We may not be into seeking out the best museums or spend hours touring historical sites, but when it comes to learning about a city, and a culture, we tend to look straight to its food. What kind of ingredients are used? How is the food prepared? What are the dining habits of the local people? How can I spend time eating with the locals? This is exactly what we wanted to do when visiting Athens, Greece.
Which is why an Alternative Athens tour, which promised a home-cooked lunch in an Athenian home, sounded perfect.
First off, I love seeing inside homes in other countries. To get a glimpse of how people live. I love exploring the kitchen appliance, how things differ, or how they are the same. It is one of the reasons that I love renting apartments when I travel.
Eating With the Locals is a Perfect Lunch
Eleni’s top floor Athen’s apartment was more spacious than I had anticipated, with a large dining room table and several sitting areas. I also never would have expected it to be surrounded, on all four sides, with a patio with views over Athens in every single direction. We dined al fresco, on the balcony, with a view of the Acropolis in the distance. It was a perfectly warm blue day, which made the afternoon eating with the locals even more special.
Although the middle of the week, Eleni hosted a small group for what would be considered a typical Saturday or Sunday meal – several courses spanning an afternoon while engaged in lively conversation. It was a perfect lunch at an Athenian home, and of course started with ouzo.
Eleni served several courses, but my favorite dishes were:
An Eggplant Salad, or Melitzanosalata
Stuffed Grape Leaves, or Giaprakia
Roasted Lamb With Potatoes
What was more amazing, though, was the chance to meet Eleni and her husband, Pantelis.
They were a riot, and I imagined Eric and I much like them in a decade or so. They laughed and joked with us, and with one another. They were as interested in hearing about where we were from as they were in sharing stories about Athens and Greek culture.
Eleni had a way about her. She would start to tell a story, stop and smile, and say something like “I will tell you why later.” She often left Eric hanging on her every word. In fact, I think she was a little smitten with him, often taking him to the side to share amazing stories of her life in Athens. There may have been a connection because her daughter lives in Bali from time to time. Maybe his was the only name she could remember. Whatever it was, Eric made a quick friend.
These are the types of experiences that are hard to find when you travel. It is hard enough to find a restaurant with authentic, local food. You can learn about the tradition and culture by taking a walking tour, or trying to meet new people along the way. I appreciated what Alternative Athens was trying to do by providing a unique experience to see inside an Athenian home, to better understand the culture and tradition in a way that just can’t be seen inside a museum. A way to understand more about what to eat in Athens. A sincere thanks to Alternative Athens, and Eleni, for being such wonderful hosts.
We were hosted by Alternative Athens for this tour. Normally, the price is 32-35 Euros per person and includes lunch, wine, drinks, and a lovely afternoon spent eating with the locals. As always, my opinions are my own.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.