Windstar Cruises: Istanbul - Athens


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Oceans and Seas » Mediterranean » Aegean Sea
August 9th 2010
Published: August 9th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Day 1: From OKC to Istanbul

Ralph and I started for OKC Airport at 8:30. We had no problems flying to Chicago, but then experienced our first travel hiccup. The plane to Munich was delayed due to a battery failure that wiped out the a.c. and the luggage transfer system.

After an hour or longer delay in a too-warm gate, the 777 was ready to load. Ralph and I were crammed into seats together with him next to the window and me at my preferred aisle seat. To our left were 5 middle seats and left of that aisle/window seats. The quarters were so close that even a very short person like myselft could not turn or stretch.

During the flight we had many choices of movies. I chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The flight included great Italian pasta dinner. Lufthansa personnel are excellent at servicing the passangers and efficient at loading and unloading the plane.

Upon arrival in Munich we easily located our gate for the flight to Istanbul. Finding restrooms, however, proved to be problematic. The signs did not match the location, but we persevered by asking airport staff. At the gate were many
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Dock toward Windstar
young Turkish families. The children were rowdy and poorly attended by our standards. The men smelled slightly of body odor. When it was time to board, they surprised us by clumping together instead of lining up politely. on board, Ralph had his usual window seat, while I sat in the middle. A young Turkish dad sat left of me. His son, daughter, and wife were together across the aisle. Although tthe plane was noisey, it was not annoying. We were delighted by the nice Italian lunch served on board.

Upon we landed at Istanbul, the passengers applauded. As you can imagine, we were quite tired. We walked through the airport to the on-Turkish entry line. This area is very crowded and the people go through a maze like the ones found in amusement park lines. We waited for our turn, and just before it was our time to present passports, the computer went down and we had to start all over again in another long line. When we finally got a turn, we were told we had to obtain a Visa. (This was contradictory to the information we had received from our travel agent in Lawton.) We quietly exited
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Windstar Pools
to find the visa line. After paying a fee, we received visas and went back to the passport line. Then we consulted the computer screen to find our baggage claim area. Luckily my suitcase appeared just as we found the correct luggage carousel. Ralph's soon followed. We rejoiced that our luggage had made it.

After some spirited translating and gesturing, we located the area to catch the shuttle to the Marriot Hotel. Apparently we were staying at the "Western" hotel as opposed to the "Asian" hotel. Unfortunately it was a two hour wait for the shuttle, so we hailed a cab. When the taxi arrived at the Marriot, the car was checked for bombs before it was allowed through a gated entrance. We then passed through security and baggage x-ray in order to enter the foyer of the hotel.

Ralph and I collapsed into bed in a room located on the 15th floor. Our "comas" were rudely interrupted by a loud intercom and alarm buzzer announcing: "Emergency, emergency! Please exit using the stairway. Do not use the elevator!" We clumsily dressed, grabbed our room key, passports, and wallets and walked down 15 floors. It turns out that someone
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Decorative wheel on top deck
had smoked in a non-smoking area and set off the fire alarms. We decided to dine at the hotel and were absolutely delighted by the great food. Ralph had chicken kabosh and I had Turkish pasta.

It is worth noting that the hotel patrons were very interesting. It seems that Turkey is quite tolerant of many different religions. We saw women in every manner of dress from full Islamic coverage except for the eyes to very scantily dressed, sexy women. Everyone seemed content to quietly co-exist and dine together in the restaurant. Ralph was convinced one burka-covered lady was signalling "S.O.S." to him with her eyes.
After dinner we collapsed again in our beds and managed to sleep away our time change and jet lag.

Day 2: Sunday (Day at Sea) Sailed through the Dardanels (Straits connect Sea of Marmara to the Aegean Sea)

The following morning proved to be more excitement than we wanted. Despite our Lawton travel agent assuring us that taking a taxi to the Windstar was very easy, it turned out to be a nightmare. Nobody spoke English. We fortunately had an English speaker at reception the night before who had written down the address of the port for us to give to the taxi driver. The driver took us on a ride that looked almost exactly like a scene from Indian Jones. We traveled at high speeds through crowded, curving streets that were so narrow that pedestrians had to watch their toes or lose them as we raced by with abandon. The seatbelts were missing, so we depended upon prayer and luck. The driver finally stops in a very crowded city area, with no sea in sight. He proudly gestures that we have arrived.

Of course our anxiety increased dramatically. We could not successfully communicate words like "ship", "Windstar", "ocean", so finally I found a document with the Windstar ship pictured in the logo. The taxi man said something akin to "Oh!" and sped off toward the port. He brought us to the wrong cruise ship, but we persevered and he got directions to the Windstar. This time he succeeded in getting us to the correct port location.

Ralph and I checked our luggage and then proceeded through passport check into a reception area. A very nice lady gave us something to drink. Suddenly we noticed that we were being
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Sailing
received by a different ship! We thanked them for the free drink and make our way outside and down the dock to the "Windstar".

The Windstar crew understands service and excells at rendering it. The checked us in, gathered our passports, and issued us keys to our cabin. Our luggage was waiting for us inside our room. After unpacking, we enjoyed a light buffet on deck. We did the usual safety drill and muster donning life jackets and meeting at our designated point. That evening we had the first of many unbelievable meals aboard the Windstar. (I'm including the menus for those of you who appreciate culinary delights!)

Dinner Menu for Sunday Night:

Appetizers

Marinated Salmon Roll with a lumb crab cake, garden greens and corn dill vinaigrette

Vine ripened Tomato Tart with warm caramelized onions, goat cheese and tapenade vinaigrette

Array of Tropical Fruit

Soups

Roasted Eggplant Soup

Pasta e Faglio Soup with Rind of Parmesan Reggiano

Salads

Salad Leaves and toasted Peca Salad with summer pear, roquefort and sherry vinaigrette

Romaine Salad with Pancetta and grilled mushrooms

Entrees

Grilled Atlantic Salmon with leek fondue, red wine shallots, roasted potatoes and horseradish

Moroccan Chicken Breast with Toasted Almond Couscous and Date Jus

New York Steak on Duo of Potatoes and a Three Mustard Sauce

Lamb Kebab with Eggplant Polenta, Salsify, Cumin and Honey Sauce

Ravioli of Zucchini with Basil Sauce and Crispy Fried Zucchini

Available Daily

Grilled or Broiled Salmon

Grilled or Broiled Fish of the Day

Grilled Sirloin Steak

Grilled Chicken Breast

Desserts

Chocolate Mud Cake with Raspberry Sherbet

Creme Brulee

Vanilla Napoleon with caramelized Pear

Assorted French Pastries

International Cheese Tray

Coupe Windstar

Coupe Dame Blanche

Sugar Free

Tiramisu Panna Cotta

Ice Cream

of the day

Sherbet

of the day

Beverages

Espresso, Cappuccino, Cafe au Lait, Tea and Heral Teas, Regular or Decaffeinated Coffee

Cordials & Liqueurs

Louis XIII, Remy Martin

Grand Marnier

Remy Martin X.O.

Courvoisier V.S.O.P.

Tia Maria

Cointreau

Drambuie

Sambuca

Coffee Drinks

Captain's Coffee with Grand Marnier and Tia Maria

Irish Coffee with Irish Whiskey

French Coffee with Cognac

Italian Coffee with Sambuca

Mexican Caffee with Kahlua

Almond Dream with AMaretto and Bailey's

After dinner, Ralph and I viewed "Little Miss Sunshine" while we rested. Feeling frisky, we went hot tubbing on a deserted deck and watched the cluds dance across a half moon. We attempted snuggling in the hammock, but Ralph literally "dragged butt". Another ship passed us quietly in the deep dark of sea night. We finished the night by exploring the spookily dark forward deck and headed off to showers and bed. My handwritten blog states "lovely day" and "I'm very happy."

Day 3: Monday (Ephesus Day) August 2, Kusadasi, Turkey

Highlights: Standing on stage at Ephesus Theater, Incredible Mosaics at Ruins, Silk Thread into Carpet Demo, Turkish Bazaar

This morning I worked out in the fitness center and then walked laps on the deck. Ralph and I had an early breakfast and then boarded the 8 a.m. buss from Kusadasi to Ephesus. We saw Mulberry trees needed for silk worms, and Paul's Prison/Lighthouse. At Ephesus we troured the ruins, including ancient houses being reassembled by archeologists from Austria and Turkey. (The site was deiscovered in 1863 by an English railroad builder.

The weather was extraordinarily hot and humid, something this golfer is accustomed to but very difficult for most of the others. This tour included difficult walking up and down hills and over rough, uneven ground. We viewed the theater, library ruins, and agora, to mention a few. The tourist site included souvenir shops, pay-the-attendant restrooms, and turnstyle gate operated by the bar code on purchased ticket. The highlight of the tour was going into the houses of Ephesus. The archeologist have covered the houses with a pavillion of sorts. Tourists walk up ancient steps and view the reassembled houses. The archeologists are actually working as the tourists watch. It looks as if they have thousands of "puzzle pieces" to assemble. I was mesmorized by the mosaics on the floors of the houses. (See photos to get an idea of this tour.)

(Note: If you are interested in Ephesus from a biblical perspective or a historic one, there are literally thousands of websites. Here is one: http://www.sailturkey.com/panoramas/ephesus/. This site lets you take a virtual tour. It is as close to being there without actually being there as you can probably get.)

Our bus took us to an educational demonstration about silk and carpet. We got to see this Turkish master spin silk thread the old-fashioned way directly from silk worm cocoons. After the demonstration, we drank Ephes beer (or as those of you who really know us have already guessed, I tasted it and Ralph drank both of them) and ate delicious tomato and Turkish cheese sandwiches. The carpet merchant provided them while they showed and explained the carpets they were trying to sell us. Ralph and I didn't happen to have thousands of dollars on us or we would have bought some!

We headed back for the ship to drop off the books and souvenirs we had purchased. Now with lightened load we tackled shopping the Turkish bazaars. It takes nerves of steel to battle the aggressive Turkish salesmen. They cornered me in one store and frankly frightened me a bit. Ralph rescued me and we warned the other American tourists not to go down that street. Keeping in mind that this bazaar is the Turkish version of the Chinatown makrket is New York City, we bartered for cloned designer polo shirts and purchased a Turkish lapel pin. Finally, back at the ship, Ralph napped while I swam, got a pedicure, and sunbathed. We finished this busy day with a five-course dinner. (See full menu next!)

Appetiers: Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Mushroom Salad, Basil and Parmesan (Out of this world delicious, BTW!); Baked Green Mussel on garlic and olive oil served with black beans and mango salsa; Array of Tropical fruit

Soups: Balck bean soup with sauteed bay shrip, Thai chicken and coconut soup with lime and lemon grass

Salads: Spicy shrip, mango and green bean salad; grilled lemon chicken and caramelized fig salad

Entrees: Grilled blackened fresh fish of the day served with lime, cilantro sauce and sateed asparagus; oven roasted pork loin with vegetables couscous and creamy mushroom basil sauce; Shripm Tail on au Pistou with rigatoni Pasta, White Beans, Vegetables and parmesan; beef strip loin and braised short rib with sauteed salsify wrapped in bacon, herb-garlic-trouble jus, mascarpone and chive whipped potatoes; grilled chicken breast with horseradish potato cake, toasted garlic spinach and grilled onion sauce

Desserts: grasshopper profiterole; creepes normande served with vanilla ice cream; caramelized banana and chocolate tart; assorted French pastries, international cheese ray

Coupe Windstar: Tropicana - diced mango and papaya served over vanilla ice cream with dark rum, sprinkled with coconut flakes

Tuesday: August 3, 2010: Rhodes and Lindos, Greece

This morning I slept late, worked out, and then took photos of sun rising over the islands we were passing on the way to Rhodes. I ate breakfast with Lois, a French professor from Ohio U., and with her daughters Sandra and Jennifer. Sandra is a refugee advocate in Istanbul. Jennifer is a doctor in Oregon.

Ralph and I took a 30 minute bus ride through bizarely barren land with the ost beautiful coastline. Hondreds of hotels hugged the shore. The weather was windy on the Aegean side that was lined with pebble beaches, but calm on the Mediterranean side which featured more sand.

We were traveling to Lindros, where an acropolis dedicated to Athena exists. (Virtual tour here: http://www.360travelguide.com/360VirtualTour.asp?iCode=rho36; better site to understand Lindos is here: http://www.rhodesprivatetours.com/acropolis_lindos_%20executive_escorted.htm)

Our bus stopped at a parking lot. We hiked down to the base of the acropolis. It was very hot. Ralph fell on our petite guide and then he rolled dow the hill. It scared everyone. He pulled a chest muscle and cut his hand. We found out later we could have taken the free shuttle bus down, but our guide, Kiki, was in a hurry rush through her talk and go to coffee. The other Greeks working at Lindos ratted her out because they were very unhappy about Ralph's fall. We stopped for the W.C. or restroom where poor Ralph way overpaid the attendant accidently.

Next we hiked up 299 steps, stopping in the shade about four times to listen to our guide. Some of our group abandoned the guide and took the donkey ride up to the top. They were the smarter ones, but we did learn much from the guide. We stayed on top in spite of the brutal sun and took pictures from the ruins looking down. Afterward we took purchased water, and paid the donkey master to take us for a ride down. Our donkey master, Sergio, was entertaining and kept telling Ralph that he was his
Island:  LesbosIsland:  LesbosIsland: Lesbos

This is a rock formation near Lesbos. It looks like a Mexican Hat to me from a distance, but then looks like a creature from the side.
best rider all day. I liked Sergio very much. Ralph tipped him and I gave him European face kisses good-bye. Ralph bought a Lindos book before riding the shuttle with me back down to the parking lot.

We shopped for souvenirs and admired other shoppers who were sporting swimsuits. I bought some playig cards that had pictures of the ancient Greek gods. We bussed back to Rhodes while listening to Greek music. This was a relief because our guide Kiki was bad. She had read all her talks on the way to Lindos and at one point reread about three paragraphs. It was agonizing.

Ralph and I went back on the ship and took a short rest. Then we wanted to see the old town behind the wall at Rhodes and the surrounding area, but we were too tired to walk far. We hired a taxi to take us on a private tour. The driver was ever so nice. He took us to see St. John Castle, Rhodes Acropolis ruin dedicated to Apollo, told us about the flat-antlered deer that killed all the snakes (deer statue), and showed us a dedication to St. Nicoles. He dropped us off
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Serious looking at sea
at the top of Old Town. We viewed the mote, clock tower, and shopped for tourist juk but didn't buy. I took a photo of some fine jewelry, upsetting the shop owner. The bracelet I liked turned out to cost 7,000 Euros which is more than $7,000. We found the gate our of the old wall and hiked back to the ship for dinner.

Dinner Menu:

Appetizers: Chilled shrimp tail with vieetalbe spaghetti, atichoke, and cocktail sauce; crispy salmon with spicy greens and roasted almonds, array of tropical fruit

Soups: Sweet potato soup with all spice creme fraiche, trilogy beans soup

Salads: traditional Caesar salad with garlic croutons; asparagus and mushroom salad with crispy parmesan chips and sherry vinaigrette

Entrees: Pan roasted sea bass served with creamed corn, carrots and walnut oil; duck breast with mashed sweet potatoes and sour cherry sauce; beef tenderloin with crispy shallot ravioli, potato puree, spinach-garlic sauce; braised lamb shank with sauteed viegetables and cumin - potato puree; gratin of gnocchi, oven dried tomatoes, pancetta and asparagus

Desserts: Hot chocolate souffle with vailla sauce; panettone ice cream sandwich with muscat syrup; compote of berries and mascarpone; assorted French pastries;
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On the bridge wearing the captains hat
international cheese tray

Wednesday, August 4, 2010: Boldrum, Turkey (Highlights: St. John's Castle, Mausoleum)

We took the tender to shore, bussed through narrow streets to Mausoleum ruins and guided tour. Next we hiked to St. John's Castle. The castle was made from the stones stolen from the mausoleum. Here is a virtual tour of the English tower of the castle: http://www.bodrum-museum.com/museum/depts/english_tower.htm. You can click on the related links if you are a history buff or enjoy underwater archeology. Inside the castle is an amazing collection of glassware brought up from an ancient ship. The archeologist who brought the glass up is actually present at the museum and gives guided tours. He is a very interesting, affable guide, and all the people signed up for that particular tour raved about it later at dinner.

Our entire tour group decided they had had enough of Bodrum's heat, so we all took the shuttle back to the Windstar. On a side note, the shuttle was supposed to leave at noon, but did not. There was a mix up. Ralph and I were perfectly content to wait for the next shuttle in an hour, but the others were not at all
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On the bridge with the first officer
content. One of the passengers was an appellate judge for the state of NY. He negotiated with not one, but two Windstar agents working on the island. We finally got shuttled back to the ship at about 12:30.

Ralph and I thoroughly enjoyed a lovely buffet including some most excellent cheeses. While Ralph then napped, I went swimming, tubing, and giant mat surfing with a passenger named Becky and her Aunt Patty. We had a smashing time and all agreed that the water sports deck was awesome. Of course a massive dinner followed.

Appetizers: Norwegian Smoked Salmon with horseradish potato salad; crispy filo dough cup with mushroom, glazed onions, and wilted spinach; array of tropical fruit

Soup: French oion soup au gratin; celery soup with curried celery root and apple salad

Salads: manchego cheese salad with lettuce, apples, walnut and pistachio oil; pear and goat cheese salad with prosciutto

Entrees: pan fried orange roughy served with herbed potato puree, tomato and capers; prime rib of beef au jus served with double baked potato, grilled half tomato with pesto and horseradish cream; grilled rack of lamb with vegetable tart and savory lamb jus; herb crusted pork
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Arriving
medallion with pearl barley risotto, baby artichoke and creamy gree perppercorn sauce; herb and cream cheese ravioli with peppered tomato nage and crispy basil

Deserts: Crepes and cherries jubilee fantasia

That night the passengers met in the lounge to play "Name that Tune". Our group got 15 of 20, but the judge's group got all 20 and thus won the champagne. We all danced to the piano music of Roy, the on-board keyboard and piano player. Needless to say, Ralph and I had no trouble going to sleep later.

August 5: Santorini, Greece

I was up early to walk laps on the deck and inhale fresh ocean air bathed in amazing sunrise. The ocean sparkled pink pink over azure. This was the day we were going to Fira and Oia Village on Santorini. We took a Greek tender to shore and boarded a coach bus. The coach wound us around and up, up, up a beautiful scienic road winding to the highest point of Santorini. We took photos and then went by bus to Oia.

The views are breath taking! We shopped and bough jewelry. As we bussed down, we decided to live on Santorini
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Docking
for the rest of our lives. We just need to win the lottery. Ralph and I shopped in Fira, buying a dress, slip, and shirt. The shop owner advised us where to go for lunch. Her advise was valid. We met up with other cruisers and had incredible Greek food. It was absolutely wonderul and fresh. Our companions, Roger and Jo Ann from Monterey told us about their medical practice ( He is doctor specializing in oncology and she is a nurse specializing in asthetics. He had just returned from the swim/mud bath tour. Next we linked up with Jim and Lori (guitarist and his wife from L.A. She is in sales for Oracle) and took cablecar ride to dock. We joined Jennifer and Sandra and went shopping in the duty free store. Afterwards Ralph napped on the ship while I swam.

Later that night, everyone met on deck for the big BBQ dinner. We had a party with line dancing after the captain of the ship gave us a wonderful surprise. It was his last voyage as captain of the Windstar, so he wanted to take us as close to our sister ship, the Windstorm, as allowed by regulation. We did a full circle around their ship for great pictures. Our sails were all at full mast. As it got dark, the crew performed crazy line dances and the cruisers joined in for rowdy fun.

Dinner BBQ:

From the buffet
Stuffed avocados with hame and egg, Greek salad, marinated heart of palm, melon boats with parma ham, traditional Caesar salad, gravlax with honey mustard sauce, assorted pates and terrines with cumberland sauce, shrimps with cocktail sauce, international cheese tray, assorted tropical fruits, assorted breads, rolls, bread sticks, and corn bread

Chafing dishes
Vegetable fried rice, potato gratin, ratatouille, baked potatoes with all the rimmings

From the charcoal grill
Marinated fillet of local fish, grilled lobster tail, marinated dijon lamb chop, BBQ chicken

Carving station
Whole roasted suckling pig, Asian spice marinated hanger beef

Desserts
Assorted pastries and cakes, bananas foster

August 6, 2010: Mykonos, Greece (Highlights - Delos ruins, Beaches)

We took a tour of Delos with a wonderful Greek lady named Maria as our guide. She was very sweet, as well as knowledgable. She took us through the ruins, telling us the history and Greek mythology that went with Delos. She showed us the workings of the plumbing and explained how the atrium floor was over the cistern of the house. Maria sat us in the Delos ancient theater and finished telling us the story of the area. We all walked down to the museum and viewed the sculptures, including the hand. (See this site for vitual tour with a nice video of Delos: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/keir.clarke/delos.htm).

When we finished touring the museum, we rested at the gift shop cafe. Later we walked throught the remaining area of Delos, admiring the great entrance filled with ruins of the statues sculptured from marble.

Mykonos is upscale and thus more expensive. It is a playground of the very rich. Ralph and I wanted to see the famous beaches and do some shopping. We swam at a nearby beach, but did not tarry long. I was starving (which I know you find amazing considering how much food we have had at the ship!) Ralph bought me lunch at a very small cafe that reminded me of a Subway. I ordered a baguette sandwich filled with cucumber, feta, onions, black olives, etc. It cannot be overemphasized how fresh and wonderful all the food was. Finally Ralph and I shopped the little tourist stores and headed back to the ship. Guess what! Ralph napped while I went swimming and tubing with the teenagers. I realized I had overdone it and swam back to the ship to get cleaned up for dinner. Both Ralph and I were very tired and went to bed as soon as dinner was finished because we had a very early call in the morning.

Appetizers: Sweet crab salad served on puff pastry tart and fresh guacamole, classic escargots, array of tropical fruit

Soups: Minestrone Mediterraneo; spinach, lemon and lentil soup

Salads: Chinese chicken salad with crispy wontons and peanut sauce; Greek salad with shrimp

Entrees: Pistachio crusted fish with sweet potatoes and lemon star fruit butter; classic surf and turf with saffron jasmine rice, cauliflower and duo of sauce; chicken curry on Asian white steamed rice, mango chutney, raisin and shredded toasted coconut; veal picatta Milanese with sauteed spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce; pappardelle pasta with rotisserie chicken, glazed shallots and garlic spinach

Desserts: Mocha and chocolate terrine with almond sauce; panna cota with fresh berries; chocolate croissant bread pudding with wild turkey sauce; assorted French pastries; international cheese tray

Coup Windstar: Pear margarita with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

Saturday, August 7: Athens, Greece

This morning we arose at 4:45 a.m., showered, and finished packing bags. Bags had to be loaded at 6 a.m.

I went for a quick walk around the deck, but mainly stared at the constellations and watched the sunrise in Athen's sister city's port.

We gathered in the lounge for last minute tour information and then collected our passports. We boarded buses for a very short trip to the port. There we claimed our luggage and loaded on a tour bus. Only six people, including us, were on tour of the Athen's acropolis and Parthenon. We toured the acropolis, Parthenon and the new museaum of the acropolis with our guide. For a really nice virtual tour go to this web site and click on the numbers in the legend: http://www.acropolis360.immersive360.com/movies/acropolis_tour1a_FS.html.

After the tours, the tour bus dropped us off at the Hotel Grande Bretagne. (See http://www.grandebretagne.gr/ for photos and text about the hotel.) We walked to the corner and exchanged currency at a bank window. Then we climbed into a taxi and headed for our hotel, Hotel Hermes. It turned out it was only about four blocks away from the taxi area. (See photos.) The hotel was a bread and breakfast. It had little air conditioning and a small room, but it was okay and much cheaper than the luxury hotel.

We checked in and settled our stuff into the hotel room. Then we went a few doors down the street to a very small cafe and had lunch. Afterwards we shopped and took a double-decker tour of the city. Additionally we walked to the parliament to watch the famous changing of the guard. That evening we ate fantastic Greek food at a restaurant located right on the busy square near the parliament.




















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