‘YAH-soo’ De Atenas

March 2018 —

Hello from Athens!” in Greek, is just how Emily and I felt when we were joyously jaunting around the streets of Athens, Greece on our spring break during our semester abroad. Greece is like no other! Tis a whimsical paradise filled with poppies, a rich ancient culture, and olive branches. One can loose themselves amongst all of the splendor of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. 

Emily and I booked a 6 day 5 night trip to Athens for our spring break during our semester abroad. I had never imagined that it’d be possible to visit such a monumental place in the history of the world. Emily arrived a day before myself and I followed suit the next morning. I recall being both eager to board a plane where the auto seat allocation had allotted me seat #1 in first class! This was unheard of for me and the only time I have ever ridden in first class. I suppose I got the luck of the draw! After being spoiled with hot towels, champagne, and a fine meal, I landed in Athens a few hours later. 

Stepping off of the plane between the hazy ocean views and the sweet smelling warm air, I instantly felt like I was in a dream. With my cream colored sun hat and lavender blazer, I probably looked like a low key famous person arriving for a photo shoot. But really I just felt extra special to be standing in such a geographical location. 

I have to say that figuring out how to take the metro was a bit of a mess with everything being in Greek, but I was able to piece together the metro stop names and board the correct train. When I arose from the underground train platform I immediately saw the Acropolis rising up from the city. It was a stunning view with the sunset in the background as I walked to my hostel near Monastiraki Square. We stayed at the AthensStyle Hostel one of Europes Famous HostelsWe were in a room with a private bathroom and 4 other people, though it was just us and one other person for the bulk of our stay.

That night we enjoyed drinks at the sweet rooftop bar with impeccable 360º views, and a nice homemade meal made in our hostel kitchen. In the morning we wanted to get a head start on all of the wonderful sights to see! Utilizing our student discount cards, we purchased a tourist sightseeing ticket bundle and began our exploration of ancient history! 

 

Our Game-plan

We planned out a very fun, free spirited, and educational route of places to see and things to do. We started by visiting a bunch of the museums and archeological sights in and around the city. Specifically those of: Acropolis, The Roman Agora of Athens, Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Temple of Hephaestus, and the Stoa of Attalos. The Acropolis hill was probably my favorite sight because when you are walking around it feels like you can can envision the premises back in the day when famous Greeks like Socrates and Aristotle wandered the same stony corridors. The hand carved stone pillars are way larger than they appear from afar, and the views are just stellar! I can understand why they chose to build such an important structure on that hilltop.

While strolling along we were surrounded by light green wispy tall grass, red poppies, and olive trees. We even discovered a hiking trail that brought us to the top of a hilly rock formation that overlooked the whole of Athens called Filopappou Hill. It was just gorgeous! Encased in the side of this hill, is the Prison of Socrates, where it is said that Socrates himself was forced to remain captive for some time. Walking around the city Emily and I partook in a traditional Greek coffee each and every day. We also came across some street vendors selling amazing handcrafted Greek jewellery, which I decided would make a perfect souvenir! Another vendor was selling roasted corn on the cobs and chestnuts, which were super tasty!

Just about anywhere you look you can come across quaint little shops with the most talkative of hosts. Right near the Hellenic Parliament building there is a really nice park with lots of interesting flowers and tropical trees. During our explorations we happened upon a homemade ice cream store, and I could not say no to a fresh cone rolled in native pistachios and dark chocolate and filled with homemade dark chocolate and Valencian Orange ice cream!! It was probably the richest, most delicious ice cream I have ever eaten! On yet another day we scoped out an amazing lookout hill called Lycabettus Hill but it really felt like a mountain with the amount of steps we climbed! There is even a restaurant at the top, and we could see every square inch of Athens!! 

Then we planned to goto the beach for a full day of sunbathing but of course this wasn’t executed in the best manner. We didn’t realize that it was a Greek National Holiday, and thus the frequency of trolly/metro trains was not very high. Alas, we arrived at our connecting stop and realized that we still had 50 minutes until the next train. We decided to walk the remaining 2 miles or so to the beach. On this day it was super hot out, and as a result our beach trek was much more involving than we thought! We got partially lost, grabbed a taxi for half a mile, and then followed the trolly tracks the rest of the way.

The beaches in Athens are beyond beautiful with light blue sparkling Mediterranean waters and white sandy stone shores. Even in the third week of March Emily and I were wearing shorts and swimsuits because it was that warm. Upon our return we decided to head to the grocery store for a few things and that was a challenge for sure. Ya see Emily lactose intolerant so the only way we could find milk, cheese, and yogurt that was goat or sheep based was to look for goat or sheep animals on the products haha. This was an adventure for sure.  : )

Additionally, we had booked an all day cruise in the Aegean Sea to some of the Greek islands – Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. The most beautiful was the island of Hydra, as it is the iconic image of what one thinks of when they think of Greece, along with the islands of Crete and Mykonos. This was my favorite of the three. The waters were the most turquoise colour I’d ever seen, and there are practically no cars as the island is dominated by Burros, or donkeys!!! The island of Poros was really quite small with hardly any buildings away from the coastal regions. I do recall a very ornate and perfectly placed house right on the mouth of the port bay. 

The island of Aegina has several pistachio farms that we got to see, and of course I both sampled lots of pistachios and purchased several bags!! They were so fresh and delicious! Unfortunately I think the Greek financial crisis greatly impacted this island especially, and there were quite a few abandoned houses scattered about. But the positive is that they look very cool with the sun rays reflecting here and there and the shutters creaking with the light breezes. Later that day there was a traditional live Greek song and dance performance. The show was packed and extremely lively. When Emily and I finally arrived back to the hostel we were very tired! I’d highly suggest going on a cruise to some of the Greek islands, for you really get to see a diverse array of landscapes and micro-cultures within the mother country. 

On our last night we decided to eat dinner out at a traditional Greek restaurant, and let me tell you we ate like queens!! There was soo much food! Emily even had a hard time eating it all but somehow she did haha. Our waiter kept offering us this and that and we just couldn’t say no. We even tried some traditional Greek liquor but I think it tasted absolutely terrible! 

 

Tips to Consider

  • There are various types of “con-men” that try to sell you something that wander around in busy squares, and then they demand that you donate to their cause. Or they may try to ‘gift’ you something like a bracelet and then ask for a donation to their cause. If you give them anything, then they will relentlessly ask for more and almost hunt you down. Emily and I had to yell at a couple different men to leave us alone or if they didn’t we threatened to get the police. We did get away from them but only after a 5-10 minute ordeal. My tip to you: Just flat out ignore these “con-men” to begin with! They are just looking to make you feel bad or try to rob you during the commotion they cause. 

  • Though it was fairly warm our in March, when it rained it got really cold and damp, so be sure to bring a warm sweater or fleece! 

  • With the beaches, though they are fairly sandy, overall there are a lot of rocks and I’d recommend wearing sandals or water shoes when walking around on the beach and wading in the shallow waters. We did hurt our feet when we walked on them for a while. 

  • Bring sunscreen if you are going during the warmer season, so from like March to October. The sun was very potent and it was enjoyable but poor Emily got pretty red after our day on the beach. Also, having a sun hat was very helpful and beneficial when we were on our cruise. That is because between the suns reflection on the water and the wind, the hay both saved my eyeballs and my hair from getting knotted. 

  • A big one, depending on the time of the year, is that for super popular sightseeing spots like Acropolis, there is almost always an enormous line to get tickets on sight! So we were thrilled when we showed up with our pre-purchased tickets from our student discounted tourist sightseeing ticket bundle we had purchased prior. This was a lifesaver!! We were able to skip the line and get to the summit before most people had even gotten tickets! 

Be sure to check out my other posts for more amazing tips! Click below : )  

  1. Budgeting: Where To Stay & How To Get There
  2. Plan Ahead: Do More & Work Less
  3. Minimize: Pack Lighter & Smarter
  4. Be Smart, Vigilant & Observant 
 

Overall I would say Greece is worth every penny!! It is quite affordable and the Greeks are extremely friendly! Conversing with just about any local and you will see what a genuine people they are! This was a perfect trip and I would definitely suggest adding Greece to your list of travel destinations! 

Sitting on the steps of the Ancient Agora of Athens.

To the left, is the scrumptious dinner we ate at a traditional Greek restaurant in Athens. They just kept serving us, more and more food! 

 

Below is the delectable homemade Greek ice cream I ate with a dark chocolate/ pistachio rolled cone and dark chocolate Valencian Orange Ice cream. Yummy!!  

 

~ The Greek Islands from our cruise: Aegina, Poros, and Hydra ~ 

Myself sitting on top of the Acropolis : )
Having some fun on the island of Hydra.

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