For years I had walked through Syntagma Square glancing across the Square to the beautiful façade of the Grand Bretagne hotel. I’d marvel at the fancy cars waiting out front, the handsomely dressed doormen standing guard out front, and chuckle to myself about the homeless dog who slept peacefully on the steps leading to the hotel, fat and lazy in his claimed territory, he may be the ultimate description of a “lucky dog”. But I’d never entered this palace of luxury, as I’d been told it was. And as I’ve grown older, my travel experiences having expanded with my taste, I’ve still never found the justification to leave my own Acropolis view apartment for an overnight at the GB.
Finally, one late summer afternoon, my son noticed the rooftop. Knowing that his wallet didn’t hold enough euro to buy his own drink, and knowing that at least one half of his parental unit would balk at going there for dinner, he suggested that to his father that there might be something gained from venturing to the GB Roof Garden to scope out their landscaping. (Being in Athens, a climate much different from Chicago, we’re on a perpetual search for the perfect hot, sunny weather plants). His seed planting worked, and the next afternoon my husband suggested that we all head over to Syntagma for a drink at the Grand Bretagne hotel.
We arrived around 4:00, lunch was basically over, so the dining room section was empty, save a single Greek family, delayed by their stubborn child, refusing to eat the spaghetti his mom was “airplaning” into his mouth (which just shows you that even the Grande Bretagne is a family friendly dining option in Athens!). The bar side had only one empty table at the edge, where the best views are, and we nabbed it just before a French family arrived, leaving them to a table further away from the edge, although their young daughter was so perfect and polite we later felt guilty for getting the last table up front.
Our waiter appeared and we ordered ouzos all around. (It probably wasn’t the time of day, nor the right drink for this grand location, but it was refreshing on a warm August day. And besides, my mother, who was along for our plant scouting trip, is always looking for an excuse to have one.)
It was fun to see the city from this perspective. Our own views look toward Syntagma Square, roughly from the southeast. This vantage point gave us a good view over Syntagma Square, to the left across the Parliament Building and the Tomb of the Unknown Solder, into Kalimarmaro Stadium (the Old Olympic Stadium), and behind it, somewhere in the mass of buildings, our own roof garden. To the right we finally had the chance to discover what was behind the Parthenon, since our view is usually from the other side. And below the Acropolis, the island village of Anafiotika, it’s white Cycladic homes climbing haphazardly above Plaka toward the Acropolis rock.
Along with our ouzo we were offered a snack of mixed nuts, elegantly served in a three section silver nut bowl, from which my father quietly picked out all the cashews while the rest of us were focusing on the views.
Our ouzo finished, the nut bowl emptied out; unlike traditional nut mixes, the one served at the Grand Bretagne does not have plain old peanuts … the ones that usually remain after the cashews, macadamias and almonds have all been picked out. We signaled the waiter for our check, which he promptly presented, and made our way back down to the real world.