An April 2003 trip
to Athens by isleroyal
Quote: Touring Athens while the EU is in town can be a bit daunting -- police roadblocks, closed businesses and attractions -- but we did it! Join us for a journey to museums, rooftop relaxation, and shopping in the world famous Plaka and Monastiraki.
Hotel | "Cecil Hotel"
The location of the Cecil was prime for us, situated between two major metro stops (Monastiraki and Omonia Square), a short walk to shopping in Monastiraki and the Plaka one way. Going the other way, you have the flea market, and fruit and vegetable markets.
The Cecil has a wonderful rooftop view of the Parthenon! At the time we were there, there were no tables or chairs on the roof, so we brought our own and enjoyed afternoon wine, sunshine, and a great view!
I must mention the great old Otis elevator -- it will hold two people max, but it is truly a beautiful piece of work. The spiral staircase goes up around the elevator (see photo). We paid 108€ per night for two adults and two children. There is air-conditioning. I recommend asking for a room on the "quiet" side of the hotel -- there will be no view, but very little street noise. A single room for two runs for about 55€.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 6, 2003
Athens, Greece 10554
We ended up eating here for three meals. Each meal was delicious. The specials of the day are served FAST and fresh. They serve traditional Greek food, as well as fresh fish. We did not try the fish because we like Greek food too much! The various meals we had were: roast pork with roasted potatoes, a house salad (great, loaded with goodies), lamb with spinach in lemon sauce, lamb fricassée, moussaka (WOW, now that was great!), and spaghetti and pizza (for the kids). By dessert, we usually were too full, so we waited to have ice cream. An appetizer, full dinner, bottle of wine, and pop for a family of four cost 40 euros or less!!! You can''t go wrong here.
This is one of the largest and best cafés in the Plaka with seating on both sides of the street as well as inside. You can sit on the street or under the trees in the park. Outside is where all the action is! If you sit outside and it gets chilly, they have heaters.
18 Kidathineon Street (Plaka)
32 27 368
Don't plan on taking your camera in -- it is safe with the coat-check gal. It is best to buy the book (15 euros) in the gift shop prior to entering, although you will recieve a floor plan, but with children, you will not see everything. This museum houses an amazing collection -- it can be overwhelming, so take it in bites. For the price, if you are into museums, make this a two-day affair.
This gift shop is great -- it is actually four rooms with wonderful reproductions of many of the items displayed in the museum. You can buy just about anything: jewlery, pottery, linnens, books, and paperweights, plus a lot more.
138 Pireos Street
Athens, Greece 106 74
+30 210 367 1000
This is the bargain hunters paradise. Prepare to bargain with the merchants, if you don't have shame. Not only are there stores of every kind, there are gypsies during the day who sell all kinds of wares -- we bought tablecloths (I wish I had picked up some more).
There are mass-production jewelery stores and a few good jewelery stores -- this is where you will find very good 18K gold work. One such store is the Byzantio Jewelry store. One item you will see most Athenian men carrying are worry beads. I must admit I had never seen these before, but bought plenty of cheap sets to bring home. Another cool item readily available are "evil eyes" -- these ward off the evil spirits and are usually in your pocket or placed in your home. We also brought home many evil eyes. Natural sponges are seen in most stores as well as olive oil soap (a reasonable, ok, cheap souvenir). The kids got temporary henna tattoos for 5 euros each -- the nice thing was we could relax with a cold beverage while the kids were getting tattooed. There are lots of outdoor cafés and a great ouzery (report to come). The roasting of lambs for Greek Easter was a treat to see at just about every restaurant (see photo). The small churches are beautiful with well-done frescoes.
Central Athens South
My husband really enjoyed hanging out here speaking with locals and tourists alike. He was really just avoiding shopping with the kids and I, although we did bring home plenty of "souvenirs" from Bretto's. One option available here is shipping home a whole case. You can mix and match, and although the cost is rather significant, it's easier than carrying a case with you through an airport and on the plane.
Be sure to visit Bretto's, have a drink, buy a metal cannister (or six) or a bottle of his excellent brandy, and say hi to him for me!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 7, 2003
We landed in Athens at 1am pooped out grabed a taxi and headed into Athens. Our driver had never heard of our hotel, but luckily I always have the address written down. We took a lovely hair-raising ride into town, wizzed by some cool looking places, and then whipped into a parking place in front of the Hotel Cecil (see other entry). The drive was appox. 30 minutes. The meter read 21 euros, but he asked for 30, so we paid because that is what we planned on paying anyway.
The next morning we were awakened by the sound of beautiful church bells! Up and out to grab some spinach pie and coffee for breakfast. It's nice to get the real thing fresh and hot. So with guide books in hand, we were off to explore Athens, headed for the Acropolis by way of the Plaka, via many souvenir shops. We came out of one souvenir shop only to find my husband holding half of a tablecloth with a gypsy attached to the other end! After much haggling, we are now the proud owners of two white embroidered quite large tablecloths (under 50 euros). Look for quality, none of these are handmade, but there is a big difference in quality.
Continuing onto the Acropolis and winding our way up to the Parthenon, we noticed a significant number of police. We huffed our way to the entrance to the Parthenon to find . . . it was closed! "Didn't you know the EU is in town and many streets and sites are closed???" It's a beautiful day and we stop for a beer overlooking the Ancient Agora. Quick service, cold beer, great view, and nice sunshine -- it doesn't get much better than this! We were advised by some locals that it would be wise to "get out of Athens for a few days" due to security issues. We did (journal entry coming soon). We spent the rest of the day enjoying the sites and sounds of Athens, trying not to cram too much history down the kids' throats. (They would rather be at Myrtle Beach, don't you know!)
We checked out the Central Market, how cool! I love olives and I thought I was in heaven, no less than 20 varieties for me to try, fresh veggies, very fresh chickens and fish. Quite the aroma emanating from this area and lots of shouting and haggling. This was great!
Our remaining days in Athens were also adventure-filled -- the biggest thrill was trying to find a way to various sites around all of the police barricades. The National Gardens, the Parthenon, and the National Archaeological Museum were all closed for the duration of our time, bummer. But the Benaki Museum (entry coming soon) and the National Gallery of Art were open, and we enjoyed them. We put a lot of miles on our feet and loved every minute of it.
We will be back. There is so much to see and do that I can't write enough. The Greek people were kind and friendly, and they appreciated our halting use or abuse of their language.
Flat Rock, Michigan