Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Athens, Greece Part 1 of 4



Last week I flew to Greece for the week.  I had no idea what to expect, but of all the places I have visited, this trip was by far one of the best.  Ever.  I love Greece.  I thought I would be checking it off my to do list, but I have to add it back because one time won't be enough.  Usually I try to post these things in one email, but I just can't get it all in, so this is a four part series of post b/c I have so much I want to remember.  I journaled each day, and I could never tell the whole story in words, but I will say-if Greece isn't on your bucket list-add it.  If it is, move it up!  I had heard March was not a great time to visit b/c of weather, and I'm sure at times this is true, but for me, the weather was perfect.  The days were in the low seventies, and the evenings were in the upper 50's.  There was only one day with clouds, and no rain.  It's not a place it rains often, so I would think the odds would be in your favor, but who knows.  I DO KNOW that by going in mid-March everything was cheaper.  The hotel we stayed it (Electra Palace) was so nice, and very affordable.  The beds were soooooo comfy, and the room was really large by European standards.  It was situated in the Plaka area near great restaurants and stores, and the views of the Acropolis were spectacular.  I'll start by saying, everything I share is just my opinion and I paid full price for it all (I always wonder on blogs, so....transparency-I get to have real opinions since I paid for them).  Another thing we did (twice) was taking a private tour.  I have taken a million group tours, and for just a little more we decided to take advantage of this.  I looked up some companies via tripadvisor and Athens Timeless Tours was the one I went with.  One reason was good reviews, but the other was that if you didn't make your flight or something happened the cancellation was free, and when you are traveling that far....you never know.  I have never loved a tour so much.  No only did our guide (Markos) completely cater the tour to us, he knew how to time is so we arrived at all the places we visited before the crowd and he brought us much closer to the sites.  Plus, he was amazing-soooooo nice and full of great info about Greece's history, current politics and culture, and he gave us spot on advice for Athens and beyond for things to check out.  The company also does an airport pickup, and tours to different cities around Greece.  More on that later.

The first full day was about touring Athens.  I had read you only needed a few days, and that's probably true if you go at this time of year, but Athens is also a great spot to start from for day trips in the area.  We headed up to the Acropolis first.  We walked around the sites at the top.  I can get OVER the fact that these buildings have been here for 2000+ years and that we get so close and get to climb all over these grounds to view this detail up close.

I also stood below the acropolis on Mars hill where Paul stood and the words from Acts 17 were said as he overlooked this site.
Next up was the Acropolis museum where a lot of the original pieces from the monuments at the acropolis now live after they were looted, taken off, and eventually returned.  One neat thing about this (relatively new) museum was that as they began to build they discovered all sorts of artifacts below the museum.  When this happens (which it happens often) you have to stop and call in 'people' to check out the site before you can continue to build.  To get around the delays this was causing they built the museum on risers with clear floors so you can see below to the artifacts that were uncovered during the build.  














Next up was the Temple of Zeus.  There are just a few remaining columns, but once upon a time it was larger than the Parthenon, and one neat feature is one of the columns that has fallen and you can see the segments that made up this towering column.  All of the sites during this season are half off until the beginning of April.  So.....cheap entrance and few fellow tourist.  

Next, our driver drove us up Lykavittos Hill.  It has a great view of the city.  This is where I should say-I don't think I could ever drive in Greece.  The plus is the drive on the same side of the road as we do, but those roads....geez, such tight spaces to squeeze through.  So, the hill was quite a feet to climb, and....again, my new Greek friend did all the hard work and we just got to enjoy the view!
A few other stops included the changing of the guards and a view of these interesting outfits as they guard the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of Parliament.  

We also stopped at the site of the first modern Olympic games.  This is also where the 'first' marathon ended.  Last detail (for now), it's the only place that the Olympic flag always flies.

Our last stop on our tour was Ancient Agora where Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato hung out....as well as Paul.
I walked around the ancient grounds, but then I also walked around the modern city where (on Sunday, which was the day we visited) they have a flea market with vendors with antiques and a lot of locals were hanging out in the cafes along the path.   

Back near our hotel we shopped the Plaka.

We also enjoyed dinner at our hotel with this view from the windows.  The food was great, and you can't beat that view.

Next up, Santorini.....

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