Thursday, June 18, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Day Seven Athens

Dear Em,
We spent Friday in Athens, Greece. Feeling a little more confident after having a few excursions under our belts, we decided to explore Athens on our own. We started out early in the morning with a really aggressive cab driver. He tried to sell us an all day tour, when really we just wanted a quick ride. He didn't want to take no for an answer & asked again & again. Very early on it became clear that we would need to be a little bit more assertive in Greece. The cabbie dropped us off at the Acropolis instead of the Plaka (the shopping market) like we had asked, but it ended up working out because we were able to see most of the ancient tourist attractions before they got crowded with people. 

When you see so many of the iconic European attractions in photos & on TV, it almost always seems like the fascinating, historical structures stand tall & quietly on their own. In reality, most of the sights we've seen so far have been squeezed in the middle of modern, bustling cities crowded by thousands of tourists. Athens was the city I've been waiting for. Sure, there were lots of tourists (less first thing in the morning), but the Acropolis was built high up on a hill all on its own. We had the ancient sight in front of us, with the modern city of Athens a mere blur in the background. 

We saw the Acropolis high up on a hill with the Parthenon...


Odeon of Herodes Atticus...

& Theater of Dionysus. 

Just picture ruins, many of which dated B.C., on top of a hill, surrounded by aerial city views. 

Next we headed to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

 We took a little detour on our way to the first modern Olympic stadium (built in the 1800s), but eventually we found it.

There were sweet stray dogs & cats surrounding each tourist attraction. It made me think of your Aunt Andrea's love of animals & our cats at home. 

We had a quick walk through the National Garden, past the National Archaeological Museum. My favorite sweet-smelling, white, pinwheeled flowers lined the garden walls. There were tangerine (or maybe orange or clementine) trees, with the overripe tangerines laying on the ground below. 

While Liz & Glen stopped to check the map, Daddy & I sat & watched a couple of the videos Grandma sent us of your music concert. You did so great!!! We're so proud of you. The pictures & videos put such a smile in my heart. 

On the other side of the gardens was a bustling market area: the Plaka. There, we found aggressive shop & restaurant workers begging for our patronage. The economy in Greece is in peril right now. While most of the tourist attractions were wonderful to see, the rest of Athens was not in good shape. You could see it in the begging of the restaurant keepers.

Regardless of the pushy shop keepers, the Plaka was such a cute place to walk around. The shops were within narrow, quaint alleyways, & I loved feeling immersed in Greek culture- even if it was in a touristy area.  We did a little bit of shopping before sitting down at a rustic Greek restaurant to feast on gyros, Greek salads, bread, & olive oil. We washed it all down with chilled wine. It was the ultimate (or maybe stereotypical) Greek dining experience.

We did some more walking & shopping & touring the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum  before making our way back to the Acropolis to find a cab. By then we were all hot & tired from a full day of sightseeing & ready to head back to the ship. 

 For me, one of my favorite parts of Athens is that we did it all (or almost everything) with an amazing view of the iconic Acropolis high up on the hill.

Once we made it back to the ship, we did a little bit of swimming in the pool & relaxing in the hot tub. We chose a casual buffet dinner instead of our typical formal dining spot. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, & Daddy & I decided it would be better to forgo the night's cruise events in favor of a full night's sleep. 

We watched the videos & looked at the pictures from your music concert again before going to sleep. We miss you so much. As great of an experience as we are having, I'm so glad we're more than halfway through our trip. We'll be home to you soon!

I love you so,

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