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My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 4

When it absolutely, positively, has to get there overnight ....don't take the Superjet.

Tuesday:

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We wake up to more incredible blue skies. Today, we are supposed to catch a 10:30 a.m. ferry from Milos to the island of Folegandros.

But first things first: breakfast cake.

After breakfast, we pack our things and head to the reception area to check out. The desk clerk asks us where we are headed and when we say, “Folegandros,” he tells us to wait one moment.

He checks a computer, looks up and says, “Your ferry is cancelled for engine trouble. Wait one moment and I will find you other options.”

After a few minutes and a few phone calls he tells us that our only option is to spend the day on Milos, catch a 5:30 p.m. ferry to nearby Kimilos and then catch a 10:30 ferry to Folegandros, arriving on Folegandros at 11:30 p.m. that night.

Normally, this would throw me into a state of sheer panic, but instead, I am surprisingly calm. This is not a problem, because, really, where is the sense of urgency when you are in the Greek islands? Spend a day on this beautiful island or that one? Is either a bad option?

We are completely impressed with the staff at Melian who, in minutes, have found us a way to Folegandros that day, made the arrangements, stowed our luggage, arranged to extend our rental car another day and return it for us that evening, and tell us that we can come back to the hotel and use the spa to shower and change before heading to Kimilos.

With everything taken care of, we have a bonus day on Milos and immediately set about trying to figure out what to do with it.

Matt makes it clear that he wants no rock trekking or rope climbing or desert hiking today. He requests a beach with chairs, umbrellas, and a bar. I quickly scan my map to find a beach that fits the bill and zoom in on Agia Kiriaki.

We know nothing about it and that is exciting. We head that way.

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Agia Kiriaki is beautiful. It is located on the south side of the island and is bordered by tall hills on either end. The beach has soft golden sand and the shoreline is covered with smooth, perfectly round, white rocks. The scene is striking: Green hills, turquoise water, golden sand, white rocks.

We have made a good choice.

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We claim two sunbeds, order some drinks, and settle in for the day.

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Our beach day is uneventful, so we set out for some adventure for lunch. We decide to make the drive to Emborion, where there is supposed to be a very isolated little restaurant with wonderful food.

It’s a gamble, since we don’t really know where we are going or what will be there when we arrive, but that is half the fun of it.

Emborion sits on the opposite side of the bay from Adamas and to get there, you have to drive along bumpy roads that literally seem to go nowhere.
After driving for about 20 minutes and seeing no sign of life, we start to wonder if we are heading in the right direction.

We decide we don’t care when we start to see the views. We catch glimpses of secret beaches below us, of expansive bays, and of isolated churches that seem to rise up out of nowhere and serve no one.

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The end of the drive is a white knuckle ride on a one lane road with a rock wall on one side and the ocean on the other. No shoulder on either side. One wrong move and we are either smashed into a wall or in the ocean.

At the end of this road, we see a small building with a few boats tied up outside. A dog lays stretched out in the sun.

Is this it? There is not a sign and we aren’t really sure. For all we know, we are about to walk up to someone’s house and ask for lunch.

As we approach, we see tables scattered about the waterfront and it is obvious that we have found the place.

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It is literally so far from anything that I don’t know how it could serve any customers other than the occasional fisherman that wanders by on his boat….but there it is. And they are serving lunch.

We sit at a table that is so close to the water that I believe our feet will get wet if a boat goes by and creates even the smallest wake.

The lunch menu is limited and is a bit goat heavy, so we stick to fried potatoes, pasta with meat sauce, pasta with meatballs, and a Greek salad.

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It is only after they bring the food that I realize 1) meatballs is a loose translation because what is sitting on the plate is not very ball-like and 2) it’s probably goat.

No matter. It’s tasty.

It’s getting late so we drive back to Melian and take them up on their gracious offer of showers. It is almost time for our ferry to Kimilos, so we wait at the small port in Pollonia.

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Kimilos is barely a stone’s throw from Milos. The ferry ride is short. They call it a “forgotten island,” as it does not get much tourist traffic.

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We are going to have several hours on Kimilos, and I feel lucky to get to experience something unplanned. We arrive in the port city of Psathi. The small village has a few shops, an outdoor bar, and a few cafes and tavernas with tables strategically placed along the beach. It is quaint and welcoming.

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The main town is a few kilometers uphill and uphill seems like a lot of effort, so we decide to do nothing more ambitious than walk around, drink wine, and eat for several hours at the beachfront restaurant that seems to have all the patrons.

I discover that this beach has the giant sea glass pebbles that I discovered on Milos and I spend a few gleeful minutes collecting a handful.

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We manage to waste a couple of hours with lobster carpaccio, house marinated olives, rustic garlic bread, and Greek salad.

Before we leave, there is the complimentary mystery dessert: a delicious pastry dough topped with a cheesy, creamy custard.

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It’s getting close to 10:30, so we head to the small café at the ferry port and we find a huge crowd watching a lively soccer game. We order some drinks and settle in to wait.

After 2 carafes of wine, a bottle of water, and an iced coffee, I um…well….I gotta’ go. Expecting the type of ferry I just took from Milos to Kimilos, where the bathroom is basically a port-o-potty with a mixed aroma of crap and diesel fuel, I assume my bathroom opportunity will be best taken at the café.

I find the women’s “water closet” and step inside.

I can’t find the toilet. I look around and sure enough, the toilet is missing and all that’s left is the hole where the plumbing came in. I assume there is a problem with the ladies room so I step across the hall to the men’s room. It doesn’t have a toilet either.

I have already spent 5 days growing accustomed to the oddities of Greek toilets. First, there is the fact that Greek plumbing is apparently incapable of accommodating toilet paper. At most restrooms, I have been forced to do my business and then place my dirties in a waste basket. As though this is not bad enough, there has been the issue of flushing. Greeks can’t seem to make up their minds about what type of flush mechanism they prefer and some toilets require a great deal of detective skill. It might be a push button, a pull chain, a foot pedal, or my favorite: the divided two button “big flush/little flush.”

I go back and closely examine the ladies’ room, half expecting a toilet to have materialized in my absence. To my horror, I realize I have come upon the dreaded Greek “squat toilet.” Yes. It’s exactly as it sounds – you position yourself over the hole in the ground, you squat, and you go.

Luckily, as a girl raised in the south, my mother has inadvertently prepared me perfectly for the “squat toilet” by teaching me to never, ever, ever, never, ever, never sit on a public toilet seat, so I already have the basic squatting skill down. I just have to lower it a little to avoid peeing on my own feet.

Which would completely ruin my cute new Sam Edelman flip flops. And would make me smell like pee.

Thank goodness I am in a dress. What would one do with one’s pants in this situation? As it is, I have to completely remove my underthings and hold them in one hand, because I don’t want to risk them touching the floor or getting splashed. I am now holding my delicates in one hand, feet moved as far apart as they will go, trying to stabilize myself by putting my hands on my shaking thighs, and lowering my butt as far down as it will go.

Please don't let me slip. Please don't let me slip. Please don't let me slip. Please don't let me slip.

This is not fabulous.

Somehow, I manage to make it through this mortifying experience without soiling myself or injuring a thigh muscle beyond repair and return to the table.

“What took you so lon---” I cut him off by just putting up my hand and shaking my head.

“Don’t ask,” I say.

We hear the ferry and look up to see what looks more like a cruise ship than a ferry. This couldn’t possibly be the ferry. It is huge. And fancy.

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And I bet it has really nice bathrooms, dammit.

I have read that the sea surrounding Folegandros is particularly rocky and that individuals prone to seasickness should pop some Dramamine before getting on the boat. I am not at all prone to seasickness, yet I find myself fighting waves of nausea as the big boat dips and heaves its way to the tiny island.

When we arrive on Folegandros, blessedly vomit-free, it is close to midnight. My understanding is that it’s a long way uphill to town and that there is only one taxi on the entire island.

When I see the Anemomilos van waiting for us, I feel a rush of relief. I can’t believe it. We are arriving at midnight and the hotel van is ready and waiting.

Not only that, but the owner of the small hotel is there to meet us when we arrive, quickly showing us to our suite and leaving us to get to sleep. What amazing hospitality.

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We fall asleep immediately, wondering what adventures tomorrow holds on Folegandros.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:22 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (0)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 3

Monday:

We managed to get in bed so early the day before that we are wide awake before sunrise. Of course this means I must leap out of the bed and run down to watch the sunrise.

Unfortunately for Matt, this means he must come with me. It’s only our 3rd day on Milos, but already, Matt is grumpy until he gets his breakfast cake.

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As we watch the sunrise over the bay at Pollonia, I discover that the beach is littered with the smoothest, largest pieces of sea glass I have ever found.

Most of them are so large and round that they more like pebbles than the slivers of sand washed glass that I am accustomed to finding.

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Matt and his grumbling belly eventually drag me away and we find our breakfast waiting for us on our verandah, the views as outstanding this morning as they have been every morning.

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We start to wonder if the weather is always this perfect here.

Finally over his jetlag, Matt declares that he’ll start exercising today. My sugar addled brain thinks back to the “mountain of death” that he convinced me to run up and down in the British Virgin Islands and I shudder.

“They have a treadmill inside the gym,” he says.

Hmm. Okay. Gym. Treadmill. Easy, slow, air conditioned. Sure, why not? I don’t want to be the “lazy one,” so I agree.

There is only one treadmill so he goes first while I set up some massages for later in the day. Our plan is to get the beastly run over with some wonderful exercise, go for a swim at a nearby beach, and then get massages before lunch.

I’m on the verandah when Matt comes up and tells me the treadmill is free. I head down to the “gym” and discover that the “gym” is a treadmill inside the room with the sauna.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

It’s so hot, that I am sweating before I even get on the treadmill. The room is at least 80 degrees. What’s that in Celsius?

I’ve set the treadmill for a light jog, but it’s barely moving. I’m going so slow that I could actually be going backwards. I finally realize the problem.

Damn metric system.

After much random button pushing, I get myself going at the proper kilometer per hour and within minutes, I am so hot that I feel certain that a volcano has erupted nearby and the island of Milos is melting into the sea. Or that the sun has just fallen from the sky and landed outside. Or that hell has just swallowed Greece and Satan himself is breathing into this gym.

Seriously. Putting the treadmill in the sauna room???? Seriously?

I declare a mutiny. I am no longer exercising on this vacation unless you consider walking from a sunbed to the bar exercise.

Screw the treadmill. I head for the beach.

Over the weekend, we had discovered that the famed “Papafragas Beach” was barely a mile from our hotel, so we decide to head there to swim off our breakfast.

Papafragas is like nothing we have ever seen before. Considered a “must see” on Milos, I am surprised when there is no one else there when we arrive.

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From above, it just looks like a channel of water. However, if you look closely, you’ll see a not-so-obvious path carved into the side of the cliff that leads to a small beach below. Once you are at the beach, the sea extends outward, guided between two high cliffs, facing the open sea.

The water is cold, but incredibly blue and incredibly clear, changing color as the sun moves higher in the sky. As we swim, Matt notices a tiny “notch” in the rock that we can swim through.

We swim through this hole, not knowing what is on the other side. When we come out, we are in deep cobalt water and surrounded by towering caves.

I feel like I could stay here forever.

We swim back slowly, trying to savor what we know is an incredibly special moment and wanting it to last forever.

Unfortunately, my cake belly is pulling me to the bottom and I can only tread water for so long.

We head for shore, still the only ones in this magical place.

Before heading back to the hotel, we make a quick stop at a small pocket beach we had noticed nearby. Like Papafragas, it is channeled between two cliffs, but they are lower and the beach here is wider, sandier, and more beautiful.

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We take another swim before heading back to Melian for our massages.

There is only one massage therapist, so we take turns, one of us hanging out at Melian’s small plunge pool while the other has a massage in the spa.

When it is my turn the massage therapist, a very small, pretty young woman who speaks some English, hands me a sheet of paper to fill out. I get to a section that I think asks me what areas of my body I DO NOT want massaged and I see “stomach” on there.

Ick. Do they really include the stomach in a massage here? That’s even weirder than the metric system. I try to imagine someone pushing around on my new cake belly and quickly check the box next to stomach.

That’s a definite “no.”

As the massage therapist comes into the room and is about to begin the massage she asks me why I checked “stomach.”

Really? Like, am I weird for not wanting my belly rubbed? I’m not a basset hound, for goodness sakes.

“Um…well….it’s just not something we normally do in the States,” I say.

"Ah, you're American," she says....like that explains why I am a “don’t touch my belly weirdo.”

“Okay,” she says politely. “Well, it’s always good to try something new. I thought maybe you had problem with tummy. You know. Like can’t go poop,” she says in her limited English. “Some people want tummy massaged when can’t go poop.”

I suddenly realize she thinks: 1) I WANT my stomach massaged and 2) She thinks I am constipated.

This situation demands immediate rectification.

I clarify that I, in fact, DO NOT want my stomach massaged and she laughs and tells me the question was asking areas I DID want massaged. That’s what I get for not reading carefully.

I’m glad we got that cleared up. That could have been awkward.

My stomach is left untouched, the massage is wonderful, and I exit into the sunshine around noon to find Matt sleeping by the pool.

Ah….life in Greece is hard.

Before we relax ourselves into a coma, we drive toward Paleochori Beach to find nearby Sirocco Restaurant.

We find the restaurant easily, about 30 feet from the water’s edge. The restaurant sign says, “volcanic food,” and warns us to be careful because the sand is hot.

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Sirocco has a pretty neat gimmick. The ground underneath the restaurant is so hot that they literally cook the meat in clay pots buried in the ground. I have read that this place is a tourist trap by some and others say it is a great restaurant. We like the looks of it, so we decide to give it a whirl.

I’m easily sucked in by things like promises of cooking my food in a sand pit.

The salad we have at Sirocco is the best of the trip, and we have some incredible salads on this trip. The greens are topped with a variety of grilled vegetables and shaved cheese.

We also order the fava dip, pork filet, and grilled fish. And, like most of the restaurants we have encountered in Greece, they can’t bear the fact that we might leave before eating more food, they bring us little squares of something like honey-soaked cheesecake.

Delicious.

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We move down to another section of Paleochori Beach where we find Deep Blue, a sprawling music bar that is scattered down the hillside above the most colorful beach I have ever seen.

We grab cocktails at Deep Blue and carry them down to the beach to find a sunbed.

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The cliffs surrounding the beach are deep red, tan, and stark white. The sand is golden. The water changes from deep blue to green. The colors are striking.

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We manage to spend the rest of the afternoon doing absolutely nothing.

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Back at Melian, we clean up and head out for dinner just as some clouds move in. I guess that answers our question about whether the sky is always blue on Milos.

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Our plan is to catch the sunset from Plaka, the highest city on Milos, before heading to dinner, but as we grab a table at Café Utopia, we see the sky growing dark.

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We order drinks, thinking our sunset dream will be a bust, not knowing just how wrong we are.

When the sun finally reaches the horizon. It bursts through a sliver of cloudless sky and the world literally explodes in golden color. It is a spectacular sight, and once again, Greece leaves us speechless.

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Once the sunset has cooled to a faded purple, we head out on a quest to find the mythical “bset restaurant on Milos.” We set off in the dark toward the port of Adamas in search of Oh! Hamos.

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Oh! Hamos has its own beach, makes its own ceramics, and grows its own food. The setting is beautiful: flowers in big clay pots, vines growing on the fences, walls covered in poetry from previous guests, the menus handwritten in colorful handmade notebooks, and crusty bread served in a thick, cotton bag tossed casually over the back of a chair.

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Before ordering dinner, we finally work up the nerve to try Ouzo.

There should be a warning label on a bottle of Ouzo.

WARNING! IF YOU DON’T LIKE BLACK LICORICE, YOU WON’T LIKE OUZO.

Yuck.

They should also tell you that it is common to drink it with water because it is extremely strong. Like idiots, we drink it straight.

It burns all the way down and makes me feel like I have been sucking on gas soaked black jelly beans.

I figure out quickly why it is served as an aperitif – before dinner drink. Because after drinking it, you will eat anything put down in front of you just to get the taste out of your mouth. It is truly horrible.

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We have a feast for dinner: Greek salad, potatoes in tomato sauce, pasta with creamy cheese sauce and caramelized onions, and pork spare ribs.

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After dinner, they do not fail to bring us something we didn’t order. It’s becoming fun to see what “mystery surprise” will show up at the end of the meal.

Tonight’s surprise is a small glass of water with a white ball of goo in it.

I look at it and wonder if maybe they are out of cheesecake.

I look at the waitress, trying to figure out if this is something I should drink, or if it’s like a little hand rinse like they bring you at the Chinese restaurant back home sometimes.

“Ypovrichio,” she says.

We just look confused.

She tries again. “It is sap. From tree.”

She has given us mastika, a white gummy syrup that is, indeed, tree sap. It looks like a ball of Elmer’s Glue inside a very small glass of water with a tiny spoon. Matt shakes his head "no." He draws the line at a glass of tree sap.

I am on board for anything sweet, and I use my little spoon to wet the sap with water and suck on it until it is all gone.

It is so sweet and so simple. Greek tradition at its very best.

It is time to head back and, after a few ouzo induced wrong turns, we make it back to Pollonia for our final night on Milos.

Posted by vicki_h 05:45 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (0)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 2

If you want easy, you should go to Disney World.

Sunday:

We wake up to the same beautiful views and I realize that I am not in a dream. This place is real.

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So is the giant breakfast. Again.

We stuff ourselves and decide we need to do something at least moderately active so that we can lie to ourselves and pretend we are burning off some of the calories. The truth is that I would have to run around the entire circumference of the earth four times in order to burn off half of that breakfast.

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I love remote, hard-to-get to beaches and Matt loves easy beaches with lots of amenities, so we strike a deal and decide to hike down to my beach first and then spend the rest of the afternoon wallowing in our lazy-Greek-breakfast-cake fat on his beach.

The drive to Tsigrado Beach is jaw dropping.

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When we arrive, we see a sandy hill with lots of footprints and assume it’s the way to go. As we head downward, we soon see a very narrow cut in the cliff that leads straight down toward the beach. It’s so steep that someone has installed a rope that we can use to lower ourselves down.

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Matt looks at me with that desperate look he gives me when he knows I am going to ask him to do something that will get him dirty, rip his clothing, pull a muscle, or generally risk his sanity and safety.

“Any beach this hard to get to MUST be good!” I say.

It's not the answer he is looking for.

I am not about to let a steep, rocky, narrow descent with only an old, frayed rope to keep me from plunging to my death stop me from visiting this beach.

He sighs and grabs the rope.

As I watch Matt grunt and groan, slipping and sliding his way down through the sand, stopped only by the fact that the cut is so narrow that he’ll get stuck before he’ll slip to the bottom, I realize I am not properly dressed.

I am wearing a beach dress and sandals. Not even flip flops….SANDALS. I don’t even have a proper beach bag or back pack. I am carrying a purse, for goodness sakes.

And do I have necessities in that purse like water or sunscreen? Or at this point, a tourniquet, for when Matt has to saw my arm off with the car key after I get completely stuck in the narrow crack? Of course not. But I have lip gloss. And a fedora.

I remember reading that a tourist was seriously hurt 3 months earlier in June when the rope broke. I am now regretting that extra piece of cake at breakfast. It could be that extra pound that is simply more than the rope can take and right now, this rope is all that stands between me and certain death.

Thank goodness there is a ladder at the very end, because at this point, I am ready to simply throw my body off the cliff.

As I climb down the ladder, I realize that I am glad Tsigrado is hard to get to…otherwise there would be more people here.

Tsigrado turns out to be the most beautiful beach in the history of ever.

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There is only one other couple on the most perfect little beach I can imagine. Situated between two cliffs, Tsigrado is a perfect little pocket of soft, white sand. Protected from the wind, the water is calm and incredibly clear.

We walk to the far end of the beach because when there are only 4 of you on the beach, everyone deserves some privacy.

I remember a time that Matt and I hiked 10 miles into the backcountry in Canada, never passing another soul, and found the perfect place for lunch.

We stopped, pulled off our packs, and set out our lunch, amazed at the peace and tranquility around us. About 10 minutes into our lunch, another couple hiked by, saw us having lunch, and basically decided to join us. They practically set up their lunch in our laps, despite the fact that there was an INFINITE amount of space where they could go be alone.

I don’t want to be those people.

When we get to the other side of the small beach, we discover a couple a small caves, one on the backside of the sandy beach, perfect to put our stuff in to keep it out of the sun (so my lipgloss doesn’t melt) and the other is actually at the edge of the water so that when we slip inside, the sea washes in, splashed by the sunlight, literally illuminating the small cave with an iridescent blue.

The harrowing climb down forgotten, we bask in the simple beauty of the beach, the sun, and the sea.

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We enjoy our remote, deserted beach for a couple of hours before deciding it is time to head to the other beach, where sun beds and cold drinks are waiting.

Oh, but dear heavenly lord, we have to go back up that rope.

We make it back to the Jimny with all of our skin intact and head down the winding roads to Firiplaka Beach.

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Firiplaka is mesmerizing. It seems that every beach on Milos is designed to make you stand and stare stupidly in awe.

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Colorful cliffs rise above turquoise water as the shore hugs the white sand. Bright sun beds are dotted along the shore with palm frond umbrellas and a happy little beach bar plays music as ice shakers mix cool cocktails.

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We drop our stuff on a pair of loungers and walk to the end of the beach where a huge rock juts randomly up out of the water. I can see a small beach on the other side, but the tide is up high enough that it will require swimming along the shallow but rocky shore with the surf pounding to get to it.

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Matt turns to leave, but I have that idiot gene that makes me plunge into the water as he watches my pathetic attempt to get across without impaling myself on a boulder.

I get about halfway before I abruptly turn back, slamming my shin on a rock and doing my best not to drown in 18 inches of water.

“What is it?” he asks.

“Naked people. Naked people. Naked people,” I blurt out repeatedly as I do a hurried dog paddle over the rocks.

“Not topless people. Naked. I-was-just-born- birthday-suit-don’t-make-eye-contact-or-it-will-get-weird naked.”

Apparently, the far end of Firiplaka is where one goes to divest oneself of one’s clothing. And one’s modesty. And one’s sense of what one’s own body actually looks like naked, because what I caught a glimpse of was not awesome.

We get back to the “normal” beach and drop down on our sunbeds as I suck down a Caipirinha in hopes of ridding my brain of the images that I just saw.

It’s time to chill, Greece style.

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The afternoon grows late and we get hungry, all that hiking and swimming and running from naked people has burned off all of my breakfast cake, so we pack it up and take the jeep to nearby Provatas Beach.

Tarantella restaurant is perched on a cliff overlooking the beach. With the entire restaurant open to the ocean, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

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We order up some tzaziki, tomato keftedes, and lobster spaghetti and share it with the dog and cat that are sleeping under our feet.

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It’s so late in the afternoon, and the meal is so huge, that we spend the afternoon alternating between naps and sitting on the verandah reading.

Because the only thing worse than eating and lying around all day would be to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. after doing nothing but eating and lying around all day, we take a walk to the far end of Pollonia. We find a beautiful little church with a view that stretches all the way around the bay to town.

It’s an exquisite end to a decadent day.

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Posted by vicki_h 06:35 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (1)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 1

Ready...Set....GO.

Saturday:

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After sleeping like the dead for about 12 hours, we wake up to a beautiful sun-drenched morning on Milos. The sky is blue and the bay below stretches out before us like something from a dream.

Our breakfast is brought up to our private verandah where we can eat with a wonderful breeze and an amazing view.

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I like the way Greeks do breakfast.

Omelets, a bread basket, cake, cereal, meat & cheese, honey, jam….but my very favorite is the Greek yogurt.

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We spend a couple of hours of much needed “down time” relaxing on the rooftop deck before trying to decide what to do with our day.

Milos is less popular with tourists than some of the other Greek islands because it's off the beaten path and has a slower pace than islands like Santorini and Mykonos. Its claim to fame is the famous “Venus de Milo.” The statue was found in a field by a farmer who was looking for stones for his house. He tried to hide her for some time in his home, until she was discovered and seized.

Milos is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Aegean. Depending on who you ask, you will be told that Milos has between 40 and 70 beaches. To me, the combination of few tourists and beautiful beaches sounds perfect.

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When the urge to move finally kicks in, we decide we’ll spend our first day exploring the north shore of Milos which is littered with secret coves and pocket beaches, quaint towns and fishing villages. We’ll end the day at Sarakiniko, a white rock “beach” that is supposed to be other worldly.

Before we jump in our dusty Jimny, we walk down to Pollonia town. It’s small and we manage to walk around it in about 15 minutes.

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We hop in the little 4x4 and go where the road takes us.

It’s dusty and dry, too dry for any profusion of vegetation, but we see tamarisk, cypress, and juniper trees dotting the hillsides. Square, whitewashed houses with bright blue doors pop up beside olive groves. Everywhere, jagged cliffs plunge down to the turquoise sea.

It is breathtaking.

We pull off to explore coves and beaches, making our way down the highway that borders the north shore of the island, from Pollonia to Plaka.

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As we drive, I see a small sign that says, “Splas Bar.”

“TURN!” I shout as Matt nearly plows the Jimny off the side of the highway.

I mean, how can you NOT go to a bar that calls itself “Splas?” Not Splash, Splas.

We find ourselves at Mitakas, a picturesque bay lined with fishing houses.

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Next to it is a long stretch of beach with a small beach bar.

To call it a beach bar is like calling the Milos airport an airport.

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It’s a counter with 3 stools, about 4 bottles of liquor, a cooler of beer, and some oranges, but with this view, it’s the best place in the world.

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After relaxing for a while, we head on down the road to find Klima, a traditional seaside village. The road down is steep and so narrow that at one point, it is closed for 15 minutes while a truck sits idling in the street.

The problem with driving on Greek islands is that the roads were designed for people and donkeys, not rental cars. One wrong turn and you could find yourself trapped in an alley, forced into a dead end with no place to turn around, or, like us, almost plunging into the ocean.

We realize we are there when the road abruptly ends in the water. There is nowhere to turn around, so Matt does an Austin Powers 30 point turn to get us headed back up the hill.

We park and take a walk around. The water is lined with small white boathouses that have large colorful doors. The boathouses are just a few meters from the sea and were originally used for fisherman to escape into when the weather was bad. Now, most of them are seaside homes for local residents.

It is enchanting.

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We head back up the hill to Plaka, the capital town of Milos, which is built high on a hill overlooking the rest of Milos and the sea. The narrow alleys in the village are so small, that no cars are allowed. We find a place to park and walk up the hill.

It is dominated by the “Kastro” (or castle) which sits at the highest point.

Higher than I am willing to walk.

We wander around the maze of alleys in the village instead. Enormous bougainvillea are literally erupting over doorways as discarded petals drift lightly on the stone paths. Blue doorways stand open to shops and bakeries and blue and white Greek flags wave in the wind.

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Tavernas beckon, with happy tables littered about courtyards filled with sunning kittens, but we have other plans.

We hop in the Jimny and drive to the fishing village of Mandrakia.

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It is incredibly lovely, with boats dotting the blue water and more of those boathouses with the large colorful doors lining the shore.

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I have heard that the restaurant here in Mandrakia is very good.

We find Medousa easily because it’s the only restaurant in this very small village and it literally sits at the end of the road.

Even directionally challenged American tourists with outdated paper Google Maps and no GPS can find it.

The restaurant is open to the sea and every table has a stellar view.

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As we are seated the young waitress asks us if we’d like coffee or beer. We assume that’s all they have, since nothing is listed on the menu. I’m parched and it’s about 2:00 p.m., so the only thing that sounds worse to me than coffee would be a cup of molten hot bacon grease and I don’t drink beer, so I order water, silently sulking on the inside.

She brings Matt a frosty glass of beer and for a moment, I wish I didn’t think it tasted like dog pee. I look at it with longing and Matt reminds me of the chocolate croissant and says something about “karma.”

That’s when we see her bring another table a small glass pitcher of wine.

Oh yay!

She brings us a chilled carafe of their house rose as we order a feast: Greek salad, roasted cheese with tomatoes and peppers, grilled bread with tomatoes and feta, and meatballs with fried potatoes.

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It was only our second meal, but we picked up on some things quickly that remained true for our entire trip:

1) Feta cheese is on everything.
2) French fries come with everything.
3) There is no Diet Coke, but there is Coke Light.
4) Greeks think Nescafe is real coffee.
5) Fanta Orange is NOT carbonated.
6) True Greek salad has no lettuce and is amazing.

By the end of the meal, I consider just lying on a wall for a nap like this dog. I have already eaten more today than I normally eat in a week.

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The sun is still high in the sky, so we stop at the famous “beach” of Sarakiniko before heading back to Pollonia.

I guess it is technically a “beach” because there is a smattering of sand at the end of the long channel of water that runs between two stretches of smooth, rolling white stone.

As we walk toward the water, the scene is surreal. The smooth white rock and the deeply blue water trick my eyes and I feel like I am on some other planet. Some other planet with merengue covered beaches.

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The rock is soft and cool beneath my feet, like chalk. The rock is water carved and windswept and it gives the place a lunar feel. I could almost believe I am on the moon.

If it wasn’t for the woman hiking in front of me in nothing but bikini bottoms and a day-glo yellow pair of sneakers.

We learn on Day 1 that you will see lots of topless women on the beach. Sure, I expect topless….we are in Europe, right? But what I expect is “lying on a lounge chair topless” not “running up and down the beach in bright yellow sneakers topless.”

I have to be very careful where I point my eyes or my camera because there are jiggling body parts everywhere and I don’t want to come off as some pervvy weirdo.

Matt and I find a semi-secluded spot and take a dip in the delicious water before deciding to call it a day and head back to Melian for some naps.

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We drift out of the soft white nest that is our room in time to see the sunset and have some cocktails at the hotel bar.

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We decide to drive to the town of Tripiti (near Plaka) for dinner. I have heard that the restaurant called Bariello is very good. The beautiful hotel clerk, Georgianna, almost talks Matt out of my restaurant while I am still getting dressed in the room.

“Georgianna says that we probably won’t like it. It doesn’t have a view,” he says. “She made us a reservation at a place just down the street.”

Oh no he didn't.

One look, and no words, and Matt knows we are going to Bariello.

We arrive in Tripiti and find a place to park. We aren’t quite hungry yet and we see a cute bar right next to Bariello. We step out onto their back deck, which has an amazing view of the last moments of the dying sunset.

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Matt orders our drinks and then decides to walk next door make sure we don’t need a dinner reservation while we wait for them.

After he leaves I can’t help but feel…..watched.

I casually glance to my left and there is a very strange looking man literally turned sideways so that he can stare at me. He doesn’t glance away when I notice. No. He just keeps staring.

Creepy staring. Serial killer staring. I want to wear your face as a mask staring.

I look away casually and can literally feel his stare burning into the side of my head.

Matt gets back and sits down, between me and Mr. Psycho Stare. I whisper, “Look to your left. Slowly.”

He turns his head very slowly and nearly chokes on his caipirinha.

Why? Because creepy man is still staring and didn’t even bother to stop when Matt turned.

“Is he drunk or crazy?” I whisper.

“Both, I think,” Matt says. “And he sure likes YOU,” he chuckles.

Great. Matt gets Georgianna and I get Norman Bates.

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We finish our drinks and head over to Bariello. They tell us that they do have seats on an outside terrace overlooking the sea. We can also sit inside if we like.

I take a look inside and say quickly, “Inside.”

They look at me like I have lost my mind. Apparently, NO ONE sits inside.

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But it is magical. The restaurant is old and warmly lit and I feel like I have stepped back in time. The walls are carved into stone and wooden beams run the length of the ceiling. Small tables with flickering candles glow against the lush red tablecloths. No one is sitting inside. We have it all to ourselves.

But it’s not the ambience or the privacy that lure me in. No, it’s this little table:

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We run down to the little private cave room with its one little table like a couple of kids who just discovered that Candy Land is real. It is amazing.

The restaurant owner is amused by our choice and can’t, for the life of him, figure out why we choose the indoor cave table instead of sitting outside on the verandah.

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“Are you American?” he asks.

We nod.

He shrugs like that somehow answers it and heads back upstairs.

We peruse the menu. So far, all menus have been in English and Greek. I have noticed that the English is very close….but it’s always just a little off.

For example, the risotto with chicken might have been better worded.

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(And I never did figure out what the “dark gabbage with little secrets” was)

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We have already adopted a method of ordering several dishes and sharing them all, instead of each of us ordering our own meal. For dinner, we a salad with prosciutto, apples, and blue cheese; spicy beef sausage; a traditionally prepared rice dish; and pork loin that has been cooked for 5 hours in beer.

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We have also already learned that, even though a meal in Greece lasts at least 2 hours, you have to beg them for a check when you are ready to go. Not only that, but, as though trying to entice you to stay just a little longer, they always bring you a “treat” before they will let you have that check.

As we try to leave, we are brought two delicious slices of chocolate something.

Bariello is wonderful. What does Georgianna with her blue eyes and lovely long braid know? Hrumph.

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Posted by vicki_h 06:26 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (2)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Getting There

Milos is for lovers.

Milos is for lovers.

No really. That’s the island’s tagline.

Although, after almost 30 hours without sleep, a bath, or a toothbrush, Matt and I are not exactly feeling amorous.

We are exhausted. But we are HERE. We are on Milos.

It is just after 5:00 p.m. as the tiny plane we had boarded in Athens lands on the small island of Milos.

To call it an airport would be generous.

As we deplane and I walk out onto the airstrip, there is grass growing on the runway. There are no airport staff, security people, or baggage handlers.

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The only live body is a cat on the tarmac giving itself a tongue bath. As I walk inside the small building that serves as the terminal, I half expect to see the room tricked out with wooden chairs and a box of chickens. Instead, it is empty.

It’s probably better that way.

I have made all of the trip arrangements for our time in Greece myself. I am a do-it-yourself type of traveler. I want none of your pre-packaged, pre-planned tours, thankyouverymuch. You won’t find me on a “Stay in line, make sure you have your tickets, don’t stray from the group” type of trip.

This gets us in trouble sometimes. And when you show up at an airport that looks practically “3rd world” and you don’t have a tour guide with a waiting van to show you where to go and what to do, and the only airport authority to ask is the tarmac cat, who can’t really be bothered until he has finished licking his butt, you get a little nervous.

Through my research, I have chosen Milos Car Rental and the Melian Boutique Hotel for our time on Milos. As I look around the deserted “airport,” noticing that the cat from outside has now settled itself inside on the baggage carousel, I hope I have chosen well because I don’t see a phone or a taxi in sight.

That’s when I see a gentleman holding a sign that says, “Hatfield.”

I breathe a sigh of relief.

We grab our bags and follow him to our 4x4 Suzuki Jimny. The rental car agent directs us to follow him to the office so that we can “make the paper.”

The Jimny is covered with dirt. It is literally so dusty I can write my name on it – and I don’t mean on the outside, I mean on the DASH. We climb inside and the floorboards are littered with sand and it’s got less than a ¼ of a tank of gas. We start it up and, as the fan belt squeals, the air conditioner blows out a cloud of dust so thick I feel like we are in a sandstorm.

I look at Matt. He looks at me. We shrug. “Let’s go make the paper,” he says with a smile.

Welcome to Milos.

As Matt goes inside the rental car office to “make the paper,” I step out of the car and stare at the bay below. It is close to sunset and the water has started to shimmer. Restaurants are setting up tables at the water’s edge with linens and candles. Small, colorful wooden boats bob up and down in the waves.

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I run a finger along the dusty Jimny and smile.

I already love Milos.

Finished with the rental car business, we are off in minutes. It’s a short drive to the tiny seaside town of Pollonia where we find Melian Boutique Hotel perched on the water with a perfect view of the setting sun.

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The hotel is amazing. Small, intimate, beautiful, it is everything I hoped it would be. We are shown to the rooftop suite where we have a beautiful room and a huge private terrace looking out over the sea.

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Sure, I have been awake for 30-something hours, but I am in heaven….how can I be tired?

We get changed and go in search of our first real meal in Greece (I can’t count the croutons, no matter how good they were). It’s about a 5 minute stroll along the waterfront from Melian to the center of Pollonia where restaurants are scattered about the edge of the bay.

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Armenaki looks good. Okay, it’s literally the first restaurant we come to, but so what. It still looks good.

We are seated quickly and are handed menus which have English translations. No grunting and pointing required.

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We order steamed mussels and garlic dip. Matt orders the amberjack and I go for the grilled lobster. These islands are known for their lobster, and I love me some lobster.

“How big?” the waitress asks.

I look at the menu. It is priced per kilo.

Damn metric system.

At one point, when I was in grade school in the 70s, the metric system was familiar for about one month as the US sadly attempted using the system the rest of the world was using. I remember dutifully studying my little wooden ruler, counting the metric increments of an inch. Apparently, it was too hard, and besides, it was unnecessary, as the US already had firmly established a disorganized method that we already knew. So we gave up trying.

Leaving me here at this table in Greece wondering how to order my lobster. I scratch my head and try to use the 7 brain cells that I have left after this long day.

Finally, the waitress takes pity on the dumb American who doesn’t know the metric system, “1/2 kilo?” she asks, “Should be good for you,” she offers.

I smile in thanks and wonder if I just ordered the world’s smallest lobster or the world’s largest.

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No matter. I am in Greece. I am on the beautiful island of Milos. I am with my wonderful husband.

And Milos is for lovers, after all.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:21 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (0)

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