Family travel in Greece. Flickr/ mariusz kluzniakMy two daughters and I were on our first trip to Europe together. Romantic visions of an era where every young woman’s education included the grand European tour swirled in my mind’s eye like the movie, “A Room with a View.”

Yet as a diligent customs official pulled my oldest daughter aside to inspect her bag, the zipper sprang undone, releasing clothes that moved like a living animal. A long feather boa, two hardcover coffee table books and a jumbo box of condoms rendered us speechless.

“She is 23 years old,” my youngest said. “You should be proud that she is so responsible.”

Intergenerational travel – it’s never what you expect it to be.

It had all begun innocently enough. We planned to be in Greece for a few short weeks and, as it was their first trip abroad, I aimed for a balance of culture and fun by combining time on Mykonos with a cruise of the islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Patmos and Crete.

In reality, there was at least one reluctant traveller. My youngest, at 16 years old, longed to spend the last few weeks of summer at the local shopping mall. The oldest was keen to go, but after a hard night of partying in her home in Vancouver, she slept in on departure day, almost missing her connection to rendezvous with us in Toronto. She showed up sporting snakeskin gloves and the previous night’s hairdo of tiny corkscrew curls.

But arriving in Athens, our first day was everything I’d dreamed of. We explored the cobblestone streets in the Plaka area at the foot of the Acropolis and, shaded under a massive Platano or sycamore tree, had mezethes, or Greek appetizers, facing the ruins of the Roman Agora. Built around 40 B.C., its marble Tower of the Winds, topped by the winds of mythology, turned a rosy red and then a golden hue as our dinner progressed.

The next day, after a visit to the National Archaeological Museum, we headed to Akra Sounion, just 30 minutes east down the coast from Athens. There at the Temple of Poseidon, 15 marble columns provided a perfect frame for the sunset. An orange and violet sky hung over the limestone peninsula where the King of Athens held vigil for his son Theseus.

As the legend goes, in his haste to return from slaying the Minotaur on Crete, Theseus forgot to switch his sails from black to white – the signal that he was alive. So, when the ship rounded the coast of Attica, King Aigeus saw the black sails and took his own life by throwing himself into the raging sea 200 feet (about 60 metres) below. The classic tale evoked differing emotions in my youngest daughter and me.

Continued on next page