March 9, 2013
A DAY IN PLAKA AND THE ELUSIVE MILKSHAKE
Today was quite a full day, even though I’m supposed to be relaxing because it’s Spring Break. My older sister, Jeannie, is visiting from Ireland, where she is living for the year, it was her last full day in Athens. When we all finally woke up, we ate a leisurely breakfast. I had sweet strawberries with tangy Greek yogurt, and my favorite juice, peach. After breakfast at about noon, we got outside to enjoy the day. We decided to head back towards the Acropolis and the area around it, called Plaka, so Jeannie could finish her souvenir shopping.
On the way to Plaka, we walked through Syntagma Square and the main shopping street, Ermou. It was so busy; there were hundreds of people strolling and meandering down the street going about their Saturday business. Ermou is technically a pedestrian-only street, but no Greeks follow that law. We kept having to quickly jog away from vehicles careening down the road. I was completely distracted by all the hustle of vendors and shopkeepers trying to get us to buy their products, but was still cautious of my pockets and my sister’s and dad’s things as well. Once we’d safely made it to a side street, directly off of Ermou, we found a café that had an open table (a rare find) and sat down to order coffees.
Jeannie and my dad ordered decaf cappuccino freddos (decaf iced-cappuccinos). I attempted to get a milkshake, but the waiter regretfully told me that they had run out of ice cream. I dolefully drank my water, just waiting for the next opportunity to have a milkshake. While we relaxed, the streets around us were not as subdued; I watched the “bubble man”, my inventive name for him. He had a bucket full of soap and a string; when he dipped the string into the bucket of suds and pulled it out there was a huge bubble that formed; some were over five feet long! The other main attraction was not as fun to watch. It was actually quite terrifying. A Greek man on a motorcycle drove through our café! He just revved his engine and rode straight through the outdoor tables. The waiter came out and yelled at the motorcyclist in Greek. It did not sound at all friendly.
Once we’d finished our drinks, we walked into Plaka, the souvenir shop extravaganza. Everywhere we looked there we little stalls selling cheap gifts and touristy jewelry. Even though it’s a complete tourist trap it’s still fun to go to every now and then. Especially since today was Jeannie’s last full day. My dad and I browsed while Jeannie shopped for gifts for her friends. We bargained with the shopkeepers, hoping to get a better deal. After we had shopped for a while and were dragging our feet, we stopped at a taverna on the main street that runs along the Agora. While we ate traditional Greek food: spanakopita (spinach pie), gigantes (giant beans in red sauce), and tzatziki (yogurt cucumber dip), we chatted about the things we bought and what we still had to get before the shops closed.
Instead of heading home the way we came, we decided to explore and take a bit of a longer route home. We ended up walking around to the far side of the Agora. On the main pedestrian street there were hundreds of little vendors and tables set up, each one offered jewelry, clothes, and even chia pets (little heads with seeds inside, when the plants grow the heads will look like they have hair). We meandered along inspecting each stall, hoping to find something worth our money. Alas, to no avail, we left that area empty handed, and with empty stomachs.
Because of all the walking, I was thirsty and was really craving a milkshake, especially since the sun was beating down on our backs. We found a little café and sat down. In the sun for Jeannie, but the shade for my dad and I. We sat for a good fifteen minutes, until finally a waiter came to take our order. I ordered my much-awaited strawberry milkshake. Excited for our refreshing drinks, we sat and relaxed. After at least twenty minutes, and still no drinks, we gave up and began walking again. I still didn’t have a milkshake! We walked up the same pedestrian street until we happened upon a gelato shop. We stopped of course. Jeannie and my dad got gelato. And I got my much-anticipated strawberry milkshake! It was a rather thin consistency, but the flavor was spot on. Super sweet and creamy. Yum!
We ate our dessert and strolled down the street. Jeannie saw a little path that seemed to cut in front of the Acropolis, but behind the Agora. Instead of heading home the long way, we took a chance on the path. As we walked, we were surrounded on either side by ancient ruins. We were only a fence’s distance away from the ruins in the Agora and only a few hundred yards from the Acropolis. It was the perfect way to head home; we could listen to the birds and enjoy our dessert and the view.
When we arrived back at our apartment we were over-tired from our long day of walking. Instead of eating out, we ordered delivery from our favorite pizza place, Mystic Pizza in Exarchia. While eating we watched a few episodes of our new TV obsession, Covert Affairs. It was the perfect way to end a perfect day. And I got my milkshake.