Athens, Greece

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“Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence” John Milton. Mr. Miltons quote makes a strong case against travelers who simply see Athens as a gateway to the Greek islands.  I’m a little like David Bowie when he said: “I do tend to take a different perspective from most people”. I paid Athens a little visit this summer and found it hopelessly romantic, and full of amazingly friendly people ready to share their experiences. Wikipedia describes Athens as an ancient city dominated by fifth century BC landmarks. I took an entirely different perspective.  The Los Angelas Arts district has been described as the largest outdoor art gallery. It has absolutely nothing on Athens. Street art dominates Athens. The ancient city of  Athens is a colorful dilapidated built environment softened by the growth of olive trees and of massive bougainvillea swollen with fat magenta blooms dripping everywhere, set to a soundtrack of a lively good time, all under the shadow of romantic crumbling ancient decaying architecture.  Athens is most definitely worthy of a couple of romantic lazy days, as well devoting some time to seriously indulge in foodgasms consuming amazing Greek food. Everyone has their own style and pace of travel. I tend to take on a slower pace, which is how I would suggest visiting Athens. Athens offers much to do, however, obviously, many people go to Athens for a visit to what UNESCO calls the “symbol of world heritage”, otherwise known as the Athenian Acropolis. When visiting the city the Acropolis is hard to miss. It is the most visited site in all of Greece, and definitely worth a visit.  Visiting the Acropolis does take a little planning and effort. Always thoroughly review the official website to check opening and closing times, and scrutinize the weather for the day of your visit. Don’t forget to make sure your feet will be comfortable. It is quite a climb to the top on the dry pebbly terrain. It has been said that the best sunrise can be seen from the Acropolis. That sounds fabulous and maybe one day I might do that. Options are great however,  that is so not for me. When I visited the Acropolis I had Mr. Arnold with me and it was one hundred and three degrees! The day of our visit we rolled out of bed at the Intercontinental hotel late! We had been in Europe almost three weeks partying as hard as we could. We were exhausted and terrified of the famous brutal Athenian heat. We came up with a plan to stay in the nearby air-conditioned Acropolis museum until closing. In preparation for the heat, I dressed in a micro mini dress and Sandals in hopes of keeping cool. When the museum closed we started to make our way up to the acropolis zig-zagging to stay in the comfort of the shade. At the base of the entrance, Mr.Arnold planted me in the cooling shade and instructed me to wait for him. He left and came back with a pink parasol and two cold beers!  We used the parasol as a shield against the blazing sun but continued our ascent up toward the crumbling ruins.  Continuing our zigzag pattern we sat and rested under every bit of shade possible to avoid breaking a sweat in the one hundred and three-degree day heat. When we reached the top I was so glad Mr. Arnold brought the parasol we were able to sit away from the hordes of people and take a comfortable private moment to relax and be in the moment and have some contemplation time to really take in and appreciate what we were experiencing. When we were finished with our time at the Acropolis we decided we would wander the “Neighborhood of the Gods” otherwise known as Pláka. Pláka is the oldest historical neighborhood in Athens with a labyrinthine of streets and neoclassical architecture. Wandering around the romantic Pláka is an experience that I highly suggest; at a slow pace! Pop in and out of the shops, Instagram yourself, have a glass of wine, eat anything that looks good. During the golden hour, Mr. Arnold and I sat at the cutest romantic outdoor cafe and ordered a bottle of wine, took a little rest, people watched, and enjoyed the street musicians. The experience was the exact definition of romance: a quality feeling of mystery, excitement, and the remoteness from everyday life. As the sky darkened and the buildings started to glow with the light we moved onto my favorite part of Greece, the food! If I have to suggest only one place to eat in Athens, it would be O Qaváons, and do indulge! We did not hold back. Our waiter brought us a bottle of wine, roasted tomatoes in olive oil, roasted long peppers in olive oil and oregano, gyros, greek salad, and kabab with tomato sauce and yogurt. We feasted, drank, and became intoxicated by the heavy smell of smoky charbroiling kababs. We made friends with three burly Greek men who gave us many suggestions on all of their favorites. With full bellies and happy hearts, we decided it was in our best interest to help our digestive process with a long walk. We continued to wander the lively Pláka, noisy with the sounds of a good time, colorful with street art and glowing with specks of light. We stumbled upon somewhere I was dying to go, Brettos. Mr. Arnold is a bit of a cocktail connoisseur and was highly interested in ouzo, an anise-flavored aperitif widely consumed in Greece. Brettos was the perfect place to satisfy his interest. We ordered delicious ouzo cocktails and it tasted like we were drinking black jelly beans. We hit it off with some Aussies we met and participated in my favorite part of travel: meeting people. I always find it fascinating to meet people of other cultures abroad and hear what they think about my culture. There’s no better way to do that to go into an environment of relaxation and lubricate with cocktails. Brettos is perfect for that. As much as I wanted to keep going all night, I kept in mind that Athens had more to offer in the days to come and that  I was going to sail the Athens Riveria the next morning.

 

 

 

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