An elderly traveller who finds airports “a bit gloomy” hired a private cab to transport her to the spot where Alexander the Great studied under Aristotle – for an afternoon.
Kathleen Searles, 89, indulged her lifelong dream to visit Aristotle’s School, near the modern Greek city of Naousa, by using a minibus service from her home in Sudbury, near Colchester.
After travelling thousands of miles overland, Mrs Searles spent four hours touring the ancient landmark before turning around and heading home again, all for the fare of £2,000.
The distance covered, including some diversions on the way back, was 6,000km (3,700 miles).
The retired laboatory assistant told The Times last night that she did not object to flying but took her astonishing journey because she found airports “a bit gloomy”.
“I’m not all that enamoured with airports these days as I don’t like being taken around in a wheelchair,” she said.
“This way was extremely easy and it was door to door.”
Mrs Searles and her 73-year-old friend Wendy Turner, who lives in a nearby village, travelled to Calais by ferry, journeyed through much of Western Europe and sped through the Balkans before arriving three days later at their famous destination.
“Travelling by road was a good idea as I am rather elderly so I didn’t want to go for too long,” Mrs Searles said.
“I’ve always been extremely interested in Alexander the Great and I’ve been to Greece before but never to Aristotle’s School,” she said. “I just thought, well, if I was going to do it, I’d better get on with it.
“One could have spent a lot longer there but I think I did very well. I’ve read a lot about it so it was really just checking things out. The whole journey was most delightful.”
Mrs Searles said that she had been “distinctly struck” by the comfort of driver Julian Delefortrie’s nine-seater minibus on a recent trip to the Globe Theatre in London and had the idea of travelling in it to Europe.
Mr Delefortrie usually takes passengers to the airport or within England.
“She asked me to go to Europe and I love driving so I said I’d do it,” he said. “She didn’t want the hassle of going to the airport and she wanted to see a number of different countries, which we did.
“It was very beautiful, especially through Austria, and the motorway system in Europe is absolutely brilliant.”
He estimated that with food, accommodation and his fare of about £2,000, the cost of the trip probably reached £5,000.
The trio arrived back in Sudbury two nights ago – 11 days after they first embarked on their unique trip.
In a lightning European tour, they stopped just twice – in Munich and Belgrade.
The trip home was substantially more relaxed because it took six days. On a whim, Mrs Searles decided she was keen to tour Budapest so the tour was diverted through Eastern Europe, before also stopping in Belgrade, Austria and Germany on the journey home.
Mrs Turner described her friend, who sat in the back seat of the minibus – “like the Queen of Sheba” – as independent-minded. “It was a whirlwind trip but it was absolutely fantastic. I’d love to do it again.”
Mrs Searles has not decided on her next trip but said she would travel to Europe by road again.
The teachings of Aristotle are believed to have heavily influenced Alexander, who resolved to spread ancient Greek culture in the vast empire he subsequently carved out in modern-day Turkey, Egypt, Iran and India.