When living in Manchester during the winter all you do is crave warmth and sunshine. We decided to have a look at some destinations that were still warm during October and Greece seemed like the best place for us as neither of us have ever visited before! We found a lovely hotel called the Mati Hotel which was incredibly cheap (£380 for 5 days!!!) as well as buying tickets to The Acropolis/Parthenon and eagerly awaited our adventure to Athens!
After we’d made our way through Athens airport, which was like walking a marathon by the way, we got a taxi to our hotel and enjoyed some late night dinner before we headed off to bed. The room was really lovely with a comfy bed, standard TV and nice decoration but the best feature was the view, we got upgraded (thank you very much) to a side room so we got a balcony overlooking both the (arctic temperature) pool and breakfast areas as well as the ocean! It was lovely to wake up and warm up first thing with some lovely sea breeze.
On our first proper day we decided to go and explore Central Athens to check out The Acropolis and The Parthenon. We took the metro/tube to central Athens, their underground system is very good and very efficient, only at the end of the day during rush hour did we have to wait any longer than 3 minutes for a train to our next stop, the tickets were very cheap too at around 3 euros each for an all day ticket taking you all around the city centre we really made use of it! Once we got to The Acropolis we began our ascent to the top, it took us about 45 mins to walk up but I think if you aren't interested in the artefacts and ancient buildings around the bottom (which you definitely should be) then it would only take about 20 minutes to walk up. The Acropolis part which is the original city that surrounded The Parthenon and other religious buildings had some incredible archaeological finds like full house layouts, pottery and even jewellery/coins but the real jewel was The Parthenon. On the walk up it had been very rainy but we didn’t mind; it made it quite atmospheric and as if the greek gods had been watching, the rain cleared and sun broke through the clouds as we took the final steps up to The Parthenon. Up the steps you are greeted with a huge towering marble entrance to the site which needs to be seen to be believed as well as views across the whole of Athens, once you've finished gazing at the marble pillars and the view you’ll be blown away by the temples inside…and we haven’t even got to The Parthenon yet! My personal favourite was The Temple of Athena which was adorned in beautiful hand carved stone pillars shaped into goddesses onto the side of the temple, we were told in Ancient Greek times this temple used to hold a solid gold structure of Athena that people were able to pray to and leave offerings for but unfortunately this was stolen in an invasion.
Now we reach The Parthenon. My boyfriend said you could feel the history in the air, although we were high up on a hill above the city the air was still and there was barley any wind, it really felt like it was just you and the temples. There was work being done on The Parthenon so you weren't able to go inside but as it's built with pillars you can see all the way through anyway, the sheer size of the temple was what amazed me, I can't explain it so I hope the picture does it justice but this is definitely somewhere you need to visit if you’re a history geek like me!
Once we got back to the hotel we decided to try a restaurant across the street for dinner; ENA1. This is the place you need to go. From the outside it looks kind of like a cute little Italian place with a modern twist but inside you can have any meal that you dream of! They offered pizza, pasta, roast meat, cold meats, wraps, kebabs, salads, buffet choices and homemade desserts, you honestly could not have more choice! My favourite thing to have as a starter is veggie spring rolls, even before becoming vegetarian I would chow down on as many veggie spring rolls as I could, so seeing them on menu was a blessing. Now, these spring rolls were hand-made you could see the bubbles in the pastry from being fried and where the chef had sealed the pastry before frying! They had fresh crispy vegetables inside and served with a pot of spicy sweet chilli, it’s fair to say I loved them and we ended up going there almost every day and every single time I had spring rolls to start! We tried the pastas and pizzas and everything was of such high quality and was a medium price range too, the restaurant has inside and outside seating but due to the time of year the restaurant was so quiet which was a massive plus for us. The thing that topped this it off for us was the adorable stray dogs that hung around the outside of the restaurant, I think the owners looked after them as they were very friendly to anyone that walked past, my favourite was this beautiful Alsatian type dog, he was young and a bit shy but as soon as you gave him some love he would not leave you alone! We saw him most days and he always came over for a cuddle. If you’re staying in Athens please make the trip to ENA1 you will not regret it!
The next day we went to explore a part of Athens not too far on the tube from us; Monastiraki Square. This cute little area is home to loads of bars, restaurants and cafe’s but the main reason we went there was for Monastiraki Flea Market and the best ice cream in Greece! The flea market was charming and reminded me of Camden market in London which is always such a fun place to go, this market had so much choice from fresh food, handmade jewellery, clothes and home decor as well as an antique section full of really interesting little knick-knacks. We managed to pick up a new blanket, some presents for family and my boyfriend bought me an adorable tiny gold cactus bracelet on purple thread, it was a really special gift and I still wear it everyday. After our cute trip to the flea market we wanted a snack, that was when we stumbled upon Davinci’s Artisan Gelato. This was a taste of authentic Italy in the heart of Greece! I know you’ll be envious when you see the picture so I’ll explain first, I chose 2 scoops one in Black Vanilla and the other a toffee flavour with a little waffle on top and then the entire thing encased in a chocolate cup with crushed nuts! It honestly couldn’t have been any better, the ice cream was pricey but 100% worth the money. I would also like to point out that this was actually my second ice cream as the first one they gave me I decided to lose all function of my hands and drop the entire thing all over their counter, display cabinet and floor…yeah, that’s what I’m like. Fortunately the staff were lovely and gave me another for free!
After our relaxing day before we decided to step it up a notch and catch the metro to the Olympic stadium. It took over an hour to get there but we thought it would be worth it as we’d seen for a couple of euros you can go on the track and have a run around (or more like a walk around) like a real athlete! This next story I feel I have to talk about, please don’t let it put you off as we had a great time in Athens and this is the one and only time this has ever happened to me despite all the places I’ve been around the world. On the metro right near the olympic stadium the train was very busy and everyone was squashed together, as we approached the stop my partner noticed the man behind me had my purse in his hand (which was securely stowed away in my zipped up rucksack before this), everyone noticed and he dropped my purse and ran so I didn’t lose anything but we were quite shocked, anyway as I say please don’t let it put you off as incidents like this are rare and when handled properly don’t need to become a problem. So, we thought our problems were finished for the day…oh, no. We thought we were in luck when we got off the metro as the stadium grounds were deserted! Turns out the entire stadium and other buildings were closed that day due to a strike, never mind we had come this far! We walked around the entire grounds and got some great pictures and then watched a little archery club right near the metro before heading back to the hotel and our new favourite restaurant, although maybe not the ideal day, it was definitely one we won’t forget in a hurry!
On our final day we went to Attica Zoological Park! Wherever we go I always have to find a zoo, nature reserve or park and we were so fortunate to go here.
The zoo itself is beautiful and easily accessible, the animals are well cared for and incredibly intuitive, we saw a beautiful family of tigers with 3 cubs, they were playing and teaching each other how to stalk and hunt, even though there was a crowd of people this little family were in their own world. The zoo is actually the only zoo in mainland Greece and boasts the world’s third largest collection of birds, they also have bottle-nosed dolphins and harbour seals, although this section was closed for the day but we heard some cheeky seals from outside! I love to visit zoos as long as I think they’re worth supporting, sometimes unfortunately you don’t know until you’re in and paid the money wether it was worth it or not but fortunately with Attica they take great pride in their animals and grounds and it shows in the large enclosures and happy, healthy animals. We both loved the zoo and thought it was a really special place to be, so out of the way from the city but to still offer an amazing day, we could have come back again the next day if we weren’t flying home! If you find yourself wanting to escape Athens for a day then I suggest Attica Zoological Park, you won’t wanna leave!!
I would definitely love to go back to Greece; the weather, the sites and the food were gorgeous! But I’ve heard the islands all have their own individual charm so I think I’d like to go to Santorini next. I know it's busy and very touristy but it also looks like a paradise and a great place to catch some more late October sun! Please let me know if you've been to Athens and loved it or if you've been to Santorini and let me know some good tips!