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Trip Report A Week In Athens - Trip Report

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I have to go somewhere so I'm posting this without editing. I hope there's not too many mistakes.

Brief Trip Report
When my wife told me late March, that she had a week off in late April I promptly got on Google Flights to see where we could fly relatively cheaply. I considered going to Dublin, Quito, Stockholm or Athens. The flights to Athens had the shortest layovers and fell on good days, so Athens it was.

Hotel
Looked for a decent hotel around 100 Euros, narrowed it down to Athens Cypria and Attalos before picking Cypria. I took an acropolis view room and breakfast included and after a couple of discounts the room came to 91 Euros a night.

We were very pleased with the hotel. It’s in an excellent location between Syntagma and Monastriaki just off Ermou. The room had a balcony and being on the corner I had a nice open view. Looking up over the rooftops, I could see the Acropolis. The only thing I didn’t like about the room was the furniture arrangement could be better designed; there was only one drawer and one closet for clothes. There was a desk with a drawer and the end tables had drawers. There were no stands for the suitcases. The beds were a little small and hard, but that didn’t bother me. The wifi wasn’t the greatest unless in the lobby, but I think most hotels have that issue. There was a renovation going on, but I couldn’t hear it at all and we were out all day anyway.

The breakfast buffet was great. It had almost anything you could think of including eggs, bacon, sausage, potatos, grilled vegetables, fresh tomatos and cucumbers, cereals, a big pan of greek yogurt, canned peaches, honey, halvah, whole wheat rolls, fish, juices, coffee and more.
When I saw the location of the Attalos, I was glad I chose the Cypria.

Sightseeing
We basically had 6 full days plus the evening of arrival. We spent 4 days seeing Athens , 1 day trip to Hydra and 1 day trip to Delphi/Galaxadi.

In Athens we did all of the main things Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, National Archeological Museum, Cycladic Museum, National Gardens, Walk through Kolonaki and up Lycabetus Hill, Ermou St, Monastriaki Square, Plaka, Anafioteca, Acropolis Promenade, Adrianou Street, Pandrousso Street, Monastriaki Flea Markets ( I bought a brass fist door knocker.)

The trip to Hydra was a definite highlight. We took the 8 am boat and got a 6 pm boat back. That gave us enough time to walk the high road to Kaminia, have lunch, walk up the cliff trail for some spectacular views then walk back to Hydra town on the low road with more great views, then hang out a little in Hydra town.

Shopping
I steered my wife away from shopping, but I did take her to the Poet Sandal Maker for a pair of sandals. Other than that and the brass door knocker, we bought a couple of bottles of Ouzo with a nice bottle that looked like a Greek Column, a couple of nice tee shirts for me in Hydra with a Cycladic Figurine picture on the front. I bought a CD of Greek Music for my dad. I also got a free CD from a bouzouki player on Ermou St. I bought a box of pick your own chocolates for mom from a great sweet store that was on the corner of Ermou and Diomias right next to my hotel. I bought a couple of kids tee shirts and small boxes of pre-packaged baklava and lokum to give away.

Snacking
I also went to that sweet store, mentioned above, a few times for snacks of chocolate, cashews, dates. I bought some fresh baklava from a nearby bakery on Nikis street. We bought some Naxos cheese (kind of like pecorino) at a street market which I used to make a sandwich on my departure morning. I wish I bought a big hunk of cheese to take home, but I wasn’t sure if it would be allowed back into the U.S.

We hit up Ariston a couple of times for some awesome hand held spinach/eggplant/zucchini phyllo pies. I went once to Thanassis for a couple of chicken souvlakis. At 2.20 each that’s a great deal. I also tried a couple of chicken gyros from another place that starts with a B. We liked Thanassis better. We also had chicken souvlaki in Delphi. I took it out and we ate it sitting on a bench with a great mountain and valley view. One night in Athens we took a special trip to Stanis for their famous rice pudding, my wife and I each had a plateful which was too much.

We also had a nice chocolate cake with ice cream at the Acropolis museum. We tried gelato one night at La Greche, but the workers had a very bad attitude which made their mediocre ice cream taste all the worst.

Eating
Restaurants we ate at in Athens, mostly gotten from the Matt Barrett Guide. Diodos, Paradosiako Cafeneion, Epirus, Mani Mani. They were all good.

At Mani Mani, I didn’t care too much for the Peloponnese food but my wife really liked it. It was the first time I ate rooster. The place did have nice atmosphere. The music they were playing, was driving me crazy, all slow vocal jazz versions of famous rock tunes that I grew up on. Imagine Creedence Clearwater being sung as a slow jazz tune. I asked them to change it, something I’ve never done, but they didn’t listen.

At Epirus we had kokoretsi (goat ofal wrapped in intestines), goat soup, and a fish roe dip (tasted to me a little like lox flavor). It all tasted great, probably our first or second favorite meal. We almost didn’t make it there, however. It was the end of the day before Easter. When we got to the central market, we had to pass the all the butcher stands , as they were cleaning up. What a mess. I had to cajole my wife to follow me as I knew I was headed to Epirus which I wanted to try. She was ready to turn around but when we had that great meal she was happy she didn’t. The waitress there is also extremely nice.

Paradosiako Cafeneion served us some huge pieces of Mousaka, we really liked the food and the prices.

Kodylenia (Hydra Island) had a terrace with a beautiful view of the town, the sea and harbor. We sat down there and had some ouzo and the waitress showed me the menu. I thought I ordered a salad with all kinds of seafood to start. We drank our drinks and relaxed on the terrace waiting for the salad, moving around taking pictures so it was very nice. After about 45 minutes, we were wondering why the salad hadn’t come. It turns out the woman didn’t realize that I had ordered. So once we got that straightened out the salad along with some other dishes, we then ordered showed up very fast. I love how they just let you sit around and relax with your drink before eating. We ordered octopus which I never had and tender roast lamb with potatoes, lemon tart for dessert. It was all delicious and very reasonably priced.

In Galaxadi, we ate at one of the little tavernas along the harbor. I don’t remember the name but they grilled us up a whole sea bass and served it with salad wine and tzatziki. It was very good.

Thanassis, aside from the takeout souvlaki, we also sat down one night for souvlaki platter and stuffed tomato.

Nightlife
We were too tired after sightseeing for much nightlife but we did go out one night looking for some. I looked for this place something Pokili which was reported to have Greek music but when we got there they were playing some modern music so we didn’t stay. They did have a very interestingly decorated entryway. From there we went over to six dogs for some fancy cocktails that cost about half what they would cost in NYC. The bartender was very nice, but my wife told me later that he had terrible bad breath. As it turned out, the only live Greek Music I got to listen all week was on the last night while everyone was at Easter Midnight Mass I was entertained by a solo bouzouki player on Ermou St outside my hotel. I chatted with him a bit and he gave me a free CD. That was just before we caught a 3am bus to the airport, my wife was sleeping, I couldn’t sleep.

Miscellaneous Stories

When we planned to go to Delphi, I was going to rent a car from Sixt. Luckily I stopped in there a few days before and found out they couldn’t get me a GPS. I was going to rent anyway from them but then decided at the last minute that there was no way I was going to try to find my way out of Athens without one. I canceled from them and made a reservation with Avis. On Friday morning when I went to Avis, luckily I went ahead of my wife and told her to meet me there. I didn’t know to bring my passport, but luckily my wife was still at the hotel and I had the Avis clerk call her to bring it.

Driving out of Athens on Good Friday morning with a GPS was a total breeze. Driving to Delphi was surprisingly beautiful; I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know that Greece is so mountainous. The drive to and from Galaxadi after Delphi was also interesting, what with the constant switchbacks through the mountains, with great views along the way and the beautiful flowers along the road.

When we were in Delphi and I wanted to stop to buy souvlaki, I didn’t see any parking spot, so I double parked thinking there was enough room for cars to get by. I left my wife in the car but she can’t drive a stick shift. I went and ordered the souvlaki then while waiting I went into a hotel next door to ask about Galaxidi. As I’m talking to the girl I start hearing a beeping noise. I ignored it at first but then I thought I better get outside. I look up the road to where I left the car and there’s a big tour bus stuck behind me. My wife is frantic and she said she was about to try to drive the stick shift car, which I know would have been a disaster. I apologized to the bus driver as I got into the car to move it, he gave me a big honk to show his displeasure.

When we got back to Athens about 11:30 PM, it was too late to return the car so I thought I would have to pay for parking, but as we got near the hotel, after making many turns as per the GPS, I saw lots of street parking so I took one. It was a little harrowing trying to back park on the left side on a very narrow street I was so worried I would hit the car on the other side of the road. The taxi that I was holding up while I was parking gave me a head shake as he finally got to pass. I asked someone to translate the sign thinking I was going to have to move anyway, but he said the sign said pay parking from 9 AM until I think it was 8PM, so I was able to leave the car there until morning, and then return it to Avis.

On the drive back to Athens I was feeling sleepy and wanted to get some coffee. I pulled into a gas station where the young attendants spoke not a word of English. He indicated to me that he didn’t have coffee only frappe. I knew he meant Nescafe, so I thought why not. He got the package and a bottle of cold water and was going to mix it up. I asked him if he had hot water as hot coffee was what I had in mind. He looked at me with a puzzled look and then he ran into the back and came back with, not hot water, but bottle of unrefrigerated water.

When I read Rick Steves, he mentioned that metro line that runs to Piraeus is rampant with pick pockets. Sure enough when we took the train from the Archeological museum we stupidly stood near the door and soon were surrounded by some passengers who kept moving around squeezing me and separating me from my wife. I had my wallet in my front pocket and kept my hand on it and I kept my other hand on my camera which was dangling around my neck. We got off at the next stop and my wife told me one of the guys tried to reach into her bag but she kept it closed with her hand so he couldn’t. She also told me she saw one of the guys feeling my back pocket. They didn’t get anything from these New Yorkers, LOL.

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