“My only requirements are that it be a rooftop apartment with a sea view,” I told my Athenian friend as we discussed my Athens housing dreams.
But Panagiotis, who is actually from Spetses, is more into reality: “Have you forgotten about the long Athenian summer?”
“How long?” I asked. A perfectly Spetsiot pause followed and then the punch: “You’re about to find out.”
September in Athens can be toasty indeed, I am rapidly finding out. Every day I start with a mental checklist of things I want to do: the Gaultier exhibit at the Benaki, the store in Kolonaki that sells the spoon sweets, the hike behind Lycabettus…then I have my first espresso freddo from Coffee Island, then the second (with extra ice) then the sun starts displaying its teeth and in a matter of minutes my list shrinks as I go from can-do to torpor beyond repair. But it’s precisely having been brought to that lazy place that let me identify a few fool-proof and mostly cost-effective ways to throw some serious shade at the monolithic heatwave that is your basic September in the Greek capital. Can’t be bothered? I know, it’s hot out. But stick with me…
1. Make a beeline for the nearest museum. And then slow down.
While there may be a deficit of cooling breezes in Athens even in late summer, there is no shortage of cultural refreshment. The hot days are a perfect opportunity to recalibrate and instead of rushing through the centuries with the velocity of a metro train racing from station to station, slowing your pace. Whether you’re at the Acropolis Museum or the Benaki or another, It’s a great way to spend time focusing on a few objects at a time instead of trying to take everything in at once (what are those hoplites smiling about? wait—is it a smile?) and to indulge in the aircon. Plus the heat is a perfect excuse to check out some of Athens’ fantastic museum cafés.
2. Ride the bus to Limanakia.
Mykonos is great, but you can’t get there by bus. But hop on the 122 from Elliniko metro station and don’t get off until you hear “Limanakia A”. There are lots of little coves starting at about Vouliagmeni, but only at Limanakia (Greek for “little port”) will you find a spot that blends city beach energy with island getaway atmosphere. But you go there less for the vibe than the water which is a clear and shimmering emerald-blue. Remember, there’s no sand here: you just walk down some rough steps, maybe grab a drink at the lone beach bar, and dive right in. Warning: the bus ride is long, crowded and bumpy and making friends along the way is not assured, but once you get there you’re going to love it.
3. Drink this lemonade.
There’s nothing like a cold frappé to start the day, but when I see Greeks clinging to their caffeine under the hot afternoon sun it makes me wonder if they have overlooked the awesomeness of the Hellenic lemon. And not all are created equal: there is something about the lemons squeezed into the Chios Fruits lemonade that will literally knock your socks off (but hopefully you are already wearing sandals by now). Because I had not tasted lemonade this completely fantastic since going to the county fair as a kid, I had to ask Yiannis Trantalis, the juice co.’s Chief Commercial Officer, what makes it so good. “We carefully select all of our citrus crop,” he told me, “paying special attention not to receive any rotten or non A-class fruits. We do all the squeezing ourselves, using the lemons’ own essential oil and pulp.” They also pasteurize the lemonade just once, “to keep it as fresh as possible.” If you can find this lemonade at a kiosk near you, and manage to get your hands on some ice cubes, you will have the answer to an Athenian heat wave in a glass.
4. Cut your hair off.
If the trip to Limanakia and the pitcher of Chios Fruits Lemonade has still not managed to keep the sweat from your brow, follow suggestion number four and cut your hair off. Okay, not all of it (although it’s certainly an option), but have you noticed all the fantastic vintage barber shops in Athens? The sun is so bright it can be easy to overlook them, but trust me they’re there and Athens could right the book on impeccable grooming. In fact it’s hard to recommend just one, but I’d say make an appointment at Aki Pierro Barber & Shop on Solonos St. Heck, I haven’t even had my hair cut there yet but I’ve visited and can tell you the guys leaving the shop look ready to walk onto a movie set. Cool stuff.
5. Party all night and sleep all day.
It was almost 9:30 the other night and was getting testy (via text, of course) with Panagiotis for making me wait to go out to dinner. “It’s still early,” he wrote. However, I have realized that if you shed the Anglo-Saxon skin a bit and start having dinner later, then go for drinks say, in Gazi later than that, you can easily transform yourself from a diurnal being dodging the bright sunlight into a creature of the night. It may not work every day of the week, but if you can live by the night two or three days a week in the hot season, you’ll feel better in the morning. Because you’ll be sleeping through it.
6. Book this room.
Finally, if your air conditioner broke or you just can’t be bothered to schlep to the beach, check into the Presidential Suite at the King George Hotel. Because there’s nothing like a view of the sun-drenched Acropolis from the comfort of your own private swimming pool. And I checked—it was booked this week, but there’s always next, and guess what? If it’s September, it’s probably gonna be hot.