My homecoming to Greece occurred on 5 March 2016. My father, grandfather, uncle, and sister were there along with the most precious diamonds (not to mention, the loudest) I've ever encountered. Downtown Athens will always hold a special part of my heart due to the richness of its history and the incredible people who keep it running. I feel firmly in my heart that I will never recreate the magic this night held for me. Just thinking on it makes me weepy. Perhaps this is too personal to admit in a space like this but often, I feel my grandmother by my side when I do things in my life; it's a presence that's been a large help in pulling me out of dark places. I dedicated and still do - in retrospect - that night to my grandmother who was waiting for me to play there the first time I was supposed to back when I released Electra Heart at the Fuzz Club. Piraueus itself is a gorgeous and a sadly rarely used venue; it actually took about nine months for my booking to be confirmed eons after the rest of my European tour was settled. If you're a musician reading this, I highly suggest going to Athens for the people alone. They deserve a silver lining in what is the unfortunate circumstance my homeland and its people are suffering at the hands of far greedier than others. Here is my favourite video of the night; relive with me.
Everywhere I'm about to mention is in Plaka (Πλάκα) - the historic district of Athens. For some context, I was a goody two shoes in school though I went to a British academy where temptation awaited me about twice a year. In one of those times, I was smitten with this American boy - typical - who told me to sneak out of my father's one night for a nice night out with a few of his mates and a trip to the shore. I only followed through with the first half because my grandmother ruined the night (I don't think I ever went out again that year with mates and the boy dated some Australian blonde a few weeks later), but I still have a bit of a religion of visiting the spot he took me to: Brettos Bar.
All the drinks I talked about are showcased in the colourful image including things you'll never again see anywhere else and old favourites - whether you're British or American. I never have been a frequent enough where I've a favourite staff member or anything but a few of my favourite times - especially in the last few years - revolved around me getting so knackered, Jess had to cab me home. They're quite keen on allowing you to sample anything you want endlessly until you decide what you'd like to pick. I think it's the perfect spot for everything: a wine on your own, a date, even taking your parents though they complain about how too postmodern the decor is in such a historic part of town. Really, the best part of its location aside from its products is there is literally about three different restaurants in the direct vicinity including my favourite gelato in Athens and an antiques store a bit ways down the block. Very touristy but worth it. It's a stone's throw from the Acropolis as well, which I'll go into in a bit.
A slightly seedier side of Athens is the Booze Cooperativa (pictured above)/gay club area - and by seedier, I just mean don't expect English-friendly tourist etiquette here. This is where I'd sneak off on the off-night I didn't feel like studying for my GCSE's and was among my first encounters with the LGBT community and gay nightlife (which is usually the only places I frequent when they force me to get out of my house nowadays, thanks Mingi, Ahmed, Cara, etc). Booze Cooperativa isn't somewhere I go often now; I actually really don't like spending much time downtown anymore, but I loved it as a kid because your drunken mates could get pissed and they have these logic puzzles you can complete while that goes on. During the day, it's bloody dead but at night, it's all these teenagers and twentysomethings mixed in with these obscure saunas (which are salacious and amazing if you're feeling risque in Athens). A lot of my fonder memories of youth in Athens are right on these corners. A definite must if you're curious though don't be a creep for creeps' sake - I've my eye on you.
Αψίδα του Αδριανού
Growing up, my dad hammered into us that growing up in Greece was the best and we were missing out in our Welsh world. When my sister left for university, I took it upon myself to go to Athens and finish out my studies there. I eventually moved back to become a [Halsey voice] pop star, but these are still among the most awkward and enriching times of my life. Here, of course, is where I tell you how underrated - yes, under - the tourist stops are, a reality I was able to re-experience with some of my band back in March (thx 4 the snapz, BEN). The Acropolis is number one and kind of the centre of a lot of the activity; they have a museum as well as being able to visit the site itself. I highly recommend both though take note - I am a massive museum nerd and make it a goal to extensively go to all of a city's museums if I'm in it for more than 48 hours. The other obvious is the Parthenon (pictured above) which is a short walk away and there is also another temple and the Theatre of Dionysus you can stumble upon in the direct area; if you're in Athens and have never seen any of these, make it your human duty to check it out. I've never felt more part of a collective and simultaneously insignificant in these spaces. If that's your thing, it's necessary. Explore every bit of Πλάκα to round out the shopping and dining experience, though my true underrated treasure, is the archaelogical museum which spans all these different eras and places from around the country and not just Athens.