Welcome to the first in a series of posts I have coming out on Greece. Farmer Nick is half Greek, which explains our crazy surname (Cambouropoulos), and he has been retracing his roots to near Athens. I’ll be sharing our journey with some lovely sunny photos to brighten up the winter months. Right now is peak summer booking time, I hope you’ll enjoy our adventure. If flying abroad isn’t for you, then why not join us in Cornwall, I think we will be staying here this year and enjoying some family day trips out from Coombe Mill.
Athens: A treat for our boys
It was 2.5 years ago now when Alistair, our eldest, finished his GCSE’s. We rewarded his effort by taking him and his choice of friend away to our favourite Honeymoon hotel in Devon, he chose to take his brother Felix and we all had a wonderful 2 nights away. Roll on 2 years and we had them both finishing A levels and GCSE’s. Upping the stakes somewhat we agreed it would be wonderful to go Athens and visit some of Nick’s relatives the boys had never met and make a little holiday of it. We booked 3 nights in Athens followed by 4 nights in the Peloponnese making the most of Nick’s Mum for her knowledge and connections there and her command of the Greek language. This was almost a year ago back in February 2016 and excitement was riding high as the exams finished and the holiday arrived.
Kifisia on the Outskirts of Athens
I have to confess I was rather worried about the economic situation in Greece and the impact on Athens with their desperate government debt, terrible unemployment (60% for under 25s) and refugee crises from Syria. We had treated ourselves to a lovely hotel in Kifisia with air conditioning and a pool that Nick’s Mum had stayed at many times before. It proved a great base at the end of the underground line allowing us to easily travel into the city centre but perfect to relax in the leafy suburbs at the end of the day.
Kifisia is a well to do area of Athens, rather like the Fulham of London. Here we encountered many boutique shops, bars and restaurants with a very continental and cosmopolitan feel and some huge houses with high walls and beautiful flowered gardens. I felt quite safe walking the streets during the day or night, though I always had Nick or one of the boys with me, largely because I have a hopeless sense of direction and found myself clueless on direction on more than one occasion! It felt much more prosperous than I had feared and the dust and dirt I remember from the Athens of 20 years ago was pleasantly absent.
For our days out it was about a 15 minute stroll to the underground station from our hotel followed by a 40 minute tube journey into central Athens. This cost just a couple of Euros for us all, was impressively clean, spacious, new and most importantly air conditioned! We made just one line change to take us right to the base of the Acropolis. There are only two lines so it is very easy after London. One terminates at Piraeus port and the other at the city beaches.
We spent both days in the centre covering the acropolis museum and the acropolis, meeting up with family and soaking up the buzz of the city. I have a separate post to follow on the Acropolis of Athens as this deserves more than a passing comment.
The Greeks are famous for their warm welcome and sense of family and belonging. Whether visiting relatives a couple of miles further out in Narathriar, where Nick’s Grandma once lived, or old friends and family in the city centre we were made to feel so welcome by all and treated to more food than we could eat. I had to say to the boys after a while to stop finishing everything on their plate as they would at home as it was taken as a sign they were still hungry and more plates being ordered. The city trip was completed for the boys when their cousins, who they had never met before the holiday, took them out clubbing on our last night. It is certainly a holiday they won’t forget and not everyone gets to go to a night club in Athens before they do in the UK! Safe to say after rolling in at 4am we had very tired boys on our drive south to the Peloponnese for the next leg of our holiday.
Tips for visiting Athens
We stayed in the Theoxania Palace at Kafisia. The hotel was perfect and a little bit of luxury. It is expensive but if you just book bed and breakfast and eat out in the local restaurants it is not so bad.
Having a pool was a real bonus after a few hour of sightseeing in the city.
We booked directly with the hotel by calling over the phone to secure the best price, but if you go online www.booking.com is the most common site used across Greece. English is widely spoken as a second language so calling to book directly is easy.
Reaching the centre of Athens by foot and tube takes an hour, but it is clean, cheap and air conditioned.
The local restaurants are reasonably priced and good and start from within a short stroll of the hotel.
We found Athens to feel safe and encountered no problems, however we met with others staying in a cheaper central region who had witnessed some scary night time scenes involving drugs and alcohol.
If we can afford it I would love to return when our younger children reach the same age and would choose the same hotel again.
This is not a trip I would recommend with young children in summer as it is very hot in the city: typically 34 degrees when we were there in early July.
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