Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Highlife and Hotels in Athens!

(Click on the photos to make them larger)

Our family odyssey around Greece will take us from luxurious accommodations to budget boutique hotels (which Eleni is researching for a travel article) to roughing it in mountainous villages huts. Right now in Athens it’s luxury — the Grande Bretagne Hotel on Constitution Square -- a historic presence in the center of town since 1842. (During WWII someone tried to assassinate Winston Churchill — who had come to rally the Greeks against the Nazi occupiers-- by placing a bomb in the hotel basement, but it was discovered in time.) Now the basement is the site of a world-class spa – incense and steam-filled grottoes lined in semi-precious stones and an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

From the balconies of the GB, as the hotel is fondly called, you can watch the sunset behind the Acropolis and, in the other direction, the hourly changing of the Evzone guards in front of the Parliament building. A new pair of Evzones march up every hour and do a little dance with the retiring pair, in their pleated fustenella skirts and pompomed shoes. On Sunday at 11:a.m. they do a more elaborate changing of the guard with a full cast as tourists snap photos and feed the crowds of pigeons.

The GB was closed down for several years right before the Olympic games in 2004. When it re-opened, it had added a roof-top pool and a roof-top bar and restaurant and a lot of new amenities while keeping the best of the antiques and paintings from its Victorian past.

Yesterday, daughters Eleni and Marina and I walked from the hotel down Hermou (the pedestrian fashion street) and into Monasteraki (the flea market section), then over to the area of Omonia Square which houses the central markets.

We wanted Marina, who works in product design, so see a couple of the crazy new Classical Hotels, where Eleni and I have stayed. The Classical Baby Grand is, according to the brochure,, the “newest, hippest and most attractive spot in town.” “Fourteen international artists from the fields of urban art, graffiti design and illustration turned Baby Grand in the heart of Athens into Europe’s most exciting and creative city hotel.”

These artists have designed rooms—with wall murals and crazy furnishings—around cartoonish themes (there’s even a Spider Man room.) When we stayed last year we were in a jungle-themed room with a fake plush tiger-skin throw across the bed. Jungle noises could be heard in the halls, lamps in the bar were tiger-heads and ostrich tables projected from the walls. In the photos above you’ll see Eleni and Marina getting to know the gorillas in the foyer. The reception desks on the floor above are made from mini-Cooper cars.

The trendy restaurant “Meat Me” in the hotel was closed—preparing for an event, so we walked over to a sister hotel, the 2 Fashion House Hotel—equally modern and innovative in design and themed around fashion (You can see the blueish balconies lined with fashion shots in my photo.) There we had a cappuccino freddo and then headed into the teeming central Meat and Fish markets for a photo shoot which I will show you tomorrow (Viewer discretion advised.)

1 comment:

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