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Trip Report Our Ridiculously Wonderful Time in Greece

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Hi all, just back from 2.5 weeks in Greece with my family - probably the best vacation of my life (and I do like a good vacation).

We had it all: sparkling sunshine, beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas, gorgeous harbor towns, stunning hikes, fabulous meals, and an abundance of interesting culture and history (ancient, medieval and modern), plus a peaceful demonstration and blackout here and there. I am not sure I can document everything, but wanted to offer my insights and observations for whatever they are worth. This will be a bit rambling, so apologies for that in advance.

Our itinerary was: Chania (5 days), Athens (2 days), Delphi (1 day), Nafplion (4 days), Monemvasia (1 day), Kythira (5 days). I loved everything we did and the pace of the trip was just right - not too fast, not too slow. And it was great to end up in Kythira, a beautiful, somewhat mysterious island, where we lost all sense of time. My children were just the right ages for the trip (9 and 10) - they were very much interested in the historical sites and the mythology, but also just loved being able to swim for hours and hours on end (and climb in caves, jump from rocks, etc.). They were also able to stay up late and pull their own bags - they are excellent travelers.

I will note that although we were in Athens for one of the big demonstrations/strikes, it didn't really affect us. Central Athens sort of shut down for the day, but we found plenty of ways to amuse ourselves. I don't pretend to understand completely all of Greece's financial woes, but I did observe that much of Greece operates on a cash-based financial system. Many business owners (restaurants, bed & breakfasts, gas stations, supermarkets) openly admitted that they do not take credit cards because they do not want to pay taxes. It's a bit self-defeating for the Greek economy, but as a practical matter, this meant that we used A LOT of cash - I felt like I was constantly looking for ATMs! Apart from our stays in larger hotels and a couple of restaurants in Athens, we didn't put anything on our credit cards.

I didn't know very much Greek before I went (though thanks to my ancient Greek classes in college, I could read the signs!), but we all learned to say hello, thank you, etc. I found that even small efforts to speak Greek were rewarded with huge smiles and, when my children spoke, extra ice cream or cookies. My boys got lots of pats on the head from every waiter in every restaurant.

I love that Greek restaurants are basically open all day and many are right on the beach. Greece wakes up late and stays up late, which was fine with us. We often ate lunch at 2 p.m. or later, preceded and followed by a dip in the sea, and dinner at 9 p.m. or later. It is all very conducive to relaxing, which I definitely needed.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on the particular places we visited (will have to do this in installments because I'm running out of time!).

1. Chania - Crete is just amazing, and western Crete is particularly beautiful. Next time I go, I will spend two weeks on the island. The food was fantastic, Chania is gorgeous, and the beaches were spectacular. We hiked the amazing Samaria Gorge - it was arduous, but we all did fine. We used Diktynna for our tours and I would highly recommend their services. The guides were excellent. We stayed at the Ammos Hotel, which gets high marks on TA, and I would highly recommend it. A very charming small hotel. And with two kids, it was definitely best to stay on the beach rather than in Chania town itself. We had excellent meals at Tamam and Well of the Turk (I'm still dreaming about an avocado/orange/olive/mint salad I had there).

2. Athens - I had been to Athens many years ago on a college backpacking jaunt and recalled a fairly unpleasant city experience (maybe it was my youth hostel!). But wow, how Athens sparkles now. The city looks fantastic. We had a great visit. Toured the new Acropolis Museum - wonderful - wandered the Plaka, hiked up to Lycabettus Hill. We used Context for a great visit to the Acropolis and Agora. We had a lovely dinner at Psarra and really tasty souvlaki at Thanasis. We stayed at the AVA hotel, which was perfectly located for our touristic purposes, but a little charmless (especially in comparison to the other places we stayed in Greece).

Next up - Delphi!

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