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Trip Report My Greek Diary - September/October 2011

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After returning from our lovely trip in September/October 2011, my life went into overdrive with professional opportunities that exhausted me and gave me the excuse that I will write up my report on my next break... except that break never really came, and I gave up, feeling terribly guilty because I truly do feel that, with all the help I received, the least I can do is "give back" by way of a trip report. So I hope you forgive my compromise, and I'm cutting and pasting my diary, which I kept pretty well until the last few days, where I just begin to make lists of thoughts....

We were in Greece from September 16 to October 2. We flew Newark to Athens, and immediately flew to Chania.
Our trip was, as follows:
Crete: 6 nights
-Chania (4 nights) -- Hotel Palazzo
-Matala (1 night) -- Nikos Hotel
-Iraklion (1 night) -- Marin Dream Hotel
Santorini/Oia (3 nights) -- Delfini Hotel
Naxos/Chora -- Kalergis Hotel
Athens -- Athen's Gate Hotel

Greece 2011 Diary

Day 1
Hotel Palazzo/Chania
Arrived after a long but easy flight, now waiting in the airport to go to Chania. Michael stretched across the chairs sleeping. Used up my 60 minute free internet access. Bought ferry tickets to islands at Amphitrion holidays and had to pay cash! So I will assume that cash will be the order of the day.

After a long wait at the airport, we finally fly to Chania. Quick flight, smooth ride. A greek doctor sits next to Michael and they discuss economics. Quick taxi ride €25, and we are dropped at the foot of Theokopolous street where Hotel Palazzo is located, Wonderful location & the proprietress is warm and welcoming. Comfortable room too. Surprisingly big room, 2 beds pushed together. Mattress is hard, one small pillow. Bath is updated, European shower head in full bath. No shampoo but soap.

After a quick shower and a chill out break, we take off to the water. Beautiful! Strolled the harbor, checked out the many restaurants, looking for Apostolis 2-- found it ( I THINK ) altho others looked reasonably good. Took many pix tho nothing amazing. Still we got some fun shots by the water. Loved the layers of history- buildings of one era built on top of an earlier one.

Ate at Tamam and had waaay too much. We ordered 3 mezes- each terrific: fried zucchini fritters fried potatoes w/ warm local cheese, and marinated anchovies. Delicious -- shoud've stopped there. We also ordered lamb chops and a veal dish with pureed eggplant. The lamp chops were tough and the veal wasn't to my liking. We were super stuffed by the time we left. Nice though, they gave us a raki and semolina dessert on the house, neither one of which could we finish.

Another short stroll in the evening and now we are back for the night. The hotel balcony is wonderful! Greek music drifting by, people enjoying the pedestrian street of shops, but no real loud noise. For a beautiful Friday evening there are few crowds, many folks touting their restaurants on the harbor. It reminded us of Turkey with the heavy sales pitch.

Back to the room, 9:30 or so, and almost ready to sleep!

Day 2
Difficult night sleep- both of us out by 10pm but woke up at by 2am. Finally fell asleep by 4:30, so ended up waking late. Breakfast was yogurt, bread, toasts & cheese. Irini, the proprietress, is delightful, warm & lovely. Finally out of the hotel, wandered the streets to the Central market. Had coffee. Wandered into the cathedral, the Catholic church, the archeological museum, meandering the streets. Back to the hotel for a break. Irini was able to contact the hotel in Heraklion so that I could change the cc #. Walked west along the water, passing the city beaches, looking for the rental car company. Turned out to be the siesta, but we located it at least. Long walk toward the eastern side of the water. Wandered the street of knives and the little Turkish quarter, then walked partly along the breakwater toward the lighthouse. Glorious! Wandered back, eventually, to see the maritime museum-- a little dull, but interesting to see model of minoan boat which was part of the opening ceremonies in the Olympics. Then took stroll behind the water to sit for a while, in a little park overlooking the water. Lots of cats everywhere! Dogs, too! Had decided to eat at Apostolis 2, but it was too early, so sat for a while again on the breakwater. Really perfect place. Had dinner at the restaurant, & had Cretan salad - fabulous. The mixed grill was okay-- not crazy over the sardines, shrimp, or cuttlefish, altho the octopus & white fish were lovely. The annoyance was the bill-- told that this was the same as the other restaurant, we were charged for the salad, which would've been no big deal if we expected it to be extra. Our 2 nights of dinner made us realize we don't need full meals! The dessert was yogurt with toppings that we couldn't figure out, but were good. Raki served too-- tho god knows, we don't need it,

Another lovely stroll along the waterfront. The mosque of the janissaries had an art show! Fun to see it open. The 1st artist appeared to be an english ex pat grande dame of a woman. Back to the hotel, waterfront bustling with tourists and locals_ nice energy!

Back to the hotel and done for the day!

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    Day 3 sunday 9/18

    Getting in the groove. Up a little earlier, this time eating a reasonable breakfast. Got a cab to Sunny rent a car, but not to worry about rushing, the car had not yet arrived. The car was still on the way from Iraklion. Sat for 30 or so minutes, back to the rental place it still wasn't here! Now I'm a little pissed--made alternative plans & suddenly a car is here, and we're ready to go. They wanted cash but for once we didn't. No problem, we're on our way to Elafonissi beach.


    A drive out of town and finally we get to the highway, then the turnoff to Elafonissi. After a bit of a drive, we stop for coffee at a little taverna on the road. Scenery starts becoming gorge-us! Drive on a little more, turnoff by Topolia for a scenic stop. Met a lovely young married couple on honeymoon & took their photo. We drove through a quick tunnel, and came to st. Sofia in the cave. A trek up the stairs--my legs are not in shape! My legs really tired by the time I got to the top! Loved it tho. Walked back down, met a Lebanese guy from LA that we kept bumping into. Drove a little further, stopped and had a light lunch (thick rusks w/tomatoes, cheese & olives) which was delicious. On our way through more scenic scenery, the water opening up as we get closer to the sea.

    Finally Elafonissi! Quite beautiful! And surreal,too, wading through the shallow inlet between the tourist beach and Elafonissi. Got to the beach, took a couple of dips. Water was clear & beautiful-- and relatively warm. Stayed not too long but felt really like we were there the right amount of time -- before we got burned!

    Took off for the coastal route; missed it the first time, but Michael realized it and we drove the twisty turny, switchback route all the way north. Spectacular! Dramatic views over & over.-- not for the wimpish! Just as I thought I was going to have a heart attack,
    as we make yet another tight turn, we see coming up the hill towards us a black goat with twisted horns followed by 2 racer-bicyclists! I could not stop laughing at the sight!

    Destination for this drive was Falassarna. Ate in the Panorama restaurant overlooking the beach. It was a little before sunset, but a lovely simple place with good food. We ate dolmadakes -- stuffed grape leaves & stuffed zucchini flowers, which were made by the grandmother. Excellent! We also had the potato garlic spread, which was yummy, and a chicken souvlaki which was tender and lovely. Not too much food for once!

    Back to Chania. Michael getting into the greek driver groove, passing cars easily. At last we get to Chania, and Michael finds his way miraculously and even finds parking quickly in a nearby lot.

    Back to the hotel! A wash, a break on the terrace, and a quick walk along Theokopolou St. Had a cafe and called it a night.

    Day 4 Monday 9/19

    Another stellar day! Hard to believe the weather - it has been in the upper 80s and glorious for days, no cloud in sight. After another slow morning, we went first to the Jewish synagogue-- the only one on Crete-- met a Canadian couple, later the sec'y of the temple, a young jewish guy from the US, by way of Israel. He gave a brief overview of the Jews on Crete, who originally came to Crete 2400 years ago but were removed in WW II and sent by ship only to be torpedoed by the British. The resurgence is now by Jews from elsewhere trying to establish a new community.

    Another brief stop in the Museum of Cretan folklore. The museum was less than exciting, but the 2 Welsh women we met made it worthwhile. We chatted about language & identity, an appropriate topic given their own history and the ongoing problems with Greece in the EU.

    Back to the hotel, & made plans for the afternoon.

    Off to the Akrotiri peninsula! I had mixed feelings about going, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Initial drive to the peninsula was much like a drive along the New Jersey shore- lots of drab stores, almost like a strip mall- but as we got to the bays, especially Stavros, it improved a lot. Part of Zorba the Greek was filmed there.

    The bay was lovely -- calming-- and beautifully sited. First we wandered around, enjoying the walk through an old quarry ground. Lots of salt pockets where the water had evaporated.

    Drove to the Agia Triada monastery, the most known of many in this isolated region. A lovely Venetian structure, which had a wonderful byzantine chapel, a small exhibition--and the requisite gift shop.

    After that, we took a drive through the most remarkable Cretan scenery, stark landscape, rocky but with a wonderful low scrub bushes (olive trees?). Landscape was otherworldly, far removed from the city we left only a short while earlier.

    Went back to Stavros bay, had lunch at Mama's, which was okay, nothing great. Ate Cretan salad, which was good, but the spinach pies were awful, probably frozen. Then we spent a couple of hours on the beach, which was just delightful. I didn't go in much, feeling a little under the weather, with a bit of a cold coming on, but it was just the most relaxing place to hang out. I'm sure this is crowded in the summer, but today it was just right.

    We attempted to find Aptera, but gave up after trying to follow the signs and making yet another wrong turn. We were both tired, so it was time to get back--and together we aced the return trip into Chania, following Eleni's directions.

    After a rest at the hotel, we strolled out for our evening passegio and dinner decision. First down by the harbor for a while, then back to the maze of small streets behind the water. Checked out several restaurants, decided on one where the music was already playing and an owner with a hard sell. Again, good mezes, but awful entree of some cooked lamb in a special pot. We both felt a bit had, but chalked it up to part of the experience.

    A stroll back to the port - with a brief shop stop- another sit by the water, and then back to the hotel, stopping in a market for a sweet and a little ouzo.

    At the hotel, almost time to go.

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    Day 5 -- Matala/Hotel Nikos

    Moving day. Left Chania today in the late morning, after an exchange with Anastasia, Irini’s daughter. No Irini today, so we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Saw the sign for Vamos, & took a detour. Finding a place or leaving a place always seems to be harder than it should--signs are often unclear, posted just after you expect them, or hidden behind graffiti or foliage. We spent a while at a cafe, speaking with an English guy who retired here with his German girlfriend who speaks Greek fluently. Michael nursed his coffee and regaled the English guy with his humor.

    We walked the little bit of old Vamos-- small traditional village that is being restored, altho the newer part of town seemed to have more vibrancy with the cafes & taverna life. Bought bread, pizza & danish before we left town.

    The ride out of Vamos took forever, but at last we found the main highway. Turned off toward Spilia, almost turned off to a small Minoan cemetery, but missed the turnoff. It looked like it would be an interesting site, and I wish I knew about it ahead of time.

    Stark, dramatic scenery again, more twists and turns! Passed thru Spilia but didn't stop-- too many cars, busses & way too crowded to want to stop. Headed to Phaestos, but very hot today. The ride was a bit tiring, and as Michael said, it was a long hot day. The weather was around 33 degree centigrade, so pretty HOT!

    Phaestos was both exhilarating and a disappointment. Remarkable to see, but hard to imagine exactly what we were looking at exactly because the ruins are not restored. This is the land of Zeus's birthplace!

    Again left Phaestos,, took the drive down to the turnoff, only to realize we needed to go beyond Phaestos toward Matala. Again, no signs!

    Finally, got in without any problems. Our hotel, Nikos, didn't realize that today was the reservation, but no problem, a room was found. More than adequate, with AC, a double bed, wifi, altho bathroom has no soap (oversight?), and seems to have a funky sewer smell. I was cranky & irritable for awhile, we went down to Matala beach, which was calming. I didn't feel like getting wet, and the water was cool enough for me just to wade in. By the time we left, I was feeling more relaxed. Stopped at the supermarket & got some toothpaste.

    Back to the hotel for another brief break before dinner. Air a bit cooler, and we roamed around looking for a place. We were given a recommendation, but couldn’t find it, so ended up in a faux polynesian/fantasy boat. Looked tacky, but the view couldn't be beat, so we stayed and ordered dinner. It was better than expected, altho I got a bit of a surprise when I found a piece of glass in my fava beans. Most excellently timed, because I was already full! From there, we took a stroll thru the shopping area and admired the resort activity of a slowing time of year.

    Back to the hotel, where Michael went on a one-man mosquito hunt!

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    Day 6 Sept 21 - Iraklion/Marin Dream

    A rocky beginning of a day. Both of us are a bit tired and cranky. The long driving has been tiring for Michael. Some clouds in the sky, and the air a little cooler than it's been so far. Nice to have it cool down some.

    Had a good breakfast of pastries and coffee at Mama's in Matala-- watching the local hippy leftovers still hanging around. Finally off, with still more confusing signs everywhere! Stopped by Gortyns, but the buses and crowds were overwhelming, so we bid farewell and took off.

    As we drove through the hills, a little rain fell, just enough to cool things down. We finally got to Knossos-- not too hard, given how poor the signage has been, and spent @ 1 1/2 hrs there. At €10/person in a group, we passed on a guide, altho a private tour would've been nice.

    Enjoyed seeing Knossos, despite being a restoration that is thought to be solely in Arthur Evans' imagination. It was a nice complement to Phaestos; seeing one enhanced the experience of the other. We got a better feeling for how things could look, altho no one knows for sure what exactly the palaces were about. The visit to Phaestos was also on a day when it was extremely hot. Glad it wasn't August!

    After that, the drive to Iraklion was easy, and things seemed pretty smooth until we looked for the place to drop the car. There was no one around who knew anything about ANY rental agencies, no one could tell us if rental agencies dropped the cars anywhere in the port...it was extremely frustrating. Michael met a couple from Australia who thought there were some agencies at the old port. We drove there and went looking--Michael was able to get someone who said that we drop the car at the new port, where we started, so we went back. After checking out the free and the paid ports, and nearly killing each other in our frustration after asking yet one more person who really had no clue what we were talking about, we finally just left it at the port. It felt bizarre, but it seemed like the thing to do. Later we had the hotel clerk call the agency to let them know where the car was located, and at that point, we felt we acquitted ourselves of our responsibility.

    Marin Dream is a very pleasant hotel - a 3 star amongst the 4 stars. The room is comfortable, 2 beds pushed together but like a queen-sized bed. Small but modern bathroom, large balcony facing the next building, with a view of the Venetian wall from the side. Pleasant staff.

    Michael felt really tired/achy after the drive, so we took it easy and went out for a late lunch. Had very tasty souvlakis (lamb &chicken) in a main square by the fountain. Then went looking for the Archeological museum, by way of a market. Much changed from my memory of the old-fashioned market I went to 35+ years ago!

    Finally got there, a small exhibition space (temporary) but choice items, including the Phaestos disk. Really perfect amount of stuff there, we spent maybe an hour.

    Back to the hotel, Michael took a nap while I wrote. Then dinner at Ippokampos, a Fodors rec & in my little travel book of Crete, and one of the best meals yet. The owner came out and spoke to us, quite the character he was, too! The grilled mushrooms was the highlight, although the mussels saganaki was very good. The bogue fish wasn't my favorite, but it was fresh and nicely done. The dessert,tho, was a signature dish- a delicious orange-honey cake with ice cream. And of course , the requisite raki!

    That's it for the night!

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    Day 7 september 22..... Ahhh, Santorini...Oia/Delfini Hotel

    Awake before the 7:30am call. The roof garden at Marin Dream hotel had lovely views of the port and sea. Woke up to sun and clouds, cooler weather. Good buffet breakfast. Ate quickly, paid the hotel with credit card, using the debit card.

    Slight rain this morning, but a short walk and we got to the ferry quickly, settling in to our seats. No wandering around outside decks today - I don't think there are any outside decks to stand, rain or shine. The early part of the ride was a little rocky, and I was glad I had my bonine and homeopathic stuff to settle my belly.

    A quick 2 hours later, and there we were, approaching the dramatic Santorini! And it is stunning and magnificent and all that! We were met by a taxi driver of a van who picked up several other groups of people as well, and we were on our way. Wow, was all I could say, with each twist and turn of the road. Magnificent views of the cliffs of the caldera, until we got to splendid Oia, and the architecture is stunning.

    Arrived at Delfini, met by both Rena, the owner, and Sima, a Russian (belorussian!) woman who has worked here for 17 years. Rena, a grand & dramatic Greek woman, who encourages our little Greek with a Bravo! every time we say something successfully. Later we find everyone saying Bravo! to us, including the waitress at Roka, who says it after we have finished our meal!

    Sima takes us around briefly as our room is getting ready. She shows us the location of the pool in Complex C, although neither of us can remember exactly where it is.

    But it's back to the hotel where we relax for a while, sitting on our stunning terrace overlooking the caldera. Paradise can't get much better than this. We sat briefly in our little whirlpool (not hot, but nice little water jets). We must've stayed there a while; by the time we took off to explore the town, we found a tourist-filled path, saturated with people because of the cruise boats in.

    We wandered over to the castle at the end of Oia, where most people go for the sunset. Enjoyed the views, then strolled back. We met an English couple that had been on vacation for the last week; they just found out just then from their daughter about the new Greek strikes. The Greek economy is close to default, and people are resisting change to the way things have been. So far, we haven't felt or heard anything, and so far, it looks like we'll avoid problems.

    Back to the hotel, more chilling by the patio. Too beautiful! I finish my ouzo here, and feel delightfully indulgent. Love it!

    Finally, off for the Big Moment--waiting for the Sunset. We follow the hordes in the direction of the castle, somehow missing the turnoff and end up someplace further up by a cafe. Doesn't matter, it is simply being there with the rest of the folks waiting for the moment the sun drops. We are beside 2 French woman, who are also slightly bemused by the whole experience. We wait, and wait and finally-- the sun drops behind the cloud and disappears with nary more than a whimper. But what an Event it s, with the many photographers everywhere, especially the Japanese-- one even had a tripod set up for the shot! We watched the cruisers and other boats pull in to a watching position. What a trip it was!

    At last, it was over, and we went to Thalami, one of the restaurants mentioned repeatedly on Fodors, and right on the path. Lovely views, which would've been great if we hadn't already had spectacular views! I mean, really, more views? But the dinner was a big disappointment. We had eggplant salad, sagonaki, tomato fritters and grilled octopus. The eggplant salad was nothing special, the cheese was good, but the tomato fritters were all fried and no tomato. And the octopus was rubber. We knew it had been frozen originally and specifically asked if it was good to eat. So having it so tough felt somehow irritating. It wasn't a very satisfying experience.

    After dinner, we picked up a bar of pistachio pressed with other stuff. Not very good. A not so successful culinary evening.

    Back to the hotel for another sit on the terrace, and we crashed out for the night

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    Day 8 September 23

    Up late today! It must've been 9:30 by the time we finally got out of bed! Slowly came to life, had our 2 Nescafes on the terrace. Satisfying!

    It took us a little while to get into the groove of the day. Michael's foot was hurting from his plantar fasciitis so we were reluctant to do the long walk to Fira. We had ruled out the idea of a boat ride, as we really didn't want to spend that much time on a ship. Too late for a car, and not so sure we wanted a car, anyway. We really enjoyed taking it easier and after all the riding around on Crete, didn't feel like it was necesssary. Finally, Michael decided to just give the walk a try.

    We did it! Walking slowly, as much for my aching thighs (the uphills were tough for me) and stopping and chatting with other tourists and taking many photos, we managed to enjoy the hike despite the challenges. And there were challenges. Lots of ups and downs, some pretty steep and lots of loose rocks and gravel made it a real hike.

    But oh, the views! One after another, breathtaking vistas with every step. Lots of stops for shots. A dog following - or leading us- for part of the hike. We get to Imerovigli thinking we were in Fira, but still a ways to go.

    Finally, we arrive in Fira, a larger, tourist-saturated town, and we are both exhausted. We look for a sandwich place, were directed to a small gyro shop, and had the perfect chicken gyro for very little. We find the bus station, and after a short wait, we get the bus to Oia. Not bad! We were lucky, too, to get a seat because it did get crowded pretty quickly.

    The bus arrived in the Oia terminal, such as it is, but it was neat being in the back streets. Got back to the hotel for the afternoon siesta, sitting on the terrace. We sit there past the sunset, planning to go one more time tomorrow. Today we avoid the scene. It's hazy out, anyway.

    I can't quite make up my mind about the restaurant & Michael is getting a little fed up with me. I decide to ask Rena, and she pushes Petros heavily. I ask about Roka, she says that is a very good restaurant, too. I should go to Petros tonight and Roka tomorrow night. And then hands me a card, saying to tell them she sent us.

    We went by the restaurant, but it didn't seem all that interesting to us, and we decided to try Roka. Finding it was a challenge, tho! Michael asked directions twice, but at last we found it up a narrow alley in the back streets.

    And what a lovely place it is! It feels like a restaurant, not a tourist destination place. We sat in the outside booth, and later saw people turned away because of lack of tables. We ordered eggplant salad with walnuts, manouri cheese with honey and sesame, risotto with mushrooms, and meatballs. Outstanding! Creative yet true to traditional food. This was the first place that was notable for the entire eating experience. I decided I wanted to take no risks tomorrow and made a reservation for our last night. I also had a glass of a house white wine, which was decent, if not top stuff.

    A stroll through the back path to the main path, and we are back for the evening!

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    Day 9 - Sept 24 - Santorini -- last full day in a beautiful place

    Awoke to a beautiful day, the clearest day so far. Still a little breeze in the air. We lazed about the hotel for our usual long morning. Today's plan is Amoudi Bay. We get towels from Rena, and off we go.

    First stop, a small bakery in the secondary street, on the way to the bus stop. Much better than the one across from Delfini. Then, down the steps. And down. And down.

    Forever, it seems. Supposedly 300 steps, but there are 3 steps to each step. And donkey poop is all over. We don't see them on the way down, but later, when we were coming up, we see many of them standing on the steps, waiting to carry their burden of tourists back up.

    Finally we get down the stairs and find the path toward the swimming cove. Along the path, we come upon some rocks and we are stumped momentarily, until we climb across them to pick up the path on the other side, continuing on the path till we come to a small clearing where a few people are swimming and sun bathing. We plop down and watch for a while. We see a couple coming out of the water, who give us advice on the best way to get in and out.

    We sit for a while, both of us reluctant to go in because of the cool breeze but I finally do get in after making several attempts. A short dip, but the water is beautiful! I get in, and Michael decides to go in after all. And he keeps on going, around the large boulder, disappearing for a while. I get a little nervous something has happened until I see someone on the top of a ledge on the boulder, and realize that's where Michael is. Sure enough, he is there within a few moments.

    We leave shortly after he returns, stopping for lunch at one of the waterside tavernas. The owner is a Canadian woman probably in her 50s, who fell in love with Santorini 24 years ago and stated the cafe. The food was okay, nothing special, and definitely overpriced. We felt a bit taken again, but chalk it up to being Santorini. The setting, tho, couldn't be lovelier.

    We begin the long trek up the hill, and boy, was that a hike. Fortunately, there were many little seats built into the landings of the switchback stairs. My thighs have found the natural stairmaster for the second day in a row. We watched the donkeys carrying tourists up the stairs, as their owners use the switch to get them to move. We are both saddened by the sight.

    At last, the top! And back to the hotel for a rest. I pick up a small bottle of vinsanto for the room. Afternoon siesta, wash out clothes, Michael had his sit & nap. After that, another stroll, for cash and a snack and water. Michael left me to window shop, and he went back to the hotel. I didn't see anything that interested me but as I passed the small church in the square, I heard women singing. Seemed to be an intimate mass or some kind of service taking place. Lovely. The priest and women were singing.

    Back to the hotel, I passed the end of one wedding ceremony, and then along came another bride, probably going off to the little church I just passed.

    Michael and I sat on our terrace for a little while, I, sipping my vinsanto, and then, we are off to the Main Event. This time, a glorious experience. Not a spectacular sunset, but beautiful, especially as the sun became a glowing red orb and disappeared into the horizon behind a grayish low cloud. We sat by one of the windmills, making for a striking image.

    We sat a little while longer, waiting for the afterglow to develop. And off to dinner, back to Roka. This time, we sat outside on the terrace. 2 guys from London sat next to us, and the company made for a pleasant evening.

    Dinner was satisfying again. We had the "loaded" eggplant, kind of a good eggplant parmesan but with feta, saganaki (very good) and the lamb hock, which was tender and tasty. I had a house rose (very nice) and they served vinsanto as an extra this evening.

    We finally finished dinner, said farewell to our new friends, and back to the hotel for the night.

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    Day 10 Sept 25 / Sunday arrival in Naxos - Hotel Kalergis

    Farewell to Santorini. We both woke up a little worn, had a long wait before the ferry. At last it was time to check out, and Rena and Sima were both flirting with Michael, in an affectionate way. I really do think they were taken by him.

    While waiting for the cab to pick us up, we stopped by the art gallery across from Delfini and spent the time talking to the lovely young woman from Georgia who met and married a Polish painter and together they stayed in Santorini. Charming woman, pleasant interaction, and then it was time to go. Brief wait for the cab which ended up being an empty transfer bus carrying just us 2!

    Finally down by the port. We went into the terminal, and began to talk with a welsh/english couple and ended up sitting with them during the entire trip to Naxos. She is an oncology nurse and he works for Kellogg company. Wonderful interactions with people whose interests and values feel similar to ours.

    Arrival at Naxos. A little hard to acclimate after the overwhelming experience of Santorini. Kalergis hotel is actually very comfortable, the real downside is the young hotel manager is only around part-time. It's a little disconcerting not having someone around all the time.

    Had a quick but good homestyle meal at Scirocco in the square (moussaka & lamb keftidis) then wandered down toward the port and into the old town market. Pleasant and relaxing.

    Trying to get back however, we got hopelessly lost for a while trying to find our hotel. At last we got back, but boy did it feel strange getting so disoriented. We also picked up some nescafe for the room.

    Tonight we have a relatively early night. The beds are 2 single pushed together, but the mattrwsses do not meet. The beds are firm, but we ended up sleeping well!

    Day 11 September 26 monday Naxos

    Up early today- a good night's sleep! First coffee on the terrace, and the usual morning stuff. Kostas, the hotel manager, is not at the desk yet, so we go out for coffee up the street. We have the breakfast, which at €4.50, is so much less than Santorini. I found the coffee fine, but Michael didn't care for it. We go back to the hotel, speak to Kostas about payment and leaving for the airport, and have the laundry done. 1 bag for €10 is reasonable to me.

    First check out auto rental agencies-the one nearest us is the best deal for the day. We decide to rent tomorrow.

    Off to town. We wander up and around the back of town, pass an old man walking out of the tall bushes with his donkey! Huh?! We try to find our way up to the castle and discover the confusing twists and turns of the old town streets. We are in a real medieval town!

    Even saw a Greek priest, who looked striking in his black against the all white buildings!

    After spending ages getting lost in the warren of streets, we find out the castle isn't open. We walk into an art exhibit by a swedish artist who lives in Naxos, then walk into the antiques shop/museum in the medieval residence of a venetian duke (800 years ago!. Lovely place.

    Chanced upon To Kastro, the restaurant that I read about on Fodors. Discovering it was a surprise-- if we hadn't, I could see we'd never have found it. As it turned out, we still had a challenge finding it again! But that's later.

    After the meander around the old town, we went back to the hotel and go to the beach. Had pitas for lunch in the shopping street. Satisfying.

    We took a walk along St. George beach, then back toward the hotel to sunbathe and dip into the water. The water was very shallow, but since it was so windy, we didn't feel like getting completely wet.

    We then took a stroll down to the port, had a beer and drink in an outdoor cafe overlooking the water.

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    (continued from earlier post)

    Dinner was at To Kastro. We had a h#@l of a time finding it again, but at last we did. Nice setting under the castle, overlooking the water and city. But we found the service rude and brusque. Michael asked the waiter what was in the mixed appetizer plate.

    "Many things" he says. Again, Michael asks, "Yes, but what?" this time, he replies, "A lot". At this point, Michael and I are both fairly irritated by the waiter. Our appetizers, dolmades & meatballs, come out one at a time, altho other tables seem to have them arrive together. Then comes our entree of grilled dorado -- but our eggplant & zucchini never arrived. We decided to forget about it, but found the whole dinner less than satisfying. The service was poor, the waiter rude, and we really came away disappointed.

    Strolled back to the hotel, picked up some bread & milk for the morning.

    Day 12 Naxos Sept 27
    I'm afraid I've lost the energy to form complete paragraphs; this is how my diary read for the last few days!

    - Morning w/bread & hazelnut spread, coffee on the terrace
    -chat w/ hotel mgr re: taxi.
    - rent car. Wonderful flirtatious banter w/Ireni, the car rental agency clerk. Totally adorable!

    -We are off on an adventure- no problem getting out, but oh, the signs! As Michael keeps quoting Yogi Berra, " if you come to a fork in the road, take it"

    -passed man & donkey carrying load of grass on road outside of town

    -1st stop, Dionysus temple. Near town, small but sweet

    -Lost in the small towns & roads in Naxos! First, getting out of temple area. Trying to figure out direction.

    -Stuck in small town (Glinada?), we were rescued by an English woman who directed the car out! The car was almost touching the sides of the houses on either side of the street, with NO room to turn around!

    -Another misdirection trying to figure out signs and we are in another series of small towns leading nowhere. This time, 2 Indian guys rescue us and direct us to the main town. Saved by the British commonwealth! Finally we are on the main road!

    -First stop, Temple of Demeter. Beautiful siting, lovely temple, good little museum.

    -Chalki. Loved the town, several artisans: weavers, ceramics. Terrific little museum on Citron, managed by a woman from the family that started it in 1896. Sampled it, really liked it. Bought small bottle.

    -Apeiranthos. Took awhile to find parking, started past the small museums. Followed a man with donkey up, up, up thru a maze of marble steps going every which way! Michael wondering how far we go! Finally, we begin a descent--do we keep on going or go back the way we came. I keep looking for the square. At last, sign of civilization: a shop! And discover we went thru the hilly back of town to get to the center! Saw the first 2 faces of men who have truly traditional Greek faces-- look like they are from Crete, where town is supposed to originate.

    -A looong drive thru mountains

    -Next stop, kouros by Melanes. Amazing, almost palpable w/ feeling. Awful fruit seller who sells us a small melon, who tries to connive us into buying a more expensive one

    -Back to Chora. Michael eventually finds the way to town and we get to car rental agency, but they are closed. Park by beach, will take tomorrow and drive to airport.

    -Relax at Plaza on the beach with beer
    -Sunset from the balcony. Lovely! A little citron, too.

    -We stop by the car rental. More laughs! Ireni tells us about sliding down the Kouros by Apollonas

    -Dinner at Oasis: fried eggplant, baked feta, beef gouvetsi, pork souvlaki. Home cooking. English & German waittress, Greek owner? Run well, if a little too geared to the tourist clientele.

    -back to hotel, crash early.

    Day 13 Sept 28 Naxos

    -Woke up to slightly overcast & windy day

    -got out relatively early, stopped off at car rental place to confirm plan for 2nd day rental, visit Irini.

    -Off first to airport to make trial run for our early flight tomorrow morning --very easy

    -Off to Apollon to see the Kouras and drive coastal route-very very twisty& up and downhill!

    -We stopped first at Eggares for cafe-- locals there only

    - The drive is relatively direct tho very twisty drive

    -Kouras very large, very impressive. The face seems to have soul.

    -We have lunch in Apollon. Okay, very small coastal town, now based on tourism, but so quiet this time of year! Decide to look for Mycenaean tomb which is shown on the map; it's up in the mountains, by Koronida...

    -There is a very long twisty drive high up in the mountains--is it worth it?

    -We arrive in town at last, and see sign for 'Mycenaen tomb', but as we try to follow it, we lose it, over and over. We get directed to it by the few locals we find, but all we do is go up up up then down then up. We find goats and roosters. Trees with figs, and a local man directs us to the better tree for riper figs. Then we meet another man who gives us grapes! But we give up on finding the tomb.

    -We go back the way we came, and we realize we're low on gas. Now we have to find gas. Momentary panic because the only station is closed. We leave, return-- it's open!

    - So we drive back to the hotel, getting ready for tomorrow. Kostas prints our boarding passes and we pay up. This place is a wonderful bargain! Great space, lovely location.

    -After another walk through town, we go back to hotel to watch the sunset from our terrace
    -We stop by to see chat with Irini, and she gives us a recommendation for a restaurant, Maro

    -Maro--by the square, same street as pharmacy. Excellent! We eat sagonaki cheese(naxos hard cheese), fried zucchini balls, mushrooms in garlic& cognac, grilled lamb chop. The best place in Naxos by far! Really superior. Others okay, but this was the best. Inexpensive, large portions. Terrific.

    -Another visit with Irini for a long & delightful talk before we turn in for the night

    -Farewell to Naxos!

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    Day 14 Sept 29 Athens/Athens Gate hotel

    -Up waay too early today to fly to Athens. Drove to teeny airport with rental car, so cool not taking a cab and having to worry about a cab showing up or not.

    -Tiny airport, we sat and waited for the plane to arrive in the airport version of the 1-room schoolhouse!

    -Michael slept some, I watched the prop plane fly over some islands. I was a bit nervous, but the plane worked fine.

    -Arrived before 8 am, and we decided to cancel trip to Delphi. Michael and I were both exhausted and decided that a long drive today and again tomorrow would undermine the pleasure. I was pleased to find that I was able to easily cancel the car and hotel. I was able to get a room for the additional night at Athen's Gate.

    -Honestly, I also felt relieved--- I had mixed feelings about cutting a day from Athens and taking the long drive to Delphi.

    -The taxis were on strike on the day we arrived, but this was no problem as we easily took the metro in. Still took nearly an hour but the train let out very near the hotel. Rested for over an hour. What a pleasure to find it so easily!

    -We ate lunch at the Smile Cafe, another recommendation I found on Fodors. Large portions, okay food, tho hardly anything special. The female half of the restaurant introduced herself, said she was born in Greece, raised in Chicago, and returned to Greece after she got married.

    -At last, off to the sights! First, Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus, as they are right across from the hotel. We spent a while there.

    -Then to the Acropolis Museum--amazing place. New design utilizing natural light, wonderful glass over excavation, great artifacts beautifully displayed, open views of acropolis, great display of the frieze which wraps around the 3 rd floor. Excellent introduction to our visit to Acropolis. For both of us, this was a wonderful museum and really, the one I'd recommend as the "if I only had time for one...."

    -The Parthenon: it was exciting to be there altho seeing it with all its bracing and scaffolding is a bit frustrating, since it's hard to feel its significance right away. But after a while of walking around the Acropolis and seeing the site in toto, it is truly an awesome experience.

    -After walking around the Acropolis, we climbed on top of Mars Hill for views looking back toward the Acropolis

    -Then we went to Plaka after getting lost looking for Lysikrates street. Ate at Vizintino, recommended by Fodors & others, but found it disappointing. Ate skordalia, Greek salad, olives, and roast pork. The best thing was the olives. Walked and walked thru the Plaka, getting lost in the streets. Thought we were a long way from the hotel, only to find out we weren't!

    Day 15 Sept 30 athens

    - A decent sleep, tho both of us tired from yet another day of walking. Good breakfast at the hotel rooftop garden. Fabulous views from the top, too.

    -Today, it is off to the ancient Agora. Great site, real sense of the business of life in ancient Greece with layers of Roman life added on top. The museum in the stoa of Attalos was small but excellent. After so much time spent on the historical & archeological, there was little energy left for the National archeological museum. Who can do so much in one day?

    -We walked across Adrianou to Monistiraki square. Bought some figs for € 1 1/2 and they were delicious! Wandered the flea market, mostly new stuff, altho we found a little corner of old stuff. Walked along Mitropoleos, noting the shopping district. Stopped in small stellar byzantine church.

    - Syntagma square - stopped by the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, got picture of Michael with a soldier. Everyone's posing!

    -We watched as the street was being blocked off for a demonstration--only to see some cars, buses and other vehicles sneak under the barricade. Rules are very loose!

    -We walk through the National Gardens

    - After another break at the hotel, we are off again to wander the Plaka-- found Lysicrates St & monument. Lovely square!

    -Wandered off to Anofiotika - it was a bit anticlimactic, after reading about this area that was all blue and white houses...I suppose if I handed been to several islands, it would've been more interesting, but it really didn't seem to be so unique

    -We found the Tower of the Wind-- lovely! Ended up eating at Scholrio- family-style, €14/person. Fun, decent food, but waay too much, once again! Fun, busy place, though, and we left feeling satisfied.

    - Back at the hotel, stopped at the roof garden for the view of the Acropolis at night. Beautiful!

    Day 16 Oct 1 Saturday

    Last day of trip and we are much slower.
    -took metro to the National Archeological Museum - excellent museum, just so much to absorb! Loved the early cycladic figures, the bronze statue of Zeus...the crystal rock cup, the Thira wall paintings.... No way could we have done another museum!

    -Walked from the museum to the central market along 28 october passing the scuzziest folks along the way.

    -got to Central market, passing another set of ruins along the way. Now more 14th street shopping. Very meaty!

    - continued toward Plaka/Acropolis, went into the Roman Agora, nice feeling of activity, both tourists & locals
    -walked toward Thisiou, saw lots of crappy flea market vendors, had a cafe stop. Love frappes!

    -took the pedestrian street, walked the long way around toward the hotel. Nice stroll thru Thisiou, a more upscale feeling, people sitting in cafes, nicer homes

    -At hotel: Got on computer, can't get boarding passes yet. Made reservation for Manimani. Here's hoping!

    -Our last evening - we had a wonderful dinner at ManiMani, not far from Athens Gate. Of course, we ate at 7:30, which looked like the kid's hour at the restaurant. What it lacked in atmosphere at this hour was more than made up by the food. Contemporary, inventive, and different from the usual taverna fare. A bit pricier than other places, but far better -- a real restaurant, with emphasis on preparation, presentation & taste. Definitely a culinary highlight. We ate green salad with soft cheese & dried fig dressing, ravioli with feta cheese, sausage with orange and basil sauce (?) and roast pork with figs and manouri cheese. Really delicious. We topped it off with an orange cake with ice cream-- similar to the one in Ippokrates in Iraklion - if not quite as good, pretty close to it. A perfect ending to the trip.

    -- last night in the hotel, and we watch tv as we pack for the day

    ---
    Interestingly, the only time we were moderately impacted by the strikes was returning home. Our flight sat for almost 2 hours before taking off because of the slowdown. This could've been a real problem, because we had a connection in Toronto, but that flight (fortunately for us!) was also delayed by several hours!

    Anyway, it was a great trip, and rereading this now is bringing back great memories. Now I need to figure out where to upload my photos!

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    Thanks paule,

    You give good and practical information as well as a sense and feeling of the places you visited.

    We will definitely make use of your report and extensive research when we make it to the same area.

    OC

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    I appreciate your comments, OC, and am pleased that you can use my musings! I've gotten somuch from other trip reports, and I'm especially glad that I can finally give back. And "good and practical" is a great accomplishment, IMHO!
    Paule

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    Thank you for that very informative report! Santorini has been on my "yes" list for a long while and Crete on my "maybe" list, so I was very interested to read about your experiences.

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    I really liked both Santorini and Crete, but they are very different islands and completely different experiences.

    Crete is almost like a small country unto itself - our 6 days there just barely gave us a taste, but we were able to experience a few different areas.

    Santorini is simply spectacular -- while we didn't really explore the entire island, we were very happy to have stayed in Oia to get the essence of the experience. I would've rented a car if Akrotiri was open last year, but it wasn't when we went.

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    Just wondering where had you decided to stay on your way to Delphi before you canceled. I am landing in Athens and planning to go to Delphi and would like to stay along the way. I came across you trip report and thought you might be able to make a suggestion

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    Hi, Gaillondon,
    I just saw this today, so I hope you have already figured something out by now!

    Ultimately decided that we would go directly to Delphi if we had gone. There wasn't any other place that seemed to make sense for a stopover, and the drive really isn't that far. I still would love to go back to get to Delphi -- so we'll have to get back to Greece sometime in the future!

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