Tuesday, 4 September 2012


Piraeus is our penultimate port; after today we have a sea day before arriving in Venice for an overnight stop. We have booked a transfer to Athens for independent sightseeing and we're dropped by the Temple of Zeus. We decide to see that when we return for the pick-up and Simon navigates us to the Acropolis.

We approach via the theatres, one small and in poor repair bur with stone seats complete with backrests, the other large and intact and clearly still in use. It's a long, hot climb to the top and the higher we get the more people we encounter as the routes converge.

For me, the Parthenon is a big disappointment; it's too crowded and the restoration is too intrusive. Inside the Parthenon there's a crane and a two-storey portakabin. it's also incredibly hot and Alex complains incessantly - at least until we bump anto his friends Ander and Julen when he perks up.

Much more appealing is the Agora which we can see over the walls. It looks cool and shady with plenty of trees, unlike this arid hilltop, so that's where we head next. The buildings aren't well-preserved, mostly the foundations alone remain, apart from a picturesque early mosque and an intact temple on top of a hill. There are fewer people here and the olive trees provide welcome shade. Our tickets cover multiple sites so they're pretty good value at €12 each. Our final stop before lunch is Hadrian's library but by now Alex has had enough and sits in the shade while Simon and I look around. It doesn't take us long; we're less vocal about it but we're more than ready for a sit down and a drink.

We're in the tourist-oriented Plaka district and the restaurants are trying hard to entice customers with the kind of front of house staff that have the opposite effect on me, but we select one that has a blackboard outside in Greek rather than English and hope for the best. It turns out to be a good choice and we enjoy a meze plate and Greek salad and some cold drinks. The service is a tad leisurely for people on a schedule but the bill is accompanied by a slushie for Alex and shots for us and seems reasonable at €52 for much more food than we could eat and several drinks.

Simon navigates through the narrow streets of the old city and I feel like we're in Mykonos again. I had not seen this side of Athens on previous trips and I prefer it. We encounter more ruins on the way but don't have time to go in. We reach the Temple of Zeus at 2.50 to find it closes at 3 and last entry was 5 minutes ago. Oh well. We've had our fill of ruins by now and we have a pretty good view through the railings. Alex buys a couple of weird balls from a street vendor that flaten when they land and then coalesce again, and we head for the pick-up point.

Back on board we all swim then Simon and I sunbathe while Alex swims with his friends. He wants to eat with them in the buffet tonight so Simon and I have a date. We explore the options for a pre-dinner drink but our favourte bar, Maharini's  has been taken over by a scheduled gathering of Dorothy's friends and we don't fancy the sports bar or the 'English pub' so we go to Champagne Charlie's. 

We manage to get a window seat in the Garden restaurant but the food's not great; Simon's  chicken comes with cheese-filled tortellini and cubes of undercooked vegetables. To be honest, the food hasn't been the best, but the itinerary has more than made up for it.

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