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December 30th 2008
Published: February 18th 2009
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Nick in the National Archaeological Museum
Yay! The family made it… and almost on time too! Alex and I were holding our breath watching the flights the family was supposed to be on via the airport updates and watched with dismay as the trans-Atlantic flight was about 30 minutes too late for the Amsterdam-Athens connection. However, they did manage to fly in via Paris and were only about 6 hours late. We were worried they hadn’t made it when their Air France flight came in with no sign of them… but their baggage was lost so they had to deal with that before coming out the arrivals section of the airport. There was a Johnny Walker ad on the arrival sliding doors that I will never forget as we peered through the opening as people came out to meet their families. One of the best placed ads of all time!

The night they arrived the family was tuckered. But we were all super excited to see each other so we stayed up late chatting and drinking Mythos. The Athens Gate hotel was fabulous. A big step up from what Alex and I are used to! Classy but not snooty… they didn’t even look down their noses
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Alex and Mike discovering (the hard way) that those orange trees you see everywhere in the streets of Athens produce ornamental fruit that is not edible. So sour it hurts!
at Alex and I as we fetched our backpacks from the hostel next door. From our room we could see Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus and from the other side of the hotel you could see the Parthenon.

The first day in Athens we were all tired (especially the jet lagged portion of our little party) so we ate the fantastic breaky the hotel offered and headed for the National Archaeological Museum. It is hailed as having one of the most impressive collections of historical Greek goodies in the world. All the information was rather daunting. Good thing Lauretta has been writing everything she learns in her note pad. I hope I don’t get quizzed later. There were all sorts of pieces that reflected the culture of ancient Greece. But my favourite piece was a bronze sculpture of a small boy on a warhorse. The expression on his little face made it seem he had some very important news to tell in a hurry, perhaps the Sardinians are coming!

After the museum we wondered back towards the hotel and went out for lunch at a rather unimpressive taverna with very chewy calamari then picked up some
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Mike in front of a former New Balance shoe store that was torched in the riots a couple weeks ago. This one was right across the road from the museum.
more Mythos from the same little store Alex and I had bought snacks from on Boxing Day (turns out the Athens Gate hotel was only half a block away from our hostel). They are now out of Mythos because we bought it all… and some of the German beer when they ran out of the Greek stuff. Good thing we have been walking lots lately! When we got back there were bags in Ray and Lauretta’s hotel room. We were excited at first because there were Christmas goodies (not to mention a change of clothes) to be had. But there were only three bags! Lauretta’s bag was still lost… unfortunately it had our goodies. So we will have to wait a little longer for Christmas presents. Lauretta called the airport and for some reason her bag is in Kiev, Ukraine. At least her bag is getting a proper tour of Europe!

From our breakfast table on day two we could see the Parthenon and there was no keeping Ray from seeing it up close. So we huffed and puffed up the Acropolis with Ray in the lead to find not only one of the most famous ancient structures in
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Hadrian's Gate which historically separated the old Greek part of the city with the new Roman part built by the emporer Hadrian.
the world, but a fantastic view of Athens. We hadn’t seen or heard any actual rioters (although we had seen plenty of their fire damage) here since our arrival. But from our new vantage point we could hear some protesters marching. Apparently they were protesting against having stores open on Sundays. The greeks love to hit the streets! After coming down from the Parthenon and heading through the ancient Roman Stoa we found ourselves in the Plaka district markets. It was one of the bigger markets we have seen in our travels, but it was obviously aimed at the wealthier of the tourists. Nick wanted to get an Athenian war helmet but changed his mind when he realized they were about 200 euros.

The last day we headed for all of the sights we hadn’t yet seen. The Temple of Zeus had dogs running all over. I don’t think anyone told them to stay behind the velvet rope! We could see the temple from our hotel room window… but you don’t really get a feeling for the actual size of the monument until you are standing at the bottom of one of the 16 remaining pillars. Another amazing achievement.
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The Parthenon from below
My favourite was the old Panathinaiko Stadium. It held the first modern Olympics in 1896 and also held the archery competitions and the end of the marathon in 2004. Unfortunately, the more recent crowd did some serious damage to the finish of the structure (which was mostly still original) so people are no longer allowed to roam through the stadium. But it was very cool for a couple of supreme sports fans to be so close to the birth of sport!

We also wondered through some lesser known monuments and buildings until we came to the National Garden. There were all sorts of games and Christmas buildings for the little ones and we even found ourselves enjoying the little petting farm who’s greatest attraction was some roosters with enormous talons! We also saw the parliament buildings right in front of Syntagma Square where the famous royal guard made like they were guarding the ministry of silly walks. Once we finished giggling at the guards we walked through the square which had a new tree (the rioters had burned down the last one) and police guarding it. There were also skinny Santas leading children on Shetland ponies and rides for
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The remaining pillars at the Temple of Zeus. This was directly across the road from our hotel. It was pretty cool to eat your breaky while overlooking such an ancient site.
kids. I wanted to play with the ponies, but everyone else found the display slightly too Christmasy so we headed back to the hotel to enjoy our last night in Athens.

For our dinner we decided to go out, but didn’t make it further than the restaurant on the top floor where we usually had our breakfast. The dinner was expensive and not particularly tasty… I think we could have done better if we weren’t so sleepy. However, the view from up there at night is unbeatable. There is still over a week to eat some proper Greek cuisine. I might even try some calamari.

Tomorrow we are headed to the small town of Marathonas, about one hour out of Athens, to the villa Ray has kindly rented for a week. We are looking forward to having more space to party than one hotel room!



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The boys deciding where to go in the National Garden
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The Panathinaiko Stadium where the first modern Olympic games were held in 1896 and where the marathon ended in the 2004 games.
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One of the ridiculously dressed Greek Guards outside the Parliament building
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Family reunion over pints in the pub


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