Friday 12 August 2011 - Wednesday 14 September 2011 35 °C
After a rather long, rough travel day (food poisoning for both of us) which included fainting in an airport (Lee-Ann) and a pickpocket attempt on the metro (Warren), we arrived exhausted from Turkey at our hotel in Athens. However, after a good night’s sleep and a breakfast of the long awaited thick, creamy Greek yogurt, we were ready to hit the sights of this historic city.
We made our way through the narrow cobblestone streets, slowly winding our way toward the Acropolis, perched high on the escarpment overlooking the city. Straying from the main tourist area as we approached, we found the streets almost completely deserted – it was the weekend and all the shops were closed. We were shocked at the graffiti that covered everything… literally on every building, on walls, doors, statues and signs. We had never seen so much graffiti. It reminded us of images from 1970s New York before its massive turn around. We can only surmise that much the graffiti in Athens was an outpouring of anger and grief from the disadvantaged youth as a result of Greece’s current economic climate. With the recent riots in London fresh in our minds, the graffiti along with the empty streets created an eerie sense of an abandoned city.
However, as we climbed the Acropolis, we left the graffiti behind and stepped into the wondrous past of ancient Athens. After taking our obligatory photo op with the Parthenon as a backdrop, wandering through the ruins and enjoying the panoramic 360 degree view of the city, we climbed down from the Acropolis and headed to the nearby Acropolis Museum. Built with glass floors to provide viewing of the ongoing excavations of the ancient city below, the building in itself was amazing. On the top floor, both original pieces and restoration casts of the pediments and the facia of the Parthenon were installed to scale in a manner that provided a view of the Parthenon itself. It created a unique perspective to add context and appreciation, along with small scale models of the details of the Acropolis through various ages and stages of development. The museum was in fact a highlight for us. We finished off our day in Athens with a delicious dinner at a lively little taverna tucked away in a courtyard, set under trellises covered in grapevines, as the full moon lit up the Acropolis and spread a warm, silver glow over the city.
From Athens, we moved on to the port of Piraeus where we caught an early morning fast ferry to Naxos – the Cycladic island where we would spend the next month. Although the majority of our journey has been decided as we traveled, we had planned before we left home to spend a month on Naxos and had rented a little villa with a pool and a stunning view across the water to the islands of Paros, Iraklia, Koufonissi and Ios. We quickly settled into the rhythm of the island - enjoying long leisurely mornings, reading countless books (luckily the villa had a couple of large well-stocked bookshelves), strolling on the miles of golden sandy beaches, swimming in the clear, turquoise water…
Some days… well, most days, it took a substantial effort to leave our little villa where we could look out from our pool onto miles of beach and brilliant blue water, watching the sailboats, windsurfers and kiteboarders ride the strong late summer winds known as the Meltemi. But we occasionally found the drive to leave our little haven, even attempting to engage the winds ourselves. While the Meltemi thoroughly trounced Warren while windsurfing, we had much better success sailing to and from the island of Paros, revelling in the rambunctious 25–30 knot winds and 6’–8’ seas.
It was a real treat after months of eating in restaurants to have a kitchen and an outdoor grill, and a bounty of fresh, locally grown ingredients, to enjoy home-cooked meals al fresco, watching the evening sky slowly turn from brilliant burnt orange to a rich blue-black over the Aegean Sea as we sipped locally made barrel wine by candlelight. Our nightly ritual included climbing the stairs to our rooftop after the sun set to watch a shepherd herd his sheep up the hill to a pasture above our villa. We even had a local field cat adopt us, stretching out in the shade on our flagstone deck, making us feel truly at home.
We have a long history with Naxos - Lee-Ann spent two months here during her first trip to Europe, celebrating her 21st birthday on the island; several years later, we came to Naxos for our long delayed honeymoon. This time, we were thrilled to have our daughter Chelsey join us for two wonderful weeks to celebrate Warren’s 50th birthday. While Chelsey was here, we took her for a tour around the island, through the little villages and into Chora (Naxos Town) to explore the ancient narrow, winding streets and tremendous landscape of this beautifully rugged island. We were happy to discover that while there has been some growth, very little has changed over the years. Tourism plays an enormous part in the island’s economy, but the agricultural and seafaring soul of Naxos is very much alive and well, keeping its pulse strong long after the last summertime tourists have left for the year.
Our month in Naxos was a wonderful hiatus from our traveling adventures, but all good things must come to an end in order for new opportunities to unfold. So it was with mixed feelings that we left our lovely home away from home behind, and took the slow boat (we were in no rush…) back to Athens, where we are excitedly preparing for “la dolce vita”; tomorrow morning we fly to… Naples, Italy!