We flew out of Rome on Aegean Airlines that evening and got into Athens very late. We had an extremely good experience with Aegean Airlines. Besides the difficult weight restrictions they put on the luggage between European countries, which, btw, is smaller than the restrictions from the US to Europe (keep that in mind if you are going to travel in Europe), we had a lovely experience. The flight out was under three hours and we were fed a full meal and served drinks. It was comfortable and the customer service was great.
We landed in Athens around midnight. In booking our travel, we got airport transportation in Rome and Istanbul and we were told to take a taxi in Athens. (More on taxis in Athens later) It is a rule that all taxis charge a flat rate for transfer to and from the airport, 30 Euro I want to say. However, we got in after midnight so the rate went up to 50 Euro.
Here is the great thing about Athens, restaurants stay open so late that we got to go out and eat even though it was almost 1am! Our hotel, the Central Hotel, was very nice. We were right off the Plaka and they had this gorgeous open rooftop bar not far from the Acropolis, which was lit up at night. Just beautiful!
We dropped our luggage off in our room, which also had a balcony looking out onto the Acropolis, and headed off to the Plaka to find a restaurant still open. We were lucky, things were winding down, but we headed down the narrow streets to an alley lined with little restaurants with tables out on the street in the open air. Maybe it was because I was hungry or just coming from the food in Rome, but this meal, right here, is one of the best, if not the best, meals I had the entire trip. I love Greek food, but this was just fantastic.
As we walked back from the restaurant to our hotel in the dark but empty streets we were followed. As Chris and I crossed a large square we turned to find a large black dog padding along behind us. He smelled the leftovers I had brought back with me. I threw him some food, but he followed us all the way to the doors of the hotel. We found out later that they have a big and growing population of sweet stray dogs due to the bad economic times. So sad. I am glad that I threw him my food.
The next morning we woke late and had breakfast at the hotel then headed off to the Acropolis. We must have gone an odd way up the hill because we ended up going out the entrance and getting all turned around even after we bought tickets. They sell the tickets in a bundle and rip one off for each major attraction you visit. Once we found a guide, she helped set us straight. We paid an older woman sitting at this little tour stand 25 Euro per person for a personalized tour around the top of the Acropolis. It was only us and one other young couple from Spain. We got along with them well. The woman was funny and well versed in the basic history of the place. She was good about taking pictures and all in all it was very well worth it. Tons of pictures!
Afterward we walked around the Acropolis, you can use your tickets to see each major site and there are a few around the Acropolis. We saw the Theater of Dionysus and then headed down the street to a restaurant for more amazing, fantastic food and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had.
Then we went to the New Acropolis Museum. You can’t take pictures anywhere but outside and the third floor, which is a bummer because they have these beautiful models showing the buildings and temples how they looked in the past. It is a very cool, modern museum with lots of light and treasures dug up from all around ancient Athens. All the plaques describing the stories of every piece are in multiple languages, one being English, so you could spend forever reading about each statue and its role in ancient culture and ancient history. Great place and, bonus, clean bathrooms! I bought a book with pictures of all the main temples then and now, perfect souvenir!
We went back to our hotel and intended to lounge at the hotel’s rooftop bar, but fell dead asleep for four hours instead. We woke for dinner and headed back out to the same street as the night before. We ate in the restaurant next to the one from the night before, more great food! Then we strolled around the Plaka again. This is such a wonderfully relaxing and pleasant place. Even when we were strolling in some darker alleys we still felt safe. This is a very safe city, actually. The air was warm and humid and the crowds weren’t stuffy or uncomfortable. This was much more our pace. Chris wanted to try fried donuts, so we made sure to find a place that served them. We headed back late and fell to sleep, relaxed and happy.