Now that we were all rested up from our stop on Mykonos, it was time to tour the wonderful city of Athens. For Athens. For Athens, I picked a bit of an unconventional tour as we spent the morning in Athens but then moved outside the city for a drive down the coast to Cape Sounion in the afternoon. We wanted to see as much of Greece as we could in a short period of time, which meant not spending the afternoon in museums as many of the other tours we looked at recommend.
We used Private Greece Tours and Nikos was a huge help in organizing everything and answering my questions. I posted the tour on the Cruise Critic message board and had a group of 11 which made the tour quite reasonably priced.
Our driver, Nicholas was waiting for us as we exited the ship and within minutes we were zipping through Athens traffic (yikes) on our way to the Acropolis. We were lucky enough to be one of the first groups to arrive and had great views of the entire site for the first 20 minutes or so before the larger ship tours arrived.
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on a high a hill above the city of Athens and contains the remains of many ancient buildings. The most interesting of which for me were: the temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea, the Erechtheum, Old Temple of Athena, and of course the most famous: the Parthenon.
Like many of the great architectural sites around Europe, the Parthenon is currently being restored so we only had restricted views around scaffolding. Luckily, it was amazing even with the limited views and I would love to see it again once the restoration project is finished. The project started in 1975 and is reportedly nearing completion.
There was an extra cost to have a guide on this tour so we forewent one in favour of using the Rick Steve’s audio guides. I must say that this worked out wonderfully and I really enjoyed listening to the audio guide. It is organized well and very easy to follow. I would definitely use these again.
After the Acropolis, Nicholas zipped us over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guard. Nicholas gave us a bit of background information on the traditional uniform these guards wear. It is definitely an interesting uniform and has a history to match. The uniform has evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts who fought the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
The changing of the guards is an interesting process to watch as the guards move almost in a dance, they move in a very slow and highly stylized manner with which is really cool to watch.
After the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we had a brief stop at stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.
We then headed over to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The temple is a huge ruined temple in the center of Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, almost 638 years after the project had begun.
From here we drove up to a lookout point with amazing panoramic views of Athens. A must-see spot if you are ever in Athens!
Now it was time for our drive down the “Greek Riviera” to Cape Sounion. On the way, we stopped at a small taverna for lunch where I enjoyed some lamb slovaki and Mom’s had a plate of small fish and it was literally a plate of whole small fish LOL. Definitely not something you’d generally find on a menu here.
The entire drive was along their gorgeous coast up to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. According to legend, Cape Sounion is the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death. Every year, the Athenians were forced to send 7 men and 7 women to Minos as tribute. These youths were placed in a labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur. Theseus (Aegeus’ son) volunteered to go and attempt to slay the beast. He told his father that if he survived the contest, he would hoist a white sail upon his return. Theseus was successful in overcoming the Minotaur but forgot to change the black sail. Upon seeing the black sail, Aegeus despaired for his son and threw himself off the cliff in his grief. This is also why that body of water is known as the Aegean Sea.
The whole site is beautiful; from the columns of the ruined temple to the view out to sea.
I had a bit of excitement on my way back to the van as another group member stopped to tell me that the van engine wouldn’t start. Luckily, the gods were on our side and it was already started by the time I got back to the vehicle. Not taking that for granted, we all hopped on and we quickly on our way back to Athens and our ship.
Athens is definitely a city I would like to explore more. I missed not having time to wander around the different neighbourhoods but that is simply a reason to return!
Once back on the ship, Mom and I rested before heading out for dinner. As I have previously mentioned in past posts, the Celebrity Reflection has an excellent selection of restaurants. We had been hearing such amazing thing that we decided to give another (besides Bistro on 5) additional cost restaurants a try. After some conferring, Mom and I decided on Qsine. According to Celebrity, “Qsine® offers a culinary journey that delivers elements of surprise and delight.” I must say that it lived up to that hype. The menu comes on an ipad with fun videos and all the dishes have unique factors to them. For example, our sushi course had a salmon roll dipped in Doritos. It sounds kind of yuck, but was amazing! I now think all sushi should be dipped in some form of chip
We also had some of the best ceviche I have EVER had! I would go back for this dish alone.
We also discovered that despite both loving all things shellfish, neither of us likes escargot. The idea of the menu is a selection of small plates but you still get full very quickly and by dessert I desperately wanted my yoga pants. The dessert menu came in a fun puzzle box. Mom choose some sort of cake and I went with do it yourself cupcakes. It was an excellent way to end an amazing meal.