Category Archives: Europe

Mykonos moments

When I was planning this trip to Greece, a challenging task because there are so many options and I knew nothing, I struggled to choose between Mykonos and Santorini as our indulgent (read: expensive) island. Ultimately I went with Mykonos because I thought that party atmosphere was more appropriate than a romantic setting when traveling withy son. Perhaps, Santorini will be a future excursion with a travel partner to whom I didn’t give birth.

The ferry from Naxos took nearly two hours, a bit longer than the official ferry schedule claims. We were on a small boat, but the trip was much more comfortable in significantly calmer waters. Upon arrival in the old port, we found our way to a water taxi (4 euro r/t) and made it to Mykonos Town in less than 15 minutes.

Our hotel, Ilio Maris, was a short walk through narrow and winding streets followed by long hill. The sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent, but the traffic is so heavy that no one is moving particularly fast and it was daylight. The hotel itself is very, very nice. Simple, clean, with terrific amenities including a pool and an extensive buffet breakfast included. And the view – panoramic and gorgeous. It was, by far, the most expensive (~$250) accommodations of our trip, but I rationalized that it included breakfast and I’ve spent that same amount for a night in NYC. Carpe diem.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and napping by the pool and sipping glasses of cold white wine. And water, lots of water. In the evening, we walked down to a recommended restaurant, Kounelas Fish Tavern, where we very much enjoyed a couple of small plates including grilled octopus with fava bean purée and a shrimp dish with tomato sauce, feta and bell peppers, along with more tasty white wine. With the flavor of the complimentary shot of liqueur on my lips, we made for the nearby port to capture the evening’s sunset.

Both of us were feeling pretty giggly from the wine and were happy enough to walk around people watching. We grabbed some gelato and wandered taking in the shops, smells and apparent wealth of many of whom we encountered. The people here are beautiful, but not necessarily without effort, and my son sagely noted, “Mykonos, I see what you’re all about.” After an hour or so, we agreed we were content to return to our room for the night, where I promptly passed out fell asleep.

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Missing Naxos

It’s that time of the evening again. The sun has set, with me as its sole witness on our rooftop deck, and I’m alternating between cold white wine and cold water. I don’t really need dinner after another late lunch, but some ice cream might be nice and, since it’s our final night on this island, I probably should indulge myself. F*ck it. I don’t know when I’ll be fortunate enough to return to this, my first Greek island, and I think I want to spend a little more time wandering the maze of streets and, perhaps, say goodbye to the cats and views which have left me utterly charmed.

I miss Naxos already.

And I haven’t even left yet.

We arrived on a day when it seemed the island was trying to keep us offshore, as the wind blew with 50 mph gusts and the ferry workers practically shoved us off the ramp and it’s barely contained bucking. It was intense. Since that day, though, Naxos has softened and accepted our presence with grace. The skies have been blue and the water is warm and the food has been fantastic. We’ve hiked and biked and paddle boarded and swam and the sun has been kind and only slightly burned us. I’m thinking of the redness on my shoulders as a means of taking a little bit of Mediterranean sunshine back home with me. I’m ok with it.

I’ll miss the sounds of sweeping brooms and the water hoses perpetually battling with the sandy soil and the dust it leaves on every single surface. I hope to always remember the noises of the birds and crickets and church bells. I’m certain I’ve never eaten as many tomatoes or capers or olives and I know, that when I eat those things in the future again, they will remind me of my time here. Just like the gelato I’m about to go into town to enjoy.

Thanks, Naxos. It’s been wonderful.

Next stop: Mykonos.

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Things I’ve given up on vacation

Wearing makeup*

or a bra if I don’t feel like it.

Counting calories

or glasses of wine.

Checking the clock

or my email.

Caring about an extra couple of pounds

or the silver threads in my hair.

Having three meals a day

or even keeping track of how many there have been.

Running

or any exercise beyond walking.

Knowing what day of the week it is

or remembering why that matters other than so I know which island I’m on.

 

*except for a pop of lipstick

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Good night from Naxos

The remains of the temple of Apollo

The trip early in the morning to this island wasn’t easy. We woke up very early, quietly gathered our things and then walked to the train station. We were so efficient that we arrived earlier than anticipated and got on a train that was even before I had hoped, which gave us plenty of time to find and catch our fast ferry to Naxos.

The ferry ride was rough. There were moments when the waves came up the sides of the boat in a demonstration of why the windows did not open at all. I had opted for the fast ferry, thinking that quicker was better when it came to body discomfort, but I’m no longer quite as certain about that as I might have been previously. Luckily, I had taken one of those motion sickness pills the MD gave me and I made it through relatively unscathed. Not everyone on board seemed to have the same prescription of anti nausea medicine as I did, though, and there was some suffering to be seen, unfortunately. The sea sickness bags were readily available, distributed with kindness and disposed of without judgment.

The wind when we landed was fierce. There were moments when I did not think I could possibly beat the wind in the fight for access to the hill just outside of town where I had booked our accommodations. Somehow, with the ocean spray christening us in welcome, we made it to our studio to find that, again, we had selected another great location. Our home for the next few days was perfectly situated and comfortable – and complete with a rooftop deck.

While my son slept off his ride here, I wandered through the old city and its labyrinth of narrow, pedestrian-only streets. There was no getting lost because I had no specific destination in mind and the sounds of the sea kept me oriented.

After a couple of hours, and one of the best salads I’ve ever had, I went back to collect Griffin. Together we returned to the port area before, seeking shade, we headed back into the maze of ancient streets dotted with cafes and shops. We stopped for coffee and played some backgammon, in no rush to do anything with the only goal for the day being to catch the sunset from the roof. Goal met, it was time for dinner. I think I’m going to like it here.

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Athens morning

Earlier this morning as I was lying in bed listening to the birds twitter and coo I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was really here. I never imagined visiting this ancient city, yet it is exactly how I would have hoped it would be – sunny and hot with the remarkable remains of centuries gone by seemingly around every corner. The air is dry and my sandal clad feet were covered in dust after the miles we walked yesterday as we circled the Acropolis exploring this central part of the city. Neither my son nor I are interested in visiting museums when our time in Athens is limited and the weather is spectacular. So, instead we walk and take photos and talk and pause only to eat and drink.

We arrived, after a nine hour flight, and quickly made our way to the metro and to our accommodations without misstep. My son’s time in Thailand last year has helped to make him an excellent navigator and easy travel companion. He knows about things that I never knew at his age – things about toilet paper and where it goes and that water from the tap isn’t always to be trusted. He’s really a joy and I’m thrilled to be able to experience this adventure with him.

This morning, though, I left him to sleep and stepped out with my Nikon to take in the early morning. I wanted to observe the city in its quiet state. Under a cloudless blue sky, I saw lean, feral cats and colorful graffiti and curbside fruit trees. The sounds of brooms sweeping pavement and motorcycles mingled with church bells but the overall volume was low. After a couple of hours, I sat with my cafe latte with a view of the Parthenon and read this line in the book I brought along for the trip:

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. Epicurus

As for me, I have more than enough. ❤️

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Greece is the word

Planning my upcoming trip to Greece was a formidable task. I struggled with the incredible array of options in terms of where to go and how to get there. After polling some friends and seeking some assistance on the Fodor’s Greece Forum, I came up with a loose itinerary and booked our flights (from Montreal) and accomodations (all Airbnb other than on one island). At that point, I shifted my focus to Easter in Ireland and took a break from the remaining details of our Greek adventures.

Now that the end of the school year and Greece are finally in view, it’s time to get a little more specific about what the trip is going to look like. Here’s what we’ve got so far –

Flying out of Canada is going to be a new experience. I booked the tickets primarily because the flight was nonstop and the fare was approximately $900 r/t, a fairly reasonable price for summer travel in my opinion. The drive to Montreal is admittedly further than NYC or Boston, but it’s a straight shot and I don’t anticipate much traffic along the way. I scored a park and stay package that provides us with 15 days of parking and a room on our return for just over $200, which I think is a good deal. An overnight in Montreal is never a bad thing and we’ll definitely score some croissants and bagels for the ride home.

We land in Athens and will spend two nights there at the beginning of the trip, as well as a single night at the end. The time difference is 7 hours and since I imagine we’ll be whooped from flying (and personally, that valium) I made no plans for that first afternoon/evening. We’ll find our way to our apartment, unload our bags and do our best to acclimate. My goal is to stay on my feet until at least 9:00 or 10:00 and score a few food items for our breakfast.

The highlight of our first entire day is a 3.5 hour walking food tour, an Airbnb experience, I booked. My son is an adventurous eater and we’re excited to explore some places recommended by a local guide and sample authentic and traditional Greek cuisine. Since we’ll depart the next morning for our first island, Naxos, the tour will also give us a chance to gather some sundries for our island stay. The temperature could be a real factor in how active we’ll want to be and I imagine the day as pretty relaxed, with some day drinking. Yum, Assyrtiko!

An early morning four-hour ferry* ride gets us to Naxos, which we’ll have the next few days to explore. I imagine that we’ll spend our time visiting the windmills, eating, walking and checking out some beaches. The only plan we have is to take a small, private boat excursion that includes grilled octopus on the beach, a remote grotto swim and an on deck bar-b-q aboard on our way back to Naxos. Ok. I’m in.

Our next stop is a single overnight in Mykonos. I understand it isn’t much time, but it’s a very expensive island filled with people who have no limits on their budgets. That’s not how I travel but I do want to see the beautiful things without getting jaded from the extreme and obvious consumption. Kind of how I feel about Chatham, MA. We’ll stretch the time by arriving before noon and departing the following day in the late afternoon for Paros, our last island.

I’m picturing Paros as the quietest spot we’ll be and I’m looking forward to just savoring the last nights of the trip in a place that looks and sounds beautiful. I found a 5-hour farm to table experience, again on Airbnb that I went ahead and reserved. It involves picking produce on a farm and then preparing a meal whilst we sip local wines and beers and sample small dairy cheeses as the sun sets over the nearby Antiparos. I’m practically there already.

Our last night will be in Athens. We’ll have time to hit any last sights before our return home. Maybe you might have some suggestions?

*I went ahead and booked all of our ferries in advance spending about $300 total for two. That seems remarkably cheap to someone accustomed to paying $100 to travel r/t to NYC from Albany on Amtrak.

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Don’t ever buy me earrings

It would be impossible to count all the earrings I’ve lost over the years. Hoops, studs and danglers – none are safe in my ears. Even screwbacks have inexplicably gone missing my from my lobes. I just can’t win when it comes to earrings. Until recently, that is.

A couple of weeks ago, following dinner with friends in Dublin, I decided to enjoy one last pint in town before hopping the Dart to my AirBandB. With its proximity to the Tara Street Station, Mulligans was the obvious choice. I happily sipped my Guinness and people watched the Friday night crowd until all that remained in my glass was the telltale white ring of my perfect pint. Time to go.

As I rounded the bar a group of guys engaged me and asked if I would take a photo of them with the Nikon hanging around my neck. Of course! Unfortunately, though, my camera’s battery was dead which caused the gentlemen to reconsider their request – how about a group selfie? Sure. The five of us gathered together and as I snapped our selfie I heard something hit the floor. I checked my lens cap to see if it was still in place and it was, so I assumed something else must have fallen. I left to catch to catch my train.

Note the left ear!

Twenty minutes later, home for the night and partially undressed, I realized I was missing an earring. Immediately I knew what had made that noise in the pub – a very nice earring. Shit. As I considered what to do, I recalled the bum’s rush we had received at Mulligan’s the week earlier as we lingered over our after dinner drinks…they could be closed by the time I got back there. I needed to phone them.

I googled the number and turned on my cell phone service to make the call. After just two rings the phone was answered and I quickly explained the situation, describing where to look for my errant earring. In minutes I had good news – my earring had been found!

Late Saturday morning, I returned one last time* to Mulligan’s and gratefully retrieved my diamond earring from the rocks glass behind the bar where it had spent the night. My celebratory pint tasted particularly delicious.

 

*last time for this trip

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