Among the occasional advantages of advancing age are the opportunities to return to special places, destinations with meanings from the past. I suspect that I look to see what has changed, and usually I have changed the most.
In my first visit to Athens and the Acropolis, images from books, study, and expectations came alive for my wife and me in the early 1980s. Both of us lovers of human history, we soaked up the words from our tour guides and called the visit one of our best trips.
My second tour was at the guiding hand of my art-history-educated daughter, after her graduation from college. That trip I saw through her eyes the wonders of Greek art and culture as she took it all in for the first time. “Dad, this is huge,” she kept saying, explaining yet another unknown to me.
This time, with fewer expectations, I returned to the wonder of the Acropolis, visited the outstanding new Acropolis Museum, then roamed the area around Monastiraki with a goal of relaxing and eating with the locals.
Choosing a budget hotel
I chose a good spot to sleep, at the venerable Cecil Hotel, well known to budget travelers. I reserved a single room at booking.com, paid 60 Euros (about $84 U.S.) a night for three nights, with free Internet and free breakfast.
Cecil’s best quality is location. You know you are in Greece as soon as you walk out the front door onto Athinas Street. It’s crowded and commercial. Sandwiches for about 3 Euros, coffee for 1 Euro. Clothing, hardware and other goods hang for sale over the sidewalk.
A few blocks from the Cecil is the amazing outdoor fresh fish and meat market, where I bought lunch and ate with market workers only a window from more raw carcasses than I had ever seen. Fresh salmon and a bowl of spinach was about 12 Euros.
When the sun shines, restaurants are packed
At nearby Monastiraki, you'll find hundreds of indoor/outdoor restaurants, some with a view of the Acropolis. I wonder if the people of Athens ever sip coffee or eat a meal at home.
In November, most restaurants surround their outdoor tables with heaters to keep customers warm. I ate well. In three days, I never spent more than 15 Euros (about $20 U.S.) for meals of shish kabob, souvlaki, pasta or fish, and a big glass of cold beer.
The new Acropolis Museum, by the way, is well worth a visit before you climb up to the Acropolis itself. Museum fee, 1 Euro (about $1.40 U.S.). Info, TheAcropolismuseum.gr.