I had dinner last night in Monastiraki, a lively district of Athens a short walk from my hotel in the Plaka. At this time of year the Plaka is quiet at night, with most things closing between 8pm and 10pm; Monastiraki is just as busy as it is during the Summer. After dinner I ate an ice cream as I walked back to the hotel.
When I got up at around 8 this morning the Sun was shining once more and it felt warmer than yesterday. It didn’t freeze overnight (it was still 12 degrees when I went to bed).
I went for a walk around the Plaka first thing this morning, just as some of the runners in the “Merrython”, Athens 10k Christmas run, came through. Some of the elite runners passed my hotel as I was leaving; the crowds came through while I was eating breakfast, sitting outside a nearby cafe. Breakfast was a couple of croissants, yoghurt and honey, and some toast.
After breakfast it was straight round to Syntagma, just in time to catch the Changing of the Guard – the guards being the members of the Presidential Guard who guard both the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential Mansion in Athens. This happens every hour but on a Sunday at 11.00 the full marching band comes out and crowds gather to watch.
The full ceremony takes about 20 minutes and if you follow the band and guards along the road after the ceremony it is possible to get some good photos as by this time the crowds have dispersed.
After the ceremony I walked to the War Museum – my first visit to here despite this being my 4th stay in Athens. I found the bits about Greece in World War 1, and the German occupation, particularly interesting.
It was lunch time when I finished at the war museum, and then I got on the Metro and headed for Neos Kosmos, where I would meet the coastal tram. Normally the tram to the coast starts at Syntagma but due to engineering works Neos Kosmosand Kasomouli is as far as it goes at the moment.
The journey down to Glyfada from Syntagma took a little more than an hour so it was gone 3 by the time I got there. I normally prefer the small beach next to the Marina, near the Palio Dimarchio tram stop but today, with the beaches nowhere near as crowded as they are in Summer, I also spent some time on the main Glyfada beach and a couple of smaller beaches on the other side of the Marina.
It was a warm day today, so when I got down to the coast – although most locals were sitting on the benches in their coats, hats, scarves and gloves, for me it was warm enough to go for a paddle, followed by a short swim. The number of other people going in to the water could be counted on one hand.
I rounded off my trip to the coast by going to one of the only beach cafes which was open (most are closed at this time of year) and having a drink while I watched the Sun set – The Sun disappeared from view and it was completely dark by the time I made it back to Athens Centre about an hour later.
This evening I went to dinner at the Psaras taverna near my hotel. Sitting indoors next to the fireplace with the fire going, I had the Gigandes (beans) starter followed by Stifado (beef stew). It was delicious!
I walked off my dinner by taking a circular route around the districts of Athens which surround the Acropolis – Starting in the Plaka I went round to Monastiraki, on towards Thiseio and then back towards the Plaka, via Syntagma and an ice cream to eat while I walked back through the Plaka.
Heading home tomorrow – but not until the evening so I should have a fairly good day. Today the shops were closed but the museums were open… Tomorrow the museums will be closed but the shops will be open. I’d like to get to Public (a sort of Greek PC World meets HMV) tomorrow to get myself a CD; I’m hoping to walk up Lykavittos Hill tomorrow; I’ve also seen a Christmas craft fayre in Syntagma Station and would like to get some tree decorations to bring home…and if there’s time, one of those round-the-city busses would be good to do – before I head to the Airport around 5. My flight leaves at 19.15 and I’ll be back at Heathrow around 21.15 English time (23.15 Greek time so it will feel very late)!
I’m off to bed now – Good night!