This is the beginning of a Zesty Travel Adventure…
It was mid April and Savannah didn’t have to report to Oglethorpe University until end of July. Meanwhile, Charlotte had been busy with her Homeschooling curriculum and had completed all of her 7th grade studies and much of the required 8th grade subjects, so she was slightly ahead and a study abroad would certainly be a nice addition to her education… When we discovered that airfare to Athens from Atlanta was extremely low, we said Pame! (To be completely honest here, we probably said “Let’s Go” because Pame was not a word in my vocabulary yet) We weren’t particularly interested in a structured tour and we figured if we find an inviting village with affordable lodging options, we may be able to stay a little longer and really experience the culture. The news was showing Riots in Athens, so we had no desire to hang out in a city of millions of people, but we had faith that God would lead us and we would have a fun adventure! We left Atlanta having booked only 4 nights lodging, and a rental car. Our reservations included 2 nights in Athens at Hotel Rio and 2 nights at Hotel Tsikeli in Kastraki, Meteora. Oh, by the way, we didn’t carry a phone with international calling capabilities and we didn’t pay extra to get GPS with our rental car . We never found Hotel Rio…Here is what actually occurred.
Our only mission upon arrival in Greece was as follows:
- Pick up the rental car
- Locate Hotel Rio where we have reservations for 2 nights
- See The Acropolis
- Make our way to Thessaly to see the Monesteries
- See where the roads take us…
Journal Day 1 – The Arrival
It will be dark soon. Greg shifts and jerks the economy size rental car as I frantically attempt to read this map which, naturally is not in English (hence the phrase “It’s all Greek to me”) We are weaving through this very busy city searching for road signs that don’t exist, and those that do are in Greek and blurry as we whiz by. Driving in Greece seems to be slightly different than America. Greeks don’t worry so much about lanes and stop lights. I feel like it’s a free-for-all, especially with all the motor scooters turning 3 lanes into 6 or 7. Hey, that looks like a great shoe store!
Where is Hotel Rio?! Desperate for a place to rest, we wander into the lobby of a very nice upscale hotel. We must look like… how shall I put this? Let’s just say our appearance is not well kept and we are certainly not dressed in fine clothes…We are informed there are no rooms available, so we tiredly shuffle back to the car to find other options. Savannah at this point is mumbling something about “I wanted to go to Ireland” 5 hours after landing at the Athens airport, we finally pull up to The President Hotel and are so relieved by their warm welcome and the great news of available rooms! At this point who cares about the deposit we will lose at Hotel Rio? We have paid more for rooms at Hampton Inn in Laramie, Wyoming and this is an extremely nice Hotel in the center of Athens, Greece! This is our first budget buster, though and not a good start. And we seem to have lost a hub cap. $$
Travel Tip # 1 Take a Cab directly from the airport to your hotel (The rental car can wait until tomorrow after you have rested!)
Being that it was 10:30 at night when we checked in, we were concerned there would not be any restaurants open by the time we freshen up in our room. Don’t laugh… We really thought that! The nice people at the front desk told us about some Tavernas around the corner, but Greg thought it inappropriate to take our girls into a tavern at midnight (we didn’t know that a Taverna is a small restaurant serving Greek cuisine). So, we walk down the road a block or so and discovered “TGI Fridays” and walk in to a very lively scene, much like a restaurant in America during the dinner rush at 6:00!! Well, we really didn’t care about anything but food and sleep at this point, so finding authentic Greek food would have to wait.
Journal Day 2: Caffeine Pants and A Lesson in Zesty
After a shower and some zzzzzzzs, we awake this morning and look at this city in a whole new way. This Hotel is perfect! The staff is agreeable and attentive. Today we will walk around a bit and see if we can find some needed items which could not fly with us. We must see The Acropolis and find a lovely place to have dinner, but first….ROOM SERVICE. We slept a little late and missed the complimentary breakfast. From our rooms on the 9th floor, we see little children playing in the school yard below. If we go too far from the Hotel today, we will be taking a cab. About a block down is a big supermarket type store, where we are approached by a lovely young woman trying to sell us caffeine pants, which are like spandex that you put on, and they evidently help with weight loss. The people are extremely friendly… The maid taught the girls a nice Greek term “zesty” which means hot…or they think that’s what she said as they fiddled with the air unit.
Here is the view from the roof of The President Hotel, which boasts a lovely rooftop bar.
later that same day…..
There is nothing like walking around the historical capital of Europe. I am beginning to like this…We are starting to get hungry. It is nearly 6 o’clock as we approach the concierge desk at The President Hotel and ask the amiable person where we can eat dinner near the Acropolis. (just to see it will be so thrilling!) After a brief description from her and our body language clearly indicating our approval, she proceeds to arrange dinner reservations for us at The Athens House. We assume she knows we are hungry now…For Americans, it is dinner time. We stroll out the front doors of the lobby and locate a taxi, communicate to the driver our destination and off we go. It’s quite nice riding through the streets with someone who knows where he is going. Hey, there’s the embassy…I’ll tuck that in the back of my mind just in case. So, we arrive at The Athens House, located directly across the street from The Acropolis Museum. Still haven’t seen that Rio Hotel. Things seem a bit quiet and the entrance is not very clear. Hhmmmm.
Is it open or will we be walking into someone’s private home? Where is everyone? Well, just next door is a Japanese restaurant and the door is open, so we decide to get some sushi. We’ll just have an appetizer and maybe wander around. The Acropolis Museum is right across the street and besides, Sushi is always good! Upon exiting the Japanese Restaurant, we notice the Athens House is open and we don’t want to insult the kind lady at the hotel, so we walk in and announce ourselves. We are escorted upstairs to a phenomenal rooftop restaurant with a most divine view of The Parthenon, not to mention the entire city! As we bask in luxury on this roof in Athens, Greece and watch the sun set, the place gradually fills with other wise people who know where to go for an amazing dinner.
The Acropolis of Athens is the most well known site in Greece as well as a major symbol of ancient civilization. While half of it has been taken to London, restoration is currently taking place and attempts are being made to unite all the pieces together once again here in Athens. Of the various monuments that make up The Acropolis, The Parthenon ( shown left) is the most popular.
Tip # 2: The Greek word entaksi may sound like Taxi, but it really means “okay”.
Tip # 3: Make sure if someone makes a dining reservation for you that you know what time they made it for. I realize this sounds obvious, but people in foreign countries eat dinner later than us. I hope our body clocks adjust soon!!
Tip # 4: Pack Light
It is better to pack light and checking baggage should be avoided if at all possible. We each bought 1 rolling duffle type bag at Target in Atlanta and only brought a few essentials, knowing we would want to shop in Greece! The four bags fit perfectly in the back of our trusty economy size rental car. We women will naturally find some new Greek fashions to fill it with along the way! Plus, we learned never to check bags during a trip we made to Germany a couple years ago…While accompanying Savannah’s German class (a whole other story) A Volcano in Iceland erupted and we found our group driving from London to Munich…When the planes finally began flying again a week later, in a moment of utter confusion and stress, we checked our bags in Munich. Charlotte’s bag with her German Stein and other souvenirs went around the world several times before finally finding us in Georgia…3 months later! Additionally, even though Greg folds like a boss, a skill he learned in military college, rolling your clothes is better than stacking and be sure to wear the heavy items on you while in transit. The extra layers are good padding on those comfortable plane seats anyway. Women are allowed a purse in addition to the duffles. In our bags, you can always find the imperative cosmetics, phones, passports, cameras, prescription medications, travel size essentials. Though you may not be able to bring your favorite lotion or hairspray, most likely you will find it next to caffeine pants! Men are allowed a briefcase so Greg carries our laptop while in transit. This allows us to stay on top of all the latest news and communicate with family whenever traveling.
So, I hope you found this helpful and if you get to Athens, be sure to stay at The President Hotel and Dine at The Athens House Restaurant. Looking back, it was some of the best lamb we experienced and you can’t beat that view!