The sun had already set when we flew into Athens. As I climbed out of the taxi and looked up the street from our hotel, there it was: the Parthenon. All lit up. Actually, it seemed to glow from the inside out. Very, very, very inspiring.
In the morning, we ignored the advice of a very large concierge and walked in the general direction of the Acropolis. It didn't take nearly as long as the out-of-shape man warned us it would. Plus we were able to see a few buildings and local pockets of activity that we would have missed if we had taken a cab. This is an extremely important detail: Walk, don't take a cab. This goes for just about anywhere. You miss out on all the local flavor if you're zipping along the main streets. Or not zipping as is usually the case.
I had a great time. Not only did I get to see structures I've only read about, I was able to reunite with my Boston roommates, Steele, who still lives in Boston, and Johnny "Depeche Mode," who owns a coffee shop down in Piraeus called the eXpresso Bar. (Apparently it's like the Greek version of Cheers, according to Johnny). Like a fine wine, if I may say, he's gotten better with age. One glass of Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and he managed to get his car stuck on some steps leading directly to a career-ending cliff. He thought it was a shortcut. Sounds much worse than it was, actually. It was much worse for him, of course. We gave him a nonstop hard time for the next 48 hours.
The restaurant we couldn't seem to get enough of was Sale e Pepe, which has fine Italian cuisine and a full-on, no-baloney wine list. My memory is a bit foggy due to the reunion, but I believe we had a Penfolds Yattarna to start and a Biondi-Santi Riserva. Then it's all a jet-lagged blur. Some Aldo Conterno Chardonnay Langhe Bussiador 1996 started off our second night there (I know this because I remembered to bring a camera this time rather than rely on my bad memory). Then some '97 and '98 Sassacaia, and a '90 Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino. Top it all off with a half-bottle of Isole e Olena Vin Santo 1999 and you have yourself a damn fine roommate reunion. (For photos, check out the journal section of my winery/vineyard website, www.caduceus.org.)