The Family Invades Greece (and drinks all their wine)
Day One to Three
This year, for the family vacation, Jamie had planned a two week extravaganza in Greece and invited her parents, her brother, and her brother’s girlfriend. In the agenda was a week in the Greek Islands, a few days on the Peloponnesian Peninsula, and a few final days in Athens. Good times.
Brother Sparky and girlfriend KTown arrived in London a week early and enjoyed the sights and pints on offer. Mom and Dad arrived very early on Friday morning and managed to navigate their way on the tube from Heathrow out to east Greenwich, and despite a bit of a mixup on the final train, made it in relatively good spirits. We enjoyed a fairly late night catching up and went to bed far too late, considering the car service was meant to pick us up at the unwholesome hour of 4am.
We all managed to get up in time and got to Heathrow terminal 5 without any unforeseen incidents. Our BA flight to Athens was on time and we had amazingly good service on board, even by BA standards which are generally already quite high. Athens airport is a bit hectic, but we found a bank machine to get some cash, found the place to buy tickets for the fast ferry to Naxos without much hassle, and even found the X96 bus to take us to Piraeus (where the port is).
The bus was flipping HOT, and we made it to the docks far too early to actually get on the ferry. KTown did a quick recce and found a local restaurant to have lunch in, so we all wheeled our suitcases through the local streets to “The Good Baker” – a restaurant a block up from the main road. I wasn’t expecting much and was therefore quite surprised by the quality and more the quantity of food received. We had what appeared to be authentic Greek dishes (meatballs in tomato sauce, rooster in sauce, grilled chicken, sardines, etc) which were actually unlike anything I’ve ever had in “Greek” restaurants before – a good sign, as I thought I didn’t like Greek food and wasn’t really looking forward to it.
Absolutely stuffed and very pleased with ourselves, we found our way through the blistering heat (okay, it was only about 35 degrees Celsius, but after a London summer, that’s pretty freaking hot) to the big catamaran ferry to take us to Naxos. Despite the pre-assigned seating, we all managed to end up at a big table for six (a very nice lady who had one of those assigned seats agreed to sit somewhere else so that we could all stay together).
We were very glad we made that ferry – the fast cat takes about 4 hours to get to Naxos, evidently the slower car-carrying ferry that was the option takes about 8 hours. It didn’t seem like it was going that fast, but it must’ve been flying!
As with all ferry rides, it was somewhat boring. We entertained ourselves with a game of scrabble (with Sparky and KTown dominated – damn two letter words that I wouldn’t normally allow but evidently are in the dictionary, such as “re” and “hu”…). There was some translation panic when an announcement came on towards the end of the voyage announcing that we were at Paros and everybody had to leave the boat, but it turns out everybody referred specifically to those going to Paros, not those continuing on to Naxos.
The walk from Naxos harbour to the hotel was a bit longer than we expected, however we only had to stop and ask for directions once, which was a bit of an achievement I think. We got to the hotel and checked in to what has turned out to be a little bit of paradise. Our room is a good sized double with a little kitchenette, a couchal area, and two twin beds. Plus a big covered balcony overlooking the pool, and a nice view over the hotel across the way to the sea. Not bad at all. Sparky and KTown’s and the parents-in-laws rooms are almost exactly the same, but not quite the quality of deck (although the inlaws have a giant deck out back, perfect for group sitting and card playing).
We had all napped at various points both on the flight and the ferry, however I think everyone was a bit tired. We walked up the road and found a likely looking place for dinner called The Oasis. It was excellent – two for two on meals so far in Greece. We started late for us (10pm), however it seemed that no one was surprised to see us at that hour – evidently life is on a different schedule here than at home in London.
Yesterday dawned bright and early, and we all missed it. Bed had been in the early hours and we all slept in until at least 11am. Jamie and wandered down to the beach and had a very cheap and tasty breakfast of coffee, orange juice, toast with jam and honey, and a big bowl of yoghurt with honey while we watched the waves roll in on the beach.
After breakfast, we walked into town to buy cheap beach towels and a pair of lie-lows (air mattresses) for on-beach entertainment and found a pair of sun loungers and a parasol which could be rented for the day for the low price of only €5 each – not bad at all as it also came with table service. Not long after, the in-laws joined us and we all spent a very relaxing day at the beach, drinking very tasty chilled white wine and jumping in the sea whenever we started to feel a bit warm.
Sparky and KTown, meanwhile, spent the day exploring Naxos town itself. They had an excellent time and really enjoyed the Old Town market up the hill. This came in handy when we met for dinner at 6pm – they’d already scouted out the best places and we ended up at a restaurant called “Labyrinth” somewhere in the maze of little alley in the old market. Dinner was average I’d say, and didn’t seem to feature much in the way of authentic traditional Greek food. Having said that, what we did get was excellent and the ambiance was incredible.
We slept in again this morning. After dinner, Sparky, KTown, Jamie and I all had a drink on the waterfront while the In Laws came back to the hotel. We all then descended on the In Laws room for after nightcap drink and ended up staying up until almost 3am.
Today was scheduled as another free day. Everyone but Jamie and I decided to spend the day in town, either at the pool or on the beach. Jamie and I thought we’d be a bit more adventurous and hired a quad bike for the day for some island exploration.
The bike was a bit iffy, but the price was right. A 500cc machine with a bit bin on the back for storage cost us only €40 plus €10 insurance for the day – I suspect we could’ve found a better deal or haggled a bit, but the guy at Falcon rentals was nice and quite frankly I’m too lazy to bother running about looking for the absolute best price.
We saddled up and headed off into the interior of the mountain. Apparently the daily washing of the machines means that the electrics are a bit dodgy, and so we had no speedometer – I had to guess how fast I was going, and if Jamie was any indication that was far too fast (based on the death grip she had around my waist and the constant GASPS! coming from behind me).
We saw quite a bit of the island – the Kurous at the ancient quarry, Filoti, and the best grilled lamb chops I think I’ve ever had at the marble city Apirathos (the city is near the old quarries; everything is made out of marble, even the streets). After a while Jamie got used to the quad bike and relaxed a bit. The death grip loosened and I think she may have even enjoyed the wind and view from the back of the bike.
We ended our tour of Naxos at the beach at Agi Anna, just south of Naxos town. We had a drink in a very stylish bar and Jamie had a quick dip in the sea before we got back on the bike and managed to find the quad bike hire shop, without getting lost at all!
We met up at the hotel and all played a quick game of Aggravation (it’s important to have group games available on big group holidays – gives everyone something to do). Dinner tonight was just this side of the big square in St Georges Beach –a place called Nikos which had been recommended.
Dinner was MASSIVE. Portion sizes here in Greece are something to behold. We each ordered a starter and a main, and other than the father in law who had lamb chops, I don’t think anyone finished their entire meal. We were treated after our meal to two free carafes of wine and a little cake each – very nice. For six people, the bill came to only €90, which is unbelievably cheap considering how much good food there was for so many people.
We’re all exhausted tonight – food comas all around. It’s just past ten in the evening, the temperature is somewhere north of 25C, there’s a light breeze and the stars are shining above our little balcony. Life in Greece is very good indeed.
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The Family Invades Greece (and drinks all their wine)