Another trip report so skip if you aren’t interested!
We are back from our exciting trip. It was three nights in Athens and a seven day cruise on the Windstar line of the Greek islands and one stop in Turkey. My sister Cindy, and her husband Bill joined us. It was a joint wedding anniversary trip. We spent 3 nights in Athens and toured. Then seven nights on the Wind Star. Stops we made were: Nafplio, Mykonos, Kuşadası Turkey, Patmos, Santorini, and Monemvasia. Here’s a map.
I will break this up into pieces, since it is pretty long with lots of pictures. First Athens.
Wednesday July 24
We drove to Fiumicino where we had reservations at a parking lot to park our car. They took us to the terminal. Good thing as all public transport was on strike. Taxis etc. And lucky for us as the airlines were going on strike Friday.
It was a long day. Drive was a bit slow due to road work. We found our parking lot with no problem and took the shuttle to the terminal. We used the machine check in for luggage tags with help from a sweet Alitalia employee. Security took no longer than 10 minutes. You didn’t have to take anything out of your bag. No one had looked at ID or passports. This was somewhat of a test for us as our Permessi di Soggiorno are expired and technically we weren’t supposed to travel within the Schengen Zone. So far, since no one was looking at passports, we had no problem.
We had a nice lunch in an airport restaurant. Then we boarded our AlItalia flight. We lucked out with an empty seat in the middle. Arrival in Athens was on time. There was no passport control here either. I realize it’s all in the Schengen zone but still…no one ever even asked for ID!? We got our luggage and went out to find the Windstar driver to take us to our hotel. From landing to checking in at the hotel was 1 hour and ten minutes. The flight itself was 1.5 hours air time.
The room was small but nice. The rooftop restaurant was nice with great views of the Parthenon. Unfortunately the food was awful. And expensive. Cindy and Bill had a very long 36 hour trip. Late flight necessitated rescheduling with a long layover in Paris. Consequently a late arrival in Athens. We finally met in the restaurant for drinks and our dinner, their snacks. Dinner was pretty awful. I sent most of mine back. The interesting sounding appetizer was very bland. No discernible crabmeat in it.
View from restaurant
Thursday July 25
We met for breakfast just about nine in the roof restaurant. Brilliant, sunny day and not too hot. We formulated a plan for our day while dining. We walked down the Lycabettus hill on which our hotel is situated and passed the parliament building. Along our way we visited a Russian Orthodox Church. We only learned this from a cab driver who took us back later. We went to Plotka. It’s a warren of small streets with lots of shops that mostly surround the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis. It is the oldest part of Athens. There were varying degrees of merchandise in the shops. Cindy and I each bought a small leather purse.
We decided to dine in Eat with Milton. It was on a busy corner but had nice tables and service with wine etc. Luther and I had the Greek salad which was beautiful to see and very good if a little different. Cindy tried the tomato salad. Bill got pappardelle in veal ragu.
Back in a taxi to the hotel. Now resting. Dinner this night was at Strofi, recommended by a friend of Cindys.
Strofi has a lovely terrace. Nice Jazz was playing and the Acropolis in the sun was amazing. We snapped pictures throughout the sunset. The food was only ok. Appetizers were best. I had grilled octopus in olive oil and lemon which was very good. Two had the marinated fresh anchovies which they liked. Then for the main courses, one person had the grilled veal and said it was good. One had the pork in a pot, and two had the kid goat in parchment. The goat was pretty good – parts were tender and parts were dry. All the food was quite bland. It could have used some more herbs or spices.
Pictures of the Parthenon and the theater in sunset from the rooftop restaurant. Photos credit Bill Aldrich
Friday June 26
This was the day of our big, full day tour of Athens. We had booked a driver and guide for just us four. It was great.
At 8am we met George, our driver in his shiny black Mercedes van. He was the man with endless bottles of water for us. He took us to meet our guide Catherine in the parking lot of the Acropolis. Hard to describe her. She is classically university educated in history. She was a fount of knowledge. We walked up to near the entrance where she gave us a small history of what we’d see. We walked up to the top and entered through the gates next to the temple of Athena Nike.
There was a lot of history I won’t go into here. We stayed up on top for maybe two hours? It was hot but breezy and not bad in the shade. It was crowded at times but not terrible. Restoration is always underway. Hard work in the hot sun.
We descended the stairs to the parking lot where we were met by George. We traveled to the temple of Zeus. It was at the base of the Sacred Rock. Only eleven columns survive. But also there is Hadrians gate.
Next we visited the old stadium where the Olympic flame begins its journey for each Olympics. It is huge and holds 70,000 people on its stone bleachers. It is built to the exact size of the previous ancient Stadium of the same dimensions buried under it. This old one is open only to archeologists.
Then we visited the New Acropolis museum. Amazing space. Built to seem as being outside. The top floor is skewed to align with the Parthenon up above and is the same dimensions. It is full of the statuary from the Parthenon. The friezes, the sculptures, all of the things from the building preserved inside. We got to see five of the six women statues from the Porch of Caryatids. The sixth is in the British Museum. The British carried off so many things in their “colonizing” or exploring phases. Our guide was incensed because they used bleach to clean the statue which ruined it. They did this recently without asking for advice from the Athenian experts. Shame.
Our dogs were barking and so we headed to a nice lunch in a taverna recommended by Catherine. I had an orzo shrimp dish. Good.
After lunch we toured the Agora. We learned that the Agora was primarily where government happened. There were elected officials who were required to be there to help the citizenry with any problems. It was also the main market place for the city. It was mighty hot by now and not much shade. We saw the Temple of Hephaestus, which is the best preserved ancient Greek temple from the Classical era.
And then we tried to go see the changing of the guard. It was so funny, George tried so hard to get us there. But the traffic foiled him. We saw the last of it from the car.
We returned to our hotel and paid for our tour. And we gave our people nice tips which I could see were well received. The people here in Athens are all very nice.
We all had fun in Scala Vinoteca, our choice for dinner. We are wine people but not at all familiar with Greek wines. The wine steward recommended some very excellent wines. The food was innovative and delicious. I loved the mozzarella and burrata tomato salad. It was bursting with flavor. I had the smoked eggplant with squid. Beautiful fish. Two had the lamb tenderloin. One had the lobster croquettes. We opted not to have dessert but they wouldn’t take no for an answer and brought a chocolate and ice cream sweet to share.
A drink on our roof top bar and to bed. An excellent day. Stay tuned for Blog post number 2 soon!