Breakfast at The Stanley leaves something to be desired, but there’s coffee and water, both of which feel a blessing after the night.
Because of how early I went to bed (plus the time change, plus my unnecessary caution about the water day 1) I’m awake and headachy at 2:30. But by 3:30 I got myself resettled and wake up again just minutes before the alarm.
After the disappointing breakfast, I go down to meet the tour in the lobby. I am there early and find my tour guide for the land portion, Elena, but only Ben from my group (a retiree from Singapore on his third visit to Greece) also lingering, waiting. When Elena heads toward the door so do we… most everyone else is already on the bus!
We start with a city tour by bus, with just one stop for photos at the marble stadium, built for the PanAthenian games (a contemporary of the original olympic games – the site of which we will visit later) and then used for the first modern Olympic Games. Now it is used mostly as the terminus for their annual marathon, which will take place next Sunday (or I guess, a Sunday or two ago by the time I post this) – Nov 11.
Then we drive through the city, seeing the old and new Parliament buildings, the university, the remains of the Temple of Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian, and then we stop to visit the Acropolis.
We have our choice at the top of the Acropolis; we can explore for an hour and then take the bus back to the hotel, or make our own way. I chat with Linda, one of the other singles, but she is still adjusting and is heading back. Ben, on the other hand, has been here for days and is going exploring and walking back, so we decide to go together … around the Parthenon, through the crush of people exiting the Acropolis site, to the Hill of Mars (ostensibly where the apostle Paul preached in Athens) and out to the city.
We stop briefly to see about seeing the Acropolis Museum (which is supposed to be fantastic but on a Sunday is also an entry line miles long, so we forego it).
Then we trek through the city, through the Plaka, into basilicas, down again to the Arch of Hadrian:
We stop for lunch at a little place with desperately needed shade, cool water, and delicious chicken souvlaki, not to mention a gorgeous view back up to the Parthenon:
Then we press on, back through shopping districts, thank heaven Ben has been here for days and knows the city very well. But eventually we are back in familiar areas, and when we see the statue of Icarus I know my way.
The Stanley has a coffee shop on the corner around from the entrance, and he gets a coffee to my cappuccino. (Unusual for me, but so good and so reasonably priced. And a free bottle of water as well. I love The Stanley once again.)
We go our separate ways once we return to the hotel proper and finish our drinks. I need to rest for the optional dinner excursion tonight; Ben is skipping that, so plans to go fill his afternoon.