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Blog 4: Wyndham Grand Athens, Cheese Producer, and Winery!

We’ve reached the midpoint of our trip! Reflecting on the past few days, I can’t believe how much we’ve experienced and learned. It’s been a whirlwind of culture, history, and culinary deliciousness. On June 23, we had the pleasure of visiting the Wyndham Grand Athens and the National Archaeological Museum. The day was packed with tours and some delightful free time to explore on our own.

We kicked off our morning with a delightful breakfast adventure just down the street from our hotel. Nicole, Jasmine, and I decided to skip the hotel breakfast and try some local cuisine. The Greek coffee I tasted was one of the best I’ve ever had – rich, strong, and absolutely perfect. Alongside, I ordered pancakes, not realizing they’d come drenched in chocolate. It was a delightful surprise, though a bit indulgent for breakfast. One interesting thing I noticed is that Greeks often serve their pancakes with honey instead of syrup. It’s fascinating how health-conscious they are, balancing their love for rich chocolate and strong coffee with healthier choices like honey. The breakfast was not just a meal, but a cultural experience, giving us a glimpse into the local way of life.

After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with our group and made our way to the metro. Navigating public transportation can be daunting, even back home, so having Katerina as our guide was a blessing. She effortlessly guided us through the busy metro system, sharing interesting tidbits about the city along the way. Our destination was the National Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of ancient artifacts and history. The museum was a haven of air conditioning, which made it even more enjoyable. We marveled at the vast collection of statues, pottery, bones, and jewelry. Each piece told a story of ancient Greece, bringing history to life. I was particularly fascinated by the intricate details of the jewelry, which showcased the craftsmanship and artistry of ancient artisans. The museum’s exhibits are thoughtfully curated, offering a comprehensive overview of Greece’s rich history and cultural heritage.

With some free time on our hands, I decided to explore Monastiraki Square. This bustling market area is a shopper’s paradise, filled with vendors selling everything from souvenirs to clothing, food, and cosmetics. I indulged in some retail therapy, picking up a sweatshirt, magnets, a tote bag, and gifts for my family. The vibrant atmosphere and friendly vendors made it a memorable shopping experience. The square itself is a mix of old and new, with historical buildings standing alongside modern shops. The energy of the place is infectious, with street musicians adding to the lively ambiance. It’s a place where you can easily spend hours wandering around, discovering hidden gems and unique items.

After our shopping spree, we returned to the hotel to change into business casual attire for our tour of the Wyndham Grand Athens. The walk to and from the hotel was sweltering, and I couldn’t help but think that renting a car might be a good idea for future trips. Despite the heat, the tour was fascinating. We explored four different room types, the gym, and conference rooms. It was eye-opening to compare a “five-star” hotel in Athens to those in Miami. The differences highlighted the impact of the Greek economy, reminding me to be grateful for the privileges I enjoy back home. The hotel’s decor was elegant, yet understated, reflecting the cultural heritage of Greece. The staff were warm and welcoming, providing insights into the operations of the hotel and the challenges they face in the current economic climate.

The next day, June 24, was a highlight of the trip – a tour of a local winery. The property was stunning, adorned with roses, olive trees, and of course, rows of grapevines. We delved into the winemaking process, from the vast vats where the wine ferments to the barrels where it ages. The science behind winemaking is as intriguing as the taste of the final product. The winery’s rich history, dating back to 2004, added a layer of depth to the experience. It was fascinating to hear how the property had evolved over the years. The winemaker shared stories of the challenges they faced, from weather conditions to market demands, and how they adapted to sustain their business. The tasting session was a delight, as we sampled a variety of wines, each with its unique flavor profile. The surroundings added to the experience, with the picturesque landscape providing a perfect backdrop.

After the winery, we headed to the quaint town of Erythres to visit local dairy farmers. We were welcomed by a charming woman, the third generation of her family to run the farm. She shared her family’s story with pride, describing how her grandfather started the business and how it has thrived over the years. Her passion for her town, people, and produce was evident. The farm itself was a testament to their hard work and dedication, with well-maintained facilities and healthy livestock. We were then treated to a feast of locally made Greek food. The pasta dish, topped with a creamy layer, was a standout. The cheeses and various spreads were equally delectable. After the meal, we visited her shop, stocked with an array of pasta, cheese, yogurt, and sweet treats. This visit was a unique glimpse into local life, something most tourists wouldn’t experience without a personal connection to the town. The woman’s hospitality and the quality of the products left a lasting impression on all of us.

Reflecting on these experiences, I realized how travel opens up opportunities to connect with people and their stories. Each person we met and each place we visited added a new layer to our understanding of Greek culture and history. The warmth and generosity of the locals were heartwarming, making us feel welcome and appreciated. This journey has been more than just sightseeing; it’s been about immersing ourselves in the local way of life and gaining a deeper appreciation for the diversity and richness of the world.

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