Athens, the Longer Version

Uncategorized 0 Comments ,

Departed the VSC via shank’s pony, as far as Marble Arch. Caught the tube east. Yup. Heathrow is west. But the Central Line intersects with the Piccadilly Line in Holborn, so east it has to be. Then all the way to Terminal 5, for my British Airways flight.
As I already had my boarding pass (I love technology when it works), went straight to the security check. Then into the DutyFree area, and hang about.
Heathrow is doing the British Rail thing, of keeping you guessing as to which gate your flight will be departing from. So 40mins before departure, we are told which gate to go to. Considering gates can be 20++mins away, that is cutting it fine.
We were then late for departure.
Seeing the number of aircraft around, not surprising.
The seating was a little tight on waist-room. (I can’t wait for the comments).
Food was an optional extra, so I went with the bacon-buttie, olives n cup-of-EarlGrey.
Nice chat with a couple from the Isle of Wight, who spend the season in Greece running a scuba-diving business.
And only some four hours later, landed in Athens.
With only cabin luggage, it was easy to clear customs. One bit of signage was confusing, but I found the metro, and purchased a ticket. Nine euros gets you anywhere you need to go via the metro/train/tram/bus. I ended up on a metro line straight out of ‘TheWarriors‘.
Mine host confirmed details for me, and I arrived at my apartment.
As always, the sign in the European lifts make me smile: max of 3 people, or 240kg. And you would have to be good friends, even at those weights, to fit 🙂

Unpacked.
A quick walk around to find something to eat.
Then to bed.

.

Thursday up for a proper walkabout the neighbourhood.
Initial impression was a bit of grunge. State of the sidewalks, is lamentable. Some buildings are derelict. Others are simply not there. Cannot imagine this situation in London, nor Toronto. Toronto especially, will put up a condo, given half an excuse.

Found some half-decent supplies, and cooked supper.

The apartment is a small one-bedroom place with all mod-cons, including a balcony. Only iffy part is the wifi. Reacts as if it is a TV cable provider, ie: slowing down as the number of people signing on increases. Wifi works better in the morning than the early evening. Never great. Sad part is, I cannot use my BlackBerry hotspot. Either the signal is too weak, or Three does not allow this in Greece.

Best discovery? Espresaki Coffee. A “hole in the wall” cafe, that serves proper strong n hot espresso. They also provide fresh squeezed orange juice 🙂
Then spent a little time researching what I should be viewing.

.

Friday was a mad day. Leastways, a very full day.

The 5-day metro pass is a deal at just over eight euros. Allowing me to ride on all metro/train/tram/bus routes. Armed with a list of places to see, off I went.

The Acropolis Museum was first on the list. Glad I arrived shortly after opening, because there was quite a queue when I left. Highlight? View of the Acropolis from the top floor.

Next a walk to the Benaki Museum. This took me past the Olympus temple (under scaffolding) and past Hadrian’s Gate. Across the main road, and eventually through the National Garden park, stopping at the President’s mansion. Changing of the guard had just started. At first it looks as if John Cleese had written the choreography. Ministry of Silly Walks anyone? Then the engineering brain kicks in, and you realise that the arm movements are necessary to staying upright, based on the slow high kicks that the troops perform. There must be a clip on YouTube somewhere !

The Benaki Museum is another tardis event. There are rooms, and rooms and rooms. All follow a theme. All showing different aspects of Greek life. Am not sure how, but I scored a free ticket. All together now: it pays to be nice 🙂
The toy section I completely missed, as it was time for lunch.

Lunch was at the Byzantine Museum. See below…….

Didn’t visit the museum. Just had a late lunch, with Greek wine followed by an ouzo.

My next stop was at the War Museum, located next door. Another tardis-like location.
Highlight? Sonia Stefanidou, a real-life heroine, and the first lady military parachutist…………….in the world. Ladies are the toughest !
I wonder what Lord Byron would have made of her? And vice-versa. Two Greek heroes. Would like to have them both at the dinner table.

Once home I picked up a litre of wine for less than three euros. It was in the butcher’s, so it had to be good. Right?
Supper was a mixed affair. Food was great. Wine was palatable, once diluted. And Leicester City lost a game they should have won. Looks like we will be playing Portsmouth next year. So depressing.

.

Saturday off to the markets.
Metro runs straight from my stop to Monastiraki. Exiting, the flea market was hard to miss. Took a stroll. Half looking for a hat. The brolly is a more practical solution for the sunshine, but a hat would be more convenient. Just an excuse to browse through the labyrinth of stalls.

Skipped the ruins, aside from taking photos.

Then onto the Central Market. Vegans need to stay away. This is a place that has MANY meat and fish vendors. I went in for a bowl of cod soup (excellent) at a tiny cafe, tucked away in the market.

Heading north I chanced upon the centre of Greek banking. This square has the top three banks, right next to each other. And it was “open house” time. People were queueing up to go inside for a tour.
Maybe I should have checked for free samples. But. When was the last time anyone heard of a bank giving something away?

Came home via Espresaki.

Made supper.

Wrote up the postcards.

Then took a look at what I could do by the seaside, tomorrow.
NB: Athens is by the sea. Piraeus is the main port, and the busiest in the Mediterranean.

.

Sunday was my trip to Piraeus.

The first stop was the Tram Museum, right in the metro station. A few items were closed. But admission was free.

From there I took a stroll to find a place for lunch.
Found another flea market instead.
Took the first tram that came along. Was taking me away from Piraeus. Exited at Olympiakos stadium, and went back to Piraeus.

Took my TomTom out.
Slightly better navigation. Still did not find the tavern I was looking for.

Took the next tram that came by. Ran along the coast. If I was a beach person, I would have joined in. As it was, I sat in the air-conditioning and enjoyed the views. Nothing quite like golden sands and blue seas, set against a backdrop of mountains and blue skies.
I would have continued to the end of the line, but we were all asked to exit, half the way along. So I caught the next tram back, hopping over to the one heading downtown. This took me through a posh part of Athens.

Came home, and went out for supper via Espresaki. Their espresso does seem to put a zing in my step.

Supper was at Martinis. Nice lamb. GIANT salad, with everything and more. All washed down with some nice white wine. I asked for the bill, to be told that there was a complementary cake n digestif. All that was missing was the phrase “One tiny little mint, sir?” hahaha

Home and to bed.

.

Monday I went to post the postcards. Shock and horror. Two euros each!!! For a postcard. That’s $3Cdn, which is more than sending a postcard from Canada to Greece ($2.71).
The shock was compounded by the knowledge that it cost more to send the cards then to have supper last night. I love you all dearly, but ………. no wonder postcards have been hard to find.

Talking of last night’s supper. I had enough salad left over to make an excellent soup. Thanks to Vovo, I have become a fan of salad-soup. If you have not tried this before, try it now.
We all know that there’s nothing you can do with salad, once it starts to wilt, but throw it out.
However, that same salad fares surprisingly well, in a soup. All you need is a light broth, bring it to the boil, and throw in the salad. A minute or two, and it is done 🙂

Took a nap, and went out to see the Acropolis.
Well.
To look at it as the sun set.
From a hill across the valley.
The best view? From a bar halfway to the metro station. Night had fallen. The Acropolis was all lit up, and appeared to be floating in a black ether.
I admired the view to the last drop of my ouzo 🙂

Coming home, I remembered that it was time to start clearing out my fridge.
Stopping at a corner shop, I found some antique farfalle (based on the dust on the box), that turned out to be remarkably tasty. To the pasta went the oyster mushrooms and cherry tomato’s. An excellent supper. Tasty and filling.

.

Which takes me to today, Tuesday.

I stopped by at Espresaki. An exceedingly long chat ensued. See the two good looking chaps below……………

The result of which, I went for a beer. A “gypsy beer”. Why so called? Because the brewery is virtual, ie:other breweries make the beer, under contract. So the beer wanders around. Like a gypsy. It’s an excellent description. We should all start using the term “gypsy beer”. Could start with Al’s at C’EstWhat 🙂

After the one 8% IPA, I went home.

One surprise, a little bit of London…………

.

Athens?
The further from the centre, the worse the sidewalks.
People have been super nice, everywhere.
Take a siesta. The evenings are much more enjoyable then the heat of the afternoons. “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun!”
Athens? Kalos.

.

.