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Trip Report Fabulous Greece-Santorini, Naxos and Athens

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We (DH, DD (12) and I) just returned from ten fabulous days in Greece, including being in Athens for the Prime Minister's Speech on Friday night. We had a fabulous time, in a beautiful country, ate fantastic food and met some of the nicest people ever.

A few quick notes about our experiences during this most difficult time for the Greeks:
We had very few problems getting cash ( a few ATMs were out on the islands, we didn't try in Athens but there were lines).
We ran into a few stores that wouldn't take credit and most of the others asked if you could pay in cash (we did).
We were staying right on Syntagma Square and it was perfectly fine, the skirmish the new was reporting, was very small and isolated, we watched it all happen from our hotel.
There is great concern on the parts of all the Greeks as to what will happen to them and as of right now its looking like a no vote-something many were concerned about..

Basics:
Santorini-4 nights (Nostos Apartments-Oia) Incredible caldera views, wonderful staff, superb location, quiet hotel
Naxos-4 nights (Kavos Naxos-Agios Prokopios) Beautiful grounds, pool and ocean views, excellent food, good location
Athens- 2 nights (King George-Syntagma Square) Expensive but the views of the Acropolis are amazing, rooms are very nice, fantastic food, location perfect
I will do more in depth report on TA (same screen name)

Transportation: JFK-LHR-JTR, Blue Star ferry to Naxos, Olympic Air to Athens, ATH-LHR-JFK

I am cutting, pasting and editing some from my blog, so if it sounds a bit story like, that is why.

June 24:
Arriving in Santorini was quite an experience, on many levels. First, the approach is awesome... one feels as though the pilot is about to drop the plane right into the sea but secondly, there was no customs. In fact, they never even handed out customs/immigration cards on the flight. There was one lone immigration officer stamping passports and that was it. Not a question asked, not anyone to check contents of baggage, nothing! Never have I traveled into a country where they didn't even have the facilities to inspect your bags let alone not require some sort of formal entry documents.
The drive from the airport to the hotel was along a cliff road that sometimes had guard rails but many times did not. Kind of reminded me of our drive through Torres del Paine. Our driver deposited us in Oia at the beginning of the pedestrian walkway and our hotel sent someone "up" to come help us with our bags. "Up" you are thinking? Oh yes, I mean UP, about seventy five steps straight up from half way down the cliff to the seashore. The guy asked for the heaviest two bags, threw one over his shoulder, grabbed the other one and made off like a Grand Canyon pack mule down the steep, winding, stone steps.
Our hotel Nostos Apartments was fabulous, clinging to the edge of a precipice that would certainly result in death if you happened to find yourself over the edge. It looks straight, and I mean straight, down on the azure blue sea. and straight out into the Santorini caldera. Santorini was formed thousands and thousands of years ago by a volcano. The remnants of that volcano are what make up Santorini and the caldera that was left behind is awe inspiring. The hotel property is all white with stone or black walkways and terraces dotted with fuchsia flowers and shrubs. A real treat for the eyes.
We decided a quick dip in the infinity pool was in order before we headed out for dinner. We were all exhausted but realized we had to keep going to get ourselves on Greece time. We certainly didn't want a repeat of Barcelona where we slept through half our days. The swim was enjoyable and frankly had our hotel had an option for dinner, we wouldn't have left but they didn't so we made our way to the westerly point of the island to a restaurant (Ochre) that was billed as having amazing sunsets that Santorini is known for; of course we weren't the only ones with that idea. Wow, were there loads of people. We were literally fighting our way through the hordes to try and make our reservation before they gave our table away. Thank goodness we did, because when we were escorted to our table, we literally had one of the best seats in the house. We were on the edge looking due west at the sun, the sea and the adjacent islands, couple that with a cocktail and the company of each other and we were good to go and the sunset lived up to its hype. We, and the other three thousand people all had quite a show. We noshed on Greek salad, tomato fritters and chicken souvlaki, while listening to a Greek duo singing as we watched the giant orange fireball sink into the Mediterranean. We didn't care that the service was pretty bad or the food didn't arrive in the proper order, or that the wind was blowing the garnishes off our plates because as our daughter said, looking over at us with a grin from ear to ear, "We are in Greece!"
What a fabulous first day we had. Oia is a charming town and we imagine even more so without the people. Walking back to the hotel after dinner, the throngs of tourists long gone, the marble street, lined with historical buildings and the cliff houses illuminated from the top of the cliff to the sea's edge made for quite an enchanting evening.
As much as Patagonia stunned and awed in its raw beauty, Santorini does the same in its geologic beauty topped by the surprising way man has only improved on that. One day in and we are loving Greece!

Ochre for food was good, not excellent but to be fair-they were swamped.

June 25:
I set the alarm for 9:00 this AM as I wanted to make sure we did not sleep our day away. We had a delicious Greek breakfast-spinach pie, olives, yougurt, Greek pastries with home made jams and local honey-delicious!!!
DD wanted to do some shopping and hang by the pool but seeing as four cruise ships had come in over night, we decided to go out early and then come back for some lunch and pool time before heading out on the private tour I had lined up for this afternoon into this evening.
The pedestrian walkway was quite busy but we enjoyed purchasing some locally made items as well as walking to the end because of course behind every corner stood another great photo op!
Back at the hotel the pool was refreshing and relaxing. Our morning excursion had taken longer than anticipated so we had just about an hour in the pool overlooking the Sea before having to get ready. There's something about water, it's like God's tranquilizer!
Our guide, Kostas met us at 3:00 on the dot and we headed out. We were headed to the southern end of the island, a far less touristed area. He took us along the shore route explaining the hillside terracing that is omnipresent and explaining that the majority of the green we see (which is severely limited) is grapevines. Santorini has developed quite a wine industry; the vines grow on the ground in a bird's nest shape and have adapted to growing in the volcanic dirt and while there is zero man-made irrigation,evaporation from the sea during the evening, acts as natural irrigation-fascinating!
My idea behind hiring the tourist guide was to make sure we could hit all the highlights that DD had wanted. Driving along the island, making stops at one of the most famous blue dome churches and the red beach were fantastic photo ops and checks on Jenny's must-see list. The next stop was my one must-see, the ancient site of Akrotiri. The story behind this site is unbelievable but suffice it to say, it was the site of an ancient Minoan civilization, presently believed to be in existence from about 5,000 BC until the volcano that formed the present day island of Santorini blew its top and buried the town in tens of feet of volcanic ash-like Pompeii but on an even grander scale. Archaeologists have uncovered the very first modern day "indoor" plumbing system and city wide sewer systems.The frescoes that have been uncovered depict stories of Ancient Greek life, including sea voyages to Africa. This site is one of the greatest modern day finds and its excavation has barely began.
Our next stop was Anna's Taverna, a family run business that DD had seen on Giada's show. This place was fantastic! We walked in, were warmly greeted and handed a tray of all sorts of home made jams, spreads, sundried tomatoes, pickled caper leaves, etc. The samplings were off the chart. DD ate every last bite of everything presented and when I questioned her even eating the caper leaves (which tasted just like capers yet she claimed back home she didn't care for them), her explanation was that, "Everything in Greece tastes different and better!"
We then headed up to the tallest point on Santorini, a monastery with a 360 degree view. The inside of the church was small yet impressive and one of the six monks that reside there passed us as we were admiring the views. From there we headed to the newest-oldest winery in Santorini. The building was amazing and the wine tasting delicious-as the wines were very distinctive having been made from grapes that grow in the volcanic soil. We had a great time with the wine host and to top it all off had a spectacular view of the sunset!
Our guide Kostas was fabulous-knowledgable, personable and easy going.
We really had a true taste today of Santorini, in the literal, cultural, and historical sense. Of course, us being us we probably loved the literal taste the most-perfectly plump, sweet sun dried tomatoes, wine pleasantly unique with hints of volcanic minerals and jams so perfect it was like eating the whole fruit.
We received a thorough tour of the island today. We all agreed however, that for us, we need to spend some time in a place. We can't just go somewhere, spend six hours, check that box and pretend like we know it; in that case one has "seen it." Even four nights in one place certainly doesn't give us the right to say, "We know it." However, the amount of information we garnered from Kostas today and the area that we covered, we certainly have a better knowledge and a better feel of knowing it.
It was interesting that in certain areas today there were things that reminded us all of places we have been-Les Baux de Provence, El Fuerte in Bolivia, Barcelona, Paris and so on. In turn, this reminded me of how grateful I am for all the places I have been lucky enough to see with "my family"- the one I was born into, the one I have created and the one I married into!

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    Please continue! Sounds as if you all did your homework, and including the daughter in the planning pays off, doesn't it ... they're more involved . I will be interested in your take on Naxos & on Kavos location (it does require a car to get anywhere). Can u think of another way to refer to travel-mates, like maybe first initial? That DD DH (Dear Daughter Dear Husband) is fading away from Forum, maybe a bit twee, like Better Half, he he.

    I agree, short stops can't give the whole picture but it sounds as if u learned a great deal in one afternoon; that's what a good guide can do.

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    names changed

    June 26:
    I remember very clearly when J decided that Greece was the place she had chosen for our next vacation. She had very excitedly told me that she had just watched Giada in Santorini and it was such a beautiful place that that's where she wanted to go. She also told me that we would need to go for a sail to the hot springs and it had to be on Captain Ted's because they make the most amazing looking food for lunch.
    Fast forward twelve months later and we found ourselves on a forty foot catamaran with six other people plying the lapis blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Seeing the island from the sea, certainly put everything into perspective. The "small" island in the middle of the caldera is really quite large when you are right upon its shores. The cliffs that are home to the cave dwellings that cling perilously to the hillsides, look even higher and steeper than when one stands in the midst of them looking straight down.
    One comes to understand the reasoning the early Santorinians had, when they built these dwellings. No pirate, marauder or invading people would ever dare try to invade up the sheer cliff walls thus allowing the islanders to need only watch the seas from one direction.
    Sailing through the caldera was a surreal experience. As you "enter" the caldera you get the feeling you are entering some ancient forbidden natural fortress. Something akin to "Waterworld." The depths of the waters (1500 feet) are easily detected from the deep lapis blue of the water. The "new" island smack dab in the center is quite inhospitable as it ever so slowly grows enlarging the area of jagged angular lava rock. The so called hot springs, that were today's destination, usually bubble from the ocean floor but weren't even detectable today, I suppose a good thing for us when one considers what it must mean the hotter and more productive the springs are. I think the Geologic Gods were looking down upon us today (knock on wood)!
    Billy and Jenny braved the not-even-close-to-luke-warm-"hot"- springs while I stayed on board to take pictures. They had fun jumping off the boat and bobbing around in the ever-so-slightly sulfurous smelling water.
    This first stop after swimming was a lunch stop with quite the feast prepared on the spot by the crew. We were presented with fresh (and I mean fresh) grilled calamari topped with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano, an incredibly fresh Greek salad (the real thing I can assure you), fresh roasted vegetables, homemade tzatziki freshly grilled pork and chicken, shrimp in a robust and delicious tomato and feta sauce with Santorini wines and beers to accompany it all. A true feast made from the freshest, organic resources available. Truly delicious!
    After lunch we headed over to the Red Beach, the one we had happen to go to yesterday, for another swim, along the way passing Black And White Beaches. I spotted a giant sea turtle swimming in the water and the crew were all excited as apparently "she" is the only turtle living anywhere near the coast here. She was huge!
    Jenny was quick to jump overboard at Red Beach and this time I joined her while Billy napped in a shady spot on the bow. The water was crisp (that's an understatement BTW) but beautiful, and clear as a picture window. Jenny enjoyed using a mask and checking out the very limited sea life beneath her. It was a shame to have the captain tell us, "The Med is dead," thanks to generations of over fishing with limited safe guards in place and even more limited oversight of the measly ones that are.
    The boat ride was everything Jenny had hoped it would be and Billy and I enjoyed as well. We had very nice talks with the other people, mostly about travels as well as we chatted with the captain a bit, a retired scalloper from Northern Ireland.
    Following our trip, we returned to the hotel and slipped into the pool to both cool down as well as to wash the thick layer of dried salt from our skin. A few hours of relaxing by the pool really was a fine way to end the daylight hours.
    Our dinner tonight was at a more locally run taverna called Skala. It was delicious!!! Fried tomato patties with fresh chopped mint inside, Santorini cheese and olive croquettes for the table, Moussaka for Billy, a lamb and lemon juice in parchment for me and for Jenny, a "spicy" penne in red sauce; a dish with hits of curry so strong, we decided it reminded us of something that the family would have made in the movie, "The Hundred Foot Journey."
    Sitting at the table overlooking the caldera and the blue, blue waters, we say how fabulous Greece has been so far. Billy especially...surprisingly, has enjoyed every part of our trip this far and we both thanked Jenny for selecting such a fine destination!
    We all were up late last night-blogging, laughing, spilling and breaking things (a long story but suffice it to say we had a lot of laughs) so it was an earlyish bed time tonight. Tomorrow I have a small surprise in plan for Jenny and a unique early afternoon planned for all of us.

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    Really enjoying your report. We returned from two weeks in Greece - the exact itinerary in reverse - the end of May. So far, your experience sounds remarkably like ours. It was a little too cool for the pool and the beach and the crowds hadn't gotten bad yet but otherwise, very similar. We loved Akrotiri, caper leaves, tomato fritters, the weather, the Greek people, the Caldera, the hikes, etc. Thanks so much for the memories!

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    Thanks for a great story.

    I'd like to hear your opinion as you're a recent traveler:

    How did crisis influence the tourism in Greece?

    I heard that there are hotels with only 1 visitor per month. Is that true?

    Thanks

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    mamcalice-glad your enjoying the report.

    Cheap-The Greek crisis did not appear to be doing much in the way of damage. All three of our hotels were at capacity when we were there. The taxi driver in Athens said he thought tourism was down because people were afraid to come but it did not appear that way based on the large tour groups, school groups, families, etc we saw all over Athens. I assure you the Acropolis was packed.

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    Odie, interesting that in this situation the word "afraid" really only comes up in discussions by Americans -- Brits & Europeans mainly want to know about gas, costs of meals, how many Euros to bring, etc. But this has been the case ever since Mark Twain wrote "Innocents Abroad," right? Even though many many more Americans every year explore beyond our borders, there are still a % who are timid about venturing . We have to keep reassuring them that It Will Be OK, jump in the water's fine!! Be prudent, but don't miss out on a great adventure because of some headlines.

    Odie, your report on Naxos may comment on the abundance of that fertile island -- fabulous local veggies, and famously among greeks, growing the BEST potatoes in Greece. Even if bad times persist, Naxians will just plant bigger gardens, raise more goats & sheep, expand their vineyards etc!

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    travelerjan-
    the word "afraid" was used by the taxi driver, a clearly well educated, young Greek man but in this discussion he never referred to which tourists he was speaking of.
    Your other comment is interesting in when I was relaying to the driver that we saw no lines for ATMs on the islands and one would never know there was a problem had one not read a newspaper, the driver commented that that didn't surprise him. The people on the islands, he said, are much more laid back, especially since they can fend for themselves with growing their own vegetables and raising their own stock or catching their own fish.

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    I'm afraid I have to disagree with travelerjan, but that doesn't mean I fear for my personal safety. ;-) The word "afraid" can be used in different ways. The taxi driver probably meant that some tourists are concerned about shortages of euros in ATMs, certain commodities, etc.

    Judging from the many posts I've read on another forum, that concern isn't confined to just Americans. Fortunately those concerns are so far unfounded.

    With the injection of cash during the summer, island economies continue to be healthy. Euros brought in by tourists are recirculated amongst hotel owners, restaurateurs, suppliers, etc rather than deposited in the bank.

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    I enjoy reading this trip report, thanks for posting oddie!
    Please, let's not start one more current crisis etc discussion, at least not before the full report is finished. My head is buzzing with all related talk on traveler forums, lets keep a few threads outside of this for a change...(?)

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    June 27:

    When we went to Patagonia two years ago, I had told Jenny that when we got to Santiago with the intentions to rest up from our hiking expeditions, she and I would get a massage at the spa at the Ritz Carlton. Because we left Chile ahead of plan, I promised Jenny I would make it up. Well, I kept my promise and this morning her surprise was a massage here in Santorini.
    After breakfast, she and I headed out. She had no idea where we we were headed. We walked to the far end of Oia, following the main walkway then branching off headed further and further down the cliffs.
    The massage studio was way cool. It had various sun decks on multiple levels, and the massage room we were in was a cave room, lit only by candles creating a most tranquil feeling. I received one of the best massages I have ever had and Jenny, for her first massage, said it was fantastic. An hour later we both felt a bit dazed... a good thing and Jenny said she had almost fallen asleep.
    I had told Billy to meet us at the top of the stairs to Amoudi Bay so we could walk down all 297 or so stairs to enjoy a lunch right on the water. The walk down was beautiful, even with the dung left by the poor donkeys who are burdened by taking tourists to the top. We were the only people making the descent, so it was very peaceful getting out of the crowds of Oia.
    Amoudi Bay is about as picture postcard perfect as it gets. Six or so tavernas line the small bay, all offering fresh fruits of the sea with dining tables placed inches from falling into the crystal clear Aegean. Jenny had seen a picture of it earlier, one in which freshly caught octopus were hanging, drying in the sun and she had made it a point of trying to find the same image and sure enough we found the taverna that was responsible for drying the octopus. A beautiful picture and image so unique to Greece!
    We chose Sunset Taverna and sat down for a lovely lunch of grilled octopus, fresh shrimp, Greek Salad, fried tomato fritters and zucchini balls-all delicious but even if the food had been awful, the setting was so remarkable I don't think any of us would have even cared.
    Billy wanted to call a cab to bring us back up to Oia as we all decided that the steps up, with the dried dung that swirls in the wind and blows into your face was not an option we would entertain in the heat, however, Jenny frowned upon the idea of taking a taxi so we opted to walk up the hill via the road instead-a steep ascent in the blazing hot sun but with a strong wind blowing to keep you cool and no dried donkey dung to clog your lungs, it was a pleasant excursion.
    Once at the top, we decided to treat ourselves to a well earned Gelato followed by a trip to the pool to cool down.
    We spent the next few hours relaxing in the pool and enjoying the gorgeous views that are really what Santorini is all about.
    Dinner was at a very local taverna, Roka, I had read about, way off the pedestrian walkway, down some turning twisted paths into a less frequented area of Oia. Our meals were fabulous and once again we saw an absolutely stunning sunset.
    Heading out, we took a few more turns down some more walkways and ended up smack dab in the hordes of "Sunsetters" that were making their way back from the northern point of Oia after the sun had set. Wow were there a lot of people!
    We made a quick stop at the bakery for Gelato for Jenny, a bottle of Chocomel (yes!) and a small half dollar size Greek pastry similar to Baklava for me and a miniature bottle of Ouzo for Billy. While I was standing at the checkout counter waiting for my change, a young Greek girl got in line behind me carrying a bucket of small, plump, bright red tomatoes-Santorini tomatoes to be exact. I mentioned to her that they looked delicious and she reached into her bucket, grabbed a handful and dumped them in my shopping bag. I told her that wasn't necessary I was just admiring how beautiful and delicious they looked when she proceeded to grab another handful and dump them in my bag. I thanked her profusely and happily munched them the rest of the walk back. Over the centuries, Santorini tomatoes have developed a thick (but not tough) skin to be able to handle the very dry conditions here. That skin keeps the tomatoes from drying out on the vine but it seems as though it must intensify the sugars because they are so succulent and sweet!
    We have encountered nothing but the nicest of Greek people on our trip so far. Everybody has been wonderful, helpful and enthusiastic. We have managed to have a lot of laughs with the Greeks; a truly wonderful group of people!
    We descended the fifty or so stairs (Jenny and I have decided there can be no complaining on the ridiculous amounts of stairs/steps there are as ascending/descending only stands to make our legs look better), to our small slice of Heaven called Nostos, far from any crowds where we sat on our deck enjoying our goodies and recalling what a great day we had had today.
    Jenny had asked earlier if she could take a night swim, something she had never done so when we we were done with our treats, she and I went down to the pool. She was having fun messing around while I was working on my blog and snapping some photos. It was close to 10:15 by then so we decided to head back to the room when all of a sudden there was a massive explosion right behind me. By the look in Jenny's face, and after her initial scream, I could see it was something great. Jenny scrambled out of the pool and we turned to watch a spectacular firework display coming from the adjacent hotel, not much more than 50 yards from us.
    When it was over, she looked at me in disbelief and said, "Wow! What a way to spend our last evening in Santorini!"
    I find myself staying up late in Santorini. Originally I thought it was because I was up working on my blog, but even after I have had it finished, I find myself still awake unable to pull myself off our deck. I have figured out that I am drawn to the view-the beauty there is in the moon shining on the sea at night, the twinkling lights of Imerogivili and Fira on the distant hills of the caldera, the lights cascading down the hills here around me in Oia and even the shades of blue the illuminated cliff side pools emit into the velvet black night sky. All of it is remarkably beautiful and I find myself very content here. Santorini has been a wonderful destination and we have all had a super time. The weather has been fantastic, the food delicious, the people wonderful and the scenery, well I think I have said it-undeniably stunning. If I had wanted to make it all up, I don't think I could have written it any better than it already was!

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    Fabulous report ... conveys your feelings so well! I think your location really added to your excellent experience; yes the vertical stair-step challenge was extreme, but it kept you away from the crowds during your relax-time.

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    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip report so far. Seems like you have also fallen under the spell of Santorini (like I have). It is a beautiful place with breathtaking views. Santorini seems to get a "bad"rap from various travelers due to crowds, but it holds such a special place for me. Looking forward to reading about your Naxos portion, as it is another of our favorite places. Stayed at Kavos also!

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    travelerjan- Thank you. I actually didn't mind the stairs, for many reasons, including exactly as you said. Once we were down the stairs, it was a quiet, peaceful slice of Heaven.

    annw-glad you are reading along. Hope some of this helps you.

    Helen-I admit I was going into Santorini with the knowledge that the scenery would be beautiful but I had a lot of dread with also knowing there would be crowds. I had read a lot from the folks who do not like Santorini at all and I would agree that it is a bad rap. I think it is important to try and manage your time there wisely. We chose not to go to Fira because of the crowds. If we were to return, I would definitely refer to the cruise ship calendar and base our visit around that info. I would never try and talk someone out of going to Santorini,it really is a must see in my book and can be thoroughly enjoyed.
    We loved Naxos as well...stay tuned...

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    June 28:

    I had decided that I wanted to see Oia without the throngs of people crowding its magnificent marble lined walkway and cobblestoned passageways. I knew the only time this would be possible was early in the morning so I slipped out before anyone else was awake and climbed the 83 steps (I counted them this time) to the top. As soon as I reached the top, the church bells started ringing, not just chiming but ringing. It seemed as though there was a celebration of some sort going on but what a beautiful sound they made.
    It was another magnificent morning and I was glad to see no people! I was headed back to the northern tip of the island where I knew the photo ops were plenty and would be spectacular with the early morning sun. I had wanted to get some better pictures of some of the blue domed churches clinging to the hillsides. Santorini has over 400 churches, more than one for every day of the year. Almost all of them are privately owned, many used for only one celebration a year. Apparently when you wanted to show penance to God, instead of lighting a candle, you would build a church. They are all of the same architectural style and most are white and topped by blue domes. They really are quite lovely.
    I wandered the streets-me, perhaps a few other tourists, some locals, a few dogs and cats, and five Chinese wedding couples. Apparently, Chinese couples fly to Santorini, have all their wedding photos taken in their full wedding regalia, fly home and then show the photos off during their actual wedding. We saw no less than 20 different couples while we were there. It is crazy!
    I walked along, merrily snapping photos and enjoying the strong cooling wind which was already blowing. I noticed the amount of whitecaps on the sea side and thought of our ferry ride later that afternoon. I was very glad I had decided to take the huge Blue Star Ferry and not one of the smaller high speed "vomit comets!"
    The local dogs were out in force but I didn't see the one I called "soccer." Last night as we were walking home he was hanging out on the walkway staring down at his two small rocks. As I approached him he took a few steps and I kicked the rock to him, soccer style. He grabbed it, dropped and then backed up some more. All of this went on for about five minutes or so until he had backed himself into a corner. Quite some fun as well as Billy and Jenny had a couple of good laughs watching me play soccer with him and trying to fake him out.
    I stopped at the bakery, picked up a couple of bottles of Chocomel and a sugar donut the size of Jenny's head, for her. When I returned to the room, Billy was up but Jenny was still sound asleep so Billy and I decided to have breakfast as we knew for certain that Jenny wouldn't mind when she saw the goodies I had brought back for her.
    We enjoyed a few final hours on our deck, packed up and then went to have lunch. Back up the 83 stairs to get a bite to eat. We had a great lunch at Skiza- a superb spot with a beautiful view and good food-chocolate banana crepes and a coffee frap for Jenny, a savory crepe of tomato and Mozzarella for Billy, a baguette with Greek Salami and Cretan cheese for me plus a couple of beers to wash it all down-fantastic!
    The drive to the port, just like all the other drives, was a bit hair raising. I had heard that the Greek drivers were aggressive and that if there was a two lane road, they would turn it into a three lane road, creating a new lane by straddling the center line, even on totally blind roads. At one point when we passed through an intersection, Billy leaned over and said, "STOP must mean something else in Greek." I couldn't help but crack up!
    We arrived at the port with plenty of time to spare, not really a surprise, so we grabbed a beer and a seat in a taverna to watch the spectacle that is know as Greek ferry travel. It was quite a sight.
    The Blue Star ferry is huge, large as some of the small cruise ships that island hop here and it's a good thing because even though the wind was honking, the ferry ride was perfectly pleasant. Jenny had been a bit nervous, worried about sinking, but once on board and we got moving she was just fine.
    The scenery leaving Santorini was jaw-dropping!We went right under Fira, Imerogivili, and Oia. They are just as beautiful from down below as one would imagine. At quick glance, the cliffs appeared snow capped from the white buildings lining the edge of the caldera.
    Two hours later, we were disembarking on the island of Naxos-the largest of the Cyclades and apparently equivalent to our county seats. Kostas had told us that if you get arrested on Santorini, they transport you to Naxos where the jail is.
    Naxos looked far different than Santorini, no dramatic cliffs with cave houses clinging to the edge, no cruise ships in port, and much much higher mountains. Naxos was s sloping island but the Chora (old part) looked almost medieval with a castle and huge walls. There was also some sort of arched ruin sitting far off to the left. The town appeared to have been built around the half-moon shaped port.
    We grabbed a cab and we're off to the Hotel Kavos for the next four nights. This hotel is far different than our last one, no dramatic views, no ocean smack dab in front of us, no 1,000 neighbors surrounding us, instead we have a peaceful little apartment, with a terrace outside the one door and a sun deck with a view to the ocean on top. We are sitting in the midst of a beautiful garden with grape vines growing above our heads, fig trees to my left, olive trees to my right intermixed with enormous lavender plants, hibiscus, Bougainville, geraniums, roses, etc.-the complete antithesis to Santorini.
    We headed to the pool to cool off and relax. The pool area was like a resort and we all enjoyed the relaxation. A quick shower and back to the pool area for an absolutely delicious dinner accompanied by entertainment from all the cats, especially the tiny kitten who decided my lap looked like a great place to crash out!
    Santorini was fabulous, I would certainly not hesitate to return. I found myself relaxed and content there, as I think we all did. Naxos being the complete antithesis will be interesting. So far, we like the laid back, quiet vibe of this place.

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    Many thanks for this wonderful report! It brings back great memories from our trip in 2011, where we also went to Santorini and Naxos, both of which we loved for very similar reasons as you mention.

    I'm very jealous, though -- I had SO wanted to visit Akrotiri! It was supposed to have been reopened by the time we visited, but alas, it wasn't, so we never did get to see it. But agree completely about the beauty of Santorini! Despite occasional crowds, it is truly a stunning princess of an island! We also loved Roka, the restaurant you mentioned, and finding it is an adventure in itself!

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    Thanks for your report -- and please do NOT censor information about the banking crisis. I am sorry it bothers some people, but the point of any FIRST HAND, EYE WITNESS trip report is to answer precisely such questions for other future travelers, not just to be a "thanks for the memories."

    Besides, it's fascinating! I have been a tourist in countries in the midst of electrifying political moments, and it is part of the travel experience.

    Anyway, I am not surprised you had a great time in Greece. It is one of the most fabulous destinations in Europe, for beauty, history, inspiration and the great Greek people.

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    progoi-
    I think we were lucky as we did not have any difficulties finding Roka, but as we were leaving there was a family looking for it that had clearly been wandering for a while and was relieved when I told them it was around the next bend!

    sandra-No censoring by me.

    As far any comments I will include from our travels, it is not meant to start a political discussion. Some of the people had strong opinions, which they are entitled to, they are living in the situation. We are travelers, not tourists. We enjoy meeting with the locals and discussing all sorts of topics, it just so happened that this time, much of the discussion was about the dire situation at hand. It was part of our experience in a country that was/is going through a pivotal moment in history.


    June 29-
    I slept in a bit today, until 9:00. I think the fact I was in a more regular bed so it was a bit softer and easier on my joints (the bed in Santorini was a very hard mattress placed on top of a cement slab), helped. I slipped out with my book and went up to the roof deck were a nice breeze was blowing and I could see the beaches and turquoise sea. It was extremely secluded, quiet and peaceful.
    Soon after Billy woke and joined me, but was not followed by Jenny until 11. I figured this morning would be her day to sleep in as I was planning on renting a car for the next few days to explore the island. I read about the Greek Crisis in the news and how the government had initiated capital controls, closing the banks and severely limiting the amount of money that could be withdrawn by the Greeks, to 60 Euros a day; but foreigners weren't limited at all-if one was even able to find an ATM with any money left in it! Glad I insisted on taking far more cash (Euros) then we would have ever taken on a normal basis and glad we pulled our max daily in Santorini (we received a 10% discount for paying cash there-a large savings).
    We went to have breakfast by the pool and once again said how beautiful the grounds were. We chose a table near the bar, but a few minutes later an older gentleman sitting next to us lit up a cigarette so we moved to a further table. A few minutes later he came over and apologized to us for disturbing us with his smoke. We insisted it was no problem, he had every right to smoke if he wished. He then went on to tell us he wasn't a regular smoker but the stress of the crisis had gotten to him and he couldn't help but smoke. He said the Greeks were now living under a Communist Government and they were going to destroy Greece. He was most upset by the situation to which we let him know we understood and we were very sad for the Greek people. He apologized again and left us to our breakfast.
    We decided to call it a leisurely day and we remained by the pool with Jenny swimming the whole time until almost 5:00. Quick showers and a change of clothes brought us back to Naxos port where we had arrived by ferry yesterday.
    Our first stop was the "arch" ruin I saw upon arrival. The Portara was the entrance to an unfinished temple dedicated to Apollo and was began about 540 BC. Its massive marble columns weigh over twenty tons and it is believed to have originally been planned to be 181 feet long but construction was stopped and the temple was dismantled with the majority of the stones going to build the Venetian castle and homes.
    From there we headed to the labyrinth of stoned passageways that make up the old town marketplace. The passageways are no more than four-five feet across. They twist and turn, go up stairs and down, pass through tunnels and under buildings, have vines growing over it, and fountains on the sides. It was really a spectacular sight-one of the neatest places, aesthetically speaking, I have ever been to. There were hundreds of shops, some carrying your basic ticky tacky tourist junk but most were artisans selling their handcrafted wears. I bought a beautiful tumbled marble piece with the Portara carved in it by a gentleman who was busily hammering away at creating a three masted ship from snow white marble. Jenny got a bracelet with a silver fish on it and Billy bought a hand designed T-shirt. We love buying things from local artisans and all of the artists were very appreciative of our cash business.
    I wanted to find a church to light a candle for my dad and though there was a church around just about every corner, it turned out to be a difficult task as they were all closed but the last small church we tried. The church was very small, it had maybe 10 cane chairs to sit on and a very small alter area but there was a sack of candles and though there was no place to deposit money for the candles, Jenny and I each took one and we left 4 Euro next to the sack. We lit our candles for Baba, gave a quick smile and a silent "I love you" and quietly slipped out the door.
    Walking the streets we passed wonderful looking tavernas, one after another and decided on one called Metaxi Mas. We had a great table overlooking a courtyard below with a beautiful church, listening to Greek music and watching the people travel by. Our dinners were fine, though Billy's main course was excellent, even if they forgot it and it came about 40 mins late. The waiter was very nice, and very apologetic. He bought us a "barrel" of wine so all was good.
    After dinner we walked through the maze again, stopped for some delicious ice cream bars (very Dove-like) and made our way back to the port area to catch a cab back to the hotel.
    When we returned around 11:00, the same Greek gentleman with the cigarette was sitting at the bar with a friend and we started to speak with him about the Greek situation. It's interesting in that we have now heard both sides of the coin. The question of whether to stay in the Eurozone is not divided by demographics it seems, but by individuals. Some, like one of the artisans we spoke to in Naxos town, feel Greece should go back to the drachmas, that the suffering they will have from that will only last two-three years versus the suffering from the severe austere measures that will be in place for the next forty or so. The Greek gentleman was saying they need Europe, that they are all a team and that Greece being such a small country, he is worried about Turkey coming in and taking over. They are concerned about history repeating itself.
    You can't help but feel horrible for the Greeks. They really are some of the nicest people we have ever encountered. They are being put to a serious test and as they have all said, nobody has a feel yet for what will happen. We were assured we would be OK in Athens and something tells me they are right. We were able to withdraw money from the ATM today-the regular maximum amount, though we did have to try three ATMs before we found one with cash.
    Naxos is an amazing island and although we have barely scratched the surface of it, Billy and I both said what a contrast the two islands are. We are looking forward to delving a bit deeper into Naxos tomorrow and seeing all it has to offer. As of right now, it certainly seems like there's plenty!

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    It was me asking not to derail the thread and I did not ask to censor information on the banking crisis, I asked not to start a conversation about it, at least before finishing this report sandralist. Is it so bad wanting to read a trip report without tons of intermediate conversations about the financial situation???

    I'm really enjoying the report odie and I can't wait to read your impressions on Naxos explorations having a car... : )

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    June 30-

    This morning we jumped in our little orange rent a car and headed out for the interior of the island where the promise of more traditional villages and stunning scenery awaited us. There are no street signs in Greece and no roads marked by number, only signposts at intersections with names of towns, pointing the direction. This made it a bit challenging because it wasn't always the next town that was listed so one had to be prepared for all the names of the town along the planned route. In a reversal for us, Billy drove and I navigated. He did a great job negotiating the ridiculously winding roads that, some times had guard rails, sometimes did not and though they are supposedly two lane roads, there were places that it was no more than eight feet wide. At one point, we rounded a corner and came face to face with a huge Mack truck. I screamed, Jenny jumped, and Billy handled it all beautifully well. By the end of the trip, Billy was taking the stop signs like the Greeks, as a mere suggestion to perhaps slow down.
    After leaving the hotel, we passed by the long stretch of white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. We turned inland and quickly crossed into agricultural country. As we were driving along, we saw something in the road to which we simultaneously all asked what it was but just as quickly replied, "A pig."
    Crossing the road was a piglet no bigger than my foot! Jenny of course insisted we stop the car so she take photos and make sure she could usher it out of harm's way. Back in the car we started ascending into the mountains of Naxos.
    Naxos' name is derived from the first king of the island who came at the head of the colonists from Asia Minor. It is the largest of the Cyclades by far and has the highest point in the Cyclades, Mount Zeus at 3200 feet.
    I had read about a family run pottery shop in the village of Damarionas along the route we were taking, so when we came upon it, I insisted we stop. As we walked in the gallery, the smell from the wood that was firing the kiln was overwhelming, but in a good way. There was a woman who was busy pounding and molding clay while her brother was busy throwing clay. They had a very large selection of items that both of them plus their father had made. We, of course, left with a few.
    Our first stop was Halki, a small traditional village up higher in the mountains. We arrived around noon and decided we should stay for lunch. As we rounded one of the passageways, we came across a large BBQ with a rotisserie spinning the most succulent and delicious looking chickens I have ever seen. They smelled divine and with their golden brown skin glistening at us, we were hooked. Yianni's Taverna, which was responsible for the delectable chickens, happened to have one of the most quaint settings I have ever seen. They had a large patio which was completely shaded by grapevines growing overhead. The surrounding village was lovely and quiet with local people tending their stores or enjoying their lunch. There were few tourists adding to the more traditional feeling. The town clearly was important historically as the crumbling facades of grand villas and tower houses can attest to. There were many wonderful photo opportunities here.
    We ordered the chicken, fried potatoes (Naxos is famous for potatoes-go figure) and a Greek Salad (topped with a semi-soft local sour cheese)-all delicious! The local cats must have thought so as well, because we had no less than five of them sitting at our feet meowing for some hand-outs!
    Halki has some great shops, especially L'Olivier, again all locally owned by artisans, and we certainly did our fair share of shopping. As Jenny and I were passing a shop with hand-loomed linens, a very discernible, older Greek gentleman approached us and was insisting we enter his shop. We couldn't help but oblige and left a few minutes later with a beautiful dried oregano filled sachet, though we all joked that we hoped we don't end up getting stopped by customs coming back into the U.S.! Billy bought me a beautiful silver fish necklace from L'Olivier, with a beautiful "eye of Naxos." I love it!
    As we were making our way out of the passageways and back in to the town's main streets, church bells started ringing like mad. We popped out in front of the church to see a fully cloaked priest pulling hard as could be on the rope leading up to the bell tower. Quite a sight!
    Our final stop in town was a bakery we passed on the walk into the village square. Our noses had been enticed by the sweet fragrance that was emanating from the kitchen there. Wow! did it smell scrumptious. A few cookies and Greek treats later, we were finally ready to hit the road again.
    From there we continued on through the beautiful town of Filoti that sits on the slopes at the base of Mount Zeus. We drove further and further up until we reached Apiranthos, a village of stone houses with streets and alleyways made from marble. Its inhabitants are descendants of refugees who fled Crete to escape Turkish repression. It was a charming town with a few cafes, including a creperie, where we of course stopped, as well as a few craft shops.
    Back in the car we finished the climb to the highest point along our drive, 2300 feet. The scenery up to this point has been amazing, it was what I had pictured Greece to look like-deep verdant valleys, high craggy peaks, wild flowers of all colors and bushes of bright pink oleander blooming up and down the hillsides. We passed countless olive tree groves and terraced hillsides with grape vines, citrus trees and fig trees, forests of juniper and huge eucalyptus trees. I can see now why Naxos is known as the green island.
    At one point, we started to hear a sound and thought our little orange tuna can, that is supposedly meant to be a car, was getting ready to die on us. We were a bit nervous as the sound is incredibly loud but then it goes away just as quickly as it started however a few minutes later the noise starts up again and then again it stops. Billy suddenly realized it is not the car but cicadas! We listened to them on and off the entire car trip. Billy said how that sound always reminds him of childhood.
    As we descended towards the rugged northern coast, the terrain changed dramatically. The hillsides were far too steep to terrace and thus there were far fewer inhabitants except for herds of goats that can unimaginably cling to the almost vertical drop.
    Our next stop was to be Apollonas, a small fishing village which is known for having one of the three Kouros that can be found on the island. Kouros are large marble statues. This particular Kouros lies on the ground in the supine position and is more than 30 feet in length. Scholars disagree whether it was to depict Apollo or Dionysus but it is believed to be from the 6 century BC and felt it was abandoned because it had cracked and there was no way to repair it. It was an amazing sight and even more so of one when you think that many more of these had been successfully made and transported down the hillside to the port area and loaded on boats destined for the important cultural site, the island of Delos (now a UNESCO site).
    From this point, almost back to Naxos town there were hardly any villages. The coastline below was breathtaking but the sinuous roads were starting to take a toll on Jenny, even though she road shotgun the entire trip. We forwent any other stops and opted to get to the hotel and spend a few hours relaxing poolside before showering for dinner.
    97 kilometers and seven hours later, we did exactly that. The drive around the island was well worth the time; we had had a wonderful journey!

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    July 1:

    We have been in Greece for a week and still hadn't been to any of the beaches, something Greece is famous for, so today we decided to spend some time at a beach. I spoke to the owner of the hotel we are staying at and he said the beach in front of the hotel was his favorite on the island and that with the stronger winds today, it would be the best bet. He certainly didn't steer us wrong.
    Agia Prokopios is part of a continuous crescent-shaped, mile long, white sand beach with crystal clear turquoise water. There were beach chairs with umbrellas for rent so we were able to relax in some shade with a perfect view of the sea.
    The sea here is kind of a tease. You look at it and automatically assume it is warm as the Caribbean since it shares the same color scheme, but don't let it fool you. It is cold-like shocking Pacific Ocean cold but that didn't deter Jenny from wanting to swim. I joined her up to my waist but could really not go any further however, Billy did, doing a full head dunk.
    Something I noticed about Greek women is they certainly are not body conscience, not in the slightest bit. Whether they were wearing bikinis that would be impossible to fathom a body that size being squeezed into those two small pieces of fabric or running around topless, they never seemed to blink an eye at their appearance. How nice to be that confident!
    At one point, Jenny and I decided to take a walk down the beach and we happened upon quite a few older gentlemen sunbathing in all their glory. Needless to say, Jenny had a bit of a culture lesson today!
    After a few hours on the beach, hunger got the best of us so we walked up to the taverna Avila that was on a small hill above the beach. The views were magnificent, the service excellent and the food delicious. We really enjoyed this.
    Billy had mentioned he'd like to try and go to the Temple of Demeter. We had actually tried to go yesterday but as we turned off the main highway and came around a corner, there was a large truck that appeared to be hopelessly stuck in the next bend so after waiting a few minutes we backed up and got out of there. This time, the bend was clear. The drive to get to the temple took one through hill and dale. It was a beautiful drive on a meandering country road that was not even wide enough for two cars to pass.
    As we were beginning to question whether we had missed the turn off for it, I spotted it looming on a hill above a small stream. It was wild looking out and seeing this ancient marble structure standing in such contrast to the green fields and hills surrounding it. We stopped to take in the view from afar.
    Pulling into the parking area there was only one other car there. How nice it would be, we all commented, to view it without the hordes of people that we know we will encounter at the sites in Athens. As we got ready to exit the car, I realized I couldn't find my phone. I didn't have it. Damn I thought, I must have left it at the restaurant but I remembered having taken a picture of the car with it right before we left there for the Temple. I stepped out of the car to see if perhaps it was in the crack of the seat and when I did that, I found it...on the roof of the car! Unbelievably, the phone had ridden up there the whole way-traversing hills, taking ess curves, doing u-turns, and rumbling over dirt roads. I of course, broke out in laughter while Billy just shook his head and Jenny told me how cute I was (which I don't really think was meant as al compliment).
    The stone path leading up to the temple was beautiful. It was lined with oleander in white and shades of pink, enormous rosemary bushes, and giant blue agave plants. It was a bit surreal when we crested the small hill and came upon the ruins. They were much bigger than they seemed from across the valley.
    When one thinks of the location of the temple, really out in the middle of nowhere, in current day farmland, it makes sense that it was built here. Demeter is a grain goddess and what more of a perfect place for a temple for her to be built than in this fertile valley. The temple was built in the 6th century BC but was partially dismantled in the 6th century AD when a church was built over it. Archaeologists found many of the original columns and stones that belonged to it and were able to partially reconstruct it. It is actually one of the few temples known to have a square floor plan. It was quite impressive and the fact that we had the place all to ourselves added to the almost surreal feeling. Jenny said she was trying to imagine the inhabitants there, going about their daily business and what that must have been like. Far different from today we surmised.
    I had noticed on the map what appeared to be a short cut back to town but with no road signage, we weren't too sure if it was the right road however we figured we had nothing to lose so off we went. Pretty early on we realized we were not going in the right direction but decided to keep on going. I soon saw a sign for Mikra Viglia, a beach I had heard was beautiful. We figured since we were so close, we should just go and check it out. That turned out to be a good decision as it was the beach that all the kite surfers go to. It was way cool watching them sail at crazy speeds across the white capping sea and fly through the air doing flips and jumps. We were highly entertained by their feats.
    It was getting later and neither of us wanted to be out driving after dark. According to the map, we would have to go back the way we came but we decided to ask a local if there was a road back along the shore. Bingo! We were able to take a dirt road back passing secret coves and farming fields where we saw farmers collecting and bagging their potatoes.
    Once back at the hotel, Jenny of course went right back into the pool. It was 9:00 by the time we sat down for another delicious dinner at our hotel. Lucky us, we had had another fabulous day in Naxos!

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    travelerjan, alisa, stanbr and marina-thanks for the compliments. I always get so much information for my trips off of these forums, I am glad to always return the favors in the form of TRs but it is always nice to have them appreciated and enjoyed!

    Leslie-Kostas is very highly regarded on TA but his website is:
    http://santorini-private-guide.com
    He was exceptionally knowledgable in all areas as well as being very likable.

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    July 2:

    Our morning began at 5:30, when the alarm sounded in order for us to make our 7:10 AM departure to Athens. Check in at the one room "airport" was smooth sailing. The police were the ones manning the security checkpoint (the only police we have seen in Greece, up to this point, were at the ferry port and the airport this morning).
    We watched our plane come in for a landing and needless to say, it got Jenny's attention. She commented how much it was wobbling as it descended (a result of the winds Billy assured her), how small it was (I told her she had been on that same plane nine years ago when we were in the BVIs-she doesn't remember), and when it finally touched down with only its rear right wheel hitting first, her jaw dropped (didn't really have much to say cause I was a bit taken back as well). However, I assured her our 36 seater Dash-8 was the workhorse of island commuter planes and that both it, and Olympic Airlines, had excellent safety records. She didn't seem very convinced.
    The flight, for the most part was surprisingly smooth especially given the strong winds, and except for a few good drops resulting in a quick loss of our bellies, we were good. Jenny and I both were grateful that the flight was a mere 30 minutes though we could have happily watched the islands and their beautiful beaches pass below us for hours.
    Athens airport was a breeze-exceptionally well organized and easy to navigate. I had arranged a car to pick us up at the airport even though I had read that taxis were more than plenty at the arrival terminaI, I wanted to make sure, just in case of any unrest in Athens, that we would have a driver there. Our taxi driver, I would guess was in his early 20s, a very nice guy and seemingly very well educated. I couldn't help but ask him about his and his friends' opinions as to what they would like to see happen in the upcoming referendum. It was the same as we have heard from countless other Greeks, they feel damned if they do and damned if they don't decide to leave the Eurozone but they would prefer to stay in. One statement he made, which I found utterly flabbergasting, was that they haven't been told what exactly they will be voting for, what a "yes" or "no" vote means in the long run. He said the Greek people have not been told what they can expect to happen as a result of their votes; what it means for their future-absolutely mind boggling!
    I had told him that looking around, things seem to be what one would consider normal, people buying their morning coffee, shop owners opening their stores, people busy milling about. He said yes but if you understood Greek, you could listen to any conversation and everyone is talking about the threat of a Grexit. He told me to wait a few minutes until we came into the business district and I would see the people standing in lines at the ATM to get their money and sure enough, a few minutes later there they were-every few blocks, a line. He also told us we were lucky because there were no demonstrations planned for today and so we would be able to drive right to the front door of our hotel instead of taking a different route, parking and walking (though he insisted if this was the case, he knew the safest route to take-don't know how comforting that really was).
    Our hotel is the King George, a far more luxurious hotel than we ever stay at but we got a decent deal from Amex and I knew its location and roof top views were amazing. The KG is located across the street from Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament-the hotbed for protests and demonstrations. I had thought carefully about this hotel choice-if there was unrest while we were there perhaps a far less "showy" hotel in a less important area would be a better choice but on the other hand, if there was unrest, the police would be in the Parliament area so, I went for it.
    We waited a short amount of time for our room which was worth it because they upgraded us to a Jr Suite and the view from our room is fantastic! We have Parliament to our left, Syntagma Square right below us and the Acropolis directly to our right with an unobstructed view of the Parthenon and the Temple of Erechtheion
    We got situated and decided to make our way out onto the busy streets of Athens. We started off on streets that could have just as easily been in New York with Sephora, H&M, and Starbucks. Wanting to see more we tucked into a side street that was lined on both sides with ticky tacky souvenir stores until it brought us out to Monastriki square. Here we turned towards the direction of the Acropolis and quickly came upon our first Athenian archaeological site, Hadrien's Library, built by the Roman emperor Hadrien's 132 AD. Most of the west side, with its magnificent giant columns are preserved while the majority of the rest of the building is gone however the original site is scattered with original pieces of all shapes and sizes.
    Next we came upon the Roman Agora which was undergoing quite a bit of work so we just admired from outside the gates. One could see how extensive a site this was.
    We then turned and entered Plaka, the oldest part of Athens that is situated right under the Acropolis. The streets were busy with people but not unmanageably so. The cafes were either empty or partially filled and the owners were quite busy trying to entice passerbys into their cafes by stating how good the food was, emphasizing how clean it was and bragging about any recognition they had received on Trip Advisor. I couldn't decide whether it was sad or amusing. I had asked the driver if he thought tourism was down and he said he thought so, that tourists had gotten scared off from how the media was portraying the situation here, though our hotel and the sister property next door (and even more upscale) are completely full (maybe others used the same reasoning I did).
    By this time it was getting hot in the sun, though there was a nice breeze blowing when you could find it, so we thought we would go to the Acropolis Museum in preparation for tomorrow, where we knew we were guaranteed some AC. As we came upon Lysikrates Monument built 335 BC, Billy spied a row of cafes completely shaded by large trees and where you could tell the breeze was reaching. We decided to sit down for a cold beer, which was so delicious we decided to have another. Well I think the early wake up call, the heat and walking, coupled of course with the pints of beer we had just downed got the best of us and we all decided best to go back to the hotel to relax.
    Looking at the map, we decided to walk back through the National Gardens thinking it would be shadier and cooler there. We found ourselves passing through Hadrian's Arch (erected 2nd century AD) and standing smack dab in front of the Temple Olympian Zeus-fantastic!!! The largest erect columns we had seen so far. It looked quite impressive to say the least, but It was completely exposed and we had all left the hotel with no sunblock on so we again admired it from the outside and turned into the gardens.
    The gardens were nice but nothing spectacular though they did provide the cooler respite we were looking for with the shade.
    As we neared the hotel we noticed a group of Greek tactical police standing on the sidewalk, completely outfitted with Uzis and all. It was then that I noticed they were hanging out near their riot control bus, equipped with barred windows and rows of helmets lining the inside. Jenny was certainly a bit put off by it, but we reminded her that that was what we wanted to see right next to our hotel-a strong police presence; but we did find it odd since there were to be no planned demonstrations and the square was devoid of any obvious signs of an impending rally.
    However, a few hours later, while we were resting, one could notice an increasing sound coming from outside and then the bullhorns soon followed. It was not much yet but when we spoke with the concierge upon leaving, he confirmed a demonstration would be happening but that it would be fine for us to leave the hotel for dinner.
    Billy chose our dinner place this time at a very new establishment which happened to have an incredible view of the Acropolis. Our appetizers were excellent, entrees met with mixed reviews and dessert simple and traditional. The owner bought us a plate of zucchini croquettes (the best we have had yet so far) and desert and coffee. He was a very nice man who was worried we didn't enjoy our meal because Jenny and I didn't eat everything on our plates. I tried to tell him it was just too much food for us but he insisted it was only one portion-maybe for some but not for us. We thanked him for his hospitality and left to go back to the hotel to crash.
    I was very excited to get in bed, because after lying in it today, I know it will be the first real bed I have slept in for nine nights. My joints hurt so badly from the rock hard beds we have slept on up until this point, I was almost giddy with the thought of it!
    As we neared our hotel, the sounds of a voice over a loud speaker became increasingly louder followed by deafening chanting. We entered Syntagma Square to a sea of red. The people were waving their red flags just like you see little kids do at the fourth of July parades. There were people of every generation present, rallying peacefully and while I didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable, we didn't stay to watch. We quickly wound our way through the crowds back to our hotel where we could watch from the safety of our fifth floor balcony.
    It was quite a sight to watch history beginning to play out here. How ironic we said, watching this rally by the communist party take with a view of the Parthenon (the birthplace of democracy) behind it. The Greeks are at a crossroads, an intersection with really no good options. They are now forced to try and choose between the lesser of two evils; an unimaginably difficult decision. Let's just hope both sides come to their senses because Greece really is a beautiful country and the Greeks truly are beautiful people!

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    Again you continue to provide a delightful dialog of your trip with lots of insights along the way.

    Glad you enjoyed Naxos. It is a perfect companion island to Santorini, laid back with an interesting main town, beaches and mountain villages all at half the price.

    Your description of the demonstration is exactly as we experienced a few years ago. Lots of people milling around but in a cordoned off area with police standing by. Outside of the police tape normal life just went on, people strolling by, sitting at sidewalk cafes having coffee. We too felt no personal safety issues.

    Your hard bed stories are legend in Greece. We typically spend a month in Greece and I normally beg two extra pillows that I use to make a little nest of softness. Gradually I get used to the beds and I discard the extra pillows and believe it or not my back stops hurting. You were probably about 2 or 3 days away from reaching that stage where the hard beds cease to be a problem.

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    I'm enjoying your report.

    The Dash 8-100 is used by Olympic Air at several island airports with short runways. Some people are alarmed by the sight of an airplane landing with one wheel first, but that's a technique used by the pilot to keep the aircraft aligned with the runway in crosswind conditions.

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    stanbr- Naxos really was fantastic though I will admit that four nights, which really only amounted to three full days, was not enough time.
    The good thing about the mattresses is, it keeps one from idling their morning away lying in bed all day!

    Heimdall-Good to know, I remember flying in between cayes in Belize once and I could have sworn we were landing sideways, but then we were in a much smaller aircraft.

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    Our final day in Greece, July 2:

    I'm usually pretty relaxed about wake up times on vacation but this morning I insisted that we wake up in time to get to the Acropolis when it opens at 8:00 AM. We had a delicious breakfast and caught a cab to the gates of the Acropolis. I had read that by 9:00 the tour groups start arriving and by 10:00 the place is overrun with people.
    We were pretty close to the front of the line but they were holding it as they waited for the Greek Army to hold the daily changing of the flag, essentially "colors." It was interesting to watch their ceremonious protocols but it delayed our entrance until almost 8:30.
    Walking up the hill through the magnificent columns of the Propyia, one is stunned by the majesty of the entryway. Reaching the top of the stairs, you are left speechless for a moment at the sheer immensity of the Parthenon, the thousands of marble pieces scattered about, the views out over Athens and of course the history of the ground that we were standing on. All together it was beyond captivating.
    We quickly moved about taking pictures before others showed up, figuring we could go back around reading the signs and really take it all in. We were glad we did this as we were able to get some excellent photos.
    Looking at the Parthenon from the city below, you can certainly tell that it is big but we were awed by just how massive it really is. The Parthenon is undergoing a lengthy restoration with the west side almost completely covered in scaffolding including large cranes on either side but the east side is completely free of any visual obstacles. The eastern side depicts Athena being born from her father Zeus' head-gotta love Greek mythology!
    All of the artifacts found at the Acropolis, including all the Parthenon Marbles have been removed and are now housed in the new Acropolis Museum, so just about everything except structure is a replica. One can visibly see where new marble has been used to replace the missing marble in the columns-it really is quite impressive.
    We watched as a giant crane lifted a piece back in place. We could see it was a lion's head and later at the museum learned that it was a roof gutter and water would spew forth from the lion's mouth when it rained.
    The Erectheion, is the other building visible from below the Acropolis and is the most sacred area of the Acropolis. It was built as a Temple for the goddess Athena and is also a magnificent building.
    The Acropolis is a wondrous place and we felt lucky to spend some time there before it was packed with people. By 9:45, as we were beginning to make our way down, the crowds were just pouring in. The place was mobbed and really lost some if its magical feeling.
    We walked down past the Odeon and on to the Acropolis Museum where all the artifacts are kept, at least the ones that weren't plundered by the British Lord Elgin in 1810 and are now housed in the British Museum.
    The museum was built on top of an ancient city that they have continually excavated over the years. The excavations will eventually be open to the public but in the meantime one can see them below the glass floors and over the railings of a few open air spots. The museum is a great visit with over 14,000 artifacts, not to mention it was air conditioned which was a definite plus.
    We had lunch at a taverna, a gyro for me, souvlaki for Billy and fried potatoes for Jenny. It was all delicious and the tavern owner was really quite adorable. It's not the kind of place we would have normally chosen what with the owner trying to corral you in like an old time vacuum salesman, but it had gotten good reviews on Trip Advisor, was close by the museum and had super cold beers.
    We had originally planned to ride the metro to the Acropolis this morning but in the interest of time, we took a cab, which turned out to be a better decision because the cab takes you much closer to the top. So after lunch, we chose to ride the metro back to the hotel. We walked down into the metro and were immediately struck by how unbelievably clean it was, in fact all of Athens is very clean. We were looking around for the ticket kiosk when a young professionally dressed man overheard us and told us it was free. Free? Come on-no way. Yes, he insisted-free. The government decided to stop having people pay for the metro while capital controls were in place. OK, that makes sense for the residents but what about the tourists-free for us too. Crazy!
    Once we got down to the platform, again we all commented how clean it was-Jenny said there weren't even any rats, and once the train came we couldn't get over how quiet it was. The stations are full of copies of antiquities housed in built-in display cases. Some spots of the walls are all glass showing the layers of ground and the remnants of ruins discovered during excavations. It was far and above the nicest subway system we have ever been on and we've ridden it in every major city we've been in.
    We surfaced at Syntagma Square where we were immediately greeted by people handing out fliers concerning the upcoming referendum. The square was clearly gearing up for what we thought was going to be another rally however when we walked into our hotel room there was s message on our TV informing us the Prime Minister would be speaking this evening and the hotel suggested if we needed to leave they would help the guests with alternative entrances and exits that may be more accessible.
    With that information in hand, we opted for dinner at the very gourmet (and unfortunately ridiculously expensive) restaurant in the hotel. We did not want to fight the crowds and there was quite a bit of intrigue on our parts to watch the scene unfold, of course only from the safety of five stories up!
    As it turns out, it was a good decision for two reasons:
    First, our dinner was delicious (even if portion size left us joking we would have to get some, what we termed "protest food," from the kebab vendors in the Square afterwards). But the piece de resistance was the dessert, Strawberry Five Ways, which arrived on a 2'x2' framed platter topped off with a "smoking" silver chalice. It was off the charts and Jenny was just delighted! Second, the crowds were massive-overflowing down every side street, covering every last inch of space on the roads, sidewalks, steps, etc. and every time we looked out, there were more people somehow squeezing into the square from the metro.
    The scene was like a big party with a huge stage set up that bands and singers performed on, to the absolute delight of the people. Once the Prime Minister took the stage the thunderous claps and chanting of OXI (oh-chee) was so deafening we could hardly hear each other talking while we dined on the seventh floor outdoor terrace.
    We realized as we sat looking down upon the sea of people waving their Greek flags and OXI banners, that we were witnessing history unfold here. The decisions the Greeks make will have far reaching consequences and might certainly end up changing both the Eurozone and the European Union forever.
    When I was younger, Michelle and I always talked about wanting to go to Greece, especially the islands but somehow over time it fell off my "want to travel to" list. Billy, who never had Greece on his bucket list and really hadn't been that keen on even going, has readily conceded that he had a great time. We both agreed that Jenny chose a fabulous destination.
    Our trip was a perfect mixture of activities for all of us, the food was fantastic-we never had a bad meal, the people wonderfully kind and the scenery breathtaking. We can say we can check off another country, but Greece turned out to be more than that, it is a country we all said, we would go back to!

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    A perfect ending to a fine trip, and your narrative did it justice. Any Greek reading it would feel that you had an authentic experience, seeing important things -- and at the same time relaxing, enjoying, and eating great meals!
    THanks for taking the time ...

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    I am very glad to see you had a very nice indroductionary trip to Greece odie and I am very happy to see that you made your daughter part of the decision making. It is unbelievable and very sad
    how many parents drag their kids on hoidays without leting them having any choice on the planning stage or during the trip!
    I feel this is a trip for all of you to remember and especially for her.
    Thanks again for a very well-written trip report, really appreciated : )

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    Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful trip report. It brought back so many great memories of our last trip to Greece to the similar places you visited. We will be visiting again in September and I can't wait!!

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    @odie1 - I sure enjoyed your trip report. My fiancé and I will be in Santorini for 4 nights on our honeymoon in May 2016. Could you post the name of the tour company you used for the catamaran excursion and the name of the massage studio? TIA!!

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