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Plaka Mediterranean Grill brightens your winter days January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Plaka Mediterranean Grill offers a taste of sunny Greece for a respite from the winter doldrums.

Whitewashed walls, blue shuttered windows, hand-hammered plank floors and tables dressed in sunny yellow and cerulean blue linens all combine in a delightful dining room equally suited for an intimate meal for two or a family gathering, and the light, freshly prepared Greek fare served in Plaka Mediterranean Grill’s warm and luminous atmosphere will brighten the dullest winter day.

Refrigerated cases near the front of the restaurant allow diners to view the fresh catches of the day nestled on ice, as well as a selection of fine meats and kebabs, all destined for transformation into delicious meals in the exposed kitchen. Hosts Anna and Alex Theodoropoulos see to the quality of the food, with Anna personally preparing soups, vegetables, potatoes and other classic Greek dishes each day. The skilled grill men sear a choice of meat, poultry or fish on the spot for optimal flavor.

The array of tempting appetizers, both hot and cold, is my favorite part of Greek cuisine. Savory dips such as melitzanosalata (eggplant), taramosalata (caviar), and revithosalata (chickpeas), are heavenly when spread on thick slices of warm bread. Sizzling saganaki, a slab of pan-fried Greek cheese, is finished with a touch of flaming brandy. A squeeze of lemon, just before eating, brings out the savory saltiness of the cheese, mellowed by the brandy. Handmade meatballs, called keftedes are nice for sharing. You can’t go wrong with one of Anna’s home style soups, including avgolemono, the classic Greek chicken, egg and lemon soup, Yankee bean or chicken noodle. Plaka’s salads are big enough to be a meal themselves, or two can share a bounty of greens with cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, feta cheese and olives.

Fresh fish and seafood are highlights of Greek cuisine. Examine the fresh catches of the day and choose your favorite from porgy, red snapper or sea bass that can be filleted for you, tiny smelts fried crisp or shrimp prepared in a number of ways. After a trip to the sizzling hot grill and a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, your choice will be presented for a picture perfect meal. Entrees are served with your choice of seasoned rice, Plaka’s delicious lemon potatoes or horta, garden fresh, sautéed dandelion greens. Plump shrimp can be skewered and grilled or served over linguine in a marechiara sauce.

A half grilled chicken with baby back ribs served hot off the grill with a tangy sauce is a popular dish that will satisfy a big appetite. Thick pork chops, baby lamb chops, medallions of filet mignon and rib-eye steak, all cooked to order on the grill, are reasonably priced. House-made desserts include melt-in-your-mouth baklava dripping with honey and nuts, fresh yogurt with honey and nuts or tartufo ice cream.

Plaka has a nice lunch menu featuring some of their great appetizers, souvlaki sandwiches and platters, fish and pasta. They will deliver large orders to offices and workplaces, or you can pick up the food yourself.

Plaka is conveniently located in the Jackson Heights Shopping Center at 31st Avenue and 75th Street. There is plenty of free parking and orders can be placed for pick up. After running errands in the shopping center, visit Plaka for an uplifting meal at lunch or dinnertime. You’ll love the sunny interior and delicious Greek food, available to take home if you prefer. Yasou!

Plaka Mediterranean Grill 
75-61 31st Avenue Jackson Heights Phone 718.505.0515

Proud Greeks > from Greek at the Harbor to Citizen of the Year January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Lynn Mikelatos might be one of Ventura County’s hardest-working citizens.

She helped lead the drive to get a pool built at Oxnard High School, co-founded the Ventura Harbor Community Council and supports numerous nonprofit efforts such as FOOD Share and Camarillo’s Greek Festival, while still helping to run her Greek restaurant. Mikelatos sees it as her duty to volunteer in the community.

“I think our purpose in life is to give back to others,” said Mikelatos, who owns The Greek at the Harbor restaurant in Ventura with her husband, Makis Mikelatos, and Jerome Dabour.

In recognition of her service, the Ventura Chamber of Commerce recently gave Mikelatos its Poinsettia Award for Citizen of the Year. The annual awards honor businesses and individuals for community service.

This is the third time Mikelatos has won one of the awards. She won for Small Business of the Year in 2001 and Volunteer of the Year in 2004.

Before moving here, Mikelatos was a teacher in Bonham, Texas, about 70 miles northeast of Dallas. Her sister lived in California, and Mikelatos loved the state so much that she moved to Oxnard in the mid-1970s.

“I like the idea that you can go from the snow to the ocean in just a matter of minutes,” Mikelatos said.

She originally came here to teach but realized she would have to return to school for new teaching credentials. Instead, she sold real estate until 1980, when she opened the restaurant It’s Greek to Me at the Centerpoint Mall in Oxnard with her husband.

The business eventually grew, partly because of its charitable donations and connections, according to Mikelatos. “I feel like I built our business on the charity circuit,” she said. In 1994, the restaurant moved to the Ventura Harbor.

Race to stop hunger > Mikelatos has organized 5K and 10K runs for the annual Greek Festival in Camarillo. Proceeds benefit FOOD Share, Ventura County’s regional food bank. “Last year, we gave them $4,000,” she said.

She helped form the Oxnard Aquatic Foundation to promote and raise money for an Olympic-size swimming pool project at Oxnard High School. The drive was a success, and the pool opened in 1999. She also helped organize the Ventura Harbor Community Council almost six years ago. The council was formed after city officials began exploring the idea of taking over the independently run harbor. “The harbor community wanted to keep the harbor in the hands of the port commissioners,” Mikelatos said.

Today, the council serves as a representative for the harbor community, making recommendations to the city on issues affecting the area. Mikelatos is still a member of the council, which is currently updating the harbor’s disaster-preparedness plan and developing a new recycling program. Part of the program calls for giving cans and bottles to the River Haven homeless camp near the harbor, so the residents can exchange them for money.

Help for homeless > Mikelatos has been working with the Turning Point Foundation, which sponsors the tent community, said Clyde Reynolds, the foundation’s executive director. “She has been very supportive of our River Haven program,” said Reynolds, who described Mikelatos as an incredible community volunteer. “I think she is a very concerned citizen who is doing her part to make a difference,” Reynolds said.

Mikelatos also is chairwoman of the nonprofit Ventura Commerce and Education Foundation. The group raises money for education and offers programs such as Leadership Ventura, which teaches local business and community leaders about city government, education and commerce.

Mikelatos also wants to work with police and school officials to study the problem of underage drinking and educate parents about it. “I think a lot of parents are unaware their kids are drinking under their noses,” she said.

Ventura Councilman Neal Andrews praised Mikelatos’ community service and activism. “She is the person you want everybody to be,” he said.

Business > Welcome the EasyVan January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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Welcome easyVan! This is Greek-Cypriot’s Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou new venture, into commercial vehicles.

And thus announcing the birth of easyVan, a joint venture between Stelios and Northgate UK Rental. Under the deal Northgate will provide light commercial vehicles through its easyVan.com website, so whether you’re moving house, shifting a shed or just moving that old sofa down to the dump then as the PR blurb puts it: “You can rely on easyVan.com to help lighten the load.”

Naturally easyVan.com is all very simple to use. Customers have the choice of no less than five vehicles, depending on the size you need ranging from a car-derived-van to a Transit Luton with tail-lift. All you have to do is decide what you want and where you want to get it from. Confirmation of the booking is then sent to you via email in the form of a voucher which you print off, detailing from which Northgate rental location you collect your van.

easyVan’s Greek-Cypriot Sir Stelios Haj-Ioannou The picture shows Sir Stelios, he’s the big smiling Greek on the left, with Northgate UK Rental’s MD Phil Moorhouse with some liveried easyVans at Luton Airport.

Zeus worshippers demand access to temple January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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After all these centuries, Zeus may have a few thunderbolts left. A tiny group of worshippers plans a rare ceremony Sunday to honor the ancient Greek gods, at Athens’ 1,800-year-old Temple of Olympian Zeus. Greece’s Culture Ministry has declared the central Athens site off-limits, but worshippers say they will defy the decision.

“These are our temples and they should be used by followers of our religion,” said Doreta Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, a group campaigning to revive the ancient religion. “Of course we will go ahead with the event … we will enter the site legally,” said Peppa, who calls herself a high priestess of the revived faith. “We will issue a call for peace, who can be opposed to that?”

Peppa said the ceremony will be held in honor of Zeus, king of the ancient gods, but did not give other details. The daily Ethnos newspaper, citing the group’s application to the Culture Ministry to use the site, said the 90-minute event would include hymns, dancers, torchbearers, and worshippers in ancient costumes.

Greece’s archaic religion is believed to have several hundred official followers, mainly middle-aged and elderly academics, lawyers and other professionals. They typically share a keen interest in ancient history and a dislike for the Greek Orthodox Church. Ancient rituals are re-enacted every two years at Olympia, in southern Greece, where the flame lighting ceremony is held for the summer and winter Olympic games. But the event is not regarded as a religious ceremony and actresses are used to pose as high priestesses.

Last year, the Culture Ministry, fearing damage to monuments, blocked an initiative to hold an international track meet at Olympia. A panel of ministry experts ruled against Sunday’s ancient ceremony at the ruins of the Temple of Zeus on similar grounds.

“Ancient sites are not available for this kind of event,” ministry official Eliza Kyrtsoglou said. It was not clear whether the government had plans to block the worshippers.

Peppa’s group, dedicated to reviving worship of the 12 ancient gods, was founded last year and won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion. Those who seek to revive the ancient Greek religion are split into rival organizations which trade insults over the Internet. Peppa’s group is at odds with ultra-nationalists who view a revival as a way to protect Greek identity from foreign influences.

They can’t even agree on a name for the religion: One camp calls it Ancient-Religion, another Hellenic Religion. The worshippers also face another obstacle: Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church. About 97 percent of native born Greeks are baptized Orthodox Christian, and the church regards ancient religious practices as pagan. Representatives of the church in the past have not attended flame ceremonies at Olympia because reference is made to Apollo, the ancient god of music and light.

Christianity took hold in Greece in the 4th century after Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion. Emperor Theodosius wiped out the last vestige of the Olympian gods when he abolished the Olympic Games in 394 A.D. The modern revival of the Olympiad maintains a slender link to ancient ceremonies.

“Christianity did not prevail without bloodshed,” said Peppa, a novelist and historical writer. “After 16 centuries of negativity toward us, we’ve gotten something in our favor.”

Ellinais is demanding government approval for its downtown offices to be registered as a place of worship, a move that could allow the group to perform weddings and other ceremonies. They threaten further court action unless that permission is granted.

“There should be respect for people who want to express their religious feelings in a different way, that is not the typical Orthodox or Christian way,” Peppa said. “We should not be stopped or denied our rights.”

Waltham Forest’s Greek Orthodox Church celebrates January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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A growing community at Waltham Forest’s, UK, Greek Orthodox Church celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

The foundations for the church were set down by a small group of Greek Orthodox Christians in the area who transformed an old Anglican church in Ruckholt Road, Leyton, into the church of St Eleftherius, St Anthia and St Luke the Evangelist.

It is now a thriving centre both for the faithful and the wider community, as people are drawn in to attend Greek language classes, Greek dancing and fundraising events for the church and its chosen charity, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

As it is the only Orthodox church in the area, believers from Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries attend services. They would otherwise have to travel to their countries’ embassies in central London or the big west London Russian Orthodox church to attend an Orthodox service.

The Orthodox faith is said to follow the original, unaltered teaching of Christ’s apostles. The church celebrated Epiphany, or Theophany, the revelation of each aspect of the Holy Trinity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, on January 6. The revelation occurred on the day Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, when God’s voice was heard identifying his son, and a dove descended, a sign of the holy spirit.

In the service of holy water, the congregation received blessings from the priest and took holy water away with them to drink and to sprinkle around their homes and gardens.

To find out more about Greek language classes at the church, and Saturday school for children to study Greek culture, language and traditional dance, contact the church on 8539 1425.

Tailor-Made Elegance > Sur Mesure January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style, Shopping.
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It is the end of the 18th century during Edward’s III reign in England. A rebellious youth, George Brummel, wants to resist the uniformity and standardization introduced by the industrial revolution that has changed the habits of the aristocracy. He becomes leader of the Dandy movement, which considers that a gentlemen’s best friend is tailor. Beau Brummel, as he was called in the history of men’s fashion, inspired many men of his time around the world, and insisted on having the perfect, tailor-made suit.

Besides the aesthetic superiority of a tailor-made suit or sewn as it is referred to by Greek professionals of the trade, there are many practical advantages that make a man choose a more complicated process rather than prêt-à-porter. The patterns of a ready-made garment are cut based on the measurements of a dummy and constructed based on statistics, not a real man. Very few men, however, have average measurements or the perfect proportions. One arm might be slightly shorter than the other, the right shoulder might be wider than the left, the chest narrower, the waist not as slim and the pants are usually a different size than the top. The made to measure suit provides a solution for all of these anatomical disproportions. Everything can be adjusted. The tailor made suit is what the French call “seconde peau” or second skin and, by definition, fits perfectly.

Many men, especially young men, resist the idea of a suit that clings to their physique in such detail, preferring a more relaxed fit that takes them through the day, from work in the morning to an evening out, without changing clothes. However, it’s not necessary to hold your breath in a tailor-made suit. A tailor’s creation may be true to a respected tradition lasting for decades but, at the same time, may also evolve taking into account the conditions of modern life. In this way, the suit has the possibility to include modern, practical lines using easy-to-wear, flexible fabrics. And, don’t forget, tailor-made is a suit you select for yourself and make as you like.

The process is simple. First, a person has to choose his tailor, usually on the advice of a friend he trusts for his taste and style. The good tailor is not promoted through extravagant advertising but by word of mouth. It is very important that from the beginning you choose a tailor who is committed to helping you make the suit of your dreams because, as they say in Greek, «you marry your tailor». It is very difficult to change and, usually, impossible to return to prêt-à-porter once you have experienced the «good taste» of sur mesure.

On the first visit you will be «measured» to see what kind of man you are. Not with a measuring tape. No rush. That will eventually happen, but, initially, your tailor will want to learn a few things about your character, your profession, social life, so he can decide which suit is more comfortable for you. Then he will measure your chest, your waist, the length of your arms and if he discovers an irregularity in proportions, or you tell him, he will find a way to camouflage it with the right pattern. If you are happy with the results, the same pattern will be used for your next order, with the assumption you haven’t dramatically gained weight.

You will need to answer the following questions the tailor will ask you, basing your answers on what you exactly want. «How many buttons would you like on the jacket? Would you prefer double-breasted? How would you like the back? What shape and size should the collar be? What color lining? Buttons or zipper on trousers? Any pleats? Will there be a breast pocket on the jacket? Will you wear it as a suit or use the jacket as a blazer with jeans, as well?» Don’t be in a hurry to answer. Details make the suit personal. Perhaps, you’ll need a fitting before delivery, but final touches are done at the final fitting when you approve your suit.

In Athens, you won’t find the centuries-old tradition and accumulated expertise on a bespoke suit that you will find in London’s Savile Row. What you will find, however, are creative tailors with passion and love of their «art», such as Mr. Kourlas, near Syntagma Square, who is loyally recommended by all elegant gentlemen. For hours, he stands above his table working with a pattern to find the golden mean to accentuate his client’s proportions. Austere in his work, but communicative and well disposed in personal moments, he is someone a client can work with for the perfect suit.

In Greece, you can also find Italian designers, including Kiton and Ermenegildo Zegna. We spoke with Mikele Potso, head tailor of the House of Ermenegildo Zegna, who gave us advice on how to choose among the 450 available fabrics and patterns. «We specialize», he says, «in style consultancy, to be able to recommend a total look and outfits for every type of man. More than 450 coordinates make your life easier, not complicate it». What fabrics would he recommend for the warmer Mediterranean climate? «There is a demand for lighter fabrics, therefore, you fill find many of these even in our winter collection. You should know that wool breathes more than any other fabric, even cotton, which makes it ideal for the warm climate of Greece and my country, Italy». How can you tell if a suit is sur mesure at first glance? «From the buttonholes on the jacket sleeves; they should be real, as opposed to those on ready made jackets are decorative. Sur mesure garments must be worn with the last button on the sleeve unbuttoned, to indicate superiority».

A new arrival in the world of tailor-made suits is the Glou Premium Store in Piraeus. An original idea by the Glou brothers, it is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building (1894), designed by Ernest Schiller, renowned architect of the era. The gentlemen experience is complete with barber shop, cava with a wide selection of spirits and wines, cigar room, café and delicatessen.

There you have it! About a month later, delivery differs from tailor to tailor, you will enjoy your tailor-made suit. According to a traditional saying, «there are two kinds of gentlemen: those whose father takes them to a tailor when they are in their teens, and those who discover sur mesure for themselves and appreciate its superiority». There is no other kind of gentleman.

The Athenian Riviera > Piraeus January 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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Piraeus, the country’s largest port, has been a bustling hub of transportation for products and people since antiquity.

Traditionally, it is a connecting point between the mainland and the populations of the many Aegean islands and, even further, linking the cultures of countries where Greek ships sail. In Piraeus, people are open to conversation, used to the unfamiliar, the foreign and hospitable because almost everyone has a family member in another country. Edgy on occasion, they are quick to return to their warm, calm nature, like the sea, having grown up next to its shores.

Strolling through the Freattida neighborhood, you can smell the fresh fish from the fishermen’s nets and the spices used by the housewives in their cooking, loyal to the unwritten recipes of Mediterranean cuisine, which is now renowned internationally. Always walking with the sea to our right, we reach Marina Zeas, a small harbor for mooring yachts, which brings to mind images of Monte Carlo. We ascend Kastella hill with its neoclassical homes, built at the turn of the century by wealthy businessmen and ship owners, winding downhill to charming Mikrolimano with its fish taverns and bars, like the American style «Pin Up» and the Mexican «Viva Zapata» where locals meet on weekend afternoons to enjoy a cocktail and lively music.

Leaving, in the direction of Pireaus center, art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Archaeological Museum featuring some of the most beautiful and rare bronze sculptures in the world: the Bronze Kouros, male youth, circa 6th century BC, and Athena, circa 4th century BC, created by a unique casting technique.

Close by, next to the architecturally impressive Peace and Friendship Stadium and Karaiskaki Football Field, home to Olympiakos, the well-known, Greek, football team, which has participated in many European tournaments, we arrive at the tram station. The tram, a modern means of transportation, runs along the length of the Athenian coast offering a spectacular view of the sea, as well as a quick and comfortable means of transportation from area to area.

Traveling by tram along the coast, you can admire the newly-built athletic installations constructed for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, which remain as a legacy to the city changing the face of the Athenian coast: the best Beach Volleyball court in the world; the indoor Tae Kwon Do gymnasium; the Agios Kosmas marina, where the sailing competition was held; the Baseball and Softball fields at Hellenikon, which will soon become a metropolitan park; and the Canoe-Kayak facilities, the perfect infrastructure of a model water-park.

The tram also passes Flisvos, a promenade by the sea, flanked with palm trees and kiosks where locals enjoy a romantic or quiet walk while the sea breeze caresses their face. Young people bike and skateboard, while other play chess or enjoy a cup of coffee or delicious ice cream by the water’s edge.

The tram route ends at cosmopolitan Glyfada, the shopping center of the southern suburbs of metropolitan Athens. Here, you can find designer boutiques for apparel, accessories and footwear; elegant and luxurious stores that have won the trust of prestigious clientele. «Luisa’s» window keeps shoppers up to date with the latest creations by designers, such as Roberto Cavalli, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Missoni, Narciso Rodriguez, Pucci, as well as women’s shoes by Jimmy Choo and leather accessories by Bottega Veneta.

«Carouzos» has the exclusive import of haute couture by international designers including Prada, Ermenegildo Zegna, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Fendi, Valentino, Celine, and Brioni. «Kalogirou» offers an exclusive selection of shoes and leather accessories by Cesare Paciotti, Church’s, Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. A small market, «Bakaliko Ola ta Kala» is unique delicatessen, which sells ingredients for Greek recipes. You will also find marmalades from mountain villages, homemade sausage, organic beans and homemade pasta made with fresh eggs.

And, of course, nothing surprises visitors more than their first encounter with the Greek coffee culture. On Glyfada’s Zissimopoulou street, hundreds of people come and go from the stylish cafes, wearing the latest fashion, greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks, crowding the outdoor tables, speaking loudly, drinking cappuccino, chocolate or frappe, laughing, joking, conversing, passing time in an atmosphere where the Mediterranean temperament sometimes overcomes etiquette.

If we follow the tram route toward the center of Athens, the end of the line is the station at Syntagma (Constitution) Square in front of the Parliament building and the monument of the Unknown Soldier, guarded day and night by members of the Presidential Guard wearing traditional, Greek costume. Syntagma Square is a crossroads, which most Athenians transverse daily, and it provides an opportunity for the visitor to mix with them and try some of their habits.

Mastiha (gum) produced exclusively from the mastich tree on the island of Chios adds its unique taste and aroma to sweets, marmalades, gum, shampoo, shower gels and body creams, all available at the «Mastiha Shop». Other favorites are the chocolates with nuts or liqueur from «Aristokratikon» confectionery; the baklava and other desserts from Constantinople at «Karakoy Gulluoglu»; and cheese pies from «Ariston». From here, we continue to the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian walkway, lined with age-old sycamore trees, which passes exactly underneath the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis. Many enjoy looking at the Parthenon from the foot of the rock but, we assure you, that the view from the top and the experience of looking at the monument at close range is unforgettable.

On to the pedestrian walkway of Apostolou Pavlou, passing the trendy cafes of Thisseion and the Ancient Agora through the back roads of Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of Athens, with its low-roofed houses and rhythm of eras past. You will rarely see a car and there is always a festive mood in the air. In the stores in Plaka, you will find an original gift; natural sponges from the bottom of the sea, collected by divers from the island of Kalymnos.

Returning to Syntagma Square via Ermou Street, a pedestrian walkway lined with trendy stores and fashionable, international clothing chains. The Benaki Museum deserves a visit to admire its impressive collection of Greek culture from antiquity to today. Nearby, at the «Miseyianni» coffee shop, established in 1914, you will find freshly ground, aromatic Greek coffee. Choose among the many flavors stacked on the shelves.

We return to Vouliagmeni, the beautiful municipality where the Triathlon competition was held during the 2004 Olympics. Ancient finds show that the area has been inhabited sine 3000 BC. In 1924, children from the Vouliagmeni orphanage playing near ruins, which, today, are on Astir Palace’s beach, discovered part of an inscription referring to the shrine of Apollo Zostir.

Very close to the «Astir Palace Vouliagmeni», the crown jewel of the Athenian Riviera, there is another ancient secret. A mystical lake, created by the collapse of a cave with hot springs. It is ideal for an early evening swim in its emerald, semi-salted waters and the temperature is 20-27 degrees Celsius year round. Dine later, either at the «Gourmet Grill Room», the winter restaurant, specialising in international cuisine with an emphasis on French delicacies, or «Alia Brasserie», the «Arion» hotel’s all day restaurant, with a spectacular view to the sea and lush pine forest, and, of course, excellent service.

Remember, the most beautiful sunset you can enjoy is from the ancient Temple of Poseidon, god of sea, at Sounion. In the Dorian style of architecture, built around 440 BC during the Golden Age of Pericles, it is made from white marble from the Agrileza mines. The temple was deserted in the early Christian period. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, the temple has an almost mystical energy. Enjoy the tranquility of the sunset and wonder at the miracle of nature revealed, in all its glory, at that very moment. The Athenian Riviera has seen to this, too.