Adventures

My Hollidays In Greece

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This is a trip report of my 2nd trip to Greece in 1992. I went by myself the first time in 1991 and the details are in the archives. This time I brought my wife and 19 year old son as I loved Greece so much that I wanted to show them this spot as well. For those of you who follow prices I have approximated Canadian equivalents so Americans should reduce by at least 20%.

We flew from Vancouver to Athens via Frankfurt and since we would be spending some time in Athens later, we got a taxi and went directly to the port of Pireaus for the night. It was just a place to crash since we were dead tired but the walk around in the evening to get ferry tickets showed a garbage strike in progress. Nothing can make a city seem so unpleasant as garbage. The next morning we got on a ferry for a 6 hour ride to Naxos. This island was one of my favourites as it has no airport so is not too touristy. As our trip started in early May, it was not yet tourist season anyway. The high season is generally between June and September.

As usual in the Islands, we were met by several hotel\house operators who wanted to give us rooms. We chose one that was only a few minutes from town but had a large double bed and a single. It included our own bathroom (this is getting more prevalent in Greece) and we paid about 30 dollars per night including breakfast. Naxos turned out to be my wife’s favourite island (although she didn’t know it at the time) because of its laid back atmosphere. It has a spectacular bus trip to the other side, (Apollonia) some good food at good prices (expect to pay about 10 dollars including wine). A typical day would be to walk through the village getting bread,fruit, cheese and some Naxos wine (slight lemon hint) for lunch. We had a balcony and would while away the hours reading and leisurely eating our way through the day. The beach was close by (my son is a beach hound) and the afternoons were lazier than even the mornings. Be sure to try Georgios restaurant on the main drag, and tell me if the waiter that looks like Manual from Faulty Towers is still there. We were talking to some people who were vegetarians there. I never thought of it before but they were remarking how good the meals were in Greece because of the variety of vegetables available. You should be aware that May is off season on the islands for a reason. It can be cool. The last morning was raining so we decided to use it as a travel day and off we were to Santorini. We were to go to Amorgos but high winds prevented the catamaran from going. You must be a little patient in Greece and be prepared to change plans. It’s good to have a 2nd plan ready. We arrive in Santorini and the usual group hustled us for rooms. We choose one where a young girl spoke English but referred us to her father Dimitri, who took us to town and looked after us. I had been before so I knew what area I wanted. Santorini is one of the most unique islands. A third of it fell into the water during an earthquake several hundred years ago, so the cliff towns are precariously teetering on high. The first evening is spent with drinks at a bar watching the sunset and an excellent dinner courtesy of the “Lets Go” book. “Fish today”,says the waiter. “What kind of fish”, say I. Response, “doesn’t matter, it’s fresh, that’s what’s important”. Welcome to Greece. On to the jewellery shops where we find the door of one is open but no one appears on site. A few minutes later the owner appears and said he is sorry but he got to drinking with his cousin and forgot the time.

Our next stop was Paros. We found a nice room, breakfast, double bed and single, bath for 35 dollars per night. It’s funny what you talk about when you meet Canadians travelling. After where are you from it’s usually how are the Blue Jays doing, followed by “do you have any back issues of the USA today?”. My son sunbathed the whole time and we suffered through kalamari, greek salad, and wine lunches,followed by long walks, and beautiful sunsets.

One day we all beached at Golden Beach. I guess this would be a good time to warn you that Greece has topless and sometime bottomless beaches. Our next stop was the island of Tinos and we splurged and took the fast Dolphin there (hydroplane). Tinos is pretty, and has some interesting churches. One of them has a large festival each year and many steps leading up to the church which the pilgrims scale by kneeling all the way. Our accommodation was not as good as usual, but we were 5 minutes from the town centre, 25 dollars, no breakfast. During a local bus trip around the island, we got off and got completely lost. We ended up in a small mountainous town, no taverna, no inn etc., but luckily when we started walking out of town I flagged down a car and he took us to the next town where the same bus that took us there was surprised to see us again so soon.

A word on Greek restaurants- we found that the best meals and deals were at least 2 blocks from the main tourist area. My son became an expert. While my wife and I sat at the outdoor taverna on the water drinking 1 dollar beers for happy hour, my son would go around to the narrow street restaurants off the track a bit. He would go in, ask to go into the kitchen and see what’s cooking etc. Then he would return and tell us the top ones in his opinion. He was never wrong and we had some great meals. A life skill to be sure. The Greeks don’t mind if you want to see what is cooking in the kitchen and in fact seemed to welcome it. We usually didn’t order from a menu but would point and the owner would bring it. We liked hiking in Greece. The terrain is easy and the coastline of the islands usually has trails. The next island was Syros where we landed at the main town (Ermoupolis?) which seemed dirty and unappealing. We saw a bus leaving for Galissa Beach so we got on and 1 hour later we arrived to a nice area with good accommodation.

We paid about 25 dollars for a double room and only 15 dollars more so #1 son could have his own room. The beach was very good according to our expert and the food in the area was excellent as well. We rented a moped, walked around, but unfortunately were not prepared for the onslaught of mosquitos that night. Anyway the next day we paid premium prices for Raid etc., and got a decent night’s sleep. Since Scott was supposed to go home a little earlier we thought we would head to Athens for a few days. As I said before you better have a second plan sometimes. We didn’t and the high winds were preventing the ferries from running. Galissa Beach is in a cove so you don’t really notice the wind as much. The planes were booked solid as well so we headed back to the Inn and started to wait it out. The next day was no better and we were getting antsy. That night as we came home from dinner I sensed a change in the wind and the weather in general. I usually trust my baseball nose when we used to decide “rain outs” at the old ball park and this time it worked out. We arrived in Athens, Scott met a friend from Vancouver at the Acropolis (it’s indeed a small world) and we acted generally as tourists. Athens has an excellent museum and we especially enjoyed the Plaka market.

The next day Scott flew home and we continued our Athens visit by doing a lot of walking and sitting in cafes. At one point we saw the police stopping many cars but we couldn’t figure out why. It turned out that because Athens is so polluted that cars can only come into the city every second day. These tickets were being given out to those whose license plates ended in odd numbers since this apparantly was an even numbered day (fine is 200 dollars). Not everything on a trip goes perfectly of course, as I find out when I had a few laundry items done by the hotel. They tried to charge me approx 80 dollars (yes, no typo) and I wouldn’t. They have tourist police there so I felt I may have to complain to them. First I tried the following tactic. I waited until a group was checking in and then started to complain loudly about the situation and how much I was charged etc. You could sense the discomfort level of the manager and I was asked to come into the office so settle. I still paid way too much but it was over.

We then decided to pamper ourselves with a bus tour. I have never been on one but the bride has. It was a 4 day tour of the classical areas so I phoned the tour company (brochure at hotel) and was given a price. I read a guide book which said these prices are negotiable depending on availability etc. so I said I was very flexible if they could better the price. The asked if we could leave the following day so away we went. This trip involved crossing the Peloponnese peninsula, then a ferry at Rion to cross the Corinthian gulf to Antiron. There is a relatively new scenic road along the coast to Delphi.

The first night was spent in Naphlion after crossing the famous Corinth canal. We stayed in one of the best hotels I have ever seen in Greece called the Xenia. It is literally carved into the mountain with great views. I started to like this bus stuff. The rest of the group were mainly Americans and a honeymoon couple from Belgium. The bus was not full which made for good seating and leg room. The next day we were off to Olympia and the great history there. Our tour guide was very informative and seemed to “live” the culture. Both of us enjoyed the historic sites and the mythology therein. That night we had a party at a local taverna, where one of our new friends promptly sat on the police chief’s lap and sang a few songs. Our Belgium friends did a traditional Greek honeymoon dance and we jived to George’s canned 60′s music until early morning. One of the people was a former “go-go” dancer and all the locals liked watching her. The trip covered Mycenae,Epidaurus,Ancient Olympia, and Delphi.

Our favourite site was Delphi, site of the famous oracle. There is much already written so I won’t go into detail here. We made it back to Athens 4 days later at a total cost for the tour of only 600 dollars for both of us. We only had a few days left so we headed to a place outside of Athens called Nea Makri, checked into a good hotel (45 dollars per night) and just sat by the pool and pampered ourselves. The reason we chose this place is because the Belgium couple was staying down the street on the next leg of their post nuptial bliss. Alas it was soon over and on we went to the airport and started the long journey home. The final verdict. I have 2 new converts for the Greek Experience.