Day 1: Away We Go!

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Wow.

Not sure how else to start!!

Rabbit and I were away exploring a new (very old) corner of the world! This was our first international trip together… and my first.

It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life, and definitely the best trip I have ever taken…. setting the bar pretty high for our next adventure.

Our itinerary was a bit ambitious, including three-ish days in Athens, and one day in Istanbul. Busy home and work schedules mean that four nights, five days is the perfect length of time for us to be away.  Thanks to Travelzoo, Rabbit’s amazing research, and some reasonable planning, we were able to see everything we had hoped to- and really get to enjoy Athens!

Our basic itinerary:

  • Day 1: Flight from Newark to Athens; depart midnight, arrive 4pm
  • Day 2: Full day in Athens
  • Day 3: Full day in Athens
  • Day 4: Flight from Athens to Istanbul, full day in Istanbul, flight back to Athens
  • Day 5: Half-day in Athens; flight from Athens to Newark, land 10pm

We spent all four nights at The Stanley Hotel in Athens.  Though the location of the hotel was a bit away from where we spent the majority of our time, we were both grateful that we had the chance to see more of the city by walking the neighborhoods, and getting away from the center of things. The staff was very friendly and welcoming, and the view of the Acropolis from the rooftop was breathtaking.

From the moment we hailed the cab to the hotel, we felt welcome. Our cab driver gave us the run-down during our half-hour drive from the airport to the hotel. Unfortunately, I was a bit too awestruck to remember to try to take photos of the drive… but it was wonderful to enjoy the scenery, see the city a bit, and take it all in!

Despite what we had thought about potentially needing a nap once we were checked in on our arrival day… we were able to drop our bags, freshen up, and head out in time to catch the city as it was starting up for the night! Having an overnight flight helped us to both catch a few hours of excited sleep on the way.

Having read about the restaurants in the Plaka district and Monastiraki, we asked the doorman at the hotel which way to go… stopped at the Bread Factory on the corner (YUM!) for a snack, and set out on our way.

Our walk introduced us to the rhythm of Athens traffic, and the hidden excitement of some of the neighborhoods…. Athens is an endearing and intriguing mix of old and new, beautiful and boarded. As the taxi driver had told us though, we were safe… and despite the kidding and the dark corners, we never really felt uneasy.

After stumbling upon some delightful little streets lined with patio lights, interesting windows, narrow walkways shared with motorcycles, and Athenians who were just beginning to start their evenings… we landed in Monastiraki.

We strolled down a long street of cafes and restaurants bordering the Ancient Agora, and found the most perfect, romantic spot for sharing the most delicious cheese plate we’ve ever had.

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It was here, in our new favorite place, that we first encountered the slower pace that life seems to offer in Athens. We were able to sit and enjoy each other’s company, the food, the beautiful atmosphere, the live music, and really savor every minute of it. It is definitely a meal that I will never forget.

After dinner, we meandered around a bit more to get a lay of the land and do some planning for the next couple of days before heading back on our walk to the hotel to try to get some rest for our first full day in the city.

I cannot think of a better way to start the trip!

I will share a run-down of each day’s activities, and outline a list of lessons learned/FYI’s that we think would be helpful for anyone setting out to explore Athens and/or Istanbul… but for now, I’m going to close my eyes and remember the taste of that cheese, and the sound of a bouzouki playing…

– Gabby

 

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