After an amazing week back on Lemnos at Surf Club Keros I decided to stay a few extra days in Athens. Pete and Andy had a 21 hour layover, with pretty much the whole of the Thursday to spend in Athens. We had all booked separate accommodation so agreed to meet in the morning for a trip up to the Acropolis.
The train from the airport to the city centre cost €10 (it’s free for wheelchair users) and is accessible and easy to use. My hostel was down the street from Monastiraki Square and around the corner from Lithos Tavern which was recommended on a gluten free travel group. After checking in to the hostel I went out for dinner. Athens seemed to be a 24 hour city and the restaurant didn’t bat an eyelid at me turning up after 10pm for a sit down meal.
Meals were marked for gluten free and I got the chicken and mushrooms.
It was a decent meal but they did forget to bring me my drink – but not the bottle of table water so at least I had something to wash down the meal.
I stayed at Pella Inn Hostel which was decent in terms of location and comfy bed, and they had a lift which was great for the 6 or so floors, but no breakfast and the towels provided are pretty much the size of a face cloth – I went to reception and got a second towel. The best part of the hostel was the rooftop bar with the amazing view of the Acropolis and sunset.
The next day I walked up to the Acropolis to meet the boys. We had arranged to meet at 10 so I set off early. I bought a combo ticket for €30 which includes entrance to seven sites over five days and waited for the boys to rock up. And waited. Then I had a walk up Areopagus, a rock next to the Acropolis which was used as a court back in classical times. The name translates to Ares Rock as Ares (the Greek God of war) is said to have been tried there for the murder of Poseidon’s son.
It’s also the site of the sermon of the Apostle Paul. This sermon is reportedly the most dramatic from Paul and is recorded in the book of Acts in the bible. Paul got quite a few followers of Christ from his sermon.
I was awed by the view. You could see pretty much all of Athens from the rock. As there are no trees or covering on top of the rock it can get quite windy up there.
This passed a bit of time and so did the hour where I people watched waiting for the boys. As the Acropolis is at the top of a hill (obviously Rachael) the boys had met up at the nearest metro station and got a taxi the rest of the way up. Traffic was hectic so they took a while, but arrived finally!
I had scoped out where the disabled entrance was (it’s at the exit) so we made our way there. Unfortunately I didn’t do my research, because you still need a ticket even though it’s free entry for people with disabilities. I told the boys to stay at the entrance and the gate guy radioed through to the ticket office. The line was pretty huge, so I pushed in at the front and told the lady the situation. She wasn’t happy I was sans two wheelies, but I got the tickets and made my way back to the boys.
We made our way to the disabled entrance which was to the left of the main entrance. The path was a bit up and down but was pretty manageable for the boys.
>>>side note: Pete has a T6 spinal injury and Andy has a C7 spinal injury. Both are manual chair users<<<<<<<<<<<
The accessible entrance consisted of a stair lift and then an elevator up the last part of the hill. We had to wait a bit as firstly, there was a lady who had done her ankle in half way up the stairs blocking the lift and then, as soon as Pete got loaded on, the lift wouldn’t work. After waiting for an engineer we were on our way to the Heavens! Very, very slowly as the stair lift seemed like it went slower than a snail.
The elevator was small, it only fit one chair and two people in it, but it zoomed up pretty fast.
The first thing we did when we go to the top was find a place for a selfie. I had my trusty selfie stick and managed to get some pretty good shots of us all – actually not the easiest trying to get the angles right to get us all and the Parthenon in.
It was bloody hot up there so we sat in the shade for a bit and the boys took advantage of the loo while I filled up water bottles. Toilets and water fountains can be found up top. Then we did a lap around to see the other buildings. Being conscious of the time, we made our way back to the elevator (the boys had an early evening flight back to London). The ground isn’t the flattest up top so it did turn into a little bit of an obstacle course.
By this stage Andy was near dying with heat overload, so us two lined up for the lift while Pete waited in a bit of shade.
Whadayaknow, the bloody stair lift was broken again! It took about 10 minutes to convince the lady in charge to let us down to the bottom of the elevator – we knew that landing was shaded by the rock. Pete wasn’t far behind us.
There was another wheelie and his wife waiting for the engineer to come out and fix it, but with no ETA we didn’t want to wait that long. Pete jumped out his chair and bum shuffled down the ten billion steps (ok, maybe like 50?) while I took his chair down.
Andy wasn’t quite able to do that, so we enlisted the help of the other wheelie’s wife and he balanced down backwards with me and her assisting. After some soaking to cool Andy down, we made our way to the metro station so the boys could get on to the airport.
After the boys left I was on my own. It was time for some food. I found the Happy Blender Juice Bar through a Facebook search for gluten free places to eat. I wouldn’t suggest you go here if you’re hungry though, as it’s mainly just snack food and drinks rather than proper meal. It’s a lovely little place in the heart of the Monastiraki Flea Market and a great place to chill. My avocado bowl was mainly green leaves, but the rest of it was delicious.
While in Athens I found out that my god-sister Renee was also here for one night at the end of her European tour! We arranged to meet up at her port side hotel after her ferry got in from one of the islands that night. Armed with her hotel address and Google maps I made my way to the tram stop… and waited for what seemed like an age. Then I thought I was in the wrong spot, so went to a different stop and asked a friendly looking lady for directions. Turns out, that line didn’t exist (bloody Google doing me wrong!) and I had to get the tram from somewhere else. I did eventually make it and got to have dinner with Renee and her mates and a drink together.
Renee had an early-ish morning flight the next day and I wasn’t sure about tram times, so it wasn’t a late one and I was able to get on one of the last trams back into the city. Unfortunately, that tram stopped half way and there were no more trams, or metro trains. I walked for a bit, then downloaded Bolt and was able to catch a cab. Just like Glasgow, these cabs aren’t armed with EFTpos, so we made a stop at an ATM before the hostel.
On the Friday I joined a free walking tour that started from Monastiraki Square and went through Plaka, around a few ancient sites, up to the Acropolis and to the new museum. I did the tour with New Athens Free Tour which I booked through Pella Inn hostel and our guide’s name was English George. We strolled past some amazing street art as well as a lot of rundown buildings. Apparently, rebuilds can’t happen unless it’s with the same materials and in the same style as previously.
After catching up with a couple of ladies from the Facebook group Women Who Travel, it was time to eat (it’s always time to eat!) Another internet find was Los Loros in Syntagma, a Venezuelan and Colombian street food establishment. Although I only visited Athens in September, it now seems like this little gem may be permanently closed according to Google.
I had the malandra with arepa and of course I had to get a serving of the buñuelos covered in Nutella. I had a pretty chill afternoon (may or may not have included a nap).
After seeing a recommendation for a food tour from a fellow coeliac, I had booked a place on a Saturday morning tour with Culinary Backstreets. I had emailed them before booking and they had confirmed they would be able to accommodate for my gluten free diet.
Our guide was Christina and she took us to a few gems around the downtown neighbourhood.
The first stop was gluten central so I didn’t have any of the snacks, but the decor was a whole mood.
Our second stop was to try honey. To be honest, I had NO idea there were so many different varieties of honey! Some of them were not the best – i think I’ll stick with the sweet honey that you can get in the supermarket – a honey connoisseur I am not.
We moved on to this lovely coffee shop on the corner of the main market. The special thing about this coffee shop is that they brew their beans the traditional way! None of this instant stuff, coffee here heats up over hot sand.
I’m not a big coffee drinker, so I stole someone’s cup for the ‘gram and had an iced coffee myself. To go with our drinks we had some dried candied fruit and some other Greek gems.
After we finished our drinks and had a loo break, we moved on to the food market. The market has little stalls which will cook your freshly bought food for you. Christina stocked us up on some seafood and we had a bit of a feast.
Our tour also included a stop for some Greek olives (I am not a fan so I didn’t buy any, but I did get this snap of the different kinds on offer).
Our final stop was for a bite of lunch at one of the local restaurants. It was a pretty nice day so we joined some outside tables up and ate outside.
Empty plates means it must have been good! Christina also gifted us each these Athens Eating Guides which are full of awesome recommendations.
After a delicious lunch and a parting of ways, I made my way back across to Monstiraki Square and to Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora of Athens ans wandered through for a few hours.
There are around 20 buildings and structures within the boundaries of the Agora which has been constantly excavated since 1931. The museum on the east side displays artifacts from public and private lives of Ancient Greece.
For my last night in Athens, I took the advice of Christina and my handy eating guide book and made a reservation for one at I Kriti on Veranzerou. The restaurant was about a 20 minute walk from my hostel, but it was just up one road so I managed not to get lost.
I ordered a few different dishes – however I thought they would have lessened the amount when they saw I was a solo diner! I got the Cretan sausage, snails and oyster mushrooms. The restaurant are known for their on-the-house dessert, which for the muggles is a delicious looking chocolate cake. I didn’t miss out though, and was given some yummy pears instead. These 3 dishes and a can of coke cost me under £20!
After my feast it was back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep before my early morning flight to Israel!