On our first anniversary we visited family in New Orleans and spent some time exploring the French Quarter. So for our second anniversary, we knew we wanted to take another trip. We threw around ideas like Machu Picchu (my choice) and Iceland (Joel’s choice) and in the midst of frantic ticket purchasing that just wasn’t working out, completely changed our destination and booked tickets to Greece without thinking twice. The second anniversary is the cotton anniversary, and cotton we received… in the form of plush and fluffy bathrobes waiting for us at the Eridanus Art Hotel in Athens.
We arrived in Athens Sunday morning and navigated our way to the hotel, with the help of a few hand-gesturing people near the subway stop. Our location couldn’t have been better as we were a short walk or a quick subway ride away from everything we wanted to do. After depositing our enormous backpacks in our room, we got our first taste of the city by hiking up to the top of Filopappos Hill.
Filopappos Hill was across the street from the nearest subway station and offered a cool view of the city of Athens and of the Parthenon. We saw people lounging and picnicking on our climb up and we promised to do that ourselves, but Athens just had too much to offer and we never made it back.
Once back at the base of the hill, we meandered through the Monastiraki flea market area and stopped at a restaurant along the way called Souvlaki Bar. We ordered up a sample of the local beer selection and a couple gyros. Now, I’ve never been much of a gyro fan, but these changed my perspective. I don’t believe I’ll ever find a gyro that can compare!
Athens is such an interesting city because at every turn you will run into preserved ruins. We bought a pass that allowed us access to all of the ruins including the Parthenon, and had some fun attempting to track down each of the places on the list.
On our first night in Athens, we took a recommendation from the hotel bartender to try out the Gazi area down the street for dinner and a little nightlife. We ate at a place called the Butcher Shop that was overpriced and just not all that good. And soon found out that the whole Gazi area was overpriced and just not all that fun. Of course we still gave the bars a fighting chance until 2 am when we ventured back to our hotel to call it a night.
On Monday morning, we woke up as early as we could manage and headed out to climb the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. We had heard that the earlier you can make it to the top, the better, because the area gets crowded with tourists. Somehow we arrived early enough to be a part of the first group of the day and were able to snap a few shots without random people wandering in and out of our picture.
By the time we felt we had taken enough pictures from every possible angle, the place was swarming with tourists. Many were carrying umbrellas to block the sun, which I think is just the weirded concept ever. On our way down the hill, we took the path that led to Ancient Agora. The area was like a town square where the Athenians would gather for public meetings and selling goods.
The path out of Ancient Agora led into the cutest little neighborhood I’ve ever seen. The name was way too long and contained too many vowels for me to remember, but restaurants, bars and shops lined steep sets of stairs and ivy covered the walls and balconies.
Joel and I picked a table balancing precariously on a step and ordered a beer. We realized we were fairly hungry from all of our hiking and walking, but we wanted to hold out for another gyro from Souvlaki Bar, so we just sipped on our Mythos and snacked on the pretzels the waiter provided.
After another life-changing meal at Souvlaki Bar, we headed back to the hotel to wash off our grime and plan our evening. We decided to watch the sunset from Lycabettus Hill, so we hopped on the subway and got off at a stop that seemed pretty close on the map. We had absolutely no clue where we were going and ended up walking around for an hour just looking for a way to get up the hill. The first part of the hike was all stairs, which was not awesome, but once we made it to the top we felt like we made the right decision.
While we waited for the sun to go down completely, we ventured over to the restaurant on the top of the hill. We weren’t about to pay the insane prices for a meal there, but we did nurse a few drinks. I ordered a cappuccino freddo (iced cappuccino), taking a cue from all the locals I’d seen who are obsessed with those things. Beginning at 2 pm each day we’d see groups of locals gathered at restaurant tables sipping coffee drinks and smoking cigs. And they didn’t leave for hours. I actually hate coffee flavor anything, so as good as my drink looked, it tasted awful.
But the view from the hill at night was worth choking that syrupy sweet sucker down. We stared open-mouthed at the scenery for awhile before making our way back down the hill.
The walk back to the subway was much less confusing than the route there. We made our way to a bar we had seen earlier in the day called the James Joyce. It was full of Americans and Australians and right up our alley. We had fun chatting with an Aussie about where he had been and where he was off to next.
We stayed out late enough to make the next morning a little rough. But we had to catch a ferry to the island of Mykonos, so we navigated to the Piraeus port, climbed aboard our ship, and found a table to call our bed for the next four and a half hours.