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Chilling in the Cyclades May 2014--Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Athens

Chilling in the Cyclades May 2014--Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Athens

Old Nov 26th, 2014, 02:04 PM
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Have a great trip, odie!

Here is the final installment of my report:

Tuesday, June 3--ATHENS

We had originally booked a 9:30 a.m. flight from Santorini to Athens (234 euros for the two of us), but about a week before our flight we got an email from Aegean Airlines saying that our flight had been moved to 7:15 a.m. I’m calling that a foul, but there was nothing we could do about it except arrange with our hotel for a 5:15 a.m. ride to the airport. It was very dark, and very quiet, in Fira at that time of the morning, and the van was a little delayed, but there was another couple waiting with us so we kind of enjoyed the contrast to normally bustling Fira.

There was very little seating at Santorini airport and a crowd of people waiting for various flights. Eventually the backlog cleared out and there was some breathing room so we could relax a bit before the 7:15 departure. The operation did not seem all that efficient. However, we did get seats in row 3 of the plane, probably because Aegean had switched us from the later flight (likely overbooked) to this one.

Once we landed at Athens airport, just 45 minutes after we took off, we walked 5 minutes to the very convenient metro and took it to Monastriki station in downtown Athens (8 euros each). The station is the final stop on line 3 and is less than 100 meters south of our pleasant and well-located hotel, the Hotel Attalos on Athinas Street.

Accommodation: Hotel Attalos, http://www.attaloshotel.com/, 76 euros per night, incl. tax

Our early arrival meant that our room wasn’t yet available, so we left our bags at reception and headed up the street to the main produce market, then had a light breakfast at a small open-air café located on the same street. The Attalos’s neighborhood is far less touristy than the main part of the Plaka, which is not far away, so we really enjoyed the local ambiance and interesting (nontourist) shops along the street.

We returned to the hotel and took the lift up to our room. It was small, basic, and somewhat cramped but comfortable enough, at a good price. I will probably look elsewhere next time we are in Athens, but the hotel was clean and serviceable and had a rooftop terrace and with great views over to the Acropolis.

Heading out again, we briefly explored the flea market (mostly tourist stuff, but some remnants of what it must have once been like) before passing by the Roman Agora and the Greek Agora on our way up the hill to the Acropolis. This was another place we had heard so much about, and we were excited to finally be able to visit. Again, we were not disappointed. The buildings are impressive and the setting is magnificent. Not too crowded, either, and the weather was unseasonably (and happily) cool. We passed through the gates of the Propyleia, with the temple of Athena Nike to the south. Once through the gates and onto the hill, we came upon the Erechtheion, with its “porch of the maidens,” six draped female figures who act as columns for the structure. It is perhaps J’s favorite ancient building in Athens. The Parthenon loomed at the far end and we saved it for last. It is extremely impressive, scaffolding aside, and somewhat larger than I thought it would be. Now that I have seen where the “Elgin Marbles” were taken from, I am even more convinced than before that the British Museum should give them back to Greece. Ahhh, that’s a political discussion to be had another time.

All along the margins of the Acropolis we had great views of surrounding Athens. J was intrigued by what we saw to the south (the new Acropolis Museum and an ancient amphitheater), so after exiting the Acropolis we wound down the east and north sides of the hill to the ancient Theatre of Dionysus. On our way we saw that the museum was nearby and decided to visit it after lunch. We enjoyed a very good light lunch at an outside table across from the museum and then headed into the building. Excellent exhibits! They were well displayed, with enough spacing to allow us to really appreciate them. After spending an hour and a half at the museum, we wandered back through the Plaka neighborhood to our hotel. The Plaka was filled with way too many tourist shops and restaurant touts, so we were glad we weren’t staying there.

We were ready for a change of cuisine, so, following the hotel’s recommendation, we decided on dinner at India Masala, a small Indian restaurant located on Ermou Street in the Thissio neighborhood to the west of Monastriki. Terrific food and a very pleasant, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere--a nice change of pace. After dinner we walked back to the hotel and ascended to the rooftop bar for ouzo and white wine. The Parthenon and the Erechtheion were fully lit up in the distance.

Wednesday, June 4

We had breakfast at the same small café, then headed along the other main street with the intention of visiting the Benaki Museum, often recommended on this forum. On our way we found a lovely Byzantine church, then passed Syntagma Square and the parliamentary center of Athens. The past few years have been harrowing times for Greece, and there was, per usual it seems, a large crowd of chanting demonstrators filling the square with their waving Greek flags while being observed by a squad of police. The museum was interesting, if eclectic, stuffed with a wide variety of exhibits, from Greek and Roman pieces to modern art. It put us in mind of the quirky Isabela Stewart Gardiner Museum in Boston.

After leaving the museum, we grabbed a light lunch on the same street where we had eaten the day before, then walked through Hadrian’s Gate to the gigantic Temple of Olympian Zeus, with its colossal 17 m high, 2 m wide columns, some standing and some neatly arrayed in chunks where they have fallen. The was begun in the sixth century BCE by one of the tyrant kings but not completed until the second century CE, under the auspices of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It's one of the most impressive, if incomplete, Greek temples we have ever seen, with photogenic views of the distant Acropolis through the columns.

We then walked around the base of the Acropolis past the Greek Agora before ending up again in the Thissio neighborhood for another interesting stroll. We came upon the Thission Open Air Cinema, which looked like a very cool place to watch a movie under the stars. Too bad the showings didn’t coincide with our schedule, which included a very early flight the next day—otherwise we surely would have attended a show there.

After returning to the hotel for a brief rest, we walked to dinner in the Psirri neighborhood at another recommended restaurant, Lithos. It was fitting that our final meal in Greece was Greek, a cuisine we had so enjoyed the past couple of weeks. On returning to the hotel, we stopped in at the rooftop terrace for a last drink and a final view of the Acropolis at night. We loved our short visit to Athens and definitely intend to return.

Thursday, June 5—home again

We had an early Lufthansa flight from Athens to Frankfurt so we woke at 5:00 a.m. to head for the metro station and catch the first train to the airport (5:38 a.m.). The metro gates were still closed, so we went across the street for cappuccinos and pastry at a shop that looked like it stayed open all night. Just as we were finishing, the metro gates opened and we went down the stairs and boarded the first train. It turned out that this train wasn’t going to the airport, but at least it was going in the right direction. After a few stops we figured out that we had to get off and then board the next train, which was indeed going to the airport. (We weren’t alone in this little detour.) Of course the flight was delayed, but not for long, and we had a pleasant flight to Germany.

Neither of us likes the Frankfurt airport very much, and nothing happened this time to change our minds. We had hoped to use our United Airlines vouchers for the Lufthansa lounge (since they are Star Alliance partners), but our attempt was rejected with little grace. The airport is huge and not especially well organized. Not much in the way of good restaurant options either. Our flight to San Francisco on United was delayed, but we caught up on the 12-hour flight and landed pretty much on time. We hopped on BART and were happily home about 45 minutes later.

All in all, our time in Greece more than fulfilled our expectations. It was beautiful, friendly, and far less costly than Italy, where we had spent the first three weeks of our trip. I suspect that a return trip won’t be too far in the future.
aprillilacs is offline  
Old Dec 4th, 2014, 06:13 PM
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An excellent finish to your TR. I think we will have about the same amount of time as you in Athens. I will use your report as a planning guide. Thank you for taking the time to write, these reports are always so helpful to those of us planning our trips.
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Old Dec 6th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Thanks for following along, odie. I think the trip reports on this site are so useful, and writing one is a great way to remember the trip after it's over. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did ours--and be sure to write a report after it's over!
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 07:39 AM
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I just discovered this TR and was so glad I did. We're working on a plan to the islands for September and were glad to read about what you did!
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Old Jun 10th, 2015, 01:05 PM
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Great to read this report, aprillilacs! I live in San Francisco, too!
Heading to Naxos June 25-30 for the first time. We'll be there 6 days and want to rent a car from the airport. Can anyone recommend a reputable agency? Best to reserve ahead?
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Old Jan 14th, 2017, 05:27 PM
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Wonderful trip report -- thanks so much! I've taken many notes....
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 05:07 AM
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Bookmarking - this trip report is making me reconsider many things about my planned trip in September 2017.

When you get back from Southern India, would you care sharing your opinions of Hotel Grotta in Naxos? I realize it's not on the beach but it seems charming and with an interesting location. Would it be a poor choice for a family with two young boys (ages 4 and 6)?

We are flying to Santorini and out of Athens; plan was to spend most of our time in Naxos and two days in Santorini but I'm wondering if it might be nice to squeeze in an afternoon and evening in Athens, especially if it's easy to get to and from the airport on the subway. I'd love to just wander around a bit. I'm about to book Naxos to Athens flights - our flight out of Athens home is at 3 PM on Sept 8; there are flights to Athens from Naxos at 9 AM, 12 noon, and 6 PM the night before. I was thinking to just fly out of Naxos at 6 PM and chill at n airport area B&B until the next day but now am debating whether it would be nice to fly out around noon, leave our luggage at the airport or try and see if we can book it through (we are flying Swiss Air and they are partners with Aegean), hop out to Athens on the subway, and wander about.
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