The first stop on our tour with EF College Break was Athens.
When we arrived at the Athens airport we were immediately greeted by our tour guide, Artin. He let us know that we were the first to arrive and that we had some time to kill before the rest of the group landed, so we could explore the airport for a little while.
Once the whole group was in attendance we loaded onto a charter bus that was waiting for us outside and headed over to our first hotel. I didn't get much sleep on the flight (I blame a combination of nerves, excitement, and Lufthansa's extensive movie collection), so I was grateful to be able to sneak in a 25 minute power nap on the ride over. I woke up feeling approximately 500 times better and ready to get moving!
That afternoon Artin showed us how to navigate Athens' subway system and casually pointed out things here and there like a popular shoe store where you can get custom made leather sandals, a local night club, AND THE FREAKING ACROPOLIS! Because of it's location it can easily be seen from most points throughout the city. It's pretty awesome how one moment you can look around and be in a metropolitan city, but then look up and see something like the Acropolis or the remains of the Temple of Zeus.
We also walked past an awesome bakery that we had to stop in to grab a snack. My boyfriend and I split a flakey pastry with cheese inside of it - needless to say, it was amazing!
That night we attended the welcome dinner, which was at a restaurant located on the roof of a building in the center of the city. Not only were the views amazing, but the food was great too! No gyros yet, but I definitely had my fill throughout the remainder of the trip! After dinner Artin took us to a shop nearby where we all tried freshly baked baklava and ice cream. I was so full from dinner I couldn't have more than a few bites of the baklava - thankfully my boyfriend was willing to take one for the team and finish it up. The night was rounded out with a round of shots and then time spent getting to know each other while hanging out in the rooftop pool back at the hotel.
The next morning we hit the ground running. We hopped on a bus to tour a few archeological sites including the Panathenaic Stadium, which was built in the 4th century BC and then later used to host the first modern Olympic games, and the parliament building to see the changing of the guard.
Each site we visited was more amazing than the last. We finished off our tour at the Acropolis. Growing up and learning about the ancient Greeks civilizations I never thought I would be standing on one of the most well known historical landmarks of all time. Not only was the structure itself beautiful, the views from the acropolis were breathtaking as well.
When the tour was finished we had the rest of the day as free time to explore the city. The group broke off and went their separate ways. By this time my boyfriend and I were starving so we head out to find some lunch. We found a restaurant with outdoor seating and had one of my favorite meals from the trip. I got the chicken souvlaki, which is similar to a deconstructed gyro on a plate. This was definitely one of my main food groups while in Greece.
After lunch we walked through the streets of Athens and did some shopping where I bought a pair of Birkenstocks that you will probably see in every picture of me for the rest of the trip. We also visited the Temple of Zeus and a couple of other archeological sites. As dinner time came closer we headed back to the hotel because Artin had set up a special dinner for us that night.
We all traveled together to the restaurant that looked like a little hole in the wall. What started off as dinner and wine soon turned into everyone dancing traditional Greek dances onstage. They even brought out special plates for everyone to thrown onto the stage while performers danced over the pieces.
After stopping for some gelato on the way back to the hotel we went pretty much straight to sleep to be ready to move to Ios first the the next morning! At this point I was extremely grateful for the packing cubes that I was trying out for the first time. These helped me keep my suitcase organized and easy to pack up quickly when it was time to move again - definitely one of my travel essentials now!
I've heard mixed reviews about Athens from others who have visited the city, but this was definitely one of my favorites!