greece at last
Greece...what a place, everything I'd hoped for and so, so much more. But this would not have been truly imagined at a single location. And most certainly not if one of those locations is Mykonos or Santorini. Yes, both have the glam instagram shot that may be persuading you to visit Greece in the first place. But do yourself a huge favor, especially for this long of a travel, and dig a little deeper. Because the transportation system, both land and sea, is one of the most convenient you'll experience in the world.
Like many, Greece travel was a book on my shelf long before social media. What first caught my attention to dream of Greece has always been staying in one of the boat houses on Milos. So after a direct flight from JFK to Athens, and a short layover, I was headed to Milos on a quick flight to start the journey. (And I do suggest a flight getting in and out of the island part of the trip.) So there I was, after 20hrs of effort, grabbing my rental car in the home size airport of Milos. I couldn't wait to begin. A non-stop journey through Greece in 10 days and 5 locations. Just a short drive away I arrived at my little hotel in the classic waterfront town of Adamantas.
Beautiful restaurant seating lined the waterfront, shops and great little inexpensive hotel options. Each proudly well-kept and perfect when moving along or setting-up base to explore the island from. After checking-in and freshening-up it was already time for my welcoming dinner in Greece. And one that is debated as the best in the islands: O! Hamos! Tavern. Just a short walk out of town along the waterfront you find nestled on its own in a vegetative covered surrounding. Think deep in the Greek hillside but waterfront, rustically elegant with and endless menu of humble traditional options. With fantastic local wines and honest service and price. You simply cannot ask for a better first night dinner in Greece.
The next morning I awoke for sunrise after a much needed night of rest. Some coffee and a breakfast bar, checked-out and I was off. First stop to explore for the day was Plaka. The hilltop town of Milos overlooking the sea with the classic close-quarter shops and living spaces. After wandering around the maze for an hour or so I settled at a small cafe for an omelet and coffee. I contemplated the rest of my day as I enjoyed breakfast in the quiet morning. Next was a drive down off the hillside, twisting and turning to the sea village of Kilma. A line of small brightly colored boat houses, some for rentals, along the water. One of the most famous rustic views of the Greek islands. I did consider the area for my dream stay for the evening but another spot on the island still awaited.
From there I crossed back over the hillside to view Sarakiniko Beach. This is the pictures you see with the very space-like white rock surrounding the green ocean. A beautiful otherworld sight. And near by is several other coves with other dreamy boat house rental options. From there it was back up the road to a must-do lunch spot: Medusa. Also situated in another beautiful boat house cove. I'll just say a lunch you'll never forget and do have the octopus. At this point I was getting pretty anxious. My dream was about to come to fruition. But one last stop at the local market to grab a local bottle of wine, cheese, meats etc. for the evening. Now I was set and on my way to my evening boat house stay at Firopotamos Beach.
The rest the afternoon I relaxed on my ocean deck. A little nap, a little wine, a little hors d'oeuvres then a jump off the deck. And repeat. A truly grateful experience. After sunset I got some rest early with the sound of the near ocean steps from my bed. The next morning I awoke for sunrise with a cup of coffee and jumped off the deck one last time. Then it was off to drop the rental at the Adamantas port area and grab a ferry. And off to Santorini for the evening I went. When I arrived my rental was waiting for me and I headed straight to Oia. And in under 30min or so I arrived at the parking lots to enter Oia on foot. Its a little work to lug your stuff to the BnB Caldera Premium Villas but well worth it for the view and the price.
Once you're settled and you can take a breath you really absorb the moment. One of the most photographed places in the world and now its with your own eyes. Another great moment. From there I just got to walking up and down, back and forth and just exploring every nook-and-cranny you could access. After an hour or two I headed back to my view with a bottle of wine and relaxed a bit before dinner. There's a lot to choose from but I knew where I was headed for dinner. Another spot I had seen long ago, and again with traditional rustic charm. The route to Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna brings you down the old port steps to the waterfront. A fantastic experience in itself and then the tavern hovering over the water in rustic bliss. The fresh seafood, the wine, the atmosphere and of course the sunset, its too good. Plan to spend hours.
Then, if you like hiking, its some work to hike back up! I mean really, so keep that in mind. The next morning I enjoyed several cups of coffee from my deck view. Then I headed back towards the port for my next ferry. But before that I had time for lunch in Thera for a caldera view. Thera being the other lively spot to spend an evening if you give Santorini another day. And may even be your choice depending on your interest. In any case, I had a ferry to catch so off to the port I went, dropped my rental and was off to Sifnos. An overlooked island with a great, calm and sleepy hillside town with fantastic culinary finds, wine and traditional feel. Not to mention a great hike and of course some beaches.
It was already 6pm when I arrived at the Sifnos port, so I quickly grabbed my rental and was off into the hills. Shortly you arrive in the wonderful hillside town of Apollonia. Now, in my mind a visit to Greece needs a traditional stay in the hillside. This is what led me here and how I arrived at the Peristeronas House. Perfect in every sense of the hillside idea and only a short walk to the dinner spot. After another tight and twisting turn of white and blue labyrinth, they never get old, you arrive at Kafeneio Drakakis. A courtyard feel where tables surround the front of the establishment while leaving a lane open for the walkway. Just perfectly fitting for the new hillside environment you now find yourself in. And the spirit of the place, along with a tapa style approach is just beautiful. Let the hours pass.
The next morning I awoke around sunrise to the pleasure of a far-off rooster. Then shortly after while making coffee a hourse grazed through the kitchen window. I mean it was really "are you kidding me" type stuff. And thats just how it is in Greece when you get away from the commercial world. I spent several hours drinking coffee that morning just enjoying the moment. But it came time to carry on and dig into the next step of the trip. Many steps actually, on the 2.5hr out and back hike to the Prof. Ilias Monastery. A great hike with a spectacular rewarding view. After that its some earned beach time. So just down the road through the lovely hillside you turn a corner and arrive at Platis Gialos.
Its really like a Caribbean coved beach in the middle of Greece. With great humble little inns for an evening stay right on the water. Like my spot for the night at Pension Ageliki. A long standing traditional inn with basic sea front balcony rooms and all the color of lovable Greece. I started with wine and the usual for lunch on the balcony and shortly made my way to the calm ocean. I took my time and lounged around until it was time for dinner. Which brings me to another point to why Im here. Just up the short stretch of beach past the other tasty seafront options you have Omega3. Not traditional Greek this time by any means. Think small sushi styled preparation with a Greek fusion. The flavors are unreal and being that you're on a beautiful beach paired with fantastic wine Its a special dinner.
The next morning I again awoke at sunrise, It becomes a habit in Greece, and jumped in the ocean. I had some time before my next ferry so I just lounged around the balcony with coffee and breakfast snacks. Then I was off to the port, rental drop and back to Milos to grab a flight back to Athens. The conclusion to the islands part of the trip put a completely new journey to begin. Roadtrip time. It was already heading into the evening by the time I left the Athens airport. So I just grabbed a cheapy off the freeway, got some dinner and got some rest for the journey in the morning. A 4hr drive to one of most untouched and special places in Greece. The world even and at this point still very on-the-low.
I awoke early to have a makeshift breakfast sammy and coffee in the lobby. And was off with a full cup of coffee to go. I was excited. I can't express enough how smooth this drive is, I mean really an A+ highway system. With several toll stops that are a breeze with cash or card. 4hrs yes, but its a drive through the hills of Greece. You're headed through Tripoli, through Sparta and onward. And a lunch stop in Gytheio and just a bit north to Glyfada restaurant. Beach front with a direct view of the Dimitrios Shipwreck. A fantastic area that I plan to return to enjoy further. But this time I was moving on with one more hour stretch of driving left. I was headed to the southern most area of mainland Greece.
After twisting and turning through the vastly changing baron landscape you make your way down the hillside to Gerolimenas. Descriptive wording cannot explain how magical this place is. Because much of it has to do with how it makes you feel. And the locals will speak proudly of this. You are, after all, in the Mani region decedent of the Spartans. So what you have is a proud rustic brick community made up of only a couple hotels, restaurants and stores. All coving around an emerald green ocean wedged between a fjord-like shear rock mountain. Brick to this area is an ordinance like that of the white and blue in the islands. A stunning, clean and consistent beauty.
My night stay was at Laoula Hotel, a small age-old BnB both elegant and rustic in feel, with an open and airy dinning room for breakfast and a small oceanfront patio. And dinner would be steps away, waterfront of course, at Pétrino. But before that I had the afternoon to enjoy the ocean patio with local wine. Later I anxiousley stepped over to Pétrino and enjoyed fresh seafood and more local wine. Yet another unforgettable experience that is the story of Greece. The long story short of the Gerolimenas is that its a solid 5 star visit that would be out of the price range for most anywhere else. But not here, not now, and its an exceptional feeling to find a place like that.
The next morning I awoke for one last sunrise and jumped in the ocean. Had some coffee on my balcony and got ready for the drive back. Before I left I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast spread in the dinning area and headed out. It was a very different drive heading back to Athens. The trip was coming to an end and I had far less curious journeys left in front of me. But there was one more remaining. The city of Athens for 2 nights would be the final perspective of Greece. And after all I had experienced to this point I was very interested to dig into city life. It was planned out this way to drop the rental back at the airport and take a covid test in advance for my flight. All set and jumped on the metro to Athens Monastiraki stop.
Wow..What a change of pace and energy you immediately step into. And I mean this in a very welcomed way. City life front and center with so many things at once. And yet, as with all of Greece, its always very very clean, no garbage laying around. So, I was now on foot to my BnB style hotel: Ederlezi Boutique Hotel in the Psyri district. Just a 10min walk away from the metro a little hideaway of modern bohemia. The perfect match to staying in this vibrant area filled with colorful arts, shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Its the heartbeat of Athens. As soon as I dropped my bags I poured a glass of complimentary local wine and stepped up to the rooftop garden. A fantastic extension of the hotels modern bohemian vibe that basically places a manicured Greek hillside on the top of the hotel. By the time I relaxed a bit, freshened-up etc., it was already nearing my dinner reservation.
So I stepped out and just started wandering the tight ally streets of Psyri. Honestly one of the best city walks you will ever have. Just a wonderful mix of modern, old and rustic, urban, traditional its all happening together. I mean you could, and should, spend a day or two in the area alone. So very much to dig into. And then I arrived at my dinner spot: Karamanlidika. Geeze, a true pleasure and the kindness that you're greeted with is unforgettable. An eatery specializing in charcuterie but also a wide range of traditional mezes. So however you'd like to approach eating Greek, it can be created and rest assure its one of the best. After that I gladly reentered the maze of viewing pleasure that is Psyri. Now evening and strung lighting lit the path through the vibrant area. I took a pit stop at Juan Rodriguez Bar, a must-stop, for a night cap and reminisced. What a wonderful experience to step in and out of such drastically different Greek environments. And with that thought I returned for some much needed rest. Was a long day.
The next morning I slept passed sunset and lounged around with coffee. It was my last day to dig into Greece. So Athens on foot I went. I was heading south making my way to the Acropolis but first a stop for some breakfast and fresh roasted coffee at The Underdog. A great industrial/bohemia contemporary style with A+ coffee and breakfast options. With a full tank I was ready for the day and shortly arrived at the Acropolis for my viewing. Really just an honor when thinking about all the history that had taken place on this ground. From there you can step into the Plaka area and explore a rich traditional area filled with fairytale-like-cafes. In particular Yiasemi which I spent several hours over lunch, a glass of wine and conversation.
From there just down the way, before looping back to the hotel, I saved something to try for this very spot. Brettos Bar is age old establishment (1909 to be precise) producing several homemade liquors. I came for my taste of ouzo. Not bad, kinda jagermeister-ish. And the interior view itself is worth the stop. From there it was a slow and enjoyed walk through the plethora of shops looping back to the hotel. By the time I returned it was already nearing time for my last dinner reservation across town. I grabbed a cab for this one to the Kolonaki district which is considered the high-end area. But within such an area you have a very comfortable standout. Oikeio is a classy take on a traditional Greek tavern. Designed to feel like a warm home on the corner of the city street. And the food was such a pleasure to end my trip with.
Strangely, an enormous rain storm happened out of nowhere? So...no sunset drink on one of the rooftops viewing the Acropolis. Instead, I gladly took my time and throughly enjoyed every bite of my last Greek dinner. Alongside several glasses of local wine of course. And the rain continued to pour in the background in a warm, open, airy home-like setting. It was the perfect--cozy--to end the trip with. The next morning a took a cab back to the airport. What a trip to walk away from as I gazed out the cab window. Put my leather slip ons to the test with that one.
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