It’s been 25 days since my last blog. I mention this hiatus because it now feels like I’m trying to summarize a 600 page book with a thin plot line read while slightly buzzed. Writing is hard enough; catch up writing without notes feels a little bit like homework.
I shouldn’t complain though because my little boys are in the middle of tackling the impossible. Since they’ve earned all the money they can “cleaning” for me inside, they are now outside trying to sell a fake gem for 5 euros. It’s a single gem, so supply is tight. Never mind that we don’t have ANY foot traffic near our apartment, or enough French language skills to complete a transaction – especially of the gem variety. They have a table, sign and everything. Brimming with optimism, one of them just came back in for change in case someone pays with a 10 or 20 euro bill. If they can do that, surely I can type out a little blog.
The Greece narrative can be summarized like this:
- Go to another mind-blowing beach.
- Bark sunscreen commands at people who ignore you.
- Eat amazing food that you did not have to fix, and someone caught for you that morning.
That really is the overarching storyline of our 10 day trip to Greece, but here are a few more details and observations.
The Greek Isles Rule.
The Spanish Costa del Sol along the Mediterranean is to Florida beaches
as the Greek Isles are to Hawaii. Gorgeous clear blue warm saltwater and golden
beaches, except there are way more islands in Greece. It can make your head hurt in deciding which
one to go to. It can make your husband’s
head hurt when you decide on one, and then tell him it’s his job to figure out
how to get there. My research took us to
the Cyclades island of Paros in the central Aegean Sea. It’s as
beautiful as the islands you’ve heard about, but less hilly than Santorini,
more kid-friendly than Mykonos and cheaper and less touristy than both. Honestly, I can’t compare then but I can tell you
that Paros (and it’s neighbor Antiparos) exceeded our expectations. And we've been to Kauai. We felt the oppression of 27% unemployment in Athens, but there was nary a hint of the Euro crisis on the island.
Packed in like Sardines. To get to Paros required us to fly into Athens, bus an hour to the port and then take a four hour ferry to the island. We got to the ferry early, and were initially impressed with how big and un-Washington State Ferry it seemed. That was until it filled with people. Lots of people. We learned later that it was a Greek holiday that weekend, and so all the locals were heading for the islands. There were people in every crevice of that boat, playing cards and smoking like chimneys. It felt like a floating summer festival, complete with body odor and unsightly tank tops. We couldn’t detect another American on the ferry, but there were Norwegians…
Norwegian Season. Turns out the Norwegians love Paros, and the island is teeming with them the last week of June. We met a wonderful Norwegian family while we were there. Eric, the Dad, is anti-Antiparos because there are too many Norwegians over there. We felt the same way by noon at the Acropolis because there were a few too many Americans shouting “Jerry! The tour bus is leaving!” Colin and their youngest son Sander met on the beach, and totally bonded in that 10 year old boy kind of way. They asked for a sleepover the day they met on the beach because “they had so much more to talk about.” So sweet. We’ll table the “one night stand” conversation for another time. They left with matching friendship bracelets, and we are now planning a family trip to visit the entire clan in Bergen.
Greek food is from the gods. The fresh fish. The grilled sardines. The salads. It finally made a feta lover out of me. Forgive me, but my fixation with food photography went into overdrive.
Beach Umbrellas. Turns out we are beach umbrella people. Most of the beaches had “services” meaning that you could pay 15 euros for two beach chairs, a small table and an umbrella. We liked this very much. Fewer conversations about sunscreen, less sand to mess with my Kindle. We tried to be Sand Castle people too, but we are more like Sand Hills and Holes people.
Paddle it Out. The Greeks are serious about Beach Paddle Ball. It’s full swing on the beach, baby. We got a set of the wooden paddles and tennis balls. When we tired of swimming in what felt like the largest waist high saltwater pool you’ve ever seen, we’d paddle it out. One paddle may have gone hurling into our neighbor’s umbrella once, but unfortunately I have people that must make everything a competition. There were Paddle Ball competitions, running competitions, swimming competitions, who-has-the-best-tan competitions … It’s exhausting, and no one ever falls for my who-can-read-the-most-books competition.
Things that Go. We
rented a car for two of the days we were there – one to explore Antiparos and
another day to explore the other side of the island. Otherwise, we took one of the island’s 26
taxis to different beaches which worked great. The rest of time we fielded
questions about why we couldn’t rent an ATV, and when that exhausted itself - when
exactly we could rent a scooter. We did
rent a scooter one day and that seemed to satisfy the testosterone need for something
resembling speed. We also promised that my brother Pete will be taking my boys four wheeling at some future date. He does not know this yet.
Vacation Rhythms. We
picked the right spot on the island by staying near the charming fishing
village of Naoussa. We stayed (mostly
just slept, had breakfast and an evening swim) in a great family studio in the
friendly Paliomylos Hotel (definitely recommend.) By the third day, we got into a daily rhythm
where Brett and I would wake early and walk the 7 minutes into Naoussa and sit
outside for a double cappuccino and wifi at Café Karino. On our walk back an hour or so later, we’d
see a just out of bed Quinn outside on our apartment terrace catching up on
texts. They didn’t miss us at all. We’d then often return to Café Karino before
dinner for a cold (the Greeks like ice!) lemonade, Alpha beer and hand of
Uno. After dinner we'd stop to get a scoop of gelato from our friend Koco. We had everything we needed in Naoussa, including a great selection of restaurants with outdoor dining.
Deserted Island. The
highlight of the trip was our day trip in Antiparos (the vacation destination
of Jennifer Aniston and Tom Hanks.) Antiparos can be reached by a short ferry ride
from Paros. It too has beautiful
beaches, but we got a tip from someone staying in our hotel about an even more
remote island. From May-September, there
is a fishing boat that ferries people from Antiparos to a small, uninhabited
archaeological island called Despotiko. For 80 euros for our whole family, we got a
spectacular boat ride, two hours on a deserted beach to swim, and a return boat
trip that involved a stop to visit some caves.
But instead of just seeing the caves, our hosts anchored the boat, put
on some tunes, and motioned for us to jump in.
The best part was they jumped in
right along with us. Not in the
guidebooks, no waivers, no mandatory life vests, no marketing of the free
watermelon and local wine -- just a couple Greek guys sharing their love for
the islands. It was one of those truly
unique vacation experiences to remember. Trite, but true.
Here are the all the pictures from the trip. (Okay hyperlink not working, so just click over to Travel Photos.)
Now for a gem sale update. The boys stuck with it for an hour, but gave up when a police car came by and asked them to not sit on the curb. Clearly it was a slow day in Luxembourg. Every day was a slow day in Greece, which is just the way we wanted it.