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Santorini, Mykonos, Athens report. May '08

Santorini, Mykonos, Athens report. May '08

May 27th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Santorini, Mykonos, Athens report. May '08

From our home in NYC, we flew out of Newark on Continental, the first week of May, into Athens (9 hours, 40 minutes).
From there a two-hour layover and connecting flight (35 minutes) on Aegean to Santorini, which had several honeymooning American couples on board.

We stayed in a hotel called Katikies, (Ka-tee-KEE-ess) (www.Katikies.com) which is one of the most highly acclaimed in Greece. It is beautiful. It is remarkably clean and well maintained. We’ve never experienced a more accommodating staff and the view, no matter which way you look, stops you in your tracks.
Several of the honeymooners we met in transit were staying there as well.
As it is early in the season, Katikies’ three pools were still a little colder than we would have liked but the daytime temperatures, which reached around 78, meant lots of pool and lounge time for us.
At night the temperatures felt like they dipped into the high 50s. I wound up buying a sweater, which I love, from a local store and wore it nearly every night in the cool island breeze.
Santorini is a uniquely beautiful island and while it reminds me of Positano, there’s more to it than its Italian counterpart.
We left the neighborhood we were staying in, Oia, or Ia, (EEE-ah, either spelling) to visit the port town of Fira. It is noteworthy that the names Fira, Thira and Thera all refer to Santorini and its capital port city and are used somewhat interchangeably. It gets a little confusing, especially when navigating the island by scooter (€20/day).
Fira is a very pretty, very touristy village with lots of nice little shops and cafés and sweeping views. Certainly worth a look, but I’m glad we weren’t staying there having seen Oia.
We also scootered down to the black sand beaches which looked great with large, comfortable lounge chairs and beachfront bars and restaurants, but the timing in the season and the fact that it was very windy at that part of the island meant that the beaches were not a desirable place to hang out.
Glad to have seen it though.
Our take on Santorini and Katikies is that (and I’m sure MANY people will fiercely disagree) if you can stay there, there is little reason to leave the hotel. By that I mean, no matter where else we went, the food didn’t get any better, the view didn’t get any better, the sunsets, the friendly Greek people, etc. were all you could ask for. Oia is just the best place to be in my opinion.
We were very happy to lounge around in the hotel’s white robes and slippers all day and sit at the main pool dining area for lunch. Our breakfasts, included in room rate and amazing, were served every morning on our private terrace. Everything else we asked for was received within minutes, and the price of all the food and drinks was surprisingly reasonable considering where we were: in the lap of luxury surrounded by exquisite natural and architectural beauty.
If you need to hear something negative, for the sake of balance, I’ll offer the following: a passing rain shower made the hotel’s many steps very slippery. One morning I slipped on a painted stone walkway in a way that would’ve made any NY Yankee proud.
That’s actually not a small issue and the surface of the steps should probably be addressed.
Katikies is not for kids or seniors at all.
Inconsistent with their food and wine prices, phone calls from the hotel room were insanely expensive costing much more than in any other hotel we had ever stayed at in Europe. Inquire about the rate first or use Skype or your own phone. Our Italian and Spanish phones are still locked so we couldn’t use them in Greece.
Also, as much as we loved our room, the bathroom was surprisingly unattractive and uninspired, even though it did have a whirlpool tub and large shower.

A good restaurant recommendation in Oia is Petros on the main street.
Stop at Meteor for an inexpensive drink and take a moment on the balcony overlooking the caldera. The friendly owner will help you select an ouzo or make a good espresso for you.

We took the giant red pontoon boat (which everyone calls a hydrofoil, but is not) from Santorini to Myknos. It was a very rough ride as the seas were very choppy with high waves and wind. We nicknamed the boat the Vomit Comet because there were many people on board driven to seasickness hugging the garbage pails and trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to reach the toilets in time.
It was not a pretty sight and it was a 2 hour and 45 minute ride.

Arriving in Mykonos was a disappointment coming from Santorini.
The island, as nice as it is, is not nearly as beautiful as where we just left and we wondered if we had made a mistake.
Our hotel was the Mykonos Grand (www.mykonosgrand.gr). Again, arriving there, we were disappointed. Aesthetically, it’s not Katikies by any means.
We joked that it was more Tommy’s Holiday Camp, but after a few hours we saw some appealing traits. First of all, the staff was outstanding. The ladies at the front desk greeted us with a room upgrade knowing it was our 10-year wedding anniversary and booked our lunch in perhaps the most special beachfront restaurant we’ve ever scene, N’ammos (www.nammos.com), in spite of us citing a desire to follow a recommendation from another source to eat elsewhere.
Suzy booked us to eat at my restaurant for dinner, La Maison de Katrin, and hers for lunch. It was the perfect way to have handled it.
The rest of our time there (3 nights) went the same way throughout. Everything we asked for, we got right away. If we asked for something from the wrong person, they alerted the right person instantly. One night a staff member noticed my wife and me sitting by the pool watching the peaceful sunset. Without any prompting from us, he brought us each a glass of champagne and strawberries on a silver platter saying “We thought you might like this with your sunset.”
We wouldn’t want to stay at any other hotel in Mykonos. They really won our hearts.
For the record, Mykonos Grand is less than half the price of Katikies.
As for our lunch, N’ammos is Greek food on the beautiful beach of Psarou. I’m running out of adjectives but it is a great restaurant in a beautiful setting. They provide lounge chairs, umbrellas and service on the sand to the people who eat in the restaurant, so when we finished our entreés, we had dessert and drinks in our bathing suits in the sun while dipping our feet in the Aegean. It’s as good as it sounds.
We later realized this eat-here-and-use-our-beach-chairs thing is not unique to N’ammos. Lots of places in Mykonos offer the same arrangement.
Katrin was excellent and I definitely recommend it, but it felt like we were eating in a New York restaurant in Mykonos as opposed to there being nothing like N’ammos in New York.

Leaving the islands, we took a short flight to Athens. Being New Yorkers, we didn’t fall for the offers of rides to the hotel from unlicensed taxis. We went directly to the “authorized” pick up area and got a legitimate cab.
Long story short, he took us for a ride and ripped us off. At the hotel, I asked how much it should have cost and we paid about double that price. Oh well. We were vulnerable, thought we had it together, didn’t do any research and got taken. Life goes on.
The next time we got in a cab, about an hour later, the driver told us this very entertaining story about how he is Bruce Springsteen’s personal tour guide whenever he comes to Greece and blah blah blah. Anyway, he made us an offer to leave him a deposit of about 100 Euros, he’ll come get us after lunch and give us the same tour he gives Mr. Springsteen….it was unbelievable. Bottom line is when I declined that offer he tried to overcharge us for the ride we just had. When I called him on it, he jumped out of the car and threw my door open. I thought we were gonna throw down…but I think he was just trying to intimidate me, so it didn’t go that way. I gave him 5 Euro and explained shortly that’s about what the meter would have said…had he turned it on when he picked us up.
Athens was tough.
There were many transactions that needed to be straightened out and we learned quickly to be careful. The ruins are interesting, but that’s really all that Athens seems to have. And if you’ve been to Rome, even those won’t impress you. The city is a one-trick pony. The food was better in the islands and so were our interactions with the locals. Our hotel, Hotel Grand Bretagne, was a classic beauty but stuffy and everything in the hotel is prohibitively-priced. Bellini at the bar? 24 Euros. Glass of local wine? 17 Euros. Use the indoor pool? 25 Euros buys you a pass for the day. Forget about food. And the concierges were the best dressed and least helpful I’ve ever seen.
The place to be in Athens is the neighborhood called Plaka and some immediately surrounding streets. We wandered off the path of bars and nightlife places only to quickly run into prostitutes and other assorted degenerates.
I was figuring Greece to be a lot more like Italy, Spain or France than it turned out to be.
No one seems to dress for dinner. The few times we did dress like we would if we were out for the night in Milan, Madrid or Paris we stood out and were uncomfortable.
Again, we may be wrong about some of our impressions listed here, but they are just that: impressions.
Your may have a different experience.
ciaony is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 12:41 AM
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"prostitutes and other assorted degenerates"
This smells of social racism and misanthropy .
G.
Gaspard is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 05:20 AM
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Thanks for the report ciaony. It was a great read and brought back fond memories of the islands.

I've always wondered if I was missing the point on Athens also and you expressed a lot of my feelings very well. I love the Greek islands but never warmed to Athens despite being there for some memorable times including the Olympics in 2004.
littlejane is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 01:40 PM
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Thanks for the post. My daughter & I leave for Athens next week on Continental. We are connecting on that same flight to Santorini for 5 nights and then back to Athens for Sunday and Monday. Return to the US on the Tuesday am flight. We are staying in Kamari on Santorini and Plaka in Athens. I'm having second thoughts on whether we should stay in Santorini for 5 nights, or reduce it to 3 and hop over to Mykonos for 2 nights. What do you think?
gumtree is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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When we were planning this trip, some friends *sort of* advised us to skip Athens, but we took that with a grain of salt. We felt like the capitol city of a European country would surely have something to offer. The reality is that you can see the ruins during the day and have dinner in Plaka at night....and you're done with Athens.
Leave in the morning and I'm sure you won't be missing a heck of a lot.


As for 5 nights in Santorini: to tell you the truth, I think you may be looking for something to do after 4 or even 3.


If you can spend some time in Mykonos, I think you'd be more entertained.

ciaony is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 06:44 PM
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Sweetie darling, the Plaka is not the place to be. The Plaka is actually the tourist mecca of Athens. Lots of souvenir shops and cheap cafes (although you can find some great food here) are in the Plaka.

If you walked out the side entrance of the Grande Bretagne, adjacent to the Attica Dept. Store, and walked across the street you would have entered the Kolonaki neighborhood, which is very fashionable. You would have found more people
dressed up for dinner here.

And if you really wanted to wear your Chanel dress and turn heads, you should have taken a cab to Varoulko.

The Great and Powerful Thingorjus
Proenza_Preschooler is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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PS You will find more high-class hookers at the bar in the Grand Bretagne than you will in the Plaka.

I think hookers are fun. And I am a degenerate; ask anyone who posts here.

Thingorjus
Proenza_Preschooler is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 07:33 PM
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I wonder how that Chanel dress would have looked with my beard and broad shoulders.
Did you read my post?
ciaony is offline  
May 28th, 2008, 07:36 PM
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And taking a cab to Varoulka or anywhere for that matter wasn't an option. There was a taxi strike for most of the time we were there, not that I hadn't had enough of taxis in Athens by then.
ciaony is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 12:33 AM
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Just shave off the beard.
Gaspard is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 03:54 AM
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ciaony says:

>The reality is that you can see the ruins during the day and have dinner in Plaka at night....and you're done with Athens. <

Wow, it's just as well perception of reality is a personal thing.

We had only three days in this great city and could have done with one or two more.

joe

joe4212 is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 06:54 AM
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You drag queens are so thilly.

C'mon, guv, you live in Manhattan and you are afraid to take a taxi in Athens?

Besides, you don't have to take a taxi to Kolonaki. You could have found a fashionable cafe or restaurant after a 10-minute stroll.

Did you go to the Benaki Museum, the Museum of the City of Athens, the National Archaelogical Museum, the ilias lalaounis museum? Lykavittos Hill? No?

So, you just milled around the Plaka and write that you "saw" Athens?

I am also shocked (well, not really) that your were surprised at the prices at the Grande Bretagne. If you went to the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan, would you be surprised that a martini cost $20?

Hello, Gaspard.

Madame DeFarge
Proenza_Preschooler is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 07:21 AM
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I just returned a couple of days ago from a vacation to Santorini (also stayed at Katikies), Mykonos and Athens. I will post a trip report shortly, but I had to comment that ciaony's experience was remarkably on point with mine in almost all aspects. We loved Santorini; were glad we chose Oia over Fira; also felt at times that we didn't want to leave the grounds at Katikies because everything we needed was right there; the beaches were nice to see but way too windy to enjoy this time of year; were slightly disappointed when we arrived in Mykonos at the contrast with Santorini; had a nice meal at N'ammos; and were highly disappointed in the city of Athens. Thanks for the trip report!
Becca is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 07:42 AM
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Gumtree,
I stayed in Kamari Beach last Sept. and took the local bus into Fira and Oia. The beach was nice and has roughly a mile long street along the beach with restaurants and shops but I bet I walked it at least six times. Was not much to do there so 3 days would be plenty to see all of Santorini.
MarthaT is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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Becca: Is your husband's name Josh by any chance?
cheryllj is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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Hi Marginal!
G.
Gaspard is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 08:21 AM
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Cheryllj, yes, how did you know? Wait... were you on the excursion to the volcano???
Becca is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 08:55 AM
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Yes. I have photos of your husband in the hot springs.
cheryllj is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 09:43 AM
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Haha! What a small Fodors world. I am kicking myself for not going on that excursion. I did too much research before I left and read too many reports of how rocky and seasick-prone the boat was. Oh well - there is always next time!
Becca is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 11:06 AM
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Becca, the Great and Powerful Thingorjus is waiting to read why you didn't like Athens.

Please get to work.

Waiting.....waiting........waiting..........waitii iiiiiiigggggg.......

Thinny Thin Thin
Proenza_Preschooler is offline  

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