Christina's House in Filoppapou
I have long-time friends in Athens and one of them is Christina, a Swedish woman who has lived there for years, formerly working in the tourism industry. When her daughter, Daniella, was a toddler, I used to baby sit for her. (She's now a gorgeous teen-ager!). I have often stayed at Christina's house in the Koukaki district, but last year she moved up the street and around the corner to this other house in Filoppapou. There's a little courtyard up on the second level out back where we spend a lot of time relaxing and catching up on news.
Carola, Christina and me at the To Kati Allo Taverna
One of the places all the friends tend to gather, is a tavern on Hatzichristou Street, Magrianni, just outside of Plaka, called To Kati Allo. The owners are gypsy folk from Sparta and we've known them for a long time so this is the most popular meeting place for us friends.
Anna Britt and me at the To Kati Allo
We have other gathering places too. One of our favorites, for sunset picnics, is the Hill of the Muses, where once upon a time the wealthy citizens of Athens lives (such as Themistocles). There is a magnificent view of the city out toward the sea, and the Hill of Filoppapou. I'm hoping that we can organize another of these get-togethers this time as it's one of my favorite places.
Hill of the Muses at Dusk
Filoppapou by Moonlight
I usually have my birthday parties on the Hill, some memorable ones where friends and family came from Canada to join with my Athens friends. This year there'll be friends from abroad too: Anna Britt is coming from Norway (she's a classical scholar I've known since 1993), Deborah, a friend from Vancouver, and Inka, the travel writer friend who lives in Turkey who I met on Naxos last year. We're hoping our friend Vesa, an architect and classical scholar from Finland, might also be able to join us. (I met many classical scholars in Athens during the time I was researching for my novel "Shadow of the Lion".)
Anna Britt and me with Filoppapou under the full moon
I have friends from abroad and local Athens friends who I will be visiting with. One of them is my dear friend Dina, who I named "The Persian Princess" when I first met her back in '93. I usually stay a few days with her and her husband Andreas in their hilltop home with it's magnificent view (especially at sunset!)
Andreas and Dina
Sunset from their balcony
Of course, I haven't forgotten about all that delicious Greek food and the fun we always have going to the taverna in the evenings, or during our walks around the Plaka in the day. One of our favorite places is a little taverna called "Kouklis" on a back street in Plaka (Tripadon) which Anna Britt and I have dubbed "The place of the flaming sausages". There they bring out plates of the various dishes for you to choose, their specialty being flaming sausages. For sure we'll be dining there at least once during my visit.
On my last visit to Athens, I discovered a fabulous Irish Pub in Monastiraki named (of all things!)"The James Joyce". It was recommended to me and I intended to go back there at night when the place is packed with locals as well as other travelers. I stopped in at lunch time when it was very quiet, but has a definite Irish pub ambiance. And the Guiness (of course!) and steamed mussels were absolutely the best I've tasted!
Guiness and Mussels at the James Joyce Taverna, Monastiraki
Then of course there is the endless choices of places to eat the best Greek food. We have our favorites, one being the Garden Taverna a little very Greek place on Kolokotroni Street in Koukaki. (You need to speak a bit of Greek to order and read the menu). And last summer I went with Dina and Andreas and friends to a nice taverna overlooking Thission. Must try that place out again!
Dinner, Greek style.
I'll be arriving in Athens in the evening, June 19, and might head straight for the To Kati Allo to meet up with friends and have a taste of Anna's good home-style cooking! Of course I'll raise a glass or two of krasi kokino (red wine) as well or maybe some of that Mythos beer I like so much! Then after a few days of seeing the old familiar sights and catching up with Athens friends and visitors from abroad, Anna Britt and I will be heading off for an adventure in the south Peloponnese with a stop-over at Poros Island.