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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
And all the butchers were so unbelievably friendly. It was a meat market in every sense of the word, and it was unintentionally hilarious.
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.
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.
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…
Up next… cruising the Aegean on the Louis Olympia!