The Traveling Steve's

Our Pre-Cruise Days in Athens!

Steve (DOS) and I have had a wonderful 4 night stay here at the Grand Hyatt Athens. As it’s nearly midnight on our last day and I’m back in the room packing up for our Seabourn Cruise tomorrow, I told DOS I feel sad leaving, and wish we had a few more days here to explore. I guess that’s true about most places we’ve visited, and DOS’s response is always “If you’re sad about leaving, that means you had a great time!” So true.

We’ve been to Athens a couple times before, so we didn’t feel as rushed to do everything this visit. We did go to the Parthenon again, and took a day trip out in the country-side with a private driver/guide. We didn’t go to any of the Greek Islands on this trip as we will be going to Crete and Rhodes on our Seabourn cruise.

I first came to Athens (pre-DOS) with a college friend way back in 1988, and after exploring Athens a couple days, we took a short cruise on the now defunct Sun Lines Cruises aboard the tiny Stella Maris to Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Crete. That was a great first trip to Greece, and I only wish on this trip we were also stopping at Santorini among the other stops.

We will be on a 34 night cruise from Athens to Singapore starting tomorrow, so I may or may not have good internet access if at all, and if I do will probably just post a few photo galleries without much commentary, which I can always add later. This cruise has had a few port cancelations/substitutions due to the Mid-East situation now, and Ashdod (Jerusalem), Jordan (Petra), and one of the 2 Egypt ports were cancelled, although Rhodes Greeces was added, as well as a couple ports in the UAE.

For now, we have had such a wonderful last few days in Athens, have mostly adjusted to the 7 hour time zone difference from our home city in Orlando. The Grand Hyatt here is an excellent hotel, and the staff we interacted with were very friendly and helpful.

View from our Balcony on the 7th floor at the Grand Hyatt Athens, with the Acropolis in the upper right of the photo.

While here we did a day trip on our own up to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. While we have been here before, it has been a few years since we were last here. Not that it’s changed much over the last few years, much less over the several thousand years of it’s existence, but there is reconstruction work going on with scaffolding, and some cranes in place, and even a mini train track, most likely to assist with hauling the tremendous stone and marble pieces into place.

I was somewhat concerned about “hiking” up to the Acropolis with my heart condition, but both DOS and I were Ok with the many steps and stones leading up to the Parthenon. We took our time and took a few quick rest breaks, even for a minute or two, and I actually did fine! I wasn’t too out of breath and making a few extra stops allowed for more photo opportunities.

You do have to be very careful walking, however, due to the uneven and rocky surfaces along the way. I definitely would not want to do this with even the slightest bit of rain, which would make the surfaces very slippery.

We took a taxi for 10 Euros from the hotel around noon, and after buying our tickets, began the walk/hike up the mountain to the Acropolis; literally the highest place (or at least close to it) in the city of Athens.

As this is mid-November, the crowds at the Acropolis were quite light relative to the peak season months, and security was everywhere which was nice. We didn’t feel threatened by pickpockets or others, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the beautiful day. Best of all, as it was now “off season”, from the beginning of November, the admission tickets were half-priced, at only 10 Euros a person.

When we were here last a few years ago, it was in the peak summer months, so if traveling then we recommend going to the Parthenon first thing in the morning before it gets too crowded, not to mention very hot. Also If visiting at a peak time it would be better to buy tickets online to save time in line.

On this off season trip in mid-November, however, visiting at 1pm we had light crowds with little wait to buy tickets. The weather was very pleasant and mild, with a lightweight jacket a nice accessory which we seemed to be putting on and taking off throughout the afternoon there, with a high temperature of 70F the day we were there.

At the top of the Acropolis we took even more photos, as with an iPhone you can never take too many! ? I took photos of the restoration signs, hoping to read about the process later. We had been to the Acropolis Museum down below on our last trip, so we did not stop there again, although if you have a couple hours or half day it’s well worth visiting.

We taxied back to the hotel after our visit, this time at a negotiated rate of 15 Euros down from the 20 Euros the driver first quoted us, when we told him it was only 10 Euros to get there from our hotel.

During our stay here in Athens, we also took a day tour to the old city of Corinth, and the Corinth Canal. It was a full day tour, and a nice getaway from the busy city of Athens. As this was a private tour with just DOS and I, we could customize the tour as we went, which we did by adding a winery tour (you know us if you follow our blog! ?) which was mixed in with the history and sites of the area.

On our tour, we first visited the Corinth Canal, which was completed in 1876. Here is some information on it from Wikipedia. The Canal looked fairly narrow, and was cut thru some serious rock formations.

And, NO we did NOT Bungie Jump into the Corinth Canal!

After visiting the Corinth Canal, we visited the ancient city of Corinth, and The Archeological museum of Ancient Corinth there. It was really fascinating how old some of the ruins were there; literally some from the fourth century BC!

We took a few photos inside the museum, and later walked outside to look at the outdoor sculptures; many of which pre-dated the time of Christ.

Photo-bombing a tour group photo! ? ? These were among the few other tourists we saw at the museum and grounds overlooking the ancient ruins. Off-season November is definitely a good time to tour Greece if you want to avoid crowds.

Apostle Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months around the year 50 AD, and his writings there, and later to the early Church when he was imprisoned, became the basis for over a dozen books of the Bible. I found an interesting link to Paul as I was researching his life and travels which is from a Christian nondenominational organization called Got Questions that lists what are believed to be the books of the Bible that Paul wrote.

After visiting the archeology museum and grounds, we headed up the road a bit and browsed briefly in a couple shops. We bought a couple booklets on Apostle Paul’s travels in Greece, and a smaller one with Paul’s time living in Corinth.

We then continued our tour and had an unscheduled stop at a local and family winery, Palivou Estate Winery Our tour driver saw a friend he knew while we were shopping at the last stop, and asked his friend for a winery recommendation we go next, as there are many small wineries in that region. We then proceeded the short drive to Palivou Estate Winery, which certainly did not disappoint.

DOS with our tour driver for the day arriving at Palivou Winery.

We were the only visitors to the winery when we got there so, we had a private tour and tasting, lead by Amanda from the Palivou Winery. Amanda first gave us a tour of the vineyards, production facilities and the barrel room for aging the wines.

DOS and our winery guide Amanda, in the barrel aging room.

We then had a private tasting served outdoors in a pleasant seating area. It was such a beautiful day for touring, and even for Greece it was unseasonably warm for mid-November with the temperature topping out in the low 70s during the day, although by nighttime back in Athens it became cooler and windy.

Amanda served us several whites and red wines of various varieties, many of which we were not familiar with.

After the wine tasting, we purchased two bottles to take with us on the ship. Normally we would buy more, but we literally had no more luggage space, and Amanda said they actually export to Costco in the United States so we can buy it at home.

Thanks Amanda and Palivou Estate Winery for hosting us for our impromptu visit!

We finished up our leisurely day tour of touring the countryside of Greece, with a wonderful stop in the town Nafplio, where we had a late lunch. This seaside town is a world away from Athens with its charming streets filled with quaint hotels, side walk cafes, shops, and restaurants.

We had lunch at a lovely restaurant called Bounos Psarosavouras Taverna (link from Trip Advisor.com). While it was primarily a fresh seafood restaurant, they had a wide variety of food (including steaks) with very reasonable prices, and HUGE portions!

Our driver guide, Dionysis, for the day actually does mini stay-cations with his wife here occasionally, so knew the area well, and gave us a nice walking tour after our lunch. This seaside village would be a great place to stay for a couple nights if we had more time, and is only an hour and a half or so from our hotel.

After our final stop for lunch and touring the town, we headed back to Athens. It was quite a full day as we left at 9am and didn’t get back to the hotel until around 6pm, but some of the distances we traveled were a bit spread out from one another. It was quite a relaxing day however, and was nice to leave the busy city of Athens for the day and experience the beautiful Greek countryside.

Later we had a mini dinner at the Grand Hyatt Premium Lounge, and met some friends from Melbourne Australia that are going on the same cruise tomorrow as well! We had a nice chat over drinks, and it was nice to meet some fellow travelers ahead of the cruise.

I went up to the rooftop lounge after that for a quick nightcap and last photo opportunity of the pool and Parthenon at night. Tonight unlike the other nights, was a bit too chilly to sit outside overlooking the Parthenon in the distance, so I sat at the indoor bar area. The staff here has been consistently wonderful, and I found out this rooftop restaurant/bar just opened this week, and is actually a sushi restaurant, with a bar as well. While I didn’t have sushi, it has been fun going to the bar for a scenic nightcap each night. This whole floor (level 9) for the restaurant was recently built above the existing restaurant on the 8th floor, where we had breakfast each morning.

I made some friends with the servers there, and asked Spiros to pose for a selfie with me as he has been so friendly all week. He loves traveling as well, and we discussed his upcoming trip to Indonesia/Vietnam wit his girlfriend next month, the latter country we had visited on a river cruise on AMA Waterways a few years back, and I suggested he get to Halong Bay if he gets a chance.

I’m signing off for now, as this post has been continued from last night, and it’s now nearly noon and we’re getting ready to head to the port around 12:30pm. Until I get a chance to post again, I’ll say goodbye to Athens, but not yet to Greece though as our first two cruise ports will be Crete and Rhodes. Until now, Bon Voyage to us!?

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