ATV(iews): Our Last Day in Santorini

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For our last full day in Santorini, we rented an ATV to ride around so we could easily hit any of the places we hadn’t made it to yet and places that are harder to access by bus, like the beach and cave at Mesa Pigadia.

We reserved a four-wheeler with Rent Me…Love Me before leaving the States (€30) and arranged a hotel drop-off for 10 a.m. (and a 9 p.m. return, also at the hotel). All we needed was one international driver’s license and our cash (for an in-person payment). The process for securing an international driver’s license is pretty straightforward: go into AAA with your driver’s license and $20, fill out some paperwork, and get an international license printed onsite (with a photo taken onsite or a passport photo you bring in with you). It took under 30 minutes, and the license is good for six months. There’s a steep fine for driving without an international license (a fine recently established, from what I understand, because of crowded main roads, untrained ATV drivers, and wrecks).

A note on driving the ATV: if you plan to rent one, practice before you go. You will have to be on the main road at some point, and Santorini drivers mean business. You need to be prepared to move with traffic and handle a lot of curvy roads.

Lucky for us, our small duffel fit perfectly over the handlebars, and the ATV also had a locked storage bin where the helmets were stowed.

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The four-wheeler gave us the opportunity to pull off the road anytime we felt inclined.

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Since we’d seen the caldera side of the island on our hike and on our sunset cruise, we decided to go up the coast on the non-caldera side. We went to the northern tip of Santorini, then curved back down to Amoudi Bay to see what access was like if you came in from the road rather than down the 250+ steps in Oia.

It’s quite accessible, though it does require some tight parallel parking on an incline if you drive a car (stick-shift seems to be the norm here). Parking a four-wheeler is much easier.

amoudi parking

Thinking we were going to the Volkan Brewery, we ended up at Volkan on the Rocks, a bright café/cliffside cinema with an excellent caldera view that we passed earlier in the week on our hike from Fira to Oia. (There are several outdoor cinemas throughout Santorini that play both new and classic films, including Mamma Mia.) You can rent cabanas for the evening here, too.

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We each had a Volkan beer (white and grey this time, respectively) and smoked mackerel tostadas—the menu has a lot of shareable small plates.

We noticed several cruise ships laying anchor in the caldera and ran into a large group on a cruise excursion at Santo Winery. Even so, there was ample seating, including a table in the shade on the rail (we lucked out again!). In the evening, it’s best to make a reservation.

santo wines

We decided to forgo the tasting in favor of a glass of wine each. I tried a sparkling white (yum), and Perry tried Mavrotragano, a dry red, which he was very happy with (our server told him it was her favorite after he ordered it).

The winery has a great onsite shop, too, which had not only bottles of wine and Santo Wines paraphernalia, but also island souvenirs priced about the same as side shops in Perissa and Fira (which is to say, less expensive than in Oia).

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We drove down to the Red Beach next and purchased some deliciously ripe figs and plums for our short walk from the parking area to the beach.

red beach

It does require some maneuvering to get to the beach itself, so it’s important to not overburden yourself with things to carry and to wear the right shoes for managing a rocky terrain.

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We stopped into Theofanis, a family tavern, for a beer and another small plate of food. Here’s the view from our table.

family tavern view

We decided on eggplant rolls for snacking and felt very good about our decision.

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Next stop was the Akrotiri Lighthouse with its magnificent view and intense sea breeze.

We passed a small farm and farm-to-table restaurant on our way. It was pretty neat to see the lighthouse up-close after having seen it from the water from afar on the sunset cruise. Even from that distance, you could see all the people crowded on it for sunset. (When we went, it was still several hours from sunset, so we didn’t encounter a crowd.)

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Back on the ATV, we spotted an intriguing dirt turn-off and decided to follow it and ended up at Mesa Pigadia, a fairly quiet beach with a nearby cave. We parked our four-wheeler beside the tavern, which offered its bathroom to beach guests for a €0.50 fee. Very nice patio here, too.

We had pretty much circled the island by the time we got back to the Black Beach of Perissa. We parked our ATV and got in the clear, cool (but not cold) water until it was nearly time to return our four-wheeler.

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After showering and packing for our early flight, we went out for a late dinner on the candlelit beach deck at Meet Me @ Coralli on Perivolos Beach (beside Perissa). They’ve really got the idea of ambiance down here. We had an exceptional final dinner, which included a complimentary onion soup and dessert. We started out with tomato balls, then moved on to grilled vegetables (for me) and tuna (for Perry). This was his favorite fish dish of the trip. I love eating beachside, and we highly recommend this place.

We strolled back to Meltemi Village, already a little sad to be leaving in the morning on our early flight back to Athens (then on to Newark). Look at how great those Osprey wheels are on an uneven surface.

If you’d like more details about any aspect of our trip, comment below or message us!

 

Day 7: Knot for Sail

Since we had a 3 p.m. hotel pick-up for a sunset cruise, we decided on a leisurely morning and early afternoon in Perissa, the non-caldera side.

Meltemi Village’s complimentary breakfast had tomatoes two ways: as slices to pair with tzatziki (or to put in a salad) and as tomato balls, a Santorini specialty. Tomato balls are delicious! Savory and surprisingly light for a fried food.

tomato balls

Perissa’s beachfront is lively morning and night, and there are plenty of lounge chair rentals and space to lay your towel or drop your stuff while you’re in the water. The road that runs along the coast is a makeshift boardwalk in the evenings and nights when it gets closed off to cars.

We spent some time by our hotel pool, too. There were even complimentary floats, and, at the hotel bar, we were able to charge a couple of Mythos beers to the room—a nice convenience.

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Our hotel pick-up was right on time, and we made our way to the catamaran in an air-conditioned van. We handed over our shoes for storage (everyone’s barefoot on the boat), then boarded Happy Day for our ~4 hour excursion.

I’m glad I packed my cardigan because the sea breeze can get a bit crisp while the boat’s moving and after swimming especially.

The sunset cruise included three swimming stops, towels, snorkeling gear, noodles for floating, water, beer, wine, and dinner, cooked on the boat (lightly fried sole, shrimp, salad, breads and spreads, pasta with marinara, and chicken).

The large catamaran had two changing rooms and a bathroom. The crew also had a lot of interesting information about and insights into Santorini and its history.

Here we are, happy on board Happy Day.

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We sailed around and swam at the red beach, white beach, and volcanic hot springs. You can only reach the white beach (pictured on right) by boat.

Our wedding bands are silver, so we had to take those off at the volcanic hot springs. We were also warned that white swimsuits would get stained.

Here’s Perry, giving new meaning to “hot” springs.

perry at hot springs

Perry swam and dove so much that the captain told him to watch Dolphin Man, a documentary about freediver Jacques Mayol.

We didn’t get tired of looking at the volcanic rock formations, and we were happy to see the Akrotiri Lighthouse, too.

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The sunset was among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

After the catamaran ride, we asked to be dropped off in Fira rather than back at our hotel, and, happily, that wasn’t a problem. We stopped into Enigma Café for a cocktail and caldera view. This was the best cocktail of the trip, and the view of the moonlit water and lit-up cliffside buildings was stunning.

Fira was very busy at night, but the energy was good in the bustling streets. We moseyed along until deciding to stop into Franco’s, another cute café with a great patio and view and chairs reminiscent of Adirondacks.

fira at night

Here, we encountered and fell hard for Volkan Beer (along with its charming descriptions). My favorite was Volkan Grey, “inspired by the thick grey September fogs that sweep Santorini. A crisp refreshing wheat lager with hints of honey and bergamot.”

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We headed back to Perissa to stop in at Tranquilo, a beach bar with hammocks and lofts with cushions we’d passed earlier in the week. Though we didn’t eat here, we did notice the signs that stated it’s vegan-friendly. Very good drink prices, too. I had an inexpensive carafe of rosé wine, and Perry had a couple of beers (under €10). Eat and drink here if you’re looking for good prices. (In general, eating and drinking is significantly cheaper in Perissa than in Oia or Fira.)

We got in bed a little later than planned, but such is island life, I suppose. Stay tuned for the final day, in which we eat the three best figs in Greece and ride an ATV around the island, on- and off-road.

Day 5/6: Hello, Santorini

As in Athens, we’d scheduled a private airport transfer from the Santorini airport to our hotel before leaving the States. Apparently, August is the apex of peak season, but it was our only option (#teacherlife), so we braced ourselves and took the suggestion of those who had gone before us: make reservations for things before leaving. So, along with the airport transfer, at least a month before leaving, we also reserved an ATV, made a reservation for a patio seat at a restaurant in Oia for a sunset dinner, and booked a sunset cruise. The ATV was the only pain in the process. We reserved an ATV with three different companies only to have them email us to cancel the reservation due to lack of supply. Happily, fourth time’s the charm, and we reserved an ATV and arranged a hotel drop-off with Rent Me, Love Me… (More on that later.)

Still sipping on the Mythos beer (“the Corona of the island”) our driver gave us for the ride from the airport, we pulled up to Meltemi Village, lit-up so its bright white stucco glowed, and looked at each other big-eyed and pleased with where we’d landed.

Here is a daytime photo.

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Check-in was a breeze, and the person at the desk not only answered our question about taking the morning bus from Perissa to Thira (Fira), she also gave us a bus schedule and let us now exactly where to catch the bus (on the bench in front of Bob’s Bar, across from Dorian’s Pub) and exactly how much we’d need when the money-collector made his or her rounds (€2.40 each). (When speaking, “Thira” is used to refer to the ancient island, and “Fira” is used to refer to the capital.)

Our suite was pretty magical. The bed was in the loft, and the private “Jacuzzi” (a soaking tub with bubbles, but no heat) was on the patio, along with two lounge chairs, a small table with chairs, and a drying rack. The room also had AC, but some nights were cool enough to leave the windows open instead. The temperature ranged from high 80s (Fahrenheit) to low 60s in the evenings (the temperature was a bit warmer in Athens, sometimes in the 90s). Like in Athens, the room’s lights and AC only worked with room key activation; but, unlike in Athens, the refrigerator stayed on regardless. There were also two plush robes and two sets of slippers in one of the closets.

Here’s a daytime photo of our private deck.

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After freshening up, we took the 5-minute walk to the Black Beach and the boardwalk to find some water and sunscreen for tomorrow’s hike from Fira to Oia (pronounced E-yuh) and to eat dinner. The water is not potable in Santorini, so be sure to stock up on bottled water for your room and excursions.

Perissa’s boardwalk is lively!

perissa at night

We let our hunger guide us and ended up at a table on a beach-deck at Apollon Restaurant. Our Armenian server, who, unlike a lot of the service industry people we met, stayed in Santorini year-round, explained that the dining area was makeshift: a cabana business had dibs on the deck during the day, so the restaurant just set up tables on the deck from dinner until midnight. Luckily, we got seated at 10 p.m., so had no need to rush. We ordered a Greek salad, bread, mussels saganaki (with olive oil, white wine, cherry tomatoes, and crushed feta), salmon (with a lemon and lime marinade), sparkling water, and a bottle of wine, knowing we could cart it off with us after the meal for a walk at the water’s edge.

Perry was very pleased that we got to dress the salad ourselves with a cruet of oil and vinegar.

The server gifted us with a limoncello (for me) and ouzo (for Perry) and let us know it was “the night of shooting stars” and to keep our eyes up during our walk. Perry, the one who can see a coyote in the trees off the interstate while driving, unsurprisingly saw two shooting stars on our walk; I saw none.

We stargazed some more on the lounge chairs on our private deck, then packed for our hike, opting to take my daypack from the Osprey Meridian. After calling it a night, we climbed into the cool sheets of our bed—a true full bed, unlike the pushed-together twins in Athens.

We woke early and left before the complimentary breakfast (8-10 a.m.), wanting to catch the 7:50 a.m. bus to Perissa. We didn’t have to walk far, as the bus stop is under one minute from Meltemi Village.

We saw some horses beside the bus stop.

perissa horses

And found Florida.

florida in perissa

This was the 2nd bus of the day: the first came at 6:30 a.m. Had we missed this bus, we would have had to wait until after 9 a.m. for the next one or call a taxi (~€25). We were getting scared we somehow missed the bus (even though we showed up at the stop around 7:35 a.m.), but it turned out it was just running behind, arriving about 15 minutes late.

So, off to Fira we went, arriving in the square, picking up some espresso and pistachio and honey bars, buying a linen towel (€8) near Hotel Atlantis, and easily finding the start of the 6-mile Fira-Oia trail for our caldera hike. More on that soon!

Day 5: Bye, Bye, Athens

I’ve been anxious to get to the island part of our trip, as it was the highlight and the part for which I had most planned.

Our plane for Santorini didn’t leave until 7:40 p.m., so our airport transfer wasn’t scheduled until 5:15 p.m. We checked out and stowed our bags in the luggage locker on the lower level of the hotel (€2 per locker). All of our bags fit easily into one locker.

luggage locker

By this time in the trip, the morning routine had been set: grab an espresso (€0.80) on the walk to the Sygrou-Fix metro stop or the Fix tram stop. That 5-day metro pass (€9) was the most sensible purchase of the trip. Today, we hopped on the tram and headed toward the all-marble Panathenaic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic games, which it hosted in 1896. The entrance fee is €5 and includes a free audio tour for those interested.

All that marble really is quite something, and the view, if you climb to the top row of the stadium, is amazing, too.

The walk through the tunnel to the small museum and gift shop is nice and cool (temperature-wise and experience-wise).

We ended our time in Athens with lunch at Liosporos Bistro, a café in Iroon Square near the sweet and savory pie store we went to on the food tour. This area has the best street art, including a depiction of this woman-made river of nourishment.

breast milk street art

I ordered hummus at the bistro, though by this time in the trip I’d learned that hummus is not a Greek food—I guess part of me knew that, seeing that it’s most common at Middle Eastern restaurants, but it didn’t fully hit me until I realized it wasn’t on hardly any menu. Perry got a coconut curry chicken dish here that was a favorite of his. We also got a chance to appreciate this wonderful staircase leading to the W.C.

bistro stairs

A note on the W.C.: you do not dispose of tissue in the toilet here; instead, dispose of paper waste in the garbage can beside the toilet. I first encountered this system in China, but still had to retrain myself at times. Here’s a fact that’s a little more fun: Modernist writer Gertrude Stein used to call fellow Modernist William Carlos Williams (W.C. Williams) “Water Closet” Williams.

Across from Liosporos is a bar called Beer Time that specializes in beers from Greek microbreweries. We didn’t go here, but we did visit Hops Beer and Burgers by the Sygrou-Fix station earlier in the week to try some microbrews—we ended up with the Kirki Beer and the Chios House Ale, both of which were good.

After our late lunch, we made our way back to the hotel for one last rooftop drink before our pick-up. We made an Old Fashioned with the airplane bottles of bourbon and the single-serving Bittermilk Old Fashioned mixer we’d brought from home, bringing a little Kentucky toast to Athens. (We brought some extras, too, to give away as gifts if the situation presented itself. You can pack airplane bottles in your toiletry bag.)

We still miss that hard-to-beat rooftop view!

Our airport transfer arrived right on schedule, and we arrived to the airport and checked in without any trouble.

There are some areas to charge your phone or devices in the airport, but not many, so Perry ended up buying a portable charger, which he’d been wanting all week. It worked out well for us during the Santorini leg of the trip.

The airport bookstore also sales a “Vintage minis” collection that includes Swimming, an excerpt from Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, and Love, excerpts from Jeanette Winterson’s novels and memoir. Buy 2, get 1 free. These made for very portable reading throughout the week and after I got home–they’re roughly the size of an adult human hand (or at least the size of my hand).

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The flight to Santorini was swift—under 45 minutes. Perry was thrilled that we could deplane at the back of the airplane. And, so, at 8:30 p.m., we stepped foot for the first time on Santorini, which we began to affectionately refer to as “our future home.” More on that soon.

Day 4: the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Acropolis, and Anafiotika

For our last full day in Athens, we decided to ruins our day (tee-hee) and visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis. After going to the base of the Acropolis the first day, we were back and forth about whether or not we wanted to spend €20 each on the walk up to the Parthenon and other structures—especially because it was pretty hot, and the ticket line was not short. Spoiler alert: we decided to go.

But, first, the most expensive W.C. stop of the trip. Public bathrooms don’t abound, so we often found ourselves stopping into cafés and buying something simply so we could use the bathroom. (You can also often go into a hotel and walk downstairs and find a bathroom, if you’re desperate.) After getting off the Syntagma metro stop, we walked through the National Gardens (where I missed an opportunity to follow the signs to the W.C.), stopping at a café at the edge of the public park.

National Gardens

One “greek coffee” (some coffee and ice cream combination), beer, and sparkling water later, much to our chagrin, we paid our €16 (!!!) tab. The rest of the day was marked by better decisions.

Sidenote on the Syntagma Metro Station: on display in the station are some interesting artifacts excavated during the station’s construction and even the cross-section of a tomb.

syntagma

After paying our €6 entrance fee at the Temple of Zeus, we walked the site and gawked at the height of the columns.

Here, more so than at other sites, you can really get a sense of how a column is made because the slabs have wiggled out of place over time, and one column has been left toppled over, each thick marble disc like a macaron leaning on a macaron leaning on a macaron in a oversized display case.

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The area below the main temple was closed, but Perry asked one of the site workers if we’d be able to see the Temple of Apollo. Growing up on Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” and watching and re-watching the Battlestar Galactica reboot, I thought it only fitting we make this stop if possible. Thankfully, we were able to have chaperoned access to it.

We decided to go to the Acropolis near closing in order to avoid the heat and the crowds.

acropolis

Thankfully, our plan worked out for us. We got in line at 6:15 p.m., had out tickets by 6:25, and were walking through the entrance by 6:28. (The last ticket sales are at 7:30 p.m., except on full moons, when the site is open until midnight.)

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The detail on the Parthenon and the caryatids (woman-shaped columns) wowed us. (The original caryatids are on display in the Acropolis Museum.)

We climbed into the overlook, gazed down on Anafiotika, the neighborhood under the Acropolis, saw several rooftop restaurants, and decided we wanted to have dinner on one of them.

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We made our way back down, waving goodbye to each of the several cats we passed—there are so many cats in Athens. It reminded me some of Kedi, the documentary about the cats of Istanbul.

By the time we left, sunset was upon us, and the buskers had taken up their spots along the cobblestone street in front of the Acropolis. So many good noises to walk through.

Fun fact: on the food tour the day before, Georgia told us that most Greeks have dinner around 9:30 or 10 p.m.

We ended up finding the restaurant we espied from on high around 8:30 and had some wine on one of the restaurant’s ground-level patios while we waited for one of the rooftop tables to open.

Dinner under the lit-up Acropolis was ridiculously romantic and worth the 45-minute wait. I ordered grilled mushrooms and eggplant with tomatoes; Perry had moussaka (basically, Greek lasagna, but with eggplant instead of noodles).

The Anafiotika area is not to be missed.

Next up: we get ready to fly to Santorini.

Day 3, Part 2: Too Sounion?

Poseidon has always been my favorite of the Greek gods—I’m a water sign (Cancer) and grew up a water baby, with deep ties to the ocean and St. Augustine, FL—so I knew I wanted to fit in a trip to the Temple of Poseidon if we could manage it. But I also knew I didn’t want to spend $100+ taking the private taxi or tour bus route, the latter of which I’d read many complaints about online, centered around how limited one’s time actually is at the temple.

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Around 1:30 p.m., after our food tour, we took the metro to Viktoria station, where we got off and made our way to the Pedion Areos Park bus terminal. (There are several other bus stops, including one near the Sygrou-Fix metro station near our hotel, but this was the first pick-up spot, and we wanted to be sure to get seats and to get situated.) Unlike the metro stops, the bus only had Greek signage, so we weren’t sure which bus to get on until the money-collector stepped off and let those gathered know that this was the bus to Sounion. The latest bus back to Athens is at 9 p.m.

sounion bus

You don’t buy tickets in advance; instead, aforementioned money-collector comes around once you’re seated, gets your money, and gives you a ticket. We went ahead and got a round-trip ticket: €25 total, so €6.25 each, one-way. It takes about 2 hours to get there, but the coastal drive is very beautiful.

So beautiful, in fact, that I cried when we finally were driving alongside the sea. Those colors are unreal.

sea tears

Every cove and beach was full of swimmers.

Due to the financial crisis, there are a lot of unfinished oceanfront and hillside structures that resonate more with the ruins than with the houses—even if the ruins are more hollowed-out carcasses, while the would-be homes and vacation rentals are skeletons to which skin and muscle never did attach—an overstock of science-class props that might never make it into a classroom.

You catch sight of the Temple of Poseidon several miles before arriving there, sitting as it is at the tip of the cape.

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The bus’s final stop is Cape Sounion and the temple. You get out at the restaurant and gift shop, then walk a short way up to the temple entrance (admission is €8 in peak season, and €4 in the off-season).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is not the place to wear flowing dresses—wear something fitted so you won’t have to worry about holding it down.

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I love the starkness of this temple and that it sits so near the cliffside and so close to the water—and because it’s on the tip of the cape, you get a panoramic view of the sea.

panoramic poseidon

According to the women at the ticket desk, Lord Byron’s graffiti is too small and high to view without the help of binoculars, so we didn’t see it, but the restaurant menu and placemat include Byron’s lines about Sounion.

The walk around the temple site was stunning.

It took us to the Port of Sounion, an Athenian navel base, and an old fortress wall.

After exploring the site, we had dinner at the restaurant, positioning ourselves in the sun so we could eat and drink with an unobstructed view of the temple.

Had we planned ahead and brought an overnight bag and swimsuits, we would have found a room at one of the many coastal hotels and stayed the night. Alas, that wasn’t in our cards, so we took the bus back and got off at one of the coastal stops back in Athens, planning to take the tram back to our hotel after exploring some of the beach bars.

Here’s Perry touching the water for the first time.

perry first sea

We ended up at Nalu Café at the Akanthus Beach Club, just in time for sunset. Great ambiance and a sizeable patio for outdoor dining—not to mention ample beach seating.

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This was the first time we encountered a cocktail menu during our trip. We ordered a Mermaid Rocks and a Suffering Bastard, then some Coronas with lime (a café favorite, it would seem). (It was also the first time—and last?—we’d encountered Coronas in Greece.)

Since the 5-day Metro Pass includes the tram, we had no problem getting back to the area around our hotel (there’s a Fix tram exit right across from the Sygrou-Fix metro stop).

We walked down to Olympiou Georgaki Street, which is lined with sweet cafes and bars and home to our favorite bar of the trip, To Kouki, a dive bar with candlelit tables and great beer snacks (olives and nuts). This is where Perry tried Metaxa, a Greek brandy, for the first time.

This is a great place to cozy up and reminisce over the day before calling it a night.

Next up: we decide to pay the €20 entrance fee to the Acropolis, then have our favorite dinner of the trip—thanks to Perry’s persistence—in Anafiotika, under the lit-up Parthenon.

Day 3, Part 1: Eating It Up

Before we left the States, we booked a food tour, so on day 3, we skipped breakfast (as recommended) and headed to the metro, stopping for an espresso (€0.80) at Coffee Island on the way. Turns out at 8:45 a.m. on a weekday, you’ll meet the morning rush—we were too timid and weren’t able to get on the first overstuffed train. Luckily, the next train came about 12 minutes later, and we were committed to getting on this time, no matter how full the compartments. We got off at the University of Athens stop (Panepistimio) and easily found the small food tour group (12 people plus the guide, Georgia). Before heading off, Georgia passed around a handout with the names and addresses of each stop, along with a note about the food we’d taste there—very handy for those of us who wanted to return to one of the stops or the areas near the stops.

We started off at a food cart near the meet-up spot and had what Georgia called “a Greek breakfast” (though she confessed a real Greek breakfast is five cups of coffee and as many cigarettes). Georgia bought and passed around half a dozen koulouri (sesame bread rings) for us to share. I didn’t expect it to have as much flavor as it did—the warm sesame seeds are quite fragrant and flavorful.

Next, we headed to Krinos to taste loukoumades (Greek doughnuts), but, first, we stopped and admired an old Greek Orthodox church. The wood craftsmanship on the windows is particularly beautiful.

The doughnuts were covered in syrup and cinnamon sugar. Perry and I both just ate one each, but there were plenty to go around, so people who wanted two were able to have them.

I picked this particular tour because it’s vegetarian-friendly (Perry’s the meat-eater in this relationship)—that said, the route did include a walk through Varvakios Agora, the central meat and fish market. Georgia checked in with me before we went through just to see if I wanted to skip this part of the tour.

It was definitely unlike anything I’d ever seen (and a bit too reminiscent of the slaughterhouse in Butchertown, a Louisville neighborhood near our own). See our Instagram @adventuresinwander to see an outtake from this part of the tour.

Afterward, we crossed the street and arrived at the fruit and vegetable market, where we tried halvah (a fudge-like chunk of sesame paste), candied nuts, and grapes.

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The next stop was my favorite: we sat in the charming back room of Stou Meidani and tried several small dishes, also known as meze, family-style. The super garlicky tzatziki was the best we had the whole trip. We also tried zucchini balls (yum) and baked feta with tomatoes and peppers.

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The sole meat stop came next in the Pastourma neighborhood. Pastourma is a cured meat. Perry liked his thin slice and said it was unlike anything he’d tried before (he’s had his fair share of charcuterie plates).

The herb store came next. We crushed thyme in our palms and smelled. I came away with some small-batch saffron and a complimentary recipe book.

At a small grocery store, Lesvos, we sampled two olive oils, olives, olive spread, and sun-dried tomato spread, Greek yogurt with cherry “spoon sweet” (preserves), feta with honey, and Mastic Tears, an herbal digestif.

greek grocery

I mistook an ouzo dispenser at the front of the store for a water dispenser, filled one of the paper cups, and took a big gulp, thinking I was rehydrating, before realizing my mistake. Oops.

We passed some great street art on the way to the sweet and savory pie shop, Bougatsadiko.

At the pie shop, we tried spanakopita (spinach pie) and sweet custard pie (bougatsa)—the latter was especially delicious, firm and not overly sweet. We ended up coming back to this area for our last meal in Athens.

The final stop was a souvlaki restaurant. Souvlaki is grilled meat, served either on a stick or in a pita with lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, and FRENCH FRIES! At €2.80, they make for a cheap lunch, too. I got the vegetarian version, basically a French fry pita, a meal I’d fallen for when I studied abroad my junior year—our stumble home included a stop to the gyro shop near our university flats. Sadly, at this point in the trip, I was too full to eat more than a few bites.

We thanked Georgia, handed her a tip, and made our way back to the Metro, heading to the bus terminal, where we hoped to catch the bus to Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. Stay tuned for that adventure.