Ok guys. This post has had me so excited. And it has taken me forever to put the photos together. Mainly because there were so many of them! And with views like these, they were all stunning. But here we have it: our Grecian Getaway!
As you can see, we stayed in the most incredible location just over 26 miles outside of Athens, near Marathon Beach- the starting site of the original marathon and the race at the first modern Olympic games. The modern use of the word “marathon” – the 26.2 mile race- gets its name from this location and the comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a soldier who ran to Athens to proclaim that the Greeks had been victorious at the Battle of Marathon.
This location was generously provided by my Aunt Lana- an Athenian, through and through- and her husband, Michael. The two purchased this property when the house was left only partially completed and have transformed it into a drool-worthy, Conde Naste Traveler caliber home, perched on a cliff side with a truly priceless view. Our gracious host and hostess were, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip- they put us up in the guest room that walked out onto the pool deck, allowed us free reign over the entire property, and showed us some of the most spectacular places in the area each evening. Without them to guide us around, we never would have thought to visit any of the places we did. I feel like we were given the ultimate VIP experience!
The best part about our hosts is that this was the first time either of us had ever met them! My cousin- Lana’s son- and I became fast friends after reconnecting a few years ago. He came to visit us in Helsinki (we put him on a blow up mattress….and they gave us this house! I feel terribly!) and then we went with him down to Athens for the first weekend of his week-long stay with his family. Initially, we were not sure what to expect and felt a bit like intruders, but we were welcomed with open arms (and flowers!) and made to feel as if we were all old friends. Which is certainly how we felt when we left just a few short days later.
Obviously, you can see that there is no shortage of stunning vistas or relaxing terraces. That we were only there for a weekend seems like it was almost a crime! I started each morning with a few chapters in my book out on one of the lounge chairs by the pool. Really, I hardly read a thing, because I couldn’t stop looking up and getting lost in the view! Can you blame me?
Then, as the house began to stir, I moved to the shaded breakfast terrace to sip coffee and chat with my long-lost family. We all got along as if this was not our first meeting but like this was, in fact, just a usual reunion.
Breakfast was soon followed by a pass through their tropical gardens, perhaps while finishing up our second or third cups of coffee. As you might guess, the transition from breakfast and coffee to pool and beers followed shortly thereafter.
Chris was our lunch and cocktail chef, putting together souvlaki one day and a gorgeous spread of fresh calamari and local sausage (accompanied by Lana’s traditional and local side-dishes) the following day.
Exploring the world should always be a multi-sensory experience…and my favorite sense to employ is easily and always taste. I love to eat and I love to get the full flavor of every place we visit. No calorie is ever wasted if the meal is incredible. And on this trip in particular, every meal hit the mark. Local, fresh and accompanied with one of the best locations in Greece, great conversation, and welcoming company.
And then, of course, lunch was followed by more of the same- swimming, exploring and even some cliff jumping in the Aegean Sea, just below the house.
Michael and Lana have a stunning side garden, as you can tell, and they have a number of lemon trees, literally dripping with over-ripe lemons. I was so excited to help harvest some of the lemons off of the trees for Chris to use to make a fresh, lemon-y cocktail. Something about that Mediterranean sun- the lemons were so buttery and smooth. I wish I could have packed my suitcase full of the yellow peels of sunshine!
In the evenings, our gracious host and hostess took us out to show us the real Greece. Certainly, the evening could not commence without a fresh and lemon-y cocktail on one of the stunning, sweeping terraces. After cleaning up and cocktails, we were treated with some of the best food and sights in Greece.
On our first evening, we ate in one of the nearby villages. We were seated oceanside- literally, with the soft waves lapping up to our table on a low patio. Lana and Michael were good friends with the owner and took care of ordering the freshest items of the day. Chris and Lana even went to investigate the freshness of the fish and found that it was more than satisfactory. We dined first on various pates and dips, fresh calamari, and vegetables. The fish followed, and was drizzled table side with a lemon and olive oil sauce. It was divine. The best part- you may guess- was the lemon. Something about those fresh Grecian lemons!
On our second night, Lana and Michael took us in to Athens for the evening. We took our cocktails on this evening atop the Grande Bretagne Hotel, which offered a stunning view of the Acropolis at sunset. A while later, we rejoined the hustle of the city and took a stroll around town- past the Olympic Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games, around the base of the acropolis, by the Acropolic Museum, and through to a cyprus lined walk. We ended up in streets lined with al fresco diners under dim lamps, all with a view of the acropolis, glowing above the city.
If we have the good fortune to return to Greece, I will certainly plan a day to be spent in Athens in order to visit the ruins, walk the markets, and take in more of the city. From the short evening we spent in the city, I completely fell in love- which I was not expecting. I had heard so much about Athens being dirty, loud and dangerous but I found it to be full of energy, friendly people and endless beauty. Like most large cities, of course, some caution should be taken against pickpockets, etc, and I perhaps may not have wandered the streets without a real Athenian guide, but I found the city to be fascinating.
On our final night, we took a drive away from the coast line, up into the mountains, where we stopped at the Marathon Dam, which helps to create Marathon Lake, a reservoir that supplies Athens with water at the time it was built. Right next to the dam, there is a darling little restaurant where we paused for coffees and aperitifs while the sun set over the lake.
We closed out our whirl-wind weekend with dinner at- what I was initially told and later confirmed- was the best restaurant in Greece. Just as with every previous place we had been, Lana and Michael were regulars and received warm welcomes from the host, waiters and even chef. We were joined by another Greek family who are good friends with the group, and ate rounds and rounds of incredible dishes that I cannot name, accompanied by rounds and rounds (and rounds) of tsipouro- a clear liquor to quench even the most Herculean thirst.
We had such a wonderful time in Greece, and we only saw such a small part of the beautiful country in such a short amount of time. If you ever have the opportunity to travel with a local, always say yes! Even if you don’t know them! It is such a unique experience that you are unlikely to ever have on your own.
Thank you so so much to our incredible hosts for opening their home and hearts to us. I can not imagine having a better weekend!