They say that good things come to those who wait, but I never believed it until I finally visited Greece.
In the 80’s, when package holidays were at their optimum and the world became accessible to the masses, we were inundated with news footage depicting hordes of backpackers flooding the Greek isles, sleeping rough on taverna rooftops after binge drinking. These negative images turned me right off and I remained ignorant of Greece’s scale and diverse beauty. However, the allure of the ancient land that gave birth to democracy and laid the foundations for western civilization, as we know it, continued to beckon and eventually proved irresistible.
I began my Greek odyssey on the shores of Kavouri Beach, at the hotel Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso, in order to relax and unwind before embarking on my whirlwind tour of “The City with the Violet Crown” and the “Mythical Peloponnese”. Despite being only half an hours drive from The Acropolis, my hotel with its enviable beachside location, seemed a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Athens city centre. The hotel staff is genuinely warm and welcoming; luxurious accommodations offer all mod cons whilst retaining a traditional sensibility. The property’s lush gardens are large enough for the pool area to never feel overcrowded. The award winning spa and gym, are well equipped and state of the art. There are several dining options within the hotel, all of which are delicious. The daily lunch specials at the poolside restaurant Meltemi offer great value for money and serve seasonal home style cooking. However, the real jewel in the Appolon’s epicurean crown, is it’s beautiful seaside restaurant “Mythos of the Sea”. The restaurant over looks the Saronic Gulf, framed by distant views of The Peloponnese Mountains and is the perfect spot for a romantic interlude or peaceful contemplation. I sat at a table for one and immersed myself into the magnificent views .I gorged on fruits de mer worthy of Poseidon, and at that moment, had my time been up, I wouldn’t have minded, because as far as I was concerned, I was already in Heaven.
My path to the Parthenon had been a long one. I loved Greek mythology as a child and spent many a daydream wafting amongst gods and goddesses in Doric temples. I felt a little anxious as I took my first steps towards one of the world’s most famous icons and hoped not be disappointed. Rest assured, the Parthenon is everything that you want it to be and more, upon climbing the Acropolis you are on your way to what is regarded as the most perfect building in the world, which was completed in 438 BC. No amount of photographs prepared me for the immensity and beauty of the Parthenon.
The New Acropolis museum is outstanding and provides a deeper understanding of Athens and explains the architectural and historical significance of the Acropolis, both as the seat of the local ruler and as the religious centre that it became. Expect galleries with a rich range of sculptures, friezes, theatrical masks and unique treasures of Aphrodite over four floors. The second floor restaurant serves excellent seasonal recipes from the twelve regions of Greece and offers breath-taking panoramic views of the Acropolis and the surrounding Athenian hills.
Sited into the foothills of the Acropolis. Plaka is the oldest residential quarter in Athens. It is a pretty place to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of its quant-cobbled lanes, lined with colourful neo classical houses, busy cafes, and souvenir shops.
Monastiraki is the flea market area in the old town, where east meets west, with mosques, cathedrals and Byzantine ruins sitting cheek by jowl with souvlaki restaurants and the glorious central market.
Kolonaki is the most glitzy and bourgeois district of Athens. Renowned for it’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, elegant restaurants, chic cafes and designer boutiques. A perfect place to people watch.
Gazi, surrounds the city’s former gasworks (now an industrial museum and cultural centre) and is the hottest part of town and home to numerous gay and lesbian bars. There is a fantastic array of both traditional and contemporary restaurants, art galleries and popular nightclubs. Although the partying continues well into the early hours, there is much to enjoy before the young crowds descend at midnight. Arriving early allows a greater choice of restaurant availability, better tables and more room at the bar.
Athens is a unique, spirited city with sites of unrivalled historical importance, a thriving nightlife and a burgeoning food scene. Hidden pockets of neighbourhoods house ancient landmarks that live up to their hype and with all of it’s main attractions within walking distance of one another, Athens is a city best discovered by foot. Food plays a major role in the life of most Athenians and I was truly impressed by the quality and variety of local ingredients. Greeks love to eat and they love life and when all is said and done “There is no love sincerer than the love of food”- Bernard Shaw.
8-10 sheets of phyllo pastry
100g Parmesan finely grated
100g Comte or Gruyere cheese finely grated
3/4 cup of single cream
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1tsp West Indian pepper sauce ( I will bring with me)
1 red chili finely diced
1tbsp fresh dill finely chopped
1tbsp fresh mint finely sliced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Ground black pepper
Melted butter or lightly flavoured olive oil
1tsp nigella seeds
1tsp sesame seeds
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
1) Prepare the filling for the pie by crumbling the feta cheese in a` mixing bowl. Add the cream, eggs and remaining
cheeses. Combine well with a folk.
2) Season the filling mixture with ground black pepper to taste, add the chili, pepper sauce, oregano, mint and dill. Combine and set aside in the fridge.
3) Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom and sides of a baking tray approx. 20cmx30cm with butter or oil. Place one sheet of phyllo at the bottom of the pan horizontally and brush liberally with butter or olive oil. Lay another sheet of pastry on top this horizontally and brush with oil. Repeat this procedure adding four sheets of the phyllo pastry.
4) Pour in the cheese mixture and smooth with a spatula.
5) Fold the excess phyllo sheet flaps over the mixture and spread with a little more butter or oil. Take two sheets of phyllo and tear them into strips. Crumple the phyllo strips in the palm of your hands and place on top of the pie. Fold the excess phyllo sheet flaps over and brush with butter or oil. Top the pie with the remaining sheets of phyllo making sure to oil or butter each one before adding the other. Roll in the edges. Brush with the top with butter or oil and sprinkle with a little water and the sesame and nigella seeds.
6) Bake on the middle shelf for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool slightly before serving.