Trip Start May 18, 2007
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

We decided to do something a little more relaxing today and recapture some of the 'chilling out' from Santorini. We planned to visit the National Garden - a ten minute walk away - and hang out there for part of the day. It was supposed to have a zoo and lots of walking trails which the kids would love. And we had spotted this little tourist train which again would be great fun for the kids, so that was on the agenda as well.

The National Garden was gorgeous. The main entrance is across Syntagma Square, and it's a really large area, covered with trees, shrubs and flowering plants of all kinds. As soon as we entered, we saw this lovely walkway with creepers growing on the sides and forming a green roof overhead.  It was cool and dim and feel suitable lush. We enjoyed walking, prancing and dancing through it to the garden. We ran around in search of the zoo for a while and finally discovered it, though I don't know that I'd dignify it with the appellation Zoo! It had a few goats, some rabbits and a whole yard full of poultry. About the only thing even approaching wild life was an aviary with 5 peacocks in it. 

We rambled through the cool garden, eventually finding the children's playground. There were some pretty unique rides for kids there and interestingly, the floor was carpeted with a thick rubber matting, overlaid with sand so the kids wouldn't get hurt.

We whiled away the morning there and then started off to look for the train. A tobacco shop said it goes to Syntagma Square so we headed there. No luck. We went farther down and still saw no signs of it. It was close to lunch time so we headed back towards Plaka for lunch and a nap.M and I had spotted a Greek Taverna close to our hotel the previous night, and it had looked picturesque and promising. We arrived for lunch to find the sole waiter thumbing thrugh a stack of magazines and apparently in no hurry to serve even the menu. There was a pretty sparse selection of food. When it arrived, we wished it had been sparser, because it tasted awful. So much for Greek food in Athens.

In the evening, we were determined to find the train, so we walked a wide swathe through Syntagma Square and nearby, asking at practically every turn where to find it. Someone told us it stopped at Monastiraki so we turned back towards Monastiraki. It was a long walk, though the street between Syntagma and Monastiraki was pretty, with lots of shops, some of them with amazing shoes, bags and clothes. At long last we reached Monastiraki. 

This is next to a famous flea market that is open all days of the week. there are some lovely old buildings, a convent and possible a monastery by the square. And one of the roads off the square is adrianou, which is the heart of the tourist area, with restaurants and shops galore. But Monastiraki was a horrible square. Nothing picturesque, just dirty, with graffiti everywhere and drunks and all manner of unwashed people lolling about. We bought a big stash of strawberries and cherries and again wandered around looking for the train, even going into the main railway station. No luck. Then, suddenly, I spotted a small, cardboard sign saying 'Magic Train 6:00 pm'. We had found it.

It was hard to while away 45 minutes in that dirty square, with no place to sit, and I envied littler a her pram. Maybe someone could invent a lightweight folding chair - just strap to your bum and unfold when needed!

The train finally arrived and was pretty cute.  It was quite cheap, at 5 euros per head. We settled in and were told that this was a one hour ride, through Plaka and Syntagma, past the National Garden, the parliament and the President's house, Hadrian's Arch and finally back to Monastiraki.

Some of the buildings were amazingly beautiful and we got to see the changing of the guard outside the (relatively modest) Presidential Palace. It was a somewhat funny process, what with the guard clopping his way into position at millimetric speed . But the ride was fun, and we skipped going back to Monastiraki, getting off  near Plaka. 

M and I got a bit dressed up for our last evening together, as M, C and R were heading out early the next morning, back to the US. We wore these Greek wrappy sweaters we had bought the previous evening - gold coloured and chic and very versatile.

For dinner, we decided to visit one of the cheaper places recommended by Fodor's, off Adrianou. It again took us a while to find the place, and we had reached early, so it wasn't even open. We settled down regardless and enjoyed the setting. It was on the corner or a busy street, but the tables were set by a wall and sheltered from traffic. The restaurant slowly filled up as we sat and within half an hour was full to the brim. There were supposed to be several specialties on the menu, and we ordered whatever was still available. The food was delicious - light, flavourful and easily washed down with the house wine. We skipped dessert, opting for gelatos from the gelateria on Adrianou and slowly walked back to the hotel. It had been a wonderful 10 days together, despite the low spots, and we would miss M, C and R in Istanbul. I would especially miss M and our giggling fits, which are inevitable when the two of us are together. C and A had been quite bemused to watch us as we giggled up a storm, incoherent noises tumbling out of our mouths, yet seemingly comprehended by the other and leading to further merriment...
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