Day 1: Athens is Not a Margarita Town

We are fully in Greece now. We walked 13 miles today according to Joe’s phone. The language is difficult. We asked a local how to say thank you in Greek. Joe nailed it the first time and then tried three more times and by the third time he had completely lost it. Our teacher went from delighted to shamed in four recitals. My only knowledge of the Greek language comes from that scene in Last Crusade when Sean Connery tells River Phoenix to count to ten… in Greek. We just walked back from getting ice cream. It’s 2:44 am. This day started a long time ago.


Every good travel day starts with a hotel breakfast. Even though we’d been up late the previous night, we set the alarm for 8:30 and got down to that buffet. It was bustling. Not a lot of good avenues for moving around. I kept getting jammed up at the coffee station. I got eggs and donuts and sausage which seem to be the most reliable items no matter what country you’re in. However, if you do happen to find yourself in Greece, get the tomatoes, regardless of meal or dish.

He did not attend the US Open

We worked the NYT Thursday and stayed too long. After breakfast it was time to get out there. We went back to the room and got dressed and sun-screened. Joe made fun of my boots which are maybe a little too heavy duty but then right away we hiked up a hill. We walked out of our hotel towards the acropolis. Athens has these streets that are actually highways but they’re at ground level so they look normal until you notice the high median and the cars going 70 miles an hour. They’re scary and they make you feel like you’re walking along a highway, but if you go one block in either direction, the character of Athens reveals itself. Windy streets lined with shops and restaurants and parks built around ancient ruins. It’s a fun walking city. Lots to look at. It has a little bit of a Los Angeles feel. The weather is exactly the same and this hill we climbed up was a Greek Runyon Canyon. Grunyon.

The Parthenon as seen from Grunyon

There’s a big sculpture up there but the only picture I have of it features shirtless Joe. I’ll show it to you if you want. It’s probably worth it for the statue which I’m told by a plaque is a shrine to the muses who considered the hill sacred. Ok here it is.

Sun’s not really out, guns out anyway

There were few people on this hill and I think it’s a great way to see the acropolis if you didn’t want to actually deal with going to the acropolis. That said, you can see that shit from everywhere. It was a bit gusty on the summit so we decided to bite the bullet and head over to the acropolis to see the crowds up close. Oh wait I did have one without Joe.

I am not a muse

The hills and the parks separating them are peaceful and lovely. We met a dog at a crossroads and Joe asked him which way to go. He growled at us so we turned around and went the other way. It was an answer of sorts.

On the way down

The acropolis is definitely a scene. It has the vibe of a historic site being squeezed of all its tourist value and then left to crumble. It doesn’t seem like a lot of upkeep is being done. Good news is, it’s done pretty well without help for a long time. I say all that not having been inside the grounds yet. We took one look at that line and decided to put it off until tomorrow morning when we can get here early. Got down the hill and headed to the Athens Jug and Vase Emporium. I think it might be called the National Archaeological Museum but my name gives you a much better idea of what’s going on in there. On the way, Joe attempted to explain the different types of columns to me. Doric is the basic bitch column. Ionic is a little more chic with some grooves along the sides and some festive curly stuff on top. Corinthian columns are the ones that really know how to party, they have a lot of detailing at the tops and bottoms. I told him I didn’t believe a word he was saying and vowed to fact check his nonsense as soon as I had a reliable internet connection.

We got to the museum and apprised ourselves on what we we were not allowed to bring in.

No Snoopys

We browsed the air-conditioned rooms of artifacts. It was an impressive collection. There was a room of bronze weaponry. Bit rusty but I found myself imagining the soldier who had been handed it when it was brand new. Twirling it around, showing it to his friends. Maybe he even lived long enough to use it. Now here I am 3000 years later looking at it.

Shipping manifest

The featured exhibit was one on human beauty. There were beautiful statues of course, but also the tools of maintaining ancient beauty, mirrors, combs, and clothes pins. They had also attempted to recreate the perfumes of ancient Greece and displayed them in decanters with wire mesh lids you could smell through. There were lipstick stains on one of them. Someone got the wrong idea there.

We were having a pretty good time but we were flagging a bit and sill hadn’t seen what we’d come here to see. Columns. I think if Joe were being honest he’d tell you that he was put off by the dearth of columns. Finally we found some.

Ionic / Iconic

He wasn’t wrong, you know, about the columns. Ionic got that scrollwork. Fully stuffed on artifacts we headed out to feed another more traditional hunger. Ended up at a place called Couleur Locale. It was exactly the kind of place Joe loves, up a weird staircase and full of people who don’t look like tourists. The menu was odd, I had a chicken burger and Joe got a club sandwich. They also served stacks of savory pancakes which I regret not ordering. Chicken burger? Tourist. Joe also ordered a margarita but wasn’t thrilled with the results. He rated it too sweet. It’s Greece, not Mexico.

Acropolis again

We did some serious talking about where to go next. We’ve got a rough outline now. We’re going to split our remaining time between the Cyclades islands and the northeast coast. Saturday we’re going to take a ferry out to Milos and then hop around from there. I don’t know if it was the planning or the honey mustard sauce but I started to get pretty tired.

“We can’t nap.” Joe told me. “We have to get adjusted to the time change.”

“We can nap. Just a quick one. No problem.”

“That’s a bad idea.”

“Joe! It’s vacation. We can take naps if we want to!”

We walked back to the hotel.

Very efficient fight club

We “napped” for two and a half hours. These were heavy naps. When I lay down, I didn’t even feel that tired. Just a quick refresher, I thought. This was like being under anesthesia, one minute you’re lying there and the next minute it’s two and a half hours later. Joe fell asleep before I did and he left the TV on Salvage Dawgs. I wasn’t about to sleep with that on so I looked around for the remote. Joe had fallen asleep on his back, in his boxer briefs, with it sitting alongside his resting penis. Nothing for it, I thought and extracted it like a game of Operation.

When we finally did get up – I didn’t have to, I probably could have slept through the night – we put on some clothes and went back out to eat dinner. I googled Michelin starred restaurants and we picked one off that list. It turned out to be in a different hotel but it was a nice enough place.

Can’t escape this thing

Bit windy up there. Which I hate.

“You hate the wind?” Joe asked

“Yes it’s extremely annoying. Having something blowing in your face all the time and knocking things over.”

“I think it’s fine. It’s nice. I love a little air movement, a nice breeze.”

“No one said they hated breezes.”

The wind blew our amuse bouche into Albania

I got a Cannelloni with oxtail and Joe got a Grouper with garlic foam. They were tasty if little restauranty. I guess that’s what I get for googling Michelin stars.

My cannelloni cartoon-exploded
An additional sauce was poured on top of the foam like washing suds off a car
But in the Latin alphabet, Jehova begins with an I

We finished up and got back out into the night. We were searching for something specific, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you. We found what we were looking for but stopped at The Urban Garden Bar first. It was a cool spot with an outdoor patio built on an empty lot and a trick bathroom door latch. Joe ordered a margarita. “Not too sweet.” he told the server. “Margaritas aren’t supposed to be sweet” she told him. “Yeah but if there’s a range, less sweet.”

We watched the bartender make it. “I have high hopes for this” Joe told me. They brought it over. I wish I had a video of Joe’s face when he tasted it for the first time. “How is it?” He looked at me, crestfallen. “Too sweet.”

I told Joe he should get on Tinder and see what the Greek scene is all about. That is, of course, if they have Greek Tinder.

“They do” Joe said, “I think it’s called Grinder.”

I know I said a second ago that where we were going was a surprise but if you know us at all, you probably saw this coming.

Feeling it

This place was amazing. It’s called Ghost House Bar and it was a great karaoke bar. It costs 5 euro to get in, weeds out the spectators, and was set up perfectly with a high stage at one end and a bar along one side. There were no bad seats. The KJ was great. I asked the bartender if there was a book. He brought me their song book which was entirely in Greek save for the last page which bore the English lyrics to Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. A bunch of people sang what I can only assume are Greek standards. Two people did an opera duet. All in all a good ass time. The only hiccup was when Joe tried to order another margarita. I put a stop to that.

It’s the next day now. Time to go down to breakfast. Today is our last full day in Athens and we’re already off to a slow start. I honestly don’t know if this acropolis run is going to happen but we’ll see. We don’t have that much to do. That’s how it always starts out anyway.

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