I know. It's a lot of photos. I'm sorry.
We had just over 24 hours in Athens, but we truly made the most of it. I adore that city (And no, I have not been shopping for property while I'm meant to be working. Who told you that?). New since our last trip is a €35 flat fee for the taxi to the center of Athens (a 27km ride), and even though it's a bit pricey, when you factor how much the metro would cost for all three of us and how tired we were after our 9 hour flight, it seemed like a good choice.
It was a great choice.
Our taxi driver was warm, gregarious and expansive in the way that only Greeks can be. He talked Greece and Greek culture and pointed out important sites along the 30-40 minute drive, even pulling over to the side of the road to show us the Olympic Stadium in the distance. He was a delight. When we learned that we'd be heading straight back to the airport the very next afternoon, he suggested we just book him then and there so we had no worries. That was great.
Once at our hotel, we were swept into the lobby by another equally expansive and gregarious Greek. He took our bags, he gave our names to the clerk he settled us into deep and cozy sofas in the lobby, he brought us water and juice (I asked for water, but he brought me juice too because he knew I'd like the juice.), he checked in on us until were were checked in. He was lovely and delightful and asked where we were from and was thrilled that we'd been to Athens before and told us we should stay longer.
So we napped a bit, just enough to take the edge off, but before we did we had our hotel make us reservations at a restaurant I'd been waiting for seven years to get back to. The Greek House Attikos. (The website is all in Greek, but they do speak English. There are some photos and they have contact info and the location on there as well.) We ate there our first night in Athens seven years ago and we loved it so much we tried to eat there our last. It didn't work out then, but I was thrilled to find them still open. I remembered just where it was and just how to get there, and I was so excited to eat there again that I didn't care that we had to do it embarrassingly early (8:30).
After our trek up and back down the Acropolis (which I told you guys about here, and yes Erica, it really does feel like you're on top of the world!), we stopped for a bit for a snack and a rest. Cal needed some sustenance (a chocolate pastry) and I needed one of my all time favorite drinks, a Nescafe´ frappe.
Ordered black, with milk, sweet, unsweet, or my favorite, medium-sweet, Nescafe´ frappe is a concoction of instant coffee, ice (milk) sugar and a lot of shaking. It's an essential pick me up after a day of sightseeing or shopping. Like so many European countries, Greeks excel at cafe life, and perhaps because their weather is so lovely they're really, really good at it. A Nescafe´ frappe, a bowl of olives, some bread and olive oil and a spot at a cafe to watch the world go by. Who could ask for anything more? An island cottage with a view of the sea to stroll back home to would be nice. Shrug.
We had a few hours before our dinner reservation, so with the Plaka at our doorstep we went for a stroll. Plus, Cal and and I wanted to do some shopping. Cal made out like gangbusters, and I have a commitment problem (If we go back next year I WILL get those leather sandals!). If the main entrance to the Acropolis is on the western edge, the Plaka is a neighborhood made up of Pedestrian streets along the northern and eastern slopes. Also accessible by the pedestrian street Dionysiou Arepopagitou, the Plaka is made up of wandery streets and cobbled paths that are, largely, cut off from motorized traffic. You'll find store after store ranging from cheap souvenir shops selling Greek figurines (Cal's favorite) to more impressive leather good shops selling bags and footwear (uh, my favorite).
Yes, it can be touristy. Yes, the food can be mediocre in some of the restaurants, but mostly is bustling with life and charming, and how there are true antiquities mixed in with brightly painted cafe chairs. What we loved the most was how familiar it felt. How we could turn a corner and say, "Hey! We ate there!" Or, "Hey! That's where we shipped back all that olive oil!" And still, the Plaka is a real neighborhood. People live there, and Greeks frequent it as much as tourists do, so for a true Greek experience, it's not to be missed.
We finally made it to dinner as the sun was just starting to go down and bathed the Parthenon and all of us in that golden glow that Greece is so famous for. We had several meze (which are Greek appetizers): a bowl brimming with olives and taramasalata (a spread made of carp roe caviar) and tzatziki (cucumber yogurt salad). Cal had salmon, and I had moussaka, and I honestly can't remember what Neel had! The wine flowed, as did the Fanta Limon, and we sat and watched the families and the people come and go and sit and talk. And right there, over our shoulder sat the Parthenon, waiting for the sun to go down and the lights to go on.
The next morning before our now beloved taxi driver came to retrieve us, we returned again to a souvenir shop that had sold seven year old Cal a Greece tee shirt years before. The owner, Constantine, told us how he'd left his job as a professor but continues his work with languages. He shared his theory about the Greek language as he wrapped Cal's purchase and he shared his feelings about the Greek educational system. This is how it is in Greece. Everyone you meet is a friend.
Our taxi driver reminded us that it was a flat fee to the airport and since we had some time before meeting our bus, he'd decided to take us the long way, essentially making a loop around Athens. We went down along the sea, where the wealthy Athenians have condos and go to escape the heat. It was an unexpected delight, and a great way to see more of this city we'd come to love. Having the bright blue water along our right reminded us that we are, yes! In Greece!
On to Olymipa!
One last thought: If you go to Athens, and don't eat at Attikos (wink) try Daphne's in the Plaka. It's another delightful spot, with seats both in and outside that render it a bit of an oasis from the chaos of the bustling streets. The food, at least seven years ago, was amazing.