10 hours overnight on a direct fight to athens.
we arrived at the beautiful new athens international airport early tuesday morning, having purchased the tickets just a week before. i love to travel spontaneously: picking a destination, buying tickets, and taking off with no plans, no expectations – just the latest copy of lonely planet and my camera. my mom wasn’t so sure about this, but i told her to trust me, so she tossed a few things in her bag, notably the latest lonely planet greek islands and her new SLR.
we hit the ground running, wasting no time and super excited to explore the city. within an hour of landing we were checked into our hotel and on the streets. athens is, in many ways, an ancient city that still reflects much of its complex past and is home to countless antiquities. however, it has also become a modern metropolis, a phenomenal juxtaposition that was utterly striking. one minute you stand entranced by the grandeur of the ruins which jut impressively into the sky, and the next you are strolling down through the chic streets of kolonaki, with the designer boutiques and swanky sidewalk cafes. after admiring the acropolis up close, we were amazed to see that we also had a clear view of the parthenon from the rooftop pool at our hotel.
the crowning achievement of greece’s golden age, the acropolis continues to epitomize greece for many people, and the magnificent parthenon and accompanying buildings on the site are an impressive window to history – bringing to mind everything one learned in world history and providing an amazing opportunity to reflect on ancient civilization. wandering through the acropolis, it is easy to be transported back in time – visualizing 5th century BC greek life. however, a short walk to the edge of this “upper town” (the definition of the word acropolis) brings you quickly back to the present – the sprawling city of athens below, its 5 million inhabitants bustling through its streets.
from the acropolis we walked to plaka – a warren of shops and restaurants packed along the narrow, cobbled streets. we had our first taste of greece at a cafe beneath the acropolis, the parthenon looming overhead, as we sampled the grilled octopus, stuffed tomatoes and greek salad. i fell in love with the creamy feta cheese – far superior to anything i have ever tasted in the states. the fresh bread and warm olive oil were perfect, and we loved the relaxed service, lingering over the ice cold water and bitter mythos beer.
late in the afternoon we returned to the hotel, refreshing ourselves at the rooftop pool, watching the sun set over the acropolis from high above. fueled by the excitement and knowing that we were only in athens for a few more hours, we hit the city streets again, stopping for wine and a bite to eat at one of the boisterous sidewalk cafes that reminded me of rome’s neighborhoods. i love european cities and it was so amazing to see my mom’s reaction – this being her first trip to europe! we returned to the hotel after a very full day, falling quickly asleep, thrilled to be in athens, and even more anxious to depart for the islands in the morning…
me + mamasita in action on the streets of athens!
the greek mini-bar at our hotel: olives, honey, olive oil, greek dolls in traditional dress, vinsanto, and of course, ouzo!