Greek Isles, Big Smiles Part 2: Naxos Travel Guide

The more we travel the more I agree with my friend Megan who says “the thing we will most take away from our experience is less WHERE to travel and more HOW to travel.”  That is until it comes to Greece.  This is where I get on my high horse and tell you WHERE to travel.

I did that with the Greek Island of Paros which has turned out to be my most read blog of all time and my only post that still gets daily visitors.  Enough people have taken that trip now that Chrys from the Paliomylos Hotel in Naoussa recently sent us a gift by way of one of Brett’s London colleagues.


While we would have gladly gone back to Paros for a third time, this summer we decided to mix up the magic by heading to the neighboring island of Naxos.  We’d heard glowing reviews about Naxos from people who also knew and loved Paros and so it seemed the natural next destination among the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea.

More than one local explained while beautiful neighboring Santorini and lively Mykonos have both been overrun by tourism - “the Disneyland of the Greek Islands” they said – Naxos and Paros are tourist friendly but have managed to retain more of their Greekness.   Naxos in particular is the largest and most fertile of the islands with a good supply of water allowing it to be self-sufficient from an agricultural point of view (think beef and cheese not just fish!)  As if to signal the historic appeal of the island, the looming ruins of the Temple of Apollo welcome you to Naxos Town (also called Chora.)

2 for 1: BEACH + CULTURE


There are lots of places you can go in the world to find a beach but the additional opportunity for culture makes a trip to a place like Naxos something extra special.  In our nine days on the island, we witnessed small examples of the Greek love for family, their care for others and their glass half full approach to life. 

There was the young woman at the local bakery in Agios Prokopius who lovingly described in great detail all the baked goods her Mother had made and offering us tastes of something new each morning.  Her mother’s not-too-sweet baklava was hands down the best we’ve ever tasted, something we would have missed had it not been for her proud daughter.  

There was the smiling bus driver who stopped for two very late people running to catch it when he clearly didn’t need to and in many other countries would not have, a small kindness met with large appreciation. 

There was the informal and friendly exchange each morning where dark-skinned migrants would clean the trash off the beach in front of the restaurants and beach bars and then come in for a coffee and small amount of money.  

There was the owner of Meltemi, a restaurant in Naxos Town since 1970, who we watched patiently, unmistakably teaching two young inexperienced waiters the higher calling of service as if they were his own sons. 


June and September are the absolute best months to go.  July and August are the busiest and most expensive months.  Locals told us August can also be quite windy.  Naxos is heavy with Scandinavians in June, Greeks from Athens in July, and a mix of Europeans and a smattering of Americans in August.


Initially our goal was to find a place within walking distance to Naxos Town.   We had done that in Paros and really enjoyed the proximity.  A travel writer I know had highly recommended the Niassaki Beach Hotel.  (Travel Babbo spent three weeks with his family on Naxos and wrote about it here.)  When I tried to book there they had told me they were changing their policy and not accepting any children under 12 years old.   They have since reversed that policy but in the meantime I booked elsewhere.  It looks like a great hotel if you hoping to be within walking distance to town.

Instead I booked at the Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites.   It’s a countryside setting two miles from Naxos Town and less than one mile from the nearest beach (Agios Prokopius.)  We ended up loving the privacy, views and private pool which more than made up for having to get a car.  It’s a truly fantastic place to stay for a family.   The owner Maria who is also a high school teacher has created a modern, authentically Greek villa retreat and she loves Americans.  Her husband and co-owner is the mayor of Naxos and their staff is wonderfully warm.   Antonio, one of Maria’s high school graduates, was especially kind and also impressive as he was on his way to take a job with the Prime Minister of Greece in Athens for 2 years in the fall.   No egg order is one too many for the women who serve the included and excellent breakfast every morning.  Opened in 2010 and recently visited by Anthony Bourdain, the Naxian Collection has 8 villas each with their own pool and 8 suites.   Everything is done well.   If I had any complaint at all it would only be that the initial booking and communication was a little spotty (but I now know they have other jobs out of season) but once there the service is very attentive and they love kids. 

While we were there they had just opened a sister hotel, Naxian on the Beach.   It’s an adults only hotel with 10 suites just 10 meters from the quietest part of Plaka Beach.   One of the perks of being a guest at the Naxian Collection Luxury Villas and Suites is that you are able to use the sun beds and services at their sister hotel which we took full advantage of.

If you click on their website or read their reviews, you’ll understand why you might be hard pressed to find a better place to stay on Naxos. Book well in advance as they have a large repeat customer base.


You’ll need and want a rental car if you stay at the Naxian Collection.   When we arrived at Naxos Airport, we assumed we’d be picking up the rental car from there.  That would not be correct.   The Naxos Airport is smaller than the average house in Seattle.  Instead there was a car waiting for us from the Naxian Collection who took us to the hotel and Brett into Naxos Town to pick up our rental car from Sixt.  We noticed during the week that many of the rental car companies will actually come to the hotel and deliver the car to you in the event that you only wanted to rent a car for a few days.  You get the rental cars without gas and are expected to return them that way.  We made the mistake of filling up the gas tank of our rental car (one of the only 7 seat cars on the island) on the first day and using a quarter of a tank in 9 days.  It’s a big island but when the beaches are as good as they are nearby there isn’t as much incentive to drive to the other side of the island.


Different than Paros where the beaches are spread out, many of the destination beaches in Naxos are clustered along the western coast and are connected – a great thing for those who enjoy long walks on the beach.  This website describes all 18 beaches in great detail but these were the ones we liked:

Plaka Beach.  Because of the access to our hotel’s sun beds we spent most of our time on Plaka Beach.  It’s significantly less crowded that neighboring Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios and partial organized with sun beds and umbrellas.  Much of the beach has sand dune behind it which make it feel more remote than it is. You should be aware that the last, most southern section of the beach has a lot of full-on nudity.  Grandpas and all.

Below: Beach Olympics on Plaka Beach with our good friends from Norway.  5 events: long jump, plank, hit the target, beach tennis, and egg toss.


Migra Vigla Beach.  Our second favorite beach was Migra Vigla.  It’s visible from Plaka Beach but it takes 35 minutes to drive around to get there.  With much fewer services and a little rockier sand, a portion of the beach is for wind surfers and the other portion around the rocks is great for swimming and snorkeling.  There are more Greeks on this beach.  There is a small town with a grocery store which we used to have a picnic lunch on the rocks.


Agios Prokopios Beach.  This was the beach closest to our hotel.  The sand, swimming and services are great and it’s beautiful but also crowded.  Unlike Plaka Beach there is not rock shelf as you get into the water which makes it very family friendly.  No nudity.

Even though the interior of Naxos is mountainous, the continuation of Agios Prokopios Beach to Agia Anna Beach to Plaka Beach make for great, flat running along mostly paved and dirt roads.  There is also a fabulous, easy walk from Agios Prokopios Beach heading north around the point along a rocky trail.  You’ll have to walk past some stinky salt flats to get there but don’t miss this.   You’ll even get to see a ship wrecked from 20 years ago that is still on the rocks.


Naxos is proud of their food and local ingredients.  We had some really good meals and only a couple of misses.  Here is our top eating out picks:

Antamoma, Naxos Town.   Modern Greek restaurant with view of water but not on harbor.  Opened two years ago it’s an informal atmosphere with patio setting and a definite modern vibe.  Closest to a “special meal” we had. The chef is from Naxos but went to Athens for cooking school for one year, returned to Naxos and now cooks with his Mom.  The menu is smaller and dishes a little more interesting than traditional Naxian food like homemade pasta with smoked pork and risotto with vegetables and Naxian cheese.  Great starters and house wine.  It was the only place we went to twice.

Meltemi, Naxos Town.  Solid traditional Greek restaurant in center of town without views.  Best dishes we had were the kleftiko (veal, pork and lamb cooked in paper with eggplant, tomatoes and peppers) and excellent cheese pies with herbs.   

Mythodea, Naxos Town.  Family run tradition Greek restaurant slightly off main part of harbor with spectacular views.  We ordered off “Mama’s Specials” which included lamb in yogurt sauce and lamb in grease paper with peppers.  Best Greek Salad for our trip. 

1739, Naxos Town Rooftop bar opened in July 2015 and recommended by Travel Babbo.  You climb up from main town and get a nice view of harbor.   Worth the trip up to watch the sunset.   The other bar we didn’t try but the swank vibe and setting looked really nice was 520 Bar.

The restaurants we might recommend skipping were Typografio in Naxos Town and Metaxi Mas in the Old Town.  The first was overpriced and the second was just ok.

Palatia, Agia Anna Beach.   Recommended to us by a father/son who worked in a grocery store.   Lovely, rustic setting right on the beach where they specialize in locally caught fish.  The night we were there service was more relaxed (slow) than normal but the grilled dorado, grilled sardines, salad with octopus and calamari with tomatoes were all excellent.   At the end of the meal the waiter brought out free cake and shots.   Right next door is the Banana Beach Bar which looked to be a very popular spot.


Patatosporos, Agia Anna Beach.  Another beachside fish restaurant on the other side of the Banana Bar.   Better service and pacing than Palatia and most importantly, the simply grilled dorado and sea bass was even more delicious.  Ditto that for the zucchini balls and fried saganaki cheese.   Kids got the ocean basket, fried king prawns, calamari and fish fillets with fries.    Stick with the fresh fish options.  Though the early reviews on Trip Advisor were mixed the more recent reviews have been better.

Kahula Bar, Agios Prokopius Beach.   A great spot on the beach for a coffee in the morning or a drink in the evening.  It's the last place along the restaurants and bars on Prokopius beach.  We much preferred this bar to the more talked about (and smokier) nearby Mojito Beach Bar.

Petrino, Plaka Beach.  Focus on Naxian dishes with local products on the far end of Plaka Beach.  Vine clad terrace that is more restaurant than beach bar.  You pick from case with specials of the day like spicy meatballs wrapped in eggplant or fisherman’s rice plus three different slow roasted meat options.   Good for lunch or dinner.  They also opened a terrific homemade ice cream shop called Mitatos run by a husband and wife right next door to Petrino which is better than the one that everyone talks about in Naxos Town called Milkato Gelateria (which is also good.) 

Souvlucky, Plaka Beach.  Great pork + chicken gyros made to order with the I-still-don’t-understand topping of French fries.  Family business.  Clean, well located along Plaka Beach.  Can sit in with your bathing suit or better to take away and hope the sand stays out.  €14 for 6 gyros make it a very budget friendly lunch.  According to two local teen boys we asked, best souvlaki is in Naxos Town at either The Spitiko or Kozi.  

Picasso, Plaka Beach.  I know it sounds sacrilegious to suggest Mexican food but the setting and margaritas make the busy Picasso a worthwhile lunch stop to mix things up.   The clearly beloved Picasso recently had their 20 year anniversary.  Ample seating, kids area for playing, shade for margarita sipping.  Right next door to Souvlucky.


It takes a long time to get to Naxos.  For this trip, we decided to skip the ferry and fly one of the small planes from Athens to Naxos.  It was totally worth it.   It was an easy, not turbulent, absolutely gorgeous flight.  And it saves so much time as it’s hard to get around overnighting in Athens if you are going the ferry route.  The connecting flights from Athens to the islands book up fast so don’t leave this until the last minute.


I know this will sound like a cop out but my advice between Naxos and Paros is this:  Do both.  If you are already making the effort to get to the Greek Islands, you should split your time between the islands.  It’s only an hour ferry ride between the two islands but you’ll want to overnight in both places and not just go for the day.  Naxos has more to do and better beaches but Naoussa in Paros is a bit more charming than Naxos Town and the restaurants are better overall (especially for fish lovers). 


Greek Isles, Big Smiles: Paros Travel Guide


Paros is one of the islands in the Cyclades.  Many people have heard of the nearby islands of Santorini (purty!), Mykonos (party!) and Naxos (big!) but fewer have heard of Paros.  One of the reasons for its lack of star recognition is that there isn’t a large airport in Paros.  There are however plans to build up the airport to receive international flights in about five years, so go before then!  Today, Paros must be reached by ferry meaning the island is equipped for tourists but not teeming with them.  Thanks to a recent Italian film set in Paros, we were told that most tourists are from Italy, France, Norway and Australia.  Further down the list are the (pastier) Americans and Brits.

Most people island hop every three to four days.  We choose instead to “settle in” on Paros and didn’t run out of things to do with nine days.  If you like the idea of “settling in” but still have an itch to see some of the other islands, there are tons of guided or unguided day trips by boat/ferry to the nearby islands. 


June and September are the absolute best months to go.  The water is warm and the pace more relaxed.  The height of busy season is July 10 – August 25 where the average age of the island drops to 18-25 years old and the temperature increases a few degrees with hottest temps in July.   Thankfully, Paros generally enjoys a light breeze (though it was unseasonably windy a few days we were there) to keep you cooler on the hotter days.  For families especially, you should try to grab one of tail ends of the season which gets you all the benefits (including lower rates) without the crowds.


The Paliomylos Hotel in Naoussa, a complex of 25 studios and suites with a hearty breakfast for an extra charge is a gem of a place.  The rooms are simple but well equipped and clean, and the staff especially owner Chrys is attentive and friendly.  The other owner Kostas focuses less on guest services but is always working to keep the hotel facilities in top shape.  While we were there they were in the process of opening up a small spa.  The hotel is 50 meters from Piperi Beach and a 7 minute walk into the seaside town of Naoussa – the “destination town” of the island.   Paliomylos is opened from April – October and books out the entire summer well in advance.  They have a lot of repeat business.  Only downside is that the pool is small (though of less consequence given the island’s great beaches) and the rooms adjacent to the pool don’t have a terrace or balcony.  If you book, just be clear on whether sea view is important to you.   We typically gravitate towards apartment rentals as a family of five, but when the food is so good and cheap in Greece you don’t need to save a buck by cooking in making a hotel studio option ideal.  We only used the frig to store cold drinks.

I don’t insist that you stay at Paliomylos but I do insist that you stay somewhere close to Naoussa.   Located on the northern shore of Paros, Naoussa village has countless options for dining, more outdoor cafes that you’d have time to linger in, and lovely boutiques.  We referred to it as “Sun Valley Light” – charming but without the out-of-reach wealth.   The absolute highlight of our stay was being able to walk into Naoussa in the early morning for coffee and every evening for dinner.  It’s the kind of safe that makes you comfortable to have you kids walk around on their own. 


If you stay close to Naoussa, a rental car isn’t entirely necessary.  We opted to rent a car as needed which ended up being 3 of the 9 days we were there.  Each time the rental car (with varying levels of gas in the tank) was delivered to the hotel for us and the cost was around 55 euros for the day.  We left the keys at the hotel front desk for the car to be picked up the next morning with “approximately” the same amount of gas.  A few days we took a taxi to and from a destination beach which was fun as we got to know a couple of local taxi drivers.  If you don’t have young kids, most people rent scooters or quads to get around the island. The narrow streets and the one main road that rings the island are all shared by cars, scooters, bikes and pedestrians – so beware and go      s l o w.


You don’t go to Greece to surf, but if beautiful sandy beaches are what you are looking for Paros has them in spades.  And, they have a good mix of “organized” beaches and small private-like beaches.   Here are our top beach picks:

1) Kolimbithres Beach. A protected beach 4 km from Naoussa which is especially good for families and windy days.   It can be accessed by car/scooter or more fun, by fishing boat from Naoussa Village.  The boat leaves twice an hour and gives you awesome views of Naoussa.  There are two tavernas behind the beach for lunch.   Another boat also leaves for nearby Monastiri Beach, though this beach is even smaller and more protected and best for families with very small children.  “Laid back beach close to town with boat ride.” – Quinn “Small, nice beach.  Stays shallow for a long time with lots of rocks.” – Lawton “Least favorite of three.  Quite small, umbrellas too close to water.” - Colin

Kolimbithres Beach

Kolimbithres Beach

2) Santa Maria Beach.  An “organized” long beach 5km from Naoussa on Northeast tip of the island looking out on Naxos.  It can be accessed by car/scooter or for a fast ride -  by taxi for 12 euros.  Santa Maria has services (umbrellas and chairs to rent), a beach bar, beach toys to rent, dance club music and lots of beautiful people.  “Big popular beach but really nice.” – Quinn “Nice big beach.  You should swim out to see coral reef.  Lemonade is amazing.” – Lawton “My favorite beach because you can go out so far and still stand.”  -  Colin

Santa Maria Beach

Santa Maria Beach

3) Faragas Beach.  An “organized” beach (spelled at least four different ways) 25 km from Naoussa on the Southern tip of the island with two private beaches adjacent to it.  It must be accessed by car/scooter or a family willing to run a hot almost marathon together.  Where Santa Maria is club music, Faragas is classical music by morning and soft rock by afternoon with an excellent bar and toilets that were being cleaned 3 out of 4 times we used them.  But it’s the private beaches just over the rocks from the clean toilets and the Frappa Coffee that make this beach our #1.  It also helped that on our second visit to this beach we met some new (much younger) Greek friends who played hours of football and paddleball with us.   “Fancy beach.  Not as convenient, nicest bar. Fun place to go exploring.” – Quinn “My favorite beach because of three different parts.  Water was the warmest.  Lots of space to play soccer.” – Lawton “Best water, most comfortable to be in, best bathrooms.  Lemonade also really good.”  - Colin

Faragas Beach

Faragas Beach


You do go to Greece to eat, and Paros has lots of excellent restaurants to choose from.  With a cumulative of 20 days in Paros over the last two summers, we have been to a number of restaurants.  Most of them are really, really good.  Fresh fish is hard to beat.  Here are our top eating out picks:

1.  Taverna Glafkos - special food in very special setting.  Book in advance.  (Because we weren't in peak season we were able to call day of for every restaurant with the exception of Sosa which we unfortunately missed on this trip.)

Taverna Glafkos

Taverna Glafkos

2.  Siparos - not in Naoussa but on way to Santa Maria Beach.  Great pastas and great setting.  Book in advance.



3.  Yemeni - interior restaurant in village.  More interesting preparations of Greek fare.  Book in advance.

Not Yemeni, but this happened a lot in the evenings.  This was at Karina's All Day Tavern - a place with good food but slow service.

Not Yemeni, but this happened a lot in the evenings.  This was at Karina's All Day Tavern - a place with good food but slow service.

4.  Cafe Karinos - cafe in main square.  Lots of restaurants start with "K" so make sure it's this one.  Best coffee on island.  We went every morning for coffee and got to know the family who runs it.  In the evenings they bring out two big TVs to show the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France.  We went every night there was a football match.  Great spot to relax with a cold beverage and also above average food (breakfast food in particular.)  No need to book.

Cafe Karinos

Cafe Karinos

5.  S.Cream - tasty Italian gelato served by our friend Koco.  Tell him the Ballbachs say hello!  No need to deprive yourself.  We tried to go daily.

S. Cream

S. Cream


Getting to Paros is not easy.  It’s pretty much a 24 hour proposition even from Central Europe.  The first time we went it also made our head hurt trying to figure it out, so hopefully these tips will save you a few steps. The complicating factor is that you need to catch one of the two daily Blue Star Ferries (which must be booked in advance) out of Piraeus; one that leaves at 7:25am and the second that leaves at 5:30pm and it’s an good 45 minute to 1 hour commute cross town from the Athens airport.  Given that, it’s advisable to overnight in Athens (or Piraeus) on your inbound and outbound legs.  You’ll likely want to see Athens anyway on one end of your trip.  We did our 36 hours in Athens on the return leg on our first trip to Paros. 

We flew Lufthansa from Lux > Munich > Athens.  On the way back, we flew SwissAir from Athens > Zurich > Lux.  Both times we had 45 minute layovers that were no problem for us or our luggage.  Booking well in advance, we got airfare for 260 euros per person.   The 4 hour ferry ride (Paros is the first stop followed by Naxos and then Santorini) on Blue Star Ferries is 70 euros per person (round trip) with assigned seats.  Highly recommend you pay for assigned rather than open seating on the ferry if traveling with kids.  (We left our kids in our assigned seats and went on to the deck to mingle with the fresh air and not-so-fresh cigarette smoke.) There is also a High Speed Ferry that cuts the time by at least half, but the prices are closer to airfare pricing.  

Another more expensive option is to fly into Santorini and then ferry 45 minutes to Paros. 

Arriving Paros

Arriving Paros


On our first trip, we mistakenly bused (not busted) it across town from the Athens airport (after driving to and flying out of Brussels Charleroi instead of Luxembourg) to make the evening ferry.  This is not a grand idea.  For one, the buses from the airport are all commuter buses so incredibly slow, jam packed and not conducive for riders with luggage and cranky mothers worried about missing the ferry.  For two, the ferry ride should be a highlight of the travel not something to endure after a long day.   This time we cabbed it across town (in two cabs) to a hotel near the ferry for a flat rate of 46 euros per cab.  An uber good idea.  (With some additional planning, you can arrange for a van and save a few euros for gyros which we did on our airport return.) 

We overnighted on both legs in a quadruple room at the budget but very clean Phidias Piraeus Hotel for 69 euros.  Our room included the best wifi of the trip and a free shuttle to the ferry the next morning.  The hard-working Piraeus port isn’t a place known for great anything, but Brett found an awesome neighborhood restaurant he’d read about on a local food blog (a mystery location to our cab driver both times we went) that was worth the 5 euro cab fare.  Also worth walking around the nearby marina to see the incredible yachts which on our visit included a spotting of the 5th most expensive yacht in the world owned by the former Qatar Prime Minister.

The reward for getting there is to be SUN KISSED.

The reward for getting there is to be SUN KISSED.

Bit of Salt - Greece


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:

  1. Go to another mind-blowing beach.
  2.  Bark sunscreen commands at people who ignore you. 
  3. 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.