Days 68 & 69: It’s All Greek to Me, Part 1

So as I mentioned in my last blog post, I went to Greece! And it was awesome. Like really, totally amazing. Be prepared to see that word pop up many more times. I won’t be putting up all of my photos on this blog post, as I have almost 500 pictures between my camera and Natalie’s. So CLICK HERE to see all of my photos (I’ve also included the link in the “My Photos” tab). Enjoy!

Day 68: Friday, 11/14/2014

We woke up at 3am. I maybe got three hours of sleep. It was only slightly ridiculous. But our flight was at 6am, and thanks to many years of traveling with my father, I knew I needed to be 2 hours early for my international flights. Thanks, dad! We arrived with perfect time, which was good as there were a lot of people at the airport. I thankfully made it past the screening process with no issues. There were a number of people from our group also leaving to go on flights to various locations around Europe. They were all very bundled as they were heading to much colder places than Greece. Yay planning.

We flew Aegean Air, a Greek airline, and had a row to ourselves. After reviewing a few Greek words and phrases, we both slept the entire 2-hour flight. It was great. After getting our bag, we saw a man holding up a sign that said “Mrs. (Natalie’s last name).” We obviously laughed, but were slightly disappointed it did not say “Mr. and Mrs. (Natalie’s last name).” Oh, foreigners. You’re hilarious.

The street we ended up walking on every single day in order to go everywhere. It was bustling with restaurants and shops. A very fun place!

The ride to our hotel was about a half hour, so we took in some of the sights. I feel like many of the airports I’ve been to are near very industrialized areas, so when I am driving away, I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a different country. Well, except for the signage being in a language I don’t understand. However, as we were driving around Athens, towards the city center, I found that I was able to read some of the signs in Greek. Yes, you read that right: I CAN READ GREEK. You can thank my sorority for teaching me the alphabet, and the fact that I had to teach it to 4 new member classes. Granted, I had no idea what anything meant, but it did come in handy more than once. It was very cool.

We finally got to our hotel, located in the neighborhood of Plaka. It was about 9:00am, and we were really tired. Of course, we couldn’t yet check into the hotel, but we left the majority of our things with the concierge and headed over to the Acropolis!

We chose to forgo the guided tour, as both of us were really exhausted and wanted to look at things at our own pace. Also, it was a bit pricey. Here are a few photos! Again, the link to see all of my photos is at the beginning of this post.

After walking around for about an hour or so, and taking in all the ruins, we had worked up an appetite. The Acropolis Museum was just a 10 minute walk away, so we headed over there, as Natalie had read up on the museum cafe’s rave reviews. Luckily, it did not disappoint! We had a late breakfast/brunch at the cafe. I enjoyed a traditional phyllo dough cheese pie, while Natalie munched on Greek pancakes with thyme honey. Both were extremely tasty! We had a beautiful view of the Acropolis from the cafe as we leisurely ate.

We walked around the museum for a bit. It was all artifacts and ruins that had been found at the Acropolis. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed, so you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that it was pretty cool. At around 1:00pm, we both became extremely tired and walked back to our hotel, only a few minutes away. The Acropolis became sort of a homing beacon for us on the trip. Whenever we would get lost, we’d just try to find the Acropolis to know which direction we were going in. It was extremely helpful.

So back at the hotel, we took a nap for a bit. Afterwards, we did a bit of trip planning. We looked through guide books and browsed through TripAdvisor to find a few things we wanted to do (all of which we ended up doing, so you will find out more further down in the post!). After some planning, we went down the street for some dinner. There was one restaurant rated higher than the others in the area, so we ended up going there. It was called “Arcadia,” and the reviews did not lie! tumblr_inline_nflg1fokfM1qzafdr

We started with a Greek salad, the first of many. Obviously, it was delicious. Imagine a typical Greek salad in America, but with much fresher and lighter ingredients. I can’t really describe it very well, but it was great. We also ordered a carafe of wine, which allotted way more than a carafe should (we each got 3.5 generous glasses of their house wine). Dinner came, and it was equally as delicious as the salad. I’m inserting a warning for those of you still who are still under the impression that I keep kosher: I don’t.

Feta-stuffed calamari. Not exactly what I was expecting when I ordered it, but it was very tasty!
Feta-stuffed calamari. Not exactly what I was expecting when I ordered it, but it was very tasty!

We ate once again at a leisurely pace, as is customary in Europe. The wait staff was extremely kind and welcoming (and not overly-pushy, something I’d become accustomed to with Europeans). After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, but not before stopping at a bakery and getting some caramel-topped baklava! It was the perfect after dinner bite of sweetness. We easily fell asleep after our long day.

Day 69: Saturday, 11/15/2014

Alright, get your inappropriate “69” jokes out of your head before you proceed through this day’s recounting. Are you done? Fantastic. Let’s move on.

We slept pretty comfortably. Actually, funny story here. We learned the day before that the hotel (actually, most hotels in Greece) had turned off its cool air as it was “winter.” I’m calling b/s on that, as it did not dip below 65 degrees during the day, hardly cold enough to only have hot air in the hotel. Our room had a balcony, so we decided to leave the door to the balcony open to allow some air to circulate through the room. I woke up with many mosquito bites. We found them later lurking around the room and squished them with a vengeance. Okay, now I need to get back on track.

Today, we decided to go to the neighborhood of Kolonaki, a big shopping area with cool architecture. It was also where Mt. Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens, was located. We were told that when you get to the top of the mountain, you get a 360 degree view of the city. Obviously, it was a must-see. Kolonaki was about a 30-40 minute walk from our neighborhood, and since neither of us wanted to get horribly lost on the bus or subway, we figured we would take some sights in and get exercise.

We randomly passed by some ruins on our walk. That just occurs in Athens; you randomly happen upon ruins. A hilarious photo proving this is will come later on. After walking for around 5 minutes, we found these two gems:

After walking in the correct direction for a little longer, we saw the entrance to the National Garden. Since we weren’t in a rush or anything (we’d actually started our day pretty late), we decided to have a look. It was well worth it! Even though there weren’t many flowers in bloom, it was gorgeous. It had rained the day before, so everything was extremely green and lush. Just have a look for yourself.

We walked around the garden for about 45 minutes, mainly because we got completely turned around while looking for great photo-ops. Neither one of us panicked, as once again, leisurely day. We heard some people speaking English and asked for directions out of the park. Luckily, they knew and we were easily able to navigate ourselves out of the park.

tumblr_inline_nflhyftkNK1qzafdrHowever, we now had no idea how to get to Kolonaki! Lack of wifi was a struggle (one I was extremely used to), so we kind of walked in the direction we thought it was. We randomly happened upon the first Olympic Stadium! The new Olympics, not the ancient Olympics. Not wanting to do another tour, we just marveled at the awesomeness and selfie-d it up!

Random street in Kolonaki
Random street in Kolonaki

We pulled out a map (yes, a real live map!) and found out we had walked in the opposite direction of Kolonaki to see the garden, but hey, we had a lovely time. By the time we got to Kolonaki, it was almost 1:00pm and we were pretty hungry. We found a chain coffee restaurant and got sandwiches and warm drinks. It was very nice and a fun neighborhood to walk through. And the buildings weren’t that hard on the eyes, either!

After walking around for a bit, we decided it was time to go up to the mountain! We got a little lost along the way and had to ask multiple shop owners where to go. It was quite entertaining. After hiking quite a ways up, we reached the entrance for the tram. We had walked for hours that day and were not up for hiking up even more. We paid the 6 Euro fee and rode up to the top with some random Israelis (we heard them speaking Hebrew loudly). The view was spectacular! We were literally able to see the entire city of Athens, and we had no idea how huge it really was. Just take a look for yourself.

Clearly we were not given enough pita. We asked for more, obviously

We marveled at the beauty of the city for a bit longer before we headed to the cafe. Yes, there was a cafe on top of the mountain. We ordered some wine and tzatziki (Greek yogurt with cucumbers, olives, and lots of garlic).

As we ate and drank, we enjoyed the gorgeous panoramic view of Athens. Quite a lovely afternoon, if I may say so.

One more selfie for the road!

We took the tram back down the mountain and headed back towards our hotel. Well, we attempted to go to our hotel. We walked for about a half hour and realized we couldn’t see the Acropolis. Uh oh. We walked into a cafe and found out we’d been walking in the wrong direction the entire time. A waitress kindly pointed us in the right direction. No more than 5 minutes later, we spotted our homing beacon. After nearly 5 hours of walking, I think it’s fair to say we definitely got in some good exercise that day!

After our full day, it was definitely time for a nap! We plopped down on the bed and relaxed before heading out to dinner. We asked the concierge to recommend some restaurants to us. He wasn’t the most helpful, as the 2 restaurants he mentioned were nowhere to be found. We ended up finding this very large restaurant whose name escapes me, mainly because it just wasn’t that great. I tried Moussaka, a traditional Greek dish that is basically like meat lasagna, but with eggplant instead of pasta. It was good. We were underwhelmed overall, though, and headed home early to get some rest for the next day.

I realized if I tried to jam-pack any more information in here, you wouldn’t want to read this, so I’m going to end the post here and break up my trip. Hope that’s okay. Not that you actually have a say in it. The next part is coming up soon!

-Girl in Greece 🙂

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