July 4th in Athens

One of the nice benefits of Ramadan is sometimes the holiday following (EIDS) can be a long one. This year Katherine and I got a week off and of course you will want to escape the heat and make a trip. So off to Athens from July 4th through the 8th. What a satisfying trip! The weather was great, the food delicious and the historical monuments were much more then you can imagine from your studies.

In 4 days it seemed best just to see the city rather than try for outlying sites or even the islands. I will save that for the next time. Athens is a walking city and with a cafe about every ten yards, easy to just walk, explore, go down that street, or that other one, and then take a break, have a refreshment and do some serious people watching.

I chose a hotel from Travel Advisor reviews, called The Sweet Home Hotel, about 10 rooms and on a narrow side street in the historic district near Syntagma Square (the Parliament) and walking distance to the Acropolis. Not the Marriott for sure and that was what made it so nice, actually. Comfortable, great staff and breakfast in a sun room was a nice treat before heading out for the day.

Except for one afternoon at the port (Piraeus), this was a go see all the historic places in the history books tour. The Acropolis with a guide was probably the best part and it is more impressive than any picture could ever represent.  A ride on the Big Bus was useful to see many historic places (like the 1896 Olympic stadium) and the dynamic hustle of the city at the same time. An afternoon hike up Lycabettus Hill was rewarded with terrific views of the city and optimal photo ops as well. One early morning walking through the National Gardens and then through the city as it was waking up was a nice variation on the standard tourist itinerary. The New Acropolis Museum was a must do but crowded, so next time I would go when it first opens. Even so, the items there are actually inspiring, the way they are organized  and labeled to tell the story from the very beginning of Athens and Greece. And, one night to see authentic Greek dances at the Dora Stratou was enlightening and a nice touch, again off the regular tourist path.

I didn't mention shopping yet?  Well, there is nice shopping but when one lives in the UAE, land of the mega malls and old Souks, there wasn't much need. That being said, the Flea Market near Monistraki Square was worth the walk through, lots of small shops on narrow streets, sort of a Greek Souk.

To do something very different, a visit to the Mont Parens Casino turned out to be a good idea. On the top of a small mountain, this small hotel and casino is only reached by cable car. It provided a spectacular night time view of all of Athens, and the black jack gods smiled favorably on me as well.

So, this is a great place to walk, enjoy the Mediterranean weather and slow down a few paces while seeing the real ancient world.