Beating the Heat in Athens

With each passing day, Athens was getting hotter and hotter. We decided we needed a cool and refreshing activity, so we found a beach not too far away and set out first thing in the morning. We had to make a quick swimsuit purchasing stop for my sister, but then we headed for the bus. It would be our first (and last) bus ride in Athens. We bought tickets and got onto the bus without too much trouble from the nearby Syntagma Square which is a hub for public transportation.

The hardest part about traveling by bus is trying to figure out exactly which stop to get off at. They are labeled on the bus stop signs, but it’s usually difficult to see and read those while on the bus. And bus stops are relatively close together, so if using Google Maps, it’s easy to get off one stop too early or too late. We asked a local to help us find the right stop and transfer to the second bus. They were really helpful, and it was the same bus stop where they were getting off the bus.

We hopped off the bus, found our next bus stop just a few yards away and waited for the next bus. It was a hot day, and the sun — it felt like a nice summer day and then someone pointed a heat lamp right at our face. When the bus finally comes…. it’s packed full of people. There is no way we were going to be able to cram our stroller (folded or not) onto the bus. The bus leaves, and we realize we’re not going to last another 20-30 minutes in the sun and the next bus might be just as full. Then what? So, we flag down a taxi and take a nice air conditioned ride to the beach.

The Vouliagmeni beach was wonderful. There were loads of people at the beach, but the water felt so nice and refreshing. We sat in the surf and threw rocks and sand into the water for hours. A day at the beach was just what we needed!

By late afternoon we were ready to head back to our apartment. We packed up and followed the Google Maps directions to the bus stop. We were a little concerned about the already rather large crowd waiting at the bus stop, but we had already had bus tickets so we thought it was worth a shot. Twenty minutes later, as soon as we saw the bus coming, we tried to push to the front to be first on the bus. But as soon as it pulled up, we knew there was no hope. Only about 5-10 people were getting on the bus, and they were going to be standing on the stairs. Time for another taxi ride home. Luckily, taxis are relatively cheap here in Greece.

The history of Greece is pretty amazing, but the best part of our time in Athens was the food. Not only was everything we ate incredibly delicious, but it was also shockingly cheap. For a fancy candle-lit, sit-down, full-service dinner at Gods Restaurant including appetizers, two entrees, dessert, and bottled water — the total came to about $25. Pretty killer for some of the best food we’ve had in ages.

At the cheaper end of the scale, nearly every street corner had gyros, souvlaki, fries and a drink — which could fill you up for about $3.

We found a “yogurt bar” (they didn’t need to specify that it was Greek yogurt) around the corner from our apartment, which we enjoyed multiple times. The standard Greek yogurt has as much as 10% fat, which means it is very thick and creamy, but lacks the tremendous amount of sugar that we find in our store-shelf brands. You then get to pick your mix-ins (think Coldstone), berries, jam, fruits, honey, nuts, etc. It was heavenly, and so authentic. Brittany particularly enjoyed the traditional Honey and Walnuts… Delish!

Loukoumades are the bomb. On our first day, our first meal in Athens, we were the only ones dining for a late lunch at a restaurant near our apartment. The waiters thought our little family was cute because the girls could hardly sit still to eat anything and spent most of the meal playing with some rocks nearby. They gave us a complimentary dessert: Loukoumades. Our life has never been the same. It’s deep-fried dough covered drenched in honey. Greeks seem to like their dessert drenched in honey (baklava, loukoumades, and probably others).

We found a shop about a block away that had made-to-order loukoumades. There was a sign out front, “Skinny people are easily kidnapped. Stay safe. Eat loukoumades.” You don’t want to take any risks while traveling, so we made sure we were frequent customers. They make a version with chocolate (which was fantastic), but the honey ones are better. We tried to grab some loukoumades one last time before heading to the airport but sadly they weren’t open yet. *Sigh* I’m still sad about it. We gotta find a place that makes these in the States! Please tell me if you ever see them somewhere!

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