Friday, September 21, 2012

Athens... The Mexico of Europe???

Several years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Athens. I was young (20) and it was my first time ever traveling by myself. I remember feeling both terrified of all things that COULD happen that my mom had warned me about and also feeling completely FREE. I got off the plane, hailed a taxi, and with a wad of Drachma (Greek Currency) in hand I was ready to take on the world. Shortly after I arrived at my hotel, I looked out my window and saw the breathtaking Acropolis up on a hill. Absolutely jet lagged I poured myself a bath, opened a bag of peanut M&M's, and cried. I was exhausted, emotional, and desperately home sick. After a good face mask and some bad foreign TV I fell asleep.
The next morning I headed to the continental breakfast where I met Genevive, a boisterous persian College Cheerleader with lots of hair (of which she quickly pointed out were extensions). She was also from southern California and was ready to embark on the same international semester program I was going on. I'm not sure if it was the fact that she had a tongue ring that snapped as she talked or the way everything she said came out in dramatic inflections to seemingly unfinished words like "Totes" instead of totally or "abs" instead of absolutely but either way she intrigued me and I enjoyed her company. We decided to explore Athens together. That day we walked all through the city. We hiked the slippery marble steps of the Acropolis to see the Parthenon which was pretty amazing. The ancient collumns stand so much higher than I ever could have imagined. The views looking down on Athens were pretty awesome however the congestion was a little frustrating. It's hard to take a great photo all the while surrounded by hundreds of other tourists. We cruised Plaka, a historic district at the foot of the Acropolis and stopped at a restaurant for lunch by this time our group of friends had grown to about seven of us. We enjoyed classic greek salads and before we could leave the owner came out with complimentary shot glasses of Ouzo, a sweet liquor to share. After buying our fair share of silver jewelry with the zig zaged eternity symbol etched on them we toured Zeus's temple and ran into a greek club soccer team that agreed to pose in photos with us. We ended the day hanging out on our hotels roof top pool before finding a bar on the beach to enjoy a few drinks.

So why might you ask would I label Athens "the mexico of europe?" Let me begin by saying I love mexico, in recent years it's gotten an unsafe label because of the drug cartels violence. I can honestly say some of my favorite vacations have been in mexico from Puerto Vallarta, to Ensenada, to Cabo San Lucas, to Mazatlan, to my personal favorite Punta Cana near Cancun, mexico has a beautiful coastline. Mexico's downfall is it's pollution. From spray painted walls, to trash on the sides of roads, to air pollution, Mexico unfortunately has earned a certain stigma in my head as being dirty away from the resorts and beaches. I hate to say it but after my travels to Athens I felt the same way. Sidenote: my trip was before the Athens Olympics so they may have cleaned things up a bit, but when I was there I was surprised by the spray painted walls, the smog in the air, and trash in the streets. Now don't let this scare you away from Greece. In my travels we were able to cruise around most of the Greek Isles and the water and scenery were breathtaking. I didn't jump off any cliffs like Blake Lively in the sisterhood of the traveling pants but as I saw it, the Greek Isles are filled with opportunities for both serenity and adventure. Before we met, my husband spent six weeks living in Greece and one of his favorite sites was the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron in Meteora, Greece. As pictured below.

I've just shared a snap shot of Greece... my rather brief snapshot of Greece... Which begs the question... Where are you're favorite spots in Greece???

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