Friday, May 31, 2019


Thursday was a very early start but we landed around 7am and took the metro to Syntagma Square. We arrived at Plaka Hotel around 8:30am and went to enjoy their breakfast! I booked a room with an Acropolis view and it definitely did not disappoint. The hotel also had a rooftop bar with amazing views, especially at night. Our plan for the day was to not do too much and relax and enjoy the day; we were planning on walking the Acropolis early the next day. We walked around the shops near Monastiraki Square and got a glimpse of the hustlers near the metro station (selling bracelets and roses by putting them on you without asking). We walked by Hadrian's Library and noticed people just walking in and out. We went to investigate and learned all monuments and historical sites were free today! The library was mostly a few small ruins, but we decided to go ahead and check out a few sites as we were not feeling too tired. We went to the nearby Ancient Agora first. Our guide book mentioned a few things and we strolled around the park looking at the ruins. It tried to spit a little rain, but it quickly cleared and the day was very pleasant. The views of the Acropolis the entire time really made the walk quite enjoyable. I then found a gyro street vendor, Bairaktaris, and enjoyed a big sandwich (with french fries inside) with a beer. After a little rest, we decided to walk to the Roman Forum and Tower of the Winds, as it was only a couple blocks from our hotel. The Tower of the Winds is in good shape for its age and used to house a water clock. We were feeling good so we decided to walk toward Hadrian's Arch, through the winding streets of the Plaka area. We walked down an alley and saw it straight ahead, across a busy intersection. We took a couple pictures and j-walked across the road to the park where the arch is located. Also in this park is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was also free today. We entered and walked around the grassy area for a bit. There is nothing much here except the large columns that still stand. We checked a map and saw that we were not too far from the Panathenaic Stadium, so we walked there next. This is the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. This site was also free so we wandered around, took photos, and checked out the small museum containing a lot of cool Olympics stuff. We were wanting a snack so we started walking toward the area of the Acropolis Museum. We found a place called Veganaki that looked good. We got a couple drinks and a falafel snack and rested for a bit and chatted with family while we waited. We then wandered toward the museum to investigate, as well as check out the southeast entrance to Acropolis. Along the way we found a dessert shop that was selling little baklava rolls filled with ice cream, they were so good! The Acropolis entrance was closed off for some reason, so we checked out the museum. It looked like we should probably visit at another time as it was getting late, so after using their WC we went to walk around a bit more. We were thinking about walking clockwise around the Acropolis toward our hotel, but noticed the entrance had reopened, and it was free, and had no line. We discussed and decided to go ahead and walk the Acropolis now as the crowds seemed to be reduced due to it being late afternoon. This seems to have been a good decision as we still had plenty of time to go at a slower pace if we wanted, but the crowd was smaller. We stayed up until close to sunset and walked down the northwestern slope to leave, toward Mars Hill, or Areopagus. We rested on the rock for a bit and slowly made our way down the paths back toward our hotel. We talked with the front desk about dinner options and were recommended toward Taverna Tou Psirri. This place was very good and were we first had tirokafteri (spicy cheese dip).  The table next to us told us that it is also in Rick Steves book as a restaurant recommendation.  Well earned!  After dinner I picked up some chocolate baklava from a dessert place called Nancy's Sweet Home in English. It was also very good. We did about 33,000 steps today!

View of the Acropolis from our room
Panathenaic Stadium

The next morning, since we didn't need to get up early for the Acropolis, we slept in. Kacey tried to go to yoga in the park, but couldn't find it and it was probably cancelled. She did find the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Parliament building on her return walk to the hotel. After some breakfast, we decided to go up Mount Lycabettus. We stopped in the large Metropolitan Orthodox church next to the hotel. We lazily made our way east and saw another changing of the guard. We also walked by some sort of protest, but couldn't figure out what it was about. We walked up the hill a few blocks to the cable car. It runs in ground, which seemed a bit weird. On top of the mountain is a small cafe which didn't seem great. We peeked in the small St. George church and took in the views of Athens. We could see the sea from the top as well. We took the cable car back down and searched out some food. We ended up at Kolonaki, a restaurant shop for Kostarelos dairy company. The food was pretty good here. We did some window shopping on our walk back toward Plaka. I ran ahead for coffee and rest while Kacey looked at a few more shops. With our new found extra time due to changing schedule, we decided to book a tour or event of some sort. We ended up booking a Greek Cooking Class, so we met at Chocolat Royal at 4:30, not really knowing what to expect. We were greeted by our host Sofia and lovely views of the Acropolis. There was another American family also attending the class with us. Five people was a great size and we lucked out that there wasn't 12. We learned several simple Greek techniques on things we have attempted to make before. Sofia was not a professional chef, which I think helped, as she talked about cooking experiences with her mother and grandmother. We learned about grape leaves, spanakopita, Greek potatoes, and made lamb, zucchini fritters, salad, and yogurt dessert. We then ate everything after the kitchen cooked it for us, with ouzo provided while cooking and wine with dinner. Once dinner was complete, we looked outside to realize we had the perfect view of Acropolis with a full moon behind it, quite amazing. We went back to the hotel and sat at the rooftop bar just relaxing and taking in the view of the Acropolis until 11:30.

Full Moon behind Acropolis

Saturday we slept in and packed our bags in the morning. We were going to spend some time at the National Archaeological Museum and walk around a bit more. We decided to taxi up to the museum and along the way we spotted the central Athens market. There was a pretty long line to get in to the museum, but it wasn't super crowded when we got in. We lazily walked around and checked out a few highlights. We decided to just grab a bite at the museum cafe which wasn't too bad. We got fresh squeezed orange juice and Oregano flavored Lays chips... they tasted more like garlic. We starting walking back toward the Plaka area and walked through the central markets a bit. There were dozens of meat markets selling whole and half sheep (for Easter) and lots of entrails.  Then we walked through the very busy fish market. It was an experience walking through both markets.  Lastly, we gazed at all the herbs and spices, wishing we could buy a bunch and bring them home. Next we went to the Herakleidon Museum, the science and math museum.  (We skipped the 'technology of war' side of the museum). This was a small yet pretty cool museum. We then walked around the Monastiraki Square to pick a touristy place for dinner. I wanted something with music, and we ended up at Dia Tauta. It was ok for the touristy area, but the ambiance was nice. We then grabbed our bags and took the metro to the airport and then attempted and mostly failed to take a taxi to our airport hotel.

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