Monday, April 23, 2012

the beginning and the end: athens [spring break part 1 of 3]

So many olives, everywhere.
Last week was the CEA spring break, which meant I was headed to Greece. I was joined by one of my roommates, Sami, from Wisconsin, early Friday morning as we headed to Charles de Gaulle airport for what was about to be one hell of a week. I'm splitting my posts about Greece into three parts; first, because it makes it easier for me; second, because I can include more pictures; and third, because I don't want to make you guys scroll through endless paragraphs detailing the ins and outs of my trip. My eyes get tired looking at a computer screen too long too, and I want to give you guys a break.

Sami & I spent our first and last day in Athens. We were so excited when we first flew into Athens--we were finally in Greece, the only conversation topic in the apartment for weeks. After a long metro ride from the airport we surfaced in Monastiraki Square, in central Athens. Immediately we could tell we were not going to like the city too much: it was dirty, crowded and loud. Horns honked, men yelled, small children gathered around us asking for money, and the sidewalks were covered with dirt, trash, and other unidentifiable substances. After a long and confusing walk we arrived at our hostel, freshened up, and went searching for food.

Prosciutto, mozzerella and pesto sandwich at Rooster

The restaurant we found, Rooster, served us delicious bruschetta and sandwiches. Despite non-smoking signs on every table, the typical Europeans surrounding us filled the room with the stench of tobacco and nicotine. After noticing a somewhat unique crowd we realized that Rooster was, in fact, a gay bar. Eh, c'est la vie! After another rest and freshening up at the hostel, we walked around the surrounding city blocks in search of food for the next day's boat ride, some iced tea, and dinner. We ate some lamb gyros in Monastiraki, ducked into Starbucks for a break from the dirt, and made our way toward Brettos.

Brettos is a 100+ year old bar in a somewhat cuter part of the city (then again, it was night, so maybe the darkness masked the grime). They distill their own brandy in the bar, and the walls are covered with every flavor liqueur imaginable. The place had a very cool vibe, so we pulled up a stool and ordered the Greek classic: ouzo. I have to say, ouzo is pretty gross. It tastes like black licorice and is very strong. We drank what we could of it, and then ordered a glass of wine. A delicious Peloponnese Syrah is exactly what I needed to wash the flavor out.

The next morning we left our hostel early, bid farewell to our Chinese roommate and hopped on a Blue Star Ferries boat to Santorini. Fast forward to the next Friday...

After a long ferry ride from Mykonos we arrived back in Athens. Our economy tickets allowed us a seat outside on the deck or inside around one of the cafes or restaurants. We chose the deck, because of the beautiful weather, but we did hit some grey patches where the forceful winds blew salty sea spray all over me and everything I owned. I hid my nose in My Life in France by Julia Child and dreamed of being back in Paris...

The Acropolis

Upon our return to Athens we found some dinner, a place for a good drink and then rested up for the following day. After checking out of our hostel, we made the trek up to the Acropolis. In my opinion, this is the only reason to go to Athens. After just two full days in the city, I found very few redeeming qualities about it, unless one is interested in Greek history. As someone who repeatedly fell asleep on her freshman year history book (hey, I love history, but the Greeks and Romans were a little too far from my mind's grasp), I looked at the ancient structures, was impressed by the plethora of pristine marble, took some photos, and made my way back to the airport, and thus back to Paris. It feels so fabulous to be back.

Later today I'll update again with a post on Santorini and Mykonos islands, where the true Greek beauty is!

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