Happy July, travelers!
After almost one month of traveling it feels so great to have my fingers pressed against a keyboard again. It is hard to believe that I landed in Europe one month ago to the date, but that just further proves that time flies when you are having fun. Now that I am back, I will be spending July sharing with you all the juicy details from my trip. Don’t worry, there’s nothing too scandalous.
I plan on sharing details from my adventure in the chronological order that it went, even though I am dying to tell you all about some stories now. Patience is key. Where did I land first? If you could not tell from the title of this post, Athens, Greece! Now, let's get to it.
I knew I wanted to take an extended summer vacation but I had absolutely no idea where I would end up. I was in the midst of job searching (still am) and wanted to be certain I would not miss out on any opportunities simply because I was on the other side of the world on a beach. I decided that I would dedicate June to me and began perusing Google Flights (I highly recommend them). Much to my surprise, I saw an amazing deal from Newark to Athens on Emirates Airlines. I thought that there must have been a catch because Emirates is a fabulous airline and there was no way I was scoring a nonstop flight so cheaply less than one month away from the flight departure. What did I do? I put the price on hold for three days so that I could think about it and be sure that I was making the right decision. Lo and behold, we had a flight confirmation and we were heading to Greece!
I have been obsessed with Greek mythology since I first started reading the tales in 7th grade. I had been seeing tons of photos on Instagram showcasing the country’s gorgeous blues and even though I went to Europe for 40 days last year, I wanted to do Greece on a separate trip. I was beyond thrilled that I was finally making a childhood dream come true.
Related Post: 13 Websites You Need When Planning the Ultimate Getaway
Where I Stayed
Athens was my home base to and from the States, but I knew I would not be spending the bulk of my time there. After searching through some blogs and Hostelworld, I decided to go with AthenStyle and Hotel Achillion.
The location was ideal. It was in the heart of Monastiraki and a short walk from the metro. It was quite large as I counted at least three buildings. The staff that welcomed me were warm hearted and it was much appreciated after an 8-hour flight. I quickly learned that Greece has “blocking problems” with the toilets and it was imperative not to throw anything inside, not even toilet paper. Aside from that adjustment, I enjoyed my time at this hostel. I stayed in an all-female dorm (which is always my preference) and the view from the rooftop was insane. I watched the sunset and was able to see the Acropolis glow right from the comfort of my hostel. There was a bar on the rooftop and a basement lounge where travelers could hang out.
I knew that I would not check into my lodging until around 1 am and I wanted to stay in Piraeus because I was already in the port city. After a 5hour ferry, I had no desire in negotiating with taxis or waiting for a bus. Hotel Achillion was a budget hotel that ran like a hostel but somehow, I was able to get a room meant for 3 to myself. I had 0 complaints and if I had the time, I could have done some damage at the H&M down the block.
Where I Ate
Savva's: My first meal was at Savva’s in the Monastiraki neighborhood. The bartenders at my hostel recommended it because they were fast but tasty. I devoured a veal wrap and once I felt full, I realized I had over half of it left. That would become a trend for me in Athens.
Caravel: The ice cream was on point! I love gelato, but sometimes I crave traditional ice cream and they did not disappoint. In addition, they had a wide selection of macaroons and cookies. If you have a sweet tooth, this might be your spot.
Coffee Island: Their variety of coffees to try was overwhelming in a good way. I actually went with tea, but if you are a coffee lover, you would enjoy a quick stop here. I would imagine this to be their version of Starbucks.
Akti Posidonos: It is one of the main streets in the Piraues neighborhood. If you will be taking any of the ferries, you will end up here. I wish I wrote down the name of the small local eatery I visited, but I found a scrumptious pork gyro for 3. You have plenty of options up and down that street.
Street Food: How could I not? During the festival there were plenty of vendors who set up shop. I enjoyed some pork skewers for less than 2.
Where I Played
I had all intentions to check out a couple of rooftop bars but fate had me randomly meet a sorority sister in my hostel. She invited me to check out the PRIDE festivities with her and were arrived just in time. There was a concert going on and the DJ did a great job with keeping the party going. I’m not even sure how long we were out there but I know it was around the midnight hour.
Naturally, I had to visit the Acropolis. I made sure to wake up early because I wanted to experience it in a quieter setting. I also knew that as the sun rose higher, the temperatures could get to be a bit unbearable. I along with about 15 others stood in line prior to the ticket office opening, but I was satisfied with that decision. Being at the Acropolis early allowed for us to the see the guards descend the stairs and capture vivid photos of the Ancient Greek ruins without large crowds. The mythology nerd in me was thrilled and I often found myself just staring at the splendor. The grandeur of the temples and the fact that they still stood today was riveting. I was also grateful that at each monument there was a plaque with the background in both Greek and English. I could have stayed at the Acropolis for a longer amount of time but I had a flight to catch to Budapest and wanted to be sure I gave myself ample time.
When I returned to Athens prior to my flight back to the States, my time was limited because my ferry docked at the port at 1 am. Nonetheless, in the morning I knew I wanted to see Syntagma Square, the Temple of Olympus Zeus, and the National Garden. The National Garden was the most surprising of all because it felt like an oasis amongst the chaos (and protest) happening in the city. The shade was a much-needed relief and it allowed me to get up and close with the Greek flowers that I grew to love.
If I Went Back...
I wish I had one solid day in Athens instead of one evening and then a separate morning / afternoon. My time there did not get to flow due to me being stressed about getting to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I might miss a bus or two in my travels, but I do not play about international flights.
I would have loved to check out some bookstores and at least one of the many museums. Visiting the museums could have lasted for a day in itself but unfortunately, I did not get to dive in. Athens was a great gateway airport to get to the Middle East and Asia and I have a funny feeling I might end up there sooner than later. If I have my way, I would schedule a stopover and dive in a little deeper. Last but not least, I would love to have gone to some of their infamous rooftop bars and nightclubs but thankfully the bar at my hostel was adequate.
My Overall Impression of Athens
Look. If you put Athens next to Santorini, of course [most] people are going to choose Santorini. It’s an island full of white buildings while Athens is a historical city with some quirks. Was there graffiti overload? Yes. Were the piles of trash on corners in the Piraeus neighborhood offputting? Absolutely. Putting all of that aside, I have to ask myself if I felt safe and welcomed. The answer was YES. The Greek men were nowhere near as aggressive as the men in Italy (to me) and I did not feel as though the locals were turning their noses up at me. I am sure other people have had that experience but I did not. I felt warmth and pride from the people while I was there. I don’t think you’d need entirely too much time in Athens (i.e. 1-2 days) but if you are a history nerd like me, you have to visit at least one time for the culture.
Have you ever been to Athens? What was your impression? Let me know and get ready to hear about Budapest next week as we continue the "21 Days Away" series!