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Old 11th September 2017, 11:41 AM   #31
yflyer
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Athens is a compact city, very suitable for a walking tour, but even so, it was a hot day, and our specific requirement to end the tour at the Acropolis museum meant that much of the walk would be uphill.

I was worried that this would be physically taxing, both for Mrs yflyer and our guide, Despina. But Despina was slim-built and very fit, who loved walking in the outdoors. Despite being dressed in an elegant black and white summer dress and wide brimmed sun hat, she was fully up to the task at hand. And Mrs yflyer? Meeting her Fitbit step count KPI was all the motivation she needed to push her herself right to the limit as she pressed on through the summer heat, and surprised even herself at how much distance she covered.

We began the tour by heading out past Syntagma Square in central Athens...



...passing through the main shopping street, Ermou Street.



The Acropolis sits right in the middle of Athens, close to everything. We caught tantalizing glimpses of this historic site between buildings at every turn.



At our request, the first stop was a snack -- we had not eaten since arriving in Athens. Despina brought us to Thanasis, a popular restaurant, to grab one of their famous souvlakis.



Our next stop was Monastiraki, a bustling area with a famous street market.


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Old 11th September 2017, 11:50 AM   #32
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It was just a few minutes walk to the entrance of the Ancient Agora, a large archeological site on the northwest slope of the Acropolis.



We learnt from Despina that the Agora, or "gathering place", was a central gathering area, commercial center, and assembly for debate and politics through different periods of history, including a period from 6 BC to 1 BC where many of the concepts of democracy and western civilization where born. We were walking the very same ground where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle walked in around 300-400BC.



Exploring the Athenian Agora, while listening to Despina bring history to life through her narration, was a very fitting prelude to climbing up to the Acropolis...





There may be other routes up to the Acropolis that involved less walking, but this was a very intellectually satisfying way to do it.



A common misconception is that the Acropolis is the large iconic structure on top of the Acropolis. In reality, that structure is the Parthenon, whereas the Acropolis refers to the whole citadel and complex of temples and structures on the hill.

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Old 11th September 2017, 12:35 PM   #33
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On the way up, we passed the Odeon of Herodus Atticus, a stone theatre built in 191 AD, and renovated in 1950.



It has lovely acoustics and is still in use as a theatre today...



From there, it was a climb up to the entrance of the Acropolis, Propylaea...



...with a fantastic view of Athens...





And then you are looking at the Parthenon, that most iconic of structures from ancient history...



Much of the pediment is gone...some of it is in the new Acropolis Museum -- a lot of it is in the British Museum (Greece has been trying to get them back from Britain for years -- still a very contentious issue between the two countries.)



Like so many other historical sites, a lot of construction equipment and other conservation/restoration gear is in view, but this did little to mar the grandeur and beauty of the original structures, which were clearly built to last...



Apart from perfect proportions, the Parthenon is known for various optical refinements, such as curves, bulges, and irregular spacing of pillars, which paradoxically make the structure look more perfect and regular to the human eye. For example, an optical illusion makes straight columns look curved to the naked eye, so the Acropolis has curved columns which compensate for the illusion, and makes them appear straight...



The Parthenon is not the only temple on the Acropolis, there are other smaller temples. Our guide, Despina, described the Erectheion, a temple built on the site where, according to Greek mythology, Poseiden and Athena battled to decide who would be patron of the city.



The figures on the Erectheion are the famous "Porch of the Maidens", the Caryatids. These 6 draped scultpires are copies...5 of the originals are now in the New Acropolis Museum not far away, to protect from damage and decay.

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Old 11th September 2017, 12:54 PM   #34
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Many spots on the Acropolis provide panoramic views of Athens.





Other sites were the Theatre of Dionysus, the archaeological remains of an open air theatre, which dates back even earlier than the Odeon of Herodes Atticus...



...and, in the distance, the Temple of Zeus...



There is also a New Acropolis Museum with other artifacts which is worth a visit.



It took about 3+ hours of leisurely walking to to cover these sights. I activated my Garmin GPS watch not far from the Grande Bretagne to track our route. Our walking tour took us more than 5km, with the Athenian Agora at the 1km mark, with the climb Acropolis from the 2.5 km mark onwards, and the New Acropolis Museum at the end point (Red marker). No lifts, escalators or personal mobility devices were used in the ascent .



As mentioned, there are walking routes to the Acropolis which involve less strenuous walking, but I would recommend this route as one which walks you through many key sites in a very logical sequence, not to mention the approach and climb up to the Acropolis from the northwest, first going through the Ancient Agora.

So half a day is sufficent for an overview exploration the key archaeological sites of Athens, although a history buff could easily spend several days exploring the various sites and museums in detail.

We said goodbye to Despina in the cafe of the New Acropolis museum, where we paused for much needed drinks and refreshments, before exploring the museum on our own, and then walking back to the Grande Bretagne.

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Old 11th September 2017, 01:23 PM   #35
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That evening, we headed to the GB Roof Garden Restaurant, on the roof of the Hotel Grande Bretagne, for dinner. This restaurant must have some of the nicest dinner views in Athens, with stunning views of the Acropolis at tables on the outside balcony.

We requested and were given a very nice table on the balcony overlooking the Acropolis...



The restaurant had a very interesting cocktail selection...



I ordered "The Last Cocktail" (left) and Mrs yflyer ordered a "Pelagos" (right)...



After a long day of walking, these hit the spot...

For starters, we had vegetable soup...



...which was delicious. This was a cold summer soup, and had popcorn as one of the ingredients, which worked surprisingly well.

We also sampled the grilled calamari, which had great texture.



Our mains were grilled fish...



..and carre and leg duet of lamb...



...which were impeccably prepared and served.

We accompanied these dieshes with a selection of Greek wines by the glass...


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Old 11th September 2017, 01:24 PM   #36
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By then the sun had begun to set...



...and the lights illuminating the Acropolis came on, which created a magical scene at dusk...



Our desserts were no less inspired...





I would highly recommend this restaurant for a very fine dining experience, with service and cuisine at a very high level, not to mention superb views.





If you dine there, plan to arrive at the restaurant while the sun is up, so that you can dine as the sun sets. If you do this, you will be treated to very different views of the Acropolis during the course of the evening, as it gets dark. Note that on some days, it can be a bit windy there late in the evening, and that smoking is allowed in the outdoor areas. If any of those look to be an issue, an indoor table might be preferable, although you would not get the full Acropolis view.

After dinner headed down the stairs to our hotel room and turned in early that evening, as we had a ferry to Mykonos to catch early the next morning.

To be continued!

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Old 14th September 2017, 11:56 PM   #37
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Early the next morning, we checked out of the Grande Bretagne and caught the metro to the main city port of Piraeus to catch our 7.30am Blue Star Ferry to Mykonos.

The Greek metro is in the process of transitioning from regular paper tickets to contactless paper and plastic smart cards. Until that happens tourists and visitors may be a little confused by the two kinds of tickets and validation machines. Unlike the contactless ones we used at the airport, today we bought the regular paper metro tickets...





...which were validated by slotting the paper tickets into these machines by the side of the entrances...



The metro network and maps are similar to subway/MRT systems across the world and are fairly easy to navigate for visitors, especially with Google Maps.

We would catch Metro Line 1 (In Green), which terminated at Piraeus port.

Many of the trains themselves were so completely covered with colourful graffiti that it was difficult to tell if this was commissioned art or vandalism...



We got off at Piraeus...



...and walked past countless shops and cafes to reach the ferry boarding area, a very short distance away -- impossible to miss, although it would help if you checked which port gate your specific ferry departed from before heading here.

The Blue Star ferries are the largest ferries carrying passengers to/from the Greek Islands. They are not the fastest, but they are the most stable in case of rough seas, and also have many outdoor decks for viewing. I chose Blue Star for both of those reasons...but especially for the views of the islands and the sea.



We booked our tickets online from the Blue Star website. We collected the tickets on the morning itself from the ticket booth just prior to boarding.



Boarding ferries is quite a simple (But slightly chaotic) process...you simply board via the rear gangway carrying your luggage....



You can either leave your luggage below decks (No bag tags or anything, just chuck them onto the luggage racks or leave them on the floor by the wall), or at least on the large Blue Star ferries, you could also bring your luggage with you to the seating areas, where there are a few luggage racks.

Although some tickets have assigned seats, in reality on these ferries, these are so large that many passengers don't have assigned seats and just sit anywhere they want, and even those with assigned seats often don't sit there and just wander around the large ship. Not a bad state of affairs, although this means that everywhere you turn, you see people...



Airline seat-style seating is one available ticketing option...




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Old 15th September 2017, 12:05 AM   #38
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It is a long ferry ride, so people do get comfortable...



There are bars serving snacks and drinks on board...



...as well as a burger restaurant...



Although we had reserved "airline-style" seating, we spent almost the whole time on the outdoor deck...





It was a very windy morning when we set sail, and enroute there were stretches where the sea got slightly choppy...



A couple of drinks to kick off the long ferry ride...catching a plane to Mykonos would have been quick (And fairly inexpensive), but I really wanted to experience the ferry ride across the Aegean sea, as well as views of the islands...



Very nice island views enroute...

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Old 15th September 2017, 12:08 AM   #39
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One of the ferry stops on the way to Mykonos was at the island of Syros, with its beautiful town by the port...



The ferry stops were super quick...we were quite amazed at how fast these ferries did a turnaround at these stops...the rear ramps were on the way down even before the ferry docked...



...and almost immediately after docking, the passengers streamed quickly out of the ramp...



...and boarding passengers came onboard almost simultaneously with those getting off...



There was barely enough time to snap a few pictures of Syros from the balcony of the ferry...



...before we set off again for the next island...



An amazingly efficient operation...
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Old 15th September 2017, 12:12 AM   #40
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It got very windy towards the the end of the 4 hour ferry ride...



We watched the ship's bow see-saw up and down in the water, causing large splashes of spray...(Well huge by non-seaman standards at least...I am sure the professional seamen on this forum have seen far worse...)



It got so windy that at one point, many of the chairs on the sun decks were blown over...


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Old 15th September 2017, 12:18 AM   #41
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Fortunately it got slightly less windy as we approached the island of Mykonos, a favourite for beach and party goers in summer...





Several cruise ships were anchored off shore...their guests no doubt roaming the streets of Mykonos old town...



As we approached the pier, we could see departing passengers waiting to board the ferry for its return sailing to Athens...



After 4 hours onboard, it was great to be on dry land again...



We had a complimentary transfer from the port to our hotel, Hotel Tagoo.

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Old 15th September 2017, 10:24 AM   #42
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yeah, could see there were plentiful white caps on the blue sea..... must be windy, looking at the pic, it could be force 6 at least.
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Old 15th September 2017, 06:50 PM   #43
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Thanks yflyer for another amazing report. Thanks for the detailed tour and commentary. I learn alot just reading your reports!

Did your guide ever explain why there are no skyscrapers in Athens?

A long haul flight on an LCC. That's something that I am not prepared to try! I suppose the whole concept of paying for everything you need onboard takes some getting used to, and once you do, it might become a viable option.

I am the type who cannot sleep onboard, and when I can't sleep, I need food and drinks to keep me occupied. So on an LCC, I would probably end up spending as much on overpriced food and beverages as I would if I were to buy a ticket on a full service airline!

Scootbiz looks like a decent way to fly long haul. However, the standard onboard service on full service airlines is what makes flying an 'experience' for me. I'm looking forward to your flight home (presumably at the back of the bus)... 787 3-3-3 tight configuration with LCC service... double whammy (for me at least).
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Old 16th September 2017, 11:24 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kapitan View Post
yeah, could see there were plentiful white caps on the blue sea..... must be windy, looking at the pic, it could be force 6 at least.
The weather was quite changeable...on our first day on Mykonos, it was very windy, with white caps visible on the water, but it was less windy the next day, and by the time we got to Santorini, the water was very calm and perfect for sailing...
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Old 16th September 2017, 11:31 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by icn.sg View Post
Thanks yflyer for another amazing report. Thanks for the detailed tour and commentary. I learn alot just reading your reports!
Thanks, icn.sg! It was a very educational trip for Mrs yflyer and I too...

Quote:
Originally Posted by icn.sg View Post
Did your guide ever explain why there are no skyscrapers in Athens?
I didn't realize it until you mentioned it! Skyscrapers would ruin the view of the Acropolis. At present the Acropolis dominates the Athens skyline...

Quote:
Originally Posted by icn.sg View Post
A long haul flight on an LCC. That's something that I am not prepared to try! I suppose the whole concept of paying for everything you need onboard takes some getting used to, and once you do, it might become a viable option.
Long haul LCC does sound counterintuitive...but after trying it, I am convinced it works.

Quote:
Originally Posted by icn.sg View Post
I am the type who cannot sleep onboard
I am sure there is an F / Suite somewhere out there that can help with that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by icn.sg View Post
I'm looking forward to your flight home (presumably at the back of the bus)... 787 3-3-3 tight configuration with LCC service... double whammy (for me at least).
Yes, we did the return in economy...more on that later!
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