‘A pair of loverbirds like you, you will love it here. It eeze a very sexed-up part of town,’ smiles our cab driver dropping us outside the long, glass paneled façade of Fresh hotel. Cab drivers are known for their piercing observations. But how this one knew that we’d torn ourselves away from busy lives to enjoy a ‘what you English call a dirty weekend’ in downtown Athens is beyond me.
Tucked – discreet as a Peeping Tom – between a sex parlour and a shop selling natural aphrodisiacs (‘Helping you and your man have fun the natural way!’), we surmise that being so central might mean we're in Athens' louchier district. So it’s a relief when we escape the steamy street heat and we step inside this cheap-chic stay to discover sultry needn’t equal seedy.
Reclining like banqueting Romans on one of three cushy leather sofas in the busy lobby, my playmate and I wait for our key, noisily sucking the boiled sweets we’ve swiped from a dish at reception. A very compact elevator then throws us into an embrace and whisks us upstairs to our light-dappled bedroom. Here we fling ourselves on a large low bed to take in the easy-on-the-eye cream walls, blonde pine floors and ceilings, and wall-to-wall windows.
Night falls as this Mrs Smith lathers up with those herbally Korres goodies under a needle-sharp shower, and Mr Smith sips a fillip of gin from the minibar. I join him for an aperitif on our ribbon strip of a pebble-strewn balcony to admire the postcard-perfect Acropolis view.
Down in the hotel’s candlelit restaurant, Magenta, we get another dose the city’s most famous monument. The windows look out at this flat-topped outcrop, and this centuries-old landmark appears like a wedding cake chiseled from the in the city’s chaotic skyline.
While the restaurant's Mediterranean cuisine doesn’t prove isn’t as heart-stirring as the setting, it’s at breakfast the following morning that Fresh sneaks its way to our hearts via our stomachs. Fresh fruit salad (mango, kiwi and pineapple swimming in its own juice) for me and gooey-yet-flaky pains au chocolate and croissants for Mr Smith. All delivered punctually to our suite by a pretty Athenian clutching a steaming thermos of hot coffee.
Galvanised, we go for a fascinating stroll around our locale. An exotically perfumed maze of streets surrounds Fresh Hotel, it’s teeming with Egyptians flogging hubbly-bubbly pipes, Afghans hawking Halal meat and Moroccans preparing couscous. Mr Smith, though, is looking for postcards. Now, it’s no secret that the ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about bed games and Athens has a history of love that could coax colour from a libertine’s cheeks. ‘How the heck do they do that?’ asks Mr examining one eye-opening rack of cards. ‘That would give me a bad back,’ he mutters peering at an especially convoluted position care of a Cycladic art sculpture. Clearly there was no clinch, no touch, no predilection that was too outré for this tolerant society.
More wandering awaits in the narrow pedestrian alleys of Plaka. An easy cab-hop away we browse stalls selling similar overpriced tat, but as touristy as this neighbourhood of the Greek capital may be, it’s also incredibly charming. Ducking into Psara, a traditional tavern on Erotokritou Street, we stop for a lunch of fantastically fresh fish.
When the bustle of Plaka and summer heat gets too much, we head back to the rooftop pool of our surprisingly peaceful hotel. After a few lazy laps, we clamber onto sun loungers, sloth-like. Panoramic views include the city’s eclectic clutter of high-rises, tiny white houses and that royal-icing-resembling Acropolis, all glimmering in the late-day sun. Eschewing the dubious lure of next-door’s sex parlour, we order cocktails and a the red sun set behind the pillared Parthenon.
Dusk, and it’s time for us to leave Fresh, our pitstop between some sun-kissed island-hopping and heading back home. Weirdly, the cab driver waiting to whisk us to the airport is the same that brought us here.
‘Had a good time?’ he enquires with a wink.
‘But of course,’ grins Mr Smith, giving his Mrs Smith a little squeeze. ‘What better place for us to get a little – ahem – fresh?’
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Smith extra at Fresh Hotel
Welcome drinks at the Air Lounge bar; GoldSmith members receive a bottle of sparkling wine in their room