From the lazy,warmth of Santorini we were off to the beauty of Athens! At Athens, my husband had picked the fabulous hotel Grand Bretagne knowing my love for Classic Luxury and the hotel was all that and more!
The lobby which it’s rich reds and golds reminded me of a palatial entrance and the quiet, discreet care they took with us during check-in was wonderful. If you stayed in the hotel you were not just treated as a VIP- you were VIP! There are very few hotels that have that level of sophistication though I have almost always faced in the older, grand hotels as compared to the newer chains! It’s nice being treated special even if you are just another guest on the roster and I loved that!
The rooms we had booked were Higher category rooms and were comfortable , spacious and had incredible views! Ours overlooked the busy Constitution Square and almost immediately- I was ready to start exploring. Afew hours of walking later- I was ready to take on the Acropolis! Aditya insisted however that we first take in an early night and leave the exploring to the following day, so we headed up to the GB Roof Garden to eat!
The name GB Roof Garden does not do the restaurant justice. With an outside and inside dining option, this restaurant is no cafe or roof garden- it is a fabulous restaurant with great food and directly overlooks the Acropolis. We dined outside obviously enjoying the slight nip in the air and loving the beautifully lit Acropolis in the distance! The food varied from Sushi to Greek food, to pastas and mains! I ate a fabulous fish dish and went to bed excited about what the new day would bring!
The hotel suggested we do a private tour of the sights of Athens. This was very wise. this gave us a taste of history and yet we were not forced to do at the pace dictated by tour operators! We could see what we wanted to see, do what we wanted to do and most importantly stay and take photographs at all the places we wanted to stop at! The morning started at the Acropolis and though the climb seems intimidating, it is actually done quite easily. It is entering the area where the Parthenon , (a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena) stands that’s hard! The crowds there jostle for space to take that one , perfect photograph and the guards try and keep people movingand there are almost no places at all where you can stop, take a breath and just marvel at these incredible structures! We were lucky we had come on a day where cruise ships had not docked and therefore though there were thousands of tourists, I am told that this wasn’t even half of what they usually go through on a daily basis! What I loved were the Greek dogs perched proudly on the steps guarding the entrance to the Parthenon almost like spirits of Greek warriors doing a great duty!
The ruins I loved the best were that of the Amphitheatre- the Theatre of Herod Atticus. This space is still used for Greek theatre and was getting ready for a huge musical performance that night!
The ruins are kept with great amount of care and the locals talk about Greece’s past with so much deference and respect; you almost wish you could get transported into a time of great pomp and splendor, of wealth and beauty, of valor and tradition!
Then it was off to the Agora or the market place and to the Plaka which are lined with quaint cafes and lovely shops which sell fun tourist memorabilia!
It was there we let go of our guid so we could have a leisurely lunch! The Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch which was the entrance to the city were explored by us at our own pace! The museum was another treasure we discovered ourself. watching historians uncover the past hidden below the present structures of the city was truly fascinating. The fact that an entire city had been built over another city was unbelievable and the glass walkway to the museum was atop one of the recently excavated sites and had historians working on it while we explored treasure of a lost past!
Athens also has great shopping! From the latest gadgets and brands to incredible small local designer boutiques, Athens is a shoppers paradise! I bought an entire wardrobe here and would have gladly stayed on, given half a choice!
The people are warm and friendly and I remember wandering the Plaka in the middle of the evening searching for a restaurant we’d heard so much about and other smaller restaurant owners coming outside just to help us and point the way! Our taxi driver too was mortified he hadn’t taken us to the right address and refused to charge a fare on the entire journey saying that we were guests and he had inconvenienced us!
Athens is a city of culture and passion, a city of ruins and romance, of great beauty and of incredible stories! I heard a few and made of a few stories of my own here and I’d love to go back because Athens is like a great novel…every time you read it, the more you learn!
Now the husband is the more sane among us but has a terrible weakness for traveling and when this was suggested on a particularly lazy Sunday, he thought it was a fabulous idea! I did not expect him to agree but nonetheless YAY!
So off we were to Santorini ! Katakies was our hotel of choice in Santorini In the beautiful village of Oia pronounced as “Ia,” this is in the northern part of Santorini and is known to have the most beautiful sunsets and we were looking forward to the romance the evening would bring! This is part of the Small Luxury Hotels and I was really looking forward to a quick, yet very much needed break!
Santorini is a short beautiful flight from Athens! With azure waters interspersed with lush green isles , it is a truly a vision to behold! Our hotel was the other side of the island and a good 30 minutes by car. The car ride was phenomenal with stunning views and picture-postcard scenes! And almost before we could take a breath we were at the hotel. the hotel like the majority of structures in Santorini was a fabulous cave like whitewashed structure reminiscent of hotels in Cappadocia!
On the side of a cliff , the hotel overlooked the Caldera, the cauldron like volcanic structure surrounded by the ocean!The rooms were tasteful, large and ours had the stunning view of the bluest, blue sea! It was perfect!-a quiet , serene getaway to nothingness!
The hotel had just a few rooms and fabulously personal service. Breakfast was in the room every day and with the cheeses and local fruits and produce, the food was light, delicious and supremely healthy! We could eat outside overlooking the glorious ocean and remain undisturbed in the privacy of our own space!
The hotel had 3 pools, each more glorious than the other but my personal favourite was the Cave Pool….something I had never seen before! But where swimming was concerned- when in Santorini head to the beaches! And that’s what we did! I’m a free spirit but I have never been the kind of girl who drives around a foreign location with absolutely no idea what she’s doing… but that’s EXACTLY what we did here! We rented an ATV with an International Drivers Licence that i had brought and we were off! They do take any license in Roman English though so I could have got by with my Indian driver’s license as well! And off we went….to well….EVERYWHERE! It was a day time of adventure. We stopped. We shopped. We got lost.And then we got found!
We found black sand beaches, white sand beaches, azure waters and great cafes! We stopped and swam everywhere! We took our postcard photographs and really explored the island. We visited the beautiful villages of Fira and Firostefani, walked on the black pebble (huge pebbles) beach of Kamari and I felt rejuvenated and alive! Sometimes you can find purpose in life by just losing your way and that’s what we did…we got lost all day- but found our sanity, our happiness and our peace!
The sunsets at Oia are fabulous and walking on the cobbled paths , avoiding donkeys and stopping to see the fabulous Greek wares peddled on the sides of the paths- you rediscover happiness! Staring at the sun and sets in Santorini, there is a sense of inner peace that I have never felt before.