Exploring & Eating in Athens
We had a feeling we would love Athens, our first honeymoon stop, but people kept telling me how “gritty” it was, how we should just use it as a stopping point on our way to the islands, how we should really avoid spending much time there. This was not our experience at all–we LOVED Athens: the food, the cute side streets and shops, the architectural ruins that seemed to pop up in the middle of the most modern places, like metro stations. (!!) It was so fun just to walk around and explore, stopping into the shops, ogling the baked goods in the store windows and street carts, admiring the fashionable Athenian women and the violet-fuschia lipstick that I noticed many of them wearing.
Since we arrived in Athens first, we were very sleepy from our long flight and very jet-lagged! Some Greek coffees thick with ground coffee beans helped a little:
We took the metro to our hotel, and these archaeological ruins were just there in the station!
We sampled some Greek wines and olives at Heteroclito.
Rose-flavored loukoumi (Greek delight) came out with our check:
For dinner, we dragged our sleepy selves to a restaurant across from our hotel, where we ate salad with grilled cheese, black-eyed peas, beets, and herbs, followed by grilled sardines and fried zucchini cakes.
The next day we visited the Acropolis, and it was just as beautiful as I expected, even though it was undergoing some heavy reconstruction work.
The Acropolis Museum was beautiful–I loved how the very modern, clean lines of the museum’s architecture highlighted the ancient artifacts on display.
After the museum we had lunch at Mani Mani, and it was one of my favorite meals we had in Greece (ok, I had a lot of favorite meals, but this was very very good!). We had fava (which are yellow split peas, not fava beans) with caramelized onion and louza, a cured pork, and lots of olive oil:
Followed by moussaka (that’s a really creamy smoked eggplant layer on top, and underneath was tender lamb, zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes):
Our server brought us mastiha to sample after the meal. It’s a sweet liquor made from the resin (or the tears, as the Greeks poetically put it) of the mastic tree. To me it tastes floral and briny, of the sea, but not in a weird, fishy way.
Pistachio gelato was also on the agenda! (Full disclosure: it looked better than it tasted.)
We sampled a Greek I.P.A. at six d.o.g.s; the coffee shop/bar had come recommended by our practically failsafe NY Times 36 Hours series, but I have to say, the I.P.A. was a bit disappointing and the bar’s outdoor seating, while beautiful, was very smoky. We had fun anyway and were happy to get some bonus popcorn with our drinks!
We saw all of the olives as we walked by Athens Central Market!
And all of the antiques in the shops nearby 😳
The next morning, we took an early flight to Crete, stayed there for four days, went on to Santorini, then Milos, then back to Athens. Crete, Santorini, and Milos all merit their own posts (coming soon) so I’ll just skip right to the end of our trip, which found us back in Athens for an evening and a morning. Jet lag gone, we decided to go out for a late dinner at To Mavro Provato. There was a bit of a wait, but the food was delicious, and while we were waiting our server brought us little glasses of tsipouro, a local brandy similar to grappa. When we finally got to eat, we tried an eggplant spread (yum):
This salad with bresaola, fresh cheese, truffle, and fennel:
Some not-very-photogenic-or-memorable braised pork. And this super cheesy-creamy pasta that was tasty but made us very full very fast!
The next morning we had a bit of time before heading out to the airport, so I got some sandals made at the legendary Stavros Mellisinos “The Poet Sandal Maker of Athens” (I’ve always dreamed of this!) and we walked over to the Athens National Garden, which looks like this:
Look who we found there!
Soon it was time to head back to the airport and back home. On our way I picked up some fresh figs from a cart in Monastiraki Square to have as a snack on our flight.
I’ll be posting more food photos from the rest of our trip in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
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