Sorry for the delay! I had a wonderful time at home celebrating the most gorgeous shower with enormous thanks to my mom and sister. It was Beatrix Potter themed and tres adorable. Bobby, Swiss Baby Ford, and I are all incredibly lucky to have the best people around share our joy in such a special way.
After our long weekend in Paris, we took what you might not believe is our first weeklong vacation of our expat experience. I know, with everything we have seen these past eight months, it seems impossible that they were all long weekend/work trips – but it’s true and is one of the main reasons we are here!
While you can fly directly from Geneva to Santorini or Mykonos, it was cheaper to fly from Paris to Athens and I admit we felt the pressure to “check the box” on the Parthenon. Everyone I had spoken to about a past trip to Greece encouraged me to skip Athens all together because as a city, apart from the ruins, it is not the most glamorous, but we actually really enjoyed our day and a half excursion!
Because our time was short, I can’t do a full eat/stay/play recommendation – but for eating, prepare for LOTS of feta and capers (and don’t be surprised, there is no lettuce in a traditional Greek salad!), vendors selling traditional koulourakia – traditional sesame cookies, gyros, and honestly, for there to be cats wandering around at every single restaurant, regardless of how upscale it may be. I see why people identify as cat lovers, but on my best day I loathe them, so I found it unsettling.
Naturally, we stayed at the Athens Marriott, which was a little bit outside the city center, but the hotel had recently been renovated and the modern updates were really impressive!
To make the most use of our limited time, we booked a half-day sightseeing bus with Viator which I’d strongly recommend. We had an Athenian tour guide who gave us the quick spin of the Panathenaic stadium and the Acropolis to see the mighty Parthenon. Athens had just experienced it’s heaviest rainfall in 20 years so things were a bit wet and muggy (*those who know me will not be surprised at all about this – I am sort of a rain jinx) but it was a great day and I’m truly glad we did “check the box.”
The stadium was built in the 4th century BC and restored for the first Olympic games in 1896 and was also used for Emperor Hadrian’s inauguration, where they apparently, quite civilly, sacrificed thousands of animals in celebration. Perhaps this is why they are kind to the cats now, to attone. It seats 70,000, so it was too small to be used for the major track events in the most recent Olympic games in Athens in 2004. Instead, it was used for the hottest ticket in town, archery… and also, quite poetically – the Olympic marathon finish.
We then proceeded up to the Acropolis, which means “highest point” in Greek – it’s high but you can also see it everywhere in town, so it does drive home the impression that the gods are watching over Athens. As such, you get a great view of the city and the start of the Aeagan sea line as well.
We visited the Theater of Dionysus (god of wine) where concerts are still held – our guide said that Sting had the biggest crowd in years.
The main event of course is the Parthenon, dedicated to Athen’s patron goddess, one of Zeus’ many daughters, Athena. She is quite literally the goddess of everything – wisdom, warfare, mathematics, law, justice, etc. You might have seen this photo below if you are following me on Instagram (and you should!), but it still just stuns me. You can tell the sun is finally coming out to play!
The marble Parthenon was built in 447 BC and also considered the prime example of Doric architecture (the simplest of the Greek design columns.) As East Coasters we are often are so impressed with Boston and Philadelphia’s colonial age, but ancient Greek ruins really put all that to shame!
Because of its age, restoration is going on each and everyday and you will be pounced on for touching anything. It was a truly wild sight to see.
A note that while you might be tempted to wear your cutest espedrilles, opt for supportive soles on this trek! There aren’t many steep areas but you’ll want your most comfortable pair, save the sandals for Santorini!
Our group went on to the optional Acropolis museum, but my husband’s yawns on the bus had grown contagious, so instead we abandoned ship for lunch. We spent the afternoon buying lots of olive oil soap (I am a soap obsessive and like Oprah, bathing is a hobby for me, at least it is pre-baby) wandering the streets, and went back to the hotel for an early night in!
It is also worth checking out Syntagma Square, the center of town. At the Hellenic Parliament, you can see the changing of the guard – the big spectacle is Sundays, but you can see them on the hour if you time it right!
The next morning, we took the 7am flight to Mykonos (it’s a 45 minute, inexpensive flight and a 5 hour ferry…) and lounged bigtime! That post coming up soon!
If you’re visiting Greece from the US, your only option is flying into Athens, but I hope you’ll find as we did that is a pleasant layover!