Travel Tuesday: Athens Day 1

Last spring, I took an absolutely incredible trip to Athens with two of my best girlfriends and their significant others. They were already going to be in Europe and when they asked me to join them in Greece, I couldn’t say no. Mostly because it was just so affordable – flights on British Airways through London were fairly inexpensive and we stayed in a beautiful AirBNB  in downtown Athens for about $20 per person per night. I left Baltimore Thursday evening and touched down in Athens Friday afternoon where I hopped a train from the airport to downtown. Before long I was climbing the stairs to our third floor apartment and joining my friends for an amazing Greek adventure!

I was exhausted but eager to explore the city so our group headed out for a walk to dinner. The weather was PERFECT the whole time we were there. Pleasantly hot and sunny during the day and comfortable in just a cardigan or light jacket at night. The walk from our AirBNB took us through the National Gardens and we ended up at a vegetarian restaurant to appease our veggie friends. For my first meal in Greece I wanted something traditional and opted for the falafel platter – the first of many delicious meals! After dinner we had a couple glasses of wine at the apartment and called it a night.

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We were up early the next morning for a day of sight seeing but first, coffee. After a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs (with feta cheese!) at the house, we ventured to Coffee Island – a chain coffee shop that we saw throughout Athens. Coffee Island was the bomb – they made amazing frappes, had clean bathrooms and free wifi! Frappes are a nescafe drink unique to Greece and Cyprus – instant coffee, sugar and water are shaken to make a foam which is added to cold water, ice cubes, and evaporated milk. You could specify how sweet you wanted it and it was so, so good. I had one a day and have been craving it since coming back to the States.

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After our coffee fix we started our walking tour of Athens. We followed a walking tour in our Fodor’s guide book and started at the Temple of Zeus where we purchased a set of passes for 12 different landmarks. The giant columns are all that remains of an enormous temple dedicated to the god Zeus. The columns were so impressive and this was one of my favorite sights in Athens. Right outside of the Temple of Zeus is Hadrian’s Gate – an arch honoring Roman Emperor Hadrian built in 132 AD. This seems obvious, but we couldn’t help being awestruck at just how OLD everything was during our walks around Athens.

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From the Temple we walked to the Theater of Dionysus and then on to the Acropolis (which were two additional sites we had access to with our passes). All of the ancient structures were so impressive.The Acropolis was noticeably more crowded than the other sites but not too overrun with tourists as March is still their off season. The views were fantastic!

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From the Acropolis we walked down the opposite side in search of lunch. We found a cafe with outdoor seating and dined on chicken kabobs, tzatziki, fries and pita. We spent the rest of the day walking around downtown Athens in a popular area with shopping and restaurants. We took an afternoon break at a cafe to rest, use free wi-fi and refuel with coffees (and spiked hot chocolate) and desserts. For dinner that night we walked to Smile Restaurant. The menu was vegetarian friendly and super affordable (like most places in Athens). I had a Greek salad with an enormous slab of feta and a delicious moussaka.

By the time we walked home from dinner we were exhausted – it was quite a busy first full day of vacation!

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