We flew into Greece we checked the weather to determine our plan of action. We knew we wanted a beach day on one of our 3 full days in Greece. The next day was supposed to be the sunniest and warmest (65°F), so we decided to wake up and head straight to the beach that morning.
Unfortunately, we had some issues getting to the beach. First of all, our internet searches failed us in determining the best taxi app. Online it told us the best way for getting taxis was to use Beat. However, it took 3 tries to get a taxi, then the taxi that finally took the fare told us the beach was closed (it wasn’t nor could we find anything as to why it would be). After this hassle, we confirmed with our neighboring bakery and Facebook that the beach would be open and switched to Uber (which worked way better.)
Driving in Athens takes a strong stomach, as our taxi driver illustrated. There’s nothing like your driver stating “it’s forbidden, but I am not caring” as they start driving the wrong way down a one way street.
Finally at Bolivar beach, we discovered that there were no fees that Sunday. The beach area wasn’t crowded as the water was still very cold and few wanted to brace it. Mostly, people were hanging out at the beach bar and playing Matkot.
We had no issues finding a spot near the water and slowly attempted to get acclimated to the water. The sun was shining and we took joy in that, as our driver said “the Greek sun gives you power.” We weren’t sure if it was the freezing water or the sun energizing us that day.
When the wind and rain picked up we left to explore the area near our apartment. After looking over our guide book, we decided to go to the Athens Flea Market. Small shops and restaurants dot all the alleyways with lots of variety in goods.
If you’re looking for Greek souvenirs then this is the perfect spot to start. I typically buy small pieces of jewelry from the countries I visit and I was able to find several I loved within an hour.
On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by a liquor store to buy wine to enjoy on our balcony. Sarrah also bought small bottles of Greek liquor for gifts and trying for ourselves. She asks the man behind the counter about the taste of tsipouro and he pulls out a plastic liter water bottle from under the counter and pours Sarrah and myself a shot from it saying, “it tastes something like this.” The liquor was pure fire and kept burning for the next 10 minutes, so Sarrah bought a few small bottles.
We later circled back to the Athens Flea Market for live Greek music and dinner. Walking around at night you see more street performers and the small stands are still open for some late shopping.
The following day, we went on a 1-day cruise to some of the islands. Our stops included Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. Since we paid for VIP tickets, they picked us at 7:20am and we made our way to the boat for 8am departure.
After a few hours on the boat napping and watching the landscapes go by, we made it to the farthest island, Hydra. We quickly climbed up one side of the port to get a better view, then roamed the streets shopping and sightseeing until it was time to reboard.
We were told that Hydra was the only Greek island with no cars, but we did see at least 2 work trucks, so it’s not exactly true. However, mules are still used more commonly for tourist rides and delivering goods around the area.
After Hydra, we had a quick stop at Poros where we climbed to the top a large hill to see the bell tower. Seems everyone on the boat had the same thought, so we were behind many people on our way up the stairs. Avoiding the crowd, I took a more scenic route down to the port and ended up in small overgrown alleys. Poros is a small island where the main attraction is the bell tower, so it was easy to navigate back towards the port even when fighting some vegetation.
On our last stop, Aegina, we signed up for a panoramic bus tour. Aegina is most famous for it’s pistachios; it was the off season, but there were still many vendors by tourist areas. The tour took many bus stops for pictures and finally let us out at the Cathedral of Saint Nectarios, which is past the medieval capital of the island (moved due to pirating). Back at the port, they fed us ouzo and Greek sea food in the market place.
On the boat we met with a couple that taught us a card game called “screw your neighbor.” We played this game for a few rounds on our way to Aegina. After Aegina, the main dining area hosted Greek folk dancing which we were able to participate in.
On our third day in Greece we got a chance to explore more of Athens.We took advantage of our last day and the sunshine to hike from our apartment to the Acropolis, Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Roman Forum, and then the Ancient Forum.
Our first stop was the Acropolis where we bought package tickets to see 5 of Athens’ most famous areas. This package is €30 for adults (€15 for students) and gives you a 5-day time frame to view the sites.
On the way to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus my sister almost got pick-pocketed. Throughout our day in Athens, there were still crowds, but not as many people as you’d see during the summer. So, when a boy came into the middle of our group eyeing my sister’s partially open bag, we were able to see the situation and remind her that she should close her bag fully. He later tried to get close to a woman with a larger purse on her shoulder.
After several hours of exploring ancient ruins, we stopped into a restaurant for a few drinks. We were the only ones sitting inside as it was still a few hours before dinner time. Between orders, the bartender, Nick, approached our table with a tray of shot glasses and offered them to us along with one for himself. These turned out to be Mastiha with fresh squeezed lemon and a dash of pepper. We later had another which he poured out of a plastic gallon water bottle that was under the bar. Nick explained that Mastiha comes from the mastic tree in Greece and was the original gum. It became our new favorite drink and we even brought home a bottle.
The last thing my sister and I did on this trip was get lost. At night. With dead phones. It started with us meeting Jason at a bar after separating. We then decided to walk to the apartment thinking we knew how to get back… We did not. After we realized that nothing looked familiar we tried to ask someone at a late night kiosk for help, but he didn’t know where our street was. Instead, we asked for general directions to china town and kept walking.
Eventually the dark streets were full of trash and small clusters of men. Stopping in a restaurant to ask again, they explained that we were far from our street and should walk towards the bus. This put us at a main road where an available taxi was waiting. The driver was able to take us to the apartment and to an ATM as we didn’t have cash. He was nice and chatted with us until we were back safe.
When you’re traveling, you’re bound to get lost every now and then. I usually get lost at least once on a trip, like when I boarded a bus heading the wrong way in Poland or misread the pickup area for the London airport shuttle at 4am. In recent travels I’ve used wifi areas to Google Map my route. Even without cell service it will track your location and keep up your route as long as you don’t accidentally clear it (happened once or twice). I’ve never felt totally unsafe when lost, but I am cautious when in a small group and try not to look too disoriented.
I was worried that we’d have troubles with April showers and wind while planning this trip, but as Tony told us we really “got away with it.” We only got rained on once on our way back to the apartment in Cork. The one day it poured rain and flooded in Athens we were on a cruise to the sunny islands.
There are always things that you wish you had time to do or spent more time on. However, I’m happy about everything we got to see and do and the people we met throughout our 16 days of European travel.
-Amazing view of the Acropolis and walking distance from many of the ruins, restaurants, and shops.
Athens Flea Market
-There are so many shops to choose from for souvenirs. It is also next to the ancient forum and has many restaurants.