Europe, Greece, Travel

Our first day in Greece

October 3, 2010

Αθήνα (Athina) Day 1

I really enjoyed Athens more than I thought I would.  I’m not sure what I expected.  First of all, the landscape is much prettier than I thought it would be.  Athens is surrounded by mountains.

The airport was new and nice and so were the roads into the city.  There are a zillion people on motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, etc.  This was kind of funny to us and dangerous looking too.

Our hotel, the Athens Gate Hotel, was really nice and perfectly located in the Plaka, right beside the Temple of Olympian Zeus and with a beautiful view of the Acropolis.  It was within walking distance to everything and had the most amazing views.

Our room

The view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus from our balcony

Our first day in Athens, we were worn out and jet-lagged, but tried to stay awake.  After checking in to the hotel, we got settled in, showered and then went out for lunch.  We ate a tavern near our hotel on a pedestrian street.  All of the taverns/restaurants have their menus posted out front (as they do in most European countries).  However, the difference here was that there is someone from each place stationed out front trying to lure you in.  It was pretty comical.  We were too tired to examine every menu, so just picked a place.  We had a nice lunch and I had my first Greek salad, called horiatiki.  It was wonderful.  It is sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, olives, capers, salt, oregano, a piece of feta on top and oil and vinegar.  Delicious! I also had a Mythos, the first of many.  As far as I can tell, there are only two Greek beers: Mythos and Alfa.

Afterward, we took the metro to the Parliament and watched the guards.  Think London, but different outfits.   Luckily, we were there while they were ceremoniously tromping around instead of just standing like statues.

Then we walked around and looked through stores on Ermou street.  I was so tired at this point that I was only half-heartedly looking and couldn’t really enjoy it.  I didn’t buy one thing!

We did go to Stavros Melissinos‘ shop in Monastiraki.  He is called the poet sandalmaker as he does both of these things.  This shop has been around since 1927 and they make custom sandals and have made them for celebrities, such as the Beatles and Jackie Onassis.  It was a interesting shop and I tried on a pair, but didn’t get them, which I regret now of course.

Later, after a nap, we decided to go out for dinner to Geros Tou Maria, which a Greek friend had recommended.  We were still tired and decided to get a taxi.  Tons of them drive by our hotel, so we thought this would be easy.  Erick flagged down one, told him the name and address and he just drove away.  Then, this happened several more times, at which I was in disbelief.  Finally, one of them explained that you can’t drive there.  It’s all pedestrian streets.  So, we had a good laugh about that.  We set out with our map and Erick got us there of course, through many small winding cobble-stoned streets.  The old city, the Plaka area, is very charming.  We were offered up many alternatives to places to eat along the way by the restaurant “salespeople.”  We finally arrived by walking up steps where several restaurants were located, each with seating outside along the steps.  It was really pretty. Dinner was great, but I was disappointed that I did not like the spanokopita.  It had almost an anise-like flavor for me.

After dinner, we had drinks on the hotel roof-top terrace and the view was stunning at night with the Acropolis lit up.

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