Travel Blog- ATHENS
I finally achieved one of my five-year plan goals: merging my love of travel with my love of running. This was meant to have also happened back in October with the Lisbon Half-Marathon but....too tired to travel at that point.
So I went to Athens, Greece for the Authentic Marathon 2016!
I arrived at Athens International on Thursday 10th of November around 3pm and made my way to the metro station. After standing in two wrong queues for machines that either were not for the Metro (#1) or not working (#2), I chanced to meet 2 lovely ladies from USA who had flown in from Germany. Let's call them K and H! K was also going to run the Marathon (yes!) and H was there for moral support.
As we got on the Metro, we realised we weren't too far from each other centrally (Air BnB for them, Acropolis Select Hotel for me!) - so we decided to explore Athens together. This was definitely part of the Serendipity of this trip.
I'll split this post now into my hotel, the restaurants and the sights. My training will be sprinkled in but the main blog post for my Marathon experience will be a separate one.
The Hotel: Acropolis Select
Situated ideally in the centre of Athens, it was a 2 minute-walk from the Acropolis Metro station. The Hotel was on a quiet-looking street (I had read reviews of others in shady areas) so I could happily head out in the evening to eat with my friends. There was also a newly opened Adidas RunBase store on the same street as my hotel (yes, it was all a runners dream!).
There were restaurants opposite the Metro station but I usually had the Continental breakfast at the hotel (included with my double-room) after my obligatory morning runs! On the morning of the Marathon, they served breakfast at 5:30am to accommodate the runners. I obviously grabbed some juice, water and fruits and was good to go! Eating a big breakfast is not really my thing, but I had energy bars to eat on the bus ride!
The Staff were extremely helpful, both for directions to town and for information about getting to the Marathon bus pick-up! They even offered to book my taxi to the airport for my early morning departure but I serendipitously sorted that straight after the Marathon on my way back to the hotel (on foot of course - had to keep moving)!
I managed two short runs around central Athens on the Friday and Saturday mornings, respectively. I headed West from the hotel and after 1km, ran up a steep hilly street (300m in length) and promptly felt out of breath. After a few deep breaths, I was back on my way to finish my 4 - 5 mile runs along the Acropolis Museum walls and back to the hotel! Life was good - as long as the main event wasn't this hilly!
The weather was between 19 to 20 degrees Celsius on both mornings so I ran in shorts! I also ran across a few others runners who were obviously also in training for the big event. We would wave at one another and keep cruising on by! Oh the joys of running!
The first restaurant we ate at on Thursday night was the Kuzina Restaurant on Adrianou where I had a Seabass dish. My friends, K and H were recommended this restaurant by a friend for its rooftop views. Sadly, the rooftop seating area was closed for the Winter season. Too bad. Nonetheless, the chef came to say hello and talk shop with us TWICE. I think he was surprised we turned down offers of desert! Still, a lovely personal touch. Walking back from this, we gazed up at the Parthenon on the hills contrasting wonderfully against our more modern surroundings.
On the Friday, we tried out Souvlaki's in the afternoon on a street stall down the road from the Acropolis - think, lamb kebab with onions, tomatoes and fries! Yum! That evening, after picking up our bib numbers and t-shirts, we had pasta dishes (Spaghetti Bolognese for my friends, Linguine with Salmon for me) at Colibri Restaurant. Standard runners fare, really!
On Saturday, we ate dinner up a hilly road in Plaka at the Cave of Acropolis taverna (Spilia tis Acropolis) which was only steps from a view of the Acropolis! Our guests for dinner most evenings would be a stray cat or two coming to sit and/or eat with us!
After the race on Sunday, we ate at a street restaurant, the "Sidewalk Café" which was literally that! We had some Spaghetti Bolognese and Rice and Calamari between us. Plus, we got a 15% discount for having run the Marathon - Result!
For desert, we headed back to Monastiraki Square for some Frozen Yoghurt at Yiaourtaki. The other two ladies, K and H, had been there before. It was without a doubt the coldest Frozen Yoghurt I've ever had! Even with my brownie and pineapple toppings (healthy obviously!), I kept getting a brain freeze if I took a full spoonful! Took me almost 20 minutes to finish it! The other ladies opted for those popular healthy toppings like milk chocolate and raspberries.
Even later, I went out again with the London Midnight Runners to "Beer Time" - a tavern just off Monastiraki Square. Of course, we had one last Souvlaki each before leaving Athens - for this, we went to Savvas Restaurant where we were treated like kings and queens. Our Lamb Souvlakis cost only €2.20 each! I think I possibly overstuffed myself with that one though!
The Sights and Shopping:
What can I say? Athens is a treasure trove of ancient sights. Even at night, you are swept off your feet by the juxtaposition of more modern architecture and the 3,000 year old temples across the way. The pictures (above) speak for themselves.
We did our sightseeing on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, we began with Syntagma Square,, moving from the house of Parliament to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and finally the Acropolis. All this before getting our race numbers in the evening!
On Saturday, we went to the Temple of Hephaestus and walked around Plaka and Adrianou whilst browsing the tourist shops - Rolex gets honourable mention for K! Watercolour paintings were reviewed (I got a tiny fridge magnet watercolour) and a few "Evil Eye" or "All-seeing eye" bracelets and necklaces were bought by the other two ladies. The latter could have been the theme for this holiday. Well, those or the dildo keychains/ bottle openers - in all sizes and colours - you can imagine how scandalised we were! lol!
Unsurprisingly, I didn't do my main shopping for the folks back home (or myself for that matter) until after the Marathon! As I walked back to my hotel from Monastiraki Square, I wound my way through cute shops and was quickly talked into a few slippers (€5 each) and some €1 purses and fridge magnets. I even got a token post-card for a friend (V) and a T-shirt proclaiming "It's all Greek to me!" The T-shirt's selling point was the Greek to English translation of key greetings -Kalimera (Good morning) and Kalispera (Good Evening) being right at the top! I just wish I'd found it on day 1!
I must mention here that I got asked out twice by Greek men on this holiday: see it had everything! And both invitations were after I'd run the Marathon. Yes, ladies and gents, the post-run glow is real and it works!
The first was on returning to the Marathon finish to congratulate K on finishing (with a well-deserved Ben & Jerry's tub ready in hand). A guy who had finished a short while before (and seemed well-known to all the volunteers) guided me to where K and I would meet and asked for my number! If you're reading this, I am tempted to come back to Athens! lol!
The second was by the man who sold me the Greek T-shirt. He asked for my number and hoped he would finish work early enough to take me out. However, I went out with the London Midnight Runners instead - well there was a birthday boy there! Imagine, a Marathon on your birthday - life goals!
And of course, all three of us ladies were given a rose each by kind US Naval officers who were stationed in Athens when bumped into them for the second time on Friday at the Parthenon (the first time was at the Temple of Zeus). See, I have given you laughs, the high life and Romance - all in one trip!
Even if I didn't have the Authentic Marathon to run (from Marathon to Athens), Athens would still have been a great place to visit! It is chuck-full of sights and you feel like a speck in time! Quite rightly, I say.
I must mention that there were a LOT of stray cats and dogs all over Athens. And even a few very tiny kittens. We made many furry friends right from the first night - see H with her bestie above on Thursday night)!
A holiday is only as good as the people you share it with so, here's to K, H and the London Midnight Runners for making it so special!
Have you been to Athens or some other part of Greece?
What was you experience and what would you recommend?
I'm really tempted by Santorini (need my swimming lessons to come along a bit more) but I am seriously craving heat this winter!
I hope you enjoyed this journey with me!
Later, Ladies and Gents!
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
I blog about life, running and of course, hair! I'm an Altra "Team Red" Sponsored Athlete, so I will do the occasional running shoe or gadget review.
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