Managed to hide the fact from Chrissie that we were on a twin prop plane for the for the flight into Athens until she asked an hour before take off! Everything went tickety boo though and cheked into the hotel at about 7ish. Novotel Athenes is good, gym and rooftop pool especially. Restaurant also on the roof with outstanding views of the Acropolis - ate there both nights.
Acropolis, Hadrian's Arch, Temple of Zeus speical places to visit, the sense of history is almost overwhelming. Highlight for me though was to visit the Olympic stadium, as in the one they used to restore the Olympics in 1896 and where Olympic events were held in antiquity. Imposing place with great mueseum and again the sense of history is palpable. Managed a little jog down the track and on the podium!
On the way back to the hotel we managed walk staright into a political demo in front of the Greek parliament, roads blocked off, loads of riot police in full gear - consiedring whats been going on and what was about to unfold in the next couple of days it was a pretty exciting!
Road trip out to Ancient Olympia via Mycenae was easy due again due to the toll roads, they were excellent, 3 lanes and empty - why doesn't the UK have them? Mind you the EU grants to build them must have been huge - why hasn't S.Wales had such grants? Not happy with 2 lanes and horrendous traffic!
Mycenae brought another dimension to 'sense of history'! Dating from 10thC B.C. This us where Agamemnon ruled and has his toomb! Wonder whether Achilles came and visited! Magical place and although not straight forwartd to get to it is a must if you are in this part of the world.
Our hotel in Olympia is the best I have ever stayed in! Perfect in every way and didn't have a gym so didn't need to find an excuse not to train! Pool area fabulous, Taverna in the olive groves wonderful and dinner was just outstanding! Love this place and the hotel alone makes it worth coming back! Hotel staff (mainly family) are simply exceptional, so helpful, welcoming and engaging - you sense that nothing is too much!
The site of Ancient Olympia was one of the trips highlights for me. I can't even begin to write and do it justice - to think that it's the first AIS type facility and 3000+ years old! After 100's of years of competition and athletic development the growth of the Christian faith and its followers shut it down as a way of stopping pagan festivals! Go figure, typical! Anyway managed another jog but no podium to stand on this time, however, this was more than compensated for as they were holding their rehearsals for the lighting of the Olympic Torch for the Sotchi Winter Olympics the day after we leave!
Great drive back to Athens and the Sofitel at the airport! Lovely but it has a good gym so no excuses this time! 5.30am flight to Santorini tomorrow - eeeeks, I had forgotten there were two 5.30's in the day!
Arrived at Athens airport around 6.30pm. Had heard so much about pick-pockets in Greece due to the bad economic climate, and taxi drivers not speaking English and ripping you off that we were on full alert. Headed straight for the yellow taxis where there was a police officer directing people to the taxis - taxi knew exactly where the Novotel Athenes and charged us less than what the hotel said would cost - 40 euros. all OK ! A nice guy. Hotel excellent, big bed and good room. Pool amazing, on the roof with a taverna where we ate two nights due to the ambience and the top view of the Acropolis lit up at night. Couldn't believe how fab it was! Had fantastic sleep in the bed, soooo comfy with feather pillows and doona - much needed after the lack of sleep for 5 nights in Dubrovnik.
Acropolis pretty amazing - some of the temples erected in the year 420 BC. The sacred rock of the acropolis was considered the most important religious centre in Athens for centuries. It's hard to believe how old all of this is. The Parthenon,dedicated to the goddess Diana, was the earliest of the classical monuments, built in 5th century BC. - the Persians burnt the first one down. The day was hot with masses of tourists all over the site.
The first Olympic Stadium next stop. A site of the ancient games for centuries. Hadrian's gate firstly, and the Temple of Zeus, which our initial fee allowed us to see for free. Again pretty amazing.
Panathenaic Stadium a stunning area and could walk into the tunnel where the gladiators would have walked down.There was a display of past Olympic posters and some interactive stuff that didn't work! Huw loved it. Walking back towards the hotel an English woman told me that the tubes were closed as there was another demonstration.We walked straight into I! heaps of riot police and roads cordoned off. Got out of the area quickly, and as we got closer to the hotel could see the area was not pretty (as we had heard) graffiti, dirty, drug users. But we felt safe the whole time.
Picked up the rental car early car and drove out of Athens, amongst the mad drivers. Saw 3 accidents in a short space of time - one person lying on the road with ambo. Once on the motorway much easier and could relax. Had to find the first site - ended up following a tour bus which led us straight to it. Stopped at the first archeological site - Mycenae Acropolis, on top of a mountain where Agamemnon's tomb was found and the life of Myceneans and their ancestors - period between 16 th and 12 th century BC. Heaps of tourists again. Saw the Lion Gate, main entrance to the fortified citadel, houses, cemetery of the royals, the palace.
Went through 4 tolls. 10 E. on way to Olympia. Found the Hotel Europa without too much trouble. Our room - wow! A suite with lounge area and huge bedroom opening onto a large balcony overlooking a great big pool. Straight to the pool to cool off, had a swim and laid around in the sun. Very relaxing - then the tour bus came! Ate in the taverna garden area under the olive trees right in the front of the edge of the mountain, with a great view over the mountains and valleys.
Had a stunning breakfast - all fresh local food in a beautiful room at top of the hotel with glass windows. Did some relaxing and emailing at the pool area and Huw went for a couple of swims. We had changed our minds about doing the long drive to Kalambaka the next day, and tried to book another night in the hotel but fully booked. I found a budget hotel with excellent reviews, right in the town of Olympia walking distance to everything.
Drove down the hill to the Hotel Konios. It was clean, decent comfortable beds with parking space and air-conditioning, including breakfast - all for 50 E. Straight to Olympia Museum cost 9 Eros each, where saw the antiquities that had been uncovered from the site. Many excellent pieces - in particuLar the statue of Hermes which would rival the statue of David and the clay figures that adorned one of the temples. The archeological site was set amongst a lot of shaded trees. It was lovely wandering around looking at this incredible site - the temple of Zeus and Hera, the first Olympic Training area and arena for athletes including a track, baths for the athletes, various buildings, villa and so much more. We suspected something was happening due to police presence when we arrived, and saw a caldron being carried out and Greek women dressed in the dresses worn by Ancient Grecian women. The lighting of the Olympic torch was happening the next day on the Olympia site where the torch is always lit. Just missed it and also gave us the reason why the hotel was full!
Had lunch in a taverna and walked a public walking trail by the river - pretty average. Suggested by owner to go to Thea Restaurant for dinner. Thought we would never find it as we walked up hill for ages! It was set on the side of a hill and again ate a traditional Greek meal, lamb and potatoes and a Greek salad, with a lovely view on the balcony - total bill came to 26 euros! Walked back a different way in the dark and strolled down the Main Street where shops were still open.
Drove towards Athens a different way - through the mountains - very windy and slow especially if got stuck behind a truck but some fantastic mountain scenery. Finally hit the motorway and drove to the airport to return the rental car and then just walked across to the Sofitel Airport Hotel into a lovely superior room. Went back to the airport later for a meal and then sorted our luggage out for Santorini as leaving on suitcase behind at Sofitel next day