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From Market to McVeggie
The conference ended at noon today so we enjoyed a free afternoon, and I finally made it to the glorious Acropolis (fun fact: The Acropolis was constructed during the late 5th century BC. It is thought to be the most important monument in the Western world because nothing has influenced architecture more since its construction).
But, first thing this morning, we took an early walk (6:30 am!) to the Central Market. There were several olive vendors in addition to those selling greens, vegetables, fruit, and seafood. We purchased a large bag of ripe (black) olives for just a few euros, in addition to strawberries, pistachios, peanuts, dried apricots, figs, golden raisins, whole grain bread, spinach pie, olive oil, and coffee. Every vendor was incredibly friendly (Athens may be the friendliest city I’ve ever been to), even offering to take pictures of us with our purchases and communicating with us in English.
After the conference ended, we headed to the Acropolis on foot (did I mention that physical activity forms the foundation of the Mediterranean Food Pyramid?). I included two photos of me in front of it so you could see just how many steps it took to reach the very top of the hill (re: the photo of my on the city street – that’s the Acropolis WAY above my head). And that’s after walking 25 minutes to get to that spot (gotta burn off those olive oil calories!).
Afterwards we walked all around the Plaka (touristy) area which was the only place with open shops (today is a very special religious holiday, kids were out of school, business were closed, and many Greeks were out flying kites as is tradition on this day). During our excursion, we stopped to sample (just a taste) baklava, a traditional walnut cake, and a donut made with mastiha (an expensive aromatic spice made from sap that flows like tears from a special tree, thought to have medicinal properties). The baklava was by far the best.
On our (long) walk home, we spotted a McDonalds filled with teenagers (as was the Mickey D’s in Rome) and I couldn’t resist checking it out. Unlike Rome, this McDonalds’ menu included some unusual items such as kabobs, Greek salad, and a McVeggie. I just could not resist buying the veggie “burger” and as you can see from the photo, I did take a bite. Surprisingly it was filled with vegetables (i.e. it wasn’t a soy burger) with curry seasoning (not at all what I expected), and I didn’t have to wait at all, which leads me to believe they must get ordered on a fairly frequent basis (a crowd actually gathered around us as we took photo after photo of our Greek McVeggie experience).
Tonight, the conference attendees and speakers met up again for one last dinner. I had olives (surprised?), broad beans cooked in a tomato dill sauce, salad greens with citrus fruits, carrots and radishes, spinach onion pie (delicious!!!), diced potatoes, and a glass of red wine. I have many more thoughts to share about the research presented at the conference, and what I’ve learned about the health benefits of Greek cuisine – but - I need to pack (including my large bottle of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil) and get ready for a very long travel day tomorrow. Once my brain and body get back to U.S. time, I’ll share some more. For now, I’ll leave you with a well-known Greek saying, “I ate bread and olives with him” (denotes friendship and peace).