Greece To Me

 

It’s nice to know that there are Greek gods out there,

because you have somebody to blame

when things go wrong.

Rick Riordan

 

To begin celebrating empty nest, let me take you along on a European adventure that I will feature over the next few months with glimpses of Croatia and Italy. First stop, Athens!

After seeing some ruins one moonlit night 1867, Mark Twain concluded “We have seen all there is to see,” and set sail for the islands. I have met a few travelers who share this attitude thus I have not hurried to visit. If there is truth to Athens’s reputation as ugly, dirty, even dangerous, that you should get in and get out as quickly as you can, then we can, at least, spend a day there. If you need to check off the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Agora, etc. off your list, arrive early in the day so you might spare yourself a long queue before the heat gets miserable. I feel sort of “been there, done that” after a well-traveled tour guide in Sicily assured me that the Greek ruins in Sicily are far better preserved than those in Greece so my brief stop in Athens will be about mingling among people, not stones.

Stay at the Hotel Grand Britagne (photo at top of page) if you’re a fancy old world Europhile. I like that its location straddles the Kolonaki and Plaka districts so you can walk either way. They have the best views from their rooftop restaurant and bar. The rooftop of the Electra Metropolis Hotel gives you an even better close up view of the Acropolis.

For the quiet romantics who prefer a boutique hotel experience, check out the quaint Palladian Home in the Plaka.

Check out the upscale Greek version of Eataly at Yoleni’s in the higher-end Kolonaki district where you will find a bit more foliage amidst the hilly streets of shops and restaurants. The Travel Porter blog lists where to dine and shop in this neighborhood.

In the shadow of the Acropolis, the Plaka is like a village within the city for those who don’t have time to island hop. It’s arguably the nicest commercial neighborhood in Athens without car traffic.  Even regular tourist shops have amazing postcards to make your friends wish they had traveled with you. I’m happy to breach my “no jewelry shopping as a tourist” rule to find a truly golden souvenir from Byzantino Jewelry store (120 Adrianou Street), an artist-owned shop that makes quality modern jewelry, as well as copies of ancient museum pieces. 

To keep kids of all ages occupied while you browse, send them to the nearby Children’s Museum, the Music Museum or for art lovers, the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Painting at 7 Monis Asteriou Street. The only museum of its kind in Greece, it houses a private collection of contemporary paintings and drawings as well as temporary exhibitions by Greek and European artists in two fully renovated neoclassical buildings of the 19th century.

Cafes may be pricier on the main roads (Kydatheneon and Adrianou) and around the squares, but they are worth the fun of people watching. Everyone who comes to Greece walks down these two streets, true crossroads of civilization.

Cine Paris is the best outdoor movie theater in Athens with a bar, featuring movies in English with Greek subtitles. The theater is on the roof with a view of the Acropolis so you can get lucky and witness the colors change during its sound and light show. This is also one of the best places to browse and find unique gifts for movie fans because their shop sells the Greek versions of movie posters from the 60’s to today.

For those who need their ouzo, stop by Brettos Liquor store. This was the oldest distillery in Athens. Admire the old barrels and the colored bottles that line the walls all the way up to the ceiling. It has a tiny bar where you can get drinks by the glass.

George Dolkas T-Shirt and Swatch Shop may be your best bet at finding those last Olympic Pins people fanatically collect and trade. He offers the more tasteful shirt collection in the Plaka. If you walk up Kekropis Street next to the T-shirt Shop, you will find the small workshop of Dimitris Koutelieris (14 Kekropis Street) on your left. Dimistris makes furniture and art out of recycled objects and materials. His creations include smaller pieces that you can carry home with you.

Anafiotika is the cluster of small houses built on the slopes of the Acropolis above the Plaka. The name Anafiotika is from its original inhabitants who were stone masons  from the island of Anafi who built Athens in the mid-19th century.   Anafiotika is as close as you can get to imagine wandering around the back streets of a Greek island like Mykonos without leaving the city.

I found the best picture of Anafiotika on this blog post with a cheeky title on Athens Insider: If Athens Were a Dating App, Which Way Would You Swipe?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Athens favorites. (All images on this page from Google.)

 

xoxox

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

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Seen in Sicily

 

The Mafia gets points

for having

the best restaurants.

David Beard

Italy-Sicily-map-Sharon-Birke

A tour of Sicily for 11 days? I imagined this island to be just a bunch of rocks so I had serious doubts. Sarah Murdoch, the Goddess of Packing Light and honorary Sicilian, won me over with her enthusiasm and passion, swearing 11 days is not enough to see all of Sicily’s best.

Turns out, Sicily has always been the bread basket of Italy and driving through the island revealed a rolling landscape of fertile farms, vineyards, citrus and olive groves. Even if you don’t have 11 days, here are more than 11 things worth seeing and doing:

1. Visit the charming Contessa of the Palazzo Conte Frederico. Her family converted their Palazzo’s stables into Palermo’s most royal B&B.  She will be thrilled to host your private party and her love story with her husband will make you swoon.

Italy-Sicily-Palermo-B&B-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

2. Take the local pulse at bustling open markets and catch quaint domestic street scenes like this genius manual elevator.

Italy-Sicily-street-scene-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

3. The Cathedral of Monreale has 68,000 square feet of mosaics illustrating various passages from the Bible. Each tile measures about the size of the fingernail on your little finger. What’s even more amazing is  that the artisans of this Catholic church were Muslims imported from Constantinople–which explains why the work is similar to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.

Italy-Sicily-mosaic-church-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

4. The Sicilian Goddess of Pastry, Maria Grammtico, hosts group lunches and pastry baking demonstrations. Signora Maria was orphaned very young and had to work at a convent crushing almonds as a little girl. Her biography Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood tells how she turned the difficulties of her childhood into a literally sweet life.

Italy-Sicily-pastry-baking-Maria-Grammatico-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

5. If the kids tag along, this family of puppeteers in Ortigia will remind you of the Von Trapp family of the “Sound of Music” with their Italian productions.

Italy-Sicily-puppet-show-Sharon-Birke

Trivia for lovers of antiquity: Where do you find the world’s best preserved Greek ruins? Sicily, of course!  In the very long history of this strategically located island’s revolving door of ruling powers, the Greeks had their turn and a few of Sicily’s hills are littered with their art and architecture.

6. Sing an aria at Segesta’s amphitheater. With its incredible acoustics, you can hear the person on stage whisper even when you’re this far. And do notice the backdrop of mountain, sea and neighboring island off the horizon.

Italy-Sicily-Greek-ampitheater-Sharon-Birke

7. On the rolling hills of Agrigento, the Temple of Concordia stands majestic, looking out to the sea. If you’d rather not melt your wings in the heat like this fallen Icarus, visit Sicily off season. At night, this temple and its neighboring ruins are lit for your viewing pleasure as you sip a granita at your hotel terrace.

Italy-Sicily-Greek-temple-Icarus-Sharon-Birke

8. From the Roman chapter of Sicilian history remains the mosaic floors of the Villa Romana Del Casale from 500 BC. Carpet sellers could not possibly have made a penny from this family who had every inch of their 4,000 sq. feet covered with a variety of scenes and patterns. My favorite was the long hallway of now extinct exotic animals captured in Africa for the Roman extravaganzas at the Coliseum. The “Bikini Girls” in the next room are actually  female athletes of their time.

Italy-Sicily-Bikini-Girls-mosaic-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

9. “Passeggiata” is for people watching. In the early evening at every town especially on Sundays, locals meander down Main Street to say hello to each other and catch up with daily gossip.  Dress well for La Bella Figura, a good first impression and photo opportunities.

Italy-Sicily-church-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

10. Eat well and/or cook better! Learn how to make Arancino rice balls, caponata, fresh gelato, Sicilian pizza,… at the Nosco Culinary School in the hillside town of Ragusa.

Italy-Sicily-Nosco-cooking-class-Ragusa-Sharon-Birke

11. Can chocolate be made without heat, butter or artificial additives? Solve the mystery while chocolate tasting at Antica Dulceria Bonajuto in the town of Modica. Had to bring home their pistachio chocolate Easter Eggs.

Pistachio-chocolate-easter-eggs-Sharon-Birke

12. Wine tasting does not get more charming than in the company of the handsome father and twin sons who run the Benanti vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna. I love how the labels of their wine bottles  combine the family patriarch’s love of wine and Renaissance art.

Italy-Sicily-Benanti-wine-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

13. In Siracusa, whisper in the Ear of Dionisio or sing your heart out with a grand chorus.

Italy-Sicily-cave-Powerful-Goddess-Portraits

I didn’t even make it to Sicily’s beaches! Taormina is popular with its pebbles and if you prefer sand, head towards the Southern coast facing Africa.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Sicily travel tips.  La Dolce Vita Easter to you!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

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