Let the Games Begin!
We flew on Aegean Airlines, Vienna to/from Athens. Our first experience with Aegean was about 18 months ago en route to Cairo, and we fell in love. Legroom! Delicious Food! (No, really!) Gorgeous Greek scenery on the monitors to inspire and entertain us. In fact, we were so inspired that Tony and I booked a short getaway to Corfu a couple of months later, albeit on the horrible and thankfully now-defunct NIKI.
But the romance was short-lived. Rather than the delicious, almost-business class quality food we recalled, the outbound delicacy was a lukewarm Tiropita and a Fitness granola bar. And all we had for entertainment was the map on the monitor, ticking away the kilometers the plane had flown. But we had legroom, the key to travel happiness for my tall family members.
The driver waiting for us in Athens could have been Gus Portokalos from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Upon our greeting he inquired politely as to where we were from, and when Tony replied, “We are Americans,” the floodgates opened; for almost the entire ride to our rental apartment Andreos shared with us the pronunciations of basic greetings and pleasantries alongside Greek trivia. Had our journey lasted longer, we joked later, he would have requested, “Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek,” he was that charming.
Within 90 minutes of landing we were warmly welcomed by the apartment manager; had deposited the case and freshened up; and were ready to conquer the first 6 of what would be 32 kilometers around Athens.
And this is where my careful planning went to Hades, barely two hours into the holiday. On this first afternoon the “plan” was to have a brief meal at one of the carefully researched restaurants; procure the special Ministry of Culture ticket that afforded four days’ worth of sightseeing and allow us to avoid queues at the Acropolis; and then gently explore Plaka before collecting a few provisions for breakfast. But then, Anna Grace spied a just-out-of-the-oven baked feta dish (Bouyiourdi) being delivered to diners at a random taverna’s sidewalk table along the main street in Plaka. This glorious dish would become her muse for the holiday.
One hour; one half-litre of house wine; a shared Bouyiourdi and a baked eggplant dish later we realized we had missed this day’s opportunity to purchase the special Acropolis ticket. But it was so worth it, for at this sitting we all discovered that eggplant is actually edible! We are global eaters or foodies or whatever the new descriptive is, but until our lips touched the fire-roasted deliciousness we had mostly been a family of aubergine avoiders. Now the pressure is on to recreate this ambrosia at home.
Perhaps the Greek table wine had gone to Tony’s head, for he announced that he wanted to see, “something ancient” even though the sun was beginning to set. We found two piles of rocks nearby, Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple to Olympic Zeus 😉 and in the fading afternoon light this first exposure to ancient Greece was striking. Our appetite for the morning and “Acropolis Day” had been thoroughly whetted.
Speaking of appetites, though only a couple of hours had passed our inner Dionysus’ called to us, and so we sat at a lively taverna somewhere in Plaka for Souvlaki (with house wine and Bouyiourdi, of course), found an open market (at 2130! A luxury!) for breakfast items, and called it a night.