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Dear Dennis

After our day in Olympia visiting the ruins, I couldn't wait for Athens! I was really getting into the ancient Greek world… We were met by Dionisis (Dennis) our driver and Effie our guide. Of all places, in Athens it was a treat to have both. Effie was a marvel, regardless of our question; she had not only the answer but the story to go with it. We learned that it took 3 years of study before taking the test to become a guide! We drove through Piraeus, and it was no time before we arrived at the Acropolis. You've all seen pictures; it's on a plateau above Athens – it dominates the view from where ever you are in Athens. But of course, you have to CLIMB the plateau! Not as bad as we anticipated, but still steep; we took our time and stopped for the breathtaking views (and breathing!) of Athens spread below us as we made our way along to marble walkway to the gate. Evidently it had poured the day before and a number of people fell – I couldn't imagine doing this in the rain! Effie gave us a brief history of the Acropolis and Parthenon – the Parthenon was the second one built replacing the one destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. The Parthenon – the most magnificent and memorable of all of the temples, dedicated to the goddess Athena - has quite a history. It was used as a treasury, converted to a Christian Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 5th century AD; after the Ottoman Turk conquest it was converted into a mosque in the early 1460's – it even had minarets! Then the Ottoman Empire used it as an ammunition dump resulting in severe damage…. In 1806, many of the sculptures were removed by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum… Having heard the story, and to seen this magnificent remains, it's easy to lose yourself in time, space, design, the sculptures, and the incredible workman ship. I loved the Caryatids on the Porch of the Maidens at Temple of Athena Nike! But more on that later!

We made our way down without incident, and after locating Dionisis (Dennis), we settled in for a nice drive around the city seeing the sights. We did get out at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, fed the pigeons, and watched the changing of the guard, stopped at the Panathenian Stadium that was built for the Olympic Games in 1896; but we had seen the Temple of Zeus from the Acropolis, since we'd already stopped to enjoy its beautiful symmetry from above. We drove up a mountain (VERY narrow road), climbed until I couldn't imagine we could get a better view of the city, but when we arrived at "Dennis' Balcony", it was spectacular! The entire city, the Acropolis, and even as far as Piraeus and the ocean! WOW! Down the mountain (I closed my eyes!) and Dennis took us to a Greek restaurant… one of his favorites. No English, fab food, and it just kept coming! If I ever get our photos posted, you'll see one picture of a table that is stripped of food, plates & glasses everywhere, an absolute mess, looking like an invading army had come through – that was our table!

After lunch we headed to the New Acropolis Museum, featuring the finding from the Acropolis; opened in 2009. As you walk to the entrance, you walk over glass flooring that allows you to see an ongoing dig revealing two layers of private homes, cisterns, a bathhouse and workshops – one from the Byzantine Era, the other from the classical Greek era. And, the layout of the museum is brilliant! It walks you through time… first there are the findings of the slopes of the Acropolis, you continue on a sloping floor built to resemble the walk to the Acropolis. Next enter a large hall which holds the artifacts and sculptures from the other Acropolis buildings such as the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike the Propylena, and from Roman and early Christian Athens. You are drawn upward to the last level that features the Parthenon. The hall is laid out to mimic the Parthenon and with the natural light entering, you can see how the sculptures would have looked in their original locations. The museum has recreated the Parthenon, and as you walk around the structure, you see the frieze blocks that the Greeks were left with, and the recreations and molds in plaster or sometimes just sketches of what is missing. The Greeks have petitioned the British museum for the return of the sculptures and art, known as the "Elgin Marbles", removed from the Acropolis between 1799 & 1812 – about half of the surviving sculptures – but, the debate continues as to whether they should be returned or remain at the British Museum. One of the six original Caryatid from the "Maiden's Porch" was removed... the remaining five are being restored with laser beams and water, at the museum and you can watch while they work!

One more lovely surprise from Dennis… his favorite pastry shop! Konestantinians (hey, forgive me! I don't have Greek letters on my keyboard!) – which translates to Constantine's. In business since 1920, it's filled with more calories that I've seen in one place! Gracious it was fabulous! Gelato, Baklava, Halva, and sesame seed & candy were a few I recognized… more calories that I could count, and so tasty no one cared! It was back to the ship and on to Ephesus…

Patti Macchi, USA, MAY 2011

Wow! We had an incredible tour with your guide Costas! Travelling with my sister and 85 year old mother who uses both a cane and wheelchair at times, we couldn't have been better taken care of. While there was a bit of a snag at the start of our day, we were so impressed with how you treated us. As you know, when we got off the cruise ship, our driver/guide was not at the meeting location. Because we were 10 minutes early, I wasn't concerned, however the gentleman who works at the port facility, generally making sure tourists are guided to buses and taxis, quickly approached us and enquired if there was a problem. Another gentleman,(from another company no less!) also came to our aid and offered to call your company to straighten things out. A couple of quick phone calls with your office and we were informed that another driver (Costas) was on the way, as there had been a last minute problem with the original driver. Amazingly, Costas showed up to take us to his car. We were no later than 15 minutes from our originally reserved time! We were all astounded with how well we were taken care of by everyone. Later in the day, Costas also informed us that we had an additional complimentary hour of touring to make up for the delay! We were left with such a ppositive impression, not only of tourism in Greece, but particularly of your company. We proceeded to have a most lovely day, learning so much from Costas and being treated with such friendliness and courtesy. We were particularly happy with how our mother was so attended to. Everyone in the tourism industry worldwide, should take a lesson from you and your employees!!

Thanks again, Liz Shibley, Canada, May 2011

We had a great time on our tour. Irene was fabulous. She was very good at explaining the history of all the sites. Can you give me her E-mail address as I would like to thank her again personally. The day was fantastic. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to us. You have a beautiful country and I look forward to returning. I hope your economic crisis ends soon. Thanks again

Steve Boone, USA, June 2011


Thank you for your wonderful service. Kostas was a truly wonderful guide for our tour and took very good care of us. He not only proved to be an excellent driver, but a great traveling companion. He opened up to us and gave us a great "tour" of life in Greece today. Our tour guides taught us much about the sites at Olympia and Delphi. Niobe Drizou, our guide for Olympia was particularly skilled at bringing the site to life. We enjoyed her tour immensely.

Ken Ishii, USA, october 2011

Thank for a wonderful tour of Athens, Spiros gave us a great day! He got us to the Acropolis Museum early and there was no waiting in line. He gave us lots of insight and background information that made our visit more enjoyable. My husband is handicapped and Spiros made sure we could see as much of the city as we could with his walking difficulties. We saw the city from an overlook & were able to take some great pictures. We also went to the Plaka area to do some shopping & had a delicious lunch in a restaurant Spiros reccommended. He is good driver in Athens traffic and got us back to the port in plenty of time for our ship's departure. All in all it was a great day!

Thank You, Ray and Lois Thompson, USA, october 2011

Good morning, Dennis.
First, I'd like to say Happy New Year!! I received your email, and appreciate you contacting us. The remainder of our trip was great, but we were happy to get home when we got here. We recently toured Athens on Christmas Day. We were a little worried about what we could see and do, since it was a holiday. However, we had reserved a tour with Dennis. He met us immediately outside the ship's port entrance with a sign, and we were escorted to a Mercedes Limo (we were actually stared at like rock stars as we drove around the city!). Generally, the historical sites are open on the holidays, but given the economic situation, they were closed this year on Christmas. Despite many things being closed, we had a fabulous half day with Denis. He drove us around the city, including the historical sites such as the Acropolis, and other historical sites, as well as the more modern sites, giving us time to explore and plenty of commentary about the sites and neighborhoods.
Our day ended with time to watch the changing of the guard parade. He got us set up early enough to see the parade up close, and to enjoy the nearby King George Hotel. Since we wanted to enjoy lunch before returning to our ship, we asked Denis to drop us off at the Plaka. He provided us guidance as to different Tavernas and restaurants, and shops we could enjoy before heading back, and provided us instructions as to finding a cab to return to the ship when we were done.
One note: In Athens, you are either licensed as a driving guide or a tour guide, but not both. Dennis was a driving guide, so he was not allowed to escort us into "historical sites". If you so desire, you can add a tour guide. For us, the driving guide was sufficient....he would just tell us what we needed to know, and if we entered an historic site, we went on our own. Given Dennis' thorough knowledge of the city, the sites, and anything you need to know, as well as his ability to get you to the places you need, it is unlikely that you would need a tour guide to participate with him.
Please consider using this guide. Dennis was friendly, fun, affordable and very knowledgeable....they are wonderful, and you will enjoy them.

Toni MacDonald, USA, December 2011