Exploring Athens

I spent a wonderful 8 days in Athens for work. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited to come back after having spent a day here last year while on my Mediterranean cruise. However, it’s much different hanging out over a series of days versus being caught up in the cruise crowd for a day being shuttled from site to site. The best part of the trip was that my favorite travel companion joined me…my Mommy! She actually did tours to other cities while I slaved away in the office. Hopefully, she will have her blog post to me soon (hint, hint).

Hotel
I stayed at The Athens Gate hotel which is in central Athens with a fabulous view of the Temple of Zeus & the Acropolis. You can read my hotel review here.  The area around the hotel is so neat.

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View of the Acropolis during breakfast.

If you ever visit Athens, I highly recommend this hotel. Do the pre-booking (which includes breakfast) for a great rate. What is better than eating breakfast while looking at the Acropolis from their rooftop restaurant?

There is some sort of “Happy Trolley” that will drive you around the historic section as well. It’s usually pretty packed and runs late.
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Food
Greek food…I’ll be honest and say that to me, it was “okay”. I prefer something with a bit more flavor. Not to say that the food was bad, but it wasn’t like Italy. It is serviceable…meaning that it will fill you up. It was hit or miss depending on where you ate. Most of the time, I felt it was a little bland. But I will say that the Greek salad was pretty good and the moussaka (which my Mom loves), gyros & souvlaki were good depending on the restaurant. They give you A LOT of food and you will get the stink-eye if you don’t clean your plate. It’s like they take it personal if you don’t eat everything on your plate. Clearly, the concept of portion control is lost here and they could care less if you are on Weight Watchers. Which I kinda love.

Moussaka – sautéed eggplant & tomatoes with minced meat (like hamburger) topped with white sauce & cheese) then baked. The version I like best had potatoes.
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Souvlaki – think kabobs. It’s basically grilled meat & veggies on a skewer. I had chicken & pork. They will sometimes serve it with a pita and rice depending on the restaurant.
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One day, I just wanted something familiar so I ordered a hamburger and fries. This is what I got…
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I didn’t expect 5 breakfast buddies. LOL. But, it was actually pretty tasty. I was only able to eat 1 ½ patties but it’s nice that you know you aren’t going to starve when you leave.

While the food was okay, the experience is phenomenal. We ate outside at various cafés that had outstanding views of the Acropolis every night. That more than made up for the food. I never got tired of staring at the Acropolis. It’s just magnificent!

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Choosing a restaurant to eat at is an experience in and of itself. There are waiters/hype men that stand in front of EACH restaurant and try to persuade you to come in and eat. It reminds you of when you are touring and vendors worry you to death trying to sell you their souvenirs. One night, a colleague & I decided to try out a rooftop restaurant in this cool hilltop section of The Plaka. There were at least 9 restaurants in this little section. We choose one, go thru the kitchen to get to the back stairs and climb up to the roof. The view was awesome.

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So, we look at the menu, decide on our selections and our waiter comes over. He has a “Godfather” vibe to him. We order and he proceeds to tell us what he is going to serve us instead. Um, why do they give menus if it’s “waiter’s choice”? So, for appetizers, he brings us out some sort of cheese spread (nope) and fried cheese (nope again). That’s right, fried cheese. Sigh. Now, I just wanted salad and moussaka. That’s all. The Greek Godfather gets irritated that we aren’t wolfing down the fried cheese & cheese spread. He’s all, “you no like?” Well, I ain’t trying to have a horse head in my bed in the morning so I say, “oh, it’s delicious. I’m just trying to save room for my moussaka.” He gives me the stink-eye and goes to say something to the bus boy. I’m pretty sure he tells him to go find Barbaro. Anyway, after begging the busboy to take the appetizers away, we finally get our main meals. Sigh. It was okay. I had high hopes. The Greek Godfather comes by and asks why I haven’t finished my meal (I half expected to hear him tell me about the starving kids in Africa). I tried as best as I could to eat the entire meal. My colleague is laughing and telling me that I’m getting punked. Whatever. I’m scared. By this time, the Greek Godfather is treating me like I came to his daughter’s wedding with no gift and asking for a favor. I’m like, please don’t have me sleeping with the fishes over this moussaka. He was done with us at this point. Clearly we didn’t worship at the fountain of the Greek God of Food. The night wasn’t lost though because the view was spectacular. We ended up going to Café Plaka for dessert and coffee afterwards.

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Animal Kingdom
If you are scared of dogs, then you don’t need to visit Greece. Seriously. They are everywhere. I’m a dog lover (as some of y’all know about my booters, Mr. Riley). Greece is overrun by dogs & cats. You know that movie, “All Dogs Go to Heaven”? Well, I think they really go to Greece because those dogs live the life! Most of the dogs are strays. Now, strays in the U.S. have an emaciated & wolfish look to them because they try to survive on the streets by foraging for food. Not the strays in Greece. Oh no, those jokers are well fed to the point where they may want to start counting Weight Watcher’s points. The government takes care of them by providing food & water in designated areas around each city. Some dogs have collars and some don’t. The ones that have collars are the ones that have been seen by a vet and have had their shots.  I absolutely LOVE that!  The fact that these animals are so well cared for says a lot about Greece to me.  Yeah, they may have financial issues, but they also have a big heart 🙂

My first night in Athens, my colleague & I were walking around trying to find a particular restaurant. We see some dogs (lab mixes mostly). At first, 2 of them decide to escort us on our walk which is cool because I’m missing Riley so I’m happy to have dogs to coo over. Then, we come up on a pack of dogs in another section. Clearly, this is their “set” and they let the 2 dogs with me know that. It’s all growling and barking. I’m like, “the hell?” I can’t get caught up in dog gang wars. So, we try to slowly slide out of the conflict and as we turn the corner, we hear some loud barking coming from the sky. Why is there a dog on the roof barking at us like, “get the hell on!”? Seriously?

Over the 8 days, I was able to note that the dogs pretty much kept to their own areas of the city. They are also extremely smart. One dog was walking next to me on a busy street (Syngou). Then, I guess he decides he needs to cross the street because he walks to the stoplight where the cross walk is. At this point, I stop because I need to know if this dog is going to rush out in front of traffic. Um, why does he wait for the cross walk sign to turn green, looks both ways, then crosses?

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I was outdone. That wasn’t the only dog that did it either. I guess they need to be well-trained to survive in a big city but still, it was amazing. So, to recap…the dogs & cats have food and water, can come and go as they please and don’t have to listen to an owner. Riley would give me the deuces in a hot second if he were to ever hear about this place.

The Fabulous Sites
Athens has a lot of ruins…which I love. I enjoy walking on ground that someone has walked on thousands of years ago!

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We checked out the New Acropolis Museum which has relics (about 4,000 statues & artifacts) from the buildings on the Acropolis (i.e. Parthenon & Temple of Athena Nike). It gives you a pretty substantial history of how the Acropolis came to be, what it was like during its heyday, and why it was almost destroyed. Now, it doesn’t have “a lot” of stuff like you expect in a museum. But, I found it interesting.

Next stop was Hadrian’s Arch which was built by the Roman emperor, Hadrian. It’s the symbolic entrance to Athens. Basically, it was his way of letting the Athenians know who they were beholden to. The inscription facing the Acropolis side reads “THIS IS ATHENS, THE ANCIENT CITY OF THESEUS.” On the other side, it states “THIS IS THE CITY OF HADRIAN, NOT OF THESEUS”. That joker was gangsta.
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He also built Hadrian’s Library.
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You know, I just realized he is the Tyler Perry of ancient Greece. I mean, his name is on everything. I’m pretty sure that if I did the research, I’d find that all the plays put on during that time were most likely titled, “Hadrian presents Hadrian’s Meet the Aristotles” with Athena being Madea.

Hadrian’s Arch is right in front of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Hadrian finished the construction that began in the 6th century B.C. and continued on and off for 700 years. Kind of like road construction projects in Atlanta 🙂 Anyway, the Olympieion (aka Kolonnes or Columns) were 360×143 feet and considered one of the largest temples in the ancient world. There were once statues of Zeus and Hadrian but those are gone now.
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Then, we walked to Syntagma Square which is the focal point of Athens political & civic life. This is where you find major banks, travel agencies, fine hotels and where the protesters congregate almost every weekday over some issue. It’s right across the street from the Parliament building.

Syntagma Square & surrounding area
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Parliament
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As you are walking, you come up on some random excavation & relics — 398.jpg

Then there is the famous Central Market. Y’all ain’t ready for this. You need a strong stomach. Basically, they sell everything from the rooter to the tooter in here. I like the fact that they try to be funny with their displays even though this almost made me become a vegetarian.

The 3 Little Pigs
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Liner & instestines, etc from cows
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I don’t think smoking killed this one
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Next stop is Ancient Agora. This was the commercial and civic center in historic Athens. It’s a jumble of ancient building relics as these buildings were used for a wide range of political, educational, philosophical, theatrical and athletic purposes. It’s a great place to wander though. Once you enter, you will be on the main road entitled “Panathenaic Way”
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I read that Agora was usually filled with merchants, legislators and philosophers (in fact, Socrates & Plato were regulars). But, it’s pointed out that very few women hung out here because they did not regularly go into public places. In 399 B.C., Socrates, accused of “introducing strange gods and corrupting youth” was sentenced to death. He drank his up of hemlock in a prison at the southeast corner of the Agora (I can’t even tell you where that is) where excavators later found small clay cups, just the right size for his fatal drink. It’s a pretty neat place and actually very peaceful (even if folks were executed here).
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We then head up to Monastiraki (which is a neighborhood that fringes the Agora and Roman Forum). Basically has a log of flea markets and restaurants. In Monastiraki Square where there are some guys in Celtics jerseys doing some sort of hip hop/breakdance production. It’s like “Electric Bougaloo – Athens”. I’ll upload the video once the site it back up.
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Getting around
The taxis are kind of expensive but I do appreciate a flat fee of 35 euro from the airport to central Athens. I primarily used the Metro. Which is cheap and clean. Now, they don’t have turnstiles but you are supposed to validate your ticket at the ticket machine. In Italy, they have people on each train that come by and verify that your ticket is validated or you get fined (you may remember the wonderful story of my ride from Genoa to Florence with the crazy guy that didn’t validate and had to pay 50 euro…classic). Anyway, they don’t have that here. It’s the honor system. The Metro is usually pretty crowded but folks are nice, there is no drama and the trains run pretty regularly.

Overall, I really did love Athens. I would definitely go back again as there is so much to see and not enough time to see it. The people are friendly and my local contact even brought my colleague & I to his house (which is fab) and fed us fresh strawberries & gelato while we sat in his backyard under the pergola looking at the Aegean Sea.
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The shopping is great and the men are gorgeous!  Seriously? Why was that not in the guidebook? How can I get one of them??? With each trip, I feel like I’m becoming more well-rounded and able to view the culture from a more global point of view, instead of a U.S.-centric view. Hopefully, I will be able to run the Athens marathon one day as I’d love to run the original marathon route (as long as there aren’t many hills, then I’d be satisfied with just driving it). I guarantee that if you make the trip to Athens, you won’t be disappointed. May is the perfect time to go as the weather is mild, it’s right before high season & it isn’t crowded. Check it out!

Photos of the Day: Oia (Santorini, Greece)

Some say that Oia is the prettiest village on the Greek island of Santorini…but honestly, I found it hard to choose!  The entire island is gorgeous.  From Fira to Imerovigli to Oia, the views are absolutely stunning.  The white buildings accented with blue paint are enhanced by the masterpiece of the caldera.

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Oia, Santorini #travel

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It's like you are walking down into the #caldera

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#sunrise in #oia #santorini #greece #greekislands

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Photos of the Day: Imerovigli & Fira (Santorini)

I miss Santorini…the peaceful walks around the caldera, the amazing sunsets, the fragrant & colorful bouquets of flowers & plants that add a pop of color to the white facades…it’s the perfect place to relax & unwind. You can use up an entire memory card in one hour. Have you been to Santorini? If so, what was your favorite thing to do?  What other Greek Islands would you recommend to visit? I’m looking to book my next excursion 🙂

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Photos of the Day: Life’s a Beach

It’s been less than a week and I’m already missing the beach.  Something about water calms me…it’s like an instant shot of happiness 🙂  Maybe I need to get an “ocean waves” app or something…but then I’m nervous that it will make me want to pee all the time.  Hmmm…I guess the next best thing to being there is staring at pictures!!!  As I started looking thru my online photo albums, I realized that I’ve been BEYOND BLESSED to visit so many amazing places!  And I’d like to share a few of them with you.  So, get your pretend swimsuit, a very real cocktail, sunglasses and let’s go!!!

Mimosas on the beach? Yes...please & thank you! (Cancun)

Mimosas on the beach? Yes…please & thank you! (Cancun)

A Hilton Head sunrise...best way to get your day started!

A Hilton Head sunrise…best way to get your day started!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

(Santorini) A view of an infinity pool AND the Mediterranean Sea? Heaven!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it's absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

The Norwegian fjords! While it was cold enough for Frosty the Snowman when I visited in March, it’s absolutely breathtaking during the summer!

I know this may be a stretch...but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands...and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey :) So serene & peaceful!

I know this may be a stretch…but I fell in love with this dam in the Scottish Highlands…and this was before I had any Scottish whiskey 🙂 So serene & peaceful!

The famous Santorini caldera sunset...

The famous Santorini caldera sunset…

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

The sunset over a lagoon in Cancun

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

Beautiful Lake Bled (Slovenia)

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The amazing Amalfi Coast in Positano, Italy!

The marina in Monte-Carlo

The marina in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Waves on rocks in Monte-Carlo

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Sunset over Chateau de Chillon

Photo of the Day: Santorini Sunset

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I took this photo while sitting on my balcony at the Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa.  I sometimes just stare at it for stress relief…and then continue to plot how to get there again this year.  If only I could disapparate…hate being a muggle.  *sighs*

Nikki’s Nest: Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa (Santorini, Greece)

Planning a trip to the beautiful Greek island of Santorini?  I recommend Rocabella Santorini Resort & Spa which is located on the outskirts of Imerovigli, at a distance of 1.5 km from Fira.  You can hike or take a local bus to the bigger villages of Oia and Fira.   My Mom and I spent a lovely week at this resort the last week of May 2011.
 

Getting There

From Athens, you can either fly (via Olympic Airways or Aegean Airlines) or take a ferry (via Hellenic Seaways or Blue Star Ferries from Piraeus port).  The ferries offer an eight-hour trip (which could be either during the day or overnight depending on the season) and a 4 hour hydrofoil.  We opted to take the 4 hour hydrofoil ferry (Blue Star Ferries) as it was cheaper than flying.  If you decide to take the ferry, you need to know the following:  1) Ferry schedules are suggestions, not fact.  You should arrive at least 1 hour in advance as the ferry could leave early (it will state this explicitly on your ticket).  Therefore, plan accordingly.  A ferry with a 7:25 scheduled departure could actually end up leaving the port at 7:00; 2) Buy insurance.  This is Europe and strikes happen.  And with the current state of fiscal affairs in Greece right now, I’d definitely recommend buying it for peace of mind.  If you happen to purchase your trip via Viator, they will re-book you on a flight to Santorini in the event of a strike; 3) There are assigned seats.  You may want to consider an upgrade for more room.  Four/Eight hours is a long time to be packed in with other people.  The ferry can start to get a little musty by the 2nd hour; and 4) Bring snacks.  There is usually a food concession on board but it is a bit expensive.  There are plenty of shops around the Piraeus port.  Pick up a meal or 2 to go.

Rocabella provides transportation to/from either the airport or port for a fee.  You will need to call the resort prior to your arrival to arrange pick-up.

Promotions

I found a great deal thru Expedia which saved me some money.  If you prefer to book directly, the resort website also has special deals and discounts.  Santorini (and Greece in general) can be a bit expensive.  I highly recommend pre-booking to take advantage of early booking discounts and/or free-night offers.  Also, if you are planning to visit during high-season (June – August), pre-booking will guarantee your room is available as the island gets overcrowded.

Rooms & Suites

Each room or suite has a jacuzzi, flat screen tv as well as a minibar.  There are several types of rooms:  Senior and Superior Rooms (full or partial ocean view) and Suites.  Be sure to check out the pictures on the resort website or tripadvisor.com as each suite is different (I love the one with the ceiling made of stars!).  I pre-purchased the Superior full ocean view room (definitely upgrade to a full ocean view.  You will never get tired of watching the sunset over the caldera from your balcony…it’s heaven on earth).  When we arrived, we found out we were upgraded to a Superior Suite with a full ocean view.

Nicknamed “The Cave”, this suite was very spacious.  However, we asked to switch the next day due to the room having a mildew smell.

The front desk was very accommodating and actually let us choose from several other rooms.  We ended up in a Superior Room with full ocean view that was perfect!  Notice that a portion of the ceiling has a “faux sky”.  Marvelous!

   

Even with all the concrete, the rooms are comfortable.  Each balcony has a private jacuzzi, loungers and a table where you can waste away an entire day while drinking mimosas and reading your Kindle or listening to music while looking at the beautiful blue ocean.  The best part?  Watching as the sun sets over the caldera.  Hint:  Order room service and eat “alfresco” on your balcony while the sun descends into the sea.  You won’t want to leave!  The beds lull you to sleep with the soft featherbed under fresh, crisp linens.  The shower is spacious and modern.  I could spend all day in there. 

Hiking the trail towards Oia. Great workout for hips and booty.

The Fitness Center

I worked out at the fitness center once during my week-long visit.  It’s very small, hot and the equipment is a bit dated.  I ended up skipping the gym and hiking along the caldera to Oia then back to Fira.  Plenty of hills to work the glutes and the views are breathtaking!

The Spa

The resort offers spa services.  Unfortunately, they were booked solid when I decided to go so I can’t review this area.  Therefore, I recommend booking your services prior to arrival.

Dining alfresco.

Dining

The resort has 1 restaurant.  We ate there for breakfast and ordered room service a couple of times.  Overall, the food was fine.

Activities

In addition to a small fitness center and spa, the resort also has several pools with a DJ playing music in the afternoons.  You will find that most of the activity will be around exploring the beautiful island of Santorini.  Hike along the rim of the caldera.  Go shopping in Fira (which had some fabulous boutiques).  Take a walking tour of Oia.  Enjoy a sunset dinner cruise or relax at one of the many beaches.  There is so much to do, you will find that the time slips away much too quickly.  You may have noticed that I mention (repeatedly) watching the sunset over the caldera.  Words cannot adequately describe how magnificent it is.  You will find yourself waiting for the end of the day to enjoy those magical minutes of breathtaking beauty.  So, if the only activity you do is to sit on the balcony and watch the sunset, you’ve done enough.  You can read my review of Santorini here.

Rocabella pool at sunset

The magical Santorini sunset in the caldera.

Nikki’s Rating: Fabulous 4

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

Nikki’s Nest: Athens Gate Hotel (Athens, Greece)

Athens Gate Hotel (Athens, Greece)

I had the pleasure to stay 8 nights at The Athens Gate hotel which is in central Athens, Greece with a fabulous view of the Temple of Zeus & the Acropolis. The area around the hotel is so neat.  The hotel was renovated in 2007 and has a very modern & classic look.  Athens Gate has 7 floors, a rooftop garden restaurant, and a cozy lobby (which includes a bar, fireplace and business center).

Location

The Athens Gate Hotel is  located in the historic district of Athens, exactly opposite the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Gate which was constructed by the Athenians to welcome the Roman emperor Hadrian.  The hotel entrance is at the beginning of Syngrou Avenue just opposite the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  Its excellent location in the heart of the historical center of Athens makes it an ideal choice for travellers.

You are within easy walking distance to Syntagma Square (where I saw several demonstrations/strikes), the commercial shopping district, the Acropolis, and right next to the new Acropolis Museum and the Plaka area.  All you have to do is walk right outside and you have Athens at your feet.  No need for a taxi!

If you want to travel a little further to the north of Athens or down to the port, the hotel is steps away from the Athens Metro (the “Acropolis” Athens Metro Station).  The Metro is super easy to use as I took it for 6 days back and forth to work.

Rooms

View of Temple of Olympian Zeus from my room

Athens Gate has 99 rooms (60 are Queen bed rooms, 38 are twin bed rooms and 1 junior suite with a jacuzzi bath tub and shower).  There are 7 classes of rooms:  Standard Double, Double Superior, Double Executive, Twin Standard, Twin Superior, Twin Executive and Suites.  The Superior & Executive rooms along with the Suites have views of either the Temple of Olympian Zeus (which are front rooms) or the Parthenon at the Acropolis (which are the back rooms).  Most rooms have balconies and all rooms are equipped with a 27” flat-screen LCD tv, mini bar, safe, hair dryer, AC/heat, internet (for a fee) and bathrooms (either shower or tubs).  WiFi connection is available in public areas (i.e. lobby).

I stayed in a Twin Superior room and had a fabulous view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus!  The room was very comfortable.  I was a little concerned about noise from the street after reading a few of the reviews on Trip Advisor.  However, my room (which was on busy Syngrou Avenue) was very quiet.  It was spacious (for European standards) and I loved being able to go out on the balcony and look at the ruins.

Athens Gate Rooftop Garden Restaurant

Rooftop Garden Restaurant

The view of central Athens (especially the Acropolis) from this rooftop has to be one of the best in the city!  Imagine eating breakfast while staring at the amazing Parthenon?  What could be better?  Athens Gate offers an American breakfast each morning.  I would drink coffee and eat while gazing at the ruins.  I tried the restaurant for breakfast and dinner.  My recommendation is to definitely do breakfast and 1 night of dinner (if you are in town for more than a couple of days).  Since you are in a great location, there are so many wonderful restaurants nearby and it would be a shame not to check them out.  Most of the restaurants have a great view of the Acropolis at night.  And let me tell you…I never got tired of looking at the Acropolis.  It is just that amazing.  Here is a picture I took from my table during breakfast.

View from breakfast

Amenities

Unfortunately, the hotel does not have a gym.  The “business center” consists of 2 computers and a printer located next to the elevators.  Normally, I prefer to stay in hotels that have a gym but with the great location, you can easily run/walk outside and sightsee while working out.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the Athens Gate hotel and would definitely stay there again.  You cannot beat the comfort, location or price.  I recommend pre-booking via their website (I found they offered the best deals directly).  Breakfast is included in the rate.  If you ever visit Athens, I highly recommend this hotel.  What is better than eating breakfast while looking at the Acropolis from their rooftop restaurant?  Want to know more about Athens?  Check out the review of my trip here.

Nikki’s Rating: 4 (Fabulous)

Rating Scale 1-5 (1 = GET OUT NOW; 2 = Seriously?; 3 = Eh, it’ll do; 4 = Fabulous; 5 = Absolutely Wonderful)

What to Wear When Travelling Abroad

Coco1One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?”  I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below).  Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety.  Most pickpockets target tourists.  Looking like you belong goes a long way.  Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.

1.       Dress for the Country/Culture.  Each country has its own style.  Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy).  With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters.  Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).

  • Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting.  Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it).  Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin).  Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily.  Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country.  Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population.  By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables).  In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe).  These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season).  I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get.  I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
  • France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around.  This means they take their fashion seriously.  While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
  • You can never go wrong with basic black.  It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
  • The French love black, navy and brown.  I suggest using those as your base colors.  You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf.  Don’t have one?  Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
  • The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more.  Most of all, it is attitude.
  • Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored.  I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape.  I picked this tip up while visiting Paris.  Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
  • Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts.  I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
  • England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes.  I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below).  A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*).  Don’t emulate that.  Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.LBD

2.      Dress for the Season.  Be sure to check the weather before you go.  Weather Underground is a good resource.  I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad.  A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall.  Going in the winter?  Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo.   I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one.  First and foremost, you want to be warm.  Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter.  Your health trumps fashion.  Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂  ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded.  This jacket is so cozy & warm!  I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it.  The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty.  This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!

coco3

3.       DO NOT WEAR…

  • Baseball caps!  If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
  • Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc.  Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
  • Fanny-packs!  Seriously…just no.  It’s not cute.  Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire.  I don’t even know how this item became popular.  Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen.  You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you.  Use a money belt instead.  It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen.  This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
  • Expensive jewelry/bags!  A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton.  Leave your valuables at home.
  • White sneakers???  I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris.  My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones.  I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe.  Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.

Emma

4.       Must Haves.

  • Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship.  You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed.  I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love.  So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship.  I even wear it around at home.
  • Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome.  Highly recommend!  The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place.  It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
  • Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet.  A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
  • Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces.  Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.

MM

5.     Handy resources.  Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items:  While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).

While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer.  Hope it helps!  Safe travels.  Do you have any travel fashion tips?  If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!

Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.