Showing posts with label Athens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Athens. Show all posts

Monday, April 8, 2019

Athens Overload ~ Finding the Astounding Beyond the Acropolis (Part 1)

'Really, after the Acropolis what is there to see in Athens?' we've been asked back in the States.

I chuckled over that question last weekend when I heard myself saying whining to The Scout, "My feet hurt and my head is full - I need a break - I can't absorb anything else for a few hours." We'd not gone anywhere near the Acropolis and yet. . .

I was on Athens Overload.

Now I'll admit the Acropolis, the towering icon of this city and considered the most important ancient site in the Western world, is pretty darn magnificent.  Gazing at it from afar never grows old. We do it from rooftop bars, street-level restaurants and every chance we get when we're in Athens.

Acropolis at night - Athens
Gazing at it is one thing. Visiting the Acropolis, which dates back to Neolithic times (4000 to 3000 BC), can be almost too much to wrap your head around even for the most devoted history buffs. A climb up the pathway to view its centerpiece, the Parthenon, can leave you breathless - both literally and figuratively. 

Entry to the Acropolis Museum has viewpoints to the ancient world below it
The Acropolis Museum at its base is so layered with history that it really requires more than one visit to absorb it all.

This trip we were in search of answers to the question asked by friends in the States - just what else does this city have to offer. With at least 10 neighborhoods calling out to be explored we picked one closest to our hotel and set off. This is some of what we saw during our long-weekend in the big city. It didn't take us long to conclude. . .

There is so much more to Athens than the Acropolis!

Syntagma Square Athens

A plus side to being ex pats in Greece is that Athens is four hours from our home in the Peloponnese. It has become a favorite getaway. Each time we are there, we declare that we must return soon as there is simply so much to see and do!

Kolonaki district between Syntagma Square and Lykavittos Hill

Kolonaki District: Museums and More Museums. . .

On this trip, we found ourselves drawn to the Kolonaki District which sits between Syntagma (Constitution) Square and Lykavittos Hill. Because our hotel was located at Syntagma Square, we had only to cross the street to enter this chic, upscale district that has global designer brand stores, cafes and bars that could rival London's High Street or Paris's Champs-Elysees. It is also laced with other treasurers as we soon found out.

Palace of Ilion/Numismatic Museum of Athens
Feeling much like we were setting out on a 'treasure hunt', our first 'discovery' was within a few blocks of our hotel. We came upon what appeared to be a mansion sitting amid a picturesque garden. It was a mansion in a garden and is now home to the Numismatic Museum of Athens and showcases  one of the largest collections of ancient coins in the world.

The garden is now home to a café - worth a stop even without the museum
While coins weren't the draw initially, the mansion itself prompted us to shell out 3 euros each to get inside what had been the home of German businessman Heinrich Schliemann, the man credited with discovering Troy in 1868. (Actually, he discovered Hisarlik, the place believed to be Troy.)

The man's fascination with Troy was reflected in the 1881 mansion's décor as well as its name,  Iliou Melathron, (Palace of Ilion), Ilion was the ancient city believed to be the site of the Trojan War.

Numismatic Museum - Athens

You need one trip through the place to look at the architecture and décor. Then another to concentrate on the coin collections, which turned out to be amazingly intricate pieces of metal artwork, so old it boggled the mind. Some were in circulation back in Troy, others during the time of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy, and others from the Peloponnesian War . . .and that is just to name a few. The ambiance and the displays kept us there longer than we could have imagined.

There's a café in the garden with tables scattered about what was once the Mansion's back yard. You need not go to the Museum to enjoy a cup of coffee sitting in 'the garden of the Muses'.

Benaki Museum - Athens

It was about the second hour of our visit and while on the third or fourth floor of the Benaki Museum ( the following day that my head filled to capacity and my feet cried out for rest. The Benaki Museum, reputed to be Greece's finest private museum and housed in a stately old building three blocks from Snytagma Square, offered us a chance to see hundreds of excavated relics, take a walk through the country's war history, and see up close textiles and lifestyles of centuries past.  We skipped the visiting exhibition not for lack of interest, but lack of energy.We had underestimated the size of the collections and the vast amount of information they carried.

Life-sized display Benaki Museum

Tickets at the time of our visit were: 9 euro; 7 for us who are 65 and older. The visiting exhibition had an additional charge.  There is an upstairs café with balcony where one can rest and renew.

Entry to Museum of Cycladic Art - Athens
Just a couple blocks further we came upon The Museum of Cycladic Art, ( another private museum housed in such a beautiful building that we were tempted. . .but wisely decided a museum a day was all we could appreciate.

There are nearly 100 museums in Athens ranging from its famous National Archeological Museum to others that showcase, for example, religion, criminology, folk art, marine, and telecommunications. You wouldn't be disappointed in either of the two we visited and we do recommend them. If they don't appeal, try a couple of the others, but do take advantage of at least a few of those the city has to offer.

Worshipping Dionysos

Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysos
Now you all probably recognize Dionysos as the God of Wine. But did you know about Dionysius, a judge on the Areopagus (Supreme Court) in Athens in the First Century. He was converted to Christianity by the Apostle St. Paul. He ultimately became a priest, a bishop and philosopher of Christianity.  It was the church dedicated to him that we found ourselves as we wandered the streets of Kolonaki.

Floor Mosaic - Church Entryway

We'd set out to walk the neighborhood with no destination in mind, no timetable, no guidebooks. We did carry a map as it is easy to get turned around in Athens. We simply happened upon the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius, which turned out to be a gem of a find.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Dionysius - Athens

Greek churches and the members of the congregations we've encountered are welcoming to visitors who are dressed appropriately and who take photos discreetly (and who don't take photos when services are underway!). We pretty much had the church to ourselves so we explored the icons, the art and soaked up the ambiance. And learned a bit of church history as well!

Working up a Thirst

We'd worked up a thirst as we explored the dozens of blocks that make up the Kolonaki district.  Cafes and coffee shops line the streets. So many, that we often wonder aloud how they all can stay in business. And so many that it is difficult to choose just one to experience. We've picked several 'favorites' in central Athens and I wouldn't begin to try and recommend just one.

Café Arcade at City Link - Athens

I can tell you that one of our favorite places for sipping coffee or wine is the covered arcade -- home to a half dozen cafes --at City Link just a block from Syntagma Square. City Link -- a retail and entertainment center -- was the end result of a massive renovation project that turned the old Military Pension Fund Building into one of the more popular areas of downtown Athens. The arcade sits next to the, The Pallas Theatre, built in the early 1930's and now a part of City Link.  Doesn't matter what time of day we visit, the vibe is one of life and vitality. People watching doesn't get any better.

Sidewalk cafes line the streets

I don't want to have you suffering from the same Athens Overload that I did so I am going to save the tale and photos of our market and shopping expedition for next week and make this a two-part report.  We thank you for the time you've spent with us and always appreciate your comments. We are curious . . .have you spent time in Athens and if so, what districts are your favorites and why?

A big welcome to our new followers and also for those who've signed up to receive the posts as emails.

Safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Athens ~ a bit of grit and a bit of glam

“Travel and change of place impart a new vigor to the mind.”
                                        -- Seneca

The quote above reminds me that it is time to get back to writing about travel, the topic that gave birth to this blog in the first place.

It seems we focused most of the last year – with a few carefree intervals – on downsizing our life and shifting residences from one continent to another. While it’s been an amazing process it has cut into travel. . .the kind that provides new adventures and packing suitcases, not moving boxes.

Acropolis from the Electra Palace Hotel roof bar/restaurant
Now that we are settled on both sides of the Atlantic, it is time to hit the road again on this side ‘of the pond’. Luckily a couple of travel-enthused friends from Canada gave us the nudge we needed to pack the bags and head to Athens for a rendezvous with them last week.

Getting to Athens from our house can be done in a number of ways. In summer season, there are flights between Kalamata and Athens, but this time of year you either drive, take the public bus or hire a shuttle. We set out on the 3.5 hour road trip in our trusty Hi, Ho Silver, our Toyota RAV.

Traffic jams were routine in downtown Athens
Since neither of us like downtown Athens traffic – The Scout is the driver and I am the navigator -- we park at the Airport, (some 33km or 20.5 miles out of town) and take the airport shuttle bus to the heart of the city. We get in a bit of sightseeing while someone else does the driving.  Traffic on the weekday afternoon we arrived was bumper-to-bumper – it took the shuttle bus twice the normal time to get us into the heart of the city.

Athens, capital of Greece, had a population of 4.1 million at last count in 2012.

Since we moved to Greece we have been guilty of treating this town as being one from where we depart its airport and return to pick up our car. As other travel enthusiast friends commented, “Once you’ve seen the sights (Acropolis, for instance) what else is there to do?”

Well, let me tell you with only the three days we had in this city we didn’t have time to do all that we could have, which means we’ll just have to return there again – hopefully soon! And we didn't even get to any of those famous sites!

A Bit of Grit and a Bit of Glam

Big cities and graffiti seem to go hand-in-hand
Like all big cities Athens has a gritty side.  Graffiti and street people. However we saw similar amounts of graffiti in Rome and Lisbon  - if not more - and far more homeless sleeping on sidewalks in Honolulu than we did in Athens.

Street art is taking over graffiti scenes
As for that graffiti. Some wise city folks are working to turn that destructive art into an attraction by encouraging street art. An enterprising street artist named Sophia now leads street art walking tours. But it is really quite easy to find many examples by strolling the streets on your own as we did.

Spotted a couple blocks from Syntagma Square

Athens is the UNESCO World Book Capital 2018 and has put together a year-long program of events celebrating the written word.

PicMonkey Collage
High-end shops line the boulevards of Athens

Window shopping kept us entertained as we strolled the areas surrounding Syntagma Square. We are talking high end shops. . .Paris’s Champs Elysees had better take note – this place just might offer a bit more glam these days than do the storefronts along that famous Paris boulevard!

The decade's old  Zonar's Café between Syntagma and Kolonaki district
Much like Paris, there’s no end to sidewalk cafes – perfect spots to spend a couple of hours in contemplation, conversation or people watching.

Athens at more than 4,000 years of age claims it is the birthplace of Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, Music and Poetry.

It is when the sun goes down that Athens comes to life – restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars were filled and the pedestrian streets were crowded with shoppers and those out for their evening stroll.

Spotted on Ermou Street near our hotel
We followed the advice of another traveling friend (and the Michelin 2018 guide) and dined one night at 2 Mazi in the Plaka district, an easy four blocks from Syntagma Square.  The food and wine pairing was perfect, a distinctly modern touch to Greek favorites. We’ll be recommending it to all who visit Athens in the near future.

PicMonkey Collage
2 Mazi is worth a visit
Several places where we tried to have a glass of wine, were completely booked and required reservations. I’m no longer worried about Athens being able to recover from the economic collapse a decade ago. She’s back and maybe better than ever.

You'll need a reservation here 
It seemed we barely touched the surface of all that Athens has to offer. We certainly made note of some places that will tempt us on a future trip. Maybe next time we’ll bring some fancy ‘big city’ clothes and dine at the King George Hotel. . .instead of just walking through it as we did this trip.

King George Hotel restaurant
And we’ll make it a point to check out the performing arts. . .especially after having happened upon this performance as we walked past a theatre one afternoon.

Not all dancing is to Zorba's theme song in Greece
We divided our stay between two of the three Electra Hotels that are located within walking distance of Syntagma Square. This Greek hotel chain (with one property in Thessaloniki as well) has developed their properties so each has a rooftop deck with enclosed space and open air seating for drinking and/or dining. . .and breakfast buffets are included in the room price.

Breakfast with a view at the Electra Hotel
After this 'taster trip'  I’d had a plan to come back and see the city decked out at Christmas, but you know The Scout and The Scribe can be unpredictable when it comes to travel. Our plans changed just yesterday.  I’ll tell you more about our upcoming December travel adventure soon -- for now just know it is set in the Middle East!!

Thanks for your time and we look forward to having you back with us again next week when we’ll take you on another Peloponnese road trip to a destination we haven’t yet decided upon yet. But I know we are going somewhere! (Isn’t that a great way to travel? Or do you need to have your travel plans set out in advance? Let us know in the comment section or shoot us an email – as always we love hearing from you!)

Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Buying a Car in Greece ~ Hi Ho Silver and Away!

Sitting and sipping at our favorite hotel rooftop bar in downtown Athens, the accents of the foursome next to us were unmistakably American.  A few more sips, a bit more sunset and a conversation commenced:

“What brings you to Athens?” we asked. 

“We are taking a cruise from here,” they answered, “How about you? Are you taking a cruise?”

“No, we are here to buy a car,” our response caused a collective intake of breath at their table.

“We live here,” we added, trying to put the answer in perspective. (Another audible intake from the foursome.)

View of the Acropolis from the Electra Palace Hotel's rooftop restaurant/bar
Admittedly, ours wasn’t  the routine response from a couple of Yanks sitting at a bar in Greece. But we are finding that our life isn’t quite as ‘routine’ as it once was.  In fact, shopping for a car when living in the rural Peloponnese of Greece is far from routine. 

A Bit of Backstory

Teeny, tiny rental cars work well on teeny, tiny roads

We’ve been part-time ex pats for almost three years. During that time we’ve rented a variety of cars. Timing our stays with ‘off season’ tourism we've had some great rates. Sometimes as low as 15-euros a day for a tiny car to navigate tiny roads.

You dread this but it happens and you must pass each other
But over the course of a three month stay -- as is allowed in Schengen Countries -- that begins to add up even with the best of deals. And renting an automatic so that The Scribe could share driving duties with The Scout  was cost prohibitive.

PicMonkey Collage
The road to The Stone House on the Hill is getting worse, not better
We were ready to tackle the car purchase a year ago but just before we returned to our Stone House on the Hill, the area was hit by whats known as ‘the 100 year storm’.  The road to our house was trashed. There’s been no sign of repairs and the road continues to deteriorate.Tiny low-slung cars were no longer an option for our tiny  obstacle-course road.

We needed a tiny SUV.

We hit a reality roadblock last autumn when we learned: we could buy a home in Greece on a tourist visa but we couldn't buy a car.  We needed a resident permit before car dealers would talk to us. You regulars here know that we spent months on our ‘road-trip to residency’ , beginning it instead of the car search last September and ending it last June. Then we returned to the States.

Some of you've been with us long enough to remember that the car pictured below had come with the house when we purchased it but when it came time to register it in our names, it couldn’t be done. We sold it when its annual registration came around.
"Our" Diahatsu came as part of the house purchase

One Year Later. . . Autumn 2017

Back on the hunt again and armed with our residency permits, we decided a used Toyota RAV 4 or a Suzuki Vitara would do the trick both in performance and price - and both models came with automatic transmissions. In addition to the purchase price and registration costs, Greece imposes an annual ‘road tax’ based on engine size and an additional ‘luxury tax’ on cars less than 10 years old. Gasoline prices are about $7 a gallon here. (Why used? The price of a new RAV ranges from 34,000 – 42,000 euros, that’s $39,434 – $48,712 – more than we planned to spend!).

It wasn’t long before we realized. . .

We Aren’t in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

Roads in our area lead to delightful mountain villages
Unlike in the United States where you can find both new and used cars at a dealer, like Toyota; in Greece dealers sell new cars and used cars are sold from a multitude of used car lots.

There’s one major on-line used car site to which we were referred time and time again. So it became our search engine as it offered ads in both Greek and English. However we did have some translating of the translations to do:

“Living room: beige with skin” finally made sense: the car’s interior is beige with leather seats. Simple, right?

Some like this one left us wondering:  “Special prices for unemployed triplets large.” (We didn’t pursue that one!)

Then came the matter of fuel options:  diesel, gasoline AND propane; sometimes a combination of gas and propane were offered. Propane is commonly used to run autos in Greece. Whoa! We are talking a tank like that which holds fuel for the barbeque in the States. And you drive around with it in the back of your car! I read up on their fuel efficiency, safety and mileage BUT I couldn’t wrap my head around a high pressure tank of propane taking up space in the back of the car. (Before you ask: electric powered cars are not an option in rural Greece.)

So our requirements now included: gas or diesel fuel and an automatic transmission. We hoped one might be found among the 34 used RAV’s available throughout Greece on our trusty used-car website. There were fewer Vitaras.

While we were told Greeks don't drive automatics someone certainly is because several times in the course of the last few months, we'd 'find' a car, call and be told it was already sold. Or it was not yet on the lot. Or no one spoke English at the company and we didn't know if they had a car or not . . .this wasn’t going to be simple.

Image result for maps of greece and islands
34 Toyota RAVs were available throughout Greece - a pretty big stretch for a search

Greece’s recent economic downslide has impacted car sales. We were told the numbers of annual new car sales have dropped to 80,000 from the 300,000 annually prior to 2008. But this drop in sales seems to have impacted all of Europe where business articles reported sales of 12.6 million cars in 2015 was two-thirds of sales in 2007. Car sharing, the economy and young people losing interest in cars were all cited as contributing factors to a decline in new car sales.

Bottom line: fewer new cars sold, fewer used cars available.

Third Time is a Charm

Focusing on Athens and its suburbs, we had two unsuccessful ventures (both 'adventures' but I will spare you the unpleasant details) to look at cars. Bottom line: we couldn’t even find the lots – and yes, we were using GPS!  Driving in Athens isn’t for sissies and finding a car lot was insanity at its finest moment. On both occasions we snarled and snapped at each other until we figured out how to get ourselves back to the freeway and returned to The Mani – in our rental car.

Mr. Nikos and The Scout discuss cars at his sales lot in Glyfada
Two weeks ago we used a different approach. We turned in the rental car at the Athens Airport, took the airport express bus into town and after a night of enjoying Athens as tourists, we  set out at 9 a.m. Monday in a taxi for a used car lot in the suburb of Glyfada (knowns as 'Athens Riviera'). Even the taxi driver, using GPS, took us to a vacant building on his first try. Eventually we arrived at the lot. A salesman named Nikos spoke English and assured us that the car we wanted to see was still for sale and in the back of the lot sat. . .

Hi Ho Silver and Away!
. . .a 2011 automatic Toyota RAV4 with sunroof, heated leather seats and so many whiz-bang features that it seemed like brand-new in comparison to the 2005 Camry we drove in the United States.

It took two days to complete the registration and obtain the license plates and purchase car insurance. During that time staff members took turns driving us between the sales lot, the insurance office, and the Toyota dealership (where the car underwent a pre-sale check). They even dropped us off and picked us up from the tourist area of Glyfada so we could sightsee instead of sitting at the dealership while waiting for the car inspection to be completed.

It took two full days, but at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, we were heading back to The Mani in our car. Mission accomplished!

Hi Ho Silver and Away. . .

The car’s silver color prompted my christening it, Hi Ho Silver. Inspired by a television show back in our childhoods that featured a ‘Lone Ranger' and his horse, Silver, (a fiery steed with the speed of light). The Lone Ranger would leap into the saddle and command, 'Hi Ho Silver and away!' (A phrase I plan on using each time we set off on a road trip to explore Greece and neighboring countries!)

That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill.  Thanks for joining us on yet another adventure in ex pat life in Greece.   Hey, if any of you have an owners manual – in English – for a 2011 Toyota RAV4 laying around and want to send it to us, we’ll reimburse you for the postage!
Until we are together again, safe travels to you and yours. . . Hi Ho Silver and Away!!

Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here Comes the Bride, Wedding Guests . . . and Tourists

Just like kittens, wine glasses and sunsets, I can’t pass up a good wedding photo. Can you? It doesn’t even have to be anyone I know, as evidenced by this post. And I am seldom alone in my efforts –  other tourists seem to be as taken with the scene unfolding before them as I am.

I should have this shutter-finger reaction because I am a romantic and love weddings. But I don't. We simply enjoy watching the drama surrounding those perfectly posed wedding photos. Those images that will lock the day’s events into picture-perfect history.

Destination weddings have become big ticket tourism in the United States.  Gone are the days of the traditional church wedding with the couple jetting off alone for a honeymoon destination – nowadays the wedding, the guests and honeymoon merge into one far-away affair.

PicMonkey Collage
Undeveloped lagoon at KoOlina; the alter for a wedding in the photo on the right

Hawaii is one of the destination that attracts thousands to its sandy shores for the all-inclusive wedding and honeymoon events. A research manager for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, quoted in an on-line news article, reported that 27,000 Japanese couples married in Hawaii in 2010.


That’s not surprising based on what we’ve seen there recently. At KoOlina, the resort on O’ahu’s west coast where we spend several weeks each winter, there’s a steady stream of limousines bringing wedding parties to the small wedding chapels strategically located throughout the development. Each chapel just footsteps from one of the four lagoons that are on the property. Often times the wedding photos include backdrops of semi-naked sun-basking tourists like the one below. It was taken front of the wedding chapel located next to Disney’s Aulani Resort (that high rise building in the background is the former JW Marriott Ihilani, soon to be Four Seasons).
KoOlina Wedding
Depending on number of guests and amenities (like bridal bouquets, chairs for guests and photographers) the prices quoted on the KoOlina Weddings web site range from $5,600 to $9,000.  Not bad when compared to the average cost of a wedding alone in the United States being somewhere in the range of $28,000 to $30,000 (depending on the source of your statistics).
Oahunorthshore2013 004
KoOlina wedding
We’ve been spotting destination (and a few local) weddings almost everywhere we’ve been in recent years. Like our cruise ship stop in Catania, Italy where the wedding party dog stole the show from the bride and groom:

PicMonkey Collage
In Greece we happened upon weddings in small villages as well as the big city.

View of Kardamyli's Historic old town - Peloponnese, Greece
From our hotel room in Kardamyli a small town in the Mani region of the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece we overlooked the old town section with its newly renovated tower.  One day while admiring the view we couldn’t help but notice a flurry of activity among the historic buildings.  A closer look, showed us what was happening: wedding photos.

Kardamyli, Greece
During a stop in Athens, we  headed to the Acropolis – one of our favorite strolling places in town.

Athen's Acropolis
As we strolled its perimeter and approached the nearby Areopagus or Mars Hill, we noticed far more tourists clamoring on it than we’d seen on earlier visits.

Areopagus is the hill from which St. Paul preached about the identify of the “Unknown God” to the Athenians in 52 A.C; a time Athens was occupied by the Romans. It is named for Ares, the god of war, (known to the Romans as Mars). Ares, as the story goes, was tried on this marble hill for the murder of Poseidon’s son who had violated his daughter.

Areopagus, or Mars Hill, Athens, Greece
Zooming in on the beehive of activity, I realized we were witnessing yet another ‘destination wedding’ photo shoot – this one a stumbling, bumbling affair as groomsmen swayed back and forth trying to get a foothold on the uneven surface. Several times they rescued the bride and her dress as they jockeyed for a position in front of the camera and out of the way of other tourists.

Ooops, almost. . .

Not quite ready for that photographer (hidden behind the bush to the left) to snap some photos. . .


No, not yet. . .enough! We couldn’t watch anymore. We continued our stroll.

As interesting as it sounds, I don’t think we could have done a destination wedding, way back when we married. How about you? Destination wedding? If so, where was it? Or where would it be?

That’s it for today from us.  We’re still busy with projects at The Stone House on the Hill and will tell you more about it and our cruise in future posts. But with June being the 'wedding month' I thought I'd share some of these wedding moments with you. Thanks for your time and welcome to all of our new followers!! Happy Travels to you.

This week if the internet gods are with us, we are linking up with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Snippets: Greece Has Got Talent!

We had the good fortune to meet a number of interesting people while traveling through Greece.  As most of you who travel will likely agree, some of the most interesting things happen in the most unlikely settings. . .

Syntagma Square - May 1st 2014
We’d set out on foot to explore Athens on that May 1st Labor Day; a holiday of sorts when many workers were ‘on strike’ and gathered in Syntagma Square. Others simply weren’t working and most stores were closed.

We strolled the pedestrian-friendly Ermou Street that leads from Syntagma Square (and fronted our hotel) then looped our way through tree-lined boulevards and past small urban parks.

However as we walked through the popular-with-tourists-area of Plaka we were drawn to an art and jewelry store - first by the window displays and then by a friendly employee whose smile was sunshine.

We weren’t really shopping for anything, we told him. . .didn’t need anything else in the suitcases.  He didn’t mind – ‘take your time’ – he said as he explained the intricacies of various objects.

The conversation was the usual: Him: Where you from? How long are you here? Us: Were you born in Athens? Where are you from?

And then somewhere in the chit-chat we learned he was a singer – a real-live singer. He is hired to sing at weddings and other celebrations and has regular weekend ‘gigs’ at a few places he named for us. Elvis, Frank Sinatra . . .he can sing them all.  And to prove it he broke into song, singing Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” for us right there in the middle of the showroom.

The Scout with Nikos Georgas
And then Nikos Georgas, who is in his late 50’s, told us that he was named the 2010 winner of Greece Has Got Talent, (a show much like the American version)  At that news, I told this Grecian crooner I had to take his photo so he insisted The Scout pose with him.

We had liked a couple of objects and told him we would think about them and perhaps return. He replied, “That’s fine. I am a singer – not a salesman.” And then added, “When you get home you can find me on You Tube.”

You know what? We did. And here’s a link to the winning announcement – it is in Greek, but you will understand it no matter what language you speak – do check out this amazingly talented man. Stick with it for a sample of his many songs.
Have you ever had a similar unexpected pleasure in an unlikely place? We’d love to hear about it.


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