My downtown Athens neighborhood is a shopping mecca – Pagrati has its own boulevard, Ymittou Street, lined with the big names, and some not so big names, and my friends from here tell me that over the last few years more and more of Kolonaki, Athens’ traditionally chic shopping district, has moved down the hill to Pagrati for less pricey rents. It’s a great place to be if you like to shop, especially if you like shoes and underwear, since I am quite certain we have more shoe stores and underwear shops per capita than anyplace in the world. And while I know that they’ve been writing alot during 2010 about the numbr of merchants closing in Greece, but I think it is a little misleading: Why do we need an average of 1.5 underwear stores per square block and 2.5 shoe stores be square block? The way I see it, we’re overpopulated and the closures are more about that than about the economy … ok, off of my tangent and on to that photo that looks good enough to eat.
My tangent started as a conversation I had with myself while walking down Ymittou the other day. I’ve been curious about a bright yellow store I often walked by en route to the market. Everytime I pass it, they seem to be perfuming the street. I suspected for quite awhile that they had one of those Disney atomizers (they say they spray the smell of apple pie and chocolate chip cookies baking in Disney). The smell out front of the yellow Freshline shop is a soothing mix of herbs and flowers, and finally one day it was strong enough to lure me inside.
The store is tiny, a long narrow table down the center piled hight with baked goods … no, soaps, sorry. The chocolate bundt cake block of soap looked good enough to eat, and when I commented on that the young woman behind the counter told me that actually, I could eat it since the ingredients were all organic, free of parabens, chemicals, propylene glycol, sodium laurel sulfate, etc etc etc, and that the main ingredients were actually chocolate, milk, rice flower and shea butter – but she did concede it is really best for washing with. Here little primer on Freshline products encouraged me toward the shelves that line the perimeter of the store -where I found all sorts of sun blocks and skin care items free from the aforementioned list of ingredients I personally long ago banned from my own body. But since I’m not a big consumer of beauty products (it seems I spend most of my shopping hours and dollars in home improvement and hardware stores), I had to hold myself back from the temptation to buy a bunch of product I’d try and then not use. This being Greece, land of sunshine, I settled on some Hephaestus Bronzing Butter Sunscreen. I’m buried in construction work right now, so no beach for me these days, but I must say that I keep it on my desk and when I’m dreaming of the beach and the sea all I need do is open it, close my eyes and inhale deeply, and I am instantly back to my last “beach” vacation, at Logothetis Farm, above Gerakas beach in Zakynthos, even if only for a moment.
Back in Athens, I’m struck by the coincidence that a deep inhale of the Freshline bronzing butter takes me back specifically to Zakynthos (Zante), since I’ve just learned that the founder of Freshline credits here Zakynthian grandmother with her foray into the world of organic body products. It was there, on the lush green Ionian island, where the interior is filled with mountain herbs botanicals, and fresh fruits where one generation passes on to another the recipes for relief from sunburn, insect bites, and the like, until finally the saavy grandaughter in the big city sees the timing of our new obsession with all things organic and turns those old secret recipes into a successful business. (You can read their whole story, see their products and learn about the importance of what’s in the products we use on our skin … ( Here we go, off on tangent #2 …) yes, your skin is just a giant sponge, everything you rub in eventually finds its way into your body … think medicinal patches delivering everything from nicotine to vitamins to hormones and you can grasp the power of our skin).

Alright, tangent #2 is over, and it’s time for me to put on my toolbelt and head back to the apartment renovations …. maybe when I’m done I’ll head over to Freshline for some special spa treatment from the Greek gods. And since I’ve got a nice sized bathtub in my newest penthouse, I’m guessing that it’ll be one of those magical balls you can seen in the photos posted here. Maybe an Apollo Aromatherapy Ball to sooth my construction aching muscles or perhaps an Aphrodite Ball, which they say will not only detox my skin – but its gentle fizzing action will also slim and de-cellulite me :-) Or maybe I’ll not worry about the cellulite at all and go straight for a  Cassandra Hydrotherapy ball – named for the mythological woman who entangles men and whose beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. Wow, all that from a fizzy, nice smelling “alka seltzer” ball dropped i the tub.  Now THAT is a gift to bring back home from your trip to Greece!

My Freshline is located at 86 Imittou Street, and their number is +30-210-7562280, but there are stores all over the city and suburbs – you can search for the nearest one on their website.