Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Athens Trip

Between the 23rd and the 27th of March, Marty and I were in Athens! We had never been on a "proper" holiday together before this - only trips to Belfast which aren't really holidays as we have so much stuff to fit in and we are only really there to visit family. So our first proper holiday together was a daunting but welcome prospect. Technically our honeymoon, though 5 months after the event!

Getting to Athens itself was relatively straightforward. We always drive to the airport now, having realised just how cheap airport parking is when booked in advance. Usually we would pay £25 each for a return train fare to Gatwick, but the whole 5 days in the Long Stay car park was only £33. Plus, getting a train that would have got us there for 7am would have been tricky! We got up around 5 ish, got ready and frantically checked we had our passports and boarding cards one last time (ok, three or four "last times"). Easyjet now say you HAVE to check in before you get to the airport, apparently to "save time" however when we got there the check in desks were completely dead - instead there was a crazy long queue just to drop off hold bags!! So where the time saving comes into it, I'm not sure. Either way, we had to queue to half an hour before we even dropped off our bags. Thankfully, security was a breeze and the welcomed Costa Coffee and panini went down a treat too. It was pretty snowy at Gatwick so we took off very late as they had to de-ice the plane, but once we were up in the air all was fine. A beautiful view of the Alps from the plane kept me amused, until I decided to re-watch My Neighbour Totoro on my iPad (still obsessed with that film!!)

Alps from the plane

We landed and got our bags pretty quickly, and made our way out of the airport to what we thought would be a metro train. But apparently the drivers who run the City Centre to airport part of the line were on STRIKE! We went back into the airport for advice and were told to get a bus to the centre, then metro from there if we needed to. The bus was absolutely fine apart from having absolutely no idea where we were at any point or where to get off. We guessed right though, and soon found an open metro station. Thankfully it was only a couple of stops to our new base of Metaxourghio. I'm not going to lie, I knew this hotel was budget - I booked it because of the price, but the area was a lot more run down that I had thought. It was quite depressing on the bus ride in to see just how much of an effect the economic collapse has had on Athens. So many empty, crumbling buildings. *sigh*

The view from our hotel

We were both knackered after arriving at the hotel, some 2 hours since we had got our bags at the airport, so Marty had a sleep and I had a shower and a lie down. Thankfully the hotel has free wifi so I wasn't too bored as he slept the evening away! Marty is NOT a good traveler and even worse when really tired. He really wasn't feeling well so I ordered a room service dinner (an amazing 4 egg omlette).

The next morning I woke him up early as we had planned to go to The Acropolis. But he was really not well, with stomach pains and feeling sick. He spent the majority of the day asleep again, so I was stuck in the hotel  with very little to do! I was feeling really down because this was meant to be a way for me to show Marty that traveling is awesome, in the hope that we could go to more places in future (he generally hates anywhere that involves leaving the house). And here he was, really not feeling great. And what made me feel worse was that the following day, Monday, was a major bank holiday celebrating Greek independence and most things were going to be closed. Fighting back tears at my own failure to arrange a decent holiday, I tweeted a few Greek travel companies, one of whom got back to me and said the major new museum at the base of the Acropolis was not only going to be open on Monday but would be FREE! Huzzah! Monday was saved!

Marty still didn't feel well in the evening so I ordered some more room service, and decided to try something Greek. Moussaka is not nice :( but the Mythos beer was lovely!!

Monday morning came and we decided to get up really early, as we expected the museum to be very busy what with it being free and everyone being off work (and everything else being closed...!) But we got there and there was no queue, we just walked right in. The museum is built over an active excavation of an Ancient Greek street. You can see this from the outside but also inside the floor is transparent so you can see them working underneath!

After very gingerly taking a few steps and realising that the floor was indeed safe, we made our way through the museum. We hadn't realised that you weren't allowed to take photos, and we got busted several times for doing so! I am not sure why you aren't allowed - Marty surmised that if you were able to just show your friends photos, they wouldn't then also pay to go to the museum. Makes sense! We did slyly take a few photos of the best artifacts though, my favourite being this column top and the caryatids from the Erectheion temple (more on that later)


Column Top

 The museum was amazing with so many great artifacts, it was hard to make sure you'd seen them all (it also wasn't very well laid out, there was no set route through the museum you kind of just wandered through of your own volition).

We stopped and had a coffee in the museum bar area. Me being me and wanting to try new things had a Greek coffee. It was horrible!! It seemed to have loads of bits in, like it was really grainy, but the coffee taste itself was like an espresso but with a slight hint of chocolate.

Hadrian's Arch is just right there on the street, so there was no way it could be closed. So we had a walk down to it, and took a few photos. There isn't much else to do once you've seen it, so we then had a wander down to the Panathenaic Stadium, where the 1896 Games were held. We didn't expect it to be open, but you can see it perfectly well from the street so we thought we would have a look anyway. I am so glad we did, because it was indeed open, and it had some great photo opportunities! Cue Usain Bolt pose (which I am sure EVERYONE does!)

The stadium itself was built from the familiar beige rock that seems to be everywhere in Athens. There was also a little underground passage that took you to a room full of all the old Olympic Torches, which was really cool!

Tuesday was the day I had been waiting for and a trip up the Acropolis. And not just waiting for on this trip - but since I was obsessed with the Ancient Greeks as a kid. We first visited Temple of Olympian Zeus, which is just slap bang in the middle of a field and surrounded by modern buildings. It still amazes me that this stuff is just there you know? Does that make sense??

Temple of Olympian Zeus
We then made our way up to the Acropolis. And what a place that is! Entrance to everything on and around the Acropolis was only 12 Euros, which was very reasonable considering its probably the main reason people go to Athens. Of course, the main stuff is at the top but on the way up there are some great Ancient Greek monuments, including Theatre of Dionysus and Odeon of Herades Atticus. The Odeon was my favourite and it gave me a great excuse to switch to panoramic on my phone camera!

Odeon of Herades Atticus

The views on the way up the Acropolis were astounding, you can see the whole of Athens and all the way out to sea and mountain ranges. A very beautiful sight!

At the top of the Acropolis, of course, the Parthenon and Erectheion. These two temples are side by side and are currently being restored (hence all the scaffolding). It was a strange juxtaposition (I LOVE that word) between the machinery and the 3000 year old monuments. Breathtaking!

The Parthenon

Me in front of Erectheion
Erectheion temple is where the Caryatids were taken from, the ones that were in the museum and are being restored. I have just noticed that in the above picture it seems one lady is holding up another, as you do! Probably trying to get some arty shots :) This is my effort!

It was a stunning place, and its not overrun with people like you might think. It may be because we were there in the "off season" I guess, but it was still a glorious sunny day as you can see! The temperature over there was around 18 degrees most of the time, T shirt weather for us but the Greeks were still in big coats and scarves - clearly this isn't warm at all to them!

Overall it was a really wonderful trip - illness notwithstanding. I like to think it maybe broadened Marty's travel horizons, but we'll see how easy it is for me to convince him to go somewhere else in future! It was certainly an amazing cultural visit, it still amazes me the feats that people 3000 years ago were able to achieve. But then again, they didn't have TVs, so what else was there to do expect spend years and years chiseling rock!?

Rather than bore you with hundreds of photos, if you'd like to see more you can visit my Flickr set, linked here

Me and Marty at Hadrian's Arch


  1. Love this post, especially the forbidden pictures! :O