Day 7 – Final hours in Athens and an event 10 years in the making

We woke up on October 6th in Athens packed and ready to move.  We still had a few places we wanted to see before leaving for Istanbul, so we woke early and headed out.  I wanted to go back to the National Gardens.  I hadn’t gotten to see the front entrance the other day so we went back and took a few pictures.  We also went to the Agora.  On the way, we stopped and took a closer look at the site for Hadrian’s Library as it was open in the morning.  Each site takes a ticket from the roll of them we bought at the Acropolis.  We were in a hurry, so we didn’t take too much time, just snapped a few pictures.

Hadrian's Library

Hadrian’s Library

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Front of the Agora

Front of the Agora


The Agora was rebuilt and now you can walk around a replica of this ancient marketplace


Looking out from the Agora, large area to hike around the ruins

Looking out from the Agora, large area to hike around the ruins


A little church on the grounds of the Agora

A little church on the grounds of the Agora

Running out of time to catch our flight, we took a cab from the Agora to the Temple of Zeus.  This was crazy.  I just can’t believe how bad the cabbies are in Athens.  This time, we got a guy who had no idea where the Temple of Zeus was.  This is really strange seeing as how there are maybe six major attractions in the entire main city area.  We even pointed it out on a map, the man was either extremely confused and new in town or he was playing us to run out the meter.  He ended up dropping us off way on the far side of the gated area at a hotel.  A miracle, the doorman at the hotel was from New York and spoke to the cabbie for us, not letting the guy charge extra for having dropped us off at the hotel.  He explained to us after the cabbie left that he purposefully let us off at a hotel because they get more money that way.  He was extremely helpful and directed us to where we had to go to walk all the way around the Temple of Zeus area to get to the entrance.  The National Gardens entrance is right next to it so that is the last stop we made before heading back to our hotel to get a cab to the airport.  Final note on cabs, the cost to pick you up at a hotel is an extra 5 Euro to go to the airport, somehow we were charged an extra 7 Euro and I still don’t know why.

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus

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Entrance to the National Gardens

Entrance to the National Gardens

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Final thoughts on Athens:  This was such a fun, relaxing place.  The whole area we stayed in from the Plaka around the Acropolis and around all the main sites was so nice.  The people were so helpful and kind.  It was our own fault we had some stress, forcing Athens into 2 days made us rush around more than we would have had to normally.  Some of the best food on the whole trip we got in Athens.  Chris and I will definitely be going back to Greece someday.  Besides the cabbies, we had no trouble.  While the place is touristy, there was still a friendly feel to the city and you could tell people lived there.  This was the opposite of Rome.  Athens simply had more character.  We didn’t feel like we were being squeezed for every penny, with the exception of the cabbies.  The sites are all one price with their ticket system.  They are doing an admirable job preserving these amazing historical monuments and rebuilding the damaged ones.  There is a sense of pride in the heritage of this great city and the museums were beautiful.  All in all, we must go back again someday.  Our next trip will be relaxing on a beach somewhere, maybe we’ll pick Greece and see all the beautiful beaches and islands!  On to Istanbul….

We flew Aegean Airlines again and this was even shorter than the flight from Rome to Athens.  It was a little over an hour long and they still fed us a whole meal in flight!  Crazy good airline, people, top notch.

With so much going on, Christopher and I didn’t have much time that morning to celebrate the day, but we did once we were at our hotel in Istanbul.  October 6th, 2012 is our ten year dating anniversary.  It could not have been more perfect to spend that evening in Istanbul, a city we’d been talking about visiting for at least as long as we’ve been together.

Chris used Hilton points he’d been accruing from work trips for three years to get us rooms at the Istanbul Hilton, a 5 star hotel on Taksim square.  We hired a car to pick us up at the airport and it took a while to get to our hotel.  I fell asleep on the car ride there so I can’t tell you much about the area from the airport to the city.  I was very tired.  We got in and unpacked and settled into our room.  The Istanbul Hilton has a few restaurants and shops on their grounds as well as a spa.  We decided we’d had enough hustle and bustle in our trip so far and took it easy the rest of the day.  We swam in the freshwater pool (!), ate a fancy dinner, and celebrated our anniversary.  We had long days planned ahead of us, so we took it easy the rest of that night, but oh man it was good to finally be in Istanbul!

View from our room over the Hilton's symphony center

View from our room over the Hilton’s convention center theater

Anniversary dinner

Anniversary dinner at this great Chinese restaurant at the Hilton


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