Travel Journal: Play it again, Sam.

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The nitty gritty of booking a holiday, quite frankly, bores me. I hate comparing hotels, finding cheap flights and working out how to get from one to the other when your plane lands at 3am. Once all that’s done, however, I love researching things to do, places to eat and sights to see.

Apparently, open air cinemas are quintessentially Greek. I’m no film buff, but I do love a trip to the cinema so a visit to an open air theatre was a must. Before the trip I’d seen that Casablanca was listed as ‘Coming Soon’, so I was pleased to find out it was showing a couple of days before we were due to leave.

I’ve only recently (within the last six months) watched Casablanca for the first time. Despite it being a classic film, I’d never got round to seeing it but I wish I’d watched it sooner! I know the blog title is a misquote but it’s still iconic.

Athens Open Air Cinema

Watching for the second time in an open air theatre with a couple of hundred Athenian locals was an unusual experience. It was in English with Greek subtitles so everyone could follow along together, but interestingly, the locals reacted differently to parts of the film than I did. They laughed at different parts and there were a lot more gasps and boos than an English girl could politely make in the company of others.

I knew I’d be watching with a Greek audience but I was more looking forward to an outside viewing on a warm night than considering how another culture watched the same film. It was a pleasant surprise, and by the end there were plenty of people holding back the tears, me included. (Oh Rick, we knew you were a good guy all along!)

After mixing with the locals at the pictures we had one full day in Athens left (doesn’t time fly?!) In a week, we’d ticked off most of the main sights and tourist attractions, leaving only the Ancient Agora to visit.

An agora is basically a meeting place, used as somewhere to buy, sell, or trade, or as a place for public speaking and meetings – think of a Roman forum. It’s also where we get the word agoraphobia; a fear of open spaces.

With so many different things happening in an agora, there was lots of different types of building and styles of architecture. A good place to start is the Stoa of Attalos; the Oxford Street of it’s day, it was once full of shops only affordable to the wealthy Athenian.

Ancient AgoraNow, it’s home to a museum which showcases these lovely models of the Acropolis and surrounding area throughout different time periods.

Pantheon ModelJust hanging out at the Parthenon, I love the little fella leaning on a collumn!

There’s something about minatures which is so likeable. It must be the quaintness of an imaginary mini world, either that or the sense of power I get from feeling so tall!

Back to normal scale, we carried on exploring the rest of the Agora.

And that’s it for the Travel Journal series! We’ve reached the end of the holiday, ate all the Greek salad we can, and put the sunglasses away.


Travel Journal: Little Miracles

Athens ThriftLook how beautiful this Greek antique/vintage/junk shop is! I spotted the shop front down a side street whilst we were strolling along eating frozen yoghurt. The  little wooden sign informed me it was called ‘Little Miracles’, and knowing  it wasn’t to be missed I went for a poke around.

Vintage Horn

Vintage Umbrella Stand

Vintage Grammaphone

Spilling out onto the street were; pots and pans; candlesticks; vases; an umbrella stand; a tricycle, bed warmers; and numerous brass instruments.

Inside was just as chaotic, with items pinned from wall to wall and trinkets crammed into every nook and cranny.

vintage cameras

Vintage Perfume

Perfume bottles are always so pretty, and make such a pleasing dressing table. I love vintage bottles, particularly those with atomisers, instant glamour.

I’d never heard of ‘Crepe De Chine’ before but I’ve found a lovely review online:

“Crepe de Chine is a stunning, world class perfume. The scent has a clean, fresh entry with a gorgeous full bodied greenfloral accord at its heart, all over creamy, dreamy exotic woods. Crepe de Chine envelopes you with beauty beyond compare.” [1] 

One look at that Art Deco bottle and I’m picturing flapper dresses, classic cars, and cigarettes in long thin holders being smoked by ladies with red lipstick.

Vintage TeacupsI was brought crashing back to reality when the shop owner told me these china teacups were €27! Maybe she knows something I don’t about the floral motif, but you could thrift something similar much closer to home. Our charity shops are always full of tiny treasures at bargain prices.

Little Miracles antiques was a detour on the way to the Acropolis museum which was our main plan for the day. However, no photographs are allowed in the museum. This doesn’t make for a very fun blog post so instead I’ll show you our quick visit to the Panathenaic stadium later that day.

We’d spotted the stadium from our open top bus tour on the first day and thought it looked quite impressive. Although marble is everywhere in Athens, the stadium really stands out from its’ surroundings due to the solid shape forming a huge block of colour. Panathenaic Stadium

That tiny figure on the steps is me, I’ve gone trundling down the steps because I’ve spotted something worth investigating.

These are the throne’s where the Greek King and Queen sat during the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. These days the stadium is used for Olympic events and other concerts and festivals.Close up: lion paws hold up either end of the throne’s.Ready, set, go! It wouldn’t be right to leave without a quick once around the track. Enough fun and games for one post, I’ll leave you with a selection of my favourite details from Olympic posters around the stadium.Vintage Olympic Posters

L-R: St Louis 1904; London 1908; Paris 1924; Paris 1924; Berlin 1936; London 1948; Rome 1960; Mexico 1968; Athens 1896.

Travel Journal: dusty trails and cocktails

After spending the previous day hiking up the Acropolis, it felt like we needed to recharge our batteries a little. Isn’t that what holidays are for?

Our hotel was slightly outside of the normal tourist areas, but the extra 10 minutes on the metro paid off as it had a rooftop pool with 360° views of Athens! It was super quiet with no traffic noise and (on this particular day) no children splashing around! Perfect for getting engrossed in a good book.

Tim Burgess Book

I picked up Telling Stories months ago, flicked through the photos (not too embarrassing) and left it on the ‘to read’ pile. Sometimes,  it just doesn’t seem like the right time to start a certain book, and it gets left gathering dust just waiting for your attention again.

Telling Stories is the memoir of Tim Burgess, the lead singer of The Charlatans. I wouldn’t say I’m a die hard fan of The Charlatans, but I do think they’ve had more great songs than some people realise. I went into the book without much background knowledge or expectation, but afterwards my overwhelming impression is that Tim Burgess seems a likeable person, although slightly bonkers.

I like the fact that it’s slim on facts and figures; I’ve never found it useful to know dates of birth or inside leg measurements. Instead, I prefer to slowly get an understanding of the author, like you’re getting to know a friend, which is the case with this memoir.

Anyway, back to Athens!

The sun had mellowed by the time we left the hotel and we went off in search of food. We ended up at Thanasis for one of many kebabs of the trip. I had what I think was called the Thanasis special, which turned out to be an extra large portion of souvlaki.

After being faced with four kebab skewers I didn’t want to stretch myself too much so we took a stroll towards the Roman Agora. What we didn’t know is that it closes early on Sundays, so we were left peering through the gates from the outside.

Gate of Athena Archgetis
A snapshot of Hadrian’s Library next door to the Agora as we carried on our stroll.

Sometimes Rich and I walk hand in hand, sometimes I get distracted by interesting buildings or a sleeping cat on a windowsill. Whilst I was reading about some rocks which women would slide down to promote fertility (erm, no I didn’t) Rich had found a cocktail bar.

Acropolis View Bar

I’m thankful it had such a lovely view of the Acropolis as Greek service is the slowest I’ve ever encountered. They couldn’t be any more laid back if they tried. It’s acceptable for a holiday, but can you imagine living there? I think my patience would be severely tested.

Rich had a Mojito and fancying myself as a bit of a Bond girl I plumped for a Vespa Martini.

CocktailsIt looks the business, but was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted. I’m partial to a gin and tonic so had high hopes, but it didn’t seem to be made from anything edible (drinkable?) whatsoever. More like a cocktail made from liquids you’d find under the kitchen sink, 0/10.

While I debated how to ditch the Martini, Rich was snapping away to make a panorama of the skyline (he’s stitched a few together now so I might post them later on.) In the distance he noticed a thick green forested hill with a little white building on top. We plotted a course and ended up at Lykavittos Hill (‘hill of the wolves’.)

We’d spent almost the entire day gazing into the distance so it was apt that the views are the main reason people visit Lykavittos Hill.

At the top is the Chapel of Agios Giorgios, where that evening a wedding was taking place. I felt a bit of a gatecrasher as they had their wedding photos taken, but everything was still open to the public. It was nice to visit Lykavittos and witness something special even from a distance. It’s often the unexpected things which makes each holiday memorable.

Travel Journal: You know, they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is…

Greece Flag

So, on the next day of our holiday we climbed a hill! Unfortunately, the Greeks had already planted their flag at the top, having got there a few millennia before us.

‘Acropolis’ roughly translates to high city, and the Parthenon which sits on top is the tourist attraction in Athens. It’s visible from all round Athens and I found myself scanning the skyline for just one more sight of it throughout the trip. On day two of our holiday, we strapped on our sensible shoes and went for a climb.

At the bottom of the slope is the Theatre of Dionysus, festivals were held  in the name of Dionysus on this site since the 6th century BC. Dionysus was the god of wine so I guess his theatre held some rowdy parties in its’ time. In a story you might be more familiar with, he was also the god who gave Midas his golden touch (which became a curse when he realised he couldn’t eat or drink and his daughter turned to solid gold.)

Rich looking somewhat un-rowdy considering the surroundings.

Carved with intricate designs, marble thrones were made for festival officials and top priests. Women sat on the back rows, no carvings there.

Part way up our days climb: an overall view of the Theatre of Dionysus.

On the way to the top, you also pass another theatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Impressively, it’s been completely restored and hosts concerts again. However, it’s only open for performances so you can’t get in during normal times.

The Parthenon was originally built as a treasury and to house the statue of Athena, from whom the city takes its’ name.  She was gold plated, with ivory hands, feet and face and jewels for eyes. She stood 40 feet tall but was lost or destroyed in the 5th century AD. How does something so opulent go missing?

Admiring the view after a sweaty clamber to the top.

Seeing the Parthenon close up for the first time is a special experience, it’s just so iconic.  We’ve all seen it on TV and in books, and it’s must be on everyone’s list of places to visit. The photo above, however, wasn’t our first glance. I thought I’d save showing you the scaffolding propping up the entrance.  Above is the other end of the Parthenon, equally impressive I think.
greek columns

Is it any wonder it needs scaffolding with columns like this? Over time, it’s been damaged by earthquakes, attacked by invaders and set on fire by a gunpowder explosion.

The Acropolis entry ticket is €14 and gives you access to a number of ancient sites around the city, including the Temple of Zeus…

Building work on the Temple of Zeus began in the 6th century BC, and amazingly it wasn’t completed until Hadrian (of Hadrian’s Wall fame ) came along 700 years later.  Not satisfied with finishing someone else’s temple, he commissioned another monument for himself;  the Arch of Hadrian.

The arch is a crossroads separating the ancient and Roman parts of the city. We sat in some shade nearby, taking in the view and thinking about our own crossroads: Where should we go for dinner?

olive branch

No, I didn’t resort to eating olives from the trees, but I did pick one as a new accessory like in my last post.

I’m going to try and make my holiday blogging a bit more frequent as there’s a lot to get through, so more of the same in the next few days. Hello and thank you to my new followers as a result of my last post, it would be great to hear your comments!

So, what do they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is?

Travel Journal: All aboard the Athens tour bus!

I just can’t stop going through my holiday photos! We’ve barely been back home a week and yet as we get back into our daily routines, our trip already feels like a distant memory. I’m glad I can share the holiday moments all over again on this blog.

On our first full day in Athens we decided to take an open top bus tour to get an overall sense of the city and also, roughly work out where everything is – it’s one thing looking in the guide book, but just who knows how long it will take to walk across two map squares?

I thought the bus commentary was pretty uninformative, but there was some ‘interesting’ Greek music to keep us entertained. We also got our first peek at the Acropolis and Pantheon, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

After the tour we found ourselves nearby the Greek Parliament. The building attracts a lot of tourists, and whilst you can’t get inside to see the real goings on, it’s worth dropping by if you’re near Syntagma Square.

Soldiers are on guard outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not a job I’d fancy to be honest. Although they do get to perform changing of the guard ceremonies every hour. I saw this particular soldier impressively (but accidentally) boot the top of the hut whilst doing his ceremonial stomp.



Some detailing on one of the crests/shields decorating Parliament. Don’t you think the Phoenix’s shadow looks like a face in profile?

Not yet used to the heat we had a quick pit stop, which I spent examining some heat rash appearing on my arm. Once Rich reassured me that I wasn’t going to die, we sought some shade in the National Gardens nearby.

And look what we found, some stone columns just waiting for two eager tourists to pose with them!

National Garden

A sprig of stolen Rosemary which I tucked under the buckle of my bag so I could sniff it as I pleased.

And because I can’t resist a food photo, here’s what we had for dinner that evening:

Greek meal

We went ‘To Kafeneio‘ which is in Plaka but just on the edge of the main tourist area where you can avoid the waiters trying to drag you into their restaurant – all with the same promise of  “the best food in Athens!”

We ordered fried pork & peppers, potato fritters, a trusty greek salad and some tzatziki. We ate late in the evening (Greek style) so once we’d finished it was time to wander to the Metro and speed our way back to the hotel.

Passport? Check! Euros? Check! Sunglasses? Check!

HolidayAll packed then? Erm, not quite!

I’m off on my holidays later today, hoorah!

We’re going to Athens for a week, and by all accounts it’s going to be a scorcher.  I’m looking forward to taking in the ancient sites and of course, eating some local dishes. I’ll be sure to share my photos with you all when I get back. Depending on how many I take, I’m thinking about a travel journal mini-series. We’ll see.

See you in a few (bronzed) weeks. x