A little bit of Paris in Athens?

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Walking home from work the other night, I deviated slightly from my usual route. I was so glad I did as tucked away in a side street, I discovered this little gem:

Cafe Mon Cheri - Irodotou St - Kolonaki
Cafe Mon Cheri – Irodotou St – Kolonaki

I didn’t go in immediately, vowing instead to come back today – and so I did. What a joy!

Inside I found it to be warm, inviting and tastefully decorated. with Carnival decorations (yes, Carnival season is upon us). Tired from work, I settled into a corner sofa seat and ordered a cappuccino (3.50 Euros) and a strawberry cheesecake – delicious!

I noted with relief that people went outside to smoke

(a rarity in Greece, even though ‘officially’ no smoking is allowed) and whiled away my time composing this and listening to Marvin Gaye lamenting about how he wished you could have told him yourself, that you loved someone else.

In fact, when I met a couple of friends later I bought them back there – and at the next glance of my watch, it was 2 hours later (this time a lady was singing about how her baby just cares for her – Nina Simone maybe?)

Lovely interior
Lovely interior

I can safely say I’ll be going back – and if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, try it yourself.

As you must know by now – coffee is a national pass time in Greece  – what better place to while away the hours?

Look at that hot chocolate!
Look at that hot chocolate!

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  1. awww! looks great! Have you tried the one in petralona, owned by a french and served by him? Don’t remember the name but it’s pretty good! Everyday he cooks something different and that’s all you’ll get that day. Very informal.

    • No, can’t say I have been to that one – I shall look forward to trying it…I want to go on a ‘coffee crawl’ as opposed to a pub crawl! I am off to the coast tomorrow, then my friend has recommended a coffee shop/bar in Kifissia for the evening – we shall go later. Will probably also blog about that, so keep your eyes peeled. :0D

  2. Looks lovely. But 3.50 euros is pretty pricey for a coffee. This might be one reason why people aren’t coming to Greece on holiday. I really love Greece and have visited often but for one reason or another I haven’t visited for a while and I’m shocked at how expensive it seems to be compared with what it was, and also compared with e.g. Spain where I was earlier this month.

    It also seems to slightly give the lie to the reports we are getting here about how difficult life is for the average Greek person, even middle class people. I am glad needless to say that they CAN go out for these expensive coffees, and that things aren’t as bad as we are told – but it makes it hard to assess what the truth really is.

    • Hi Jenny- yes, coffee in Greece is known to be quite expensive amongst other European countries. However, we have some of the cheapest bottled water (50cents) sold at kiosks or shops. The difference is that in Greece, when you go to a cafe or a restaurant or a bar, you can stay as long as you want. So, in essence, you buy a coffee for 3.50 and you can sit in that space for AS LONG AS YOU WANT. You don’t get kicked out, you don’t get hurried out. Dinner isn’t booked in time slots/sittings- I have enjoyed a dinner for literally hours, sitting for long after we have finished food and dessert. It is the same at the bars- I can spend an entire evening enjoying the music and ambiance of any given place, having ordered just 1 beer or cocktail. So when you consider that you are virtually ‘renting’ out that space and that these cafes/restaurants/bars don’t see a high turnover, then it seems quite reasonable. You can sit a group of 5 people and only one of you order a coffee, and again, you are never asked to leave. And that’s because in Greece, we pride ourselves on the importance of getting out and SOCIALIZING- after all, aren’t strong social ties cited as the leading protectors against all sorts of mental and physical health problems? It is our strong social ties that have gotten us through all sorts of problems and I know that the day I see cafes and restaurants and bars completely empty that we have reached a point of no return in this country. I feel that people want to see us crying and depressed instead of praising us for finding ways to weather this terrible storm that we are living in. We continue to love life because that is what we have always done. That being said, the cost of living still needs to be reduced and I am glad to see it happening in some areas slowly but surely. Then again, it is hard to bring prices down when taxes are going so far up… We need some new measures that promote growth. I hope to see those implemented soon.

    • I’m going to agree with Melina, going for coffee is usually a long social occasion in Greece. The price reflects that fact, not that the economy isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. In fact a lot of my friends and family back in Greece, who were comfortably middle class and had steady employment their entire lives, are facing a lot of financial difficulties right now and really tight budgets. But no matter how difficult things get, Greeks value spending quality time with their friends pretty highly.

      • Yes – a lot of people don’t realise this. And when you compare it to the cost of a beer – and how much beer a person in the UK tends to consume in an evening, really – what’s better for you??

  3. Thanks for your comment, Jenny. Yes, 3.50 Euros IS expensive. For those who are not familiar with Greece, I should point out that Kolonaki, the area where this coffee shop is located, is an expensive/exclusive part of Athens (think Bond St equiv. in London). Hence not your AVERAGE place. I don’t drink coffee myself, but next time I go to a place in my neighbourhood (which is definately NOT exclusive, but still pretty genuine and safe), I shall tell you the average price.
    Don’t draw the assumption that Greek people are not ‘poor’ (or struggling is a better term) just because they still go to the Kafineos’ in their neighbourhoods.
    After all, as I pointed out in a previous post – you will still see British people going out for a pint of beer…which is more expensive I wonder?
    I note as well that the media shows Greek people slapping each other on the back, looking happy, drinking coffee and people seem to get inflamed by this, assuming, therefore, that because people are smiling, they can’t be struggling.
    Don’t draw that assumption – Greeks know how to live life…after all, they have the weather for it.

  4. Really good comment from Melina there – interesting observations made (and correct ones too). Of course, I neglected to mention that in Greece it’s quite normal to nurse one cup of coffee for 3 hours, no hassle to move on. So it’s a cheap time for all, and sociable too.
    Thanks Melina – your passion and love for this nation shines through.

  5. Thanks Melina and Bex for your perceptive and sensitive comments. I was very disappointed to read Jenny Woolf’s comment with the usual assumptions.

  6. Hi,
    Yes – unfortunately the ‘gutter press’ is guilty of making people assume. However, rest assured there are people, expats (like Melina and myself) who DO see the other side and try to spread the word. Whether we are listened to as much as the gutter press remains to be seen, but I try through my blog. Eventually we’ll get through this – you wait and see.


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