I feel like a traitor writing this because I am not staying at the Athens (non-Marriott) Ledra, even though its tripadvisor rating has gone up since no longer being a Marriott. I contacted them and most of the same staff seem to be there, happily. Nadia replied with prices for the kinds of rooms I always was upgraded to -- of 8 or so times at the Ledra, I was always upgraded to top suites. Alas, without the automatic upgrade, it was too expensive and since I am only here for fall break (it's pretty much over -- I leave tomorrow), I decided to look around since the Archaeological Museums I needed to visit were north and East (by a good bit) of Syntagma Square. After a lot of research and two changes I decided on the Electra Palace Hotel and wow is it great. It's in the center of Plaka, 10 minutes from Syntagma, 10 minutes from the Acropolis, 5-10 from Hadrian's Arch, and lots of restaurants. It too has a rooftop pool and restaurant looking over the Acropolis and is much closer. That was my only real unhappiness with the Ledra -- it is fairly far out on Syngrou Avenue. The EP is fantastic, though I am beginning to think it's a Greek thing. I got a room with a balcony overlooking the Acropolis, a bottle of wine and basket of fruits on arrival, free wifi (contrary to what some tripadvisor reviewers said, even though it was not listed on my reservation), and free huge breakfasts. The pool is smaller, but while maybe it feels crowded in summer, it felt more like perfect at this time of year with the day time temp of about 80.
Some observations about Athens -- it has changed for the better. It seems much cleaner, no signs of even the small demonstrations usually blown out of proportion, and people seeming happy and outgoing. It still has huge youth unemployment, but it feels like a corner has been turned.
But my favorite time of the whole trip was at a store in Plaka where I bought some artifacts. I have been working hard on my Greek, especially in my car with CDs, but felt I was making little progress besides a few phrases. I managed to get out quite a few of the phrases to him, and he asked me, "Why do you speak Greek? Are you Greek-American?" When I said "ohi [no]" he seemed astonished. It was one of those pumped up moments.
Also, I have to admit being in the center (especially past the bad times) gave me more time to roam around in pedestrian streets and try local restaurants, though the EP Rooftop Garden is spectacular (dinner there three nights).
Wish me well -- I am flying ATH-JFK-BOS tomorrow. I figure I should get to JFK just fine, but anyone want to take betting odds on whether I get to Boston (just under two hour layover with customs, but a flight to Boston that is statistically late 75% of the time)?