Greece, Day 2: Athens [Shopping & Sports]

Our second day in Athens started early — as in 4:00-in-the-morning early, which is when we both woke up and could not go back to sleep. Just wide awake. Breakfast at the hotel did not start until 7:00, though, so we lounged around for a bit until a reasonable time to get up and get ready for the day.

We headed up to the amazing hotel rooftop promptly at 7:00 and were treated to the most incredible breakfast of all time. Y’all, I am not kidding around. I do not joke about breakfast. The Royal Olympic’s breakfast buffet includes so many wonderful things. There are fresh greens and vegetables and olives, a variety of cheeses (tons of feta, of course), fresh fruits, all kinds of different just-baked breads and set out for you to slice off as much as you please, real Greek yogurt (of course) with all kinds of toppings, a giant bowl of Nutella (!), coffee, juices, flat or sparking mineral water, and a whole hot side of the buffet (which I never tried) that had eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. Oh, and croissants and a variety of other perfect and delicate pastries such as these tiny pies:

Tiny Pie

TINY. PIES.

Breakfast, Ravaged

And of course, you get to linger over the meal while enjoying the view of Athens from the beautiful rooftop garden. We could not get over how much we loved each little aspect of it. Starting every day in Athens like this was definitely a highlight. Is it wrong of me to cry over how much I miss this breakfast?  *sob*

After eating, we headed out by way of the Acropolis hill in the direction of the Monastiraki flea market (open only on Sundays). I snapped this (poorly lit) photo of one of the Acropolis dogs, who hung out there on a pretty regular basis. Greece seems full of stray* dogs and cats who are obviously well fed, allowed to hang out wherever they please, and seem to be treated well by their human neighbors.

*A lot of the dogs have collars, and a lot of the houses have bowls of food/milk outside their doors (for the cats), so I don’t really know of the term “stray” applies, but at any rate they are free-roaming animals.

Acropolis Dog

Another Athens Kitten

And at this point I have to admit and apologize for the fact that I have about forty-seven million similar photos of Athens: vertical shots of charming narrow streets and alleyways. And many of them have the same lighting problem (shooting into a bright sky at the end of the street, which winds up overexposed while the foreground is in shadow). On a technical note, I mostly was shooting in auto-no-flash mode or occasionally aperture-priority mode just to make things quicker, so that I could grab quick snaps while walking. This didn’t always work out. Photographer friends, any tips for me?

Flowers in the Alley

A Message

As some of these photos show, if you are looking around you, you will find wonderful things in the details. The message above is just one example of that from this day’s explorations. And below, here’s my husband, keeping his eyes open, too:

Looking Up

Another Charming Street

Charming Balcony

I loved the way that each house/apartment had a balcony, and that so many people clearly put care and effort into making these spaces pretty and inviting. Potted plants and flowers, flags, and buntings adorned every building.

Flags

We eventually found our way to the flea market, which was packed tight with stalls and customers hunting for bargains. It was tough to work your way through the crowds, but paid off in terms of the opportunities to paw through interesting stuff and people-watch. Two of my very favorite things. In fact, when CW and I had been discussing the things we most wanted to do in Europe, item number one on my list was to check out local markets — both flea and food/flower varieties). I was happy as a clam, even though I didn’t find anything to buy.

Monastiraki Flea Market

Greek Typewriter

Obviously I fell in love with this green Greek typewriter, but, also obviously, I was not going to try to buy it and get it home. I had to settle for a photo.

After checking out the flea market and the more tourist-oriented shops in the nearby Plaka area, we decided it was time to cool down and caffeinate, so we sat down in a square for a cappuccino freddo. I do not normally order this type of drink at home, but for some reason it became my daily caffeine delivery method of choice while in Greece. Look at that frothy cream:

Cappuccino Freddo

Or half-and-half? I don’t know. That shit is not regular whole milk, I’m sure. Let’s put it this way: it’s a good thing I brought my “eatin’ pants” on vacation. This pair of linen pants has a fold-over stretch waist, which I normally loathe, but with works out exceptionally well when you are suffering from vacation bloat and trying to grow a Greek food baby (I will name him Dionysos).

Me

My eatin’ pants stood me in good stead for lunch on this day. CW and I were walking around a crowded café area trying to decide where to get something to eat, and a very persistent maître d’ invited us to come inside and look at their  kitchen and the dishes they had on offer for the day.  He showed us each of the daily specials and was basically like, “See? Good food. You’ll like it,” and we couldn’t say no. This sort of selling happens a lot in the tourist areas, especially where several cafés are competing for customers. In a lot of cases it can be annoying and you have to tell people you just ate. They will accept this reason.

At any rate, this place turned out to be quite nice. It seemed to be a lot of traditional Greek dishes. I had stuffed roasted tomatoes and peppers and I think CW had either lamb or veal. One of the cute baby animals, anyway. This place was where we also happily discovered the magic of house wine: a half-liter carafe was only 4 Euros. I believe it was a Greek variety called Moschofilero (Μοσχοφίλερο), which we had all over the place and which I really enjoyed. It’s a bit dry but with a flowery scent and it’s usually available at friendly prices.

A stroll through the National Gardens on the way to our hotel was a nice way to walk off the meal. This was also the day we started our siesta routine, which, much like my eatin’ pants, proved very valuable throughout the trip. During the hottest hours of the day, we retreated to the hotel to hang out at the pool (CW swam; I dozed on a lounge chair), then rest and freshen up in our hotel room before heading out for dinner. We also wound up watching some of the Tour de France, which was airing on a German TV station with commentary auf deutsch, so that was interesting as well.

Greek Beers

I had wanted to stock the hotel fridge with treats, so we went by a mini-market for some beers and snacks. I believe trying regional candy bars is a very important part of any travel, so.

Snack Time

(The top bar, a crunchy wafer-based chocolate bar with hazelnuts on top, was my favorite. Kinder products are a fun throwback to my time in Germany and therefore always appreciated. The dark-chocolate/orange bar has yet to be tried. Yes, I brought it back home.)

We headed back out for dinner in the Plaka area and this was our one real restaurant regret in Greece. I picked the place because it was in a charming location — a hillside street with vines and twinkle lights and live music — but it turned out to be an uninteresting menu and the half-liter of house wine was 10 Euros there. There was also a lot of contrived-seeming breaking of plates and yelling of “Opa!” for the crowd. Oops-a?

House Wine

These happy photos were taken before we realized what we were in for.

CW

Me

In spite of being disappointed by our meal choice that night, we still had a great time (and nowhere else we ate while in Greece disappointed us, so it was just a minor blip).

After dinner, our plan was to try to find a bar showing the World Cup final. After a short walk, we happened onto a street lined with bars on both sides, the outdoor tables completely packed, and every TV brought outside for prime viewing. We finally found ourselves a spot in the crowd and settled in for drinks and football. CW was rooting for Argentina and I was rooting for Deutschland (natürlich). I made the mistake of asking for a whiskey and club soda and was served a Johnny Walker and tonic (DO NOT RECOMMEND, BARF), but soon corrected for the error by getting a white wine when the waiter came back. Hard to mess that up. We had a grand old time. The crowd had a pretty strong contingent of Argentina fans but it seemed like the majority was supporting Germany, so I had fun cheering along when they finally scored in extra time. Great night! We were out late and had big plans for ancient site visits the next day, so we had to tipsily make our way home after the game was done.

You can see the rest of my day two photographs here, and, in case you missed it, the day one recap is here.

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