Our Amazing Days in Athens

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July 11th 2015
Published: July 21st 2015
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Changing of the GuardChanging of the GuardChanging of the Guard

Syntagma Square
After a much needed night of rest, we started our exploration of Athens on Thursday morning first heading to Syntagma Square and up the stairs to the Parliament buildings. We were just in time to see the changing of the guard. I had forgotten what a wonderful show it was, full of tradition, flair, and culture. We watched as the guards began their slow, methodical walk and the high, over-exaggerated kick of their tassled feet into the air. The sun was unrelenting as we watched this wonderful display and we felt badly for them wearing their heavy uniforms and thick leg coverings. From there we made our way through the National Gardens and followed the path until we reached the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Everyone was in awe of this magnificent set of ancient ruins. We walked around the huge structure, amazed at the sheer size and imagining what it must have been like so many years ago. Construction began on this temple, which was dedicated to Zeus, in the 6th century B.C. and was not completed until 638 years later! In the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire it was pillaged and many of the stones were used in other buildings. Regardless, it still remains one of those places that fosters a sense of incredible disbelief that something so magnificent could have been built so long ago. From there we headed towards the Acropolis, trying desperately to find some shaded, breezy places to stop and rest. It was a long walking day for my parents, but they soldiered on. After leaving them on a bench, under a tree, the rest of us climbed up a high rock where we had a splendid view of the city surrounding us, as well as a closer view of the Acropolis. We continued on our journey back towards Monastiraki Square and found a corner restaurant with fans spewing out cool mist so we stopped for lunch and a much needed cold drink. Once we returned to the hotel everyone took some time to rest in an attempt to cool down.

Later in the evening we went down to the bar attached to our hotel for a drink before heading out for dinner. We found a very busy street that was crammed with restaurants. The noise was overpowering as tourists enjoyed the warm evening air. As one establishment quickly put 10 chairs and tables together for us, we sat down and enjoyed another great Greek meal. Mom and Curtis ordered fish which was a little disappointing for them but everyone else seemed to thoroughly enjoy their food. In typical Greek fashion, we were given free dessert! Walking back to our hotel we stopped for gelatto and then bid everyone goodnight and settled in.

Friday morning dawned sunny again and the temperatures soared once more. Our plan of attack for the day was to walk the streets in the Plaka and then make our way to the Ancient Agora. Stopping in shop after shop, we admired the beautiful jewellery, the array of spices and olive oil products. We soon entered the sight of the Agora, where we walked around under the blazing sun. We marvelled at the ruins around us and as we were wandering I suddenly heard a voice call out, "Hi! How are you?". Ironically enough it was the handsome young man I had met on the train and whose backpack I was keeping an eye on! We chatted for a couple of minutes and then wished each other well. My dad asked who I was talking to and I told him it was the young man I met on the train, the one I told not to worry because I had my hand on his bag! Well my family all burst out laughing at my poor choice of words!!! Try as I might I could not get out of that one gracefully as my next comment was, "No, I said I had my eye on his bag!". I just gave up at that point 😊.

The Ancient Agora is an example of a classic Greek marketplace. We wandered throughout the ruins and into the Stoa of Attalos where we enjoyed seeing the beautiful Greek relics that had been unearthed over the years. From there we headed up to the Temple of Hephaestus. This beautifully preserved temple was built two years before the Parthenon. It sits up on Kolonos Agoraios Hill overlooking the agora and is the only Greek temple that has all four walls still intact. We wandered around the perimeter, marvelling at the structure itself, as well as the friezes that depicted battles and labors. This temple was dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of volcanoes and metalworking.

After making the trek down from the temple we then found a shady restaurant for lunch. We then wandered around for some time, thankful that many streets were covered by awnings. Shopped out, and ready for a cold drink, we sat down to enjoy cold Mythos beer, Greek salad, tzatziki and pita bread - delicious! We watched as an elderly Greek man was trying in vain to sell cartoon character helium balloons. We gave 2 euro to Amy to go and buy one from him, saying "What if that was your Papa?". She went to him and right away came back and said, "They cost 5 euros!". We willingly put out the extra money just to help him out (of course, later on, we had to listen to her as she sucked out the helium and had us in fits of laughter!!).

My brother-in-law, Steve, and our close family friend Bobby were arriving the next day to Athens. Our plan was for them to come in from the airport and we would meet them and then everyone would head up to the Acropolic. Because of the extreme heat and the fact that we were all struggling with walking in it throughout the day, we decided that Curtis, Kellan, and myself would take my parents up in the early evening in hopes that it would be less intense. Our hotel called taxis for us and dropped us at the base of the hill. Having read that there was an elevator for disabled people, my goal was to secure a spot on it for my mom and dad. I went up to the man at the gate and explained that my dad had a knee replacement and found it difficult to walk and that my mom had asthma so that heat really affected her breathing. He wanted to know if they had papers that outlined these ailments. I said, "No, just a large scar and a puffer.". He gave us a couple of options: #1 - they could walk 300m to the elevator and take it as long as they did not have heart issues (it went up the outside of the rock and is apparently a bit unnerving), or #2 - do the normal walk up. As I had hoped they chose #1. This kind man walked them to the elevator, along with Kellan. Curtis and I proceeeded up the tourist path. As we reached the top we were a bit unsure of where the elevator was located and so we wandered around. Suddenly we saw the three of them sitting on a bench and we soon began our exploration of this magical, historical place that we had seen from various vantage points throughout Athens. As we strolled around the paths we gazed at the classic Parthenon, the six statues of beautiful girls on the south portico of the Erechtheion and the Propylaea. What a wonderful experience to enjoy with my parents as we strolled through the grounds. The expression on their faces was priceless and I will forever treasure the fact that I was able to be with them when they took in the beauty of this ancient site. We soon headed back down, Mom, Dad, and Kellan on the elevator once again. Curtis and Kellan decided to walk back to the hotel while we stopped for a cold drink and a rest before hailing a cab. The first driver I approached told me he could not take us because the streets were closed near our hotel. What a strange comment. I decided to talk to another driver who was more than willing to ferry us. As we climbed in and headed off our taxi the driver was quite exhuberant and talkative! He told us about a cruise that we could take on our final day which concluded with us being dropped off at the airport. We let him prattle on, taking in all he was saying. As we neared Syntagma Square guess what??? The roads were closed as there was a demonstration being held in response to the upcoming referendum vote. He let us off a couple of streets away, somewhat disappointed that we would not take him up on his cruise sales pitch!! As we neared the entrance to the hotel everyone was sitting having a drink. When they saw us walking looks of astonishment shone clearly on their faces. I played it up by saying we could not get a taxi and that we walked the whole way back. Astonishment turned to pure shock!!! We couldn't carry it for much longer and we soon broke into laughter, explaining what had happened.

My brother had gone up to the square to check out the protest. When he arrived back he was all smiles, stating that it was just like one big party!!! Street vendors had set up "street meat" stands, others were grilling souvlaki and corn. Beer was flowing freely and various groups were flying their flags and chanting. Of course curiosity killed the cat and before long everyone, except my parents, headed up.. What an incredible experience to be part of something so historical and peaceful. We were fortunate to not be there for a later protest that became quite violent. After a while we elicited the help of a young man standing near us to explain what was going on. The main upset for most people is that this referendum was worse than what was originally proposed and pensions would be cut. We stayed for a while and then headed back to the hotel (after purchasing a couple of Greek flags and stealing a placard!). We returned to the hotel where we went back to Giorgo's restaurant where we enjoyed another fantastic meal and were treated like royalty. Most of us went back to go to bed and some headed out for some nightlife. Let's just say it was a night of adventures for many but that is another story.

Early Saturday morning, Shawna, Curtis, and I walked through the National Gardens and went to the Olympic Stadium. With the help of our audioguides we heard the history of this wonderful place. Curtis ran the track and Shawna jogged a few metres to the cheers of the crowd! Later we all stood atop the podium and waved in victory😊. Returning to the hotel, we all walked up to Syntagma Square to meet Steve and Bob. Once we all connected, Curtis, Kellan, and I took Mom and Dad to the National Archaelogical Museum while everyone else ventured to the Acropolis. It was a nice cool place to spend the hottest part of the day. We met up with everyone in Monistraki Square and headed back for our luggage. Kellan and Curtis veered off on a special "mission". In the meantime we opted to take taxis to the airport instead of the train. We were all ready, 3 taxis waiting, and still my husband and son did not appear. We sent 2 taxis off and Sadie and I waited and waited and waited. I hate being late and was fit to be tied. After what seemed like an eternity, they appeared. I whistled and yelled for them to get a move on. We piled
The ErechtheionThe ErechtheionThe Erechtheion

South Portico of the Caryatides
into the taxi and headed for the airport. It may have been a quiet trip. Once we arrived we finally all retrieved our boarding passes, checked our bags, and made it to our gate. Not long after we boarded the airport bus and out to our plane. We were thrilled with Aegean Air and its extensive leg room! The flight to Crete was only 35 minutes, virtually up and down. The descent and landing was quite rough and my good luck charms were abandoned as I clung to the hands of Curtis and Kellan. We had arrived and were ready to begin our two weeks on the beautiful island of Crete!

Additional photos below
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Our Last Night in AthensOur Last Night in Athens
Our Last Night in Athens

Garret, Giorgos, and Amy

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