Sorry, but in advance I must admit I don’t really like Athens all that much. Probably a personal problem, but the city is this weird mix of old, new, ghetto, historical and dirty. Visiting the ruins was an awesome experience, seeing as there is so much history to the place… but thank goodness the islands are so gorgeous because after Athens, Greece needed a serious redemption in my mind.
My mom and I woke up at 5 am and grabbed a taxi from our hotel in Rome. We wanted to get to the airport in time for our 6:40 am flight and we had read the airport was about 40-60 minutes away. Well our taxi driver got us there in 15, maybe 20 minutes max! Mom lost her boarding pass… again! This time before we even made it from the ticket counter to the security machines. Last time she didn’t lose it until we were actually boarding.
The bus ride into the city was kind of long but a great way to see outer Athens and a lot of the city before even arriving at our hotel. The metro system is pretty simple. We just had to ask to make sure we were heading in the right direction.
Our hotel was better than the Rome hotel but not our favorite. The owner gave us a recommendation for where to eat lunch where we fell in love with tzatziki, cucumber, yogurt and garlic salad-y stuff. Got more eggplant, this time fried and dipped it in the tzatziki salad/sauce. After lunch we walked through the Monastiraki flea market towards Ancient Agora. On the way we met a Greek couple with family in South Carolina. The husband even went to Clemson for college!!
Ancient Agora and all the other ruins close at 3 pm!! The hours are supposed to be later in the summer but they have yet to change them from the low season. We got there at 2:30 at which time we were sold tickets for 12 euros each and told to rush through the gates so we could walk up to the Acropolis and Parthenon, the only ruins that stay open later. All the ruins are connected so we could see the other sites but could not get close or past the gates protecting them. It’s a nice walk up to the Acropolis with a lot of spots to stop and get an awesome view of Athens and the Greek coast.
I may not like the city, but their food (and the service) is a different story! For dinner we headed to the Psiri area, which is said to be a popular night spot since the 2004 Olympics. On the way we passed a store that was celebrating its opening by giving away champagne and free bags. Score. We sat at a restaurant around the corner, away from the music blasting from the new store and told the waiters about all the free stuff. Apparently free is a word that translates well across languages because the entire restaurant staff started begging the owner to let them go get drinks and free bags. Haha, oops.
The owner may not have loved us for that but the servers sure did. We had the most amazing dinner ever. No, seriously. We started with hummus and pita… always a favorite of mine. Next came the spanakopita. These little spinach/feta cheese “pies” are frequently served in the U.S. but not like the ones we had here. They were warm and delicious on the inside and perfectly crunchy on the outside. Then we split a Greek salad… the feta cheese and olives are delish here!! Finally we got an eggplant dish (of course) called Imam. Really it should be called amazing. It is fried eggplant topped with marinara, sautéed onions and feta cheese crumbles. This is then baked to be golden brown.
For those skeptics out there it may look or sound weird but no joke, one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I thought I hated eggplant before this trip but Italy and Greece have proven me wrong. Did I use the word delicious enough? No… because you still can’t taste how amazing this really was. Together my mom and I split two appetizers, a salad and an entrée and still couldn’t finish the food. And because the servers loved us so much they gave us shots of Ouzo to finish of the evening. Haha, my mom has a story from her past where she had a few shots of Ouzo, went to bed early Sunday in the am and didn’t wake up until Monday. Needless to say, my mom slept well last night.