My parents were in town, and we had to run out to the Greek (European) version of Home Depot for souvenirs from their trip to Greece. You might wonder what sort of souvenirs one might find in a home improvement store …. Trust me, just like the local supermarket, Greece’s Leroy Merlin, is the perfect place to shop if your list of folks to bring gifts to includes a do-it-yourselfer handyman or a professional carpenter like my brother. And besides, you’d be surprised how much fun it is just to wander through the aisles and aisles of a superstore like Leroy Merlin or Praktiker, checking out the European innovations and comparing pricing. Since this was our first visit to this particular store we were especially excited: little did I know what else we’d uncover.

Leroy Merlin’s Pireos store is housed in a giant new building, along the same road where a number of superstores have popped up in recent years. It shares a huge underground parking garage with Jumbo, a giant children’s toystore, and, like many shared underground parking garages in Athens, there’s a maze of signs directing shoppers to the nearest escalator or elevator to their favorite store. As we drove around to find parking, we found ourselves circling a number of glass enclosed “rooms” – but what we didn’t find were signs telling us just what those excavations were, surrounded by glass and artfully lighted, in the middle of this underground garage.

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We poked around a bit, guessing that this must be the remains of an ancient road, perhaps a river? (We’re still trying to find out, so if anyone reading knows anything, please share … since if you do know something it will be more than anyone working just one flight up from the ruins seemed to know).

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Our second great discovery of the day was the lovely bistro located in the home improvement store, on the second level, adjacent to the garden department (in fact, their “outdoor” seating is located IN the garden department).

While food concessions aren’t something new in Greek superstores, you can always find a tiropita and a frappe, even a slice of pizza or a deli sandwich, this Leroy Merlin Bistro featured plush seating and a window full of tempting salads, sandwiches and cooked food, along with icy cold beer, a variety of coffees and a mouthwatering dessert selection all at budget friendly affordable prices (I think we paid less than 7 euro for our four coffees and that slice of cake – we pay that for 2 coffees anywhere else!).

Hope improvement shopping with an iced cold beer!

Hope improvement shopping with an iced cold beer!

Leave it to the French, owners of Leroy Merlin, to offer so lovely a selection of desserts in an oversized hardware store!
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Oh, did I forget to mention the souvenir part? Here’s my brother in his favorite Greek find … he’s got these coveralls in the fashionable Greek blue you see here, as well as in bright red. For winter he’s got a pair with long sleeves. Apparently these coveralls have now become very popular amongst western Massachusetts tradesmen.

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I recently found great old poster prints of Athens (ever wonder where all those Plaka tavernas buy theirs?) and who can resist 22 euro for a scale that only shows your weight in kilos? You’ll return home weighing half of your pre-Greece weight. And for the really bold, you’ll find a nice selection of pint sized orange and olive trees. Small enough to stick in your suitcase, those I’m not so certain they are odorless enough to get past the USDA plant sniffing beagle at O’Hare.