Arrived in Athens nearly an hour early as Etihad Airways likes to leave early and go like the clappers! Although touted as "Airline of the Year", back in cattle class they are no better than Qantas and seem very disorganised. The temperature in Athens was so much better about 26 degrees and sunny. There were people on the streets interesting markets etc. We took the Metro from the airport quite good and only 40 minutes to Monastiraki the Station in the Plaka. Many of the stations were upgraded for the Olympics and as many ancient sites were discovered, each station is like a museum, glass footpaths over ancient mosaics, wells house foundations and locally a long lost stream is now uncovered in a number of areas.
The Plaka area has improved somewhat and there are international shops on the retail fringe, some lovely arcade type shops and of course in the squares are tavernas, restaurants and stalls. Venture a little off the centre and the retail areas are daggie with many vacant shops, dirty streets and some areas have many illegal immigrants hanging out in the streets. There are lots of police, often two per motorbike, and they seem to travel in fours. The central area including Syntagma is much improved and no longer smells like a lift basement as I remember it and vehicles are much quieter and safer. Our hotel, Hotel Adrian on Adrianou Street is very central just off a lovely square of restaurants, behind Hadrian's Library which is opposite the main square at Monastiraki adjoining the station. Late afternoon we had a drink in the square and after early dinner went to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap. Had a chat a nice US couple who use this hotel regularly because of its position and because there is a great view of the Acropolis from the roof. Just after sunset the lights start going on first on the largest monuments and later on the walls and hill. It is a spectacular sight and just the four of us watching. We will do it again tonight before we go to dinner.
Our second day we set off at 8.30am following the hotel manager's suggestion of a quick back route to the Acropolis missing all the cruise boat bus loads. One boat must have had over 20 groups of 40-50 people, mainly older Europeans. Glad we were not part of that, could not do it. Lots of reconstruction work going on but the whole site is as impressive as ever, however you cannot walk through the Parthenon as we did last time.
My ICOMOS card works a treat no entry fee for anything including the museum. The new museum is located in a very pleasant older residential area south of the site where there are many lovely three storey mansions. The museum itself is built over an ancient Athenian neighbourhood and has many open areas under the building and large areas of glass flooring inside and out - ladies would feel better not wearing skirts as even the top floor is partly glass. A great museum, fantastic building with no expense spared, huge areas of glass everywhere. The Parthenon frieze, and pediment statues are shown in a life size display on the top floor, truly spectacular! Many of the stolen marbles and statues, stolen by Lord Elgin and now in the British Museum, have been reproduced as plaster casts. The only evidence of the statues on the pediment on the east end of the Parthenon are casts of the horse's heads.
We also saw the Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus with 15 standing columns of the original 104 - one fell over 150 years ago and is on the ground. Outside the gate is Hadrian's Arch with the inscription "This is Athens, City of Theseus", facing the old town to the west, and facing the temple to the east "This is the city of Hadrian not Theseus".
We walked to site of the first modern Olympic Games 1896 where there is a U shaped stadium like a chariot race arena that can seat 60,000. Walked up past the President's house, through the National Gardens to the Parliament Building where they were changing guard, then on to the Academy of Arts, University and National Library, three very impressive buildings in a cultural area behind Syntagma Square..