Acropolicious: One Day in Athens

Our flight from London to Athens arrived at 10:30 PM, leaving us just enough time to get to our hostel in the city center before the metro closed for the night. Currently, I am on a ferry from Athens to Santorini, which we caught at 6 AM this morning. Between arrival and departure, we had one glorious day in the Grecian capital city I learned so much about in my youth (thanks to having Mrs. Gatton for Latin).

Our hostel was awesome. If you go to Athens, stay in City Circus. It’s well located and has the most comfortable hostel beds I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, they were downright fluffy. When we arrived we met Jessie, our new friend. She accompanied us to the Acropolis, our first destination, the next morning. Here’s a stadium on the way up and then the view of us with the Parthenon!

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It was a gorgeous, sunny day. Not even the mobs of tourists really got us down, although it was hard to avoid getting them in pictures. And don’t worry friends and fam, I put sunscreen on. My reflective skin lives to see another day (although my freckles have emerged with gusto).

According to Jessie’s phone, we walked about 5 miles (9,000 steps) — up and around the Acropolis and down again, through the Athenian streets. We stopped for lunch, having burned most of our calories. Our first choice table was taken, unfortunately for us…cats rule. This cat was the king of naps.

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We found a new table. The street was like an island paradise with the beautiful pastel buildings and the smell of barbecued meat wafting through the air. We got olives to start and tabouleh salad, appetizers, and a kebab to share as our meal.

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We went back to the hostel for some work and an afternoon snooze (it was already siesta time), and met our fourth roomie, Kati. She’s on the ferry with us now, heading to Ios (a famous party island) for 6 months. The four of us went to dinner on a rooftop with a view of the Acropolis and a super-friendly waiter.

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We then went for drinks with two Australian friends of Kati’s who own a bar on Ios, called “Lost Boys Bar.” They had been searching for antique pirate wheels during the day, preparing to head to the island for the busy Ios summer season.  I was reminded once again of why I love adventures: you can never predict the people you’ll meet! It’s also amazing to me how different our perspective on language and travel is from the European perspective on language and travel. We can learn a lot from them.

Next stop: Santorini!

Acropolicious: One Day in Athens

The City of Brighton & Hove

Most of my anglophone best friends from this year happen to be British. I was surprised, upon arrival, to find that they nearly outnumbered the Americans, as I’d been unaware that they had a similar program to TAPIF in Britain (and they can even do it as their year abroad, during their studies). Although we technically all speak English, having British friends was a linguistic adventure. Especially in the beginning, there were lessons to be learned about common words and phrases that either don’t exist or don’t have the same meaning in American English. For instance, “put the trash in the trash can,” becomes “put the rubbish in the bin.” Trucks are lorries, “pissed” refers to drunkenness rather than anger, and I am routinely asked to “come round for tea” instead of to come hang out over dinner. My best friend Laura, from Scotland, gave out tea towels with some fun Scottish words, like “numpty,” and “crabbit,” as a going away present. Even though language lumps us together, the similarities only go so far…and the UK and the US do have very different cultures.

Dana and I finally got to experience some UK culture during our Spring Break kickoff weekend by the sea, in Brighton, England. Officially, it’s, “the City of Brighton and Hove,” and it was originally designed as a “healthy” getaway for British socialites and aristocrats. It has since become a student city, with a lively nighttime scene and an arcade-and-amusement-park pier for families wanting a day or a weekend away from London (it’s only about an hour from there by train). There were freshly made churros and donuts (really, they made them before our very eyes), candy floss (cotton candy in British), crêpes, ice cream, burgers, and fish and chips aplenty!

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After a really long bus ride, Dana and I made our first stop the pier, for a game of DDR (Dance Dance Revolution, for those of you who weren’t 90s babes). I am sorely out of practice, so while Dana beasted “Difficult” I tripped over my feet next to her. We walked down by the ocean, the cries of seagulls and the smell of frying dough contributing to the vacationy ambiance.

This was, quite sadly, our last hurrah with our English friends. They were chaperoning a U of Valenciennes trip to England, so with students in tow we went out for a drink on the first night. It was a Saturday, and the streets were crazy! The bar we ended up in had a DJ but no dance floor…so we danced in our chairs. I discovered my new favorite cider, which is Swedish and comes in many fruity flavors.

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The next day, our only full day in the city, Dana and I wandered the “Lanes,” Brighton’s hipstery shopping streets. It was a European Portland — every road had at least one cute independent coffee shop advertising cold brew, stores full of vintage treasures and colorful Asian-inspired garment shops leaking incense into the street. I touched pretty much every beautiful leather handbag that crossed my path. It was an afternoon of longing gazes and angry exclamations about the pound to dollar conversion rate. And of course we had to stop at Starbucks for our midday beverage, as we’ve been deprived of it in France for so long.

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When in the UK, eat Indian food! So we heard, and so we did. Our curry dinner at the Curry Leaf Café was “quite spicy” and super delicious (with a little serving of yogurt for us spice wimps, that is). We later went with our friends to another Indian restaurant, The Chilli Pickle, where I got some honey-drizzled naan for an after dinner treat.

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And of course, our final meal had to be fish and chips — true English cuisine. We ate it on the beach, taking extra care to protect it from the doggedly nose-diving seagulls. It was battered to perfection, golden brown and crispy and best when drizzled in ketchup and vinegar, a perfect last meal of the weekend.

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The saddest part was saying au revoir to my dear lecteur friends, who I’ll only see one more time before I leave for my next adventure in Toulouse. It was a lovely last hurrah. I’m writing this post from the plane on the way to Athens, Greece, where we’ll be when I post my next post! Stay tuned for more Spring Break adventures.

The City of Brighton & Hove