9-19-05 Day 14
Milton got up first and showered and finsihed packing while Sylvan took a shower. We had a wake up call but we also had an alarm clock we carried with us and were awake before the wake-up call.
It was still raining when we left the hotel but barely enough to even get out the umbrella. We bought our one way metro tickets to the airport at the tobacco shop. We took the metro to the Termini station where we would catch the train to the Flumicino (Leonardo di Vinci) Airport. From there it takes about thirty minutes to get to the airport.
We had purchased “Europe by Air” vouchers and had made a reservation to go from Rome to Athens on Aegean Airlines. You must purchase these before leaving the states and they allow you to fly just about anywhere in Europe for only $99.00, but when we got to the airport, Aegean Airlines did not have our reservation! I showed her all the documentation I had from the internet interactions with Europe By Air. She asked for a “confirmation number” and I kept showing her various numbers on the printouts but she would say, “no, that’s not it.” Then she said that the plane was full! This was kind of stressful to say the least. Finally the lady said that she had two seats available (When we actually got on the plane though, we saw plenty of empty seats and have no idea why she had said it was full).
Once we got our boarding passes, boarding itself was pretty chaotic. We were sent to one gate but then after sitting there for a while, someone announced the plane would depart from a different gate. We went over to that gate but the monitor there said that the plane to Madrid was departing from that gate. It was a little confusing for everybody. Apparently nobody was able to change the monitor so it was consistent with the actual plane that was departing.. The plane to Paris left from the gate where the plane to Athens was supposed to leave from and the plane to Athens left at the gate that said Madrid which was actually where the plane to Paris was supposed to leave from. I would avoid Aegean Airlines in the future and clarify everything with Europe by Air if we every used them again. If you were to book with them, after booking and getting your confirmation from them, call the airline itself and make sure they have the reservation too!
|Once we got to Athens, we asked directions for the metro that goes to downtown. Once we located it, we were impressed with how modern and clean it was, especially compared to some of the subways we had ridden elsewhere in Europe. We assumed it was newer because of the recent Olympic games that were held here. It took about 30 minutes to reach our stop at the end of the line, the Monastiraki station.
|We easily found our hotel about two blocks from the metro station using the 3×5 card with directions.
|We were pleased with the size of the room, # 413, and the included air conditioning and t.v. that had C.N.N. and another English speaking channel. It was a little odd to us that the bed was not made but during our whole stay there, housekeeping would only leave the sheets and blanket folded on the bed after cleaning the room. I guess a lot of people just sleep on top of the sheets in Athens because of the heat?
There is a good sized closet that is about three feet wide and almost two feet deep.
There is a wood laminate floor. .
|The bathroom also had this soaking tub. It was not big enough to stretch out in but you could sit comfortably in it. There was also plenty of hot water. There is a nice sink in the bathroom with a well lit mirror.
|The patio door opens onto a private balcony pm which there is a small table and two chairs.
|There wasn’t much to see from the balcony but you could see a benzantine church to one side and off in the distance on the other, you could see the Acropolis. It was also a great place to soak in the sun and to dry out some things we washed in the sink.
|9-20-05 Day 15
We got up about nine this morning. They serve breakfasat until eleven on the second floor. Ours is included in the price of our room but otherwise they would charge eight euro. It is truly “all you can eat” and offers a selection of three cereals, a choice of fruit cocktail or peaches, ham, several kinds of cheese, pound cake, white or wheat toast, butter, jam, and even hard boiled eggs! There is also a coffee pot on every table with more coffee. It is really a great breakfast.
There is also a Subway sandwich store next door to the hotel. They have the menu in Greek and English.
One thing we noticed throughout our stay in Athens is that almost everyone spoke English, unlike Italy where communication was sometimes a problem. It is probably even less multi-cultural though. You see even less Black people or Asians here than we did in Italy. It did not appear that there were many African-American tourists or Asian tourists either. It seems like the further south you go in Europe, the less multicultural it is.
|After breakfast, we set out for the Acropolis. On the way to the Acropolis, you go through the Plaka which was about two blocks from our hotel.
Click here for a site with 360 degree pic of the Plaka
|Along the way, at the edge of the Plaka are a couple of churches next to each other, the more modern Cathedral of Athens and the smaller of the two called Panagia Gorgoepikoos, constructed at the end of the 12th century
|As we continued on our way, we were distracted and stopped at Hadrien’s Library built in A.D. 132 by emperor Hadrian. We looked around. it was free and you are just walking around on your own unrestricted for the most part. where people have been civilized and kept records and documents 2000 years previously.
|We are excited as we are climbing up the hill to the Acropolis. At the top of the hill before getting to the ticket booth, there is a huge rock that people are climbing up on and we decide to climb up too to see the view. It is a little scary because of Sylvan’t knee but we take it very slowy and get up to the top and take some pics.
|After we carefully climb back down, we continue up to the ticket booth and we get our tickets which include entry to several archeological sites including the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Zeus Temple, and several others.
Then we continue up the hill with hundreds of other tourists. Before you get to the top you see two theaters on the right of the pathway. One is the Odeion of Herodes Atticus built in about AD 160. It is an ancient theater but apparently they still have concerts here and people were working on the stage as we went by preparing for a performance.
Click here for a site with 360 degree view.
|A little bit further up the path, you see the ruins of the Dionysus theater.
Click here for 360 degree view.
|Finally the Parthenon comes into site.
Click here for a link to some history and 360 degree pics that you can zoom in on and zoom out to explore the Parthenon. (after clicking on the link, drag your mouse accross the pic that appears to move from left to right and look for the zoom in button which is tiny and on the lower left border of the pic. There is also a tiny “hot spot” button that gives some text info.
Click here for some additional 360 degree pics of the Acropolis.
|We found somebody to take our picture with the Parthenon in the background.
|We take pictures from different angles.
There are the ruins of several buildings on the acropolis. It is a large archeological site. There are people with whistles that will blow their whistle at you if you go anywhere that your not supposed to but otherwise you are allowed a lot of freedom to move about the site.
Click here for site with 360 degree interactive pic of the Erechtheion Temple.
|Sylvan in front of Erechtheion Temple
|A closeup of the columns at the Erechtheion Temple.
|After wandering around the archeological site, we visit the Acropolis museum. We had read that there is supposed to be a new one opening in 2004 but I don’t think it was open yet. I think the new one is in a different location. The one we saw is relatively small and actually there are probably more Acropolis artifacts located in the London British Museum which is where the Elgin marbles are located.
|When we are finished at the Acropolis, we walk down the hill to the Ancient Agora.
This is the the Agii Apostoli which is one of the oldest Christian churches (early 11th century A.D.) in the area of the ancient Greek Agora.
|Theseion Temple (449 BC) at Ancient Agora
|Click here for a site with 360 degree view of Theseion Temple
|We visit the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora which was originally built in 150 B.C. and has been reconstructed and is now a museum.
After leaving the Ancient Agora, we walked back through the Plaka and looked for a Souvalaki stand. When I had been there in 1974, I practically lived on these tasty sandwiches of lamb meat with tomato, yogurt, onion wrapped in pita bread. A lot has changed since 1974 and it is not as easy to find a stand but many of the restaurants are selling a more elaborate version of souvalaki served on a plate. We are starving and so we sit down at a restaurant and have their version which doesn’t contain any lamb meat at all.
After lunch, we walked around the Plaka/Monistiraki area a little more and we got some grapes at a stand and looked for postcards. We finallly went back to the hotel and took a nap.
|Sylvan got up and took a soak in the little soaking tub. After that, he went accross the street to the internet place while Milton rinsed out some things in the sink and watched cnn for a while.
After Sylvan returned from the internet place, we walked up to Omonia Square which is one of the modern centers of this city of 7 million.
|From there we walked over to Syntagma Square. We did a LOT of walking but it was fun to see daily life in Athens outside the more touristy Plaka and archeological sites. Along the way we saw the Changing of the Guard in front of the Greek Parliament.
|Then we walked back to Monistiraki and had dinner at a charming outside restaurant after wandering around looking at various menus. There are a lot of sidewalk cafes in the Monisteraki/Plaka area of Athens. None of the restaurants in Italy or Greece are like in America where we are usually in a hurry and want to sit down, be waited on, get served quickly, stuff our food down and run. In Italy and Greece, people sit for hours at these restaurants and just people watch and talk. If you are used to hurrying through everything, it takes a little effort to slow down.
At a lot of the restaurants we passed, there are waiters that try to get you to sit down. They are trying to get business for their restaurant but they remind me of used car salesmen. You feel like you are being hustled or something which I just did not like at all. The restaurant where we finally sat down was much more low key. We looked at the menu and they had an inclusive special that included a salad, drink and Mousaka.
While we were eating, a little Gypsy girl came by playing a harmonica and begging for money.
After dinner, we walked around looking at souveniers. It was a beautiful evening and like everywhere we visited in Europe, people are out on the streets and night enjoying themselves.
Then we went back to the hotel and watched t.v. We were shocked when we realized it was two in the morning by the time we turned off the light to go to sleep. Sylvan says “no more caffeine.”
(we have been trying to drink less coke since it has too much caffeine)
|9-21-05 Day 16
We got up around 9:30 am and went down to the breakfast room and after breakfast headed over to the Roman Agora.
One of the main sites here is the Tower of The Winds.
|The Roman Agora is yet another archeological site in Athens. It is the ruins of buildings that were built by the Romans at a later time than the Ancient Agora.
As we wander around the Roman Agora, we see a little pack of dogs. We have noticed at various times in Athens that there are packs of wild dogs at various places. They are very passive and don’t seem to bother anyone.
|From the Roman Agora, we walked to Kerameikos, another archeological site. We are told that this is where Plato had his school. Our tickets we had bought for the Acropolis also get us into this site. There is a large ancient cemetary here with beautifully sculptured grave markers and monuments. There is also a museum here.
It was interesting that they told us that this entire area had been totally buried at one time up to the level of the street. The area you walk around in is about 20 feet lower than the level of the street and is several acres of ruins.
From here we walked back to the hotel for a brief rest.
|After resting for an hour or so, we walked over to Hadrien’s Gate.
|From there we went on to the Olympian Zeus Temple.
In the background, to the side of the column in the center are the ruins of another column that we read was toppled by a storm some years ago.
|It was another beautiful day in Athens.
Click here for some history about this temple.
|Athens is amazing.
On our way back to the hotel from here, we find a souvalaki stand and have a more traditional souvalaki. Milton has a chicken gyro. We each got a soda. Lunch is a bargain at 4.80 euro.
We walked back to the hotel and took a nap. Sylvan got up and went over to the internet place. Milton washed out a few more items.
For dinner, we decided we were in the mood for American food, so we took the metro to the Alexandras station and went to the TGI Fridays there. It was also an opportunity to see another Athens neighborhood. This neighborhood was more modern and could be any American city. There was a Starbucks a couple doors up from the TGI Fridays and an Applebees a block away. A lot of young people were hanging around and we guessed that there was probably a University somewhere nearby.
We ask for a non-smoking section but that is meaningless since it is just two feet away from the smoking section and there is nothing separating the two. American rock music is playing. The American food is good for us. I guess we are just typical American tourists set in our ways… it is great to sample the local cuisine but then it is great to get something more familiar along the way too.
|9-22-05 Day 17
Milton slept much better after laying off caffeinated coke the day before. We went down tot he breakfast room and had another great Attalos Hotel breakfast.
Then we went and caught the metro. It was Athen’s “spare the air” day and riding the metro was free until 5pm. It was a great day to be adventurous on the metro and we decided to go the the city of Piraeus. It is a city about a thirty mile trip on the metro and goes past the stadiums that were built recently for the Olympic games. Pireaeus is where you would arrive if you were coming to Athens via a ferry boat from Italy or if you were arriving on a cruise ship. When I had come to Athens in 1974, I crossed the Mediterranean 4 times. I came accross once on the hyroplane and the other times on ferries. One of the ferries also went to the Island of Corfu where I spent a couple nights before going on to Italy.
|We then took the train back to Omonia Square and walked from there to the National Archeological Museum. It started raining just as we reached the steps of the museum.
There is a slight fee.
|There are a lot of artifacts from the various ruins we have been looking at the last few days in Athens and from elsewhere in Greece.
|It is just amazing how wonderful the sculpture is from Ancient Greece.
|Again, it is just too much to see. It is overwhelming. There is just so much to see in Athens.
We went back to our hotel and started packing for our flight back to London the next day.
|9-23-05- Day 18
We had scheduled a wakeup call but as usual we were already awake by the time of the call. We went down to breakfast and then went back to get our luggage.
We had booked most of our rooms about eight months before our trip and Sylvan was keeping track of all the bills to make sure there had been no changes in the meantime. We always got the price quoted when booked.
We walked the two blocks to Monistraki station to go back to the airport. We got on the first train but that did not go all the way to the airport and we had to get off at another station and then waited for about twenty minutes for the next train. We were glad we always give ourselves plenty of time to get to airports and trains since often there are these little glitches.
After we check-in we head through security to our gate. We discover once we get to that area, there are no restaurants or magazine stores or anything but a bathroom unless you go back out where you have to go through security again.
We are flying with Easy Jet, a discount airline like Southwest in the States and which has “open” seating. You are assigned a “group.” It is supposed to be first come, first serve and even though we appear to be at the gate before most everyone else, for some reason we are still in the third group that boards! We did get an exit row though which gives a couple more inches of leg room but the seats don’t lean back and are pretty uncomfortable. The flight is about four hours. We were charged for drinks and snacks. A tiny coke cost 1 euro. On landing in London Gatwick, we disembarked via stairs to the tarmack.
Everyone was standing in the airport looking at the monitors to see which carousel their baggage would be but the monitors were not accurate and we finally just set out and found the right one. We got our bags and then got the trin into London.