A Not-So-Ordinary EB in Athens

Posted by Analyse at 3:34 PM

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yes, I finally set an EB with a longtime online friend Shalimar Orlanes. But what's extraordinary about our EB is that - we didn't personally met! Go figure! She was basking under the sun of Florida when I visited Athens - but that didn't keep her from welcoming us in her appartment. Bonnie, a family friend welcomed us and made us feel like we already knew each other for years!

Frenchguy still couldn't digest how Filipinos open their doors to strangers. And how strangers could be considered friends just after reading their blogs, after chatting and after being friends through Facebook. Well, I really can't find the right words to explain to him when here in Dijon, befriending someone is not an easy task. He's still culture-shocked!

Ate Bonnie and Shasha, thanks for the experience. I think our meeting is the highlight of this getaway - more than the visit of Athens itself. You showed Frenchguy another bright side of true Filipino hospitality and I thank you for that.

The Getaway

Did I tell you our favorite motto at home? When the kids are away, the parents will play.

We had a 3-day weekend to spend without the kids, Frenchguy and I looked at each other and *ding* (lightbulb ON), quick getaway starting to materialize in our head. I started to eye on great travel deals - I hesitated between Marrakech (Morocco), Istanbul (Turkey) and Athens (Greece) - but my resident card limited me inside the Schengen zone.

I started to check what flight could suit best our schedule and Olympic Air was just perfect. Leaving Paris at 7:30pm and leaving Athens at 4:30pm. That would give us ample time to enjoy Greek capital to the max.

Since Ate Bonnie was at that time on a short getaway in London and arriving 2 hours after our arrival in Athens, we decided we'd stay in a hotel for a night. Since it was just for a night, I decided I would try the hotel top secret promotion from lastminute.com and yes, we stayed in a 5-star hotel situated at the heart of Athens at 50% off.

Couch Surfing - My Way

Have you heard about this concept? If not, then google it, lol. The first time I've heard about this idea, I thought it was for me. I love the idea. Tourism for me is not only visiting tourist spots and taking my pictures infront of them. I want to go beyond that. I want to penetrate one's culture. I want to observe the way locals spend their daily lives. Curious-me wants to get a closer look.

But since couch surfing isn't ideal for a family of four, I content myself with different solutions like when we spent 3 days in an Agriturismo in the Tuscany Region of Italy or when we visited the Nubian Village in Egypt.

Staying at Shasha's place is my way of penetrating to how Filipinos live their lives outside of the Philippines. Dijon's Filipino community is limited to probably 10 members that you could hardly call it a community. Athens count thousands of Filipinos apparently, and their Filipinoness is still there. Ate Bonnie has spent more than 20 years in Athens but according to Frenchguy - she's still Filipino. Why? Because she prepares more than one type of breakfast everyday! For Frenchguy, a cup of coffee, a slice of bread and butter should be enough.And kulit ni Frenchguy, ganun talaga Pinoy. Kandaugaga palagi to please our visitors, right?

Athens - The Visit

I was expecting an old city, not like France or Italy - but older than that. Not that I was expecting columns and sculptures on each building - that's too much asking - but, well, I don't really know. I was probably expecting to see something different but disappointed to realize that yes, I was still in Europe!

I would describe Athens as an old city with distinct monuments here and there, surrounded by new and modern buildings and decorated by bitter orange trees everywhere. Though stray dogs were quite everywhere (which was not common in Europe), I was agreably surprised to see how clean the city was.

We started the visit by walking through the Plaka District then continued through Anafiotika District (which I found more exotic than the rest of Athens). From there we saw this sign going up the Acropolis so we followed suit (for info, all monuments of Athens open their doors to public free of charge every Sunday).

For future visitors, I would recommend to visit the Acropolis Museum first before visiting the monuments, especially if you already forgot the history of Athens.
We spent the whole afternoon roaming around the city and waited for sunset at the Lycabettus Hill. From there, we had a spectacular view of Athens - changing color as the sun sets. We then dined at the Exarchia District which by the way offered better Tavernas (restaurants) compared to the touristic Plaka District.

After an intensive Athens overload, we decided to take the bus the next day which took a scenic route by the sea. Direction - Sounion. There, another monument dedicated to Poseidon was dominating the area.
After that quick escapade, we again took the bus which took us back to Athens. We continued our visit in different districts of Athens and decided we needed to wait to see the Acropolis at night.
It was worth the wait. It was a Saturday night and Athens was all the more lively. We whiled away our time on top of a hill nearby the Acropolis Rock then continued our walk to find ourselves in a cozy restaurant near the cathedral. Did I say that Greek food is great?

Our last day was spent re-visiting the Acropolis. Yes, we're never tired. In fact, we visited the museum and we realized that we didn't see anything, lol. So up we went again to check the details that we missed from our first visit.

To sum up, it was a great weekend getaway. I'll probably go back when the girls are bigger.. or probably earlier, but to visit the islands this time.