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Writing NO LONGER from Athens

I write as I’m enjoying my first sunset in Athens. I’m in the rooftop restaurant of the Hera Hotel (an RS recommendation) with a clear view of the Parthenon. It was overcast for most of the afternoon, but an hour or so before sunset, it cleared somewhat and it’s becoming magical, with the help of a glass (maybe two, we’ll see) of Greek wine. Like Shirley Valentine, I’m falling in love, not with Tom Conti, but with Greece.

Athens is delightful. I did part of the RS City Walk – I was distracted by too many shops.

Flying in was easy-peasy. The airport (at least what I saw) is small. Just a couple hundred meters from the gate to immigration and baggage claim, then another couple hundred to the sky bridge to the metro. The metro line to the airport has baggage racks in every car. All the stations I used had up and down escalators from platform to street level, so getting from the plane to the hotel was a breeze. The hardest part was dragging the suitcase along the hotel's carpeted hallway.

Posted by
895 posts

I'll be there in 2 weeks, sounds like your having a great trip, please post any other experiences or sites you particularly enjoyed.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks for the post, Chani. Haven't been back to Greece for many years, planning on going next year.

Keep posting about your trip! Any wildflowers?

Posted by
2883 posts

Memories! The first night there I just happily stared at the Parthenon, glowing from the Acropolis...and ate the wonderful meal! Well, two nights actually... Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
4643 posts

Chani,

It was overcast for most of the afternoon, but an hour or so before sunset, it cleared somewhat and it’s becoming magical,

Amazing, right?

Thanks for posting!

I hope the weather cooperates so you can enjoy many more magical days and sunsets!

Enjoy your time in Greece!

Posted by
14784 posts

It's 7 pm and I'm almost through resting, just a few words and then the Acropolis Museum (open til 10 tonight) and a light dinner.

I was pretty zonked this morning (I blame it on last night's wine), but I finally got organized and completely the RS City Walk, climbing up through Anafiotika in cool, cloudy weather, finishing up in Monasteraki (with ancient ruins in the metro station!), then some lunch and the RS Agora Tour. The sun came out just as I got there . . . perfect. The ruins atop the Acropolis gleamed as did the Temple of Hephaistos overlooking the Agora.

I was tempted by the beautiful fruit on the stands around Monasteraki Square . . . gorgeous strawberries for a mere €1.69/kg, which I'm munching as I write.

Zoe - I left this sentence off yesterday's post: The orange trees and jasmine are blooming and the scent is heady. Yes, there are lots of tiny yellow and lavender wildflowers punctuated by bright red poppies.

Posted by
251 posts

Chani,

Hows this hotel? I am staying there for three nights in September. Thanks

Posted by
14784 posts

Joyce, The RS tours use this hotel. I booked a small double room. It's roomy enough for one person. I think it would be a bit difficult for 2. The window opens onto the courtyard and it is pretty quiet at night (I sleep with the window open). The mattress is very firm, which I like. There are lots of outlets for charging, the tv has CNN and BBC, wifi's fine (unsecured) and closet space is skimpy. There's a small safe, a minifridge and a kettle for hot drinks. Lighting is good, location is very good.

Posted by
14784 posts

The tour begins tomorrow evening. I'm excited to meet my tourmates and my guide, but unhappy that my time in Athens is nearly at an end. Today was the best yet.

I slept in (had a really late night) and got to Syntagma Square just in time (10.45) to grab a spot to watch the Sunday changing of the guard with a full complement of elite Evzones and a marching band. I wandered through the Plaka to the Acropolis Museum and entered the Acropolis area for the climb up (easier and shorter than I expected). It was the perfect day for it, clear skies, no haze, about 21-22 degrees, and a brisk breeze up top. The views are spectacular and the ruins are impressive. On the way down, there was Mars Hill tempting me. In spite of the warning in the RS guidebook, walking up the steps is not difficult and it's only 30-some stairs. The problem is once you're up there, lots of slippery rock and uneven terrain. Be careful and enjoy the views, especially of the Agora. The walk down along the pedestrian :-)was great for people-watching on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Then I detoured down a side street with a little cafe . . . I couldn't resist the opportunity to sit and have a glass of Greek wine as the sun headed toward the horizon (and use the toilet :-). Then with head spinning (they pour very generous glasses of wine), I stopped to browse at a souvenir shop. I was an easy mark and now have a "Greek" blouse and another scarf. I was ready to drop my day stuff in my room and go out for dinner, and then I crashed. Now I'm writing while my hair dries and then back to sleep.

Quickly - yesterday, I finally found the National Archaeology Museum and spent a mere 6 hours there. Then I got on the bus to Syntagma, but - oops - in the wrong direction. It only took me about 10 minutes to figure it out. Then I got off, crossed the street and waited . . . at least I had a seat in both directions. And I got a look at a some of Athens outside the center. After a short rest in my room, I went to the Benaki Museum, which I enjoyed with some reservations for about 2 hours. As I was walking back to Syntagma, I found myself walking along with the Evzones, so I stayed with them for the "on-the-hour" changing of the guards. Then I went to dinner . . . Saturday night, midnight, and lots of people still out and about. Which is why I got a late start today.

Posted by
14784 posts

I joined the RS tour today. The hotel switch was easy, the tour hotel is just a block and a half down the street from where I was staying. The tour leader is lovely, we are 11 couples and three solo women, everyone seems to be outgoing and several have already shown us their great sense of humor as we get to know each other.

Posted by
5221 posts

Thanks for these posts, Chani. I'm reliving our 2015 trip through yours. Smart of you to get to Athens early and do some sightseeing on your own before the tour starts. Not that you have much of a jet lag issue from where you live....

I'm sure you'll be busier now that the group is there, but I hope you'll keep posting as you can.

Posted by
4643 posts

Hi Chani,

Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!
Have fun on the tour!

Posted by
8424 posts

Chani

Who is your guide? We did Greece in 2014 and had Anastasia and she was fabulous

Your description of Athens makes me want to return.

Enjoy your tour

Posted by
5221 posts

Alas, Chani is having such a good time on her fast-paced tour that she no longer posts daily. But I'm sure we'll hear from her afterwards, either here or in the "Trip Reports" section.

Posted by
4643 posts

I totally agree with you Dick.

Chani is enjoying the tour so much so that she doesn't have time to post! ;-)

Posted by
14784 posts

Indeed, every moment is occupied. I've lost track of what day number it is. The tour began on Monday and I think today is Saturday. We have completely come together as a group, everyone is friendly with everyone, no one is left out, we seem to flow in and out of each other's spheres easily when we meet in the hotel patio or on the street, in a shop, at the beach or in a taverna. Our guide is Ioanna and our driver is Costas and they are an integral part of our group, during both organized time and free time. I suspect there will be more than a few tears when we part at the end of the tour.

Kardamyli is magical. Charming houses, mountains on one side, the sea on the other, stone houses with brightly painted shutters and doors, gardens and patios overflowing with colorful flowers, and the friendliest people ever. Every shopkeeper has a story to tell, one lived for years in Australia, another in Germany, one moved from Yorkshire, another lived in Athens, took a drive to the southern coast 2 years ago, loved the place, found a job here and stayed. Last night we had an impromptu lesson in Greek folk dancing from Ioanna and Costas, then the group reciprocated by teaching them first the chicken dance, then the hokey pokey, after which three of our ladies demonstrated the macarena.

Tomorrow we move on to Monemvasia. I don't believe the tour can get any better, but based on what's happened so far, it probably will.

Posted by
4643 posts

Hi Chani!

It's so great to hear that you're having so much fun on the tour!

Greece... Now I want to go back too!

Enjoy every magical moment! ;-)

Posted by
2007 posts

There is just something so special about a trip to Greece. I loved every second of our tour. You're going to have so many wonderful memories and experiences. I can't wait to read all about them. You write a fun trip report! Have a great time on the tour!

Posted by
14784 posts

Yes, the tour is over and I am back home. The tour was superb, last night's farewell dinner was incredibly good - excellent food and wine, lots of laughs and many farewell hugs. When you're in Athens, be sure to have a meal at Mani Mani.

Favorite places - Kardamyli and Hydra. Byzantine Mystras may have been the most strenuous day because it was a very warm day. There were optional climbs that were more strenuous but there were always enticing options that didn't require much athleticism. My impression is that the tour isn't especially strenuous, but I can see that it would feel a lot more difficult when it's in the low 30s (Celsius), while I had mostly low to mid-20s.

2 essentials for Greece - shoes and sandals with really good traction and water shoes. Beaches are pebbly, some small pebbles, some larger, some that must be called stones. Many of the streets and all the steps are large, uneven, highly polished cobblestones. Many of the steps don't have railings.

Posted by
2312 posts

Shalom Chani, I hope home feels good too. It has been great to tag along, a little bit, on your trip to Greece, including the RS Greece Tour. I leave home tomorrow evening, first to Portugal, then to Greece, including the RS Tours in each country, with a few days time on my own before, in the middle and at the end. Concerning Greece, of course I would value any tips you might have, either here or by PM. I know that before your tour, you visited a few places that were also on the tour. Were those worthwhile duplications of time? You said you spent 6 hours at the Archeological Museum. I assume the tour's visit was much shorter. Any special tips related to restaurants, or off-the-beaten-track sites or experiences, in Athens or for free time along during other tour stops, would certainly be welcomed. Now, back to the several days of things to somehow finish before I leave tomorrow evening. At least I am already 90% packed, just a carry-on and a tote!

Posted by
1736 posts

Thank you for allowing us to relive this special trip. We had Costas as our driver and what a wonderful man. He fit in as part of the group in an unobtrusive way. It was good to see him mentioned.

Posted by
14784 posts

Kalimera, Larry/Lavrentios! The National Archaeology Museum is chock-full of wonderful goodies. I was so glad I went on my own. I believe RS is testing a change in the schedule. Both my tour and one in March went there at the end of the tour, allowing more time in Delphi (a very good idea) and visiting on our return to Athens from Hydra. Since we couldn't check in to our hotel until after 1 pm anyway, it worked out well. I used the 2-2.5 hours in the museum to visit rooms that I hadn't seen on my first visit (some had been closed, others I just didn't have the legs for by the end). Try to get to Syntagma on Sunday before the tour to see the changing of the guard at 11 am. It starts around 10.45 and you'll want to be early to get a place to stand. There's a very good Jewish Museum a couple blocks away. The Benaki Museum is also close (in the opposite direction). I found the "ancient" rooms a little frustrating because the dates and provenance didn't seem to be well labeled, but there's a lot more - loved the costumes and paintings, though I somehow missed the El Grecos. The Kerameikos Cemetery is a little outside the city center, but I thought it was worth going to - especially the collection in their small museum. My planning was off, so I went on the "wrong" day - the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art is just a few minutes' walk from there, but the day I went, the Benaki was closed (it's only open 3-4 days a week). The RS city walking tour of Athens is a very good orientation to the city. Take time to visit the Ancient Agora. I went up to the Acropolis once before the tour (using Rick's tour from the book). For me the best part was the views and it worked out for me because it was clear that day and hazy the day of the tour. There's enough free time to enjoy the "top of the rock" with the tour. After that we visited the Acropolis Museum. Again, I was very glad I'd gone on my own before the tour, especially since there's a lot of standing both at the Acropolis and at the museum. The Acropolis Museum is a block or two from the RS hotel (1 block from the Hera, 2 from the Select), so it's easy to visit pre-tour and open late 1-2 nights a week. In the evenings, there's a nice view from the restaurant balcony (even if you don't eat there). Downhill from the Select a block or two there's a pedestrian mall with several nice places to eat - much less touristy than "restaurant row" opposite the Acropolis Museum and metro station uphill from the hotel. Oh, also, there's a coin-op laundry across the street (well, two streets) from Hotel Hera. Midway through the tour, the hotel in Monemvasia has overnight laundry service at about the same price. Have a meal at Mani Mani pre-tour. I don't know the prices but it's worth it.

Tips for the rest of the tour . . . it's all good. I happened to eat lunch in Nafplion at Aiolos (near the start of the RS book's walking tour) and it was excellent. I had dinner somewhere else and wish I'd gone back to Aiolos!! Talk to locals every chance you get. The best wine I drank was a bottle I bought at the wine shop in Kardamyli (€25 and worth it) after a long chat with the owner. The waitress at Aiolos, Olympia, told us a little about her history, coming from Albania at the age of 11 with half her family (the other half stayed).

Wishing you a great trip. I'm planning to visit Portugal (first time) on an Israeli tour in October. So I'm looking forward to your trip report ☺

Posted by
14784 posts

Patty, I am laughing out loud at "unobtrusive" ☺☺ We all loved him, but he - and his sense of humor - were a very prominent feature of our tour.