This is the final post about my trip – are you relieved?! This actually combines the arrival and the end of the trip, both of which took place in Athens.
We arrived in Athens Sunday night around 6pm and met our group and tour director. We checked into the Athenian Callirhoe Hotel, then took a little walking tour to the edge of the Plaka (a neighborhood) for dinner at Plakiotissa, recommended by our tour director (they even had live music!). Being the first night, I of course had to try the local drink of choice: ouzo. I knew I didn’t like licorice flavor, but when in Greece, right?! (I couldn’t finish it.) We wandered a little that night with our new friends, another mother/daughter pair in our group, but didn’t wander too far since we had just arrived and had to get up early the next morning!
Skip ahead a week and we arrived back in Athens Sunday night to the Royal Olympic Hotel. Very swanky. We took a walk to Smile for dinner, also recommended by our first tour director, and had a feast of chicken souvlaki (a very popular local dish – basically chicken skewers but seasoned deliciously). But Monday brought the Athens adventure.
We started the day on a bus tour of the city seeing many sites. The solid marble Panathenaic Stadium was built in 1896 for the first modern Olympic Games and is still used today. We saw a statue of Greece holding Lord Byron, who helped in the war of independence for Greece. We pulled off in front of the Parliament building (the Old Royal Palace) where the tomb of the unknown solider is also. It was time for the guards to change places (but not the full changing of the guards), which was fun to watch. We saw the buildings of the original university and the National Library.
The rest of the guided tour was to the Acropolis of Athens upon which is built the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena (along with other ancient buildings). It was very cool to see the actual Parthenon after visiting the replica in Nashville (yes, Tennessee). It was in the 5th century BC that the construction of these buildings took place. This was a very important place for the Greeks to worship their gods. The architecture is incredible and the views of Athens are breathtaking. After some free time on the Acropolis, Elena took us on a walking tour through the Plaka – lots of shops and beautiful streets. We found a restaurant off the busy streets and had a late lunch with our friends, then wandered over to the newly opened Acropolis Museum. The museum is built on top of ruins of the ancient neighborhoods at the foot of the Acropolis and there are glass walkways and openings to see into these ruins – very cool. And of course there are amazing artifacts in the museum – the coolest of which are the Caryatids of Erechtheum – the statue columns holding up the porch of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis. They have actually pieced together most of them in full. One is housed at the British Museum, the others at the Acropolis Museum.
We wandered back to the hotel, doing a little shopping along the way, did some repacking, wandered around a little (getting lost) and have a late dinner, then getting ready for our 3am wake-up call. Yes, 3am.
I’ve attempted to describe this wonderful country in words and pictures, but you really just have to see Greece in person. Move it to the top of your list (it was top on mine) and just go! If you’ve read this far, I’m very impressed and hope you weren’t bored. But maybe you can refer back here when you plan your own trip!