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Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Sanford, Florida
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Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

A brief report of my recent (oh so short!) trip. I read so much great information here and got some great help from the forum, I thought I owed it to you all to tell you how my trip went!

Due to time constraints (OK, my short attention span) I may have to complete the report in a few installments. Just in case this thread goes for multiple pages, I'll start the report below so as not to put a monster first message at the top of every page.

Sanford, Florida
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1. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

So normally when I take a vacation (once or twice a year) I stay in a modest hotel and try to take the full two weeks that I can have away from work. But after a rough few months I thought I needed some pampering and decided to take just a short trip to Athens and stay somewhere really lovely to treat myself. I booked five nights in an Athenian Panorama Suite at the Royal Olympic hotel with those amazing views of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was gorgeous and worth every penny, but I had no idea I was to fall madly in love with Athens and want to stay forever! The very first day I knew I was going to regret being here only such a short time. (But don't fret for me too badly- my Random Bucket List Generator has me coming back this fall!!)

I kicked off my luxurious trip by hitting the airport spa in Frankfurt during my layover from Orlando for a leg and foot massage, aromatherapy and oxygen therapy so I wasn't too wonky when I got off the plane in Athens! I had scheduled with George the Famous Taxi Driver to meet me at the airport, take me to the Royal Olympic to check in, and then straight on to the Hammam Baths for a good steaming, scrubbing, and massage. Their flat rate for this was 50 Euros, which I thought was a fine price, especially considering they waited at the hotel for me to change clothes and get a bit settled in before going to the hammam.

I had given myself plenty of time to get to the hammam and made my reservation for 8pm but arrived about an hour early. They had no problem with this and took me right away. I've never been to a hammam before and really had no idea how it all worked so I did rely on them to explain everything to me. They did a fairly good job, but I think some jet lag was starting to set in and I was getting pretty foggy (or maybe it was just the steam!) The hammam is a really lovely environment for anyone who hasn't been- it's just like my favorite spa with dim rooms, soft music, water sounds, etc. The wooden sandals they give you to walk down the stairs in are absolutely treacherous, however. I was sure I was going to break my neck. I realized later I had some rubber sandals in my bag- I should have worn those instead! Once I was changed into my swimsuit I went downstairs and into the steam room. The gentleman who was showing me around decided it would be very welcoming to dump a large basin of water over my head at that point to get me started. I suppose that's his way of greeting newcomers, but I was wearing contact lenses and the cascade of water actually washed one of them out of my eye. I just about had a panic attack about being blinded in a strange city, but I managed to get the lens back in my eye and relaxed once I could see again. My eyes were burning at that point, though, and I decided maybe hammam is just not for me and I left without the scrubbing and the massage.

I'd probably still go back to a hammam someday, now that I know the bucket of water is coming and could protect my eyes!

I thought I had been paying attention to all the turns the taxi driver was making on the way to the hammam and could easily walk back to the hotel and stop for some dinner on the way, but apparently I overestimated my abilities there! I got completely turned around and pulled out my Tep wifi to use my phone for Google maps, but the battery was dead. It was cold and rainy (and I was soaking wet from the hammam!) so I finally just gave up on my navigational skills and hailed a taxi to take me back to the hotel. I took a long, hot bath to warm up and then ordered coffee and a sandwich from room service for dinner! (The sandwich was delicious, too!)

Sanford, Florida
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2. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Day 2- Thursday, February 14th- happy Valentine's Day!

So much for the spa treatment, hammam, and bubble bath helping to combat jet lag. I slept from 11pm to 1:30 am and then was WIDE AWAKE. With a headache. I occupied myself with planning the day until the hotel started serving breakfast at 7am. I don't usually expect much from a hotel buffet breakfast, but this is the Royal Olympic, after all- the breakfast was just amazing! I'm a big fan of Greek food, but this trip has completely ruined American Greek dishes for me! Breakfast was fresh Greek yogurt with "strawberry marmalade," coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, three kinds of cheese (the feta was divine!), ham, air-dried salami, turkey, and hard boiled eggs. There were many other things on offer, but I was too full to try anything else. The view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus was even better from the rooftop restaurant than it was from my room. I almost didn't want to get up from breakfast and head outside into the rainy cold, but eventually I pried myself away from the coffee and bundled up.

The first thing I noticed was how many homeless dogs there are in the city. Of course this made me think about my babies back home and it was just heartbreaking. So I had to stop and love on every one I passed! It was quite early still, and neither the Acropolis nor the museum was open yet, so I just wandered around, petting dogs and enjoying the views. I thought I would go to the New Acropolis Museum first and hope the rain would let up before I went up to the Acropolis. Just the opposite happened, actually- the temperature dropped dramatically in the afternoon and the rain got even worse! I'm still glad I arranged things that way, though- I was almost the first person inside the museum and I immediately went to the top floor and worked my way back down (I like to do things backwards sometimes!) This meant I had the entire Archaic gallery to myself. And I do mean to myself- all the guards were huddled in a corner chatting, not realizing, perhaps, that the museum had opened already, and had no idea I was wandering around. I'd say I had the gallery all to myself for a good 30 minutes before they finally noticed that they had company! This was just pure magic for me- as the title of one of the volumes in their bookshop attests, you can still hear the marble breathing.

The Acropolis itself is amazing, of course, but I did see it in a monsoon. It was pretty treacherous going up and down the steps in the rain (sort of like the hammam stairs in those wooden shoes!! :) but still 100% worthwhile, of course. Afterwards I was soaked to the bone and frozen solid, so I headed back to the hotel for a hot bath and a nap.

After my nap it was getting dark and I was ravenous, so I wandered around the Plaka looking for food. The menu at Cafe Metro looked good, so I had some pork souvlaki and wine to warm up. It was delicious! I got a little lost, again, wandering back to the hotel, but I found some great hot chocolate (Everest) and the best baklava I've ever had (forgot to note the name of the bakery!)

Devizes, United...
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3. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Two great instalments thank you, shame about the weather but at least you had a good time.

Athens, Greece
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4. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Hey, getting lost is a good thing, you discover more! :))

Great reports so far & sooooo glad you fell in love with Athens straight away! It does that for most people that travel the way you did & just take it all as it comes, even with an outline plan it's always best to let things happen.

Waiting to see what else you got up to now!

New York City, New...
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5. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Welcome back FlyingHourglass:-) Thank you for making my day, lol!! What a great report so far.. you had me LMAO with the hammam incident(s) with those wooden shoes;-)) FWIW, you could have headed to the Grande Bretagne spa.. believe they charge around 35E for non-guests.. and no bucket of water tossed on your head;-))

Couldn't agree more.. once you try *real* Greek food.. nothing compares here in the States.. unless it's home-made by mom/grandmom;-) Looking forward to more.... really enjoyin'!

Oslo, Norway
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6. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Great reports - thanks for sharing. Waiting for more !

:o)

Athens, Greece
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7. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Oh my Goodness :) We have a very very good trip report here :))

Waiting for more too :)

London, United...
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8. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Yes, it's terrific: so lively and enthusiastic, and so well written.

More, please!

Sanford, Florida
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9. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Thanks, all, for the encouragement so far! Yes, I love getting "lost" in a new city! Then when you're tired and want to be found again, just find a taxi back to parts known!

Friday, February 15th- Delphi day! I booked a tour with Key Tours for today and I wasn't sure it was going to go on as scheduled. While I was between flights in Frankfurt on Wednesday I got an email from Key stating they may have to cancel today's trip to Delphi because of low participation and would I like to move to Sunday instead? Well, since I was leaving first thing Monday I really didn't want to go on a long day trip Sunday and be worn out- I was hoping for a more leisurely day on Sunday. So I replied saying as much and telling them I'd only switch to Sunday if they did end up calling off the Friday trip. I'm so glad I didn't switch to Sunday- the Friday trip ended up going with only 8 participants and I saw the Sunday bus leaving- it was huge and packed full with 50 or more people.

Mariana was our guide for the Delphi trip; I had read many reviews about her and I wasn't disappointed. She really is very knowledgeable and I'm so glad I went with her rather than just catching a public bus and reading about Delphi- she really made things come alive. The trade-off was having to stop at their commissioned souvenir shops and being a bit rushed through things I would have liked to linger over, but all and all I was happy with the tour. My sole reason for wanting to see Delphi was to see the bronze charioteer in the museum, and it was just as breathtaking as I'd anticipated. But I was even more amazed by Ancient Delphi itself, which hadn't even been much of a draw for me in the first place. The stadium, the theater, the temple of Apollo- it was all just incredible and the views...! The rain finally stopped today and the weather was perfect for exploring the site. Most of my photos have no people in them whatsoever- it was that un-crowded. Hooray for travel during the off-season!

The trip with Key Tours includes lunch at a place called Symposium. There's no menu- they check to make sure there are no vegetarians in the group and then they just start bringing things out. It was fine- nothing spectacular, but edible. It was nice to sit and chat with the other 7 members of the group, all of whom were very congenial. Again, I was very glad to be in a small group and not a massive tour bus.

On the way back to Athens we stopped in Arahova for 20 minutes, which was really lovely. Someone had given Key Tours a bad review for this stop because they felt they were "forced" to listen to a sales pitch for some rugs, but that's silly- I didn't even go into the shop where we were parked. Another group member and I spotted a charming cobblestone walk across the way and we climbed up there to take in the gorgeous vistas. I hit a different souvenir shop on the way down and then got back on the bus. Really darling little town- I'm sure it's gorgeous around Christmas, so I've added that onto my bucket list for the future!

I was so tired when I got back to the hotel at 7:30 ish, I lay down for a quick nap- and woke up at 3am. Oops.

Athens, Greece
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10. Re: Athens trip report February 2013- 4 days

Wow, you really lucked out on that tour, only 8 of you!

<<I was so tired when I got back to the hotel at 7:30 ish, I lay down for a quick nap- and woke up at 3am. Oops.>>

This is me! My sleep pattern is all over the place sometimes, especially when I've been sightseeing, & I don't even havethe excuse of a trans flight to blame :) Thinking I'll take a quick nap either means I can't get to sleep at all, or I sleep too long, but maybe not until 3am!

Edited: 23 February 2013, 21:24