Memories of Greece Amongst the Snow

Walking about through the slushy sidewalks and salt-ridden streets of Washington, DC this time of year makes me nostalgic of the time I spent in Greece a year or so ago.

For every chilled passer-by here wrapped in woolen scarves and fleeced ear muffs I think of the locals walking the inner streets in the town of Mykonos, dressed in their traditional island attire, making their way to the local baker for their loaf of bread.

For every chain restaurant franchisee I pass by from the metro station to the office, I think of the local Greek cafe’s, serving local delights, lining the edges of the islands small inner harbor, in which the colorful local fisherman’s boats bob up and down in the warm Aegean waters.

For every chunk of rippled ice I see float by in the Potomac along the shores of the Mall, I think of warm breezes blowing across our ship bow as we sailed out of the caldera cliffs of Santorini.  The white-washed towns along the caldera’s edges almost appearing like snow-capped peaks rising against a deep blue sky.

Sitting at my desk, occasionally peering out the window over the street below takes me back to walking atop the Acropolis in Athens, and being both amazed of the view and absorbing the historical background of the fortified perch I stood upon.

It’s the brisk winter days like these in Washington, DC that make my mind wander back to Greece and the amazing vistas, warm sun upon my back, and the cultural richness that is,… well,  one of my favorite places to be.



Launching AuthentiCity: Behind the Scenes

AuthentiCity Travel logo

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do otherwise …” – Rahm Emanuel

When Rahm Emanuel uttered these words in late 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, we were watching the travel industry go into a dramatic free fall, as consumers faced great uncertainty and cancelled or postponed their travel plans.

We braced ourselves for a tough 2009 season as we had done many times before during times of volatility. But this time, we took a bigger step. We innovated! Over the course of several months, our team of incurable explorers traveled, researched, brainstormed and finally conceived of a fresh, immersive travel concept for an independent-minded, well-traveled traveler called AuthentiCity!

We kept hearing that travelers wanted to experience an international destination as authentically as possible, but they were missing the tools to do so. Now, we have solved that with AuthentiCity!

In 2011, AuthentiCity programs will debut in Athens, Beijing, Cairo and Siena with over 15 departures. Travelers will be sure catch their breath and have their breath taken away over the course of 12 to 14 days. They will live like the locals in their neighborhoods, markets, and squares. They will enjoy unhurried itineraries where they’ll have unprecedented access to places and people not found in any guidebook, learn some language, and savor deliciously-prepared cuisine—the very essence of AuthentiCity and the heart of our motto, “Travel Deeper.”

Please visit to read about the details of these new trips!

Chase Poffenberger

Executive Vice President
Academic Travel Abroad

In Good Company: Greece

I have just spent a wonderful week with my family in Greece. My 8-year old daughter had said she wanted to see the acropolis and so we fitted in a stop to Athens on our European tour and made her wish come true.

Thanks to ATA’s longstanding partners and dear friends, Eleni and Themis Zachariou, we enjoyed the perfect week – balanced with a fascinating visit to the acropolis in Athens followed by some relaxing days on the island of Aegina close by. I have long known that Eleni is able to impart her knowledge of ancient Greek history with pride and enthusiasm but this time it was wonderful to watch my kids learning. Eleni teaches with grace and her information is conveyed in such a way that it appeals to all ages.

Despite the heat, and it was seriously hot, the children were enthusiastic throughout the tour of the acropolis – that lasted several hours. As we hopped from one patch of shade to another, Eleni interwove the facts about the building of the Parthenon with stories of Greek gods. It was fascinating. When we arrived in the Acropolis Museum for a late lunch my daughter announced ‘ why are we watching this film, Eleni already told us all this!”

From Athens we took a ferry to Aegina, where Eleni and Themis have created a delightful family home in the hills above the port – surrounded by olive groves and pistachio trees (the staple crop of the island). The island of Aegina is hardly frequented by tourists, it is more a retreat for Athenians and is somewhat stuck in time. The port is filled with fishing boats and farmers selling their produce along the quay and lined with tavernas and small shops and stalls, many selling pistachios. Its simplicity is a great attraction.

Apart from unwinding here for a couple of days, it became apparent how the Zachariou family continually strive to create an authentic experience, catering to the individual guests every time and adapting to the season you are visiting. We were taken to the best beaches and given a tour of the Temple of Aphaia; and a pleasure for my foodie family, we were served some delicious Greek food. There is nothing that beats a perfectly ripened tomato seasoned with oregano and olive oil and served with feta cheese. We were treated to many fruits and vegetables from their garden, but we were also taken to some local tavernas that are frequented by Greek friends. It would be hard to imagine a more quintessential Greek experience than sitting on the beach savoring octopus, fried fish and ouzo as the sun went down. We enjoyed every mouthful.

The Zachariou’s skill is not only in treating you to the sights and flavours of Greece but in making you feel a part of it, however brief your stay. Even with my relatively young children we slipped into the Greek way of life (taking a long siesta during the heat of the day and eating out late). On our last night we were fighting with the locals for a table for dinner at a very popular courtyard taverna at 10:30 pm. But it was worth the wait. The garlic sauce served with the fried eggplants was divine.

Eleni also made my children feel comfortable with Greek – teaching them the Greek alphabet and basic phrases. So much so that my children refused to have the volume turned down on the Princess and the Frog DVD they were watching, even if it was in Greek. Listening to the lyrical sounds of the Greek language was all part of the experience.

In one short week my family had been treated to a very authentic introduction to Greece and they could see why I enjoy programming tours to Greece, not least because of the warmth of the Greek friends I work with. Efharisto Eleni and Themis!

Emma Impavido
Senior Program Manager

Academic Travel Abroad

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Academic Travel Abroad and The Wonders of Ancient Greece.

Kalimera!  (“good day” in Greek)

Our group and the Parthenon

I recently had the distinct pleasure of traveling to Athens and the Cycladic Islands as a representative for Academic Travel Abroad with travelers from the Association of Yale Alumni and Smithsonian Journeys.  If you’ve never been to Greece or the picturesque Cycladic Islands, this is the trip to take!  We were accompanied by Eleni Zachariou, our Greek historian and local expert who added real value and distinct character to all the sights by giving us the historical background at each location.

Our tour started in Athens, where we visited the sights of the acclaimed Acropolis with the majestic Parthenon and Erechtheum temples and enjoyed a lecture by Elani which told the story of this location’s turbulent history through Greek, Persian and Mycenaean influences.  We then proceeded to the famous Greek Agora site where we were introduced to the extravagant complex that was once a thriving Greek marketplace where trade, entertainment and politics were daily cultural activities.

Chapel on Santorini

A picturesque chapel on Santorini

We were also treated to some excellent traditionally local meals throughout the small back streets of Athens while enjoying some time to shop and see more elusive sites along the way.  This was a chance to feel the very tangible energy that Athens has.  It was amazing.

On the third day, we drove to the port of Piraeus where we boarded our ship, the S.V. Panorama and set sail for the much-anticipated Cycladic Islands. 

Delos, the birthplace of Apollo, was an amazing landscape of ruins from 2000 -1500 B.C.  Mykonos was an island of quaint villages and amazing vistas of the Aegean Sea with tiny streets filled with friendly locals and enticing shops.  Naxos, the largest of the Cylcades islands, was covered in breath-taking views of mountainous landscapes and we had a unique opportunity to visit one of Elani’s friends who has refurbished a beautiful historical home on the hillside looking down over the island’s harbor.  Santorini is simply amazing.  An ancient volcanic caldera forms a partial ring of islands on which three beautiful towns line the cliff-tops and offer a photographers dream for finding that dramatic shot.  We rode the mules up the caldera’s rim and enjoyed a day of sites and shopping while basking in the warm Greek sunlight.

Our ship - the S.V. Panorama

The glories of modern and ancient Greece were  truly magnificent.  Between our boat staff, Elani Zacharriou – our tour expert and Marty Gane – our tour manager, we were professionally immersed into a culture and civilization that astounded us all.  The memories, experiences and friendships we all came away with from this tour will be something we will keep with us for a lifetime.

To see my slideshow from this tour, CLICK HERE.

Steve Muth
Creative Manager
Academic Travel Abroad 

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