Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Christmas in Athens - the Acropolis

Richard & puppy in agora
Thursday 23 December 2004

Breakfast on the 6th floor of the hotel with the most magnificent view of all Athens and especially the acropolis, the St George Hotel. One of the surreal aspects of travelling is the music you hear. As we eat our breakfast and watch patches of sun and shadow sweep over Athens and the Saronic Gulf, the soundtrack is the worst of Led Zepplin.

After breakfast we wander towards Plaka and end up in the Roman Agora with its famous temple of the winds. Every site has its watchdogs but this one has puppies! We at the Roman Mysteries support puppies and think they are A Good Thing.

By mid-morning, when we reach the Athenian Agora, the sun is out and it's almost springlike. This is the most amazing site, with the Stoa of Attalos restored by the American School in Athens at a cost of $1.5 million in the mid 50's, when a million was a lot.

Caroline & Richard
Taking advantage of the weather we climb up towards the areopagus, where the climax of my book will take place. I'm thrilled by the boulders and pine trees and the caves. It's really dramatic. And the view down over the Athenian agora is stunning.

Up onto the Acropolis, which is practically deserted. This is great, too, because another dramatic chase will take place here. And the layout of a certain part of the citadel needs to be just right. It is. I buy a fantastic map of the acropolis for only E 2, about £1.40.

A woman guide takes our photo and then tells us all sorts of things we already know. We finally shake her off and go to the museum. It's mid afternoon and getting cold.

Down in the Plaka we have a late lunch. I am starving and really crave a choriatiki, the classic Greek peasant salad, made with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, onions and feta cheese. There is a vegetarian restaurant called Eden and it's nice and warm and welcoming. We have tsadziki and salad and hummus and all are the best I've ever had. Especially the tsadziki, which has tons of garlic. *yum!* Plus a half bottle of retsina; it's very light.

Back at the hotel, we upgrade our cheap Expedia room to one with a tiny balcony and view. Instead of dessert after dinner that night we go to a zacharoplasteio – a sweet shop – and buy some Christmas sweets and a slab of baklava. It goes very well with Metaxa (Greek brandy) back in the hotel room on our balcony with a view of the acropolis lit up at night.

The acropolis at night from our balcony at Hotel St George Lycabettus

[The 17+ books in the Roman Mysteries series, including The Fugitive from Corinth, are perfect for children aged 9+, especially those studying Romans and/or Greeks as a topic in Key Stages 2 & 3. There are DVDs of some of the books as well as an interactive game.]

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