Athens, Again

How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens.

— Alexander the Great

I’m so happy to report my recent visit to Athens was far less dramatic than anything Alexander the Great faced, and far less dramatic than my first visit. You may recall that Athens and I had a bit of a rocky start, as I was pickpocketed upon arrival in 2011. Having lost $400 and my credit cards, irreplaceable student ID and whatnot, back then I thought my affair with Athens might be more of a one-night stand. Knowing I really could’ve been more careful, I chalked up the incident as a valuable (and expensive) lesson learned. 

Prepping to speak at TBEX Athens

Prepping to speak at TBEX Athens

And pickpocketing or no pickpocketing, I certainly wasn’t going to say no to speaking at TBEX! I attended the first TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Chicago back in 2009 when it was just a ragtag group of traveling/writing misfits, so it was a huge honor to speak and share what I’ve learned since then, especially since the industry has changed so much in just a few short years.

The TBEX Athens keynote speech with Jaume Marin & Chris Christensen, two of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet

The TBEX Athens keynote speech with Jaume Marin & Chris Christensen, two of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet

Aside from a pretty ridiculous technology meltdown where the projector froze and we had to do the entire presentation without slides, my talk with TripIt Amy went really well.

IMG_5320

And now I can say, with all the gravity I can muster, that I’m in a prestigious group of orators who’ve spoken in Athens.

Technopolis - site of the epic TBEX opening night party

Technopolis – site of the epic TBEX opening night party

The problem with visiting a city for a conference? There’s never enough time to really explore! So I had to cram quite a bit of sightseeing (and eating) into just a few hours here and there.

At the Athens Agora

At the Athens Agora

The best way to get to know a destination is through its culinary traditions, so I signed up for a the Grand Food Tour with a handful of my TBEX-attending cohorts. Given my very public dislike of olives, it may surprise you that I willingly agreed to go on a food tour with a company called Big Olive. Alas… there was only one stop on the tour that featured the yuckiest produce to come out of the Mediterranean region, so I was not too bothered.

Olives. Blech.

Olives. Blech.

The rest of the 3-hour walking tour focused on items I’m much happier to eat, like Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. I’ve been eating this one for breakfast almost every day since I returned!

Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, my favorite breakfast

Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, my favorite breakfast

We breezed through the Athens Central Market in between restaurants, and I confess I could’ve spent a whole afternoon there snapping pictures of seafood & meats I didn’t always recognize.

IMG_5250 Athens Central Market

And all the butchers were so unbelievably friendly. It was a meat market in every sense of the word, and it was unintentionally hilarious.

Athens Central Market
Bonus! My tour guide was a total Ed Norton lookalike

Bonus! My tour guide was a total Ed Norton lookalike

I waited until my last day in Athens to wander over to the Acropolis, partially because I was just crazed with conference pre-parties, parties, post-parties and oh, actually giving my speech! And partially because an Acropolis visit wasn’t a priority, since I’d been there on my first visit.

Return to the Acropolis. Always awesome.

Return to the Acropolis. Always awesome.

Still, its perch above the city makes the ancient hill & its structures a focal point no matter where you are. Instead of checking out something new (well, as new as anything can be in Athens), I went back and spent the whole morning wandering and reflecting.

Clouds swirling around the Acropolis

Clouds swirling around the Acropolis

As above, so below. You never realize how big the Acropolis is until you're right there in it.

As above, so below. You never realize how big the Acropolis is until you’re right there in it.

My stay in Athens was all too short, as was my time with all the folks at TBEX. These conferences are wonderful for connecting with new and old friends, but gosh, I never feel like I have enough time to really sit down and have quality time with everyone. I guess that’s what post-TBEX trips are for…

A group shot. Some of my favorite people in the world are in this bunch!

A group shot. Some of my favorite people in the world are in this bunch!

Up next… cruising the Aegean on the Louis Olympia!

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • December 05, 2014

    What an adventure! I’ve always wanted to visit Greece and am trying to plan a larger Europe trip this summer. Sounds like you had an amazing time!

    Audrey | http://www.keygypsy.com

  • December 05, 2014

    Great to hear this experience of Athens was a lot better than the last one.

    Full credit to you too being invited to speak at the conference, sorry that I missed that. It looks as though there were a lot of delegates there so you had a great crowd to connect with.

    I’ve seen a few bits of Greece but not quite Athens yet. Maybe with your next conference you could tag an extra day or two onto the front or back of your trip for more sightseeing?

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