Monday, 18 April 2016

MY EUROPEAN HOLIDAY 2016 - ATHENS

Hello again, everyone

It has been quite a while since I told you about our upcoming holiday to Europe. Now that we are back and I have got over the jet-leg, answered multitudes of e-mails, dealt with mountains of mail and stored away the suitcases, I am ready to share with you our latest European adventure. 

The first stop on our itinerary was Greece’s capital, Athens.   I must say we felt quite apprehensive about this city ever since a few people we asked about it, told us that they didn’t like it at all primarily because they thought it is dirty and cannot offer much apart from the ancient ruins and good food.

We landed in the late afternoon and took a cab to our hotel.  We chose to stay at Royal Olympic Hotel for its position in the city centre and proximity to the Acropolis.  Fitting to its name, the interior of the hotel's lobby looked very imposing and was styled in what you typically associated with Greek taste:  marbled floors throughout, tall marble columns supporting star studded ceilings, comfortable couches upholstered in heavy brocade were invitingly positioned around the reception and lobby area, and here and there were huge gilded ornate pots brimming with orchids and lush green foliage.  Our room was decorated in a similar manner and looked very plush and luxurious without being ostentatiously vulgar.  But the focal point of the room was a spectacular view over the Temple of  Olympian Zeus lit up at night and looking absolutely majestic.

TEMPLE OF OLYMPIAN ZEUS

Our breakfast was served on the roof-top restaurant offering a spectacular vista over the city and the Acropolis alongside the delicious and fresh food this country is renowned for.
A VIEW OVER ACROPOLIS FROM A ROOF TOP
We spent the first day sightseeing the city from the top deck of a Red Hop-on Hop-off bus making mental notes of the places we would like to return to later on to explore at our own pace which we did in the next couple of days knowing that from where we staying we could walk to a lot of city's attractions such as the Acropolis, the famous PlakaErmou Street and the archeological site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  
EXPLORING THE CITY OF ATHENS

EXPLORING THE CITY OF ATHENS
We ate mostly at local taverns and cafes, ordering traditional dishes such as stuffed squid, grilled Dorado fish or octopus and one of my favorites, chocolate or honey glazed loukoumades (Greek donuts) and I don’t recall one bad meal.  
A VIEW OF ATHENS FROM THE ACROPOLIS
Only once, at my husband’s insistence, we dined at a fine dining restaurant called Spondi.  Despite my jokes about him being the biggest snob I know, it was nice to be dressed in your finest, seated at a dining table covered in starched linen table cloth and be waited upon by your own sommelier, bus boy and waiter.
BYZANTINE CHURCH

But sightseeing was not the only thing that you can do while in Athens.  You can also go shopping and if you need to fully re-stock your wardrobe, head on to Ermou Street in the city centre where you can find any type of clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry and much much more.  This long pedestrian strip is not only your ultimate shopping destination, this is the place to see and be seen.  And when you grow tired of spending money on clothes, take a break at one of the myriad of coffee shops that line the street for a glass of frappe and one of the delectable Greek desserts.
AN ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE OF PARTHENON



AN ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE OF PARTHENON
If you continue walking down Ermou Street, you eventually reach the Plaka, "the old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture".  Here you can lose yourself in the narrow spiral streets admiring the architecture of the buildings, or visit an art gallery to appreciate the talent of native artists, eat and drink at one of multitudes of restaurants, taverns and bars.  It is an ultimate shopping destination for local souvenirs, beauty products made with local olive oil or honey, leather goods, pottery, home d├ęcor, clothes and whatever more.  Every shop in the Plaka is open late, the whole area feels very alive and vibrant and if you care to look up, you will see lit up, the tall majestic columns of the Parthenon against a dark night sky.  A thought that this structure has been standing there since 447 BC makes it appear etherial.
PARTHENON AT NIGHT


A WHISKY BAR IN PLAKA


As it is quite often happens in life, the things that you least expect to be meaningful turn out to be something very special.  Yes, the country is in economic turmoil with humongous national debt but the people were very cheerful, extremely friendly and helpful, the food was great and everything was quite cheap despite the low conversion rate.
A TEMPLE OF POSEIDON

PLAKA AT NIGHT

The only downfall was the weather.  Despite the fact that we were there in spring, the temperature didn't rise past 15 degrees and to make matters worse, the northerly wind made us feel the chill factor even more.  The day we decided to climb the hill to the Acropolis the wind up there was so strong that I had to grab my husbands’ hand in fear of being blown away. 
A SOLDIER GUARDING PARLIAMENT HOUSE

A SUNSET OVER ONE THE 6000 GREEK ISLANDS

Our verdict – this city is definitely worth visiting.  However, our time in Athens was up, our bags all packed we were heading for our next destination – Santorini.

Linking up with Not Dressed as Lamb