Greece Athens Athens
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My Adventure Story
Lauren and I departed NY on Thursday for the long flight to Athens. The flight was fine and we landed early Friday. After going through customs and collecting our luggage we paid 6 Euro (about $7.80) for a ride on the Metro to downtown Athens. After making a few wrong moves we found our hotel and checked in.
The room was great, with a wonderful view of the Acropolis. We rested up for a bit and then started exploring. We walked toward the Acropolis and then realized we were hungry. We grabbed some sandwiches from a small shop and sat on a park bench in the National Garden while we ate. Then we were off to see the sites. First the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian Gate. Then we climbed the hill towards the Acropolis and saw the theater, the Parthenon and the other buildings on top of the Acropolis. The weather was great and we had a spectacular view of the city.
After that we headed down towards the Greek Agora and the Monistariki Area. We stopped for a late 'snack' at a small open area Taberna. We ate with a view of the Acropolis, and relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. Then we headed towards Parliament so Lauren could see the funny uniforms that the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier wear (and they are funny). After watching the pageantry of the changing of the guard we walked back to our hotel.
It was still warm out and the outdoor pool (we could see it from our window) looked nice so we checked it out. I went for a swim and Lauren read (and then napped). The pool was huge and deep (over 10 feet) and very refreshing. After resting for a bit (the long flight and time zone change were catching up to us) we took a cab to Piraeus Harbor for dinner at Zorba's (amazingly enough, the concierge at Hotel know of Zorba's in Piraeus). Dinner was spectacular (and expensive). Lauren and I had fresh fish (Sea Bass) which was brought over whole. The waiter removed the head, tail, and bones as we watched, and served it with a great lemon and olive oil sauce. After dinner we strolled around the harbor and then took a cab home. It was around midnight and we were exhausted. We both slept well that night.
We woke up late Saturday morning and had a nice breakfast in the hotel. It was raining, so we decided to go to the new Museum of Archeology. We took the metro and then walked to the museum. The museum was very nice, but after an hour I was really dragging. Between all the walking the day before, the time zone change, and who know what, I was really beat. We left the museum and walked back to the Monistariki area. After stopping for some Greek coffee (which is pretty bad - they don't filter the grounds so the bottom of the cup is like mud) and a donut, I felt revived enough for the next activity.
Shopping - we wanted to pick up small gifts for everyone watching the kids. So we went to 'flee market of Athens' and looked in many stores. Again I was amazed because everyone spoke English, everyone had been to New York, and I was everyone's best friend. We found a nice selection of trinkets and left that area.
I wanted another snack so we found another open air taberna (the rain had stopped and it started to get nice out) and Lauren and I enjoyed a cheese plate, stuffed vine leaves, and a small bottle of wine. When that was done we headed back to the hotel. It was now after 6:00 pm and we wondered what to do. We hadn't done that much walking, so we looked around the local area for something that looked interesting on the map, but just turned out to be the national concert hall.
Around 9:00PM we decided to head back to the Parliament area for a late dinner. We can always sleep the next week! We wandered around and found a nice restaurant and stopped in. In Athens (and Europe) service is 'relaxed' and you can take your time and enjoy your meal. Without kids asking "can we go now" Lauren and I shared a bottle of wine, a nice salad, and our meal. We got a little nervous when we heard the people behind us arguing with the manager over the bill. Evidently there were items on the bill that the people did not order and they were unhappy about it. Then the people next to them started arguing and I was nervous about what would be on the bill. When it arrived it was fine, so we paid without incident. Another interesting thing during dinner - there are lots of dogs and cats around Athens. They seem healthy and friendly. As soon as my dinner arrived (fish) a small black cat showed up. He was cute and friendly, but I didn't share. Later, when I was done he came back and I gave him a few pieces. He was friendly and let me pet his head and scratch his ears. I wondered if I could stuff him in my luggage and take him home to NY but I don't think US Customs would approve, so I had to leave him.
We made it back to our hotel late at night, and we had to be in the hotel lobby at 7:00AM Sunday morning because we were going on a boat tour. The weather forecast was great - sunny, 0 chance of rain, 85 degrees. It didn't disappoint and we had a great time on the boat. We stopped at three islands - Poros, Hydra, and Aegina, had lunch on the boat, bought some souvenirs, had a great snack, and enjoyed the day.
Back in Athens we went home and showered, and then decided to see the Acropolis at night. Back on the metro (we were old pros by now) and to the Acropolis Station. What is very cool in Athens (just about everything is cool) is that the metro stations are like small museums. When the city was doing excavation they had scientists working with them and they cataloged everything they found. Anyway we found a simple place to eat and had typical greek food - moussaka and pastitsio, and walked up to the Acropolis. It was lit up beautifully and we were loving life.
Unfortunately, we had to return to NY the next day. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:15. I hate to rush before a long flight so I wanted to be at the airport by 9:00, so we wanted to leave the hotel at 8:00.
Everything went well in the morning - waking, eating breakfast, packing, etc. We checkout out and walked out of the lobby at 8:00am. We arrived at the train station 5 minutes later and went to buy the tickets to the airport. During breakfast I joked with Lauren that if we made it to the airport it would be amazing that we could spend 3 days in Athens and not see a single worker strike (they have them all the time for one reason or another). Of course I spoke too soon: when I tried to buy the train tickets the operator said that we couldn't take the train to the airport - there was a strike and no trains were going that way. We could go one stop the other way and take a bus. I wasn't having any of that so we walked to the street to get a cab.
We found a cab a few minutes later and I put our bags in the trunk. I asked the drive how much the fare would be and he replied forty euro (about $52). One problem - I only had 35 euro. I told the driver I didn't have enough cash and asked if he took credit cards. One problem - the driver didn't speak a word of english. He looked at my credit card like it was from another planet and then gave it back to me. He called his dispatcher on the phone and then gave the phone to me. I explained that I didn't have enough cash and that I would get some in the airport. No problem - the trip was smooth and we arrived at the airport at 8:55. I paid the cabby and we got our boarding passes and checked our luggage.
We cleared Greek customs and the next item was to find the business class lounge and relax for an hour or two. I found the place and gave them my passes. The hostess looked at my pass and very apologetically stated that she could not accept them because the lounge was not Delta specific. Whatever, we would just wait at the gate like common folk. The line for security was empty and we breezed through. At the gate they asked for our boarding passes and passports, and then I was informed that I was randomly selected for secondary screening. I nice agent took me and my bag aside and proceeded to go through every single item in my bag - each pen, pencil, battery, book, etc. Then he ran it all through the security machine. Then he swabbed it for explosives, then he patted me down. What a pain!
Once that was done we found seats and spread out. One hour before the flight. I was reading a book when an airport person asked me to do a survey. Fifteen minutes later she was done.
On the flight to Athens, Lauren and I sat on the side of the aircraft. There were just two seats, so that even though the seats were small, it was just the two of us and we could spread out as much as possible. On the way back we were sitting in the middle of plane, with 3 seats in the row. I write this because we were getting ready to board when we was this guy come rushing into the gate area. He was totally drenched in sweat, like he had just ran a marathon (or had been told the train wasn't going to the airport so he ran the entire way). I joked to Lauren that he would be sitting next to us on the 11 hour flight. Then Lauren saw a little girl get wheeled into the gate with her leg in a cast and held straight out. Lauren joked that the girl would be sitting behind us kicking the seat for 11 hours.
The gate agent boarded the people that need extra time, and then the first class people. I told Lauren that we should get ready to board next so that we could get overhead space (my medallion status allows me to board right after first class). They announced zone 1 to board and we were second in line. The couple in front of us went to board. He handed his boarding pass to the gate agent who scanned it. He walked away but a red light went on so he stopped. The gate agent gave him a new pass and he walked away. I gave the agent my pass and again a red light beeped. Great, what now? This time agent said "I have a little present for you" and have Lauren and me two tickets to business elite class. "Little present?" It was most amazing thing! A free upgrade on an11 hour international flight is almost unheard of! And it was a great flight too - service, food, comfort, etc.
We landed on time, got to the gate, took a train to Howard Beach, where Lucy gave us a ride, and then drove home. Hilari was nice enough to be there and she even made dinner. The kids had been well behaved, and we were happy to see them.