it a try, "Excusez-moi, avez-vois dit que Les Hertz n'avez-pas rien du voitures?
Perhaps because the waiting line was quite long and they had only started their vacation, the French men say, "Do you have a reservation for a car? No?"
Then switching easily to English, they ask, "Have you just arrived?"
You'll explain about the visit to Crete.
They will be terribly French in their amusement at your mishaps.
Of course, the wind.
Big world-weary shrugs and their lower lips will project out for a moment –– of course, Knossos. Ha ha ha!
But of course one couldn't find the Heraklion Museum because it was closed for renovations. For like 18 months.
You'll share gentle, ironic laughter. Ha ha ha! Zee world is funny, no? Trés amusant!
Tell them you were planning to visit beautiful Mount Olympus, an easy drive. Hiking, perhaps even camping.
Oh, they will say, Have you not heard? Forest fires have closed Mount Olympus.
"Mais bien sûr!" you can say. But of course. Of course Mount Olympus is closed.
And then you'll be navigating the Greek countryside by fraternity letters while your husband boldly pilots a tiny white rental car.
You'll say, "Alpha-theta-epsilon? and maybe Nu. Wait, is µ ––you'll sketch the letter on the air –– Nu or Psi?"
Despite this level of distraction, he addresses the odd round-about and the mysterious symbols for merging or yielding without hesitation.
It may be a dangerous country for renting a car, but he's Ricky-Bobbying the living merde out of it.
On our trip, we did not stop at the crossroads in Theta-epsilon-beta-alpha.
It seemed a quiet, agricultural spot –– silos and onion fields –– a long way removed from mistaken identities and Freud's own dream of patricide and royal incest.
We went instead to Delphi, a spot I'd hoped to explore on a Classically nerdy trip another time.
The Delphic oracle, the Temple of Apollo, the Delphic games. That magical light!
Be still o Mary Renault-inspired heart!
Stand down, o Mary Stewart-influenced enthusiasm!
I'd honestly hoped not to bore Mr. Linton to death with all that.
The actual Pan. Not an easy god, he.
A good cave is a joy forever, evidently.
We picnicked, respectfully, and then wound our way back to the tiny white rental car, unscathed by Pan or the loud farm-dogs.
A couple of days is not enough for Delphi.