Monday 18 October 2010

No rain in Athens

I'm not sure what I expected from my first ever trip to Athens. Of course I knew it had the ancient sites, and that the Olympics there had induced a rebuilding programme, and that they were fairly sore about Lord Elgin. But apart from that I really only saw the trip as a get-together with my (not-so) old school friends, with the added bonus of a little bit of late autumn sunshine.

Week before the trip, however, I'd abandoned all hope of wandering around the ruins, or getting a tan: the weather men were forecasting heavy rain for Athens. I unpacked my flip-flops and instead began to look forward to just the good food, a few drinks and plenty of in-hotel-natter with my friends.

We'd booked to stay in a smart boutique hotel in the Psiri, an up-and-coming district that at first glance didn't quite look the kind of area I would have chosen. Around us were many 'interesting buildings with a lot of development potential', and a sprawling flea market, selling everything from mis-matched men's brogues to crystal chandeliers to pots and pans and DIY tools. Opposite was a dark cellar of a night club/bar which according to one guide was 'an old favourite' of Greek artists and film stars. When we poked our noses in there, it was I who felt 'the old favourite', with emphasis on the 'old'. The tables were occupied by lovely, lively, slim young things. There was also a distinct scent of the more adventurous of smokes. Perhaps twenty years earlier we would have voted to stay, but instead my friends and I escaped to the hotel opposite.   

Ochre and Brown Hotel is small and modern, has very friendly and helpful staff. There's a simple but freshly prepared breakfast; you can't ask for more than that. We had two rooms: I was alone in a double and my two friends in a suite with a balcony overlooking the Acropolis. It was this balcony that became our favourite spot. We had our morning coffee there, enjoying the use of a complimentary Nespresso machine, as well as several nightcaps admiring the view of the illuminated Acropolis and discussing life's ups and downs.

Our balcony

Local property with a lot of development potential...

Flea market a few streets away spilled onto the street outside our hotel. Very handy.

When we'd arrived on Thursday evening, as predicted, the heavens opened. We watched the large droplets fall onto the pavement outside while we ate in the hotel restaurant. I quietly wished I'd taken my Wellingtons as well as a sturdy raincoat instead of the flimsy little umbrella I'd bought from Accessorize a few weeks earlier. 

The next morning we woke to bright sunshine, and the dry weather held for the whole of the weekend. On Sunday, when we eventually decided to climb the hill and take a closer look at the monument we'd been admiring from afar, it was so hot I wished I'd packed a summer dress and a straw hat, as well as the flip-flops. Only mad dogs and Englishmen....or should I say only mad Finnish women.    

But I'm getting ahead of myself. On Friday we began the weekend by walking up to the newly built Acropolis Museum, a wonder of a building perched on the foot of the hill from the Acropolis itself. The entrance with its sail-like roof and toughened glass floor, which had a view of the ongoing archaeological dig below, was impressive enough, but inside was even more awe-inspiring. Someone once told me that the light in Greece is different. The modern building, housing exhibits from thousands of years ago, certainly knew how to make use of this 'different' light. Wandering around the vast rooms, with floor to ceiling windows with sheer blinds, I felt a strange sense of peace fall upon me. It was as if nothing on the outside mattered, or existed. It didn't even annoy me when we provoked unwelcome leering from one bored-looking male museum guard just because we, like the schoolgirls we once were, giggled at the handsomely endowed parts of some of the marble Gods.

Entrance to the Acropolis Museum

Glass floor in the entrance

Open section of the entrance

Inside the museum with Acropolis as a backdrop

On the top floor of the museum there was an outdoor cafe, again with a sail-inspired roof. The terrace overlooked the Acropolis, which in turn was reflected onto the glass wall of the museum. It was simply stunning. And the food and wine wasn't that bad either. 

Acropolis Museum Cafe
We spent the rest of the day wandering along the Ermou shopping street, making our way slowly back to the hotel. After a short turn-around we got into a taxi and drove Southeast to Spondi, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Pagrati district, in the shadow of the Panathenaic Stadium. After a truly superb meal we headed back to the hotel and the balcony for a night cap. The view was again breath-taking. By this stage I was feeling no pain....or rain for that matter.

The main attraction


Wildernesschic said...

What a wonderful break and experience for you all .. glad you are back xx

mermaid gallery said...

I travelled to Greece many years ago and it is my dream to return with my husband...maybe this winter...I LOVED your post....thanks, ...I needed that!

Julie Sardinetin said...

So glad you had a good time!

Mwa said...

What a great balcony with a view! And I loved your picture of the "development potential" reflected in the modern glass building. Very clever!

Must be nice to travel to Athens like that. We did it on a shoestring many years ago and we had a view of cockroaches instead of the Acropolis. :-)

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