Thursday, 21 July 2016

To Wander in Athens


I see him once a year, more if I’m lucky. He meets me at a small hotel near the Acropolis, elegant as always, sporting olive green trousers, a crisp shirt, English suede brogues, and an olive kerchief. His bearded face smiles. He pushes my suitcase into the small, mirrored elevator and I follow him. 

My bag is so heavy it looks like I have bite-marks on my shoulder. Luggage bites. I shouldn’t have brought so many books. Here I am in Athens with my father. I show him the present brought him from Spain: a chunk of manchego cheese. We hear a car stop outside and peer over the balcony. Daisy has arrived.

An hour later we are wandering around the Acropolis. We see a man singing on the street and Daisy stops to talk to him. My father shows us the city with an ice cream cone in one hand. He delights in pointing out the narrow streets, old neon signs, hidden corners, and fashionable bars. We stop in a subterranean spot, The Speakeasy. I order a gin & tonic with white peppercorns and a slice of grapefruit. More drinks, more stories. Dinner follows. We feast at Tzitzikas & Mermingas. After a digestive stroll to the hotel Daisy presents us with chocolates from Fortnum & Mason. My father leaves, manchego in hand.

The next day Daisy and I visit the Acropolis Museum. She marvels at the vertigo-inducing glass floors. We pause in front of a statue of Aphrodite. Her stone face is stained with copper eyelash tears.

I want to visit the Classic Car Museum but there isn’t time. Soon we are on the boat, perusing the 60s pulp paperbacks Daisy brought from London. They are obscene and hilarious. Together we devour the hours.







A QUICK GUIDE TO ATHENS (PART TWO)

Visit The Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the classic car museum, and the Benaki Museum.

If you’re exploring the Acropolis, make an evening of it and walk to the fantastic gelateria La Greche, have a cocktail at Speakeasy (address: Lekka 12, Syntagma), then have a bite at Tzitzikas & Mermingas.

According to my Athenian friends here are some fun Athenian areas to walk around in:
Koukaki (artistic, good for nightlife, close to Plaka and the Acropolis.
Mets (hip bars and restaurants. Check out Hotel Chelsea.)
Petralona (cool caf├ęs)

Here are some other semi-secret bars...

There are lots of hipper places to stay but if you want somewhere friendly, basic, and clean, in a convenient neighborhood the Acropolis Select Hotel is good.

You can read about my last trip to Athens here.

The view from the ferry.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Let's Swing by San Francisco

Heading to Twin Peaks.
I couldn’t wait to get on the road again. When my friend John called we decided to go on a spontaneous trip up to San Francisco. Would the city have the same magic I remembered? I feared San Francisco had been taken over by people who find their own reality so lifeless they’ve taken to wearing computers wrapped around their heads, disguised as spectacles…luckily, this was not the case. Not yet.

We left that night, which happened to be dark and stormy. The trouble started in Malibu. Hours of rain, flash flooding, and the endless line for In n’ Out Burger suggested the apocalypse was near. Then I remembered this is what happens when the sun doesn’t shine in Southern California. Fries in our laps, we floated down the highway. Captain Searcy steered through the deluge, past sleepy motorists, half-lit motels, the hours dropping away, until those famous streets unraveled before us. Blue skies unfurled in the Mission.


Jeff, an East-Coast musician who had journeyed west years ago, was standing on his porch. He wore a sweatshirt from the 80s with tight, faded blue jeans. Tall, smiling, happily familiar, he led us inside. We left our suitcases in a cozy room filled with instruments.

Jeff in the sunshine.


After lunch at the oldest soda fountain in San Francisco, Jeff showed us around his neighborhood. We walked up Valencia Street, stopping into most of the vintage shops. The best one was called Wallflower, where I bought a foxy baby-blue 1970s A-line coat. We had dinner, Eton Mess-flavor ice cream, and went home. Lights on, shoes off, Jeff gave in to sleep.

John.


John and I prepared for the evening ahead, encouraged by glasses of Margoritas. John, ever straight and not feeling sartorially adventurous, disagreed with my suggestion of pairing his narrow Alexander McQueen suit with his high-top converse, and my 1960s polka-dot kerchief. I wore a long, backless 70s dress. Hands filled with brushes, powders, and clips, like some glamorous octopus, I teased my hair up as if my last name was Bardot.

Our taxi careened over to Rickshaw Stop, where The Chocolate Watchband was playing. My favorite part of the concert was the old man in the Greek fisherman cap who made all the psychedelic visuals by hand. He arranged his colorful sorcery with glass screens, plastic wrap, pipettes of vivid liquid, and a projector. The crowd was young, dancing, enchanted. Willowy girls smiled at handsome faces. Long hair brushed against long hair. They were all clad in bright patterned clothes made before they were born. It was exciting to see my new friends I had met in Austin and older friends made on previous trips. 

Afterwards, six of us squeezed into a little car. It was all hands and jostling knees in the backseat, soundtracked by Jacques Dutronc. Je suis content. Everyone tumbled out to a friendly party in one of those classic San Francisco houses with big bay windows. Cold beers appeared. Two pretty blonds melted into a large cushion shaped like a deflated brioche. Lanky pairs kissed in the corridors. We danced all night.

The next day Jeff, John, and Justin, (a favorite neighbor from my Echo Park days, now a local) drove up to Twin Peaks. The city stretched out all around us, framed by the Pacific Ocean. Afterwards, we strolled around Golden Gate Park and the Palace of Fine Arts.

A few burritos later it was time to go. I said my goodbyes and we drove across the famous bridge, listening to the Beach Boys. Next stop, Los Angeles.
The Palace of Fine Arts.

Walking around The Palace of Fine Arts...

MARGO’S QUICK GUIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO

TO DO:

Get to the De Young Museum early – the temporary exhibitions tend to sell out. ‘Ed Ruscha & the Freat American West’ runs from July 16-October 9th, 2016. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, 94118.

Get lost in the newly-revamped SFMOMA. This massive modern art museum has an excellent Gerhard Richter collection and the kind of gift store you can pick up all your birthday/ Christmas presents in one swoop. 151 3rd St, 94103.

Admire the wonderful view from Twin Peaks. (No relation to David Lynch’s world of cherry pie and murder.) 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, 94114.

Have a lazy wander around the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s a picturesque building from 1915, (not a museum) bordered by a pond where swans loll about. 3301 Lyon St, 94123.

Check out the vintage shops on Valencia Street in the Mission. I loved ‘Wallflower’ at 1176 Valencia.

If you have time, explore Oakland. (When the tech boom led to the current over-priced housing market, that’s where most of the cool people without rent-controlled apartments moved.)

TO EAT:

Have brunch at the charming Saint Francis Soda Fountain, funded in 1918. Order the nebulous potato thing with eggs and cornbread, trust me. 2801 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Pig & Pie, also in the Mission, also has delicious bunch/ lunch. Not for vegans though there is a great baked egg dish if you’re vegetarian. 2962 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Ice cream fans, check out the imaginative flavors at Humphry Slocombe in the Mission. ‘Secret Breakfast’ is a big hit. 2790A Harrison St.

This city is also famous for burritos so ask around. Actually there are hundreds of fantastic restaurants there – feel free to comment.
I confess, I took this one on my previous trip to San Francisco.