On our last morning in Chania we got up early as usual and took a norm al morning stroll around the old town. We kinda knew it was time to leave since we were getting to be perhaps a bit too familiar with our surroundings. Still, we'd really enjoyed our time in Chania, the city really spins its charms on you.
Speaking of charming, when Thomais saw us returning from our walk. She told us to wait for her before going anywhere....a few minutes later, she delivered freshly fried and delicious cheese pies to us!
Thomais told me that there are people who come back every year to Chania and stay at Madonna Studios. Based on our experience I can understand why. If we're ever back in Chania, we'll surely stay here.
While having our cheese pie and sipping some coffee we heard a commotion below......
It was a tour passing through the little cobblestone street in front of us.
The Missus decided to spend the rest of the morning relaxing with a book, while I headed off to the Archaeological Museum which is housed in church built by the Venetian's in the 16th century.
The admission was really inexpensive....2 Euros and it was a nice way to kill an hour.
We decided to get some lunch before our afternoon flight back to Athens.....it was an easy choice. We walked pass the tables of Tamam earlier in the morning, by then, the Missus had already decided to have lunch there. She wanted another crack at that avocado dip.
And yes, the Missus had keep Her "wine streak" alive.
I'd decided on having a nice salad...it seemed like the thing to order on such a bright and sunny day. I wasn't disappointed. They called this the Tamam Salad and it was simply one of the best salads I've had in a good long time. The tomatoes were so wonderfully ripe. There was a sweet-tangy dressing, that seemed a bit like a light honey-mustard. A good variety of cabbages and lettuces gave the salad a nice color and a tad of bitterness.
As you can see, it was topped with that lovely avocado dip and walnuts.......
We had more avocado dip.......
And this time we were smart enough to get some fried potatoes with it. Also, by this time, the Missus was in full swing trying to get that avocado dip recipe, which our server deftly deflected.
Keeping with our veg theme we ended with some very nicely done fava beans in olive oil topped with dill.
We had packed before heading out to lunch so we took one more walk around the waterfront.
As we walked back to pick up our bags and grab a taxi to the airport we came across the guy to the right. He worked at one of the waterfront tourist restaurants and would always try to get us into the place. We'd always turn him down with a smile and "oh, no we just ate" or something like that. If it was lunch he'd tell us, "come for dinner then...." In the mornings it would be, "come try us for lunch!" On this day, as he made his attempt to lure us into the restaurant, I told him, "oh, sorry, we are leaving in a few minutes." He broke out into a big smile and told me, "you must at least take a picture with me so you don't forget us!" So I did.......
Not that I was likely to forget about Chania anytime soon.
Returning to Athens was like going to a different planet. Gone was the blue sky, the clean air......it seemed much hotter and crowded as we walked to Hotel Tony from Symtaga Square.
After freshening up, we walked through the Plaka which was just packed to the seams with tourists.
We decided just to stick around the Koukaki neighborhood and have dinner at one of the local tavernas recommended by Tony.
It turned out to be just nourishment.......
The kokoretsi, basically lamb intestines wrapped around offal, then roasted was especially disappointing. The intestines greasy, the offal, dry, and well, awful.....
As they say....you can't win 'em all. We turned in early....it was another 5am bus from Symtaga Square to the airport in the morning. We were headed back to Antalya.....
We headed back to our room after a pretty long day, starting with the Acropolis, down to the Ancient Angora, up to the Central Market, back to Syntagma Square and the changing of the guard. It was time to head back. We did take a short break at Hadrian's Arch, built by the Emperor Hadrian in 131 AD. It is said that the arch marked the dividing line between the old city and the new city of Athens. Just a handful of yards away stands the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Work on the temple was started in the 6th century BC, but not completed until the reign of Hadrian. It was built to be the greatest temple Greece, but was pillaged by the Romans in the 3rd century AD. Eventually, much of the temple was removed to be used for construction elsewhere.
By this time, I'd pretty much had my fill of ruins and temples. Walking back up the hill to our hotel, we ran smack dab into the farmer's market that was just getting started when we left in the morning.
This was how it looked in the morning.......
Right now it was going full blast........
It had been a pretty long day and we didn't feel like heading off into the mass of humanity that is the Plaka, so we decided to self cater. Hotel Tony had a small kitchenette stocked with plates and utensils. We first headed down a couple blocks and went to the market. We bought some cheese and a bottle of wine.
While the really nice fellow behind the counter fed the Missus samples, I had a look around. I even noticed Soy Sauce being sold. Having picked out what we needed we headed back up to the now dwindling mass of humanity and started browsing.
Of course olives were on our list and this stand had a great selection.
We went through all the booths of tomatoes and found some really ripe ones and some great cucumber as well. No stove so their wouldn't be any cooking going on, though that's not to say I wasn't sorely tempted.....
While the Missus freshened up, I popped open the bottle of wine and set the table. You see, the other thing great about this room at Hotel Tony was the little balcony.
Dinner was perfect for relaxing at the end of a somewhat busy day. It gave the Missus and I time to reflect on our day and plan what was coming up next.
As I watched folks going about their daily routine, getting home form work or taking the dog out for a walk, I was reminded of something that I always mention to folks...... we are more alike than different.
I also reflected on the fact that here I was...in Athens.....over 2000 miles from my home in San Diego, sipping wine on a balcony watching a young woman walking a dog. How did some poor kid from Hawaii ever manage to get here? I have really been lucky......
Of course, I didn't have too much time to dwell on the subject.....I was dog tired.
We'd be having a long day again tomorrow....maybe not physically.....we were headed to Delphi and Meteora in the morning.
By the time we'd finished walking through the Central Market we were pretty hungry. Luckily, we happened to be right outside the fruit and vegetable section of the market. Here, on the corner of Theatrou and Sokratous, down these stairs and past these doors was a place I first read about on Matt Barrett's wonderful Athen's Survival Guide.
Matt calls this place the "Secret Underground Taverna", but later on, when one of the customers, a very friendly young woman originally from Athens, but now living in London, who was quite surprised seeing us eating here, told us the name of the place is Diporto. Yes, "double doors", those very doors you walk through when you enter.
There is indeed a sense of mystery as you walk down the stairs and enter what looks like a wine cellar.....
In the corner was an older gentleman moving at a steady pace preparing the various offerings for the day. This basement taverna has no menu, the two men working that day didn't speak any English. They smiled and invited the Missus over to the pots so She could choose our lunch for us.
Based on our experience, you'll get a tin of wine and some glasses delivered to your table regardless if you request it or not.
This tasted pretty astringent. Later when that young lady started talking to us, we were told that next time we should order a Sprite to mix with the wine.
In good order our food arrived, the food was simple, but like many of these types of places, very comforting. The Missus favorite of the two soups was the Revithosoupa, a simple but well seasoned Garbanzo Bean Soup.
I enjoyed the Black Eyed Bean soup, which was very hearty.
The Greek Salad seasoned with sea salt and oregano, was quite delicious. The tomatoes were so perfectly ripe.......
No trip to Athens would be complete without a trip to the Acropolis to see the iconic Parthenon. The Missus's plan was to get there early before late rising Athens was fully awake and take in as much of the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora as we could. We awoke at a pretty late (for us) 7am and left Hotel Tony for the Acropolis at about seven-thirty.
We were surprised when we walked out to the street and saw this.
Walking into the lobby of the hotel, I spoke to Tony who told me once a month, Zacharista has a large market day, with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items for sale.
Our lucky day! This would add another wrinkle to our day which i'll cover in another post.
We made our way to the Acroplois through the surprisingly empty streets........
I guess even the dogs wake up late in Athens.......
As we aid our admissions and walked up the stairs we ran into the soldiers who guard the Acropolis on their way down.....
Rifles over their left shoulder, left arm swinging back then high into the air as they marched. It was quite a sight.
Walking up the stairs, you look up and see the pillars of the Propylaea rising up in the air. It's quite a dramatic sight.
It's easy to imagine the drama and pageantry that took place here.
Of course once past the Propylaea, there's the Parthenon, one of the undying symbols of Greece.
Most of the major building that we're familiar with were built under the watch of Pericles. Of these the Parthenon is the most recognized and impressive. Built as temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena, it actually replaced the "Older Parthenon" which was destroyed by the Persians around 480BC.
Yet, the Acropolis is not defined by the Parthenon alone. For us, one of the most interesting and photogenic structures is the Erechtheion.
And the beautiful "Porch of the Maidens".
There's a look-out where the flag of Greece is raised, the views from there are fantastic.
Overall, it was nice to see, but for some reason this felt anti-climatic after our visit to Ephesus.
After our visit we headed down the hill and Panatheniac Way to the Ancient Agora, once the heart of Athens.
I enjoyed meandering along the paths, some of which have been used for centuries.
The two most prominent structures in the area are the Temple of Hephaestus.
Built for Hephaestus the God of technology and artisans.
And the Stoa of Attalos which is now the Ancient Agora Museum. We had times things right, the place was empty when we arrived and the echoes of the hallways and peristyle really played with one's imagination.
Perhaps it was because we could only hear the rustle of the trees and the birds singing between our footsteps; but I enjoyed this more than the Acropolis Museum. The busts lining the peristyle seemed to gaze upon us........
There's a small, concise collection of items related to the Athenian democracy.
We decided that having seen the Ancient Agora, that we should make our way to the present day agora, the Athens Central Market. The building of the "modern" market was initiated in 1875. Like most of these types of markets (and we've been to a few), things are organized in sections. For us, the most fascinating was the meat. Where the carcasses of lamb were cut directly in half, looking like something from an anatomy book.
I was particularly fascinated by the offal, especially the long strands of intestine hanging on a hook like twine, ready to be spun around offal to make kokoretsi.
The Missus and I noticed something interesting as we passed the rabbits hanging ready for sale. We wondered why they left the furry tail and hind feet intact. Was it a sign of neatness, or perhaps freshness?
The seafood area was another place where I took my time looking around. The seafood looked very fresh and the smells were of the sea, not decomposing flesh.
Eventually, we found ourselves outside the market......
Passing along the perimeter and the nuts, sausages, and fruits.....
By this time we'd covered quite a bit of ground for a single morning and the Missus was hungry. And I knew just the place...........
After a nice lunch at Strofi we took the short walk to the Acropolis Museum. This was, of course before all of the economic and civil turmoil in Greece, before the word austere was more commonly used to describe someones taste in decorating. We did though, see some signs which I'll describe in a future post.
The museum has a very modern design, though you're quickly reminded of the historic underpinnings of Greece by just simply looking down before you enter the museum as it built right over an archaeological site. You can look upon the site through the glass floors before entering the museum.
The museum consists of four floors and beyond the ubiquitous restaurant and multi-media areas, is divided into basic time periods, with the Parthenon display taking up almost all of the third floor. sorry to say no photos are allowed. But since we didn't find out until we snapped a couple....there was no clear signs....here's a couple.
We did stop as soon as we saw a sign.
Worth a visit if you're in Athens, admission is 5 Euros.
After checking out the museum we took a leisurely stroll back ot the hotel, passing the various apartments and shops along the way. We even passed "Asian Market" a small convenience stored sized shop full of Filipinos buying snacks and other food items.
We freshened up, took a short nap, and being a bit tired decided to go back ot Strofi for dinner. After all, we enjoyed lunch so much and tomorrow was going to be a full day. Arriving at the restaurant we were led back up to the top floor patio with the wonderful view of the Acropolis.
And of course, the Missus ordered a liter of the house red wine vefore we even sat down. As with most of Europe, folks eat pretty late. The Missus and I however, usually eat fairly early, which was good since the restaurant started filling up. I'll get into this a bit more later on.....
We started with some bread with herbs, which was on the very dry side.
The Missus and I quickly noticed something about the staff here. There seemed to be no sense of urgency, even as the restaurant was filling up. There seemed to be a pretty blasé attitude. After seeing this, we decided to forgo appetizers and just order our entrees. Getting our order in was a good move. The couple sitting right next ot us came in about 10 minutes after us hadn't even gotten their appetizers and worked through a whole liter of white wine by the time we had finished our meal and left. They weren't the only ones, we saw several tables complaining about the slow service. It just seemed that the kitchen and the front of house was not up to the task. And the patio dining area wasn't totally full.
The Missus ordered the Kid Goat in Parchment Paper (15.5 Euros - about $24 US at the time of our visit).
The goat was very tender, though under seasoned for our tastes. The sauce was also quite bland and the gruyere cheese melted over the potatoes really didn't add much to the whole dish.
I went with the Baked Lamb Shank with Rosemary and Potatoes (14 Euros - about $22.50 US at the time). I was really looking forward to having some lamb in Greece, but this was a disappointment.
Pictures don't lie. This was tough, dry, and lacked the flavor of lamb. It was severely under-seasoned. I'm usually not a huge fan of rosemary, but in this case I sorely wanted more...well of anything. I actually poured olive oil and used the salt shaker, something I almost never do. The potatoes were done well, but also lacked flavor.
This had us scratching our heads. Lunch was pretty good, well flavored, what happened to dinner. Plus, we seemed to be in the midst of some pretty unhappy customers as most hadn't even gotten their apps yet. We decided to cut our losses and head back to the room.
After all, we'd have to be up early in the morning to grab some breakfast then get to here......
Upon arriving in Athens we headed straight for the X95 bus which took us from Athens International Airport to busy Syntagma Square, pretty much the heart of Athens.......
A couple of quick questions later and we were on the metro, headed in the direction of Hotel Tony. We got off the metro, found the street and walked up the hill to the hotel located on the corner of Dikaiou and Zacharista in the Koukaki neighborhood, located North of the Plaka and on the back side of the Acropolis. The neighborhood looked fairly residential and we kind of enjoyed that. Tony himself is quite a character, larger than life, very funny, whose tastes in furnishing and decor matches his personality. They were still working on renovating the building we were in....it looked like faux marble stairs and various statues were being put in. Tony's rooms, at least in this building were large and very colorful......
The room was large and had a kitchenette. We could tell by Tony's, how should I say it, physique, that he loved to eat. So we asked for a recommendation for lunch straightaway. He recommended a restaurant called Strofi a few blocks away, close to the back of the Parthenon.
The place was pretty empty when we arrived and we were led to the patio on the third floor.
The Missus ordered a half liter of red wine almost as soon as we were seated.
While looking over the menu, an amuse of sorts arrived. The place consisted of chopped tomatoes, feta, and what they called "brioche", but was actually "rusk". Rusk is a twice baked bread that is like toast, which they called paximadia. When served with tomatoes and feta, they call this "Dakos".
You dip the rusk into some water to soften, then top with tomatoes and feta. The Missus loved the paximadia and would end up consuming it every chance She got in Crete. Also, a small carafe of what was called Tsipouro was provided. This was pretty bitter stuff at first, but we both came to enjoy it. It is called Raki or Tsikoudia in Crete and we really got used to having it with dessert. It can be pretty potent stuff, but I really enjoyed it. You'll be seeing a lot of Raki in future posts......
We decided to stick with getting three appetizers.......
The Missus didn't enjoy the anhcovy with lemon and olive oil.
I thought this was decent, but the flavor of the anchovies were too much for Her.
We both really enjoyed the Melitzano Salata, the eggplant dip....
Wonderfully smoky and full of flavor.
The Fava Skordalia was a hit as well.......
Mild garlic flavor, wonderful texture, this was also a winner.......
Not a cheap lunch by US atandards at 30 Euros, about 45 bucks at the time. But it was a satisfying meal and put us in a good mood as we headed to the Acropolis Museum.