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Spending 36 hours in Athens

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There are cities that count their age by years; then there’s Athens, which can tabulate its history by millenniums. From battles and setbacks, this ancient metropolis has rebounded again and again, proving itself to be resilient like no other. Sitting on a parfait of civilizations, the Greek capital could easily coast on its past glories. But recent additions like the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center prove that this city in the heart of the Mediterranean isn’t afraid to raise new monuments and leave a bold statement for posterity. With a dazzling culinary scene firmly grounded in the country’s traditions and soil — not to mention philoxenia, or the Greek notion of loving and welcoming strangers — it’s no surprise that Athens has greeted a record number of tourists this past year. Luckily for us visitors, there’s plenty to experience in this storied city.

Friday4 p.m. The New Agora

The Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center houses the national library and opera.
The Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center houses the national library and opera.  (Andreas Meichsner / The New York Times)

Completed in 2016, the Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center houses the national library and opera on handsomely manicured grounds dotted with young olive trees. Even if you miss the 10 a.m. architectural tour conducted in English, you can experience the complex’s varied spaces by dropping in on a free outdoor t’ai chi class or settling into the opera house’s maraschino cherry-hued chairs to take in the impressive acoustics. Or simply stand under the solar power-generating canopy roof to survey the 360-degree vista of Athens and the sea.

6 p.m. Keeping It in the Family

Hop off the free shuttle from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center at the Syggrou-Fix Metro station and lose yourself in the city’s latest “it” neighbourhood, Koukaki. The once sleepy sidewalks lined with bitter orange trees have come alive with boutiques and cafes catering to young Athenians as well as European tourists. To understand Koukaki’s down-to-earth origins, though, take a deep breath of carbs and comfort inside Takis Bakery, which has been satiating neighbours since 1962 with kulouri sesame rings, rich cheese pies and by-the-kilo pastries. Across the narrow alley, the baker’s children are carrying on the Papadopoulos family tradition in gastronomy with Drupes & Drips, a teeny wine bar where you can recharge for the night with a freddo espresso, a shot of caffeine shaken with ice (1.90 euros, or about $2.20).

9:30 p.m. A Culinary Odyssey

Fabrica tou Euphrosinos, a well known restaurant in the neighborhood of Koukaki under the Acropolis.
Fabrica tou Euphrosinos, a well known restaurant in the neighborhood of Koukaki under the Acropolis.  (Eirini Vourloumis/The New York Times)

Many flamboyant hangouts have popped up around Koukaki, but its residents stay loyal to Fabrica tou Efrosinou, a neighbourhood restaurant that spills out onto the sidewalk. A meal here is a journey around Greece, with seasonal ingredients drawn from various islands in the country in addition to only-in-Greece cheeses and wines. From herb-rich zucchini salad (8.20 euros) to octopus slow-cooked in a clay pot (18.40 euros), each dish elevates rustic cookery with a touch of capital sophistication, living up to its name, which honours the patron saint of cooks.

Saturday8 a.m. Cycladic Athens

Start your morning with a stroll in the central enclave of Anafiotika, with its whitewashed homes nearly stacked on top of one another. This geometric jumble of cottages was built in the 19th century by settlers from the Cycladic island of Anafi, Santorini’s diminutive neighbour. Here, flowers spill out of terracotta pots to adorn the labyrinthine paths where stray cats don’t as much demand as expect to be petted and adored.

9 a.m. High City

The Acropolis rightfully takes a lofty space above the city.
The Acropolis rightfully takes a lofty space above the city.  (Eirini Vourloumis/The New York Times)

Even the most off-the-beaten-path type of traveller would be sorry to miss the Acropolis, which rightfully takes up a lofty place above the city. The crown jewel consists of inimitable archeological sites, including the Parthenon temple, engaged in a never-ending Tetris game of cataloguing, restoring and fitting its many fragments (and replacements for missing parts). To visualize this symbol of Western civilization without the scaffolding, walk down to the Acropolis Museum, where you’ll come face-to-face with a recreation of the intricate frieze that once wrapped around the temple. (Acropolis admission is 20 euros; museum, 5 euros.)

Noon. The City’s Heart

The ancient agora at the foothill of the Acropolis doesn’t see any commercial action these days, so head instead to the vibrant Varvakeios Central Market, where vendors try to outdo one another’s shouts hawking fresh catches, colourful vegetables and fresh cuts of meat. The unpretentious butcher-to-plate restaurants around the market, like Epirus, provide the freshest option to brave a taste of pasta, tripe stew or magiritsa, the lamb offal soup reserved for the early hours of Easter elsewhere. A few steps away from the market, the delicatessen of Karamanlidika serves small plates and shots of ouzo alongside a heaping meat board (16 euros) and smoked fish (from 5.50 euros) in a restored neo-Classical building. If you’re after an edible souvenir you can legally take home, the nearly century-old Ariana Olives nearby vacuum-packs whatever you choose from the many barrels of preserved drupes.

3 p.m. Gold, Silver, Bronze

The National Archaeological Museum showcases priceless artifacts from the Mediterranean’s ancient civilizations.
The National Archaeological Museum showcases priceless artifacts from the Mediterranean’s ancient civilizations.  (Eirini Vourloumis/The New York Times)

Time travel to the Neolithic era, then fast-forward through nine millenniums in the National Archaeological Museum (10 euros), which showcases priceless artifacts from the Mediterranean’s ancient civilizations. From the gold mask of Agamemnon to the sinewy Artemision Bronze statue, from pottery fragments to exquisite jewelry, the museum’s timeless treasures stand as testaments to the longevity of art.

6 p.m. Raising the Roof

In central Athens, al fresco boîtes with views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill grace countless rooftops of deceptively ordinary-looking concrete blocks. The year-old Anglais is particularly atmospheric, with fairy lights strung above a gregarious young crowd. A for Athens, off bustling Monastiraki Square, serves mythically titled drinks like Polyphemus the Cyclops, as well as a cobbler that features mastiha, the distinctly fragrant tree resin from Chios (12 euros).

8 p.m. Mezes and Dakos

Mismatched plates, vintage upholstery and Formica-topped tables may signal a hipster hangout, but the Cretan restaurant Aster has the substance to back up its quirky style. Dive into mezes like ginger-marinated salmon paired with lentil salad (5.50 euros) and fried meatballs topped with rich yogurt (6 euros). And don’t miss dakos, Greece’s answer to panzanella, with wedges of double-baked barley bread tossed with ripe tomatoes and creamy cheese (4 euros).

10 p.m. Bohemian Rhapsody

Wrap up your Saturday night in Psyrri, a former industrial district where hardware stores and design ateliers now coexist harmoniously. The leafy streets fanning out from Iroon Square are chockablock with rambunctious establishments that swing till dawn, but for an experience that best encapsulates how Psyrri toes that fine line between glamorous and grungy, head to Cantina Social. A coffee-sipping neighbourly crowd gives way to an increasingly festive clientele as night goes on. To a soundtrack that can whiplash from obscure indie bands to unabashedly happy Latin pop, a diverse crowd of college students, media executives and, sometimes, drag queens, congregates in the courtyard where projections of old films turn the walls into pop art canvases.

Sunday

8 a.m. Cabinet of Curiosities

Avissynias Square has a popular flea market, attracting Athenians of all stripes.
Avissynias Square has a popular flea market, attracting Athenians of all stripes.  (Eirini Vourloumis/The New York Times)

Throughout the week, there’s no shortage of shops touting identical chess boards and uninspired T-shirts near the central hangout of Monastiraki Square. But only on Sunday mornings do eccentric hoarders take to Avissynias Square, where they lay out a cornucopia of vintage curios. The real attraction of the flea market, however, might be watching Athenians of all stripes coming together.

Noon. Island Time

In less than half an hour, the Metro whisks you from Monastiraki Square to the port of Piraeus, where ferries and cruises depart to faraway destinations. But you don’t have to be envious of those headed to Mykonos or Santorini if you can’t venture far. Hydra, a 25-square-mile isle of intimate coves and hilltop monasteries, is a 1 1/2- to 2-hour ferry ride away (28 euros). There, weather-beaten fishing boats bob alongside luxury yachts in the harbour of the main town, also called Hydra, where most of the island’s 2,000 inhabitants live. After a meal of pan-fried cheese and plump anchovies at one of the many tavernas that line the promenade, head out of this picturesque town for a dip in the jewel-toned sea. You’ll have to walk unless you can persuade one of the Hydriots to let you borrow a donkey: The island is free of motorbikes and cars.

If You Go

  • Anafiotika, (look for Plaka Anafiotika on Google Maps)
  • Varvakeios Central Market, Athinas 42. Epirus, Filopoimenos 4, 30-21-0324-0773. Karamanlidika, Sokratous 1. Ariana Olives, Theatrou 3
  • Monastiraki Flea Market, Avissynias Square

Lodging

Because of its overwhelming number of Airbnb units, Koukakis has ample infrastructure for tourists, like coin laundry and luggage storage facilities. But if you want to rub shoulders with Athenians, opt instead for Petralona, an artsy neighbourhood poised to become the next Koukakis sans tourists (for now). Expect to pay $40 to $60 a night for a one-bedroom. The 21-room AthensWas, with its clean-lined classic modernist interiors, is steps away from the Acropolis Museum. Doubles from $220 a night. In the middle of the Psyrri nightlife scene, Fresh Hotel offers 133 bright rooms with whimsical splashes of highlighter tones. Look out for local artists’ works hanging above Philippe Starck- and Zaha Hadid-designed furniture. Doubles from $105 a night.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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