Friday, October 23, 2009

Athens as a New Home

It is definitely safe to say that I know view Athens as a second home. I don't have to look at maps anymore, and I like to think I walk the streets like the locals. However, it does freak me out that it is nearly November. I am already half way done with my once in a life time experience that is study abroad.

Where to begin.....

The Monday we got back from Istanbul I had one of my favorite experiences as a student....the moment your professor invites all the students over to his or her house. Why do I love this? Because you get to know so much more about your professor, and the professors that do this always seem to be my favorite ones (even before they invite us over). Anywho, my "Understanding Europe" (basically a comparative government class for countries within the European Union) professor, Professor Gandolfo, invited us over to his hour for class, and then afterwards to have dinner at his house. We would be cooking/eating Italian, because he is Italian.

When I arrived at his apartment, I was immediately taken aback by how cool and nice his apartment was. He lives on the top floor and has a view overlooking the entire city, an especially nice view of the Acropolis. We had class, and then we got ready for dinner. He asked for three volunteers in the kitchen in which I immediately shot up my hand. I was quickly sucked into cutting up yummy cheese, helping make a salad, and getting the pasta, stew, and meat ready, and most importantly making sure the wine was served. Everything was INCREDIBLE. My professor is an amazing cook.
However, as we were all eating our delicious food, on the balcony while watching the acropolis, the best part of the evening occurred in which my professor began to tell us his life story (thanks to one of my friends gently easing him on). Everyone quickly got quiet and circled around for story time. It turns out my professor is this amazing guy. Long story short, he has lived in Italy, Argentina, the United States, and France. He got his Phd/a prestigious fellowship at Yale, became the editor of a paper before the age of 25, became an unofficial ambassador to Bhutan which resulted in him walking in with the Bhutanese athletes during the opening ceremony in Athens in 2004, and much much more. He also has two sons studying at Yale and Tufts. Seriously, his story was incredible. This was honestly one of my favorite nights so far in Athens. I got to connect with my fellow students, along with one of my professors, over an incredible dinner in an incredible city. If anyone decides to study abroad in Athens and go to CYA, you MUST take a class with Professor Gandolfo.

The next evening I tutored. We learned how to measure and calculate the diameter and radius of a circle. Good times, however, geometry was my favorite math subject in high school. Celia (the girl I tutor), is also starting to treat me more as a friend and not just as a tutor which is nice. That night she couldn't stop talking about a boy she liked, oh dear....

....and my weekend was something to look forward to because I had my first visitor in Athens, my mom! My goal was to plan the whole weekend, I wanted to be the best tour guide.

Thursday: I was counting down the minutes until my International Relations class was over so I could run over to my mom's hotel. I had also just turned in a paper and taken a greek test so I was done done done for the week in many ways. After a very exciting and loud welcome/greeting. I rushed my mom over to the famous Benaki Museum. The Benaki museum is the home of a very prominent Athens family whose house and all of there possessions (Greek art and artifacts from the span of many many years) is on display, and on Thursdays it is free, yay! The museum was incredible, and I think it was also a great way to start the weekend. After doing a tour of the museum, although sadly a bit rushed, since we had dinner reservations at a taverna in Kolonaki with my roommates. I loved dinner, eating and talking with my mom and roommates was very enjoyable. The food was really great, although because the restaurant is so popular (and fresh) they had run out of ALOT of the options. Although they did have one of my favorite new Greek dishes, veal in tomato sauce, yum. Afterwards, since it was about 1 am and jet lag was in full force for my mom, we went on a quick hunt for ice cream before crashing in our beds.

Friday: I got to sleep in until 11, it was glorious. Mom and I got breakfast at the hotel, which was super good, before walking to Friday's farmers market two streets down from my apartment. I think my mom really enjoyed it because it really gives you a local flavor of Greece, plus who doesn't love all the produce and fish on display? So good. We then did a quick run to my apartment so I could drop of produce purchases, and then we were on our way for some sightseeing. On the way one of the many stray dogs of Athens took a liking to us, we named him Brownie. I took her by the parliament building to look at the guards and their funny uniforms, to my school, by the old olympic marble stadium, to the Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, and the Acropolis Museum. We could not ask for a better day, the weather was nice (although hot) at the Acropolis and you could see the city for miles and miles and miles, it was wonderful. At the Acropolis Museum we stopped for a light bite to eat, the food there is really quite good. Afterwards, we went on a walk around the city. We walked through Plaka (where the acropolis is) and Syntagma (the main square of the city). Once we reached my neighborhood Kolonaki, we went down the nicest street in the area called Skoufa. It is where all the hip bars and cafes are, along with the nicest designer stores. After our walk, we took a siesta before our evening fun. For dinner we went to a restaurant called Dionysos, one that my Greek teacher recommended. It was wonderful. It is a popular place for governmental events, because it has a stunning view of the Acropolis. So stunning. My favorite thing I got was octopus, soooo gooodd. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched "My Life in Ruins," it is a horrible movie, but incredibly entertaining to watch for anyone who has ever been to Athens. Shows a lot of Greece, could even recognize particular streets!

Saturday, was definitely more relaxed. After a leisurely breakfast, we went around Kolonaki to all the stores and shops. I didn't realize jut how beautiful and wonderful my neighborhood was until that day, so great. I'm lucky to be living in such a great part of Athens. We then went to a really cool cafe called Art and Books, its basically a coffee shop that has sushi and its decorated as if a very hip library (with a dj in the corner). There are two menus, one for drinks and the other for books. Although I'm not quite sure who could read there. At first, because the menus were in Greek I thought you could order a drink called "Dan Brown", however when I asked for it I quickly learned it was not a drink but rather the actual book. Oh well. After coffee we walked around the neighborhood some more before heading back to the hotel to relax for dinner. That night we went to a restaurant called Spondi (my cooking class teacher recommended it so I was sure it would be good). And I was right. It was incredible. It is sort of a fusion of international cuisine but presented in a uber-modern way. My favorite dish was the sea urchin served with a type of cucumber foam, amazzzzing. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a documentary on Valentino. Was really interesting, recommend it for anyone into fashion/fashion history and business.

Sunday: Ate breakfast (became a huge fan of the breakfast by the way), and got ready to go the the famous flea market in Monastraki. We walked around the area for quite some time looking at all the crazy interesting stuff on sale. It is a must for anyone who comes to Athens, especially on Sundays. I got really excited because I got an Athens olympic pin from 2004, as you know I love Athens and the olympics, so this was a perfect souvenir. My mom got a really pretty ring for under 15 euros, yay the flea market! Then I walked my mom to the famous meat/seafood market, although I failed as a tour guide because the market had ended by the time we got there, that was a bit disappointing. We then went back to Kolonaki for lunch. We ate at a wonderful italian restaurant called Codice Blu. I think the winning entree was pasta win sea urchin. Yes, I am obviously obsessed with sea urchin lately, because it is sooo good. We then relaxed before heading out to a taverna for greek music and food. My mom got to experience a true Greek evening, which I was really happy about. Sadly people hadn't started dancing by the time we left (12:30 am on a Sunday night), so sadly my mom didn't get to see any greek dancing, although she heard greek music.

Monday: Was a semi busy. The first thing we did was head to the Chinese embassy because we had to get our visas for our trip to Shanghai. It was quite the experience, basically an organized mob in front of a gate of people trying to get visas. Oh dear. Thankfully we got our papers submitted. However we got them in 24 hours because my mom had to fly back the the US and I was flying to London Thursday night! After our embassy experience, I taxied over to my school for class, urg. After Greek I met up with my mom and we went out to lunch in Pangrati (the neighborhood my school is in). The taverna was called O Vyrinnis, it was wonderful. I got an eggplant dip that was super yummy. After eating, I sadly had to my Understanding Europe class for a midterm. After an hour and a half of writing later, I met my mom in my school's cafeteria for my second cooking lesson! We cooked an eggplant dip and lemon chicken (I posted the recipes already so check them out). After the lesson, we went back to the hotel the relax since it was our last night together in Athens.

Tuesday: I sadly had to wake up super early because I had a midterm exam in my archaeology class at 8:30. After a yummy breakfast I went to my school to take the test, after the test however, I quickly taxied over to the hotel to pick up my mom for us to go to the Chinese embassy to get our visas. After a quick run to the embassy I had to sadly say goodbye to my mom as she continued on to the airport. I sadly too had to taxi back to my school for Greek class. That night I tutored Celia, and we learned about the digestive system. Oh joy, haha.

Overall it was a wonderful visit with my mom. I had an amazing weekend and was really sad to see her go, although we have our China shortly after :)

......and the next weekend I was going to LONDON!! :)

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